updated 3/5/2007 1:48:35 PM ET 2007-03-05T18:48:35

Guests: Margaret Carlson

AMY ROBACH, MSNBC ANCHOR, COUNTDOWN:  Good evening.  I‘m Amy Robach in for Keith Olbermann. The calendar may say 2007, but it certainly feels like 2008.  Our fifth story on the count down, the campaign to win voters in the race for president, shifting up another year this weekend, the courtship centering on two key issues.  Who actually has the best interests of the American soldiers at heart? And who might actually be the first black president of the United States? Republican hopefuls attempting to woo voters at this year‘s conservative political action committee, an annual three-day gathering of the far right.  Vice President Dick Cheney opening the conference last night, telling the crowd, he was probably the last non-candidate they would see all week.  Mr. Cheney using the opportunity to urge Congress to approve funding for the war. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very soon, both houses of Congress will have to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill to provide emergency funding for the troops.  And I sincerely hope the discussion this time will be about winning in Iraq, not about posturing on Capitol Hill.  Anyone can say they support the troops and we should take them at their word.  But the proof will come when it is time to provide the money and the support.  We expect the House and the Senate to meet those needs on time and in full. 


ROBACH:  The Bush administration falling short in its support of the troops at Walter Reed Medical Center.  The secretary of the Army resigning today amid the fallout over the conditions and care that wounded soldiers are receiving there.  The medical center getting a new commander today, Major Generic Eric Schoomaker (ph), not to be confused with his brother, Army chief of staff Peter Schoomaker.  Meanwhile, no word on what happens to Lt. General Kiley‘s career. 

President Bush to announce tomorrow that he is forming a committee to investigate the care of wounded troops, something it would seem the “Washington Post” has already done.  More bad news for Mr. Bush today.  The president‘s job performance rating dipping below 30 for the first time in the “New York Times” CBS news poll, only 29 percent approving of the job Mr. Bush is doing as president, 61 percent disapproving. 

Time now to call in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the “Washington Post” who spent his day at the conservative conference, known as CPAC for short.  Good evening Dana.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, a lot of aspirin to show for it. 

ROBACH: Let‘s talk about it.  Vice President Cheney may have been preaching to the choir last night.  But to other audiences, is that notion that Iraq is the central battle ground in the war on terror, is that a tough sell?

MILBANK: It is a tough sell even to the CPAC crowd.  I must say I started 8:30 this morning with would be President Duncan Hunter right through to the Ann Coulter festivities later in the day. 

ROBACH: We‘re getting to that one.  Just hold off. 

MILBANK: And they were just, Iraq, talk about inconvenient truths.  Iraq had become sort of an inconvenient war.  And I must say, you heard more about fighting in El Salvador and in the second world war than did you about Iraq.  It really was to be avoided at all costs.  I‘m not sure they were agreeing or disagreeing with the vice president‘s assessment, but they just really didn‘t want to get into it. 

ROBACH:  One of the seminars that CPAC apparently entitled the less repeated campaign against the American soldier and yet we didn‘t hear anything from Democrats today who clearly had ammunition after the big Walter Reed scandal.  Why don‘t you think they fired that ammunition?

MILBANK: Well, I suspect it is because as you‘re seeing now, this news has a way of its own attention, the president announcing yet another commission.  We now have the Army secretary, we have the top general at Walter Reed and the would be top general at Walter Reed.  So three guys have now been essentially pushed out.  Congressional hearing in the House on Monday, then on Tuesday in the Senate.  So basically, this is creating a whole lot of noise in the system.  The Democrats don‘t have a lot of need to pounce on the subject. 

ROBACH:   All right.  So I promised we‘d get to the Ann Coulter comments and indeed we are about to do that right now.  She was talking about John Edwards.  Given the nature of what she said specifically, I‘m going to let her say it. 

MILBANK: That‘s wise. 


