updated 2/2/2007 10:57:36 AM ET 2007-02-02T15:57:36

Guests: Roger Cressey, Maria Milito, Howard Fineman, Lawrence Korb

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

The new math.  The president‘s escalation, 21,500 more troops to Iraq actually means 35,000 more troops to Iraq, maybe as many as 48,000 more troops to Iraq.  The Congressional Budget Office reports 21,500 more combat troops means thousands more support troops going there as well.  I guess Mr. Bush just forgot to mention that.  Well, he did say...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve committed more than 20,00 additional American troops to Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Emphasis on “more than.”

The Libby trial, his FBI interviewer says Scooter Libby told him he may have talked about alerting the media about Valerie Plame with the vice president before Robert Novak outed her in his column.

Does this seem to you like a brand-new $50 million police station in Iraq?  Well, it is, and you paid for it.  “The Fleecing of America” in Iraq.

Terror in Toontown, the day after.  Boston demands revenge against the cartoon network, arrests two of its promotion guys for panicking the city.  But officials ignore the questions, Why did these devices panic everybody only in Boston, not in any of the other nine big cities in which they‘ve been sitting for two or three weeks?

Not that the arrested promotions guys helped themselves.  They held a news conference but refused to answer any questions except about their hair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s not a hair question.  I‘m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you disappointed about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s also not a hair question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Hey, this isn‘t “American Idol.”  But is this?  Even Simon Cowell says a singing competition has turned into a freak show.  Been sitting next to Paula Abdul for six seasons, and now he‘s worried about a freak show?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These guys are not taking us seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

President Bush has cooked the books about the escalation of the war in Iraq.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the surge will not be 21,500 more troops.  Instead, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will be at least 35,000, up to 48,000.  The president simply, perhaps cynically, did not mention the noncombat support troops who will have to go along, and who, despite that word “support,” can just as easily be killed or maimed or psychologically ruined as anybody on the front lines.

Mr. Bush is not doubling down on his bet in Iraq.  The reality is, the number of troops could be double what he told us they would be.

For nearly a month now, Mr. Bush and his military chiefs, having said they would surge an additional 21,500 troops in Iraq, in a final, last-ditch and supremely controversial attempt to quell the violence in the civil war.  Yet those combat troops would needed to be backed up by just as many, if not more, support troops to provide things like communications, engineering, medical, many other services, as a result, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office today releasing a study that says the real troop increase could be as high as 48,000, more than double the number given by the president, the discrepancy coming to light because of an effort by the Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Spratt, who also serves on Armed Services, to find out how much the so-called surge might cost, the Congressional Budget Office telling Congressman Spratt that it does not know—yet know, because the Pentagon has not yet decided how many additional support troops it will be sending to Iraq, quoting the CBO‘s letter, dated today, to Mr. Spratt, “Thus far, the Department of Defense, DOD, has identified only combat units for deployment.  However, U.S. military operations also require substantial support forces.  DOD has not yet indicated which support units will be deployed along with the added combat forces, or how many additional troops will be involved.

CBO estimates on support troops based upon Pentagon precedent, ranging from 15,000 to 28,000, again, bringing total additional forces being sent to Iraq to anywhere from 35,000 to 48,000, far cry from the 20,000 cited last month by Mr. Bush.

Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek.”

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is the administration going to catch hell for this?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think they may.  I think the news was breaking late up on the Hill today where I was.  And I think there was some confusion about it.  But I think it‘s pretty clear, I‘ve looked into it pretty carefully now.  The CBO says what you say there.  And Congressman Spratt is very upset about it and trying to bring it to everybody‘s attention.

I was on the Senate side.  I don‘t think the senators focused that closely.  I did talk to a number of senators.  Senator Chris Dodd is focused, as many senators are, on the principle of any kind of surge.  The numbers meant rather less to them.  But other Democrats I talked to, including Democratic political strategists, said, Look, this is the point here.  The George Bush administration doesn‘t have a lot of credibility on any numbers related to the war.  And this is going to be seen by the American public, to quote David Axelrod, who‘s the chief adviser to Barack Obama, as another example of the administration dealing from the bottom of the deck.

So I think you can expect the Democrats to focus on this in the next day or so.

OLBERMANN:  And is it going to move—and we‘ll talk about the Democrats more in a moment—but is it going to, you think, move more Republicans in Congress to step away from this idea?  Because this can be explained to people a lot of ways, but to the vast majority of us who do not pay daily attention to the news, this will probably wind up sounding not like a lie, or a—you know, cooking the books, creative accounting, but two separate troop escalations.

FINEMAN:  It could look that way.  There‘s some Republicans and some other—and some Democrats who say almost that, believe it or not, they‘re relieved, in the sense that they couldn‘t believe --  If you‘re going to be for a surge, 21,000 wasn‘t enough.  So there are a few people who think that this is a good idea if you back a surge.

But most of the (INAUDIBLE) American public does not back it.  Most of the American public, if they heard any number, heard the 20,000 number.  Now 35,000 to 48,000 is a big difference in total.  And it puts, if it‘s up at 48,000, it puts the total in Iraq about at, I think, about if not over 200,000.

So I don‘t think politically it‘s good news for the White House in any way, shape, or form in a time when they‘re desperately trying to keep a Republican coalition together up on the Hill and having a lot of trouble doing it, I can tell you, because it was chaos up there this afternoon.

OLBERMANN:  Are, are, it—there‘s a lot of bad news in this for everybody, though.  I mean, aren‘t the Democrats on Capitol Hill going to catch hell for this too, and the media?  I mean, how did everybody miss the obvious, that the combat troops need support troops at a ratio of better than one to one?

FINEMAN:  Well, you would think we would know how to be very specific about the labels, and we weren‘t.  Twenty-one thousand troops, is that combat troops?  That term wasn‘t always used, because, especially in today‘s Army, the—what they call the (INAUDIBLE) detail ratio (INAUDIBLE), the fighter-to-support ratio, is very high.  And often there are more support troops than there are actual fighting troops.

Now, I spoke to the White House people about this.  I exchanged e-mails with Dan Bartlett, who is the communications director, and he said to me, We don‘t agree with the CBO estimate and analysis.  We think that there are already enough support troops on the ground there that very few will be required.

But that‘s not what the CBO says.  And keep in mind that the CBO is an independent, nonpartisan research organization of the Congress, and, you know, they‘re pretty neutral up there.  And I think there‘s going to be debate over it.  If the administration‘s going to just flat-out deny it, then the question‘s going to be, OK, if it‘s not 15,000, how many is it?  And where are your plans for actually knowing how many people you‘re putting in there?  It just sort of undermines the whole notion that they know precisely what they‘re doing at this moment.

