updated 2/8/2007 2:12:15 PM ET 2007-02-08T19:12:15

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Rachel Maddow, Dr. Keith Ablow

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

The grand jury tapes, they have Libby, Libby, Libby on the label, label, label.


PATRICK FITZGERALD, PROSECUTOR:  And when Vice President Cheney talked about with you for the first time that you notes reflect, he brought up that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA in the functional Office of Counterproliferation, correct?



LIBBY:  Yes, sir.


OLBERMANN:  For Mr. Libby, it may or may not have been perjury.  For Dick “Deadeye” Cheney, it is the smoking gun.  To him, sandbagging an administration critic was more important than keeping a secret CIA operative secret, sandbagging critics of this.

Congress hears the families of the Blackwater victims, the four American civilian guards killed in Fallujah, their bodies dragged through the streets.  Why, the widows and mothers ask, didn‘t Blackwater give them armored vehicles?  Why, they ask, didn‘t Blackwater give them maps?

Will Congress investigate Rupert Murdoch?  His startling admission, News Corp., Fox Noise, tried to set the American agenda about the war in Iraq.

(INAUDIBLE) misled and brainwashed.  No, we‘re talking about “American Idol” now.  An ex-contestant says all that was done to her on the show.  The ex-contestant happens now to be Academy Award nominee Jennifer Hudson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jennifer Hudson would not be where she is today without “American Idol.”


OLBERMANN:  What about where Lisa Nowak is today?  From a student of astronaut psychology comes this theory, a kind of post-shuttle depression.  Forty-six years going into space, nobody sees this kind of thing coming?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We do not meddle into the private lives of astronauts or other employees within NASA.


OLBERMANN:  Gee, thanks.  Thanks for not meddling before you put one of those $1.7 billion shuttles in the hands of somebody who winds up in Pampers and a disguise six months later, pepper-spraying another astronaut‘s date.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Sixteen words from the president that have now been defended, debunked, and debated for 1,471 days.  But tonight, for the first time, we have the texture of audible testimony, the chill of the sound of a man testifying about what lengths the vice president was willing to go, what oaths he was willing to violate, to keep the illusion intact that the lies in those 16 words about Saddam Hussein and nuclear components were actually truths critical to the survival of the nation.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Dick Cheney‘s former chief deputy on tape, saying the vice president knew from virtually the start, at least, that Valerie Plame‘s CIA  identity would be revealed, and that he couldn‘t remember whether it was Mr. Cheney himself who ordered that revelation.

At Mr. Libby‘s trial today, tapes released of his testimony to a grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2004.  Here is the audiotape of Mr. Libby, asked under oath about Vice President Cheney‘s role in and knowledge of the leak, starting with Joseph Wilson‘s op-ed questioning those 16 words.


FITZGERALD:  Was it a discussion of—that was—was it a topic that was discussed on a daily basis?

LIBBY:  Yes, sir.

FITZGERALD:  And it was discussed on multiple occasions each day, in fact.

LIBBY:  Yes, sir.

FITZGERALD:  And during that time, did the vice president indicate that he was upset that this article was out there, which falsely, in his view, attacked his own credibility?

LIBBY:  Yes, sir.

FITZGERALD:  And do you recall what it is that the vice president said?

LIBBY:  I recall that he was very keen to get the truth out.  He wanted to get all the facts out about what he had or hadn‘t done, and what the facts were or were not.  He was very keen on that and said it repeatedly.  Now, let‘s get everything out.  He wanted to get it all out.  That, that I recall.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Libby then discusses a conversation with Vice President Cheney that took place after the FBI  began to investigate the leak, after Libby says he reviewed his notes and recalled exactly who it was who first told him about Valerie Plame Wilson.


LIBBY:  I went back to see him, and said, you know, I told you something wrong before.  It turns out that I have a note that I had heard, heard about this earlier from you, and I just—you know, I didn‘t want to leave you with the wrong—I didn‘t want to leave you with the wrong statement that I heard about it from Tim Russert.  In fact, I had heard about it earlier, but I had forgotten it.

FITZGERALD:  And what did he say?

LIBBY:  He didn‘t say much.  You know, he said something about, From me?  Something like that, and tilted his head, something he does commonly, and that was that.

FITZGERALD:  And did he ever indicate to you, other than saying that you don‘t have to tell him everything, any reason why he didn‘t want to know?

LIBBY:  I think one of the times when I went to see him to tell him that I wouldn‘t be available to him, that I would be out for the day for an FBI interview or something like that, he said, you know, Fine, and held up his hand, you know, I understand.  And either said, or I took from it, you know, we shouldn‘t talk about the details of this.


OLBERMANN:  Hearing these tapes along with the jury was MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who‘s been in court of the—every day of this trial.

David, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re still poring through these tapes, through these transcripts, filling in various pieces of the—what you could call the secret history of this administration.  But are there still interruptions in the trail on this now, in the smoking-gun sequence?  I mean, can the disclosure of Valerie Plame‘s CIA identity now be laid at the feet of Dick Cheney?  Or is there still a way to look at this and nuance it and say, No, Cheney was only concerned about whether or not he was the one being identified as who sent Joe Wilson to Niger?

SHUSTER:  Well, and that, of course, Keith, rests on the credibility of Scooter Libby.  I mean, Scooter Libby keeps repeating, as far as conversations with Vice President Cheney, such as whether he and Vice President Cheney actually discussed using Valerie Wilson‘s status to undercut Joe Wilson just two days before Valerie Wilson was outed.

Scooter Libby keeps saying on these tapes, you know, I don‘t recall.  It‘s possible, maybe.  And at other times, Scooter Libby keeps talking about, Well, I can‘t recall that conversation, or, I forgot what I learned from Vice President Cheney, and then thought I was learning it for the first time a few weeks later when I heard about it from Tim Russert.

And so at various points, I mean, Scooter Libby essentially clams up, that his memory gets foggy, he sort of suggests, and prosecutors are left trying to figure out, OK, the only two people who were in the room were Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby.  The vice president may have memory problems, we don‘t know what his testimony would be, and there‘s Scooter Libby suggesting that he doesn‘t really remember.

And the question is, when Scooter Libby says, I can‘t recall if the vice president told me to do that, if the prosecutors believe him or not.  And I think that‘s one of the reasons they‘re pushing so hard in this particular case.  They want to convict Scooter Libby and then give him an opportunity to rethink those conversations and see if he has anything to add about those conversations with Vice President Cheney at a time when the evidence clearly shows they were obsessed with undercutting that high-profile administration critic.

OLBERMANN:  What else besides that which we have played and that which we have just discussed makes headlines out of today and out of these tapes, in your opinion?

SHUSTER:  Another big headline out of these tapes is the extent to which prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had the basic outlines of the evidence against Scooter Libby when Scooter Libby went to the grand jury.  It was remarkable, Keith, the number of times when Scooter Libby seemed surprised when Fitzgerald said repeatedly, So you‘re saying here, under oath, that you did not have lunch with Ari Fleischer July the 7th, and discussed Valerie Wilson?

And Scooter Libby pauses, and he says, I don‘t recall.  And his voice drops.  And that happens throughout these tapes.  And it‘s really remarkable, the extent to which Scooter Libby comes across in these tapes as having been cornered, and trying to somehow wiggle his way out of this mountain of evidence that Fitzgerald had accumulated from so many government officials.

I mean, at this point in the trial, there have already been five government officials who have placed evidence into this case that Scooter Libby knew about Valerie Wilson in the weeks and just days leading up to when Scooter Libby is saying he just learned about Valerie Wilson for the first time from Tim Russert.

I mean, the evidence is clear, and the extent to which Scooter Libby‘s essentially scrambling, under oath, at the grand jury, the cumulative effect on the jury, Keith, I think, shows that, as a number of legal observers have pointed, that the key issue for Fitzgerald might have been not whether or not he would charge these particular five counts of perjury, but whether he would go up to 15 or 20.  There are so many instances of credibility problems for Scooter Libby.

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned Tim, Tim Russert testified today as the prosecution‘s last witness.  The entire prosecution case has been laid out.  What at—how is, how is Tim factor into this?  What, what is, how is he the cap to the prosecution case?

SHUSTER:  Well, in his 12 minutes on direct, Tim stated very clearly and firmly that he never had a conversation with Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson, that it was impossible for Tim to have had that conversation, because he didn‘t learn anything about Valerie Wilson until a couple of days later, when Valerie Wilson was outed.

Scooter Libby, of course, has said, no, that he learned about Valerie Wilson for the first time from Tim Russert.

What the defense is trying to do, Keith, and there‘s some suggestions that perhaps they went a little bit too far based, at least, on the jury‘s body language and their reaction, is, during their cross-examination, they kept trying to pound Tim Russert, impeach his credibility over things like the fact that Tim Russert said Scooter Libby‘s conversation evolved.  They were picking out words and phrases and try to say Tim Russert wasn‘t making any sense.

And yet the jury, at least, seemed to be hanging on Tim Russert‘s direct testimony, and perhaps not believing the efforts by the defense to somehow trip up Tim Russert or impeach his credibility.

OLBERMANN:  David Shuster, as always, reporting for us from the trial of Scooter Libby.  Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As we‘ve indicated, it may be Mr. Libby‘s name on the indictment, but it is reputation of Vice President Cheney and therefore of the White House that‘s on the line.

