updated 8/2/2006 10:58:22 AM ET 2006-08-02T14:58:22

Guests: Jackie Mason, Harvey Levin, Jeffrey Ross

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

Mel Gibson insists he is not an anti-Semite, not a bigot, does not hate.  A written apology is issued over his signature, in which he asks for help from the Jewish community.

And here comes the backstory, the bottles, the hugs, and the photos from the hours that preceded his arrest and his tirade.  The latest.

And the thoughts of Jackie Mason, who does not think any of this is funny.

We‘ll chime in with the inevitable Puppet Theater.

You can take our licenses, but you‘ll never take our freedom.

In the real world, Israel‘s prime minister insists his nation is winning the battle, his troops now reported by the Lebanese to be in northeast Lebanon.

Add Cuba to the list of worries, as Castro cedes power temporarily.

The U.N. now chastises Iran, Iraq growing deadlier than ever, yet the president insists again, our military is not stretched thin.

The biggest stretch of all, Bill O‘s new book, reviewed by “Publishers Weekly.”  “Kvetching,” “paranoia,” “resentful,” “self-pitying.”  That‘s our Bill.

And 25 years of MTV.  We‘ll get in the Wayback Machine for a news report from 1984.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1984)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The videos have helped revived a sagging record industry.

Cindy Lauper owes her success almost entirely to music television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What are records?  Who‘s Cindy Lauper?

And wait, MTV used to play music videos?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It is kind of hard to believe that on the 21st day of a desperate struggle between Israel and a terrorist state-within-a-state in Lebanon, and on the day after Fidel Castro loosed his viselike grip on control of Cuba for the first time ever, that there could be anything else seriously discussed anywhere else in this country.

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, by issuing a statement of apology that can only be described as strange, the actor Mel Gibson has lifted his anti-Semitic tirade from the back pages of entertainment into the headlines of cultural importance.

In the apology, he seems to be putting the primary responsibility for his recovery on the very same Jewish community he acknowledges having offended.

In a moment, the latest developments from Harvey Levin and the reaction of a comic Jackie Mason, who is not laughing.

First, the apology, Mel‘s mea culpa coinciding with the first look at what he was doing in the hours before his arrest, the magazine “InTouch Weekly” publishing photographs of the actor drinking with fellow patrons at a Malibu restaurant, all of them apparently female, not one of them his wife.

Apparently, he was well behaved, but Mr. Gibson now looking back on that event with even more remorse and regret, quoting from his statement, the sequel, second of two apologies, “There is no excuse, nor should there by any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark.  I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said.  Please know from the bottom of my heart that I am not an anti-Semite, I am not a bigot.  Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.  I would like to meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.”

Joining me now, Harvey Levin, the managing editor of TMZ.com, the entertainment news Web site which broke the Gibson story, also, of course, an old friend of COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, Harvey.

HARVEY LEVIN, MANAGING EDITOR, TMZ.COM:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, I understand you—there‘s some breaking news, more breaking news tonight on the next step of Mel Gibson‘s atonement tour?

LEVIN:  I mean, it‘s so Hollywood.  The Temple for the Arts, which is run by Rabbi David Baron (ph), has offered Mel Gibson to be the keynote speaker at the Yom Kippur services on the Day of Atonement, so that Mel Gibson can address the temple.  And the offer has been extended.  We don‘t know what Gibson is going to do.

OLBERMANN:  Is there an opening act?  No.

LEVIN:  Hillary Clinton (INAUDIBLE), Hillary Clinton spoke last year on forgiveness.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE) grief.  (INAUDIBLE), is there anything new on rehab or recovery program?  The specifics on all of that seemed to be all over the map yesterday.  Is there any clarity tonight?

LEVIN:  The only clarity we got, excuse me, is that we‘re told it‘s a recovery program, not a rehab program.  And frankly, I don‘t really know the distinction between the two.

You know, Keith, what I found really interesting about his statement, he says he‘s not an anti-Semite, but there‘s a point in that statement where he says he wants to figure out what it was that made him say those vulgar things, and that‘s when he was seeking the Jewish community‘s help.

So it‘s interesting.  I mean, it sounds like he‘s even saying it wasn‘t just the bottle here.  There was something inside him that caused him to do it.  And that‘s kind of an interesting twist.

OLBERMANN:  Another interesting twist here, I mean, not comparing apples and oranges, but did it surprise you, given your own reporting of the words that he used to the female police officer, that there was no apology to her or to women or even just to the police officers who had to listen to both kinds of remarks?

LEVIN:  I mean, you had three “evens” in that sentence, and I think that‘s the point.  There was so much bad behavior that, you know, I think probably just as a PR move, it would have been a big mistake to try and recap every single thing he did, from, you know, swearing at the officers, threatening the officers, saying, I own Malibu, saying, I‘m going to F you, trying to evade arrest, allegedly trying to unzip his pants and urinate on the floor, trying to break the telephone.

