updated 3/30/2006 10:50:04 AM ET 2006-03-30T15:50:04

Guest: Harold Ford; John Dean; Sally Quinn; Howard Bryant; Rachel Salveira

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

Democrats try to seize the counterterror high ground, redeploy the troops, eliminate Osama bin Laden, rewrite the security map.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  The Democrats are the party of real security.  And we put it in writing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just make sure your treasure map to Osama's cave has north pointing up.

The White House shuffle.  Card out, Bolten in.  Why does the president keep turning to people inside the bubble?  John Dean on what the White House might be trying to keep secret, even from Republican insiders.

And should the administration be worried about John Dean?  Why he's been invited to testify before the Senate this week.  The last time that happened was—what's today?  Tuesday, Monday-- 1973, Watergate.

And what can the president learn from the first lady?  The major turnover in the East Wing, Mrs. Bush looking for America's next top pastry chef.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SOUTH PARK”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello there, children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, Chef.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Uh, no.

From Chef to Sheffield, is baseball about to announce an investigation into all the players accused of steroid use?  And why is Barry Bonds declaring his life is in shambles, even joking about jumping off the Empire State Building?

And—ooh, look, a kitty.  A kitty under house arrest.  Lewis here accused of scratching and biting as many as six people, including—ding-dong—the Avon Lady.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

From Tampa, Florida, good evening.

In its bid to maintain control of Congress in the upcoming 2006 midterm elections, the Republican Party has always had one seemingly sure thing in its favor, the Democrats' inability to offer viable alternatives, or to tackle the national security debate head-on.

But, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, we may soon learn what could happen should the GOP find itself with a real fight on its hands, the Democratic Party today offering up a national security platform.  While not everything in the unveiling of that plan went smoothly, for now, at least, the Dems can say they finally have one.

(INAUDIBLE) error number one, scheduling the news conference for the exact same time as yet another Iraq speech given by President Bush.  Guess which event cable news networks, such as this one, were carrying live?

Still, the Democrats winning back a few points with a snazzy “Real Security” backdrop that drives the point home.  It's easy to read.  Somebody knows their PowerPoint.  As for the remarks themselves, the speakers starting strong, but failing to stick the landing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  The president can give all the speeches that he wants.  But nothing will change the fact that his Iraq policy is wrong.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), COMMANDER, KOSOVO CONFLICT:  It's not a record of competence by the administration.  It's a record of incompetence.  And we're here as Democrats to say it, incompetent leadership.  Enough is enough.  We need a new team.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, CLINTON SECRETARY OF STATE:  Every administration goes through difficult times.  General Clark and I, I think with great pride, point out what happened in terms of our activities in the Balkans.  Not everything went exactly the way we planned.  But when things did not go right, we actually sat down and told each other that.  We did not engage in mutual denial.

PELOSI:  The Democrats are the party of real security.  And we've put it in writing.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Hold signs like that one right side up, and it could be a whole new ballgame.

Here to help us read the signs for himself and for his party, Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., now making a bid of his own for the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Ford, good evening.  Thanks for your time.

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), TENNESSEE:  Good evening, and thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Now that you have a message on this subject, the question becomes, getting the message out.  What plans are there to communicate it, to get it heard above the president's daily schedule?  That was a conflict today, to say nothing of the echo chamber that the Republican Party often tries to produce on this.

FORD:  I think it will be incumbent upon us candidates for Senate, for Congress, all across the country, to lay out a positive and constructive set of criticisms of what this administration has tried to do, or criticisms of what they are—what they have done, and how they have not measured up to what they wanted to measure up to.

And then lay out what the American people can depend on Democrats to do.  I think the first thing is just to be honest.  The president, last week, indicated that Iraq was not engaged—or that a civil war was not under way, only to be disputed by the sitting prime minister and the former prime minister in Iraq.  He laid out that it would be the next president who would bring troops home.

I think it's important for the American people to know that this administration, and even this Congress, are working in concert to try to find a solution to the challenge of creating a unity government in Iraq, and even to the challenge of training a military there in Iraq so that our troops can begin to come home.

I think it's important for a Democrat to note, and I was glad to see us not settle on a timetable to bring troops home.  You can't do that, and I think General Clark urged us the right way on that.  The second thing I think we did that was important was to lay out that bin Laden is still alive, and bin Laden is still on the run.

You made the point in your opening, I think, somewhat serious and somewhat joking, to have a map that knows which way south and north is.  I think it's important for this administration, although a new president will take office in 2009, it's important that the administration be willing to work with Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, and perhaps most important to follow the admonition of Miss Albright, who indicated that we have to be honest, and they have to be honest with themselves.

