updated 7/7/2006 11:31:16 AM ET 2006-07-07T15:31:16

Guests: Craig Crawford, Dana Milbank, Michael Musto

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

A Connecticut yanking in King Lieberman‘s court, the Senate primary in the Nutmeg State.  Is the man who would have been Al Gore‘s vice president being purged, or has he become a symbol of the party‘s tortured history over Iraq?

Hillary Clinton backs away from Joe Lieberman slowly.  John Kerry did it quickly.

Anger at a dead man.  The death of Kenneth Lay.  The prosecution and the conviction died with him.  The civil cases, that‘s another story.

No Coke, says Pepsi.  After a century of struggle, why and how Pepsi-Cola turned down an offer to buy a stolen formula for a new Coke product.

How much might Michael Jackson have paid for you not to hear this?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON:  I want (INAUDIBLE) that we come second.  Do it now. 

Do it now.  OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  While we‘re still waiting for that new song for the Katrina victims, at least we have these new Jackson tapes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON:  I‘m sure he got money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are sure he got—why are you sure he got money?

JACKSON:  Because he seemed to be always happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Whoa-ho-ho, you forgot Woo-hoo-hoo.

And did Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes forget the baby?  You heard Michael Musto say it here first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MUSTO:  You mean little Elron?  Well, if it is a pillow, they‘ll just return it to Ikea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now it‘s on the cover of “Us” weekly, best friends turned away at the door, photo shoots canceled, even John Travolta hasn‘t met her.  Why, why, where is Suri Cruise?  Better yet, how about is there a Suri Cruise?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

To paraphrase his former running mate, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman used to be the next vice president of the United States.  Tonight, six years later, there are some Democrats intent on making him into the guy who used to be the Democratic senator from Connecticut.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s only a party primary, for only one of 100 Senate seats.  But it sure looked like a microcosm of the problems besetting the party currently in opposition, particularly that party‘s frequent opposition to itself, and the fact that, at times, the war in Iraq seems indivisible from the war within the Democratic Party, Senator Lieberman tonight debating his challenger from the left in the Connecticut Democratic primary, and not getting, by the way, a lot of help from some of the other 43 Democrats in the Senate, Lieberman‘s evident main vulnerability, his steadfast support for the war in Iraq, and for the wartime president, Mr. Bush, the opening minutes of this showdown shaping up as hawk versus dove.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  Ned Lamont seems just to be running against me based on my stand on one issue, Iraq.  And he is distorting who I am and what I have done.

So let me tell you some things that may surprise at least Ned, but shouldn‘t.  I know George Bush.  I‘ve worked against George Bush.  I‘ve even run against George Bush.  But, Ned, I‘m not George Bush.

NED LAMONT:  And Senator Lieberman, if you won‘t challenge President Bush and his failed agenda, I will.  We have 135,000 of our bravest troops stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war.  And I say that those who got us into this mess should be held accountable.  Let‘s have the debate.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Should his seemingly hawkish stance cost him the primary, the senator has already said he would try to get onto the general election ballot as an independent, some of his colleagues voicing strong opposition to such a move, leading Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, former presidential candidate John Kerry planning to back the challenger, cable TV company exec Ned Lamont, should he, in fact, defeat Lieberman, Senator Kennedy not even endorsing Lieberman in the primary, Senator Clinton taking more of the win or go home approach, quoting from her statement, “I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary.  I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters.”

Let‘s call in “Congressional Quarterly” columnist, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford.

As always, thanks for your time, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi.  This would be in the Nutmeg State (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  Yes, emphasize (INAUDIBLE) the nut in this.

What (INAUDIBLE), what is this about, ultimately?  There are still plenty of Democrats who are not, at minimum, not antiwar.  Lieberman‘s hardly alone in that.  Is it payback for when he spoke out against Clinton during the impeachment?  Is it about his friendly relationships with the president?  What‘s the real story here?

CRAWFORD:  Well, yes, Lieberman really did go out of his way, Keith, to aggravate those in his party who would be upset by his cozy relations with the president.  You know, probably the most out0there example of that was when they kissed each other at the—after the State of the Union in 2095.  You know, nothing like a sloppy man kiss (INAUDIBLE) with the president of the opposing party to get the blood boiling in your own party.

OLBERMANN:  Is there something bigger than this, though?  I mean, there are very few Democrats who came out four years ago and said, Hell, no, this war is a mistake, or even, You know, if that intelligence is wrong, hell, no, this war is a mistake.  Is Lieberman to some degree in a national picture a sort of sacrificial lamb for his party‘s vacillations on this one?

CRAWFORD:  He really is going to be a test case on that.  And I think if he loses this primary, and if it‘s deemed because of his support for the war, that‘s going to make the Democrats running for president in 2008 think real hard about how they position themselves on this thing.

But, of course, as we know, the tightrope here is, to win the Democratic primary presidentially and, apparently, possibly in Connecticut, you‘ve got to be antiwar, so much so that it might put you in danger for the general election.