ANN COULTER: I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards.  But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot.  So—


ROBACH:  All right. So that produced laughter.  But in terms of those who are running for president who were in that room or in that conference at all, do they have to formally denounce Ms. Coulter‘s comments or face some retribution?

MILBANK: In that same session, Coulter went on to endorse Mitt Romney.  He may have to say no thanks on the endorsement.  But they‘d actually scheduled it quite well in that Giuliani-Romney-Brownback.  Other candidates had already gone.  So the only ones who will have to confront this tomorrow are Gilmore and Gingrich and neither of them is exactly measuring the drapes for the White House just yet. 

ROBACH:   All right.  As we mentioned, and you mentioned it, too, the president is planning to form this, or announce that he is forming a bipartisan commission to look into some of the grievances at Walter Reed.  Some would say, hey, what‘s the need? The “Washington Post” already did that.  But now that heads have already rolled, what would be the purpose of this? What future action could be taken?

MILBANK: Well, on the one hand, it a bit superfluous because there are already two other commissions investigating the same thing as well as several congressional committees.  Of course, the basic facts are known.  The question has moved beyond what exactly occurred in building 18 or with particular soldiers there.  There is this entire disjointed system involving outpatient care for wounded soldiers and through the military generally.  What needs to be done is this entire streamlining.  And that‘s a very useful and meaningful thing.  If that can be the result of this, then the more commissions, the better. 

ROBACH:  So Dana, how would you sum up the CPAC convention? What was the overriding theme?

MILBANK: The overriding theme was, I have forgotten about Iraq.  And that we are all social conservatives even Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. 

ROBACH:  All right, Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”

Thanks so much for your time tonight. 

MILBANK: Thanks a lot Amy.

ROBACH:   Major contenders in the race for the Democratic nomination, making their way to Selma, Alabama this weekend for a commemoration of the civil rights marches of 1965.  Illinois Senator Barack Obama scheduled to speak as is his colleague, Senator Hillary Clinton.  In a first for her young campaign, the former first lady will be joined by her husband, the former president.  Author Toni Morrison having famously declared him America‘s first black president.  Well, let‘s turn now to Margaret Carlson, a political columnist for Bloomberg News and Washington editor of “The Week” magazine.  Good evening Margaret.


ROBACH:  Do you think it is coincidence that Senator Clinton chose a civil rights event for her first joint campaign appearance with her husband?

CARLSON: Well, as you said, Toni Morrison did call him that.  And his popularity among blacks is unsurpassed.  So it is a good place to do it if you‘re going to do it.  But remember, when she appeared with the former president at Coretta Scott King‘s memorial service or actually her funeral, the president, the former president gave a wonderful speech that sang to the rafters.  And Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, did not do well at all.  And while the president was giving a speech, she nodded like first lady Nancy Reagan.  She just did not get into the spirit of the event.  So the contrast is not good for Mrs. Clinton.  But it may be worth it just to get the spillover, the trickle down. 

ROBACH:   You just led in perfectly to my next question because there obviously is that school of thought out there that if you ever put Hillary Clinton with her husband, he is going to outshine her each and every time.  And it may not necessarily a good thing for her.  That said, do you think we‘ll see them joined together or will they divide and conquer  the crowd?

CARLSON: You won‘t see them a lot, but you‘ll see them some.  Remember Al Gore famously did not campaign with President Clinton.  And had he done so, he might not have had that recount in Florida because the president was hugely popular.  He‘s even more popular now and Al Gore thought he was getting rid of the bad parts of Bill Clinton, but actually he got rid of the good part as well because he could have benefited from it.  And I think Mrs. Clinton recognizes that. 

ROBACH:  Margaret, what do you do is going on in the home of the Clintons right now? Ok, honey, I‘m going to tone it down a little.  I‘m going to let you be the star.  Really, how do you think they‘re strategizing to make this work?

