updated 12/6/2006 1:06:33 PM ET 2006-12-06T18:06:33

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Paul Eaton, James Moore, Derrick Pitts

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

This, this is the new secretary of defense?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES Committee:  Mr. Gates, do you believe we are currently winning in Iraq?

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE:  No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Nominee, does the man who nominated you know about that?  The fallout, like a manhole cover falling off a moving truck, political from Richard Wolffe, military from retired general Paul Eaton.

What will the fallout be from this?  Bush 41, about his son, his son Jeb, back at the time he lost the Florida governor‘s race.  What happened to the rule there‘s no crying in politics?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  They took note of his defeated opponent, who so—not merely with words, but by his actions, what decent...

I can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And what does that say about Bush 41‘s relationship with Bush 43?  “Bush‘s Brain” co-author James Moore tries to figure this out.

Figure this out, early presidential polling for ‘08.  Oprah over Dobbs, Hannity over Franken.  And these two bozos get decided by the electoral college?  The pollsters have evidently gotten into the cooking sherry.

Now to find the missing senior editor from CNET Networks the day after his wife and two young kids were found in the Oregon wilderness.

And what about finding the billion dollars FEMA gave away to fraudulent Katrina claims?  Well, they‘ve located $7 million.  Lisa Myers‘ exclusive report tonight on what else we lost in New Orleans, a billion dollars.

And the new frontier.  Enjoy luxury living on the moon.  NASA planning a settlement there by the year 2024.  Wait—wait a minute.  Doesn‘t that look like the Blue family model home from “Arrested Development”?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kookoo kacha.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

This just in, the United States is not winning the war in Iraq.  And Lindbergh has landed safely in Paris.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the update about Iraq seems painful, and painfully obvious.  But what happened today in Room SH-216 of the Hart Senate Office Building reminds us that in politics, as in standup comedy, how well you do is often determined solely by whom you follow.

His role in the Iran-contra scandal notwithstanding—heck it barely even came up—defense secretary nominee Robert Gates embraced by the Senate Armed Services Committee merely for not being Donald Rumsfeld, and merely for not parroting the decreasingly believable administration talking points, telling lawmakers that while the U.S. is not losing in Iraq, it certainly is not winning there either, the decidedly nonconfrontational confirmation hearing wrapping up late this afternoon with a unanimous vote, the members of the committee sending the Gates nomination to the floor of the Senate affirmatively by 24-zip, while it is not yet clear what exactly Mr. Gates would change or advocate changing in Iraq, the former CIA  director making it clear he would not be pulling any punches with the president or with anybody else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GATES:  Senator, I am not giving up the president—presidency of Texas A&M, the job that I‘ve probably enjoyed more than any that I‘ve ever had, making considerable personal financial sacrifice, and, frankly, going through this process, to come back to Washington to be a bump on a log, and not to say exactly what I think, and to speak candidly and frankly, boldly, to people both—at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about what I believe, and what I think needs to be done.

LEVIN:  Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?

GATES:  No, sir.

And I think that all options have to stay on the table.  I want to sit

down and talk with the commanders in the field.  I want to talk to the

chiefs.  I want to see what Secretary Baker and Congressman Hamilton in the

with the Iraq Study Group have to say.

I‘m—I have said before, I‘m willing to consider all alternatives, all options, as we think about how to move forward in the most productive way.

LEVIN:  Thank you, Dr. Gates.  Your acknowledgment that we‘re not winning in Iraq, frankly, is a necessary, refreshing breath of reality that is so needed if we‘re going look at ways of changing course in Iraq.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  I appreciate your candor, and I appreciate your open-mindedness, and I appreciate your realism, as opposed to having an ideological view of things.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  And Dr.  Gates, thank you for your candor.  That‘s something that has been sorely lacking from the current occupant in the position that you seek to hold.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Nominee Secretary Gates walking a fine line in telling the committee that we are not losing the war in Iraq either, and the White House this afternoon grabbing onto that part of his testimony as if it were the last lifeboat floated from the “Titanic.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  If you listen to what Bob said, what did he say?  He said the goal is an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror.  He said, This is a time for bipartisanship, as we had during the cold war.  This is a time for shared national commitment.  He said that the only way we lose is that if we lose the will to continue and to complete the mission.  He also noted that if we did not complete the mission, I believe he said that there would be, what did he say, regional cataclysm I think was the phrase he used.  That was the danger.  So he talked about very clear dangers, but also very clear promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is the only real surprise here that the moment Gates said no to that question, are we winning, that the committee did not gavel down and conduct its recommendation vote right then?

