updated 10/12/2006 4:51:33 PM ET 2006-10-12T20:51:33

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Thomas DeFrank, Paul F. Tompkins

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Speaker Hastert vows to fire anybody on his staff who hid the Republican sex scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER:  If they did cover something up, then they should not continue their—to have their jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Anybody on his staff?  Presumably that would apply to himself?

New polling, same old crushing for the White House.  Bush approval on counterterror, from 54 percent approval to 46 in two weeks.  Whose moral values are closest to yours?  Democrats 47 percent, Republicans 38.

The president is not happy, ticked off big time at those who spoke to Bob Woodward, and there‘s steam coming out his ears over the Foley thing.  The man who reported those quotes, Tom DeFrank of “The New York Daily News,” joins us.

And Katherine Harris is declaring victory at the biannual politics-in-the-park straw poll in Lakeland, Florida.  And here we see Representative Harris helping one of the voters cast a ballot in that straw poll.

No, I‘m not kidding.

No, I‘m not kidding about this.  The murder of habeas corpus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except the part about habeas corpus.  And if there‘s no habeas corpus, kiss the Bill of Rights goodbye.  A COUNTDOWN special investigation tonight, how he can now put you in jail and throw away the key.

On key, Barbra Streisand gets applause.  But when she swears, she gets an ovation.  And it‘s all political.

And what a shock.  The runaway bride, Miss Popeye of 2005, is now suing her ex-fiance, the born-again virgin, for half a million dollars, claiming he stole her gold sofa.  Gold sofa, you say?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Tuesday, October 10, 28 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And if Karl Rove has a magic trick up his sleeve, some sort of October surprise, just waiting to be sprung upon the electorate in the final four weeks of the campaign, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the Republican sex scandal and the war in Iraq alienating the electorate from Congress and President Bush to such an extent that, for the first time, Americans now believe that Democrats are more capable of protecting Americans against terrorism than are the Republicans.

We begin with the latest on the sex scandal and its purported coverup, Mr. Rove himself conceding in a private briefing heard by “The Los Angeles Times” that the Foley matter, quote, “complicates things for Republicans.”  Does not take a boy genius to know that is an understatement, House Speaker Hastert today in his home state of Illinois sacrificing himself for the good of his party?  No, silly, sacrificing his staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASTERT:  If anybody‘s found to have hidden information or covered up information, they really should be gone.  If they did cover something up, then they should not continue their  -- to have their jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No confirmation or whether Speaker Hastert feels he would fall into that category.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma City, the FBI spending two and a half hours interviewing Jordan Edmunds, a former House page who may have been on the receiving end of some of Congressman Foley‘s sexually explicit messages.

Support for Republican ethics and leadership eroding fast in those polls, approval of Congress plunging to its lowest level in more than a decade, three in 10 registered voters telling Gallup for “USA Today” that their representative does not deserve reelection, the highest that number has been since 1994, in “The Washington Post” poll, 54 percent saying they trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the biggest problems the nation is facing, including terrorism, 47 percent saying they trust the Democrats to do a better job of handling terrorism, 41 percent choosing Republicans.

A month ago, Republicans had a 7-point lead on that signature issue, and in “The New York Times,” 47 percent also believing that the Democrats come closer to sharing their moral values than do the Republicans.

And then there is Iraq, compromising not only White House efforts to keep this election focused squarely on national security, but also for President Bush even to be seen as being strong on national security, in “The New York Times,” approval of President Bush‘s handling of counterterrorism dropping to 46 percent from 54 percent in just the last two weeks, Baghdad itself burning tonight, literally, a fire breaking out at an ammunitions depot at a U.S. base in southern Baghdad, setting off a series of explosions from detonating shells that lit up the night sky in that extraordinary fashion, the U.S. military saying there were no immediate reports of casualties.

There were also political fireworks here at home related to this, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine becoming the second Republican to openly question the Bush administration‘s strategy in Iraq, Senator Snowe saying today she is deeply disturbed by the increased violence and the Iraqi government‘s inability to secure its own nation, quoting from her statement, “Staying the course is neither an option nor a plan.  Congress must be willing to reassess and rechart our future military presence in Iraq,” and just to add one more festive note, the Associated Press tonight quoting an unidentified official in the Japanese foreign ministry, saying tonight, Wednesday morning their time, that his government is checking to see if North Korea has now conducted a second test of a nuclear device, this while Japanese airborne monitoring devices are still trying to establish if the supposed first test over the weekend actually came off as well as the Pyongyang government claims.

Back to the politics of all this, foreign and domestic, and let‘s call in WashingtonPost.com political reporter, Chris Cillizza.

Thanks again for your time, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s begin with the big-picture map.  How many seats would the Democrats have to win to take back control of the House?  And right now, how many do the Republicans think they are going to lose?

