updated 9/6/2006 11:44:39 AM ET 2006-09-06T15:44:39

Guests: Howard Fineman, Thomas Kean Jr., Ron Magill, Michael Musto

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

The president amps up the rhetoric.  At a time when the administration and others are attacking the media, what do you suppose this means?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Bin Laden says that al Qaeda intends to launch, in his words, a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Linking al Qaeda media to American media?

And there were more Nazis in this one, too.  A special comment on Mr.

Bush‘s speech.

Plus, deconstructing the nuts and bolts of what he‘s actually claiming about the terrorists.

And the Republican senatorial candidate who has asked Secretary Rumsfeld to resign.

The aftermath of the death of the Crocodile Hunter.  There is video of Steve Irwin‘s last moments alive.  Should we see it?

Should any of us be forced to see this?  Pop Warner football, 36-year-old man, 13-year-old victim.

And the three big debuts.

Katie Couric wants you to view the CBS “Evening News” as the coffeehouse on the corner where something‘s always brewing.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes apparently want you to view SuriSquach .

And Rosie O‘Donnell wants you to view her taking a bath with her children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL:  So Vivie always looks at me and says, When am I getting my fur?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On behalf of mankind, ewwwww.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Tuesday, September 5, 63 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And the president apparently chose not to mention it, but, as he took to a podium before the Military Officers Association of America to brand his critics as the equivalent of Nazi appeasers, to link the very word “media” to al Qaeda, and to vow he would not allow any retrenchment in the so-called war on terror, ABC News was reporting that the government of Pakistan had just cut a peace deal with violent tribal groups allied with al Qaeda and the Taliban, groups which control the area in which Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, while the president was insisting on eternal vigilance, his allies were reportedly agreeing to a treaty so generous that if bin Laden turned himself in tomorrow, they would send him home, as long as he promised to live like a good citizen.

My special comment on Mr. Bush‘s speech in a moment.

First. parts of that speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  These radicals have declared their uncompromising hostility to freedom.  It is foolish to think that you can negotiate with them.

Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them.  The question is, will we listen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  While the insult to honest opposition was not new, Mr.  Bush‘s choice of experts to quote about Iraq was.  Repeatedly, he used not his own arguments but the words of bin Laden.  And it is a rare thing for him even to mention bin Laden, to make the case that Iraq is central to combating terror and a linchpin of al Qaeda‘s hopes for creating a vast region ruled by its version of Islam.  The president‘s response?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  In the long run, the only way to secure our nation is to change the course of the Middle East.  And so America has committed its influence in the world to advancing freedom and liberty and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek,” Howard Fineman joins us now from Washington.

Howard, good evening.

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

Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This ABC report about a Pakistani deal, that it‘s pulling its military out of the area where bin Laden is hiding in exchange for the promise that the tribal warriors will not attack the Pakistani troops any more, did that just take the air out of what the president was saying today, if not his entire credibility on this point?

FINEMAN:  Well, if true, it‘s remarkable and punctures a big hole in the president‘s claim to be dead set against supporting or being allied with any country that harbors terrorists, because Pakistan would be doing just that if this report is correct, not only harboring but making life comfortable for.

And that runs straight into the heart of George Bush‘s theory about taking the offense.  He‘s been saying we‘ve got to fight them there so we don‘t have to fight them here.  The Pakistani government would basically say, Well, you fight ‘em, we‘re not.

OLBERMANN:  Unless ABC butchered the story outright, what happens politically in Washington tomorrow as a result of that story?  Even if there are details or nuances that ABC missed, what do the Democrats do, and what do the hard-line Republicans do?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think what the Democrats have to try to do is to say, Look, Mr. President, we don‘t disagree with you that these are evil people.  We agree wholeheartedly.  Our problem is that you‘ve screwed up the war against them.

I think for George Bush to go time after time after time, including today, to the argument that we‘re facing nasty people is just the beginning of the—should be just the beginning of the discussion, not the end of it.  That‘s the point the Democrats have to make.

And I think what you‘re seeing from Republicans increasingly, whether it‘s open questions from Senator John Warner of Virginia, or some of the candidates who are now saying they want—the Republican candidate saying they want Don Rumsfeld to quit, is that people are questioning not the theory but the practice of the war.

And I think you‘re going to hear more Republicans doing that in the weeks ahead, especially as they face a tough election season.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s also this issue of terminology.  I‘m going to go into this in depth in a moment.  But this drumbeat about Nazis and appeasers, it seems as if each time we have heard this, dating back to Mr.  Rumsfeld last week, the rhetoric has been increased by about 10 percent each time.  How risky is that for the president, how risky is that for the administration?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think what the president and Karl Rove are doing is trying to draw the Democrats into the wrong fight for the Democrats.  As I said, the issue is not whether we‘re facing evil.  The question is whether we are competently, shrewdly, and smartly defeating it.

