updated 4/18/2006 11:46:06 AM ET 2006-04-18T15:46:06

Guests: Howard Fineman, Craig Crawford, David Touretzky, Bill Jensen

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

Going like 60.  The president‘s disapproval number hits the big six-oh the strong disapproval hits 47.  What can the Democrats do with that?

What can the new chief of staff do about that?  On his first day on the job, Josh Bolten tells the beleaguered troops, If you‘re going to quit, let‘s quit now.  Last exit before inauguration day.

Plamegate, a claim that the first memo about Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame did not say her CIA work was a secret.  Of course, the copy of that memo has a key sentence blacked out.

Is Jack Abramoff about to black out the White house?  Two hundred and seventy-eight e-mails to and from the procurement official there, listing all the stuff Abramoff gave him.

We‘ll give you the first new edition in months of Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.

But you can‘t give them drugs, can‘t make noise while giving birth, can‘t listen to nonbelievers.  Separating the fact from the fiction about Tom Cruise, the Tomkat kitten, and Scientology.

And separating the sexy from the unsexy.   Congratulations, I-Man.  Try to make a joke out of this, Carrot Top.  What does your inner self say now, Dr. Phil?  The list of the 100 unsexiest men in the world.  Yes, he‘s on the list.  If you can‘t tell your loofah from your falafel, you pretty much have to be.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

The irony is unavoidable and unintentional.  His name is Joshua Bolten.  This was his first day as the new chief of staff at the White House, his first task, apparently, to turn the West Wing into a roach motel.  Top advisers can check in, but they cannot check out.

Bolten‘s going to keep them, if you will, from Bolten.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s unclear if he‘s hoping to fire up the troops, or simply sealing them in behind locked doors, on the premise that if he has to work there, so do they, either way, the first task on his management manual about setting a tone on day one beginning with the message to top presidential aides that anyone thinking of leaving in the next few months should leave now, Mr. Bolten also leaving open the possibility that some would be asked to leave, telling aides to expect some changes and adjustments after he had had time to review the staff, the press secretary, Scott McClellan, in on that meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Anytime you have a new chief of staff coming in, you can expect that there‘ll be some changes in some of the structure and personnel and other issues.

And so he said to the senior staff, and I think this will be passed on to others as well, is that if you‘re thinking about leaving sometime in the near future, now would be a good time to do it.

KELLY O‘DONNELL, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Scott, you‘re one of those visible members of the president‘s senior staff.  Do you plan to stay on?

MCCLELLAN:  Are you trying to tempt me here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No.

Whether Donald Rumsfeld gets to keep his job still a bone of contention tonight, a new batch of former generals launching a counterassault in defense of the defense secretary.  For those of you scoring at home, or even those of you who are alone, the brassed-off count now stands at seven former generals against, five former generals for, Rummy‘s backers taking to “The Wall Street Journal” op-ed page, suggesting that some of his critics do not truly understand the war on terrorism, and that it is inappropriate quote, “for active duty or retired senior military officers to publicly criticize U.S. civilian leadership during war,” the theme of inappropriate behavior oddly reminiscent of what General Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was saying just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MYERS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  It‘s inappropriate, because it‘s not the military that judges our civilian bosses.  That would be—we‘d be a—in a horrible state in this country, in my opinion, if the military was left to judge the civilian bosses.  Because when you judge Secretary Rumsfeld, you‘re also judging the commander in chief, because that‘s the chain of command.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to go on a limb here, but I think I just heard the birth of a talking point.

Time now for us to talk further with our friend Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Nice first day for Mr. Bolten here.  Nobody would relish being the relief pitcher in this mess.  But if change really is the intended goal, is he the guy for the job?  Does he not scream status quo?

FINEMAN:  Well, I suppose you could argue that would give him more clout if he really wanted to turn things upside-down.  He‘s been with George Bush since 1999.  When I was down in Austin covering the beginning of the Bush campaign, Josh Bolten was there.  He‘s a—Josh Bolten is a tough, smart guy.

But, yes, he‘s been (INAUDIBLE) in on this entire ride with George W.  Bush.  He‘s not about right now, I don‘t think, to march into the Oval Office on day one and say, You know that global war on terror you‘ve been talking about?  Oh, I think we ought to try something else.  I don‘t think it‘s going to happen.

And also, I think basically the president himself has taken the major possible change off the table, which is Donald Rumsfeld, because the president has backed him 100 percent.

I think that Josh Bolten is going to make a lot of changes inside the White House on the domestic policy side.  There probably will be a new legislative director, somebody to hold hands better with the Republican majority in the Congress.  There will probably be new decision-makers in domestic policy and budget.  There may be a new press secretary.  Dan Bartlett, the communications director, may decide that he can go out and make some money now if he wants to.

I think those changes will be made.  But they won‘t result in a change in George Bush‘s basic policies, which are not only set in stone, they‘re set in titanium.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if that‘s the case, then what‘s the difference who‘s there to implement the policies?

FINEMAN:  Well, maybe the policies will be implemented somewhat more smoothly.  I mean, after all, there was a lot of criticism of Andy Card, or at least a lot of it ended up on his desk, for everything from Harriet Miers to the administration of the aftermath of Katrina, you name it, up and down the line.

