updated 7/17/2006 1:40:39 PM ET 2006-07-17T17:40:39

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Erwin Chemerinsky, Doug Neumann, Michael Musto

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

The White House in crisis.  The president‘s crisis, what to do about the fresh hell of the Middle East as Hezbollah and Lebanon and Israel spiral the violence upwards.  The administration gets some of its own rhetoric thrown back in its face by the Israel ambassador to the U.N.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  Hezbollah, together with Hamas, Syria, and Iran comprise the world‘s new and ominous axis of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the vice president‘s crisis.  Not many sitting VPs get themselves sued by former Republican appointed ambassadors to Iraq and former CIA operatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME WILSON:  I would much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than be a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The attorney for Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, Erwin Chemerinsky, joins us tonight on COUNTDOWN.

Never mind godless; how about columnless?  The conservative backlash against Ann Coulter.  Her column dropped by the paper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because conservatives told the editor she was misrepresenting their views.  And her column put to a virtual vote by editors in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Is baseball going to drop Barry Bonds?  The report that the commissioner anticipates the slugger will be indicted, and he goes back and forth about simply suspending the troubled former hero.

And there‘s been a Suri sighting at a natural foods store in Colorado. 

Says the clerk, She‘s funny looking.

If you have trouble believing that, try this.  Paris Hilton says she‘s going to be celibate for the next year.  I hope she knows what “celibate” means.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

President Bush has said that he will let history be the judge of his handling of the war in Iraq, staking his presidency on the outcome of that one conflict.  The irony tonight, that another war entirely could end up shaping the legacy of this 43rd president of the United States.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, day two of Israel‘s counterattacks against Lebanon, threatening not only the stability of the entire Middle East, but also the viability of the Bush doctrine on foreign policy.

What may not yet outright war between Israel and Lebanon sure looked like it again today, Israel again targeting Beirut‘s power stations, as well as its airport, for a second consecutive day, Hezbollah fighting back, hitting northern Israel with more than 100 attacks from militants on the Lebanese side of the border, the chain of events bringing the region to the brink of war, described by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright as the perfect storm.

The question tonight, whether the storm was ever on the Bush administration radar, the president arriving in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G8 summit, today rejecting Lebanon‘s calls for a ceasefire, saying only that Israel should try to limit civilian casualties as it steps up attacks on its neighbor to the north, meanwhile, back in New York, Israel‘s ambassador to the U.N. drawing upon some of the administration‘s own rhetoric in making his plea to an emergency session of the Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILLERMAN:  It is very important for the international community to understand that while Hezbollah executes this vicious terrorism, it is merely the finger on the bloodstained, long-reaching arms of Syria and Iran.  Hezbollah, together with Hamas, Syria, and Iran, comprise the world‘s new and ominous axis of terror, an infamous club, infamous club, the entry fee to which is the blood of innocents and the terrorizing of the entire world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Full coverage of the fighting in Beirut and in Nahariyah (ph), Israel, in a moment.

First, full coverage of how the bloodshed there is creating a crisis here.

Our own Richard Wolffe, also the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, is traveling with President Bush.  He joins us now by telephone from St.  Petersburg, Russia.

Richard, good morning.  Thanks for your time.

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

(on phone):  Good morning from St. Petersburg.

OLBERMANN:  The Bush doctrine has been all about making democracy the U.S.‘s top export, spreading it around the globe, if necessary, by force.  And yet here we have two militant groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, that were both democratically elected.  Is the president suddenly aware of a flaw in his equation?

WOLFFE:  You know, I asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that very same question just last night.  And her response was, Well, you cannot blame democracy for the problems that are confronting the Middle East right now.  But she admitted there was an expectation, a hope that democracy would somehow transform people like Hezbollah and Hamas into respectable players.

And clearly that hasn‘t happened.  You know, there‘s a live debate among foreign policy folks about whether democracy itself transforms these groups, or whether you need to have rule of law before you can introduce democracy.  And certainly the Israelis did not want the Palestinian elections to go ahead until Hamas was disarmed.  And we‘re seeing the results of that now.

OLBERMANN:  Richard, do we think the president would have blanched if he had heard the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. declare Hezbollah and Hamas and Syria and Iran the world‘s most ominous, dangerous, and lethal axis of terror?  Is that not another flaw in the doctrine, that if this country can declare an axis of evil, another country can declare an axis of terror, or whatever they want to call it?

WOLFFE:  Well, this has been the problem, really, from the get-go.  If you remember, back in 2002, the last time we saw this kind of crisis in and around Israel, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was very quick to pick up the language, the new language of the war on terror and deploy it in his own regional conflict, much to the dismay of people who consider themselves allies of America and fighting alongside America in the war on terror.

