updated 2/16/2007 11:13:09 AM ET 2007-02-16T16:13:09

Guests: Clarence Page, Michael Musto, Dana Milbank, Larry Johnson, Stanley Brand

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

Remember Afghanistan, where the 9/11 terrorists actually received sanctuary?  President Bush finally does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   As we implement a new strategy in Iraq, we‘re also taking new steps to defeat the terrorists and extremists in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thirty-two hundred more troops to go there to defeat the Taliban, the Taliban he told us we‘d already defeated.

Secretary Rice denies she ever heard of an Iran offer to help us out with Iraq in 2003.  Her critics deny that‘s possible.

This, unbelievable, if not impossible.  The August 2002 General Tommy Franks slide show, Iraq as it would look in 2007, just 5,000 U.S. troops, the Iraqi army keeping the peace, a national football league franchise in Baghdad.  Well, I made that last part up.  But it looks like they made the rest of it up.

What‘s worse than calling somebody a Halfrican-American?  How about telling him he should deny his heritage?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH:  If it‘s not something you want to be, if you didn‘t decide it, renounce it, become white.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What are comedian Rush Limbaugh and the other right-wing water carriers trying to accomplish here with their overt racism?

Maybe take the heat off former basketball star Tim Hardaway?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TIM HARDAWAY:  I hate gay people.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Guess which former star is suddenly not going to the basketball all-star game this weekend?

The late Ms. Smith isn‘t going anywhere either.  More of the kind of dignified, respectful treatment of the deceased we‘ve come to expect in the last week.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This body belongs to me now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And guess who this body belongs to?  Four more years?  A major announcement about the future of this newscast.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, here we go.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to spend a lot of time together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Having abandoned Afghanistan for his great military adventure in Iraq, and, by all signs, now considering some kind of brand-new confrontation with Iran, President Bush today finally remembering that Americans in uniform are engaged in battle on another front, once seemingly defining and successful, now also going badly, and going badly because of neglect.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the commander in chief today changing the subject from the mess in Mesopotamia and from the lack of evidence against Iran to the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush blaming others for the Taliban‘s comeback, specifically the NATO alliance, for having not sent enough troops for a roomful of neocons at the American Enterprise Institute, the president seemingly of the opinion that resolve alone, and others‘ sacrifices, really is all that‘s needed to defeat extremists in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bombs almost doubled.  Direct-fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly five-fold.  These escalating attacks are part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.

So the fundamental question is, how do you react?  You say, maybe it‘s too tough, let‘s just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away?  Do we forget the lessons of September the 11th?  And the answer‘s absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Pentagon announcing plans to send an additional 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, bringing the American presence there to about 27,000 total, the current escalation of combat troops for Iraq nearly that large.  As for the president‘s claim yesterday that Revolutionary Guards in Iran known as the Quds Force are supplying roadside bombs that are killing American proofs, the only proof—troops, rather—the only proof Mr.  Bush says he needs before he retaliates, “The Los Angeles Times” today reporting that even that may not be true, but the level of delusion at the White House possibly reaching its nadir with regard to U.S. plans for the invasion of Iraq, newly classified Pentagon documents from August of 2002 envisioning that by this stage in a post-Saddam Iraq, nearly four years after the invasion, only 5,000 American troops would still be needed there, instead, the real number, of course, approaching 150,000, today at the White House, the press secretary, Mr. Snow, claiming he doesn‘t believe anything went wrong between that unrealistic assessment and the current all-too-real violent reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, ABC NEWS:  Slides from a prewar briefing show that by this point the U.S. expected that the Iraqi army would be able to stabilize the country, and there‘d be as few as 5,000 U.S. troops there.  What went wrong?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I‘m not sure anything went wrong.  At the beginning of the Civil War, people thought it would all be over in Manassas.  It‘s very difficult—you know, I‘m a—Jessica, the fact is, a war is a big, complex thing, and what you‘re talking about is a 2002 assessment.  We‘re now in the year 2007, and it is well known by anybody who‘s studied any war that war plans immediately become moot upon the first contact with the enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House debating the troop buildup in Iraq for a third straight day with approval of the nonbinding resolution appearing to be a slam-dunk, as many as 60 Republicans said to be intending to vote for it, Democrats moving on to the president‘s request for nearly $100 billion in war funding, Congressman Jack Murtha announcing in a Web chat he hopes to insert provisions in the funding request that would, among other things, require additional troops in Iraq to be properly equipped, also prohibiting any military action against Iran without specific congressional approval.

