updated 10/20/2006 11:45:01 AM ET 2006-10-20T15:45:01

Guests: Dana Milbank, Norberto Santana, A.B. Stoddard, Derrick Pitts

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

Campaigning for Mr. Macaca, campaigning for Mr. Yes I Cheated on My Wife but I Didn’t Beat My Girlfriend.

President Bush makes a big faux pas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   If you want to be a Democrat these days, you can be for almost anything, but victory in Iraq is not an option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Victory is not an option.”  Why does that ring a bell? 

Oh, yes, the draft of the report from the president’s Baker commission.  “The United States should aim for stability, particularly in Baghdad, and political accommodation in Iraq, rather than victory.”

Then victory in Iraq is not an option, that’d be a Republican idea, right?

What were the Republican ideas after this man confronted Mark Foley about his inappropriate contact with pages?  Former House clerk Jeff Trandahl testifies to the Ethics Committee.  What did Dennis Hastert know, and when did he know it?

The football dirty bomb hoax.  Should not the Department of Homeland Security have known before the news got out and everybody got scared?  One of the stadiums supposedly threatened does not exist.

The stingray accident, the barb in the heart, the kind that killed the Crocodile Hunter, so rare, scientists said it could never happen again?  It just happened again in Florida.

And scientists just ruined to famous plot elements, cloaking devices from “Star Trek,” from “Harry Potter.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARRY POTTER”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That’s an invisibility cloak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  They’re real?  Can I get one in a size XL, please?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Thursday, October 19, 19 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

With the temperature of his popularity back down to around freezing, how desperate would a candidate have to be to welcome President Bush to his or her campaign event?  And how desperate would the president have to be to go?

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, plenty desperate, Mr. Bush today abandoning the moral high ground to campaign both for an admitted adulterer also accused of beating his mistress, and for a candidate who introduced the nation to an obscure racial slur.  The beneficiaries of his largesse, two Republican candidates once thought to be defending safe seats.  Not any more.

On the ropes, Pennsylvania Congressman Don Sherwood and Virginia Senator George Allen, Allen now neck and neck with challenger Jim Webb, after, you will no doubt recall, having singlehandedly put the word “macaca” into the American vernacular this summer.  An afternoon rally for Congressman Sherwood in central Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush saving all of his name-calling for the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Six years ago, the Democrats thought Joe Lieberman was good enough to run for vice president of the United States.  Now, because he supports victory in Iraq, they don’t think he’s fit to be in their party.

There’s only one position in the Democrat party that everybody seems to agree on.  If you want to be a Democrat these days, you can be for almost everything, but victory in Iraq is not an option.

You will hear a lot of rhetoric and a lot of partisan charges coming from the other side.  Their goal is to distract you from the two main issues in this campaign.  And the are these.  Which party will keep your taxes low?  And which party will take the steps necessary to defend the United States of America?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That’s where we are, right?  ‘Merica?  In 2004 or 2002, it’s unlikely President Bush would have been caught dead anywhere near the Allen or Sherwood campaigns, this year apparently taking the work where he can get it, Mr. Sherwood’s reelection effort having been undermined by the revelation that, yes, he had been cheating on his wife, but, no, he had not been choking his mistress, as she had alleged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TV COMMERCIAL)

REP. DON SHERWOOD ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I made a mistake that nearly cost me the love of my wife, Carol, and our daughters.  As a family, we’ve worked through this, because of my deep regret, our love, and the fact that the allegations of abuse was never true.

While I’m truly sorry for disappointing you, I never wavered from my commitment to reduce taxes, create jobs, and bring home our fair sure.  Should you forgive me, you can count on me to keep fighting hard for you and your family.

I’m Don Sherwood, and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I don’t know about that word “fighting.”

At today’s campaign event for Congressman Sherwood, our own Dana Milbank, of course, also the national political correspondent for “The Washington Post,” joins us now from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let me start not with Allen and Sherwoood, but with that one remark from the president.  “If you want to be a Democrat these days, you can be for almost anything, but victory in Iraq is not an option.  Is that as big a gaffe as it sounds, I mean, given that the recommendations of the Baker commission take as their starting point that victory in Iraq really is not an option?

MILBANK:  Well, it’s not a gaffe.  The issue is that President Bush doesn’t have any other option now.  And there was a sense of it being a flashback to 2004.  The president needs to phrase it this way.  He can’t say—pose it between two options, we have a minor debacle or a major debacle there in Iraq.