So, I mean, this race, this debate, and Lieberman‘s fortunes really are going to tell us a lot about where the Democratic Party goes on the presidential level in 2008.

OLBERMANN:  And this debate, I kept watching Lieberman and I was reminded of somebody.  It finally hit me who it was, Crocker Jarman, the candidate, in the—or actually the incumbent in the old Robert Redford movie “The Candidate.”  It was—he was just—he seemed like he was offended that he had to be there.  He seemed to be on the attack against this man, Lamont.  What was the—what, how was he trying to position himself?  It almost looked like a very Republican stance against a Democratic challenger in a national debate.

CRAWFORD:  Well, he struck me, as he has throughout this campaign, in this debate, again, it seemed to me, he expects to have to run as an independent, and he was playing more to the middle-of-the-road voters, and even to Republican moderates.  Because, you know, Long Island Republicans tend to be fairly moderate, maybe even liberals, compared to southern Republicans.

So I think he had his eye on those voters as much as he did the primary voters.  And that suggested to me he expects to have to go for the middle of the road as an independent candidate, not as a Democrat.

OLBERMANN:  And before somebody jumps on you for your geography, Long Island Sound Republicans, not Long Island Republicans, Long Island (INAUDIBLE).

CRAWFORD:  New England Republicans, yes.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE) New England, (INAUDIBLE).

So you—we‘re thinking (INAUDIBLE)--

CRAWFORD:  I am regionally challenged, coming from Florida, you know.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m thinking, though, on this other point, that the answer to this one‘s already pretty clear.  They‘re not going to talk Lieberman out of running as an independent, if it comes to that.

CRAWFORD:  No.  I (INAUDIBLE), brings to mind the old Machiavelli saying, you know, you, The powerful don‘t give up power, it has to be taken away.  I don‘t think he‘s going to give up a Senate seat if he has a clear shot at getting reelected as an independent.

OLBERMANN:  And the Hillary Clinton message?  Are we tracking her back from the center, where she‘s tried to occupy for the last few months, towards the left on this?  Or is that considered, in this new context, sort of politically correct to say, Well, I‘m going to go support whatever the party decides in another state, in an adjoining state?

CRAWFORD:  Well, I thought it was a very crafty move on her part.  She is always looking for ways to signal some support to the partisan Democrats who are antiwar in ways—subtle ways that don‘t get her in trouble with the middle-of-the-road voters out there, looking down the road toward a general election and the 2008 presidential campaign.

And so this was a way for her to signal that she doesn‘t—that there‘s distance between her and Joe Lieberman on this war, without actually saying so.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC.  As debates go, it was a pretty interesting one.

CRAWFORD:  Yes, wasn‘t bad.

OLBERMANN:  Wasn‘t bad.  Thanks for your time, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  I think Lamont, with all his money, could probably get the suit that fits.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the tie, that‘s the question.  Like we should talk. 

Anyway—

CRAWFORD:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  --see ya.

The fortunes of Senator Lieberman‘s former running mate, the aforementioned Al Gore, on the rise recently because of the former vice - president‘s impassioned stance, compelling film about global warming, President Bush using an interview pegged to his 60th birthday to announce that he is solving global warning, in response to a question about whether Mr. Gore is right about the subject, the baby-boomer-in-chief going even further than he did last week when he said he‘d always acknowledged that the problem exists.  He tells “People” magazine, quote, “I think there is a debate about whether it‘s caused by mankind or whether it‘s caused naturally, but it‘s a worthy debate, it‘s a debate, actually, that I‘m in the process of solving by advancing new technologies, burning coal cleanly in electric plants, or promoting hydrogen-powered automobiles, or advancing ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.”

Well, then, till the case is solved, just saying you‘re the environmental president does not make it so, just as saying there is a coalition of the willing does not make for a broad alliance in the war in Iraq, the stalwarts of that theoretical alliance dropping like flies lately, and often not by choice, making the big 6-0 a particularly lonesome milestone for the American president, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, already saying he‘ll step down before his next national election in that country, his Japanese counterpart paying a farewell visit to the White House, and to Graceland, thank you very much, last week.  He is leaving office in September.

Two other leaders who defied criticism at home to stand with Mr. Bush already gone, Italy‘s Silvio Berlusconi resigning in May after his party lost its elections, and Spain‘s Jose Maria Aznar, the first loser at the polls after having supported Mr. Bush originally on Iraq.

You know things are bad, in fact, when the president is forced to look for some birthday love among the members of the White House press corps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   Today‘s your birthday too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

BUSH:  It is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

BUSH:  Now, come on up, let‘s have a birthday (INAUDIBLE)--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

BUSH:  Come on, come on, come one.  Come on, come on, get up here.  Anybody else have their birthday today?  Your birthday?  Yes, sure.  It is your birthday?  Come on.  Happy birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

BUSH:  Today‘s your birthday?  Awesome.  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Happy birthday to—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  Happy birthday to—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Happy birthday to—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call on our own Dana Milbank, whose birthday this is not.  He‘s also the national political reporter of “The Washington Post,” which makes up for that fact.

