updated 9/27/2006 11:26:59 AM ET 2006-09-27T15:26:59

Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Musto

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

Pay no attention to the evidence behind the curtain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think it‘s naive.  I think it‘s a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president dismisses the findings of 16 different agencies in the National Intelligence Estimate, now makes disagreement with him a mistake.

Fox, not facts.  Secretary Rice contradicts President Clint and Richard Clarke, says the Bush administration got no comprehensive counterterror guidelines from its predecessors.

And now there are two Clintons telling truth to power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I‘m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,” he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll revisit my interview with President Clinton, conducted just after his sandbagging by Fox, the tone he strikes about dissension and bipartisanship made even stronger when you realize what he‘d been through just 10 minutes earlier.

And more accusations of alleged racism by Senator George Allen of Virginia.  It turns out that this—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  ... may well have been just the tip of the iceberg.

And Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, especially without the flipper.  Scientists trying to figure out how to pin a tail back on this dolphin.

And Star Jones sues “The National Inquirer” over Al Reynolds.  And who in the hell do you root for in this fight?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.  This is Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 42 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

If it is unacceptable to think the president‘s erstwhile plan to torture terror detainees might call into question the moral basis of his war on terrorism, it is now also naive and a mistake to think that the war in Iraq has damaged his war on terrorism.  So which are you guilty of, naivete, mistakenness, or thought crime?

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, President Bush today ordering the declassification of at least some of the comprehensive intelligence report that concluded that the conflict in Iraq has created a whole new generation of Islamic radicals, but not before making it clear in a morning news conference with Afghan (INAUDIBLE) President Hamid Karzai that he both did not want to, and should not have been forced to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Some people have, you know, guessed what‘s in the report and have concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake it.  I strongly disagree.  I think it‘s naive.  I think it‘s mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe.

You know, I think it‘s a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there‘s a leak, because it means it‘s going to be hard to get good product out of our analysts.  Those of you who‘ve been around here long enough know what I‘m talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But declassify, then leak.

Some five hours later, the naive, the mistaken, and the unwashed allowed to see the so-called key judgments of the NIE for themselves, the war in Iraq not surfacing till page two of the four-page document, but when it does, the conclusions and their implications are chilling.

Including, quote, “We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.  The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.  Al Qaeda, now merged with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi‘s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role,” and “The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of Al Qaeda in Iraq might lead veteran jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.”

So, thinking of that as bad news is naive.

At the same time, the president‘s top diplomat lashing out at former President Clinton for having defended himself in an interview with Fox News against charges that his administration is actually to blame for this mess, because it did not wipe out al Qaeda on its watch, Secretary of State Rice launching herself before a friendly audience indeed, a room full of reporters and editors from “The New York Post,” Mr.—Ms. Rice telling the newspaper that the Bush White House tried just as hard to go after Osama bin Laden as the Clinton White House did, quote, “What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years.  The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn‘t do that is just flatly false—and I think the 9/11 commission understood that,” end quote.

In fact, the 9/11 Commission understood the exact opposite, in its report, the commissioners describing how the Clinton administration, after receiving a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack U.S. Aircraft and Other Attacks” in December 1998, took immediate steps to beef up airport security, putting the FAA and the FBI on alert, not exactly the same response the Bush administration had when it received an infamously similar document in August 2001, and President Clinton‘s wife, Senator Clinton, making that clear today at an afternoon news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON:  If my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,” he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team.

The Bush-Cheney administration has stretched our military to the brink, stretched the facts to fit their ideology, and stretched the patience of the American people with rhetoric instead of results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The 9/11 Commission concluding that after Mr. Bush received that briefing saying bin Laden was determined to strike, received it August 6, quote, “We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States.”

Let‘s call upon our own Howard Fineman, also, of course, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek.”

Howard, good evening.

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

Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s work backwards.  First, “The Path to 9/11,” then the hand-to-hand combat between Mr. Clinton and Fox, now the Rice rebuttal, Senator Clinton‘s vehemence.  Did the administration think the Democrats were going to roll over when they tried to pass the buck back to them retroactively?  And do you think they‘re surprised by what the Clintons and the others are saying now in their own defense?

FINEMAN:  I think they thought that perhaps the Democrats would rather stay away from the topic in general, not of Iraq, but of the global war on terror.  And I think they were at first shocked and surprised, and then a little worried, I think, about what Clinton has wrought here, what the former president has wrought, because I think he‘s wrought a change in the attitude of the Democratic Party.

And in the tug-of-war for American public opinion, I think the Democrats, at least, are feeling more confident, and sometimes confidence can breed results in politics.

