updated 10/12/2006 7:34:45 PM ET 2006-10-12T23:34:45

Guests: Alan Diehl, Richard Wolffe, Lewis Black

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

Beyond belief, a light plane crashes into a 50-story high-rise apartment building along New York City‘s East River.  The brief panic that it might be terrorists.  The echoes of 9/11.  The nightmare for rescuers, and then the explanation almost unbelievable in its unexpectedness. 

The plane had just been purchased by a pitcher with the New York Yankees.  The accident four days after he appeared in their final playoff game.  Who was Cory Lidle, why did it happen and why have at least five Major League baseball players crashed their aircraft in the last few decades?

Mr. Bush at the Rose Garden, no plan to attack North Korea, no plan to leave Iraq, no plan to stop lying about the Democrats.  To summarize, no plan. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I characterize that as cut and run, because I believe it is cut and run. 

OLBERMANN:  How Mr. Bush has cut and run from the religious right.  A COUNTDOWN exclusive, inside the book, “Tempting Fate”, by the former special assistant to Mr. Bush, the No. 2 man in the president‘s Office of Faith Based Initiatives, who wrote how Karl Rove‘s office referred to evangelical leaders as, quote, “the nuts,” how the White House hugged them, then described them as ridiculous, out of control and goofy. 

As goofy as the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Wisconsin, writing a tell-all book about her life as a groupie with the 1960s Green Bay Packers.  Kind of redefines that Lambeau Leap.  We‘ll ask humorist Lewis Black from the new movie “Man of the Year” about that and everything else. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, October 11, 27 days until the 2006 midterm elections and the latest on that and an extraordinary document.  A White House insider about how the Bush administration has taken the religious right for a ride, ahead. 

On our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, a shattering event above the skies of New York City, the explanation of which seemingly defies possibility. 

The plane that crashed into a high-rise overlooking the East River causing Norad to scramble fighters over many American cities, was not a weapon of terrorism, not some sort of attempt to burn 10-11 into our consciousness.  But a small aircraft purchased by a pitcher from the New York Yankees, who somehow crashed it into the very neighborhood lived in by many of the other players of his team and of the rival New York Mets, into the very building where the Mets team medical director has its offices. 

At 2:42 Eastern Time, a small four-passenger Cirrus SR20 flew into the 40th floor of a 50-story apartment building, the Bell Air on Manhattan‘s Upper East Side, 72nd Street and York Avenue, sparking a fierce blaze, sending fiery debris onto the street below.  And among that debris, the passport of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle.

Our correspondent, Rehema Ellis, joins us now from the scene of the crash with the latest. 

Rehema, good evening.

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

Authorities say two have died, 21 were taken to the hospital.  Fifteen of those firefighters, one a police officer.  It was a chaotic scene as authorities say the plane issued a distress call only moments before the crash. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELLIS (voice-over):  The crash occurred 40 stories above Manhattan‘s Upper East Side, when a single engine Cirrus SR20 plane like this one slammed into this 50-floor apartment building, sending thick black smoke into the air and debris to the ground. 

DORIS LICHT, WITNESS:  I just saw a ball of flame and out of that ball of flame falling down—I am just so scared.  Sorry. 

ELLIS:  The plane took off from Teterboro Airport just outside New York City.  It reportedly approached Manhattan from the south, flying north when it apparently took a sharp turn or a nose dive into the building.  Witnesses say the plane was flying erratically as if it was experiencing mechanical problems before impact. 

BETH SCHNECKENBURGER, WITNESS:  The entire corner was all black smoke, and there was a strong smell.  And I think a lot of people were trying to get away from it, the smoke. 

ELLIS:  More than 150 firefighters responded.  Many entered the building.  The fire was put out an hour later. 

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY:  Everything that we planned to handle an emergency like this was carried out to the book exactly the ways that we had wanted to go. 

ELLIS:  Across the country, Norad scrambled fighter jet patrols over several U.S. cities as a precaution against terrorism. 

But law enforcement was able to quickly rule that out.  Late today it was revealed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was on the plane.  His passport was found on the street below the crash scene.  Lidle earned his pilot‘s license last year. 

Lidle and the Yankees were eliminated from the baseball playoffs this past weekend.  As Lidle cleaned out his locker at Yankees Stadium on Sunday, he told reporters he intended to fly back to California in a few days. 