Thank you for your time, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Happy birthday, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For the president, was that kind of a metaphor, that little image, that there are four people around him on his birthday?  Is 60 the loneliest number?

MILBANK:  And then there‘s the poor Canadian prime minister.  All he wanted was the photo-op of the handshake, and he‘s completely eclipsed by the whole thing.

You know, this is one of those times where we have to again recall Harry Truman‘s adage that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.  And fortunately, the president still has two Scottish terriers, both Barney and Miss Beasley, so he‘ll be just fine.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, he‘s already tried the dog route.

The humorous side, does the fact that Mr. Bush is losing friends on the world stage, at least in terms of their power, have broader implications for the premise of staying the course, as they call it, in Iraq, or is it negligible because the level of the non-American military commitment has been minimal all along in this thing?

MILBANK:  Exactly.  Here‘s the benefit of having the coalition of the willing actually not being contributing very many troops in the first place is, you don‘t have very far to fall if they pull out.  The Georgian president was in the Oval Office yesterday, this fellow Saakashvili, and he said, We are with you to the end, we are right there, side by side.  And, of course, that‘s somewhat easier for him to say, because he only has 900 troops in Iraq.  So I suppose the upside to all of this is, we‘re on our own anyway.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to some of the symbolism on the birthday issue here.  The age brings wisdom theory, does this explain the president‘s sudden revelation to us that he‘s solving global warming?

MILBANK:  Yes, certainly.  Ethanol in every tank will do the trick for us.  I suspect that this might have—he might have been being a little careless with the language there.  You know, he‘s solving this in the sense that he is also solving the Social Security collapse and the Medicare shortfall.  None of these actually face the prospect of being solved.  Global warming is not—it‘s no particular mystery of how to solve it.  We need to burn fewer fossil fuels.  We know how to do it, the question is, we don‘t have the will as a country to actually do it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, addressing might have been what he was looking for there, as opposed to solving.

The president does not look 60, or if he, if, if he, if he‘s close one way or the other, it‘s on the short side of it.  He does not seem to have aged as much as a lot of other presidents have during their time in office.  Do we attribute that to something in particular?  Is it, is his physical fitness regimen, the strength not of his body but of his convictions?  Is he not having sleepless nights?  What, why is he look as, not that there‘s anything wrong with this, but why does he not look as bad as other presidents who‘ve been through the mill for five years?

MILBANK:  Well, it probably wasn‘t all his clean living in the ‘70s.  But now, I mean, the downside is, maybe he looks this good because he‘s not drinking alcohol, which won‘t do very well for me.  On the other hand, here‘s a guy who can take off the month of August, he can have workouts during the midday, right outside the office, and you can take naps whenever you like and duck out of a meeting at 8:30 in the evening to go to bed.  So that is a—is good living that we should all emulate.

OLBERMANN:  The president‘s father, the first President Bush, known to celebrate milestone birthdays by jumping out of planes.  Do we have any indication that the son is going to follow the father in those free falls, if not footsteps?

MILBANK:  Well, possibly.  But you have to remember, the first President Bush was reenacting his wartime experience, so if this president (INAUDIBLE) decides to reenact his wartime experience on his birthday, he may be getting a dental exam at a National Guard base.

OLBERMANN:  Or not show up for the reenactment.

Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post,” who did not say that, I did.  As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN:  Also here, the man found guilty of conspiracy and fraud in one of the biggest corporate corruption cases in American history is, as you know, dead.  What about the legal case against him?  What about the anger remaining against him?

And the mystery of little Suri Cruise.  Nearly 80 days after her purported birth, why has no one, not even close friends of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, seen the baby?  Michael Musto once posited here that she never really existed.  Now a national magazine is asking if that could be literally true.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The maxim of not speaking ill of the dead met its match when word spread of the passing of the former Enron chairman, Kenneth Lay.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the timing and the consequences of his death grabbing people‘s attention.  It was just six weeks ago, on May 25, that a jury had convicted Mr. Lay of fraud and conspiracy in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history.  An October sentencing, the likelihood of decades in prison, awaited him, and that he died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, which is why a newspaper cover as crass as this one from “The New York Post” has more than a little resonance.  “Check he‘s in the coffin.”

The reaction Wednesday from the White House by its press secretary, Tony Snow, a touch more muted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What has been the president‘s reaction to the death of Ken Lay?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The—I really haven‘t talked to him about it.  You—I‘ll give you my own personal reaction, which is that when somebody dies, you leave behind those who grieve, and I think they deserve our compassion.  But, I don‘t know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t (INAUDIBLE) because the president (INAUDIBLE) his friends.

