updated 10/25/2006 12:34:16 PM ET 2006-10-25T16:34:16

Guests: Liam Madden, Michael Musto

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

If at first you don‘t succeed, try a new slogan.  Yesterday, out with “stay the course” in Iraq.  Today, in with “set a deadline to develop a timeline to change the dateline.”  Put Iraqis in charge of security in Iraq, by, like, April of ‘08.  OK, anybody got anything else we can sell?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, TOP U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ:  This is not a country that is awash in sectarian violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, General, that won‘t work.  Nobody even believes that.

How about withdrawals?  One of the serving Marines who will tell Congress it‘s time to get out, Sergeant Liam Madden, will join us.

Of course, the national security adviser says you don‘t need a timetable.  How about a timetable to set a deadline to develop a timeline to change the dateline?

An unexpected guest as the House Ethics Committee tries to establish the timeline in the Mark Foley Republican page sex scandal.  You‘re the speaker, speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you going to resign?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Republicans not resigning themselves to anything, but the latest polling, increased Democratic chances for the Senate, no tidal wave.  We will analyze the numbers race by race.

And the return of stories my producers are forcing me to cover.  Save the date, November 18, also the 16th, 17th, and 19th, apparently.  Tom Cruise will wed Katie Holmes in there somewhere.  Will they have a banner reading “Just Married” on the spaceship?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Tuesday, October 24, 14 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

Having retired the phrase “stay the course,” the Bush administration today trotting out a new slogan for its war in Iraq, just one word, really, “timeline,” while carefully denying the two words that might describe the conflict best, “civil war.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, whether White House semantics will be enough to obscure the high stakes of and growing dissatisfaction with its chosen war in Iraq, T minus two weeks until election day.  We‘ll be joined by one of the active-duty serviceman publicly calling for an end to the conflict, a movement growing larger with each passing day.

But first, the events of this day, U.S. military announcing the deaths of four more servicemen in Iraq, bringing to 91 the number killed just in October, the highest toll in any month this year, against that grim backdrop, U.S. officials announcing plans for Iraqi leaders to develop a timeline for progress in Iraq in taking control of the country‘s security within, maybe, the next year and a half, without any reprisal should it fail to meet those benchmarks, top U.S. commander in Iraq making it seem as if there is little violence on the ground there to secure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASEY:  This is not a country that is awash in sectarian violence.  Situation‘s hard, but it‘s not a country that is awash in sectarian violence.

It‘s going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  President Bush, meanwhile, whether by accident or design, making it clear that while the language is different, everything else about U.S. strategy in Iraq, such as that is, remains pretty much the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our goal in Iraq has not changed, which is a country that can sustain itself, defend itself, govern itself.  Our tactics are adjusting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There is also the question of just how secure the administration expects Iraq to be, if and when it hands over control over the Iraqi government, and before or after President Bush leaves office, national security adviser Stephen Hadley saying in a radio interview today, quote, “Is there going to be peace?  Is there going to be the end of any violence?  Of course not.  This violence is going to go on for a long time,” White House press secretary Tony Snow also leaving the door open on when victory might come earlier this evening with “HARDBALL”‘s Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  Are we winning in war in Iraq?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Will we eventually declare victory?

SNOW:  I think what‘s going to happen is, the Iraqi people are going be able to declare victory...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let us now to declare to call in our own Howard Fineman, also, of course, political columnist, senior Washington correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What in the world is this?  I mean, I suggested at the start that this is a timetable to set a deadline to develop a timeline to change the dateline.  If there are no actual penalties or ultimata for the Iraqis, how is this any different from the administration‘s previous strategy of, when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down?  Is this not truly just a change in name only?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it‘s a slight change in tone.  I covered George Bush yet—last Friday at a rally, a kind of pep rally among Republican donors, where he really was acting like the cheerleader or the high school football coach, you know, sort of banging on the metal locker saying, We‘re going to stay in Iraq, we‘re going to fight in Iraq, we‘re going to win in Iraq.  You know, he had everything but the Hoo-ah! there at the end.

And now, come the beginning of this week, I think that was just—that sort of bright-line political and military strategy is just such a disaster for Republican candidates out there—they‘re fleeing from the president right and left politically—that I feel that they needed to change the tone a little bit.     

And that‘s what they‘re doing here, that‘s what the mumbo-jumbo about deadlines and timelines, which functionally are rather meaningless.  It‘s no real change in policy, it‘s just a change tone, for now.  There may be a big war coming later among the policymakers, but it hasn‘t quite happened yet.

OLBERMANN:  So if they change the tone, do they not also, to some degree, abandon the central election-year message from the White House?  And how is this not, in the terminology of the last election, flip-flopping?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re trying to make it a little miniflip, but not a big flip-flop.  But the fact is, I talked to some Democratic strategists this afternoon, who actually took notice of this, and they said, you know, It‘s too bad for those guys that they didn‘t do this six weeks ago.

