updated 11/21/2006 10:29:32 AM ET 2006-11-21T15:29:32

Guests: Dana Milbank, P.J. Crowley, Jonathan Alter, Michael Musto

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

The wheels come off Air Force One.  Talk about the headlines writing themselves.  All right, it was just a tire, it didn‘t come off, it merely had to be replaced in Ho Chi Minh City.

And perhaps the president should have stayed there, because in Indonesia, even the president himself spoke there, denying reports that he‘s decided on a final push with more troops in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I haven‘t made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yet that was 72 hours after the president said that there was a lesson about Iraq contained within our experience in Vietnam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We‘ll succeed unless we quit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In point of fact, we only succeeded in Vietnam because we had the good sense to quit.  The lessons of Vietnam Mr. Bush needs to learn before another American dies in Iraq.  Tonight‘s special comment.

And Decision 2008 a little early.  John McCain reverses on reversing Roe v. Wade, Barack Obama proposes phased redeployment to begin in four to six months.  Mitt Romney picks up the gauntlet against gay marriage.  And the right-wing noise machine is still hitting John Kerry about the three-week-old joke.

And there‘s good news tonight.  The Cruise-Holmes wedding is over.  Your last update until the divorce, or one of them vanishes into another dimension, whichever comes first.

And there‘s even more good news tonight, the O.J. Simpson folderol is over, book and interview gone.

But the bad news, now we have the Kramer controversy.  Michael Richards tries standup comedy and does not have the answer-the-heckler part down quite yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL RICHARDS:  You can talk, you can talk, you can talk.  You (INAUDIBLE) (expletive deleted), (INAUDIBLE) (expletive deleted), (INAUDIBLE) (expletive deleted).  (INAUDIBLE) (expletive deleted), (INAUDIBLE) (expletive deleted).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Who‘s writing his material, Mel Gibson?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEL GIBSON:  Have a nice day, Chuckie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

As Bush administration metaphors go, few are so easy nor so apt.  The wheels came off today.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a tire, on Air Force One, actually, nearly forcing the president onto a reserve Air Force One.  But it was in lockstep with the figurative wheels of the Bush administration‘s plan for Iraq, the president today all but admitting he does not have one, at least not yet, the commander in chief saying from Indonesia today, and the final stop in his Asian eight-day trip, that he has not yet decided whether to send more troops to Iraq or to begin bringing home the ones who are already there, Mr. Bush attributing the delay to the fact that his Pentagon is still trying to come up with a list of options.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I haven‘t made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won‘t until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military.  As you know, General Pace, who‘s the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff‘s in the process of evaluating a lot of suggestions.  And (INAUDIBLE), they will be bringing forth these suggestions and recommendations to me here as quickly as possible.  But—so I haven‘t—there‘s no need to comment on something that may not happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Also, at least briefly, in the it-may-not-happen category, just getting to Indonesia in the first place, Air Force One having experienced a problem with one of its tires upon landing in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, the White House considering whether to use a backup aircraft before a replacement tire was finally found.

What was waiting for them in Indonesia, they probably were not that eager to get to either, many thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Jakarta and other cities in that country for a second consecutive day among those who called the president a terrorist and a war criminal, Mr.  Bush shrugging them off, saying the demonstrations are a sign of a healthy society.

Midweek, he will be returning home to a growing debate about the war in Iraq, the Sunday talk shows both here and abroad full of supposed allies turning against Mr. Bush, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger telling the BBC that there is no hope left of a clear victory in Iraq, meaning, in his mind, there is more reason than ever for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq, meanwhile, on the new English version of the Al Jazeera Network, the British prime minister, Mr. Blair, heard agreeing with his interviewer that the war in Iraq has become an unmistakable disaster, his aides now trying to claim that was merely a gaffe of excessive courtesy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BBC)

DAVID FROST, HOST:  So far it‘s been, you know, pretty much of a disaster.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  It has, but, you see, what I say to people is, Why is it difficult in Iraq?  It‘s not difficult because of some accident in planning.  It‘s difficult because there is a deliberate strategy to create a situation in which the will of the majority of Iraqis, which is for peace, is displaced by the will of the minority for war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call upon the man often described as COUNTDOWN‘s David Frost, Dana Milbank, the national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”

Dana, good evening.

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

Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It was, as Bob Woodward has suggested, Iraq has been a Vietnam sequel of sorts for Dr. Kissinger.  How significant might it be that even he is now saying that a clear military victory for the U.S. is no longer an option?