CILLIZZA:  Right.  If you look at it, it‘s actually interesting, because you only have 15 that they need to take back.  And that‘s not that many.  People say, Well, 435 are up, 15 is a pretty small percentage.  I‘m no math major, but I think it‘s in the single digits in terms of percentages.

The problem is that there aren‘t that many competitive races.  There just aren‘t.  Incumbents are very strong, generally, they raise a lot of money.  They draw themselves safe districts.  So we don‘t see the kind of competition that a lot of people expect.  So 15 is a heavier lift than a lot of people think it is.

That said, you take the Foley incident, which has directly endangered his seat, and put two other Florida seats in more jeopardy than they were before, a Pennsylvania seat, Don Sherwood in a lot of trouble because he acknowledged having an affair with a mistress.  The mistress alleged in a lawsuit that he had abused her.  Sherwood has denied that, but in the post-Foley climate, most Republicans are saying, No chance.

Texas 22, down there in Houston, Tom DeLay, a name familiar to most people, I think, who watch the show, he thought that he could resign his office, move from Texas, and get a new candidate on the ballot.  Well, the court said, No, no, that‘s not the case.  So now they‘re  -- Republicans are running a write-in candidate, and a woman named Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.  That‘s not exactly the name you want when you‘re running a write-in candidacy.  You prefer Ben Smith.  It‘s like running Chris Cillizza as a write-in.  It‘s not, it‘s not the best strategy, going to be hard for people to remember that, to get it right, to spell it right, et cetera, et cetera.

So you wind up seeing six or seven seats already that, if Republicans aren‘t ceding to Democrats, they‘re certainly not optimistic about.  So you get  -- now you‘re talking about, Well, can they pick up eight and nine seats?  It seems a little bit more reasonable.

OLBERMANN:  The math in the Senate is what?  That  -- this hasn‘t even been a topic until recently.  Do we have a firm idea of what the Democrats might be able to obtain there?

CILLIZZA:  Yes.  You‘re right, it hasn‘t really been a topic, because what they need is six seats.  And what we‘ve seen for months and months and months is that they have five really good chances.  They have  -- they look great in Pennsylvania, where Rick Santorum, the Republican, is really struggling and has for months.  They look gone in Montana.  They look pretty good in Ohio.  Ohio is a state where Republicans‘ name is essentially mud.  The outgoing governor, Bob Taft, has a number of ethical problems.  Bob Ney, who has now plead guilty and has left Congress, also an Ohio member.  So that looks bad.

Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican, struggling to win.  And Missouri, where Jim Talent, the Democrats did a really good job.  They got their absolute best candidate, a state auditor named Claire McCaskill.  She had run for governor, very popular, very well liked, polls show it close.

So that was five.  And you could say, Well, they come up just short. 

What we‘ve seen in the last couple weeks is two more races come online.  One is in Virginia, close to where I am, where George Allen just can‘t seem to get out of his own way lately.  It began with “macaca,” which I think everyone, it goes without explaining, I think anyone who follows politics knows what we‘re talking about there.  And it‘s just continued, and you now see polling showing Allen running even with former (INAUDIBLE) Jim Webb, the Democrat.  And Jim Webb hasn‘t really done all that much.  He just got on TV.

The other one in Tennessee, where Harold Ford, Jr., a Democratic congressman, running much stronger than a lot of people thought.

So basically, Democrats had no margin for error, win those five seats and hope one of those other ones happens.  Now they‘ve got seven seats, they need to win six.  It‘s not easy, but it‘s more plausible.

OLBERMANN:  And, and too, the latest news here, these poll numbers about security and counterterrorism suddenly showing the Democrats not merely viable on these topics, but, in many cases, significantly ahead of the Republicans in public opinion polling.

Now we have these developments in North Korea, this prospect that the Japanese are looking into whether or not there was a second nuclear test by North Korea at some point in the last few hours, although the various seismological institutes are saying that there‘s no evidence of anything like that.

How does North Korea factor into all of our politics suddenly?  Is this a, is this a positive for the, for the Republicans, because it‘s one of those, uh-oh, worry, scare issues, or does it play into this apparent development in which Democrats are beginning to register with people that the Republicans have not done that much of a good job in terms of protecting this country internationally or from terrorists?

CILLIZZA:  Right.  In theory, it‘s exactly what you said, that Republicans should be not happy, but certainly glad that the subject might be changed to North Korea, the threat from abroad, that kind of thing.  Typically, that‘s their red meat, that‘s the one they hit out of the park.

If you look after September 11, in polling in 2002, 2004, at this time before the election, you saw Republicans with double-digit leads on the question of which party you trust more.  That lead is gone, as you rightly point out.

And the problem there is that if they can‘t talk about security, it‘s not clear what Republicans can talk about right now.  The president is not popular, the war in Iraq has soured in voters‘ minds.  People don‘t like the economy.  So there‘s a lot of problems.

