updated 1/4/2007 11:33:06 AM ET 2007-01-04T16:33:06

Guests: Howard Fineman, John Dean, Barney Frank, Craig Crawford, Paul F. Tompkins

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

Making bipartisanship partisan.  The president takes to the newspapers and to the microphone to tell Democrats what bipartisanship really means—agree with him, or else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  To help rein in wasteful spending and restore fiscal discipline in Washington, I call on Congress to give the president the tool that 43 governors have, a line-item veto.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the “Wall Street Journal” piece, with the helpful reminder about its author, “Mr. Bush is the president of the United States.”

And the press secretary of the United States is asked, Why does Mr.  Bush need a line-item veto, or bipartisanship, when he has the good old magical signing statement to rely on?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  That‘s why they call it the executive agency.  He executes the laws, makes—executive branch, he executes the laws that Congress has passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But Mr. Snow and the government won‘t even touch the enduring nightmare of the execution of Saddam Hussein.  They will let us listen to the generals on the ground about that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN:  If you‘re asking me, would we have done things differently?  Yes, we would have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No need to have done it differently at the final services for President Ford.  Three extraordinary tributes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Because Gerald Ford was there to restore the strength of the presidency, America could again, in Lincoln‘s words, stand as the last best hope of earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And tonight‘s cartoons.  Britney Spears just fell asleep, right?  She didn‘t pass out.  And if she just fell asleep, that wasn‘t a rehab center she checked into.  It was a—a—spa, right?  Right.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Washington.

The framers of the United States Constitution, seeing the wisdom in establishing three separate, equal branches of government, President Bush, it would seem, having more Orwellian a view of the subject, perhaps that all branches of government are equal, but some branches of government are more equal than others.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the president today putting the partisan in bipartisan, telling Democrats in Congress, in effect, that he is still in charge, and that his definition of bipartisanship is doing what he tells them to.

This from the man who said, in the days before the election, that a vote for the Democrats would be a vote for the terrorists, in essence, vote against me, and you will die.

After four years of a war in Iraq that is consuming more than $1.4 billion a week, and soon will almost certainly escalate, after six years of having allowed both the budget deficit and the national debt to soar, in those six same years, never once having vetoed a single pork-laden bill from Congress, Mr. Bush deciding, on the eve of the Democratic Congress, that pork is a problem, reaching fiscal responsibility this morning in the editorial pages of the “Wall Street Journal,” his groundbreaking ideas, making previously tax cuts permanent, balancing the budget within five years, and giving him the line-item veto he has long wanted to cut individual programs out of spending bills, the only line best not paraphrased in the editorial, the very last one, the journal reminding viewers that Mr. Bush is the president of the United States.

This morning, the author rehashed his words from a podium in the White House Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  One important message we all should take from the elections is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to get billions of dollars directed to projects, many of them pork barrel projects, that have never been reviewed or voted on by the Congress.  To help rein in wasteful spending and restore fiscal discipline in Washington, I call on Congress to give the president the tool that 43 governors have, a line-item veto.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  At the White House news briefing this afternoon, one reporter questioning press secretary Tony Snow on why one branch of government would get to tell another branch of government what to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president has issued hundreds of statements, where he‘s told Congress basically, Don‘t butt in and tell me how the executive branch should run its business.  Why is it then appropriate for him now to tell Congress how it should be running its own processes?

SNOW:  Well, wait a minute.  What—Peter, what he said is that there are some times that he believes that the implementation language does not meet constitutional muster.  Rather than getting into Congress‘s business, those signing statements have been looking for constitutional ways to fulfill the will of Congress and get them done effectively.

If memory doesn‘t fail me, every president, Democratic or Republican, has had something to say about the way in which Congress handles spending, and that is a normal part of American politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... process, they should have disclosure, they should do this, they should not do it in the middle of the night.  Isn‘t that telling them how they should have their process in a way that the president has resisted?

SNOW:  No, (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... his prerogative to run the executive ranch?

SNOW:  No, I don‘t think so.  Members of Congress already talked about doing this, Peter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congress, that‘s their process, right? 

(INAUDIBLE)...

SNOW:  No, don‘t let—But on the other hand, are you (INAUDIBLE), because the president is somebody who—president has the unique role, which is, he‘s the chief executive of the United States.  The president has a fiduciary responsibility to the American people, because ultimately, it‘s not Congress that spends the money.  It‘s agencies that are under the purview of the president of the United States.

