updated 11/29/2006 11:25:21 AM ET 2006-11-29T16:25:21

Guests: Jonathan Turley, Jonathan Alter, E.J. Dionne, Mo Rocca

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

Reexamine free speech.  Newt Gingrich calls for a, quote, “different set of rules to prevent terrorism.”  He says this at the Loeb Award Dinner in New Hampshire, the Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner in New Hampshire.  Gingrich‘s call to restrict free speech, especially on the Internet, what it means constitutionally from Jonathan Turley, what it means for a possible Gingrich presidential campaign and possible Republican campaign platform of gut-the-Constitution from Jonathan Alter.

the Republican campaign in Iraq.  It‘s not civil war, says the president, it‘s al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There‘s a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not civil war, says General Caldwell, it‘s al Qaeda.  Funny, last week, General Caldwell said it really wasn‘t al Qaeda.  As they say, any flip-flop in a storm.

The first outlines of the Democratic plan from Senator Biden.  One plus one plus one plus six.  One Iraq for the Sunnis, one Iraq for the Shias, one Iraq for the Kurds, and six weeks of Senate hearings to find out how in the hell we got into this mess.

How to get out of another mess.  Not just another male pill, but a male pill that restores fertility within a day and can claim no sperm were killed during the making of this pill.

This is not a segue, but were the Bush twins asked to leave Argentina?  And what about these twins in best friendship?  The battle to be America‘s bad girls analyzed, as only he can do it, by TV personality and presidential historian Mo Rocca.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s going to be hot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You betcha.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Los Angeles.

It‘s in the quintessential movie about this city, “Chinatown.”  Morty the Mortician turns to Jack Nicholson‘s character and says, “Middle of the drought, and the water commissioner drowns.  Only in L.A.”  Tonight, a real-life equivalent.  Middle of a dinner honoring the sanctity of the First Amendment, and the former speaker of the House talks about restricting freedom of speech.  Only in the Republican Party.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it might have been his first attempt to fire up his base for a possible presidential run, or it might have been something more ominous.  But Newt Gingrich has actually proposed a different set of rules and invoked the bogeyman of terror.

Gingrich was the featured speaker at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire, last night, where he not only argued that campaign finance reform and the separation of church and state should be rethought, because they allegedly hurt the First Amendment, but he also suggested that new rules might be necessary to stop terrorists using freedom of speech to get out their message.

Here is his rationalization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  My (INAUDIBLE) view is that either before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that  we use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us, to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If you‘re going to destroy freedom of speech, bub, you‘ve already lost all the cities.

To paraphrase Pastor Martin Noemuller‘s poem about Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s, first they came for the Fourth Amendment, then they came for habeas corpus, then came for free speech, and there was no one allowed to speak up.

The politics in a moment.

First, to discuss the constitutionality of this, I‘m joined by George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.

Jonathan, as always, thanks for your time tonight.

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT, GEORGE WASHINGTON

UNIVERSITY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So the conventional wisdom on this is, he‘s to breathe life into the same scare tactics that worked so well for the president and the vice president until four weeks ago.  But could this be more nefarious than just politics?  Could any president really gut free speech in the name of counterterrorism?

TURLEY:  They could.  I mean, it‘s bizarre it would occur in a First Amendment speech.  (INAUDIBLE) God knows what he‘d say at a Mother‘s Day speech.

But, you know, this really could happen.  I mean, the fact is that the First Amendment is an abstraction, and when you put up against it the idea of incinerating millions of people, there will be millions of citizens that respond, like some Pavlovian response, and deliver up rights.  We‘ve already seen that.

People don‘t seem to appreciate that you really can‘t save a Constitution by destroying it.

OLBERMANN:  We asked Mr. Gingrich‘s office for the full speech.  To their credit, they provided most of it to us, late relative to our deadline.  But let me read you a little bit more of this that we‘ve just gotten, Jonathan.

“I want to suggest to you that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of, if it were not for the scale of this threat.”  That‘s one quote.  “This is a serious, long-term war,” Gingrich added, “and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country.  It will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous.”

Jonathan, are there not legal methods already in place to deal with such sites that do not require what Mr. Gingrich has here called “supervision that we would never dream of”?

TURLEY:  Well, there are plenty of powers and authorities that could be used to monitor truly dangerous people.  But what you see here, I think, is the insatiable appetite that has developed among certain leaders for controlling American society.

We saw that with John Ashcroft not long after 9/11, when he said the critics were aiding and abetting the terrorists.  There is this insatiable appetite that develops when you feed absolute power to people like Gingrich.