There are so many of these things, Keith, it probably would have been a bad mistake to go (INAUDIBLE), to go through it item by item.

OLBERMANN:  Could have (INAUDIBLE), summed it up there (INAUDIBLE) in one word or two words or maybe a couple sentences, anyway.  But in any event, you reported previously, Harvey, that the county sheriff‘s department intentionally sanitized this story.  The department has an internal investigation unit.  It‘s indicated today that, at least so far, everything was on the level, according to the book.  Your reaction to the news conference from the department today?

LEVIN:  That‘s not exactly what was said.  What they said was, all along the sheriff intended to give all of the information to the district attorney.  But then reporters started asking, What about the fact that a supplemental report was written?  And the officer, and the attorney for this commission said, Well, you know, they do modifications of reports, but we are trying to figure out why it is that they did this.  And he said that is ongoing.

My point is, is that they lied to us all day Friday.  They said this was an arrest without incident.  And there was an incident.  He tried to escape, for starters.  And I specifically asked one of the lieutenants who was involved in getting this deputy to write the supplemental report.  I asked about the anti-Semitic remarks, and she said, I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  And it was a lie.

And then I talked to one of the spokespeople an hour before we put the story up, and he said, Look, I‘m holding the only report right now, and I‘m telling you, you are wrong, the story is wrong.  And I would really be careful if I were you.  So there you go.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.  Harvey Levin of the entertainment Web site TMZ.com. 

Haven‘t had a chance to say this, Harvey, great work on the story. 

Congratulations.

LEVIN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And great thanks.

Many comedians around the country are currently having a field day making fun of this story.  We will put ourselves on that list later on.  One might expect that one of them in particular would be doing so, but not the case.

The legendary Jackie Mason, kind enough to join us now from New York.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

Did I summarize that correctly?  You feel there‘s nothing funny about this?

JACKIE MASON, COMEDIAN:  Want me to tell you the truth?  I think it‘s a big hullabaloo about nothing.  The man was drunk.  You never hold (INAUDIBLE) responsible for every word they say when they‘re drunk.  People when they‘re drunk start (INAUDIBLE) their mother, their brother.  They want to say, I want to make love to my sister.  They might say—they might (INAUDIBLE) make a toilet out of the living room.  They might all of a sudden take their clothes off, jump up and down, fly from a ceiling, hang from a chair.

You see all kinds of nut things that people do when they‘re drunk.  What does that mean?  Do you hold them responsible for every word?  You know what they always say, The guy was drunk, and you forget about it.

Now, there might be subconscious things within him that have something to do with being influenced by his father, always hated Jews and denied the Holocaust, and there might be some subliminal subconscious deep, you know, things there in his head.  I‘ve heard people call their own mother a whore when they‘re drunk.  What does that mean, that they‘re opening a whorehouse for their mother?

I mean, it‘s ridiculous to make such an issue.  Whatever his subconscious, deep in his head, from that came out when he was drunk, I don‘t take that seriously, because if you‘re going to take every drunken statement seriously, there won‘t be two people in this country that are not either in jail or in a cemetery by Thursday.

OLBERMANN:  Do you worry about the police reaction to it, though?  We were just discussing with Harvey Levin in Los Angeles about the initial reporting on this, and what the police did not reveal and (INAUDIBLE)...

MASON:  Well, what the police did not reveal is typical of police all over the country whenever there‘s a celebrity involved.  Russell Crowe bangs a guys over the head with a telephone, and everybody says, It‘s a mea culpa, he‘s not that type of person, that was unnecessary, he doesn‘t know how he did it, he didn‘t know he had a phone in his hand, he didn‘t know the guy had a head.  He knew that he hit him, but it‘s own fault, he stuck his head in this way just when the phone was flying.

These celebrities always get away with it.  You remember when Jack Nicholson, somebody parked their car next to him, so he went out, he busted a fender.  You always read in the paper every day about the (INAUDIBLE), the freedom that the celebrities have to abuse people and assault people, humiliate people, and the cops are always pretending they don‘t know what happened.

Look at Naomi Campbell.  She belted out about 35 waitresses, 40 maids,

50 busboys.  She attacks whoever she sees in the streets, and she‘s still

walking around like a prima donna, nobody cares, because she‘s a celebrity

And these are people who have maimed, hurt, attacked, abused.  And they all got away with it.  This guy said a word in a drunken state that he‘s the only one that suddenly wanted to destroy it.

Why destroy Russell Crowe, who attacked a poor kid for nothing and busted his head open.  Destroy these celebrities all around, belting out pathetic souls struggling to make a living, and all of a sudden they get away with it like they did now.

Now, (INAUDIBLE), I happen to be a very known Jewish person.  I don‘t know, most people might not know that I‘m Jewish.  I‘m trying to keep it quiet.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.