OLBERMANN:  No security internationally, domestically, or for House pages.  Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post,” WashingtonPost.com, great thanks, as always.

CILLIZZA:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For those of you who can‘t tell the difference, meantime, Representative Katherine Harris is getting the Shinola kicked out of her in the race for Bill Nelson‘s Florida Senate seat.  The most recent polling, Nelson 53, Harris 35.  But that‘s not the way the most infamous state secretary of state in American history sees it.

This press release touting Harris‘s new, quote, “lead” in that race, by a margin of 54 percent to 45, quotes her thanking the “strong support of a majority of voters.”  Only in the small print is the lead explained.  Harris‘s triumph came at a straw poll at the Lakeland Biannual Politics in the Park gathering the other night.

And nowhere in the press release is it pointed out that it cost $25 to vote in the straw poll in Lakeland, nor that anybody can vote, and I mean anybody, including, as this photo from the newspaper “The Lakeland Ledger” shows, 6-year-old Rachel Seifert (ph).  Congresswoman Harris is actually shown helping this little girl fill the straw ballot out, putting the 6 in ‘06.

Perhaps the president should enlist preschoolers to help him as well.  Hey, maybe he has.  After Bob Woodward‘s book and the fallout from the Foley case, Bush is apparently furious with his own staff.  The reporter who uncovered the depths of the presidential pique joins us next.

And in spite of all those peevish setbacks, the president has now succeeded where no one has before.  He‘s managed to kill the writ of habeas corpus.  Tonight, a special investigation, how that, in turn, kills nothing less than your Bill of Rights.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Any intelligent politician who knew even a paragraph of Bob Woodward‘s biography, thinking that he could count on Woodward giving him perpetually positive coverage.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, on the other hand, there‘s President Bush, reported by “The New York Daily News” Washington bureau chief, Tom DeFrank, as feeling betrayed by his people, who cooperated with Woodward for Woodward‘s third book, described as having steam coming out of his ears over the Republican congressional sex scandal.

Mr. DeFrank joins us in a moment.

Mr. Bush evidently thought he had tripped some momentum after the 9/11 anniversary speech.  But then came Woodward‘s “State of Denial,” portraying an administration that is dysfunction and not truthful.  The president is now furious with former aides who spoke with Woodward, one course saying, quote, “He‘s ticked off big-time, even if what they said was the truth.”

As for the Mark Foley scandal, the president‘s mindset appear to mirror that of the public, sources saying the president thinks the House speaker, Mr. Hastert, and other Republican leaders made a mess of their handling of the scandal, and that they look like they are involved in a coverup of some sort.

According to someone who speaks with the president regularly, quote, “There‘s steam coming out of his ears over the Foley thing.  The base is starting to get turned off again.”

As promised, we‘re joined now by the Washington bureau chief of “The New York Daily News,” Thomas DeFrank.

Thanks for your time tonight, Tom.

THOMAS DEFRANK, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Yes, hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Woodward stuff first.  Your piece suggests that somehow the president was surprised by all the negative revelations.  Did he not know it was coming?  Did he just assume, after the first two books, that Woodward was somehow on board?

DEFRANK:  Well, I don‘t know the answer to that.  But I don‘t think he knew the extent of the portrait that Bob Woodward paints.  It‘s really a lurid portrait of a chaotic, backbiting, dysfunctional administration that doesn‘t tell the truth all the time.  And obviously the president doesn‘t agree with that characterization.

I do think the sense, there is a sense in the White House that Woodward was pretty friendly in his first two books, and they must have had a feeling this was going to be the same.  On the other hand, this time, the president did not give Bob Woodward an interview, so they had to know that, based on some of his earlier interviews, I suppose, that this was not going to be as happy an event as the first two books for them.

OLBERMANN:  Part of that key quote you use about those who talked to Woodward, “even if what they said was the truth,” but it was Andy Card who wanted the president to dump Secretary Rumsfeld, and it was Vice President Cheney who apparently inadvertently told Woodward about the Henry Kissinger role as an adviser on Iraq.  Is Mr. Bush thought to be mad at them?

DEFRANK:  I don‘t know about the vice president.  But I‘m told that he was not real happy with Andy Card.  On the other hand, Andy Card was invited by the president to go down on Air Force One with him last Saturday for the christening of the aircraft carrier “George H.W. Bush.”  So Kremlinologists will have to figure out what that meant.

But, you know, I‘ve covered the Bushes, father and son, for more than 30 years now.  And in the Bush universe, just talking out of school is the ultimate act of disloyalty.  And this portrait, this very unflattering portrait that Bob Woodward paints is basically fueled by interviews with a lot of former aides, and the president is really ripped about that.

