updated 1/23/2007 12:49:37 PM ET 2007-01-23T17:49:37

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Richard Clarke, Maria Milito

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

A bill in the Senate criticizing the troop escalation.  Another in the House, demanding the president report every 30 days on the conduct of the war.  No big deal?  It wouldn‘t be, except the Senate criticism is proposed by Republican John Warner, the House oversight proposed by minority leader John Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  It is a bipartisan, overwhelming bipartisan opposition to escalating the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Do you think?

But on the eve of the State of the Union, does the president even know he‘s got a rebellion in his own backyard?

(BEGIN WEBCAST CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  So let the conversation begin.  I have a feeling it‘s going to be very interesting.

(END WEBCAST CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Certainly, the announcement was very, very interesting, on a Saturday, on the Internet, and on to the battlefield against Senator Obama and everybody else for the next year to 18 months, today for Senator Clinton to ground zero, preventing any other ground zeroes, theoretically part of the reason there‘s a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

So where is the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq?  Delayed somehow?  Our special guest, former chief counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke.

Seen the new Fox ad?  The trolley has definitely come off those tracks.  Well, we have an answer, lunatics.

Speaking of which, our “American Idol” princess, Maria Milito.  Ms. 

Abdul is not drunk, Mr. Cowell is not happy that he went this far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you borrowed Randy‘s (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What?

SIMON COWELL:  You look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes.  What are they called, bush baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bush babies?  Now he‘s making political statements?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Washington.

On the eve of the State of the Union, President Bush has been thrown under the proverbial bus on the subject of Iraq by John Warner, Susan Collins, and Norm Coleman in the Senate, and by minority leader John Boehner in the House.

Mr. Bush gets thrown under that vehicle so often by members of his own party that it‘s now listed on the bus schedules.

Senator Clinton‘s candidacy in a moment, in depth.

But our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, not the imperial presidency, not the accidental presidency, but the tire-marks presidency.  After an extraordinarily bloody weekend for American troops in Iraq, 27 killed, and on a day that saw nearly 100 Iraqis die in a coordinate attack on a Baghdad marketplace, the Republicans revolted again, the House minority leader, Mr. Boehner, along with Republican Representatives Adam Putnam, Thaddeus McCodder (ph), and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter, announcing a plan that would make it at least look like they were going to hold the president responsible for what happens in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  Our plan includes strategic benchmarks to hold the Bush administration and the Iraqi government accountable, and require the administration to report to Congress every 30 days.  Also today, we‘re proposing the creation of a bipartisan select committee to assess and monitor the implementation and the effectiveness of the president‘s new strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just 15 minutes later, Republicans in the Senate bucked their leader‘s call for the support of the president‘s plan, introducing their own nonbinding bipartisan resolution to oppose a troop increase, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, writing the measure with fellow Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, with input from the Republican Gordon Smith, support from the Republican Norm Coleman, Senator Warner stressing He believes the president might actually listen to this proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA):  I accept the president at his word.  He did it not once, not twice, but I know of three times where he has said, on national television and otherwise, I will listen to the ideas of others.

I feel ever so strongly that the American GI is not trained, not sent over there, certainly not by resolution of this institution, to be placed in the middle of a fight between the Sunni and the Shi‘a and the wanton and just incomprehensible killing that‘s going on at this time.

We urge, Mr. President, respecting your right as commander in chief, we urge you to look at other options, by which you do not have the magnitude of 21,500 inserted into Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Warner‘s fellow Republican Senators Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe already sponsoring an antiescalation resolution, along with the Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Joe Biden, Mr. Biden claiming this weekend that there is even more support for stopping the president‘s plan than is publicly known.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  There‘s a bipartisan, overwhelming bipartisan opposition to escalating the war, overwhelming consensus that we should deescalate the war, bipartisan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, “Newsweek”‘s chief White House correspondent, our own Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Considering this new resolution, and we‘ve lost track of how many there might be, we can‘t put a number on this one, the one from Senators Warner and Collins, paired with at least six other Republican senators who are against the troop surge in various ways, others are still evaluating the president‘s plan, is Senator Biden right?  Is he understating things?  Is there strong bipartisan support for, if not deescalating the war, then at least not escalating it any further?

WOLFFE:  Well, Senator Biden never understates things.  Look, there is no question it was a huge blow to the White House to lose Senator Warner today, a very well respected figure, well liked, and especially expert on the subject.

And the White House was assuming, was really calculating that Senator Warner would stay where I think the overwhelming majority of Republicans are, which is on the fence.  They thought he would be skeptical, but essentially uncommitted.