In the Senate, a bipartisan effort to revive the debate there, the majority leader, Harry Reid, still trying to gather enough votes to break the Republican filibuster, Republicans Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe threatening to block a week-long recess in the Senate if their leadership does not end that filibuster itself.

For more on the whole sorry mess, I‘m joined now by our own Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If the vote on the nonbinding resolution in the House is purportedly so rich in symbolism, and the Democrats are supposed to be so intent on sending this message to the president, why would the majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, tell members that the vote will be late Friday night, perhaps as late as midnight?  Is that not the ultimate news dump?  Does Mr.  Hoyer need a quick crash course in staging?

MILBANK:  He may.  I (INAUDIBLE), let‘s just chalk it up to a rookie mistake.  What happened is, they said, Well, we‘re going to give them as much time as they want to debate.  Republicans said, Aha!  And they have the same guys coming up two and three times, trying to have a little delay of game here, so it‘ll be buried in Saturday night, it‘ll be, it‘ll, of course, miss your show tomorrow night.  But I‘m glad that they won‘t be able to escape you entirely, if you have four more years.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much, sir.  As many as 60 of these House Republicans who are said to be contemplating crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats tomorrow night, Saturday morning, any idea how many of those would be willing to go to that next step?  I mean, the symbolic gesture seems to be much easier for a Republican at this point than anything else.  Would they go as far, or any of them go as far, as these attachments to funding, as proposed by Mr. Murtha?

MILBANK:  I don‘t think so.  And I actually think the 60 number is a bit inflated, something the Republicans are putting out, so that it‘ll look better than expected when that midnight vote occurs.  They‘ve been rallying to a larger extent than expected, and already getting ready to take on the Murtha plan, calling it a slow bleed, a way to defund the troops.

They‘re worried about it, Murtha has worded it quite cleverly.  It actually is a measure that is, in fact, protecting the troops‘ home leave and whatnot.  But it definitely appears that the Republicans on Capitol Hill have gotten their nerve to stand, at least for a while, behind the president‘s plan.

OLBERMANN:  About the Republicans in the White House, you used to cover that president from the vantage point of the White House.  We have these extraordinary August 2002 predictions now about postwar Iraq, everything but pictures of the trees and the bushes and the flowers.  And now this apparent—if they really have anything, they‘re not going to tell us anything about Iran.  Is this a divorced from reality state, or is there some other explanation for what‘s happening in the White House right now?

MILBANK:  Well, divorced is a bit strong.  Let‘s call it a trial separation that occurs from time to time here.  It was very interesting at the president‘s press conference yesterday, getting hammered over and over again about Iran, the president getting flustered a bit, even confusing Iraq and Iran a couple of times.  A lot of skepticism, saying, How do we know to believe this intelligence you‘re saying about Iran supplying weapons into Iraq?

The problem for the president is, who knows?  This may be perfectly true now.  But he has so poisoned the well with the Iraq intelligence that even if he‘s telling the truth at this point, he‘s got the boy crying wolf situation, unable to get his message out there even if he‘s telling the truth.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, if you confuse Iraq and Iran, to use the old joke, you get Iraqan (ph).  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.”  Dana, as always, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the seemingly persistent intelligence failures plaguing the administration and lending itself to that boy who cried wolf stuff, let‘s turn now to Larry Johnson, former CIA officer, former deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism.

Larry, thanks for some of your time tonight.

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  With the prewar intelligence on Iraq, the White House, at best, cherry-picked the parts it liked, threw out the parts that it did not like.  At worst, it outright lied about the whole package.  Is this—and we‘ve asked this question of almost everybody that‘s been on the show the last month, is this thing happening again with Iran?  Is there a lie, a cherry-pick?  What‘s going on now?

JOHNSON:  Yes, it‘s deceptive.  President Bush is correct that Iran is in Iraq, and has been providing some weapons and material support to a variety of the militia.  They‘ve been there since 2003.

The most of the casualties that U.S. troops have incurred, however, come not from the Shia backed by Iran, but from Sunnis, who are backed by Jordanians, who are backed by Saudis.

So he gets to come out and say something that is true, but he presents it in a misleading fashion to suggest that most of the casualties our troops are incurring are coming from these dastardly Iranians, when the exact opposite is the case.  Iran, according to the statistics released the other day, Iran is responsible for less than 8 percent of the fatalities since June of 2004, and less than 4 percent of the wounded.

Now, we need to be concerned about that, but I would rather focus our effort on the 92 percent that are attributable to the Sunni.

OLBERMANN:  Now, when it comes to which of the pro-Iranian agents inside Iraq are being portrayed as villains and which ones are being portrayed as allies, is there cherry-picking there going on by the administration as well?