OLBERMANN:  Then there is the impact on whether he‘s ripped on the Foley scandal.  You  -- the picture you paint in your piece of the president privately believing Congress made a mess out of it, even though he‘s planning to appear  publicly with Speaker Hastert and White House press secretary Snow keeps saying, We‘re minding our own business, let Congress handle it.  How are they walking that tightrope?

DEFRANK:  Well, you know, the  -- one of the dirty little secrets in this Bush government, Keith, is that there‘s always been a lot of friction between the congressional Republicans and this White House.  The congressional Republicans say, They‘ve always given us the back of the hand.  Their idea of consulting is to say, This is what the president wants, we expect you to support us.  The White House has complained in the past that they have not been very supportive.

So there‘s always been a lot of friction.  Now, that‘s getting better, because Josh Bolten and Rob Portman, the new OMB director, Bolten the chief of staff, have done a pretty good job of trying to mend some fences on the Hill.

But still, there‘s some tension there.  And the president, I‘m told by

people who talk to him all the time, really feels like the House Democrats 

House Republicans have messed this up by making it look like there was a coverup, and he thinks there‘s been a lot of bungling.

And the bottom line with both these things, the Woodward book and the Foley scandal and the way it‘s spun out, is, for the better part of two and a half weeks or so, the president hasn‘t been able to talk about things he wants to talk about, because all these things have sucked the air out of official Washington.

OLBERMANN:  And is that the, the, the  -- and to conclude the feeling among his confidant, the one that you had access to, that that‘s why he is out on the campaign trail frothing at the mouth and really having sort of erased that line between telling sort of redirected truths about the Democrats into, into just stuff that he‘s made up out of thin air?

DEFRANK:  Well, that‘s your characterization, not mine.  But all I can say is, president was going to be out in October for 15 days, and I think the plan always was for him to really throw out some red meat there.  So I do think that these two problems, the book and the Foley scandal, has given Bush and Cheney and all of them a sense of urgency.  So maybe think there is a little bit more, I think there clearly is an edge to the rhetoric, more of an edge to the rhetoric, and I think that‘s probably a direct result.

OLBERMANN:  More eloquently stated than I could have.  Thank you kindly.  Tom DeFrank of “The New York Daily News.”  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

DEFRANK:  Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps art could help the president‘s mood.  This interactive exhibit is said to relieve stress.  Unless, of course, you‘re simply seeing it as a physical representation of your declining approval numbers.

Speaking of returning to reality or not, the runaway bride and the born-again virgin, her fiance.  First she ran from him, then she came back to him.  Can I  --  She‘s suing him.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  As any man who has struggled to get into one has doubtless thought or said of the tuxedo, expletives added to taste, Who the hell invented this thing?  Apparently this is the anniversary, the one, the 20th anniversary, of the day Griswold Lorillard (ph) and some friends attended the autumn ball of the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York, wearing not the traditional white tie and tails, but rather a scarlet, satin-lapelled dinner jacket without tails, forever after known as the tuxedo.  Thanks a lot, Griswold.

Let‘s play Oddball.

(INAUDIBLE), beginning not in Tuxedo Park but in Mississippi, with the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week.  Actually of the quarter.  We haven‘t had one of these in, like, months.  Seems you‘ve got ourselves a bank robbery suspect who doesn‘t feel the need to obey any traffic laws either.  Checking the Oddball scoreboard for the year, we can see it‘s cops  -- you know what?  We lost track a long time ago.  But no one ever gets away, even if they did learn to drive from watching “Dukes of Hazard,” because even the General Lee never had to deal with spike strips, which is what did this good old boy in.  His three-wheeled car incapacitated, bank booty recovered, and this boss hog wannabe is off to spend a few years playing Daisy in the Big House.

To London for some good clean fun without painful spike strips.  Look, Mommy, they built a big-ass slide inside the Tate Museum of Modern Art, 90 feet high, 185 feet long, sending visitors in canvas sacks sliding through frightening twists and turns at speeds approaching 30 miles an hour.  And when they finally come out at the bottom, oh, yes.  That‘s why there are no spike strips.  Anybody got a mat or something?

Finally, to India.  Hundreds have flocked to pray around the miracle tree of Dhobi.  It hasn‘t healed the sick or anything like that.  It‘s a local villager‘s story of its miraculous powers that attracted the huge crowds.  The man says the tree was knocked down in a storm.  He went to chop it up for firewood, and the tree stood back up and asked the man to move away.  Dude, I think you‘ve been smoking too much miracle tree of Dhobi.  Dhobi Brothers.

From a tree with miraculous powers to a Bush using his power to rescind one of the oldest human rights on record, the murder of habeas corpus, and thus the Bill of Rights, perhaps now to be replaced by the Bill O‘Reilly.  COUNTDOWN special investigation ahead.

Barbra Streisand goes on the offensive, slamming the president, then telling a heckler to shut the you-know-what up.  All to rapturous applause from the rest of her fans.