Josh Bolten is a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of smarts.  And he will run that part of the ship better.  But the ship is not going to change direction.  George Bush is locked in on the war on terrorism.  And he is locked in on opposition to any changes in his tax policy.  The big decision on immigration policy will be up to the president.  I think Bolten will have a major role to play in that.

But as for the economy, I mean, that really now is hostage to $70-a-barrel oil.

OLBERMANN:  What is that, if you‘re going to quit, quit now, message all about?  That‘s certainly an odd thing to say on your first day on any new job.

FINEMAN:  Well, I think he‘s sending a message, saying, Look, I‘m going to look at everybody here, not Donald Rumsfeld, not Dick Cheney, but everybody else.  And if you want to go, and if you would like to go of your own free will, now is the time.

But I think there‘ll be a lot of focus on this here in Washington, Keith.  But in terms of the big picture of the president‘s policies and the president‘s popularity, these types of changes that Bolten will make, which will seem cataclysmic to people inside the White House, won‘t make much difference.  Bolten just has to hope that people will get the message out there that the economy is doing pretty well, and Bolten has to hope for some good luck in Iraq, of which we‘ve had none so far.

OLBERMANN:  Howard, one final question about Rumsfeld.  Is the response from the White House really that retired military personnel cannot comment on civilian leadership if they disagree with it, but they are entitled to comment on civilian leadership if they agree with it?  I mean, is—I‘m just thinking, is there a hole in that logic somewhere?

FINEMAN:  Yes, there‘s a hole large enough to drive an army through, and that‘s what we‘ve done.  I think if you‘re keeping score, though, Keith, you have to probably have to weight the scores according to whether they‘re full generals or major generals or whatever.  I think you need to refine that scorecard that you gave a few minutes ago.

OLBERMANN:  I think that sounds like a bit we can start tomorrow.

Thank you.

FINEMAN:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman, contributing in a new way tonight from “Newsweek.” and of course MSNBC.  As always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Writing that down.

Another matter near the top of the pile on Josh Bolten‘s bright, shiny new figurative inbox, the CIA leak investigation and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, new details about documents in both cases creating fresh problems today.

Problem and document number one, a highly classified report from March 2002 from an intelligence briefing, or debriefing, rather, report from Ambassador Joseph Wilson‘s trip to Niger, Murray Waas of “The National Journal” reporting that on July 12, 2003, just days after the publication of Ambassador Wilson‘s “New York Times” op-ed, the vice president directed his then-chief of staff Scooter Libby to leak portions of the document, the report adding to a growing body of evidence showing that at the time Valerie Plame was outed, Mr. Cheney was deeply involved in the effort to undermine her husband.

The second document undermining speculation about a previously unseen memo which is at the heart of the investigation, a State Department memo appearing to offer no particular indication that Ms. Plame‘s role at the CIA was secret, that memo addressed to the then-secretary of state, Colin Powell, carried aboard Air Force One in July 2003, as the president departed for Africa.

A declassified version of that document obtained by the newspaper “The New York Sun” it says of Ms. Plame, indirectly, quote, “in a February 19, 2002, meeting convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD manager, and the wife of Joe Wilson, he previewed his plans and rationale for going to Niger.”

Of course, the next sentence in the document has been redacted, making it impossible to know what else that memo might have said about Ms. Plame‘s status.

Fresh meat tonight, meanwhile, in the Jack Abramoff investigation, a series of just 278 e-mails detailing how the disgraced Republican lobbyist showered David Safavian, once the procurement official at the White House, with all kinds of goodies, asking for access to public officials in return.  Among the perks, meals, parties, tickets, and trips involving golf, lots and lots of golf, one message from Mr. Abramoff dated July 23, 2002, asking Mr. Safavian, quote, “Golf Friday?  Golf Sunday?  Golf Monday?  Golf, golf, golf,” prosecutors in the Safavian case saying that, quote, “The e-mails demonstrate Mr. Safavian‘s relationship with Mr. Abramoff was highly inappropriate.”

You think?

Keeping track of all of these scandals and sorting out the significance of each new development falling to our correspondent David Shuster in Washington.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Safavian trial is supposed to start next month, but the government‘s been trying to pressure him into accepting a plea deal.  Did it just deliver a lot of pressure?

SHUSTER:  Yes, I mean, what they did is, they essentially are the equivalent of a Mafia hit man, which is breaking one of your arms at a time and stopping in order to give you a chance to decide whether you really want to avoid paying your bills.

These are certainly hardball tactics.  But prosecutors are entitled to do it.  In this case, obviously, it‘s very embarrassing to David Safavian, but I understand that it is part of the effort, part of the communications in which prosecutors still want David Safavian to think about cutting a deal before trial.

And the communications and the tactics that go along with this, Keith, what‘s so interesting is, it underscores just how valuable prosecutors think David Safavian may be as far as building a case against higher-ranking officials, possibly in the White House, possibly in other branches of government.

