updated 2/27/2007 2:39:34 PM ET 2007-02-27T19:39:34

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence Korb, Ron Allen, Maria Milito

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

The vice president goes to Pakistan—he’s coming back—delivering an odd warning to President Musharraf, get tough on al Qaeda, or the Democrats may cut American aid to Pakistan.  Did Mr. Cheney mention the president’s veto power, or his addiction to signing statements, or the secretary of state’s hint about the administration maybe ignoring whatever the Democrats in Congress do, or her other remarkable remark about what a congressional revision or revocation of the original Iraq authorization would be like?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How many historical facts are wrong in this picture?  Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler, and by the way, we did change the resolution that allowed the U.S. to help stop Hitler.  Tonight, a special comment on the secretary of state.

And could our government really be financing al Qaeda operatives to get them to target Hezbollah?

We know the Libby jury is now playing down a man, a woman, actually, a juror, the one who would not wear that red T-shirt on Valentines Day, is dismissed after hearing outside info about the case.

A whole new meaning to the phrase, “finding Jesus.”  Filmmaker James Cameron claims his documentary shows they found the lost tomb of Christ.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CAMERON, “THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS”:  There’s never been a shred of physical, archeological evidence to support that fact until right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Evidence to support our cynicism of last week.  Judge Larry gets a TV offer.

And what exactly was this “American Idol” contestant offering online?

A friend says this could not be Antonella Barba (ph), because that’s not her nose.  She has a nose, you say?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN:  You guys give the kid the right shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

The maxim, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is believed, ironically in this context, to be an old Arabic proverb.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the problem is, especially in a world evidently too complicated for the Bush administration, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.  The same president who famously declared, little more than five years ago, that you are either with us or you are against us in the war on terror, is now reported to be secretly funding jihadists linked with al Qaeda in an attempt to stem the growth of Shiite influence across the Middle East, an influence the administration itself magnified by invading Iraq.

Yes, al Qaeda, as in 9/11.

Vice President Cheney today making a surprise visit to President Musharraf of Pakistan, delivering what officials say was a tough message, to shut down the Taliban and al Qaeda in that country, or risk using—losing U.S. aid, more specifically, the vice president saying that the newly elected Democratic Congress could cut the aid unless Pakistani forces became far more aggressive.  One presumes Mr. Musharraf remembered Mr.  Cheney and Mr. Bush still believe they have some measure of control over American foreign policy, say, about 150 percent, the vice president’s visit coming in the wake of fresh U.S. intelligence claims that al Qaeda has reconstituted training camps in border areas with Afghanistan, the administration also taking further steps towards a military confrontation with Iran, an investigation by Seymour Hersh in the magazine “The New Yorker” revealing that Pentagon officials are now actively planning for a possible bombing attack on President Ahmadinejad’s Iran, one that could be implemented upon President Bush’s orders within 24 hours, military apparently brass not on board, “The Times” of London reporting that as many as five American generals and/or admirals have threatened to resign before approving what they believe would be a reckless attack.

Back in the pages of “The New Yorker,” Mr. Hersh’s single most startling revelation, an effort by the administration to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East by funding violent Sunni groups, groups with ties to al Qaeda, through intermediaries, the Bush administration spreading money to Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south, groups seen as a buffer to Hezbollah, and, by extension, to Iran, the high-risk strategy said to be putting money into the hands of many bad guys with serious potential unintended consequences.

And if the magazine’s reporting is correct, this is being done without the approval of Congress, should not be that surprising that the effort, according to one of Mr. Hersh’s sources, is also likely to be emanating from the vice president’s office, should have been a good guess too, last and certainly not least, the diplomatic stylings of Secretary of State Rice over the weekend, Dr. Rice first suggesting Mr. Bush might just ignore anything Congress does about Iraq, calling it, quote, “micromanaging,” and insisting, quoting again, “The president is going to, as command near chief, need to do what the country needs done.”

And then she compared the Senate’s current attempt to rewrite the 2002 resolution authorizing war in Iraq to pulling the plug on rebuilding Europe after the Second World War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE:  The consolidation of the—of a stable and democratic Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is a part of what America owes to the Iraqi people, owes to the region, and owes to ourselves, so that our own security is there.  It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe, after he was overthrown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ahead in this newshour, a special comment on Secretary Rice’s evidently tenuous grasp of the history of the Second World War, and who Hitler was.