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  You know, they‘ve caught the Hollywood bug. 

You‘ve got to have a good villain.  Last year we had Zarqawi, Zarqawi dies.  So the new villain is Muqtada al-Sadr.  Unfortunately, Muqtada al-Sadr, among the Shia clerics—yes, he doesn‘t like us, but he is the most pro-Iraqi nationalist in the group.  The guy who is the most pro-Iranian, al-Hakim—Aziz al-Hakim, was sitting in the Oval Office in December of 2006 doing a grip-and-grin with President Bush.

That guy, when you have—when you run a group called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and you are closely tied to Iran, and a few weeks ago, one of the Iranians that the United States picked up and is accusing of being involved with this bombing, is, in fact, he was in al-Hakim‘s compound.

So it‘s complete disconnect.  We‘re trying to fight Muqtada al-Sadr, when the real threat from the United States comes from Sunni sources, not Shia sources.

OLBERMANN:  There is, of course, the whole question of what Iran‘s point of view had been at a critical time in this—our experience in the area, in 2003, and Secretary Rice testified last week she had never seen the overture from Iran in ‘03 for talks with the U.S. that would have perhaps provided some assistance regarding Iraq.

Today, the former aide to the secretary, Flynt Leverett, said that was unthinkable that she did not see it.  Are we—once again, just—is this just blatant, headfirst, ram-it-through-the-wall kind of misinformation being passed off by the administration?  Are they just denying something that‘s obviously true?

JOHNSON:  It‘s one of two things, Keith, either it‘s incompetence, and we saw an element of that with her handling of the information prior to 9/11, or she has a medical problem, perhaps early-onset Alzheimer‘s.  You know, I can‘t figure it out.

The lead-in to your show tonight, about Afghanistan, is particularly important.  One of the issues that most concerns Iran is the resurgence of the Taliban.  This is one of those areas in which both the Iranian Islamists and the United States agree on.  Neither of us want to see the Taliban back.  So that was an area that could have been negotiated.  The Iranians wanted to negotiate.  And, you know, frankly, Condoleezza Rice is lying about this.

But she‘s gotten away with it now for six years, so why should she change?

OLBERMANN:  And it‘s not like we could use anybody‘s help against the Taliban (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  Larry Johnson, former deputy director of the Office of Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department.  Larry, as always, great thanks for joining us.

JOHNSON:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Scooter Libby defense, also a question of what you remember and what you don‘t remember, ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.  Can we divine anything about the outcome, given that neither Libby nor his ex-boss, the vice president, ever took the stand in his defense?

And the latest right-wing attack on Barack Obama, not challenging his politics, but challenging the authenticity of his race.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby today turned to a boring technical procedural matter, one that could change everything, the defense and prosecution wrangling over jury instructions, the exact language the judge will use when he tells that jury next week exactly what and how to deliberate.

At stake in this fourth story on our COUNTDOWN, not merely Mr. Libby‘s guilt or innocence, but whether history will record that a top adviser to both president and vice president, a key architect of the Iraq war, was willing to break the law to conceal the truth about what the administration told the American people about that war.

In three weeks of testimony, the jury has heard half a dozen government officials and journalists chip away at Mr. Libby‘s claim under oath that he honestly forgot learning, and leaking, the fact that a critic of the war happened to be married to a covert CIA operative.  The jury has not heard from either Libby or the man he served, Vice President Cheney.

Joining (INAUDIBLE) us now with his perspective on what has happened this week, and in the week preceding it, Washington defense attorney Stanley Brand, veteran of previous Hill proceedings such as the steroid hearings and the Whitewater investigation, also a former colleague of Mr.  Libby‘s lead counsel, Ted Wells.

Stan, thanks for your time tonight.

STANLEY BRAND, WASHINGTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What are we to make of the fact that some of the highest-paid legal minds in the capital could only manage to pull together three days of testimony on Mr. Libby‘s behalf?

BRAND:  Well, one of two things.  Either they believe they have such a clear winner that they don‘t want to put the defendant on and run the risk that they could lose, or they think they‘re so far in the hole that to put him on adds additional risk that Fitzgerald will cross-examine him in such a devastating way that they will most assuredly get convicted.

My guess is it‘s the latter, because he has boxed them with a very, very tight case, and, as you say, not one, not two, not three, but seven witnesses who contradict what he told the grand jury.

OLBERMANN:  And that explains also why, at the start of the trial, the lawyers told the prospective jurors that their client was going to testify?  I presume that would be the explanation for it.  But is it a good idea, in a perjury trial, to say something to the jury that turns out not to be true?