Because, you know, we talk about flip-flops here inside the Beltway, but out in the country, the American people want the president to flip, and flip big-time.  They hate this policy.  They think it‘s made us less safe.  They think it was a mistake.  They think we were led into it with bad information, to say the least.

They want to president to flip-flop, that he‘s just—he‘s a stubborn guy, he still believes in what he‘s doing there, and he‘s willing, I think, to adjust the tone, both because of the political realities and because all the diplomats, including his own father and his emissary, Jim Baker, are telling them that we‘ve got to make changes there eventually.

The president and Karl Rove don‘t really want to do it big-time until after the election.  I think they‘re making a mistake.  I think they should have started this tonal shift about six weeks ago for their own preservation.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and so it‘s being done exactly two weeks before the election.  Yesterday was the elimination of “stay the course.”  What happens to those Republicans who had distanced themselves from the White House, who now might be closer in tone to the White House?  And what happens to those Republicans who are standing in two weeks who had stuck close to the White House?  Are they now out at sea?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s almost every man from its—himself at this point.  I don‘t think any of those Republicans who distanced themselves from the president are going to come crawling back, because it isn‘t really a change in policy.

I don‘t think they‘re—the White House is getting much out of this one way or the other.  But they got tired of defending the “stay the course” language, which the Democrats were rather shrewdly beginning to use in ads to beat up on the Republicans.  Harold Ford was using it in Tennessee.  They‘re using it in other places, because the very phrase seems redolent of Vietnam, and that was—that‘s bad news for Republicans who are trying to appeal to independent voters.

OLBERMANN:  And then one substantive and sort of nonpolitical question here, the very idea of the timeline.  Does that not, to some degree, miss the forest for the trees of the greater problem in Iraq, that if we can‘t curb violence there, how in the world should we, how in the world should the voters expect that the Iraqis are going to do so at any point in the even distant future?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think that‘s all a matter of hope at this point.  For a long time, the administration‘s been saying, We‘ll stand down when the Iraqi army stands up.  But now it‘s clear that we have to stand before the Iraqi army can stand up, because the more visible we are in Iraq, the more chaos there is.  That‘s the corner that the administration militarily has painted itself into in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s musical chairs, standing up, sitting down, who knows what‘s going to end up and who‘s going to wind up on the floor?

Howard Fineman of MSNBC and, of course, of “Newsweek.”  As always, friend, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The chorus of voices protesting the war in Iraq about to grow stronger yet, with the addition of active-duty service members, many of them having served in Iraq, now gearing up to ask Congress to end the U.S. involvement there, each one of them, dozens in all, with more signing up every day, planning to send a protected communication to an individual member of Congress, which is permitted under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, without fear of reprisal.

The plan was hatched by a Navy seaman stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. 

It‘s being coordinated by antiwar groups like Military Families Speak Out.  It is comprised of rank and file servicemen, like Marine Sergeant Liam Madden, who was based at the Haditha Dam in Iraq for seven months, ending in February of last year, and is now stationed in Quantico in Virginia.

Sergeant Madden joining us now from Washington.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

SGT. LIAM MADDEN, U.S. MARINES:  Thank you for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This would seem to be a very drastic, risky step for an active-duty Marine to take.  Let me begin by asking you what compelled you to make this decision, to take this decision?  Was there something specific about the war in which you have fought that you find objectionable?

MADDEN:  The only thing about the war that I don‘t like is, the more I find out about it, the less I like the war.  I oppose the war because there is no benefit to the parties involved, including the American service members, the Iraqi people, and the American people.  There‘s—it‘s a war for no benefit, in my eyes.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you for your reaction to a comment that was made yesterday by the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, who was asked about the letter-writing campaign.  He said not only that it‘s, quote, “not unusual for soldiers in a time of war to have some misgivings,” he also said that you and the other service men and women involved are, quote, “going to be able to get more press than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they are proud of their service.”

That would seem to imply, or he would be seemingly implying there, Sergeant, that you‘re not proud of your service.  Is that the case, or is that statement a gross mischaracterization of how you feel about your service?

MADDEN:  I think a gross mischaracterization is as well as you can put it, Keith.  I feel that I‘m participating in democracy, and that‘s what citizens of a democratic land should do.  And if Mr. Snow has a problem with that, then he should know that I feel I‘ve protected democracy more by appealing to my congressman than I did when I defended Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  But you are personally proud of what you did in Iraq, and what your fellow servicemen did, in terms of your service to your country?

MADDEN:  I‘m proud of serving with fellow Marines.  But I oppose the war.  The only reason I got up to work every day was to help my Marines, to help the Marines next to me.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s a pretty damn good reason.

