updated 12/15/2005 4:49:50 PM ET 2005-12-15T21:49:50

Guest: Lawrence O' Donnel; Richard Wolffe

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

The CIA leak investigation.  Robert Novak finally gives it up, tells us who we need to talk to about his source.

The president finally gives it up, tells a Washington audience that much of the intelligence “turned out to be wrong,” and he's responsible for to going to war in Iraq anyway.

The Pentagon is still buying good news coverage, not just in Iraq, but around the world.  The difference now, if somebody asks, the Pentagon says it will admit it's the source.

Could you survive a fall from 10,000 feet up?  Shana Richardson did.  She needed steel plates in her face afterwards, but she's OK.  So is the baby she didn't know she was carrying.

And fishing around TV for something really worth your time?  Yes, I mean you.  “The Year in Oddball: The Extended Mix.”

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NOVAK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  As of this book, and I hate, hate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

Our long national nightmare might soon be over, Robert Novak giving up a name, pointing to the one man other than himself who might finally solve the mystery of who first divulged the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson worked for the CIA.

There is, of course, a small catch, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the columnist revealing that all we have to do is ask the president—gee, thanks—Mr. Novak, no relation to Viveca Novak, telling a luncheon audience in North Carolina yesterday that he is pretty sure the name of his source is no mystery to Mr. Bush, quoting, “I am confident the president knows who the source is.  I'd be amazed if he doesn't.  So I say, Don't bug me, don't bug Bob Woodward, bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.

Cranky, cranky, cranky.  Don't use the word “bug” relative to the White House.  Why drag Bob Woodward into this? you might ask, “The Washington Post” editor recently disclosing that his source and Mr. Novak's source are probably one and the same source.

Back to Novak, who also devoted some time to spreading the blame, saying his role in the Plame affair—which would have even have existed without him—quote, “snowballed out of proportion as a result of a campaign by the left,” with, he said, some help from the White House and its, quote, “extremely bad management.”

“Once you give an issue to a special prosecutor,” he said, “you lose control of it,” for at least part of his tirade, Mr. Novak gaining unlikely support from Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, in a letter to the president, today urging Mr. Bush to identify Novak's source or to say that he does not know who it is.  “You are in a position to clear this matter up quickly,” he writes.  “Unlike Mr. Novak, who can claim an interest in maintaining the confidentiality of his sources, there is no similar privilege arguably preventing you from sharing this information.”

Political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell joins us now.  He is executive producer of “The West Wing,” a contributor to TheHuffingtonPost.com, and an old friend of COUNTDOWN.

Good to see you again, sir.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Keith, good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  At first glance, this seems like a fairly typical crankiness moment from Mr. Novak.  But did he actually say something profound in there?  Did he just throw the spotlight on the Oval Office in a way that none of the president's critics could have?

O'DONNELL:  Yes.  It's a very special statement from Novak.  He's been very careful generally, since this story erupted, to say next to nothing about it.  He's been the big mystery man in this.  But for him to express confidence that the president knows who his source is, is very, very telling.  Bob Novak is very well wired into this Republican White House.  Bob Novak obviously knows who his source is, knows how much contact his source has with the president, knows (INAUDIBLE) that source's relationship is to the president.

And so he's very, very confident that the president knows that this person is his source.

I have to say, at this point in the game, Keith, that I would share Bob Novak's confidence.  If Novak's confident about it, then I'm confident about it.

The problem, I think, your audience is ready with President Bush's answer.  If someone wants to bug him about it, and his answer is going to be, This is a criminal investigation, and the president should not be commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation.

OLBERMANN:  And to combine that with the other half of Novak's remark, and what Senator Schumer said, is there actually—never mind this issue of, We should not comment because of an ongoing investigation—but is there something more than that?  Is there some sort of executive privilege at work here, of which of we are not aware?

O'DONNELL:  Not really.  It really is a practical matter involving the investigation.  And I have to say, I think it is reasonable for the president to take the position about not commenting while there is a criminal investigation, because there's a lot of case law on prejudicial pretrial publicity.  And if the president were to comment on who Novak's source was, and if that person was to end up in a trial, they would have a very good case to make about prejudicial pretrial publicity.

However, there was not always a special prosecutor in this case.  The Novak story cannot—and we went through a couple of months before the Justice Department started to investigate it.  There was a period of time when the president could have called the sources, or the source, into his office and said, Are you the source? found out on his own, and revealed it publicly.  And nothing prevented the president from doing it then, and nothing prevented the president from either asking questions about it or answering any public questions about it at that time.