OLBERMANN:  Throw in a couple of years‘ subscription to “Golf Digest,” and I think you got him.  The CIA leak investigation, the latest thing about the Vice President Cheney‘s involvement.  Each time there‘s a revelation, it seems to be more and more difficult to believe he was not involved.  Is that, is that, if you can‘t really pinpoint where he was involved, is the assumption of some involvement there legitimate?

SHUSTER:  Yes, absolutely.  In fact, he was very involved just according to the Libby indictment.  June the 12th, 2003, it was Vice President Cheney who told Scooter Libby of the department, the sensitive department of the Central Intelligence Agency that Valerie Plame worked in.  So the question is not whether the vice president was involved, but his supporters would argue that sure, he was involved in trying to discredit Joe Wilson, but he was not involved, they say, in deliberately disclosing classified information about a CIA operative.

OLBERMANN:  That State Department memo, that it did not explicitly say that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert operative, the document did have stamped on it the words “Secret” and “Classified.”  Could anybody have interpreted parts of it as not being secret or classified?

SHUSTER:  No, not at all.  And the burden is on—in the intelligence community, they say the burden is on you, the person reading this document, to assume that everything on a document marked secret and classified is secret and classified.  And if you want to try to disclose it, the burden is on you to go through the proper channels and ask people, Hey, can I disclose this particular information?  Clearly, those channels were not followed.

So the idea that because it didn‘t specifically lay out that particular sentence, and say, Hey, this is classified, this is not classified, that‘s really not an excuse, according to people in the intelligence community.

OLBERMANN:  While we‘re looking at this, there‘s yet another thing that we haven‘t mentioned yet.  The senator from Oklahoma, Mr. Coburn, who is a Republican, we should point out here, said that he expects six congressmen and a fellow senator will go to jail in connection to the Abramoff scandal.

That‘s rather a lot of people there.  Obviously he didn‘t—he named no names besides that of the congressman from Ohio, Bob Ney.  Is that sort of the quiet earthquake in Washington right now, that statement, and do we have any idea who he‘s talking about?

SHUSTER:  Well, let‘s just say that that particular senator is not going to be invited to the summer picnic of Republican—the Republican from Montana, Senator Conrad Burns.  I mean, every indication is that Conrad Burns is under heavy investigation in this case.

Burns was the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior.  Burns essentially, at a time he was getting $12,000 from Jack Abramoff and a friend of Jack Abramoff, he was pushing forward favorable legislation involving the northern Mariana Islands, a set of U.S.  territories.  So that‘s one.

Another name that keeps cropping up, of course, in the Jack Abramoff investigation is Republican Congressman John Doolittle.  His wife worked for Jack Abramoff.  It‘s not entirely clear what he did to earn the money that he paid her.

And then, of course, you‘ve got Tom DeLay, who once called Jack Abramoff “one of my dearest and closest friends.”  And there‘s a lot of speculation still buzzing in Washington, Keith, over the timing as to why Tom DeLay announced the other week he was not going to run for Congress.  Three of his former aides are apparently talking.  A lot of speculation that DeLay will be one of those six congressman that the senator was talking about.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that would explain it, if he‘s on the Coburn list, you don‘t want to—you certainly don‘t want to go to jail while you‘re still sitting in the House.  You want to out—you want to be out of there before the indictment comes in.

David Shuster of MSNBC on the scandal beat.  Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, he helped his party regain control of Congress in 2002.  Now one poll number suggests the president could have the reverse effect this fall.

And of babies, binkies, and births that are silent.  Tom Cruise denies all the weird rumors about what Scientologists do during labor and life.  But is he denying the tenets of Scientology?  We will ask an expert.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It sometimes feels as if it was a decade ago.  But in the 2004 presidential election, one of the problems that dogged John Kerry was that even though the candidates were always close in overall support, those who strongly supported Democrat were always outnumbered by those who strongly supported the president.

But now, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the strong felings against Mr. Bush are at record levels, and that anger might provide Democrats with a realistic shot at recapturing one or both houses of Congress in the midterms.

The supposition by both Democratic and Republican pollsters from a “Washington Post” report today is that anger is what gets out the vote, especially in a midterm.  But it‘s not just angry Democrats at issue.  That new “Washington Post” poll put the president‘s disapproval at 60 percent.  Even more telling, though, those who strongly disapproved of Mr. Bush, 47 percent.  Those who strongly approved the president down to 20.

If that doesn‘t have voter turnout implications written all over it, try this.  The strong number for Mr. Bush beats by 10 points the same number for President Clinton at the height of the Monica Lewinsky story.

Let‘s call on “Congressional Quarterly” columnist and MNSBC political analyst, also author of “Attack the Messenger,” Craig Crawford.

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi, Keith, how are you doing?

OLBERMANN:  Which is stronger, do you think, the entrenchment of Republicans and Democrats in so many of the congressional districts, the built-in protection of the incumbents thing, or the throw-the-rascals-out index 2006?

CRAWFORD:  Well, these national polls make it look one way, whereas when you break it down race by race, as you suggest, it gets a little different.  And when we look at the map race by race around the country, what‘s happening in those races, at “Congressional Quarterly,” at cqpolitics.com, we monitor that every day.  And they do updated projections.

Right now, the projection still is that if were held today, the Republicans would still hold the Congress.