SNOW:  No, the president has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance.  And many of the president‘s acquaintances have passed on during his time in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ken?  Ken who?

Since it is not possible to sentence a man postmortem, the criminal case against Mr. Lay is effectively over prior to its vital completion.  While that might not affect civil lawsuits against his estate, it has left many of those affected by the Enron debacle feeling cheated, again.

Our correspondent is Don Teague.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON TEAGUE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Almost 36 hours after hearing of Kenneth Lay‘s death, many in Houston are still in shock.

CLAUDIA HAMBERGEN, FORMER ENRON EMPLOYEE:  Some are angry.

TEAGUE:  Claudia Hambergen (ph) lost her job and a half-million-dollar retirement account when Enron went bankrupt.  She‘s sorry for Lay‘s family but, like many here, feels cheated by his sudden death.

HAMBERGEN:  I would have liked to have seen his sentence put him in jail at least for a brief time, let him suffer a little bit like the rest of us.

TEAGUE (on camera):  News of Ken Lay‘s death has dominated the headlines here in Houston, a city where thousands of lives were devastated by Enron‘s collapse.

(voice-over):  On Houston talk radio—

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The passing of Ken Lay—

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TEAGUE:  --it‘s the hottest topic in years.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone):  Group of his peers have already judged him in the court system.  Now it‘s God‘s turn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone):  I think Ken is going to meet his ultimate sentence right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To die of a massive heart attack, you have to have a heart.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

TEAGUE:  Talk show host Sam Malone says most callers feel Ken Lay cheated justice.

SAM MALONE, TALK SHOW HOST:  It was not fulfilled, because (INAUDIBLE), How could he die?  The nerve of him dying.  He won.  He always wins.

TEAGUE:  And Ken Lay‘s critics aren‘t just in Texas.  Bloggers nationwide have expressed both outrage and skepticism about his death.  And in California, where Enron allegedly overcharged ratepayers $40 billion for electricity, former governor Gray Davis say many still feel cheated.

GRAY DAVIS, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR:  Both Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling should have walked into prison, and we should have seen the doors swing behind them.

TEAGUE:  Perhaps Jeffrey Skilling will.  He faces sentencing this fall, and then the prison that outraged Houstonians know Ken Lay will never see.

Don Teague, NBC News, Houston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From corporate crime to an alleged crime against a corporation.  An employee of Coca-Cola and two aides caught trying to sell secrets to—dum-dum-dum—Pepsi.

And our tip number 463 for would-be criminals.  If you get caught on surveillance cameras, James Kelly, better make sure your wife is OK with your profession.

Explain that ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Actor Ned Beatty was born on July 6, so we wish him a happy 69th birthday, and still tremble at his Oscar-nominated monologue as the corporate behemoth Arthur Jensen in the movie “Network,” even though I‘ve now met about six versions of his character in real life.

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beatty.”

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Tallinnn, Estonia, where a man is staggering around stage banging wildly on a flaming drum kit hanging around his neck.  The answer to your question is, yes, he probably is drunk.  Most everybody else there is.  It‘s the big annual Estonian Ole Sumer (ph) Beer Festival, one of the biggest such events in the world, as men, women, and even children from all over Europe travel to Tallinn to sing, dance, and drink their stupid faces off for five days each July.

Word of caution, though, you never want to be standing under the drunken bungee jumper without an umbrella.

Millersville, Tennessee, hello.  Security videos at various hotels have captured this guy, jumping over the counters when the clerks were distracted, and robbing the cash registers.  Local police asked anyone with information on the suspect to call in with information.  Somebody did call in, and Mr. James Kelly was arrested and charged with the crimes.  Too late with the shirt, pal.

He was recognized on television reports by his wife, who called police and turned him in.  Yep, that‘s my husband, James Kelly.  Thanks a lot, honey.

Finally, we head to that treasure trove of odd video known as the Internets, where we all try to keep track of all the latest viral video trends.  This one‘s been around for a while, jackasses doing donuts in their cars set to music, loaded into the intraweb for other jackasses to view and vote on.  Ah, but you‘ve all been one-upped by some kid in the Middle East with the strongest thighs we‘ve ever seen.

Guy must spend hours on the Stairmaster.

You don‘t get much more Oddball than Michael Jackson.  He is now once again defending himself in court, this time via video, no Puppet Theater required.

How do you defend the indefensible?  The Coultergeist lashes out at the publication that ferreted out her alleged plagiarism but does not deny or even address the charge.

Those stories ahead.

Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Sanjay Kuttenperoor of Brookfield, Wisconsin, playing about the 25th round of golf in his life, having never completed a round in less than 105 strokes, he connected for a hole in one on a golf course in Michigan.  Four holes later, he connected for another hole in one.  The mathematical odds against that are such that to accomplish it, a golfer should have to play a round a day every day, every month, every year, for 183,000 years.  He did it in (INAUDIBLE).