MASON:  I might be a light Puerto Rican, I‘m not sure.  But the truth of the matter is that as proud as I am of my Judaism and my Jewishness, Pat Boone, do you know that Pat Boone, who is a great Jew lover, everybody calls him a Jew lover because that‘s what he is.  He dedicated his every moment of his life to fight for underdogs, the blacks and the Jews.  He‘s a fantastic man who cares about any suffering soul or anybody with a problem.

And one of the things he‘s dedicated to is Israel.  He fights for Israel all his life.  And he told me personally, I spoke to him yesterday, that he‘s a very close friend, a very close buddy, and he says he knows him well enough to know there‘s no such thing as anti-Semitism in his heart.  He knows him 20 years.  They hang around together, they (INAUDIBLE), they live together, they—I don‘t want to know how far they go.  This is none of my business.  I don‘t trust anybody today, especially if they‘re in Hollywood, who knows what they do together.

But one thing he swears for is that he‘s not an anti-Semite.  And if Pat Boone can swear for it, who is the most—I think nobody loves a Jew more than him.  When I see him, I—he‘s so Jewish that he‘s forgot he‘s a gentile.

OLBERMANN:  So then give me your reaction to this idea that Mel Gibson would be speaking at the Yom Kippur services in the synagogue in Hollywood, and that the Anti-Defamation League has already said it accepts the apology.  Does it end here?  Is there what, is there more (INAUDIBLE)...

MASON:  I think if it doesn‘t end here, it‘s because people love to see a big star suffer.  When you become too successful, it brings out the jealousy and all the envy and the bitterness (INAUDIBLE) people who are sweating trying to make a living.  If this guy has $90 billion a day (INAUDIBLE).  People are all walking around nauseous about they look at superstar celebrities with billions of dollars.  And as soon as they do something wrong, they love to jump on it, it becomes a beehive of activity.  People become like maniacs.

It becomes a whole tribal (INAUDIBLE) to see if they could bury him for nothing, because all of a sudden, you‘re superior.  All of a sudden, he‘s the victim.  All of a sudden, you look like, you feel like you‘re the star, you could bury a star, then that makes you a sensation, and people love the feeling.  It‘s a power trip for every shmuck in the world.

OLBERMANN:  Do you worry (INAUDIBLE), do you worry, lastly, though, about this as a perhaps if not an intentional expression, but some sort of microcosm of anti-Semitism in this country (INAUDIBLE)...

MASON:  (INAUDIBLE), first, he don‘t believes there‘s much anti-Semitism (INAUDIBLE).  Gentiles in this country, disagreed with Jews, dislike Jews, envied Jews, hated Jews, this is 50 years ago.  But today, this is democratic country.  There‘s very few people who dislike blacks, even though blacks keep claiming it‘s a racist society.  It‘s a power trip to claim it‘s a racist society.  This way, you don‘t have to compete successfully, when you can convince yourself that everybody‘s a racist, then you have no chance.

I love when Oprah Winfrey says, We live in a racist society.  She‘s standing there with $40 billion.  You got a dollar and a quarter.  And she‘s hollering what a racist society is.  She‘s a sick yenta.

OLBERMANN:  Jackie Mason, the comic actor, radio host, our great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

MASON:  God bless you.  I‘m glad we got along.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

Also here tonight, we will return to matters Mel in the far-less-serious vein, with comedian Jeffrey Ross and the premiere of Mel Gibson Backstory Puppet Theater.

(INAUDIBLE) head the real world.  Day 21 of the Middle East crisis, the 48-hour suspension of air strikes is over.  Tonight, there is a new front in the ground war in Lebanon.  At least, the Lebanese say so.

And the commander in chief and his apparent disconnect with the U.S.  military.  In an unsettled world, at an unsettled time, the president does a little bit of saber-rattling, while the military leaders themselves say, We are not nearly as ready as the president seems to think we are.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Before the 48-hour cessation of major Israeli air raids in Lebanon was even up, events on the ground dashed any hope of a more permanent cease-fire there today.  Not only did the Israeli government announce its intention to push 30 miles into Lebanon, up to the Litani River, but the Lebanese army says Israeli ground forces have landed 60 miles further north even than that, fighting Hezbollah in one of its strongholds, the eastern town of Baalbek.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, three weeks into the current conflict in the Middle East, and definitely no end in sight.

Our correspondent from Haifa, Israel, is Martin Fletcher.

Martin?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, there are Lebanese and Hezbollah reports that Israeli helicopters have dropped paratroopers near the Bekka Valley town of Baalbek, which is about 10 miles from the border with Syria.  They say there‘s heavy fighting there with Hezbollah guerrillas, but so far, no confirmation from Israel, which does say that it is expanding the war in the south.

(voice-over):  No one can feel safe in south Lebanon.  A man was recording the destruction on his cell phone video, when...