First, more on the impact as well as the implications of foreign policy that looks like an M.C. Escher drawing, with the same staircase going up and sideways.

Let me turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let’s start by combining these two headlines.  Dick Cheney goes to Pakistan to beat up Musharraf about not being tough enough on al Qaeda and the Taliban.  But meanwhile, we’re reportedly funding jihadists linked to al Qaeda.  (INAUDIBLE) did anybody see a slight conflict of interest there?

WOLFFE:  Well, let’s rewind the tape a little bit, shall we?  The first Bush doctrine was that terrorists and the states that harbor terrorists would be treated the same way.  And there’s no serious doubt now that Pakistan is home, a safe haven to the leadership of al Qaeda and has been for some time.

So with regard to Pakistan itself, Pakistan has been playing both sides of the war on terror very happily, and the Bush administration is only just beginning to come to grips with that, late and in a (INAUDIBLE) considerably weakened terms.

With regard to Iran, look, if they wanted to establish an ideological case against Iran, they could have done so in 2002, they could have said, This country is pursuing nuclear weapons, it’s harboring al Qaeda operatives, and has been fomenting ideological revolution around the region.  They didn’t choose to make that case.  And ever since then, the conceptual framework for this war has been strained to breaking point by Iraq, and that’s what we’re seeing now.

OLBERMANN:  Apart from the fact that if an American citizen made some sort of overture to a group even vaguely connected to al Qaeda, he would be arrested on the spot, is this picture of Iran as serious as it sounds?  The administration continues to deny all of this.  Are we saber-rattling, or are we looking for actual sabers at this point?

WOLFFE:  There is a lot of saber-rattling going on, but it’s a dangerous game they’re playing.  Now, they think, inside the White House, that this has been successful.  They think there (INAUDIBLE) are signs of tension within the Iranian regime.  But, you know, the Iranian regime has never been monolithic.  There have always been elements of tyranny and democracy side by side in Iran, and we’re seeing some of those political tensions arising right now.

It’s unclear whether it’s because of the saber-rattling, or because there are just these power conflicts right now in Tehran.

But what they’re also having to deal with is this real concern among Sunni allies in the region about this rise of the Shia.  And again, they’ve come to this late, and they are maybe having to go too far in reassuring Sunnis that they’re going to stop the rise of the Shia, which, as you pointed out earlier, that contributes to enormously in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  Also answer for me, if you can, this—about this disconnect between the secretary of state, who’s implying that the president could ignore the Democrats about Iraq, and the vice president, who’s telling President Musharraf that he had better not ignore the Democrats about his foreign aid.  Is that enough of a bullwhip on President Musharraf?  Does the administration think he won’t see that there might be a little conflict there too?

WOLFFE:  No, it’s not (ph) Musharraf who’s been playing this perfectly like a fiddle for a long time.  You know, how can the Democrats be emboldening terrorists and emboldening the allies in the war on terror?  It is ridiculous.  But Musharraf has done very well.  He’s got a lot of foreign aid out of this.

He’s trying to balance things out on his own terms.  But, you know, he’s also made a mockery of the whole democracy agenda.  There is a real live debate now about whether he will hold free and fair elections in Pakistan.  And the opposition, people represented, for instance, by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, thinks that his idea that he’s being pressured by radical parties, Islamist parties, is false.  So there is an alternative there.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” on a day when we go through the looking-glass.  As always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the inconsistencies and the possible consequences of the administration’s policy towards Iran, let’s turn now to a Pentagon veteran from the Reagan administration, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Thanks once again for some of your time tonight, sir.

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  This key finding of the Hersh article, that the administration’s secretly funding the Sunni jihadists with the links to al Qaeda, firstly, is the reporting valid?  And secondly, if so, does that not have Iran-contra, the sequel, stamped all over it?

KORB:  Well, there’s no doubt about the fact that they’re so concerned about Iran and the influence of the Shias in that part of the world that they’re doing what they can to offset it.  There’s very little doubt that they’re giving money to governments like the government of Lebanon.  And as we know from what happened in Iraq, once you start giving money, you can’t control where it ends up.

And so what’s happened is, they’re turning a blind eye to some of the Sunni groups that are associated with our friends in there, the government of Lebanon, the government of Saudi Arabia.