Once there was a prosecutor, it does make sense for the president not to be commenting.

OLBERMANN:  Having followed this case as intensely as you have, what is your take on whether Karl Rove might be indicted, now that his lawyer's timeline of his conversation with the “TIME” reporter Viveca Novak appears not to mesh with hers?  But she is saying, We had this conversation, Mr.  Luskin and myself, before May of 2004.  And Mr. Rove's memory of the entire subject was apparently not jogged until October 2004.

O'DONNELL:  Well, we don't know who's more credible on that date,  Viveca Novak or Bob Luskin, which one of them was taking notes.  Did any—were either of them taking notes?  They said it was over drinks.  Neither of them was probably taking notes.

It's very clear that Viveca Novak's memory of when it took place is vague and covers a stretch of months.  So I don't think she's going to be someone who can lock in exactly when that took place.

And my last appearance on this show, Keith, I said that Viveca Novak was in, I thought, more trouble than any other reporter in this story, including Judy Miller.  We've seen Judy Miller end up leaving “The New York Times,” Viveca Novak now suspended from “TIME” magazine.  They call it a leave of absence.  It wasn't something that she was choosing to do.

I don't think anyone should expect to see her back there.  I think Viveca Novak may, in the end, be the person who saves Karl Rove from being indicted.

OLBERMANN:  Reporters having come to the fore in an unusual way in this case, perhaps now fictional characters could come into the fore.  In your latest blog entry on The Huffington Post, you mention that the president, who does not watch the news that much, might be a new fan of “The West Wing.”  Are there any lessons about leak investigations that he might be able to take away from this or previous seasons of the program?

O'DONNELL:  Well, there are people saying that he's been watching the reruns on Bravo.  I wish he would watch Sunday night at 8:00 in our current season, because that's where he would have seen what happens in our fictional White House, when a leaker of classified information was exposed.

In fact, it was the character Toby, played by Richard Schiff, who everyone knows.  And he basically confessed as soon as the investigation got going, and was marched in to the president, and he was going to resign, and the president took his resignation letter and said, No, no, I'm going to fire you.

And they marched him right out of the building and on his way to indictment.  They just—the person who did it in our show and everyone operating in the White House handled it as cleanly and as responsibly as they could.  And I wish this current White House would have taken some inspiration from that.

OLBERMANN:  There's fiction, and then there's fact, and never the twain shall meet, although, if you can get Richard Schiff to admit to being Robert Novak's source, then you got a story.

Lawrence O'Donnell of NBC's...

O'DONNELL:  I'll ask him.

OLBERMANN:  ... “West Wing,” and the Web's Huffington Post, as always, sir, great thanks for your time.

O'DONNELL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, the president today making his fourth and final speech pegged to tomorrow's Iraqi elections.  There was a small but loud change to his tune.

Well, we got another set of indications as to whether or not his public relations offensive is actually working on this matter, in the latest poll out tonight from NBC News, 39 percent of those surveyed approving of the president's overall job performance, that's up 1 point in his poll since last month, only 36 percent approving of the way he is handling the situation in Iraq, a whopping 60 percent not, and a number to keep an eye out in the next month's polling, 41 percent now believing that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the number of U.S. casualties and the monetary cost, in today's speech in Washington, Mr. Bush asking Americans to prepare for more sacrifice in Iraq.

And then he sacrificed a little corner of his previous stance of, No, everything's going great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.  As president, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq.  And I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities.  And we're doing just that.

My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision.  Saddam was a threat, and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let me call in Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How much weight should we give to the fact that the president said he's accepting responsibility for going to war based on faulty intelligence?  I mean, generally, that might be seen as a small concession.  Did the White House view it as more than that?  Might there have been long internal debate over whether or not he should have said that?

WOLFFE:  well, there was long internal debate about whether to do these whole speeches, this whole series of speeches, and the tone that he struck in it, which is, a kind of admission of a mistake, but not a full one.  It is a very fine line they've tread, and I they've treaded actually fairly skillfully.

But, you know, it's interesting hearing him use this language.  He's talked, obviously, about making the decision before.  But here he was, echoing very closely the language of Senator Hillary Clinton, who said she was responsible for her vote, but the president was responsible for the war and the conduct of the war.