And it‘s getting less safe quickly.  Israel today is pouring men and vehicles across the border, doubling the size of its invasion force to about 6,000.  Officials said Israel could push as far as 18 miles into Lebanon to the Litani River.  We‘ll clear out Hezbollah fighters, and we‘ll hold the territory until a multinational force moves in to face a weakened Hezbollah.

MATAN VILNAI, ISRAELI PARLIAMENT MEMBER:  No one is going to fight them, only us.  After we fight them, we can deliver the—we can transfer the area to other forces.

FLETCHER:  There‘s intense fighting in several villages along the border.  Three Israeli soldiers killed today.

When an Israeli colonel wanted to show us how Israel now controlled one area, it didn‘t work out that way.

(on camera):  Oh, I don‘t know.  They said they‘re shooting nearby at cars, and they want us to get in here quickly, and we better go.  So you better (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They might, they might shoot on us.

FLETCHER (voice-over):  But it was mostly Israeli artillery shooting at Hezbollah positions inside villages.

NBC‘s Richard Engel is in Bint Jbeil.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF:  There‘s so much destruction in some of these frontline villages that they‘ve become completely inaccessible.  But there clearly are victims.  You just need to follow the smell.

Locals say eight people are buried under this debris, and no one‘s looking for them.

(voice-over):  Today, we found boys building coffins for other victims, children of their own age killed in Qana on Sunday, as more elderly were evacuated, taking advantage of a lull in the Israeli shelling.

(on camera):  Now that most of the people have left, the only ones we saw staying behind didn‘t want to be filmed, Hezbollah fighters digging in.

FLETCHER:  It‘s to get at those Hezbollah fighters that Israel‘s launching a full ground invasion.

LT. COL. YISHAI EFRONI, ISRAELI ARMY:  As much as we go inside, we find more ammunition, more rocket launchers.

FLETCHER:  Israeli army officers say they need two more weeks to do the job.

(on camera):  But they know time‘s running out to deliver a knockout blow to Hezbollah, and anything less would mean a moral defeat for Israel, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Martin Fletcher at Haifa.  Great thanks.

One day after the president said our armed forces could go anywhere and take care of any threat, he gets a reality check from his own military.

And in general, are we more or less prepared for quick response than, say, Japanese TV game show producers?  And away we go.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this day in 1779, Francis Scott Key was born, notable enough for his composition of the song that would become our national anthem.  But this is about the newscaster who once committed one of the great bloopers in radio history, identifying Mr. Key as the composer of “The Star-Spangled Banana.”  I haven‘t heard it since without wondering if that title alone wouldn‘t get more people to sing.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And speaking of nationalism, we begin once again with our award-winning series, 527 reasons why Japanese television is better than ours is.  Number 261, when you mess up a tongue-twister on a Japanese game show, the punishment is swift and brutal.

No whammy, no whammy.

In warm Rhode Island, where, don‘t you hate it when you‘re in the line for the lottery ticket, and some guy comes crashing through the front of the store in the SUV?  Hey, man, I‘m buying Lotto here.  No one hurt in the incident.  The teenager behind the wheel said his brakes simply didn‘t work.  Officials say, though, if he‘s not telling the truth about that, he will be on a Japanese game show by the end of the week.  No whammy, no whammy.

Was is the Japanese crotch-kicking machine that set Mel Gibson off? 

If not, what chain of events could have driven him over the edge?  Exclusive details tonight in COUNTDOWN‘s Mel Gibson Backstory Puppet Theater.

What‘s the backstory on military readiness?  The president says there is no crisis we cannot handle.  The military says there is no reserve army combat brigade team ready to deploy.  Oops.

Details ahead.

But first, time now for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Aaron Ray Holland of Arkata, California.  He might have gotten away with using stolen ATM cards if he hadn‘t gone up to the ATM or stopped to refill the tank in the getaway car, while still wearing his disguise, which was a clown mask.

Number two, Chuck Norris, the action star, just moved up a notch in the action star rankings after this Mel Gibson stuff.  He may get a bridge named after him in Hungary.  They made the mistake, the Hungarians did, of turning the naming of the new structure over to Internet voting.  Chuck Norris Bridge has 11 percent of the vote.  A Hungarian comedian is second.

Number one, Robert Hibbs and Bradley Beauville of Denver, two guys in their late teens who were stopping people at a bridge in a park there, claiming they were the bridge trolls, shouting “None shall pass,” and demanding a dollar from anybody who wanted to cross their bridge.  When they threatened a policeman with a golf club, they were arrested, which is when they admitted taking LSD and watching the bridge scene from the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” over and over again, to say nothing of the Black Knight.