OLBERMANN:  What is next to try to find out what’s happened here?  I mean, do we have to have congressional investigations into this?  It would seem to be so counter-everything that’s been done in this country for the last five years to be even in the same large photograph with people who have links to al Qaeda on theoretically, theoretically on our side.

KORB:  Well, what you need to have, see, when the Republicans control the Senate Intelligence Committee and all the committees, there’s very little oversight.  Now that the Democrats are in charge, Senator Rockefeller, they’re going to demand hearings on this to find out where the money went, under what auspices it went, and whether, in fact, this should have been reported to the committees.

I mean, you’re not allowed to just transfer money around willy-nilly without letting the intelligence committees know what you’re up to.

And from what I understand, and what Sy Hersh’s article seems to imply, it’s not done through the CIA, which would require a specific presidential finding, but controlled out of the National Security Council, and maybe the vice president’s office, which becomes different.

And that, of course, as you pointed out, is how the whole Iran-contra thing got going, because the money (INAUDIBLE) operation was controlled by the White House, and the profits on the arms sales were used to fund the war in Nicaragua, which Congress had cut off funds for.

OLBERMANN:  If—and I guess this is the question that people are—would be asking, trying to digest all this simultaneously.  If the Sunnis are not the enemy, and the Shiites are not the enemy, and most importantly, the al Qaeda-linked jihadists are not the enemy, who is it that we’re opposed to in the Middle East, and what is this country’s policy towards the Middle East right now?

KORB:  Well, what you should have as a policy, you should try and have stability in the Middle East, which, of course, we upset by going into Iraq without a plan to deal with the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.  We never did a cost-benefit analysis of what would happen once we went in and got rid of Saddam Hussein.

The Saudis had told us, Look, you’re going to solve one problem, you’re going to create five others, which is what we’ve done.  We’ve empowered Iran, because Iraq was the main enemy of Iran.  In fact, for the longest time, we aided Saddam Hussein to prevent the expansion of Iranian influence.  We also eliminated Iran’s other enemy, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And in 2003, when—after the Iranians said, Work with us in Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, they offered to sit down and talk to us about who would do what in the region.  We refused to do it.  We were kind of feeling our oats then, and we didn’t want to negotiate with what we considered a rogue regime, so we didn’t do it.

Now, here we are, you know, almost four years later, and we say, Well, we don’t want to negotiate with the Iranians, because we would be in a position of weakness.  And even Henry Kissinger said today, you know, you can’t just have a military surge, you need a diplomatic surge.  And we really need to get all of the countries in the region involved, or this thing’s going to spin out of control.

OLBERMANN:  Wrong ally, wrong place, wrong time.  And it seems to be consistent all the way through.

Larry Korb, former assistant defense secretary, now at the Center for American Progress.  Thank you again, sir.

KORB:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Ahead, Secretary of State Rice gets the key parts of the history of the Second World War wrong.  Special comment, brought to you tonight more in snark than in anger.

And in one juror excused from the Libby trial, is there good news for either side, or just news-news?  Either way, we’ll cover it next.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  She wouldn’t take the T-shirt, so now instead she gets the boot.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the sudden mysterious departure of a juror in the perjury trial of former Bush-Cheney adviser Lewis “Scooter” Libby, that juror, the same one who was the only holdout when the rest of the jury wore red-heart T-shirts on Valentines Day.  She was excused today after the judge determined she had been tainted by exposure to media coverage of the trial, which coverage we do not now.

For a while today, the prospect of a mistrial loomed, until the judge decided no other juror had also been tainted, prosecution and defense then battling over whether to replace the ousted juror or, as federal law allows, proceed with a jury of just 11.

Joining us with the outcome of that battle and the rest of the day watching people deliberate, MSNBC’s David Shuster.

Good evening, David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.

Once the judge dismissed the elderly former art curator from the panel, the judge then heard arguments from both defense attorneys and prosecutors over how to proceed.  After hearing those arguments, the judge ruled that the jury should continue deliberations with just the 11 members remaining.

That is exactly what Scooter Libby’s team had wanted.  They had asked the judge to have the jury continue their deliberations with 11, as federal rules provide for.  Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had asked the court to bring in one of the alternates, raise the number on the panel to 12, and start the deliberations from scratch all over again.

Fitzgerald noted that the jury had only been deliberating for two and a half days.

