updated 4/4/2006 11:17:52 AM ET 2006-04-04T15:17:52

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Michael Musto

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

Exit strategy, not from Iraq, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Scott McClellan rumored on the way out.  Treasury Secretary Snow rumored on the way out.  And ex-CentCom chief General Zinni says Donald Rumsfeld should follow them.

If the president thinks he‘s got problems, how about Osama bin Laden?  How do you shake up your cabinet when you live in a cave?  Zarqawi reportedly out of al Qaeda ‘s political leadership in Iraq.

The time of the tornadoes.  Tennessee most gravely stricken, but more than two dozen dead in eight Southern and Midwestern states.

Too graphic, too soon.  There‘s a movie about the World Trade Center coming this August, and three weeks from Friday, what about “Flight 93”?  Why is this OK?

And more stories my producers are forcing me to cover.  Lindsay Lohan forgets to cover, insufficient panties at a movie awards ceremony for kids.  Mommy, what is that in her back pocket?

And Tom Cruise‘s priorities, first comes baby, then comes the release of his movie, then he and the fiancee get married.  Why am I thinking that the movie “Mission:  Impossible III” is really the film biography of Katie Holmes?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

The president today took a respite from his slow-motion tumble down a seemingly endless flight of political stairs to throw out the first pitch at the first game of the baseball season in Cincinnati.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, if the Washington rumor mill is correct, he will also shortly be throwing out the secretary of the Treasury and possibly the press spokesman too.

The former majority owner of the Texas Rangers going National League on us, ceremonially opening the season before the Reds hosted the Chicago Cubs in Cincinnati, calling the toss his, quote, “best pitch, which was kind of a slow ball.”  His words, not ours.

Mr. Bush was probably the best pitcher in a Reds uniform today. The other six gave up 16 runs and 18 hits in the 16 to 7 loss to Chicago.

Some of those twirlers might be asking the president for work soon.  Chief of staff-designate Joshua Bolten reportedly developing a proposal to overhaul the West Wing, said to be on the way in, that long talked-about congressional liaison, identity still TBA, said to be on the way out, the press secretary, Scott McClellan, and the Treasury secretary, John Snow.

Reports of Donald Rumsfeld‘s demise also in circulation tonight. 

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the former leader of U.S.  Central Command, becoming the second general in as many weeks to call for Rummy‘s resignation, saying it is time to quit blaming the troops for the mistakes of the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, IRAQ CENTRAL COMMAND: 

Don‘t blame the troops.  They‘ve the ones who perform the tactics on the ground.  They‘ve been magnificent.  If anything saves us, it will be them.

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  Should someone resign?

ZINNI:  Absolutely.

RUSSERT:  Who?

ZINNI:  Secretary of defense, to begin with.

RUSSERT:  Anyone else?

ZINNI:  Well, I think that we—that those that have been responsible for the planning, for overriding all the efforts that were made in planning before that, that those that stood by and allowed this to happen, that didn‘t speak out.  And there are appropriate ways within the system you can speak out, at congressional hearings and otherwise.  I think they have to be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The admission that tactical errors have been made in Iraq coming from none other than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, conceding over the weekend that the administration has probably made thousands of mistakes in its handling of the war effort, yet still defending the invasion as the right move.

Quoting, “If you‘ve ever made a decision, you‘ve undoubtedly made mistakes.  The important thing is to get the big strategic decisions right.  I‘m confident the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein was the right one.”

Getting rid of people might be the easy part.  The other personnel problem facing the Bush administration tonight, what if nobody wants the job?  Take FEMA, for example.  No, really.  Take FEMA, please.  “The New York Times” reporting that at least seven people have been offered Michael Brown‘s former job as director, all of them saying, no, thanks.  Hundreds of other positions at the disaster response agency also unfilled.

The start of hurricane season only 59 days away, tornadoes having already ravaged Tennessee and seven other states.

For a reality check on who‘s really on the way out, and how much of this is just far-out speculation, let‘s call in “Newsweek”‘s senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Beginning at the Pentagon, the president still expressing confidence in his defense secretary.  That was as recently as two weeks ago.  Have these reports of Mr. Rumsfeld‘s demise made it beyond the rumor stage, even with the general‘s remarks?

WOLFFE:  Well, Tony Zinni doesn‘t get invited to the Christmas parties anymore, and because he goes out and does things like this.

But there is something real that has changed about the situation for Don Rumsfeld.  When this stuff first came up, 2004, the president‘s view of it, according to one of his very close friends, told me, he said, you know, the president thought this was too political to throw him overboard.  It would look like he was bowing to pressure, especially from Democrats.

After the election, there was the feeling, of course, that nothing needed to change.  Everything had gone superbly well.  But, of course, what‘s happened over the last year is, things have not gone so well.  And so the environment has changed around Don Rumsfeld, just as it‘s changed around John Snow.

As to whether a decision has been made, or whether it‘s imminent, everyone‘s just guessing.  But the—as I said, the environment and the landscape has changed completely.

OLBERMANN:  What are the guesses about the press secretary, Mr.  McClellan?  I mean, a lot of Mr. Bush‘s critics would be sorry to see him go, which might explain the rumor.  But is not a press secretary only as good as the material he gets to work with?  Would the White House be shooting the messenger rather than working on the message?

