updated 5/4/2006 11:35:50 AM ET 2006-05-04T15:35:50

Guests: Howard Fineman

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

Windfall profits.  Windfall political grandstanding opportunities.  The new law, jail terms and fines for oil companies price-gouging on gas, up to $150 million, or 10 gallons, whichever is higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, our profits of $8.4 billion are—it‘s a large number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The head of Exxon Mobil explains the law of supply and demand.  They have all the supply, they can demand whatever the hell they want.

The Moussaoui verdict, 20th hijacker, or delusional wannabe?  Life or death?

OK, coke is now legal in Mexican homes, but Coke is no longer available in thousands of American schools.

And American business is now marketing to the plus size.

And when was the last time you looked at an adult film star and said, boy, she can really act?  New TV show, porn actresses perform in dramatic classics.  Hey, darling, loved you in “Nude World Order,” but how‘s your “Cherry Orchard”?  What?  That‘s the title of a play they‘ll be in, “The Cherry Orchard,” by Chekhov.  What?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Talk is cheap, but gasoline is not.  The bottom line of that equation unlikely to change anytime soon.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, public anger over gas prices prompting lots of political fighting over what to do about it, but very little in the way of real solutions.  At the White House today, the president huddling with members of Congress, all of them scrambling for a political solution to pain at the pump, looking for relief in the form of a quick fix.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Prices of gasoline should serve as a wakeup call to all of us involved in public office, that we have got a energy security problem and a national security problem.  And now is the time to deal with it in a forceful way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, lawmakers making big oil public enemy number one, Congress passing criminal penalties for energies—companies caught price-gouging, failing to pass a bill that would expand crude oil refining capacity, Democrats saying that measure took too many environmental shortcuts, a House panel, meanwhile, pressing Exxon Mobil to disclose the details of a $400 million severance package to its former CEO, Exxon Mobil‘s current chief executive denying accusations of price fixing in the industry on the “TODAY” show Wednesday, rebuffing a suggestion that the company lower its profits to bring gas prices down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

MATT LAUER, HOST:  Would Exxon Mobil be willing to lower profits over this summer to help out in this time of need and crisis, as it‘s been described?

REX TILLERSON, CEO, EXXON MOBIL:  Well, as you pointed out, we work for the shareholder.  And the investors who own our stock are over 2 million individual Americans, and a lot of pension plans, a lot of teacher retirement plans.  And our job is to go out and make the most money for their—for those people, so that their pensions are secure, so that they see the benefits of our work.

LAUER:  Which is—that‘s a no?

TILLERSON:  Well, that‘s not the business—we‘re in the business to make money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That would be a no.

One thing getting far too little attention in the debate over gas prices, the word “conservation,” Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times” saying that the only party that would benefit from all of the political proposals currently on the table is OPEC, quoting him, “To summarize, we now have a Congress proposing to do exactly what our worst enemies would like us to do—subsidize our addiction to gasoline by breaking into our kids‘ piggybanks to make it easier for us to pay the prices demanded by our oil pushers, so that we will remain addicted and they will remain awash in dollars.  With a Congress like this, who needs al Qaeda ?”

Time now to call in “Newsweek”‘s chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman.

Welcome back, Howard.

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

Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If energy is likely to play a huge role in the fall elections, is that outcome likely to be any better for the Republicans than it was, say, for President Carter during the last major gas crisis?

FINEMAN:  No, and we‘ll know that it‘s really curtains for Bush when he shows up in a cardigan sweater in front of the fireplace, the way Jimmy Carter did a generation ago.

And I mention that because the oil price problems then, the energy problems then, underscored a sense of powerlessness of the presidency.  And that‘s something George Bush has tried very hard over the years to make sure he didn‘t—a trap that he made sure he didn‘t fall into.

Now he‘s in a situation where one day one of his advisers is saying, This is a crisis, another day somebody saying, There‘s not much we can do about it.  Today he says it‘s a wakeup call, but if it‘s a wakeup call, where‘s the sense of alarm?  And more important, where is his power to do something about it?

OLBERMANN:  On a political level, the Republicans would seem to be in two huge holes on this.  One, they have unified control of the government.  There are no Democrats to blame for this.  And two, their team captains have close ties historically to the energy industry.  Even if those ties have nothing to do with this current situation, the current price of gas, is that perception alone an unshakable albatross politically?

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s unshakable.  I actually think it‘s an opportunity for the president if he wanted to be bold and try to take it.  I mean, the Nixon-goes-to-China theory is kind of a cliche at this point, but I think it applies here.

This is a guy whose father was a big man at the Houston petroleum club.  George Bush, the son, was a big man at the Midland, Texas, petroleum club.  He comes from the oil fields.