Again, just to repeat, the judge sided with the defense, declaring that he did not want to throw away the time the jurors had already invested in their deliberations.

Behind the scenes, though, and not mentioned in front of the judge, were the strong feelings both sides may have had about the first alternate, who stood to join the panel.  She is an insurance industry lobbyist who took extensive notes during the trial.  Furthermore, her body language during the defense closing argument suggested she is hostile to the Libby defense and more comfortable with the prosecution.

In any case, the alternate remains just that, an alternate sitting at home.  And after the judge brought the 11 jurors into the courtroom, asked them to raise their hands and swear that they would avoid all media coverage, the jury was sent back to their jury room, and deliberations continue.

Again, the panel is trying to determine whether Scooter Libby’s mistakes to the grand jury were honest mistakes, as the defense contends, or, as the prosecution has argued, whether those mistakes were deliberate lies intended to protect Libby and to protect his boss, Vice President Cheney, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So the note-taking on behalf of the first alternate was the reason that the prosecutor was hoping to go back and start all over again?  Or were there other reasons that he was in favor of restarting the deliberations?

SHUSTER:  Well, that might have been one of them.  There’s another theory, Keith, and that is that the longer that this jury has to look at the evidence, in other words, if they had to start all over again and relook at all the evidence, that that favors the prosecution, because it gets the jury farther and farther away from the emotional appeal, the appeal to feelings, that the defense argued during their closing arguments.

The idea is that if the jury has to start all over again, refresh the new juror with the evidence, that, again, it focuses on this prosecution timeline, and gets away from sort of the more emotional defense that Scooter Libby’s lawyers offered, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC’s David Shuster, watching and waiting with us for a verdict in the Libby trial.  Keep watching.  Many thanks.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of judges, another year, another contestant in trouble on “American Idol,” racy online photos.  Smell a publicity rat, anyone?

Hear a laugh track, anyone?  Tonight, another edition of Fox News, the 24-Hour Comedy Hour.

Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1994, one of the most original comedic talents of all time, Bill Hicks, died at just 32.  Barely four months earlier, the last of his 12 appearances on the David Letterman show was edited out of the broadcast because he’d included a joke about how we all had to really examine our beliefs.  He was born a Catholic, and it seemed crazy to him to believe that both that Christ was to return, and that the best way to honor him was to wear a cross, like he ever wants to see a cross again.

On that note, let’s play Oddball.

We begin in Spain in the remote village of Hojo Casero (ph).  It is a town on the verge of extinction, as all the residents are growing older and little or no children remain.  There is an old Spanish tradition in times like this.  An emergency call goes out.  Women are needed to become wives of the menfolk and begin to repopulate the town.  A hundred and fifty women responded to the call.  They arrived by bus for the big party in the village square to meet their possible future husbands.  And these, these women are ready and willing to repopulate.

I don’t know if this is going to work.  Do you want to call Match.com or something?

And finally on Oddball tonight, it was weekend two of that Fox Noise festival of right-wing comedy and prerecorded laughter known as the “Half Hour News Hour.”  We once again try out the laugh track on the rest of the network’s programming with another edition of Fox News, the 24-Hour Comedy Hour, complete not just with a fake audience tonight, but also a fake liberal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O’REILLY FACTOR”)

BILL O’REILLY, HOST:  You are about to enter the no spin zone.

You’re a liberal, and you know the role.  And Bill Clinton was attacked personally, not as bad as Bush, but almost.  What was it on the other side that drove the personal attacks (INAUDIBLE)?

TAMMY BRUCE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Bill Clinton being a sexual predator in the White House.

Bill Clinton’s behavior, what he was being chastised for was personal behavior that did destroy people’s lives, and, in fact, almost destroyed this nation with him being distracted from the nation’s business.

O’REILLY:  But do you think that the attacks on Bush are worse than Bill Clinton?

BRUCE:  Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Secretary Rice was—State Rice was not going for laughs when she compared Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, but that’s exactly what she’s getting.  Special comment ahead.

And, in another time-honored tradition, “American Idol” contestant today, checkered past yesterday.  The scoop on this from our “American Idol” (INAUDIBLE) Maria Milito.

First, time for COUNTDOWN’s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, football’s San Francisco 49ers, part of the long-standing threat to move out of that city, the team hopes to build an $800 million stadium in the city of Santa Clara, where, this weekend, the team found out that a portion of the land with which it is threatening the city of San Francisco happens to be owned by the city of San Francisco.