The shakeup there in the White House with Mr. Bolten is perhaps encouraging in one way.  I liked Andy Card and thought he was an honest broker.  But I can only hope that Mr. Bolten, who has great respect here on the Hill, will look the president in the eye and tell him when he's wrong and applaud him when he's right.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman—

FORD:  That's what the American people expect and deserve, frankly.

OLBERMANN:  Forgive me for interrupting you on that, but let me get back to bin Laden for a moment.  Is there an implication in there that the Bush administration's failure to find him is solely a result of their dropping the ball in terms of prioritizing finding him?

FORD:  No.  There'll be plenty—there's plenty of blame to go around, and the president deserves a lot of that blame.  I think the only point that we make is that he is still on the run, and there was a moment in this war in terrorism early on when the entire world was united with the United States, when the U.N. and the U.S. worked together, when our European allies and, for that matter, Asian and African allies, were all with us.

But we're past that point.  And I can only hope that this administration does not take its eye not only off of bin Laden but the prospect of terrorist havens growing in Afghanistan and even growing in parts of Africa.  I think that's the challenge that Democrats are concerned about.

And I've been to Iraq now four times.  I've been to Afghanistan three.  And I'm a believer that Afghanistan is not the done deal that many Americans, and even some in Congress, might believe.  We face a challenge of a rising insurgency even on the ground there.

My only hope is that the president will understand that Democrats can be trusted to work with him, can be trusted as viable partners.  And I think today's press conference is the beginning of an effort to show the American people that we too can be trusted to protect this nation, defend families, and make right choices for our future security.

OLBERMANN:  The vice president did another one of the interviews today in which he alluded to a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, speaking of trips to Iraq.  How exactly do you combat that, when the facts don't seem to have much to do with one of the main arguments about this?

FORD:  This speaks to just the honesty issue, and I think that the American people have caught up with this administration and are frankly prepared to call the president on this.

The president can't, on one day, say that bin Laden had—or I should say Saddam Hussein had very little if anything to do, as he did on a national broadcast the other night, with 9/11, then have his vice president make a ridiculous claim and assertion, unsupported by any facts, that Saddam Hussein had something to do with it.

I think the American people have accepted that there's disagreement between the vice president and the president on that issue.

What Democrats have to do is, we have to ensure the American people that we can be trusted to do the right thing for the country when it comes to not only bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but the war on terrorism as a whole.  The president and the vice president have made their mark, and frankly, I think the voters will make that determination in the fall.

What we have to do as Democrats is show that we can be trusted to lead and defend the country, and today was the start of that.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, candidate for the Senate in the fall, on the occasion of the Democrats launching a counterterror platform here today.  We thank you for your time tonight.

FORD:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  As you may already know, Democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin initiating his own plan for taking on the White House in a different way, the senator calling for the censure of the president earlier this month.

So far, few of his colleagues appearing willing to support the motion, but his witness list appears to be stellar, Nixon White House counsel John Dean, a friend of this newscast, agreeing to testify in what will be his first appearance before the Senate since the Watergate hearings.

John Dean joining us on COUNTDOWN in just a moment.

Those hearings joining a long list of problems facing the White House in the second year of its second term, replacing a member of the president's inner circle, for instance, with another as chief of staff the only apparent change made by the president to turn things around, many arguing it will not be enough.

At this point, let's face it, which job would you take?  That one, or being public relations man for Barry Bonds?

As promised, Nixon White House counsel John Dean joins us now.

John, good evening.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Hi.  Good evening, good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Let me begin by asking about your testimony at this censure hearing coming up on Friday.  It's one thing to analyze and criticize, but as you, of all people, should know, it's an entirely different thing to testify.  Why are you going?

DEAN:  Well, I'm going because I was asked.  That's the obvious reason.  But what I think I've been asked to do is, some—I'm somebody who really has more knowledge, Keith, than I wish I had at times about what can go wrong in a presidency.  And the senator's censure resolution raises issues that I think need to be addressed.

I think that it is not the first move, but I think, indeed, if some of the other legislation on the national security wiretaps do not pass, then something like that is necessary, or the Senate and the Congress at some point are going to waive any right to complain about it.  And I—that's sort of the gist of what I hope to explain to the Senate when I visit with them on Friday.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, you can bear personal witness to the top 10 signs that a presidency has crossed the line, and last time, you did mention a couple of things that wound up cutting through the partisanship of the equation.  But is that possible now?  Can anybody add anything that illuminates rather than just heats?