Who better, and what better political benefit there—could there be, in really saying, Look, we need a crash program to wean ourselves from the very industry that I know a lot about?  And I—it‘s easy to say now, but I think the president should have taken whatever political capital he had in his second-term inaugural and focused on energy, because of the tremendous political, military, diplomatic benefits that it would bring him.

OLBERMANN:  Why the anemic response from the politicians on the other side of the fence?  I mean, describing both of them, “The Washington Post” had a great description of how all lawmakers have reacted, “profiles in panic.”

FINEMAN:  Well, having spent some time on the Hill asking about this kind of thing recently and over the years, the Democrats would love to scream about the obscene profits of big business and raise alarms about environmental degradation at the same time.  The Republicans, meanwhile, would like to blame the environmental wackos, as Rush Limbaugh calls them, and, you know, accuse the Democrats of being antibusiness.

Right now, they still think they can make more political progress by accusing the other side of things than they can by joining together in a crash program.  And that requires presidential leadership.  The president expressed his concern today, but you didn‘t hear a plan.

OLBERMANN:  Last point here, in that “Times” piece that I quoted by Thomas Friedman, he had another prospect in there, that this situation is now ripe for the emergence, possibly, of a viable third-party candidate, that it‘s like the way Ross Perot was able to connect on the ballooning budget deficit that was not being dealt with by anybody in ‘92.  Is that plausible?

FINEMAN:  Well, when I ever hear—I hear that talk, it‘s always a measure of the paralysis up here.  And I think Ross Perot tapped into that in the early ‘90s.  And I do think the situation is ripe.  The question would be, who would be the person to do it?

You know, my speculation is, and it‘s just speculation, if John McCain for some reason doesn‘t get the Republican nomination, and there‘s no guarantee he will, he‘ll be tempted to try it, and there‘ll be a lot of people wanting to sign up for that crusade.

OLBERMANN:  He could run with Stephen Colbert.

“Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.  As always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN:   Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  One place in Washington they may be doing a little energy conservation, the White House briefing room.  There is one way to save a lot of electricity there.  George Stephanopoulos, the former communications director for President Clinton, recounted in his memoir that the then-first lady, Hillary Clinton, wanted to kick the media out of that room and reopen the old indoor swimming pool that sits right below the briefing room floor, possibly not in that order.

As our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell, recounts for us now, there‘s an extreme makeover plan under consideration at the Bush White House, but it has less to do with the administration‘s attitude towards the swimming pool and more with its attitude towards a media pool.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The president‘s new chief of staff is cleaning house and now may be turning out the lights in the briefing room.  Josh Bolten says Tony Snow‘s first job will be to recommend whether to kick out the cameras.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think the fact that they‘re even throwing out taking the cameras out shows that they don‘t get it.

O‘DONNELL:  Joe Lockhart became President Clinton‘s press secretary in October 1998, just as the House opened its impeachment hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... the false statements.

LOCKHART:  Well, I‘d have to go back and look at the record.

It is truly a sorry day when you all walk in here and ask me questions based on a rumor-mongerer‘s Internet Web site.

That‘s not a serious question.

OK, well, then I‘m—I—the—yes, but I don‘t think you have any basis to ask that question, so we‘ll move on.  We‘ll move on.  We‘ll move on.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

LOCKHART:  So I‘m not arguing that there isn‘t a theatrical aspect to

this, but it is a show that‘s worth watching, and it‘s worth televising

O‘DONNELL:  Tensions can flare at the White House briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m trying to be forthright with you.  But don‘t tell me that you‘re giving us complete answers when you‘re not actually answering the question, because everybody knows what is an answer and what is not an answer.  And the final...

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, David, now you want to make this about you, and it‘s not about you.  It‘s about what happened.  And that‘s what I‘m trying—and I‘m trying to provide answers to the questions.

And I‘m just not going to engage in the blame game or finger pointing that you‘re trying to get me to engage in.

GREGORY:  That‘s not at all what I was asking, and...

MCCLELLAN:  Sure it is.  That‘s exactly what you‘re trying to play.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  And some argue the heated exchanges curse the effort to garner news.  Still others point out, televised briefings allow the public a front row seat to watch the White House avoid answering questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If they go down that road, it almost becomes something out of the Kremlin era.  You don‘t want to have a process in which they try to keep information from the American people.  We want more, not less, information.

O‘DONNELL:  The White House daily briefings were only recently televised.  Marlin Fitzwater was the first to allow cameras in, but only for five minutes, and no audio.  Dee Dee Myers, Mr. Clinton‘s first press secretary, allowed the first five minutes with sound.

Finally, when Mike McCurry took over in 1995, he decided the whole thing should be on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MCCURRY, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Most of the time, I feel like I‘m double-parked in the no comment zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  McCurry admits the briefings made him famous, but it was a huge mistake, saying it frequently became the theater of the absurd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) simple questions (INAUDIBLE)...

MCCURRY:  These are not...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... (INAUDIBLE)...