It‘s true that the majority of public opinion, majority in Congress, is clearly against this plan.  But it‘s ironic that, given where Republicans have tried to paint themselves for the last five years, straight talkers, strong talkers on national security, so many Republicans are being silent.  Obviously Senator Warner has voiced his position now, and is very clearly against the plan.

OLBERMANN:  Do we know what the head count is?  I mean, this time last week, it sure looked like Mitch McConnell had the votes to not only defeat a bipartisan measure in the Senate, but possibly filibuster it to death before it got to a vote.  Is that likely to happen now?

WOLFFE:  Well, Senator McConnell‘s filibuster is all that stands now between the White House and a terribly embarrassing defeat here.  And really, it‘s not enough to stop this nonbinding resolution.  Again, the calculation for the White House is that it‘s just going to be a token gesture.  Democrats, again, still think that this is the start, not the end, of the process.

OLBERMANN:  In the House, minority leader Boehner taking paints to stress that his party‘s proposals were intended to help the president and his policy in Iraq.  Yet at best, he‘s still offering Mr. Bush what the Congress offered Mr. Lincoln during the Civil War, a committee on the conduct of the war.  Is the White House startled about Boehner?  Was it coincidental that Boehner used that term “benchmarks,” that White House term, in his comments today?

WOLFFE:  I don‘t think anything minority leader Boehner does is coincidental here.  Look, the leadership was up at Camp David with President Bush just the other weekend.  They socialized together, they strategized together.  And this is an extension of what these folks were doing in the runup to November‘s election.

It didn‘t work then to try and separate themselves from the White House.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work now.  As one senior Bush strategist told me just a few days ago, if 2008 is about Iraq, there‘s really no way Republicans can win.  They need to take it off the table completely.  So no amount of extra committees is really going to change that.

OLBERMANN:  And tonight, we have this report from ABC News that Iraqi insurgents had drawn up a plan of some sort to attack the U.S. use student visas in much the way the 9/11 hijackers did, to sneak into the country.  There has been a new Zawahiri tape in which he taunts the president‘s plan to send over more troops.  He says, Send over the entire Army.

Given the administration habit, it‘s almost a record of releasing information on what has been usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis.  Is it too cynical to think that the timing of these stories today might be suspicious, on the eve of the State of the Union address, with the president going out there virtually naked tomorrow night?

WOLFFE:  Well, I don‘t know about these individual threats.  One thing is true, the administration has been so fearful about Iraqis infiltrating into the country and possibly becoming sleeper cells, that‘s one of the big reasons why there are so few Iraqi refugees from this war, unlike other conflicts.

And again, setting aside this current—these current stories for a minute, you‘re going to hear something very explicit again from the president, saying that if America pulls out from Iraq, the terrorists will follow, follow American soldiers home.  They will come over here.

So it‘s a very explicit projection and threat from the president‘s own mouth.  And I think you‘re going to hear it tomorrow again.

OLBERMANN:  And the rebuttal after it?  We‘re hearing, everything I heard today, since my arrival here, was that Senator Webb‘s statement, new Senator Webb of Virginia, with a, with a son in, in Iraq, that this may be the strongest rebuttal, the most personal rebuttal, to a State of the Union address we‘ve heard.

WOLFFE:  Well, he speaks very forcefully and passionately, and he obviously has no qualms about saying that, even in the White House to the president‘s face.  So I imagine it will be emotional and strong and direct.

But in many ways, it doesn‘t really matter what the Democrats do here.  They win by default.  This is something that the president has to address and try yet again to convince the American people he‘s on the right track.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe, chief White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, MSNBC political analyst.  As always, great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This coverage note, for the State of the Union, a special edition of COUNTDOWN at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.  We‘ll be joined by Senator Clinton.  More on that presently.  Then it‘s a COUNTDOWN to the address at about 8:50 p.m. Eastern, 5:50 Pacific.  Really, Chris Matthews and I decided it‘ll actually be called COUNTBALL.  After the speech, Chris and I and a cast of thousands to analyze what Mr. Bush has said, what Mr.  Webb has said, from the end of their remarks until midnight Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

(INAUDIBLE) Senator Clinton.  She began her own Internet network tonight, the first online public video chats of her campaign.  She says Senator Obama did not cause her to rush into the race.  The growing field for ‘08, analyzed by Jonathan Alter.