You know, if you look at the first thing that they called the Bush doctrine, it was that terrorists and people who harbor terrorists would be treated the same.  And under that doctrine, Israel has every right to go after Syria, Iran, and anyone else, including Lebanon, of course, where these terrorists are situated.

OLBERMANN:  As I mentioned, Madeleine Albright, the Clinton secretary of state, called the current situation there a perfect storm.  Are there not, Richard, about a dozen ways this could actually get worse, from the White House‘s point of view?

WOLFFE:  From the White House‘s point of view and from the region‘s point of view, absolutely.  This is, even now, a fairly low scale for what this region has been used to.  So yes, it can get worse.  And, o course, there are not just one—there‘s not just one set of crises in this region.  Of course, Iraq is very much in that region.  There‘s the nuclear crisis involving Iran.

So you‘re seeing problems across the region.  And the suspicion inside the White House is, of course, that they are interrelated, the same players are fomenting violence across the area, and, of course, America is engaged in pretty much all of it.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a sense that the White House might not have been engaged enough, hadn‘t been not paying enough attention to Israel, to its neighbors, by concentrating its efforts in places like Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m not sure that more attention to Israel would have made that much difference, although Tony Snow said today that, really, everyone had paid too little attention to this kind of rocket attacks that Israel has been suffering.  There was a sense that this was a sort of normal pattern.

But, of course, you know, if any of the countries that have complained about Israel‘s behavior had themselves come under attack from rockets on this kind of basis, they would have been making a lot of fuss about it.  So there‘s a sense, I think, that the international community in general had been tolerating these kinds—this kind of behavior from Hezbollah for far too long.  And there‘s only so much the Israelis can be prepared to take.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, with the president in St. Petersburg in Russia.  Great thanks, sir.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Again, we‘ll get to the latest moving parts of the undeclared Middle East war from the scene in a moment.

But first, to conclude this topic of the crises contained in the West Wing.  As if the president needed it, he got this week symbolized for him in the simple German village of Trinvillershagen (ph), in which—what was supposed to be the most simple thing a politician could do, pose with a baby for a photo.  Russian Putin created his own problem by lifting up the shirt of a 5-year-old boy and strangely kissing him on the stomach.

In Mr. Bush‘s case, I‘m afraid we‘re going to have to blame the baby, or whoever vets the babies.  The president eventually gave up when this tyke would not give up his caterwauling, handing the youngster back to its waiting mother.  British reporters insist the family was indeed checked out by both German and American advance crews, so any speculation this was actually a midget planted by the 5,000 protesters who ringed Trinvillershagen would be irresponsible, albeit very funny.

Rest assured the vice president is not laughing at anything, not now that he has his own crisis.  Valerie Plame and her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, are suing him, as you know, and Scooter Libby and Karl Rove for their roles in the chain of events that brought about the disclosure of her covert status at the CIA, the day after the civil action was filed, bringing the first comments from Ms. Plame since she was outed three years ago today in a column by the conservative pundit Robert Novak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME WILSON:  I would much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than be a plaintiff in a lawsuit.  But I feel strongly, and justice demands, that those who acted so harmfully against our national security must answer for their shameful conduct in court.

JOSEPH WILSON:  This remains a nation of laws.  And no administration official, however powerful, is above the law.  I have confidence in the American system of justice, and this suit is about the pursuit of justice.  We are under no illusions about how tough this fight will be.  But we believe the time has come to hold those who use their official positions to exact personal revenge accountable and responsible for their actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Duke University Law School professor Erwin Chemerinsky is co-counsel in this case, representing Ms. Plame and Ambassador Wilson in he civil action.  He‘s been good enough to join us tonight from Los Angeles.

EDWIN CHEMERINSKY, ATTORNEY FOR THE WILSONS:  Good evening.  Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  As the constitutional scholar on this legal team, how do you overcome the constitutional issue of whether a sitting vice president can be sued for acts he‘s alleged to have committed in office while he still is in office?

CHEMERINSKY:  This is an issue that‘s never been resolved.  The Supreme Court has said that a president can‘t be sued for acts in office, but the court focused on the president being the personification of government, that if the president could be sued, there‘d be so many lawsuits it would detract the attention from the duties of office.

A vice president isn‘t the personification of government.  There‘s not a proliferation of suits against the vice president.  So the reasons for absolute presidential immunity just don‘t apply when it comes to the vice president.

OLBERMANN:  John Dean suggested here last night that this lawsuit could be put on hold until the criminal case against Scooter Libby were to be concluded.  Do you think that could happen?  And if it does, could the discovery process of your lawsuit still go forward?

CHEMERINSKY:  I think it‘s likely that there will be a hold on the civil suit until the criminal prosecution is done.  Whether there will be preliminary motions heard, and perhaps discovery going on, that‘s all going to be up to the judge.