MILBANK:  It couldn‘t have been much worse if he was the guy who stuck the nail in the Air Force One tire there.  But it‘s sort of an interesting dichotomy.  The—in Bob Woodward‘s book, he‘s there saying, You can‘t pull troops out of Iraq, because that would be like giving salted peanuts to the people, and they will just demand more.

Now he‘s on record saying, You can‘t win.  So he seems determined to make it more like Vietnam at every time.

But the president, having already sort of lost the faith of the neocons, now losing sort of the godfather of the realists, is in a real trouble trying to find some ideological support here.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, keep troops there because we can‘t win.

After he is presented these options by General Pace that he described, after he receives the conclusions from Baker-Hamilton, will the president still be in a position politically to maintain the status quo in Iraq?  Is that even a possibility any more?

MILBANK:  Doesn‘t seem like it‘s even on the table.  As my colleague Tom Ricks outlined, from the Pentagon report, we have the three options.  The go big, throw in a lot more troops, really off the table because we don‘t have them.  Go home, which the president says he can‘t do.  Then there‘s the go-long option, which is increase troops in the short term, and then sort of moonwalk out, and reduce them over the longer term.

But just keeping things as they‘re going right now would be the just-going-insane fourth option, and nobody really can consider it.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, over the weekend, veteran Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel floated a proposal to reinstate the draft.  Not the first time he‘s mentioned that, but presumably there is neither madness in that, and also there must be more to his proposal than simply ensuring the U.S. military has enough soldiers, or that there would be rioting on streets within 72 hours.

MILBANK:  Right.  Well, there‘s madness in the sense that he got a vote on this in 2003, and he got something like a 402 to two.  Presumably he—maybe, they‘re in the majority now, we can work that up to three or four votes.

But really, what he‘s pointing out here is that the go-big option, you know, they‘re talking about needing a quarter-million or more troops in Iraq, just is not possible, not possible with a volunteer army.  So he‘s making that point, number one.

And he‘s saying that the sacrifice has been unevenly borne here.  So he‘ll get his message out.  He‘ll—he may get to have a hearing, now that he‘s holding the gavel.  But it‘s pure symbolism.

OLBERMANN:  And he may get some applications from Hessians.

Seymour Hersh from the magazine “The New Yorker” added one more thing to the list of things that Vice President Cheney has said he would not change or will not change as a result of the Democratic takeover of Congress, that it would not prevent the Bush administration from attacking Iran.  Is that, even in Dick Cheney‘s mind, a viable possibility, so long as we‘re tied up in Iraq, as long as even the neocons, like Ken Adelman and Richard Perle have been speaking out against the administration?

MILBANK:  Well, it has to be on the table, and that‘s sort of standard

diplomatic speak.  And we also have to understand that Dick Cheney‘s role -

in fact, he came out several days after the election and said, The election changes nothing.  That‘s his role, to say things haven‘t changed.

As we talk about it, we don‘t even know if we can get an additional 20,000 troops into Iraq.  So obviously, any type of a ground war in Iran or anywhere else is off the table.  They like to leave those military options on the table, just because that‘s what you have to do.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You would think, however, the Iranians might have figured that part of the equation out too there (INAUDIBLE).

MILBANK:  They might be watching COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  Or if their calculators there (ph).

Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.”  As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  A hint today as to what options General Pace might offer to Mr. Bush on Iraq.  In shorthand, as Dana mentioned, go big, go long, or go home, “The Washington Post,” in the person of Tom Ricks, reporting that the Pentagon is now debating those three possibilities for Iraq.

Going big, that means a large increase in U.S. forces in an attempt to bring down the level of violence.  Going home, well, that one is self-explanatory, the rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.  And going long, a compromise that would temporarily increase the U.S. force, now at 140,000, by 20,000 or 30,000 or so, to try to stop the violence in the short term, then gradually reducing the total force to 60,000, 60,000 who could remain in Iraq for five to 10 years.

Let me know call in former Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

P.J., good evening to you.

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESMAN:  Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Before we get to viability of those options outlined in Tom Ricks‘ article in “The Post,” let me ask you, it took a group of 16 military officers at the Pentagon to come up with this.  It would seem anybody who ever played game of Risk could have identified those three options in the course of a conversation at a cocktail party.

CROWLEY:  Well, yes, but at least one of the options is not, go on doing what we‘re doing.  So that in itself is progress.

I do think that what‘s important here is, this is not the analysis by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which is outside of government.  This is the analysis of inside the government, inside the Pentagon.  So I really think, when you boil these things down, even the military itself is favoring fundamental change in our strategy.  That is progress.