OLBERMANN:  Is it going to affect the various nonbinding resolutions?

FINEMAN:  I think it could.  Just it adds urgency to the whole question, I think.  And as I say, it‘s chaos up there right now.  Nobody knows precisely where the Congress is (INAUDIBLE) going to come out.  I think it‘s going to strengthen the hand of people like Chris Dodd, who are saying, Look, let‘s just have a new authorizing resolution, let‘s not mess around with just these nonbinding statements of opinion, which is what they‘re basically talking about up there now.

OLBERMANN:  Just extraordinary.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and, of course, of MSNBC.  As always, sir, our great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the ramifications for the military, let‘s now turn to a Pentagon veteran from the Reagan administration, the former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, who is now a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Nice to be with you again.

OLBERMANN:  As Howard Fineman just said, that the White House says it does not agree with the CBO assessment, does that mean they‘re planning on sending 21,500 more troops into combat alone, the gunnery sergeant has to fly them over, and the captain has to make the meals?

KORB:  Well, you would hope not.  In fact, that‘s how we got ourselves into trouble in the first place.  Don Rumsfeld did not send enough support troops to begin with.  He didn‘t like that logistics.  He undermined the Army‘s logistics plan.

And the idea, these people do very important things.  For example, military police, which is very critical for dealing with an insurgency.  Medical people, obviously, with all the number of people getting wounded over there.  So if you don‘t do this, it means you‘re not going to do it right, which has been our problem right from the beginning.

OLBERMANN:  In traditional combat, in most of the wars that people are familiar with, support troops would be working almost exclusively behind the front lines, and less in immediate danger.  But it‘s Iraq.  Even John Bolton says it‘s civil war.  Are not support troops in just as much danger, or nearly as much danger, as the combat troops?

KORB:  They are, and sometimes even in more danger, because they‘re the ones out escorting the fuel trucks, for example.  They‘re the ones that have to go out as military policemen to referee this civil war.

So there are no front lines.  Remember, one of the first people captured in the war (INAUDIBLE) was Private Lynndie England.  Basically, she was not a combat person.  Women are not allowed to engage in direct combat in the—with the ground forces.

So there are no front lines.  And what you want to do is make sure that you have enough of what you need to do the job.  If you cut back on support troops, you‘re increasing the risk to the combat troops that are there.

OLBERMANN:  For the military that‘s already at a breaking point in terms of numbers, as Howard Fineman suggested, we might be bringing our commitment now to 200,000, roughly, in Iraq, would these additional troops exacerbate the strain that we already see?  Would it be past a strain and now at a break?

KORB:  Well, it would certainly exacerbate the strain.  It would also it mean calling up many Guard and Reserve units for a second time, because the way the Army is constructed, they put a great deal of the support in what they call the Reserve component.  And so you would have to go back again and get people, many of whom have served already close to two years, and bring them back again in order to get your numbers up to what you‘ll need in Iraq to do this thing right.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any reason to get very paranoid about this and say that, what, you‘re going to throw another 35,000 or 48,000 troops into Iraq, that would make it easier to escalate the conflict into the region, that this is a, an actual hidden signal to Iran, or is that just paranoia?

KORB:  Well, I don‘t think so.  I think the reason that they didn‘t come out with the right number to begin with, they wanted to hold down the number going in there to make it look to the American people that this is really not much, and a few more troops here, we‘ll be able to get the job done.  And they didn‘t want people to go and say, Well, wait a second here, you can‘t just have combat, because combat without support is not going to be militarily effective.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence Korb, the former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.  As always, sir, our great thanks for your time.

KORB:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  And just let‘s clarify one thing.  We were talking about Lynndie England.  Mr. Korb meant Jessica Lynch, of course, not Lynndie England, as one of the support personnel who was famously captured and rescued from a Iraqi hospital at the start of the shooting war in Iraq.

Also tonight, a huge day in the Scooter Libby trial, legally and politically.  Word that Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff may have discussed leaking Valerie Plame‘s name to the media two days before her name appeared in the media.

And the outrage in Boston a day after the cartoon terror screw-up.  Two suspects are charged.  How much of this is legit, and how much is governmental CYA, considering the same stunt was pulled off in nine other major American cities without as much as one complaining phone call?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He has not been indicted and is not likely to be.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, indirect testimony today tied Vice President Dick Cheney to the public disclosure of Valerie Plame‘s secret status as a covert operative for the CIA, in what surely qualifies with the cliche bombshell testimony.  FBI agent Debra Bond (ph) revealed that Lewis Libby, Cheney‘s former chief of staff, told investigators the two of them, Libby and Cheney, may have talked about leaking Plame‘s identity.

That might-have-been conversation was on July 12, 2003, according to Libby.  Later that day, Libby told a “TIME” magazine reporter about Plame.  Two days later, her identity was revealed in a column by Robert Novak.  We have already heard that Mr. Cheney knew about her by then, but today marks the first time we‘ve heard that he himself may have (INAUDIBLE) been directly involved in the leak.

In the courtroom today for this jaw-dropping development, as always, our own David Shuster.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What exactly did Libby tell investigators about his discussion with Cheney, and what did the FBI interrogator tell the court today?

SHUSTER:  Libby was talking about a conversation with Vice President Cheney on Air Force Two.  He was returning to Washington, and he was describing to the FBI agent during his first interview that he and the vice president were trying to figure out how to respond to calls from reporters about the allegations leveled by Joe Wilson.

Libby acknowledged to the FBI that he and Cheney discussed how to undercut Wilson.  The FBI agent then testified that when Libby was asked, Did you and the vice president talk about leaking Valerie Wilson‘s identity to reporters, Libby responded, We may have.

This could be a huge political problem for VICE president Cheney, because now you have FBI testimony that places the vice president right in the middle of the narrative of this mess, and it also shows that Cheney may have been more deeply involved than previously known.

But as bad as it might be for Cheney politically, it could be even worse legally for Scooter Libby, because prosecutors have long been trying to show that Libby had a motive for his false statements under oath once the criminal investigation began.  And prosecutors have long argued that Libby was essentially trying to block the criminal investigation and keep investigators from understanding Libby‘s actions that led to the outing of Valerie Wilson.

Now, the jury may be thinking that Libby was also lying in order to keep investigators from knowing about the actions of Vice President Cheney.

OLBERMANN:  Also, as if we needed an also, the prosecution played these clips of Scott McClellan giving the White House side of the story back in 2003.  Let me play part of one of those clips, and then you explain how this is supposed to be damaging to or hurting Mr. Libby‘s side of things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 10, 2003)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Earlier this week, you told us that neither Karl Rove, Eliot Abrams, nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak.  I wonder if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 

Those individuals—I talked—I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So David, is that damaging to Scooter Libby?