WOLFFE:  Yes, they did roll over pretty quickly.  But look, though, you‘ve got to understand, there was nothing that Gates said today that wasn‘t thoroughly rehearsed and thoroughly vetted by the White House and by everyone in the administration.  You know, you don‘t go through several weeks of preparation, as he pointed out very painfully, without having things nailed down.

And the theme of the moment is candid and open in terms of this review of the Iraq policy.  He clearly wants to say he‘s part of that.  The truth is that behind the scenes in the White House, they‘re reviewing policy very thoroughly, even before he gets sworn in.  It‘s not clear exactly what kind of influence Gates is going to have.

OLBERMANN:  But the degree to which this rehearsed, was it, perhaps, a rehearsal of a setup for not a decreased engagement in Iraq, but an increased one?  “Newsweek” is out tonight with an interview with the incoming Democratic House Intelligence Committee chair, Representative Reyes, who says he wants 20,000 to 30,000 more troops deployed to Iraq to, quote, “dismantle the militias.”

Is this part of just another—not to remain totally paranoid about this administration, but was this part of a plan to increase the numbers in Iraq?

WOLFFE:  I, my sources in the White House say that it‘s still one of the options there.  They say the president hasn‘t decided.  He will decide over the next couple of weeks exactly how to reconfigure American forces.

But don‘t expect a substantial drawdown of troops, which is where expectations have been.  Let‘s face it, after the election, and with Rumsfeld moving on, there is no question this president still believes in this mission, which is to stand up the Iraqi government.  And White house officials up and down the chain say they want to give it another try, they want to reengage in terms of training Iraqi forces.  And so, you know, you‘ve got to hang in there.

That‘s the message they want to send coming out of not just these hearings, but what we‘re going to see over the next 24 hours with the Baker group.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll get to the Baker group and how that impacts the

their report in a moment.  But what happened to the questions you‘d ordinarily hear in a hearing like this, like Gates‘s role in Iran-contra?  I mean, this, the hearing was generally pretty milquetoast, but that part seemed to be utterly bypassed.  Why did the Democrats turn this one into a layup for the administration?

WOLFFE:  Well, first of all, the contrast with his predecessor.  I mean, Democrats wanted to see the back of Donald Rumsfeld, and Gates is a refreshing change in personal style, the way he shmoozed people on Capitol Hill, his tone of his hearings, all of those things are important signals.

But more importantly, we‘re into a sort of political limbo right now.  No one wants to get out ahead of the gate—of the Baker report. Democrats want to play nice right now.  As soon as they—it becomes public that withdrawals and timetables are really off the table, then I think you‘re going to see a different kind of politics.  But right now, Democrats have got be in on this one.

OLBERMANN:  All right, so finally, assess the political impacts in both directions, backwards towards Rumsfeld‘s self-serving leaked memo to “The New York Times,” and forwards to the Baker Iraq Study Group report tomorrow.

WOLFFE:  Well, Rumsfeld is saying, Look, I‘m a realist.  We‘re asking the tough questions.  The White House is saying that too.

Tomorrow, look, the White House is going to say, Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful report.  We take it into consideration.  Course, we‘re waiting for our own reports, and those are really important too.  But thank you very much, and goodbye.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  As always, sir, our great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  And for more on the military impact of having Robert Gates at the helm of the Defense Department, I‘m joined now by retired major general Paul Eaton.

Thank you for your time again tonight, sir.

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Hey, Keith, great to be here. 

Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  What will it mean, do you expect, for the generals on the ground to have a defense secretary who at least appears to be starting from a position of being willing to say the war is not going well?  Might the concerns of the generals actually be addressed, rather than merely being some sort of talking point that is constantly repeated by the Pentagon?

EATON:  Well, it‘s a great change, and I think that the senior generals are going to look at Mr. Gates, who has just presided over a very talented, very large group of dedicated and very strong-willed professors at Texas A&M, and he‘s stepping into an environment of very professional, very talented, very dedicated officers in the United States armed forces.

So these men also expect to be heard, and I think that they‘ve got fair shot at being heard by this secretary.

OLBERMANN:  You were among those who called for Mr. Rumsfeld‘s resignation at a time when it certainly appeared that would never happen.  That time is no longer—no more than a month ago, surely.  In the wake of that release of his memo to the president and the declassified cover letter, do they have—do they do anything to rehabilitate that defense secretary, in your eyes?  And in some ways, will Rumsfeld‘s reputation be beholden to what Mr. Gates does on the job?