Those stories ahead.  Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Nathan Bluitt, Jr., and Kevin Hunt, couple of heroes because they saved dead people from a burning building.  They are morticians in Indianapolis.  When their funeral home caught fire, they ran back in to retrieve three of the bodies, saying they wanted to spare families even more pain.  Wow.

Number two, the unnamed 53-year-old suspect arrested by police in Madison, Wisconsin.  He‘s been trying to sell large supplies of oil, sugar, eggs, and flour, all of it stolen from (INAUDIBLE) local bakeries, from the back of a bakery truck, also stolen from a local bakery.  He‘s been trying to sell it to local bakeries.

Number one, the 30-year-old suspect in a cab robbery in Severn, Maryland, outside Baltimore.  Standard stuff, gives the cabbie a destination.  As they get there, he hits the driver, steals his cash, takes the driver‘s cigarettes, escapes from the back seat of the cab, while his change purse and his driver‘s license falls out of his pocket and onto the floor of the cab.  Thanks for the tip, buddy.

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OLBERMANN:  Because the Mark Foley story began to break on the night of September 28, exploding the following day, many people may not have noticed the bill passed by the Senate that night. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, the Military Commission‘s Act of 2006 and what it does to something called habeas corpus.  And before we reduce the very term habeas corpus to something vaguely recalled as sounding kind of like the cornerstone of freedom or maybe kind of like a character from Harry Potter, we thought a COUNTDOWN special investigation was in order. 

Congress passed the Military Commission‘s Act to give the Mr. Bush the power to deal effectively with America‘s enemies—those who seek to harm the country.  He has been very clear on who he thinks that is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America. 

That fact that we‘re discussing this program is, uh, helping the enemy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, the president said it was urgent that Congress send him this bill as quickly as possible, not for the politics of next month‘s elections, but for America. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The need for this legislation is urgent.  We need to insure that those questioning terrorists can continue to do everything within the limits of the law to get information that can save American lives.  My administration will continue to work with the Congress to get this legislation enacted, but time is of the essence.  Congress is in session just for a few more weeks and passing this legislation ought to be the top priority. 

The families of those murdered that day have waited patiently for justice.  Some of the families of with us today, they should have to wait no longer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Because time was of the essence and to insure that the 9/11 families would wait no longer, as soon as he got the bill, the president whipped out his pen and immediately signed a statement saying he looks forward to signing the actual law eventually. 

He has not signed it yet, almost two weeks later because, of course, he has been swamped by a series of campaign swings at which he has made up quotes from unnamed Democratic leaders and because when he is actually at work he‘s been signing so many other important bills, such as the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act, the Third Higher Education Extension Act, ratification requests for extradition treaties with Malta, Estonia, and Latvia; his proclamation of German-American Day, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act; and his proclamation of Leif Erickson Day. 

Still, getting the Military Commission‘s Act to the president so he could immediately mull it over for two weeks was so important, some members of Congress did not even read the bill before voting on it.  Thus, as some of its minutia escaped scrutiny. 

One bit of trivia that caught our eye was the elimination of habeas corpus, which apparently use to be the right of anyone who‘s tossed in prison to appear in court and say “Hey, why am in prison?” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera):  Why does habeas corpus hate America?  And how is it so bad for us?  Mr. Bush says it gets in the way of him doing his job. 

BUSH:  This legislation passed in the House yesterday is a part of making sure that, uh, we do have the capacity to protect you.  Our most solemn job is the security of this country. 

OLBERMANN:  It may be solemn. 

BUSH:  Bush, so solemnly swear.

OLBERMANN:  But is that really his job?  In this rarely seen footage, Mr. Bush seems to be describing a different job. 

BUSH:  And will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN has obtained a copy of this “Constitution” of the United States, and sources tell us it was originally sneaked through the constitutional convention and state ratification in order to establish America‘s fundamental legal principles.

But this so-called “Constitution” is frustratingly vague about the right to trial.  In fact.  there‘s only one reference to habeas corpus at all, quoting:  “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” 

But even Democrats, who voted against the Military Commission‘s Act, concede that it doesn‘t actually suspend habeas corpus.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT:  The bill before us would not merely suspend the great writ—the great writ—the writ of habeas corpus, it just eliminates it permanently. 

OLBERMANN:  And there is considerable debate whether the conditions for suspending habeas corpus, rebellion or invasion, have even been met. 

LEAHY:  Conditions for suspending habeas corpus have not been met. 

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  We do not have a rebellion or an invasion. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, we‘re not in a rebellion nor are we being invaded. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, maybe the debate wasn‘t that considerable.  Nevertheless, COUNTDOWN has learned that habeas corpus actually predates the Constitution, meaning it‘s not just pre-September 11 thinking, it‘s also July 4th thinking. 