Technically, under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, you‘re free from fear of reprisal.  But do you worry that, however subtly, perhaps, your commanding officers, other service members, might treat you differently because you have made the decision to speak out?

MADDEN:  I don‘t think you can escape getting treated differently, just because of how much attention this could potentially draw.  But I don‘t fear negativity so much.  I don‘t really care.  It‘s something I feel strongly about.  And if people don‘t step out of their comfort zones and speak up, then nothing will ever get done.

And I have to give credit where credit is due.  No one in my chain of command has stopped me from feeling the way I feel.  They may not agree with my opinions, but they respect my right to voice my opinion.

OLBERMANN:  Good for them, too.

Sergeant, is this campaign aimed at the current Congress two weeks before an election, or is it really aimed at the next Congress, which would presumably be the one that might get something done in this regard?

MADDEN:  It is definitely aimed at the next Congress.  We want to set the tone.  We want this to be the priority.  They need to at least see that there are service members who have serious, legitimate misgivings about this war.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have a specific solution to it?  Or what would you like to see happen?  Is it a timetable for withdrawal?  Is it immediate withdrawal?  Does it matter to you, as long as there‘s a commitment to get out?

MADDEN:  I think within three months of the next Congress, we should be able to get out.

OLBERMANN:  Sergeant Liam Madden, great thanks for your time.

MADDEN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Many thanks for your service to this country, sir.

Also here tonight, the other questions of who, what, and when from a political point of view, the speaker of the House himself going before the House Ethics Committee about the Republican page sex scandal, his arrival, his testimony was a surprise.

And going before the people in two weeks, nine key Senate races, Republicans losing in three.  If they lose six, they lose control.  The latest in the Senate, state by state.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Speaker Dennis Hastert‘s explanation of the Republican page sex scandal, his various explanations, have ranged from the chronologically challenged to the borderline delusional.  He has insisted he can‘t recall a warning from Congressman Reynolds of New York about Mark Foley last spring, even though Reynolds presumably testified to that warning before the House Ethics Committee yesterday.

Hastert also accepted responsibility for the misconduct of one of his congressmen under his watch, while at the same time blaming an unnamed Democratic conspiracy for the entire disaster.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the speaker got to tell his story, or stories, to that Ethics Committee today.

Our Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid was there.

Chip, good evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC CAPITOL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good evening, Keith.

It‘s not every day the speaker of the House goes before the Ethics Committee, but Speaker Hastert did that today, spent about two and a half hours behind closed doors telling them what he knows about the Mark Foley scandal.  Afterward, he had this to say.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  I thank the committee for prompt action, for moving forward on this committee, on, on this inquiry.  They did so.  I answered all the questions they asked in a—to the best of my ability.

REID:  Obviously, that was very little to say, and he refused to tell us what he actually said behind closed doors.  But we do know from previous statements that Hastert‘s position is that he knew nothing about any problems with Mark Foley and any kind of communications with pages or former pages until the day that Mark Foley resigned a little bit less than four weeks ago.

The problem with that position is that it conflicts with a statement, a number of statements, from New York Congressman Tom Reynolds, who also appeared before the Ethics Committee today.  He has said that when he found out about those so-called overly friendly e-mails months ago, he went to his supervisor.  He said he did what anybody would do in a workplace, you go to his supervisor.  His supervisor, he said, was Dennis Hastert.

Now, keep in mind one thing here, Keith.  The committee is not just looking at who did what, when, and who knew what, when.  They are also trying to answer the question, if some people, not sure who, but some people, in the Republican leadership knew there was a concern about Mark Foley, why wasn‘t more done stop him, Keith?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Chip Reid on Capitol Hill.  Many thanks, Chip.

Never mind the present, what about the future?  State by state Senate race polling showing a Democratic surge, but not necessarily anything bigger than that, wide open still.

And simultaneous anger and hope just today, 36 more body parts found at the World Trade Center site.  And with that renewed hope comes renewed work for a compassionate and simply outstanding New York City medical examiner‘s office.

Its remarkable story ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Twenty-seven years ago today, early on the morning of October 24, 1979, a traveling marshmallow salesman from Minnesota named Joseph Cooper got 15 stitches to close a gash in his lip, caused when a fellow patron at a bar hauled off and socked him, with very little apparent provocation.  The battle with Mr. Cooper was believed to be the fellow patron‘s 16th out of 19 public brawls during his days as a public figure, about half a dozen of which cost him jobs.  That fellow patron was named Billy Martin, and he was the manager of baseball‘s New York Yankees, though not for much longer after that.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Abilene, Texas, for another exciting episode of Kid Stuck in a Restaurant Claw Machine.  You didn‘t know this was an epidemic, did you?  Young Joshua Walk (ph) had his eyes on one of the furry stuffed animals inside the glass box and decided, rather than pointlessly wasting quarters, he‘d climb up through the old prize hole.