You know, for those of us who were on the 2000 campaign, it's interesting that (INAUDIBLE) that President Bush was talking about the responsibility era then and about President Clinton.  And here you have Senator Clinton pushing back responsibility back on President Bush.  It's a weird twist of events.

OLBERMANN:  And an additional weird twist of events today, the Democratic response to this speech.  There was some brief remarks from some rank and file members of Congress about the tone of reality being introduced into the White House, which you would expect.  But nobody big really jumped on this, or jumped on it in a big fashion.  Should that surprise us?

WOLFFE:  Well, they figured they could get more airtime by getting out ahead of the president with this prebuttal.  And Senator Levin, to be fair, made a good point, which is that these elections only—is only the start of the difficult work of the constitution, which was deferred from the previous vote.  So, you know, that was important point.

But no, this isn't a meaningful debate between Republican and Democrats.  It's something that they're trying to score points within the press.  And yes, if they'd been skillful, they'd have jumped on it.  But they got ahead.

OLBERMANN:  We haven't seen the polls move about Iraq and all, speaking of the, of this—the point scoring.  Is the White House expecting that it will see a bounce, once we see the new pictures of Iraqi voters with inkstained fingers, or is there a sense there that they already played that card and got as much as they were going to get out of it last January, and to some degrees, it might be seen as a repeat?

WOLFFE:  Oh, they're pretty hopeful about this election.  And the president himself was immensely lifted by the elections last year.  His spirits were lifted by it.  But really, they see this as a several-month strategy, going beyond the State of the Union.  They don't expect the polls to really turn around until springtime.

And even then, you look, they're not naive.  They know this has been a long slide, and it's going to be a long climb out of it.  They think the polls are actually really (INAUDIBLE) to the gas prices, not because of Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  You wrote in the magazine this week about the bubble that Mr. Bush may be in, asking if he can change.  He took some unfriendly questions after the speech in Philadelphia on Monday.  He did a sit-down interview with Brian Williams, somebody other than Fox News.  He invited some Republican senators over to the White House yesterday for this mini-war council.  And then today, he made this admission that at least the intel was wrong, if not weighted.

WOLFFE:  Well, the Brian Williams interview was scheduled before.  But the taking of questions was significant.  They were hostile questions.  He refused to take questions the week before at a very similar audience.  I don't want to take credit for anything, I'm sure the president wouldn't have done it anyway.  He's a confident man.  He can take questions.

OLBERMANN:  But Brian Williams did show him the magazine on Monday morning.  We saw that on videotape, so you never know.  You might be responsible indeed for it.

“Newsweek”'s Richard Wolffe, thanks for joining us again.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The president was said to be troubled about the Pentagon's program of buying good news coverage in Iraqi papers.  So why is the stealth PR blitz being expanded around the world?

Also, if you fall 10,000 feet without a parachute, should you be, A, dead, or B, expecting a child next June?  Yes, the answer is B.  The extraordinary explanation ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was another idea, good in theory, that proved self-destructive in fact.  Never mind waiting for good news in Iraq, write it ourselves, and give it to the fledgling media there, pay them to run it, if necessary.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, when discovered, the reaction was bad enough that President Bush admitted he was troubled by the process.  So our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, why are we still doing it?  And now, not just in Iraq.

Here's our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made clear he believes there's a serious problem.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press and reporters and spread around the world.

O'DONNELL:  For example, says Rumsfeld.

RUMSFELD:  Recently, there were claims by two Iraqis on a speaking tour that U.S. soldiers attacked them with lions.

O'DONNELL:  In an effort to combat misinformation, the Pentagon has plans to spend up to $300 million on a psychological warfare operation.  “USA Today” reports it includes plans for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the U.S. government as the source.

Ambassador Karen Hughes is in charge of repairing America's image overseas.

AMB. KAREN HUGHES:  If we're putting out information that is credible and accurate, that's one thing.  If we're trying to mislead, that's another thing.

O'DONNELL:  Officials insist this is not Pentagon propaganda.  But psyops, designed to counter active deception by the enemy using newspapers, Web sites, radio, television, even T-shirts and bumper stickers.

But one of the multimillion-dollar contracts is run by the Lincoln Group, the very same firm now investigation for using Pentagon funds to pay Iraqi papers to run positive stories secretly written by U.S. troops, supposedly without the knowledge of Iraqi editors.