WOLFFE:  Well, these guys have been getting shut up (ph) for the message for the last year at least, especially from members of their own party on Capitol Hill.  Having said that, Scott, in private discussions, Scott has kind of dropped a lot of hints to reporters that, you know, his days were kind of numbered, and he was looking to move on.

I think the hard thing for some of these guys is that they‘ve been with President Bush for a very long time.  You‘ve seen him on the podium for years, but he was in Texas.  A lot of them joined Governor Bush, then, when it was basically straight out of college.  And I think the tough call for them is, do they basically say, Look, my whole career is invested in this guy, I‘ve got to see it through to the end, or, get out while I‘m slightly ahead, I can still make some money in the private sector, and while I can still have the energy to find another life?

OLBERMANN:  Andy Card left nearly a week ago.  We‘ve mentioned McClellan, Rumsfeld, John Snow at Treasury.  Is there a sea change?  Does this represent any alteration of the presidential idea of loyalty?  Has somebody convinced him, has he perhaps convinced himself, that loyalty to people who are make, making mistakes or are perceived as making mistakes, can wind up being worse even than the idea of a revolving door or—

WOLFFE:  Yes—

OLBERMANN:  ... reactionary change?

WOLFFE:  Loyalty is, I‘m afraid, a one-way street in President Bush‘s book.  People are loyal to President Bush, but the loyalty doesn‘t go the other way.  There‘s affection, don‘t get me wrong.  I mean, it‘s not he throws people overboard all the time.  But ask Larry Lindsay, as Paul O‘Neill.  He can be brutal when he wants to be.

And there‘s no illusion about this being an sort of equal relationship.  Andy Card talked about him as being friends, but it was pretty clear who was boss.  And, you know, from time to time, especially when he‘s in a hole, as the president knows he‘s in right now, he‘ll make some tough calls.  And I expect there‘ll be plenty of people he‘ll say good-bye to.

Tommy Thompson, for instance, after 2005, in the early 2005, you know, the man was in tears.  He wanted to stay on, he‘d been a close friend of Bush, and the president said, Bye-bye.

OLBERMANN:  Would this ever go to the degree of Karl Rove?  Would he ever toss his oldest political colleague, friend, puppeteer, whichever phrase you want to use, under the bus?

WOLFFE:  A much tougher call.  You know, there‘s such a long, well-established relationship.  I will say that, listen, there were real contingency plans made for the eventuality that  Karl was going to get indicted.  And since they think that that‘s a far less likely proposition now, Karl is looking more relaxed and is doing many more public events.

I think it would have to take something that extreme for the president to say good-bye.  And, really, in that case, in that scenario, Karl himself would quit.  I don‘t think there‘d be any question of the president having to push him out.

OLBERMANN:  And briefly, not a question of saying good-bye, but trying to find someone who‘ll say hello.  What‘s going on at FEMA?

WOLFFE:  They‘ve been trying for a long time.  Essentially, and the administration wont‘ say this, but they‘ve abolished FEMA.  They want people to go through Chertoff.  And anyone who‘s worth their salt doesn‘t want to do that.  They want to maintain the good jobs they have in their home states, and they don‘t want to just become middle management in the bureaucracy.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that homeland FEMA dyad worked so well last fall.

Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Organizations of all kinds in need of a shakeup every now and then.  Only in this often inexplicable 21st century world of ours, though, could we be hearing of a cabinet reshuffle inside a terrorist organization, a man with close ties to the insurgent groups claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been marginalized by al Qaeda, at least politically, restricted to military actions as the number of big suicide bombings in Iraq, al-Zarqawi‘s infamous form of attack, has sharply fallen.

The reason given for the supposed change, backlash sparked by November‘s attacks on hotels in Jordan, in which 63 Arab Muslims were killed, some experts cautioning that the claim of al-Zarqawi‘s demotion is hard to verify, others saying that Zarqawi‘s role in the Iraqi insurgency and in al Qaeda at large may have been exaggerated all along.

The most heartening picture to come out of Iraq over the weekend was that of the former hostage Jill Carroll heading home.  Yesterday, she was reunited with her family, and today she came face to face with many of her colleagues at “The Christian Science Monitor,” the newspaper for which she wrote.

At each step of her journey back, our correspondent Richard Engel was along for the ride.  His report is from Boston tonight.  Richard?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, editors at “The Christian Science Monitor” say Carroll came here, to the newspaper‘s Boston headquarters, to meet her colleagues.  Before being kidnapped, she‘d been a freelance reporter and had actually never even been here.

JILL CARROLL:  Well, I just want to say hi.

ENGEL (voice-over):  It was an unusual first day at the office.  Jill Carroll‘s colleagues had only known her through articles and hostage videos.  Today, Carroll introduced herself.

CARROLL:  It‘s really great to finally be here and meet people in person I‘ve talked to on the phone so many times.

ENGEL:  And thank the newspaper for its support while she was a hostage.

CARROLL:  I just want to say how much I‘m overwhelmed by how wonderful the paper has been to my family and to everyone.

