updated 1/16/2007 4:07:09 PM ET 2007-01-16T21:07:09

Guests: John Dean, Flynt Leverett, Melissa Lamb, Leah Koffman

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

A constitutional crisis, not just about Iran, but about funding or not funding the troop escalation in Iraq.  The White House says case closed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The brigades that you have spoken of sending over, you‘ve got the money.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Talking—any discussion right now of cutting off money?

SNOW:  I‘ve got to believe that‘s the case.  I believe that‘s the case.  I‘ll double-check, but I believe that‘s the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t sweat it.  The Democrats can check it for you. 

We‘ll check the Constitution with John Dean.

Senator Biden has already promised us a constitutional confrontation if the administration moves against Iran or Syria.  The administration, at least the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seems to think that‘s a fait accompli as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  I think one of the reasons you keep hearing about Iran is because we keep finding their stuff in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What we also keep finding in Iraq is more of our soldiers.  Our soldiers, who will now be found in poorly armored Iraqi vehicles and facilities, making their chances of survival all the smaller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL O‘HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  I think that there‘s going to be a greater vulnerability to car and truck bombs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the balance of power on all this, maybe all else in the Senate with one Democrat still sidelined, 48 healthy Democrats, 49 Republicans, and one independent committed to the Democrats.  Is the Senate actually in the hands of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut?

And not the hands, but another part of the body.  You‘ve already seen the television premiere of the Internet hit right here.  Tonight, you will meet the singer, Bunny, live.  And you will be shocked by her true identity.  Shocked, shocked, I tells ya.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

The unforgettable phrase “axis of evil” trotted out during the first State of the Union address to follow the September 11 attacks, and the three states that term designated as enemies of this one, gaining new relevance this week in the wake of the president‘s most recent words to a national audience.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the increasing and increasingly alarming possibility that the Bush administration is not just escalating its conflict in Iraq but conflating it to include some sort of showdown with Iran, day two of the fallout from the president‘s plan for Iraq bringing his two top military men to the Senate, most Democrats and some Republicans on the Armed Services Committee saying they do not understand how the president‘s plan can work, most Democrats and some Republicans saying that the president has not only escalated the conflict but also widened it by ratcheting up pressure on Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I continue to believe what I told you at the confirmation hearing, that any kind of military action inside Iran itself would be a very last resort.

PACE:  I think one of the reasons you keep hearing about Iran is because we keep finding their stuff in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  I remember Vietnam.  I‘m concerned about whether or not this would require U.S. forces to cross the borders into Iraq—I mean, Iran and Syria to implement this program.  Or does this program envision just actions within the territorial area of Iraq?

GATES:  I believe it refers strictly to operations inside the territory of Iraq.

PACE:  But no need to cross the Iranian border.  We can track down, and are tracking down (INAUDIBLE) have added resources to going after the networks in Iraq, regardless of where they‘re coming from, that are providing tools to kill our troops.

It is instructive that in the last couple of weeks, we‘ve found Iranians twice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Joe Biden telling Secretary Rice yesterday that before crossing the Iranian border, whether as a last resort or otherwise, the Bush administration would need to deal with a constitutional challenge from him first, at the conclusion of the day‘s hearings, Chairman Biden then taking his concerns directly to the White House in writing, telling Mr. Bush of his conversation with Secretary Rice, quote, “I asked her whether, one, in fulfilling this mission, U.S. armed forces could or would cross the Iraqi border into Iran or Syria, and two, the administration believes an incursion into either country can go forward without the authorization of Congress, which does not now exist.  Secretary Rice did not provide direct answers to my questions, so I am addressing them to you and respectfully request an authoritative answer as soon as possible,” Senator Biden‘s office telling COUNTDOWN this afternoon it would let us know as soon as it had received a reply from Mr. Bush, both of us still waiting for that postcard, at the White House, press secretary Snow calling any suggestion that the president might be preparing for war with Iran or Syria an urban legend, also equating any talk in Congress of using the power of the purse to stopping the president from escalating U.S.  involvement in Iraq to wishful thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW:  Funding for the forces (INAUDIBLE) to dispatch into the region, it‘s already in the budget.  I mean, we have ongoing military operations financed till later this year, and this is part of ongoing military operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How late in the year do you figure you have the money for...