MARCK FELDSTEIN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  This is no way to teach the Iraqi people about democracy or freedom of the press.  In fact, it's subverting the very freedom of the press that we're pretending to promote over there.

O'DONNELL:  Military officials insist they don't plant fake news, but admit they won't always reveal their role in distributing accurate pro-American messages.

For COUNTDOWN, I'm Norah O'Donnell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Now, how do we sell this as a positive story?  Run, Wilbur, run!  Chickens chasing pigs during winter baseball games in Mexico.  And then the chicken removes his own head.  We'll show you more of this video.

And from heads to headstones, a little ghoulish.  But if the great sports stars of today left us tomorrow, how would their epitaphs read?

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We spent a lot of money advertising this.  So when I say, You may have heard, we have a very special edition of Oddball planned for you tonight, just play along with me.  Nod.  Pretend.  In fact, there are two special editions tonight, once now and once again later in the program.

Let's play Oddball.

One of the all-time classics from Mexico's Pacific Baseball Winter League last night, chickens chasing pigs, a promotional event gone horribly wrong.  I'll let our friends, the announcers from ESPN DePortes (ph), take it from here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  (speaking in Spanish)

ANNOUNCER:  (speaking in Spanish)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good luck explaining that to all the kids, by the way. a chicken literally running around with his head off.  They claim the pig is fine.  He was only stunned when he got hit by the head of Homero, the Chicken.  But incidentally, be sure to stop by the sausage stands for the seventh-inning stretch, the freshest sausage in all of the Mexican Pacific League, everybody.

And remember, it's Oddball bonus night tonight.  Stay with us for six more minutes of the year's best.

Best also describes another story tonight.  Thank goodness they were taping it, otherwise nobody would believe it.  She jumps from a plane at 10,000 feet.  The parachute fails.  The reserve parachute fails.  And we'll still hear from her?

Those stories ahead.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Arthur King-Robinson of Crediton (ph) in England.  Never was anybody so happy to lose a bet.  Early this year, Mr. King-Robinson placed a legal wager at the William Hill Bookmakers, 500 pounds at odds of six to one that he would die by the first week of December.  He didn't.  Why on earth did he make this bet?  Well, if he died before December 10, his wife would have faced inheritance taxes of 3,000 pounds.

Number two, Andy, the drug-sniffing dog from the sheriff's department of Athens County, Ohio.  He's been sued, named by a defendant in a drug case who says his business was illegally searched by the cops and by Andy.  The legal papers were served on the dog.  They got his pawprint on the receipt.  And the local prosecutor says now that Andy seems lethargic.  He might be suffering from psychological problems as a result of the lawsuit, so Andy may have to countersue.

Number one, though, James Adams.  Police say he tried to stick up a restaurant in Muncie, Indiana.  Boy, was he surprised when he ordered the employee to open up the cash register.  The employee turned out to not speak English.  Criminals must always accept the intangibles, the unforeseen vagaries that can crop up in events like this.

But perhaps Mr. Adams should have seen this one coming.  The place he was trying to rob as a Mexican restaurant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  It was the turning point of the plot of one of the most unheralded great movies of all time.  David Niven plays a British Air Force pilot forced to jump from his crashing World War II fighter jet without a parachute.

In the film, a matter of life and death.  He couldn't possibly have survived the fall from 10,000 feet.  But he does because the angel, sent to conduct him to his final reward, lost him in the fog.

Our third story in the “Countdown,” a matter of life, is as spiritual film you're ever going to see without preachy or ludicrous, except for that idea that you could really fall 10,000 feet out of a plane without getting killed.

We don't know if Shayna Richardson has ever seen it.  She should.  She just reenacted part of it.  And unlike David Niven's character, she had a parachute.  Two of them.  But as correspondent Jerry Jacob of our NBC affiliate in Springfield, Arkansas tells us, it just didn't work. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

INSTRUCTOR:  What are you going to do?

SHANA RICHARDSON:  My first AFS (ph).

JERRY JACOB, CORRESPONDENT, AFFILIATE KYTV (off camera):  Shayna Richardson, on October 9, smiling, happy, and excited because she has no idea she is about to fall 10,000 feet and land on her face. 

RICHARDSON:  I do not remember hitting the ground.  We videotaped all of my jumps so we could critique after looking at. (ph) 

JACOB:  She's out of the hospital now after three surgeries.  Showing us the videotape of the accident one month ago. 