MCCURRY:  ... (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), that some of the questions are simple, and that the follow-up questions and the inquiry, the persistence with which you would continue to pursue the matters, is not so simple, and that‘s where you have to do hard work to get answers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL (on camera):  The White House is already pushing the press out of the West Wing this summer in order to renovate.  Some see that as the beginning of the end.  Still, it‘s difficult to imagine that the White House would hire a TV personality and then deny him the stage.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Norah, thanks.

Also today, the only person to be tried in connection with the attacks against America on 9/11 will not face a trip to the death chamber.  Analysis of the Zacarias Moussaoui verdict from our Pete Williams.

And the war on obesity hitting a new front, the country‘s schools.  Why President Clinton is involved in keeping soda out of the hands of about 35 million of our children.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, you know the jury has come back in the penalty phase of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.  One bit of context to consider in deciding whether to execute or imprison failed or flinching terrorists.

The so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, failed to detonate his explosive device in part because he chose to remain in his seat, where he must have known other passengers could have stopped him, and did, instead of going into the lavatory and lighting it there.

Now, why did he do that?  Some last-minute second thoughts, some expression of the will to live, a way out for the self-doubting terrorist, which we need to encourage when sentencing them?

The jury sent Moussaoui to prison, not to the death chamber.

Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams, was at the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, when the verdict was announced, and joins us now from the Washington bureau.

Pete, thanks once more for your time.

PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Certainly, Keith.

The prosecution had said to the jury in its closing arguments, You need to sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death because that would be what the prosecutors called righteous punishment for the worst crime in U.S.  history.

But obviously, we know now that some of the jurors found that Moussaoui‘s participation in the 9/11 attacks was so indirect that it did not justify capital punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  After listening to more than six weeks of emotional testimony about the horrors of 9/11, jurors recommended that Moussaoui be locked up to spend the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison, despite finding that the killings on 9/11 were indiscriminate and planned well in advance.

His court-appointed lawyers said it was the right punishment for someone they described as an al Qaeda  wannabe.

GERALD ZERKIN, DEFENSE LAWYER:  It‘s obvious that they thought that his knowledge of 9/11, his role in 9/11, was not very great.

WILLIAMS:  But it was not the verdict the Justice Department worked more than four years to achieve.

PAUL MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:  In our system of justice, it only takes one juror to oppose or to object to the imposition of the death penalty.  And we respect that, and we accept that.  But accountability for the crimes committed has been achieved.

WILLIAMS:  After the verdict was read in court, Moussaoui said, quote, “America, you lost, I won,” and clapped his hands twice.

The jury‘s exact vote was not disclosed, but three jurors found that Moussaoui‘s role in the 9/11 operation was minor, and three said he had only limited knowledge of the suicide hijacking attack plans.

More than 50 survivors of the attacks and family members of those who died testified during the trial, most of them for the government.  But family members were by no means unanimous on how Moussaoui should be punished.  Many said they were relieved by the verdict.

CARIE LEMACK, DAUGHTER OF 9/11 VICTIM:  If we‘re going to blame Zacarias Moussaoui, he‘s not the real problem.  The real problem are the terrorists who do want to kill us, like Osama bin Laden, who‘s still not captured.

CHRISTY COOMBS, WIDOW OF 9/11 VICTIM:  If he had gotten the death penalty, it would have meant instant appeal, and we would have had to go through this all over again.  He‘s going to be sitting in prison, no chance for parole.  As far as I‘m concerned, that‘s exactly where he belongs.

WILLIAMS:  But New York City‘s former mayor said he would have preferred a different verdict.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY (on phone):  Yes, I‘m disappointed.  I, I, I, I, I, I believe that the death penalty was appropriate in this case, should have been replied.

WILLIAMS:  Late today, the president broke his long silence on the case.

BUSH:  And they spared his life, which is something that he evidently wasn‘t willing to do for innocent American citizens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Tomorrow morning, he‘ll be formally sentenced.  While the jury recommends a sentence, only the judge can impose it.  She will be required to impose the sentence recommended by the jury.

And Keith, a moment ago, you mentioned Richard Reid.  The likely place where Moussaoui will spend the rest of his life in prison is the super-max prison in Florence, Colorado, where Richard Reid is also being held.

OLBERMANN:  Pete, even with as much emotion as surrounded this case, between where Moussaoui was on 9/11, the inconsistency of his emotional state throughout this whole process, since his arrest, virtually, would it have been a legal shock if the jury had given him the death sentence?

WILLIAMS:  I think this far out, yes.  This—the—with this long a deliberation, I think it would have been a shock, perhaps not right at the beginning.  But if the jury had imposed the death sentence, then I think you would have certainly seen appeals.