OLBERMANN:  Secretary Rice, in addition to what we quoted her as saying, told “The New York Post” people that what the Bush administration did to try to kill bin Laden was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did, actually calling the president‘s claim, President Clinton‘s claim, to the contrary, quote, “flatly false.”  It‘s not flatly false, it‘s something that could be and was easily fact-checked against the 9/11 Commission report.

If the facts don‘t matter, Howard, if the administration does not care if you can fact-check them and prove them wrong within minutes of the statement being made public, does it suggest the entire effort about Mr.  Clinton and what happened during his administration might simply be the proverbial rally-the-base attempt?

FINEMAN:  Well, you do have parallel universes here, Keith.  You‘ve got a red universe and a blue universe, to use the current shorthand.  But I think there‘s still a few people left in America who care about the facts, and those are key voters, undecided voters.  You may argue that in a midterm election, those people who aren‘t involved don‘t vote.  I think there are a lot of American people who don‘t quite belong in either of those universes, who are listening very carefully.

The point here is that there‘s plenty of blame for both administrations to go around, and that‘s what both should be saying.  But Bill Clinton did say, I tried, and I failed.  And he comes off right now as the more truthful one for having acknowledged mistakes, which, for the most part, the Bush administration, despite the goings-on in Iraq, despite the failure to catch Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, George Bush has only one gear, forward.  That works for awhile.  It doesn‘t seem to quite be working now.

OLBERMANN:  And specifically about that, today, this release of the National Intelligence Estimate, or four pages of it, one is almost inclined to put aside the question of whether the release itself was politicized, since it doesn‘t seem clear how this document would help the White House.  The conclusions that we see seem damning.  What am I missing here?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re bailing water, the White House is.  I know people who‘ve read the thing in its entirety, and they can‘t tell me the details, because it‘s classified, but they say if you read the whole document, it‘s just as damning, if not more so, and there are other things in there that are—the White House is not going to want to see.

But they had to do their best damage control here.  They clearly felt that this hurt, because first, they put out statements, then they put out Condi Rice, then they have the president commenting on it here with Karzai today.

They clearly feel it‘s damaging, because it goes to the very heart of their argument, which is that we are fighting them over there, so we don‘t have to fight them here.  This raises the possibility that even though we‘re not fighting them here right this minute, George Bush may have purchased some temporary peace at home for long-time—long-term turmoil in the world, and I think the American people are focusing on that now.

OLBERMANN:  And very briefly, the tone of the president‘s news conference today, your assessment of that?

FINEMAN:  All you got to do is look at those pursed lips and that smirk.  Talk about smirks that Bill Clinton was talking about with Chris Wallace, George Bush has his own version.  He was using it today.  That means he‘s—he feels, he feels under, under attack right now (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  Yes, sure.  There are smirks and then there are smirks.

FINEMAN:  The presidential smirks, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, who never smirks with us.  Many thanks, as always, sir.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what all today‘s developments mean for the Democratic Party, let‘s call in political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell, also, of course, contributor to the blog HuffingtonPost.com.

Good evening to you, sir.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Reverse order for you, NIE first, Clinton second.  How that the Bush administration released more of the NIA, the key judgments, which don‘t seem to help them, what, now that that‘s out, what should the Democrats do next with that document?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, this document is the interim verdict on whether we should have gone to Iraq.  This is the smoking-gun document that the Democrats have been hoping for, which is to say, an intelligence assessment that says we‘ve created more problems for ourselves than we‘ve solved by going to Iraq.  We‘ve created more of a threat to the United States by going to Iraq, by stimulating the resistance, the insurgents, the terrorist activity in Iraq.  And we‘re now creating this entire new culture, this expanded, enormously expanded group of al Qaeda-type terrorists, who are ready to come at us.

And so that‘s the thing that the Bush administration was constantly trying to tell us was not happening in Iraq, that Iraq is actually the thing that was going to tame these people, better that we fight them there than anywhere else, we‘re going to win in Iraq.  And so the president‘s cause has suffered tremendously with this report.

OLBERMANN:  Strategically, though, they didn‘t waste any time getting it out.  The old theory, get the bad news out quickly, and or certainly as far away from the election as you can.  Is it necessary for the Democrats now to go and say, All right, we want to see the rest of the NIE, and just keep pounding that point until the election...

O‘DONNELL:  No, they, they don‘t...

OLBERMANN:  ... whether they see it or not?

O‘DONNELL:  -they don‘t have to ask to see the rest of it.  It‘s classified.  Then they‘d be saying, We want to declassify material.  They should use what‘s out there.