ENGEL:  “The Monitor” also defended Carroll for making an anti-American propaganda video as demanded, Carroll says, by her kidnappers.

DAVID COOK, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”:  This is a wonderful, honorable woman, and to have her patriotism or integrity impugned is disgusting.

ENGEL:  Today‘s visit was unannounced.

Since Carroll landed in Germany on Saturday on a U.S. military flight from Baghdad, she‘s been moving like a head of state.  Dozens of reporters were waiting when she arrived yesterday at Boston‘s Logan Airport, but Carroll was escorted away in a private car.  Local TV news helicopters tried to follow her convoy but lost her in an underpass.

The newspaper‘s goal, to keep this moment private, her family reunion.

(on camera):  The media attention is all very new for Carroll.  Before, she was a struggling freelance reporter.  Now, she has a staff job at “The Monitor,” and, according to a representative from the newspaper, she already has several book offers, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Richard Engel with Jill Carroll in Boston.  Great thanks.

Also tonight, search dogs combing destroyed communities in the desperate effort to find survivors yet trapped under rubble.  The tornadoes are back.

And just weeks away from the release of “United 93,” about that flight, a theater in New York pulls the theatrical trailer of the movie.  We will show it to you.  We will ask a prominent movie critic if it is just too soon for filmed versions of 9/11.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It has been a terrifying 24 hours in the heartland, at least 60 tornadoes touching down in at least seven different states.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a deadly start to the season.  At least 27 are dead, 23 of them in Tennessee alone.

And that is where we find our correspondent Ron Mott, in the devastated town of Millsfield.  Ron, good evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON MOTT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

As far as the eye can see, trees are down, homes are literally turned inside out.  It‘s the aftermath of a devastating night of weather that saw winds at least 160 miles an hour.

(voice-over):  Carving paths of death and destruction for miles on end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANCHOR:  It‘s just hard to imagine that 24 hours ago, these were still homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOTT:  Here in Dyer County, Tennessee, Kathy Riddick‘s (ph) old brick farmhouse is nowhere to be seen.

KATHY RIDDICK, TORNADO VICTIM:  It took it within 15 seconds.  It was over within 15 seconds.  The whole house was gone.

MOTT:  At least 20 people in Tennessee were killed, including an infant.

JIMMY SMITH, TENNESSEE RESIDENT:  This day proof (ph), I thought I was fixing to die.  I just wondered how it was going to feel.

MOTT:  The storm‘s punch was felt throughout the Midwest, from Iowa, to Arkansas, to Kentucky, and parts in between.  In Arkansas, funnel clouds caught on home videotape, a half-dozen tornadoes ripped through the state, storms dropping hail as big as softballs, causing severe damage to cars.

In Missouri, at least three dead, one man killed when he was struck by a tree.  In Illinois, just east of St.  Louis, one dead, a man trapped inside this clothing store when it collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I looked up and I saw the whole ceiling coming down.

MOTT:  And in Indiana, the storm knocked out power and shattered windows of a downtown bank building.  Nearby, concertgoers rushed to find shelter as tornado sirens wailed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s unlike anything I‘ve seen before.

MOTT:  Forecasters say the conditions were ripe for such dangerous weather.

BILL KARINS, NBC WEATHER PLUS:  Last night, we just had a very fast jet stream flying right into the heart of these thunderstorms.  And that was the reason all the big tornadoes headed to the ground.

MOTT:  Like many survivors, Charlotte and Jamie Swet (ph) feel lucky to have a story to tell.

JAMIE SWET, TORNADO SURVIVOR:  We got our lives and we got our family, and we can rebuild on that, so if we can survive this, we can survive anything.

MOTT (on camera):  And as search and rescue efforts continue tonight, the concern, of course, is the discovery of more bodies, which would only add to the already tremendous losses from these killer storms, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Ron Mott at Millsfield, Tennessee.  Great thanks.

In New York, this movie trailer has been pulled.  It reduced one theatergoer to tears.  It triggered complaints from others.  Is America ready for not one but two movies about September 11?

And is Hollywood ready for this?  Critics say it‘s the commercialization of the dead.  Why Chris Farley is on a new billboard more than eight years after he died.

Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Where were you, and what were you doing on this date in 1043, the grand day that Edward the Confessor became king of England, and, in his first act, admitted he wasn‘t really six feet tall, only a shade over five-eleven.

In his memory, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in India, the runaway favorite to become 2006 Oddball Country of the Year.  Thousands have descended upon the small village of Kerala for the annual Chasing Tail Festival.  Oh, I get it, sorry, it‘s a ritual of chasing after an elephant trying to catch his tail.  It‘s a Hindu thing, celebrated by the bravest of believers in this festival each year.

What happens if they actually catch the tail?  Well, then the elephant opens up a festival of whupass.  The ritual is based on the legend of a young Hindu god who is said to have chased behind Lord Ganesha to grab his tail, which also explains the follow-up ritual, the festival of the scraping off of the shoes.

Park City, Utah.  It may be April, but it‘s never too late to catch hypothermia.  The Ninth Annual Canyon Resort Pond-Skimming Contest, where dozens of contestants in wacky outfits ski down a hill into a large body of icy water.  A huge crowd was on hand for the event, which is apparently just like NASCAR.  They come to see the drownings.