SHUSTER:  Yes, damaging in two ways.  First of all, it blows a hole in the defense argument that Scooter Libby was essentially being sacrificed somehow to protect Karl Rove, because there you saw, and the jury saw today, that Scott McClellan in the fall of 2003 was giving the same unequivocal denials about Libby as had already been given about Karl Rove.

But the other problem for Libby‘s defense is that the jury also heard another clip from the fall of 2003, in which Scott McClellan said anybody involved in this is no longer going to be working in the administration.  And again, this is one week, one week before Libby‘s first FBI  interview, and the prosecutors are trying to show that once the White House decided that they were going to issue these denials, Libby felt compelled to repeat that story, under oath, to the FBI and then later to the grand jury.

OLBERMANN:  All right, last point, the story of some crossed-out words on a note, all over the Internet.  In some places it‘s been portrayed as a smoking gun that the president knew about the entire get-Joe Wilson campaign before it happened.  Explain this, and explain why even the prosecutors think there might not be any smoke, let alone any smoking gun.

SHUSTER:  Right, this is a Cheney note in the fall of 2003, when the vice president and Libby were trying to make sure that Scott McClellan was, in fact, going to publicly deny, publicly clear Scooter Libby.  Cheney, according to the note, wrote the words “the pres” and then crossed them out.  The theory is, is that Cheney was simply thinking of invoking President Bush, the president, in his effort to get Scott McClellan to make sure that McClellan followed Cheney‘s orders.  But then “the pres” was crossed out.

So the theory is, is that Cheney decided he did not need to be so ham-handed as to invoke the president.  In addition, Keith, the reason the conspiracy theories don‘t work out so well is because there‘s been no evidence or no even suggestion from prosecutors in this case that, in fact, the president knew all about the effort to get Joe Wilson, as intriguing as this one piece of evidence may be, when you look at it without any context, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And so better news for the president, worse news for the vice president.  David Shuster with the headlines once again from the Scooter Libby trial.  To be continued.  Thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Something as almost as bizarre as the trial, “American Idol” declared a freak show by one of its judges, who added, I just heard Lindbergh has landed in Paris.

And it‘s official, the final Potter book comes out a mere 4,056 hours from now.  The author confirms two character will die.  But does Hermione get a wand or not?

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1915, Stanley Matthews was born.  He not only starred in pro soccer, mostly in England, from 1932 through 1970, when he was 55, but while still an active player, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.  He was Sir Stanley Matthews.  Another reason it‘s a good thing we don‘t officially have a monarchy here.  Joining me now on the postgame show, Sir Barry Bonds.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Indore, India, where this sign at this art studio reads, “Please, no swimming in the likeness of our president.”  Yes, it‘s a portrait of Indian president A.P. J. Abdul Kalam (ph), printed on the surface of the water of a 900-square-foot pool.  Well, I dare you to drink some of that, man.  Nine local artists created the painting, called “Let Our National Flag Fly Aloft,” to celebrate the president‘s visit to the area.  And it looks just like it, as far as you know.

Finally, to the Internets, for one of those viral videos that comes with little or no explanation, such as what country it‘s from, whether or not it‘s real.  These are questions for someone else to figure out, because all you really need to know is that it appears to be a security camera video of a woman having a little bit of trouble with a manual shift transmission.  That would be an Oops!

We know it‘s a woman driver, because she is seen climbing out unharmed later in the video.  So, yes, we already reported on the stats about how much less likely to kill anybody women drivers actually are than men.  Please save your letters.  The real question tonight, how did she even get the car this far without making it do that?

Speaking of questions, an abundance of caution notwithstanding, how do officials shut down a city over 10 items that basically look like the little men on the Walk-Don‘t Walk signs?

And how do we spend $50 million to build a police station in Iraq and wind up with this mess?

Details ahead.

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

Number three, I‘m sure you‘ve already heard, but we wanted to pay our respects.  The writer Molly Ivins died last night of breast cancer, 62.  No better memorial than a quote from her last column, “We are the people who run this country.  We are the deciders.”

Number two, police chief Richard Knoebel of Ewaska (ph), Wisconsin, wrote a traffic ticket, not that unusual in a small town, except (INAUDIBLE) for the name of the recipient, Richard Knoebel of Ewaska, Wisconsin.  He says he was driving to work while he was distracted by a truck stopping.  He passed a school bus while it was boarding kids.  So he gave himself a ticket.  No word on whether or not he also stood there and said aloud to himself, You know, we have kids living in this town, and we‘d like to keep them.

And number one, Paul Woods of Alaska, driving across America in a lawn mower.  He‘s headed for Virginia.  So far, he‘s reached the Utah-Idaho border.  He left Alaska in 2005.  Evidently Mr. Woods has misinterpreted the rules here.  In driving across America in a lawn mower, sir, you don‘t actually have to cut every lawn you pass.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The new math.  The president‘s escalation, 21,500 more troops to Iraq actually means 35,000 more troops to Iraq, maybe as many as 48,000 more troops to Iraq.  The Congressional Budget Office reports 21,500 more combat troops means thousands more support troops going there as well.  I guess Mr. Bush just forgot to mention that.  Well, he did say...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve committed more than 20,00 additional American troops to Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Emphasis on “more than.”

The Libby trial, his FBI interviewer says Scooter Libby told him he may have talked about alerting the media about Valerie Plame with the vice president before Robert Novak outed her in his column.

Does this seem to you like a brand-new $50 million police station in Iraq?  Well, it is, and you paid for it.  “The Fleecing of America” in Iraq.

Terror in Toontown, the day after.  Boston demands revenge against the cartoon network, arrests two of its promotion guys for panicking the city.  But officials ignore the questions, Why did these devices panic everybody only in Boston, not in any of the other nine big cities in which they‘ve been sitting for two or three weeks?

Not that the arrested promotions guys helped themselves.  They held a news conference but refused to answer any questions except about their hair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s not a hair question.  I‘m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you disappointed about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s also not a hair question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Hey, this isn‘t “American Idol.”  But is this?  Even Simon Cowell says a singing competition has turned into a freak show.  Been sitting next to Paula Abdul for six seasons, and now he‘s worried about a freak show?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These guys are not taking us seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

President Bush has cooked the books about the escalation of the war in Iraq.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the surge will not be 21,500 more troops.  Instead, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will be at least 35,000, up to 48,000.  The president simply, perhaps cynically, did not mention the noncombat support troops who will have to go along, and who, despite that word “support,” can just as easily be killed or maimed or psychologically ruined as anybody on the front lines.

Mr. Bush is not doubling down on his bet in Iraq.  The reality is, the number of troops could be double what he told us they would be.