EATON:  Well, that memo that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld put out, timing was awful, timing was embarrassing, and the content is nothing more than a synthesis of what has been discussed by a lot of other really bright people.  So the word “self-serving” was used earlier, and clearly it‘s a, it is a self-serving document.

OLBERMANN:  Give me your reaction to, to the, the mood that, that Richard Wolffe described, and, and also to the quotes from, from the incoming intelligence committee chair in the House, Representative Reyes, that, the Democrat, that, who says that this is, is most likely solved by an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops to, to deal with dismantling the militias.  Is that, is that the likeliest or the best of the outcomes, do you think?

EATON:  I‘m not sure what an increase in troop levels will achieve.  What I think, more than anything else, needs to be done that leadership is now doing, I understand, on the ground, and that is a redistribution of military talent to work directly with the Iraqi armed forces.

The more proximate, the more direct contact that the very professional United States Army and Marine Corps, the more contact they have with Iraqi security forces, the faster we‘re going see the, those security forces stand up in a professional light.

OLBERMANN:  General, is that what you are expecting to see, as the, as the, perhaps the unexpected or, or the as yet unleaked headline out of the Iraq Study Group report tomorrow, given that we‘ve seen so much of it that has already been leaked out?

EATON:  I think, Keith, I think the two most important things that I could see out of that report, and it‘s—it risks being anticlimactic, with the much-awaited nature of this report, but regional involvement with all the countries of interest, all the country who either share a border or share the area of interest with Iraq, and a order or multiple order of magnitude increase in the number of advisers and trainers working with the Iraqi security forces.

OLBERMANN:  Last question here, did, did the statements from the incoming secretary Gates, I guess we can call him that after a 24-nothing vote from his committee, I, do, do you think he positioned himself in such a way that it will be perceived that he is a, he is a, an Army secretary of defense, as opposed to a president‘s secretary of defense, in contrast to his predecessor?

EATON:  I believe that that is true.  He is not coming in with the agenda that Rumsfeld came in with, and persisted in retaining.  This secretary of defense nominee is coming in with a very broad perspective, and a—he has demonstrated great candor, and he has demonstrated a willingness to engage and help move the interagency process, help move the rest of the president‘s cabinet, and help collaborate with the Hill.

And I think he‘s going be one of the more powerful people in the—in Washington, D.C., right now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, he‘s already started off that way.  At least he is the one who is pointing out that he‘s not going to deny what‘s up on the scoreboard.

Major General Paul Eaton.  Great thanks for joining us once again tonight.

EATON:  Thank you very much, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, now, talking about his son reduces former president George H.W. Bush to tears—talking about his second son, that is.

And scandal atop malfeasance.  First FEMA butchers the Katrina recovery effort, then it gets defrauded to the tune of a billion, that‘s a billion, dollars, your billion dollars.  What happened to that billion?  Lisa Myers‘ exclusive report tonight.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Depending on the era, tears are either the best thing or the worst thing a politician can produce.  The Roman Emperor Augustus was known for, immortalized by author Robert Graves for, weeping in public at almost anything.  And many of his subjects loved him for it.

But Edmund Muskie‘s status as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination was permanently stained in 1972 by just the suggestion he was crying over a personal attack before the New Hampshire primary.  In fact, it was probably melting snow on his face that just looked like tears.

So it‘s hard to estimate how the events in our fourth story will be judged.  But a former president has now broken down in tears in public.  It‘s George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, whom he defended against hostile questions in the Middle East two weeks ago.

But also, of course, father of the departing governor of Florida.  And it was at the latter‘s final leadership forum that the waterworks were turned on as the father recalled son Jeb‘s loss in the governor‘s race in 1994.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  They came down the home stretch.  He saw some unpleasant things happen, unfair stuff.  And—but he didn‘t whine about it.  And he didn‘t complain.

(INAUDIBLE) Barbara will bawl me out for breaking up, and I...

Anyway, it went on.  True measure of a man (INAUDIBLE) handled victory and also (INAUDIBLE) defeat.

So in ‘94, Floridians chose to rehire the governor, but they took note of his defeated opponent, who showed not merely with words but by his actions what decency and honor...