Nobody hurt this year, but the combined blood-alcohol level of the crowd, the participants, and the judges is believed to have set some sort of record.  Believed by me.  I believe it.

And finally to Texas, where wildfires, of course, have been the big story of the week, the month.  And we have to say some of the best coverage has come from Dallas and WFAA television, particularly from unflappable reporter Bert Lozano.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERT LOZANO, REPORTER, WFAA TELEVISION, DALLAS:  Now, here‘s a situation that firefighters are facing.  You see all this is just green grass that has recently grown...

And you can see here that this is a dry brush that is ammunition to help those wildfires...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Maybe the guy‘s pants burned down.  Or maybe that was just Lindsay Lohan.  Hello!  How demure of you, at the Kids‘ Choice Awards.

Speaking of choice, Tom Cruise had his pecking order in place when it comes to the lady carrying his baby.  Mommy does not rank in the top two.

Details ahead.

But first, here‘s a look at COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Daniel Erickson, former attorney, serving eight years in a Tennessee prison for trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife.  Like all inmates, he has a job.  Until three weeks ago, his job was overseeing purchasing for the state‘s emergency management agency, like he‘s a member of the government.  The agency has discontinued the job after it found out about his background and his other work.  And they also realized he‘d stolen part of the plot from “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Number two, Jerry Garcia‘s toilet.  First it was put up for auction, then somebody sued to stop the auction.  Now it‘s been stolen, part of a heist in which three other toilets and a bidet were swiped.  Police are looking for either a Grateful Dead fan or someone with extreme incontinence.

And number one, a 56-year-old man in New South Wales in Australia tried to kill a spider by pouring gasoline down the spider hole and then lighting it.  It was a pretty dumb idea to begin with, but ratcheting this up a notch, the man was a nudist at a nudist colony.  He suffered burns over 18 percent of his body, and you should not have too much trouble guessing which 18 percent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Art, particularly film, has often helped us individually and communally through the worst of historical experiences.  “Schindler‘s List,” and before that, “The Diary of Ann Frank” for the Holocaust, “Coming Home” for Vietnam, even, in some respects “JFK.”

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, all of those films had huge safety nets in the equation, tragedy plus time equals art and catharsis.  Can films about 9/11 possibly make those numbers work when they come out less than five years after the tragedy?

The big test will come with Oliver Stone‘s movie, “World Trade Center,” this August.  The first test is coming now, with previews already in theaters for the movie “United 93,” premiering 22 days from now.

In a moment, Jeffrey Lyons, one of television‘s most enduring and respected film critics, joins me.

First, we‘re going to show you the full preview now—it‘s about two minutes—with the warning that it has already been pulled from one Manhattan theater after it left at least one patron in tears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are going to go over to Chris (ph) and talk about the forecast, which is a very good one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, actually conducive to just heading out and enjoying a day. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, this is Sandy in the back, can you call ground and see if we can get some more pillows and blankets? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The meeting last night was great. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sure he‘s thrilled. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin boarding.  Will all of our first-class passengers please make their way to Gate 17? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good morning, sir, you just made it, 4G.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we‘ve run into a little bit of rush-hour traffic this morning.  Unfortunately, it‘s going to be about a 30-minute delay. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I appreciate your patience.  We‘re currently number one for departure.  Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff, please. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘d like to be home with my babies. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  United 92, Runway 411 cleared for takeoff. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Roger that. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sir, CNN is reporting a light similar aircraft has just hit the World Trade Center. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Man, that‘s a lot of smoke. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve got another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have got another hijacker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  United 175 dropped its transponder off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve got a possible hijack.  Weapons.  Scramble those fighters in over Manhattan. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Copy that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And we‘ve reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.  And I‘m going to turn the fasten seat belt sign off and you are safe to move about the cabin. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Descending rapidly. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This aircraft is going down, I‘m telling you right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Here‘s one with juice for you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, there he is.  There he is right there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, we‘re at the Hudson River Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a hijacker, I‘m going to hit this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at that!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My gosh. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Two aircraft hit the World Trade Center. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just left Newark, the weather was beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There he goes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a plane headed toward the Capitol. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the hell is wrong out there? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  May we engage, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am on a plane that has been hijacked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir, I‘ve got F-16s turning and burning towards Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Two planes just hit the World Trade Center. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nobody is going to help us.  We have to do something right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I need rules of engagement. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can we shoot this flight down? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have to do it now.  I think we know what happens if we just sit here do nothing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Two other caveats.  That film obviously is from Universal Pictures, which is part of MSNBC‘s parent company, NBC Universal.  And all 40 families who lost loved ones on that flight agreed to the making of the movie. 

Having said that, as promised, let me call in Jeffrey Lyons, NBC Film Critic, co-host of “Reel Talk.”

Jeffrey, thanks for your time tonight.

JEFFREY LYONS, NBC FILM CRITIC:  Hi, Keith.  I watch the show every night.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly, sir.  I know everything moves faster today, even in art and in culture, but is this too much too soon?