For nearly a month now, Mr. Bush and his military chiefs, having said they would surge an additional 21,500 troops in Iraq, in a final, last-ditch and supremely controversial attempt to quell the violence in the civil war.  Yet those combat troops would needed to be backed up by just as many, if not more, support troops to provide things like communications, engineering, medical, many other services, as a result, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office today releasing a study that says the real troop increase could be as high as 48,000, more than double the number given by the president, the discrepancy coming to light because of an effort by the Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Spratt, who also serves on Armed Services, to find out how much the so-called surge might cost, the Congressional Budget Office telling Congressman Spratt that it does not know—yet know, because the Pentagon has not yet decided how many additional support troops it will be sending to Iraq, quoting the CBO‘s letter, dated today, to Mr. Spratt, “Thus far, the Department of Defense, DOD, has identified only combat units for deployment.  However, U.S. military operations also require substantial support forces.  DOD has not yet indicated which support units will be deployed along with the added combat forces, or how many additional troops will be involved.

CBO estimates on support troops based upon Pentagon precedent, ranging from 15,000 to 28,000, again, bringing total additional forces being sent to Iraq to anywhere from 35,000 to 48,000, far cry from the 20,000 cited last month by Mr. Bush.

Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek.”

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is the administration going to catch hell for this?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think they may.  I think the news was breaking late up on the Hill today where I was.  And I think there was some confusion about it.  But I think it‘s pretty clear, I‘ve looked into it pretty carefully now.  The CBO says what you say there.  And Congressman Spratt is very upset about it and trying to bring it to everybody‘s attention.

I was on the Senate side.  I don‘t think the senators focused that closely.  I did talk to a number of senators.  Senator Chris Dodd is focused, as many senators are, on the principle of any kind of surge.  The numbers meant rather less to them.  But other Democrats I talked to, including Democratic political strategists, said, Look, this is the point here.  The George Bush administration doesn‘t have a lot of credibility on any numbers related to the war.  And this is going to be seen by the American public, to quote David Axelrod, who‘s the chief adviser to Barack Obama, as another example of the administration dealing from the bottom of the deck.

So I think you can expect the Democrats to focus on this in the next day or so.

OLBERMANN:  And is it going to move—and we‘ll talk about the Democrats more in a moment—but is it going to, you think, move more Republicans in Congress to step away from this idea?  Because this can be explained to people a lot of ways, but to the vast majority of us who do not pay daily attention to the news, this will probably wind up sounding not like a lie, or a—you know, cooking the books, creative accounting, but two separate troop escalations.

FINEMAN:  It could look that way.  There‘s some Republicans and some other—and some Democrats who say almost that, believe it or not, they‘re relieved, in the sense that they couldn‘t believe --  If you‘re going to be for a surge, 21,000 wasn‘t enough.  So there are a few people who think that this is a good idea if you back a surge.

But most of the (INAUDIBLE) American public does not back it.  Most of the American public, if they heard any number, heard the 20,000 number.  Now 35,000 to 48,000 is a big difference in total.  And it puts, if it‘s up at 48,000, it puts the total in Iraq about at, I think, about if not over 200,000.

So I don‘t think politically it‘s good news for the White House in any way, shape, or form in a time when they‘re desperately trying to keep a Republican coalition together up on the Hill and having a lot of trouble doing it, I can tell you, because it was chaos up there this afternoon.

OLBERMANN:  Are, are, it—there‘s a lot of bad news in this for everybody, though.  I mean, aren‘t the Democrats on Capitol Hill going to catch hell for this too, and the media?  I mean, how did everybody miss the obvious, that the combat troops need support troops at a ratio of better than one to one?

FINEMAN:  Well, you would think we would know how to be very specific about the labels, and we weren‘t.  Twenty-one thousand troops, is that combat troops?  That term wasn‘t always used, because, especially in today‘s Army, the—what they call the (INAUDIBLE) detail ratio (INAUDIBLE), the fighter-to-support ratio, is very high.  And often there are more support troops than there are actual fighting troops.

Now, I spoke to the White House people about this.  I exchanged e-mails with Dan Bartlett, who is the communications director, and he said to me, We don‘t agree with the CBO estimate and analysis.  We think that there are already enough support troops on the ground there that very few will be required.

But that‘s not what the CBO says.  And keep in mind that the CBO is an independent, nonpartisan research organization of the Congress, and, you know, they‘re pretty neutral up there.  And I think there‘s going to be debate over it.  If the administration‘s going to just flat-out deny it, then the question‘s going to be, OK, if it‘s not 15,000, how many is it?  And where are your plans for actually knowing how many people you‘re putting in there?  It just sort of undermines the whole notion that they know precisely what they‘re doing at this moment.

OLBERMANN:  Is it going to affect the various nonbinding resolutions?

FINEMAN:  I think it could.  Just it adds urgency to the whole question, I think.  And as I say, it‘s chaos up there right now.  Nobody knows precisely where the Congress is (INAUDIBLE) going to come out.  I think it‘s going to strengthen the hand of people like Chris Dodd, who are saying, Look, let‘s just have a new authorizing resolution, let‘s not mess around with just these nonbinding statements of opinion, which is what they‘re basically talking about up there now.

OLBERMANN:  Just extraordinary.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and, of course, of MSNBC.  As always, sir, our great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the ramifications for the military, let‘s now turn to a Pentagon veteran from the Reagan administration, the former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, who is now a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Nice to be with you again.

OLBERMANN:  As Howard Fineman just said, that the White House says it does not agree with the CBO assessment, does that mean they‘re planning on sending 21,500 more troops into combat alone, the gunnery sergeant has to fly them over, and the captain has to make the meals?

KORB:  Well, you would hope not.  In fact, that‘s how we got ourselves into trouble in the first place.  Don Rumsfeld did not send enough support troops to begin with.  He didn‘t like that logistics.  He undermined the Army‘s logistics plan.

And the idea, these people do very important things.  For example, military police, which is very critical for dealing with an insurgency.  Medical people, obviously, with all the number of people getting wounded over there.  So if you don‘t do this, it means you‘re not going to do it right, which has been our problem right from the beginning.

OLBERMANN:  In traditional combat, in most of the wars that people are familiar with, support troops would be working almost exclusively behind the front lines, and less in immediate danger.  But it‘s Iraq.  Even John Bolton says it‘s civil war.  Are not support troops in just as much danger, or nearly as much danger, as the combat troops?

KORB:  They are, and sometimes even in more danger, because they‘re the ones out escorting the fuel trucks, for example.  They‘re the ones that have to go out as military policemen to referee this civil war.

So there are no front lines.  Remember, one of the first people captured in the war (INAUDIBLE) was Private Lynndie England.  Basically, she was not a combat person.  Women are not allowed to engage in direct combat in the—with the ground forces.