I can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That level of emotion seemed to be at some variance from the former president‘s relationship with his other son, you know, the current president.  And that‘s especially notable in light of the perception that the Bush 41 team is now providing something of a crutch for Bush 43, which does not really come across when you hear Bush 43 talk about Bush 41, as he did in an interview on Fox News Channel‘s “Special Report with Brit Hume.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He understands what I know, that the level of information I have relative to the level of information most other people have, including himself, is significant.  And that he trusts me to make decisions.  I love talk to my dad about, you know, things between a father and a son, not policy.

My attitude is, I ought to absorb and listen to everything that‘s being said.  And so I‘m listening to the Iraqis, I want to listen to members of Congress, I want to listen to, obviously, Baker-Hamilton...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Listening, it seems, to everybody but the only man who has been both an ex-president and the father of a current president since John Adams‘ son John Quincy Adams left office early in 1829.

Something does not seem to be adding up here.  To try to figure out exactly what that is, let‘s turn James Moore, who has covered the Bush family for 30 years.  He‘s author of both “Bush‘s Brain” and “Bush‘s War for Reelection.”

Cover of “Newsweek,” “Father Knows Best.  Current president: “My father and I don‘t talk policy.”

Somebody seems to have gotten something wrong here.  Do you know what it is?

JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  Well, I don‘t think they do talk policy, Keith.  I think it‘s interesting that the former president is reduced to tears talking about Jeb, and much of the rest of the country is reduced to tears thinking and talking about the current Bush in the White House.

But what they talk about, I mean, I remember years ago here in Texas when they were first considering running for the presidency, and the president was trying to be jocular with a bunch of us who were reporters, trying to be hail-fellow-well-met, and he‘s bringing us into this big event kind of thing.

And we asked him, What do you talk to your father about?  And he, in that guy kind of way, said, Well, we talk about baseball and girls.  And, of course, he used a less than appreciative term to describe women.

So I think their relationship is about something other than that.  But the truth is, at the moment, the president is having to return to his father, and the people that the father used as resources in his administration, because he has nowhere else to turn.  Even James Baker, who this president has never had any kind of fondness for, he called on him in Florida, and he‘s calling on him now, kind of outsourcing the whole mess in Iraq, to say, Please, Daddy‘s best friend, come help me out.

OLBERMANN:  All right, explain what we saw from Mr. Baker‘s best friend.  When his son the president was (INAUDIBLE) -- criticized in the United Arab Emirates, Bush 41 defended him.  He said, My son is an honest man.  He got angry at the questioner.  When he reflected on his son the governor losing an election for an office he later attained anyway, he started weeping.  Do we infer anything out of those different reactions, or is that just none of our business?

MOORE:  Well, I certainly do, because I think that for years, the current president, his relationship with his father has been informed by a certain amount of petulance and jealousy.  I mean, he‘s always been living up to this standard, or trying to.  Dad had an oil company.  W went out and drilled oil wells.  Dad ran for Congress, W ran for governor.  Dad got elected to the White House, W got reelected to the White House.  Dad played first base for Yale, W managed a baseball team.

It‘s always been that kind of relationship, except the problem is that back in Texas in those days, in the early ‘90s, the belief among everybody here and in Florida was that Jeb was going win that race in the ‘90s, and he was going be the one best positioned to run for the White House, because, frankly, through the years, he‘s been acknowledged within and without of the family as the best and the brightest.

And I think what‘s happened now, a part of what caused those tears for the former president, is that he realizes that Jeb‘s run in public life is pretty much done, because of the Bush-fatigue that this country faces.  There‘s not going be a Bush running for public office.  It would be political suicide for anyone associated with him.  I‘m inclined to believe that not even young George P. will be able to run for school board eventually.

OLBERMANN:  To say nothing of the twins.  And by, I got to interject this.  Some of those Yale baseball teams from the ‘40s could have beaten some of W‘s Texas Rangers baseball teams.  We don‘t have to get into that...

MOORE:  Well, yes, but let‘s remember, W is the guy who traded Sammy Sosa.  So we should have known by his decisions then.

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe he knew some—I actually give him credit for that.  But that‘s another, again, that‘s another interview for another kind of program.

All right.  So you and I have said this, me, as a layman, certainly looking from a considerable distance, saying, I wonder if Bush 41 is standing there saying, (INAUDIBLE), The wrong son became president.  It‘s one thing for you to say it or for me to say it.  Is it really possible that he could have been wondering that at that moment?