BRAND:  No, it‘s not good in any trial to promise something, or imply something, to the jury that you do not deliver on in the course of the government‘s case, or your own defense, because jurors have an interesting way of remembering what they‘ve been promised, and scoring you if you don‘t produce it.

OLBERMANN:  At this late date, is there a prospect, if it‘s as bleak for Mr. Libby as it sounds, is there somebody in the prosecution, is there somebody in Mr. Fitzgerald‘s office or Mr. Fitzgerald himself or someone in the government, who‘s saying, Look, this is a slam-dunk, your attorneys know it, here‘s a deal?  Does Libby have anything to deal at this late stage?

BRAND:  I don‘t think so, and I don‘t think Fitzgerald would play that game at this late stage.  And then again, who could he trade up on, in the parlance?  He could only trade up on on the vice president.  And I just don‘t think that‘s going to happen.

OLBERMANN:  But to that point, given everything we‘ve heard and everything we learned in testimony, Mr. Cheney‘s involvement, his interest, the fact that he knew and told Libby, his directions to Libby, should Mr.  Fitzgerald, in your opinion, have pursued Cheney himself for the underlying event?

BRAND:  I think he probably did look very hard at it.  And if we‘ve learned one thing about Patrick Fitzgerald, and I think what acquits him well, is that he doesn‘t pursue for the sake of pursuit, like some other independent counselors we‘ve had.  He has basically taken the prosecutor‘s oath, and that is, I will prosecute and charge only a case that I genuinely believe I can convict at trial.

And so while he may have looked at the vice president, he ultimately determined this there was no case there to be made.

OLBERMANN:  So the symbolism, the political meaning, even the history that‘s been provided by this trial, you‘re convinced, having seen this almost all the way to the end, that none of these factors worked into Mr.  Fitzgerald‘s planning on this?

BRAND:  No, none at all.  I think this—I think Fitzgerald is what I would consider a classic prosecutor in a mold that we have not seen in a while, and that is, I‘m going to stick to my knitting, I‘m going to charge what I can prove, and I‘m going to do no more than that.  And I‘m not going to reach for higher-ups simply to put a scalp on the wall, unless I think they‘ve committed a crime, and I can nail them for it.

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m just stuck on the idea, do you—looking at this from a distance, is it possible that the people representing Scooter Libby did not know to the degree that he seems to be in trouble from the testimony in this case, that any of it was to this extent?

BRAND:  No, I think these defense lawyers are smart, experienced lawyers.  They went in with their eyes open.  They knew how tough a case this would be.  You know, in our profession, everybody‘s entitled to a defense.  You give them the best that you can, and sometimes you just come up short.

OLBERMANN:  The defense attorney Stanley Brand.  Great thanks for some of your time tonight, Stan.

BRAND:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of covert, what‘s more romantic than dining in the dark with somebody filming you wearing night-vision goggles?  Surely, nothing could go wrong with this idea.

And first, there was the lawyer, the ex-boyfriend, then the dead husband, the former bodyguard, Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband.  Now, Anna Nicole Smith‘s stalker says he is the father of her child.  He makes this claim from prison.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the unofficial birthday of Rupert and Winnie Bobo and Teddy Ruxpin (ph).  On this day in 1903, Brooklyn toy entrepreneurs Morris and Rose Michtum (ph) introduced the first domestically made American teddy bears.  So happy birthday to all the bears.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Beijing, China, where the hottest ticket in town last night was the Valentine‘s Day dinner at the dark restaurant, one of those joints where diners eat in complete darkness, and the waiters wear night-vision goggles.  It‘s like eating in Buffalo Bill‘s basement in “Silence of the Lambs.”  Everyone is seated at the same time, then the lights go out, and the mad groping begins.  And also they have dinner.  What‘s really romantic is when the lights come back on, you got steak sauce all over your shirt.  (INAUDIBLE).

Speaking of when the lights go out in Beijing, hello, this is the famous Moo-Lai (ph) Soccer Stadium, site of China‘s famous victory over Oman in—well, it doesn‘t much matter now, does it, when it happened?  A new stadium being built across town in preparation for the 2008 Olympics here on NBC and these NBC cable networks.  This site will become a big shopping mall.  That‘s really about all the details we‘ve got on this, but I need to keep talking so we can see this from every possible camera angle.  The one from space, you got that?  So, that old NASCAR controversy, that‘s pretty wild, huh?  All right, enough, forget it.

Finally, it‘s the feel-good story of the day, Fuji the dolphin has a brand-new tail.  The 47-year-old female of the Okinawa Aquarium lost her tail due to illness last year.  I‘ve had that happen.  Thanks to the fine folks at the Bridgestone Tire Company, they have rebuilt her, better, stronger, faster.