He still needs to position it in terms of, We’re for victory, they’re for defeat.  The problem is, nobody’s buying it any more.  The rhetoric is still being used, I suspect it has something to do with the White House speechwriter leaving his job several months ago, and they seem to be using the old lines.

OLBERMANN:  He left a stack of plays to use in advance, like when Bill Walsh quit as the coach of the ‘49ers in scripted out the plays for the next coach.

Other than being an interesting way to pass a day, how much does a president really help Senator Allen and Congressman Sherwood at this point?  And how does it help a president?  I mean, surely, you know, stumping for an admitted adulterer, also accused of beating his mistress, does not succeed in rallying the base in any way, does it?

MILBANK:  No.  It’s very surprising.  A lot of people think the White House wanted to pull the plug today, but had already announced the event and really couldn’t go about doing that.

Not clear it helps Sherwood very much.  The president’s only at about 35 percent in his district.  On the other hand, only one in five people want to reelect Sherwood.

But the truth is, when you look at the competitive races right now, the president doesn’t have a lot of people who want him to come be with them.  He’s something of a pariah in these districts, these moderate districts now.  Sherwood is in a Republican district.  He wouldn’t be having any problem if it weren’t for that unfortunate call to 911 and the subsequent police report and lawsuit.

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans are going to roll out over the weekend, beginning of next week, an ad that some people are already thinking of in terms of Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” commercial from 1964, basically saying what the president said again today, as he’s said throughout this campaign, Vote for the Democrats and you will die.

That subject, and, by the way if you happen to survive, you’ll have to pay more taxes if the Democrats are elected—is that all that is left here for the Republican campaign?  Is it literally down to death and taxes?

MILBANK:  It is really that play.  Remember, this play was working fairly well around the time of the September 11 anniversary.  Then the corruption came back again.

It was—the taxes particularly interesting, because when you look at it, the president’s taxes don’t come up for renewal until 2010.  So by definition, it’s not something that this particular Congress is going to be dealing with.

Once again, the president has a very limited number of plays that he can execute here.  His best subjects are taxes and terrorism.  The problem is, that’s not where the rest of the country is talking right now.

OLBERMANN:  But big picture, even with all the scandal, with the crises, will not the Democratic Party still have to pretty much run the table to take back the House?  Do we run the risk of underestimating the challenge that it faces every time that we talk about how much trouble the GOP is in?  Or has this widened out, or has it narrowed?

MILBANK:  Well, certainly, the size of the wave seems to have grown, and expectations are indeed now that the Democrats get the House, and possibly the Senate.  But we have—you know, on this show, cautioned before that because of redistricting, because of the Republican advantage in terms of the final 72-hour get-out-the-vote efforts, very difficult to tell.  And right now, it looks like, if anything, we’re going to wind up with a very ungovernable House and probably a Senate with a very small majority one way or the other.

But it is true that the Democrats are no shoo-in.

OLBERMANN:  And incumbent inertia, of course.  “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank, this time from Harrisburg.  As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of election tactics, one classic attempt to defraud and disenfranchise voters in California is now backfiring on the Republican contender who allegedly attempted it.

It started with this letter, sent to as many as 14,000 Democrats in Orange County, California, many of them Hispanic.  It reads, obviously in Spanish, “You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.”

The letter came from the campaign office of Republican candidate Tan Nguyen, who is trying to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez in California’s 47th District, and who himself immigrated to this country, having fled Vietnam with his family, in 1973.

Nguyen is denying any personal knowledge of the flyer, telling “The Orange County Register” that a rogue staffer was responsible, quoting, “Evidently an employee took it upon herself to allow our database to be used to send out the letter.  It was disseminated without my authorization or approval.  The employee has been discharged.”

But even his fellow Republicans aren’t buying the old blame-it-on-a-staffer chestnut, the Orange County GOP executive committee voting unanimously today to call for Nguyen to drop out of the race, the chairman telling the Associated Press, quote, “I learned information that allows me to draw the conclusion that not only was Mr. Nguyen’s campaign involved in this, but that Mr. Nguyen was personally involved in expediting the mailer.”

Joining us now is Norberto Santana, Jr., an investigative reporter for that newspaper we mentioned, “The Orange County Register.”

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

NORBERTO SANTANA, JR., “THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER”:  Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Given that even his own party does not believe he’s innocent and wants him out of the this race now as a result, is it pretty much a given tonight that Mr. Nguyen will drop that candidacy?

SANTANA:  Well, it’s tough to know what Tom will do.  He’s been a little bit of an unconventional candidate from the beginning.  He was pretty much self-financed, giving his campaign more than half a million dollars.  He is scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow.  I think at this point, his biggest problem are the swirling investigations being conducted by the state attorney general, the secretary of state, and now the Department of Justice.