And people should not assume that these are just going to be fringe candidates, and this could never happen.  Fear does amazing things to people, and it could a sort of self-mutilation in a democracy, where we give up the very things, the very rights that define us, and theoretically, the very things that we are defending.

OLBERMANN:  So, and also, when you talk about closing down Internet sites, who is the one who‘s going to decide which those are?  I mean, it could be the Daily Kos, it could be Citizens for Legitimate Government, it could be the sports Web site Dead Spin, for all we know, if they don‘t—if he doesn‘t like any one of them in particular.

TURLEY:  Well, what these guys don‘t understand is that the best defense against bad ideas, like extremism and terrorism, is free speech.  That‘s what we‘ve proven.  That‘s why they don‘t like us, is that we‘re remarkably successful as a democracy, because we‘ve shown that really bad ideas don‘t survive in the marketplace, unless you try to suppress them, unless you try to keep people from speaking.  Then it becomes a form of martyrdom.  Then you give credence to what they‘re saying.

OLBERMANN:  Last question, the specific idea about the Internet.  There was a story just today out of Toronto that researchers at a Canadian university developed some software that will let users in places like China that have Internet restrictions, the phrase they used were, “hop over government‘s Internet firewalls.”  Might it be that the technology will be our best defense against the Newt Gingriches of this country?

TURLEY:  It may be.  We may have to rely on our own creativity to overcome the inclinations of people like Newt Gingrich.

OLBERMANN:  George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert, and, I think it‘s fair to say, friend of the Constitution, Jonathan Turley.  Great thanks, Jon.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Now, the politics of this remarkable speech.  Jonathan Alter‘s thoughts coming up.

First, some data which raises the question, Was this a political step forward for Mr. Gingrich, or political suicide?  Or was he dead already, in terms of politics?

A new poll analyzing the so-called likeability of 20 public figures had already put Gingrich near the bottom, number 17, in fact, the Quinnipiac poll asking respondents to rate how favorably they felt, on a scale of 1 to 100, about various present and former lawmakers, many of whom may be running for president in 2008.

Rounding out the bottom of that list, at number 18, the retiring senator from Tennessee, outgoing majority leader Bill Frist, at 19, the incoming Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.  And last in the ranking, Senator John Kerry.

At the top of the scale, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Senator Barack Obama, and Senator John McCain, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain already having formed their presidential campaign exploratory committees, Mr. Obama still riding the buzz.  Other notables, a surprise showing, perhaps, for Secretary of State Rice, who came in fourth.  Former president Bill Clinton landed four spots ahead of his wife, the senator.  And incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi bested President Bush, but not by that much.

Now, as promised, “Newsweek” senior editor, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll look a little bit more at these “they like me, they like me” numbers in a minute.

But first, read this Gingrich speech for me.  Is this fire up the base, or is it set fire to the Constitution?

ALTER:  I think it was actually neither.  You know, Gingrich is a man of ideas.  Some of the ideas are dopey and dangerous.  Maybe many of the ideas are dopey and dangerous.  A few of them are good.  He likes to talk ideas.  And I don‘t think that he was playing the angles here of a presidential run.

He‘s already said that he‘s not even going to decide whether to run for president until September of ‘07.  So he‘s—you know, he‘s just kind of free-associating, but as an indication, as Jonathan Turley said, of what happens in a climate fear.

In the Civil War, Lincoln shut down newspapers.  World War I, Woodrow Wilson shut down newspapers, even put one of his opponents in jail, just for speaking his mind.  So these things do happen in wartime.

What‘s scary is this idea of war without end, because earlier wars in American history, when they put the Constitution on the shelf, it was for a short duration.  What some of these politicians like Gingrich seem to be talking about are permanent changes in our system, which are very frightening to contemplate, and also won‘t do much, if anything, to catch terrorists.

The danger, Keith, is that if there is another terrorist attack in the United States, candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani will get a big boost.

OLBERMANN:  And Tommy Franks, when he was retiring as the general, as

at CentCom, said that his greatest fear would—was that there might be something else that would lead us to, in his terms, shred the Constitution.

Now, but to the politics of this, and actually trying to sell this to people, before the midterms, John Dean, who wrote that shattering book, “Conservatives Without Conscience,” said to me, you know, Hey, if the Republicans lose the House or the Senate, Karl Rove and some of the other authoritarians in the GOP are going to say, This is just a passing phase.  And sure enough, after the election, the next day, Rove said, This is just temporary.

Is this, to any degree, this speech, any kind of indicator that there‘s a sizable part of the Republican Party that thinks, Hey, we just didn‘t scare people enough this time around that this country wants optional habeas corpus and a permeable First Amendment?