OLBERMANN:  As Dana just pointed out, going big would seem to be impossible, unless we‘re calling the Hessians again, because the military is so extraordinarily stretched thin.  Going home would seem to be out, because of the possibility of full-blown civil war in Iraq, at least in the short term.  Do we deduce, by default, that going long is the most viable option?  And what would, if that is the case, what would that entail?

CROWLEY:  Well, I mean, going long is the default American position when you look back at Germany, Japan, Korea, even the Sinai, even Bosnia, where we still have a small number of troops.  You know, those—that‘s what we do.  And we are a force of stability normally.

The key to all of those missions has been that the combatants themselves are done fighting, and that we‘re able there to, you know, to stabilize situation, and hopefully over time, things get better.

The key in Iraq, of course, is that we don‘t have that kind of stability.  You know, the insurgency, the violence is actually just starting, it‘s not concluding.

OLBERMANN:  P.J., is what we really should be concluding, looking at these options, despite the improvement that you pointed out, that none of them are just keep things as they are, really, we have no good U.S.  military options in Iraq?

CROWLEY:  We do not have any good military options.  And I think Kissinger‘s right, that, from a military standpoint—you know, and John Murtha started here in the discussion over a year ago—the military has largely done all that it can do.  I think the one actually (INAUDIBLE) mission that‘s inherent in go long is still transitioning from combat forces to training forces.  You know, that makes sense.

But at this point in time, you really have to look to the Iraqis, what kind of political process will they, you know, put forward to reconcile the insurgents, to deal with the militia, and then find some accommodation among the Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds.  If they‘re not willing to step up and do those things politically, there‘s really nothing the military can do.

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, is the headline here what you suggested at the beginning, that no matter what option the U.S. military ends up taking in Iraq, the very commissioning of a study like this might be seen as an admission by the administration, or an acceptance of the reality that the current plan there just is not working, and has not been working for a long time?

CROWLEY:  Yes, the headline here is that it‘s the military that‘s looking for a way out.  And as the president said all along, I‘m going to listen to my commanders.  I suspect that you just heard the first foray from General Pace, it‘s time to get as many of these troops out of Iraq as possible.

OLBERMANN:  And the politics that follow that would be what, would be a sense of, I‘m listening to my generals, finally?

CROWLEY:  I think from the White House standpoint, that‘s exactly right.  Now, you know, the president is the decider.  He‘s not up for reelection.  You know, whether it‘s the generals on the one hand, or the Baker-Hamilton group on the other, he doesn‘t have to listen to them.

But I think there‘s going to be a combination of forces here, both on the Hill and from the Pentagon, that says, It‘s time to not stay the course.  It‘s time to change the course.

OLBERMANN:  Would that we had said this a year ago.

CROWLEY:  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  P.J. Crowley, with the Center for American Progress.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

CROWLEY:  Pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Still ahead of us tonight, my special comment on the lessons of Vietnam that the president cannot or will not learn, and how American service personnel are dying because he will not learn them.

Also, the jockeying for position for the ‘08 presidential elections.  It‘s Decision 2008 a little early, Senator John McCain shifting to the right on Roe v. Wade.

Also, your final, we pray, update on the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding, which will include the best man joining them on the honeymoon, not appearing in your picture.

And the late-breaking bizarre apology from Michael Richards after his bizarre eruption against African-American hecklers at an L.A. comedy club.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Whether in the left, the right, or the center, if any, staking out political turf for a 2008 presidential run is well underway.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, it can sometimes be an ugly spectacle, at least when it comes to contradictions, as when Senator John McCain moves to the right on abortion by changing his stance on whether the landmark decision protecting a woman‘s right to choose should be overturned.

Yesterday, the senator said a constitutional amendment banning abortion is unlikely to happen, but he then revisited the other option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK,” ABC)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I don‘t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it‘s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should—could overturn Roe v.  Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He added, quote, “which I support.”  The shift from his position in 1999, when he was running for president the previous time, not so subtle.  Quote from 1999, “I‘d love to see the point where it,” Roe v.  Wade, “is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary.  But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to illegal and dangerous operations.”

OLBERMANN:  Well, that would be different.  But not different from his other shifts towards the far right, like suggesting that more troops in Iraq may be the answer there, and, just before the past election, siding with the deliberate misinterpretation of Senator John Kerry‘s joke about President Bush.

Let‘s call in “Newsweek”‘s senior editor, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.