RICHARDSON:  This is my 10th jump. 

JACOB:  The 21-year-old Astro (ph) High School graduate steps out of the plane above Siloam Springs, Arkansas, alongside an instructor, who is videotaping the whole thing. 

RICHARDSON:  The last thing on my mind right now would be any danger. 

You know, I love it. 

JACOB:  The instructor's parachute opens perfectly.  But, out of a frame of his camera, Shayna has a problem with her main chute.  She cuts it away and tries her reserve chute. 

RICHARDSON:  So he was going to get closer to me because he realizes that I got a problem. 

INSTRUCTOR:  Pull the ring.  Pull the ring.  Pull the ring.

JACOB:  The reserve chute never fully deploys. 

RICHARDSON:  That is a one in a million statistic.  Your reserve is supposed to be your guaranteed back-up. 

INSTRUCTOR:  Shayna.  Pull the ring.

JACOB:  Instead, Shayna Richardson is spinning uncontrollably toward an asphalt parking lot.  Falling at a speed close to a free fall from a 9-story building. 

INSTRUCTOR:  Pull the ring.

RICHARDSON:  I was sure I was dead.  There was no question in my mind. 

INSTRUCTOR:  Pull the ring.  Shayna.

RICHARDSON:  Seconds before I hit, I just let go of my toggles and I said, “All right, God.”  I said, “I'm going to go home now.”  I said, “Just don't let it hurt.”

I sat up, spit my teeth out, and asked him if I was alive because I just—I was in shock.  I thought I'd be dead. 

JACOB:  Shayna Richardson had survived the impact.  But now she would have to endure several surgeries. 

RICHARDSON:  The first one was seven hours.  They cut me from ear to ear and pulled my face down, which didn't cause very many scars.  At that point, they made 15 plates and put those in my face because I had egg-shelled it from here to here.

You see the white fabric right below the...

JACOB:  One month later, Shayna Richardson is able to watch the video of her accident, even hitting the ground.  But it's that first part that's most difficult to see. 

RICHARDSON:  The worst part of it is seeing this video of what I'm supposed to look like and seeing pictures of what I'm supposed to look like.  And then looking in the mirror and seeing what I do look like. 

JACOB:  She lost six teeth,  had to have one eye removed, then put back, and is in constant pain.  I had to ask her, would she make an 11th jump?

RICHARDSON:  Oh, I love it.  I love it.  I still love it.  And I'll still do it.  Someday, I'll be healed and I won't be broken anymore.  And they say I should look the same.  So I'll do it again.  It will be a while but I'll do it. 

OLBERMANN:  Jerry Jacob of KYTV in Arkansas reporting.

Just to make this a little more impossible, Shayna Richardson was not the only survivor of that horrific accident.  Just after her face plant, from 10,000 feet up, staffers at the hospital told her, and your baby's fine, too.  First she had heard about a baby.

She was pregnant during the fall.  She had not known.  The father, her diving instructor and fiancee, who also shot this videotape.   Ms.  Richardson appeared this morning on the “Today Show,” equipped with a new set of front teeth and a bun in the oven due next June. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON:  It was just a couple of hours into the emergency room, they came in and told me that they had a positive pregnancy blood test and I was two weeks along.  I was really excited.  I knew exactly what they were telling me.  And I could, I was enjoying that.

But yet, they had me strapped down in the emergency room to stitch my face properly and I really couldn't express my real emotions the way I wanted to.  But definitely, the excitement was there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And oh, by the way, as you heard, yes, she does intend to sky dive again, after the baby is born, probably in August.  Well, why not?  What are the odds against her having another accident like that?

Also tonight, a more serious story of survival reported in Pakistan.  A woman allegedly found alive in the rubble of her Kashmir home two months after the October earthquake that killed 70,000 people in its region.

It is unclear exactly how she would have managed to survive so long.  But don't dismiss this as you might on the face of the story.  A relative, who says she found her, says there were some traces of food in her kitchen which is where she was supposed to have been trapped.  Local news reports indicate there was a trickle of water coming down the wall of her damaged home.

Doctors say the 40-year-old woman is still too weak to speak and, understandably, is in a fragile condition.

Also tonight, a surprise at the premier of the new King Kong flick in the city in which it was filmed in New Zealand.  That was not sensor-round that they were feeling in the audience.  Speaking of hype.  Best video extravaganza ever.  Role tape.  We typed it.  Now we'll play it.  The best of the “Best of the Year,” ahead in “Oddball.”