In this those days, no one could have imagined that enemy combatants might one day attack Americans on native soil.  In fact, COUNTDOWN has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial “declaration,” indicating that back then, depriving us of trial by jury was actually considered sufficient cause to start a war of independence based on the, then fashionable idea that “liberty” was an inalienable right. 

But too today, thanks to modern post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable—for your protection. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The reality is without habeas corpus, a lot of other rights lose their meaning.  But if you look at the actual Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments of that pesky Constitution, you‘ll see just how many remain for your protection. 

OK, No. 1 is gone.  I mean, if you‘re detained without trial, you lose your freedom of religion and speech, press, assembly, all the rest of that.  So, you don‘t need that any more. 

And you know, you can‘t petition the government for anything. 

No. 2, While you are in prison, your right to keep and bear arms just might be infringed upon even if you‘re in the NRA, so that‘s gone. 

Three, well OK, no forced sleepovers at your house by soldiers. 

Three‘s all right.

Four, you‘re definitely not secure against searches and seizures, as it says here, with or without probable cause.  And, in prison that‘s not limited to just the guards, so forget the fourth. 

Five, grand juries and due process, obviously out, so forget five and the little trailer up here. 

Six, well trials are gone too, let alone the right to counsel.  Speedy trials?  You want it when? 

Seven, well this is about—I thought we just covered trials and juries earlier so forget the seventh. 

Eight, well, bail‘s kind of a moot point isn‘t it? 

And nine, other rights retained by the people.  Well, you know, if you can name them during your water boarding, we‘ll consider them. 

Ten, powers not delegated to the United States federal government.  Well, they seem to have ended up there anyway.  So as you can see, even without habeas corpus, at least one tenth of the Bill of Rights, I guess that‘s the Bill of Right, now—remains virtually intact.  No. 3 is still safe. 

We can rest easy knowing that we will never, ever have to quarter soldiers in our homes as long as the third amendment still stands strong. 

The president can just take care of that with a signing statement. 

All of which means, beware Barbara Streisand, who swears to uphold her right to publicly dis the president.  We mean swears literally. 

And she never quite managed to exchange the Afghan rug for a wedding veil, but runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks gave her jilted fiance something other than her hand in marriage today, legal papers asking for half a millions all because of a—gold sofa?  COUNTDOWN continues. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Streisand on the warpath blasting President Bush then dropping the “F” bomb on her own fans to their delight and wild applause.  And from cold feed to cold hard cash, the runaway bride suing her former fiance.  Also late breaking details on what might or probably was not a second nuclear test by North Korea—all ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Breaking news out of Japan, that report that the Japanese government suspected a possible second nuclear test by North Korea may be a false alarm.  Japanese seismologist registered tremors to the north not long after the government said it might have been another North Korea test.  Northern Japan then had a magnitude six earthquake, so the possible second North Korea nuclear test may in fact have been a definite Japanese (INAUDIBLE). 

Meantime, Barbara Streisand got a thunderous ovation from the crowd at Madison Square Garden last night in New York.  There‘s nothing particularly new or unusual about that.  She‘s been getting such responses to her singing off and on since the 1960‘s.  Only in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, this ovation was for something she said—actually something she swore.  Swore while a President Bush impersonator stood by her side.  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny has the details, as we know them so far, and yes, there is something of a contest here to see how many Streisand song titles and references she worked into her report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Someone sent in the clowns last night, a heckler raining on Barbara‘s sold-out New York City parade, and the funny girl responded, dropping the “F” bomb at the main event at Madison Square Garden. 

Her critic?  Not this guy.  The Bush impersonator was part of her new show.  There interaction apparently inspiring the outburst. 

BARBARA STREISAND, SINGER:  You‘re so good you could give up your day job.

Can you believe it?  For a second we were in harmony.

NOVOTNY:  According to reports, about five songs into the evening, the presidential impersonator made his way onstage, kicking off a skit in which Babs burns the Bush look-alike.  A skit that at least one audience member found to be long on time, short on laughs. 

But as they learned this morning on the “Today” show, the outspoken critic wasn‘t just any heckler. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Her spokesman, Ken Sunshine, called us bright and early this morning and said that according to the information he has gotten, the man who heckled her was a professional heckler. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I am glad it wasn‘t and amateur. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exactly, can you imagine an entire career of heckling?  This has to be the culmination that have career. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.

NOVOTNY:  But it was all wrong for Streisand.  The way he made her feel, angry enough to tell the ticket holder to shut the blank up.  And reportedly promised to give him his money back.  Proving people may need people, but they don‘t need hecklers. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We called Barbara this morning for a comment, she said I‘m blankin‘ sleepin‘ here. 

NOVOTNY:  No footage yet revealed of last night‘s incident, but the singer, who later apologized, and her heckler, just may show up on YouTube soon—the way the were. 