And that has to be the Democrats‘ argument.  Obviously, the Republicans and George Bush are saying, If you‘re not supporting the administration, you‘re somehow supporting the terrorists.  That‘s the simple equation that Karl Rove, who‘s a past master of this, is trying to draw the Democrats into.

This is the direct-mail theory of politics that Rove has practiced ever since he started three or four decades ago.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, it‘s a little off point here, but discussing the subject of Iraq in an interview with “Essence” magazine.  Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, quoted as saying today, “I‘m sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end.  I know there were people who said, Why don‘t we get out of those now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?”

Unlike some of her colleagues, she hit the nail on the historical head there.  The Democrats were ready to make peace in 1864 until General Sherman took Atlanta.  But does that analogy ring at all with anybody who does not own the complete Ken Burns collection?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think so.  I think they‘re just adding to the laundry list of names to call people who oppose their policy.  That‘s what this fall campaign is going to be about, framing the thing based on name calling.  And it‘s beginning from the president on down.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, Howard, great thanks for your insight.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush‘s premise that al Qaeda is bad and wants to do bad things is not disputed by Democrats.  What is in dispute are Mr. Bush‘s conclusions, that the only way the U.S. should fight al Qaeda‘s methodology is by ensuring global democracy, that Iraqi democracy is therefore the one thing standing between us and al Qaeda.  Are these valid conclusions?

Juliette Kayyem is an terrorist analyst for MSNBC, lectures on national security at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government.

Thanks again for your time, Juliette.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Before we fact-check some of the president‘s speech, this ABC report tonight, let me go back to this, Pakistan cutting a deal with the tribes who control the area in which bin Laden may be hiding.  I mean, if there‘s a war on terror and we‘re fighting one, did we not just punt?

KAYYEM:  Yes, we lost a big one if we lost Pakistan.  If this story‘s true, it undermines the president‘s speech, because if you actually read the report that was released today, one of the four main tenets is, you can‘t have safe harbors for members of al Qaeda or terrorist organizations.

And at least one of those four has now seemed to be put to the test by Pakistan.  So it‘s Pakistan‘s version of don‘t ask, don‘t tell.  If bin Laden doesn‘t bother them, they won‘t bother bin Laden.

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s go through some of these statements. 

We‘ll start with one about al Qaeda.

KAYYEM:  Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  These evil men know that a fundamental threat to their aspirations is a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Juliette, can you turn that on its head?  If that kind of Iraq emerges, does the al Qaeda threat go away?  Is that what the president‘s saying?

KAYYEM:  I think he‘s trying to say that.  One problem with the statement is, it seems so far from reality at this stage, it‘s hard to debate.  But let‘s assume that he‘s right.

It is misleading to think that al Qaeda only cares—only is hostile to democracy.  If that were true, it wouldn‘t have had attacks in Saudi Arabia or Jordan.  Those are monarchies.  Or, say, Pakistan or Egypt, military dictatorships.

They hate all forms of government that are not Islamic fundamentalist governments.  And until we can separate democracy from the threat that they pose to us and the world over, the administration is sort of blinded by this democracy mantra.

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s take two other statements from this.  I saw a disconnect here.  The first one on the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  As al Qaeda changes, the broader terrorist movement is also changing, becoming more dispersed and self-directed.  More and more we‘re facing threats from locally established terrorist cells that are inspired by al Qaeda‘s ideology and goals but do not necessarily have direct links to al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He also, though, acknowledged that even free societies breed terrorists.  Let‘s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The lack of freedom in that region helped create conditions where anger and resentment grew and radicalism thrived.  And terrorists found willing recruits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Does that not again essentially refute the principal part of Mr. Bush‘s argument that democracy is the only antidote to terrorism?

KAYYEM:  Right.  I mean, they are inconsistent statements.  And basically, this is sort of a sin of omission now with this speech, which is sort of not taking into account how the war in Iraq has altered the terrorist threat throughout the world, it‘s simply radicalized elements throughout the world, not simply in the Middle East, but, as we know, in Britain and Spain and even in Germany, that are targeting their own citizens.

And something important to remember here is how the threat has changed, and it‘s changed in democratic societies too.  It is five years since September 11.  The men who are being accused are 22, they‘re 20 years old.  They were 15 on September 11.  They weren‘t even born during the war in Afghanistan.

So this is a generational shift.  And a lot of it is sort of a reaction to the war in Iraq at this stage.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, Juliette, you had an analysis of this for us about the speech and suggested there was a fatal flaw in the categorization of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran.  What‘s the problem with that?

KAYYEM:  It‘s so sweeping as to be unhelpful.  I mean, in many respects, I mean, if you link Hezbollah, if you link al Qaeda, and then you link Iran and now North Korea, the assumption is that they‘re all part of the war on terror and terrorism.  And that‘s the wrong assumption at this stage.

One, because war isn‘t going to fix everything.  We know that.  We have to get into discussions with Iran.  We don‘t have a military option there.  Nor, likely, do we have one in North Korea.

But secondly, they are different threats.  And there are different ways to deal with them.  And the president‘s speech today just simply lumped them all together.