That's next.  This is “Countdown.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, it's not the best of the year, it's the best of “The Best of the Year” in “Oddball.”  Six minutes that will change the world when “Countdown” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even Ray King had to smile.  He is the baseball relief pitcher traded a week ago today by the Saint Louis Cardinals to the Colorado Rockies.

As we mentioned the other night, three days later came the obituary in the Illinois paper, The Bellville News Democrat, about the passing of an 88-year-old resident of that town named Wilma Flora Eckert, which read in part, “An avid Wednesday night bingo player at VFW when she was younger and playing softball, she led the leaque in batting.  She made several quilts, enjoyed cooking and baking, and she was a big Cardinals fan.  She was glad to see Ray King traded.”

Our number two story in the “Countdown: Sports Fans are Something Else.”

But what if we turned the tables on the some of the top sports figures of the current moment, and made up pertinent lines from their obituaries or even the epitaphs on their headstones?

Let's start with Roger Clemens, the ageless pitcher of the Houston Astros, who retired after the 2003 season, then un-retired.  And his agents now say, if he had to make up his mind about 2006 right now, he would retire again.  What would his epitaph read?

“I may still come back next year.”

Then there's baseball's most controversial player, Barry Bonds.  On his way either to the home run record for all time or a steroid-stained place in history.  And in his mind, forever dogged by the media.  His last words?

The suspended football star, Terrell Owens, who's troubles began when his business representatives tried to get more money out of his current team, t Philadelphia Eagles. 

“My agent strikes again.”

Maybe you heard about the baseball shortstop, Edgar Renteria, traded away by the Boston Red Socks to the Atlanta Braves, after he led the league in errors.  He blamed that on a poorly tended infield at Boston's Fenway Park. 

“Check out the crappy groundskeeping in this cemetery.”

There's Ron Artest, of  basketball fame.  A year ago, he was suspended for nearly a season for going into the stands to fight with the fans in Detroit.  On Monday, he demanded that the Indiana Pacers trade him because the team's strategy was suppressing his offensive skills.

“Thank goodness I finally got traded here to the New York Knicks.”

And lastly, there is former sports reporter, Lisa Guerrero, appearing in a spread in the current issue of “Playboy” magazine, five years after she was quoted saying she was offended that she had been included in a Sexiest Sport Babe Survey by “Playboy's” website.

From big plastic flowers to big hairy apes.  In our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” with the caveat that this network is co-owned by NBC Universal and the new King Kong film was made by Universal Pictures.

At it's premier, in the filming locale, Wellington, New Zealand.  What must have been a surprise, even to Director Peter Jackson, an hour into the film, the special effects got so intense, the roaring of the sea, the scraping of metal, that the crowd thought it felt like an earthquake.  Possibly because it was an earthquake.  A very well time one a 4.5.  Nobody injured.

If you go see “King Kong,” you are not guaranteed such excitement by NBC Universal.  But as our correspondent, Peter Alexander, reports, you will at least be bringing a little cheer to troubled Hollywood executives. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Hollywood is hoping a giant ape can help it get the monkey off its back. 

(on camera):  At the end of this year, we need to go out with a bang, not a whimper.

(voice-over):  With movie attendance in 2005 at its lowest level in almost a decade, Tinsel Town is looking to continue its last-minute holiday surge, about to be lifted by the larger than life “King Kong,” already transfixed by last weekend's winner “Narnia.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  We will take Narnia forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER:  And celebrating “Harry Potter,” now at a quarter billion dollars. 

(on camera):  At no time have we needed films like “Potter,” like “Narnia,” and like “King Kong,” than we do right now. 

Back in the hay day of Hollywood, when this sign was built, movies were the only game in town.  Now they're forced to compete with hundred of other entertainment options in every home, making studio executives anxious how to stop the slide.

(voice over):  Among  2005's biggest busts, “The Island,” a science fiction flop.  The military drama, “Stealth,” also bombed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEONARD MALTIN, HOST, “ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT”:   When you put out $100 million movies and nobody comes, nobody cares, something's broken.  And they know it has to be fixed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

ALEXANDER:  As more film fans skip the theater, they're choosing instead to enjoy the cheap cost and comfort of watching a movie at home, on DVD or by Pay-per-view.