Joshua was stuck inside for more than 45 minutes, till someone from the vending company showed up with a key.  But special thanks from Oddball to his parents, who left the kid in there a little longer.  We‘ll have to wait the TVs to show up.

You know, he had at least five more minutes of air anyway.

To India.  Organizers of this Hindu festival decided to kick things off with the lamest of all fireworks, the firecracker.  Ah, but when you stick together thousands of them into a string more than 2,200 yards long, you get a show that is only slightly less lame.  Organizers claim this was the longest firecracker string in the world.  With all those fingers and hands at risk, with that, the firecracker‘s union will not let its people do any actual measuring.  So who in the hell knows?

Finally, to West Sacramento, California.  Workers demolishing the old rice-drying factory came across this really, really old safe.  It is believed to date back to the early 1920s.  Not a firecracker, but a safecracker was called in to open the two-ton box, as excited historical society officials watched on, eager to see what treasures might lie inside.  TV crews covered the scene as the door finally swung up to reveal an accounting sheet from 1977, a bunch of dirt, and, oddly enough, the mummified remains of the journalistic credibility of Geraldo Rivera.

Will the Democrats crack the safe in the Senate?  The latest polling, it suggests the Dems‘ chance to take the upper house have improved, but it is still anybody‘s game.

If you had November 18 in the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding day pool, you are a winner.  Me, I have to report on it tonight, making me a loser.

All of that ahead.

First, though, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day, a special miscreants‘ edition.

Number three, Panbanisha, identified as the individual who sent in a false fire alarm at the Great Ape trust in Des Moines, Iowa.  She‘s a 25-year-old bonobo ape.  She found and pulled the fire alarm.  A spokesman for the compound says she‘s been scolded and told not to do it again.

Number two, Dennis Reed, Jr., arrested by authorities in Forest City, Arkansas.  They say he was trying to break in and rob an apartment.  He says a man forced him to—at gunpoint to do what he did, which was to try to climb through a partially open window while naked and get stuck there.  Spokesman for Reed says he‘s been scolded and told not to do it again.

And number one, an unnamed would-be bank robber, between five-seven and five-ten, weighing more than 250 pounds, caught on surveillance systems at the Atlanta Bank giving a teller a note demanding money, then waiting, then complaining she was taking too long to get him his money, then leaving.  Leaving.  Police say he should be considered armed and dangerous and impatient.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Trying to pick who will run the Senate next year?  Pick your poison.  Bob Menendez under investigation in New Jersey, Conrad Burns still with 13 full campaigning days in which to say something suicidal in Montana—how about macaca?  Man on dog?  Hidden references in commercials to what we use to call miscegenation.

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the battle for the Senate and the latest poll numbers.  Republican incumbents Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio are definitely in trouble, trailing their challengers in the latest polling by 12 and eight percent, respectively. 

Republican incumbent, Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island is behind by five percent.  GOP incumbents Burns of Montana, Jim Talent of Missouri, and George Allen of Virginia are all in statistical ties versus their Democratic challengers. 

Likewise, it is nearly a dead heat in the race to take the Tennessee seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.  But just as seven GOP seats are clearly vulnerable, so apparently is the Democratic seat in New Jersey.  Incumbent Bob Menendez currently in a statistical tie with his Republican challenger, Tom Kean, Jr.

Let‘s read between the numbers.  To do so, I‘m joined by MSNBC‘s own David Shuster. 

David, thanks for your time tonight. 

DAVIS SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, you‘re in Ohio right now.  Senator DeWine trailing his challenger, Sherrod Brown 40 percent to 48 percent.  “New York Times” is quoting the GOP leaders who said they were directing money away from DeWine towards other tight Senatorial races.  What‘s DeWine‘s status right now?  Is he under the bus?  Is he rolling towards the bus?  Is he still up right or what? 

SHUSTER:  Well, it depends on who you ask.  The DeWine campaign points out that they are getting some help now from the Republican National Committee.  It was some $700,000 that the RNC put into Ohio after that “New York Time” story.  But it wasn‘t so much money to help Senator DeWine, it was simply money spent on an attack ad against Sherrod Brown. 

An ad that referred to an issue of unemployment taxes 14 years ago and eight televisions stations in Ohio said the ad was factually incorrect and decided they wouldn‘t run it.  So, it seems as if the Republican National Committee, if they‘re trying to help DeWine, they‘re simply trying to bring Brown down, perhaps to try to keep the tsunami that a lot of people think is coming here in Ohio, which could cost Republicans perhaps four or five House seats. 