MOORE:  Well, I think everybody in the family is.  And I think that (INAUDIBLE) -- I think that the president, the former president, is certainly thinking that, and wondering about it.  He has to be looking back and seeing what has happened over the course of the past six years, and being terribly disappointed.  He was an internationalist when he was president.  And his son has gone on the international scene and screwed everything up royally and harmed the United States‘ reputation.

Jeb was the intellect in the family.  W was the guy who never wanted to do anything except for hang out, play baseball, watch baseball, have a beer with his buddies and party.  And he once told me on the plane back when he was talking to us lowly Texas reporters during the campaign, he once told me when I asked him, in a private moment, I said, What do you do if you lose this?  And he says, Well, that‘s not such a big deal.  I‘ll go back to Dallas, I‘ll set on some boards, I‘ll work for some oil companies, I‘ll watch a lot of baseball games, and Laura and the girls and I will have a great life.

I don‘t think he really wanted this.  And I think, by the way he has run the White House, it‘s pretty clear that he is, in many ways, almost contemptible (ph) of the responsibility, that he was pressured to.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if he didn‘t want it, that makes it all to—almost unanimous.  Jim Moore, who has covered the Bush family for 30 years, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain.”  Great thanks for joining us again, sir.

MOORE:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, this is no longer just science fiction.  Yes, we‘ve all heard that a dozen times before.  Get ready for another story about a real-life space station on the moon.

And climbing walls, pulling sleds, running races.  It‘s boot camp for Santa, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.  We‘ll show those secular progressives!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We usually celebrate beginnings and not endings here, but December 5th turns out to be a date of closure.  Mozart died on December 5th.  The author Dumas did.  The tragic baseball figure Shoeless Joe Jackson did as well.  And 32 years ago today the last new episode of Monty Python‘s Flying Circus was broadcast in England.  So let‘s see to whom of those we are paying homage tonight.  Let‘s play oddball. 

And we begin in Berlin.  Well that‘s close enough to Salzburg.  This is a Mozart salute.  Berlin is also a European staging ground for the coming war on Christmas and the culture warriors look to be in fine form, as they gather on the parade grounds for the attention of Generallisimo O‘Reilly, with just 19 shopping days remaining until C-Day.  Meanwhile in Switzerland, Santa book camp is in full swing, as new recruits undergo strength training and run the obstacle course in preparation for glorious battle at the end of the month.  This year‘s class some of the finest Santas ever to put on the uniform.  OK, we got one guy who bailed out of the program early.

To Tel Aviv, in Israel, where two artists in one neighborhood are protesting high rent prices by decorating the neighborhood with cardboard cut out prostitutes.  Makes perfect sense to me.  They are life sized ladies of the evening, strategically placed around town to fool passers by.  The artists hope, they say, is that by giving their upscale neighborhood the appearance that is has a prostitution problem landlords will lower the rent.  These two men are idiots.

And finely to the Internets, for another Oddball short educational film, interesting ways that India is different than America.  We have previously shown you some of the street traffic in India, which really is more of a free for all, or a demolition derby than we might be used.  Today we will visit the train station, where commuters are apparently encouraged to wonder around on the tracks as the train comes through. 

Now arriving on track 14, the 5:00 P.M. serving Hawthorne, Chappaqua, my mistake, that‘s the express.  Watch yourself now.  Remember mind the gap and mind the 120 mile per hour speeding death train. 

Also tonight a mother and her two young children surviving nine days stranded in a car in the wilderness in Oregon.  The hunt continuing for her husband.  And last month we learned it really was a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.  Now NASA wants to leave a permanent footprint on the moon, a fully manned space camp, with houses and stuff. 

Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.  It‘s travel theme tonight.  Number three, advertising mogul Jeff Goodby, who has just added a special touch to the big ads for milk in the bus shelters in San Francisco.  The sent of fresh baked cookies in the bus shelters, in the ads.  It‘s really appreciated by anybody in San Francisco who might, say, be on a diet. 

Number two, Continental Airlines can‘t really explain why the little navigation map on one of their L.A. to New York flights showed what it showed.  The little box that gives you the flight‘s path and its relative position to Vancouver and Houston and Toronto and Panama City and, of course, Cleveland, Cleveland, Montana, population two people.  That‘s what it said. 