Back in 2003, the president repeatedly acted as though the outing of Valerie Plame was a mysterious event, certainly to him, within the White House, emanating from some obscure corner of the administration, perhaps from folks he hadn‘t met yet.

Today, the Libby trial seems to have revealed that virtually every key player in the administration was either in on the leaking of Valerie Plame‘s identity, or knew a fair amount about it, shortly after it happened.

Joining us about the political (INAUDIBLE) of today‘s developments at the Libby trial, our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent at “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Richard.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The tapes today, as they get broadcast and repeated and are available online, is this the kind of stuff that viscerally takes the air out of an administration‘s credibility in the way that mere print or TV reporting cannot do?

WOLFFE:  Well, there‘s no question the sound beats print, and pictures beat sound.  And this isn‘t just any old sound.  The important thing here is that this is the actual crime, the alleged crime, as it‘s being committed.  It‘s all about perjury, remember.

But there‘s something bigger here than just credibility.  Credibility, obviously, is very important for the trial.  It‘s very important for the legal issues here.

But for the politics, what you have here is an extraordinary picture of senior officials who came into this trial saying that they were overwhelmed with national security concerns, and, in fact, they‘re obsessing about Chris Matthews and Tim Russert and NBC.  I mean, you know, why weren‘t they focusing on the weapons of mass destruction that they said the world was threatened with?

OLBERMANN:  Is the president‘s pledge at that time to get rid of anyone tied to the leak going to come back to haunt him now?  Or has that ship sailed?  Has he provided himself with immunity because the nuance of the declassification of elements of the NIE at the time?  Where does that stand?

WOLFFE:  Well, I can tell you the official line will be that it‘s all moot, and that Libby has left the White House, and Fitzgerald hasn‘t taken his cause up with anybody else.  So where‘s the case for going after someone else?

In actual fact, I don‘t think he can escape that commitment to pursue anyone who was involved with the leak, especially because it relates to his own commitment to the vice president.  You know, I‘ve known the president for a long time.  I don‘t know whether he was actually sincere when he said this, or he thought that this was the right thing to sound like he was doing, but he didn‘t know how far it would go.

Whatever it is, these questions are going to come back because there‘s a press corps.  We‘re going to ask him about them again.

OLBERMANN:  But there is no electoral accountability for anybody involved in this, unless they‘re—the most bizarre circumstances obtain that we don‘t know about.  Is there some way that this trial, these tapes, linger into the 2008 presidential season?

WOLFFE:  Well, the whole issue does.  I mean, credibility, the case for the war.  You know, there is going to be an attempt by all candidates, Republicans and Democrats, to draw a line under this period.  But the cloud clearly hangs over the GOP and anyone who‘s close to the White House, especially John McCain.

OLBERMANN:  Give us the final update here.  The war grinds on horribly, the impasse in the Senate grinds on horribly, Senator Warner today saying that impasse was unacceptable, and he‘s made suggestions about how to get these blocked resolutions attached to other legislation so the debate can happen that way.

Am I following this right?  First he proposed it, then he blocked it, now he‘s trying to find side routes to get it debated?

WOLFFE:  Yes, an unkind person might say this is a bit of a flip-flop.  But, you look, the GOP has tied itself in knots here.  When half the base supports the president and half doesn‘t, which half do you go with?  You know, you got to have some sympathy for them.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if it‘s the way I described it there, it‘s not a flip-flop any more, it‘s a double-back-flip.  We‘ve gone three ways here.

Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, great thanks for your insights, sir.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Nightmares past and present continuing in that war. 

Another downed American helicopter now, and more dead.

And from the butchering of Blackwater USA contractors three years ago, their families ask Congress where the armor plating was, perhaps where the maps were, and why profits seem to have been put ahead of safety.

And the surprising admission from Rupert Murdoch that might startle even the most cynical.  Fox Noise and News Corp. tried to set this country‘s agenda for war in Iraq.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  As if the loss of 3,111 American troops in Iraq, and counting, were not tragic enough, at least another 158 Americans have also died on the ground there while working for private contractors.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, before Congress, new details emerging today, older questions given righteous voice about the gruesome manner in which four such contractors were murdered.  All of that juxtaposed with news from Baghdad this morning that seven more U.S. troops were killed in the crash of yet another U.S. military helicopter, the fifth in little more than two weeks.

We begin in Baghdad, the Associated Press capturing this image of smoke and flames rising from burning wreckage, what it thought to be the downed chopper, a CH-46 Sea Knight transport, U.S. military officials saying today‘s crash appears to be the result of mechanical failure.  Al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgents, however, claimed responsibility for that, the Pentagon having admitted over the weekend that all four previous helicopters to crash this year had been shot down, the attacks raising questions of whether insurgents have stepped up attacks on U.S. aircraft, or if they developed new techniques that would make any attack more successful, an analysis of casualty records showing that more Americans having been killed in combat over the past four months than in any comparable stretch since the war began.