This is the second Yankees player to be killed in an airplane accident.  All-star catcher Thurmond Munson was killed in 1979 while practicing take-offs and landings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELLIS:  Tonight New York City authorities are busy controlling traffic in the area, and a National Transportation Safety Board team of investigators is already on the scene—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Rehema, one question.  What about the residents of that building?  Is anybody getting back in yet, or what is status there?

ELLIS:  We don‘t know exactly what‘s happening in terms of all of the residents of that building.  As you can imagine, everyone was evacuated as quickly as possible. 

One of the concerns was were any people trapped in that building for a while?  It appears that is not the case.  Whether or not they will be able to go back to that building any time tonight still remains unclear. 

OLBERMANN:  Rehema Ellis on the scene at the Belair Apartment Building in North York on New York‘s Upper East Side.  Thanks, Rehema. 

In the post-9/11 world it‘s impossible for New York City residents or indeed for most Americans to see or even hear that a plane had crashed into a building without the single terrible note of post-traumatic stress ringing all too loud and all too clear.

As our correspondent, Anne Thompson reports, witnesses to today‘s accident were no different—Anne.

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

As I walked to the scene today, I couldn‘t help but think of how much it reminded me of the walk I made to the World Trade Center five years, one month today.  A rush of emergency vehicles, confusion, but this time momentary fear. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMPSON (voice-over):  The initial impact reminded many of that fateful day five years ago.  NBC News vice president, Alex Wallace, was a half block away on her way to work after taking her children on a school trip. 

ALEX WALLACE, VICE PRESIDENT, NBC NEWS:  And I heard an odd noise above me, and after 9/11 you look up when you hear a noise of a plane or of a helicopter.  And it went straight into the side of the building, and there was a very large fire ball out of the side of the building. 

THOMPSON:  Mindie Friedman, working at New York Presbyterian Hospital, says in an instant October 11 suddenly seemed like September 11. 

MINDIE FRIEDMAN, WITNESS:  Three of us ran to 72nd and York, and there was, you know, bedlam and fire trucks, and ambulances from nearby hospitals, including New York Presbyterian. 

And we were on the, you know, corner, and there was tons of dark black smoke, and it was very, very reminiscent.  There were people were running and huddled like reminisce of, you know, 9/11 with their heads down and the smoke coming through.  It was very, very frightening. 

THOMPSON:  Len Matsunaga is president of the condominium board.  His wife, Naomi, was in their apartment on the 44th floor when the plane hit.

LEN MATSUNAGA, WIFE WAS IN THE BUILDING:  My wife was at home, and she heard a thud.  And she thought that someone fell upstairs.  And then she got a call from a neighbor who lives in the building across the way who saw smoke, and she said, “Is your building OK?  There‘s smoke coming out of it.”

She had to walk down, but I think that went fairly smoothly, given the circumstances. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

THOMPSON:  Tonight fire officials are inspecting the condominium building to determine when Len and the residents of the 183 apartments can go home. 

Keith, now back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Anne Thompson, great thanks. 

Rehema Ellis mentioned that Lidle became the second member of the New York Yankees team to have piloted a small aircraft to its and his own doom. 

That team has been terrified of its players doubling as private pilots since early in the season, during which Thurmond Munson was killed, trapped inside his flight harness after a crash at Canton-Akron Airport in Ohio in 1979. 

But Cory Lidle is also at least the sixth Major League baseball player, active or retired, to have been killed in this way in the last five decades. 

Besides Lidle and Munson, Baltimore Orioles catcher Tom Gastall, 24 years old and a promising prospect, crashed into a Chesapeake Bay area late that season. 

Chicago Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs, the National League‘s rookie of the year in 1962, crashed in a Utah snowstorm early in 1964. 

And former big leaguers Jim Hardin, who you see here, and Irv Medlinger were in the cockpits of private planes that crashed in 1991 and 1975, respectively. 

Just a month ago, “The New York Times” spoke to Cory Lidle, who had just bought his Cirrus SR20 and asked him about the safety of the plan.  He said, quote, “The whole plane has a parachute on it.  Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have any failure, and the one percent that do usually land it.  But if you‘re up in the air and something goes wrong, you pull that parachute, and the whole plane goes down slowly,” end quote.