DEAN:  Well, I think they can, in this regard.  We're looking at something, really, that is a matter of process.  There was a lot of debate, for example, during the Clinton impeachment about whether the wisdom or not appropriate nature of a censure.

And I think they missed the point, and I think somebody needs to bring some of this testimony forward to look at this in a broader context of what it's doing if the Congress doesn't stand up and say something about what the president is doing, in essence, we have, down in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, lawyers who are taking the most aggressive readings on any part of the law they can to enhance executive power.

And I think it's past time for Congress, really, to stand up and do something about it.

OLBERMANN:  At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we certainly have a White House that, no matter what else it is or it is not, is beleaguered.  The chief of staff resigns.  His former deputy succeeds him.  What's your read on that?  Why stay inside the inner circle for his replacement when there seemed to be such call inside his party for some kind of new, or at least unfamiliar, broom?

DEAN:  Well, I think, first of all, on Andy Card's departure, I'm surprised it took this long.  I think probably he was there at a financial sacrifice and wanted to get out and earn some money while he still could.  And his resignation's been out there for a while.  And the decision as to who to replace him is really define some continuity that the president's comfortable with and understands the processes within the White House.

And that's what he's done.  It is a complex operation.  If anybody drops a ball at that level, it is a serious problem.  We have seen it happen a couple times with this administration.  Katrina is, of course, the classic and most unpleasant example.  And you need somebody who's in there who can, indeed, hopefully, not let that happen again.

OLBERMANN:  John, this president's loyalty to the people who've been loyal to him is fabled.  It's often admirable.  But when it gets to this extent, there seems to be a vibe, something resembling, We don't want any outsiders.  Could there be another reason for this?  Is there something that's still so messy below the surface that they can't let their own people in on a secret?

DEAN:  Well, this has been very apparent since the very outset, that Mr. Bush has surrounded himself with people he's very comfortable with, that he has great trust in their discretion.  The Bush family is known to have very strong feelings about people who speak out of school.  He's developed a relationship with a vice president who's really, in a sense, been his mentor, his teacher, and has really changed a lot of his thinking about the presidency.  That's a solid bond that's not going to be broken.

So indeed, we're seeing the same thing at the top, if you will, the inner circle that protects him from the outside world.  It's the bubble he's decided he wants to live in, and apparently he finds himself comfortable.

I think it's a dangerous situation.  I think you need somebody in there who will tell the president some of the news he doesn't want to hear.

OLBERMANN:  Something that I'm sure he wouldn't want to hear is in the news today.  As we close this, I'd like to get your reaction and your insight on this.  Jack Abramoff, the convicted lobbyist, sentenced to nearly six years in prison today in a process that concluded here in Florida.  Does the administration have more to worry about as the rest of the legal proceedings against him play out?

DEAN:  Well, I think they do.  I think he has obviously sent signals he's unhappy.  That was—that sentence, Keith, I believe, can be adjusted at some point.  I think the judge wanted to get it out.  It makes him a very strong witness, now, if he does testify, with that kind of sentence hanging over him.

But still, there is—there are different procedural stages at which a sentence can be reduced still.  So he may not have to live with that the whole distance, if he is highly cooperative.  That's what I think the White House and others in the administration should be worried about.

OLBERMANN:  So that's the figure to watch.  That's the number to put on this, how long he actually winds up being sentenced to.

John Dean, White House counsel to President Nixon, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” and soon to make a no-doubt-nostalgic return to a Senate committee near you.

Good luck with that.  Thanks for your time.  And, as they say, this is where I came in.  Good night, John.

OLBERMANN:  Good night.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the shuffle in the president's West Wing doesn't even compare to the complete turnover in the first lady's half of the house.  Would the commander in chief be well advised to take a page from Mrs. Bush's playbook?

And speaking of playbooks, it's official.  The commissioner of baseball has now read the book about Barry Bonds and steroids.  So is he indeed going to announce an official investigation as early as tomorrow, or merely make it a new selection to his book club?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In any other political context, they'd be sticking Laura Bush with the derisive title “the Leona Helmsley of Washington.”  But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, when it comes to the White House, the first lady's seeming prolific staff turnover is in fact completely average.

As MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell, explains, it is actually her husband's lack of staff upheaval that's out of the ordinary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

It's springtime in Washington, and, some argue, the perfect time for a little spring cleaning at the White House.

Already, Andy Card is out, but the real shakeup is not in the West Wing, but the East Wing, where Laura Bush rules.  This week, Mrs. Bush's second pastry chef is calling it quits.

LAURA BUSH:  Thank you again, Thaddeus.