This is actually a play on the weapons of mass destruction.  You know, we found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Now, Democrats know that, and nonpartisan people know that.  But there‘s a core of Republicans who actually believe that we did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, because the administration has said, in a tortured kind of way, that we found these things here that we call weapons of mass destruction.

So they have succeeded in the past in trying to communicate things that are fundamentally untrue.  They‘ve succeeded in communicating them as true to their base, which is what they‘re trying to do here.

OLBERMANN:  To the Clintons, the former president, forceful in that hand-to-hand combat and his response to Chris Wallace, Senator Clinton now forceful in her defense of his defense.  Is this a good thing, or is it possible that this might wind up doing more harm to the Democrats than good, given that all this is coming at the time when the debate seems to be finally shifting back to Iraq, and, as you suggest, the NIE does the administration and Republican Party absolutely no good whatsoever?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think the net effect of it is good for the Democrats and good for both Clintons.  Look, if President Bush was at 55 percent in the polls, this would look pathetic.  This would look like a former president trying to struggle with a very popular current president.

President Bush is down in the 30s, low 40s.  He‘s in a terrible position in the polls.  Bill Clinton is far more popular.  And at this point, on this subject, he is actually far more credible than the president.  Most voters have turned away from listening to the president about these issues, and Clinton has—is coming into this void of who to listen to.

And for Clinton to make the case, as he does, that, I tried and failed, and give specifics about how he tried, and admit his failure, gives him much more credibility.  Condi Rice, in her “New York Post” interview, doesn‘t say a single thing that they actually did in the first eight months.  She simply gives the declarative sentence that, We tried too, but she doesn‘t specify a single thing.

Clinton‘s winning this argument so far, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman just suggested maybe that‘s the tipping point for the Democrats.  Kind of energizing, kind of enlivening.  Did the Clintons, between them, and certainly the president last Friday, hit the proverbial cloud just right with the seeding machines, with the flyover craft?  Did they get 28 feet of snow?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, they‘ve—the Clintons have opened up the subject, which, as you mentioned last night, has never been opened before, which is, how responsible, how much responsibility should we deliver to President Bush for what happened on 9/11?  How much was he asleep at the wheel in those eight months?  What could he have done?  Now, I‘m not sure what he could have done.  But the record says he did nothing.  And that‘s a devastating record.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes, I did mention that.  Lawrence O‘Donnell...

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, you did.

OLBERMANN:  ... political analyst and contributor to the Huffington Post, our great thanks for joining us, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

This programming note, much has been made of the charge and countercharge between the administrations of President Bush and President Clinton.  Tomorrow night here on COUNTDOWN, we‘re going to try to strip away the politics and look at what exactly the Bush White House did to stop al Qaeda in its eight months in power before the attacks of September 11.  Or did not do.

Ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN, the batting order, where Mr. Russert led off, then Chris Wallace batted second, I hit third.  A whole new light now cast on the bipartisanship the president expressed to us in the immediate aftermath of the venom that was expressed to him.

And new light tonight getting shed on the past of Senator George Allen of Virginia, allegations surrounding his racist behavior and attitude, reactions, the senator‘s own, that are not seeming to deflect any of that criticism.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As a U.S. senator for Virginia, George Allen has supported technology upgrades for historically black colleges, sponsored the Senate‘s apology for its failure to ban lynching decades earlier, those measures not figuring prominently in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, not eclipsing by any measure the exploding and explosive new allegations about Senator Allen‘s past, and how he used to see and how he used to refer to minorities.

Last month, he used what was, to most Americans, an unknown racial slur, “macaca.”  Now there are allegations, disputed but growing, that Allen once used a much more familiar racial slur, not on isolated occasions nor in the heat of anger, but in everyday conversation.

MSNBC‘s David Shuster has been tallying the damage thus far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In the hottest Senate race in the country, Republican incumbent George Allen is now facing a political death by a thousand cuts.

The latest came today in “The New York Times” and “Washington Post” on the heels of a story first written by Salon.com.  The papers reported that three former classmates of Allen at the University of Virginia say he used the N-word to refer to blacks in the early 1970s.

Allen denies the charge, saying...

ALLEN:  My response to this article is that it is completely false in its allegations.  I do not remember ever using that word.

SHUSTER:  But last night on “HARDBALL,” Virginia‘s most noted political scientist, Larry Sabato, who went to college with Allen, said Allen‘s accusers are telling the truth.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA:  I‘m going to stay with what I know is the case.  And the fact is that he did use the N-word, whether he‘s denied it now or not.  He did use it.

SHUSTER:  Questions about racial insensitivity have dogged George Allen for years.  In his law practice, he used to display a Confederate flag and other items considered controversial.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  What about the noose in your law office?  Why would you display a noose?