OLBERMANN:  Was the seat pretty safely Democratic anyway, or is this latest scandal potentially, you know, played a part in the possible shift of power in the House of Representatives?

SANTANA:  It was a pretty safe Democratic seat.  Loretta Sanchez was reelected by a handy margin a few years ago.  I don’t think there was any question that Tom was going to make a competitive run at it.

Where it could have serious implications is in the 34th state senate district here in California.  Republicans have narrowed registration gap there, making it even with Democrats.  And that race is pretty much a toss-up at this point.  I think there are a lot of Republican concerns that this could backfire on them in that race, and some Democratic aspirations that it could energize their base.

OLBERMANN:  But, obviously, in terms of this letter, you don’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, regardless of whether or not Nguyen drops out.  Is the damage, to some degree, already done?  I mean, will there not be some American citizens, some voters in Orange County, who think they can’t vote because they immigrated here?

SANTANA:  That’s a good point. and it’s already something that’s being discussed in a pretty heated nature.  One supervisor has already talked about, here at the county level, asking the registrar of voters, as has requested the Democratic Party chairman here in Orange County, for them to send out letters to every single voter that got one of these letters, advising them that it is indeed legal for them to vote if their status in this country is legal.

Some Republicans are raising concerns that that might be seen as a taxpayer-funded get-out-the-vote for local Democrats.  So it’ll be interesting to see how that shapes up.

OLBERMANN:  Has there been a significant community response in Orange County to that letter?

SANTANA:  Oh, the response here, on both sides of the immigration issue, which we’re pretty much front and center on nationally, has been extremely heated.  Many residents that have—that see illegal immigration as an issue for them have absolutely poured in commentaries, wondering what’s wrong with pointing out that people whose status is not legal can’t vote?

On the other side, the Latino community has just been absolutely outraged.  Nationwide Latino activist groups have been writing letters insisting that DOJ look at it.  Here tomorrow, I believe, there’s also a press conference being held by local activist leaders, even though some in the Vietnamese community has been distancing themselves from the mailer.

OLBERMANN:  An extraordinary event.  Norberto Santana, Jr., investigative reporter for “The Orange County Register.”  Great thanks for your reporting and for your time tonight, sir.

SANTANA:  Thanks for having me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And still, there is the Mark Foley investigation.  The House Ethics Committee hears more details about who really knew what, when.  Mr. Hastert’s name has come up again.  And how many other congressmen may be directly involved?

And what in the world is happening at Homeland Security, publicizing threats that cannot possibly pass the smell test?  Dirty bombs at football stadiums, except one of the stadiums mentioned does not even exist.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Remember when Mark Foley was at the center of the Mark Foley scandal?  How many years ago was that?

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, continuing repercussions threatening to swamp even more Republican members of Congress in the Republican sex scandal.  House majority leader John Boehner took a little time out from coordinating GOP campaign efforts to testify before the House Ethics Committee today about what he knew about Foley.

So did Jeff Trandahl, the former clerk of the House.  According to ABCNews.com, he told the committee a top aide to House speaker Denny Hastert was briefed regularly about issues with the page program, including, quote, “a problem group of House members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages,” not just Foley, a group, and not just Hastert found out last month, but a top aide was briefed regularly.

And there is news about Mr. Foley himself today, a 72-year-old priest telling at least two media outlets he had contact with Foley when Foley was in his early teens that Foley might have considered inappropriate, like overnight trips and naked saunas, that priest issuing a somewhat less than reassuring denial today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MERCIECA (ON PHONE):  I touched him also, you know.  But I didn’t, it’s (INAUDIBLE) with us than, it’s not something (INAUDIBLE), I mean, rape or penetration or anything like that, you know, it was just fondling, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At the time, did you think you were doing anything wrong?

MERCIECA:  Because then, I didn’t.  He really seemed to like it, you know.  So it was more—sort of more like a spontaneous thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, A.B. Stoddard covers Congress, and not that stuff, and probably knows more than she can say about the Foley scandal.

Ms. Stoddard, thank you for your time tonight.

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Do the details about Foley’s past, other than, you know, giving us all a kind of a sick feeling, does it change the story?  Or is Foley, at this point, almost a footnote as the focus has shifted to the coverup?

STODDARD:  Oh, I, well, of course the coverup is more important.  But I think it’s so interesting, what happened today, because Mark Foley is in seclusion in an alcohol treatment center, in hiding.  We don’t have any, you know, B-roll of him leaving the, you know, the building through the back door or anything.  He’s in hiding.