OLBERMANN:  What happens, do you think, if President Bush were to pardon Scooter Libby at some point in that process?

CHEMERINSKY:  That has nothing to do with this suit.  This is a case for civil liability against Vice President Cheney, Mr. Libby, and Mr. Rove.  So even if there is a pardon as to criminal liability, that in no way would keep Ms. Wilson and Mr. Wilson from being able to recover money damages.

OLBERMANN:  Why, give us an assessment of this.  Why was the decision held off?  Or is there, what, give us the construction of the decision.  Why was it made last night or yesterday to or at least announced yesterday to go ahead with this lawsuit when the three years‘ window was ending today?

CHEMERINSKY:  Well, it‘s always been planned that there would be a lawsuit by Valerie Plame Wilson and Joseph Wilson.  Their rights were violated by this abuse of power.  We wanted to be as conservative as possible in terms of the statute of limitations.  The earliest possible day the that the statute of limitations would begin to run would be today, three years to the day after the Robert Novak column.

So in an abundance of caution, we filed yesterday to make sure no matter what anyone says about the statute of limitations, we‘re safe.

OLBERMANN:  Can you summarize this case?  Is it a political case, as was characterized in many places today after the announcement yesterday?

CHEMERINSKY:  No, it‘s not a political case.  What this is about is an abuse of power that injured innocent people.  We know from what the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has said is that Vice President Cheney, Mr.  Libby, and Mr. Rove engaged in a concerted effort to reveal confidential, classified information that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative.

This was retaliation for the access of First Amendment rights by Mr.  Wilson, it was a invasion of privacy.  That‘s what this is about.  It‘s money damages for people who are injured by government abuse of power.

OLBERMANN:  Do you and your clients believe you will expose elements of government activity that would not be exposed otherwise, by dint of this lawsuit?

CHEMERINSKY:  My hope is, this will help the whole truth of the sordid story of what is going on in the government come out.  But I think what this lawsuit is about, like any lawsuit, is money damages to compensate injured people and hopefully to deter government officials in the future from engaging in such abuses of power.

OLBERMANN:  Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the attorneys representing the Wilsons in their case against Vice President Cheney and Mr. Libby and Mr.  Rove and others.  Great thanks for joining us tonight.

CHEMERINSKY:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  This programming note, Ambassador Wilson will be with us next week here on COUNTDOWN to discuss this lawsuit.  COUNTDOWN airing every night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Back to tonight, as promised, the details of the escalating conflict in Israel and Lebanon, the latest on a new day of assault and counterassault in the region.

And an unexpected development in the Ann Coulter saga.  It is not the newspaper canceling her column that‘s the news, it‘s who talked the editors into it.  That‘s the news.

There‘s also late news about the ESPN reporter Peter Gammons (ph).

All of it ahead.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Associated Press report is dateline Jerusalem, and it is as brief as brief can be.  Israeli army says Hezbollah rocket hits civilian ship.  Where that ship is, if there were casualties, and what implications this has for the conflict in Lebanon and in Israel tonight, we do not know.  We will obviously give you further details on this breaking news story as they come in to us.

And barely an hour after Israel had destroyed the home and the office of the leader of Hezbollah in the southern part of Lebanon, he delivered a message to Israel from a safe house.  Quoting that, “You wanted an open war, and we are ready for an open war.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the details of the situation in the Middle East now so bad, even the U.S. State Department is says it cannot see a way for the estimated 25,000 Americans stuck in Lebanon to get out safely.  Hezbollah is firing rockets at towns in northern Israel, used an unmanned aircraft to hit an Israeli warship earlier today, and as we just reported to you, has now struck some kind of civilian ship inside Israel.

Meantime, it continues, Israel, that is, to bomb targets in Lebanon, including the Beirut airport and the highway to Syria.

In a moment, the latest on the ground in Israel from correspondent Martin Fletcher.

First, the situation in Lebanon as reported by our bureau chief, Richard Engel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF:  The fires at Beirut‘s airport behind me are still burning tonight.  We stood here today and watched from this hilltop as Israeli jets overhead repeatedly attacked the runways.  Now there are fears throughout the region that this the conflict could get a lot worse after new threats from Hezbollah.

(voice-over):  The conflict that each day looks more like a war today came to Beirut.  Israel bombed the fuel supply of two power stations and the airport for a second day.  The Israeli navy continues to blockade the harbors.  Israeli military officials say an Israeli warship was hit by an unmanned Hezbollah aircraft rigged with explosives.

Israel sent a strong message to the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, destroying his office and home.  An hour later, in a radio address, Nasrallah declared, quote, “an open war on Israel.”

“All the surprises we have promised,” he said, “they will begin now. 