Number two, Fibrowatt, a British company opening a new power plant at Wilkesboro, North Carolina.  It‘s a variation on the steam engine.  You burn at 1,500 degrees a combination of wood chips and chicken droppings.  Holy—

Number one, the Austrian post office adding a new twist to its staffs.  The glue will come in flavors, Haagen-Dazs ice cream flavors, like cheesecake and peppermint patty and--  Reminds me of the old “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” joke about the stamp honoring prostitution.  Costs you 25 cents, but if you want to lick it, it‘ll be a dollar?  Eeeuw.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Veteran viewers of “Saturday Night Live” and other John Belushi aficionados know the bit by heart.  Hello, Olympia Restaurant.  That to go?  Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.  No, no fries, chips.  Four chips?  Pepsi, no Coke.  No orange, no grape, Pepsi.  Four Pepsi.  OK, 10 minutes. 

The third story in the COUNTDOWN the makers of the organically Pepsi went bankrupt in 1898, the guys who then bought the name themselves went bankrupt in 1923, their successors were in so much trouble they tried to sell to it Coke in 1931.  In short, as a business proposition, Coke and Pepsi has always been like Yankees and Red Sox or  Microsoft and Apple, not exactly an even fight.  So, imagine the temptation after more than century spent almost entirely as the runner-up when a Coca-Cola employee offered to sell Pepsi the formula to make one of Coke‘s new products.  The result of that could have been no Coke, Pepsi.  That it was a story of business ethics mixed with a just dash of cloak and dagger.  That story told for us by our correspondent Carl Quintanilla.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As secrets go, it could have been the real thing, classified documents, a sample of a never before seen Coke product, secrets allegedly stolen by a Coke‘s secretary and two others and as sensitive, police say, as government data. 

DAVID NAHMIAS, U.S. ATTORNEY:  This information by definition in the statute is worth a great deal of money. 

QUINTANILLA:  Just how much money is hard to say.  The Coca-Cola Company has 400 brands and Coke‘s original recipe‘s been locked up in an Atlanta bank ever since a Georgia pharmacist invented the stuff in it 1886.  Other companies guard their secrets too.  KFC mixes its 11 herbs and spices at two locations.  Mrs. Field‘s says you can count the people who know that recipe on one hand.  But $100 billion beverage wars where one ad can be a cultural touchstone secret recipes may actually be more illusion then treasure (ph). 

JOHN SICHER, BEVERAGE DIGEST EDITOR:  Anybody with a small amount of money and access to a high tech chemistry lab cold go in and do an analysis of Coke or Pepsi, break it down and replicate it.  The real power of Coke is the trade and the brand. 

QUINTANILLA (on camera):  There is no denying the power of the brand.  For many of us deciding whether to drink Pepsi or Coke is the easiest and most passionate decision of our day. 

Warren Buffett is never without his can of Cherry Coke.  Tony may have won the Pepsi 400, but we know what he drinks.  In the end, the Coke episode may help both companies, even as the alleged perpetrators miscalculated.  A soda spy case where the fizz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Before I lock up the secret formula, I‘d like to share it with you.

QUINTANILLA:  .went flat. 

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And as the snippet showed, no history of Pepsi is complete without the story of Michael Jackson.  In 1984, while filming a TV commercial for the drink, the fireworks that where suppose to go off behind him, instead went off on top of him. 

The latest Jackson news suggests he‘s never been the same since—and I don‘t mean just the plastic surgery.  Although that addiction might have been activated on that January day when Pepsi set Michael Jackson‘s hair ablaze.  Billy Jean is not my—the new flavor tastes like smoke!

But as far as cause and effect goes, it‘s hard to imagine an explanation for this.  Mr. Jackson dangling his then 9-month-old son, Prince Michael II off the balcony of a Berlin hotel, showing the kid to his fans, the year 2002, Jackson well beyond his moon walking, thriller-making peak, though he will make a comeback—like on top of an SUV outside a Santa Maria courthouse in January 2004.  Mr. Jackson had just pleaded not guilty to seven felony counts of child molestation.  He must have had a feeling he would beat that rap.  Tough doubts would ensue, as on the bad day he was having here, yes it was your tax and entertainment dollars in action.  Day 480 of the Michael Jackson investigations showing up oh to court more than an hour late in pajamas.  He left his pacifier at home. 

Which brings us to the latest lawsuit against the entertainer and portions of his video deposition.  And even some of the voicemail messages he left for the man who is suing him.  In Las Angeles Michael Okwu has the details. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Deposition video of Michael Jackson filmed for the latest trial involving the pop star.  This time a former business associate, Mark Shaffle, is suing Jackson claiming the singer owes him almost $4 million royalties and unpaid loans. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you ever pay him a fee for anything did he? 

MICHAEL JACKSON, POP STAR:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  I‘m sure he got money. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are sure?  Why are you sure? 

JACKSON:  Because he seemed to always be happy. 