LYONS:  Well I‘ve got to keep an open mind.  I haven‘t seen the film yet.  I‘ll be frank and say I‘m not looking forward to it because I do think it‘s too close. 

Remember “From Here to Eternity” was 1953 and it recreated Pearl Harbor, and that wasn‘t shown on television.  There was no television back then. 

It pains me to see anything to do with 9/11, any shots of the attack and anything like this.  I‘m surprised that the families didn‘t mind and endorsed it.  Maybe they‘ve seen it.  I don‘t know.  It‘s just going to be an experience I have to go into with an open mind, just as I would any kind of disturbing film, but it is troubling. 

OLBERMANN:  The theory here that the director, Mr. Greengrass, not only had the approval of the families, but there‘s even a making of the film documentary in which many of those family members talk about their support.  Is that good enough?  Or in some way, by asking them if it‘s OK, is he not necessarily conceding that maybe it isn‘t OK or should films not work that way at all?  Should there not be an approval/disapproval thing, let the marketplace, let the customer decide? 

LYONS:  Well I think this is a unique case, because everybody in America feels hurt and wounded by this.  I didn‘t know anybody killed in any of the attacks, but I know someone whose husband was killed and someone whose son was killed.  We all took it as a personal attack on us, on our freedom, on our country and on our extended family, if you will. 

This is unlike anything else.  And it‘s already beginning to hurt.  And I‘m looking towards the day I‘m going to have to see this film.  I never like to watch the making of films anyway, it destroys the illusion, but it seems to me it‘s almost a guilt trip to say yes, we did it with respect. 

But why do it?  We all know it.  Why do it now?  You want to make something about the Jean Harris murder case a week after it, if you remember that, before the most recent version, that‘s something else.  That‘s tawdry.  That‘s dramatic.  This is something that‘s a knife through the heart of all of us. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

LYONS:  And it‘s just going to be have to something—have to be something I have to watch with an open mind, like I would any other movie, but I‘m kind of gearing up for it and steeling myself, if you will. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, this is not Amy Fisher.  And I can speak...

LYONS:  No.

OLBERMANN:  ... as somebody who lost people that I knew, not close friends, close acquaintances or relatives, but I had people on the three other planes, and just watching the preview there was disturbing for me. 

LYONS:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  But I was watching also the PBS documentary on Eugene O‘Neill the other night.

LYONS:  So was I.

OLBERMANN:  And in it the late Jason Robards was telling, the first time they presented “Long Day‘s Journey Into Night, which is obviously a personal tragedy.  It‘s—the events are not comparable, but when it was over, he was recounting that the theater was so quiet you could hear people sobbing and then the waves of applause began. 

Is there an argument that maybe a film like this could provide that kind of catharsis, that instead of being controversial, it will be painful but perhaps healthy for people? 

LYONS:  To some there‘s that possibility.  It‘s interesting you mention Jason, because Jason was a radio operator at Pearl Harbor, and then later starred in “Tora, Tora, Tora.”  He was in a windowless room that day.  And when they filmed “Tora, Tora, Tora,” the director said come to the set today, you‘re not in the shot but you‘ll see what you missed.  And I asked him about that once.  And he said it was chilling.  It really was. 

So who knows what our reactions are going to be to this.  I‘m just getting ready.  And I‘m really opening my mind and making sure that I see it with an open mind, but it‘s not going to be a pleasant experience.  Never mind the Oliver Stone movie where you know...

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

LYONS:  ... there may be an agenda and you can argue this way and that and it‘s going to be conspiratorial perhaps.  This is going to be something different because we all kind of know what went on on that plane.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, what do we hear about the Stone film on the Trade Center, is he going to catch hell for that?

LYONS:  Who knows?  You know he‘s so controversial.  “JFK” was a fine film, whether you believe any of it or not.  He‘s a great filmmaker.  Again, it‘s going to be a question of an open mind.  I don‘t read the prerelease buzz of movies and I usually don‘t watch trailers, but these two films are something altogether different, the equation has changed.

OLBERMANN:  And everything has speeded up.

LYONS:  Indeed.

OLBERMANN:  Jeffrey Lyons, the NBC Film Critic, co-host of “Reel Talk,” neighbor, great, thanks for finally getting to join us here on the set.

LYONS:  Thanks, -- Keith.

OLBERMANN:  No dramatic license in Alexandria, Virginia, this afternoon, no interpretation, no Oliver Stone real life, all too real.  And the penalty phase of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial will continue.  The only person to ever face charges in this country for 9/11 is now libel for the death penalty. 

A federal jury determining that Moussaoui is directly responsible for the death of at least one of the nearly 3,000 people killed that day, even though he was in jail at the time of the attacks. 

Prosecutors had argued that the FBI might have stopped 9/11 if Moussaoui had not lied to them.

During the verdict, Moussaoui silently prayed.  Afterwards, though, he said—quoting—“you‘ll never get my blood.  God curse you all.” 

Now that he qualifies for the ultimate penalty, the jury will have to decide if he deserves it.  During the second stage of sentencing, they will hear testimony from the families of some of the victims.  And Moussaoui‘s defense is expected to bring in experts to claim that their client is schizophrenic.