Our children will not be the only ones to die.”

ENGEL (on camera):  Many of the Israeli raids have been here in south Beirut, Hezbollah‘s stronghold.  For the last two days, the Israeli army has dropped thousands of leaflets here telling people to stay away from Hezbollah offices, because they will continue to be bombed.

(voice-over):  Here, an Israeli missile dug a crater 20 feet deep and set fire to nearby buildings.  Lebanese boarded up shops.  Streets were mostly empty.  As I interviewed a young man who escaped fighting in southern Lebanon to Beirut, he learned it‘s not safe here either.

But as casualties mount, many Lebanese increasingly criticize Hezbollah for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday and picking this fight with Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think most Lebanese, including a fraction of the Shiite community, would like to see Hezbollah fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That (INAUDIBLE) Lebanon that (INAUDIBLE) everything.

ENGEL:  But Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon, and the government here has been too weak and too divided to disarm it.

I‘m Richard Engel in Beirut.

Now to NBC‘s Martin Fletcher in northern Israel.

MARTIN FLETCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Israelis near the Lebanon border are afraid, ordered in and out of bomb shelters all day and night, tied to the news.  Two Israelis killed by a Katyusha rocket today, dozens more wounded in close to 100 attacks by Hezbollah militants firing from Lebanon.

Ten towns and villages hit while artillery and warplanes hit back.

Israeli leaders warned this could go on for weeks, or even months.

“We‘re terrified,” she says.  “We‘re suffering.  But we‘re with the government till the end.”

Israel‘s fierce reaction to the kidnapping of two soldiers is about more than rescuing them.  Military analysts say Israel has been planning this assault for five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The goal now is to change the Lebanese politics and to change the way that the Lebanese are operating.

FLETCHER:  When Israel ended its occupation of south Lebanon six years ago, the Lebanese army agreed to police the border.  It didn‘t.  Hezbollah moved in, with up to 30,000 rockets aimed at Israel.

Now Israel wants to destroy Hezbollah‘s arsenal, to severely weaken Hezbollah, and to have the Lebanese government take control of its border with Israel, as it promised.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER:  Israel must see this to completion.  It must dismantle Hezbollah as an effective fighting force.

FLETCHER:  But there‘s a long way to go, as NBC News found out when we had a narrow escape.

(on camera):  We were just driving down this road right in front of us, about 100 yards away, the missile fell.  (INAUDIBLE) red flash, a tremendous bang, and just missed us.

This is the exact same spot.  It‘s already been fixed.  Now, if Israel‘s plan to destroy Hezbollah from the air does not work, there is a plan B, and that is to send in the army on the ground, if necessary.  But that‘s the last thing Israel wants, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Martin Fletcher and, before him, Richard Engel.  Many thanks for those reports.

That breaking news that a private vessel has been struck in Israeli waters may not be that new of a development, the Reuters news agency reporting at this hour now that the ship may have been hit inadvertently as part of the attack late Friday in the region‘s time zone, late Friday their time, the attacked (INAUDIBLE) damaged seriously an Israeli warship and also the civilian boat, the nationality of which has not been revealed or may not even be known at this point, may also have been evacuated before the Hezbollah rocket struck.

That story will continue to develop, and details will continue to come in to us, and obviously we will bring them to you as they occur.

In the interim, also here, the whole earth seems to be heating up.  The latest evidence for global warming, courtesy a documentary hosted by our own Tom Brokaw.

And evidence that little Suri Cruise exists.  No picture yet, but there has been a Suri sighting, although it was not complimentary.

Celebrity breaking news, of a sort, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The 38th American president, Leslie King, Jr., turned 93 years old today.  Say you don‘t remember a President King?  And with both “President” and “King,” you say you would have?  Young Leslie‘s parents divorced when he was 2 years old.  His mother remarried.  His stepfather adopted the boy and gave him his name, Gerald R.  Ford.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin again in the streets of Spain for the final day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona.  It was a crowded field on day nine, but as you can see, the bulls kept a tight formation, through the cobblestones, they took turns drafting one another to get the most speed, as well as allowing three or four bulls to trample the same guy.  But for the 10th straight year, the humans pitched a shutout.  All bulls dead, all humans alive.

Which is why we have a very simple rule change suggestion.  Tell the bulls that they‘re going to die in the ring at the end of the run.  It‘s easy.  And if they know that death is imminent, I guarantee a more competitive event next year.  That means fans in the seats, Mr.  Commissioner, ticket sales, concession stands, more business for local hospitals.  Everybody wins, except the bulls.  They never win.