ALTER:  Well, you know, if they do, then they‘re cruising for another bruising at the polls, because you have a lot of Republicans, particularly libertarians, particularly in New Hampshire, of all places, who actually do believe in the Constitution, and don‘t respond well to people from Washington telling them, you know, what they can and can‘t say.

So I think this will be a divisive idea in Republican politics if he pursues it too much.

But you‘re right that they will go back to this well of fear again and again and again, because right now, they‘re kind of out of other ideas.  And it‘s a card, to mix a metaphor, that they‘re just going to continue to try to play.  You will see them playing it.

And I think Rudy Giuliani‘s popularity, which stems from 9/11, is very much connected to this strain in Republican thinking.  The idea, Keith, of his the most likable—for anybody who lived under his rule in New York, as I did, it‘s kind of like saying, you know, Bob Novak is the most likable journalist in America.  It‘s almost laughable.  He has a lot of attributes, but likeability is not one of them.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, playing that card, they will let you see that card, or you will see that card only if they let you see that card.

ALTER:  That‘s right, right.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve already addressed Giuliani in these numbers, and give these numbers just a little fleeting passing glance.  What about the numbers relative to (INAUDIBLE), say, Barack Obama, and John Kerry coming in at 20th out of 20?

ALTER:  Well, Barack Obama, you know, for a guy who, 40 percent, had no opinion because they didn‘t know anything about him, for him to have these kinds of ratings gives you a sense of what a rock star he is right now, not just in the Democratic Party, but in the country as a whole.  His book is a runaway number one bestseller.  And people just like him.

I mean, I got a call yesterday from a Pat Buchanan, self-described Pat Buchanan Republican, who said he was for Barack Obama.  Now, a lot of that‘s going to change after people learn more about his positions on things.  But he‘s big.

As far as John Kerry, it‘s just sad.  And I think he‘s pretty much finished as a presidential candidate at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

ALTER:  Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And another extraordinary statement today, That‘s not civil war in Iraq, says the president, it‘s all al Qaeda, a week after a top general in Iraq said, We‘ve got the upper hand on Al Qaeda in Iraq.

And the Democrats‘ plan to end the war.  Senator Biden reveals his solution, boldly laying down the gauntlet to the Iraq Study Group, the Baker commission.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  The quote has been attributed to everybody from Benjamin Franklin, to Albert Einstein, to Sigmund Freud.  That should not detract from its relevance, particularly as it applies to President Bush and foreign policy.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Bush today once again playing the al Qaeda card, dismissing the mere suggestion that Iraq has deteriorated into a civil war by blaming terrorists for the sectarian violence there, his remarks coming at a morning stopover in Estonia on his way to Latvia for the NATO summit, Mr. Bush altogether avoiding the phrase “civil war” in a response to a question about what the difference is between civil war and what we are seeing now in Iraq.  It‘s said the presidential vocabulary word of the day was “foment.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  You know, the, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence.  That‘s what he said he wanted to do.  The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has.  The recent bombings were to perpetrate the sectarian violence.  In other words, we‘ve been in this phase for a while.

There‘s all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening.  What is, what you‘re seeing on TV has started last February.  It was an attempt by people to foment sectarian violence, and no, no, no question, it‘s dangerous there and violent.

There‘s a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Later, at a speech in Latvia, Mr. Bush vowing he would not pull U.S. troops from Iraq until a stable democracy takes hold there, the fear card, you will recall, proving to have been a joker, when the president tried to use it this fall to prevent a Democratic takeover of Congress, the incoming speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, responding today seemingly more in sorrow than in anger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER-ELECT:  My thoughts on the president‘s representations are well known.  The 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago, and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The resurgence of al Qaeda, at least in Bush administration doublespeak, by no means limited to the commander in chief.  Just last week, military leaders on the ground in Iraq were claiming that the fight against the terrorists there has never gone better than it is right now.

Today, some of those same men appeared to be reading from a White House list of talking points.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has a reality check for us tonight.

Jim?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, there‘s no question, al Qaeda still remains a threat in Iraq.  But U.S. military officials admit, it‘s not the primary threat by a long shot.

(voice-over):  U.S. military and intelligence officials claim it was al Qaeda behind the Thanksgiving Day bombings that killed more than 200 Iraqi Shiites in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN:  Al Qaeda in Iraq is looking to dominate Baghdad.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But a week ago, the same major general, Bill Caldwell, said the U.S. military had killed or captured so many al Qaeda leaders and fighters, it was all but incapable of pulling off such a highly coordinated attack.