At that point Lidle had been a pilot for seven months.  He said he had clocked 95 hours of solo time in the air.  New York City officials say the pilot of the crash today had 75 hours of experience.

To assess exactly what might have happened to cause this crash, I‘m joined now by Alan Diehl, a former investigator for the NTSB.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

ALAN DIEHL, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR:  You‘re welcome, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  But don‘t know what might have gone wrong, but is eight months enough flying experience to be handling a plane like this Cirrus SR20?

DIEHL:  Well, it‘s not so much the chronological time; it‘s the number of hours in the ire.  And certainly, 75 to 95 hours is not a lot of flight time.  I guess it‘s equivalent to being a rookie in baseball parlance. 

But there‘s a report, unconfirmed at this time, that he was with a flight instructor.  And Keith, if that‘s the case, all the dynamics go out.  That means that he was basically a passenger and that the pilot in command was in fact the flight instructor. 

OLBERMANN:  Would that also explain this report from Philadelphia where Cory Lidle played his baseball until this past July that he was not instrument rated on that kind of plane, that he was only rated for visual flight rules?

DIEHL:  Well, that‘s true.  You have to have at least 150 hours minimum to be instrument rated, and you have to go through a lot of special tests and training.  We all remember the fact that JFK Jr. was getting that training when he died. 

But he couldn‘t have been instrument rated, although I understand the weather in the area at the time of the crash was not instrument conditions.  So it would have been legal, even if—even if he didn‘t have a flight instructor with him, to fly that day, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It was worsening but it was still pretty clear.  But about his statements to the “New York Times” about the plane designed to be safe, even had a parachute.  Could that have engendered a sense of false security even for him, for himself, or even for the instructor?

DIEHL:  Well, as an aviation psychologist, I‘ve thought about that a bit, but I don‘t really think so.  One of the things—if anything, I think, since he just paid almost $200,000 for this aircraft, if he had reached over his shoulder or the instructor had, and pulled that lever to deploy that chute, chances are that aircraft, you know, it‘s going to get you down safely, but you‘re going to wipe out a couple hundred thousand dollar aircraft. 

Now in retrospect, obviously, we all wish that somebody had done that.  But I don‘t think pilots are going to routinely go around pulling chutes unless they‘re in real difficulty. 

OLBERMANN:  According to the mayor, New York, Mr. Bloomberg, the plane route was this: circled the Statue of Liberty up the East River, issued some sort of distress signal before crashing, and then turned in some by back into this building, the Belair, as you see in the—in this illustration here. 

After 9/11, is it astonishing that small planes, even the small planes, are allowed so close to that heavy population area of New York City?  Does that need to be re-evaluated?

DIEHL:  Keith, I don‘t think so.  I think what we had here was a very strange, you know, combination.  Of course, we‘re several hours after the accident.  Much of this information may change. 

But if this aircraft did issue a distress signal, he may have been

trying to make it to the nearest airport.  I‘m not sure, you know, without

I can‘t see your diagram there.  I don‘t know if La Guardia or JFK would have been closer. 

Maybe he didn‘t want to turn back to Teterboro because he had an in-cockpit fire or something that required that he get the aircraft on the ground as quickly as possible. 

So again, the NTSB is going to sort all this out, but right now, to answer your question, I don‘t think we need a lot of new laws or rules that say you can‘t fly near buildings. 

OLBERMANN:  La Guardia was probably closer, but even in any direction he went, he would have had to go over a lot of populated area. 

Alan Diehl, formerly with the FAA and the NTSB.  Great thanks for your time and your insights tonight, sir. 

DIEHL:  You‘re welcome, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, President Bush meets the press in a Rose Garden news conference, trying to answer critics about failures in his North Korea policy but suddenly blaming President Clinton.  That‘s a surprise. 

And now his stay the course message in Iraq may be extended to as late as 2010. 

And coming up, a COUNTDOWN exclusive: first details from another explosive book, “Tempting Faith”, an inside look at how the Bush White House not only turned its back on evangelicals, but privately ridiculed them while soliciting their votes and support. 

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The president today on two major foreign policy debacles. 

Questions about his faith and his faith in the faithful were not raised.  They will be tomorrow in a book in a genuinely startling book about the cynicism of the administration towards its supposed base: the religious right.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In May 2003 President Bush said the United States, quote, “will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.”  That in the very same month in which he declared mission accomplished in Iraq. 