OKWU:  Wednesday, jurors heard increasingly frantic phone messages from Michael Jackson to Shaffle in which Jackson appears to plead for Shaffle‘s help on various projects. 

JACKSON:  Marc, this is Michael.  Let‘s break all-time records, Marc.  I want to make history so badly.  And I‘m speaking from the bottom of my heart.

Marc, please, please, please never let me down.  I really like you.  I love you.  I‘ve been betrayed so many times by people.

OKWU:  About a video collaboration with the late actor Marlon Brando. 

JACKSON:  Marlon Brando has been pushing and he is a wonderful man. 

He‘s a god.  We have to get this done, he wanted it done before Christmas.  He wants a lot of money and we would own it together.  I mean, I think I feel that maybe he‘s not going to be living too much longer.  That‘s what it is, I think.  Please, Marc, I need that money for the house. 

OKWU:  The messages were recorded in 2001 and played in court by Shaffle‘s lawyer to show Shaffle‘s closes relationship with the performer.  On another call Jackson is concerned about a still unreleased recording he made for a 9/11 charity project. 

JACKSON:  Let them know that this has to come out now.  And get Sony on it and make them enter this song at No. 1. 

OKWU:  By 2003 the messages are more urgent, even angry. 

JACKSON:  I don‘t want somebody else beating us to it, then we come second.  Do it now! Do it now! Ok? 

OKWU:  Jackson‘s videotaped deposition will speak for him during the trial.  The performer who‘s been living in Bahrain is not expected to testify in person. 

Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Continuing on the strange celebrity beat.  OK, where‘s the baby?  Even Michael Jackson found a baby and showed it to us.  Come on.  You‘re going to have to produce the baby at some point.  Come on!

And, they meant to do that.  The shuttle astronauts go wee! Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You ready?  You ready?  Let‘s fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everybody wants to be a cage fighter.  It‘s cool to be a cage fighter.  I want to go out with a cage fighter.  I know you say he‘s really nasty, he‘s brutal.  He‘s not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I get an adrenaline kick from shooting a person in the head, going to play to 4:00 in the morning.  If I must go to the toilet, I think by myself, I cannot go to the toilet because them I must go off away from the game.  I take and empty bottle and a beer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That belt buckle that the prime minister gave you as a birthday gift and are you wearing it? 

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hadn‘t seen it yet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The fact that North Korea could launch another series of missiles at any minute, did you ask Canada to reconsider joining the ballistic missile defense shield? 

BUSH:  And thanks for the belt buckle in advance.  Looking forward to getting it. 

PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER, CANADA:  If you‘re going to be 60 you should get something.

BUSH:  Yeah, that‘s right.  The first birthday greeting I got came from the Canadian press.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Newspaper accuses Ann Coultergeist of plagiarism and Coultergeist accuses newspaper of being crappy.  Any defense on that plagiarism charge?  Not really, no.  And any evidence there is a baby called Suri Cruise?  According to friends and photographers?  Not really, no.  That‘s ahead, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, day three in outerspace for the crew of the shuttle “Discovery.”  The astronauts getting down to their next task, delivering supplies to the International Space Station, but first as part of the inspection of the craft to make sure it was not damaged by the ever worrisome foam fall-out, they had to make the shuttle do a somersault.  Our correspondent Leanne Gregg is at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Discovery initiating RPM on my mark. 

LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Just before arriving at the International Space Station, “Discovery” performed a rare back flip maneuver described astronauts as an elephant ballet. 

COL.  CHRIS HADFIELD, JOHNSON SPACE CENTER:  So it‘s kind of a hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck kind of maneuver to do. 

GREGG:  The 360-degree somersault, 600 feet from the station allowed the ISS crew to photograph the shuttle‘s belly for signs of damage. 

TONY CECCACCI, SPACE SHUTTLE FLIGHT DIRECTOR:  A picture is worth a thousand words.  How beautiful that looked. 

GREGG:  Afterwards the shuttle slowly moved nose forward toward the space station for the rendezvous. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Houston and Alpha “Discovery,” capture confirmed. 

GREGG:  After closing the final latches between the two vehicles, the discovery astronauts climbed onboard for a warm welcome from the space station‘s crew. 

CECCACCI:  The crew flew a perfect rendezvous, as you all saw. 

GREGG:  European astronaut Thomas Reiter will the station‘s crew and live on the outpost for six months.  His arrival returns the station‘s crew size to three for the first time in more than three years.  The post Columbia grounding of the shuttle fleet stopped an important supply line so the crew size number had to be reduced.  Mission managers will study the images of the shuttle transmitted from the space station.  An inspection by the astronauts, Wednesday, using cameras attached to a boom, revealed good news, no major damage from the launch. 