Thanks again for your time tonight, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  With Rudy Giuliani obviously at his left, Senator McCain seeming intent on fitting into the groove occupied by his former competitor for the party nominations, George W. Bush, is that a fair assumption at this point?

ALTER:  Yes, I think it is.  He‘s moving to the right.  That‘s his game plan for sewing up the nomination.

But, you know, Keith, we have to figure out what to rename his campaign bus from 2000.  It was called the Straight Talk Express.  You remember that?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  We can‘t call it the Gay Talk Express, we can‘t call it the Crooked Talk Express.  You know, so I don‘t know what we should call it.  Maybe the Convenient Talk Express, because he‘s clearly tacking this way and that in order to reposition himself.

We know that he‘s really a moderate on abortion.  I remember, I was on the Straight Talk Express in 2000 one day when he was asked by a “Boston Globe” reporter what he would do if his daughter got pregnant.  And he said it would be her decision whether to have an abortion or not.  And by the next stop, there was a feeding frenzy, and he had to back off and say, yes, yes, he really is against abortion, and so forth.

But we know what his real position is, and it‘s, in this age of transparency, where everything is out there, it‘s fascinating to watch him reposition himself.

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps the bus could have this big sign that says, “Pass only on the right.”

ALTER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Even if we assume Senator McCain‘s position on Iraq is sincere, clearly he‘s shifted in those comments on Roe v. Wade.  Is all this to avoid ceding conservative mantles to people like Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, who now has just come out by asking the state‘s highest court to order a ballot initiative on same-sex marriage?  Is he fearful that somebody‘s going to come down much harder on the right?  Is that what this is about?

ALTER:  I‘m not sure it‘s about any one rival, so much as it‘s about the center of gravity in the Republican Party, as the McCain camp sees it.  It‘s a (INAUDIBLE) -- it‘s a conservative party.  And they nominate conservatives.  And the rank and file, the base of the party that goes out and votes in those primaries, they‘re conservative, as McCain learned the hard way in 2000.

So it‘s always been clear that he was going to have to move.  But what‘s different is, in this era, where—of YouTube and 24-7 cable, you can‘t position yourself as easily as some candidates did in the past.  And the question is whether, you know, he will be seen as sincere or not in these newly held views, and whether somebody like a Mitt Romney, who‘s an attractive candidate, could get a jump on him by appealing to the right.

OLBERMANN:  Sticking in Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry did some positioning of his own yesterday.  He said the botched joke about President Bush won‘t hurt him, quote, “in the least” relative to 2008.  He was on with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” and everything but the last question was about that joke that is now three weeks old.

What does that tell us, one, that—is Kerry seen as some sort of easy target by the right, or some sort of threat by the right, that they would still be attacking him?  And does he seriously think of himself as a presidential candidate for 2008?

ALTER:  Well, he‘s clearly not seen as a threat by the right.  Punching bag would be more like it.  You know, they did a good job of Swiftboating him last time out, and it‘s easy, it‘s an easy hit for them.

The bigger question is with the Democrats.  I mean, I just don‘t see, and I respect Senator Kerry, but I just don‘t see an appetite out there for him within the Democratic Party this time.  You don‘t get a second chance, especially when a lot of people think you blew it the first time.

So, you know, he‘s done a lot for his party, but he could probably do more if he stood down, faced reality, and figured out who within the party he thinks is best capable of carrying forward the mantle the next time.

OLBERMANN:  The most high-profile scenario at the moment, obviously, for the Democratic nomination would pit Senator Clinton versus Senator Obama.  Senator Obama has just come out for a redeployment schedule, starting four to six months from now.  Is he seeing the field about the debate on Iraq, having already established his bona fides on that more clearly than Senator Clinton is?  Is he, is, is, is he viewing this, do you think, as the central issue of the 2008 nominating season?

ALTER:  Well, you know, Iraq obviously is the central foreign policy issue of our time.  The rap on Obama is going to be that he‘s inexperienced if he does run.  He has a trump card, Keith, and that is that in 2002, when he was an Illinois state senator, he gave a speech in which he said this was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, we should be concentrating on Afghanistan, it was a distraction from the war on terror.

All the arguments that everybody makes four years later, he was making in 2002.

So if Hillary Clinton tries to say, you know, Senator Obama, you don‘t have very much experience, he can say, Hey, I was right and you were wrong on this war at the outset, which will be a powerful—not necessarily decisive—but a very powerful argument for him in these Democratic primaries.

OLBERMANN:  And certainly a verily—very easily understood argument, which may be more important than anything else here.

Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, sir, our great thanks for coming in.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The next president could also be dealing with how to get out of Iraq.  Maybe the president after that one could be dealing with it too, if President Bush does not heed the lessons we should have learned, and he should have learned, from the Vietnam War.  My special comment on that ahead.

And Kramer versus the audience.  The former “Seinfeld” star crosses the line in his standup routine, the audience stands up and leaves.  The videotape and late-breaking news of tonight‘s extraordinary on-air apology.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sixty-five years ago today, Bob Einstein was born.  You may better know him as the character Super Dave Osbourn (ph), who has been consistently and spectacularly missing his feats of derring-do, mostly on television, for 30 years or more.  He‘s also the brother of comedian and actor Albert Brooks, which, of course, makes him Albert Einstein.

But that‘s another story for another night, when I say, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Buenos Aires in Argentina, where all hell has broken loose outside the city‘s planetarium, and it‘s got nothing to do with that lousy Leonid meteor shower the other night.  Nah, this waste of time was organized by bloggers for no good reason.  It‘s just a big Argentinean pillow fight.  Yay.  Hundreds showed up to enjoy the nice weather, meet some new people, and whack them in the face with bedding.  Great work, everybody.  Now let‘s all meet here again tomorrow with the hammers.

In Tampa, it‘s one of the first of our two very long things, this is the world‘s longest cigar, 101 feet long, weighing 53 pounds.  It took weeks to make, and it will enter the “Guinness Book” 2006 edition.  Tune in tomorrow as we watch a man attempt to smoke and finish the thing before his tracheotomy.  Don‘t smoke.

And to Bucharest, where this is the world‘s longest painting, 10,000 feet long.  Painted by a group of small schoolchildren, it will require 5,000 magnets to hang it up on the world‘s largest refrigerator.  Thank you.  Thank you, I‘ll be here all week.

Michael Richards is up next.  Enjoy.

Also tonight, my special comment, the lessons of Vietnam.  President Bush reveals his lack of understanding about what went wrong in that war.  Now, how that is impacting his lack of understanding of this, his own war. 

And the Cruise/Holmes wedding, is it a bad sign when the first kiss is so long that the crowd shouts stop, stop.  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.  Number three, Mr. J.T.  Ripper of London, wait.  Oh, Jack the Ripper.  Scotland Yard has just put out this photo composite of what its experts now think the infamous White Chapel murderer looked like.  The photo is a little late to be of any use.  The crimes took place 118 years ago and, yes, the photo does look a little like Gregory Peck in the Boys From Brazil. 

Number two, Milo Minderbinder, ever seen or read Catch 22 with Jon Voight as the mess officer who buys too much cotton, so he covers it in chocolate and tries to feed it to the troops.  Researchers at Texas A&M reporting now that a slight genetic modification will remove the chemical that makes people sick and soon you will be able to eat real cotton.  Somewhere, Milo is smiling.  Everybody working for Milo. 

And number one, Joad De Souza Luz, the mayor of Nobo Santo Antonio (ph) in Brazil.  He has begun distributing free medicine to the elderly of his community.  He says 68 men over the age of 60 in Nobo Santo Antonio are now receiving free city supplied supplies of Viagra, leading to the town‘s new nickname Pinto Elegre.  If I tell you that Elegre translates from the Portuguese as happy, can you guess what pinto translates as in the Portuguese?  There, you learned something didn‘t you? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And now as promised the special comment about the president‘s visit to Vietnam.  It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again.  And it is pathetic to hear the leader of the free world talk so unrealistically about Vietnam, when it was he who permitted the Swift Boating of not one, but two American heroes of that war in consecutive presidential campaigns. 

But most importantly, important beyond measure, his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans and that is indefensible and fatal.  Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam.  Mr. Bush said that there were and he immediately proved that he had no clue what they were.  One lesson is, he said, that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.  We‘ll succeed, the president concluded, unless we quit.  If that‘s the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam then he needs a tutor or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq. 

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but we‘ll succeed unless we quit is not one of them.  The primary one, which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy, is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished, ask Lyndon Johnson. 

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush, if you don‘t have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter.  Ask south Vietnam‘s president Diem, or President Tue (ph). 

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush, don‘t pretend it‘s something it‘s not.  For decades we were warned that if we didn‘t stop communist aggression in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the smaller nations of the world and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.  The war machine of 1968 had this domino theory.  Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as the central front in the war on terror. 

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush, if the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of peace with honor are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they‘re probably just as wrong now as they were then, Dr. Kissinger. 