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, some 41 months later, while the world according to George W. Bush may look remarkably different, what he has so say about it is undeniably the same. 

North Korea this week offering proof of its nascent nuclear capabilities, the Pentagon this day offering plans to maintain its current troop levels in Iraq through the year 2010.  Yet in the White House Rose Garden this morning, the president‘s rhetoric regarding Iraq, Korea or the upcoming election, doing little more than staying the course. 

Our report tonight from our chief White House correspondent, David Gregory—David.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, the president acknowledged tough times in Iraq today, also acknowledged an emerging threat in North Korea.  But so far, he isn‘t budging on his policy toward either. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY (voice-over):  Facing reporters in the Rose Garden this morning, the president pushed for tough sanctions against North Korea who said the U.S. has no intention of attacking. 

BUSH:  The United States remains committed to diplomacy.  The United States also reserves all options to defend our friends and our interests in the region against the threats from North Korea. 

GREGORY:  And a strong response, as well, today, to Democrats charged that a White House preoccupied with Iraq failed to stop North Korea. 

BUSH:  It‘s the intransigence of the North Korean leader that speaks volumes about the process. 

GREGORY:  The president adding that even the Clinton administration‘s direct talks with the North failed to deter the Kim regime.

BUSH:  I appreciate the efforts of previous administrations.  It just didn‘t work. 

GREGORY:  Is the Bush policy working in Iraq?  The staggering violence undermining Iraq‘s fledgling government, the president insists his military commanders are constantly adjusting but didn‘t dispute the harsh criticism of Republican critics just back from the war zone. 

BUSH:  If the plan is now not working, the plan that‘s in place isn‘t working, America needs to adjust.  I completely agree. 

GREGORY:  The White House is now bracing for a report by former secretary of state, James Baker, who has suggested U.S. strategy should change in Iraq. 

Ahead of election day, the president insisted the economy, not just security, will keep Republicans in power. 

BUSH:  Gas prices are down.  Tax cuts are working.  And there is a difference of opinion in the campaign about taxes. 

GREGORY:  The Foley scandal enveloping the House leadership, the president argued, will not sway voters. 

BUSH:  We want to make sure we understand what Republicans knew and what Democrats knew in order to find the facts.  And I hope that happens sooner, rather than later.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

GREGORY:  On all these tough issues, the president‘s press conference

they‘re becoming more frequent these days—is another piece of evidence that the president himself wants to try to drive the debate in the final weeks of this midterm campaign—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  David Gregory at the White House for us.  Great thanks. 

Richard Wolffe in the Rose Garden for today‘s news conference, as well.  And he is the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening to you. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The president seemed to be frustrated that he was not asked about the economy nor about national security in any other context than Iraq and North Korea being failures of his administration‘s policy. 

Is that reflecting—reflective of a growing concern at the White House, who with 26 days before the midterms, it is not driving the political bus at the moment?

WOLFFE:  You bet that frustrates it.  They‘re frustrated.  They can‘t get the message out on a whole range of things, but especially, you‘re right, the economy.

They‘ve felt for a long time that they were hurt by rising gas prices and now they‘re not taking any credit for falling gas prices.  The stock market, the growing economy. 

You look at him numbers, he‘s way behind Democrats when it comes to handling the economy.  So yes, he‘s frustrated.  And you know, you heard him talk about, for instance, the books that he thinks he is helping to sell out there. 

You know, he said that he thought the books were being sold because he‘d been taking hard decisions.  But you know, I‘d hate to be the aid to break it to him that these books are not paying homage to hard decisions.  They‘re taking apart his decisions.

So you know, he‘s not driving the agenda on a whole range of subjects.

OLBERMANN:  On behalf of all the authors with books out, I‘d like to think Mr. Bush for helping. 

Two extraordinary quotes today about those who have disagreed with him politically.  First, Mr. Bush said, “It‘s very important for our fellow citizens to recognize that I don‘t question anybody‘s patriotism, but I do question a strategy that says we can‘t give those on the front line of fighting terror the tools necessary to fight terror.” 

And then he said, “In his debate about which party can handle it better, I will—it‘s very important that no one question the patriotism or the loyalty to the country.”