SNOW:  I don‘t know, you‘ll have to ask the congressional—that‘s a good question, I don‘t have an answer.  (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

SNOW:  No, no, no, no, no, no, no.  I think (INAUDIBLE) till May or June, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In effect, you‘re saying to those on Capitol Hill who would consider a vote for cutting off funding, it‘s moot.

SNOW:  No.  I mean, look, they‘ve—they‘re going to have to make the votes.  Again, at some point, the way you do this is, (INAUDIBLE) they‘ll have an opportunity to have votes later in the year, they‘ll have to make their decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The brigades that you have spoken of sending over, you‘ve got the money.

SNOW:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Talking—any discussion right now of cutting off funding?

SNOW:  I‘ve got to believe that‘s the case.  I believe that‘s the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For more on the potential constitutional showdown shaping up between this White House and the 110th Congress, let‘s call again upon Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, author most recently of “Conservatives Without Conscience,” and, of course, an old friend of COUNTDOWN.

John, good evening.  Thanks once more.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is Tony Snow right?  Is the money already in the budget, at least in the short term?  And is there any way to stop the escalation using the purse strings?  Or is the Constitution on the president‘s side?

DEAN:  I think probably he—Snow is right, that in the short term, there probably is funding.  It‘s probably in a supplemental appropriation bill.  I haven‘t thumbed through them all, but they do expire rather quickly.  They‘re rather short term.

So in the long run, there will be a vote on this, and there can be a vote on this, indeed, if the House and Senate want to get into it.

OLBERMANN:  And there would seem also to be a recent example of the budgetary end run that the administration is employing now, in that when it prepared for the invasion of Iraq, it took some money designated for Afghanistan, and diverted it.  If a Pentagon budget is as convoluted as, say, just as an example, a Halliburton expense report, what can Congress ultimately do to check the White House after it has said, Well, OK, generally?

DEAN:  Well, Keith, the power of the Congress with the budget is plenary.  They really do have war powers and control over war powers through the budget.  This goes back all the way to the earliest days of our presidencies, from the constitutional founding.  Jefferson, of course, talked about using the purse to control the dogs of war.

So there‘s no question that authority exists, and it‘s a question of whether the Congress has the will to use it.  So I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that they can do it.  It‘s a question of whether they will do it.

OLBERMANN:  Jack Murtha had suggested that one of the things that could be done at this point, constitutionally, is anything else that comes in regarding the budget, regarding Iraq or now anywhere else, could be vetted line by line in the appropriate subcommittees, and weeded it out then, and basically the whole matter of these budgetary supplementals, or the full budget, would be then thrown back to the president, and if he wants to veto the whole thing, that‘s really the easiest way for Congress to have any kind of impact.  Do you buy into that theory?

DEAN:  Well, that‘s, of course, why the president would like line-item vetoes, or more control over the details.  That is a very successful tactic by Congress, to put as many things in an omnibus bill as they can, particularly in budgetary bills, where the president dare not veto it and close down the government.  We‘ve been there, done that, and that‘s a very strong leverage by the House and the Senate to indeed get what they want in that bill.

OLBERMANN:  Expanding this, as the president seemed to imply we were expanding the entire conflict in his speech the other night, are we headed to a constitutional crisis or conflict or something in between, should the White House choose to draw Iran into this conflict in any meaningful way?

DEAN:  Well, I think this White House knows that the American people do not have much interest in their warmongering, so they‘re not going to get any kind of congressional approval to do this sort of thing.  We‘ve heard the debate that‘s going up on the Hill.  The Hill is very suspicious of where they‘re going with this.

So indeed, if they do do --  I think they have two options, Keith.  They can do what Nixon did, which is to use the excuse of withdrawing by going—to withdraw troops, to protect them, you‘ve got to into Iran and, as Nixon did in Laos and Cambodia, or you could have a client state like Israel do the dirty work for you and avoid a constitutional crisis on both of those routes with some—the pretext of the way you‘re proceeding.

OLBERMANN:  To what degree is all this going to be decided by the old advice, Get there first?  I mean, if the troops are there, Congress can‘t very well call them back.  And if the safe is locked, the president can‘t very well pay for their air fare out of his pocket.

DEAN:  Well, we don‘t know about that.  We know that the—that did happen during the Reagan administration, where there was a tin cup passed around to deal with a prohibition by the Congress on funding the contras, and indeed, we went to friendly countries and got money and kept it out of the appropriations process.