CARLSON: You would like to be around that table to find out how they‘re going to work this out.  There must be two meetings, the one that they have with the advisors and the one they have at home.  The one they have at home I think might be a little like what you said, Amy, which is, could you keep it down a little? Could you let me shine, by the way? I have some good lines and when I‘m going to a dinner party. 

ROBACH:   You‘re going to have to have your strategy before you head out and they‘re certainly known for that.  President Clinton also known for his enormous fundraising capability and obviously, Senator Hillary Clinton is very aware of that.  How do you think he‘s going to add to her campaign that said?

CARLSON: There is no down side to having him raising money because that is mostly done in the dark anyway.  Reporters don‘t see it. The public doesn‘t see how they‘re doing it.  So why not have him raise all that money? It is interesting that Barack Obama and John McCain have signed a nonaggression pact whereby if they both make it through the nomination process and are the nominees, they‘ve agreed to abide by Federal campaign caps.  So then the money raised becomes less important.  But until then, of course, it is very important.  And I don‘t see anyone beating Mrs. Clinton on the Democratic side in the amount of money that will be there.  Remember, however, Howard Dean did show something which is that if you catch on, you can raise millions overnight on the Internet.  Now—

ROBACH:  You just don‘t want to get too excited about it.         That‘s all. 

CARLSON: Good point Amy. 

ROBACH:  Let talk about not getting too excited.  Bill Clinton, this is going to be our real first glimpse into how he‘s going to be campaigning side by side with his wife.  How do you think he‘s going to handle it on a personal level?  This is a guy who loves to work the crowd. 

CARLSON: Well, I remember when Mrs. Clinton announced at SUNY in New York.  It was a satellite campus.  It was on a Sunday. He sat the whole time and just looked like Nancy Reagan when she was adoring Ronald Reagan.  There was an element of his having practiced how he was going to be.  And I‘ve seen him do that many times which is just to hang back and look at her adoringly like a spouse.  So he seems willing to do it.  Now this is a different horse which is you have to really stir up a crowd.  You have to get a lot of excitement going for a national presidential campaign.  And as time goes on, if she is not able to accomplish that herself, I can see her bringing him along more often.  Because the one thing he can do is get a crowd going. 

ROBACH:   Two for the price of one once again.  Political columnist Margaret Carlson.  Thanks so much for your time tonight. 

CARLSON: Thanks Amy.

ROBACH: New details about just how big the monster tornado in Enterprise, Alabama was.  And inside the high school that was destroyed for students, which hallway they hid in was the difference between life and death.  We‘re going to hear their story.

And the life of Anna Nicole Smith.  Three weeks after her surprising death, the surprises keep coming even minutes before her funeral is supposed to start. A look back at another unbelievable day. Your‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


ROBACH:   Our fourth story on the countdown, at least 20 people killed in a series of deadly storm across the southeast and Midwest.  In Missouri, a seven-year-old girl died when a tornado hit her home.  Another twister slammed into Americus, Georgia killing two people and destroying the local hospital.  Further south in Baker County, Georgia, six people were killed in another storm while across the border in Alabama, eight students were killed when a huge tornado slammed into Enterprise High School.  Our correspondent Kerry Sanders is at what‘s left of the school.  Kerry.

KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Amy, the National Weather Service says its early calculation showed the tornado that touched down here had wind speeds in excess of 150 miles an hour, a so-call enhanced F-3.  In its path, Enterprise High School right over there where eight students died. 


SANDERS (voice-over):  Today shock gave way to grief as students and teachers returned to Enterprise High School, trying to make sense of it all. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have scrapes and bruises.

SANDERS: Sixteen year-old Francis Copolino‘s best friend died when school walls collapsed on him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s really hard to say that that they‘re gone when just a little while ago, they were sitting right next to me laughing along to jokes and everything. 

SANDERS: Kim Lewis‘s three sons attended the school. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have our children and those other families don‘t have their kids. 

SANDERS: The tornado was a monster, captured on a witness‘s cell phone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is moving to the northeast. 