Look, I mean, what we know is this.  If there is a democratic Iraq at this stage, it is going to be a puppet of Iran.  We know that.  If they were allowed to vote at this stage, it would be a Shi‘a majority government.

We don‘t want that any more than I think, you know, than, than Iran does want it.  And so we have to not sort of throw out words and this words gamemanship, like Islamic fascism, as if they mean anything.  They don‘t.  These are different problems, and they have to be dealt with with different tools.

The war analogy, as I‘ve said before on this show, is long over.

OLBERMANN:  Juliette Kayyem of MSNBC and Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government.  As always, Juliette, great thanks.

KAYYEM:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And now a special comment about the president‘s speech today.

It is to our deep national shame, and ultimately it will be to the president‘s deep public regret, that he has followed his secretary of defense down the path of trying to tie those loyal Americans who disagree with his policies, or even question their effectiveness or execution, to the Nazis of the past and the al Qaeda of the present.

Today, in the same subtle terms in which Mr. Bush and his colleagues muddied the clear line separating Iraq and 9/11 without ever actually saying so, the president quoted a purported Osama bin Laden letter that spoke of launching, quote, “a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government.”

Make no mistake here.  The intent of that is to get us to confuse the psychotic scheming of an international terrorist with that familiar bogeyman of the far right, the, quote, “media,” unquote.

The president and the vice president and others have often attacked freedom of speech and freedom of dissent and freedom of the press.  Now, Mr. Bush has signaled that his unparalleled and unprincipled attack on reporting has a new and venomous side angle, the attempt to link, by the simple expediency of one word, “media,” the honest, patriotic, indeed vital questions and questioning from American reporters with the evil of al Qaeda propaganda.

That linkage is more than just indefensible.  It is un-American.

Mr. Bush and his colleagues have led us before to such waters.  We will not drink again.

And the president‘s rewriting and sanitizing of history, so it fits the expediencies of domestic politics today, is just as false and just as scurrilous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  A failed Austrian painter published a book in which he explained his intention to build an Aryan superstate in Germany, take revenge on Europe, and eradicate the Jews.  The world ignored Hitler‘s words, and paid a terrible price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Whatever the true nature of al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats, to ceaselessly compare them to the Nazi state of Germany serves only to embolden them.

Moreover, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing, in part, what Osama bin Laden and others seek, a fearful American populace, easily manipulated and willing to throw away any measure or restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

It thus becomes necessary to remind the president that his administration‘s recent Nazi kick is an awful and a cynical thing.  And it becomes necessary to reach back into our history for yet another quote from yet another time, and to ask it of Mr. Bush.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Also tonight, renewed calls for the secretary of defense to step down from his post, not from Democrats, not from retired generals, but from Republicans.  The latest GOP contender to call on him to quit, Thomas Kean, Jr., of New Jersey, in the Senate race joins us next.

And the death of Steve Irwin taking another grisly turn.  It was not only caught on camera, but that videotape could be coming soon to a television near you.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  First, perhaps, it was Steven Laffey, the man challenging Lincoln Chafee in the Republican senatorial primary in Rhode Island.  He said we need a new secretary of defense.  Then came the change of heart from the moderate Republican congressman from Connecticut, Chris Shays, saying we need a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, now it is a strongly worded six-paragraph call for Mr. Rumsfeld to resign by the Republican nominee for the Senate from New Jersey, who just happens to be the son of the Republican co-chair of the 9/11 commission.  New Jersey State Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr., made his position known over the weekend.

As he challenges the Democrat incumbent, Robert Menendez, he also challenges Secretary Rumsfeld‘s continuing stewardship of the Pentagon, saying it is time for a, quote, “fresh approach to a tired, faulty, and stalled policy.”

Senator Kean joins us now here in the studio.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

STATE SEN. THOMAS H. KEAN ®, NEW JERSEY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s great to be with you.  Thank you for inviting me.

OLBERMANN:  The White House just released a letter to the Democrats who had called for Mr. Rumsfeld‘s resignation, saying, quote, “Secretary Rumsfeld retains the full confidence of the president.”  The administration seems to have little room for discussion on this point.  Are you in trouble for your comments?

KEAN:  It‘s the right thing to do.  I think Secretary Rumsfeld, especially in his comments last week, where he showed that over the last six years, he has not learned the lessons that he needs to learn about the changing world environment, and comparing anybody who criticizes any aspect of the war on terror, or the war in Iraq, as appeasers, is absolutely wrong.

And I think that he needs to go.

OLBERMANN:  The secretary of defense, like all of the cabinet appointees, serves at the president‘s pleasure.  Is there a reason you chose not to call on the president to dismiss him, rather than calling for a resignation?

KEAN:  Well, I was hoping that the secretary would resign, but clearly think that the president should dismiss him as well.

OLBERMANN:  In your statement about the resignation, let me read this exactly, you call upon congressional leaders of both parties not to make the war in Iraq a political football.  Necessarily, as a politician even of the same party that is in power, is not calling for a cabinet member‘s resignation inevitably a political move?  Is it not necessarily, by definition, that way?