None shall pass!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You have to be 50 years old to have even a vague memory of life in Cuba before Fidel Castro.  You have to go back eight presidents even to get to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, you have to wonder what the truth is tonight in Havana about Castro‘s health.  For the first time in 47 years, Castro ceded power to his brother after an operation to repair a “sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding,” that according to a statement read by Castro‘s secretary last night.  Oddly the same letter said Castro‘s health had been ruined by recent trips he‘s made to Eastern Cuba and Argentina.  But in a statement tonight Castro is now said to say his health is stable and he is in good spirits.

Castro, temporarily, handing over the reins of power to Raul Castro, now the acting president.  The state department confident that Castro is not dead believes this could be a test to see how Cubans would respond to a transition of leadership, which of course, is inevitable. 

And amid celebrations of—by Cuban exiles in Miami, the speaker of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, saying that Castro‘s “final moment is still very far away.” 

But Castro‘s condition and the speculation about it sounds like almost like an amusing sidebar when framed against other hotspots around the world demanding the United States attention and its resources.  And the evident disconnect between our military‘s capability and the president‘s view of that ability growing larger still.  Yesterday Mr. Bush sounded a familiar drumbeat with regard to Iran and later off that topic he insisted our country‘s military capacity was not stretched thin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think your viewers ought to focus on the fact that the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution about Iran and the world is coming together and making it clear that—to the Iranians that their ambitions—their nuclear weapons ambitions are just not acceptable. 

We‘ve got a—we‘re a very strong military and we can deal with any threat that—to the homeland there is and will, if we have to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Part one of that, the leader of Iran made clear today he is not operating from the same playbook.  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the U.N. Security Council resolution and said “If some think they can still speak with threatening language to the Iranian nation, they must know that they are badly mistaken.” 

As for the issue of U.S. military capability, part two of the president‘s statement, the president running headlong into contrary evidence, much of it from the military, 2/3 of the Army‘s operating force now reporting not ready for action, according to the National Security Advisory Group, which is a former—a group of former military figures and diplomats with democratic connections or how had served in democratic administrations in the past.  But none of that is the least of it.  Of the non-deployed Army brigade combat teams, none are ready, according to that same panel.  The bottom line, the nation is not prepared or is not prepared for further military action if the need were to arise in Iran, North Korea, Lebanon, or anywhere else.  And the basic thrust of the advisory group‘s findings should not be new to the president. 

A week ago today, the ranking democrat of the House Armed Services Committee sent Mr. Bush a letter highlighting testimony from the Army chief of staff, General Peter Schumacher, he said, and testified that the army needs $17 billion just to reset equipment consumed in the Iraq are what.  Today the National Guard joined that monetary plea.  Its chief, Lieutenant General Steven Blum, saying the National Guard needs $21 billion to meet its basic equipment needs. 

As for the bottomless pit that is so taxing our military readiness, Iraq, some key democratic leaders moving one step closer to a unified voice.  Twelve of the democrats have called on the president to begin troop withdrawals by the end of the year, with objective of transitioning to a more limited mission there.  Lead by the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, the letter to the president was signed by both liberals and centrists in the party.  The have had their fair share of differences on Iraq internally, but the request includes no specifics about the number of troops to be withdrawn nor how rapidly they should be returned to the country. 

Quoting, “In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment is Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained.”

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

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Although the president‘s remarks about the military were not about Iran, nor Iraq, but in fact about Venezuela, he did pointedly say we can deal with any threat.  Does he really think that‘s true?  Do his advisers think it‘s true? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think he thinks it‘s true.  And I think the closer you get to the Oval Office, the more they agree with him whether it‘s Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  And it‘s true, we have the biggest and I might say, bravest fighting force in the world, but the farther away you get for the Oval, if you talk to military people in and out of the Pentagon, if you talk to experts on Capitol Hill, you get a different story.  A lot of it has to do with money, Keith, because, a few things are going on. 

First of all, the weapons that we have in Iraq get degraded very, very quickly because of the horrible conditions there.  Second, you‘ve got reservists who are a very important part of the military, doing all kinds of other things other than direct military activities.  You‘ve got grunts in the Army who are doing jobs that they‘re not really trained for in terms of counterinsurgency, and you‘ve more and more trouble getting new people into the military.  They have to offer bigger and incentives for what‘s rapidly becoming a sort of mercenary force.  So a lot of money is required here, and it isn‘t all there. 

In terms of brigade readiness, I‘m told that it‘s true that a lot of the brigades aren‘t 100 percent up to snuff.  In an emergency they can be sent, at 90 percent of equipment and training.  But 90 percent isn‘t what the Army itself wants. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a vintage quote that seems to be apropos here. 

Let me read this.

“To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that‘s no criticism of the military.  That is criticism of the president and vice president and their record of neglect.” 

Mr. Bush said that in 2000 as a candidate, blasting his predecessors and Mr. Gore.  Now you‘ve democrats who are pushing for emergency funding for the military.  Isn‘t the president either going to have to support them on that and/or contradict the statement that he made six years ago during the campaign? 