And it‘s—it was a very, you know, untested case here.  Could the government legally justify the death penalty for so—someone who was so far removed from the actual causing of death?  He wasn‘t sitting in the getaway car outside the bank.  He didn‘t buy the weapon and put it in someone else‘s hands.

All the sort of analogies that you can think of, where someone could get the death penalty for not actually pulling the trigger, they‘re pretty far removed, in this case.  And we knew from the beginning, and the government knew from the beginning, that that was going to be the soft underbelly of this case, as it obviously turned out to be.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  If there‘s an analogy here historically, it might be closer to the Haymarket terrorists of 1886.  But one other thing here, we heard the description in there about what some of these jurors, how they assessed his culpability in here.  This is not going to be one of these cases where at some point the jurors actually come out and speak and explain, is it?

WILLIAMS:  I doubt it, because, for one thing, the jury, we would, we never knew their names.  The judge never knew their names.  Their identities was very—they were carefully protected.  They referred to them only in court, and in court documents, as Juror 304, Juror 759.

And there‘s some indication that the jurors wanted it kept that way.  And I think—I‘d be very surprised if any of them now choose to come forward, just because of the nature, it was a terrorism case.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.

NBC‘s justice correspondent, Pete Williams.  As always, sir, great thanks.

WILLIAMS:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  International legal issues ahead.  If Coca-Cola is going to be illegal, so to speak, in U.S. schools, but cocaine is going to be legal in Mexican homes, what happens along the U.S.-Mexican border?

And what are these guys smoking?  A horse race not like anything else. 

You might want to get out of the way.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The 26th Kentucky Derby was raced on May 3, 1900.  Lieutenant Gibson was the winner, if you‘re just now checking your betting tickets.  The 132nd will be run this Saturday, and everybody associated with every running of the Run for the Roses will be nauseated beyond description by our first item.

So let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Calaraca de la Cruz (ph), Spain.  Hello.  (INAUDIBLE) they like to call this the world‘s only vertical horse race.  Of course, they seem to be taking liberties with the word “vertical,” unless the cameraman missed the part where they run up the side of the building.  (INAUDIBLE) is, 59 horsies decked out in fancy costumes running up a steep hill to the Calaraca Fortress, while thousands of drunken spectators do their best not to interfere, much.

Excuse me, coming through, pardon me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me.

A lot like Spain‘s other big animal event, the running of the bulls, only with less killing.  And here, just the winner of the race and best costume receive awards, as opposed to Pamplona, where all the participants win the same prize.  It‘s death, but, hey, at least there‘s no favoritism.

To Otombo (ph), Mexico, for the annual donkey day festival.  Donkey day.  Hope you remembered to send a card.  It‘s a 45-year-old tradition in this mostly agricultural community.  The donkeys get a much-deserved day off from the backbreaking labor of pulling plows and running up steep hills for the purpose of gambling.  They‘re dressed in costumes and paraded around town.  And later on, they all get drunk and start bar fights.

Who you calling jackass, jackass?

Lastly, to London, more proof that some rich guys will buy anything if it‘s marketed towards their egos, including the world‘s most expensive sandwich.  No false advertising, at least.  It costs 85 British pounds, $150.  Going to be tough to eat through that plate.  And they say it‘s the ingredients that drive up the price, made with fresh-baked bread, foie gras, the finest imported Japanese (INAUDIBLE) beef, and, apparently, shredded priceless Monet paintings.

Mmmm, wheat stacks (ph).  The head chef says he sold about 60 of the overpriced sammies, more than twice as many as his less popular offering, the world‘s most disgusting fish sandwich.

How about a soda with that sandwich?  Not any more, not for an estimated 35 million American students.  On the other hand, you might be able to go over the Mexican border and pick up a nice can of LSD.  Why Mexico is on the verge of OKing home use of that and just about every other drug you can think of.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, an unnamed 16-year-old boy in Clinton Park, New York—

Clifton Park, excuse me, accidentally shot during a hunting trip with his uncle.  His uncle, a 46-year-old man from Appalachia, New York, named Scott McLellan.  No C, just an L.  But I bet Dick Cheney‘s having a few laughs about that one.

Number two, the unnamed bank robber in Alacrimpa (ph), Pennsylvania.  Boy, you hate when this happens.  You plan out your heist, you get away with your dough, nobody gets hurt.  And then you trip coming out of the bank, and the money goes, whee, up in the air.  Police have recovered $992 that he dropped.  They don‘t know if he dropped everything he stole.

But number one, the U.S. Postal Service is seeking approval to offer a special deal, the Forever Stamp.  You buy it now, and it remains valid no matter how often or how much they raise the price later, into eternity.  Think about this in a moment.  As late as 1985, stamps were still 20 cents each.  So if they double again in the next 20 years, but you buy, say, a billion of them now, and then you sell them later on for less than the Post Office is charging, you will make a huge profit, and you might put the Post Office out of business.