Still many movie-goers agree some big blockbuster must be seen on the big screen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALTIN:  “King Kong” is the ultimate event movie.  It's a movie people already know about.  They're excited to see it.  They want to see it right away. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER:  And they want to see it like they've been seeing movie for years, in the theater.  Right where Hollywood wants them. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER:  Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  And from dead apes to live Red Tail Hawks, a man accused of stalking and harassing a CNN anchor has sued her and her husband for a million dollars.

Lincoln Kareem had been angry over an effort to remove a hawk's nest from the Manhattan building where Paula Zahn lives.  Her husband, Richard Cohen, had led the effort to remove the nest.

A year ago, Mr. Kareen was arrested on charges of stalking, harassment and child endangerment for having screamed at Zahn and her husband and 7-year-old son, “House of shame, bring back the next.”

Although the charges against him were later dropped, he has now sued them, claiming they caused his, quote, “false arrest.”

Nothing false about the best of “Oddball.” The race is off and running for weirdness.

But first, time for “Countdown's” list of today's three nominees for coveted title of Worst Person in the World.

The bronze tonight, to the aides of Senate majority leader, Bill Frist.  Unhappy with questions put to their boss about those dubious family stock sales by a reporter from the Associate Press.  Those aides verbally attacked that reporter in front of about three dozen other reporters.  As the old song goes, never get into a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

The runner up, Neil Borts (ph).  He was another one of those radio commentator, who give free speech a bad name.  In a blog posting, Borts pricked that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would commute the sentence of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, because if he didn't, quoting Borts here, “There will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere.”

Borts added, “There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat screen television right now,” unquote. 

So the guy's not only got no handle on pricking eventsm but he is also a racist? OK.

But the winner, Tiffany Eagle (ph) from Kokomo, Indiana.  She and her girlfriend, Ashley Tomazuski (ph), decided to go drinking at 3am, this past Sunday at a strip club there.  We have no complaint with that.  But when police asked Ms. Eagle where her 3-month-old son happened to be, she said she'd left him with the sitter.  Who, then, they asked, is that baby out in the back seat of your unheated car?

Despite outdoor temperature of 32 degrees, her son was fine.  Mom went to the big house on charges of felony neglect and public intoxication.  Tiffany Eagle, today' Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  So if you've been on the net today, you probably saw all the advertising.

Rita Cosby, “Live & Direct,” has a special tonight on dirty business on the web.  Scarborough Country features Internet addiction.

“Countdown,” we've got news video gone wild.  Why should this night be like any other?

Per something new, perhaps a dream piece of video because nobody was seriously injured.  At the Merry, Merry Auto Track in Aukland, New Zealand (ph), the driver of the Camaro, racing at the speed of just over 124 miles an hour, lost control at the finish line, sending it careening into the guard rail in front of the media stand, and hitting an amateur cameraman named Robert Miller.

Mr. Miller escaped the accident with only minor cuts and bruises, as did the dragster's driver.  So you'll be seeing this bit of News Video Gone Wild forever. 

So if you've never watched an entire edition of “Countdown,” you're probably wondering what's with the goofy video in the middle of this groundbreaking avant-garde political and general news hour.  I mean, puppets, I know they do puppets, but goofy video.

We call it “Oddball.”  We run it nightly.  And week after next we're going to do a first annual hour-long “Oddball” year in review special.  Until then this six-minute excerpt will have to suffice. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We begin in Latvia. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We begin in Skacoos, (ph) Oregon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We begin in northeastern Tennessee with the “Countdown” camel chase of the week. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We begin at Kaufman Stadium (ph) in Kansas City where...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We begin at the Borcell (ph) Nuclear Power Plant in The Netherlands, where warning, warning, danger Will Robinson, the nuclear waste has sprouted legs and is climbing the fence to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Indianapolis, Indiana, hello.  Pikesville, Maryland, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fort Hood, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tokyo, hello.  Houston, hello.  Pinehurst, (ph)

North Dakota, hello.  Tygou (ph), South Korea, hello.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  Los Angeles, hello.

DAVID LETTERMAN (ph), NBC SHOW HOST:  We begin in Guatemala, where science is bringing the people new and interesting ways to mix drinks and stuff.  Yes, using recycled parts from old bicycles, women like these here can save hundreds of dollars on costly kitchen appliances.

And in just 20 to 30 minutes, blend themselves a refreshing beverage and get some healthy exercise in the process.