FINEMAN:  Well a couple of things, the democrats want more votes because they want to put the issue of the cost of the war in Iraq, specifically, in front of the American people.  Where as there‘s a plan, I understand, and inside the administration to fold that money into other kind of spending requests for the military. 

But in terms what the president said when he was a candidate, you‘re right to bring it up, because they‘ve tried from the beginning in Iraq and elsewhere to do things in what they regard as an efficient way.  But rather than result in efficiency, it‘s resulted in tremendous expenditures that they claimed they didn‘t expect, and that we haven‘t budgeted for and that‘s what stretched things so thin.  I‘m told Donald Rumsfeld who was trained during the Vietnam era, you know, watched the army swallowed whole by Vietnam vowed not to let that happen with regard to Iraq.  But we‘ve spent probably $300, $400 billion there already, with no end in site.  And so his thinking has been turned on its head by circumstance.

OLBERMANN:  I have to admit, I‘m entirely stumped on the political end of this.  To what base or interest group might the president be playing when he insists there‘s no stretching?  To—who needs to hear that message, whether it‘s true or not? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think his base wants to know that they know what they‘re doing.  And the other thing is, if you‘re commander in chief of the United States of America, looking at hot spots around the world, you‘re going to say, and there‘s a lot of truth to it, that we can handle anything, anywhere.  But the fact is, if you dig beneath the surface, there‘s a lot of change that needs to happen, a lot more spending that needs to happen—a lot of renovation of equipment.  I‘m told it‘s going to cost like, $65 billion over four or five years to repair and replace the equipment—just the equipment that‘s been used in Iraq, and that isn‘t by any means all the equipment we have. 

So, you know, this is more than we bargained for.  There‘s no question about it.  And the president is going have to deal with it.  That‘s what the democrats are going to try to put forward now in the next couple months as they head into the midterm elections. 

OLBERMANN:  Anywhere in the world, join me on the theoretical road here, Howard.  What does Mr. Bush do, what does the military do if Castro, in fact, is not recovering, if there‘s some kind of power play in Cuba, or there‘s a mass exodus from Cuba or people from this people decide to go back to Cuba and try to make a mass exodus or a power play, what happens then? 

FINEMAN:  Well, you have a very good point.  I mean, I facetiously suggest you could send in those guys from the 2000 Bush-Gore race who, you know, attacked the Miami-Dade, you know, county clerk‘s office.  But, you know, I think you raise a good point, whether it‘s Cuba, whether it‘s North Korea, whether it‘s Iran and Syria, on the northern border, you know, of Iraq.  You know, there are lots of places we‘re going to have to watch what‘s going on. 

OLBERMANN:  And within our own hemisphere and who knows if there‘s another hurricane ever, maybe in our own country. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s true. 

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Where were you on this day 25 years ago?  Were you on this day 25 years ago?  If you were in front of the TV watching the debut of MTV you were one of the few.  It was innovative, it chanted music and it made itself obsolete. 

And from a big societal impact, to none whatsoever.  The first reviews are in for Bill O‘Reilly‘s new book.  Whenever a reviewer uses the words “kvetching” and “paranoia” the author could be in trouble.  Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bits” of this date.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president had his physical today.  He‘s still healthier than we are.  He put on—I think he put on five pounds, he‘s up to 196.  He does in fact attribute it to an excess of birthday cakes. 

BUSH:  Probably too many birthday cakes. 

JAY LENO, “TONIGHT SHOW”:  And ‘80s icon, Boy George—remember Boy George?  Well, as part of his drug possession conviction, he‘s been sentenced to community service.  He‘s been ordered to pick up trash in the park.  Don‘t confuse that with George Michael who does that for recreation, that‘s totally different. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bexar County constables are out here on the streets for the first time with tasers. 

(voice-over):  Chief John Hidrick (ph) is using that taser same on his own staff. 

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not as bad as they thought.  It‘s much worse. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is much more than a right of passage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That was longer than a second.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  World altering events.  MTV, 25 years later.  And Mel Gibson and the drunken tirade, before the mug shot, before the arrest, Mel Gibson back-story puppet theater was there to conical what lead to his self-immolation (ph).  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It turns out video did not kill the radio star, it killed video.  Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, on this, the exact 25th birthday of what was once called Music Television or MTV, how is the occasion being celebrated?  It isn‘t.  That network is afraid of afraid interrupt back-to-back episodes of “My Super Sweet 16” and offend its core audience of 12 to 18-year-olds who don‘t know who Martha Quinn was and think of music videos as something you might download. 

So we will celebrate in MTV‘s stead with a report from Mike Jensen from 1984, the year the changed turned from hemorrhaging cash to changing an industry.  A report just as it aired on September 14, 1984 edition of “NBC Nightly News.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE JENSEN, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” (voice-over):  In just three years music videos have dramatically altered the entertainment scene.  The videos have helped revive a sagging record industry and have propelled an entire new wave of performers into the spotlight. 