O'DONNELL:  The first lady canned the head chef last year to install a woman.  She's on her second chief of staff, third spokesperson, in fact, her entire top staff recently replaced.  The changes, Mrs. Bush told NBC last year, are normal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL:  There have been some stories that there is an East Wing intrigue, a shakeup going on, that Mrs. Bush is cleaning house and getting a whole new staff.  Are you doing that, or—

LAURA BUSH:  There's not a lot of promotion possibilities in the East Wing, sadly.  I guess you get promoted to the West Wing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL:  The first lady's popularity ratings are sky high, the president's, rock bottom, which has some wondering whether it's time for Laura Bush to tell her husband to shake up his staff.

SALLY QUINN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  The wife is the only one who can say, Look, you know, you've got to clean house.  You've got to get some new people in here.

O'DONNELL:  Sally Quinn wrote an open letter in “The Washington Post” urging the first lady to speak up.

QUINN:  I think that she will be able to have some influence on him to make some changes too, more than just Andy Card.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”)

LAURA BUSH:  That's one of the things we do talk about the most—

LARRY KING, HOST:  Oh, yes?

LAURA BUSH:  --are personalities.  And I know everyone as well as he does who works here.  I mean, I've worked with them also.  And so, you know, certainly, I would give him that kind of advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL:  In fact, Laura Bush is slowly moving to a more activist role, traveling as a goodwill ambassador, entertaining much more, and flexing her muscles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH:  I try to walk a brisk walk—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL:  When Hillary Clinton called the Republican-dominated House a plantation, Mrs. Bush slammed the comments as ridiculous.  So it's clear there's a new, emboldened Laura Bush who, as adviser in chief, may now be privately counseling the president to undertake his own staff overhaul.

For COUNTDOWN, I'm Norah O'Donnell in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Norah, thanks.

Also tonight, if that's the tricycle, how big is the damn kid?

And this looks like an ordinary cat, an ordinary cat named Lewis.  Lewis the Cat.  But Lewis does not like Avon Ladies, so Lewis is under house arrest, and I'm doing another one of those stories my producers are forcing me to cover.

Ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was on this date in 1912 that the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott froze to death on his way back from the South Pole.  Look, he had enough trouble on that trip without me getting on his case now.  But frankly, that happened because he tried to get there and back with ponies and rudimentary trucks, both of which froze, instead of dogs.  He tried everything but bicycles.  I'm just saying.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Storkau (ph), Germany, with the world's largest bike.  Now, if Commander Scott had had this puppy—it's a trike, really, 25 feet tall, made from more than 300 feet of aluminum, 80 bicycle rims, and 100 soccer balls to make up the tires.  Best use of soccer balls ever.  Certainly better than playing soccer with them.

(INAUDIBLE) says he built the bike to welcome fans to the World Cup of soccer, hoped to be able to ride around inside the stadiums before the games, but officials won't let him, so far, anyway, so instead he's just riding around town trying to figure out a way to get off the stupid thing.

Tacoma, Washington, hello.  Diving pigs, hooray, diving pigs.  It's the star attraction at this year's Tacoma Dome Boat Show, and I know what you're thinking.  What, more popular than the booth with the pamphlets on marine liability insurance?  Yes, far more popular.

Randall's High-diving Racers are a traveling pig show taking the plunge over and over again, not at all against their will.  I'd like to see the pigs all get together and force Randall to do this himself.

And finally, yes, Silvio Berlusconi again.  I know we promised not to play this video more than 20 or 30 times, but today it started to pop up on some of those big-name Web sites, and we thought—Hello! -- we thought we'd remind you, before you start seeing it everywhere, that you saw it here first last Tuesday.  And then you saw it here second last Wednesday, and third on Thursday.

Speaking of repetitive but still fascinating, the Barry Bonds steroid scandal with a new twist.  There is news breaking at this hour that baseball will investigate Barry Bonds and others who may have used steroids even before there were rules against steroids.

And profanity in America, using that is a little bit more widespread.  We're used to seeing it on TV and in the movies, but now, more than ever, four-letter words are a mainstay in everyday communication.  Well, how the blank did that happen?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, James Wilson of Redford, Michigan.  He's gone on strike from his marriage.  Mr. Wilson has moved up onto the roof of his house, says he won't come down till his wife complies with his demands.  He says she lets the kids sleep in their bedroom with them, which is causing, quote, “intimacy issues.”  Yes, you on the roof is going to solve that.  Mr.  Wilson!