KEAN:  Well, I think that removing Secretary Rumsfeld is the right thing to do.

But what we‘ve seen in this situation is now happening on both sides of the aisle, is a hyperpartisanship.  And we‘re not getting the type of debate about the war in Iraq and war on terror that we need to have that will make sure the American public is well educated into the stakes involved in each of the decisions.  And that‘s why I think we need to focus, and my hope is that we will have policies and personnel in the administration, as well as in Congress, that would be able to have those type of conversations across partisan lines.

This is an incredibly important issue for the future of America, and we need to get leaders in Washington who are able to work across the party lines on the policies that will make our homeland safer.

OLBERMANN:  I‘d like to second you on that.  But here‘s my problem with it.  Mr. Laffey‘s comments in Rhode Island about Mr. Rumsfeld, and Congressman Shay‘s comments in Connecticut about a timetable, and now your comments, this is—I would hope that (INAUDIBLE) kind of frank, My country before my party, talk that we need right now.

But it seems to be the very same kind of talk that the president just criticized again today, and which Mr. Rumsfeld criticized so strongly last week.  Are there—are we not at greater loggerheads than perhaps we know here?

KEAN:  Well, I think we need to have (INAUDIBLE) on both—efforts on both sides of the aisle that would be able to emphasize the importance of the war on terror, making sure that we‘re protecting our troops as they‘re in harm‘s way, that we are focusing on ways that make sure that we have a secure government and a stable borders and the situation in Iraq.

And as we‘re looking at the global situation which we find ourselves with, terrorism is clearly a significant threat.  Nonstate actors are a larger threat than they‘ve ever been in the past.  And we need to focus on those efforts and bring a bipartisan dialogue down to Washington, D.C., and not have the hyperpartisanship.

And my hope is we have a discussion on those types of issues, and not have a situation in which everything is turned into a political football, which does not help the American people.

OLBERMANN:  What do we do about the political football, sir?  Is there anything that we can do now that we are not doing?

KEAN:  Well, I think we need to have leaders on both sides of the aisle willing to work at—across the aisle to focus on those policies that are going to make the American people safer, and making sure that our troops, as they‘re in harm‘s way, are well protected and given the type of equipment that they need to accomplish their mission.

I‘m not convinced that that‘s the type of dialogue that‘s going on in Washington, D.C., right now.  And but one of the things we do need is a change in personnel at the Department of Defense, so that we can have an individual who will bring fresh eyes and fresh ideas to this situation, not only in Iraq, but to Iran, to North Korea, to the emerging global terrorist threat that‘s impacting and will impact this country for decades to come.

We need to focus on making a real difference now.  And the first step is removing Secretary Rumsfeld.

OLBERMANN:  Thomas H. Kean, Jr., Republican candidate for the U.S.  Senate from New Jersey, elaborating here on his call for Mr. Rumsfeld‘s resignation or dismissal.

Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.

KEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also here tonight, a youth football game turning into chaos when a coach exacts revenge on a player called for a late tackle against the coach‘s son.

And news about children of a different variety indeed.  The little guy who could.  Now all he can do is wait before he gains a world record for not being tall.

All ahead as COUNTDOWN continues.

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OLBERMANN:  The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Voelker, turned 79 years old today.  Mr. Voelker‘s certainly our tallest economist, at six-feet-seven inches.  The reason for that, of all statistics, will become apparent in a moment.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Because we begin in India with an update to the story of Kagendra Tapamagar, the 14-year-old Nepalese boy trying to get into the record books as the world‘s shortest man.  The Guinness people have finally gotten back to him, and the word from on high is, Kick the bricks, small change.

Kagendra weighs 10 pounds and is a mere 20 inches tall.  That is a full five inches shorter than the current record holder.  But Guinness says the boy has to be 18 years old to officially hold the title.

It‘s a huge setback—well, maybe a little setback for the guy and his family, who have been parading him around hoping to raise money for his education and health care.  The good news, though, a huge growth spurt seems unlikely.  He will probably take over the title of world‘s shortest man in four years, when he turns 18.

The bad news is, a huge growth spurt seems unlikely.

To El Salvador, where this might just look like another violent political street riot.  In fact, it‘s a joyous event, the big annual Nehapa (ph) Fireball Festival.  Street riots will resume on Thursday, as scheduled.

This is a tradition dating back 10 years, in which young men in masks mark the anniversary of a volcanic eruption by hurling flaming gasoline-soaked ragballs at each other.  I didn‘t know there was a volcano named Molotov.

Luckily, tomorrow is the anniversary of a great flood, so the big hose fight ought to take care of any lingering blazes.  Organizers say the number of serious injuries in this event are less than you would think because you would think everyone involved would be seriously injured but apparently it‘s less. 

Also tonight, memorialized, in his native Australia, now Steve Irwin, though dead, is presenting a controversy worldwide.  There is video of his fatal accident.  Should the public see it? 