ALLEN:  (INAUDIBLE), I, I—oh, somebody brought a noose in.  I had a Western motif in my office.  I buckarooed on ranches out west, primarily in Nevada and also Idaho, and I had wagon wheels and lassos and chaps and all that.  And somebody brought in a little old noose that...

SHUSTER:  But the issue of race exploded in this campaign last month, when Allen spoke to a crowd about S.R. Siddarth, a man trailing Allen for the Webb campaign.

ALLEN:  Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here, welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

SHUSTER:  “Macaca” is a term that can refer to monkeys.  Allen apologized two weeks later.  Two weeks after that, he told Tim Russert he had no idea what the word meant.

ALLEN:  ... what I believe, even though I am...

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Well, where‘d the word come from?  It must have been in your consciousness...

ALLEN:  Oh, just made up.

RUSSERT:  Made up.

ALLEN:  Just made up, made-up word.

RUSSERT:  You had never heard it before?

ALLEN:  Never heard of it before.

SHUSTER:  But critics note that “macaca” is a racial slur among French-speaking people from North African countries like Tunisia.  Allen‘s mother grew up in Tunisia.

Allen‘s mother was also born Jewish, and when Allen was asked about his family‘s heritage...

ALLEN:  My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her.

SHUSTER:  The next day, in a written statement, Allen acknowledged his mother‘s religious background for the first time, and added it is something in which he takes great price.  But in a subsequent interview, Allen said, “I still had a ham sandwich for lunch.  And my mother made great pork chops.”

Conservatives supporters of Allen said his handling of the issue was clumsy and insensitive.  William Kristol said the incident, quote, “struck a nerve with Jewish Republicans.”  And this week, Kristol‘s magazine, “The Weekly Standard,” has this cover, “George Allen Monkeys Around.”

ROGER SIMON, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  At the very least, it has sucked all the oxygen out of the room.  There aren‘t any issues left in this campaign except George Allen‘s past, and that is not what his campaign wants to be talking about.

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, the campaign of Democratic challenger Jim Webb is surging, raising more than a million dollars last week alone.  Webb has had his own challenges, but he seems to be handling them far better than Allen.  When Webb was asked about an article he wrote 27 years ago calling for women to be kept out of the service academies, Webb took responsible immediately and apologized.

RUSSERT:  And when you say being (INAUDIBLE) naval academy is a horny woman‘s dream, you regret that.

JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I do regret that.  And I, you know, I‘ve said...

RUSSERT:  (INAUDIBLE)...

WEBB:  ... and I‘ve said, there‘s many, you know, there‘s many, there‘s many pieces in this article that, if I were a more mature individual, I wouldn‘t have written.

SHUSTER:  All of this has kept the focus on George Allen, a former rising star in the GOP, whose campaign now faces charges of racism and seems in danger of imploding.

(on camera):  The irony is that George Allen was supposed to be a 2008 GOP presidential front-runner, but now, top Republicans are openly wondering whether Allen can win his Senate seat and help Republicans keep control of Congress.

I‘m David Shuster for COUNTDOWN in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  David, thanks.

The other big political story, the continued headlines from Bill Clinton‘s faceoff with Fox.  Much has been made of his demeanor.  We‘ll show you my interview with him, conducted just 10 minutes after his interview with Fox, his bipartisan oil-upon-the-waters tone here taking on a new and remarkable air given what we now know he‘d just been through.

And now it‘s official here.  She‘s been charged.  So will Paris Hilton show a judge the old in and out?  The in-and-out burger defense.  I was hurrying to go get an in-and-out burger.  Gee whiz.  The latest on her DUIA case, DUI case, in English, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this day in 1960, Fidel Castro addressed the United Nations for four hours and 29 minutes, the longest speech in its history, which was when we started to not like that guy.  And on this day in 1968, CBS premiered the Jack Lord detective saga “Hawaii 5-0,” which is when they began to promote next week‘s episode by having him say, “Next week on ‘Hawaii 5-0,‘ be there.  Aloha,” which is when we started to not like that guy, either.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Tampa.  Either flooding is very out of control there, or this is the sweetest houseboat ever, or, a wealthy couple purchased a 100-year-old Queen Anne, and they‘re simply transporting its 220-ton mass across Tampa Bay by barge to put it on their land.  That would be silly.  Who‘d do something like that?  Mr. and Mrs. George Corbett (ph), that‘s who.