And we go back to the Internets to wrap up the week of Zinedine Zidane, clearly the best thing ever to happen to the game of soccer.  Also been nothing short of inspirational to the armies of wiseacres and troublemakers across the World Wide Web.  You‘ve seen their work already.  There‘s Zidane getting punted after the head butt.  The old school Nintendo soccer version of the event.  Super Mario taking him the Italian player out with a turtle.  The M.C. Hammer version.  And Zinedine Zidane the video game.

But we end the week with the runaway winner, Zinedine Zidane meets Fidel Castro.

Oh, that works.  Yes, it does.

Meanwhile, back in real life, French President Jacques Chirac seems to have changed his opinion of the incident.  Monday, he called Zidane a genius of world football.  Today in the Bastille Day speech Chirac said instead, “his gesture was not acceptable, that is obvious, he said so with great courage.”  As for the Castro video creator, Jacques Chirac called a “genius of the worldwide internets.”

Also tonight, Coultergeist-gate.  Her column on the ropes in one paper, removed by another for a reason you will find hard to believe and she will probably deny. 

And Paris Hilton removing herself from the sex scene?  Celibacy for 12 months—in a row?  Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day: 

No. 3, All State Insurance.  You and I could have guessed what would happen when the company gave away 30 bucks worth of free gas to motorists in Milwaukee, evidently the company could not.  Two crashes, four arrests, a fist fight, three policemen sent to the hospital.  “You‘re in good hands.”  Yeah, well, you‘re in my way. 

No. 2, Jose  Martinez, the disgruntled former employee of the month, suspended by his bosses at a Los Angeles bus depot.  He got into one of the 40-foot long buses, backed it up into another bus, then ran it forward into a third bus, then he got in a fourth bus and headed to the employee parking lot.  You could pretty much just imagine the rest of the story from there. 

No. 1 the tax assessors at Jasper County, Georgia.  They made a boo-boo.  Five data entry mistakes resulting in the count‘s net property worth being overvalued by just $300 million.  Meaning in actual taxes it will receive, the county will be short $2.5 million this year.  How‘d they do it?  Well, there was a mobile home worth $26,200 and the assessors listed it for being worth $262 million.  Well, there‘s your problem right there!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  History tells us, in fact, it grabs us, shakes us and writes in it crayon backwards on our foreheads so we can read it to ourselves in the mirror that political lightning rods are rarely vanquished by their foes, but usually instead by their friends.  It was the Senate that final neutered Senator Joe McCarthy.  It was not members of Richard Nixon‘s enemies list who did him in, but his own staffers.  And infamous ‘30s commentators, Boake Carter and Father Coughlin were not undone by the communists they imagined, but instead when they started making up the news and scapegoating minority groups. 

Thus in our third story tonight, perhaps it should not be such a surprise, but Ann Coulter has been knocked off the pages of one of the heartland‘s better newspapers because of complains by conservatives.  The Connecticut screech, also in trouble in Louisiana.  There editorial page editor of the “Shreveport Times” asked its readers if that paper should drop the Coultergeist column and replace her with another conservative writer.  Craig Durrett wrote that he felt “She‘s more about entertainment and self-promotion understanding that shock and outrage translate into her publicity that feeds into her quest for media airtime and column space.”

The Shreveport paper should make its final decision in a few weeks.  The “Gazette” of Cedar Rapids has already made its call, dropping Coulter after 14 to 15 months of having published her column.  Not because liberal readers where complaining about her, but rather because conservatives felt their views were being misrepresented.  She‘ll be replaced with another conservative voice, that of David Limbaugh. 

Doug Neumann of the Cedar Rapids “Gazette,” one of the men behind the decision to drop Coulter, he‘s the opinion page editor of the paper and he joins us now. 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

DOUG NEUMANN, CEDAR RAPIDS “GAZETTE”:  Sure, glad to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  So, what exactly did your conservative readers say to you that led your fine cancel Coulter‘s column? 

NEUMANN:  You know, the complaints started coming and I think it was really a matter of her style, sort of starting to distract from here substance.  They just didn‘t think that she was a very good representation of their views anymore.  We had heard complaints from liberals all along, as one would expect, but it was those complaints from conservatives that really got us thinking about whether it was time for a change in the lineup. 

OLBERMANN:  I assume Ms. Coulter would respond, these were probably liberal plants, people pretending to be conservatives.  Did you check to make sure that those complaints were coming from the sources they claimed to be? 

NEUMANN:  You know, there‘s a difference between national news media and local community journalism.  We know our readers here in Eastern Iowa.  Many that we talk to regularly, many that we see face to face.  We know who these people are.  It wasn‘t merely anonymous e-mails.  They were readers of the “Gazette,” readers that we were familiar with.  And clearly, we believed them, we understood their point of view. 