Oh, I feel just like Maria Bartiromo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is repeatedly said timing is everything in life.  Maybe more correctly it‘s juxtaposition.  That American schools would be making a deal with soda distributors to keep everything but sugar free stuff out of elementary and middle schools is interesting.  That the president of a nation adjoining ours would be signing a bill permitting his citizens to use everything from cocaine to LSD in their own homes is interesting, perhaps terrifying to those in this country living near that border.  But in our third story in the COUNTDOWN that these things should be happening simultaneously boggles the mind.  No coke in our lower schools, no holds barred in Mexican households.  The latter part of the story first from our correspondent Peter Alexander.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  As the U.S. began filling the longest drug tunnel ever discovered beneath its border with Mexico, above ground the international war on drugs has become a war of words.  At issue, a proposed Mexican law that would drop criminal prosecution for individuals using small amounts of dangerous narcotics.  In effect, the law would approve the use in small amounts of a dizzying array of illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana and methamphetamines.   

LUIS CABRERA, CONSUL GENERAL OF MEXICO:  We have to be very clear that it doesn‘t mean at all that we are legalizing drugs in any form.  

ALEXANDER:  The Mexican government says the law would strengthen its anti-drug policies, freeing authorities to focus less attention on small time drug users and to impose stiffer penalties for large drug traffickers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If we are talking about legalizing drug use, that‘s bad for everybody.

ALEXANDER:  And Walters is not alone.  Critics warn if passed this law would send thousands of Americans heading over the border to experiment with the same illegal drugs this country has vowed to fight.  

BARRY MCCAFFREY, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION DRUG CZAR:  This is going to have a huge impact on cross-border drug tourism out of the United States, to include in particular, college kids who will go to Mexico, buy and consume.

ALEXANDER:  While border cities like Nuevo Laredo, Mexico have become ground zero for an increasingly violent drug trade, Mexico‘s proposed law would be among the most permissive in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now I can go across the border and buy heroin without me—

ALEXANDER:  At this San Diego drug clinic, counselors fear they‘ll be swamped by a new audience of addicts.  

DENI MCLAGAN, MIDCOAST REGIONAL RECOVERY CENTER:  Services in San Diego County are already stretched thin.  We are barely treating the people that we need to treat here.  

ALEXANDER:  Mexican President Vicente Fox is expected to sign the bill into law.  Peter Alexander, NBC News, at the U.S. Mexico Border near San Diego.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  He might have been expected to do so, but it turns out he will not.  In a decision made late Wednesday, afternoon at the capital of Mexico City, a spokesman for President Fox of Mexico said the president will not sign the bill that would have decriminalized most drugs for home use in Mexico.  Repeating that, President Vicente Fox of Mexico‘s office says the president will not sign the bill that would have decriminalized the private use of most hallucinogenic and other recreational drugs in his country.

And then there are the events here.  About three years ago the head of a self proclaimed consumer group came on this newscast and insisted there was no biological or hereditary factor in obesity.  That fast food companies have not the slightest bit of responsibility for the health of their customers.  That nothing in food could be addictive.  Turned out his consumer group was funded by food industry trade associations.  And more importantly it looks like, it was wrong.  Chief medical correspondent Bob Bazell now on the deal to get sugar saturated soda out of American schools.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This has truly been a step forward.   

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Today‘s agreement will get soda pop and other sugared drinks out of most schools and limit portion sizes of fruit juices and milk over the next few years.  The former president told NBC News this is the first step in his major campaign against childhood obesity.

CLINTON:  I see the consequences among young adults with exploding rates of diabetes and other complications.  And if we don‘t turn this around, this group of young people in the public schools could be the first generation of Americans to live shorter lives than their parents.  

BAZELL:  On average, American teenagers drink more than two 12-ounce cans of sugared drinks a day.  Analysts say the agreement will have little effect on the industry‘s profits because most sugared drinks are not sold in schools. 

A lot of people are going to look at this and say a few ounces of a few drinks in schools can‘t make that much difference.  

CLINTON:  But they‘re wrong.   A huge number of kids, this will reduce the caloric intake by 100 to 150 calories a day from drinks at schools.  If you reduce the caloric intake of an 8-year-old by 45 calories a day, by the time that child graduates from high school, he or she will weigh 20 pounds less.  This is a huge deal, this is a big blow in the fight against obesity.  

BAZELL:  Consumer groups have lung argued that sugared drinks are a

major factor in increasing childhood obesity.  They applauded today‘s

agreement 

DR. MICHAEL JACOBSON, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST:  In the short term, hopefully it will cut down on the calorie consumption of kids.  In the longer term hopefully it will discourage kids from making a habit of drinking soda pop. 