And the first woman to officially anchor an evening network newscast solo makes her big debut.  What‘s the deal?  She wore white?  Who are you kidding? 

Those stories ahead but here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.

No. 3, British Prime Minster Tony Blair, an unconfirmed report in a London tabloid reproduces the supposed contents of a memo outlining his farewell tour.  To cover a retirement announcement next May and an exit date July 26.  To be replaced by this guy.

No. 2, Roger Schmiedeskamp of Manning, Iowa.  A bunch of local men have done a spoof of those fundraising calendars in which middle-aged women pose naked discretely hiding behind flowerpots and (INAUDIBLE) and whatnot.  Well, Mr. Schmiedeskamp participated in that calendar as Mr. August, shown otherwise nude in an old school house room in front of a chalkboard behind a desk.  Ordinarily it would just being nauseating, unfortunately Mr.  Schmiedeskamp is the local superintendent of schools.  No word yet on any punishment. 

No. 1, Esa Ruuttunen, noted singer of the Helsinki Opera Company in Finland.  He was bicycling to the opera house when a squirrel ran into his bike and got itself caught in the spokes.  The squirrel now deceased caused the bike to lurch to a stop and sent him, Ruuttunen, flying over the handlebars to break his nose on the pavement and knock himself unconscious.  And what do you call your new act, Mr. Ruuitnen?  The “Aristocrats.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The unlikelihood of the means of his passing transcending even the idea that his fascination with danger made death take him prematurely, crocodile wrestler or accountant, you just don‘t die of a poisonous stingray barb to the heart.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, whether the subject of sadness or anger or the macabre joke, the death of the self-proclaimed crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, still in the news and apparently on tape. 

The British tabloid, the “Daily Star” reporting that because Irwin always told his camera crews to keep rolling even if he were to be killed.  His family is planning on honoring his wish by putting his final footage on television.  Even for a man who made his living broadcasting harrowing footage like when he held his young son in one hand while feeding a croc with the other.  The footage of his death could obviously be disturbing.  According to those who seen that video, Irwin has swimming above the eight-foot-long stingray, a cameraman swimming below, then ray flipped its tail upwards striking Irwin in the heart with an eight-inch-long sharp serrated tail barb.  He apparently managed to pull that barb out before he started to lose consciousness. 

For better understanding of that fatal encounter with a stingray, I‘m joined by Ron Magill, director of communications at the Miami Metro Zoo. 

Mr. Magill, thanks for your time.  Good evening to you. 

RON MAGILL, MIAMI METRO ZOO:  My pleasure Keith, good evening to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start at the end here.  As the British tabloid is reporting here that Irwin told his family that he wanted all footage of his exploits to be shown.  Is that a good enough reason to broadcast the moment of his death? 

MAGILL:  You know, I don‘t think so.  I think that footage should certainly be made available to marine biologists, zoologists, related experts, so they can look at what happened, because this behavior, is such an aberrant—aberration for a stingray.  But to show it to the general public, I think it just serves a morbid curiosity.  And I don‘t know—you know, I think about his children, I think about his wife and apparently they‘re the ones making this decision, but I don‘t know if it‘s being made with a clear head, I really don‘t. 

OLBERMANN:  I think that‘s a great point.  The other kind of non-rubbernecking part of this story.  Stingray tourism, if you will, as you mentioned, the conduct of stingrays here, it‘s big business in places like the Caymans.  People get to, in fact, pet giant wild stingrays.  There‘s the famous or infamous videotape of Al Rockier getting into the water with stingrays in the ‘90s.  Given what happened to Steve Irwin, is that kind of tourism potentially extremely dangerous or are those rays someway altered? 

MAGILL:  You know, I don‘t think those rays are altered.  I think what was altered was this behavior.  And I think that‘s why this video needs to be made available to experts so they can see what happened here.  Because you‘re getting a lot of different stories, until the experts actually see it, you won‘t be able to tell. 

That being said, I‘ve gone swimming with stingrays, I‘ve seen—you know, there are close to 100 species of stingrays and to paint this with a broad brush, I think, is very dangerous.  These animals are not aggressive, they‘re not malicious.  Zoos across the country have stingray touch tanks, you know, you can go places where kids can touch the stingrays on the top.  I‘m certain people are going to go into a panic now.  And I think the last thing Steve would have wanted is for the stingray to be maligned as some kind of malicious monster that everybody now has to be totally frightened of. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so how rare is this? 

MAGILL:  Steve—it is so unbelievably rare that to me it was like—

I thought I was hearing something totally incorrectly when I heard of his death.  I assumed, you know, it was a crocodile or maybe a terribly venomous snake or something.  To hear a stingray, I said, what could have happened?  And then for it to go into the heart, it is so incredibly rare that I‘ve never heard of a more rare incident involving animals in my life. 