SANDERS: The path, 1:05 p.m., students taking shelter had been crowded into hallways for more than two hours.  The tornado first hit the science wing, then crossed over the second, third and fourth hall ways.  It was in the last two hallways where the roof was ripped off and the walls collapsed, crushing and killing the eight students, including one whose father was informed of his child‘s death while fighting the war in Iraq.   Today some parents wondered why school officials here didn‘t send their children home at 11:00 a.m. when the tornado watch was issued. 

GOVERNOR BOB RILEY (D) ALABAMA: They were probably more protected in that hall way than they would have been at home or in a mobile home if they had gone home to that. 

SANDERS: The twister hop-scotched for 45 miles through neighborhoods where at least two more people were killed. 

School officials say their goal now is to get students back into a normal routine.  To that end they plan to bring in portables so classes can resume soon.  Amy.

The twister tore through neighborhoods where at least two more people were kill. 


SANDERS: School officials say the goal is to get students back to a normal routine.  To that end they plan to bring in portables so classes can resume soon. 

ROBACH:   Kerry Sanders in Alabama, thank you. 

And tragedy on tragedy in Georgia just hours after deadly tornadoes swept across the state. A bus carrying a college baseball team veered off a highway overpass in Atlanta, killing six people, including four students, the bus driver and his wife.  Our correspondent Mark Potter is at the crash site.  Mark.

MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening Amy.  Investigators from the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board are gathering here in Atlanta tonight.  They will try to determine why the bus fell over the bridge behind me.  Local police believe the driver was confused. 


POTTER (voice-over): After falling 24 feet from a highway overpass, the charter tour bus landed in the middle of interstate 75 blocking Atlanta rush hour traffic.  Reporter Mike Morris of the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” was among the first to help the injured. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of them, very bloody.  It took a pretty bad ride in the bus. 

POTTER: On board was the men‘s baseball team from Bluffton University, a Mennonite school in Ohio heading for Florida. 

AJ RAMTHUN (ph): I woke up as soon as the bus hit the overpass‘s wall.  The bus landed on the left side which is the side I was sitting on.  I just looked out and saw the road coming up after me. 

POTTER: It was four long hours before the second baseman learned his brother Mike also survived.  He heard other voices he‘ll me forget. 

RAMTHUN: I heard some guys crying, I‘m stuck, I‘m stuck. 

POTTER: Police say it appears the bus driver may have gotten confused while south on I-75 in the HOV lane about an hour and a half before dawn.  At one point, he had a choice to either go straight on the highway or to veer left which was an exit to Northside drive.  He took the exit.  But instead of stopping at the top of the ramp, he blew through the stop sign at full speed, crossed the six-lane street, slammed into a retaining wall and toppled over it as the bus fell to the highway below.  The driver and his wife were killed.  At the small school about 50 miles south of Toledo, students grieved the loss. 

PIA WENDORFF (ph): It just overwhelming.  It is unreal. 

DOMINICK McCREARY: Everyone knows everyone around here so it all hits us pretty hard. 


POTTER: And while investigators will be looking at many factors, it appears the weather was not an issue here.  Amy. 

ROBACH:  Mark Potter from Atlanta.  Thank you.  The voting for “American Idol,” some say the only reason Antonella Barba (ph) is still around are these photos.  And the top dog at the beach? Your surfing highlights next in oddball.


ROBACH:  Keith usually likes to begin this segment with a historical

reference.  So we note that on this day in 1904, the great children‘s

writer known as Dr. Seuss was born.  In his honor tonight, each story, one and all will rhyme.  All right? Let play “Oddball.”

Actually, that‘s it for the rhyming.  We‘ve got serious news here.  Hey, look.  It is the surfing dog.  It is Saint, the golden retriever who can hang 10.  His owner swears Saint just loves to surf, no matter how much it might look like they‘re forcing him to.  The dog just can‘t wait to get back in the water, and really, when you‘re this good, who can blame you?  Whoop!