Cyndi Lauper owes her success almost entirely to Music Television, MTV, around-the-clock cable television channel with video jockeys and 22 million subscribers.  The unusually visual techniques used in the videos, as well as the clothing worn by the performers and their hairstyles, have had an enormous affect on the youngsters who watch MTV and on the industries that cater to them. 

DAVID HOROWITZ, MTV PRESIDENT:  The music business has changed, the movie business has changed, the advertising business has changed.  We‘ve had an impact on fashion. 

JENSEN (on camera):  And all this has meant money in the bank for MTV.  After losing $34 million in 2-1/2 years, MTV has made more than $8 million in profits so far this year.  And with that kind of money being made, completion is on the way. 

(voice-over):  Turner Broadcasting, for one, says it‘s going to start a music channel.  Some commercial stations say they‘ll do the same.  MTV says it will counterattack by featuring performers like Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross on a second music channel of its own for older folks. 

Meantime, MTV is holding an awards ceremony tonight at Radio City Music Hall, where the favorites are Cyndi Lauper Michael Jackson. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Mike Jensen reporting from “Nightly News” on September 14, 1984.  That older station turned out to be called VH1.  It‘s still older sister network, VH1 classics, is paying tribute to MTV‘s 25th by running 24 hours worth of the old videos from day one, some of them featuring Captain Lou Albano. 

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

STEWIE GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY” BABY:  Oh, “Keeping Tabs,” wonderful.  Look dog, dog, look, more stories about Don Johnson and the new Christy mistrials (ph). 

BRIAN GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY” DOG:  You never hear him talk about “Family Guy.” 

S. GRIFFIN:  You‘re right.  Why to duce doesn‘t he just do more stories about that bastard Bill O‘Reilly?

PETER GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY” FATHER:  What‘s “Family Guy?” 

(END AUDIOTAPE))

OLBERMANN:  And Stewie gets his wish.  Bill O‘Reilly‘s latest book has gotten its first review and if more raspberries could be included in 200 words, it‘s hard to imagine how.  The prestigious book industry medium, “Publishers Weekly” has reviewed “Culture Warrior,” publication of which is threatened on September 25.  Describing it as his latest screed, the reviewer concludes, “Too often he feuds with personal enemies like smear merchant Al Franken, Hollywood liberals, press critics, and unnamed black-hearted website.  As a result, his populist”—populist—I lost my place here—“swagger subsides into kvetching and paranoia.  Secular progressive powerbrokers will command their forces to attack me in every way possible.  More resentful and self-pitying than feisty, O‘Reilly may be suffering from battle fatigue.” 

The book was mysteriously reviewed in non-fiction.  And unlike O‘Reilly‘s 2002 novel, the rights will not be purchased by—oh, Mel Gibson.  That‘s a coincidence.

More news of crap tonight from Madonna, just in time to promote her new world tour.  We got confirmation from her spokesperson that Madonna does indeed make an unusual request regarding her dressing rooms every night she is on tower tore.  The singer must get a brand new toilet seat inspected beforehand by her minions and installed with an unbroken seal.  Each toilet seat gets destroyed after its one special night, like a virgin toilet, flushed for the very first time. 

And lastly here, more good news about the nation‘s top sports reporter, Peter Gammons from a posting on a blog run by former Stats Inc.  and ESPN deep baseball thinker, David Pinto. 

“A friend of mine,” he writes, “bumped into Peter Gammons at the hospital today.”  The quote from the friend, “He looks great.  Lost some weight but otherwise, indistinguishable from his old self.”  Pinto continued, “I gave the friend a call and he says Peter was walking on his own and they had a short conversation and Gammon sounded like his old self.”

The baseball authority underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm on June 27 and had been most recently undergoing rehabilitation at a clinic near his home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Good for Peter Gammons, good news ahead for puppet theater viewers.  Peter being one of them.  It would seem hard to top the truth in the Mel Gibson story, but we‘ll try. 

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze shared by three doctors in India.  Caught by an investigative TV reporter, offering to improve the pity factor for local beggars by amputating a leg, cutting off some fingers, even inducing gangrene. 

Our runner up, Michael Ruffalo of Rochester, New York, accused by his employers, Lancope Software of bilking them.  Shortly after he took the job with them, he asked for a leave paid—leave of absence paid because his 3-year-old son had developed cancer.  Lancope says it discovered there was no cancer when an executive tried to send flowers.  The boy was fine.  Bonus points here, though, Mr. Ruffalo‘ previous employers EncryptX Email Security said he did the same thing to them and to his son in 2005. 