OLBERMANN:  There are also comparisons that float around without any particular basis, I think, that, look at 1994, for instance, and say, well, that‘s, you know, that might be the template for the Democrats this fall.  But in 1994, Newt Gingrich—it may have been a cockamamie Contract with America, but he had a Contract with America to sell people.  Don‘t the Democrats need something other than, We‘re not the worst?

CRAWFORD:  It was a marketing tool that, that, there‘s some dispute about how well it worked.  But the point was, the Republicans did have two things.  You mentioned Newt Gingrich.  They had a face, they had a personality to rally around.  I don‘t think Democrats have that as much.  And the Contract with America gave people specific ideas of what they would do.

And this is a problem for Democrats if they‘re going to decide they don‘t have to do that, they can just wait and win by default, which is the sense I get from many of them these days.  That could be a little dangerous, because a lot of independent-minded voters out there, Keith, and a lot of Democrats too, just think Democrats don‘t stand for anything.  They couldn‘t say spit if they had a mouthful.

OLBERMANN:  How do --  Or Shinola.  How do the Democrats handle Iraq?  And I guess that‘s assuming there is going to be one answer to that question.  Is that the problem, that there is not going to be one answer to that question?

CRAWFORD:  Well, they could start by saying they‘re going to win, and here‘s how they want to do it.  I don‘t know what that would be.  That‘s why I‘m not running for office.  But that‘s what Americans are looking for, is how to end this thing with some dignity, and maybe even win this thing and get out of it as soon as possible?  Maybe talk about some of the personalities they would want to put in charge if they got in—if they won the White House in 2008.

There are a whole host of things Americans are looking for here that I don‘t think either party‘s giving them any answers.  There‘s a sense that this was Washington‘s war, Washington‘s losing the war, and Washington has no idea how to do—what to do about it.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, we have changed the political landscape of the country since 1997, and given what we saw during the Clinton impeachment, are the Democrats going to try to tightrope this issue of censure or impeachment of the president, were they to gain control?  Are they going to leave the extreme left wing with the impression that they could do that, but try not to scare off the middle, who are essentially the same people who thought that the Clinton impeachment was political nonsense?

CRAWFORD:  I think the problem would be if the Democrats did pursue impeachment after winning power, if they won power in November, and didn‘t talk about it during this campaign, then I think they‘d face the same fate the Republicans did with the Clinton impeachment.  The Republicans ended up the big losers in public opinion, not Clinton after that.

So I think if Democrats want to go that route, they better campaign on

it this year.  And maybe censure is a half-step that doesn‘t paralyze the

country for a couple of years that some voters would be attracted to.  But

they do these to nationalize this election around George Bush.  They need

to put George Bush on the ballot, the Democrats do, not—Republicans

don‘t want that.  One way to do that might be to talk about some sort of

punishment for the president after they won power, if they won

OLBERMANN:  Forty-seven percent strong disapproval is certainly a good diving board to start that campaign off of (INAUDIBLE), we‘ll see if they use it.

Craig Crawford, columnist at “Congressional Quarterly.”  As always, sir, thanks for joining us.

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, no, this is not a satirical video about the election.  No, it‘s not Orwell‘s “Animal Farm” meets Sinclair‘s “The Jungle.”  We‘ll tell you what it is is.

Speaking of piggish performers, he‘s made another list.  What number, and are there loofahs?

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One hundred and ten years ago today, Wenceslau Moreno (ph) was born in Salamanca in Spain.  He became the ventriloquist Senor Wences.  He had no dummy.  He just painted a pair of lips on his hand, named the character Johnny, and had conversations with it.  Or he would stick his hand in a box, open the lid of the box, and ask, You all right?  The hand would answer, S‘all right.

That was the entire act.  No dummy, just him talking to his hand.  Sometimes the hand in a box, sometimes not in a box.  His career in this country lasted 50 years, until he was 90, and he made a fortune.  The rest of us, we‘re all doing this wrong.

Good night and good luck.

Dedicated to Senor Wences.

What‘s (INAUDIBLE)?

And you thought this couldn‘t get sillier.

We begin with one form the (INAUDIBLE) one from the pile of strange things people do in other countries.  Let‘s see if you can guess which country this comes from.  Here‘s your hint, India.  It‘s the big annual Uda Parva (ph) Festival, in which the whole village comes out to watch the devoted stick painful iron hooks in their back and swing around like Callell (ph), son of Jorel (ph) II.

The devotees believe they have the blessings of the gods, so they feel no pain from the rusty hooks in their backs.  The same cannot be said for tomorrow‘s big event, big annual festival of the tetanus shot.  Quick, change the video.

We‘re in Moscow for the thrill, the color (INAUDIBLE) the pageantry

that is the games of the big annual Swine Olympiad.  Thousands of fans

packed the house on Sunday to watch 12 little pigs compete in three little

events, the running race, which seems like a whole lot of fun for the pigs

Please don‘t hurt me, please don‘t hurt me.  Next up, pig ball.  Just like soccer, only in this case, the swine appear to be on the field and not outside the stadium carrying the tire irons.

