updated 12/8/2006 12:08:46 PM ET 2006-12-08T17:08:46

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter, Sam Seder, Johnny Herlofsky

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

Iraq Study Group report?  What Iraq Study Group report?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed.  I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush today joined by the British prime minister, and they are joined together by what sounds awfully like stay the course in Iraq.

Speaking of awfully, the radicals on the right throw their own man Jim Baker, and the Democrats too, under the bus.  In the hate-based community, Baker-Hamilton becomes the Iraq surrender group.

And there are unfortunate comparisons today on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, to say nothing of...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Hitler would have had in time developed weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s evidently plenty of room under that bus.  The right also attacks Mary Cheney and her unborn child, and, by extension, her father, that socialist libertine.

And a fashion faux pas at the White House.  The first lady wears a mega-red dress to the Christmas party, and so do three other women guests.  So the first lady changes dresses.

Got H2O?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Today, we‘re talking about liquid water that is present on Mars right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If there‘s water on Mars, maybe there‘s oil too.  Let‘s invade.

And a special guest will drop in.  Yes, he knows when you‘ve been sleeping, he knows when you‘re awake.  He just doesn‘t know much about graceful entrances.  Johnny Herlofsky, the Santa star of the Internets, joins us, and, yes, we‘re getting him a seat belt.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

The Iraq Study Group reports is number two on the Amazon bestseller list tonight, topped only by “You on a Diet? The Owner‘s Manual Guide to Waist Management.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, whether President Bush is even capable of viewing the ISG report as you facing the ugly truth, the owner‘s manual guide to fixing the mess you have made in Iraq, day two of the fallout from the bipartisan panel‘s recommendations, Mr. Bush sounding more stubborn than ever, post-report damage control, bringing the British prime minister some 3,600 miles from Downing Street to Pennsylvania Avenue early this morning, even as more culpatory everyone buried within the report was being revealed, pages 94 and 95 of the commission‘s findings concluding that U.S. officials have been systematically underreporting the violence in Iraq in order to suit the Bush administration policy goals.

Quoting, “A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack.  If we cannot determine the source of sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database.  A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn‘t hurt U.S. personnel doesn‘t count,” meaning that on a just one day in July of 2006, when the government reported 93 attacks, which seems awful enough, the panel finding, quote, “A careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence,”  President and the prime minister facing the media across the street from the White House this morning, the answers not all that different from their last joint news conference.

But the questions sure did not disappoint.  Suffice to say that the valid and incisive questions asked of this White House by our own David Gregory on a daily basis are downright tame compared to the queries posed to the president by the British media this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr.  President, Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as “grave and deteriorating.”  You said that the increase in attacks is “unsettling.”  That will convince many people that you‘re still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq, and question your sincerity about changing course.

BUSH:  It‘s bad in Iraq.  Does that help?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why did it take others to say it before you‘d been willing to acknowledge it to the world?

BUSH:  Oh, you know, in all due respect, I‘ve been saying a lot.  I understand how tough it is.  And I‘ve been tilling the American people how tough it is.  And they know how tough it is.  And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective?  Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed?

The, and what Baker-Hamilton study has done is, it shows good ideas as to how to go forward.  What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.  Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group said that leaders must be candid and forthright with people.  So let me test that.  Are you capable of admitting your failures in the past?  And perhaps much more importantly, are you capable of changing course, perhaps in the next few weeks?

BUSH:  I think you‘re probably going to have to pay attention to my speech coming up here, when I get all the recommendations in.  And you can answer that question yourself.  I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed.  I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the name of that Bob Saget game show, “100 to 1”?  The British media much harder on the president than, say, have been the Democrats in Congress about the Iraq Study Group, by and large heaping praise upon the members of the commission in lieu of asking tough, necessary questions about some of the shortcomings in the report, Senator Clinton, for example, at this morning‘s Armed Services Committee hearing with the co-chairs of that panel inviting criticism for Congress itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  We‘ve now heard from the Iraq Study Group.  But we need the White House to become the Iraq results group.  That is very frustrating for some of us.  We don‘t understand the misjudgments and missteps that have been taken in the last years.

What advice can you give us as to the role that Congress can play to try to help create the conditions that our own government will muster both the will and capacity to act along the lines that you‘ve recommended, and that I think we, in general, agree need to be pursued?

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE JAMES BAKER, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: 

Senator Clinton, I think if the Congress were to, in addition to praising this report, which many members of Congress have, and for which we are grateful, if the Congress could say, This is a good basis for going forward and unifying the country behind a single approach to this difficult problem of Iraq, that would help.