So there are no front lines.  And what you want to do is make sure that you have enough of what you need to do the job.  If you cut back on support troops, you‘re increasing the risk to the combat troops that are there.

OLBERMANN:  For the military that‘s already at a breaking point in terms of numbers, as Howard Fineman suggested, we might be bringing our commitment now to 200,000, roughly, in Iraq, would these additional troops exacerbate the strain that we already see?  Would it be past a strain and now at a break?

KORB:  Well, it would certainly exacerbate the strain.  It would also it mean calling up many Guard and Reserve units for a second time, because the way the Army is constructed, they put a great deal of the support in what they call the Reserve component.  And so you would have to go back again and get people, many of whom have served already close to two years, and bring them back again in order to get your numbers up to what you‘ll need in Iraq to do this thing right.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any reason to get very paranoid about this and say that, what, you‘re going to throw another 35,000 or 48,000 troops into Iraq, that would make it easier to escalate the conflict into the region, that this is a, an actual hidden signal to Iran, or is that just paranoia?

KORB:  Well, I don‘t think so.  I think the reason that they didn‘t come out with the right number to begin with, they wanted to hold down the number going in there to make it look to the American people that this is really not much, and a few more troops here, we‘ll be able to get the job done.  And they didn‘t want people to go and say, Well, wait a second here, you can‘t just have combat, because combat without support is not going to be militarily effective.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence Korb, the former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.  As always, sir, our great thanks for your time.

KORB:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  And just let‘s clarify one thing.  We were talking about Lynndie England.  Mr. Korb meant Jessica Lynch, of course, not Lynndie England, as one of the support personnel who was famously captured and rescued from a Iraqi hospital at the start of the shooting war in Iraq.

Also tonight, a huge day in the Scooter Libby trial, legally and politically.  Word that Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff may have discussed leaking Valerie Plame‘s name to the media two days before her name appeared in the media.

And the outrage in Boston a day after the cartoon terror screw-up.  Two suspects are charged.  How much of this is legit, and how much is governmental CYA, considering the same stunt was pulled off in nine other major American cities without as much as one complaining phone call?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He has not been indicted and is not likely to be.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, indirect testimony today tied Vice President Dick Cheney to the public disclosure of Valerie Plame‘s secret status as a covert operative for the CIA, in what surely qualifies with the cliche bombshell testimony.  FBI agent Debra Bond (ph) revealed that Lewis Libby, Cheney‘s former chief of staff, told investigators the two of them, Libby and Cheney, may have talked about leaking Plame‘s identity.

That might-have-been conversation was on July 12, 2003, according to Libby.  Later that day, Libby told a “TIME” magazine reporter about Plame.  Two days later, her identity was revealed in a column by Robert Novak.  We have already heard that Mr. Cheney knew about her by then, but today marks the first time we‘ve heard that he himself may have (INAUDIBLE) been directly involved in the leak.

In the courtroom today for this jaw-dropping development, as always, our own David Shuster.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What exactly did Libby tell investigators about his discussion with Cheney, and what did the FBI interrogator tell the court today?

SHUSTER:  Libby was talking about a conversation with Vice President Cheney on Air Force Two.  He was returning to Washington, and he was describing to the FBI agent during his first interview that he and the vice president were trying to figure out how to respond to calls from reporters about the allegations leveled by Joe Wilson.

Libby acknowledged to the FBI that he and Cheney discussed how to undercut Wilson.  The FBI agent then testified that when Libby was asked, Did you and the vice president talk about leaking Valerie Wilson‘s identity to reporters, Libby responded, We may have.

This could be a huge political problem for VICE president Cheney, because now you have FBI testimony that places the vice president right in the middle of the narrative of this mess, and it also shows that Cheney may have been more deeply involved than previously known.

But as bad as it might be for Cheney politically, it could be even worse legally for Scooter Libby, because prosecutors have long been trying to show that Libby had a motive for his false statements under oath once the criminal investigation began.  And prosecutors have long argued that Libby was essentially trying to block the criminal investigation and keep investigators from understanding Libby‘s actions that led to the outing of Valerie Wilson.

Now, the jury may be thinking that Libby was also lying in order to keep investigators from knowing about the actions of Vice President Cheney.

OLBERMANN:  Also, as if we needed an also, the prosecution played these clips of Scott McClellan giving the White House side of the story back in 2003.  Let me play part of one of those clips, and then you explain how this is supposed to be damaging to or hurting Mr. Libby‘s side of things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 10, 2003)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Earlier this week, you told us that neither Karl Rove, Eliot Abrams, nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak.  I wonder if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 

Those individuals—I talked—I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So David, is that damaging to Scooter Libby?

SHUSTER:  Yes, damaging in two ways.  First of all, it blows a hole in the defense argument that Scooter Libby was essentially being sacrificed somehow to protect Karl Rove, because there you saw, and the jury saw today, that Scott McClellan in the fall of 2003 was giving the same unequivocal denials about Libby as had already been given about Karl Rove.

But the other problem for Libby‘s defense is that the jury also heard another clip from the fall of 2003, in which Scott McClellan said anybody involved in this is no longer going to be working in the administration.  And again, this is one week, one week before Libby‘s first FBI  interview, and the prosecutors are trying to show that once the White House decided that they were going to issue these denials, Libby felt compelled to repeat that story, under oath, to the FBI and then later to the grand jury.

OLBERMANN:  All right, last point, the story of some crossed-out words on a note, all over the Internet.  In some places it‘s been portrayed as a smoking gun that the president knew about the entire get-Joe Wilson campaign before it happened.  Explain this, and explain why even the prosecutors think there might not be any smoke, let alone any smoking gun.

SHUSTER:  Right, this is a Cheney note in the fall of 2003, when the vice president and Libby were trying to make sure that Scott McClellan was, in fact, going to publicly deny, publicly clear Scooter Libby.  Cheney, according to the note, wrote the words “the pres” and then crossed them out.  The theory is, is that Cheney was simply thinking of invoking President Bush, the president, in his effort to get Scott McClellan to make sure that McClellan followed Cheney‘s orders.  But then “the pres” was crossed out.

So the theory is, is that Cheney decided he did not need to be so ham-handed as to invoke the president.  In addition, Keith, the reason the conspiracy theories don‘t work out so well is because there‘s been no evidence or no even suggestion from prosecutors in this case that, in fact, the president knew all about the effort to get Joe Wilson, as intriguing as this one piece of evidence may be, when you look at it without any context, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And so better news for the president, worse news for the vice president.  David Shuster with the headlines once again from the Scooter Libby trial.  To be continued.  Thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Something as almost as bizarre as the trial, “American Idol” declared a freak show by one of its judges, who added, I just heard Lindbergh has landed in Paris.