Number two, three unnamed drunk drivers in the Hague in Holland.  Police stopped one, tested him, fined him.  They did not test his passengers.  He got a fine for DUI, one of the passengers took the wheel, that passenger was then arrested a few miles down the road, DUI.  The remaining passenger took over.  He too was stopped and fined for DUI.  Three drunk-driving arrests in one car.

And number one, Eugene Dobbins and Jeffrey Ware of Lawrence, Indiana, police calling these guys the dumbest criminals they've have ever seen.  Hey, I'll be the judge of that.  Arrested with bags of marijuana and crack cocaine in the McDonald's drive-through lane at 1:30 in the morning, the wait was too long, so they started yelling obscenities at the other customers.  Then they fired a gun into the air, but they still stayed in the line.

It took 10 minutes to get to the window, by which time the cops were there, waiting to arrest them.  You want fries with those felony charges?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Baseball spring training camps down here and in Arizona are remarkably devoid of talks about Barry Bonds and steroid use.  Not because people are trying to avert a scandal nor defend him or other players past or present but just because it all seems so obvious to so many.  The only remaining question what to do about it.

Our number three story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, we may have an answer.  Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is poised to investigate.  Barry Bonds sounds like he wouldn't mind getting out.  That's the other part of the story.  The commissioner may announce a steroid investigation as early as tomorrow and it might be led formally by former U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell.  “The New York Times” hinted at a probe, this morning.  Tonight, my colleagues at ESPN are reporting that the investigation with Mitchell at its helm plus a team of investigators is set.

The Associated Press saying an unnamed baseball executive saying final plans for the investigation are still pending and Mitchell in fact has not signed up but all the reporting agrees this would not be an investigation of only Barry Bonds but would be more widespread.  And while the president of major league baseball Bob DuPuy would not confirm if Mr. Mitchell was being considered  for it, he all but confirmed the investigation itself, quoting, “It is still under consideration but the direction will be resolved within the next 48 hours.”  And he said that yesterday.

As for Bonds, he said yesterday, quoting again, “My life is in shambles. 

It is crazy.  It couldn't get any crazier.  I'm just trying to stay sane.”

Then he joked, “Go to the Empire State Building and jump off, commit suicide and people can say, Barry Bonds is finally dead.”

Another joke?  Or perhaps not.  Bonds saying he was ready for the season to start because then quote, “it's closer to being over.”

Joining me now staff writer for “The Washington Post,” author of “Juicing the Game,” a book about steroids and baseball, Howard Bryant.  Thanks again for your time, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Hi, Keith.  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  Well, not bad.  First though let's start off with this apparent imminent announcement of an investigation.  Stan Brand (ph) was on the show last week.  He had represented baseball during the steroid hearings a year ago before Congress and he thought that the Bonds lawsuit that didn't work out too well over this book “Game of Shadows” would both enable Bud Selig to do something and increase the pressure on him to do something.  Is that what you are gathering that that's what the impetus here is?

BRYANT:  Well, I've always thought he needed to investigate anyway.  I didn't think that this was something he was going to be able to simply hide from just by having a new steroid policy.  If you're going to do this, the first thing you have to do is make sure that it's independent.  You don't want to have an investigation where people think they know the answers before the questions, and the other thing is you need to decide what the scope of this investigation is going to be.  Is it going to be something like the Kerner (ph) commission or the 9/11 commission where you investigate a time period and you come to conclusions in terms of closure?  Or is this going to be something like the Pete Rose investigation where there is going to be a punishment at the end of the investigation?

OLBERMANN:  The only detail in this that we know of so far, ESPN reporting that Bonds and any other current player—I'm reading it directly from their report - “who may be part of this investigation would be allowed to play while the investigation is ongoing.”  Does that sort of—whereas that sounds eminently fair, does it also create a kind of Pandora's Box for baseball where they have both the scandal going and the investigation going and both are serving to perpetuate the negative stories while Barry Bonds and anybody else who might be under investigation are still playing?

BRYANT:  Well, absolutely, but I think that the most unfair part of this

whole thing is to determine, A, if you're going to investigate players.  It

cannot stop with players.  You have to investigate the mechanism.  You have

to investigate how guys like Tony LaRussa came out last year and said how -

·         that he knew that Jose Canseco was using steroids and yet he never told his superiors.  He never told Sandy Elderson (ph) who, in turn, didn't know and didn't tell the commissioner.  So I think if you leave it to the players and investigate the players only, it's going to be a disaster because that's not the only place where the blame should lie.