CALDWELL:  Systemically dismantling that organization and taking it down.  If there ever was a time when it‘s more disorganized, it‘s right now.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  And two weeks ago, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East told Congress sectarian violence, not al Qaeda, is the primary long-term threat in Iraq.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND:  And al Qaeda, in particular, in Iraq, is not popular.  I don‘t believe that it can become mainstream there.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  In fact, according to military intelligence, al Qaeda makes up only 2 to 3 percent of enemy forces in Iraq, or about 1,300 foreign fighters.

LT. GEN. MICHAEL MAPLES, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: 

Attacks by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq account for only a fraction of the insurgent violence.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But the spectacular nature of those al Qaeda attacks sparks waves of revenge killings between Shiites and Sunnis that further destabilize the Iraqi government.

Whatever the al Qaeda threat, some experts blame it directly on the U.S. war in Iraq.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  There was no significant al Qaeda presence in Iraq before the war, but partly due to the administration‘s performance since Saddam has fallen, al Qaeda now has a role in Iraq and will continue to be there for years to come.

MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Al Qaeda was not the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq in the first place.  But the Bush administration is clearly out to convince the American people that al Qaeda is now the reason American troops should stay, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon for us tonight.  Great thanks.

If the phrase, It‘s all al Qaeda‘s fault, can jump back from the scrap heap of history, why not also the daily dance on the nation‘s highways between the good guys and the bad girls?

And the latest twist in the O.J. Simpson-Fox saga.  Even though Rupert Murdoch killed the project, how did NewsCorp still wind up making a million dollars off of the project?

Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Seventeen years ago today, Ricki Henderson (ph) of the Oakland Athletics proved it was not going to be a fluke.  He became the second baseball player in history, and the second one in a week, to ever get a salary as high as $3 million a year.

Next season, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees will receive an annual salary of $27 million.  For last season, the average player received an annual salary of about $2.5 million.

On that cheery note, let‘s play Oddball.

And you wonder why people wig out (INAUDIBLE) car chases.

We begin in Mesquite, Texas, with the triumphant return of the COUNTDOWN Car Chase of the Week.  Mesquite Tex-Mex, ahhh.  Despite doomsday predictions to the contrary, it‘s been one of the mildest car chase seasons on record.  Checking the Oddball scoreboard for the year, we can see it‘s low-scoring affair, cops 23, guys who think they can escape the cops, nuttin‘.

That‘s no guy at the wheel of this stolen pickup truck barreling down I-30.  There‘s a woman at the wheel, and they are impervious to spike strips.  Well, never mind that last part.  Done in by the flat tire, this foxy (INAUDIBLE) makes one last break for it.  Out the passenger side, over the wall, and --  Uh-oh.  Should have waited for the next exit.

If there had been a rowboat there, this might have been the perfect plan.  Well, maybe she can swim to the Big House.

Baldwin, Pennsylvania, for another exciting episode of Aren‘t You Glad You Don‘t Live Next Door to This Guy?  This is not your run-of-the-mill overly decorative, annoying Christmas house story.  Robert Cox has actually hooked his 72,000 lights to one of those computers they use at rock concerts, and he‘s cranking it up for the neighborhood.  Yes, in the war on Christmas, this guy is running psyops.

Dude, you are the most rocking culture warrior since Strifer (ph), man.  Christmas rules.  Whoo-hoo.

Speaking of psyops, the Democrats laying the groundwork for their own vision of Iraq.  Senator Biden details a three-state solution and wonders out loud if the Iraq Study Group report will ever even be relevant.

What‘s the relevance of this coincidence?  The president‘s twin daughters run into rumor, if not trouble, in Argentina.  And Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are suddenly the twins of friendship.  Mo Rocca analyzes that.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of newsmakers.

Number three, an update to yesterday‘s number one.  Bob Kearns, the president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  He‘d said the Christmas wreath hung by a resident was an antiwar protest sign, possibly a satanic symbol.  He fired the review board when it disagreed with him.  He threatened to fine the resident $25 a day unless the satanic symbol was removed.

The Homeowner‘s Association has now apologized to the resident and acknowledge it was just a peace symbol and, in fact, went kind of well with that Christmas thing about, you know, peace on earth and stuff.

Number two, Charles Sibindana of Vereadinging (ph) in South Africa. 

He‘s been fined $140 by a local judge after he called in sick from work.  He handed in what he said was a note from his doctor.  Actually, he‘d stolen it from his girlfriend‘s doctor, her gynecologist.  He later said he did not know that gynecologists only treated women.  Live and learn.