And it‘s official, the final Potter book comes out a mere 4,056 hours from now.  The author confirms two character will die.  But does Hermione get a wand or not?

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1915, Stanley Matthews was born.  He not only starred in pro soccer, mostly in England, from 1932 through 1970, when he was 55, but while still an active player, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.  He was Sir Stanley Matthews.  Another reason it‘s a good thing we don‘t officially have a monarchy here.  Joining me now on the postgame show, Sir Barry Bonds.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Indore, India, where this sign at this art studio reads, “Please, no swimming in the likeness of our president.”  Yes, it‘s a portrait of Indian president A.P. J. Abdul Kalam (ph), printed on the surface of the water of a 900-square-foot pool.  Well, I dare you to drink some of that, man.  Nine local artists created the painting, called “Let Our National Flag Fly Aloft,” to celebrate the president‘s visit to the area.  And it looks just like it, as far as you know.

Finally, to the Internets, for one of those viral videos that comes with little or no explanation, such as what country it‘s from, whether or not it‘s real.  These are questions for someone else to figure out, because all you really need to know is that it appears to be a security camera video of a woman having a little bit of trouble with a manual shift transmission.  That would be an Oops!

We know it‘s a woman driver, because she is seen climbing out unharmed later in the video.  So, yes, we already reported on the stats about how much less likely to kill anybody women drivers actually are than men.  Please save your letters.  The real question tonight, how did she even get the car this far without making it do that?

Speaking of questions, an abundance of caution notwithstanding, how do officials shut down a city over 10 items that basically look like the little men on the Walk-Don‘t Walk signs?

And how do we spend $50 million to build a police station in Iraq and wind up with this mess?

Details ahead.

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

Number three, I‘m sure you‘ve already heard, but we wanted to pay our respects.  The writer Molly Ivins died last night of breast cancer, 62.  No better memorial than a quote from her last column, “We are the people who run this country.  We are the deciders.”

Number two, police chief Richard Knoebel of Ewaska (ph), Wisconsin, wrote a traffic ticket, not that unusual in a small town, except (INAUDIBLE) for the name of the recipient, Richard Knoebel of Ewaska, Wisconsin.  He says he was driving to work while he was distracted by a truck stopping.  He passed a school bus while it was boarding kids.  So he gave himself a ticket.  No word on whether or not he also stood there and said aloud to himself, You know, we have kids living in this town, and we‘d like to keep them.

And number one, Paul Woods of Alaska, driving across America in a lawn mower.  He‘s headed for Virginia.  So far, he‘s reached the Utah-Idaho border.  He left Alaska in 2005.  Evidently Mr. Woods has misinterpreted the rules here.  In driving across America in a lawn mower, sir, you don‘t actually have to cut every lawn you pass.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On the same day that Metropolitan Boston was all about shut down because of electronic cartoon characters, the “Boston Globe Newspaper” printed a story that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had married in secret at the original Nathan‘s Hotdog stand in New York, built on Coney Island in 1916.  Epstein‘s father told the paper the hotdog story, assuming they would get the joke.  They did not.

The same was the true for the devices that the police to paralyze the nation‘s sixth largest metropolitan area, so-called guerrilla ads that looked very much like those toys from the 1960‘s and 1970‘s, Lite Brights.  The marketers, assuming people would get the point, and they didn‘t

And now, in our the third story on the COUNTDOWN, the men hired to put the ads up are facing criminal charges.  Twenty seven-year-old Peter Berdofski (ph) and 28-year-old Sean Stevens (ph), seen here allegedly putting up electronic flashing characters from the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” movie ads, are charged with placing hoax devices and with disorderly conduct. 

Boston‘s assistant attorney general claiming, quote, “it‘s clear the intent was to get attention by causing fear and unrest that there was a bomb in that location.”  Well, we‘ll see about how clear that was.  At the arraignment the suspects pleading not-guilty and posting 2,500 hundred dollars bond.  And because their attorney advised them against commenting  about the case, the pair did themselves few favors by choosing a different topic. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s kind of important to some people, it‘s haircuts in 1970s.  We really want to discuss this style of the. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We feel it‘s really important, because we think it‘s been a big inspiration on how people live their lives today, and how they are going to live their lives in the future and how they are going to look at the past. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hold on a second.  For example, Afro, I think comes from the 1970‘s.  But then again, there‘s other styles like the greased up hair, when they actually use grease.  I‘m not totally sure where that comes from, whether or not it‘s from the 1920‘s.  It‘s definitely not from the 1960‘s, I don‘t think . 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re taking this very seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, please don‘t interrupt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The 1960‘s had the mod hair style, which I believe evolved into the sort of greased back look of the 1970s, but you‘re saying you think it maybe came more from the 1920s? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I really think it comes from the 1920‘s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Its sounds to us like you aren‘t taking it seriously. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, do you guys have any haircut questions for us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was it like to spend last night in jail. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s not a hair question.  I‘m sorry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you disappointed about? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s also not a hair question. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The city of Boston is now vowing to hold Turner Broadcasting, which hired the marketing company, and those two rocket scientists, which hired the suspect responsible, for the police costs, estimated at 750,000 dollars.  None of the nine other cities which had similar marketing devices reported any calls from concerned citizens about the advertising units, but the company did remove the devices after the Boston cops got wicked POed.

Let‘s try to figure out what happened here, through the eyes of an expert, the former director for counter terrorism for the National Security Council staff, Roger Cressey.  Good evening Roger. 

ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF:  Good evening Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m missing something.  These things have been sitting there in public for two or three weeks in 10 major American cities.  Only yesterday, and only in Boston, were they even noticed, let alone reacted to.  What am I missing?  Did they start humming or smoking or ticking?  What happened?

CRESSEY:  Well, as far as we can determine those two rocket scientists—by the way, when you look at them, you wonder why al Qaeda thinks they can defeat us ultimately.  They put up another one of these things below the overpass of Route 93, near Sullivan Station.  And some morning commuters saw that and that‘s what they reported.  Now, the Lite Bright probably had some wires sticking out, and that‘s the reason why someone reported it. 

That, in and of itself, is not the wrong thing to do, but then the overreaction began. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, at what point does vigilance become overreaction and where is paranoia in it?  What did we learn here? 

CRESSEY:  Well, I think on the vigilance side, everyone has an obligation if they seem something strange, you can report that.  The question is, what do authorities do with the information they receive?  What type of judgment call do they make?  Now they can go in and take a look at the package and decide to detonate it.  One would hope once they have done that, they have taken a look at the remnants of it and said, you know what, this looks like elements of a Lite Bright.  Maybe if we get other reports, we should not overreact on it. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t think anybody can criticize the people who saw those things, as you suggested, and called the authorities.  I don‘t think anybody can criticize the responders who got the reports and went into full threat mode.  But the thing that gets me, even isn‘t what happened yesterday, but the stuff that happened after the fact, from the mayor and the politicians, who blamed those promotions goof balls, and the company because they panicked Boston. 