More secretive and just as dangerous as the work being done by the U.S. military are the activities being undertaken by private security contractors, of which there are currently tens of thousands working in Iraq.  As with U.S. forces, there are charges that private contractors are being put to work without adequate equipment, in some cases without even a map.

It would be farcical, if our friends and relatives and neighbors were not being killed by such negligence, the families of four Americans brutally murdered in May 2004 today going to Capitol Hill demanding answers.

Their story tonight from our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers.


LISA MYERS, MSNBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It remains among the most gruesome events of the war.  Four Americans, private contractors, massacred and dragged through the streets.

Three years later, Katy (ph) Helvenston is out to prove that her son, Scott, a former Navy SEAL, was betrayed by his company, Blackwater USA.


(INAUDIBLE) believing in his country, and this contractor had been hired by his country, and he trusted them with his life.

MYERS:  Today, Helvenston and other families took their case to Congress.

HELVENSTON:  I was told he was still alive when they tied him to the back of that truck and drug him through the streets of Fallujah.  And that was before they decapitated him.

MYERS:  The families are now suing Blackwater, charging the men were shortchanged, sent out without armored vehicles, without heavy machine guns, even without a map.


couldn‘t you give him the protection and the tools that he needed to complete his mission?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  Do you believe that Blackwater was more concerned about the safety of its personnel, or how much profit it could make from the contract?

DONNA ZOVKO, MOTHER OF DECEASED BLACKWATER USA EMPLOYEE:   It is profit.  It is definitely profit.

MYERS (voice-over):  The committee produced this e-mail from the day before the attack, an urgent appeal from Blackwater‘s Iraq manager for more ammo, more powerful guns, body armor.  “I have requested hard”—or armored—“cars from the beginning.”

Today, a Blackwater official said the company cares about the safety of employees, and that these men had adequate equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you skimped on equipment.

ANDREW HOWELL, GENERAL COUNSEL, BLACKWATER USA:  We have not skimped on equipment, no, sir.

MYERS (on camera):  But these families complain that there still are few rules or standards on how contractors operate, and no accountability when things go horribly wrong.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN:  As to how the United States got into Iraq, and who helped sell the country on the wisdom of the war, Rupert Murdoch finally owes up-ish.

And a desperate housewife gets a little more than a peck on the cheek from an ex-president.  Details and video ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Petr Kropotkin, anarchist, author, prisoner, and disillusioned communist, died 86 years ago today.  But before he did, he observed of the United States, quote, “There, the politician has come to be looked upon as the very scum of society.”  And he said this around 1910.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Just a coincidence, we begin in Beverly Hills with President George Bush, Senior, bidding adieu to actress Terry Hatcher.  Hello.  Unlike this similar video that is not, we repeat not, the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, posing up for traffic warden, presidential behind pat is apparently all too real.

TMZ.com, which gave us the video, reporting that the 82-year-old ex-leader of the free world just happened to be in L.A. to get the 2007 Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, hello, and just happened to have lunch with the “Desperate Housewives” star.  So presumably, his hand just happened to fall on her sit-upon, repeatedly.  No word on how Bar is handling the handling.  Hello.

To New York City, and the 30th annual Race Up the Empire State Building.  And they‘re off.  And they‘re stuck.  I covered this 25 years ago.  I‘m surprised some of the runners from that race aren‘t still stuck in that narrow hallway.  Obviously they‘ll get the bottleneck fixed in time for the men‘s race.

Definition of insanity is what?  Once they all finally squeezed into the stairwell, 290 participants ran, walked, and finally crawled up 86 floors to the finish line on the Observation Deck.  The grand prize awaiting them, a trip to New York, damn it.

Speaking of running, does this look reminiscent of anything, the runaway astronaut?  Oh, yes, Jennifer Wilbanks is revisited, sort of.  Day two of the Lisa Nowak saga, and the theory that after you‘ve been in space, life here on earth can be too dull to handle.

And Oscar nee Jennifer Hudson lashes out against the program that gave her her first break, saying “American Idol” brainwashes people.  Well, that would explain the ratings.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, authorities in Beijing stepping up their efforts to eliminate Chinglish, the mistranslation on public signs there for the Summer Olympics next year.  Some of the doozies still in place, in Chinese, the sign reads, “Warning, Slippery pavement.”  In English, it reads, “To Take Notice of Safe, the Slickery Are Very Crafty.”  In English, another sign reads, “Ethnic minorities park.”  In English, it reads, “Racist Park.”