OLBERMANN:  Boy, that sounds nice.  Can you sent them to us as well, that would be nice to deal with people like that again.  The complaint in Shreveport is one that has sunk many a commentator of print or electronic, conservative or liberal, for 100 years, that the pieces were no longer about the world, they were about the writer.  Did you sense that in this case, too? 

NEUMANN:  You know, that wasn‘t a big part of our decision at all.  Again, she did a reasonable job of representing an extremely conservative point of view, a point of view that we think is important to have on the page, a point of view that we‘re going to have with David Limbaugh, and we also have with other conservative columnists.  We run Kathleen Parker, we run Jonah Goldberg and others, so it is an important point of view and she did represent that point of view for a time.  So the substance of the column wasn‘t so much the decision as it was that the style and everything that she did sort of distracted from purely what was in the column. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything content-wise that was specific, either in that column or in the most recent book that added to this or was a tipping point to this?  Is there one moment where you can say the tide turned? 

NEUMANN:  There wasn‘t for us.  I don‘t know if there were for individual readers.  There certainly—the criticisms and the complaints got a lot more intense after the book came out and there may have been specific passages that were of concern.  For us it was really the overall substance, the overall comments from readers and an overall decision by us that there were other things that we could do with our page that would add value for the readers. 

OLBERMANN:  Was there a reaction from her or from her syndicates? 

NEUMANN:  We haven‘t heard from her directly.  I did see a website that alleged to have a quote from her.  I‘m not sure how credible that was.  But, I don‘t know if she‘ll react to us here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or not. 

OLBERMANN:  Doug Neumann of the Cedar Rapids “Gazette.”  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.  We appreciate it.  Have a good weekend. 

NEUMANN:  Thanks a lot. 

OLBERMANN:  Tom Brokaw has faced right-wing attacks for his report on global warming.  We‘ll give you your first look at his special report.  And about how the latest news is that earth‘s warming is leading to the deaths of polar bears. 

Two baseball stories:  The Barry Bonds defense team declares itself ready for indictments a report that they may also have to be ready for a suspension from baseball and there is late news about the health tonight of the ESPN baseball expert and reporter, Peter Gammons.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Global warming warnings.  Dying polar bears is the latest sign the earth is heating.  And where in that warm world is little Suri Cruise?  “Breaking news” on the search for the baby.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the republican staff of a Senate committee put out a news release blaming a global warming documentary nobody‘s seen yet on Tom Brokaw‘s lack of objectivity and balance, you knew the issue was already one of those out of control snowballs rolling down the hill of politics.  And in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, when the Mark Jacobs clothing stores are selling “Give ‘em hell, Al” shirts and caps, and the Al is Al Gore, it‘s posed in such a way that you at first it‘s (INAUDIBLE) without the beard or the beret, you knew what the snowball is rolling towards, it‘s mainstream cultural debate.  Thus we offer you tonight—no, not a free t-shirt, nor a pair of Mark Jacobs shoes, sorry ladies, but a preview of Mr.  Brokaw‘s work for the Discovery channel. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, DISCOVERY CHANNEL:  At the tip of South America, in the vast ice fields Patagonia, glaciers that have survive since the last ice age gripped the earth have lost 10 percent of their mass in the last seven years.  And in the arctic, here the melting ice may spell disaster for its most famous inhabitants, the polar bear. 

Dr.  Nick Lunn of the Canadian Wildlife Service is on a return trip to the remote Arctic region of Churchill, Manitoba along Canada‘s Hudson Bay.  Lunn has tracked the polar bear population and its movements here over the past two decades.  And the largest and most comprehensive study of the species every conducted.  His team tranquilizes the bears they find and collects data on each one captured. 

DR.  NICK LUNN, CANADIAN WILDLIFE SERVICE:  The size of the population has declined from about 1,200, back in the ‘80s to now it‘s under 950, so a decline of about 22 percent, and it‘s directly linked to an early break-up of the sea ice. 

BROKAW:  Polar bears rely on sea ice to survive.  For a few short months in spring, the bears hunt on the edges of the melting ice where seals come up for air.  For the bears, this is their last chance to feed before the long summer fast.  But the ice is now melting earlier in the year and at a faster pace.  The bears simply don‘t have enough time to hunt all the food they need to survive. 

LUNN:  Twelve and a half pounds for cub three. 

BROKAW:  Lunn has watched the average weight of these bears decrease by some 15 percent since the 1980‘s.  Within the next six years, female bears may not have enough body fat to reproduce.  The chances that these triplets will survive to adulthood, let alone make it to next fall, are slim.  They‘re likely to become a statistic Lunn‘s database of a species on its way to extinction. 

LUNN:  It makes me sad to think that I might be the last person working on this population and be known as a polar bear historian. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Always root for the bear.  “Global Warming:  What You Need to Know” with Tom Brokaw premieres premiers Sunday at 9:00 Eastern on the Discovery Channel.  And it is plenty balanced.  It is the earth‘s atmosphere that is not balanced. 