Then there appears to be a foreign object on the pitch there.  Can we get a—can we get a shovel in here, please?  And, of course, lastly, there‘s the crowd favorite, pigs swimming, if you can call a dozen confused pigs dumped in a wading pool swimming.  I call it pigs standing in shallow water.  But turn up the heat there, and you have your average New York City hot dog cart.

Finally to Carathena—or Cartagena, rather, in Colombia, sorry, Cartagena, where fishermen have discovered a new species of oxymoron, a really big shrimp.  It‘s a black tiger shrimp, but it‘s over 15 inches long.  It‘s about twice normal.  It‘s so big, when they brought it ashore, a license plate fell out of its mouth.

A Colombian biologist has purchased the beast for $800.  He says he plans to study it for a while to find out how it got so big.  Then he‘s just going to jump on its back and ride it to St. Louis.

Also tonight, an oddball of a different sort.  Tom Cruise says the mother of his child can make all the noise she wants during childbirth.  Is that what Scientologists actually say?  We will try to separate the fact from the fiction.

And, then, we will mix it all up again, merging reality with our version of it—“Michael Jackson Puppet Theater,” as his desperate business managers check to see if he‘s really still alive—those stories ahead. 

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

Number three, the Lansing, Michigan, cab driver profiled in Friday‘s local paper—paper, “The State Journal”—nice article on him, nice picture.  He plays the blues.  The best part, though is his name, Rick Shaw.  Big Daddy Taxi‘s Rick Shaw, driver. 

Number two, a very dumb criminal, James Earl Clark of Weirton, West Virginia, got into an argument with a man named Dustin Sager, told police he was getting even with Sager by putting a lighter to Sager‘s car, his 1995 Oldsmobile.  The Olds was a total ruin.  The problem—Sager does not own a 1995 Oldsmobile.  The guy torched the wrong car. 

Number one, a dumber criminal still—he took a stolen electronic device into a pawn shop at Lynnwood, Washington, and got 300 American dollars for it, came back to the pawn shop for more money, as the police were confiscating the device.  So, A, he got arrested.  And, B, he got to hear the explanation that the device for which he got $300 was a universal protocol tester that measures radio frequency for cell phone companies, list value, $1,700,000. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not so much whether or not it‘s appropriate for you and me to make jokes about Tom Cruise.  This is 2006.  Standards are lower everywhere. 

It‘s whether or not we are making those jokes based on ignorance or intelligence. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Cruise goes on national television to correct the record about Scientology and silent births and whatnot.  But is he sugarcoating it?  In a moment, an expert.

Isn‘t this less about silence during childbirth and more about silencing public and media criticism?  Ever since the news of his fiancee‘s pregnancy, the issue of silent birth has received a great deal of undesired attention. 

The founder of the Scientology religion, L. Ron Hubbard, made it clear in his writings the reasons for his teachings of silent birth:  The words uttered during the pains of giving birth can trigger irrational fears and unwanted emotions for the soon-to-be born youngster. 

But, in an attempt to calm the storm of his battled religion, Cruise drew a much rosier picture of what silent birth really is.  “If she‘s going to make noise,” he said of his lady friend, “she‘s going to make noise.  She does what she has got to do.  If she needs medicine, she needs medicine.  If she needs an epidural, she‘s going to get her epidural.”

He explained that the guidelines during delivery are more for those around the birthing mother, in order to keep the area very calm and very special for the emerging baby. 

David Touretzky is a research professor in the computer science department and at the Center for—of the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon.  And he has studied Scientology in depth. 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

DAVID TOURETZKY, PROFESSOR, CARNEGIE MELLON CENTER FOR THE NEURAL

BASIS OF COGNITION:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  So, that headline of the whole Scientology thing, the silent birth, did Mr. Cruise clean it up, or—or we—were we in the media overstating this? 

TOURETZKY:  I think he is trying to soft-play it a bit. 

But you have to understand that Scientology has one set of rules for celebrities and another set for everyone else. 

(LAUGHTER)

TOURETZKY:  So, if Tom Cruise and his girlfriend want to make noise, no one is going to tell them not to. 

OLBERMANN:  Not having gotten as much attention in this—in this whole thing was this idea of what happens in the days following the birth. 

Supposedly, the baby is not supposed to be disturbed or have any contact with anyone.  And coddling is forbidden.  And conventional medicine is not supposedly allowed when the child becomes ill.  Is all—is all that a correct representation of the—of the teachings regarding the—the day after? 

TOURETZKY:  That is correct. 

L. Ron Hubbard wrote that the child should be wrapped in tight, soft clothes, and left alone for a week.  I don‘t think he meant it shouldn‘t be fed.  But it shouldn‘t be talked to.  It shouldn‘t be cuddled.  It should be left undisturbed for a week. 

Now, that doesn‘t mean that people actually follow those teachings.  And, again, Tom Cruise can do whatever he likes, and he will not be criticized for it.  But that is what Hubbard taught. 

OLBERMANN:  Touching on the dustup, the famous one that Tom Cruise had last summer with Brooke Shields—it was on “The Today Show” with Matt Lauer—what happens if the mother in this case, Katie Holmes, were to get postpartum depression?  What does Scientology actually say about that?