FORMER REP. LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP:  I frankly am not that impressed with what the Congress has been able to do.  I think the Congress has been extraordinarily timid in its exercise of its constitutional responsibilities on the question of war making and conducting war.

Now, the answers here are not easy.  But, in a word, I think very robust oversight is necessary.  I think it‘s been lacking.  I think it has not been a strong performance by the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call on our next contestant in one versus 100, our own Dana Milbank, also national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”

Dana, good evening.

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

Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s variation on the well-enough, fast-enough White House talking point about Iraq, translating, in the words of the president today, into “Progress is not as rapid as I had hoped.”  I mean, this, this is an extraordinary thing to say.  Cut through that phrase.  Is that our new My dog ate my homework?  I mean, what a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Any political opponents going to hit him over the head about this?

MILBANK:  Well, they will.  They‘re going to have a little bit more time to do that.

You know, the president sounds—you know, the British reporter suggesting that he‘s in a state of denial isn‘t quite right.  I think the president‘s moved on to anger, a very angry president you saw there today, you know, when he puts his finger on his nose and gives you that look, he‘s quite angry.  He‘s also sort of in the bargaining phase now of grief.  And he knows that he‘s got to figure out some way to get himself out of this situation.

But privately, he is clearly unnerved by this.  I was talking to Lawrence Eagleburger, the former Republican secretary of state, after the events yesterday, and we asked for Bush‘s reaction.  And he said that his reaction was, Where‘s my drink?

Now, presumably the president hasn‘t really fallen off the wagon.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

MILBANK:  But he is very anxious about this.  And the other side‘s going to, I think, hold off now at this point, where it‘s sort of Baker versus Bush, and let them fight it out.

OLBERMANN:  How come he‘s the guy going through the 12 steps, though, when it‘s the grief of the military families?  But that‘s a rhetorical...

MILBANK:  It‘s five steps of grief, 12 steps for the other program.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush hinting at a rollout of some sort, an address to the nation, perhaps before the end of the year, no doubt being followed by a series of speeches to the traditional friendly handpicked audiences around the country.  How dramatic is the president‘s proposal on Iraq going to have to be in order for him to escape charges of a half-baked whitewashing in the context of this report, no matter what its flaws?

MILBANK:  Well, whatever it is, presumably it‘s not going to be dramatic enough to satisfy the critics.

You sort of got a preview of where he‘s going today.  The president and the prime minister used the word “forward” two dozen times in that press conference, “moving forward,” in other words, not looking at all the problems that have been uncovered to date.  And as your report suggests, some extraordinary problems.

My favorite item that they uncovered was of a 1,000 people in the embassy in Baghdad, the American embassy in Baghdad, only six of them are fluent in Arabic.  These are the sorts of glaring things that the president is going to have to address very forcefully with rhetoric more than saying we‘re just moving forward.

OLBERMANN:  And when you mention the numbers, also the systematic underreporting of the violence in Iraq that we referred to earlier in the newscast, so reminiscent of Vietnam, when at one point we had statistics showing that we had killed something like 127 percent of the Vietcong.  The Baker-Hamilton group concluded, let me quote this again, “Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with political goals.”

Any indication, Dana, so far that the White House sees the crisis in Iraq, not to mention this rebuke that it received in the midterm elections, as anything more serious than just a public relations problem for the administration?

MILBANK:  Well, certainly, I think they are beginning to see it privately, and also realizing that part of the difficulty the president‘s having now in making his case is that the exaggerations, the untruths, have undermined his credibility going all the way back to the weapons of mass destruction case.

So certainly, when you find out you‘re off by an order of magnitude on the number of daily attacks, it raises a lot of questions as to, is there anything the president can say, even if he‘s being honest, and even if he‘s doing something dramatic, that would make people believe it?

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  Why, for the whole week, through all these events, why have the Democrats been so passive?

MILBANK:  You know, there‘s an old saying in politics, when you‘re opponent‘s digging himself into a hole, you don‘t ask to borrow his shovel.  This is a time when Jim Baker, the president‘s father‘s buddy, is lobbying grenades at the White House.  And no reason for the Democrats to get in that fight.

OLBERMANN:  Churchill said, when you‘re going through hell, keep going, or let the other guy keep going by himself.  Dana Milbank, national political reporter at “The Washington Post.”  As always, great thanks for joining us.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It was Marcus Aurelius who reminded us that we see all kind of vice and falsehood in the world each day.  We‘re the ones providing the surprise.  But even considering that does not make the slime any less disgusting.  The rabid right attacks the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, accusing it of surrendering to terrorism.