Richard, if it‘s not Rumsfeld calling critics the equivalents of Nazi appeasers nor Cheney saying things would have worked—things that would have worked wonderfully in the script of the movie “V for Vendetta”, it‘s the president himself going out on campaign tours and putting straw man language into the mouths of Democrats about not wanting to interrogate terrorists. 

How does he do it?  How does he say those things with a straight face?

WOLFFE:  Because he‘s had practice.  The straw man is a nice way to put it.  I mean, he‘s fabricating here and under the guise of saying he‘s not questioning anybody‘s patriotism.  He is actually questioning their patriotism. 

And it‘s a very neat trick, and it‘s worked many times before.  But look, you know, the idea that Democrats are going out there, as he put it today and he‘s put it before, that they are waiting for America to be attacked before they seek to protect America, it‘s just nonsense. 

And it sounds great, but there is a core problem at the heart of this for the administration, which is campaigning is one thing, but this isn‘t a matter of arm twisting about legislation.  They‘re looking for national unity at a time of war. 

And the more they try and divide things up and parse their lines on the question of war, the harder it is to pull the country back together after the election. 

And White House officials at the last hour concede that, well, yes, you know, there is a problem here in trying to get Democrats to support the war when they keep beating them up every election time about it. 

OLBERMANN:  To that point and this election, Mr. Bush called Nancy Pelosi at that news conference today the leader of the House.  A Freudian slip?  Should we read anything more into that?

WOLFFE:  Maybe it‘s wishful thinking.  You know, he has always liked strong women in his life. 

You know, I think you can read too much into this.  But you know, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes, his mother.  I mean, maybe he likes Nancy Pelosi more than we think. 

OLBERMANN:  Somehow, I‘m going to disagree with you on that one. 

Richard Wolffe with “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  As if the president did not have enough political problems to juggle, a new one is on the horizon.  A COUNTDOWN exclusive look inside the soon to be released book, “Tempting Faith”, damning evidence from inside the Bush administration about how they used evangelicals and then tossed them aside. 

And when the political headlines are enough to give you a headache, we‘ll turn to Lewis Black to turn the whole mess into something to try to laugh about. 

That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1897, George Preston Marshall was born.  As owner of the Boston Redskins of the National Football League and host of the league‘s 1936 championship game, he actually moved the game out of Boston to New York so he could get a bigger crowd.  He moved the franchise itself to Washington the next year, refused to hire any African-American players until he was virtually blackmailed into it in 1962. 

And for some reason, there‘s still a statue of outside RFK Stadium in Washington. 

In protest, no “Oddball” tonight.  But a COUNTDOWN exclusive up next that will leave your jaw hanging.  This man is blowing the lid off the Bush administration‘s hypocrisy towards evangelicals and their priorities. 

David Kuo was a special assistant to the president.  His book, “Tempting Faith”, reveals administration cynicism that could trigger an even bigger evangelical backlash against the White House and Republicans. 

And Madonna‘s family values.  The father of the young African boy Madonna has adopted shares his joy with the world.  That‘s ahead, but first the COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers.

No. 3, Lieutenant Commander Charles Smith, the military lawyer for the GITMO detainees.  At the center of the Supreme Court court case that eventually ruled President Bush‘s military tribunals unconstitutional. 

Smith was told by superiors he could only enter a plea of guilty for the detainee.  He refused, leading to the Supreme Court battle against his own commander in chief. 

Dubbed the hero of Guantanamo, named to the “National Law Journal‘s” top 100 lawyers and this week passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and effectively drummed out of the military.  In case you were wondering how that all works.

No. 2, Police Chief Mike McDonald of Lamar, South Carolina, on administrative leave, out on bond, after being charge with petty larceny and misconduct in office, he stole the windshield off a golf cart late one night in August.  No one really knows why.  McDonald told the judge “I messed up, your Honor.  I know the media is here and they‘re going to have a field day with this.”  Correctomundo!

And No. 1, Hampton, Ohio, City Prosecutor, Scott Blauvelt, arrested

and taken into custody in the very building in which he works after he

stayed late one night and was caught on security camera video roaming the

halls of the government offices completely naked.  Obviously he‘s an

advocate of transparency in government.  Episodes

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When President Bush touched on Iraq at his news conference this morning, he may have been revealing more than he knew. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The stakes couldn‘t

be any higher, as I said earlier, in the world in which we live.  There are

there are—there are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He was talking, of course, about extreme elements using religion in Iraq.  But an hour later, Mr. Bush posed with officials from the Southern Baptist Convention.  It is described as the largest, most influential Evangelical denomination in a new book by the former number two man in Bush‘s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.  The book, “Tempting Faith,” not out until Monday.