Speaking of technology run amok, there is Barry Bonds.  And get a good look at him, he may be gone soon.  That is our starting point in our nightly round of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”

One of his Barry Bonds‘ attorneys tells the “Associated Press” today that the former hero‘s defense team is preparing for the possibility of indictments next Thursday for tax evasion or perjury or both.  Laura Enos says her group is already plotting its defense.  And the “New York Times” quotes an unidentified executive in the office of baseball commissioner Bud Selig who says the commissioner is wavering between a firm decision to suspend Bonds, possibly using his authority to act in the best interest of baseball and another firm decision not to suspend him. 

In what might be a trial balloon from baseball, “New York Times” columnist Murray Chass wondered in the event that Bonds is indicted, if he might leave his team while still being paid to concentrate on his legal defense, a suspension in all but name? 

And it was two weeks ago last Tuesday that the nation‘s top sports reporter, Peter Gammons of ESPN, was hospitalized with aneurysm in his brain.  Tonight there is encouraging news about our foremost authority in baseball, his wife, Gloria, has told friends that Peter Gammons has been talking even more than before, walking around his Boston hospital room, brushing his teeth, and apparently bemoaning the fact that doctors wouldn‘t let him go to Pittsburgh for the baseball All-Star game four nights ago.  These are the same doctors who have told the family that they believe there is no permanent damage to his brain.  They are optimistic about a full recovery, in fact, next Monday, Peter Gammons will be transferred to a retabletation center at Cape Cod to begin his physical rehab. 

Peter has been a personal friend of mine since 1984, moreover a constant friendly face and tireless supporter, and in the last three years, a tireless supporter of this newscast.  We hope the doctors are wrong only in their cautiousness. 

Also tonight, as if it‘s the search for the infamous Big Foot, we have gotten our first reports of Suri Cruise sightings.  Professional analysis from Michael Musto, that‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

We begin tonight with Lorna Dudash of Aloha, Oregon.  Aloha can mean good-bye.  She called 911 emergency services there and explained her problem to the dispatcher.  A policemen had been sent to investigate a neighbor‘s complaints.  Miss Dudash allegedly wanted the officer back to her home because he was “the cutest cop I‘ve ever seen.  A cutie-pie.”  Well, she‘s gotten a date—not with him, in court.  Charge:  Misuse of the Emergency Dispatch System. 

Tie for the Silver, Geraldo Rivera and Bill-O discussing Rivera‘s claim that the Philadelphia mob had decided to have Geraldo Rivera killed.  Rivera explained why did happen, then O‘Reilly said of the hit man, “couldn‘t he have killed Jerry Springer?”  Rivera responded, “I can name a couple of other people off the top of my head.”  Bill-O topped him, “Yeah, I mean, Maury Povich.”

Boys, seriously, putting all our issues aside for a minute, you two are the last ones in this industry who should be putting the ideas into people‘s heads that it might be funny to rub out a television personality. 

But our winner tonight, John Stossel of ABC, saying that instead of the waiting list system for organ transplants, that we currently have, which more or less, gives the organs out based on need and hope of recovery, that the organs for transplant should be sold.  Quoting him, “The market figures out way to make these things work,” Stossel said, “Hot dogs don‘t spoil when we get to them.”  John, are you sure you don‘t need an organ transplant, like maybe a new brain? 

John Stossel, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In our No. 1 story tonight, it has been a huge week in celebrity news.  Michael Musto will help us plow through the gossip buffet that includes a story that Paris Hilton will give up the sex life for a year—her own, we believe.  Also a report that Kevin Federline has a new high-paying job doing nothing.  But the biggest news, Suri for surey.  Well, maybe for surey. 

“Us Weekly” reporting that the spawn of Tom-Kat was sighted by a clerk at a natural goods store in Telluride, Colorado where Katie was known to be vacationing.  The clerk noted that the baby was “funny looking.”  Let‘s call in Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” now.  No segue there.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the other round of stories here in due time, but first, do you think the clerk meant Suri looked funny, ha ha funny or funny ew funny? 

MUSTO:  I think funny ha ha because a pillow does look fun we a bottle in its mouth and a rattle.  And when Katie burps it, all the stuffing comes out, it‘s terrible.  But look, even if it is a baby, and it isn‘t, it‘ll still look funny because it‘s short, has Bucky Beaver teeth, and glazed eyes.  Looks up at mom and says who the hell is this woman.  By the way, this all happened Tellyoulies, I mean Telluride, so take away the grain. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re still not convinced there‘s a baby?  I mean, is that why it was so funny looking, because it wasn‘t a baby it was muffler from a 1958 Studebaker? 