A visibility this high as what‘s going on in Iraq, you couldn‘t do that.  So the short answer is, Keith, if the Congress cuts off the funds, the president‘s in trouble.  He‘s got to bring the troops home.

OLBERMANN:  In your analysis of the Bush administration, was Iran always on the planning maps?

DEAN:  Well, I—it‘s hard to think it hasn‘t been, since it‘s been in a part of the axis of evil from day one, and the neoconservatives have certainly indeed had it on their radar since day one.  And it‘ll be surprising if indeed he somehow extricates himself from the mess we‘ve got in Iraq without at least some effort to fill their desire to deal with Iran simultaneously.

OLBERMANN:  Nixon White House counsel John Dean.  As always, John, great thanks for your insight tonight.  Have a good weekend.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what the president said about Iran particularly in Wednesday‘s speech, and what he may have really meant, let us turn now to former CIA and Bush administration National Security Counsel senior official, Flynt Leverett.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

FLYNT LEVERETT, FORMER BUSH NSC OFFICIAL:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Are we to conclude from the president‘s speech Wednesday evening that the real escalation of this war may not be troop deployment in Iraq, but a wider conflict involving Iran?

LEVERETT:  Certainly the president is laying both the rhetorical conditions and the operational conditions that would enable him in coming months to take military action against Iran, and I think, frankly, those were the most important parts of the speech on Wednesday night.

Rhetorically, he said that Iran is providing material support to attacks on U.S. forces.  That is a casus belli.  And, of course, he outlined a series of operational steps that really, in many ways, can only, or primarily, be justified or explained with reference to Iran.

OLBERMANN:  There has been much use in the last 48 hours of the term “regional conflict.”  There was a senior Pentagon official who told NBC News that the U.S. military has changed its perspective about the war in Iraq, now looking at it as a, quote, “regional conflict with Baghdad as the center of gravity.”

How significant is the terminology in this?  This is—this indicate an actual procedural shift, a policy shift, or just somebody coming up with some new terms?

LEVERETT:  I—well, it is new terminology.  But I think it does have some real significance.

The way that the president and his administration have presented what we‘re doing in Iraq to the American people and to the rest of the world is that we are helping Iraqis create the conditions necessary for a stable and democratic future.

What we‘re saying now is, rather than our efforts failing, what we‘re saying is that it is other actors in the region, primarily Iran, perhaps to a lesser extent Syria, who are keeping that project from succeeding.  And so the nature of the project is changing from helping Iraqis make their own future, to stopping these bad actors from contributing to the failure of the American project in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  For literally years, anybody who‘d written that we would

wind up someday in Iran—Sy Hersh comes to mind, or just blogged about it

was dismissed as an alarmist or something worse.  Now, whatever it means, it‘s been in a presidential speech.  Has a showdown with Iran been part of the plan all along?  Or was this something improvised lately as part of some last-chance strategy at the White House?

LEVERETT:  I think it‘s somewhere in between.  Certainly there are powerful actors in the administration, such as the vice president, who have all along believed that Iran should be a major target in the war on terror, and that we were going to have to take on Iran at some point.

I think the president has been very, very reluctant, resistant, to doing anything by way of serious diplomacy with Iran because he thinks this regime is fundamentally illegitimate.  But I think now the fact that his Iraq policy is failing, and the efforts that the U.S. has been pursuing through the Security Council to limit Iran‘s nuclear development, those are also, I think, collapsing around them.

And I think that the president is now finding the idea of military force against Iran more and more attractive, as both his Iraq policy and his Iran policy are failing.  And he himself doesn‘t want to pursue serious diplomacy with Iran.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ve raised this question a couple of times since that speech, and I really haven‘t heard it discussed much elsewhere.  The situation that President Ahmadinejad in Iran is in, would it not seem that, given the sort of paranoia about the United States that he‘s tried to spread to harden his grasp on a country that may be wobbling a little bit about him, isn‘t this feeding directly into what he needs to stay in power, to say, Look, the Americans really are after us?

LEVERETT:  This is a disastrous course for the United States on all sorts of levels of our policy objectives toward Iran.  Certainly, if we go down this road, it will give a new life—lease on life to President Ahmadinejad and to the regime as a whole.  I think it will have devastating consequences for our strategic position in the region more generally.