That‘s why they call it the executive agency.  He executes the laws, executive branch.  He executes the laws that Congress has passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent, of course, for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m missing something in the president‘s piece in the “Wall Street Journal” about bipartisanship.  Where is the—what do you call it, bipartisanship?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think he‘s making it clear that he‘s got his priorities, and he would like this new Democratic Congress to follow them.  And I really think, while tomorrow is going to be a day filled with pomp and circumstance on the Hill, and this morning in the Rose Garden you saw more of the same with the cabinet members lined up, the next 48 hours are about all the good era of good feeling that we‘re going to have here in the next couple years.

OLBERMANN:  When did the president‘s stated or written zeal for congressional transparency start?  Was it November 8, 2006, by any chance?

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘ve got to say, I love the idea of the White House

suddenly being in love with transparency.  The big argument around here for

the last few years has been about the White House not coming forth with

explanations about what they‘re doing, why they‘re doing it, why they‘re

spending the money the way they are that‘s been appropriated in huge chunks

by the Congress, especially for the war in Iraq.

So the president, obviously, wants to try to get the high ground here on the issue of spending, because it‘s now the Democrats who are making those decisions.  And the Democrats have a lot of things they want to do to affect that over the next couple years.

OLBERMANN:  And if you‘re wondering, by the way, the only American president who had a line-item veto was Jefferson Davis.

And to the point of this, and that‘s serious, could the earmarks, this sudden anger at earmarks, could the surge in Iraq be viewed as the president‘s own personal earmark?  How could—can he even talk about balancing the budget without taking into account these extraordinary costs of that war in Iraq?

FINEMAN:  Well, the earmarks, which are special set- asides in bills for individual projects, that‘s a congressional thing, and there‘s a lot of political power in them, and they win votes.

I must say, right now, for the president, paying for a surge in Iraq is not a way to win political support here at home.  I think it‘s going to be very controversial and probably very unpopular.

I think what the president is doing is pursuing what  I‘m told, and what I sense is his strategy for the next couple years, which is to keep on keeping on by the lights that he‘s set for himself going back several years ago on Iraq.  Let the Democrats, after whomever succeeds him after 2009, be the ones to really do the massive pullout in Iraq.  George W. Bush is not going to do it, and the surge is a way for him to buy time to finish the policy as he sees it through.

OLBERMANN:  All right, we have three sets of terminologies that have been applied to this speech that‘s supposed to reveal the surge, or whatever it is, the additional 20,000 troops.  It‘s an escalation, no matter what you want to call it.  We have surge and accelerate.  We have sacrifice, we have the theme for the speech being sacrifice or the theme for the speech being victory.

What, what, what are you hearing about what this speech is going to be, what the results are going to be, and what this—what the theme is going to be?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it‘s going to be the middle of the three that you mentioned.  The president‘s not going to talk a whole lot about victory in any grand term, because the American people won‘t buy it.  He‘s going to talk about sacrifice, but the question here is, who‘s doing the sacrificing?  Now, for sure, we‘re spending a ton of money there.  I think it‘s going to be a half a trillion dollars within another six months to a year, generously estimated, in Iraq and attendant costs.

But in terms of the broad mass of the American people, the people who are fighting and dying and being wounded and maimed beyond recognition are a fairly small slice of the American people.  Were there a draft right now, this city in this country would be torn apart even more than it is, and I think upside-down, really, at this point.

So the sacrifice is not broadly shared except to a degree by taxpayers, and, I must say, by the next generation of all Americans, who are going to be have to be paying both the interest and the principal on the debt we‘re piling up for them.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I don‘t even want to contemplate what life would be like with a draft.

Howard Fineman of the MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  Great thanks.  Have a great new year.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what the Democrats should expect in the new term and how they might combat it, I‘m joined now by Nixon White House counsel John Dean, author of “Conservatives Without Conscience.”

John, good evening to you.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When it comes to Iraq, Mr. Bush is acting as if the midterm elections never even happened—I don‘t think that‘s too broad a conclusion to jump to—still demanding bipartisanship from the Democrats on the things he wants to change at the same time.  If you are the incoming majority, how do you respond to this latest—I don‘t know, is it mutually exclusive, the phrase, a mutual exclusivity idea from the president?

DEAN:  It may be hypocrisy is the word too.  I think what the Democrats clearly have a message from voters that the voters are not very pleased with Bush‘s programs.  I think they‘ve got to stand up.  Bush is savvy enough a politician to know that it takes two to tango.  And if he wants to get anything out of this Congress in the next two years, he‘s going to have to give to get.

So we‘ll see.  Maybe he‘s trying to set them up to look like the bad guys and refuse any effort to cooperate with any of his programs to try to play into 2008.