In our third story tonight, a COUNTDOWN exclusive, we‘ve obtained a copy and it is a devastating work.  Author David Kuo‘s conservative Christian credentials are impeccable, his resume sprinkled with names like Bennett and Ashcroft. 

Now as the Foley cover-up has many Evangelical Christians wondering whether the GOP is really in sync with their values, “Tempting Faith,” provides the answer—no way.  Kuo citing one example after another of a White House that repeatedly uses Evangelical Christians for their votes, while consistently giving them nothing in return, a White House which routinely speaks of the nation‘s most famous Evangelical leaders behind their backs with contempt and derision. 

Furthermore, Faith-Based Initiatives were not only stiffed on one public promise after another by Mr. Bush, the office itself was eventually forced to answer an even higher calling, electing Republican politicians.

Kuo‘s bottom line:  the Bush White House is playing millions of American Christians for suckers.

[ At request of the publisher, MSNBC has temporarily removed the portions of Wednesday’s Countdown transcript that quote directly from David Kuo’s new book, “Tempting Faith.”    We will restore the full transcript once the book is more widely published.   To read a summary of our report on the book, click here:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15228489/ . ]

There is more—much more—revealed, in “Tempting Faith”:  how Jack Kemp was tricked into sounding like a religious conservative without even knowing it; Jerry Falwell‘s astonishing behavior at the 9/11 day of remembrance; and considerably more, as our COUNTDOWN exclusive on “Tempting Faith” continues here, tomorrow night. 

With political headlines like that and all the scandals and all the buck passing swirling around D.C., we‘ll turn to one of the only men you can rely on in times like this.  Humorist Lewis Black joins us again. 

And there‘s no adoption like a Madonna adoption.  This is little David.  We‘ll here from the father who is excited to give the boy up so he can live with the material mom.  That and much more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Humorist Lewis Black graces us with his extra special political analysis.  And while Madonna is a dopting a child, a Republican candidate is Wisconsin is adopting an unusual campaign platform, revealing her past as a Green Bay Packers groupie.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At first blush, it would seem like a good thing to do, adopt a child from an impoverished nation and give him a better life.  But in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, if that is indeed what Madonna has done, she may be setting an example that would have some children‘s groups concerned.  Our correspondent is David Reilly from our affiliated British network ITV.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID REILLY, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Is this the child that Madonna is adopting?  One year old David who was given up soon after his birth has allegedly been plucked from an African orphanage.  Officially the pop star‘s in Malawi to set up a new children‘s center.  But today, the father of baby David of his son will soon be starting a new life in Britain with here. 

“They told us that my son, today or tomorrow, will be taken, together with a nurse who‘s been caring for him at the Achingy (ph) Mission Orphanage were he‘ll be acclimatized with his adoptive parents.” 

Over the past week the singer and her husband, Guy Richie, have visited numerous projects they‘ve funded, handing out copies of her book and talking to orphans.  Even though the adoption‘s still to be confirmed, children‘s charities are already worried the trendsetter could encourage more people to follow her lead. 

DANIELA REILLY, SAVE THE CHILDREN:  It is important that the children really feel the sense of belonging, they are linked to their families when the families are there.  So it is about protecting children where they are. 

REILLY:  The queen of pop has a reported fortune of nearly 250 million pounds and homes around the world.  Coming from a mud hut in Africa, this looks to be an amazing rags to riches tail from Madonna‘s ray of light. 

David Reilly, ITV NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  But she may not be the only one wilting, apparenlitty, in the African heat, brings us to our nightly roundup of celebrity and gossip news, and the quadruped known as Brangelina.  Radar Online reporting that officials at a Namibian school are complaining that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have yet to make a good on their pledge of $315,000 in donations.  That pledge to cover both the school and two hospital maternity ward.  That was made back in June commemorating the arrival of their baby, Shiloh.  Their representative today, reportedly, not returning calls. 