Number two, Chris Brooks, manager of the Krispy Kreme in Mobile, Alabama, who has answered an ancient question for us with a sign briefly posted on the store’s front door, address to the police, firefighters, and paramedics, quote, “Uniformed personnel are given two dozen glazed donuts and coffee or a fountain drink free of charge.”  So the correct answer is 24.

And number one, an unidentified woman from Galaxia (ph) in Romania.  She showed up at a local hospital claiming she had swallowed a foreign object.  She would not say what it was.  X-rays showed it was false teeth.  She didn’t need any false teeth.  She said she was experimenting with a, quote, “special type of passionate kiss with her boyfriend.”  His dentures slipped, and she swallowed the dentures.  And no, she is not currently a contestant on “American Idol.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Real justice might be this: Judge Larry Seidlin, of last week’s Anna Nicole Smith hearing’s fame, replacing judge Paula Abdul on “American Idol.”  Then all of the fans of Idol would either go crazy or the show would last 12-14 hours every night. 

But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Judge Seidlin has apparently gotten a different kind of offer.  While the judges on Idol are safe, even if scandal once again draws near.  First, the offer to Judge Seidlin.  It’s from CBS Saturday “Early Show.”  In a letter, reportedly from its senior producer, Michael Rosen, quote, “I have been extremely impressed by your compassion in the Anna Nicole Case,” he writes, “and I would love to discuss with you the idea of being our judge on a new segment, ‘Morning Justice.’  It would be a semi-regular segment, in which you would resolve the ethical and legal questions of our viewers, who send in issues troubling them.”

Judge Seidlin’s judicial assistant says she has been taking about 200 phone calls a day.  This is the only offer, but the calls have came from all of the big names and the top shoes. 

“American Idol” perhaps?  Well, in the interim, another scandal, racy photos of a semifinalist on the Internet.  But, wait there is more x-rated pictures possibly of the same semifinalist.  The semifinalist Antonella Barba (ph), who survived the first round of eliminations from viewer voting, despite a tepid response from the judges. 

Photographs of Miss Barba posing in a wet t-shirt or topless, or otherwise scantily clad, surfaced last Friday, as evidently did she.  Many appear to be from her own website, though Miss Barba has not commented.  But then several more pictures came out of someone engaged in a sexual act.  We have cropped the photo.  We can’t really describe what she is doing in there.  Whether or not these images are also of Miss Barba, eliciting the analyst a friend named Amanda Collucio (ph), who tells the “Newark Star Ledger” that, quote, the really bad ones are not her.  I have studied them.  It is not her nose.  She has never had acrylic nail tips in her life.  She is the least slutty person I know. 

American Idol’s executive producer, Nigel Lithgow, told “Entertainment Weekly” that he was unaware of the photographs.  Now who can we ask to follow that but the person we enjoy calling our princess of “American Idol,” the mid-day host of New York’s classic rock station, Q-104.3, Maria Milito.  Good evening my friend. 

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  Hello, thank you for having me on tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Every year we get at least one of these, a sleazy, attention getting scandal, and every year it gets attention like what we are doing now.  Maria, I am beginning to wonder if we might not be getting played.  Could they be deliberately leaving these for contestants with past out there for us, like the bait on the hook for the big fat scandal consuming fish we are?  

MILITO:  Yes, yes and yes.  Think about it, “American Idol” last week and this week is on for three nights.  So now it is being talked about on Monday everywhere.  It will be talked—It was being talked about on Friday when her photos first came out.  So, we are totally being played.  But I think she released those photos, the original ones.  I don’t think these photos now, that came out this weekend, are her.  I don’t think that’s her. 

But, something very interesting though, when she auditioned last week

after she auditioned, she made it to Hollywood.  She really was not very good.  Now Fox News always promotes, during “American Idol,” that they have some big thing about “American Idol” on the news, following, and they were talking about her, and supposedly, the rumor mill tells me, that her dad called Fox News, and begged for this not to go on the air, and Fox News said the thing that they were going to have on the air, due to technical difficulties, we can’t carry it tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, all right, either of those explanations is entirely plausible, because you’re talking about the local news in New York, which is full of technical difficulties, and also --  

MILITO:  Absolutely, but still—So, I think she put those photos out there, you know, with MySpace page and everything else she has.  The ones that came out over the weekend, I don’t think it was her.  I think they were doctored photos. 