OLBERMANN:  You have written on this subject.  Is it going to be difficult for the Democrats to fight fire with fire, the parties, it would seem, having radically different ideas about what constitutes fair play in politics?  Don‘t the Democrats go into something of a disadvantage if they get into a street brawl with the Republicans on all of this?

DEAN:  I think they do.  There‘s no question that now that the parties have become so polarized, you‘re seeing the extreme personalities are the ones who are really in the arena.  And the Republicans do play hardball in a much tougher and more ruthless manner than Democrats have been wont to do.  And to deal with that, now that they have something of a take on what the voters want, they‘re going to have stand up and find their spine and go toe to toe with those people, or they‘re not going to be back in 2008.

OLBERMANN:  The far end of what you suggest, obviously, would be impeachment, but the merits of that are at best arguable.  I think we can probably both recall an occasion on which impeachment actually bolstered a president‘s popularity.  But you wrote recently about impeaching not a president or a vice president, but members of the cabinet.  How would that work, and is it a practical thing?

DEAN:  Well, my thought was, there are some very serious movements afoot throughout the country, local, working right up to state levels and in regional areas.  People are very determined to try to develop an effort and a movement to get Bush and Cheney impeached.

It is not going to happen.  The Senate, there are not the votes to ever convict, even in the House, with a simple majority, sent a bill over.  So what occurred to me is, there are some very good reasons to look at some of the lower-level people, and there—you can do an impeachment just as easily against the secretary of a department, or a White House, senior White House staff person, and raise the very issues that these people are privy to as well, as part of what Bush and Cheney have done.

It may well be high crimes and misdemeanors.  This is where they should be focusing.  I don‘t think they should exclude that possibility.  It‘s a way to start hearings.  It would send a message across the bow of this administration that the Congress is going to look seriously at the kind of conduct they‘re conducting.

OLBERMANN:  But if the administration has, as it already has, already denied the request from the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Leahy of Vermont, for two secret documents about the CIA detention and interrogation of terror suspects, if that stonewalling is already in place, would there not be stonewalling in every respect?  Would there not be some contention that you can‘t go and impeach anything that‘s not spelled out line by line in the Constitution?

DEAN:  Keith, I think we‘re in for two years of struggle to get information the likes of which we haven‘t seen since Nixon was in the White House.  I think this administration‘s going to try to build a stone wall that is going to make the Wall of China look like a stone—stepping stones.  They‘re going to really build a fortress to protect themselves.

Cheney is determined this is the whole way to determine the strength of a presidency is by their ability to keep their secrets, and so they‘re going to go to the mat on this.  And I think we‘ll—impeachment is one way you can do it.  But, of course, even Nixon himself refused to cooperate with the impeachment committee, and he would have been impeached, one of the articles, the third article, was to impeach him for failure to cooperate with the impeachment committee.  So that isn‘t a solution either.

OLBERMANN:  John Dean, veteran of so many aspects of our public discourse, author, columnist, frequent contributor to this newscast.  As always, John, many thanks.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Another big change afoot for the Bush administration, this one internal.  NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has learned tonight that the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, is leaving that job and accepting instead the new job of deputy secretary of state, the reason given that Secretary Rice has been seriously understaffed for most of the year, but Negroponte was the country‘s first director of national intelligence, supposed to tie all the agencies together.  He‘d only been in that role since late 2005.  He has now moved on.

Also tonight, how is Congress reacting to the president‘s call for bipartisanship now on his terms?  Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts joins us.

And as protests grow over the handling of the execution of Saddam Hussein, so too grows the blame game.  Arrests in Iraq of some of the witnesses, but in this country, avoidance of the entire subject.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the 110th Congress convenes tomorrow, the new chairman of the Financial Services Committee may be the Republicans‘ idea of a perfect storm, a openly liberal, openly gay, openly Massachusetts congressman named Barney Frank.

Our number four story on tonight‘s COUNTDOWN, how are Congressman Frank and his fellow Democrats in that Congress reacting to Mr. Bush‘s version of bipartisanship?  We decided to ask him.

Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, I was struck by—I hadn‘t read what he said yet, but were—for the president to—on the one hand, talk about bipartisanship, and then say he‘s unilaterally going to send more troops to Iraq is about as contradictory as you can get.

And for him, this notion of bipartisanship is so obviously an effort to deal with the fact that his side lost.  There hasn‘t been a more partisan administration, I believe, in American history.  Not just partisan, by the way, Democratic-Republican, but executive-legislative, partisan in the sense of really seeing no role for the legislative branch.