The secondary thing about it is it cannot only stay with active players.  You have to go back into this decade.  You have to look at it from the standpoint of McGwire, Sosa, everybody, and you have to investigate the culture of how these young players believed that they need to use this stuff.  Otherwise, it looks like you're picking on Bonds.  It looks like you're only going to only investigate Bonds.  And if that's your intention, then this is going to be a colossal failure.  The key is whether or not the commissioner will investigate himself.  Because he's part of it too.

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps Mr. Mitchell can do that.  But one issue here, Howard.  Mark McGwire is out of baseball.  Sammy Sosa is out of baseball.  Rafael Palmeiro is out of baseball.  Bret Boone is out of baseball.  Jeff Bagwell is out of baseball.  Almost all the guys who looked like mutant ninja turtles are out of baseball except Bonds and a couple other guys, Jason Giambi one of them, who admitted at least in the grand jury testimony that he had used steroids and said he stopped doing so.  If you go back and you look retroactively at other players, how do you punish them if they are already out of the game?

BRYANT:  Well, for some of the players you do the one thing that you can do.  You can do what they're doing to Pete Rose.  You send an edict down that these guys are not going to be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame and that's the bottom line.  That's going to be the ultimate punishment.  Or that they can't even be involved in baseball.  So if they weren't players who were going to be questioned or possible candidates for the hall then they can't be coaches.  They're not going to be able to be managers.  There has to be some form of punishment because it's totally unfair if Mark McGwire gets to skate but Barry Bonds gets banned from the game.  You can't have it both ways, which is what baseball has wanted to do.

OLBERMANN:  Only since about 1869.

BRYANT:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  One thing about Bonds in particular.  These strange quotes to the Associated Press.  Is this just anybody in a pressurized situation and the pressure is forcing things to leak out the sides of his head?

Or does he actually think that something like that might create sympathy for him?  Because he did do, did he not, some things like this, say things like this, before last season started as well and he had his son standing next to him and cameras rolling and things like that?

BRYANT:  It's always been a bizarre show for him but when you think about his life being in shambles, many, many people's lives should be in such shambles.  Number one, he's made over $140 million in his career, all of that money was guaranteed, all of that money is his.

Number two, he's a healthy person who has his family, who is still being allowed to play the game that he loves, he's not being banned from baseball, as of yet, anyway, and furthermore, he's got everything that he had before and anything that you would say has affected his life in a negative way at the end of the day began and ended with him.  Most people never wanted this to happen for Barry Bonds.  People are still saying that they don't believe what's happened to him.  So anything that he can say has affected him, he's got to look in the mirror.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any remaining chance in this that Bonds could resolve all this, take all these hints and get out rather than let these things play out the way it looks like it's playing out?

BRYANT:  Well, to me Barry Bonds is the most mentally tough player I have

ever seen, Michael Jordan included.  Because he has still produced during

all of this.  He's too close to the records now.  He's too close to

everything that he's built.  Why would he walk away from this monument?  I

·         I just don't see it.

OLBERMANN:  “The Washington Post” staff sportswriter and author of “Juicing the Game” Howard Bryant.  Great thanks with the breaking news on the Bonds investigation.

BRYANT:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, everywhere you go these days even in baseball, communication is laced with a flurry of four-letter colorful words.  But just how many of them?

And you'll never guess which Hollywood starlet wants to be the next Angelina Jolie wannabe, adopting kids.  Another story my producers are forcing me to cover.  That ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Before some news stories, correspondents tell you you had better sit down for this or you will be surprised to learn.  Not in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight.  A new poll finds 64 percent of us use cuss words on a regular basis, even more say they are exposed to them on a regular basis.  The others apparently live amid Benedictine monks who have sworn themselves to silence.  Our correspondent standing by with a bleep machine is Kevin Corke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Chances are you didn't hear it here first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (Expletive deleted)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right (Expletive deleted)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (Expletive deleted)

CORKE:  We can complain, bicker, or some other b-word, all we want about foul language on TV and at the movies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don't care for the way your company left me in the middle of (Expletive deleted) nowhere with (Expletive deleted) to a car that isn't (Expletive deleted) there.

CORKE:  But to tell the truth more of us are swearing every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it's part of my everyday language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I only need a special occasion to curse.  It's just whatever comes.

RICHARD PRYOR, FORMER COMEDIAN:  Sometimes people want me to talk nasty to them.

CORKE:  A new study of swearing shows 74 percent of those surveyed hear profanity in public occasionally, 46 percent admit they use swearwords at least a few times a week, a shocking 64 percent say they use the biggest curse word of all.  It begins with “F.”

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN:  What the (Expletive deleted) is you doing at the club at 2:00 in the (Expletive deleted) morning?