Number two, Chicago Bear fan Scott Wiese.  Well, call him by his new name, Peyton Manning.  He was so sure that his Bears would win the Super Bowl over the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Manning that if they lost, he said he would change his name to Peyton Manning.  They lost.  Manning, table of one.

And number one, residents of the Rostov region of Russia supplying what may be the first hard and fast evidence of aliens from outer space having arrived on this plant.  That thing there came out of the Sea of Azov after a very strong storm.  It looked kind of like a shark, they say, but with a long tail.  It weighed around 225 pounds.  It had that face.  And it made squeaking sounds.

What did the residents of Rostov do with our interplanetary friend?  Of course, they ate him.  One resident said it was the best meal he‘d ever had.  Well, if they‘re right, and it was an alien, I‘m sure his relatives will be back soon, and they‘ll be able to say the same thing about the people of Rostov.


OLBERMANN:  The telegram is part of American history.  The U.S.  battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor in 898 and the infamous yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst, Orson Wells‘ model for Citizen Kane, immediately had his newspapers pin the blame on Cuba‘s Spanish masters.  Hearst and the Hearst papers insisted this country should attack Spain and anticipating the conflict, the publishing giant sent the famous illustrator Frederic Remington to Cuba to draw the pictures of the battles there. 

From Havana Remington telegraphed Hearst that he couldn‘t find any war in Cuba.  You furnish the pictures, Hearst telegraphed back.  I‘ll furnish the war. 

In our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, imagine if William Randolph Hearst had owned a cable television network.  The first admission from the evil overlord of Fox, Rupert Murdoch, that his news operation tried to lead America into the war in Iraq.  Mr. Murdoch‘s remarkable confession coming at last month‘s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in Switzerland. 

First, Murdoch bemoaning how big media has lost much of its power to set agendas, to things like blogs and news sites on the Internet, then panel moderator Charlie Rose, following up with a question about whether News Corp had managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq, to which Mr.  Murdoch answered, quote, “no, I don‘t think so.  We tried.”  Follow up answer, “we basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East, but we have been very critical of his execution.” 

Time now to call in Rachel Maddow, the host of the conveniently named Rachel Maddow show on Air America Radio.  Good evening, welcome. 

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”:  Hi Keith, thanks for having me.   

OLBERMANN:  Many will, no doubt, react to our doing this segment by saying, and this is news why?  But is there ambiguity here.  I mean, we don‘t get access to the actual tape of what he said for a couple weeks, but the print reporting simply says, he was asked if his company managed to shape the agenda about Iraq and he said, no, I don‘t think so, we tried.  Is there more than one way to interpret that?

MADDOW:  I don‘ think so.  It seems to me to be a fairly unambiguous statement, which wouldn‘t be a problem if he was talking about a PR firm, or if he was talking about some sort of ideological think tank with an axe to grind.  The problem is that Fox News Channel bills itself as the thing that‘s trying to unspin America.  Right, the thing that‘s fair and balanced.  It‘s trying to spin Americans away from the supposedly biased, agenda driven news that the mainstream news gives us, and we can only trust Fox, because they don‘t have an agenda. 

Now he‘s admitting they have an agenda.  So, either they need to change their tag line or he has to back down from that in a much more serious way than he already has. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, It‘s a sales pitch phrase, I mean, it‘s a catch phrase.  It doesn‘t mean anything.  It‘s just fair and balanced.  It might as well be green and purple.  But if the meaning is as obvious as that, why on Earth would Murdoch ever admit it. 

MADDOW:  To me that‘s the most interesting question here.  I don‘t think that he‘s out of it enough at this point that he thinks, oh, I said it in Switzerland.  Nobody will know about it in America.  I don‘t think it‘s that.  I wonder—

OLBERMANN:  Ask Eason Jordan about that in particular.   

MADDOW:  Yes, exactly.  I wonder if there is a certain fatalism and a certain kind of flippancy, born of fatalism, among a lot of the really big deal people, like Rupert Murdoch, who did bang the drum so loudly for this war.  Nobody in the world thinks this war is going well anymore except for the Cheney family.  And people like Rupert Murdoch, who have to know how responsible they were for ginning up the support for it, I just wonder if he is a little bit self-destructive and flippant on this issue, because he feels fatalist. 

How else would you feel, were you in his position?  He has got to be carrying at least some guilt if he‘s a human being. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, presumably, there could be some spin forward to the follow-up.  Because the follow up that he said was, we basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East, but we have been very critical of its execution.  Is he talking about one of his British newspapers?  Is he trying to get people to feel that there has been some criticism of the war.  Because I don‘t know of anybody at Fox Noise that would admit they have been very critical of the Bush policy in Iraq. 

MADDOW:  No, and they continue to be incredibly critical of real reporters.  They continue to be incredibly critical of real mainstream media.  They continue to be unbelievably critical, and personally attacking toward people who have been critical of the Bush administration. 