TOURETZKY:  Well, I assume Tom would follow the advice that he gave Brooke Shields, which is that he would—he would deny Katie access to antidepressants.  He would have her treated with vitamins and with exercise, and, certainly, in her case, with Scientology auditing, which is their crack version of therapy. 

If those things didn‘t work, I—I think Tom would have to get rid of her.  I mean, she would be seen as a suppressive force, as someone who was holding him back.  And, if she did not respond to Scientology treatment, there would be no other course of treatment open to her. 

OLBERMANN:  Aha. 

Now, we are—we are—we are well—well aware of this truth here, that Mr. Cruise achieved one of the highest ranks in this religion, the—the “Operating Thetan Seven,” out of the eight levels.  Apparently, the higher you get in this, the more secretive it gets. 

Would he know things about this religion that Katie Holmes would not know or would not be permitted to know? 

TOURETZKY:  Oh, absolutely. 

In fact, he knows things that everyone who watched the “South Park” episode knows, but that...

(LAUGHTER)

TOURETZKY:  ... Katie is not allowed to know. 

You know, “South Park,” it may be just a cartoon, but they did a very good job of explaining the upper-level theology of Scientology, starting at level O.T. III, which is—Tom is now four levels beyond that—starting at O.T. III, you are introduced to Xenu, the evil galactic overlord, who supposedly murdered all these citizens of the Galactic Federation some 75 million years ago.

And their tortured spirits now infest all of us.  So, Tom knows this.  Katie may not learn this.  And, of course, she would never be allowed to watch the “South Park” episode.  She would not be allowed to go on the Internet and browse freely. 

And even if she got high enough to make it to O.T. III, which, by the, Nicole Kidman quit after O.T. II. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

TOURETZKY:  So, she never met Xenu.

But, if Katie made it all the way to O.T. III, and learned about Xenu in the approved way, even then, she and Tom would be forbidden to discuss Xenu, even in the privacy of their own bedroom.  This is—this is how Scientology maintains control over its adherents, by preventing them from engaging in any kind of discussion or reality testing outside of the cult‘s control. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I don‘t know anybody who could actually get high enough to believe any of that.  But that‘s another subject altogether. 

How—how is this—in the interview, Tom Cruise said that you can be a Catholic and a Scientologist at the same time.  How is that—is that possible?  And, if so...

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  ... how is that possible? 

TOURETZKY:  It—it‘s not possible.  And, in fact, Tom was—was sort of violating a—a Scientology public-relations strategy there. 

They used to make that claim, that you could be a Catholic and a Scientologist.  And enough people called them on it, that they backed off and they stopped making that claim in public.  But I guess Tom didn‘t get the memo. 

You—you cannot be a Scientologist and a Christian, for the simple reason that the—the essence of Scientology is belief in reincarnation.  In fact, Scientology goes even further than the other religions that preach reincarnation, because Scientology says that they will teach you to recall your past lives, whereas the Christian Bible says, in Hebrews 9:27, man is destined to die once, and, after that, to face judgment. 

And that judgment comes when Christ returns to Earth.  So, although there are Scientologists who claim that they are Catholic and Scientologist, or Christian and Scientologist, if you ask any Catholic priest or any Christian minister, “Can I believe in this and be a Scientologist?” he will say no. 

OLBERMANN:  And, also, there‘s that conflict between Xenu and Xena, as placed by—played by Lucy Lawless. 

Dr. David Touretzky, the search professor at Carnegie Mellon, expert on Scientology, great thanks for joining us tonight. 

TOURETZKY:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  OK. 

Also tonight, indictments reportedly handed down in a much more serious story, the rape investigation at Duke.  But who was charged and what they were charged with, that, we do not know. 

And it‘s hard to believe that Bill O. could make the newscast without making a threat to a listener, trying to get them fired, or being a worst person, but he did it—another notch on the infamous O‘Reilly belt—ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  After a month of investigation, there may be finally be some movement at Duke University—reports that two lacrosse players now face charges in connection with a purported rape there. 

And you know those 100-most-beautiful people lists?  Exactly opposite of one of those making news tonight—when COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The lacrosse season was canceled.  The coach resigned in disgrace.  The campus was figuratively turned upside-down, while police literally tried to turn some of the players‘ rooms upside-down. 

Yet, until this afternoon, one month and four days after allegations of a gang rape at Duke University, no charges had been brought. 

Our number-two story on the COUNTDOWN, that has now changed, although our lack of knowledge of the specifics has not changed. 

Our correspondent at Durham, North Carolina, is Ron Mott.

Ron, good evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

Defense sources tell NBC News tonight that they believe two lacrosse players at Duke University were indicted today by a grand jury in connection with this alleged rape case.  But, because these indictments were placed under seal, we do not know the names of the players involved or the charges that they are facing. 

An NBC News legal analyst tells me tonight that prosecutors often ask the court to seal an indictment to get a defendant to cooperate, while prosecutors continue to investigate whether other people are involved in a crime. 

Now, tonight, one defense attorney was quite dismayed by today‘s developments. 