This is something—I‘ve had friends that have been hit by stingrays.  It is excruciatingly painful, you know, it‘ll lay you up for a couple of days, but it‘s by no means fatal.  And people think about well, this was fatal because of the venom.  I come to think that it might not have had anything to do with the venom.  I mean, you an eight-inch barb going directly into your heart, you know, you stab somebody with a common knife in the heart and it usually is fatal. 

OLBERMANN:  And do you subscribe at all to the theory that his manager has put out that he had pulled the barb out of his chest before he died and possibly that did more damage, that leaving the barb in might have allowed rescue to get to him in time? 

MAGILL:  You know, I couldn‘t tell you.  I really couldn‘t Keith, I‘m

not a doctor.  I don‘t know what happened to his heart.  That is something,

I think, is going have to be determined during the autopsy.  He might have

been thinking of the venom.  It‘s such a speculative situation.  It‘s just

the only thing I can say about it is how tragic and how unbelievably amazingly rare this is.  This is such an aberration, there are no words really to describe it. 

OLBERMANN:  Ron McGill, herpetologist and director of communications at Miami Metro Zoo.  Great thanks for joining us under the circumstances, sir. 

MAGILL:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of disturbing and violent footage caught on tape, a football coach facing child abuse charges now after he body slammed a teenager from a rival team. 

And hundreds of millions saw this live or on tape.  Tonight, finally the explanation.  It was not “yo ma” it was “yo” somebody else?  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our long national wait is over.  The debut of Katie, the debut of Rosie, and unexpectedly perhaps, the debut of little Suri.  Such a harmonic convergence of bows necessitates the presence of Michael Musto.  He‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is a good argument for putting any adults who want to participate in or attend youth sports in this country on leashes or tethers of some sort.  Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, 36-year-old assistant coach attacking 13-year-old player.  Since even nonviolent sports parents bring video cameras it is all on tape and it is reported for us by our correspondent, Rich Ibarra of the affiliate, KCRA in Sacramento. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUDY GARRIDO, STOCKTON BEARS COACH:  Once you seen him hit charge and him like that from the back of the head, I mean.

RICH IBARRA, KCRA REPORTER (voice-over):  Stockton Bears coach, Rudy Garrido shows how the assistant coach from the opposing team put the hurt on one of his players, rushing out to hit the player from behind and knocking him to the ground. 

GARRIDO:  For a parent/coach to attack one of my kids, it‘s just something that‘s just something that‘s just terrifying. 

IBARRA:  The Stockton Bears, in the dark uniforms, faced the Redskins from Riverbank.  It‘s towards the end of the game, less than a minute to play.  The score had the Redskins leading 16-6 and then a second after the play ended a late hit.  The Redskin player hit by a Stockton Bear and right after that, the Redskin player‘s father, who was also an assistant coach, runs onto the field to deliver his own knockdown tackle. 

(on camera):  Immediately after that, fans from both teams crowded onto this field and they started to trade punches.  Among those at the game, was Jose Santillanes and his 11-year-old son Joseph playing for the Bears. 

JOSE SANTILLANES, FATHER OF BEARS‘ PLAYER:  The majority of them were just trying to get all the—everybody just rushed in all at the same time and they were just trying to get everybody away from everybody and trying to make sure that the kids are safe. 

JOSEPH SANTILLANNES, BEARS PLAYER:  It was just scary.  The guy just grabbed that kid and threw him and everybody just rushed in.  I was scared.

IBARRA (voice-over):  The assistant coach made a getaway over a tall fence, but later surrendered to police. 

PETE SMITH, STOCKTON POLICE ENFORCEMENT:  He has been cooperative with the investigation and was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on one count of felony child abuse. 

IBARRA:  Facing that charge of child abuse, is 36-year-old Corey Petero of Riverbank, who was released from jail yesterday. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Rich Ibarra from our Sacramento affiliate KCRA reporting there. 

Horrendous behavior on the playing field providing an unlikely but neat segue to our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And we finally have a definitive explanation for what incited the most interesting thing ever to happen in soccer.  Two months ago, France Zinedine Zidane in the final game of his career, with soccer‘s World Cup on the line, weaponized his chrome dome and planted it in the sternum of the Italian defender, Marco Materazzi.  The Frenchman was ejected, France lost the championship.  Zidane has given his account, remarks about his family, but he never revealed exactly what was said.  Finally, in an interview with an Italian newspaper we have Materazzi‘s version of the events.  Materazzi says he was tugging on Zidane‘s jersey. 

“If you want,” said Zidane, “I will give you the jersey later.”

Not missing a beat, Materazzi came up with one of the greatest, most original comebacks of all time, he says, rough translation here, quote, he said, “I prefer your sister.”

When asked if peace between the two was possible Materazzi said, “The door to my house will always be open to that.  And if Zidane wants, he knows where to find my address.”  Adding, or he could just send his sister and we‘ll call it even.  I made the last part up.