Wouldn‘t they have more credibility on this whole issue if they stood up and said, hey, you know, we were doing this for the public good, but we‘re at least 50 percent responsible for the panic, because as moronic and as potentially unnerving as these things might have been to some people, we helped that along? 

CRESSEY:  I think your right.  Look, the moron quotient for the people responsible for the Lite Brights, and the marketing department at Turner Broadcasting, was pretty high, but the authorities in Boston, the political leadership had an obligation to get out there and say, we‘ve taken a look at a couple of these, and they‘re Lite Brights giving you the middle finger, OK.  This is not al Qaeda‘s MO. 

Now you compare what happened in Boston yesterday with how Mayor Bloomberg handles these things in New York City.  He‘s much more up front and gets to the point.  He says, look, if we see something that looks kind of strange, we‘re going to address it, but let‘s not lose our mind over it, until we can get the facts. 

OLBERMANN:  Again, the devices looked like—I thought this walking over, they‘re just like color versions of Lite Bright, or maybe it‘s the little man on the don‘t walk, walk sign.  If you wanted to really use this for terror, maybe that would be a way to go about it.  We had Mission Impossible audio chips on the newspaper boxes in southern California.  Is there a solution to this stuff that really is not even intended to be a hoax?  I mean, anybody planning to use lights and wires in a box in an ad campaign, or in public in some way, should they drop a note to the local police?  How do we resolve this? 

CRESSEY:  Well, if you are going to try and do something creative, like these guys did, and it back fired, the common sense test is what you have to take.  If I‘m going to put packages in  a number of different place, even if they should look innocuous, perhaps I should notify someone in advance, so people don‘t take it the wrong way and overreact.  Because in this type of world now, and the climate we‘re in, people will overreact. 

Like you said, you don‘t fault the first responders or the police, but at the political leadership level, we should have had some more common sense yesterday. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that was a snowball going down a very steep and slick hill.  MSNBC‘s counter-terrorism analyst Roger Cressey, as always Roger, great thanks for your time. 

CRESSEY:  OK Keith, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight massive fleecing of America in Iraq, 50 million dollars to build a state of the art police station, but it falls down for free. 

And will Harry Potter live through to the end of the seventh and final series?  The world now knows which day we‘ll all get the answer.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We told you yesterday that statistical analysis alone suggests there‘s reason to be skeptical of the administration‘s breathless implications that Iran masterminded the attack on January 20th in Karbala, in Iraq, which killed five Americans.  But tonight, in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, never mind the facts, even the Fox noise channel is reporting otherwise. 

It says today that Pentagon officials claim to be questioning two men in connection with that attack, two men who are not Iranian, but rather are senior Iraqi generals.  However, other Pentagon sources are not confident that‘s who the men are. 

Is anybody sure why we are in Iraq?  Maybe not.  But clearly even if making hundreds of millions of dollars for U.S. contractors was not the plan, it‘s happening nonetheless, and in a way that would have made New York‘s legendary grater Boss Tweed (ph) jealous.  Although at least most of the stuff he built in the 19th century, like the city hall that cost twice as much as it had just cost the U.S. to buy Alaska, didn‘t fall apart right away, and was that, as senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports now, is what one watchdog group has found in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Baghdad Police Academy was supposed to be a showcase to train Iraqi police, key to the U.S. strategy.  Instead today‘s report says the American construction company Parsons turned it into the a disaster from the start.  Incomplete, and substandard designs, shoddy construction, no real quality control. 

STUART BOWEN, IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION:  This is the worst project that my inspectors have visited. 

MYERS:  Stuart Bowen, inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, says the Iraqis recently refused to take over the complex, calling the work disgusting.  Here‘s what Parsons delivered for 62 million taxpayer dollars:brick walls like this, cracking concrete, exposed reinforced steel bars, buildings without enough power, or with faulty wiring, and plumbing so bad that when cadets used it, human waste rained through light fixtures and ceilings. 

The report places some blame on the Army Corps of Engineers, supposed to oversee the project. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  They actually awarded Parsons merit increase, despite widespread evidence of deficient work. 

MYERS:  Parsons contract was terminated last spring, however the company insist problems at the academy occurred after it was turned over to the U.S. government.  Parsons also says it has done good work on 1,000 projects in Iraq, under hazardous conditions.  Bowen disputes this, says he‘s found serious deficiencies at almost every Parsons project inspected. 

BOWEN:  Most of all the other contractors have met standards.  Parsons has not. 

MYERS (on camera):  Still, it‘s not all bad news.  Bowen says 75 percent of projects inspected in Iraq were built properly.  So while millions have been wasted, in at least some cases, taxpayers got their money‘s worth. 

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And in a lighter, but in some ways more disturbing note about Iraq, at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning in Washington, when Laura Bush asked her neighbor for coffee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, stood up, poured the first lady a cup of Joe, did not pour one for the president, put down the coffee pot, then went back to his own seat. 

The whole exchange triggering some kind of primeval response in the president, who stood up, gestured at the blushing chairman, retrieved the coffee pot, returned to his own seat and poured himself a cup of coffee to hearty guffaws all around.  He then appeared to change course, standing up to take the coffee back to General Pace, filling his cup up, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff clearly showed his continuing embarrassment, embarrassment over coffee. 

Now to other fictional characters in our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  And the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series.  The end will be revealed on the 21st of July.  That‘s the release date for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”  The much anticipated announcement about the finale coming form the author, J.K. Rawling, on her website, confirmed by her publishers. 

She also said two characters would be killed off in book seven, though she obviously declines to say whether one of them will be Harry.  The film version of the fifth Potter book will premier just eight days before seven‘s release, and just five months after actor Daniel Radcliffe has debuted naked in “Equis” on the London stage, where he will  premier his Harry Potter. 