BILL THOMAS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  This is a very sad day for our community.  It‘s a sad day for the cause of justice.  You have lawyers for all 46 of these young men who have looked into this case.  This case is totally without merit.  These young men have done nothing of the sort of what they are accused of. 

MOTT:  Tonight, Duke University officials issued a statement acknowledging today‘s grand jury proceedings, but says, until more information is known, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment any further—Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Ron Mott, following the allegations and now charges of rape at Duke, great thanks. 

Thus, no segue possible, nor attempted tonight, as we move into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” but suffice to say, whatever Michael Jackson has lost as an intentional entertainer, he has regained as an unintentional one. 

If you missed it, Internet chat rooms burst last week with rumors that Jackson had died at his new home in Bahrain.  And, evidently, there was just enough of a sliver of truth that his money people in this country called his money people in that one and asked them to check.  We do not know what that conversation was like, only that they woke Jackson up in the middle of the night to see if he wasn‘t quite dead yet. 

A story as important as this one and one that occurs literally behind closed doors, as this one has, requires that new hybrid of journalism and Senor Wences that we call “Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SNORING)

OLBERMANN:  Michael, are you alive? 

OLBERMANN:  What?  Huh?  Macaulay, is that you? 

OLBERMANN:  No, Michael.  I‘m your business manager.  Are you alive or dead? 

OLBERMANN:  Am I still in Bahrain? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Then it doesn‘t matter if I‘m alive or dead, does it? 

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of people who have left the continent to get a little peace and quiet there, there are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. 

By now, you have heard the reports that they have headed Namibia, in Africa, so she can give birth there—a Namibian newspaper saying, that‘s because they figured out that all the wild lions in that country might keep the media at bay, although some scientists believe a fully-grown British tabloid reporter can swallow a lion whole. 

A new wrinkle to the story tonight—the governor of the province in which the couple is staying says he has met with Pitt and Jolie, and that they told him they are considering giving their baby a Namibian name. 

Yes, like, maybe Namibia.  That‘s an idea. 

And a list of 100 names, what do these guys have in common?  Here‘s a hint:  It‘s not Liza Minnelli, and it‘s not a loofah.  That‘s ahead.

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

The bronze tonight, Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment—the man who actually, somehow, worsened the reputation of pro wrestling has done it again, claiming that, a week from Sunday, his organization will televise a tag team match featuring McMahon and his son Shane vs. wrestler Shawn Michaels and God—yes, almighty. 

How to save time by blaspheming all the religions at once. 

The runner-up is Angie Marquez, principal of an elementary school in Inglewood, California—trying to prevent her students from walking out of classes during last week‘s immigration protests, which she had the right to do, she did get a little overzealous.

She imposed a full lockdown, meaning the kids could not even leave their classroom, even to use the bathroom.  Yes, they had to use buckets in the classroom. 

But the winner, Michelle Malkin—military recruiters showed up an on-campus job fair at the University of California at Santa Cruz, which was their right.  Four students showed up and protested their presence, which was their right.  Malkin blogged about it, which was her right.

But she also posted the names and home phone numbers of the protesting students, who, as a result, have been inundated with death threats.  And she will not take the phone numbers down from her blog.  And, if she thinks that is also her right, then, she is even crazier and dumber than we all thought.

Michelle Malkin, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Some COUNTDOWN stories are born great.  Some achieve greatness.  And some are just handed to me by my radio partner, Dan Patrick. 

Our number-one story tonight, you have heard of “People” magazine‘s sexiest people issue, and maybe even about “FHM”‘s 100 sexiest women, which the dubious honor of being last, number 100, went to an actress named Josie Maran. 

Perhaps inspired by all that—Who wants to be last on the sexiest list? -- the editors of Boston‘s well-respected alternative newspaper “The Phoenix” created their own list, the 100 unsexiest men in the world.  Dan Patrick gave me a copy.  The winner—or loser—number one, the voice of the Aflac duck, Gilbert Gottfried. 

Some of the other key selections, Don Imus at number 10, a “Boston Phoenix” staffer explaining—quote—“It would be like having sex with an old leather bag, but not in a good way.”

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Nick Nolte at 45.  Yes, but if they had relied totally on this mug shot, he could have been in the top 10. 

Carrot Top at 16, easily.

Dr. Phil at number four—the explanation, “because being a bald-headed know-it-all is never sexy.”

There are various picks from the past, too: Leif Garrett, 46; Art Garfunkel, 80; Joey Buttafuoco, 75 -- humor, apparently, is not necessarily sexy anymore—Chris Kattan, 31; Horatio Sanz, 96, from “Saturday Night Live”; along with Larry David at 38; and Dennis Miller at 64. 

There are some surprises, sort of, Brad Pitt at number 100.  But we are not sure.  Does that mean he is the least sexy, or the least least sexy?  Jose Canseco, 91, among sports figures, for saying this line on “The Surreal Life”—quote—“Every time I have tried to help a woman, I have been incarcerated.”

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  You would think you would get better props for that.

Then there are a few TV hosts: my old classmate Bill Maher, at 62.  He can take some solace in this.  He‘s four points behind Ted Baxter himself.