Number one, Jim and Melissa Rittenberg of St. Louis.  They bought a $1,600 camcorder at BestBuy in Ellisville, Missouri, last week.  Got it home, checked the contents against that annoying inventory checklist.  There was a telephone cord, an electric outlet cover, and a jar of Classico Pasta Sauce.  BestBuy says it‘s attempting to resolve the camcorder problem.  I‘m thinking maybe it‘s a sign.  You guys are supposed to find another camera and use it to make spaghetti Westerns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Any American voter who believes the Democratic party now has a responsibility to hold the Bush administration accountable for its war in Iraq as the price of admission for taking over Congress, no doubt pleased today by Senator Joe Biden‘s announcement he will be holding a series of hearings on Iraq when he retakes the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee in January. 

Any American voter who believes the Democratic party should be holding the Bush administration‘s feet to the fire for not actually having any real plan for Iraq, possibly disappointed today that Senator Biden has floated a plan of his own. 

Our third story of the COUNTDOWN, nobody said regaining control of Congress would be easy.  Senator Biden, the first Democratic lawmaker to walk the tight rope required in taking on the White House about Iraq.  The once and future Foreign Relations chairman telling “Newsweek Magazine” that he is finalizing details for about six weeks of hearings to dissect Bush administration policy in Iraq. 

The Delaware Democrat also setting down benchmarks for what he believes the administration should be doing in Iraq, what would seem to amount to a United States of Iraq, maintaining a unified federal government there, while still decentralizing the country to give the three main factions, Sunni, Shia and Kurd, a little breathing room in regions of their own. 

Let me call on E.J. Dionne, columnist for the “Washington Post” and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for perspective on this.  E.J., thanks as always for your time tonight.  

E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Always good to be here, but I can‘t top that spaghetti western line in the last segment. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.  Maybe this is turning into a spaghetti western in Iraq too. 

DIONNE:  Right or “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” is what I‘m thinking of.

OLBERMANN:  A tripartite state.  Regardless of the merits of this plan though, which we‘ll get to in a bit, which is the overriding political factor here, Biden‘s proposal answering the right, which keeps saying, OK, where is the Democratic plan.  Yet his proposal also might be shifting the burden of cleaning this mess from the Republicans in the White House to the Democrats in Congress? 

DIONNE:  I don‘t think the Democrats have any choice.  First of all, the Democrats‘ problem isn‘t that they have a shortage of plans, it‘s that they have lots and lots of plans.  Senator Biden has his plan.  Senator Levin and Senator Reed have a plan.  I mean there are a lot of proposals out there.  But, as you said at the beginning of the segment, a lot of the people who voted for the Democrats in this election voted for them because they wanted this party to nudge us out of Iraq, to get us, in as their party slogan said, a new direction.  So I don‘t think there is any avoiding offering alternatives.  And I think the hearings are a good idea.  It‘s about time Congress has serious hearings, because hearings are a good place to open a national debate on how you try to fix something that has badly wrong. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but six weeks?  The Watergate hearings, as I‘m sure you remember and I remember well, engrossed the nation, but that went for about seven weeks.  It was only 37 business days in all.  In this day in age, are people going to sit still for six weeks of hearings on anything? 

DIONNE:  IT depends on how well they are orchestrated.  It depends on who they bring in.  It depends on whether they seem to be getting somewhere.  But I think serious hearings to open up a national debate on how we move to a different phase are useful and whether it‘s four weeks or six weeks, you know, Congress time is sort of like dog years, it‘s never quite the same as six full weeks. 

OLBERMANN:  By having this discussion, though, does it not speak to the needle that the Democrats need to thread, have to thread, in taking on the administration over its plan for Iraq, that in many ways the Democratic party cannot win for, in this case, not for losing but for winning? 

DIONNE:  Well, the Democrats have a really difficult rope to walk, a tight rope as you said at the beginning.  On the one hand, I think the voters gave them a mandate to push this thing into a different place and to try to get us out of there at the lowest cost possible to us and to the Iraqis.  On the other hand, the Democrats don‘t want to be in a position where if they push us out real fast, the Republicans say, aha, stab in the back.  They want everybody to understand that this choice was a choice by President Bush to have this war.  He managed the war in the way he did, and then we and the Iraqis got into this situation.  So, they need to nudge us out, but they don‘t want to be blamed for a bad outcome, which this may well come to. 

OLBERMANN: And back to our good, bad and ugly, the substance of Senator Biden‘s idea, it is not a partition per se, but would there not be some kind of mass disruption, reminiscent of what happened when India and Pakistan gained their freedom and they said, OK, everybody who wants to be a Pakistani, you go stand on the left.  Everybody who wants to be in India, you go stand on the left.  It was mass chaos.  Would we not to some degree have that in Iraq if we divided it up in three ways?   