OLBERMANN:  Because of the nose, or just you think they were doctored photos? 

MILITO:  Well, I was looking at her eyes actually. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.

MILITO:  And the eyes look different.

OLBERMANN:  That’s the only part of the picture we could actually show.  Listen, the comment from the show’s executive producer that he was unaware of these photos apparently preceded this stuff over the weekend.  But Mr. Lithgow said, also, we have really good background checks everybody, and we deal with that every season.  It’s sad, isn’t it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun, or put your photographs on the web. 

To my earlier point, is he not be a little nonchalant here?  Shouldn’t there be some sort of shock or investigation? 

MILITO:  Yes, but they don’t do background checks.  They definitely don’t.  There were two brothers who made it to Hollywood, and then it came out, not through “American Idol” producers, but it came out that one of them was arrested.  So hey, he never made it to Hollywood.  They don’t do background checks at all. 

OLBERMANN:  Would they throw her off do you think? 

MILITO:  I don’t think so.  Actually, there is a website called VoteForTheWorst.com, and every season they choose people who should not win and she is the main contender on VoteForTheWorst.com.  So she is not going to get thrown off.  She won’t get thrown off by the producers.

OLBERMANN:  I’m sure that’s underwritten by Fox as well.

MILITO:  Of course.

OLBERMANN:  Will this flap here possibly scare away a whole generation of picture happy adolescents from ever auditioning for the show, or worse still, would it scare them away from whoever that is doing that in that photo? 

MILITO:  The first part of that question, I don’t think so.  I don’t think—and I don’t mean to sound like an old hag, but I don’t think kids today realize when they go out with their friends and they party and they get all these pictures taken, that they realize, down the road, these photos might come back to haunt them.  I read an article about a woman who said that when she interviews someone, if it is a 20 something year-old, she goes to MySpace to really see the person’s character and see what they do or don’t do.  It’s very interesting, but I don’t think kids today realize that. 

OLBERMANN: And on top of that, they need to get off our lawns.  The other scandal, in brief, this text messaging things, that it favors contestants from the south, what is that about? 

MILITO:  Well, they said, because with Cingular—that 44 percent of Cingular are from the south, and it is more popular in the south, because people can text message on “American Idol” and so far all five winners have been from the south.  I don’t know.  They said that they would like it to be that you can vote through the Internet, like other contest shows, like “Dancing With The Stars.”  But they think it will be too difficult.  You know—

OLBERMANN:  Well, that is because you are on the Internet looking up the pictures of all the—naked pictures of all of the contestants.  

MILITO:  That’s right.

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito, the mid-day mistress of classic rock, and the princess of “American Idol,” from Q-104.3 radio in New York.  always a pleasure Maria.  

MILITO:  Same here, thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Now, this is news: film maker James Cameron claims he has found the bones of Jesus, along with his wife and their child.  That’s right, and I get to say this tonight, Jesus H. Christ himself. 

And new details in the fight over Anna Nicole Smith’s body and her little baby and her judge’s TV career, all of which is next and this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What if the story that Jesus was resurrected and rose to heaven had somehow been contradicted by new, conclusive proof, other than, you know, the laws of physics?  Would any Christian denomination really call it a day and pack up shop? 

No matter what you think of the number two story on our COUNTDOWN tonight, if anyone ever hoped to use hard physical evidence to disprove Christianity, or any other established religion, that ship ascended long ago.  Ron Allen is our reporter.  First, let me say it now, because who knows when I’ll get another opportunity like this, Jesus Christ, what a controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES CAMERON, PRODUCER:  Jesus, son of Joseph. 

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Could it be?  These are the burial boxes of Jesus and his family?  if these film makers are right, and many think that’s a big if, they rewritten 2,000 years of Christian belief. 

The Discovery Channel’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” says the coffins came from this tomb outside Jerusalem, and that markings on the ten boxes reveal the name of Jesus and his relatives, including Mary Magdalene, who they say was his wife and a son named Judah. 

SMICHA JACOBOVICI, DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER:  It is quite surreal to know that they laid next to each other for 2,000 years and that they are here in New York. 