Naturally (ph) saved the house, which was going to be knocked down for a new waterfront project.  Dozens gathered on the Skyway Bridge to watch the house begin its 25-mile journey to Ruskin, Florida, where the Corbetts will first clean the trout out of the cabinets, and then move into their new home.

To Dallas, home to the big Texas State Fair this weekend, and a rare look at the unfinished main attraction, an 800-pound butter statue of what appears to be the old Tin-Tin comic book character being attacked by a giant nanto (ph) ray.  Actually, that would be a butter Marilyn Monroe when it‘s finished.  A reenactment of the blond bombshell‘s famous skirt-blowing scene.  Mmm, Margarine Monroe!  New York artist Sharon Bruman (ph) is crafting the sculpture, which will be on display through next week, where it will be spread on to little bits of garlic bread shaped like Joe DiMaggio.

President Clinton‘s interview with FOX still triggering ripple affects.  We will revisit our interview with him under the new perspective of what he had just been through and the good natured bipartisan tone he was able to strike just 10 minute later. 

And later here, a dolphin on a mission.  Why humans are trying to help get it some tail.  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.

No. 3, an unnamed athlete—unnamed because he‘s 15.  He is—actually he was, a player on the football team at Leighton High School in Utah.  Members of the opposing team from Davis High were impressed the kid wanted to shake hands with and high fived them, until they realized he‘d stuck a tack in the glove he was wearing on his right hand. 

No. 2, Julia Warnes of East Surrey in England.  She‘d had a tough year.  Two operations, finally at home recuperating with her family, opening the mail, she get the water bill in which she learns that the family needs to make new arrangements for paying, now that she‘s dead.  Mrs. Warnes says, “I thought, am I?  Well, you would think the doctor would have told me.” 

And No. 1, Jay Gibbons after the Baltimore Orioles hit a foul ball into the stands Saturday afternoon, hit a fan in the ribs, the fan was his own wife, Laura Gibbons.  She‘s OK and if you think the odds of that defy believe, in 1957, Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a foul ball into the stands that broke the nose of the wife of the sports editor of the “Philadelphia Bullet.”  As they carried her out of the stratum on a stretcher, Ashburn hit another foul ball and that one hit her, as well. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a moment in the film “The American President,” where the commander in chief, played by Michael Douglas, has a epiphany about what it means to be an American.  To quote, “You want free speech, let‘s see how you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who‘s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of your.”

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, that fictional exhortation from the then fairly new writer, Aaron Sorkin, given reality by the actions of President Clinton last Friday.  Because immediately after he was attack by those who don‘t allow disagreement, he was still advocating their right to dissent.  That in a moment, first his ambush, you may recall it, at the hands of FOX News. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  So you did Fox‘s bidding on this show.  You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.  What I want to know is.

MIKE WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  Well, wait a minute, sir.

CLINTON:  No, wait.  No, no.

WALLACE:  I want to ask a question.  You don‘t think that‘s a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.  I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, Why didn‘t you do anything about the Cole?

I want to know how many you asked, Why did you fire Dick Clarke?

I want to know how many people you asked.

WALLACE:  We asked—we asked.

CLINTON:  I don‘t.

WALLACE:  Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?

CLINTON:  I don‘t believe you asked them that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just minutes—one long hallway‘s walk and a few deep breaths after that happened, President Clinton had to sit down with me, and not only did he not even mention the sandbagging he just gotten from Wallace, nor bipartisan so thick you couldn‘t get it out of a bottle with a knife, but he defended everyone‘s right to disagree. 

Here‘s that part of our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Here in this country at the moment, there seems to be a lot of us who think that there are—we are having trouble getting people involved in defending essential ingredients of our country and our heritage.

We‘ve heard a lot about anyone who disagrees with the current administration‘s policy in Iraq or in the war on terror or even disputes their facts or questions them, would be suffering from moral or intellectual confusion.

We heard the president talk about how in the world you could disagree with him and it‘s unacceptable to think that we could be ever doing anything in any interrogation process that might be similar to what the terrorists do. 

When those of us worry about the future of the country and the past of the country, worry about our heritage, what we stand for, are we overreacting?   Are we nuts?   Are we exaggerating?   Or do you feel the same threat? 

CLINTON:  No. No, let me say, first of all, you know, on a lot of these issues, I‘m more close to where you are.   I think what‘s—the great disservice though that‘s been done here in the last few years is not that, let‘s say the administration disagrees with you or me on whether there should be an Abu Ghraib or a Guantanamo or whether—or what the economic or social policies of America should be.   The great disservice is the creation of the idea that if you disagree with the people that are in, you‘re somehow, you don‘t love your country and can‘t be trusted to defend it. 