Number one, the unnamed female passenger flying from American from Reagan National in Washington to Dallas.  The plane made an unexpected stopover in Nashville where she was arrested because unnerved passengers kept smelling what seemed like the smell of struck matches.  That is exactly what it was.  The woman passenger trying to cover up a chronic body odor problem, gas.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, we will be making an emergency landing due to unexpected heavy flatulence. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The search has continued by foot, by horse patrol, and by helicopter for James Kim.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the senior editor from C-Net networks set out by himself after he and his family were stranded on a remote snow bound road on their way to the Oregon coast.  His wife and two daughters were rescued yesterday, in part because of a cell phone ping.  They had survived huddled in their snow bound car for nine days.  As day light ebbed this afternoon, search teams found jeans matching the description of those last worn by Mr. Kim, but authorities say he had carried a second pair of pants with him.  He may have left one pair as a marker.  Their search will resume at day break.  Our correspondent is Peter Alexander.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Nine days after the Kim family disappeared, these pictures tell the remarkable story.  Katie Kim and hew two young daughters were found alive. 

UNDERSHERIFF BRIAN ANDERSON, JOSEPH COUNTY POLICE:  The helicopter observed a female in the middle of the road waving an umbrella.  The helicopter landed.  We confirmed that it is Mrs. Kim and the two children. 

ALEXANDER:  At the end of the Thanksgiving weekend the entire family, Katie, her husband James, four year old Penelope, and seven month old Sabine, were driving to a resort in Gold Beach on the Oregon coast.  But the Kims never made it.  Authorities say they got stuck on a remote mountain road in deep snow.  It was after dark.  For close to a week, with temperatures below freezing, rescuers and friends desperately searched for the family.  The Kim‘s focused on staying alive.  To keep warm they ran the car‘s engine, later burning its tires as a smoke signal.  And with little food, James ate wild berries.  Katie nursed the two girls. 

SCOTT NELSON WINDELS, FAMILY FRIEND:  It doesn‘t surprise me at all that they did whatever they needed to do to take care of the children. 

ALEXANDER:  Just two days ago James Kim set off by himself looking for help. 

SANDY FLEMING, KATIE KIM‘S MOTHER:  They had a plan that he would try to come back within five hours, if he didn‘t find the road. 

ALEXANDER:  But James never came back and Katie was left fending for her daughters until Monday afternoon‘s rescue and a rush to the hospital. 

FLEMING:  She seemed in good spirits.  She was smiling and waving when she came in the ambulance.  With the search for James continuing overnight, rescuers are still hopeful for a family reunion. 

ANDERSON:  Now that we found the car, found Katie and the kids, and we found James‘ footprints.  So we have it narrowed down.  He has about a two day head start on them, but we are going to find him.   

ALEXANDER:  Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight a staggering fall out from the Hurricane Katrina, 1 billion taxpayer dollars conned out of FEMA.  Exclusive details, 993 million of your dollars are still missing. 

And who would win a presidential election between Imus and Howard Stern.  Never mind all of the terrible things that would have had to have happened for there to be a presidential election between Imus and Howard Stern.  Actual polling on celebrity elections, ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One billion dollars of your money is missing.  The federal response to the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina has been its own disaster.  That was true well before Homeland Security Director Chertoff‘s infamous malapropism, quote, Louisiana is a city that is largely under water.  But even if your mind is accustomed to that kind of government illness, this will still boggle set mind. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, The Senate will hear testimony tomorrow that FEMA, heck of a job Browny FEMA, not only did not spend desperately needed money in New Orleans and along the Gulf, but also did spend it, to the tune of a billion dollars, spent that billion on frauds, scalawags and scam artists.  And as senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers tells us in this exclusive report, it looks 993 million out of that billion is gone for good. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Even by government standards the number was staggering.  Government watch dogs estimated 1 billion dollars in alleged fraud and abuse, including payments to this address, a cemetery.  Six months later, the same watch dogs report that FEMA‘s own systems have identified less than a third of the improper payments.  And how much money overall has FEMA actually recouped for tax payers?  Seven million dollars, that‘s right, seven million, out of one billion. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  It‘s abysmal.  FEMA not only lacks the basic controls to prevent the fraud from happening in the first place, but it does not have a good system for recovering the money. 

MYERS:  What‘s more, the Government Accountability Office has found another problem, 7,000 individuals who double dipped, filing claims for property obliterated by Hurricane Katrina, then collecting again for the same property after Hurricane Rita, cost 20 million dollars. 

(on camera):  In this case FEMA actually had systems that should have prevented the double payments.  But FEMA told investigators the safeguards were turned off so that checks could be issued faster. 