So this notion that he wants bipartisanship, I really haven‘t seen any evidence for it.  And to begin, after an election in which, almost everyone agrees, dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq was a major factor, to say, And now I‘m just to going to send more troops in, is exactly the opposite.

And then I did hear him say, Well, we got to cut spending.  Well, you know, people have said to me, I‘d like to see universal health care, I‘d like to see some other things.  People have said to me, Where are you going to find the money?

I know who to ask.  I‘m going to ask them, because I was in Washington on September 10, 2001, and I know, as a fact, there was no money in that budget for a war in Iraq.  And they found $400 billion.  So when they ask me where I‘m going to find the money, I‘m going to ask them where they got the—where‘s the guy who found me $400 billion for Iraq?  Maybe he can spare me 10 percent of that for some domestic programs.

OLBERMANN:  The president today cautioned the Democrats in this piece against using legislation to make political statements.  Is that not what the last four years have been about?

FRANK:  When the Republican administration of George Bush tells me not to use legislation to make political statements, it‘s kind of like being accused of being silly by the Three Stooges.  This is a group that took this constitutional amendment to ban marriage that they knew couldn‘t win and voted on it twice.

In the last—in the post-election session, they brought up legislation involving abortion that they know wasn‘t even going to pass the Senate.

That‘s just insulting people‘s intelligence.  This is an administration that continuously postured with legislation that—and now the Republicans are doing it (ph).  I guess maybe the president wasn‘t paying any attention to what his Republican colleagues were doing.

I also saw him now denouncing earmarks.  I mean, the number of earmarks in the congressional budget greatly exploded under the Republicans.  And I guess I‘d never known that George Bush was a man of such restraint before, but apparently, as the Republicans were doing all these things, having legislation that was purely political, being very partisan, doing the earmarks, he contained himself.  And apparently, after just so many years come December, he just couldn‘t hold it in any more.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, or it was converted on the 8th of November.

About Iraq, we‘re hearing about the surge, about surge and accelerate, that‘s the other term, about 20,000 more troops, and this speech calling either as its theme victory or sacrifice.  Let me put this bluntly.  How are you going to stop that?

FRANK:  Well, I plan not to vote for it.  I hope others will also vote against it.  In fairness to my Democratic colleagues, they are put in a bad situation, because you have the president, who‘s got the power as commander in chief to order the troops there.  He‘s the commander in chief.  He can tell the troops where they should go.

Not to vote the money is a problem.  Now, some of us will vote to say, Look, we want to make it come home.  But, you know, this is an administration—I think the last talent he has left is for some demagoguery.  And if you vote not to support the money, I suppose people will be criticized.

But I have to say, I have rarely seen—I can‘t think of another instance where a major group of people have been so consistently, absolutely wrong on important questions.  They have literally not gotten one thing right about Iraq, from the weapons on mass destruction, to how many troops to send in, to what was going to happen when they got Saddam Hussein.

And for them now to say, Oh, by the way, well, we have been wrong 18 times on major issues, we now have the answer, I don‘t know how anybody can be persuaded by that.

OLBERMANN:  And they also—this also seems to be the widest gap between what a president wants to do on a specific issue, and what the people want regarding the number of troops in Iraq.  Are you fearful that if you were to cut the money off, if you were to actually refuse to bankroll it, as a Congress, that the money would be spent, there‘d still be money spent to send them there, without protecting them, or...

FRANK:  Well, that‘s the problem.  It could be spent.  The fact is that the Pentagon budget could—other money could be taken from other purposes and spend it.  You couldn‘t do it just by voting no money.  You would have to say—you‘d have to pass something that said, None of the Monday that we‘re voting can be used for this.  But it‘s too late for that.  We‘ve already voted for the defense budget for the year.

The fact is that defense budget for the year is one of the few budgets the Republicans passed.  They didn‘t pass a budget for health or education or housing, because they were so meanspirited, they don‘t want anyone to know how bad it was going to be till after the election.

He already has hundreds of billions of dollars legally in his possession to spend.  So there is, in fact, no way, I think, to cut off the money, unless we were to pass a law and he would veto it.  So we are frustrated in that extent.

But you are right.  There is an absolute (INAUDIBLE) -- Cheney said it before the election, We will do whatever we think is right, no matter what the president—what the people think.  And the problem with that is this.  You know, you might say that‘s a justified argument, but it‘s a hell of a way to teach the Iraqis about democracy.

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.

FRANK:  I mean, I thought we were all going to teach them about democracy.  And I‘ve said, by the way, on the floor of the House when the Republicans were being high-handed, and I have to say it again, if any Iraqis are watching George Bush ignore the results of the election and sending people in there, and we‘re supposed to be teaching them democracy, I got to say to the Iraqis, please don‘t try this at home.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, exactly.  Let‘s have some of it here, and let‘s (INAUDIBLE) sort of introduce them here in Washington.

Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, with the keys to the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee in your pocket.  Thanks for your time tonight.

FRANK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a remarkable culmination to the national good-bye to Gerald Ford, a president so gifted that even in death, he could bring together Donald Rumsfeld and Jimmy Carter.  Final tributes ahead.

And there‘s more bad news for O.J. Simpson.  First, “If I Did It” gets pulled, and now a judge says, Show me the money you would have gotten if you had done it.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The British politician Clement Atlee was born on this date in 1883.  It was of Mr. Atlee that his predecessor as Great Britain‘s prime minister, Winston Churchill, famously said, “He is a modest man who has much to be modest about.”

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the Heldreth Dairy Farm in Whythe (ph) County, Virginia. 

That‘s Heldreth‘s, the milk with the two-headed cow right on the bottle.  OK, he‘s not part of the ad campaign just yet, but the farm staff is not shy about showing off its latest addition, probably because he‘s so cute.  She‘s so cute.  Farmers say the calf has some trouble walking, but is otherwise healthy, despite being born with two distinct heads.  And if you think that‘s weird, apparently the thing has four stomachs as well.  Oho-ho, freaky.

As long as we‘re playing disturbing video, we bring you this security camera tape with the advisement that this guy was not injured, not even a little bit, just a couple of small cuts and bruises.  Lawrence, Massachusetts, store clerk Andy Menia (ph), evidently made of 80 percent rubber, had absolutely no warning that an SUV was about to crash through the wall behind him. He was briefly pinned against the counter but was able to get loose and jump over.  The woman driving the car has not been charged.  She told police she felt faint right before the crash, possibly because she just had seen video of a two-headed cow. 

Yesterday we asked rhetorically if the execution of Saddam Hussein could have been handled more badly.  Twenty four hours later it is so bad now the U.S. is pretending it had nothing to do with it.  And the P.R.  troubles of Britney Spears.  It‘s still new year‘s eve for her.  First rumors she passed out, now denial that she‘s in rehab.  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

Number three, 46-year-old Debbie Bingham of Saint Petersburg, Florida, suffered only very minor injuries.  In fact, she doesn‘t even know, didn‘t even know she was hurt until her son saw blood on her arm as the two watched midnight fireworks.  It was a bullet lodged in her bra strap.  It apparently had been fired into the air by somebody celebrating the new year and it landed in her bra. 

number two, Yuris Sinkevicius of Lithuania, under arrest for theft in Norway.  The 25-year-old man stripped naked in his jail cell, covered himself with vegetable oil and slipped through the bars to escape.  He‘s still on the loose.  His accomplice, who apparently needs to think about the South Beach diet, only got his head and shoulders through before he got stuck there. 

And number one, Darrin Malsack a 30-year-old manager of Checker‘s Auto Parts store in West Alice, Wisconsin.  Local 911 operators received a call from him on Tuesday, reporting that two men had stolen a portable D.V.D.  player from his store.  He was calling from his cell phone from the roof of the crook‘s speeding getaway car, holding on to the luggage rack while they drove 50 miles an hour.  You may call him unwise.  You may call him reckless, I call him employee of the month. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was supposed to be a landmark moment, a milestone event.  Instead the hanging of Saddam Hussein became a grotesque sectarian spectacle and it got more grotesque still today with the White House now playing the political equivalent of move along people, nothing to see. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, as the Iraqi government acknowledges it lost control of the execution, the U.S. government is says it had nothing to do with it.  Three people are now under arrest for filming the execution on a cell phone, releasing it to the public.  Authorities there are investigating whether an Arab TV station paid them to do it.  U.S.  authorities emphasizing that while our military had physical custody of Hussein until about an hour before his death, it played no part in the hanging itself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY:  We had absolutely nothing to do with anything further than just the physical movement and security of him, as we had always done, to get him to a pre-determined location, which in the past had been to the courthouse where the proceedings had been taking place. 

If you‘re asking me would we have done things differently?  Yes, we would have, but that‘s not our decision.  That‘s the government of Iraq‘s decision. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president, here, likewise emphasizing that Saddam‘s death was an Iraqi matter.  He would not personally respond to questions but his press secretary tried to redirect attention away from the execution itself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The most important thing to keep an eye on, this is a guy who killed hundreds of thousands of people and received justice. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a pleasure to be here with, for a change, rather than via satellite, MSNBC political analyst, columnist for “Congressional Quarterly Magazine,” Craig Crawford, good to see you. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  You‘ve been two days, and Washington is still here. 