And she may be the vice president‘s daughter, but that‘s not stopping those very same groups that put the administration into office from lambasting her decision to have a child with the woman she calls her wife.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It sometimes seems as if Rupert Murdoch‘s NewsCorp exists just to reward the unconscionable and succor the inhumane.  Murdoch‘s newspaper ignored the FBI and instead helped a domestic terrorist learn he had reached his targets.  Murdoch‘s television network rewarded an executive who ordered his journalists to slant the news against the Democrats the day after the midterm elections.

And Murdoch is the bankroll for the commentator who suggests that a great Iraq would be one in which all the Sunnis and all the Shias had killed each other to the tune of 26 million dead.  And all that in just in the last 10 weeks.

Still, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, even Murdoch may have reached a new high and low this morning in his reaction to the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.  Not just the “Surrender Monkeys” headline on his newspaper, “The New York Post,” but inside, the claim by a columnist named Ralph Peters that, quote, “Baker would wash his hands in the blood of our troops.”  This, while the White House was insisting that it‘s actually in synch with most of the report, and trying to tar anybody who even raises an alternate possibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  On the evaluation of the report, it says the following, and the co-chairs say the following.  “Stay the course is no longer viable.  The current approach is not working.  The situation is grave and deteriorating.”  Chairman Hamilton says he is not sure whether the situation can be turned around.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, (INAUDIBLE) --

GREGORY:  Can this report be seen as anything other than a rejection of this president‘s handling of the war?

SNOW:  Absolutely.  You need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the group itself says it wanted to do.  And so you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection.  That‘s not the way they view it.

GREGORY:  I just want to be clear.  Are you suggesting that I‘m trying to frame this in a partisan way?

SNOW:  Yes.

GREGORY:  You are.

SNOW:  I am.

GREGORY:  Why?  Based on the fact that...

SNOW:  Because (INAUDIBLE)...

GREGORY:  Wait a minute, wait, wait a second.  Based on quoting the report and the chairmen, and I‘m asking you a straight question, which you‘re not answering straight, you‘re actually...

SNOW:  No, no, no, (INAUDIBLE)...

GREGORY:  ... you‘re trying to answer it by nitpicking it.

SNOW:  No, here‘s the (INAUDIBLE) -- no...

GREGORY:  You‘re suggesting that by quoting the report, I‘m trying to make a partisan argument?

SNOW:  Let me put it this way.  Where in the report does—what you have said is, Can you read this as anything other than a repudiation of policy.  And the answer is, I can, when you suggested that stay the course is a repudiation of policy.  Not true.  It‘s not administration policy.

GREGORY:  You‘re suggesting that the representations of this report are in synch with the way the president has described the reality in Iraq, and his policy toward Iraq.  Is that what you‘re saying?

SNOW:  (INAUDIBLE), go through.  Rather than—because you‘ll accuse me of nitpicking.  Read it.  I mean, I‘m serious.  This is not—I‘m not trying to be snide.  If you go through and you take a look at the metrics at the beginning, we‘ve acknowledged that you‘ve got a deteriorating situation in Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This morning, Murdoch‘s morning echo chamber continued pushing Snow‘s accusation, even acting as though it were Gregory rather than Snow who had turned the—from the issues to the person.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After the Iraq Study Group report was released, the daily press conference between Tony Snow and the White House press corps, and once again, David Gregory asked a bunch of loaded questions, Tony Snow felt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s all about David Gregory.  It‘s never about the issue with that guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So anyway, here‘s our question of the day regarding Dick Gregory—I mean, David Gregory and Tony Snow.  Grouchy Gregory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Should NBC ditch David because he‘s asking partisan questions?  Or do you think they‘re perfectly fine questions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And I see Mssrs. Ducey (ph) and Kilmeade got their memo from Mr. Moody today.

Joining us now, Jonathan Alter, political analyst for us and senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine, of course.

John, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Before we get to the question that Fox felt was most important the day after the study group released its findings, let me get your reaction to another sentinel of knowledge, what Rush Limbaugh had to say, part of which quotes an e-mail from a listener.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  We will start with the Iraq surrender group.  Big press conference today.  Whatever happened to holding those nations to account who harbor and support terror?  In my view, not until we fully mobilize our nation, like we did in World War II, and take this war seriously like we did in World War II, only then will we successfully snuff out terror and win.