(singing):  Bionic dolphin, bionic dolphin, bionic dolphin number one.

Fa, speak!

Comedian Rush Limbaugh reaching a new high in racism low, even for him, suggesting that Barack Obama renounce his heritage.

And a shockingly straightforward homophobic rant from a former basketball star, who‘s now also formerly invited to the league‘s all-star celebrations.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Barry Bonds, finally signing the contract with the San Francisco Giants that will guarantee all of us another season of having to openly root for ligament injuries.  And 24 hours, no less, after the reporters who broke the news of his testimony about steroid use found out they won‘t have to go to jail.  Their source identified himself.

Number two, Tiffany Sutton of Phoenix.  Happy Valentine‘s Day.  She celebrated by bedding an older man and having a drink—of his blood.  He‘s OK, minor cuts.  He broke free after she‘d tied him up, evidently under false pretenses.  Ms. Sutton is under arrest.  However, largely because the guy says after he broke free, she then chased him with a pick axe.  But we‘ve all had relationships like this.  Am I right gentlemen, and ladies.  I see no reason to make this a police matter. 

Number one, S. U. Mahesh of the New Mexico State Department of Transportation.  He says the state is trying to crack down on drunk driving by installing 500 talking deodorizing units in bar and restaurant men‘s rooms.  Motion activated, they suddenly will blurt out, hey big guy, having a few drinks?  Then listen up.  Think you had one too many, it‘s time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home.  This is going to stop drunk drivers?  You don‘t think most of them will just say, I was so drunk I thought the urinal was talking to me. 

And the sober guys, you can‘t guess what‘s going to happen to them when a disembodied toilet voice suddenly addresses them with: hey, big guy? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Since November, the two most dominant right-wing media outlets have now admitted that they are simply housed organs for the right-wing politicians themselves.  Comedian Rush Limbaugh said he carries their water.  Rupert Murdoch said he pushes their agenda. 

So in the number three story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, keep those admissions in mind as we scrutinize the racist messages that have emerged no more than five days after Senator Barack Obama officially announced his presidential candidacy.  First to comedian, responding to Obama‘s explanation that as a child of a white woman and black man, the question of his own race was decided on how people reacted to him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, if you didn‘t decide it, how did it happen?  Well, if you look like that, that‘s what you are.  Well, renounce it then.  If it‘s not something you want to be.  If you didn‘t decide it, renounce it.  Become white. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then there was Mr. Murdoch‘s upcoming pale imitation of “The Daily Show,” a half hour news hour which kicks off it‘s very first episode with an ad parody of an all-Obama magazine, one that begins with two shots ostensibly of Obama‘s support, the crowds not just exclusively black, but actually African shots, pictures of crowds from Africa.  Only during the shots of Obama himself do we see that yes, his supporters actually include white people as well. 

Let‘s turn to “Chicago Tribune” columnist Clarence Page.  Mr. Page, great thanks for joining us tonight sir.

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Glad to be here Keith, thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with what is shaping up as ironically the least funny program on the Fox noise channel.  This video, this using video with only black people in it and, even as we saw there, genuinely video tape shot in Africa, when the real videotape shows the crowds at Senator Obama‘s appearances are partially, if not predominantly, white, what‘s going on here. 

PAGE:  Well, my friend P.J. O‘Rourke says the conservative humor is not an oxymoron Keith, but you couldn‘t tell by this program, as far as I can tell.  I‘m not quite sure what‘s going on here.  They appear to have picked up some Africa footage to lead off the Obama story.  When you see their story in context, it doesn‘t really make sense as to why they led off with that particular clip. 

I mean, you could be sinister about their motives and say they‘re trying to send some kind of subliminal message, but I don‘t even think it‘s that smart. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, so let‘s move on to somebody who is clearly a better comedian in Mr. Limbaugh.  He called Senator Obama a Halfrican-American, which I have heard many friends of my particular color react to with just shock that anybody would say that in public, and which I assume reflects some sort of hidden desire on his part to use the term mulatto or octoroon or something else from the 19th century. 

But, can you translate this latest soliloquy, when the suggestion is that somehow Senator Obama is not black?  To what extent is that an implication that to be black must mean whatever, you know, negative cliche you want to throw in here, but that there‘s something that does not apply to him because he doesn‘t fit a negative stereotype? 