For COUNTDOWN, Monica Novotny.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And yes, the correct answer of Streisand song references there was seven.  Monica is a funny girl. 

And easy segue then into our nightly roundup of celebrity and gossip news, and a reminder from Mel Gibson that alcoholism has never been so popular. 

Granting Diane Sawyer her first—his first interview since his arrest for drinking, driving, and blaming the Jews last summer, ABC nice enough to release a few quotes in advance of the broadcast.  Gibson rationalizing “It was just the stupid rambling of a drunkard, you know, and what I need to do to heal myself and to be assuring allay the fears others and to heal them if they had any heart wounds from something I may have said.  So, this is the last thing I want to be is that kind of monster.”

He then reportedly mumbled something about how much he misses Henry Ford, wondered if he could borrow Diane‘s copy of the “New York Post” and asked what time last call was. 

As Jay Leno once said at a similar event, “This is indeed a country of diminished expectations when you hold a news conference to tell people that a guy has not been fired.”  Joe Torre, who has managed the New York Yankees to the last nine consecutive American League East Division Championships, and who has not won the World Series since 2000, was today not dismissed by tempestuous Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, after the team‘s second consecutive first round play off exit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE TORRE, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER:  I just got off the phone with George Steinbrenner a few minutes ago, and he has informed me that I will be here as his manager next year.  Which I am very excited about, because this has been, you know, the best job of my life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Moments later, Steinbrenner issued a statement reading in

part, “I spoke to Joe Torre today and I told him, ‘you‘re back for the

year...the responsibility is yours, Joe, and all of the Yankees.‘”

So about can confirm the phone call.  And while you‘re at it, call a friend, we‘ve got a never-before seen glimpse inside Paris Hilton‘s purse.  It‘s not even a pun.  The blonde dumbbell, photographed outside at a fashion show in Milan this week, sporting short hair and an fancy new silver handbag.  But once inside, “Daily Mail” photogs say they caught Paris with her purse open as she went to touch up her hot pink fingernails.  Opy-doop (ph).  Now what could that possibly in that little plastic baggie in there?  She really doesn‘t strike us as drug user, so maybe that‘s leftover oregano from a fine Italian meal there in Milan?  Maybe potpourri to make her handbag smell fresh?  Then again, Hilton‘s publicist said, “It would be unfair to draw any conclusions based solely on these photos.”  So, maybe it is weed. 

Speaking of grass, former runaway bride, more recent mower of lawns, Jennifer Wilbanks, not only split up again with her forgiving fiance, now she‘s suing him. 

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

The Bronze tonight to an unnamed German motorist following the GPS system in his Mercedes as he drove through Hamburg, but ignoring the big sign on the highway that said “closed for construction.”  He crashed through several barricades and ended up driving into a big pile of sand.  Nobody hurt.  Crash ahead in one quarter mile.

Our runner up, Bill O‘Reilly, the tortured logic of a tortured soul.  “Now, the reason North Korea is causing trouble is that it wants to influence the November election.  This is not a partisan statement, it is a fact.”  An officially authorized Republican fact. 

Listen Bill-O, the Republicans don‘t need Kim Jung-il‘s help to screw up their chances in this election.  They‘re doing a great job of it by themselves. 

But our winner, Michael Weiner-Savage, labeling Madeline Albright a “traitor” because the Clinton administration was in office when North Korea bought two nuclear reactors from a Western company in 2000.  Saying former Secretary Albright should be “tried for treason and when she‘s found guilty she should be hung and when she is hung...” 

Firstly, you‘d look a little less like a mental patient if you remembered that it‘s “hanged” not “hung.”  Secondly, Donald Rumsfeld was on the board of the company that got the contract for those nuclear reactors.  Mike, you‘re going to make sure he gets “hung” too?

Michael Wiener-Savage today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I am not a psychic.  I do not play one on TV.  I simply note that when many of the hysterics on other cable news programs assume that Jennifer Wilbanks, having disappeared four days before her 2005 wedding had been abducted, had been terrorized, had become another example of the wave of crime against white women.  I gently asked, “Hey, about those pictures of her?  Doesn‘t it look to you in every one of them she‘s trying to locate the nearest exit so she can run away on a moment‘s notice? 

Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, the in retrospect, rather obvious hunch was correct, and she was forever after known as the run-away bride.  And when her fianc’, John Mason revealed he considered himself a “born again virgin,” he began to realize that her panicky look might have had some mighty good provocation. 

Well, long after their 15 minutes of fame had seemingly ended, Wilbanks and Mason are back tonight, Miss Wilbanks is suing her now ex-fiance for half a million dollars.  The former bride-to-be always wants her ladder back from Mason. 