To Israel for our first look at a flying car developed by an Israeli aeronautics company.  The vehicle is designed to be used in densely populated areas and for emergency evacuation.  The only problem is you have to be three inches tall to fit in it or maybe that‘s just the prototype.  The full size version doesn‘t fly just yet but the company says they‘re close and will be available to the public for the low, low price of just $6 million, nicely equipped. 

Finally to London where this art gallery is holding its second annual celebrity potato contest.  It‘s the world capital of carbo art. 

Contestants have entered a bumper crop this year, including a potato Bob Marley, Helen Mirren as the tater queen, the bald Britney Spears, and of course, Madonna and spud. 

Well, “Oddball” fans, you‘re in luck.  It is “Oddball” palooza night.  February is behind us, not a moment too soon and we will take a look back at the entire month in weird.  Speaking of weird, a lot of people say Antonella Barba isn‘t the best singer.  So why is she still on “American Idol?”  Wouldn‘t have anything to do with these pics would it?  We‘ll discuss that up next.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of the day.  Number 3, Switzerland.  Yesterday the famously neutral company invaded Liechtenstein by accident during a routine training mission.  A company of Swiss soldiers got lost and wandered more than a mile over the border before realizing their mistake and high tailing it out of there. 

Number two, Michael Duplessis from Chicago, Illinois, Chitown, some like to call it.  In fact he liked that nickname so much, he had it tattooed on his chest.  Unfortunately, he went to the worst spelling tattoo artist in all of Chitown and now he is suing the tattoo parlor for the emotional distress and public ridicule frankly he‘s received for having it Chi tonw permanently inked into his skin.  And number one, the headline writer for the “Green Bay Press Gazette,” their spelling was immaculate, but maybe they should have thought a little bit more this week before they ruined the lives of two men who joined together to buy the S&M Tool Company.  Long time fishing buddies get down to business with S&M Tool.  That‘s none of our business. 


ROBACH:  I‘m Amy Robach, in for Keith Olbermann.  It is easy to forget sometime just how young a nation America is.  That very youth, and the optimism that can accompany it, have sometime been an asset.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, there comes a time when every country faces a loss of innocence.  For America, that moment came last night, when the sadder but wiser nation learned that no, in fact, the world is not a meritocracy.  And sometime, just sometimes, the road to success is paved instead with sexy picture. 

We speak, of course, of “American Idol.”  Last night America‘ most popular TV show was winnowed the number of contestants down from 20 to 16, getting rid of the four who just couldn‘t cut it.  Or did they?  Here are some of the worst performances leading into last night‘s culling. 



SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  It was like some ghastly lunch, where after lunch, your parents have asked the children to dress up and sing, and not particularly liked what they heard.  That‘s how it came over.  It came over as very weak, a little weird, and it made absolutely no impact. 


COWELL:  Very tough Antonella.  The problem was most of the vocals just weren‘t good enough.  I thought you were worse than last week. 


ROBACH:  Nevertheless, when America‘s 32 million votes were counted, both of those singers, Sanjaya (ph) and Antonella, were still standing.  In Antonella‘s case, the mystery of her survival has at least one theory to explain it, perhaps something to do with these pictures of her, which have cropped up online, and gobbled up the kind of bandwidth usually reserved for more important matters, like Britney or Paris Hilton. 

Whatever the reason, four other singers, universally judged as superior to Sanjaya and Antonella, went home last night.  So joining us to bring some sanity into a world gone mad is our own princess of “American Idol,” Maria Milito, moonlighting from her day job as mid-day host at New York‘s classic rock station Q104.3.  So Maria, I see you‘re already laughing.  That‘s good.

MARIA MILITO, Q104.3:  Because it is funny. 

ROBACH:  It is.  Let‘s start with some of the judicial reaction to the popular vote last night.  Let‘s take a listen. 


PAULA ABDUL, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  This is a singing competition.  Yet, I don‘t feel tonight reflects that. 

RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Randy, so far, have the right people gone home? 

RANDY JACKSON, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  I don‘t know about tonight, dog.  I thought A.J. blew it out the box the other night.  I thought he really showed off his skill. 

SEACREST:  Simon, quickly, what does this say, looking at the people who are leaving us tonight, about the voting? 

COWELL:  Well—

SEACREST:  Do you do the right people have gone? 

COWELL:  Not necessarily, no.  This is “American Idol,” isn‘t it? 

This is one of those things.  You‘ve got to vote for the people you want to stay in.  That‘s all I can say. 

ABDUL:  It is a singing competition.  Everyone needs to vote.  And remember who it is that they love singing. 


ROBACH:  Maria, were truer words ever spokesperson than, I don‘t know about tonight, dog. 

MILITO:  Yes, exactly.  It was almost like it is not a singing contest anymore.  The fact that the judges repeated that over and over—you know, those sex photos that came out so helped Antonella.  She is not a good singer. 

ROBACH:  Obviously Antonella is on to something here.  Does it—she plays to the cheap seats.  Is that kind of giving a blank check to others who think, hey, get some scandal in my life, look pretty and I can win this whole thing. 

MILITO:  I hope not.  I think she is probably going to stay in, I would think, for a few more weeks.  But it has to catch up to her, because she is not a powerful singer.  She is not a very good singer.  And, you know, she‘s kind of like a snotty kid, for lack of a better word.  She kind of dissed Simon. 

ROBACH:  She compared herself to Jennifer, in a way, doing it.  It was a little bit offensive, I think, to people who can sing.  OK, so we understand why Antonella is most likely still in the competition.  But what Sanjaya?  I mean, I‘m a big fan.  I watched it.  And Simon took the words out of my mouth.  I was going to say it.  It was weird. 

MILITO:  It was very weird.  He kind of looked like Michael Jackson to me, from the 80‘s, with the hat.  He is very thin and the voice was a little off. 

ROBACH:  What is his fan base?  Can you answer that for me?

MILITO:  No, that I don‘t know, but it has to be out there.  Now, I mentioned this website the other night, and there is a VoteForTheWorst.com, and they always pick two contestants who they think are horrible, and they tell people across America to vote.  And Antonella and Sundance were their two people.  But now it is Antonella and they might be passing the torch from Sundance to Sanjaya.   

ROBACH:  All right, so mentioned Sundance.  Sundance, he manage to score a cut away shot of himself crying. 


ROBACH:  -- with three of the four contestants who were cut.  I mean, they‘ve known each other for a couple weeks?  Why the water works?  Do you think that scored some points at home? 

MILITO:  Yes.  I think it scored points at home.  And to be very cynical, but honest, I think America looks at that and will say, what a guy.  He has such a big heart.  Even if I don‘t like him, I‘m going to vote for him, because he cried.  People like to see other people cry.  It is terrible, but it is true. 

ROBACH:  I want to sneak this in Maria, because it looks liked last night we saw Kelly Pickler, who was from last season.  She made a cameo appearance.  She seemed to bring along with her two new friends. 

MILITO:  Two new friends, and one in the back as well.  My goodness, gracious.  Her whole body changed. 

ROBACH:  Maybe she can sell more records that way. 

MILITO:  I think.  She actually said that she had new shoes and Ryan Seacrest was kind of hinting to the fact that she had something else. 

ROBACH:  That‘s all you paid for, I think, with the money.

MILITO:  Exactly.  But when she did a spin around, her butt looked pretty enhanced as well. 

ROBACH:  She got Jennifer Lopez. 

MILITO:  I was just going to say that. 

ROBACH:  All right, Maria Milito of New York‘s Q104.3 --

MILITO:  Thank you Amy.

ROBACH:  -- who also moonlights as COUNTDOWN‘s “American Idol” princess.  Have a good weekend. 