Leanne Gregg, NBC News, Johnson Space Center, Houston. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And from lift-off to lifted.  Ann Coulter and the allegations of plagiarism in her new book, leading our segment on celebrity, entertainment, and screeching happy-harpy news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

Coultergeist has now answered charges published first in the “New York Post” that she has stolen various portions of her novel “Godless” and many of her syndicated fiction columns from such diverse sources as Planned Parenthood and the “Los Angeles Times.”  Without giving any real authors any credit.  Well, she hasn‘t really answered them, she‘s just attacked the newspaper, even though it is one of the most self-avowedly conservative dailies in the country.  Coulter has followed Sunday‘s plagiarism article by calling it “New York‘s second crappiest paper” and claiming she‘s victim of its constant harassment, such as not publishing the interview she‘s given to its reporters.  Bad “New York Post!” Nothing in there about the plagiarism charge?  The academic guy with the computer program?  Ann?  Ann?  No denial?  Outrage?  Something?  The syndicaters of her column say they may now investigate whether she indeed plagiarized others‘ works. 

Just as tall, just as blonde, but far less hateful, Amber Frey, the former mistress of convicted murderer Scott Peterson, her lawyer confirms the rumors are true.  Amber got married.  Gloria Allred telling “People” magazine, Frey married Robert Hernandez in a private ceremony near Lake Tahoe, California.  Kind of an irony here, considering Frey once taped conversations with Peterson for prosecutors, the new hubby is in law enforcement. 

It was last Tuesday that the nation‘s top baseball reporter was hospitalized after a brain aneurysm.  The family of ESPN‘s Peter Gammons has since issued only one statement about his condition, that‘s it‘s good after his surgery and that he would be in the intensive care unit of a Boston hospital for about 12 days.  Despite the silence, Peter Gammons‘ health has been one of most—of the four most topics among the members of the various sports media.  The unofficial report is cautious, that he has been awake and lucid since the surgery, but that he is far from being out of danger.  That he is speaking, though not at length.  That he knows the details of his life and his work, that the prognosis, at least, outside the family is still unclear.  Ironically his first music C.D. was released this week to very favorable reviews among rock critics. 

Also, hear the mystery surrounding the Tom kitten Dickens.  Why has nobody seen the spawn of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes?  Is it a possible as Michael Musto once suggested that whole baby thing is sham?  Michael Musto is next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nomination for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze to the Australian television channel, Network Seven, promoting it‘s coverage of Saturday‘s rugby match between it‘s hometown nation Aussies and New Zealand by altering the video of the New Zealand players so it looks like they are all carrying women‘s handbags.  That‘s sportsmanship.

Our runner-up, Brian Heidik of Atlanta, arrested after he shot a puppy in his backyard with an arrow and threatened to shoot another one.  He claimed he‘d mistaken them for coyotes that had been harassing his pets.  What the hell are the puppy sizes down there in Georgia?

The punch line, of course, Mr. Heidik was the winner four years ago of “Survivor Thailand.”  And what exactly are we teaching our “Survivor” candidates to survive on? 

But our winner, Coultergeist, not the plagiarism stuff, something different.  She told a Denver radio station that while liberals opposed people‘s rights to smoke in restaurants they seemed not to be worried about the health consequences of “polymorphous perversity.”  She concluded sarcastically, quoting her again, “Anal sex and fisting, that‘s part of our deepest privacy rights.”  Ann, ewww!

One of my producers proposed this headline:  “Woman with Adam‘s Apple Denounces Anal Sex and Fisting.”  Anne Coultergeist, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is an old catch phrase originating in countless captions in unremembered magazines and books not appearing in your picture.  Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, the mumbled rumors have now broken into a crescendo of doubt three months after the announced birth of lovebirds, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, it is Suri Cruise who is not appearing in our picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEWIE GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY” BABY:  “Breaking News,” oh this should be rich.  Must be something of monumental, earth shattering importance or they wouldn‘t have that earth there, shattering.  See it shattering?  It‘s earth shattering, breaking news.  Oh, do tell me.  Tell me! Tell me!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Stewie.

Well we do have breaking news.  Russell Crowe and his wife have announced the birth of their second child, Tennyson Spencer Crowe.  Mr.  Crowe did not celebrate the child‘s birth by throwing a phone at the obstetrician. 

Meantime, after “Village Voice” columnist and friend of COUNTDOWN, Michael Musto repeatedly hinted that there might not be a Suri Cruise, “Us Weekly” magazine now reporting in a cover story that the bidding war for photographs of the Tom-Kat child was ended abruptly by the Cruises with no photo shoot ever transpiring and that best friends of the family, like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been denied visits to see the child.  John Travolta and Kelly Preston not allowed in.  We have seen Ms. Holmes once in public, post delivery, but never again.  A source reportedly close to Tom-Kat, in an attempt to end speculation as to why we have not seen Suri, the baby, yet tells “Us Weekly,” “She‘s happy.  He‘s happy.  The baby is doing great and they are just busy living their lives.” 

Now the man who first posited the theory, the Einstein of this little relativity equation, Michael Musto.  Welcome back, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  E= equals pillow squared. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, all right.  Before we get into full snarkdom here, what is the real story as you are led to believe it or understand it? 