And the new way forward in Iraq.  Why is our commander in chief sending more troops in before even having seen the latest intelligence estimate from the region?  Richard Clarke will be here to try to explain that.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is one year to the day until the New Hampshire presidential primary, 652 days until the 2008 general election.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the rapidly expanding list of contenders in both parties certainly not making it feel that long away, a Kansas conservative and the first-ever Hispanic to seek the office taking the first steps towards launching respective bids over the weekend.  And if they each got as much as a full sentence of coverage out of your life, there‘s a good reason.

And it is the first former presidential spouse, looking to return to the White House, who grabbed, of course, the lion‘s share of the attention.  Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas jumped into the Republican field at a home state rally over the weekend, Democrats revealing their intentions on the Web, they continue to, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson posting an announcement on his Web site on Sunday, that a little more than 24 hours after Senator Clinton posted one on her Webs site, the fireside chats of FDR morphing into the Chappaqua chats from Senator Clinton‘s living room, the back-and-fourth nonstop and motion of that camera, by the way, in no way meant to imply flip-flopping.  This is an Internetty hipness thing, Mrs. Clinton holding three interactive Web chats this past week, one of them tonight, this week ahead, rather, one tonight, one Tuesday night, the other one on Wednesday, earlier this evening, the senator saying that her decision to announce right before the president‘s State of the Union address was no accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NIGHTLY NEWS”)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Once I made up my mind that I was going to contest for the presidential nomination of my party, I wanted to do it on the Web.  I wanted to do it before the president‘s State of the Union, because I wanted to draw the contrast between what we‘ve seen over the last six years, and the kind of leadership and experience that I would bring to the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now here in Washington, our own Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Good to see you in the flesh, Jon.

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

OLBERMANN:  So what is the obsession with the timing of this announcement and whether or not Obama forced her into it, considering she announced on a Saturday, got all the news Saturday, and in all the Sunday papers, got much of the news today, got on the nightly newscasts tonight, and will be on all the morning shows and on cable tomorrow?  She got a good run out of this.

ALTER:  Her roll-out was excellent.  You know, the Internet bit worked well.  It seemed very professional.  And I think she‘s shown that, you know, she‘s a pro at this.  She brings a lot of assets to this campaign.

Whether it‘ll be enough to propel her for a full year before the primaries start is another question.  I mean, we are running at full tilt now, Keith, and people are going to be awfully sick of these front runners by the time we get around to actually voting.

OLBERMANN:  Fortunately, there won‘t be any real money spent during that period of time.

Polls over the weekend had Senator Clinton head and shoulders, as we‘ve discussed previously, above the other would-be Democratic candidates.  Let‘s quote a couple of numbers, Democrats surveyed by “The Washington Post” preferring Mrs. Clinton by a huge margin, 41 percent right now to Obama at 17 percent, Edwards at 11, Al Gore not in the running, maybe in the running, probably not in the running, 10 percent, Governor Richardson at a solid 1 percent.

Despite all the hype about Obama, is it—there‘s—there a chance here that the Democratic primaries are foregone conclusion, or is that element that we discussed previously, that Obama has a small positive number but almost no negative number, as opposed to clearly defined positions on Hillary Clinton?  Is that really going to be the decider?

ALTER:  Well, there‘s clearly a chance that it‘s a foregone conclusion.  And I was surprised, actually, by her numbers in that poll.  They‘re impressive.  But you do have to remember that they are largely name-recognition numbers.  Not totally, because, I mean, Al Gore is pretty far down.  But that‘s because people don‘t think he‘s running.

I think a lot of people, they still don‘t really know much about Barack Obama.  Maybe they‘ve heard his name, but they don‘t know enough to make a judgment about it.  When they do, in some other polls, when they segment the respondents, and ask them about whether they know a considerable amount about Obama, he does much, much better vis-a-vis Clinton.  And in New Hampshire, of course, he‘s leading Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards is leading in some Iowa polls.

So she is formidable.  But it would be wrong, I think, to say that this thing‘s over before it‘s started.

OLBERMANN:  So is that going to be the key of this next year to 18 months for her?  Does she have to go and change people‘s minds, as opposed to educating people?  Is—and can she do that?  Can she go in and say, I can erase your negative vision of me, whatever it is, or is that an impossibility in American politics?

ALTER:  Well, the next year, there are not that many Democrats who have a negative vision of her.  So she has to worry about this concern about her electability, and she‘s make—taking a lot of steps to address that.  And also, she has to appear fresh, and of the next generation, the next new thing in American politics.