I think if—to the extent that we are headed down this road, it will be a course that imposes very, very serious damage on American interests in this critical part of the world.

OLBERMANN:  Flynt Leverett, former senior director for Middle East affairs in the National Security Council.  Our great thanks for joining us tonight, sir.

LEVERETT:  Thanks very much.

OLBERMANN:  Also here tonight, bad enough that the president‘s proposal will put more troops in harm‘s way for good or for bad, but it also turns out, it takes away some of the protections for our soldiers already in Baghdad.

The power to stop the administration in Iraq, or indeed potentially in Iran, could soon lie in the hands of one man positioning himself as the linchpin in the U.S. Senate.  So just what are Senator Joe Lieberman‘s intentions?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The premise of Mr. Bush‘s troop escalation in Iraq includes, among other things, the acknowledgment that a greater American presence might inspire disproportionately greater attacks on Americans.

And in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, nowhere did Mr. Bush note that there is yet another reason our casualties could go up far more than the percentages would even suggest.

Many of the newly deployed Americans will be serving in Iraqi units, riding in Iraqi vehicles.  And if you think our facilities and transports have less protective armor than they can use, the Iraqi troops and police might as well be riding around on parade floats.

Richard Engel has the grim details from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC BEIRUT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  U.S. soldiers from the 15 Cavalry patrol west Baghdad.  But under the new security plan here, Iraqi troops pick the targets.

1ST LT. JASON COLLINS, 15TH CAVALRY DIVISION:  We‘ve been trying to give them some freedom in (INAUDIBLE), in, you know, organizing their own patrols and letting them lead us where they want to go.

ENGEL:  That‘s not the only change.  In the past, U.S. troops in Baghdad fought and then returned to secured bases.  But when American soldiers left, Iraqi forces couldn‘t or wouldn‘t hold their ground.  Under the new plan, Baghdad will be divided into nine districts, and 600 to 700 American troops will stay in each one every night, in Baghdad police stations.

The problem is, those police stations are nowhere near as protected as American bases.

O‘HANLON:  It‘s much harder to protect a lot of small outposts than a couple of big ones.  And I think that there‘s going to be a greater vulnerability to car and truck bombs.

ENGEL:  And U.S. troops shouldn‘t expect much protection from Iraqi forces, which have trouble defending themselves.

(on camera):  One of the main problems with the Iraqi security forces is that the vast majority of their vehicles are not armored.  In this one, they‘ve just attached a few metal plates to the back of a pickup truck.  They‘ll stop bullets, but do nothing against a roadside bomb.

(voice-over):  Today, the U.S. ambassador here said the potential rewards of the new plan outweigh the dangers to U.S. troops.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ:  Yes, risky it will be, but it is a risk associated with a greater prospect for success.

ENGEL:  More Americans deeper in the fight, perhaps at more risk themselves.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Not just the president and his party supporting the plan to put American troops in more danger, but the alleged independent Democrat-like Joe Lieberman as well.  We‘ll explore the reasons behind his positions ahead.

And a COUNTDOWN world exclusive.  We‘ve already revealed, through exhaustive research, just what was in the box.  Now, the shocking revelation of just who the girl behind the box really is.  Prepare to meet Bunny, exclusively on COUNTDOWN, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was on this date, January 12, 1992, in the movie, January 12, 1997, in the novel, that the heuristically programmed algorithmic 9000 series computer became operational in a factory in Urbana, Illinois, and was then loaded onto a manned mission to Jupiter in Arthur C.  Clarke‘s “2001.”

You know it better as HAL, the H from “heuristically,” and the A and the L from “algorithm.”

But in the French version of the film, the acronym becomes CARL, and oddly, in the German version, it‘s CHER.

I made that last part up.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And in honor of HAL, Dave, we bring you two stories demonstrating just how close we are to Clarke‘s vision of the future, first from Japan, and then from the U.S.  You decide who‘s winning the tech race.

This is the living room of the future.  On display at Tokyo University, it includes robotic lighting, sensors in the ceiling and floor to track the humans‘ every move.  And finally, there‘s this robot butler.  All you need to do is make the command, and Optimus Prime here will bring you a drink and even do the dishes afterwards.

Japanese once again proving to be the worldwide leader in future technology.