OLBERMANN:  I was just going to say the capital is still intact.  We‘re all safe.  You can all go home now.  Let me try follow the logic here; Saddam Hussein was enough of a threat to start an American war.  We started a war to go get him.  He was enough of a threat still, and a tyrant, that even though the reason we went there wasn‘t the truth of the threat, he still merited a war and a perpetual search for him.  He was enough of a risk to be maintained in a prison especially built for him, but when it came to his execution, our government‘s attitude was, Saddam, Saddam who? 

CRAWFORD:  You know, they turned it over to a government that apparently doesn‘t exist.  That‘s the problem here.  This is what we seem to have learned, is that we‘ve got a government, a client state in Iraq that can‘t even handle an execution like this without a big mess. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it a problem when the new leader of the Iraqi government say—not only does he not want a second term, this is al-Maliki I‘m speaking of, but that he really hopes the first term would end kind of quickly?  Is that a bad sign? 

CRAWFORD:  I would say if no one wants the job, and I don‘t imagine it‘s a very long line of people who would want to follow him, given what happens to some of these folks over there.  This is, should have been a great moment of triumph for President Bush.  Saddam Hussein was the man we went there to get, we got him.  The American military deserves some credit for toppling a government in 21 days and eventually finding its leader.

And here we have this execution done in such a way that it looks like a wild west posse went after him, which is, of course, what the president always made this Iraq war to sound like to begin with,  the old wanted, dead or alive. 

OLBERMANN:  Whatever they were attempting to do, what they now have to do is separate themselves and distance themselves from this botched execution and the recording and the taunting and all that.  Is that going to work, or have they now bought themselves a different kind of Kodak moment than they expected?  Is this going to be representative of the culmination of four years of war in Iraq? 

CRAWFORD:  You know, the biggest problem with the Bush administration, Keith, is this image, this video replaces the photo, the image, the video of the Saddam statue being pulled down.  That was the image they wanted to end this game on and now they‘ve got a very different one, and one they‘re not very happy about. 

OLBERMANN:  Is this, instead of being that landmark moment that would be the end of the beginning at least in Iraq, to use Churchill‘s phrase, is it instead the beginning of the end of real hope for peace in that country?  Is it the reverse—you just used the analogy of the statue coming down—was this the equivalent of the statue being put back up? 

CRAWFORD:  I‘m not finding anyone in Washington, Keith, who is with the president on this.  I‘ve talked to a lot of people in the last few days, Democrats, Republicans, people who supported the war, voted for the war.  The president is so isolated on his way forward, which looks a whole lot like stay the course, that all he‘s got is the power of the commander-in-chief, which is plenty.  But when it comes to the political support in this town for going forward in the way he seems to want to go, it‘s not there.  It‘s just simply not there. 

OLBERMANN:  Right now it‘s stay the course, only with more contestants, and that‘s about the only difference.  Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC, as always, a pleasure, and as always, especially a pleasure to see you in the flesh.  

CRAWFORD:  Good to have you here. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you sir.  A final day of tributes to the 38th president.  The events in Washington bespeaking grandure and ceremony.  The events in Michigan bespeaking love and history.  The fair well to Gerald R.  Ford.  And is it finally time for O.J. Simpson to pay up?  The judge weighing in on the blood money Simpson received for the if they published it, “If I Did It” book.  That and more ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One of the—probably the second most nationally recognizable honorary pall bearer in this would have been Bo Schembechler (ph), longtime Michigan football coach, who pre-deceased President Ford by about a month.  And the rest of the names—it‘s personal.  This is the low tech, in the good sense, memorial for a president.  And we‘re seeing salutes, ordinary citizens, not men in uniform, ordinary citizens saluting as the hearse goes by in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There was a majesty, a now he belongs to the ages quality to the farewell to the late President Ford at the National Cathedral here in Washington yesterday.  But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, at the farewell in Mr. Ford‘s hometown today, there was perfect pitch and politicians as strident and as contrasting as Jimmy Carter and Donald Rumsfeld in perfect agreement.  About 34,000 people came to visit the president at the capital rotunda in Washington, but in Grand Rapids, Michigan, between those who lined the streets for the two motorcades before the interment this afternoon, and those who saw Mr. Ford‘s casket at his presidential museum, the number was twice that, and the tributes by Mr.  Rumsfeld, by President Carter, by the historian Richard Norton Smith were exceptional and moving and fitting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER FORD CHIEF OF STAFF:  I‘m grateful that I was serving last year when the Navy considered naming a new aircraft carrier class the USS Gerald ford, a decision to be announced sometime later this month, I‘m told.  And without giving away any secrets, I can report that during that visit with President Ford, I brought him a cap with the USS Gerald R. Ford emblazoned across the top of it.  How fitting it will be that the name Gerald R. Ford will patrol the high seas for decades to come in the defense of the nation he loved so much. 