That‘s what Obama does have going for him.  John Edwards has going for him a very strong message.  He‘s moving to the left, and there are a lot of votes in Democratic primaries there .  And then you can‘t write off these other candidates, because these primaries, Keith, are hard-wired for upsets.  Democratic primary voters love confounding you and me, making us look like idiots.  They treasure that and have done it on countless occasions in primaries in the past.  So we really have to be careful not to get too far ahead of ourselves.

OLBERMANN:  First question to Hillary Clinton, if you were interviewing her now, at the start of her campaign?

ALTER:  I guess it would be whether it‘s healthy for America to have dynastic politics.  You know, we would be going—

OLBERMANN:  Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.

ALTER:  ... Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.  And is that something that we really should be doing in this country?  We were founded on a revolution against dynasties.

OLBERMANN:  And Sam Brownback announced Saturday, and Bill Richardson announced Sunday.  Who advised them to do that?  In the Hillary (INAUDIBLE)?

ALTER:  Yes, that wasn‘t smart.  It‘s kind of like trying to catch a ride in somebody‘s wake.  But they had obviously planned it awhile earlier.  And Bill Richardson rolled out on the Stephanopoulos show.  He didn‘t look too bad, actually.  He did a pretty good job on that show.  And I think Sam Brownback shouldn‘t be written off.  In that part, they had a huge march in Washington here today, a pro-life march.  And there were, you know, thousands of people here.  And I saw a number of Brownback posters.

So this thing can go a lot of different directions.  It‘s important that media hype is not the only factor here.  You‘ve got to focus us on where they are on the issues.  And that‘s going to cut in important ways as we move forward.

OLBERMANN:  I beg your pardon, media hype, as a member of the media, is the most important consideration (INAUDIBLE).

Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  Pleasure to have you here, sir.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Ulterior motives about what Jon would ask her, because, as for what Senator Clinton thinks about Senator Clinton‘s all-but-certain run for the White House, as mentioned, she‘ll be joining us here Tuesday evening.  That‘s 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific, here on COUNTDOWN.

From the race for the White House to the race to be “American Idol”?  Some say it‘s the meanest start ever.  But some of the (INAUDIBLE) victims have just gotten agents.

And speaking of contests, if you can‘t carry a tune, can you at least carry your wife?  That, and Worst Person ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the 72nd birthday of the actor Seymour Cassell.  You may not recognize his name, but if you saw him in “Rushmore” or “The Life Aquatic” or “The Royal Tenenbaums,” you‘d know him at once, and you‘d realize that sometimes it really is about hanging in there.  Movie roles before his 50th birthday, about 20.  Movie roles since his 50th birthday, about 120.

On that note, let‘s play ODDBALL.

We begin in Siselajo (ph), Colombia, for the first bullfighting event of the Oddball calendar year.  Yay, animal cruelty, yay.  This one, they say, is slightly different from the rest, in that the drunken spectators seem to pour in from the stands to take part in the action.  And because they say harming the bulls in the event is strictly prohibited.  Judging from the video, it appears that‘s more of a guideline, than a law.

Still, an average of about 20 people are killed each year at this event.  So it‘s got that going for it.

To Lookout Pass, Idaho, where people are getting hurt, but it‘s good clean fun.  The big first annual Pacific Northwest Wife-Carrying Contest.  We‘ve seen these from England, usually a lot less fun to watch than you‘d think, but then again, they‘re not usually held in the land of ice and snow, which takes the degree of difficulty up a notch.

Yes, and don‘t bother helping your wife up, pal.  Just get the hell out of there before she makes you pay.  Oh, and you‘re going to pay.

Also tonight, is the troop escalation in Iraq really all about politics?  Why is the White House sending in more personnel before even seeing the latest intelligence estimate on the security situation?  And where is that estimate?  We‘ll be joined by Richard Clarke.

At four weeks after the death of James Brown, he‘s still not buried.  But he is still on the move.  And I wish I were speaking metaphorically, but I‘m not.

That‘s ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Bill Parcells.  The famed football coach abruptly quits the Dallas Cowboys today, saying he‘s retiring.  Parcells retired from the New York Giants in May 1991, retired from the New York Jets eight years later, after the 1999 season.  Eight calendar years after that, he‘s now retired from Dallas.  Is there an eight-year itch for football coaches to retire?

Number two, an unnamed 23-year-old man charged with public disorderly conduct at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  Police spotted him punching and kicking shrubbery.  He said nothing about trying to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.

And number one, Emmalee Bauer of Elkhart (ph), Iowa.  She is a sales coordinator for Sheraton Hotels, well, she was.  Her boss has asked her to stop writing in her personal journal during work hours, instead of, say, working.  So she did.  She instead started writing those notes in her work computer.  One of her entries read, quote, “I‘m going to be typing all my thoughts instead of writing all day.  That way, there isn‘t any way to tell for sure if I am working really hard, or if I‘m just goofing off.”