MILITO:  Thank you, you too, bye.

ROBACH:  All right, well the burial of Anna Nicole Smith.  The whole situation has been filled with uncertainty since she died three weeks ago.  So why should the day she is laid to rest be any different?  A recap of another bizarre day.  And James Brown, the big loser in the celebrity burial derby.  But he is catching up in the legal horse race.  He has now had DNA extracted almost 10 weeks after he died. 

Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of the day. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a sound you do not want to hear. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now Jennifer Mee made the announcement on the morning radio and then talked to us, with not one hiccup interruption. 

JENNIFER MEE, CURED:  I had the hiccups for a month and six days and then yesterday, they stopped. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So what cure them? 

MEE:  Actually, it was a mixture of thing.  It was my hic-cup, the chiropractor, the (INAUDIBLE), and the acupuncture. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We were like, oh my god!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was truly a musically inclined cat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After about a year of being here, she just started playing piano.  I didn‘t teach her at all. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  Right now it is time for great moments in presidential speeches.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE:  The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. 

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:     We‘re doing a better job of talking to each other.  The left hand now knows what the right hand is doing. 


ROBACH:  Goodbye, Anna Smith.  Though we never knew you at all, you had the grace to hold yourself while those around you crawled.  And it seemed to me you lived your life like the number two story on tonight‘s COUNTDOWN.  Still, it might have been nice, given Anna Nicole Smith‘s sad spectacle of a life, the circus surrounding her death, and the tragedy of an infant left behind, if at least her farewell had risen above the gaudiness that defined her life.  But rising up can be hard when the casket is weighted down by rhinestones. 

Still, one touch of grace did abide.  As the funeral itself was closed to cameras, except, of course, for “Entertainment Tonight.” 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re getting ready to bring the body out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re sliding her up the plane, the crop duster. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That ain‘t Air Force Anna. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, what is that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It has propellers. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anna Nicole Smith‘s body is scheduled to arrive in the Bahamas at any moment now.  In fact, let‘s take a look at the airport, where the plane carrying Smith‘ body is due to land.  NBC‘s Charles Hadlock and MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby are in the Bahamas for us.  Let‘s begin with Charles at the airport for us.  Charles?  Charles just stood up. 

RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Behind me, they‘re setting up a red carpet arrival.  And we‘re hearing lots of reaction from the crowd. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We heard a chorus of cheers when Larry Birkhead arrived, some jeers when Howard K. Stern got out of his car. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Cheering for Birkhead, but when Howard K. Stern walked in the church, there was booing.

COSBY:  That lots of celebrities, lots of stars. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I understand there are some professional musicians here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The guests that have come in are people like Slash from Guns and Roses, to give you an idea of the guest list. 

COSBY:  We‘re also told that country singer Joe Nichols is going to be singing. 

We‘ve just gotten word that there is a good chance that Virgie Arthur, the mother of Anna Nicole Smith, actually may try to put a stay on the funeral services from taking place. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just when you think it can‘t get weirder. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This service has not gotten under way. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right now, you guys are seeing that Anna Nicole Smith‘s hearse has been stalled. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There was a 11th hour attempt to try to delay this funeral by her own mother. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Justice Anita Allen has denied Virgie Arthur‘s request to halt today‘s service. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That failed,  It did keep the hearse sitting in the hot Bohemian sun for 45 minutes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This was the just scene moments ago when a white hearse, carrying Anna Nicole Smith‘s body, stopped in front of the red carpet and pall bearer were able to take the casket out. 

RON MOTT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  You saw the casket, perhaps.  It was draped in something of a pink colored shawl. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was describe to us as a velvet cover over the top. 

COSBY:  We‘re told lots of pink roses inside the service. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know if that‘s truly a velvet cover. 

COSBY:  Pink was her favorite color

MOTT:  Pink, apparently, is the favorite color of Anna Nicole Smith. 

COSBY:  She‘ll be wearing a pink designer gown.  Pink was clearly her favorite color. 