OLBERMANN:  Pennsylvania, speaking of incumbents in trouble.  Senator Santorum at 39 percent, the challenger, Bob Casey at 51 percent in this polling.  That‘s 12 points with two weeks.  A bigger margin by which DeWine is trailing in Ohio.  Is Pennsylvania over or is there something missing in that equation? 

SHUSTER:  A lot of Republicans, Keith, keep talking about Rick Santorum‘s ability to Get Out the Vote.  There is no senator who, perhaps, has a better Get Out the Vote operation, who can energize his troops better than Rick Santorum. 

The problem is that everybody will tell you when you are talking about getting out the vote, even if you have a super strong organization, maybe you‘re talking about a three or four point difference, in a close race, of course that could be crucial.  When you‘re down by as many points as Rick Santorum is, it‘s not going make any difference.  And so everybody seems to be suggesting, Democrats and Republicans, that barring some strange news that nobody knows about yet—barring some strange development, Casey‘s going win this race and Rick Santorum will lose. 

OLBERMANN:  Montana, one of the reddest of the red states.  The incumbent Conrad Burns is in a statistical tie -- 43 percent, 46 percent John Tester.  Montana already has one Democratic senator.  Could it really end with up with two of them? 

SHUSTER:  Well, it could, I man, Max Baucus is considered much more of a sort of an independent conservative leaning Democrat.  The issue with this race though, isn‘t so much that John Tester is a Democrat, it‘s that Conrad Burns is a Republican who is associated with Jack Abramoff and Burns, of course, involved in various financial dealings that have gotten a lot of scrutiny.  He also made a really stupid comment a couple of weeks ago when—let me—couple of months ago when he criticized some firefighters who came in to try to put out some of the forest fires in Montana, so Burns hasn‘t run exactly a terrific race.  He‘s also been pounded by some of the remarks he has made so that race may simply depend on Conrad Burns and what he says over the next couple of weeks, not so much what party he belongs to. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of bringing in firefighters, Virginia, the Republican senator George Allen who started this race certainly as a possible presidential nominee is only up four points, it‘s 47-43 against Jim Webb, the former Republican.  Is Virginia actually the key in the race in the Senate picture?  If the Democrats win that seat which was once thought to be a sure thing for the Republicans, does that become some sort of a pivotal moment or is that just sort of wishful thinking on the Democrat‘s part?

SHUSTER:  No, I think you‘re right in the sense that when Democrats, earlier this summer were doing the math about how they could possibly take control of the Senate, Virginia was not part of their equation. 

The fact that now Virginia‘s close and they can sense that they are close that would be a huge victory for the Democrats and possibly put them on track towards taking control of the Senate. 

The one thing to watch with Virginia is there‘s still a number of news organizations, including ours, who is following up a variety of stories about both George Allen and Jim Webb. 

George Allen, of course, has had the problem with allegations about the use of the “n” word, the macaca comment.  If more of that stuff were to come out in the next couple of weeks, that‘s where you might see the race start to split again.  And again, George Allen‘s character has been under the microscope.  It‘s one of the reasons why his own campaign advisors have essentially stopped him from doing a lot interviews, a lot of press appearances where he has to speak off the cuff, instead, Allen is at very scripted events trying to make sure he stays on message.  And his message is largely being dictated by his television ads. 

OLBERMANN:  And we cannot skip Tennessee.  That‘s an even split.  There Republican Bob Corker at 45, representative Harold Ford 43.  The RNC is still running the pro-Corker ad that hits on racial fears and just runs the table on these really radical ideas that even Corker tried to disavow.  Could something like that swing the vote one way or the other?  Is there enough backlash against this that it might actually give Ford a boost? 

SHUSTER:  Yeah, I mean, even if you believe that Tennessee has come a long way and that it‘s a much more progressive state now than it was even four or six years ago.  Even if there‘s one or two percent, though, that is uncomfortable with the idea of Harold Ford being a young, single, attractive, African-American man, and possibly dating somebody who‘s not of his own race—even if that‘s not even true, the fact that that idea is now out there that the Republican National Committee says they don‘t have a problem with the ad—that one or two percent that it might affect, that it might bring to the polls, in a very tight race like the race in Tennessee, that could make all of the difference.  And that‘s why it is such a huge story—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll see if somebody backlashes, as we suggest, against it, that perhaps that we‘re not giving Tennessee enough credit. 

David Shuster on the road in Columbus, Ohio.  Nice breakdown.  Many thanks as always—David. 

SHUSTER:  Thanks Keith, take care. 

OLBERMANN:  In New York an all too painful process begins all over again.  More remains found today at Ground Zero.  We‘ll take you inside the medical examiner‘s office for the look at the cutting edge science and the cutting edge compassion for the families.

And science in the middle of a tabloid story—the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith‘s new daughter.  Sure scientists could find out the answer, but Smith may have let the cat out of the bag herself.  Plus, this story includes a secret vasectomy. 

Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE SHOW:  It‘s time for great moments in presidential speeches.  Great moments.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANKLIN D.  ROOSEVELT, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The only thing we have to fear the fear itself. 

JOHN F.  KENNEDY, U.S. PRESIDENT:   Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. 

(APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W.  BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  (COUGH)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She thinks she is the boss of the whole pasture. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She stands at just 17-and-a-half inches tall. 

Just to put this in perspective, this is “Duke,” an average sized cocker spaniel. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She tends to boss the bigger horses around, which is always fun to watch. 

BILL CROZER GUN OWNER:  Now look and see if it penetrated. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Using an assault rifle and various pistols.

CROZER:  You watch, 9mm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Crozer and his colleagues shot several text books in this home video. 

CROZER:  Our experiment was, you know, as scientific as we can make it, just two or three people who‘s been in the military. 

(SINGING):  Books are fun, books are great.  Let‘s sit down with a book today. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A headline that brings with it simultaneous pain and hope.  More remains found, even today at Ground Zero.  Inside the medical examiners office, once again trying to match every fragment to a name and therefore to a grieving family.

That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sixty-one months and nearly two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, not only is there no memorial to the victims, but more than four years after their relatives, their friends, the city, the country were told that there were no more remains of the victims to be found, they have suddenly begun to find more at the World Trade Center. 

Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, 36 body parts from an as yet untold number of 9/11 victims, recovered today from a single manhole.  The total over the past five days is has now exceeded 150. 

Nine more manholes, three underground service boxes, and 12 more underground sites that were allegedly searched for remains years ago, must now be reinspected, if the city can find them.  They electric company, ConEdison says it is still trying to figure out the exact location of the remaining manholes where—which were all paved over in favor of a service road back in 2002. 

A year-and-a-half after that the New York City Medical Examiner‘s Office were still sifting through remains for DNA evidence to try and identify the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  Now three years later, the medical examiners will resume their grim tasks and after the anger subsides, the hopes of thousands, that they will finally have a piece of a loved one to bury, will grow again.  For in this awful process, the ME‘s office and the victim‘s families had developed a remarkable bond, one that we first looked at on our special edition of COUNTDOWN from September 11, 2003. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  KFWB‘s Keith Olbermann has a live update from New York City. 

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Body parts found on the 14th floor of the World Financial Center.  With the efficiency and dispassion of a bank teller, a woman dispatcher repeats the grim news, “Body parts found on the 14th floor of the World Financial Center.”  

OLBERMANN:  That was the Friday, September 14.  And by then, the grisliness of those discoveries had been superseded by the hope of closure, of identification by DNA.

DR.  ROBERT SHALER, NEW YORK MEDICAL EXAMINER‘S OFFICE:  I‘ve spent my entire career looking at dead bodies and looking at the destruction that one human can do to another.  But, there‘s—I‘ve never seen anything like this. 

For nearly two year, Dr.  Robert Shaler has led the New York Medical Examiner‘s Office in its forensic investigation of 9/11.  From a small cramped lab, Dr.  Shaler and his colleagues have respectfully, but meticulously studied nearly 20,000 human remains.  They have sometimes had no more to work with than a single tooth.  Yet they have identified well over half of all the victims. 

SHALER:  I would love to be able to identify everybody, but I don‘t think that‘s possible. 

OLBERMANN:  The number of identifications has begun to drop.  The science is not there, not yet, to identify the remaining 60 percent of the forensic evidence. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Michael Paul Ragusa.

OLBERMANN:  The family of New York City firefighter Michael Ragusa, was lucky.  His remains were not identified, but last November, his parents were reminded that he had given blood.  There would be something of Michael Ragusa to bury. 

And what of the others who have nothing, or little to inter?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kenneth Albert Zelman.

OLBERMANN:  Barry Zelman‘s brother, Ken, was on the 99th floor of the North Tower, that morning.  Part of Ken Zelman‘s right leg was identified.  That was all. 

BARRY ZELMAN, LOST BROTHER IN WTC:  We made a decision that enough, it‘s been two year, and now it‘s time to bury what we have. 

OLBERMANN:  His family had held out, hoping for more.  Just as the medical examiner‘s office had held out, hoping for more.  The families and the scientists have become interconnected in a way no one could have imagined.  By some perverse fate, this building, better known as the city morgue, has become a sacred place for many of the loved ones.

SHALER:  About every three weeks, we still have a meeting at the Medical Examiner‘s Office with families. 

ZELMAN:  There are great people down in the Medical Examiner‘s Office and they are—they want to do right for the families. 

SHALER:  There‘s concern about our emotions and our well being as we are for theirs, and so it‘s become a very close working relationship, almost a family type of relationship. 