MUSTO:  Look it might be a hubcap in a diaper, in might be a pineapple, it might be a troll doll with a price tag attached.  It might be anything except a baby. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, standby, we‘re going to move on to this Paris Hilton story and the newsroom was shocked when this came across the wire, to say nothing of the all the 13-year-old boys who heard about it everywhere.  Paris Hilton telling the English newspaper, the Guardian” that she intends to stay celibate for a year “Just because I want to.”  She goes on to say that “Every time I have a boyfriend I‘m so romantic and I put all the energy into the guy and I don‘t really pay attention to myself.”

Michael, I‘ve said this before, I don‘t know if she knows what “celibate” means.  How about the word “year,” does she know what the word “year” means? 

MUSTO:  No, in fact just yesterday she was found on her back with her legs spread saying, “Thank god the year is finally over, that was endless.”  Her idea celibate is, I‘ll sell a bit here, I‘ll sell a bit there.  Her idea of being a virgin is vergin‘ on being a slut.  But, no, no, no I was “Simple Life” this week, we‘re friends, I love her and whatever her statement meant, the Center for Disease Control breathed a big sigh of relief. 

OLBERMANN:  Also there‘d be less seismic activity in California, now wouldn‘t there?

MUSTO:  Less forest fires, less everything.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s move on to the Kevin Federline story.  This might, in fight, despite the competition here, be the most incredible of the ones we‘ll review tonight.  This man, according to “In Touch Weekly,” and boy we read a lot of these magazines, has earned $700,000 over the last four months taking in a flat $20,000 for a cameo at an event, they get $250,000 for hocking a clothing line, $25,000 a day for pushing Virgin mobile phone service on fans and passersby.  Michael this country is underwriting this schlub, isn‘t‘ it? 

MUSTO:  Well, I‘ll gladly underwrite him being paid it go to parties.  I mean, that‘s what he does.  As long as he doesn‘t sing or dance, I‘ll pay whatever you want, I‘ll write you a blank check.  I mean, no one‘s going to pay this guy to work in the Aerospace program, but he does very well at parties.  He drinks, he carries on, he puts lampshades on his head and should be paid for it.  Unfortunately, when he shows up without Britney, they‘re like, can we have our money back and our lampshades?  I mean, we could have gotten Hillary Duff‘s sister.  We don‘t want you. 

OLBERMANN:  What are do you get for a party?  I mean, at $20,000 is a pretty good price, isn‘t‘ it? 

MUSTO:  I get weekly salary and free health insurance and a free diet coke, so it‘s worth it for me.  I‘m a cheap date. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re staff.  Let‘s move to this last topic and this one takes us to the sunny vacation paradise of San Trope and here we see Pamela Anderson on a boat sunning herself topless, and if you look real closely, you will see what appears to be a child, perhaps her own child, sunning next to his half naked mom.  There‘s also a friend out there, and while I realize you may make the joke, Michael, that these devices can be used for floatation in the event of an emergency, but do they have to be exposed to everybody?  Is this not going to warp the kid‘s idea of what real breasts look like or do you think he‘s seen the home movie, so it‘s no big deal and is the name of the boat, the giveaway here, the “Thunder Gulch.” 

MUSTO:  I think that actually refers to her lower body part, but, yeah, no the kids worked on that movie.  They were the fluffers, so they‘ve seen it all and they‘ve seen what real breasts look like.  The say David Hasselhoff in “Bay Watch.”  The only danger to the kids here is that the sell—what do you call it, the silicon is going to leak and flood the boat and then mom will be flat, there‘ll be no floatation devices and everyone‘s going to have to hold on to her thunder gulch, which I hear could really have saved the Titanic.  But, I like her, she‘s great. 

OLBERMANN:  Did you almost say the cell phones?  What word.

MUSTO:  I just have a problem with that word “silicone.”  I don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  Silicon, silicon, cellulite. 

MUSTO:  Cell phone, whatever‘s in there.  Yeah, a pillow or a pineapple, tofu.  I don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  So none of this—another none of this is real.  There‘s no job for Kevin Federline, there‘s no Suri Cruise baby, and Pamela Anderson‘s breasts are.

MUSTO:  This entire segment is negated.  None of it ever really happened and what I‘m saying right now is not really happening either. 

OLBERMANN:  I feel—I for one feel better. 

MUSTO:  Me too.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Must of the “Village Voice.” 

MUSTO:  I can sleep tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Good.  Always more entertaining than the stories he covers.  Good night.  Great thanks.

MUSTO:  Goodnight.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,170th 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.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Keith, good evening.  That segment was kind of like that season in Dallas where it was all a dream, huh?

OLBERMANN:  I hope so.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, thank you so much, Keith.  Have a good night.

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

END   

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