If we didn‘t do what we did in World War II, Hitler would have had in time developed weapons, nuclear, perhaps, and used them.

These commission members, the ones I heard, especially Sandra Day O‘Connor, boy, I wanted to puke.  We have that coming up.  I‘ve got these sound bites I‘m talking about.  (INAUDIBLE), she‘s out there saying, well, to the media, It‘s up to you now to take what we‘ve done and take it to the plebes out there, because this document, and this group, has one objective, and that‘s to unite the American people in defeat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If the White House says it‘s mostly in synch with the Iraq surrender group, by the transitive property of sleaze, should not Mr.  Limbaugh be tarring the president as a surrender monkey as well?

ALTER:  Of course.  But that‘s just one of, you know, so many points you can make about these folks.  They‘ve become the far radical right.  They‘re so radical right that Ed Meese, who was Ronald Reagan‘s conservative attorney general, was on this commission.  He‘s a surrender monkey.

I mean, if you think Ed Meese is a surrender monkey, that just tells you how isolated they‘ve become.

Now, look, some of it is just funny.  Surrender monkeys, that cover on the “New York Post,” that was the best thing they‘ve had since “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” you know.

So I kind of get some pleasure out of watching them, you know, go at each other this way.  But it does show there‘s just colossal, colossal humiliation.  They were completely wrong, and now they‘re lashing out in anger, which is the only emotion that they seem to command.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they could have gone with Headless Body on Topless Government, I suppose.  But why is—where is this hostility coming from, from the right, to the study group‘s findings?  I mean, Senator Feingold was on here last night and noted there was not one single from-the-start antiwar person even testifying to this commission, let alone sitting with it.  What is the, what is the right-wing‘s gripe on this?

ALTER:  Their gripe is that it, you know, finally it‘s pointed out the truth, which is that their policy was a total failure.  You know, when Tony Snow is saying, Well, stay the course wasn‘t our policy, this isn‘t a repudiation of our policy, he‘s talking about our policy of the last five minutes.  It was a repudiation of their policy of last four years.

You know, so a total slam-dunk, repudiation of everything that they‘ve done.  So the truth hurts, Keith.  and, you know, if you‘ve been carrying water, as Rush Limbaugh admitted he was doing, for all these years, if you‘ve been carrying water for them, and then it turns out that the water is rancid, you know, you are going to project, and you are going to lash out in anger.  And that‘s what they‘re doing.

OLBERMANN:  When you stop carrying water, of course, as you know, you start passing water.

But back to that question of the day on the Fox channel, they used to be thought, whatever you thought of them politically, they used to be thought  as tough and brassy and sort of counter-everything.  Are we seeing some sort of true selves here, that actually they‘ve become wimpy and intimidated by power to the degree that they‘re too scared to do the adversarial journalism that got them in those places, and they think that anybody who does do adversarial journalism has to go somewhere else?

ALTER:  Well, I think a lot of it is just personal.  You know, their guy, Tony Snow, who worked for Fox for years, is now the White House spokesman.  You know, so it just, it reinforces that Fox is basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the White House and the Republican National Committee.

They do have some good reporters who work there who do some good work.  I‘m not painting with too broad of a brush on everybody who works there, before the bloggers have at me.  But the overall, you know, orientation of that network is just simply a propaganda organ for the White House.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a final irony in all this, that in slamming the Iraq Study Group, Limbaugh finally picked up on what the left has been saying since 2003, that Iraq has become a distraction from getting al Qaeda?  Could that be the new, the new argument from the right?  Maybe we can get something done now?

ALTER:  That would be a kind of a delicious irony.  The only problem with it is that they‘re still defining victory as an objective in Iraq.  And if you believe that the terrorists are in there, and that we need to go kill all the terrorists, that means that the only way we have victory is to kill everybody fighting in Iraq, which is an awful lot of people, you know.

So the whole notion of what victory means has been completely distorted.

OLBERMANN:  Well, O‘Reilly said that.  He said, You should have—all the Sunnis should kill all the Shiites.  He wouldn‘t care.  That would make him (ph) for a great Iraq.  There‘d be 700,000 people left to bury 26 million.

The “Newsweek” senior editor and MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, who lives in this world with the rest of us.  Great thanks for joining us, Jonathan.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of the inexplicable that may come from outer space, the first evidence that there may be life on Mars right now, as NASA finds running water on the Red Planet.  That does not imply there‘s, like, a sewage system, but, you know, water that moves.