DIONNE:  We would, although, in effect, you are starting to have that already with the sectarian violence.  A lot of people are moving out of mixed neighborhoods if they are in a minority.  I think Senator Biden‘s plan is smart and thoughtful and it probably wouldn‘t work right now.  Smart and thoughtful because the Sunnis and the Shia are not getting along.  The pressures pushing them apart are stronger than the pressures bringing them together.  The Sunnis can know that the Shia are the dominate group in the country. 

The Kurds in the north would just love to have their own independent country.  But the Sunnis can‘t dominate the Shia.  The Shia can assert themselves at the cost of a big insurgency.  So I think Biden is right to start thinking about how could you separate these folks.  He is talking about sharing the oil revenues because the Sunnis have the misfortune of living in the part of Iraq that doesn‘t have any oil.  That‘s all well and good.  The problem is the Sunnis and the Shia don‘t seem  to want partition right now and we‘re not going to get there unless they come to believe that that‘s the best way out. 

OLBERMANN:  E.J. Dionne of the Brookings Institution and the “Washington Post.”  As always, my friend, great thanks for your time. 

DIONNE:  Good to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Big news from the world in science, and no, this is not actual footage of sperm.  This is the clip from the Woody Allen film.  Women have had their birth control pill for decades, but will there soon be a pill for men that will only stop male fertility for short periods of time? 

They stopped O.J. Simpson for a short period of time, so how did Rupert Murdoch still wind up making a nice profit of the If I Did It Fiasco?  All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For generations scientists have worked to take some of the contraception burden on the recipients and put it back on the depositors. 

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the male birth control pill version 8,476 or so.  This would suppress a man‘s ability to impregnate his partner, but unlike previous versions, it would not make him infertile for weeks or months, but for just days, maybe just hours.  It might be five years before this thing hits your pharmacists shelves, but our correspondent Dawna Friesen has the details right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  There has been a lot of song and dance over the years about the contraceptive pill.  Since the female birth control pill was introduced in the 1960‘s, 100 million women now take it.  But what about men popping the pill? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think men will be suspicious that ultimately it‘s going to damage their manhood.   

FRIESEN:  But these scientists in London say they have found a solution, a hormone-free pill that stops the release of sperm without interfering with pleasure. 

DR. CHRISTOPHER SMITH, STUDYING MALE BIRTH CONTROL PILL:  It‘s not stopping sperm production.  It‘s not a hormone or method.  It‘s just simply stopping the muscle which takes the sperm along.   

FRIESEN:  Men could take a single dose a few hours before having sex, still have the same performance and sensation, but the sperm would stay put, making it more user friendly than other methods already on the market. 

DR. NNAEMEKA AMOBI, KING‘S COLLEGE:  Men have to inject themselves or they have to have implants or patches.  So—and that‘s what men don‘t like. 

FRIESEN:  With this pill there is no need to worry.  Within half a day, the sperm are on the move again. 

(on camera):  It‘s not on the market yet, and it wouldn‘t stop the need for condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.  But if this male pill passes clinical trials, many women will say, it‘s about time. 

REBECCA FINDLAW, FAMILY PLANNING ASSN.:  Some women we know are absolutely tired of having to take responsibility for contraception all the time and would be delighted to give that over to their partner. 

FRIESEN:  Though that would mean trusting them to take it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘d forget .  They‘d forget it.  Men forget to put the rubbish out.  They forget to do the dishes.  They forget to pick the kids up at school.  They forget to take the male contraception pill.   

FRIESEN:  Though perhaps the prospect of pleasure without pregnancy would help focus the male mind.

Dawna Friesen, NBC NEWS, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Well, you could ask us to try.  Would that O.J. Simpson‘s dad had some of those tablets back before the former‘s conception in 1946, that‘s segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news.  “Newsweek Magazine” reporting that before the Fox network agreed to air an interview publicizing the Simpson confession type book If I Did It, ABC and Barbara Walters were on board to do their own Simpson interview. 

The book‘s publishers, owned by News Corp, had pitched the interview to ABC News.  It declined and then an ABC Entertainment arm, which asked Walters to interview Simpson.  “Newsweek” cites ABC insiders, who say a deal was struck, but after 10 days, Walters decided the interview was not right for her.  That meant ABC had to pay News Corp the unfortunately named kill fee of as much as a million dollars for making a good faith agreement on a project only to ultimately reject the project.  So Rupert Murdoch profited anyway. 