Then again, there‘s this item from Atlanta, the toilet of the future.  Tah-dah!  Built by a national plumbing product company, this techno-throne features a DVD player, X-Box, iPod docking station—I think that‘s what it‘s for—Internet connection, and even a beer tap, all to enjoy while you do your dirty, dirty business.  Ladies, your husband doesn‘t have a going problem, he‘s trying to reach Level 6 of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Of course, there are several obvious issues with such an invention gaining popularity, including the danger of electrocution for those with bad aim.  And I‘ll be damned if I ever use that keyboard after the last guy was in there.

Finally, to London, where they‘re all about the present, because in the future, it‘ll be too hot to play ice chess.  It‘s the big annual match between the Russian champ and the British grand master, going head to head via satellite, each with his own huge outdoor chessboard and giant ice pieces.  The players pushed the big frozen chessmen to a draw, being careful to avoid the biggest danger of a match like this.  As anyone who saw Flick get his tongue stuck to the frozen pole in the movie “Christmas Story” knows, never lick the bishop.

Also tonight, he says he‘s an independent Democrat.  So why is Senator Lieberman of Connecticut getting quoted by President Bush in national speeches and cozying up to the Republican presidential candidate, Mr.  McCain?

And sadly, it seemed like just another one of those missing children stories until the boy was discovered safe, and with him was another boy missing since 2002.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, MySpace.com.  Got an inquiry today about which of my several MySpace pages is really mine.  The answer is, I don‘t have a MySpace page, and I don‘t intend to get one.  And therein lies the fundamental flaw with MySpace.

Number two, Hercules the Cat.  He weighs 20 pounds, and because of his girth, he has been reunited with his owner.  Hercules disappeared in Seattle six months ago, and his owner, Jeff Ernest (ph), had all but given up hope.  Then news came that a 20-pound cat had gotten stuck in a doggie door in Portland, Oregon.  It was Hercules.  The real question is how a 20-pound cat maintained his weight while living on the streets for six months.

Keep your hands away from the cat‘s mouth!

Number one, Franklyn Pigott Jr. of Cape Coral, Florida, the latest victim of the failure to read the instructions.  He found that bees had made a nest on the outside of his house, so he got some Real Kill Indoor Fogger, and then, evidently figuring since he wasn‘t indoors, he would need more firepower, he mixed it with WD40 oil, which, if you didn‘t know, consists of solvents, gasoline, and the fluid they use at the dry cleaners. 

Mr. Pigott now knows all about that, because the combination promptly lit his house on fire.  The bees, they‘re fine, thank you. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You may have heard that there actually is some Democratic support for Mr. Bush‘s plan to escalate the U.S. troop levels in Iraq.  You may have heard that Mr. Bush credits Democratic inspiration for some of his ideas.  You may have heard that Mr. Bush plans to form a bipartisan group on terror, with, of course, a Democratic component. 

Who are these Democrats supporting the president, pushing for escalation, helping him portray himself as bipartisan?  In our third story tonight, COUNTDOWN researchers have compiled an exhaustive list of exactly who these Democrats are.  That‘s him over there.  They found Joe Lieberman, who‘s technically an independent. 

In fact, Senator Lieberman has been campaigning with Republic Senator John McCain not for president, at least not yet, but rather to push for an even bigger escalation in Iraq.  Lieberman also offered praise for Mr. Bush after Mr. Bush‘s speech praised him and now “Newsweek” is reporting that despite campaign time calls for greater scrutiny of Mr. Bush‘s handling of Hurricane Katrina, Senator Lieberman is saying he will not subpoena potentially embarrassing internal documents detailing White House decision making as Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

Let‘s turn to the founder of HuffingtonPost.com, Arianna Huffington, also, of course, the author of “On Becoming Fearless.”  Arianna, thanks, as always, for joining us.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Throughout election night, on the air, I kept saying, my god, the Senate is going to come down to Joe Lieberman.  He claimed he would caucus with the Democrats.  He‘s officially listed as an independent, but he won 70 percent of the Republican vote in Connecticut last November.  Is there a reason he doesn‘t he make it official and switch parties?

HUFFINGTON:  Yes, I think the main reason is probably that it would validate all the people, including many in the blogosphere, who kept saying that he‘s really a Republican in sheep‘s clothing, and maybe the other reason is that Zell Miller has already become the most popular kind of guy on the corporate gigs, you know, in terms of the guy who moved from Democrat to Republican.