OLBERMANN:  Thus, the close working relationship now evolves into something new.  The Medical Examiner‘s Office thinks more imaginative ways of DNA matching could identify as many as 200 more victims in the next year.  But, that would still leave about 1,100 people unidentified.  The unidentified remains will be interred; carefully preserve asked housed in hopes someday they will be identified. 

SHALER:  I‘m hopeful sometime in the future, there will be technology that can address those samples so that these remains can be returned to the families or maybe even make new identifications from them. 

OLBERMANN:  In the interim, they will be kept here, below the memorial that will rise, soon enough, to all of the dead of the World Trade Center.  Their resting places will have no names or gravestones.  But we will remember, nonetheless, that they are here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And my father, William Ralph Robb.  I love you, daddy. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Today more than five years after the attacks, the remains of 1,150 of the victims have still not been identified. 

There‘s not segue possible into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” so we‘ll just start. 

First Heather Mills sued Paul McCartney for divorce, now Heather Mills has sued the British tabloids about the divorce.  Attorneys for the ex-Beatle‘s estranged wife say she is suing two papers, the “Daily Mail” and London‘s “Evening Standard” over false damaging and immensely upsetting stories about her divorce from the ex-Beatle.  This coming on the heels of last week‘s leaked documents printed in the “Daily Mail” alleging that McCartney had mistreated, even abused his second wife.  Her lawyers say Mills-McCartney is planning another suit against the British newspaper the “Sun” and that so many papers have printed so erroneous information that she does not have time the sue all of them—yet. 

To the Bahamas and the paternity mystery surrounding Anna Nicole Smith‘s new baby girl, it may have finally been solved.  Danni Lin Hope Smith was originally said to be the child of Smith and photographer Larry Birkhead.  Then Smith‘s lawyer, Howard K.  Stern said no, no, he was the dad.  Now there‘s a reported admission from Anna Nicole Smith that we had it right the first time. 

According to the site, TMZ.com, in Many, Smith allegedly told real estate developer Gather Ben Thompson, a man to whom she had been romantically linked, that he had gotten her pregnant.  Thompson then informed her that was impossible because he had had a vasectomy and that‘s when Thompson says, Smith confided that the father was actually Larry Birkhead. 

Is that your final answer? 

Speaking of which, is it possible that Kevin Federline can‘t remember the name of his now five-week-old second product of his marriage to Britney Spears?  Or that in a desperate bid to restart their collapsing careers they both decided to get double publicity out of the birth by naming the child twice. 

The kid‘s name was originally reported as Sutton Pierce Federline, then Federline the elder went on radio and refused to confirm that or even that the child was a boy.  But those resourceful folks at TMZ.com have obtained the birth certificate filed today, signed by Federline, himself.  The baby‘s name reads Jaden James Federline.  A source, meanwhile, tells MSNBC.com‘s Jeanette Walls that the parents call the boy J.J.—dine-o-mite!

And unless it all blows up before then, November 18 is the big day.  That‘s right, the annual University of Maryland Horse Conference, oh, Holmes Cruise wedding, that‘s in the back. 

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

The Bronze, to Major League Baseball and its player‘s association, tonight confirming reports they have signed a new five year collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing no strikes through the 2011 season.  So, why do they deserve mention here?  Because when asked if the drug testing program has been changed to include blood tests or other screening for players who might be using human growth hormone?  Each side said “no.”  So there‘s no way to tell if any individual player‘s performance is legit or the product of mad scientists. 

Our runner-up, Bill-O responding to a Harvard processor who told him what the head of NATO has said about how 70 percent of Afghanistan could slip back under the influence of the Taliban.  “That‘s a myth,” Bill explained back, “every military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified.”  When the professor told him he should talk to people on the ground, Bill-O answered, “I talk to everybody.”

To paraphrase Gary Orloff in the movie “The Professional,” “I talk to everybody!”

But our winner, Nevada, gubernatorial candidate, Jim Gibbons.  His version, yeah, he had a few drinks with a woman 30 years younger than himself and was just helping her find a car and she tripped and he only grabbed her to keep her from falling. 

Her version, they were both drunk, he made a pass at her, she declined, he grabbed her, shoved her against the wall and threatened her.  Whichever you believe, you‘ll have to admit what Candidate Gibbons then told the police would have to be the worst campaign slogan ever, “Gosh, I learned an important lesson, never offer a helping hand to anybody ever again.” 

Nevada gubernatorial candidate, Jim Gibbons today‘s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, to the event in November that could affect the lives of millions of Americans, the one that might shift power from the side that thinks it knows everything, likes to call its opponents glib, to the side that‘s a bit more humble and doesn‘t pretend to have all the answers. 

Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, of course we speak of the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, suddenly just 25 days away.  In a story my producers are once again forcing me to report.  November 18 when Katie will finally move from the single to the married column in Tom Cruise‘s charmed life. 