Well, you were wrong about that.  Sheraton fired her and told her to get out and take her 300 pages of computer-printed company-bashing diary with her, 300 pages, single-spaced.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  That the month of January has seven work days remaining is not, in and of itself, news.  But in our number three story on the COUNTDOWN, we turn the clock back to September when White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend spoke about the upcoming NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, on Iraq and said, quote, my understanding is the planned release date, given the work that must be done to have it be comprehensive and complete, is January of 2007. 

No, you have not missed it.  Seven days left, but according to “Harper‘s Magazine” the Senate Armed Services Committee expected a briefing on that NIE at a closed door meeting last week.  Yet the intelligence official showed up empty handed, saying the NIW was delayed by all the work helping the president prepare his new plan for Iraq.  If you did the math correctly, yes, that would be the plan coming before the intelligence report. 

And the nation is still deprived of the intelligence community‘s current thinking about Iraq, possibly some reports claim because it would reflect poorly on Mr. Bush and his plan. 

Joining us now with his own intelligence assessment Richard Clarke, top counter-terrorism adviser to presidents of both parties, chairman of GoodHarborReport.com, and now author of the new techno thriller “Break Point.” 

Sir, great pleasure to have you here.  Pleasure to meet you. 

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTER-TERRORISM ADVISER:  Great to be on.  I love your show. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.  Members of Congress, the public, members of the media even trying to establish a position to understand what‘s truly happening in Iraq, what the risks are.  It would seem like this is the ideal time to release a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.  Where is it? 

CLARKE:  They haven‘t written it.  It‘s in draft.  It‘s in pieces. 

The reason is this administration doesn‘t base its actions on intelligence. 

If you go back to the issue of was there WMD in Iraq and did it matter.  There was an NIE, a National Intelligence Estimate, not because the administration wanted it, not because the administration asked for it, but because Congress demanded it.  That‘s the only reason it was written.  And it was written in a hurry, which is one of the reasons it was sloppy and one of the reasons it was wrong. 

OLBERMANN:  The administration has been accused in many quarters, especially this one, of playing politics with intelligence.  Would it go so far—you worked with these people; you know some of them.  Would it so far to really sit on a NIE and not assemble it for purely political reasons? 

CLARKE:  Well, they can delay it.  The fact that they have said there‘s one being prepared means ultimately they have to produce it.  And given the fact that they did try to influence the last important one on Iraq, WMD one, and there have been investigations after that, trying to figure out how much they influenced it, and they influenced it a lot.  They‘re limited in what they can do to influence this one.  Especially now that they have increasingly real intelligence analysts, real intelligence professionals in some of these jobs. 

Mike Hayden at CIA is not a political toty (ph).  He‘s a four-star general.  And the people they‘re putting in charge of intelligence at the Pentagon, Jim Clapper, also an Air Force general, Mike McConnell as DNI, a Navy four-star intelligence professional, these people are going to tell it like it is. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think that the story that we‘re hearing today about these plans that we‘re supposedly interrupted from al Qaeda in Iraq to actually send people in through student visas into this country, not unlike many of the 9/11 hijackers originally got into the country, is there substance to this or is this a series of scare leaflets, as we‘ve seen previously? 

CLARKE:  No, Pierre Thomas (ph) at ABC broke the story and I‘ve talked to Pierre.  This is the real deal.  The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency was going to talk about this in open testimony before the Congress, but the Congress cut him off and said we don‘t want to hear your testimony.  Just submit it for the record.  Well in it, for the record, is this story that al Qaeda in Iraq was going to take the war here, which ultimately they will. 

They were going to do it by sending about 20 people in under the cover of student visas.  And they were going to stage a terrorist attack here.  The information is that this is not an operational plan.  It was something that they were thinking about doing.  But they will eventually do it.  The Iraqis will have their revenge by attacking the United States here at home. 

The fact that we‘re fighting them over there doesn‘t prevent them from coming here. 

OLBERMANN:  A sad truth.  The book, your new thriller is called “Break Point,” set in the year 2012, a kind of asymmetrical warfare is prophesied here, dismantling of global communications, information systems.  How about this, just out of the blue, a week ago China shot one of its old satellites out of orbit.  Is this a cautionary tale or is it informed fantasy, or how would you describe it? 