Bill Jensen is the associate editor of “The Boston Phoenix.”  It‘s his name atop the list.  It was published earlier this month.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BILL JENSEN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, “THE BOSTON PHOENIXrMD-BO_”:  How you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s—let‘s begin with our favorite guy, Mr. O‘Reilly. 

Why him?  And why is he sandwiched between Ed O‘Neil and Clay Aiken? 

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  Well, the first thing about Bill O‘Reilly is, I don‘t think it was the splotchiness. 

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  I think what it came down to was the bullying, bullying of the guests, bullying of the callers, threatening them with FOX security to come to their houses for mentioning a certain competitor‘s name, that kind of thing. 

And I think the—the whole falafel incident really didn‘t help him very much.  I think, any time you are going to, you know, talk to a woman on the phone and say you want to rub her with a sandwich full of chickpeas in the shower is—is not going to help your sexual quotient.

So, he is on the list.  And he might even be a little bit too low or high on the list, depending on your thoughts on him. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything he can do to improve or—or disimprove his chances?  Is—can he move up or down, depending on—on something else happening? 

JENSEN:  I think, if he just went away, it would sort of push him away...

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  ... on the list.  But I don‘t think he is going away any time soon...

OLBERMANN:  Well...

JENSEN:  ... or at least until the—the next election. 

So, you know, once we open this up to the public, I think he will probably move up closer to the...

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t—don‘t...

JENSEN:  ... the top 20. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t ever suggest that he is going away. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  We—we—we need him here. 

What was the—I mean, obviously, this—most of this is tongue-in-cheek.  But what was—what was your criteria for—this is not simply a scale of ugliness, correct? 

JENSEN:  No.  It was—it was a scale of unsexiness. 

And what it was, was really, it was—it was a pop—it‘s pop culture satire.  The “FHM” list had came out about a—a day before we put this together.  And we saw that Scarlett Johansson was on the top of the list.  It was the most viewed story on Yahoo!, the most e-mailed story.

And we said, you know, these lists are getting a little bit out of control.  I think Jessica Alba was named sexiest woman about two weeks earlier by another magazine.  So, we just wanted to spin it on its head.  And, you know, we sent out a bunch of e-mails to, you know, people on the staff and friends of people on the staff.  And it just sort of grew through there. 

But what it came—came to be was, it‘s not—it‘s not ugliness.  It was unsexiness...

OLBERMANN:  Right. 

JENSEN:  ... you know, who you would least like to be in bed with. 

And, you know, once we got everybody‘s answers and nominations and things like that, it was up to me and one of my staffers, Ryan Stewart, to compile it and write little blurbs about it and...  

OLBERMANN:  A lot...

JENSEN:  ... things like that.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of politicians, a lot of political wanna-bes on this list. 

Let‘s go through a couple of them.  Joe Lieberman is at 60.  Newt Gingrich is at 55, Ashcroft, 68, Ralph Nader, 94.  And—and sad to say here, generally speaking, bald guys don‘t fare well either.  So, why it was that Dick Cheney was left off this list as not on the unsexy 100?

JENSEN:  Dick Cheney was on the list until the very end. 

OLBERMANN:  Hmm.

JENSEN:  We had created a preliminary list, sent it out to a lot of the people that had done the nominations.  And some people came back and said, a lot of women—not them, but a lot of women do find Dick Cheney sexy. 

You know, he‘s a—he is a bad boy.  He is shooting people in the face.  He‘s—he‘s the guy with the real power in the country.  He has got that—that sort of a smirk on his face.  You know, I guess some women do find it sexy. 

OLBERMANN:  And he has got a lot of heart...

JENSEN:  And...

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  ... or at least—or at least many of them.

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Where—which name has gotten the most response? 

JENSEN:  America loves Clay Aiken.  And his—his fans, God love them, love to use the Internet, are very interesting spellers.

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  And they—they like to throw the odd curse word now and again.  But Clay Aiken definitely got the biggest response.

Also, Chad Kroeger, the lead singer from Nickelback, apparently, his fans don‘t really care that the music is not very good.  But they were very upset that we called him unsexy. 

OLBERMANN:  What are about Gilbert Gottfried?  What did he do to get -

I mean, of all of people to come out number one, why Gilbert Gottfried? 

JENSEN:  You know, I think it—what it came down to at the very end was asking women who they would least like to be in bed with. 

And I think the voice might have had something to do with it.  Maybe the—the whole duck thing had something to do with it.  I feel bad.  I love Gilbert.  But, unfortunately, you know, he had—somebody had to end up at number one.  And...

(LAUGHTER)

JENSEN:  And it‘s Gilbert. 

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t hear that a lot, do you?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Somebody had to end up at number one, and it was him. 

Well, Bill Jensen, associate editor for “The Boston Phoenix,” co-writer of the 100 unsexiest-men-in-the-world list, great thanks for leaving me off of it.  And—and great thanks for joining us tonight. 

JENSEN:  Thanks, Keith.  There‘s always next year. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s what I‘m afraid of. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,082nd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.   

Now the debate for New Orleans mayor, as moderated by Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL,” along with Norman Robinson of WDSU in New Orleans.

Stand by.  And here it is.

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

END   

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