Meantime, the endless O.J.  Simpson case continues.  He‘s been hit with another lawsuit from Fred Goldman, this one seeking rights to his name and his image.  Simpson has still not paid a $33 million judgment in the wrongful death lawsuit against him from 1997.  So the father of murder victim Ron Goldman is now seeking publicity rights, the name, image and likeness of O.J.  Simpson.  The Goldman family‘s portion of that lawsuit amounts to $20 million.  Mr. Simpson has managed to avoid payment because his pension from the National Football League cannot be legally seized, nor can his Florida home, and Mr. Goldman‘s lawsuit claims that Simpson is making money with public appearances and autograph signings.  To rest legal control over that Goldman says would be “poetic justice.” 

Day of firsts tonight on network TV.  The much ballyhooed debut of Katie Couric on the “CBS Evening News.”  What did Rosie O‘Donnell bring to the “View?”  Does the word fur mean anything to you?  That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

Thank you, by the way, for pushing the book as high as No. 6 on the Amazon.com sales rankings over the weekend.  And because a buyer today was told there are only four copies left in stock there, that should not induce panic buying or hoarding.  Well all right hoard if you must.

First the nominees, police in Tauranga in New Zealand getting wide criticism for arresting 31-year-old Colin Smith for being a dangerous driver.  He has no license, he has no arms.  He was driving at 75-miles-an-hour, one foot on the pedals, the other on the steering wheel.  But apparently he was really good at this.  The charge has now been dropped. 

Not so for runner-up Ahmed Aziz of Oldbury in England‘s West Midlands.  He too arrested for dangerous driving, wrong side of the road.  Not that he could tell since he‘s blind, lost his eyes in an explosion, and also partially deaf, and he has some leg tremors.  Him, they convicted. 

But our winner, Newt Gingrich.  The disgraced former speaker of the House not only lying about finding 700 new weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but telling a TV audience that it‘s “not an insult to compare those who criticize the war in Iraq or even the president to the appeasers who enabled Hitler.”  I don‘t want to be an alarmist or anything but I‘m beginning to think the radical right has issued a new set of talking points. 

Newt Gingrich, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When Dan Rather questioning President Bush‘s National Guard service with the so-called “Killion Memos” report first broadcast two years ago this Friday, little did he know he was leading us down a road that would today bring us Rosie O‘Donnell talking about bathing with her kids, more on that presently.

Of course, along the way there was also the matter of Rather‘s replacement.  Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, the first solo female anchor of a network evening newscast, Katie Couric.  Earlier this evening America‘s eyeballs were on the eyeball.  It was the much ballyhooed new set, the CBS News musical intro, newly minted by the composer of the “Titanic” theme, James Horner, and a voiceover introduction by Walter Cronkite.  The new CBS News anchor wore white.  That was a surprise.  And as leaked an hour or so before the newscast started, there was a guest star, Suri Cruise. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  “Vanity Fair” has the baby picture everyone has been waiting for.  And tonight, so do we.  An exclusive first look at “Vanity Fair‘s” newest cover girl.  She is Suri Cruise, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  After much speculation about why she‘s been undercover for so long, this is proof positive that yes siree, she does exist. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.  They showed the picture.  We‘re not allowed to.  By the way, in case you didn‘t see it, the picture makes Suri look a little bit like a robot married to a Cabbage Patch doll.  So anyway, Couric replaced Rather, Meredith Vieira is taking Ms. Couric‘s seat on the “Today” show, and this morning, Rosie O‘Donnell slipped into Ms. Vieira‘s chair on the “View.” 

That‘s show‘s 10th season kicking off with its own new set, the old one jettisoned far more gracefully than was Star Jones.  And if day one on the “View” is any indication, a la Rosie O‘Donnell, viewers may be in for one heck of a coffee klatsch.  The subject ultimately turned to fur and it had nothing to do with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, “VIEW”:  For heaven‘s sakes, what‘s al the fuss about? 

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “VIEW”:  Well, it‘s about our new set.  What do you think? 

WALTERS:  Maybe we should introduce you or is that unnecessary? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, they know her.

O‘DONNELL:  OK, my name is Meredith Vieira, and welcome to the “View.” 

Well, I had that crazy, crazy haircut that scared America to death.  Well, it‘s going to be long from now on.  And I‘m taking my medicine, so everything‘s fine. 

I take a bath with Vivy too.  In our family the rule is—because I know you used to take baths with Jackie, right? 

WALTERS:  That was a very good time for us to be together. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You can explains a lot there in the tub. 

O‘DONNELL:  Because Vivy always looks at me and says, “When am I getting my fur?” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me know, “Village Voice” columnist, Michael Musto. 

Good evening Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll get back to that in a minute, but first the Katie and the news.  The web log for the new CBS, Ms. Couric likened the blog to “a coffee house on the corner” also to a boat, quoting again, “shoving off from the harbor and heading out to mysterious and unchartered sea, so grab an oar.”  And of course the show itself had a theme from “Titanic.”  I counted eight separate shots of her legs and long stretches of time in which it did not appear she‘d ever read off a teleprompter before.  Is the “Titanic” analogy apt? 