And some good news here at 11 these last few minutes of tough topics, though it didn‘t look this way initially.  At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, 17 people are alive, almost inexplicably, after their military cargo plane belly-landed and split into several pieces. 

The C-5 Galaxy started having problems right after takeoff, then crashed as it returned to the runway.  It broke apart.  It soaked the passengers with jet fuel.  Fourteen people had to be decontaminated, 10 were taken to the hospital, all with non-life-threatening injuries.  No word yet on what caused this.

Also tonight, probably the last celebrity you expected to see appear on a brand new billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.  Yes, that Chris Farley.  What on God‘s green earth is he selling now?

And Howard Stern versus his fans, he takes a shot at some of them.  One of them takes a spit at him.  Howard becomes a cop for a day.  That‘s next.

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three soundbites.  This is good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  John Apperson almost always has a trick up his sleeve. 

JOHN W. APPERSON, MAGICAL ENTERTAINER:  I perform magic in churches and in taverns and I do the same show.

Here, let me give you a hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But some of his tricks are less magical.

APPERSON:  The Red Sea.  Parting of the Red Sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And more silly.

APPERSON:  I have to take this to my doctor, it‘s a stool sample.  He requested one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You see, he might not use every trick he has up his sleeve, but there‘s only one way to make it all disappear.

APPERSON:  I‘ll probably have to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST:  Hey, this is interesting.  This week researchers tested a new airplane that flies 10 times faster than conventional airplanes.  Yes.  Yes.  The plane was invented by a scientist who was once stuck on a flight next to Geraldo Rivera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The risk for more wildfires still exists in north Texas and that‘s despite all the rain we received two weeks ago tonight.  And here‘s a situation the firefighters are facing.  You can see all this, it‘s just green grass that has recently grown, and you can see here that this is dry brush, ammunition to help the wildfires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You can usually ignore advertising billboards.  Not the new one featuring Chris Farley eight years after his death.  Not the one that seems to demand that Barry Bonds be traded. 

Speaking of not ignoring, it‘s hard to pass over Lindsay Lohan when she‘s not wearing pants.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is as jarring and as disturbing as any advertisement since Yul Brynner appeared posthumously for the American Cancer Society announcing on camera cigarettes killed me.  The late great comedian Bill Hicks claimed that he saw the Brynner spot and shouted, what the hell is this guy selling? 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, others are doubtless saying the same thing near Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood when they see the billboard of the late Chris Farley.  But the image of “Saturday Night Live‘s” legend is not being used just to get people to stop doing something, he‘s dead, but he‘s still pitching for what a drug manufacturer calls a protocol, a drug that treats addiction. 

Our correspondent in Hollywood is Jennifer London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  When comedian Chris Farley died eight years ago “Saturday Night Live” and the entertainment world lost a legend.  But Farley‘s image is back, looming larger than life, in a new ad campaign with a message for young drug users, it wasn‘t all his fault. 

TERREN PEIZER, HYTHIAM INC.:  Our message is that maybe Chris Farley would still be here today if there was a protocol like Prometa around back then. 

LONDON:  Farley‘s family approved the ads for Prometa, a new treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.  It‘s the first time they‘ve allowed his image to be used commercially since he died of a drug overdose. 

(on camera):  The first ad appears on a billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.  A bloated Farley appears to be smiling, but not everyone is happy about the message or the idea of using a dead celebrity to sell a product. 

GARY RUSKIN, COMMERCIAL ALERT:  It‘s a particularly tasteless way to exploit a dead person for commercial purposes. 

LONDON (voice-over):  But Farley‘s family doesn‘t see it that way, saying they believe the ads can help raise awareness about addiction treatments.  The Anti-Drug Foundation May run in Chris‘ name was paid $25,000 for the use of his image. 

PEIZER:  They want to help people.  They don‘t want to see happen—what happened to Chris happen to other people. 

LONDON:  Dead celebrities have appeared in ads before, selling everything from beer to sports cars.  And who could forget Apple‘s “Think Different” campaign featuring Mahatma Ghandi. 

RUSKIN:  Part of the problem here is that dead people don‘t get to talk for themselves and so they‘re just being harnessed in an ad campaign. 

LONDON:  No one can say for sure if Farley would approve of the new campaign, but his family knows this, after losing him at just 33 years old, addiction is no laughing matter. 

Jennifer London, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Kind of a no-brainer segue to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news.  Keeping Tabs.  More billboards, more controversy. 

This may be manufactured, though.  The sign reads trade Barry.  Bonds, Barry Bonds.  The point of course is where it is, within a short walk of the home ballpark of Bonds‘ San Francisco Giants, standing 14 feet tall, 48 feet wide, with a bold black lettering on an orange background, the colors of the Giants. 

Advertiser‘s identity yet unknown, but amidst the steroid scandal encircling the slugger and the game, the “San Francisco Chronicle” says it is not what it seems.  It may be part of an advertising scheme and will eventually reveal a pro Bonds message. 

When asked what he thought of it, Bonds, who had recently said his life was in shambles and he was ready to jump off the Empire State Building, he said, that‘s funny.  Nothing about jumping off the billboard. 