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush, which somebody should have told you about long before you plunged this country into Iraq is that if you lie us into a war, your war and your presidency will be consigned to the strap heap of history.  Consider your fellow Texans sir, after president Kennedy‘s assassination, Lyndon Johnson held the country together after a national tragedy, not unlike you tried to do.  He had lofty goals.  He tried to reshape society for the better and he is remembered for Vietnam and for the lies he and his government told to get us there and keep us there and for the Americans who needlessly died there.  As you Mr. Bush will be remembered for Iraq and for the lies you and your government told to get us there and keep us there and for the Americans who needlessly died there and who will needlessly die there tomorrow. 

This president has his fictitious Iraqi W.M.D. and his lies, disguised as subtle hints, linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, and his reason of the week for keeping us there, when all of the evidence has, for at least three years, told us we needed to get as many of our kids out as quickly as we could.  That president had his fictitious attacks on Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 and the next thing any of us knew, the Senate had voted 88-2 to approve the blank check with which Lyndon Johnson paid for our trip into hell. 

And yet President Bush just saw the grim reminders of that trip into hell.  Of the 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed, of the 10,000 civilians there who have been blown up by land mines since we pulled out, of the genocide in the neighboring country of Cambodia, which we triggered.  Yet these parallels and these lessons eluded President Bush entirely, and in particular, the one over-arching lesson about Iraq that should have been written everywhere he looked in Vietnam went unseen.  We‘ll succeed unless we quit.  Mr. Bush, we did quit in Vietnam, a decade later than we should have, 58,000 dead later than we should have, but we finally came to our senses that stable burgeoning vivid country you just saw there is there because we finally had the good sense to declare victory and get out. 

The domino theory was nonsense, sir.  Our departure from Vietnam emboldened no one.  Communism did not spread like a contagion around the world and most importantly, as president Reagan‘s assistant secretary of state Lawrence Korb said on this newscast on Friday, we were only in a position to win the Cold War because we quit in Vietnam.  We went home and instead it was the Russians, who learned nothing from Vietnam, and who repeated every one of our mistakes when they went into Afghanistan and alienated their own people and killed their own children and bankrupted their own economy and allowed us to win the Cold War.  We awakened so late, but we did awaken. 

Finally in Vietnam we learned the lesson.  We stopped endlessly squandering lives and treasure and the focus of a nation on an impossible and an irrelevant dream, but you are still doing exactly that tonight in Iraq and these lessons from Vietnam, Mr. Bush, these priceless, transparent lessons, written large, as if across the very sky, are still a mystery to you.  We‘ll succeed unless we quit.  No, sir, we will succeed against terrorism for our country‘s needs towards binding up the nation‘s wounds when you quit, quit the monumental lie that is our presence in Iraq.  And in the interim, Mr. Bush, an American kid will be killed there probably tonight or, if we are lucky, not until tomorrow.  And here, sir, endeth the lesson. 

We will continue with the O.J. Simpson story and Michael Richards apology after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Well it only took Rupert Murdoch a few months to figure out what everyone else immediately found disgusting.  His company has now pulled O.J. Simpson‘s book, in which he hypothesized how he would have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, if he really had.  And accompanying TV special with editor Judith Regan has also been canceled.  This after at least a dozen of Fox‘s TV affiliate stations had already decided not to run the interview. 

In canceling both ventures Mr. Murdoch called the original decision to get involved with O.J.‘s book, quote, ill considered.  An underestimate if ever there has been one.  Now that that outrage has essentially been silenced, along with the book, we turn to another appallingly ill-considered decision, that of the actor Michael Richards, better known as Kramer from Seinfeld. 

In our number two story in the COUNTDOWN Richards has tonight publicly apologized for his performance at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood Friday night after he was heckled by two African-American audience members.  Details on that apology in a moment.  First the details of the tape which surfaced only today.  We have tried to clean this up as much as we could.  We warn you, it will remain nonetheless very offensive. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR:  Shut up.  Fifty years ago you had your arms tied down with (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fork up your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  You can talk, you can talk, you can talk.  You‘re brave now mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  Throw this man out, he‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). A (EXPLETIVE DELETED) looks where‘s (INAUDIBLE).

All right you see, you see what‘s buried beneath your stupid mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was uncalled for.

RICHARDS:  What was uncalled for?  It‘s uncalled for you to interrupt my (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you cheap mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  You guys have been talking and talking and talking.  I don‘t know, I don‘t know, I don‘t know.   What‘s the matter?  Is it too much for you to handle?  They‘re going to arrest me for calling a black man a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) white boy.