And there is too much tape of him swearing to his Democratic principles and he is loyal to the Democratic party.

OLBERMANN:  Than can you, in that context, explain the McCain flirtation?

HUFFINGTON:  You know, it‘s like having a guy who is crazy and feeling much more comfortable when there is somebody else there, and they believe the same things and they look at each other and they say, see, I‘m not really crazy.  The other guy sees the giant pink rabbit in the room too.  Because the two of them are really like a perfect demonstration of the psychological term (INAUDIBLE).  You know, when you believe in something as delusionally as the idea that by escalating in Iraq we are going to be able to be victorious, how else do you explain it?

In fact, do you know that his first major hire when he got back to the Senate, for Joe Lieberman, was Marshall Whitman, who used to John McCain‘s spokesman.

OLBERMANN:  Would the real Elwood P. Dowd please stand up?  Last year Senator Lieberman complained publicly about the White House‘s secrecy on its handling of Katrina in 2005.  And now, even though he is now the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, he is not going to use his subpoena power to find out how the current administration turned a natural disaster into an unmitigated disaster.  What is he gaining by reversing himself on that, when it would seem to be such an open door for anyone who wants to say, gee, you‘re not really that independent nor Democrat?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, you know Keith, all the support that he got from Republicans, including sharing their voter files, that led to 70 percent of Republicans voting for him, as you pointed out, did not come with no price.  And what is interesting is that the Democrats who believed that there would be no difference between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman, including Bill Clinton, who went on Larry King and said that Connecticut is an unmitigated blessing, and I quote, for the Democrats, whoever wins, are now proven absolutely wrong.

Lieberman is going to be a very hard independent Democrat to have in the Senate.

OLBERMANN:  His aides say we can see the D, Democrat side when issues come up like ethics and global warming.  Given his support on those issues, not to mention that he could give the Senate to the GOP if he is crossed, or just feels like it, aren‘t his extra curricular activities a small price for Democrats to pay?  Is he not a necessary evil from the Democratic party‘s point of view right now?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, you know, Keith, the problem is that this is like somebody having a horrible disease and looking at some positive side effect, like having terminal cancer and saying, but I‘m losing weight in the process.  You know, the major issue of our time is Iraq.  And where he stand on Iraq and the cover he gives to the White House on Iraq is more important than any other issue, unfortunately. 

OLBERMANN:  Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor of HuffingtonPost.com.  As always, Arianna, great thanks for joining us.  Have a good weekend.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  An amazing story breaking out of Missouri this evening, searchers trying to rescue one missing boy, finding two of them.  An extraordinary finish to an awful week. 

And the shocking conclusion to a lengthy and grueling COUNTDOWN investigation, requiring many, many page views, the revelation about the Internet spoof hit “My Box in a Box.”  Just who is this Bunny? If you‘re trying to guess, this advice, think outside the box.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bytes of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID WU, HOUSE MEMBER:  This president has listened to some people, the so called Vulcans in the White House, the ideologues.  But, you know, unlike the Vulcans of Star Trek, who made their decisions based on logic and fact, these guys make it on ideology.  These aren‘t Vulcans.  They are our Klingons in the White House.  But unlike the real Klingons of Star Trek, these Klingons have never fought a battle of their own.  Don‘t let faux Klingons send real Americans to war.  It‘s wrong.

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  And now ladies and gentlemen, it‘s time for a message from George W. Bush. 

BUSH:  And one message came through loud and clear—millions of ordinary people are sick of me and my administration.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For all the hysteria that often surrounds the subject of child abductions, many of them are domestic disputes, many are runaways, sometimes, just sometimes those which really are abductions by strangers are resolved relatively quickly, with the victim alive and well. 

But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a story of child kidnapping that captivated the nation this week has ended in exceedingly rare fashion, happily and with a stunning and wonderful bonus.  Our correspondent, Chris Clacken has been following the details, still emerging, out of Missouri tonight.  He sent us this report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CLACKEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It is a remarkable discovery of not one, but two boys missing from neighboring counties just outside St. Louis.  Thirteen-year-old Ben stepped Undby (ph) stepped off a school bus into and virtual oblivion this past Monday near his home in Buford.  Sean Hornbeck was 11 when he disappeared from nearby Richwoods, over four years ago. 