BAZELL:  Clinton says his campaign will next try to get school meals to be healthier and find more opportunities for school kids to exercise.  Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  This alone, of course is not going to roll back the tide.  It has been speculated that the government service style growth industries of the second quarter of the 21st century will be healthcare and companies specializing in the widening of seats on trains and buses and doors in public buildings.  The private sector seems already to have sensed this.  Average models in commercials may be wafer thin, but the companies know apparently that the average consumer is not.  Here‘s Janet Shamlian in Chicago. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Large or super size?

I think I‘m going to have to go super size. 

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  In a nation obsessed with super-sizing everything—an expanding population is spawning a growing industry.  Everyday products in a size you don‘t see every day. 

TIM BARRY, SUPERSIZEWORLD.COM:  This thing opens up to a very large size.  

SHAMLIAN:  Tim Barry has made a business of it, stocking everything from towels to toilet seats all in extra large. 

BARRY:  You shouldn‘t have to lose weight to be comfortable and safe.  

SHAMLIAN:  Diedre Everett has spent hundreds of dollars on items she says she wishes she didn‘t need, including the sturdier than normal chair she sits in.  And an item she says many people her size try desperately to avoid.

DIEDRE DAILY-EVERETT, CONSUMER OF OVERSIZED PRODUCTS:  Even the scales at my own doctor‘s office don‘t go up high enough to weigh me.  So therefore I have to go out and buy a special scale that weighs up to 500 pounds.  

SHAMLIAN:  She‘s not alone.  The Centers for Disease Control report 61 percent of American women are now overweight.  The number is even higher for men, at 71 percent.  Millions with special needs, websites like supersizeworld.com are filling them and sales are soaring.

RIEVA LESONSKY, ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE:  There‘s a lot of opportunity here for people to make money providing products for overweight people.  It‘s not a passing fad, it‘s a real trend.  

SHAMLIAN:  Even six feet under.  Keith Davis used to be the only seller of oversized coffins.  Now there are many.  The result doctors say of a nation coming to terms with its size.  

DR. JAMES HILL, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER:  I do think attitudes are changing in large part because two-thirds of us are overweight or obese and because people are getting so large they don‘t fit comfortably into the current environment. 

SHAMLIAN:  Everett says her ultimate goal is to lose weight.  But until then is pleased the marketplace is recognizing one size doesn‘t fit all.  

EVERETT:  Today I am a fat person.  Today I would like to be comfortably accommodated.  

SHAMLIAN:  For “Today” Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also today, “Rolling Stone Magazine” reaches 1,000 issues and celebrates with a 3D cover.  It‘s cool, but does it have anything on the St. Louis Cardinals‘ media guide?  That‘s ahead.  But first your COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN:  This happened at a TGIF restaurant, TGI Friday‘s in Bloomington, Indiana as a matter of fact.  A male customer finds a finger, a human finger in his hamburger. And the management was terribly, terribly apologetic.  They said, oh, my God that‘s supposed to be in the chili. 

MADELINE ALBRIGHT:  This is as I said a peculiar meeting.  During the Clinton administration we used to have snacks. 

You would have had something.  Some pound cake.

Chocolate chip cookies. 

Chocolate chip cookies?

Yeah.

That‘s the way you do diplomacy.  

Absolutely. 

C is for cookie, that‘s good enough for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “Rolling Stone” magazine has revealed its one thousandth issue cover that will be on stands Friday.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the magazine‘s milestone issue will boast an expensive 3D format that does not require special glasses.  It‘s a first for the magazine, likely the most expensive magazine cover in history.  Okay at first blush, I‘m not impressed.  Look.  The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals‘ media guide.  Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter.  Pujols?  Carpenter?  Pujols?  If you look at one of them long enough he winks at you.  It‘s nice.  But I don‘t know if it was worth not being able to afford signing a good left-fielder.  But back to “Rolling Stone,” we‘ll give Matt Lauer a chance to impress you and me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT LAUER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Dashing, dazzling, flashy and grand. 

The images of “Rolling Stone.” 

On the cover of the  rolling stone 

LAUER:  Since 1967 the magazine has been a sign of the times, from music to politics to pop culture.  Rooted in the belief that songs were more than just part of a youthful rebellion.   Music can change the world.  

Imagine all the people  

LAUER:  But when you look at a thousand issues, a thousand covers, what does it mean to you personally?

JANN WENNER, ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE:  I‘m kind of surprised by the whole thing.  You know, when I started I never envisioned what success would be like. 

LAUER:  Can you still take chances? The pressures of the economy, the pressures of the business, can you afford to get out there ahead of the curve still? 

WENNER:  We do it from time to time.  You know I look forward to doing like I guess white stripes recently. 

LAUER:  As long as you‘d like to do it though?

WENNER:  Well, you know, as often as necessary.  And that sounds easy to say, but the process of making something popular has changed.  So the idea that there‘s things lurking there that nobody‘s heard of yet that are really worthy and should be exposed, that doesn‘t happen too much anymore.  