CORKE:  And it's not just part of an act.

AMY DICKINSON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I think we're doing the easiest, the cheesiest, the laziest thing which is to just drop whatever curse bombs we feel like.

CARTMAN, CARTOON CHARACTER:  Here is what I think of your (Expletive deleted)

CORKE:  And the younger you are the more likely you are to hear a curse bomb.  Eighty six percent of 18-29 year olds say they hear people swear in public but nearly, 44 percent, say it doesn't bother them.

TOM MILLER, IPSOS PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  A lot of people are using that language and the ones who are using it are least bothered by the fact of it being used by others around them.

CORKE:  Still, for some it's hard to quit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You go through the sugar kind of thing like in the fudge thing.  Then it just goes out the window.

CORKE:  A window that seems to be open to more trash talking every day.

(Expletive deleted) (Expletive deleted)

CORKE:  Kevin Corke, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of what the F?  Jessica Simpson may soon be someone's mother, that's the transition to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  Representatives for the 25-year-old entertainer saying Miss Simpson has been looking into the adoption process and going over plans to potentially start an orphanage in Mexico.

Miss Simpson reportedly inspired by the prolific international adoption habits of Angelina Jolie telling “Extra” quote, “I want to adopt and I plan to adopt before I have my own kids.”

An adoption tip, Miss Simpson, to be clear on the terminology.  Once you adopt you damn well better think of them exclusively as your own kids.

And a change ahead for singer Tom Jones.  Instead of a young woman throwing her panties at his head there was this older woman hitting him on the shoulders with a sword.  The Welsh singer and perennial ladies' man, legally Tom Jones Woodward taking on the additional title of “sir” today.  Queen Elizabeth II bestowing the honor of knighthood to the an responsible for such hits as “What's New Pussycat” man.  At Buckingham Palace - that wasn't a song, it was at Buckingham Palace.  The song is “What's New Pussycat.”

“I love seeing the queen, he said, and I have always been a royalist” said Sir Tom before continuing in that marvelous voice of his, “She's lovely and she still is lovely.”  Well, Mr. Jones, after all, she's a lady, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Lastly in “Tabs” evidence of the truth that the best part of baseball spring training may be the practical jokes the players try on one another which the rest of us usually don't see.  But young Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop Russ Adams tried to play hardball with the big boys today and lost.  They commented on the friendship between their teammates, ace pitchers Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett by wearing t-shirts referencing them and reading “Brokeback Mound.”

Halladay and Burnett got their revenge at 9:30 this morning.  An airplane they hired flew over us at the Blue Jays spring training stadium in Dunedin, Florida, trailing the message, “Russ, will you marry me?  Aaron.”  Not long after Russ and Aaron they were presented with tuxedo jackets with uniform numbers stitched on their backs and a marriage ceremony inside the Blue Jays clubhouse.

Then during the game as 3,400 confused spectators looked on, the denouement, the plane came back this time trailing a banner reading “Congratulations Aaron and Russ.”

Well, on a baseball team the second baseman and the shortstop are referred to as double play partners.

Then there is the combination of the dangerous house pet and the half dozen passers-by who claim they have been attacked by it.  It's a cat.  The cat named Lewis.  Lewis the cat.  Another story my producers are forcing me to cover but first, time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze tonight to Howard Kaloogian, a Republican candidate to replace Duke Cunningham in Congress since Cunningham is in jail now.  He is running on apparently a blame-the-media platform because he posted that photo on his campaign Website with the caption that read, “we took this photo of downtown Baghdad when we were in Iraq.  Iraq, including Baghdad, is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be but each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S.  effort to fight terrorism.”

Only problem, that picture there isn't Baghdad, it's Istanbul, Turkey.  No wonder it was so calm there, sir.

Runner-up Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the Democrat of Georgia, U.S.  Capitol Police considering whether to press charges against her after an incident today at the Longworth House office building.  An officer said he did not recognize the congresswoman when she entered the building and went around metal detectors which members are allowed to do.  When he caught up to her and grabbed her arm he says she swung and punched him in the chest.

But the winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  Fired by ESPN for claiming the media was trying to make Donovan McNabb look better than he was because it wanted a black quarterback to succeed, he has now ventured back into the deep end of that pool about 14-year-old golf prodigy Michelle Wie (ph) playing in tournaments against men.  Limbaugh telling the Web site badgolfer.com, quote, “It's a marketing tool they're using to build her up to a level much greater than her actual accomplishments.”  He added that golfer Vijay Singh had criticized women playing against men and quote, “look what it got him, attacked by a bunch of liberals and feninazis.”