Both boys were found Friday in the same suburban St. Louis home of 41 year-old Michael Devlin (ph), who now stands accused of kidnapping both. 

ROBERT PARKS, PROSECUTOR:  More charges are likely to be filed as we find out about that, but at the present time, we have filed one charge.  He is still being questioned. 

CLACKEN:  The sheriff says the tip off was the white truck parked outside Devlin‘s house that matched the one seen speeding away when Ben Undby disappeared Monday.  So authorities went knocking and found both boys inside, unharmed. 

SHERIFF GARY TOELKE:  FRANKLIN COUNTY:  They appear to be in good health, but obviously we will check that out later on.

CLACKEN:  Now there is overwhelming joy for two families who say they never lost hope, even when weeks turned into years. 

Chris Clacken, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE

OLBERMANN:  And happily on to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs and the strange post mortum of James Brown continues.  The five year old son of Mr. Brown and his partner, Tommy Rae Heine (ph), is not included in his will.  Six other children are provided for, this according to the attorney handling Mr. Brown‘s estate, Strom Thurmond jr..  This keeps getting better and better, by getting worse and worse. 

Miss Heine, who refers to Mr. Brown as her husband has been locked out of the house in Beach Island, South Carolina, so her attorney says he knows nothing about the will.  As we told you yesterday, the same kind of confusion and legal wrangling has kept the remains of Mr. Brown from being buried.  His body is apparently being kept in a sufficiently chilled room, watched by security guards. 

They may have to be reassigned.  It may take security guards to keep Britney Spears from losing another Chia Wa Wa (ph).  She has reportedly bought her fourth.  Miss Spears previously owned three other Chia Wa Was, Luck, Lacy and Bit Bit.  That is Bit Bit pictured there, along with nitwit.  I‘m sorry K-Fed, Fed-Ex, hat boy, you know, Kevin Federline.  Those three other doggies mysteriously disappeared while Miss Spears was still with Mr.  Federline, according to “US Weekly,” but she showed up at a Bell Air pet store recently with her two year old son and bought a new Chia Wa Wa, of the tea cup apple head variety.  According to sources, Miss Spears was calling the new puppy Snow White.  But Snow White has the same unofficial nickname as the other Chia Wa Was, namely, hey, were is the damned dog?

Turning from a panty-less pop star to the box in a box.  The true identify of the mysterious Bunny, singing about her gift.  It is a shocking COUNTDOWN exclusive, and it‘s next.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze tonight to FoxNews.com.  Evidently Bill-O‘s tertiary, syphilis-like NBC paranoia is highly contagious.  The third item on the web page today, since moved down, was headlined bias alert.  Which NBC biggy said, Cheney always wants to kill?  Given that tomorrow is 11 months to the day since the vice president shot his friend in the face, while out killing birds, boy, it really is a shame when the facts are biased, isn‘t it?

Our runner up, Steven J. Radomaker (ph), the U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, who negotiated the alarming deal by which the Bush administration sold nuclear technology to India, even though India is not a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  Mr. Radomaker has now resigned his post to join the lobbying firm of Barber, Griffith and Rogers, which just happened to have represented India in the same deal Radomaker agreed to.  Coincidence, no doubt. 

But the winner, Bill Kristol, editor of the “Weekly Standard” on, where else, Fox, complaining about the president‘s speech.  Quoting, I wish there were a little more about winning the war and a little less about helping the Iraqis.  Well sure, because after all it‘s not like Mr. Bush dragged us in there to liberate the people or establish democracy in Iraq or—oh, yes, he did. 

Bill Kristol, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We end the week where we began.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, with the enigma that is Bunny.  She is responsible for the satire of a satire, the video called “My Box In a Box.”   If this is somehow new to you, and two million online views, to say nothing of 935,000 viewers here on Monday, suggests it is not, its inspiration was a “Saturday Night Live” spoof of boy bands, which put something else in a box, the word for it bleeped 16 times. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  NBC provided the unbleeped version to the Internets, but that was hardly the end of this.  Which is were Bunny comes in with her take on the box motif, as we showed you earlier this week in its worldwide TV premier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It has its own blog spot, tracking the global adulation of the little ditty.  But Bunny has only a MySpace, cryptically listing her as 20 years old, living in New York City.  Now at last, Bunny has agreed to reveal her true identity to COUNTDOWN in this exclusive interview, which will stir the pot of journalism, not to mention the swamps of Secaucus, with a frenzy unseen until this day.