Will Michael Richards also wind up paying anyway?  According to the TV entertainment report the “Insider” the owners of the Laugh Factory want the ill-fated comic to donate $1 million to charity for every time he uttered the N-word on stage 11 days ago here in L.A.  That‘s six million, the owners of the club say, the former Seinfeld star would need to pony up.  Now word if Richards would acquiesce.  In the meantime, everybody can enjoy this clip from last night‘s Monday Night Raw, when WWE tag team wrestlers Crime Time proved you can actually make the Richards controversy look good by satirizing it. 

That from the WWE, which has made millions out of racial and ethnic stereotypes and bigotry over the years. 

Also tonight, were the Bush twins getting a fair shake from the Argentine press?  Stories of stolen purses, naked hotel runs, now allegedly a request from our own embassy that they should go home.  Mo Rocca reads between all the headlines for us.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze goes to Fox News watch, the only program on Fox News Channel that tries to live up to the network‘s otherwise ironic slogan, fair and balanced.  Analyst Cal Thomas named me his journalistic turkey of the year for my observation that his hair may have been colored.  No complaint about that, but they misspelled my name on the graphic.  And you know, you always look like less of a journalistic turkey calling somebody else a journalist turkey if you don‘t spell the alleged turkey‘s name wrong. 

Our runner up, the Christian Coalition of America.  It had elected a new president, the Reverend Joel C. Hunter of Florida, but he has now resigned after the board told him his agenda was not its agenda and it would not speak to their base, included in his agenda, increasing the Christian Coalitions‘s efforts to reduce poverty.  Yes, Christian Coalition needs to stay away from that or people might begin to think its leaders have actually read the bible. 

But the winner Bill-O.  And this is a classic.  He has brought up that war on Christmas crap again and trashed the retailers Crate and Barrel because a spokeswoman was quoted in a Newspaper as saying we would definitely not say, Merry Christmas.  Reaching perhaps his paranoid peak, O‘Reilly has said that the imams who were yanked off the U.S. Air flight last week, quote, wouldn‘t get handcuffed in Crate and Barrel if they started chanting and stuff. 

Only one problem, the spokeswoman was asked if employees there were required to say Merry Christmas to customers.  She said no, they weren‘t required.  They could if they wanted to.  Crate and Barrel didn‘t think it was any of their business to tell their employees what they could or couldn‘t say.  And oh, by the way, Crate and Barrel has its own special Christmas section listed on its website, under the decidedly secular progressive name Christmas Ideas.  Bill-O, you do realize your elevator doesn‘t go to the top floor anymore, right.  Bill O‘Reilly and his annual war on sanity, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s rare when the world of politics and the world of entertainment fit together as neatly as they do in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN tonight.  A tale of two pairs of girls, all of them in their mid 20‘s, all of them famous, all of them providing rich fodder for the tabloids with their latest exploits.  In a moment the phenomenon of Paris Hilton and her new sidekick, Britney Spears. 

But first Jenna and Barbara Bush.  They have regained their party girl crowns thanks to reports from their 25th birthday celebrations in Argentina this weekend.  After reports of lack security, a media frenzy and at least one lurid tale in the Argentine papers about the girls running naked down a hallway of their hotel, denied fervently by that hotel, by the way, ABC News reported the situation was so bad that the U.S. embassy asked the girls to leave, which the embassy fervently denies, by the way. 

But even though the twins were meant to stay in Buenos Aires until Thursday, according to ABC News at least one, Barbara, is already back in the U.S. and that report, very flimsily backed up by the website Galkers Tip Line For Celebrity Spotting, GalkerStalker, which reports that Ms. Bush was seen with an unnamed man eating Oysters in the west village of New York City last night.  No word on whether Jenna Bush is likewise cutting her holiday short or having oysters. 

Perhaps she is heading to southern California where the ultimate party girls are now hanging out.  Somehow, since she announced her impending divorce from Kevin Federline, Britney Spears has become B.F.F. with Paris Hilton, and yes, with the less hip, that is short hand for Best Friends Forever, they tell me.  Hilton and Spears have been inseparable for weeks now, spotted at trendy nightclubs in Vegas and L.A., drinking, smoking, staying out all nigh, and apparently even making peace with Hilton‘s nemesis, the actress Lindsay Lohan. 

Paris Hilton‘s P.R. guy says that the whole—what would the couple name here be?  Parispears, Britris, anyway, he says, the friendship is real, telling the website TMZ.com that the two are like sisters and that Spears is extremely grateful for Hilton‘s friendship, that she considers the heiress to be a role model, which might explain Ms. Spears‘ new wardrobe, extreme cleavage, short skirts, underwear optional. 