And seeing red, and red, and red, and red.  A major wardrobe malfunction at the White House, please.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is some dispute about the date, December 1 or December 7.  But since this is December 7, we‘re picking it.  It is thus the birthday of somebody born 245 years ago, whom we all still talk about, probably about once a month, Marie Grosholtz.  Now, who in the hell was Marie Grosholtz?  You probably know her by her married name, after she moved from Austria to Switzerland to France and was saved from the Guillotine at the last moment because the revolutionaries needed her unique skill, making wax likenesses of the more famous folks who literally lost their heads, Madame Tussaud.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

And look, it‘s a wax representation of the Supremes, if they were rich and white.  No, actually, these are four real women wearing the exact same dress to the White House reception before the Kennedy Center honors this past Sunday.  A fashion faux pas, to be sure, made worse because one of the women is the first lady.  The ladies in red all choosing to go with an $8,500 Oscar de la Renta to the same event.  Mrs. Bush, the only one who was home at the time, went upstairs and changed outfit, but not before posing for the White House holiday photo.  As for the other women, their dresses were confiscated Secret Service, shredded, mailed to London and knitted into a life size Ferrari F-355 by a young British art student.  That‘s now standard White House, what with all the problems getting people into Gitmo. 

Actually 22-year-old Lauren Porter used yarn, 12 miles of yarn, to knit this car as part of her final university project.  She got a degree in knitting cars?  It is on display in a London gallery.  No buyer yet, and, of course, they have not figured out a way to fill the gas tank without the gas being out.  But it‘s gotten so much attention she has been commissioned to knit a life-sized Christmas tree, complete with presents underneath, then maybe some mittens. 

Finally a war on Christmas update from Japan, where we get a remarkable demonstration of a Santa first class form the Seal unit of the North Pole Navy.  Santa showed off his training by swimming with the fishies at the Tokyo aquarium, taking hold of a secular-progressive Moray Eel and interrogating a Sting Ray.  I don‘t need to tell you how dangerous that is. 

Almost as scary as is this.  He‘s already become a regular feature on Oddball in a span of just a week.  Now the clumsiest Santa Clause of a generation will join us here on COUNTDOWN to explain—no, he didn‘t mean to do that.  What he had in mind was—well, we‘ll let him explain. 

And her father may be looking forward to his new grandchild, but according to his conservative base, Mary Cheney‘s decision to have a baby with her partner Heather Poe is disappointing, even appalling.  The story is ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

Number three, David Wayne.  He spent twelve years in prison, at Sing Sing no less, for robbery.  When he got out he started his career as an actor and landed a bit part on “Law and Order” as a rehabilitated ex-con.  Well, given the number of “Law and Orders” I would suppose just statistically that was pretty probable.  But anyway, Mr. Wayne has now been arrested, charged with three robberies in which he showed the victims what looked like sticks of dynamite strapped to his body.  Hey Dick Wolf, I know you‘re reluctant to over-extend the franchise, but I smell a spin off.  In the casting calls for “Law and Order” there are two separate, yet equally important groups, the actors, whose performances are bombs, and the actors who are actually bombs.  These are their stories. 

Number two, George Clooney telling “People Magazine” that every day he TiVoes the “Daily Show” and COUNTDOWN.  Mr. Clooney, we appreciate the shout out, and here is a TiVoed shout out right back at you. 

And number one, Edward Force, driving through Glen Saint Mary, Florida.  Evidently he hit a deer, busted both of the car‘s headlights, got out, tied the deer carcass to the roof of the car and kept on driving, which is when he rammed a Florida highway patrol officer‘s car.  In other words, Mr. Force had a deer caught in his head lights. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If the sixth grand child of Vice President Cheney was expected from his heterosexual daughter and her husband conservative groups would have nothing to say about that, other than perhaps congrats.  But in our number three story on the COUNTDOWN, now that Mary Cheney, the vice president‘s lesbian daughter, is planning a family with her long time partner, a woman she calls her wife and has become pregnant.  Even the assumed immunity inherited from her father, and their hero, is not saving her from unvarnished criticism from the likes of James Dobson.  From his group “Focus on the Family,” “just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage, doesn‘t mean it‘s a good idea.  Love can‘t replace a mother and a father.”

From “Concerned Women for America,” Janice Crouse, “it‘s very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father.”  Ms. Krause continuing on the conservative website TownHall.com, “Mary Cheney‘s pregnancy poses problems not just for her child, but also for all Americans.  Her action repudiates traditional values and sets an appalling example.  Mary‘s pregnancy is an in-you-face action, countering the Bush administrations pro-family, pro-marriage and pro-life policies.  She continues to repudiate the work to which her father has devoted his life. 