And now the moment of revelation, the shocking truth about Bunny.  Ladies and gentlemen, Bunny, two Bunnies.  I don‘t know what you guys are up to.  I suppose we have one way of settling this, with a refrain from the song.  Right here, right now.  Go ahead please Bunnies. 

(SINGING)

OLBERMANN:  An intercontinental lip synch that worked.  All right, we‘ll explain.  At the left, Melissa Lamb, AKA Bunny, and at the right Leah Koffman, AKA Bunny.  Leah, you are the singer?

LEAH KOFFMAN, BUNNY:  Yes, I am, indeed. 

OLBERMANN:  And this was your creation? 

KOFFMAN  Actually a bunch of friends and I were talking about how funny it would be to kind of remake dick in a box from a female perspective.  So I approached my friend Rick Frederick, who is a Philadelphia area producer, and we started tracking the song, and the longer we were recording, the funnier it got, and thus “Box in a Box” was born. 

OLBERMANN:  And after this thing got pitched, tell us a little bit about the work up to the final track. 

KOFFMAN:  I mean, we basically just got together and started co-writing.  Rick made the track and I sung over it and we were just going back and forth with ideas and it came out really nicely. 

OLBERMANN:  It was time to shoot a video, obviously, because that was the final sell point, after the other one, the “Saturday Night Live” version.  What happened—why aren‘t you performing the song?

KOFFMAN  Actually, I am studying in London right now and I was due in a couple of days.  So I didn‘t really have the time to commit to a video.  So luckily we found Melissa and she ended up doing an incredible job on the video, lip synching and acting, and now it‘s a hit.  

OLBERMANN:  So Melissa, you are the face of Bunny.  Are you getting stopped on the street yet?  Is that why this is all being revealed her tonight?

MELISSA LAMB, BUNNY:  The street hasn‘t been too bad.  I go to Penn in Philly, so on campus people really know about it, but the real fans are online, where the video got really big.  They found all my online profiles and e-mailing and everything like that.  So, that is where the real fame has been.

OLBERMANN:  How about the internal fame, Melissa.  Have you shown this video to your family?  I mean, was there a point where you said, look mom, I‘m famous?

LAMB:  Yes, when we first made it I showed it to my family and my boyfriend and that was it.  And then all my friends kind of found it on their own and e-mailed and called me.  Once it got big they just, you know, were so excited for me, so.

OLBERMANN:  Leah, are you happy to have relieved yourself of the big secret, to lay claim to your Bunny identity? 

KOFFMAN:  Yes, I mean, this has been an incredible experience for all of us and, I mean, we have had such a great response, bloggers, soldiers in Iraq contacted us about how much they loved it, radio stations.  I mean, this is just incredible.   

OLBERMANN:  And what will be next for you on this?  I mean, when you get back from London, do you want to do another project, video included?  Are you looking for a duet with Justin Timberlake maybe?  

KOFFMAN:  You never know.  Yes, I definitely would like to do more satire and maybe something a little more serious as well.  So, I am just waiting to see what the future brings. 

OLBERMANN:  Well the thing that probably sells it, with no offense to Melissa, but the thing that sells it is you can really sing on this.  So congratulations on that end of it. 

KOFFMAN:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Melissa, let me ask you one last question here.  I understand you brought a prop from the video with you. 

LAMB:  Yes, I did.  I have it right here.  I have the infamous box right here. 

OLBERMANN:  And what is going happen to that?  Is it going eBay?  Is it going to be one of those things you hold onto forever, that will always, so to speak, be attached to you?   

LAMB:  Well, we actually had a ton of requests from all the fans through e-mail that they wanted my box.  So we put it on eBay for them.  It has just been so much fun to watch all the fans.  It is kind of interesting when you have a whole Internet fan base.  I‘m constantly checking to see what they like, and everything and they love the blog, and they‘re really excited for the box being on eBay.  So, I guess, you can kind of say I have become the fan of the fans now. 

OLBERMANN:  Congratulations Melissa Lamb and Leah Koffman, the face and voice of Bunny respectively.  Exclusively revealing themselves—well, they‘ve already been revealed on the Internet.  Great thanks, and good luck to both of you.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,350th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  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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