On that note, who better to analyze this strange confluence of girls behaving badly than television personality and author of “All the President‘s Pets,” Mo Rocca.  Good evening Mo, thanks for your time. 

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY:  Good evening Keith, thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the new BFFs in a moment, but let‘s start with the first twins and this rampage through Argentina.  You have met the Bush daughters and you know your White Houses.  Are these the kind of women who would do things like run around in a hotel naked? 

ROCCA:  No, certainly not.  Look, we have to remember the expression running around in a hotel naked in Argentina is an example of magical realism, a technique that‘s common in Argentinean literature and journalism.  The translation here is they were running around topless.  It is simply that.  The same press account said that Jenna, the blonde one, was so beautiful that she exploded into flames of fire.  Now, granted they were drinking a lot, so they were highly flammable perhaps, but this is hyperbole.  

OLBERMANN:  The embassy, the U.S. embassy has denied that anybody asked the twins to leave Argentina, but given that Barbara Bush has already been spotted back in the U.S., does that mean someone pulled the rug out from under the party?  I mean, if not the Secret Service, then maybe their dad.  Or is he blaming their behavior on al Qaeda in Iraq, or what? 

ROCCA:  Well, no, it‘s true that Barbara, the brunette, has already been extradited.  So once Jenna comes home the pullout from Argentina will be complete.  The president is blaming, actually, Argentina‘s Democracy, because the former Peron regime, of course, was much more red-state friendly.  They would have embraced the Bush twins and not let them go home, actually.  You know, I would say that—let me also clarify that this sighting you‘re talking about on Galker, it did say, and I have it right here, that Barbara Bush was sucking down oysters and making out with some guy.  This is actually in reference to former first lady Barbara Bush.  Right, and we should remember that oysters, of course, are an aphrodisiac, especially after a couple of vodka stingers.  

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t have anything to say after that.  No, in touch with Argentina, do we get the Falklands.  Is there any kind of trade here?

ROCCA:  Perhaps that would be great, I love that.  That‘s great. 

Argentina has great food.  We should all make a trip down there. 

OLBERMANN:  One more on this thing here.  Is the solution for the White House in dealing with the P.R. fallout from the first daughters‘ antics, keep them in Crawford until January of 2009? 

ROCCA:  Well, I have one recommendation, a one word recommendation, Broadway.  As you said, I have met the Bush twins.  They are both actually very, very nice.  The blonde one, Jenna, is bubbly.  She has an easy laugh.  The brunette, Barbara, is a little bit more serious, a little bit brooding, I would say.  And so it occurred to me that they would be great in a Broadway production of Wicked, the two of them together. 

Jenna as the blond, sort of the good witch Glinda (ph), and Barbara as the brooding Elphaba (ph), who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, but of course is not all bad.  Because they have very, very complicated lives.  And it‘s a very popular musical, so it would run forever, and it would keep them out of trouble, except on Monday‘s when the theater‘s dark and then they could go ballistic, go nuts.  

OLBERMANN:  There is a tradeoff for the matinees on the weekends.  Turning to these other girls gone wild.  Did Britney Spears trade up or trade down by swapping Kevin Federline for her new pal Paris Hilton? 

ROCCA:  Well I think neither.  I think she traded dangerously.  I mean, I think that this is a troubling alliance, if you will.  It is a non-aggression pack between these two major powers.  And I think a lot of people are comparing it really to the fast friendship between Iraq‘s al-Maliki and Iran‘s Ahmadinejad.  Now what you have is Britney‘s Iraq seeking guidance and protection from Paris‘s Iran.  And it seems to make sense.  They are both, well, Shiite, as in blonde in this case. 

But this has the potential to really upset the whole balance of young Hollywood here.  You have got the Nicole Richie insurgency, which is really going to be aggravated.  You‘ve got K-Fed and the Kurds.  Who knows what they are going to do in Turkey.  Lindsay Lohan in Syria and then Mary Kate and Ashley, who, of course, sort of are surrogates for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  It‘s a pretty dangerous situation right here. 

So I would be very careful moving ahead.  Paris has clearly much grander motives here.  I think she wanted to dominate the TMZ, if you will.  I mean, I think she wants to co-op and eventually destroy Britney. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘d like to point out for the record that you have gotten away with the phrase, Britney‘s Iraq.  And on that note, television personality Mo Rocca, and somehow the title of your book, “All the President‘s Pets.”

ROCCA:  And by the way, not wearing underwear and flashing your crotch is strictly against Islamic law. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  The “All the President‘s Pets” title seems to have taken on new meaning as we were told on our visit tonight.  Thank you sir, always a pleasure. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,305th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Reporting from Los Angeles, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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