Come on, pedal for it.  Earn that margarita.

Finally the San Francisco zoo, for another episode of rhinoceros versus big pumpkin.  This is Gene.  He's a 3,000 pound black rhino.  His keepers put a 500 pound pumpkin in his pen as part of the annual Boo at the Zoo event.  Oh, baby, he's going to smash this pumpkin.  Here he goes. 

Come on, buddy.  Come on.  Smashy.  Smashy.  Come on.  Come on.  Hey, where

are you going?  Come on.  Come back and smash the pumpkin.  Oh, what a jip

OLBERMANN:  Checking “Oddball” traffic, we've got an overturned beer truck in Neuton (ph), Massachusetts.  Luckily the driver was uninjured and all the beer remained inside the—oh no, that's not good.

Dude, cool Ferrari.  Oh, hot Ferrari.

Speaking of deformed vegetables, we take off to the great white north for the story of a Candadian farmer, whose carrots are purple.  It's got nothing to do with the tightness of his overalls.

And what's the situation with this deer Richberg, Massachussetts?  I tell you.  He just can't believe those low, low prices.

OLBERMANN:    I had a special new educational segment scheduled for this evening, brush up on the string theory with Keith Olbermann.  Unfortunately, one of the producers hid my textbook.  So we'll now go to the backup plan, Wacky Video.  Let's play “Oddball.”

There's a train coming.  This is Lucy Kibaki (ph), the first lady of Kenya, and unhappy with the recent newspaper story.  She has just made this photo-op into the Kenyan version of “Meet the Press.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She slapped me here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Eos (ph), Greece, where orthodox Easter is our favorite event of the year because the two rival churches on the island celebrate annually by firing 65,000 rockets at each other.  I want plenty of  rockets.

When the unfortunate model tried to turn her ride around, down goes Freda (ph).  Down goes Freda.

Back it up.  Back it up.  You got it.  Ok, right there would be good.

We're back and pause the “Countdown” now to get to the serious news. 

Seriously stupid.

Now, here's a monkey fishing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, look at those really big pants.

OLBERMANN:  We've got a dog on the major digging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, boy, we've got a floater.

OLBERMANN:  And here's is a good old-fashioned cow chase.

Here's a very old guy bowling. 

Thank you, thank you, and thank you to whatever your name is.  Thank you.  Look at them run.  And there she goes.  She's passed the best buy, hangs a right at the Applebee.  Look at her run.  She could go all the way and she's in the clear.

Into the furlong it's Big Squirrel With No Tail in front.  The Sun Thing kind of thing, Second Dog in Striped Shirt third.  Big Squirrel through the hurdles.  He could go wire to wire.  Coming up fast behind the duck, it's a hippopotamous.  And down the stretch they come.  It's the Big Squirrel With No Tail way out in front.  Big Squirrel With No Tail, first.  Something, second, a lion or money, as I'm not sure what is third.

The winner of this race, moving on to the finals next week in Dallas.  And that's where the big money—Wait a minute.  What's this?  The little girl on the outside is throwing the race.  She—Little Mikey is the winner.  She had the thing locked up.  She just stopped.  Never in my 30 years of broadcasting have I seen a more disgusting display of corruption at a sporting event.

Oops, it seems party leader, Vladamer Zurnosky (ph) has just spit on Duma Deputy Andre Sunaya (ph).  And let's get ready to rumble.  Oh, boy.  Ok, that's a loss.

Attendance was down this year in the big annual battle of the oranges because organizers started charging admission.  Can't imagine why someone would be reluctant to pay for this.

And sad news tonight from Pittsburgh.  Bubba, the lobster is dead.  Some estimated Bubba may have lived 100 years in the Atlantic Ocean before he was caught this week.  But as his celebrity grew, a custody battle raged between Ripley's; PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals; and the other PETA, people for the eating and tasty animals.  In the end, it was all too much strife for Bubba.  He is dead now.  And the rest of these people have blood on their hands.  Or is that butter on their hands?  Bubba the lobster was 100 years old.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

And hour of this stuff.  “Countdown's Holiday Oldball Extravaganza,” Monday, December 26 at 8 pm, eastern.  Be there, aloha.  And as to Bubba the lobster, we'll miss you around here, pal.  You were delicious.

That's “Countdown.”  I'm Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose. 

Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, live and direct from Los Angeles tonight.

Good evening, Rita.

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

END   

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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