Meantime, according to reports a full year‘s tuition at the Namibian school goes for about $140.  The school is now hoping to somehow make up its full annual budget of $52,080.

And did you hear about the fight that did not break out on the set of “Grey‘s Anatomy?”  “People” magazine reporting that stars Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington had a deference of opinion on the L.A.  set of the hit show.  Things got so heated that no punches were thrown.  Mr.  Washington confirms that he Dempsey went nose-to-nose in lieu of actually going hand-to-hand.  How come the fists never actually flew?  Washington telling “People” “Our faces are too beautiful for that.”  And that the unfortunate encounter had at least taught him something about his co-star Dr.  McDreamy, again quoting, “He has really pretty blue eyes.”

The anatomy of political disaster.  From problems at the White House to the page scandal on Capitol Hill and everything in between.  Comedian Lewis black joins us to try to make sense of it all or at least to make fun of it all. 

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

This advisory, stay tuned to Amazon.com for the world premiere of the of the selling of the “Worst Person in the World.”  Thank you.

The Bronze tonight, Marcy Gant of Davenport, Iowa.  Police say the 31-year-old woman was getting married, did not have enough money for her wedding dress, so she offered to pay part of the balance with her 4-year-old son.  She‘d be under arrest. 

Our Silver goes to Sandy Sullivan.  At 65 she‘s trying two new things.  First, she‘s the self-published author of her memoir; her life in the 1960‘s called “Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs” in which she describes how she was the girlfriend of former Green Bay Packers football stars Paul Horning and Dan Curry and celebrated her sexuality with them and others.  In brief, she was a groupie.  Brings new meaning to that name, Green Bay Packers, doesn‘t it?

The other thing, Miss Sullivan, is trying for the first time running for public office.  She‘s the Republican candidate in the race for Wisconsin‘s secretary of state. 

But our winners, whoever in the Ottawa County Clerk‘s Office proofreads the ballots in Ottawa County, Michigan, a typo will cost the county $40,000 to print new ballots because the old one misspelled the word, public.  Left out the “L.”  You can annunciate for your self how the mistaken version of that word sounds.

Obviously the County Clerk‘s spelling was just a hair off. 

Proofreaders at Ottawa County Clerk‘s Office in Michigan, thanks to Patrick O‘Connor of ESPN for that, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If Democrats win back one or both houses of the Congress in the mid-terms the Republican loss will do doubt be traced to discontent over the war in Iraq, unless of course it‘s put at the feet of former Congressman Mark Foley or the ex-football groupie running for secretary of state of Wisconsin. 

Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, such are the vagaries of politics.  Congressional Republican leaders in a heap of trouble over Foley‘s instant messages to underage pages, sex doesn‘t normally mix well with politics even when it isn‘t illegal as in tonight‘s Silver entry for “Worst Person in the World,” Republican candidate for secretary of state in Wisconsin, Sandy Sullivan who‘s claim to fame is in her new self-published book, preface written by her former lover, Green Bay Packer star, Paul Horning.  Paul Horning did the old intro, as we say in publishing.

Amid those kind of political prevarications in peccadilloes, a movie about the late night TV talk show host who gets elected president, somehow fits. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a second, do you think anybody remembers the issues when there‘s a debate?  Do you think—when was the last time any human being, any American watched the debate and went, “Oh, god! Did you hear what he said?” 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t believe he talked about fiscal policy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh my god, my eyes are open and I can hear again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah, you‘re right.  All they remember is Nixon sweating like Elizabeth Taylor after a Mexican meal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, Lewis Black who plays Eddie Langston, the head writer for that TV talk show host, obviously played by Robin Williams in the fan, excuse me, the film or which I‘m a fan, “Man of the Year.” 

It‘s been too long, my friend, welcome back. 

LEWIS BLACK, HUMORIST:  Yeah, it‘s nice to see you again. 

OLBERMANN:  The midterm elections are obviously upon us.  With the Foley scandal still peculating, have instant messages, do you think, ever had such an effect on a campaign in an election before? 

BLACK:  It‘s spectacular.  It‘s really good.  You know, all of the

drugs that I did in the late ‘60s couldn‘t have prepared me for what‘s been

going on.  I thought I was really ready for all this stuff.  Why wouldn‘t -

you know, -- why wouldn‘t you just call the guy?  You‘re typing it?  How insane are these people? 