RICHARDS:  Are you threatening me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll see what‘s up.

RICHARDS:  Oh, it‘s a big threat, that‘s how you get back at the man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was real uncalled for. 

RICHARDS:  Wait a minute, he‘s not going, you see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re just not funny.  That‘s why your a reject. 

Never had no show, never had no movie.  Seinfeld, that‘s it. 

RICHARDS:  Oh, I guess you got me there.  You‘re absolutely right. 

I‘m just a wash up.  Gotta stand on the stage.  That‘s it we‘ve had it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s un (EXPLETIVE DELETED) called for.  That ain‘t necessary. 

RICHARDS:  Well, you interrupted me pal.  That‘s what happens when you interrupt a white man, don‘t you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Uncalled for.  That was uncalled for. 

RICHARDS:  You see?  You see, there‘s still those words, those words, those words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Richards has now publicly apologized for the incident.  He appeared via satellite during Jerry Seinfeld‘s in-studio guest appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman, which was recorded late this afternoon.  An apology described by those who have already seen and heard it as unbelievable, in which Richards said, quote, I‘m busted up about this, I apologize to the blacks, Hispanics and whites who were in the audience.  I‘m very, very sorry.  He appeared, according to eye witnesses, to go in and out of his Kramer character.  At least some members of the Letterman studio audience thought the apologize was some kind of satirical comedy act. 

An effortless shift, thus, into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news keeping tabs.  And Britney Spears moving from a parasitic low that, would be Kevin Federline, to another a parasitic low life, that would be Paris Hilton.  The pair of them, and by that we mean Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton, were seeing hoofing it up at a Club Tryst at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas over the weekend, smoking, laughing, busting a move on the dance floor. 

The merriment too much, apparently, for Ms. Spears to bear while fully clothed.  Here she is early in the evening, wearing a shirt and pants, and a little later on in the night, shirt in tact, but pants mysteriously absent.  You can‘t buy class or maybe she‘s just a fan of that cable series, pants off, dance off. 

Speaking of classy, lesson number one if you‘re filling in as a guest co-host on a popular TV show and you ever want to come back, do not cheese off the talent.  Lesson learned the hard way by American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, when he sat in on Regis Philbin‘s chair on Friday‘s edition of Live With Regis and Kelly.  According to TMZ.com, the taping did not go well because the host Kelly Ripper felt that Mr. Aiken wasn‘t, quote, respectful in any way, an opinion solidified when Mr. Aiken tried to stop her talking during one of the interviews.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY RIPPER, NBC ANCHOR:  OH that‘s a no, no. 

CLAY AIKEN, AMERICAN IDOL STAR:  Oh, I‘m in trouble, I should just sit here. 

RIPPER:  No, I just don‘t—I don‘t know where that hand has been, honey. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And cue Mr. Aiken‘s return to the D list.  He‘ll be filling in for Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News Monday. 

From celebrity cat fights to celebrity trauma, the wedding kiss that had guests screaming, stop.  Michael Musto takes one last trip into this mine field for us.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest nominees for worst person in the world. 

The bronze to Billow, again just a bronze.  How have the mighty fallen.  He told his radio audience that, quote, I don‘t own an i-Pod.  I would never own an i-Pod.  If this is your primary focus in life, the machines, do you ever talk to these computer geeks, I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them.  One of the services Bill sells on his merchandise website, O‘Reilly downloads and podcasts. 

The runner-up, the guys running the Wal-Mart at West Bend, Wisconsin.  During the Play Station Three debacle last week they announced to the crowd of about 50 waiting outside the store that they only expected to have ten of the games available for sale, so they‘d be putting ten chairs out in front and the ten people who sat down first would get to buy the games.  Several people were trampled and one guy had to go to the emergency room after he ran head first into a pole. 

But our winner Michael “Weiner” Savage.  Last week he insisted the radical homosexual agenda will not stop until it subjugates the rest of the country.  His latest remarks, quote, who do you think controls what comes out of Hollywood?  I think the purple hand is all over Hollywood.  He then predicts those remarks will wind up, quote, in several of the blogs run by gays and they think only of that because they‘re like drug addicts.  For god‘s sakes Mike, will you just cut to the chase and come out of the closet?  Michael “Weiner” Savage, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  After an 18 month relationship and despite being held inside a 15th century castle, the legal value of Tomkat‘s Italian marriage was exactly zero.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, enough with the numbers, that, plus a post ritual kiss reportedly lasting three minutes, long enough to make Al and Tipper Gore go, ick.  Here they are, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  He is apparently standing on an apple box during this thing, I guess. 