And he has chosen to contact the diocese and identify, locate, and get interviewed—succeed in having this priest interviewed and for all the world to see.  So I think he’s exacting his revenge upon the leadership of the House and is probably enjoying this.  This is all something, you know, he has not chosen to do for 39 years, and could have done privately.

And he knows exactly what this will do.  It doesn’t exonerate him, he doesn’t think, he’s telling us he doesn’t expect it to.  And it will infuriate the religious Republicans in the party, the cultural conservatives, that they, that he knows really need to turn out and save this majority in this election.  So I find that development really quite stunning.

OLBERMANN:  To the particulars of the coverup, the Trandahl testimony today, ABC reporting that he told the Ethics Committee he briefed a—or at least a top aide to Hastert was briefed regularly.  How does Dennis Hastert move out of the way of that?

STODDARD:  Dennis has, well, you know, that’s sort of at this point a moot point, because Dennis Hastert is, no matter what happens, it looks like they’ll lose the House, but Dennis Hastert, the expectation is at this point is going to leave.

So really we’re looking now at what happens to the number two, and that’s John Boehner of Ohio, who’s the majority leader, who hopes to be speaker or minority leader.  And if he gets caught in this wake, I mean, depending on how bad the fallout is from this matter, and how much more is revealed in the coming weeks about what was covered up, then we’re, you know, we’re talking about him possibly losing his political career, as well.

And that remain, you know, we’ll see what happens with that.  But it’s clear at this point that Hastert is in deep trouble, and so are the members of his staff, in terms of the future of their possible lobbying careers, I guess.  They, they, but they were expected to leave.  This was going to be his last, Hastert’s last two years.

The interesting thing also today is that Steve Gunderson, a former, an openly gay Republican former congressman from Wisconsin, is saying that he, his friends with Jeff Trandahl and has spoken with him, and that he is saying that he is confident that the leaders were informed.

So it’s really, you know, Jeff Trandahl is bringing in the big guns here, and I think that it’s just a matter of time before we learn some very damaging details about what they kept under wraps.

OLBERMANN:  And the reference, supposedly in Trandahl’s testimony, to a group of congressmen and staffers with inappropriate relationships with pages or contact with pages, that’s not the first time that’s flitted around Washington.  Do you think we are close to hearing specific accusations arising about other members, credible accusations?

STODDARD:  I (INAUDIBLE), I would have to assume they are rumors, but they are swilling around right at the surface.  And they’re probably about to burst into the open.  I’m assuming that Congressman Kolbe, who’s retiring of Arizona, is one of those in the group, because they’re now looking into his relationships with pages.

But certainly they’re are, this, the, obviously the potential for more.  And Jeff Trandahl would be the person who knew, because as clerk of the House, he was supervisor of the page program.

OLBERMANN:  And the upshot is that despite all this outcry, despite the plummeting numbers in the polls, Congress is shelving the idea of any kind of plan to reform or protect the pages?  Is that true?  How can that be true?

STODDARD:  Well, I imagine that at some point, when they can think about that, that they will, there will be some effort.  I would think that there would be some effort to reform.

But at this point, it’s sort of a laughable, you know, point for discussion, because what’s (INAUDIBLE), you know, what’s at stake with a, with a coverup at, that goes all the way to the speaker’s office, and underage kids, is just, I mean, it, it, it’s so much more important (INAUDIBLE), the, the coverup for political purposes is so much more important than sort of how you structure the page program.

There were lines of communication, there was a chain of accountability in place for the pages to be protected.  Pages were warned about Mark Foley in 1995, when they entered that program.  What happened was at the top, and no probably right at, at, you know, at the supervision of the pages.  And so they, they’re likely to reform it, but I think that that’s their first order of business at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Nineteen ninety-five, but the speaker of the House had never heard about it.  A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill.”  Great thanks for your time.

STODDARD:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Are we dumping something in the ocean that’s upsetting the stingrays?  Seven weeks after Steve Irwin died, another stingray barb winds up in a human chest.  This time, the victim survives.

And prawns on a treadmill.

COUNTDOWN continues with this warning.  We believe the denizens of the sea are trying to tell us something.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A great historical day for television fiction.  It was on the episode aired on this date in 1982 that the patriarch of the Ewing family on “Dallas,” Jock Ewing, was killed off in a plane crash, giving even more airtime to J.R.  And it was on this date in 1931 that David Cromwell was born.  As John LeCarre, he has written the best spy fiction ever, including the landmark “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which became a TV epic starring Alec Guinness and, among, others, Bernard Hefton (ph), who was born on this date in 1925.