OLBERMANN:  They‘re very good typists though.  Apparently one-finger typists.

BLACK:  Well, the thing that‘s interesting is that the jokes became about the I.M.‘s because there was nothing you could do with the original joke which was, you know, a U.S. Senator in charge of dealing with—you know, in charge of the—the congressman in charge of dealing with sexual predators committee and oversight is a sexual predator.  But how do you add to that? 

OLBERMANN:  As Bob and Ray said to me during Watergate, “We don‘t touch this.  How can we make it any funnier? 

BLACK:  I know.  It‘s an extraordinary time.  I mean, I‘ve been watching your show a lot recently, and you know, you almost end up by default becoming a comedian. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I feel that way often.  I wonder if the president does, but let me just do this one local, since all politics are local, we made a big deal about this and I‘d love your perspective on it.  The candidate who actually is touting her past sexual liaisons with the Green Bay Packers in her bid for political office.  I mean, she‘s only running for secretary of state in Wisconsin.  But is this opening up a brave new world in politics.  I mean this is a 65-year-old Republican who doesn‘t have a campaign platform, she‘s got a campaign platform bed. 

BLACK:  You know, the interesting thing when I was reading the article about it was the fact that I did think immediately that I would have slept with Paul Horning back then.  He was like the best looking man in America.  But—how much of the book—that‘s the whole book is her just about sleeping around? 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, I think there‘s a chapter for each offensive position or something like that, in a football position, of course.  The president‘s news conference today, he was trying, as usual, to ply reporters with his charm.  Let me play you a segment of this and then get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If I might say that is a beautiful suit. 

KEVIN CORK, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you, sir.  My tailor...

BUSH:   And I can‘t see anybody else who even comes close. 

Susanne, second—first bet—best dressed person here, sorry... 

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Kevin and I coordinated. 

BUSH:  No, it actually looks—yeah. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Kevin Cork—our own Kevin Cork and Suzanne Malveaux, I guess, from CNN. Is the president running out of material?  Do you feel like you need to mail him something or... 

BLACK:  Well, I think maybe if he‘s going the lose the Evangelical vote maybe after with that he was trying to go after the gay vote. 

(LAUGHTER)

He‘s going into the sartorial end, rather than the spiritual end.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get all the tailors. 

The Woodward book, “State of Denial” we‘re talking about that everyday, but now we‘re hearing, little—still echoes here.  The President had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq and according to the Woodward book he said, “I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”

What‘s your estimation?  Does Mr. Bush still have Barney in his corner at this point? 

BLACK:  Barney‘s probably a lot smarter, you know.  Barney‘s a dog.  Barney knows what it is.  The president I‘m not sure.  I think we see—I think we see in the president the thing that scares me is always that disconnect when the words that come out of his mouth don‘t match his face.  You know, the dog barks and the dog always, you know, got a look about him. 

But there‘s something odd about that disconnect that has always scared me. 

And you know, the ones that amaze me as of late, Keith, are the guys who say, “If you had to do it over again would you do the same thing in Iraq?”  And he‘ll go “sure.”  And you sit there and go are you instain sane?  If you  -- you know, I‘ve been in some seriously bad relationships.  Somebody asked would you like to spend another six years like that?  No!

OLBERMANN:  So, what do you think it is?  Give me 30 seconds?  What do you think it is with this president at this point?  What is it?  Is it—is he the best actor of all time or the worst? 

BLACK:  I think it‘s—I can‘t put—you know, none of us can seem to put our finger on it.  I don‘t know—and maybe not him, but that he—they just continue to kind of like sp—you can‘t even call it spin—it‘s like whatever happens they go, “yeah, that‘s fine.  What do you care?  Hoo ha! Look at those guys.” 

All they keep doing is pointing.  “Look at those guys.”  And that whole thing of like, you know, “I‘m in charge, you don‘t really know what‘s going on.  I know, na na na na na! I know something you don‘t know.” 

OLBERMANN:  Lewis Black‘s new movie is “Man of the Year” Robin Williams is in there too.  Always a pleasure to talk to you, sir.  Thanks for your time, tonight. 

BLACK:  And thank you.  And my really likes you, Keith, and that scary because she doesn‘t like a lot of people.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘m—give her my best.

BLACK:  I will.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,257th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 

Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,