What we have to do is get back to a—to thinking in America and promoting an honest debate and honest differences, so that like if you asked—and I would urge you to do this.   If you interview somebody in the administration, no matter how much you disagree with them, don‘t be snide, give them a straight up chance to say how they disagree with you.  

I think that one of the things that I‘ve tried to do with this Global Initiative is not only to find common ground for dispirit people, but also to have people calm down enough to actually air their differences of opinion.  

Like you take this interrogation deal, we might all say the same thing, if, let‘s say, Osama bin Laden‘s No. 3 guy were captured and we knew a big bomb was going off in America in three days.   Turns out, right now, there‘s an exception for those kinds of circumstances in an immediate emergency that‘s proven in the military ranks.   But that‘s not the same thing as saying, we want to abolish the Geneva Conventions and practice torture as a matter of course.   All it does is make soldiers vulnerable to torture and make us more likely to get bad not good information.  

And every time we get some minor victory out of it, we‘ll make 100 more enemies.   So, I think these things—I really think we need to think through all of this and debate more.   So no, I think it‘s wrong for you to be portrayed as not patriotic.   I think that‘s wrong.   But I think that those of us who are on the kind of the progressive side of the ledger, we ought to find a way to say what our differences are in a way that even our adversaries can hear.  

I‘ve gotten a lot of big crowds this year of people on are unusually quiet because they just want to think.   They‘re tired of this labeling and name calling and we‘re not patriotic and all that.   They know that‘s all a bunch of bull and they just want to think it through.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And you can watch my interview with President Bill Clinton in its entirety on our website, that is countdown.msnbc.com.

Two of the disputes of the Hollywood variety.  Star Jones versus the “National Enquirer.”  Can we rout for the judge for a tie or something? 

And supporting “Winter” the dolphin.  Snared in a crab trap, losing her tail, how science and business are trying to help her to get at least a bit of tail back.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Star Jones suing the “Enquier.”  David Gest gets a surprise ending to his lawsuit against Liza Minnelli.  Paris Hilton will be heading to court.  All that and a dolphin in search of some tail, all next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The concept of animal prosthetics is not new, there was Hans the dachshund, who, thanks to a new set of wheels can get along little doggy.  Then the unnamed one-legged seagull in Turkey who now hops around on an upside-down Barbie doll.  And now, in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, it‘s a baby dolphin‘s turn, no for the for legs, it‘s not that weird, but for the best tail money can buy.  OK, maybe it is that weird.  Where else could a project like this get underway, but COUNTDOWN‘s favorite “Oddball” state of Florida, where correspondent, Michelle Kosinski has any late editions from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  “Winter,” the baby dolphin is clearly the star of this show for so much more than catching a ripping on her nose or waving to her fans.  Surprised to see, among all the other dolphins strutting their stuff, that “Winter” has no tail.  No, none at all. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s a miracle.  She‘s a miracle, she‘s even alive.

KOSINSKI:  That‘s because in December the tiny “Winter,” 3-month-old, was found hanging onto life, stuck in a crab trap. 

DANA ZUCKER, CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM:  Her tail was just—there was nothing left to it.  It was just shaking.  She had rope marks in her mouth. 

KOSINSKI:  In time, rescuers helped her learn to swim. 

ZUCKER:  She moves like a combination of an alligator and a shark. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She can still swim, but she can‘t like swim fast. 

KOSINSKI:  She jumps, kisses, loves the fish, and now she may just get that tail.  Sort of like what “Fuji,” a Japanese dolphin with a birth defect, got a few years ago.  But “Winter” needs an entire tail.  So, it will be tough to make and expensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She doesn‘t seem to know that she has a problem, right? 

ZUCKER:  No, not at all. 

KOSINSKI:  Her trainers, though, know that “Winter‘s” improvised side-to-side swimming could be damaging her spine.  They want her to be a healthy living lesson. 

ZUCKER:  It‘s remarkable what she has done and how she has done it.  And she‘s going to be able to work with children and adults who have lost limbs. 

KOSINSKI:  There‘s like a new tail to give this dolphin a happier ending, a long life in addition to a loving one. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And once we get that tail, she‘ll be able to keep up with these other dolphins.  And it‘s absolutely imperative that we get her a tail. 

KOSINSKI (on camera):  Well, the dolphin we mentioned, “Fuji” in Japan, his partial prosthetic tail was donated by a tire company.  Now, rescuers here want to forge a similar deal this week with a company or maybe a collaboration of companies.  Because not only will this tail be extremely hard to build, it‘s going to have to be removable and she‘s going to need five of them over her life as she grows.  Remember, this is just a baby.  She‘s only eight months old.  And it will also be expensive.  Each one of those tails will cost into the six figures. 