OLBERMANN:  Hi, hello, how are you? 

MADDOW:  Yes, exactly.  I mean, that‘s the thing that we can all document every day that they do.  And so the idea that they‘ve somehow come to their senses and yes, they supported the war as a good idea, but they‘ve seen, just like the rest of us, how poorly it‘s been executed.  It‘s a farce, and they can try to spin that, but it‘s an absolute farce.  And that‘s why I don‘t even that Murdoch could try to gin that up.  I like to think of it as kind of a psychological disillusion on the issue. 

OLBERMANN:  It would be nice to think that.  It would also be nice to think that large numbers of his viewers and his readers would hear about what he said and say, well, I‘ve been had.  But that‘s not likely to happen.  But does it suggest maybe that the trend of the TV ratings—they are not adding viewers.  They are not holding their younger viewers— suggests that the fair and balanced claim and all the rest of the promotional stuff, is now rejected in advance by new viewers in the same way that the tobacco claims, tobacco company‘s claim that you can smoke safely are automatically rejected? 

MADDOW:  Well, they‘re certainly not attracting new and younger viewers.  And, I mean, I think there is a reason why Fox News Channel did get giant ratings at one point, and does continues to get some good ratings, because, I think, there is a feel good factor to jingoism.  There is something about Father Coughlin style demagogy that quickens your blood, that is enticing, and that is appealing in a populist sort of way. 

The problem is that the American public is past that point with this war and that‘s going to be their signature issue.  Murdoch, I think knows it‘s their signature issue, that they, more than anybody, helped gin up the case for the war and beat the drums for it.  You know, it may feel good to go along with that stuff, but ultimately, you get sick of it. 

OLBERMANN:  Remember the Maine, William Randolph Hearst learned, probably later on, that it was actually just an accident.  Rachel Maddow, the host of, what else, the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America, a pleasure to have you on the show. 

MADDOW:  Thank you Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Another blight on humanity courtesy of Mr. Murdoch‘s organization, “American Idol.”  An Oscar nominee says her experience on the show included abuse and brainwashing.  One of the judges fires back.  And which one of last night‘s contestants turns out to be this week‘s winner in the we didn‘t know they had a criminal record competition. 

And the equal opportunity offending Super Bowl commercials.  Straight viewers complained, gay groups complained, the fate of the less than satisfying Snickers spot ahead on COUNTDOWN. 


OLBERMANN:  It is all part of a twisted game, not the present day game show that is “American Idol,” but the 24-7 post game show.  If it is not statistically true that more ex-contestants have now spoken out in public than have remained silent, it must be pretty close. 

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the parade of unloved, unwashed and untalented, complaining about their awful treatment at the hands of the judges, may seem to be stretching on into next Tuesday, but when a finalist from a previous season, who has since achieved no small degree of success, says she was abused, misled and brainwashed on the program, that‘s news. 

Well, almost news.  Jennifer Hudson, the Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner for her role in “Dreamgirls,” has told Essence Magazine that here memories of those good old Idol days are not so good.  Quote, “On ‘American Idol‘ you go through this mental thing.  You‘ve got to get yourself back together.  You‘ve been abused, misled and brainwashed to believe whatever they want you to think.  I became the character in the turkey wrapping.”

I am told by my Idol worshipping executive producer that the last comment referred to an unflattering dress Miss Hudson once wore on set program.  But judge Randy Jackson was hearing none of this. 


RANDY JACKSON, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  I heard recently that she said she was misquoted.  I mean listen, you audition for this show, and I think the reason people are saying, dog, you getting so much meaner this season.  What happens—it‘s the sixth season on the air.  If you don‘t know what this show is about by now, turn your TV off, lose the TV, forget it.  She knew what the show was, and guess what, I mean, for all of the people out there, just keeping it real, as a dog always keeps it real, Jennifer Hudson would not be where she is today without “American Idol.” 


OLBERMANN:  The dog is a bitter and broken man.  Meanwhile the meanness and the tears have continued. 



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.   

JACKSON:  Simon, you‘re crazy. 

What‘s up, baby? 


JACKSON:  You all right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi.  I‘m great. 

COWELL:  Have you borrowed Randy‘s trousers? 


COWELL:  I didn‘t understand a word of that. 


COWELL:  It was literally like some language I‘ve never heard in my life.  I‘ve got to ask you this question Sandy, was that serious? 


COWELL:  All right, I‘m sorry I asked. 

I think you need to be in a very dark bedroom when you sing that song. 

I do, in not a great mood. 

JACKSON:  Sorry dude, it‘s a no. 


OLBERMANN: Then there is the reverse phenomenon, where when a contestant makes it to the next round of the show, followed by the oops, when Idol producers uncover a little bit of trouble with the law.  Enter Akron Watson (ph).