Joining me for some comment on this, the host of the “Sam Seder Show” on Air America, also author of “F.U.B.A.R., Fubar, America‘s Right Wing Nightmare,” Sam Seder.  Thanks for your time again, sir. 

SAM SEDER, AUTHOR, “FUBAR”:  Thank you Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Or is this, Sam, just the opposite of that last remark, that the vice president‘s work is repudiating his daughter, and now the grandchild that he‘s supposed to love the whole of his life and what the hell does that say about the supposed superiority of the traditional marriage?

SEDER:  Yes, I mean exactly, for a guy who‘s willing to shoot his friends in the face, you would think he would stick up for his daughter and his future grandchild.  You know, it‘s fascinating to watch these right wingers‘ heads implodes.  My favorite quote is Bob Knight from Concerned Women of America.  He says their child has been conceived with the express purpose of denying it a father.  And, as a recent father I can tell you that‘s a long way to go, to put up with the hormones of a pregnant wife. 

OLBERMANN:  As conservative as many of the vice president‘s positions are, he has said repeatedly he believes, his one little concession to this, that the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states.  His spokesman said that the vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation of their sixth grandchild.  But is that also part of what drives the conservative critics crazy, that he‘s not 100 percent on their side, but only about 90 percent? 

SEDER:  Yes, and frankly I think that comment is disingenuous in and of itself.  I mean, he should pray that, god forbid, anything happens to Mary after the child is born.  Because the state she lives in denies any type of parental rights to her wife.  And, you know, so the hypocrisy is just incredibly rank, and I think that‘s—you know, part of it is, I think, yes, of course, the right wing is just—their heads are imploding over this. 

OLBERMANN:  But what is it about this particular issue, Sam, with conservatives, the subject of gays, of homosexuality.  The Ted Haggard fiasco seems to be representative of something here, the hysteria over same-sex marriage, the lunatic who shows up at military funerals, claiming god hates guys, that‘s why the soldier died.  A name I know that you will know, the late Bill Hicks once just summed this up perfectly.  He said, what‘s it to you?  Just what‘s it to you?  Do you have any insight about this obsession? 

SEDER:  Well, I got to tell you, in “Fubar” Steve Cheryll and I got knocked for dedicating so much space to anti-gay gay Republicans, and I think part of it is that, you know, they‘re repressing their natural feelings, and they take their self-loathing and just project it outwards.  And so some of your most virulent gay haters end up like Ted Haggard, actually getting a little bit on the side in private.  It seems to be the rallying cry for conservatives at this point.  You know, there‘s a lot of conservatives who call our show and self identified conservatives, who say, well, I‘m a libertarian, live and let live.  But the vast majority of them see as one of their primary tenants of being a conservative is to hate gays. 

OLBERMANN:  What are the politics here?  The president, who many conservatives feel was not strong enough in his position against gays, is out of the picture essentially.  He is a lame duck.  He may be a spokesman, but he can‘t really make things happen anymore.  Will conservatives now hold every Republican presidential candidate in 2008 to a litmus test on this issue, gay people having children, gay people getting married?  And what does that do to the leading contenders?

SEDER:  Well, I mean, I think they already do hold their presidential candidates to that litmus test.  And that‘s why, you know, people are saying that Rudy Giuliani‘s candidacy is dead on arrival.  He‘s just not going to be able to sell his past history of being pro-gay, I guess, to the base of the conservative party. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe he can have some sort of epiphany and, I don‘t know, throw a chair at somebody. 

SEDER:  I would be willing to bet that he does have some type of epiphany like that. 

OLBERMANN:  Sam Seder of Air America, author of “Fubar,” and we all know what that stands for, “America Right Wing Nightmare.”  Great thanks for joining us again Sam. 

SEDER:  Thank you Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it the scientific bomb shell of the year?  Did someone find life on Mars, or merely dampness?  A potential breakthrough in space. 

And speaking of that, when will Britney Spears find her panties.  The pop princess finally explaining away her less than matronly behavior of the last few weeks.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was just days ago that NASA announced plans to establish a permanent resident on the Moon by the year 2024.  And that would position mankind for a trip to Mars.  A journey from the Moon to Mars will itself take several years, maybe a hundred, unless we come up with that warp speed thing by then.  But in our number two story, the big question about the trip, what about the reception committee?  In a reversal of every scientific report from the last century, now, all of a sudden, there may be water there.  And if there‘s water, there could be life.  Or at least a place to freshen up.  Our correspondent is Tom Costello. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For scientists looking for signs of water and life on Mars, this could be the Holy Grail.  NASA experts say that streak, coming down the side of that Martian crater, appears to be a trail left by water. 