Unfortunately the Scientology wedding service not legally recognized in Italy.  Not to worry, the couple had already taken of those pesky legalities.  Publicists saying Cruise and Holmes, quote, officialized their marriage in Los Angeles prior to their departure for Italy, officialized.  That freed them to really enjoy the stunt—I‘m sorry, show—I‘m sorry, ceremony held before 150 friends, relatives and hostages. 

Their exchange of vows, followed by a kiss that even Georgio Armani described as, quote, never ending.  We don‘t have video of that, but just as a reminder we have this.  Just imagine a castle instead of the Democratic National Convention.  Identical feeling will surface.  The Tomkat kiss dragged out so long some guests were reported to have shouted, stop, stop.  No better moment to bring in Village Voice columnist Michael Musto.  Good evening Michael. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, THE VILLAGE VOICE:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, when Cruise heard that, he misunderstood it.  He thought it meant stop, as in stop the whole charade, so he went home by himself and ordered a pizza? 

MUSTO:  No, no, I heard it made him even more resolute.  He kept on kissing and Katie ended up pregnant again.  That‘s how it happened last time, from hard kissing.  It‘s such a mess. 

OLBERMANN:  So, it looks like Mr. Armani, who designed everybody‘s clothes in the wedding, in the party certainly, has confirmed the juiciest tid bit here, the never ending kiss, the guests shouting, stop.  There‘s one account that suggests those people were shouting that way jokingly.  Do we have any incite on who these people were and what they meant? 

MUSTO:  This is no joke.  These people are traumatized.  Some of these are the same people from David and Liza and they were busy going, not again, not again.  They covered their eyes, but they could still hear all those slurping noises.  So they covered their ears and they could still see this two tongued dragon monster.  It was hideous.  They are on life support these people now. 

OLBERMANN:  And if your David Gest, of course, you cover your head. 

MUSTO:  With botox. 

OLBERMANN:  The cracks that have already made the rounds about the photo in the British tabloids.  Tom Cruise appears to be as tall or taller than Katie Holmes, because, they say, he is standing on the prenup.  Was it that, is it photo-shopped, was it industrial light and magic, are they on a slant on that hill there, what is going on in that picture? 

MUSTO:  Well the photographer was David Copperfield, the master of allusion, and Tom is standing on Baby Suri, he‘s standing on the Bracciano yellow Pages.  He‘s standing on ceremony, and just to be sure that he cut off Katie‘s legs, now there‘s a whole other problem, Paul McCartney‘s hot for her. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, OK. 

MUSTO:  You think Tom is low, I‘m really low.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, really.  Actually, Katie would have to be underground in that photograph there.  She‘s like they dug her a little trench.  These other previous reports that Mr. Cruise got a little pudgy, would we expect him to do his own stunts for the wedding nonetheless? 

MUSTO:  He did everything.  He cut the cake and he certainly ate it.  He ate artichokes, a spice‘s hat, which doubled as a space ship.  But come bed time he did get a little tuckered out so they had to bring in his stunt double, Vern Troyer.   

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of doubles and extra people involved in this, what is this story about Mr. Cruise‘s best man, who is described as a senior Scientologist, was spotted boarding the private jet with the couple at 6:00 this morning, when they went off to their honeymoon.  Is this a Scientology regulation, or something, was he hitching a ride, is he a back-up plan?  What‘s he there for?

MUSTO:  He was hitching a ride.  This is totally innocent.  He had to stop at Uranus as well.  And look, Scientology has a motto, baby makes three, and the best man make whoopie.  Three‘s company.  They have fun there. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh my goodness.

MUSTO:  Send your letters to Keith Olbermann. 

OLBERMANN:  No, no thanks.  And the last part here, Andrea Bocelli didn‘t sing at the wedding, reportedly, but he regaled them with a song during the reception. 

MUSTO:  He sang the Who song, Tommy, Can you Hear Me, Please Don‘t Marry Katie.  Also, I Love When We Go Tom Cruisin Together, but mainly a ditty called I May Be Blind, But I‘m Still a Big Whore, Now Where‘s the Gift Bag? 

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Michael Musto, as always sir, great thanks for your time and watch out for getting involved now in the McCartney divorce suit. 

MUSTO:  I‘m not scared. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,297th day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Joe, good evening. 

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

END   

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