OLBERMANN:  The judges gave Mr. Watson the go ahead to get it on in last night‘s episode in Hollywood anyway, not knowing that he was evidently arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, according to court records.  Wait, a singer who has possessed pot?  Idol producers subsequently disinvited Mr. Watson, though they would not state their reasons. 

And Ashlon Carr, a real tear jerker she, being sent away by the judges, but then, oh mercy, being called back in and given another chance.  The judges miraculously changing their minds and sending Ms. Carr to the Hollywood round, even though they didn‘t like her funny face. 




OLBERMANN: This problem, the contestant was not feeling so good about an ex-boyfriend back in November of last year.  Again, according to TMZ.com, Ms. Carr was charged with felony criminal mischief.  Note that name again, because she poured sugar in the gas tank of the ex-boyfriend‘s vehicle.  Carr trouble, indeed. 

From getting the boot on Idol to getting pulled off the air all together.  That marks our transition to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Snickers has been forced to pull its dubious Super Bowl ad.  Snickers used to brag it satisfies.  Not so much with the kissing mechanics ad.  Two guys do the whole Lady and The Tramp thing with a Snickers bar. 

You get the point.  It‘s supposed to be cute and funny.  Not only did gay rights groups object, called it prejudiced and inexcusable, many viewers objected, calling it appropriate for network viewing on an early Sunday night, particularly because of the bonus ad material on the website. 

An alternate ending shows the mechanics beating each other up after the kiss.  There is also supplemental sound of Super Bowl players mocking the kiss.  It turns out the National Football League, which usually goes over the Super Bowl commercials with a fine toothed comb, never saw this one beforehand, so they say. 

Britney Spears has herself reportedly been the recipient of the old boot.  The pop princess supposed to be back on the singles scene, attention gentlemen.  It‘s reported that her current ex-boyfriend Isaac Cohen broke up with her on Sunday night over the phone.  Stay classy Isaac, allegedly saying Spears was too much of a whirlwind.  Meantime, Miss Britney got irked by another ex last night.  TMZ reporting Britney went off on a New York D.J. when he played a Justin Timberlake song, which was quickly changed to something less offensive, a list which include things like nails scraping across a chalkboard. 

First Lisa Nowak travels across five states in diapers.  Now she‘s doing her best Jennifer Wilbanks impression.  What could cause a NASA astronaut to snap?  Was it a love triangle or some sort of post-shuttle depression?  That‘s not a joke.  That‘s ahead. 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.  The bronze to basketball‘s Ron Artest.  We all remember him from the 2005 brawl, when he and some of his Indiana Pacers teammates went into the stands to wrestle with Detroit Pistons fans.  He‘s now with the Sacramento Kings and accused of cruelty not to fans, but to animals. 

A criminal investigation ensuing after animal control officers took custody of his black and white female Great Dane this week.  Neighbors said the dog is often left alone in Artest‘s yard without food or drink for weeks or months at a time.  Evidently Ron did not explain to his dog about road trips.  And where‘s the mail man? 

The silver tonight, Angela Nelani (ph), arrested outside of Sacramento, accused of trying to kill her ex-husband for his quarter million dollar insurance policy, trying to kill him with wasps.  She filled the heater of his car with wasps.  He‘s allergic to wasps.  He‘s OK.  She got, you know it, stung. 

But our winner the unidentified passenger in the Chowdery Osman‘s (ph) cab in New York City.  She left a black bag in the taxi‘s trunk.  When the driver, Mr. Osman, found it, located the woman, returned the bag to her, the bag was filled with 31 diamond rings.  She was a jeweler.  The drivers reward from the grateful passenger, 100 bucks. 

Wait it gets worse, Mr. Osman had gone through all this trouble, even though the ride that she took in his cab had cost 11 bucks and she had given him a tip of 30 cents.  A 30 cent tip.  Your diamonds rings should have been sleeping with the fishes in the East River lady.  Chowdery Osman‘s cheap passenger, today‘s Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN:  To the number one story on the COUNTDOWN and the story of the fallen astronaut Lisa Nowak, also known because of her bizarre choice of driving undergarments, as, forgive me, the pampered astronaut.  Another Bob and Ray comedy sketch comes to life.  The interviewer asks the owner of the factory how he can afford to have his employees make paper clips by hand.  We pay them 17 cents a week.  It‘s a sweetheart deal with the Union.  The interviewer, shocked and appalled, asked how they can live or get anything to eat.  The boss paternally explains, we don‘t meddle into the private lives of our employees. 

Sure enough, asked today about how six months after she was in one of those very big, very expensive, tax-payer built space shuttles, Captain Nowak drove 900 miles while wearing diapers, so she could confront, pepper spray and possibly attempt to murder a rival for the romantic interests of another astronaut, NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale said—


SHANA DALE, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR:  We do not meddle into the private lives of astronauts or other employees within NASA. 