PAGE:  Well, I take Rush Limbaugh at his word.  He says that if Obama doesn‘t want to be black, just say you‘re not black.  Keith, I suppose if I sat here and told you, Keith, I‘m not black, you would probably think you must be crazy.  I mean, Obama was making a very common-sense point that race is defined by what people see, it‘s appearances, it‘s perceptions and everything grows out of that. 

I suspect Rush is trying to make some subtle message that racism doesn‘t matter.  That is a message that a number of conservatives have tried to put out.  I don‘t find that it has much salience, however.  In fact, remarkably, the people who say that we should stop talking about Obama‘s race seem unable to stop talking about Obama‘s race. 

OLBERMANN:  If it‘s trouble to figure and translate some of these things out, what I really don‘t get is how is this kind of, let‘s call it, sleek racism, how is it supposed to help the people who are presenting it?  What could the right possibly get out of that, that they would see as a positive? 

PAGE:  I don‘t know.  Just looking at their current political atmosphere, I suppose there may be some kind of satisfaction in taking a shot at somebody who has been pretty much impervious to criticism from the right.  I mean, Barack Obama is the kind of black candidate the conservatives have been crying out for for years, except he happens to be a Democrat.  And meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh himself recently said that he was very disappointed with the line-up of Republicans coming up for 2008.  They aren‘t conservative enough. 

So it‘s like I‘m thinking, you know, if the candidates aren‘t right enough for Rush, and now Obama isn‘t white enough for Rush, that seems to be what he‘s saying. 

OLBERMANN:  One last one, this fellow Glen Beck on CNN, on Headline News, who is also going to be an ABC commentator soon, has his own radio show.  He described Obama as colorless.  And he didn‘t mean it in the—clearly in the he‘s boring sense, but more in the Stephen Colbert kind of fashion, that he, Beck, doesn‘t even see Obama‘s color.  In other words, he sort of assigns the default designation to the senator, which in his mind is white. 

Is this an even slicker racism or does Mr. Beck not understand why that would be viewed as racism? 

PAGE:  Well at least I know Stephen Colbert is joking when he says he doesn‘t see race.  But Mr. Beck, I think he‘s trying to coin some new term to replace color blind.  Either way, it‘s sort of a subtle white supremacy, don‘t you think, Keith, to say, I define whether or not you‘re black or not?  I mean, I think everybody ought to be entitled to call themselves whatever they want to call themselves.  If you haven‘t got that right, you don‘t have any rights in this land of liberty.  And people do have that right. 

Race is a very complex, complicated, messed-up kind of a thing.  And I think one reason why Obama is so popular right now is because a lot of people hope he can help to usher us towards the next stage, where race won‘t be so important.  Meanwhile, like I said, it‘s ironic that folks like Mr. Beck and Mr. Limbaugh say we shouldn‘t be so obsessed with race, seem to be quite obsessed with race right now. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, there it is in a nutshell.  Clarence Page, who‘s column is read in the “Chicago Tribune” and around the world, great thanks for joining us. 

PAGE:  Thank you Keith.  I appreciate it. 

OLBERMANN:  Hatred today proving to be an equal opportunity phenomenon, as former basketball star Tim Hardaway‘s self-described homophobic comments have gotten him removed from his scheduled role in the NBA‘s All-Star festivities this weekend in Las Vegas.  Hardaway apologized yesterday, not necessarily for the homophobia itself, but for revealing it, which he did earlier in the day in two separate interviews, the first with Dan Le Batard on a radio station in Miami. 

Le Batard challenged Hardaway about what he would do if he had to play alongside a gay teammate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN LE BATARD, RADIO SHOW HOST:  What could you do?  You don‘t have a recourse.  Would you ask for a trade? 

TIM HARDAWAY, FORMER NBC STAR:  Or I would ask for him to get traded.  One or the other.  You know, something has to give.  I think the majority of the players were ask for him to be traded or they would want to get traded. 

LE BATARD:  But you would be trading him to a team where he probably wouldn‘t be wanted there either, I imagine. 

HARDAWAY:  Right, that‘s true.  Or just buy him out of his contract and let him go. 

LE BATARD:  You know that what you‘re saying there though, Timmy, is flatly homophobic, right?  It‘s bigotry.   

HARDAWAY:  Well, you know, I hate gay people.  So I let it be known.  I don‘t like gay people.  I don‘t like to be around gay people.  I homophobic.  I don‘t like it if it shouldn‘t be in the world for that, or in the United States for it.  So yes, I don‘t like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By the way, if you do not know this, that was not a question asked in a vacuum, this followed the announcement by former NBA player John Amaechi that he was and is gay. 