MUSTO:  Well first of all, they only showed her calves, it was a complete rip-off, with Cronkite you got the leg.  Oh, but kill me, Keith, but I actually thought she did OK.  I mean, Katy‘s like a replicate out of “Blade Runner” you wind her up, she performs.  She‘s professional.  She‘s like a Miss America contestant talking about al Qaeda.  I thought she did OK.  I‘m sorry.  But I thought starting the show with the colonoscopy was a bad idea, they should have build up to it.  I‘m kidding.  They did build up to it. 

OLBERMANN:  What I did like, I‘ll share this with you, Cronkite doing the voice-over introduction, 25 years after they pushed him into retirement.  I mean, wasn‘t it nice that CBS finally fulfilled its promise to Mr. Cronkite to find him something to do with the newscast that he made famous? 

MUSTO:  No actually, I hear that he recorded that 25 years ago before they booted him out the door.  They made him record intros for ever possible future anchor.  Ladies and gentlemen, Goldie Hawn, Don Johnson, Son of Sam, Weird Al.  And then they said, get out of here Walter, don‘t look back. 

OLBERMANN:  Then gave him a list of production assistants on the news desk at CNN in Washington. 

MUSTO:  You never know, really.  Yeah.

OLBERMANN:   All right.  The Suri pictures from “Vanity Fair,” which actually made their debut on the Couric newscast tonight, they‘ll be in the morning shows and various—on the “Today” show, I believe, tomorrow.  What did CBS have to do to get a hold of that, do we know? 

MUSTO:  First they had to go to Time Square and get one of those magazine cover mock-ups, then they had to hire that photographer who made Katie look thin in that famous photo.  He‘s a magician.  In this case he made porcelain look human.  I know I‘ve said it‘s a pillow, it was actually porcelain.  His next assignment is shooting Sam Champion if Mattel allows it. 

OLBERMANN:  Did you—was that a baby in that picture? 

MUSTO:  It was a baby doll.  As you said, a Cabbage Patch kind of cross seminated with some kind of wolf or something. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, or a robot.  I mean, it looked.

MUSTO:  It was a replicate, Katie had something to do with it.

OLBERMANN:  It looked like the kid was six or 7-years-old, that was the first problem with it, but... 

MUSTO:  No, that was Tom. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, that‘s true.  Back to Katie Couric for a second.  At the end of the newscast she invited viewers to send in ideas for her signoff and they went and played—not only did they embarrass Dan Rather by playing “Courage” from 1988 or ‘87 whenever that was, but they also had Ron Burgundy and Ted Baxter.  Do we have any suggestions for one in a Katie could actually use? 

MUSTO:  Maybe, “I make a lot of money.  Good night” or “I‘m a serious news anchor.  Like my blonde tips and my lip gloss?”  Or maybe, “goodnight and good luck with your colonoscopy.”  Any of those, really, feel free to use them for free, Katie. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the “View” debut here, for Rosie O‘Donnell?  She promised to ditch her scary hair, she discussed subjects as disparate as Cruise and bathing the kids.  Should we be afraid of this new avenue for her to get into our homes every day? 

MUSTO:  Again, shoot me.  I thought Rosie did fine.  She was true to her convictions and her personality.  She was full throttle lesbo.  I really don‘t care for all the kiddy talk, but I thought she was riveting if scary.  The problem is today, it was so much the “Rosie Show” that Joy was practically like an usher and the young one, what‘s her name—Debbie Matenopoulos junior was practically in the other room, she had no presence.  In fact, let‘s keep her in the other room. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s speculated that Elizabeth Hasselbeck is going to disappear like the Cheshire Cat, right?  There‘s just going to be an empty chair there one day, and people go, there were always only three hosts. 

MUSTO:  But, instead of the stupid grin, she‘s always crying no matter what they talk about.  Andre Agassi quit, oh I cried. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so bottom line, looking ahead to the last person to debut, Meredith Vieira makes her bow on “Today” show on the 13th, a week from tomorrow.  To do better than Katie or Rosie, what, all she has to do is not spit cookies toward the camera or what? 

MUSTO:  Even if she did spit cookies they could say it was a giveaway, like Rosie does.  But no, I would just say just show up and show a little knee and then she‘ll move up and replace Katie again and then Rosie will move up and replace Meredith again, then there‘s a job open for Weird Al, finally.  It works out. 

OLBERMANN:  No, Dan Rather on the “View.”  You missed the one and only logical conclusion, there. 

MUSTO:  Or baby Suri the doll. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m telling you, six, seven, maybe 30 years old.  It just

I‘m more freaked out than I was before there was a picture.  Now I know why they didn‘t want to show it to me. 

MUSTO:  Me too.  I was happier when she was in hiding.  And I‘m talking about Tom Cruise. 

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Michael Musto. 

MUSTO:  Bye-bye. 

OLBERMANN:   Many thanks for your time tonight, Michael.  I interrupted him. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,221st day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night 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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