CLARKE:  It‘s meant to project us forward into 2012 so we can start thinking about the issues that I think we‘ll be facing then.  China blowing up a satellite occurs in chapter two.  I think we need to think seriously.  There‘s a whole series of issues, Keith, that the administration is ignoring because it‘s playing hardball, and 99 percent of the time is worrying about Iraq.  And that‘s sucking all of the Oxygen out of the room. 

One of the many things that it‘s ignoring is cyber security.  And everything we do depends on the security of cyber space.  The administration is doing nothing to secure it. 

OLBERMANN:  Are these easily managed problems right now, that you address? 

CLARKE:  They‘re not easily managed.  China is building cyber warfare units.  The Chinese general said publicly that if we get into hostilities with the United States, we will reach out through cyber space and turn off the American electric power grid.  From what I can tell and what I learned when I was in government, that‘s possible. 

OLBERMANN:  If we don‘t do it first with another blackout.  Once again the book is “The Breakpoint.”  The author is Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism chief of the National Security Council.  Again, great pleasure to have you here sir, thanks for coming in. 

Also tonight, mere hours after Hillary Clinton‘s presidential announcement she was already fodder on a “Saturday Night Live” spoof.  They were at that in a hurry.  That and our spoof of the jokers over at the Fox channel promotions department, and turning “American Idol” mean into green.  The most maligned kids on the show now have agents.  That‘s ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE GANOY, ICE GOLFER:  Almost the only ice golf course in North America. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where you‘ll need warm gloves, special golf shoes. 

Golfers can even use special golf balls. 

GANOY:  It‘s got a micro chip in it.  So I can toss it out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That can be found in the snow using radar. 

GANOY:  I think we‘ve got it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This deer wandered onto a frozen lake Thunder Bird, getting himself stranded on the ice for close to six hours.  Police asked Sky News 9 pilot Mason Dunn to fly in for a closer look.  That‘s when Mason got an idea.

MASON DUNN, SKY NEWS 9:  So I thought, well, if I can get close enough, maybe I can blow the deer over to the shore. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that he did, all the way to the rocky shoreline and freedom. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  Take a look at this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After serving only two years in the United States Senate, Barack Obama has announced his intention to run for president.  He claims he can get this country back on the right track.  He claims he can restore our good standing in the international community.  But answer this question Senator Obama, can you can you do it all while looking fabulous in a pant suit. 

Hillary Clinton, pant-suited up and ready to go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We all look forward to the day when unfettered candor may flow freely from the mouths of political candidates, like the year 4813.  But until then a spoof from “Saturday Night Live” and another spoof from us will have to do.  The subjects, Senator Hillary Clinton and the Fox nothing channel.  There has been, after all, a great deal of speculation as to whether the senator was forced to announce her presidential campaign early because Senator Barack Obama had already officially entered the contest.  And everybody wants to know what she really thinks of the senator from Illinois. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the SNL stand in for my colleague Chris Matthews did his part in getting at the satirical truth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does Obama have the experience to be president? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, heavens to murgatroy (ph), Chris.  I‘m not going to comment on that.  As to his experience and his hatred of women, the voters will have to judge. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Until today, when you‘ve been asked if you‘re running for president, you‘ve always denied it? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What?  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that guy.  He knew I was running for president. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)  Is there anyone in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) country who didn‘t know I was running for president?  I have been running for president since I was five.  Are you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) retarded?  I‘m sorry, Chris. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of satire, the Fox nothing channel, sorry we can no longer seriously use the word news in connection with what they put out.  They have launched a new advertising campaign. 

Nobody would ever accuse the Fox nothing channel of being honest or principled, but they used to be good at stuff like that.  Now this, this is a good promo. 

In tonight‘s edition of Keeping Tabs, our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, good news and bad news about James Brown.  The bad news, obviously, he‘s still dead.  The good news is he‘s going on the road again.  Nearly a month after his death, the hardest working man in show business not only still has not been buried, but he‘s still moving. 

The “Augusta Chronicle” reporting that Mr. Brown‘s body was relocated out of a climate controlled room in his home last Thursday.  Where‘s he‘s gone remains unclear.  His kids are considering turning his home into a Graceland style museum, that would include his grave sight.  But first, evidently, they‘ll have to catch him. 

It‘s awards season in Hollywood and inevitably that means talk turn

turns to Sharon Stone.  Her movie “Basic Instinct 2” walked away at this

morning‘s Razzie awards announcement, among them: worst picture, worst

actress of the year, and I‘m not kidding, worst on screen couple, a

reference to her chest.  It‘s not my joke by the way.  Call the Razzies. 