You’re already bored, so let’s play Oddball.

And we begin with a prawn on a treadmill.  Fun on the treadmill, everybody.  This is video we found on the Internets.  And I don’t know, I don’t know what this is about, but it’s the best we’ve seen since the police dashcam tape.  Obviously a couple years old, but still funny.  The best part is when his music starts playing on the radio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your driver’s license and insurance, please. 

Pulled you over (INAUDIBLE) cutting corners, oh.  (expletive deleted).  Damn it.  Agghhh!  (expletive deleted)  (expletive deleted)  (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted)  Damn it!  Son of a (expletive deleted)!  (expletive deleted).  Son of a (expletive deleted)!

All right, now, let’s get it back here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  (singing) We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in—oh, that wasn’t the song.  Now hasten we to Waltham, Massachusetts, where florist Dave Greenburg is looking for a wife and is willing to pay for it.  Greenberg says he’s hoping for a younger woman and he’s offering $1,000 finder’s fee to anyone who can hook him up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE GREENBERG, LOOKING FOR LOVE:  This way someone finds me a wife, I give them $1,000.  If they don’t find me a wife, they don’t get anything.  It’s just like a real estate agent. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, except a real estate agent usually get six percent, so twice a month you’re wife finder is going to be sleeping with your new wife.

From a commission to faulty tips, faulty Internet tips.  The alleged stadium threat that got many anxious yesterday announced as a hoax.  Well, obviously it was a hoax, we knew that yesterday since one of the stadiums mentioned does not exist.  The Homeland Security can fumble one that was that easy, what could they do about a real dirty bomb?  Cross their fingers?  That and invisibility cloaks and cloaking devices, they may not just be for movies anymore, Mr. Potter.  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN’s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day. 

No. 3, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.  His teammate and back in high school, the late pitcher Corey Lidle.  Giambi had surgery on his wrists today, the operation conducted by Dr.  Andrew Wyland (ph), whose office in the building into which Lidle crashed his plane last week. 

No. 2, the late Eugenia Dodson of Miami.  For the last two decades of her long life, she lived if a modest two bedroom condo.  She was generous to her family and friends.  People knew she had investments.  Miss Dodson died last December, a few weeks short of 101 years old, but it was not until the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Institute announced the gift it had received from her in her will that anybody knew how good she had been at investing.  The charitable donations in her will totaled $35,600,000. 

No. 1, James Kranz of (INAUDIBLE) Utah, went to the middle school football game his sons were playing in Saturday, decided to videotape it, he wanted to get a nice vantage point to record from, so he got up on the roof of the school, which is when somebody yelled “sniper.”  Fortunately, the SWAT team realized it was not a gun Mr. Kranz was carrying, but a folding lawn chair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Nearly all media reported something about it today or yesterday.  We did not, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment and should have been obvious the moment the story broke.  Even with the caveat that authorities were giving it very little credibility as an actual threat, you put in on TV or the newspapers and people start worrying, needlessly. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, there was no Internet threat that radiological dirty bombs would be delivered by truck to seven National Football League stadiums this Sunday and simultaneously detonated.  The FBI and Homeland Security confirmed that today.  It was evidently part after 20-year-old kid’s entry in some kind of worst-case scenario on-line contest. 

Of course that should have been obvious to anybody at the bureau or Homeland who knew a thing about football or geography or time.  The seven supposedly threatened cities were the football stadiums “in new York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland, and Oakland.” 

Except there isn’t a football stadium in New York.  There hasn’t been a pro football game played in New York City since 1983.  The nearest stadium is in New Jersey.  The two teams are called the New York Jets and the New York Giants, but they play there in Giant’s Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey about 10 mile from Time Square. 

Anybody plugged in enough to get radiological bomb or know of a plot about dirty bombs would have been plugged in enough to know that, too.  That or they would have been driving around Manhattan all day Sunday asking, “Uh, where’s the football stadium?” 

Just as relevant, the premise of the supposed simultaneous attack threat ignored the fact that while four of the games are scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the one in the stadium you see here, the Oakland Coliseum, and the games in Seattle and Cleveland are scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Certainly any hint of a problem at the four early games would have resulted in all manner of extraordinary preventive measures at the late games and anybody planning attacks who did not know that or did not know the games didn’t all start at the same time could not possibly have merited a public scare. 

Once again, thank you Homeland Security, for making us feel a little less secure for no good reason. 