Didn't Limbaugh say something about no longer making those Nazis references or did I dream it?  Comedian Rush Limbaugh.  Today's “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A quick update on the Barry Bonds and steroid story from baseball, the Associated Press reporting that tomorrow baseball will announce plans to investigate the use of steroids by Bonds and other players.  No further details yet available.  It will be an interesting day around ballparks tomorrow.

Finally, a cat.  The executive producer said the excitement almost frying the phoneline from headquarters this afternoon.  A cat who attacks the Avon lady.  Another killer cat story.  I pointed out that just last Friday we did a live interview with a cat who had fallen 80 feet and lived to meow about it.  I pointed out we even played a tape of the fall for the cat.  Her owner grabbed the cat's head and made her look at the monitor live on national television.  And that was great the executive producer said.  Her mind and soul so beyond redemption that I gave up and acquiesced.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, another story my producers are forcing me to cover.  Whiskers gone wild.

The latest entry into the flipped out feline files.  Lewis under house arrest according to authorities in Fairfield, Connecticut.  The five year old black and white kitty had stalked and attacked at least six people, including the Avon lady.  Dingdong, I have some lovely—meow!  Meow!

She is suing and while we obviously have no video of the alleged attacks, we can do a terrific job at approximation, sort of like “Cat Puppet Theater.”

A neighbor attacked twice by Lewis not seen here claims the cat springs from behind himself around the victim's leg before commencing the scratching and biting and the cat scratch fever, no doubt.

More than one of those finding themselves at the business end of Lewis' claws required medical attention.  His owner, Ruth Caesero (ph) was also arrested for failing to comply with the original restraining order requiring that he be kept indoors.  The Fairfield Police Department animal control officer who issued that order is Rachel Solveira.  Officer Solveira, thanks for your time tonight, good evening.

RACHEL SOLVEIRA, ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  You met this cat and seemed to have escaped unharmed is he vicious?

SOLVEIRA:  I have met Lewis and he isn't vicious when he is kept indoors.  We have had him at the shelter a few times now for quarantine.  And we can handle him, we can move him from his cage, we can pet him.  The problem comes when he is allowed to roam freely in his neighborhood.  I believe he thinks that's his whole territory and no one else is allowed there.  And he really will attack anybody who is walking by or getting out of a car or making a delivery at one of the homes.

OLBERMANN:  How did this come to your attention?  Did neighbors call in and tell you there was a cat attacking everyone in the neighborhood?

SOLVEIRA:  Initially we had a call—There was a concern there was a stray cat in the neighborhood who had an aggressive nature and they actually told me they felt he was stalking the neighborhood.  We didn't do anything at first because there really are no laws that allow us to handle stray cats.  However, we were aware of him so about a year later we got a report that he actually attacked someone.

And the problem with Lewis is he attacks unprovoked and he comes out of nowhere and he will just jump on somebody's leg and attach himself on and he can create a bunch of havoc doing so.

OLBERMANN:  But a restraining order relative to a cat is apparently is a first.  What made you feel that was a necessary step to take?

SOLVEIRA:  It is unusual and we have never done before, however the owner even though we have spoken with her about it would not keep Lewis in the house.  And basically the only time he attacks is when he is kept outdoors.  My only recourse really is to order a restraint order or a disposal order.  So I felt that a restraint order was the best to solve the problem to keep the cat indoors.

OLBERMANN:  And the owner said he would attack only if provoked?  Obviously that wasn't your sense?

SOLVEIRA:  I have taken several statements from different women in the neighborhood who have been attacked and all of them say it was completely unprovoked and they were walking up the driveway going into a home and getting out of a car and he came out of nowhere.  And they didn't even see him coming and they feel it was completely unprovoked.

OLBERMANN:  And just to sort of round this out, the cat has six toes on each paw?

SOLVEIRA:  He does.

OLBERMANN:  Just making it a little worse?

SOLVEIRA:  He has extra toes and each toe has a claw.  So every time he attacks it does more damage than your average cat.

OLBERMANN:  Is that why he is so angry?  Is that the problem here?  He's got too many toes?

SOLVEIRA:  I don't think so, but it does create a bit more of a problem.

OLBERMANN:  Officer Rachel Solveira of the Animal Control Department of Fairfield, Connecticut.  Good luck with it.  Now we understand what the phrase crazy cat means.  Thanks for your time, good night.

SOLVEIRA:  Thank you very much, good night.

OLBERMANN:  Ooh!  A kitty.  That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 1063rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Keep your knees loose, especially around that cat.

I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.  Good evening, Rita.

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

END   

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