Regardless, Ms. Stone is rapidly turning into the Meryl Streep of the Razzies.  She‘s won twice before for “The Specialist” and “Intersection.”  The winners of the Razzies will be announced February 24th, the day before the Oscars, you know, to avoid those awkward scheduling conflicts. 

From the worst in Hollywood to the worst of “American Idol.”  Two of the most maligned contestants are trying to turn their embarrassments into big pluses.  Two of the most maligned judges are defending themselves. 

That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.  The bronze to editor Bill Kristol of the “Weekly Standard,” complaining about congressmen and senators critical of the president‘s handling of Iraq.  It‘s just unbelievable, he said.  It‘s so irresponsible that they can‘t be quiet for six of nine months.  You really wonder, do they want it to work or not?  I really wonder that.  See Bill, they were pretty much all quiet for three years.  Hell, nearly all the Republicans were quiet until last Thursday.  That‘s why we have 3,000 dead and the president‘s losing the war. 

The runners up to whoever put up and whoever at Soldier Field in Chicago did not take down this sign during the Bears-New Orleans Saints playoff game yesterday.  The banner reads, Bears finishing what Katrina started.  

But the winners, the “Washington Times,” it‘s magazine “Insight,” Fox nothing Channel and it‘s print idiot cousin the “New York Post.”  The magazine quoted an unnamed source which claimed Senator Obama had, when he was six years old, attended a Muslim madrassa.  It would be a nice trick, since a madrassa is a college or even a grad school that he would have been in when he was six.  But, of course, the story was not true to begin with.  A call to Senator Obama‘s office produced an outright denial.  A visit the Madras proved that he was not there. 

But Fox nothing channel and the Post made it worse, quoting additional unnamed sources, they claimed the story had been spread by researchers connected to Senator Clinton.  That was outright denied by her office.  So one part of the right slime machine takes a lie, doesn‘t even bother to get the denial and prints.  Then another part of the right wing slime machine takes the lie, lies about who lied it and these mongrels are somehow legally allowed to pretend they‘re justified in calling themselves news organization. 

The “Washington Times,” “Insight Magazine,” Fox nothing Channel and the “New York Post, today‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If two kid who suffered some verbal abuse from Simon Cowell are now seeking more than their 15-minutes of fame, who can blame them?  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, it only serves to fuel the pop culture behemoth, or perhaps black hole, that is “American Idol.”

That show‘s judges defended their meanness this weekend, Mr. Cowell putting the onus of responsibility back onto the contestants, who botched their auditions, and so should expect the judges wrath.  He said, quote, if you don‘t want to hear that, don‘t show up.  Cowell also apologized for saying that on contestant looked like a bush baby.  I think it was an off the cuff remark that I made, and he‘s offended, then I apologize.  I won‘t ever call anyone a bush baby again.

As for the two wannabes from Seattle, a little refresher:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Tearing up my Heart” by NSync. 

(SINGING) 

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Nor can I.  You look a little odd.  Your dancing is terrible.  The singing was horrendous.  And you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes.  What are they called, bush baby. 

PAULA ABDUL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Simon, you are sick.

RANDY JACKSON, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Simon, you‘re crazy. 

ABDUL:  Hi

JACKSON:  What‘s up baby?  You all right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yep, I‘m great. 

COWELL:  Have you borrowed Randy‘s trousers? 

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The first young man now, Kenneth Swale (ph), now wants to be known as Kenneth Briggs (ph).  He and his friend Jonathan Jane (ph) had another bite at the public relations apple on the “Today Show” this morning. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It still pains me inside knowing that he actually said those things to me, and it pains me that he doesn‘t even have the guts to try to get a hold of me and try to apologize. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘d like him to apologize to you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘d like him to apologize to me and my friend.  He degraded a person so low to where they felt worse than dirt. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kenneth, you know, that‘s sort of his M.O., to be very mean to contestants.  You‘re a big fan of the show.  Why did you want to put yourself out there? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I believed I had the chance.  It was the chance of a lifetime and I believe I could have gone further.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because he went after your weight right away. 

He said, are those Randy‘s pants.  How did you react? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I laughed at him.  I thought that was kind of funny because Randy is heavy set.  And I thought it was—I thought it was just a—for sure, I didn‘t think it was right that he should have been talking like that. 

I think that he was just trying to make television.  All of them are going—all of them are going to act like that.  They‘re actors.  They go home and they know what they‘ve done.  They‘re just actors.  And they‘re trying to make a buck and increase ratings.  And some people have to come on the show and be dropped and they try to make it as funny as they can. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It didn‘t feel like I was set up at all.  I mean, I knew Simon was going to criticize my singing and my choreography, but I had no idea he was actually going to criticize my personality. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have agents now? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, we have agents.   