Back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  For god‘s sake, get her a craft of some sort.  And if you think I‘m making the trying to make her tail look better segue from the dolphin story to Paris Hilton, you‘re crazy.  Let‘s just enter the world of celebrity and tabloid news, “Keeping Tabs” where it is official Miss Hilton has been charged with driving under the influence. 

Nearly three weeks after she was pulled over in Hollywood for driving erratically she was told to appear at her arraignment set for this Thursday.  Police say a field sobriety test revealed a blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent.  The hotel heiress has claimed she only had one margarita the night before her early morning arrest and she may have been speeding at the time, she said, but only because she was eager to get to In-N-Out for a burger.  Not for tail.

But no red meat served up by to fans who were hoping he‘s going to run for president or something.  The actor/director saying he will not be seeking political office.  Mr. Clooney has been politically active; of course, he appeared yesterday at an event with California Governor Schwarzenegger.  The governor signing legislation that would ban investment in the Darfur region of Sudan.  But Clooney said, “Believe me, you don‘t want me in politics.”  He was asked repeatedly about running for office and when he thought about people wearing t-shirts that said Clooney in 2008, he said he thought they were kidding.  He made an observation about starring in “Bat Man and Robin,” with Governor Schwarzenegger, “He‘s gone on to be governor, I think I‘m still Batman.” 

And the man responsible for ending Tom Cruise‘s business relationship with Paramount Pictures, in part over money, has agreed to limit his own pay.  Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone, exceeding to a 2007 salary and bonus cap of only $4.5 million.  That does not count stock and stock options, however, $6 million worth could go to Redstone in the coming year, though it will be tied to Viacom‘s performance.  According to Viacom‘s board of directors, altogether, the possible $10.5 million compensation package still represents a pay cut for Mr. Redstone, since his total compensation in 2005 was about 21 million, it was 56 million the year before that.  Viacom trying to bring sanity back to the entertainment industry pay scale. 

Also tonight, Star Jones says she‘s suing the “National Enquirer” after one too many stories about her husband‘s sexual orientation.  Prompting the dilemma:  Which horse do you back in that contest?  That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest lominees—latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

By the book. 

The Bronze is an update to a previous worst.  Former Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins, the Australian supermodel had famously stood up 17-year-old Daniel Dibley after agreeing to attending school‘s homecoming dance as his date.  Now Miss Hawkins has come to the school, had lunch with Dibley, addressed the entire school assembly and apologized for the incident.  After which she and Dibley spent about four minutes together in the custodian‘s closet.  No, I made that part up. 

Our runner-up, 34-year-old David Toomer of Philadelphia, facing a variety of charges after police say he bilked more than 175 grand from the state‘s crime victim‘s fund.  Toomer allegedly pretended to be the victim of four armed robberies, then applied for the funds earmarked to reimburse victims for medical costs, counseling, and funerals. 

But our winners, deputies of the Hillsborough County Sheriff‘s office in Florida.  They have concluded an extremely thorough, extremely expensive investigation of the local strip club to make sure the dancers weren‘t getting too close to the customers.  But 92 lap dances and a bunch of drinks cost a total of $6,400 worth of taxpayer money.  And it turns out the girls were getting too close.  It‘s no wonder the deputies kept going back. 

The cops on lap dance patrol in Hillsborough County, Florida, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Fractured romance is tough on everyone, friends, family, and where celebrities are involved, the adoring public.  But sometimes a public feud begs the question, who do you root for?  In our No. 1 story, being married to Star Jones or Liza Minnelli may present challenges.  Not that there‘s anything wrong with that. 

Star Jones not breaking up with husband Al Reynolds, however.  Her beef is with the “National Enquirer” which described her husband as a sham her husband as “gay.”  A lawyer for Ms. Jones has sent the “Enquier” a letter demanding a retraction on both points or else face a lawsuit.  That according to TMZ.com. 

As to a marriage that rather spectacularly hit rock-bottom, Liza Minnelli and David Gest.  A New York judge has thrown out Mr. Gest‘s $10 million lawsuit against Minnelli saying it has no basis in fact.  Gest had claimed he suffers from headaches because Liza with a “Z” hit him and hurled a lamp at him under an alcoholic rage.  But Minnelli‘s medical expert testified Gest‘s headaches were caused by a herpes.  Gest‘s own doctor countered, that Gest had tested negative for the virus. 

The tawdry ugliness of it all redeemed only for us by getting to call in Michael Musto of the “Village Voice.” 

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  I have a headache.  I do.