Also tonight our long national nightmare is nearly over, there‘s only 24 of them left on “American Idol.”  And the latest court hearing about Anna Nicole Smith revealing even more unseemly squabbling over her Earthly remains.  A sixth man has also claimed to be the father of her child.  The hits just keep on coming, ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Only on the highly popular game show that is “American Idol” could the host, Ryan Seacrest, breathlessly describe the remaining 40 contestants as the best of the best and somehow mean it.  And in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, that bunch now reduced to the final 24.  Last night the judges kept up their shenanigans.  They smiled a great deal, but the sadistic streak continued. 

In earlier episodes they were often mean and took pleasure in watching wannabes try to exit through the wrong door and now, even while doling out good news to contestants, they still do their best to psyche them out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  You weren‘t one of the better singers.  Unfortunately, you‘re going to be seeing a lot of us.  You‘ve made it through. 

RANDY JACKSON, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Whether you like us three or not, you‘ve put up with us for quite a while.  You made it through, baby. 

COWELL:  You haven‘t failed.  You‘ve made it. 

JACKSON:  You know, we thought about this a lot, long and hard. 

You‘re going to have to see us a lot.  You made it through. 

COWELL:  We have decided not to exclude you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  From that choice of doors to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, and never has it been more of a waste of time than tonight.  Four years ago this past Monday I returned here to MSNBC to guest host a show for three days, three days.  Today, we all announced that we‘ve agreed to a contract that will keep me here into the year 2011.  Three days!  COUNTDOWN serving everyone all the time, whether they like it or not. 

There will also be two COUNTDOWN specials each year on NBC.  I‘ll be doing periodic essays for NBC Nightly News and some stuff for NBC Sports and—wait.  That‘s the most recent photo we have of me?  I‘m sitting right here.  I‘m sitting right here.  Is that Stephen Colbert in that picture?  Seriously, my great thanks to you. 

Four more years of Britney Spears bashing as well, apparently.  Felicia Culotta, no relation to Pina, who logged nine years as a Spears assistant, telling a website ThatOtherBlog.com, I am crushed, saddened, heart sick by the way her life is unfolding.  Unfolding?  You mean her underwear? 

Miss Culotta also mentioning her fears that Spears may have a substance abuse problem.  I cannot save her from herself, nor can I commit her to any type of treatment program against her wishes. 

Also tonight, of all the people fighting over Anna Nicole Smith, this man, the judge, says her body now belongs to him.  Michael Musto will weigh in ahead. 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.  The bronze to Ann Biglan (ph) of West Yarmouth, Mass, her second appearance this week.  First, police say she backed across the highway into a car because she had so much garbage on the seat of her car that it all shifted suddenly and it hit the gas pedal.  Now she‘s back.  Her house has been condemned because it is so full of garbage that her only way out was to crawl through a window.  Also, the toilet last worked in 2005. 

The silver to the Chicago Cubs and their owners the Tribune Company.  In response to escalating player salaries, they say they‘re going to put more advertising in their stadium, Wrigley Field.  The ads for Under Armor will appear in the ivy-covered outfield walls.  So you morons gave that dressed up rotisserie league player Alfonso Soriano 136 million dollars, but the rest of us have to pay for it with ads inside the ivy at Wrigley Field? 

But our winners, the rules committee of Virginia State House.  Today it rejected legislation that would have created a commission to oversee the state‘s participation in national commemorations of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln‘s birth.  The committee took testimony from a guy named Robert Lamb from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who said Lincoln sent armies into Virginia to lay waste to the state, that the state should instead celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, and that anybody who disagreed with him suffered from, quote, historical myopia and amnesia. 

Well, if we‘re going to start calling people names, Mr. Lamb, didn‘t all that happen because Virginia wanted to leave the United States and maintain slavery, and so what if that was treason.  The rules committee of the Virginia State House, today‘s Worst Persons in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is a week since the death of Anna Nicole Smith and considering she wasn‘t really as famous as she seemed to be, maybe in a perverse way, those who hover around her body now believe don‘t have to behave as humanely as she seemed to deserve.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the parade marches on.  We onlookers just a little more queasy than we were the day before, now with one of the judges involved in postmortem legal battles, declaring that Anna Nicole Smith‘s body, quote, belongs to me now. 

That from circuit Judge Larry Sidelan (ph) in Broward County in Florida.  Today he ordered that new DNA samples be taken from Miss Smith‘s body, even though the medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, said he had more than enough samples, and that the decomposing body should now be released. 

At issue, who should be allowed to bury Miss Smith, her estranged mother or her self-professed news, Howard K. Stern.  Judge Sidlan, after a series of hearings today, appointed an administrative ad litem to the case, to help him decide if Miss Smith‘s body should go to Texas or the Bahamas.  and he, of course, scheduled still more hearings. 