But you on winner tonight, comedian Rush Limbaugh, suggesting that civilian deaths in Lebanon are necessary to stop terror.  “Until those civilians start paying the price for propping up these regimes, it not going to end, folks.”  It would be a little less alarming if didn‘t echo something another commentator said nine years ago.  “The American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility because they chose this government and voted for it, despite their knowledge of its crimes.”  That was said by Osama bin Laden. 

Rush Limbaugh, following the logic and ethics of Osama bin Laden, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is not often that one news story can provide you with so much material, celebrity, Tequila, arrest, sexual harassment, anti-Semitism, a hint of insanity even.  So let‘s end where we began tonight.  Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, Mel Gibson‘s meltdown. 

In a moment, comedian Jeffrey Ross on just how many jokes Mel Gibson‘s going to be the brunt of for the next several Millennia.  First, the reality that Gibson is no stranger to bad behave on the road.  Not only has he been busted for drunk driving in Canada and stopped, thought not arrested in California, twice before last weekend.  But we have actual footage of him driving people off the road in Australia and running down L.A.  freeways, shooting at people, even chasing cartoon characters down the road in South Park, Colorado. 

Of course, none of that archival material reveals the true extent of what must have pushed him over the edge.  What kind of events could have unleashed those demons inside.  It‘s theory, only theory, but it meshes perfectly with our new form of journalism.  “Mel Gibson, Back Story Puppet Theater.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEL GIBSON, PUPPET:  No!

And that‘s the damn scene they remember. 

Where are my fries?  Where are my damn curly fries?  Pesci was right, they do always get you at the drive-thru. 

JESUS, PUPPET:  Mel, hi.  My name‘s Jesus.  I saw your movie.  You know nothing of my work, you mean my whole philosophy is wrong.  How you ever got to direct a movie about anything is totally amazing. 

GIBSON:  You can take our licenses, but you‘ll never take your freedom! You.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Where better to turn for some true perspective on the entire sordid story than to comedian and expert at celebrity roasting, Jeffrey Ross. 

Thank you for joining us, sir. 

JEFFREY ROSS, COMEDIAN:  My pleasure, Keith.  This was a big day for comedians. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed, how long will it be a big day for comedians?  How long do you think this one‘s going to last? 

ROSS:  I think the Jewish comedians of the world will bombard Mel Gibson for 18 days with jokes, then will take a 48 cease-fire then go after him another 18 days. 

OLBERMANN:  The apology—it referred to his behavior as a moment of insanity, refers to a world that seems to have gone mad.  Is there an admission in there that he‘s really losing it or did he just watch his own version of “Hamlet” too many times? 

ROSS:  I think he‘s taking his apology seriously, which is nice.  He‘s offered to be circumcised as a Jew, which I think is great.  It‘s a step in the right direction.  I think it should be done from the neck up.  I think his actions have been despicable.  It‘ll take a while for Jews to really forgive him on this one, Keith.  At least the comic, anyway.

OLBERMANN:  After—well, but you know, Jackie Mason was on at the start of the problem and said that you can‘t take seriously things peoples what they‘re drunk.  Is there going to be, to some degree, a pass given to him, because he was, you know, nearly in—his blood alcohol content was not exactly in the flammable range, but he seemed to be pretty close. 

ROSS:  And irony is the police report said he was drinking Manischewitz.

(LAUGHTER)

You know.  I think Mel clearly has some problems, I think it‘s hard not to root for him to get better.  I always loved his movies.  You know, and “Passion of the Christ”—you know, I‘m Jewish, I‘m proud of that.  I‘m not that religious, I go to temple like twice a year, Christmas and Easter.  You know, as a proud Jew, I think events like this make me more proud as Jew, and I don‘t know I think we‘re all pretty mad at Mel Gibson right now.  I think he needs to distance himself from the things he said and also, maybe from the thing his father said.  Many years ago he said that his father denied the holocaust.  I think we should—if Mel‘s going to deny anything, it should be “The Mirror has two Faces” or whatever that crappy movie was. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  The thing about going to appear on Yom Kippur at this synagogue in L.A.  and this idea, you know, reconciling himself with the Jewish community, through the auspices of the Jewish community, is that the right thing to do in terms of rehabbing, or you know, should he just go out in public and tell the aristocrats joke again or something? 

(LAUGHTER)

ROSS:  I think he should start by offering to fix the Wailing Wall.  I think his new movie should be “Passion of the Moses.”  I think he should ingratiate himself even more to the Jewish community.  He‘s doing some right things.  He‘s even offered to be shavaskoy (ph) Steve Spielberg‘s seder. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Oh.  Nowhere to go from there.  The comedian Jeffrey Ross, better known, perhaps, as the roast master general and you‘re just looking at the formation of his new act.  Great thanks...

ROSS:  I love this.  I love this stuff.  I read “Us Weekly” daily. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, the material is almost handed to you.  You should be spending more money, we feel that way every night.  That‘s COUNTDOWN, thank you much, Jeffrey. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,188th day since the declaration 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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