It seems they received $500,000 for selling the rights to their story.  You remember hundreds and police and volunteers tried to find her, she finally called her beloved from Albuquerque, New Mexico saying she‘s been abducted.  She later recanted that.  That resulted in a plea of no contest of having lied to the police, which of course brought about her stint of community service mowing lawns with her eyes. 

OK, we made that part up.  In her lawsuit, Miss Wilbanks seeks $250,000 as her share in a home she says Mason purchased with part of the proceeds from their story.  She always wants another $250,000 in punitive damages claiming he defrauded her and, oh, by the way, she wants a ladder that belonged to her father, and a gold sofa, and she wants the wedding shower gifts back. 

You may recall Wilbanks and Mason finally ended their relationship this past May about a year after she had first run away from him. 

Joining me now, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who‘s of course, one of the contributors to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.” 

Paul, good evening. 

Well, that is it for Paul Tompkins.  That was a click wasn‘t it? 

Didn‘t I hear a click?  A disconnect?  Do we still have him on the phone?  That‘s a picture of Jennifer Wilbanks.  Maybe we could run that sound effect again. 

Paul are you with us? 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN:  I wish I could say that I were, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  There you are.  I hear you fine.  Do you hear us. 

TOMPKINS:  I can hear you, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, terrific. 

TOMPKINS:  Oh, you can hear me now.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, I can.

TOMPKINS:  You actually can hear me? 

OLBERMANN:  Apparently, so.

TOMPKINS:  Oh, fantastic.

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t let them touch you.  Just don‘t move or anything. 

TOMPKINS:  Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is only NBC. 

TOMPKINS:  I‘m going to stay—my heart was in my throat. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, and mine too.  We had three minutes to kill without you there.  It would have been rather an adventure.  Let‘s begin with the headline here—what about the gold sofa?  Is that a gold colored sofa or is it a sofa made out of gold? 

TOMPKINS:  It is a gold colored sofa.  People went a little crazy over that.  There actually was a gold sofa involved in a similar case, and it was a solid gold sofa and it was a bone of contention when Marion Ravenwood walked out on her wedding to her fiance, Indiana Jones. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, that‘s right. 

TOMPKINS:  Yeah, you remember.

OLBERMANN:  Miss Wilbanks, she‘s always asked for the return of this ladder?  Some—is it sentimental value or is this some sort of Romeo and Juliet deal we didn‘t know about? 

TOMPKINS:  Oh, when a father gives his daughter her first ladder, I mean, that‘s a special time in any young lady‘s life, and you can‘t really blame her for wanting it back. 

OLBERMANN:  In the whole picture of this, Paul, is it difficult to know who to rout for in this dispute?  I mean, this one of these “I‘m a born again virgin” oh, who rewrote that rule, kind of guy, versus the already interesting Miss Wilbanks.  Who do we rout for?

TOMPKINS:  Yeah, it‘s a bit of a coin toss because, you know, on the one hand your sympathies might two to John Mason because he was jilted and even though some time has passed it‘s still hard to get over that sometimes, but on the other hand, you don‘t want Jennifer Wilbanks to murder you in your dreams. 

OLBERMANN:  She also wants the wedding shower gifts back.  Is it a wise point now to remind everyone that they never returned those gifts to whoever brought them to the wedding shower? 

TOMPKINS:  Oh no, those people don‘t want those gifts back because it‘s sort of gives them a little cache to sat that they bought flatware for the runaway bride.  You know, it‘s kind of a great icebreaker at a cocktail party.  It‘s sort of like all those people that—in Hollywood that claim to have been invited to Roman Polanski‘s house the night of the Manson murders.  I mean, that was going to be a huge party. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m satisfied with the copy of the invitation to the wedding that I picked up on eBay and have framed in my home.  But, one other detail, Miss Wilbanks claimed that Mr. Mason abused the power of attorney that she grated him to handle her financial affairs.  The lawsuit claims he bought this home in his name after she was “hospitalized and under medication.”  Are we inferring from this that he counted on her not noticing?

TOMPKINS:  Well, I mean, I think every guy who‘s been in that situation, you know, he‘s been famously left at the alter, his wife—fiance flees to New Mexico and pretends to be abducted and then they sell their movie rights and print rights and everything.  Then she goes in the hospital, she‘s under medication.  I think every guy in that situation tries to slip a house by in there. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course.  And you mention this TV movie.  In the 15 seconds I got left—who do we cast in the two title roles? 

TOMPKINS:  I think Shelly Duvall is obviously a no-brainer for Wilbanks.  I‘m going to throw you a curveball with Mason, and I‘m going to say a talented young actor, Rick Schroeder, I think proves his dramatic mettle in “NYPD Blue.” 

OLBERMANN:  Or possibly golfer, John Daly.  That‘s the other option, I think, there. 

Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, as always, and at great emotional expense to us both, thanks for join us, Paul. 

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for the 1,256th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Joe, good evening.  

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

END   

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