Of course the propaganda worked regardless, the term “dirty bomb” got back into the consciousness just 19 days before the elections.  Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams has an update now on the measures the real counter-terror heroes are taking to try to fend off the threat.  And before you dismiss his report, as propaganda, listen for the key assessment on how unreal even the concept of such a bomb turns out to be. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  At this restricted government facility in New Mexico, scientists have set off more than 600 explosions in closed chambers to study dirty bombs.  Slow motion video shows how one would work, blowing up conventional explosives to spread dangerous radioactive material.  In the worst case radiation could contaminate dozens of city blocks, taking years to clean up and leaving people wary of returning even longer. 

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR:  That’s the kind of high consequence attack that would have a real impact on our national economy and our way of life. 

WILLIAMS:  Fred Harper, a nuclear engineering at Sandia National Labs near Albuquerque says his tests have produced some good news.  Building a dirty bomb turns out to be very difficult. 

FRED HARPER, NUCLEAR ENGINEER:  It’s more complicated than most people would assume.  It depends on the material properties and the device design and there is a lot of ways to blow it. 

WILLIAMS:  Even so, the fear that a terrorist might get it right is a major worry for Homeland Security.  Now rushing to install radiation monitors, like these nationwide.  And hoping to set up a ring of detectors around New York and other big cities.  And government researchers are testing more advanced portable detectors, easier to deploy, harder to spot. 

(on camera):  Radiation monitors are already working around sensitive sites like the White House here in Washington and the stock exchange.  But the materials they’re designed to are widely available. 

(voice-over):  The U.S. has licensed more than 20,000 users of radioactive materials from gauges that measure ground moisture at construction sites to medical devices used in cancer treatment. 

Government investigators say that’s a huge shortcoming, despite the alarm about dirty bombs, these experts say, those materials are nowhere near well enough secured. 

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  The materials can either be stolen or perhaps acquired by staff members that may be associated with the wrong types of people. 

WILLIAMS:  Security experts call for tighter controls nuclear materials to prevent the kind of attack that Homeland Security hopes never comes. 

Pete Williams, NBC NEWS, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Here, perhaps, a real threat to national safety—murderous stingrays.  Death by stingray barb to the heart, supposed to be virtually impossible, yet about seven weeks after Steve Erwin was killed it’s happened again, although the man survived. 

But speaking of killers, O.J.  Simpson reported to be working on a novel in which he will hypothetically describe in detail the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, and guess who he identifies as the killer?  Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN’s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CRAIG FERGUSON, “LATE SHOW”:  There are rumors in this country that President Bush is drinking again.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but take be a look at this clip. 

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And uh—and—and

I—I thank the leaguers.  Listen when I call ‘em on the phone we’re strategizing. 

               

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just like the big rodeos, there are several events.  The youngest competitors, just 3-years-old, compete in steer wrestling, where the idea is to knock over the steer for some the task is simply too violent, others competitors have no problem giving their all and then some. 

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC:  I asked the president, you know, simply, why do they dislike you here and then I asked President Chirac—and I studied in Paris—I asked President Chirac, you know, in French, could you comment on this and it was as if I had committed a war crime.  Bush took off his headset and he said “Gregory, what are you doing?  The guy memorizes four words in French and plays like he’s intercontinental.”

I said, you know, “Mr. President, I could go on.”  And he said, “Oh really?  I’m impressed.  Qua bueno.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Revenge of the stingrays part 2, only this time the victim survives. 

And O.J.  Simpson writes a novel about the murder of his ex-wife in which the killer is O.J.  Simpson?  COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A quick correction in our story at the beginning of the newscast about the California 47th, the congressional race in which the Republican Tan Nguyen has been traced back to being the source of a letter that was sent to immigrants and possibly illegal aliens in Orange County, California.  We identified his opponent as a Democrat named Linda Sanchez, that was a mistake, the candidate’s name is Loretta Sanchez.  MSNBC apologize for the error. 

Meantime, this all sound like a very bad joke, a stingray leaps into a boat, stabs a man in the chest.  But in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, fill it out with a few more details and that’s exactly what happened.  Nothing sort of bizarre, less than seven weeks after a barb from a stingray killed Steve Erwin, in what experts pronounced at the time a “once-in-a-century kind of event.”  This time an 81-year-old Florida resident is recovering after surgeons removed the barb in a manner that underscores who would up being the prey.  Our correspondent is Chris Clacken. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CLACK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Even though he’s in critical continue from the sting of a stingray that left a barb near his heart, doctors sum up the fate of the 81-year-old James Bertakis, this way. 