MUSTO:  I hear the baby is actually black and there‘s going to be some s‘plaining to do.  No, no, no, it‘s a pillow.  I was right, it‘s a black pillow, whatever.  And now Tom and Katie are frantically looking around the house going “which one was Suri, which pillow was it?  Was it this one, honey?  No, no, Suri had more fringe on the top.”  Get it?  Suri with the fringe?

OLBERMANN:  Suri, yeah.  I do.

MUSTO:  It‘s such a cute mess.

OLBERMANN:  So, is this one continuous scam, then?  I mean, he goes on Oprah, jumps up and down on the couch.  She gains weight, they pretend to have a baby, she gets lots of money in the deal, and, and what‘s the end game?  The kid has to show up for high school graduation, right?  I mean, what do they do between now and then if it‘s a scam?  Aren‘t their careers over?  I mean don‘t—what happens next? 

MUSTO:  Oh, you wish.  Actually it was on that couch when he was jumping up and down, he looked down, saw a pillow and said that‘s my Suri.  But no, what they‘re going to is, when it comes to high school age, I hear they‘re going to have Katie dress up like Suri and pass her off.  It‘s right after that Philly Wilder movie, “Fedora” I‘m sure you‘ve all seen it.  No?  Hello?

OLBERMANN:  No, no, no.

MUSTO:  No they were going to have Tom actually play the part, but he‘s too short.  And Katie now will have 18 years of acting lessons to prepare for this role.  It‘s her Oscar. 

OLBERMANN:  But what do they do?  At some point, don‘t they have to have some sort of explanation for why they haven‘t shown the baby in public? 

MUSTO:  No. It‘s a total—you know, this is their way of having a baby without having a baby.  No muss, no fuss, no diaper changing, no personal messy relations.  It‘s really right out of “Who‘s Afraid of Virginia Wolf,” if you thought that the “Fedora” reference was too (INAUDIBLE).  And no baby to really stab you in the back when it grows up.  You place it on the back of your neck when you sleep, it‘s comforting. 

OLBERMANN:  What would be the motivation for a scam like that other than, say, insanity? 

MUSTO:  There‘s that, also they‘re just being tasteful.  I mean, Angelina had her baby photographed, apparently, with the placenta attached, Britney had it photographed before it was even born.  So, these people are being tasteful, they want to wait 10, 20, 30 years, which is a considerable amount of time, but it makes sense to me. 

OLBERMANN:  The people at “Us Weekly” have been good enough to put up a count up clock so that we know just how long it‘s been since we haven‘t the baby.  They haven‘t let the fellow celebrity scientologists in to see the baby.  If there is a baby, if somehow we‘re mistaken on this, what even is the party line here, what‘s the explanation for the secrecy if there is a baby? 

MUSTO:  Really to get back at the media for all the bad reviews of ever single one of Tom‘s movies and Katie‘s movies as well. 

OLBERMANN:  But is John Travolta part of the media, they‘re keeping him out—all right, they might have a reason for keeping him out?  Is not letting Will and Jada Pinkett Smith some, I mean—what kind of answer could they give them? 

MUSTO:  I think there is a Scientology person that they are letting in.  Because there is a rumor that she actually borrowed L.  Ron Hubbard‘s, can we say, product? 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.

MUSTO:  Which I hear is actually frozen somewhere in the Magic Kingdom.  And that is something that they, if this isn‘t a pillow, this is something that they lend out to Scientology women for whatever purposes and Kirstie Alley thought it was dessert.  Jenna Elfman—Jenna Elfman did some crazy funny physical comedy stick with it.

OLBERMANN:  Tried to do something funny. 

MUSTO:   Tried to do.  Yeah it bombed.  And Kelly Preston had no idea whatsoever to do with it.  But, it‘s really case by case.  Or pillow by pillow. 

OLBERMANN:  I mean, how much, how much, how much of this product did Scientologist No. 1, Mr. Hubbard leave, then, I mean—do we have any idea about that? 

MUSTO:  You know what?  There is a section of the Magic Kingdom, magic castle and Walt Disney is one side frozen, from head to toe, and the rest of the entire castle is filled with his product, so he left a capacious amount for all of wonderful—Lisa Marie Presley is thinking of different things do with it.  Unfortunately it won‘t improve her voice. 

OLBERMANN:  Bottom line, Michael, as near as you understand it.

MUSTO:  I‘m sorry, my sound is going out.

OLBERMANN:  .there‘s no baby.  That‘s the bottom line? 

MUSTO:  L.  Ron is messing with my sound from the Magic Kingdom. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s what you get for it.  Well, the incomparable Michael Musto of the “Village Voice” who clearly does exist.  Great thanks, Michael.

MUSTO:  Thank you.  I was right.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s very much, Michael.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,162nd day since the declaring of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.”

Joe, good evening.

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

END   

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