LAUER:  Over the course of a thousand covers, Mick Jagger has been on the cover 18 times.  A critic would say, you know Jann Wenner falls in love with some of the artists, that you know he gets so close to them, they‘re his buddies.  18 covers?

WENNER:  Well, apart from being a good friend from that respect, those guys have been around 40 years or more, longer than about any other artists.  They‘ve been playing, they‘ve made more records than anybody.  

LAUER:  Until now, there has been a tight lid on what the 1,000th issue would look like.  We have an exclusive first look at the cover they did in 3D.

WENNER:  It came to me immediately, just remembering Sergeant Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you could put all these people on the cover that were part of your world and influenced your world.

LAUER:  And Wenner says the ideals that “Rolling Stone” stood for in the past will carry it into the future.

WENNER:  So many things are so consistent over the years, nature, youth, the desire to have a better world and make change.  You know, discover new things (INAUDIBLE) it‘s natural to have year after year after year. 

Like a rolling stone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)  

OLBERMANN:  On to our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And we start with sadness.  The death of the father of the greatest golfer in the world—the father who helped his son reach that greatness without sacrificing everything else in his life.  Earl Woods has died at his home in Cypress, California.  A Vietnam vet and former college baseball catcher, he sensed his young son Eldrick‘s ability and fascination with golf when the boy was only 2 years old.  But unlike a lot of other so-called stage or sports parents, Earl Woods made sure actually playing golf was a reward, and an incentive to the little kid he called Tiger.  Not something mandatory nor punitive.  48 tournament championships, 10 major victories, sum up what happened after that.  Earl Woods had fought the effects of smoking for 20 years.  Bypass surgery in 1986, prostate cancer 8 years ago, a recurrence last year.  “My dad,” said his son in a prepared statement, “Was my best friend and greatest role model and I will miss him deeply.”  Earl Woods was 74 years old.

No segue possible to this next item.  After a fall, rocker Keith Richards had been diagnosed with only a mild concussion.  But now after reporting continuing headaches he may undergo surgery.  The “Sun” newspaper is reporting that Richards will have to have his skull drilled to drain blood.  The result of a small hemorrhage in the brain.  Richards had reportedly climbed a palm tree at a luxury resort with fellow Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, they were trying to get coconuts when Richards fell off.  The 62 year old has been released from the hospital or had been released from the hospital in Auckland, New Zealand but continued to complain about dull head pain.  According to the tabloid tests showed the hemorrhage.  Richards has been told though he should make a full recovery.  Wait, how in the hell will we be able to tell that?

In the news, the latest reality TV show taking the stars of porn out of the bedroom and onto the London dramatic stage.  We‘ll see who can deliver more than a come-hither smile.  Our guest Mary Carey next.   But first, for COUTNDOWN‘s nominees for worst person in the world.  The theme, families.  The bronze to Mayor James Fladung of Ault, Colorado.  The mayor‘s in jail, arrested after his blood alcohol reached at least .04 percent, which is in the lighter fluid range.  Also charged with domestic violence and child abuse.  His wife and kids are denying those charges, but they will not bail him out, hoping he will dry out in jail. 

Our runner up, Mrs. Kyle McConnell of Roseville, Michigan.  Well Mrs.  Kyle McConnell Bataglia Rice.  Those are the names of the three men to whom she is currently married.   Police believe there may be a dozen exes all of whom she has swindled. 

But the winner Dan Blair, marriage counselor of suburban Chicago and Monty python sketch come to life.  His former client Scott Buetow has sued him.  Mr. & Mrs. Buetow went to Blair for help, clearly Mrs. Buetow got some help.  Mr. Buetow says marriage counselor Blair had an affair with his wife.  Dan Blair, today‘s worst person in the world! 

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You do not need me to tell you that TV is a kaleidoscope of competition shows and reality (INAUDIBLE).  There‘s even an all reality cable network, they‘re on air night fights for the best pop singer like “American Idol” or “America‘s Next Top Supermodel” or for the “Next Top Fashion Designer.”  To say nothing of those pulled groin festivals that result from making celebrities try to dance or worst yet ice skate.  Now in our number story on the COUNTDOWN, speaking of pulling your groin, it‘s “My Bare Lady.”  A new show for FOX Cable in which producers will take four lucky American porn stars to Great Britain, train them in classical drama, then put them on stage in classical drama, possibly rolls from Chekhov‘s “The Cherry Orchard”, see how the English theatre crowd receives them.