It‘s people jumping off the bandwagon that has reportedly angered our friend Howard Stern.  In an interview with “Entertainment Weekly,” Stern expressed contempt for his over-the-air fans who did not make the switch to Sirius Satellite Radio with him, calling them—quote—“cheap bastards.” 

Stern, the most fined personality in the broadcast radio history, signed off from Terrestrial Radio in 2005 and took his wildly popular show to satellite.  He says he‘s insulted not everyone came with him and that he takes it personally. 

Make matters worse, Saturday, the famed radio host and his girlfriend, Beth Ostrosky, taking a walk in New York City, confronted by a deranged fan, Gregory Forbes (ph), allegedly started screaming at the couple.  The two showed great restraint, quickly getting into a cab to avoid the heckler.  Forbes then allegedly spat through an open window, hitting Ms.  Ostrosky in the face. 

The crazed fan arrested 50 minutes later after Howard Stern joined police in an unmarked car and scoured the neighborhood until they found the guy.  Forbes was charged with third degree menacing, second degree harassment and first degree failure to sign up for Stern‘s program on satellite.  I made the last part up.

For fans of “The Simpsons,” meantime, the latest news can be greeted by one word and one word only, excellent.  A 20-second trailer debuted in theaters over the weekend, giving fans a little taste of “The Simpsons” movie due out next year. 

Albert Brooks, Minnie Driver, real life Erin Brockovich are set to appear as guest stars.  The TV cast, most will be in it, they say.  We know Harry Shearer is a yes.  The screenplay is complete and it will be in theaters just in time to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first time it was rumored that there was going to be a “Simpsons” movie. 

Odds against Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes celebrating a 15th wedding anniversary, no computer on earth is powerful enough to count that high, not after the latest developments.  Details ahead. 

First on COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for worst person in the world. 

The bronze tonight, to the ever popular Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio.  Here we go.  Another complaint has been filed against her with the Ohio Board of Elections.  Some of her campaign literature said she got two Bachelor‘s degrees from the University of Cincinnati.  Turns out she only got one.  Her office contends she had enough credits for the second one, only she never bothered to collect it.  Well, who among us hasn‘t just left a degree unclaimed? 

Tonight‘s runner-up, an unnamed suspect in South Bend in Indiana.  Police there have tied together two odd developments.  One, a string of thefts in which the only thing stolen have been the doors off kitchen ovens.  Number two, a guy selling flat screen TV‘s for as little as $300.  You got it, he stuck a cord out of the oven doors, bubble wrapped them, stuck Wal-Mart store labels on them and waited for the customer‘s greed to take care of the rest. 

But tonight‘s winners, NBW (ph), the operators of the nuclear power plant at Philipsburg (ph) in Batonwertonber (ph) in Germany who had a small problem since the 10th of March, they can‘t find the keys to the plant.  I‘ll just repeat that, they‘ve lost a dozen keys to a nuclear power plant in Germany. 

Authorities report NBW spent the first week looking for them and they decided they‘d better tell the Nuclear Regulatory Agency in Germany, then they decided to change the 150 locks on the place.  And anybody know the German for Smithers, did you leave the keys in your other pants?  NBW, today‘s worst persons in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A gimmick belongs to the TV series than to Tom Cruise‘s three “Mission Impossible” movies, but I think the gag still works.  Good evening, Miss Holmes, this marriage will self-destruct in five seconds. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, more stories my producers are forcing me to cover, including the latest ominous note for the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise nuptials.  To say nothing of I see Paris, I see pants, I can‘t see whether or not Lindsay Lohan is wearing any underpants.

Mr. Cruise says he does still plan on marrying Katie Holmes, despite rumors.  But in Germany on Saturday to plug his upcoming movie, “Mission Impossible 3,” he made his priorities clear on a popular TV show there—quoting—“First the baby, then the film, then in the summer we want to get married.  I won‘t let this woman get away.”  It sounds like a threat to me.  I can feel the love from here. 

Then there is Miss Lohan letting part of her dress get away, again, at Nickelodeon‘s Kids‘ Choice Awards in L.A. on Saturday, April Fool‘s Day. 

She accepted an award as favorite movie actress for her role in “Herbie:

Fully Loaded.”  But was she fully dressed? 

Miss Lohan briefly flashed her bottom, and remember this is in front of an audience at the Kids‘ Choice Awards, as she dragged her fully loaded Herbie up on stage.  As one COUNTDOWN staffer suggested, all the photo shows is that she wasn‘t wearing granny panties.  She might have been wearing a thong.  Yes, well, thanks for that, Monica (ph). 

And another place where flashing isn‘t welcome, at the movie theatre when sexy box office hits like “Basic Instinct” are reprised 14 years later with no change in central casting.  “Basic Instinct 2” bombed in its premiere weekend, coming in 10th place with a little more than $3 million gross.  And we do mean gross as thousands in the stands pleaded, please keep your legs crossed, please keep your legs crossed. 

Let‘s call in the professional here at getting me to the other side of stories like these, the columnist of “The Village Voice,” Michael Musto. 

Good evening, -- Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi, -- Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Tom Cruise, first, from couch jumping to putting marriage third on his timeline.  Do we know what‘s going on here? 