DR.  EUGENE COSTANTINI, BOWARD MEDICAL CENTER:  Well, he’s lucky. 

CLACKEN:  Lucky in an odd way, from a bizarre incident involving this stingray, which flopped itself into Bertakis’ boat on the intercostal waterway Broward County. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, apparently he tried to remove it from his boat and it kind of latched onto him. 

CLACKEN:  The stingray lodged it’s foot-ling barb into the old man’s chest. 

COSTANTINI:  It’s razor sharp and the tip is extremely sharp. 

CLACKEN:  And now everyone, including his family, are bewildered by yet another rare stingray attack. 

CHRIS BERTAKIS, VICTIM’S SON:  I didn’t think that could happen and I’ve never heard of that happening ever until last month and to hear it happen again to our father, it was shocking. 

CLACKEN:  Like a fish hook, surgeons successfully threaded the barb through Bertakis’ chest, through a most vital organ.

COSTANTINI: I’ve been in practice 20 years now, this is the first barb I’ve removed from the heart. 

CLACKEN:  They did that instead of pulling the barb straight out,

which experts say is killed “Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Erwin when he was hit

by a stingray six weeks ago. 

               

Chris Clacken, NBC NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And on a topic totally unrelated to stabbing people through the heart, O.J.  Simpson is in the news again.  Well, not the news technically, he’s in the “National Enquirer,” which lands him right square in our nightly celebrity gossip roundup, “Keeping Tabs.”

The “Enquirer” says has signed up to write a book called “If I Did it,” a hypothetical account of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman.  If, you know, the murders happened to have been committed by, say, O.J.  Simpson.  Reportedly he would make a non-hypothetical $3.5 million for the book.  Among the highlights, gruesome, detailed, and say the “Enquirer” “realistic” description of the murders themselves.  Simpson’s book, just another in a long literary tradition of books by people wrongly accused of killing someone they loved who’s speculating, in print, at length and graphic detail about they would have brutally stabbed the person they loved, hypothetically. 

With at least a modicum of class more than that, Anna Nicole Smith, today, held a funeral for her 20-year-old son, Daniel.  The private service was held in the Bahamas where Daniel Smith died early last month, just three days after his mother gave birth to a daughter.  The death has unofficially been blamed on a combination of methadone and antidepressants.  Bahama police, however, have yet to weigh in with their report on the cause of death. 

And regarding Smith’s new daughter, “Extra” tonight reporting that Smith will be deposed next week by lawyers for a man who claims the daughter is actually his.  Remember, it is better in the Bahamas.

And an official from Kazakhstan, the deputy foreign minister there has extended an open invitation to Borat, the Kazakh character played by Sacha Baron Cohen, to visit anytime’s good for him. 

Borat’s somewhat unflattering portrayal of a Kazakh journalist, the actual target of which obviously is the American culture he encounters, has reportedly upset Kazakh officials who are not use to being upset by people they can’t make go away.  Then again, after gaining international publicity for misspelling the work “bank” in its new bank notes, rather than complain about Borat, Kazakhstan is apparently now trying to play along. 

“I’d like to invite Cohen here,” the deputy prime minister says, “he can discover lots of things.  Women drive cars, wine made of grapes, and Jews are free to go to synagogues.”

Kazakhstan, with women in cars and Jews in synagogues, like a paradise on earth. 

If like those Kazakh bankers who misspelled bank, you’ve ever wanted to just disappear, you may get your chance.  Scientists have invisibility an invisibility device?  That’s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN’s latest list on nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze to Mohammed Shakcot (ph), newsstand owner in Philadelphia.  He was being hassled by the man for displaying porn at his newsstand, which is at 6th and Chestnut near the Liberty Bell, but he lost any ethical standing in the dispute that he might have had when he posted a sign saying that if anybody objected to his displays of porn, he would rape them. 

Our runner-up tonight, Jay Patrick Rooney, the principal funder of America’s Pact which creates and pays for race-baiting TV commercials for Republicans.  One, new one, trying to convince African-Americans that abortion is a Democratic plot to kill minority children.  One actor refers to making a little mistake “with one of your ho’s” and suggests abortion as the solution, another responds “that’s too cold.  I don’t snuff my own seed,” but first then answers, “Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican.”

Surprisingly Mr. Rooney employed two actual African-American actors rather than white minstrel show veterans wearing blackface. 

But our winner, even for Bill-O this is something special.  Complaining about the blogger and the blogosphere and the Internet and how much their criticism of him evidentially gets under his skin.  “I have to say, President Bush has a healthier attitude towards this than I do because if I can get away with, boy I’d go in with a hand grenade.” 