Voldemort, obviously she has to kill off Voldemort.  And Professor Snape.  Nobody like Professor Snape.  And that character Tara Conner.  She‘s real?  Miss Conner, AKA Miss USA, is now out of rehab.  She had previously admitted to cocaine use and underage drinking at New York night clubs, and in her exclusive, extremely long interview with Matt Lauer today, Miss Conner identified herself as an alcoholic finally, and suggested that there were demons in her past that she was not ready to yet fully ready to discuss. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TARA CONNER, MISS USA:  There were times I was betrayed and, you know, I‘ve witnessed some things and I‘ve had some experiences that have troubled me.  But, you know, out of the respect of my family, again, I can‘t—I get to keep some of this for myself.  I haven‘t had a chance to sit down with my family at all.  I will not deny that I witnessed some abuse.  But out of the respect of my family, and I have not discussed it with them yet. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As if that were not evidence enough that there is no longer any difference between fame and infamy, another twist at “American Idol.”  Even that Cowell guy says it‘s a freak show.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

Bill O‘Reilly comes in only with a bronze tonight.  Start of his show, there‘s a graphic over his shoulder describing, quote, “Anti-American actor Sean Penn.”  A couple of minutes later, Bill-O says, of Penn and others, in full seriousness, quote, I don‘t want to say that they are anti-American.  That may be your sprint record on contradicting yourself Bill-O.  Usually it takes like, you know, 55 minutes. 

The runner up, CNN‘s wolf in sheep‘s clothing, Glen Beck, a protester reportedly spit on an Iraq war veteran, he reported.  Let me be clear, have we learned nothing from Vietnam?  No, Mr. Beck, let me be clear, the story was an Iraq vet claimed a protester had spit at the ground near his feet, then the vet retracted that claim.  And, oh, by the way, there is not one confirmed case, not one, of Americans spitting on veterans returning from Vietnam. 

But our winner, Mark Levin, president of something called the Landmark Legal Foundation.  After Al Gore was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Levin nominated comedian Rush Limbaugh.  Two problems: one, it is not open nominations.  There‘s a committee.  The Limbaugh nomination will go under the circular file, fittingly enough.  Two, comedian doesn‘t want it, because the Nobel cannot be smoked, popped nor eaten.  Mark Levin of the Landmark Legal something, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

OLBERMANN:  A new refrain from Simon Cowell on “American Idol.”  He just doesn‘t know what that show is anymore as one freakish act after another parades itself before he and the other judges.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, two words pal, William Hung. 

In the meantime, we now know that Courtney Love will not be a judge, which means that the niche that Paula Abdul has carved out for herself, representing off-balance Americans everywhere, is firmly intact for now.  As for Miss Love, she had said that the executive producer of Idol, Nigel Lithgow, if that is your real name, called her and was wondering if she was interested in sitting in as a judge. 

But Mr. Lithgow has categorically denied that and Miss Love now tells “Us Weekly” she may have been duped by a prank caller.  How could you ever slip something like that past Courtney Love?  Then there was the latest installment of the show itself, which tried to run the gamut between hair splitting and tear-jerking. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  What the hell was that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My lady and I have been together 20 years and she came down with cancer.  She passed away Friday, two days before the audition. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m so sorry. 

COWELL:  Wow, Sherman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please, I don‘t want sympathy. 

(SINGING)

COWELL:  Thank you very much Sherman. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That was lovely. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t want sympathy, you went to the right place.  Let‘s turn now once more to the guest we like to call the princess of “American Idol,” Maria Milito, midday host of the New York‘s classic rock station Q 104.3.  Among the inexplicably addicted, and a ham from way back.  Maria, good evening. 

MARIA MILITO, Q 104.3:  Hi Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously the judges are going to have only respect for a man who is trying to make some tribute to his wife.  No disrespect to him, but it seems there are some who might see the producer‘s decision to put a guy who‘s like 37 years past the age deadline into the show as some sort of calculation.  What do you think? 

MILITO:  Well, I think the editors went back—I think the producers went back and the editors, and they edited the shows for this past week and made them nicer, because of all the flak from the judges being too mean, and then putting in a guy like this, you know, it pulls at the heart strings.  It makes sense. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MILITO:  Think about it.  Because they were all—well, I mean Simon was still mean, but not to the point that he was and the extent he was last week and the week before.  So lets put in a guy who‘s wife just died and he‘s too old for the contest, but let‘s put him in, and then Simon gets up and shakes his hand. 

OLBERMANN:  What about Simon Cowell‘s remarks that this has now turned into a freak show? 

MILITO:  Well, it is.

OLBERMANN:  Like I said, it‘s like Lindberg has just landed in Paris, Simon.  Let‘s check out this new invention, television.

MILITO:  I know, well, they have been saying that a lot, like what‘s wrong with the show?  What‘s up with the show?  Because it is a freak show.  It‘s totally a freak show. 

OLBERMANN:  And the theme we keep returning to, no matter how amusing the acts may be, none have yet to capture the freaky genius of Mr. William Hung so many seasons ago.  Is he the unpassable bar in this equation? 

MILITO:  No, I still think we‘re going to hear from those two guys from Seattle, remember, that were signed to the agents.  I think they‘re going to be in Camelot, on Broadway, like you said.  I‘m searching the newspapers every day looking for them. 

OLBERMANN:  Or they‘re going to work at spokesmen for the kids from Boston with the light brites thing.  I have to say, I‘m disappointed about the Courtney Love thing.  Not, that they thought of her as a judge, but that they didn‘t.  But is it possible that the producers are going to have to see her or somebody else as an alternative to Paula Abdul, the way she is going? 

MILITO:  I don‘t think so.  I think Courtney Love would be a ridiculous excuse for a judge.  At least Paula shows up.  She might be a little loopy, but she does show up.  I mean, I think Courtney Love would show up bare foot, without her clothes, you know, in the bag, out of the bag.  I think she would be a worse choice. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe they could make it part of her community service.  Before we wrap this up, I want to make sure we have time for this clip of what can only be described as the squealing guy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

COWELL:  That is not serious. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not serious? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  First, there he was, pants too tight.  Then it turned out, Mr. Cowell chased him, when he noticed the guy had written in for singing coach, DVD by Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.  So that is how they‘re making money off this thing? 

MILITO:  Oh absolutely, they‘re making money off of it, but they didn‘t want that to be exposed.  He taught himself, he said, on his computer for two years with that DVD and look what he sounds like.  That‘s bad representation for them.  It‘s horrible.

OLBERMANN:  But is there some sort of saving grace for these three chuckle heads every week, when we see somebody like Olivia Newton John trotted out there.  I mean, she was on that—yes, grease reality show, great, and now these 50 and 60-something singers that they bring back, what is they for? 

MILITO:  Well, maybe it helps the parents of the people who are really into the “American Idol” like the Baby Boomers come back.  So then “American Idol” is uniting families, Keith. 

(CROSS TALK) 

OLBERMANN:  No, no, no.  No, this is where I suggest you need a breath test.  They‘re not uniting families. 

MILITO:  It‘s a theory, you never know. 

OLBERMANN:  Our “American Idol” princess, Maria Milito of New York‘s Q 104.3 every morning and mid day, thanks for joining us. 

MILITO:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Uniting families.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,390th 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   

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.

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