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We enjoyed each other‘s private company, and he and I commented often that when we were traveling somewhere in an automobile or airplane, we hated to reach our destination, because we enjoyed the private times that we had together.  I still don‘t know any better way to express it than the words I used almost exactly 30 years ago.  For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he did to heal our land. 

RICHARD NORTON SMITH, FORD HISTORIAN:  All this week Americans, many of them too young to recall the strident Summer of 1974, have watched grainy images of an East Room inaugural.  We have listened once more to the words that calmed a nation at war with itself.  Thrust into a place to which he had never aspired, Gerald Ford resolved to make his presidency a time of healing, even as he drew out the poisons released by Vietnam and Watergate.  Thirty years later we acknowledge with pride what then we only dimly perceived, Gerald Ford gave us back our government. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Drawing out the poisons, what a phrase.  And thus, at twilight in his hometown, with his family and friends watching, with American the Beautiful playing in the background, Gerald Rudolph Ford went to his final rest and his long national dream fulfilled is over. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous in our nightly round of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  More than a month after Rupert Murdock finally pulled the plug on O.J. Simpson‘s confessional book and TV special, entitled If I Did It, the families of the victims might finally get to see some of the money from it. 

A California judge issuing a restraining order against Simpson, stopping him from squirling away any more cash that he made for the canceled project.  The family of Ron Goldman also seeking a general assignment order form the court, which would direct people who owe money to Simpson, to instead pay that cash directly to the Goldmans. 

In a saga worthy of soap opera, another California judge just ruled that Anna Nicole Smith must submit her four month old daughter to a paternity test.  Dannie Lynne Hope Marshall Stern (ph) was born in the Bahamas in September.  Smith claims the father is her long-time lawyer, Howard K. Stern.  Hope he doesn‘t bill by the hour.  But Smith‘s former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, says the baby is his.  Now the little girl must undergo DNA testing by the 23rd.  So the results will be ready for a special edition of Maury on the 24th.  I made the last part up, or did I?

Britney Spears‘ people making up another story about their client.  First she wasn‘t unconscious on new year‘s eve, just asleep.  Now she isn‘t in rehab.  She‘s in a—well, the supposed answer ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.

Our bronze tonight to the hopeless romantic Steven Mugerm (ph) of Lanham, Maryland.  A 40-year-old who proposed to his girlfriend just after midnight on new year‘s eve.  She said yes and they lived happily ever after, at least for a couple hours, when he was arrested for assaulting his new fiance with a steering wheel lock like the club.  There first fight.  She was treated and released from the hospital.  He was arrested on a variety of charges.  No word if the wedding is still on. 

The runner-up, climate skeptic Pat Michaels, appearing on Fox News with Neil Cavuto to argue that the recent snow storms in Denver prove there is a northeast bias on global warming.  Quote, if you believe that warming causes cooling, you‘re like my neighbors down in Virginia who think that if you put hot water in the ice cube tray, it freezes faster.  It doesn‘t work that way.  Hey Mr. Michaels, double bad news for you, not only is the Bush administration recognizing global warming, but a Scientific American article and lots of other scholarly research showing that, yes, hot water can freeze faster than cooler water.  Just like your brain evidently froze faster. 

but our winner tonight, it‘s Pat, Pat Robertson has been talking to god again, this time the lord says there is a big terrorist attack resulting in a mass killing coming in 2007.  Quote, I‘m not necessarily saying it‘s going to be nuclear, the lord didn‘t say nuclear, but I do believe it will be something like that.  Pat, snap out of it.  That‘s not the lord‘s voice you‘re hearing.  It maybe a perforated eardrum or an inner ear infection.  Seek medical attention.  Pat Robertson, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When innuendo and rumor engulf a celebrity, there is occasionally a kernel of truth within, and the logical fallacy aside, there is often an understandable inference.  This example, Britney Spears dozes off after midnight at a new year‘s eve celebration.  The next day Miss Spears checks into a spa in Arizona. 

The headline and our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Britney Spears goes to rehab.  If only Miss Spears had stayed home on new year‘s eve, she might have avoided this fine mess.  As we told you yesterday, she was paid to host a party at Pure, a Las Vegas night club.  Reportedly she fell asleep soon after midnight. 