That’s right, bloggers, Bill O’Reilly wants to kill you with the hand grenade.  Then again, he’d probably keep hold the grenade and throw the pin at you. 

Bill O’Reilly, today’s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Scientists at Duke University have tested an inadvisability cloak, an advanced version of which might someday be able to hide a space craft from an enemy like in “Star Trek” or make a person invisible as in “Harry Potter.”  The breakthrough in our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN is a bit more modest than that. 

What scientists have achieved is to essentially hide a copper cylinder from detection from microwaves, by cover the object with a cloak.  In this case a meta material made of 10 fiberglass rings covered with cooper elements which redirected the electromagnetic waves.  The researchers at Duke and the Imperial College in London don’t claim to be anywhere near Harry Potter territory, though scientists do believe that cloaking radar waves and cloaking ultimately light waves is theoretically possible. 

And we have these dudes on the Internets demonstrating through TV trickery, of course, what it might look like.  The cloak of the future, a blanket of nano material which would pass the light waves around the object creating the illusion of inadvisability.  It’s an illusion. 

Once again, as we always do, when science really confuses us we turn to the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, Derrick Pitts. 

Thanks again for your time tonight, Derrick. 

DERRICK PITTS, ASTRONOMER, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE MUSEUM:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, how serious is this?  I mean, great.  It can’t be seen by microwaves.  I don’t use microwaves to see.  Did they oversell this by describing it as an invisibility cloak? 

PITTS: Well not really.  The reason why they describe it as an invisibility cloak is because it was impossible or difficult for them to at least to detect the microwaves emanating from the source that they had placed behind the copper cylinder.  So in a sense, it really was invisible, although we typically tend to think of invisibility related to visible light, but it this case it works the same way. 

OLBERMANN:  What analogies can you draw, you’ve done this for us before, to sort of reduce this down to normal terminology in terms of how this actually worked? 

PITTS:  The easiest way to think of this is to imagine two things, No.  1, imagine what a mirage looks like down a road where you look down the road and can sort of see a shimmery patch out in front of you that really is a reflection of the sky above and now other thing to do is to imagine the flow of a stream of water around a rock.  As the water comes down the rock it splits behind the rock, comes around the rock, and comes back together in front of the rock.  So in a sense the water you see in front of the rock sort of looks exactly like the water behind the rock, and that’s what this is really doing.  It’s wrapping that mirage that we spoke of just a moment ago, right around the copper cylinder so you can see what was behind the cylinder. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so where do they go from this?  Is the next thing trying to hide stuff from radar waves or what? 

PITTS:  Yeah.  I’m surprised you can see me because I have a little box here that I was testing to make myself disappear, but I guess that’s not working. 

OK, yeah, the next thing to do with this is really to see if it could possibly be applied to some technology like radar that might be used on defending fighter aircraft.  But that’s a big process that has to be taken care of, but it’s possible that it actually could get to be that size or you work in an application that big. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, and speaking of size, the really cool, real-

life inadvisability cloak that you could somehow become invisible with, is

it an all or nothing proposition?  Does size apply to that?  Could we small

cloak small things first, or, you know, forks, pens, softballs, the answers to the test, then move on to big stuff that would really freak people out like hiding whole people? 

               

PITTS:  Yeah, the real problem though is that the way in which this process works, the mechanism that allows to it work, it’s easier to manipulate this when you’re working with microwaves because of the size of the wave length, you can actually work with the cloaking material itself—you can actually work with that by hand and move the stuff around to make the cloak.  But to do it for visible light wave lengths, the visible white wave lengths are so much smaller, Keith, that it makes it really difficult to manipulate that.  So the difficulty with the visible light is the capability to actually work with the very very tiny stuff.  It’s like—it’s really the—an advanced application of nano technology, and in this case I’d say nano, nano technology, very, very small. 

OLBERMANN:  So you’re not betting on this?  We’re not going to see this in our lifetime or 1,000 years from now? 

PITTS:  Well, I’m not betting on it right away.  I would say that we’ll probably see the move in technology toward the—attempting the capability to make it work for light waves, but it’s a ways off, yet. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, and then the fun really begins when we start becoming invisible. 

Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute, and for our money the new Mr. Science.  Thanks again, Derrick. 

PITTS:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That’s COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,265th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  Senator Barack Obama of Illinois joins us tomorrow.  I’m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY as I disappear. 

Good evening, Joe. 

Copy: 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.

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