OLBERMANN:  Big Bob and Ray fan evidently.  In a moment, the theory from a student of astronaut psychology that captain Nowak may have been suffering from a kind of post shuttle depression.  First today‘s developments.  Mrs. Nowak returned to Houston today.  Her coat disguise firmly in tow, ala the runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks.  She is wearing her own space shuttle hat. 

Captain Nowak, accompanied by a fellow astronaut.  Later she went to the Johnson Space Center for a medical assessment.  A NASA spokeswoman are not disclosing whether that included a psychological evaluation.  Take a guess.

Meanwhile, NASA officials said they would fully review the entire psychological screening process, to determine if any modifications were needed to the process, that is.  Mrs. Nowak was released from an Orlando jail yesterday on bail, wearing a global positioning satellite device after she was charged with attempted first-degree murder and attempted kidnapping. 

Let‘s flesh this out a bit with forensic psychologist and host of the Dr. Keith Ablow show, Dr. Keith Ablow.  Thanks for your time tonight sir.

DR. KEITH ABLOW, “THE DR. KEITH ABLOW SHOW”:  My pleasure, thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  So, to begin with, this theory that I mentioned, posed in the “New York Times” today by Nick Cannis (ph), who is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, this idea that for some people it‘s just impossible to adjust to the end of something extraordinary that they worked hard and long to achieve.  You wait ten years to go into space, as Captain Nowak did, finally get a shuttle flight.  Two weeks later it‘s over and, if you‘re lucky, maybe you‘ll go again some day. 

Do you buy that there is a post shuttle depression out there? 

ABLOW:  Well look, there could be a post-shuttle depression out there. 

We don‘t know whether this woman suffered from it.  Certainly we know that her marriage had disintegrated or she had become separated.  She had lost friends in a terrible space disaster.  There are lots of stresses in her life.  So could depression be applicable here?  Sure, it could be.  We don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  Are there more pedestrian explanations that you would look at?  Is that marriage the key to somebody coming that unglued that fast? 

ABLOW:  Well look, you know, there is a range, I think there is a spectrum of explanations.  First the astronaut explanations, there is this phenomenon called break off, by the way, that was first described in the ‘50s, where you kind of look down at the Earth and you come to question your very existence and some astronauts find it exhilarating, some astronauts find it incredibly depressing and depersonalizing.  So there is the astronaut explanation. 

In terms of being a woman on the face of the planet Earth, you know what, if you‘ve had in your early life experience events that sensitize you to loss and jealousy, those early events, that can be very charged, can be reawakened by a love triangle in adulthood.  So that could be the case here.  And there are red herring theories, Keith, like, for instance, I was looking at photos of this woman.  She seems to have pretty bad acne.  As a doctor, I‘d want to know was she ever on acutane, the medicine which, by the way, can occasionally cause terrible thoughts of violence.  By the way, one in a billion shot there. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, analyze the other end of the deal for a second.  NASA‘s reaction here, they seem to be enraged that this is getting the attention it has.  The agency seems offended.  This has nothing to do with them.  They are heroes.  This is a one in a lifetime kind of thing.  Are they in some sort of denial?  It seems like their view is their people are better than other people.  They don‘t have problems like this, just this one? 

ABLOW:  Well, listen, you know, I think it‘s encouraging that the record at NASA is that this is the first, apparently, astronaut charged with a felony crime.  That‘s a pretty good record.  But look, back in the 1970‘s NASA decided to suspend a lot of its personality testing, to curtail a lot of what would be a rigorous psychological assessment.  I think this is a wake-up call.  Yes, I think it‘s a bit defensive, sure.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, and we keep harping on this, but it‘s the signature to this story, the thing that elevates it into some other realm, what is it with the diapers?  An adult patient volunteering to wear diapers?  This would be the kind of patient you guys would be bidding on to treat, right? 

ABLOW:  Bidding on or charging a lot per hour, I‘m not sure. 

OLBERMANN:  Either way. 

ABLOW:  Listen, I‘m not going to toilet training theories here.  I‘m going to say, listen, there are a lot of facts that look like premeditation, and if I were going to try to hurt somebody, if that‘s the case here, that she premeditated this crime, or would-be crime, I might not want to stop at a public restroom and be known to have troubled 900 miles and stopped 300 miles in and another 300 miles in. 

OLBERMANN:  Or, perhaps, she just knows that the quality of the public restrooms on that route just aren‘t that good.  Dr. Keith Ablow, the host of the “Dr. Keith Ablow Show,” check your local listings and show times, thanks for joining us, sir. 

ABLOW:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,396th day since declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.



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