KENNETH EDGETT, MARS RESEARCHER:  Today, we are talking about liquid water that is present on Mars right now. 

COSTELLO:  Researchers made the discovery after comparing pictures of the Martian landscape taken seven year apart by the orbiting Global Surveyor.  They found new craters formed in recent years by space debris striking Mars and signs that liquid water had trickled down the crater walls.  The water trail, several hundred yards long.

MICHAEL MALLIN, MARS RESEARCHER:  This wasn‘t pure water, it was probably water with a sediment associated with it.  So it was somewhat more like a mud flow. 

COSTELLO:  Scientists have already seen signs of ice on Mars, but liquid water is something else.  Now they‘re debating the source of it. 

(on camera):  One theory, that water occasionally bubbles up from beneath the surface, then carries dust and debris down the gullies as it evaporates, or turns to ice, in the freezing Martian climate. 

EDGETT:  These channels and gullies are being formed by relatively intense, short, brief events. 

COSTELLO (voice-over):  And if water does exist just below the surface, then might there also be life? 

NEIL DEGRASS TYSON, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM:  Just the fact of having water doesn‘t necessarily mean there‘s life, but it‘s tantalizing.  Simply because, here on Earth, every place you look for liquid water and find it, therein you find life.

COSTELLO:  If there is water on Mars, it could also be very good news for NASA, as it looks for ways to one day support and sustain astronauts on a two to three year mission to the Red Planet. 

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speak of space cadets, an easy segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Moving from planets to Moons.  We finally have an explanation, of sorts, of Britney Spear‘s new habit of flashing the paparazzi.  On her website Ms. Spears says, she‘s been so busy, what with the husband and kids thing, she hasn‘t even celebrated her birthday for two years.  So now that she has kicked K-Fed to the curb, her partying with the likes of Paris Hilton is getting a little out of control.  Quoting her here, every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected.  And I probably did take my new found freedom a little too far.  Anyway, thank god for Victoria‘s Secrets new underwear line.  Adding the chilling words, quote, I‘m just getting started, end quote.  Consider yourself warned. 

Tom Cruise appears to have double dissed the queen of talk TV, Oprah Winfrey.  Not only was she not invited to his lavish Italian wedding to Katie Holmes, but her publicist tells the “New York Daily News” Oprah was also left off the guest list for the state-side celebration, even though the upcoming party is meant to include everybody who couldn‘t make it over to Europe.  And even though it was on Oprah‘s show, and on her sofa, that Cruise so famously declared his love for his new bride.  Maybe she wouldn‘t surrender the sofa. 

From couch jumping starts to toppling Santas.  It looks like Saint Nick might have to hit the sauce a little hard to celebrate his feast day.  Santa Claus bruises and bruised ego joins us next.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list for worst person in the world. 

Our bronze tonight, to Senator John McCain of Arizona, reportedly set to hire, if he formalizes his presidential bid, as his campaign manager one Terry Nelson.  Terry Nelson was the man behind the Bob Corker, Harold, Call Me, miscegenation commercial in the Tennessee campaign against Harold Ford.  The ad was enough to cost Nelson his job consulting for Wal-Mart.  He was too stinky for Wal-Mart, but not too stinky for John McCain. 

The runner up, Kevin Pew of Cedar Bluff, Iowa.  He has turned himself in to local authorities, who have been investigating a series of incidents at local Hardees and Holiday Inn Expresses, in which somebody has come up to the counter and placed or thrown a dead possum or dead pig.  Well I don‘t know that pigs really can fly, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. 

But the winner, Calvin E. Fluckes, what do you expect, exactly. 

Calvin E. Fluckes Jr., today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The following COUNTDOWN stories contain graphic material of a revealing nature about a jolly old fat man in a red suit from the North Pole.  Small children and elves should leave the room immediately.