Paternity of Miss Smith‘s daughter, Dannielynn, was extensively discussed, even though this judge will not decide that issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY SEILIN, FLORIDA CIRCUIT JUDGE:  The body belongs to me now. 

It‘s cold, but it won‘t decompose so fast.  That baby is on a cold, cold

storage room.  It‘s not decaying so fast.  I can go over there now and go

back in a month and still look at it.  So there‘s no rush.  We‘re not

rushing.  I am not rushing.  We‘re crossing every T and dotting everybody

I.              We‘re going to spend a lot of time together.  It‘s a nice group. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If I‘m him, I‘m buying that videotape before it gets out. 

An entirely different kind of contest might have played out if Mr. Stern and Miss Smith had had their way two years ago.  They were pitching a husband-finding reality show for Anna Nicole Smith.  That was before their own so called marriage ceremony.  According to TMZ.com, Miss Smith was completely in on the joke, but shockingly no network or cable outlet took the bait. 

Who better to turn to now than the columnist of the “Village Voice,” Michael Musto.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That never realized reality show to find Anna Nicole Smith a husband was reportedly based on the VH-1 “Flavor of Love” concept, and it would have included prospective grooms of all ages, ethnicities, orientations.  Having seen that Anna Nicole Show, one of the first real star reality shows, how could TV execs have passed on another opportunity for another series of train wrecks. 

MUSTO:  Maybe because they realized the only candidates that would show up would be crazy stalkers and sleazy lawyers, and 89 year olds in Depends and wheel chairs, and they have to call it the Flavor of Geritol.  I would be the only one watching.

OLBERMANN:  Or maybe this judge in the hearing today.  He looked like he was trying to buddy up to everybody in the room, and at one point—we don‘t have that on the tape, but his cell phone rang and he joked it was his wife calling to tell him what to do.  In his chambers there he had posters of the Three Stooges, Our Gang, with Spanky included.  Has Miss Smith, in death, managed to locate the perfect judge? 

MUSTO:  Absolutely.  He came off like Groucho doing Rufus T. Firefly.  They should have been going, here come the judge, here come the judge.  A rubber ducky should have come down every time he said Slim Fast.  I mean, for real gravitas Keith, they really should have had Judge Judy, and for the ceremony opening, they should have started with Elton John‘s updated version of “Candle in the Wind.” 

OLBERMANN:  You know what, there‘s just enough time to get all the legal proceedings on as its own reality series.  Couldn‘t somebody do this on a short turnaround basis, one of the cable networks? 

MUSTO:  Straight to DVD, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  The paternity of the daughter, Dannielynn, appears to be very far from settled, of course.  She‘ll be graduating from college before they resolve this, but the possibilities, with varying degrees of probability, include Mr. Stern, Mr. Birkhead, the former bodyguard Mr.  Denk, the long-dead husband flowering from the grave, Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband, the so-called prince, and TMZ.com says there was sixth claimant, who says he was the old boyfriend and gave Miss Smith a sperm sample. 

What are the track odds here?  Is there somebody most likely here? 

MUSTO:  There‘s actually a seventh candidate, because really sick people are saying Anna Nicole‘s late son could be the father, but they‘re confusing this with Susan Sontag.  Anyway, Howard K. Stern, I would say, has about as much as chance of being the father Penelope Cruz has of winning the Oscar. 

The old dead man did freeze his sperm, but I doubt it would work now any more than it used to.  The prince was a fake prince, so I doubt he‘s the real father.  That leaves Larry Birkhead, by elimination.  My final answer is Larry Birkhead.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Mr. Marshal froze the sperm in 1947.  That‘s the good news. 

MUSTO:  It‘s in there with the Slim Fast. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s in the refrigerator.  What do you think of this fellow Stern?  Why is my sixth sense going of that this relationship is as phony as a 3 dollar bill? 

MUSTO:  Because it is.  I spoke to Bobby Trendy today, Anna Nicole‘s old designer, and he feels that Howard is really ripped out of the dead anus of a something—ripped out of the anus of a dead dog, I think was the expression.  But he liked him. 

OLBERMANN:  He‘s a friend? 

MUSTO:  And he‘s a friend, yes.  Anna Nicole, I think, got confused and thought he was the radio guy, like Britney with Jason Alexander.  She didn‘t know about the K, which stands for knuckle head.  I got a David Guess feeling.

OLBERMANN:  The indescribable Michael Musto, author of “La Dolce Musto,” great thanks as always for your keen and penetrating insights.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,404th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  In New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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