OLBERMANN:  To Star Jones first, then your headache second.  The “Enquier” says “sham” and “gay.”  Star Jones saying “not sham, not gay.”  Even saying through her lawyer, “While Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds believe that everyone should be free to make their own choice concerning sexual preference and that there is nothing wrong with gay, you have nonetheless chosen to falsely state that Mr. Reynolds is gay.” 

What happens, Michael, if the “Enquier” does not back down?  Do we have a lawsuit?  What happens if we have a lawsuit?

MUSTO:  First of all, the part about choice is very telling, because sexually is not a choice, Star, the only choice, even a 3-year-old would know, is whether you‘re honest about it or not.  Any Star is not going to sue, is my prediction.  I mean, she threatened to sue PETA, the animal activists group a while ago, because they had a drag queen mocking her in ads.  She probably just wanted them to use Al, but she never went through with the lawsuit and I don‘t think she‘ll go through with it here.  He‘s gayer than Clay Aiken.  Or at least he use to be.

OLBERMANN:  She also spoke out directly in an interview with AOL, saying, let me quote it again, “People can say what they want, but Al and I share what I like to call an unbreakable bond.” 

Legally, would she have to, if she does sue, prove he‘s not gay?  Do we have to see that?  Can‘t I take her word for it? 

MUSTO:  Sorry, they‘re going to actually have to prove it in court and do it.  It‘s going to be like a Barnum and Bailey act or something.  That‘s only going to prove he‘s gay, because a straight guy wouldn‘t do it with her.  No, I kid.  I kid.  Look, these two share not only a bond, but a lot of shocks, joint account, and sex according to them, and I want to see it in court with cameras in the courtroom, and I want to see the man on top and Al on the bottom. 

Three rings, we need Oprah and Steadman in done of the other rings. 

OLBERMANN:  Possibly—oh, goodness.  All right, well let‘s quickly move on to Liza Minnelli and David Gest or the Oprah police will be after us after that one. 

MUSTO:  I kid.

OLBERMANN:  We thought the charges of the flying lamps and the alcoholic rages were the worst of this, now herpes has been introduced?  And what do you call your act, “The Aristocrats.”  Mr. Gest asking the judge to declare the prenup agreement null and void.  Minnelli‘s counter-suing, it‘s still pending.  So is this just going to go on longer than her career actually did? 

MUSTO:  Yeah, I mean, she‘s counter-suing, like you say, and he‘s appealing—though not very appealing I don‘t think.  But—and they both have herpes, though how you get herpes from a toilet seat is beyond me.  Though, of course there was that wedding kiss where he probed her oral cavity for 20 minutes for the cameras—shaved (ph) of Jack-O and Lisa Marie.  But look, there‘s no more kissing here.  There‘s so much acrimony it‘s going to go on and on, this is the worst pair since John Huston was assigned to direct the movie of “Annie.” 

OLBERMANN:  Oh.

MUSTO:  You remember that? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Any advice Ms. Minnelli might be able to give to Star Jones in this set of circumstances? 

MUSTO:  She‘d probably say, “Ring them bells” or “Come to the cabaret” because she always talks in song titles.  But if she did actually get serious and sensible she‘d say, “Star don‘t worry, if something happens there‘s always another gay guy around the corner, trust me.” 

OLBERMANN:  Now, this is not a segue, but Mel Gibson went to some early test premieres of this extraordinary movie, “Apocalypto” in Oklahoma.  But he was so intent on staying incognito that he wore a mask and a wig at one point.  Is this Gibson at his most savvy, is this, he‘s afraid of another photo if he runs into the cops again?  What‘s going on in Oklahoma with Mel Gibson? 

MUSTO:  It would be savvy, but guess what, it was a mask of Hitler.  That‘s what he had laying away the house.  It drew negative attention.  No, I‘m kidding.  Mel should have learned from Jack-O, him again, that masks don‘t work.  That‘s why Jack-O moved on to Burkas.  Mel should have come with himself, nobody would have recognized him without the bags under his eyes now that he‘s drinking water instead of scotch. 

OLBERMANN:  And it dawns on me, there was a Simpson‘s episode, wasn‘t it?  Where he flew to a small town to see his own movie premiere? 

MUSTO:  I don‘t watch TV except for myself.  I‘m going home to watch this right now.  I‘m going home to learn ancient Mayan so I can see “Apocalypto.”  

OLBERMANN:  The only and only Michael Musto.  So, wave to yourself while you‘re watching, Michael.

MUSTO:  Hi Michael.  I love you. 

OLBERMANN:  Many thanks for your time tonight. 

MUSTO:  Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,242nd day since the declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq.  From New York, 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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