OLBERMANN:  Of course some parents tell their kids the truth about Santa Claus, but even they might not want their kids exposed to the sad fate that befell, and I‘m using that word befell in particular, one Santa in tonight‘s number one story on COUNTDOWN.  You remember earlier this week we brought you the sad story of one of the first casualties of the war Christmas, nearly a year ago now.  The brave combatant‘s name is Johnny Herlofsky, fighting the good fight on the front lines in Minneapolis.  Unfortunately, the video from last year makes it looks like he enlisted in the 82nd Airborne, but appears to have gotten his parachute form Halliburton.  Here is last year‘s actual footage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We want Santa.  We want Santa.  Yay, Santa. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where is he?  Oh.  Oh my god. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I fell on my keys.  Of course in the fog of war on Christmas, it‘s not exactly easy to tell just what‘s happened.  Who fired first?  Did Santa land on his tucus?  Military technology being what it is these days, satellite and other surveillance cameras give us a unique opportunity to assess this incident from several angles.  Please judge for yourself. 

The good news, we‘re very happy to report to you kids still watching Santa is fine.  The accident did in fact happen last Christmas eve, just made it‘s way to the Internet this week, so there will be no delivery problems this year.  And as proof, joining us now in his full dress uniform, Johnny Herlofsky, A.K.A. Chris Kringle, A.K.A. S. Claus.  Thanks for joining us tonight.

JOHNNY HERLOFSKY, DANGER SANTA:  Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Did you bring me a pony?

HERLOFSKY:  It would have been more than a pony, I‘ll tell you that. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  So this was last year.  How did this just wind up on the Internet now? 

HERLOFSKY:  You know, I really don‘t know.  I honestly, if I can say I noticed that YouTube and I just thought, what the heck.  I always wanted to be somewhat famous.  So I threw those videos on there and next thing you know I‘m getting calls.  They‘re everywhere.  That was pretty much it. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t see in the video, we don‘t see a mattress, we don‘t see a trampoline.  We just see the car.  Were you planning from the start to break your fall with the car, or, in short, what was supposed to have happened with this? 

HERLOFSKY:  Well, I climbed the roof.  I was supposed to jump off the roof, on to the hood of my beater suburban, land fine, then just climb down my Suburban and give away presents.  Well, my idiot buddies and cousins and me, we didn‘t figure there was a quarter inch of ice on there.  So as soon as my feet hit, so did my head and everything else.  That‘s pretty much what happened. 

OLBERMANN:  So this was supposed to be a controlled drop and there was no control at that point? 

HERLOFSKY:  No, not even close. 

OLBERMANN:  Did you—it looks—we‘re showing it now like 93 times.  So it looks like you‘re just dropping time after time here.  Just to clear it up, you just hit the one time.  What actually happened other than—what damage did you suffer other than the embarrassment? 

HERLOFSKY:  Well, I cracked a rib.  I cracked my head pretty good.  I head whiplash, I would say, for a good week.  The funny thing, I didn‘t find out I really hurt my rib, for the most part, until I came upstairs from changing and my whole family had already put it on the TV.  And they were all laughing at it.  Well, as soon as I started to laugh I could feel it, and believe me, the next day it was twice as bad. 

OLBERMANN:  What we don‘t see in this is you just went on with the Christmas parceling out.  You didn‘t slow down at all.  You just gave out those presents and just played the role up to the hilt there? 

HERLOFSKY:  Oh, yes.  I mean, there‘s another probably 10 minutes of giving out presents and, you know, cracking jokes like I always do and doing weird dances, shaking my big butt.  You know, there‘s a lot more to it. 

OLBERMANN:  How come there‘s so many different camera angles.  It looks like it was—I mean, people look at that and they go that was pre-planned?  Why were there so many videotapes?

HERLOFSKY:  Well, because I had told my cousin Jake and my uncle Bruce that I was going to be jumping on Suburban.  There‘s another camera angle that‘s my dad.  He‘s showing the crowd.  Well, they do it for their family, because what you don‘t see is there‘s like 40 people in there, and all little kids, waiting for their presents. 

OLBERMANN:  So now this was Christmas eve last year.  And I‘m afraid it‘s almost inevitable now, 17 nights from now is Christmas eve this year.  Can you tell us what you have planned here or have you already sold the rights to Johnny Knoxville for his next movie? 

HERLOFSKY:  I don‘t know.  If it was up to the family they would probably want me to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, hopefully live and then pass out presents.  But, god knows we can‘t do that.  If it was up to me, I‘d like to retire. 

OLBERMANN:  You can‘t possibly top this.  So maybe retirement is the best option. 

HERLOFSKY:  I‘d have to drink more. 

OLBERMANN:  John Herlofsky, teaching us to not drink while playing Santa Claus, especially when there are roofs and ice involved.  Good luck making it through the rest of this holiday season.  Good luck with the rest of the season.

HERLOFSKY:  Thank you very much Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It was a graceful drop though.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,314th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  reporting from New York, 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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