MUSTO:  I think this marriage has been postponed to the 12th of never.  You‘ll recall recently on this show, Keith, you and I talked about a gossip magazine report that Tom and Katie are just pretending to be together.  They‘re going to do so until the baby and the movie are born.  I‘m starting to think that‘s really true. 

And I think the kid will be sent to a home for bastard children where they‘ll sing “Love Child” by Diana Ross and pick surnames if they had.  And I think the movie will be sent straight to video.  And it‘s sick and it‘s sad.  I‘m Roman Catholic, you‘re supposed to get married, then have a baby, then get divorced, OK.  This is sending it all kerfluey (ph).

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.

MUSTO:  Then again, in my religion, Satan is your enemy, not your agent.

OLBERMANN:  Cruise also in that TV show in Germany said that two pilots are ready if Holmes goes into labor.  Now two pilots, is that one for the private jet and one for the spaceship or was he referring to TV pilots by any chance? 

MUSTO:  Yes, I think they are both for the reality show that he‘s brewing to create more publicity around this stunt.  But, no, no, no, I think they are actually both for the spaceship.  Because Tom is going to return to Uranus, shut up, and from there he will send Katie a postcard saying miss you, love you, let‘s have lunch.  Drop the kids off with Nicole.  And good luck with “Thank You For Smoking.”  I hear it‘s terrific. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve all kind of, by the way, accepted that Uranus pronunciation just to... 

MUSTO:  Uranus, yes, yes.  Shaday (ph), yes, whatever.

OLBERMANN:  Shaday.

Indeed, what Mr. Cruise said exactly here was—quote—“If Katie calls, I‘m gone.”  Now that could—you could read that one way, saying he is going to leave the promotional tour and go right to—or if she calls wanting to talk to me, I‘m gone.  Do we have any idea which he meant? 

MUSTO:  There are so very many interpretations.  Either he is leaving, he‘s dumping her, he‘s fleeing for the hills, he‘s running, he‘s saying bye-bye.  I can‘t figure it out.  There‘s so many different possibilities. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, well let‘s move on to the possibilities with Lindsay Lohan.  And it‘s just about a month ago that she was nearly falling out of her dress at this celebrity fashion show.  We added the smiley face.  And now this thing at the Kids‘ Choice Award where she basically mooned a bunch of kids in the audience.  Is this fashion, is this Freudian, is this a career going downhill, is this bad planning, is this something—somebody stole her pants?  What happened here? 

MUSTO:  It‘s all of the above.  It‘s a Freudian slip, as it were, even though she is not wearing one.  She is a cheeky girl, as it were.  I am starting to know her body better than my own, if not as well as Janet Jackson‘s. 

And if you look closely, there is a tattoo on the left cheek saying and you thought my nipples were hot and the right one says feed me, I‘m starving.  And in the middle somehow Colin Farrell got his phone number in there.  All we have left is the front view to look forward to on the next Oscars.  And I think there‘s going to be a tattoo there saying younger than Sharon Stone. 

OLBERMANN:  She—is she going to the Oscars as a seat filler, would that be her role at the Oscars?

MUSTO:  No, she‘s actually an usherette.  Please do not insult Ms.

Lohan.

OLBERMANN:  Fine.  Well thank you.  All right. 

And we move on to Sharon Stone from “Basic Instinct.”  We talk about people giving people advice in the industry, did anybody say, no, you know what, that was really hot when you made that first one 15 years ago and this is—this is—this not your grandfather‘s “Basic Instinct?” 

MUSTO:  Well somebody probably should have said to Sharon do not open wide, OK.  She is equal to Larry the Cable Guy at the box office.  If you want to spend quality time alone, go see “Basic Instinct 2” quickly, OK. 

The thing is what ruined the movie is Madonna beat her to the 48-year-old vagina thing.  And now the tragedy is no “Sliver 2,” no “Quick and the Dead 2,” no “Intersection 2,” no “Cold Creek Manor 2.”  This is a tragedy.  There will, however, be a “Basic Instinct 3,” and I hear it‘s going to—the camera is going to zoom in past the depends and you will see a very hot shot of the catheter.  I‘m not like this.  I don‘t know why I‘m saying that. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly and briefly, the Naomi Campbell story, is there anything new on this where she allegedly hit her housekeeper with a phone because she couldn‘t find the right pair of jeans for an appearance on Oprah? 

MUSTO:  Yes, well I hear the Jones were—the jeans, rather, were at her maid‘s—they were at her maid‘s.  And Oprah knows that they don‘t allow black people, so that‘s why Naomi couldn‘t get it.  But Oprah‘s couch is all ruined anyway from question number one, as you‘ll recall.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.

MUSTO:  So it‘s all better off.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.

MUSTO:  Look, Naomi is delightful until you mention Tyra Banks and then she hits you with a VCR, with a fax machine.  I have a six-inch gash, studded with diamonds, though, because her BlackBerry is diamond encrusted. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s nice to know. 

The one and only Michael Musto, great, thanks for your time tonight. 

MUSTO:  Take care.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,068th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose.  Goodnight 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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 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.

transcript

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,