Cruise and Holmes to marry in Italy on Saturday the 18th according to Cruise‘s representative.  Wedding invitations, however, ask guests to free up a four-day weekend, the 16th through the 19th.  Giorgio Armani will design both Ms. Holmes wedding dress and Mr. Cruise‘s outfit, according to “Us Weekly” and proper security measures are being taken to keep the ceremony private—and good luck with that having announced it to everybody.  You may recall the engagement happened in June 2005, 16 months and just one dubious baby ago.

Let‘s call in our resident expert on this topic, “Village Voice” columnist, Michael Musto. 

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The wedding is on a Saturday, but the guests are being asked to free up Thursday through Sunday—four days.  Is that to allow all those who are traveling from Scientology planet of Zenu to get there?

MUSTO:  Yes, but cross-town subway.  No, I guess they are going ask Katie do you take this man and they figure by four days later, she‘s eke out a “I guess so.”  Also it gives them four days to brainwash the crowd that this was exciting and also, to hit them up for money.  Tom‘s in the toilet.

OLBERMANN:  Now, she can read the contract during those days. 

MUSTO:  She can‘t read anything.

OLBERMANN:  Or have it read to her.  Mr. Cruise proposed marriage to Ms. Holmes on top of the Eiffel Tower, as we‘re told every time this story comes up.  Do we know what she‘s going be on top of during the wedding? 

MUSTO:  Maybe on top of George Clooney?  Because supposedly George Clooney is lending his luxurious digs lake home—Cuomo—these are the jokes—for the wedding.  These are simply jokes, Keith.  And you know, Tom and Katie actually want to stand on top of the blarney stone, but Ireland remembered “Far and Away,” they were like “No think you, mate.”  So, if anything, I don‘t know about Katie, but Tom‘s going to be standing on top of two show lifts. 

OLBERMANN:  Please send all comments to Mr. Musto care of “Village Voice.”

MUSTO:  Care of Keith Olbermann.

Yeah, care of the “Village Voice.” 

OLBERMANN:  The marriage is going be happening just 17 months after the engagement.  So, at this rate of progression, the guests can expect thank you notes for the wedding gifts by April 2009?  Is my math right? 

MUSTO:  Yeah, April 1.  No, actually it might even take longer because I hear Suri is writing the notes.  Shades of Kathy Lee who made her kids write thank you notes.  That‘s such a cute idea.  But also, it‘s hard for a kid to write gracious thank you notes for things like rotten eggs bags of rocks.  It‘s going to take long. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re thinking of the Gifford‘s, Cody wants a pony suddenly pops into my head. 

MUSTO:  (INAUDIBLE)

OLBERMANN:  Do we have an idea what the deciding factor was in picking this date.  Is it some sort of full moon for Scientology?  What‘s going—what is November 18? 

MUSTO:  No, I did some research, November 18 was the date of the Jonestown massacre, it‘s also when Robert Blake was—lost the civil suit for murdering his wife.  It‘s also the date Calvin and Hobbs debuted.  It‘s a beautiful date.  And (INAUDIBLE) was taken.

OLBERMANN:  Oh great.  Calvin and Hobbs, you‘ll get letters over that. 

We don‘t know where they‘re getting the best man or the maid of honor, who they‘d be, but is it safe to assume they can‘t top the all-time worst in those roles when Liza Minnelli and David Gest had Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson in those positions? 

MUSTO:  Yeah, that‘s the Mount Rushmore of freaks.  I have that picture up on my cubical wall.  It‘s both a celebration and a cautionary tale.  David Gest is the normal one in that bunch if that gives you any idea.  And with Liz there, it‘s almost like three guys and a pizza a place. 

I‘m counting Liza as a guy.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, thank you.  The statement from Mr. Cruise that he wanted to delay the wedding itself until his daughter could attend.  So, at seven-months-old she‘s have a better idea then she would have at say two months—what‘s going on?

MUSTO:  Well, this gave them seven months for a story.  You‘ll remember that at one month Suri was a pillow and they couldn‘t remember which pillow it was.  And Suri is not only existing now, she‘s a celebrity.  She was on the cover of “Vanity Fair,” she‘s much savvier than David Chiconi (ph) who‘s like, “Who am I?  Who‘s this woman?”

OLBERMANN:  Something was on the cover of “Vanity Fair.”  We don‘t know what—we still don‘t know what that was do we?

MUSTO:  Three somethings.  I don‘t know what any of them were.

All right, and we wrap this up by noting that doubtless they‘ll a

bunch of cans on the back of a spaceship that say “just married” or “just -

contract just finalized”—I guess that‘d the better phrase. 

               

The one and only Michael Musto of the “Village Voice.”  You can look the address up in the phone book.  Thanks for your time, Michael.

MUSTO:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,270th 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.

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