ALLEN:  Christians think that is blasphemy.  “The Da Vinci Code” told a similar story as fiction, but this project claims, with new DNA and forensic evidence, to uncover fact. 

(on camera):  The film makers go as far as calling this perhaps the greatest archaeological find in history.  While many Christians dismiss it all as Hollywood hype. 

(voice-over):  Father Thomas Williams thinks finding a place where the bones of Jesus rested on Earth is a hoax. 

FATHER THOMAS WILLIAMS, CHRISTIAN:  Christianity really stands or falls with the fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. 

ALLEN:  Some scientists even doubt the markings on the caskets are names.  While others say this could have been any family. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The most common name of that day was Maria, Mary. 

Joseph is quite common.  And even Jesus is a common name on its own. 

ALLEN:  Director James Cameron, who won an Oscar for Titanic,” produced the documentary.  He’s been accused of trying to sink Christianity.

CAMERON:  How can it be a bad thing to learn more about the most important human being that ever lived? 

ALLEN:  The film airs next week.  The debate will last through eternity, those who claim they’ve uncovered the facts, versus those who live by their faith. 

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Tough act to follow, but on to our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  With one man winning not just on his first Oscar nomination, but for his first movie.  While another nominee is now a stunning 0 for 19.  The film about former Vice President Gore’s global warming sideshow, “An Inconvenient Truth,” took the prize for best documentary at the Oscars.  Though the Oscar actually went to film’s director and producer, Mr. Gore was clearly the big winner.  He had already taken the stage earlier with Leonardo DiCaprio to promote his cause, and to joke about whether or not he would run again for president.

Meanwhile sound engineer Kevin O’Connell, nominated for the 19th time last night, once again did not hear his name after those immortal words, “and the winner is.”  O’Connell’s team was nominated for its work on Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” but lost to the “Dreamgirls” nominee. 

And 30 seconds of Anna Nicole Smith news.  In essence, nothing yet resolved.  An appeals court issued a stay on Judge Larry Seidlin’s order.  The body to body remain in Florida until the legal challenge from Mrs.  Smith’s mother is heard.  A judge in the Bahamas might decide legal custody of Miss Smith’s daughter, Daniel-Lynne, but not for several weeks.  One of the professed fathers, Larry Birkhead, is pressing for DNA testing.  TMZ.com says Mr. Birkhead finally met the infant after Howard K. Stern allowed it.  A lot of initials there.

Finally, tonight a special comment.  Secretary of State Rice compares the ouster of Saddam Hussein to the end of Adolf Hitler.  Secretary Rice, meet American history.  American history, Secretary Rice.

That’s ahead, but first time for the COUNTDOWN’s latest list of nominees for the Worst Person in the World.  The bronze to Ronda Sue Solomon (ph) of Moorseburg, Tennessee, arrested for drunk driving, for drunk driving on a bicycle, for drunk driving on a stationary bicycle, for drunk driving on a stationary bicycle in a gym.  Police say others at Gold Star Fitness called the cops.  They said the woman wreaked of alcohol, was uncooperative with officers, and also, quote, appeared to be having trouble pedaling.  Plus, she did not get very far when she tried to run away. 

Our silver medallist tonight, the NRA, the National Rifle Associate.  Perhaps the most famous rifle hunter of the day is Jim Zumbo, at least he was.  He had the top rated show on Outdoor Channel TV and a column for “outdoor Life Magazine.”  He worked for most of the big gun makers.  And then he wrote abusing assault weapons, quote, excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity.  As hunters, we don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with him.  I will go so far as to call them terrorist rifles.  Zumbo’s contract, TV show and column are all gone now.  An NRA spokesman has pointed his fate out to anyone, including, quote, a fellow gun owner, who dares to challenge the, quote, right, unquote, of Americans to own assault weapons. 

But our winner, Deputy White House Press Spokesman Tony Fratto, who explained to reporters that we did not invade Iraq.  Quote, we went in as a multi-national force, under U.N. authorization, to take military action in Iraq, something that might be disagreed with by the facts.  Next week it will be Iraq, we never invaded Iraq.  We are not even there now.  White House Spokesman Tony Fratto, today’s Worst Person in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, special comments on the remarks yesterday by Secretary of State Rice.  We already know about her suggestion that the president could just ignore whatever congressional Democrats do about Iraq.  Just ignore Congress?  We know how that game always turns out.  Ask President Nixon, ask President Andrew Johnson. 