Of course only the pun-filled titles of adult films are universally appreciated, fitting the “My Bare Lady” has been done already with an X rating in 1989 with Shannon McCullough as Liza Screwlittle, Mike Horner as Professor Diggins and Robert Bullock as Colonel Dickering, or so I‘ve been told.  As to this “My Bare Lady” who are the lucky ladies? It hasn‘t been cast yet, but it looks like it will not include Anna Nicole Smith.  A source telling “The New York Daily News” that the former playboy and soft porn model is pregnant.  Apparently she was inseminated by a friend.  Well I should hope so.  Any way, the friend is now asking for money, access to the baby.  Good luck with that. 

Any way, back to this topic.  There‘s only one obvious front-runner for the casting, the former candidate for governor and lieutenant governor of California and current adult film actress Mary Carey.  And guess who joins us now from Los Angeles?  Welcome back Mary.

MARY CAREY, ADULT FILM STAR:  Hi Keith, I miss you. 

OLBERMANN:  I miss you too.  So, you‘re going for this? Wasn‘t this your original career path any way, legit acting?

CAREY:  Yes I was a theatre major in college at Florida Atlantic University and then I kind of took a different way of acting, you know a different route.  But my attorney‘s one of the producers of the show, so he‘s been talking to me about it.  So, hopefully I‘ll get to be on the show. 

OLBERMANN:  Now on the face of this and obviously they want this, it sounds like an outrageous idea.  But there have been adult performers who‘ve crossed over to mainstream acting.  I mean, they didn‘t put Tracy Lords on Masterpiece Theatre or anything, but don‘t you think this may not be as far-fetched as people might think it‘s going to be? 

CAREY:  I don‘t think it‘s far-fetched at all.  I think porn has become a lot more mainstream.  Ron Jeremy does a lot of different acting jobs and me running for governor and I‘m also running for governor again starting next week, so I‘ll hopefully get to talk to you about that.  But I think that porn is more mainstream and this will be a great opportunity for people like me who are theatre majors to get to show the world that we‘re not just, you know, blond haired girls with big boobs who like to have sex. 

OLBERMANN:  Okay well I‘m just going to pass on that for a second.  Has this spread through the industry are any of your peers interested in trying out for this too? Was there somebody you‘d like to compete against, so to speak?

CAREY:  You know I know there‘s a couple other girls that are interested, but I don‘t think that many porn girls really are into acting.  And the ones that are, will probably want to do this.  But, you know, there are a lot of girls in porn that would rather just you know stick to the movies.  But I did have one friend who wants to compete against me for this role, so we‘ll see what happens. 

OLBERMANN:  In “American Idol,” you get a recording contract at the end of it, the winner does.  In this project runway, you get your own fashion line.  Do you know what the prize actually is at the end of “My Bare Lady”?  Is it just this quick stint on the London stage or what happens?

CAREY:  Well hopefully you know if I were to win this and if I‘m on the show, I would get to be the star of my own Broadway play forever.  That‘s what I would like.  That‘s my ideal prize or maybe an anchoring job on MSNBC. 

OLBERMANN:  Well on that, your turn will be probably be coming up soon enough as it is just by rotation.  Everybody gets it at least—I‘m on my second try.  Presuming you will need to audition for the series, can we just walk through a pre-audition here? You want to try the Romeo and Juliet wherefore art thou speech?

CAREY:  Okay I‘m going to practice, but I need an accent coach.  But I‘ll work on it.  Oh, Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo.  Deny thy father and refuse they name.  Oh if thou will not, you‘re sworn by my love and I will no longer be a Capulet. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s a pretty good read right there. 

CAREY:  Oh, Keith, oh Keith Olbermann. 

OLBERMANN:  No.  Just stop right there.  Obviously here‘s the pun if nobody recognized it.  “My Bare Lady” would be based on “My Fair Lady.”  So that Eliza Doolittle character, give us the Eliza Doolittle. 

CAREY:  Okay this one, I haven‘t seen this, so people have been telling me I should have a (INAUDIBLE) accent.  Okay I‘m working on that.  I ain‘t done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentlemen.  I have to sell flowers if I keep off the curb.  I‘m a respectable girl me, I never spoke to him such so far as to buy flowers off me. 

OLBERMANN:  It just wipes the floor with Audrey Hepburn.  There‘s no question about that.  All right here‘s this one.  This is not my idea Mary.  Planet of the Apes, a scene from Planet of the Apes, I don‘t know why they suggested this. 

CAREY:  Damn dirty apes.  Was that good? That‘s all she gave me. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, it‘s you know, Charlton Hesston got away with it so I don‘t see -- 

CAREY:  Damn dirty Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Now if this works, is that the end of—If this goes, are you just going to drop the other movies if this works?

CAREY:  Definitely.  I mean my main focus though really over the next coming weeks is running for governor.  So if I‘m not governor of California, I will pursue acting. 

OLBERMANN:  Just like the current occupant of the chair.  The actress one time and future candidate for governor of California, possible star of “My Bare Lady” Mary Carey.  Good to talk to you Mary.  Take care. 

CAREY:  Good to talk to you again.  

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1098th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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