Rumors she passed out not helped by her manager‘s comment that she was just done.  On new year‘s day, according to “Life and Style Weekly,” Miss Spears said hello to Sanctuary, not a club, but an Arizona spa.  A cagey source telling the magazine, quote, with these celebrities exhaustion sometimes means something else. 

There is more blame to go around because Miss Spears would never have hosted that new years eve bash had the original invitee accepted the option, a Miss Jessica Simpson.  According to TMZ.com, club promoters pitched the gig to her, via her manager and father Joe Simpson, but Miss Simpson was not interested.  Instead she hung out with the singer John Mayer at Christina Aguilera‘s new year‘s party. 

And since she was not paid a dime for that, her father is reportedly very steamed.  He‘s also mad still about her botched tribute to Dolly Parton at the Kennedy Center Honors.  Her performance was cut from the broadcast, and to add the real insult to the injury, Miss Simpson will not be reimbursed 15,000 dollars in styling fees.  For his singular viewpoint, let‘s turn to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who is, of course, a regular contributor to VH1‘s Best Week Ever.  Paul, good evening to you. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH1:  Good evening to you Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So the breaking news on Britney Spears, she is simply checking into a relaxing spa, or is this one of those spas that offers o0t 08 minute massages but 28-day programs? 

TOMPKINS:  It‘s sort of a combo of the two, it‘s like a 28-day relaxing spa trip.  They sort of have loose rules, you know, while you enjoy yourself.  No vodka until after 8:00 p.m.  You can have American Spirits, but only the blue pack, and you must wear underpants in the common areas. 

OLBERMANN:  That will be an improvement for her and something she‘ll have to readjust to.  I have to repeat, I don‘t think her manager helped anything here when he described her condition at that new years eve party, quote, she was just done, so we took her out.  Was that Dr. Freud?  Is Dr.  Freud her spokesman? 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, I mean, I don‘t know that you want your manager using mob assassin lingo.  I don‘t know if they shot her with a blow dart.  I don‘t know exactly what that means, if they have some sort of method of knocking her out, but I prefer a more fun term like force quit. 

OLBERMANN:  From your computer terminology.  Tranquilizers would probably be a bad idea if somebody‘s actually headed to rehab.  This life and style report that Ms. Spears‘ parents are urging her daughter to go into therapy.  Would that not have been the course, no matter what happened on new year‘s eve?  I mean, she was married and still is technically married to Kevin Federline. 

TOMPKINS:  You can‘t blame her for not rushing right into the therapist couch, because when does it stop?  If you‘re Britney Spears and you‘re facing therapy, you know that once you start, that‘s your job.  Somebody could say, hey, go count the grains of sand on the beach, but you can‘t really make it sound better to yourself by saying, well, eventually I‘ll be done. 

OLBERMANN:  So Miss Spears breaks up with Federline, parties hard with Paris Hilton, now she either falls asleep or passes out, or both at a new year‘s eve bash, because Jessica Simpson did not want to do this thing.  If Miss Spears really is headed to a spa, who is at the base—who is at the heart, who is really to blame here, Paul? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, there is the theory that it‘s all three, sort of axis of party evil.  You know, and there‘s a lot of corollaries there, like people like Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline have no discernible talent, and yet we‘re talking about them, so it‘s sort of like the entertainment media lied us into paying attention to them. 

OLBERMANN:  I see.  Well, maybe we can get some Democrats elected to the entertainment media and have a big investigation.  But the Jessica Simpson reference here crosses over to Joe Simpson, who is angry about the paycheck being turned down.  How good a dad and how good a manager is he? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, I think every manager father has trouble striking that balance between the two roles, you know, like on the one hand, am I protecting my investment in the exploitation of my daughter like a manager would, or am I simply controlling her every move like a loving dad? 

OLBERMANN:  And one last thing on Miss Spears.  The British magazine More says she is gearing up to pose for a nude portrait of herself because she was inspired by that character in the Titanic movie who had herself drawn nude by Leonardo de Caprio.  Is that part of the therapy, or is this just some sort of freelance thing she‘s going to go do? 

TOMPKINS:  I don‘t know.  I think that‘s just what she does now.  I mean, when is the last time she even talked about putting out an album.  This might be her career, as far as I know, she‘s going to be recreating nude scenes from famous movies.  I personally would like to see the Jo Beth Williams hallway scene from Kramer Versus Kramer. 

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also a contributor to VH1‘s Best Week Ever, and a Kramer Versus Kramer reference, always a pleasure, sir, happy new year, many thanks. 

TOMPKINS:  Happy new year to you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,341st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Washington, 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   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,