But about what the secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq, and here we go again.  From Springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein, to Summers of cynically manipulated intelligence, through Autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from an administration filled with Three Card Monty players.

But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpocket of the nation’s goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents, and making true enemies, foreign and domestic, all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state has only gradually become clear.  As they asked once in the Avis commercial, ever get the feeling some people just stop trying? 

Secretary Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him with Nazi appeasers, without reminding everybody that the actual historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930’s were the Republicans.  Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he, and he alone, knew the truth about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the administration officially disagreed with him.  The president really acted as if you could scare all the people all the time, and not lose your soul and your congressional majority as a result. 

But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake.  On the Sunday morning interview show of broken record on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph which, if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation, would have gotten the writer an F, maybe an expulsion: “if Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization,” she said, out loud, with an adult present, quote, “it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.”

The secretary’s resume reads that she has a master’s degree and PHD in political science.  The interviewer should have demanded to see them on the spot.  Dr. Rice spoke 42 words.  She may have made more mistakes in them than did the president in his State of the Union Address in 2003.  There is obviously no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being, but nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.  Invoking the German dictator, who subjugated Europe, who tried to exterminate the Jews, who sought to overtake the world, is not just in the poorest of tastes, but it is hyperbole. 

It insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but also those in this country who fought it and who defeated it.  Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler, and George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor Dwight D. Eisenhower.  He isn’t even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war. 

However, even through the clouds of deliberately spread fear, and even under the weight of 1,000 exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared by some to the Second World War.  The analogy is weak.  It instantly begs the question of why those of the greatest generation focused on Hitler and Hirohito, but our leaders of today seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today, to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism. 

But in some small, you didn’t fail junior, but you may need to go to summer school kind of way you can just make out that comparison.  But Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler?  Are you kidding?  Did you want to provoke the world’s laughter?  And please, madam secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, dubious, subjective, ridiculous comparison, if you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, this pathetic Holocaust denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad, at least get the easily verifiable facts right, the facts honed through history.  Lie in your own department.

The resolution that allowed the United States to overthrow Hitler, on the 11th of December, 1941, at 8:00 in the morning, two of Hitler’s diplomats walked up to the State Department, your office, Secretary Rice, and 90 minutes later, they were handing a declaration of war to the chief of the department’s European division.  The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier, and the Germans simply piled on. 

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, did not spend a year making up phony evidence, and mistaking German balloon inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs.  They didn’t pretend the world was ending, because a tin pot tyrant could not hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he had destroyed a decade earlier. 

The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, we’re at war.  It was in all the papers.  And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russian troops were in Berlin, and we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950’s, as an occupying force, madam secretary. 

If you want to compare what we did to Hitler, and in Germany, to what we did to Saddam, and in Iraq, I’m afraid you’re going to have to buy the whole analogy.  We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice.  And by your logic, we are now an occupying force in Iraq.  And if that’s the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so.  Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis, most of them already buy that part of the comparison. 

“It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.”  We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam.  We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq.  We already have blissful ignorance by our secretary of state about how this country got into the war against Hitler.  But then there’s this part about changing the resolution about Iraq, that it would be as ridiculous, in this secretary’s eyes, as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown. 

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that’s exactly what we did do.  We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown.  It was called the Marshall Plan, Marshall, General George Marshall, secretary of state, the job you have now.  Come on!

Twelve billion four hundred thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically, to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out and democracy in.  How do you suppose that happened?  The president of the United States went back to Congress and asked it for a new authorization and for the money.  And do you have any idea, madam secretary, who opposed him when he did that?  The Republicans. 

We have spent enough money in Europe, said Senator Taft of Ohio.  We spent enough of our resources, said former President Hoover.  It’s time to pull out of there.  As they stand up, we’ll stand down.  This administration has long thought otherwise, but you cannot cherry pick life, whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945.  You can’t keep the facts that fit your prejudices and throw out the ones that destroy your theories. 

If you’re going to try to do that, if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave F.D.R. that blank check in Germany, he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least stop humiliating us.  Get your facts straight.  Use the Google. 

You’ve been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice.  That network now has got another show premiering tomorrow night.  You could go on that one too.  It might be a better fit.  It’s called “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”

That’s COUNTDOWN. 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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