(voice-over):  Then there is the property FEMA bought, laptops, printers, even boats.  GAO tried to track down a sample of items and deemed 34 percent lost or stolen. 

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE:  What happens is that if you don‘t have adequate controls in place, a fiscal disaster follows a natural disaster. 

MYERS:  A FEMA Official says the agency has learned form Katrina and that stringent controls are now in place to eliminate errors and abuse. 

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

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OLBERMANN:  Well perhaps Madonna could make up the short fall.  She will serve as our segue tonight in our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Her commitment to family is reportedly endangering her family.  A London newspaper reporting that Madonna and husband Guy Richie, or Husband Guy, Richie, have started seeing a marriage counselor after their relationship hit, quote, rock bottom.  As anyone will tell you, of course, it is important to make sure the kids know the marital problems are not their fault, but the report suggest Mr and Mrs. Material Girl are making a distinction about that when it comes to biological verses adopted kids.  The couple reportedly attributing the strains in their marriage to various problems with their adoption of a 14-month-old boy from Malawi, who‘s first words are expected to be, get me the hell out of here. 

Which is probably what some of the purported 200,000 respondents said to the Survey USA Company‘s polling about hypothetical presidential match-ups for 2008.  For instance, Oprah Winfrey, Democrat of Broadcast, defeats Lou Dobbs, Republican from Cable.  Winfrey carries 29 states and the District of Columbia in the polling.  Imus has been elected, as a republican, by 504 electoral votes to 34, over Howard Stern.  Are we sure Imus is a Republican?  Are we sure he‘s going to last until 2008? 

The pollsters have Sean Hannity edging Al Franken by 293 electoral votes to 245, and apparently to kill time, they asked about this match up.  Bill-O gets 34 states.  I get 16, but Survey USA says 18 of the states are so close that the actual vote might be decided by hanging chads, their terms, not mine.  The same, ironically, could be said about the actual ratings Bill-O is so fond of hitting everybody over the head with.  Last night in the advertising demographic 25 to 54 year-old viewers, Bill-O at 413,000.  Wow, we‘re just 47,000 behind.  Nancy, I know what you did last summer, in third.  And looky here, in that last quarter hour of our program, from 8:45 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Well Bill O‘Reilly, somewhat distant second place.  We thank you for your support. 

And we‘re going to the moon with these ratings.  The moon far enough?  Plans from NASA for a lunar base again.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world. 

The bronze, and this is a worst‘s first, President Bush.  That snide exchange with Senator elect Jim Webb of Virginia, in which Webb and Bush both looked kind of bad.  Tonight Mr. Bush looks kind of worse.  Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia saying the president had been warned by aides to be, quote, extra sensitive about talking to Webb about his son, since Webb‘s son had had a recent brush with death in Iraq. 

Our runner up tonight, the departing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe Barton of Texas.  He will lose the chairmanship shortly, but he will not give up his fight to keep the world safe for global warming.  He told the American Petroleum Institute that to say we have to do all these global things to prevent the earth from getting warmer, in my opinion, is absolute nonsense.  Congressman, on the day that you constituents in Corsikana (ph) can go to the brand new Gulf Coast Beach on Old Navarro Road, remember you said this. 

But our winners tonight, we‘re not sure where to pin the blame here.  How about the whole unnamed family form Rock Hill, Pennsylvania.  Great Grandma got the 12-year-old boy a Nintendo Gameboy Advance for Christmas, but she wrapped it up, put it under the Christmas tree and told him not to open it.  Hadn‘t he punched a police officer last month, it was perhaps no surprise that the boy opened it anyway, whereupon his mother called the cops and had her 12-year-old son arrested for unwrapping the expensive Christmas present that you got him anyway too early.  A not very functional family in Rock Hill, Pennsylvania, today‘s worst persons in the world. 

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OLBERMANN:  Worst persons in the world were from South Carolina, not Pennsylvania.  I am apologizing to Pennsylvania. 

We have been hearing about permanent residences on the Moon off and on from the time Jackie Gleason as Ralph Cramdon promised his wife a free trip there, to the president‘s announcement two years ago that we would be going to the Moon and Mars, and be there in 2020 or 2030, or thereabout.  Nobody seems to know where the money will come from, and that 2004 initial price tag of 12 billion dollars seems quaint, unless we are going there by a Gray Hound Bus. 