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wow, so what‘s on the horizon for you guys? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we‘re going to go home

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- go home and rest for a little bit. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We might be doing some commercials. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  go from there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And go from there.  We want to eventually get on “The View.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who do you want to say a quick hello to? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom at Northwest Airlines.  Yes, we had a great flight with him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We eventually want to get on “The View,” as we emulate everybody else here, hitching their wagon to the Idol gravy train.  Let me again turn to the princess of “American Idol,” Maria Milito of New York‘s classic rock station Q 104.3.  Maria, hi, how are you? 

MARIA MILITO, Q 104.3:  I‘m great and you? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, we had that “Today Show” segment here today. 

MILITO:  They have agents.  They have agents.

OLBERMANN:  Two things come to mind about that, the kids have some degree of innocence left to them, obviously, but the savvy has replaced the rest of their innocence.  They‘ve gotten it at this point.  Now they‘re going to take the Cowell insult as far as they can.  Is that how you read it? 

MILITO:  Absolutely.  Like I said last week, it‘s the William Hung theory, right, because they can‘t be the next “American Idol,” but look at William Hung.  I read a quote today from Randy Jackson.  He said that William Hung, I‘m sure, doesn‘t regret that he was on the show.  He‘s made close to one million dollars, singing so badly on the show. 

OLBERMANN:  So they‘re going to replace William Hung on Broadway in the revival of Camelot?  Is that the ultimate career plan here?

MILITO:  You never know.

OLBERMANN:  Why not. 

MILITO:  Exactly, why not.

OLBERMANN:  The apology from Mr. Cowell, he told the same reporter that he would be sending this kid a letter, but he was rolling his eyes around when he said it.  In the end, can we always count on Mr. Cowell having no remorse, or is he going to come back with a different—say, well, I didn‘t mean bush baby.  I meant lemur.  

MILITO:  I don‘t think he‘s going to really apologize.  I mean, it‘s not the first season of the show.  You know, he‘s mean.  He‘s always been mean.  That‘s been his MO.  And, you know, that guy Kenneth said that he was made fun of by calling him a bush baby, with his eyes and everything.  He said Simon‘s never attacked anyone like that.  Simon does it every year. 

He made fun of Mandissa (ph) being overweight.  He called that kid Kevin last year, chicken little.  That‘s Simon.  So, it‘s not a big surprise at all. 

OLBERMANN:  But as for the overweight kid, Jonathan Jane, it was the “New York Times” who pointed out his previous participation in the Special Olympics.  He has a mild case of autism.  The fact didn‘t come out on his appearance on “American Idol.”  The show‘s producer, they now say, it‘s not possible to look into the backgrounds of everybody on the show.  How legitimate an answer is that if they‘re not recognizing that one of the contestants might not be traditionally gifted, to use the most politically correct phrase possible? 

MILITO:  You know, I don‘t know if I totally believe the producers on

that.  I mean, they do get thousands and thousands of people, contestants,

who are auditioning, and they can‘t investigate everyone.  But the flip of

it is people sign up.  You know, Kelly Pickler was on a show and she said -

she was on “The View,” and she said, we all signed papers, everyone over 18, and if you‘re under 18 your parents or legal guardian signs for you.  And whatever you say, you do, you give it up.  You give it up for the show. 

OLBERMANN:  And this other issue, do we have anymore clarity now on Paula Abdul and the fact that Idol is going live later in the season.  I mean, her explanation now that she was not drunk, that there were audio problems.  Are we buying that any more this week then when we heard it first last week? 

MILITO:  No, in fact, maybe she‘s in rehab right now, since these are all taped auditions.  We‘ll see when the show goes live.  That will be the proof.

OLBERMANN:  The quote was, she was not impaired in any way.  She said, quote, I was being light.  Is that the new euphemism for something else? 

MILITO:  For under the influence, you were being light.  I don‘t know, I think I might start using that.  I‘m being light. 

OLBERMANN:  It used to be I‘m lit. 

MILITO:  I‘m lit, now it‘s light. 

OLBERMANN:  We just added something to the American lexicon.  Maria Milito with New York‘s Q 104.3, headed next to “The View,” no doubt, just as these kids want to be. 

MILITO:  Thank you.   

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks Maria, take care.

MILITO:  You too, bye.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,360 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Reporting from Washington, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  We‘ll join you with Senator Clinton tomorrow night.  In the interim, 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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