But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, NASA has unveiled its road map, so to speak.  The year is 2020.  A four person crew has landed on the Moon and is going to stay there for a week, just long enough to send out the laundry.  And over the next four years additional teams will gradually make longer visits, up to six months, eventually establishing a power source, and then a permanent settlement by 2024.  The south pole of the Moon currently favored as the site of the new residence, for reasons we will explore.  The means to get there, essentially an updated version of the Apollo capsule, including a next generation lunar rover, which NASA describes as a low gravity pickup truck. 

The lunar outpost would serve as a way station not only for an unparalleled class of observatories on the dark side of the moon, man, but also for a manned mission to Mars, the new new space frontier.  Missions by the Space Shuttle will be shut down by 2010 to help pay for it all, including a 100 billion dollar program to design that Apollo successor, the Orion.  The moon outpost would include international partners.  Joining me now the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia Derrick Pitts.  Thanks again for your time tonight Derrick.  

DERRICK PITTS, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE:  Sure, my pleasure Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So what is new in this in the two years since the president‘s announcement?  Did we spend all that time on those spiffy drawings, or is there something substantial here? 

PITTS:  Well the substantial difference is that the idea is now to actually establish a permanent base on the Moon.  We will start out slowly at first, but then build up to a point where we will have people there all the time, almost like how we are operating the International Space Station right now, where we have had people in orbit around the earth for at least 15 years constantly.  We will change the crews of course, probably every six months or so, but that is the new thing, is that it would be a permanent base. 

OLBERMANN:  But a permanent base on the Moon, wasn‘t this one of the original ideas, and not just of NASA, but also of say Robert Goddard, or maybe of Da Vinci.  Has that not sort of been in the plans in the past and never happened? 

PITTS:  Oh absolutely, this has been in plans as far back as people can remember, the idea of not only sending people to the moon, but having them live there for a while.  Many of us have seen so many science fiction movies about establishing a base, so this idea is not a new one, but it‘s always been in the plans, as far as science fiction is concerned, but we never really looked at that as being a major part of the plans.  So now it may come to fruition.  And indeed, that makes a lot more sense than just going to the Moon just for a short visits. 

OLBERMANN:  But why does it make more sense?  Because heard one wet blanket here.  I heard one of the experts say, you know, we don‘t have any idea to get men to Mars from the moon.  That little layover on the Moon could a be a year, could be ten years, could be literally a hundred years.  Is that true, and if so, why does it still make sense to do it this way? 

PITTS:  It could be a long time before we get onto Mars from the Moon, but think of it this way Keith, who would want to just jump out to Mars, so much further away from the earth, without having practiced enough on the Moon to make sure that we are absolutely secure in what we can do.  It‘s a long, long trip to Mars.  In fact, the shortest trip you can possibly make to Mars is about a year and half.  So, you wouldn‘t want to make a mistake in not knowing or training enough to be able to live there on Mars for at least a short period of time once you get there.  So it‘s better to do that practicing in a place that is only three days away. 

OLBERMANN:  But we cut off Apollo and stuff like that and went to the Space Shuttle system, saying the Space Shuttle system was the thing of the future, and now it appears we have cut off the Space Shuttle, and gone back to something that looks like Apollo and said that‘s the thing of the future.  

PITTS:  Well Space Shuttle was only the thing of the future as far as International Space Station is concerned.  But there was no real plan after that for what to do beyond that.  Because clearly, you know, as we look at this, the way to actually do this is, you want be able to have a place in Earth orbit, but it‘s also a good idea to have some kind of a base on the Moon, so that you can begin to pull those two together, in the sense that what you really want to do is build your spacecraft to go out to deep solar system in orbit.  You don‘t want to build them on the Earth or build them on the Moon.  You want to build them in orbit so you can build whatever shape you might need to carry whatever you want to carry. 

OLBERMANN:  Has NASA worked out some of these little details like food and water and low gravity exposure, and wireless Internet and stuff like that? 

PITTS:  Pizza Hut delivers every 30 minutes.  Yes, they have looked at some of those details about how to get that done, but they haven‘t fleshed it all out yet.  But I am sure that there are some busy little beavers working on that right now to make sure they tie down all that stuff about cell phone service and whatever. 

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t even get wireless Internet in my house most of the time. 

PITTS:  Yes, how about that? 

OLBERMANN:  Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, always great thanks for your insight and breaking this down for us. 

PITTS:  Thank you, my pleasure Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,312th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Tomorrow, of course, full coverage here of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group report.  We will be joined by Senator Russ Feingold.  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.

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