Her casket had some beautiful pink silk ribbons and also some feathers attached to it, and then on top, in gem stones, it had her name in cursive script and then a little smiley face and a heart. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anna Nicole hearse is now making its way to what will be a private burial site, although it is not that private, because you can see we‘ve got live picture here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is this going to become a tourist destination? 

MOTT:  The Anna Nicole Smith house has already become a tourist destination.  There are buses and cabs on a daily and hourly basis going to the front of her house.  So yes, it is going to be that way. 


ROBACH:  All right, turning to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  At least Miss Smith is finally buried, despite the ongoing questions about the paternity of her baby.  Not so, James Brown.  But tonight he is one step closer to eternal rest.  Because of several paternity claims filed against the Godfather of Soul, DNA was extracted from his body Thursday. 

No word on whether one of those claim in question is the five-year-old son of his partner, Tommy Ray Heinie.  She and other family members took the opportunity to view Brown‘s embalmed corpse one last time before the DNA was extract yesterday.  Heini says it was her first chance to finally say a private goodbye to the man she called husband.  Telling the Associate Press, quote, and we‘re quoting here, we had a saying that his father, Papa Joe, used to say, when he would win playing dice.  He would say, us win, to James.  So I was praying, and I said, us win, Baby.  We are going to put you in the ground.  And you‘re going to get some rest finally.  At last, end quote.

Brown has been kept above ground since his death on Christmas day. 

But there is still no official word on when that burial will take place. 

Angelina Jolie is looking to expand her international brood of babies, but not necessary with Brad Pitt.  The couple already has three kids, five-year-old Maddux, adopted from Cambodia, two-year-old Zahara, adopted from Ethiopia, and their biological daughter Shiloh, born in May last year. 

And now Angelina Jolie has filed adoption papers in Vietnam, where she and Brad Pitt visited over thanksgiving.  But she applied as a single mother.  No word on why Mr. Pitt is not listed in that paper work. 

In an attempt to stop any accusations of bias in the inquest into Princess Diana‘s death, a British court ordered a jury to hear the case and assigned a new coroner.  Originally, Lady Butler Sloth (ph), the official deputy coroner of the queen‘s household was going to preside over the proceedings.  But Dodi al-Fayed‘s father, who has repeatedly accused the British royal family of plotting to kill his son and Princess Diana, challenged her authority. 

And the high court agreed, saying that the public interests is best served by a jury of ordinary people, and not a coroner, who is not officially tied to the royal family.  The ruling hasn‘t stopped Mohamed al Fayed‘s demands though.  He is now calling for Prince Charles and his father, Prince Philip, to give evidence at the inquest. 

Well, Vincent Pastore is living up to his nickname of his character on the Sopranos, dropping out of the ABC reality show “Dancing With the Stars” in the first week, because it is too physically demanding for him.  Pastor, who plays Salvatore Big—You know what?  If you know the character, you know his name.—On the hit hitman show says he didn‘t realize just how much dancing was involved, saying, quote, unable to put forth my best effort, I felt it appropriate to step aside and give someone else the opportunity. 

That someone else, you ask, Cliff Claven.  ABC announcing that John Ratzenburger (ph), best known as the affable mailman from “Cheers” will now join the cast in Pastor‘s place. 

And fresh off showing the world his magic wand by getting naked on stage, Daniel Radcliffe has decided to keep his role as Harry Potter, signing on to play the boy wizard for the final two films.  The fifth movie, “The Order of the Phoenix,” is due out later this year, while filming on the sixth film, “The Half Blood Prince” begins in the Fall.  And the very final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” comes out in July this year. 

Well, to the top of the COUNTDOWN, and our look back at the February Oddball plays of the month, from stupid guys out in the cold, to super heroes who don‘t do their job.  All the news that‘s tacky and wacky next on COUNTDOWN. 


ROBACH:  The Romans named it after their annual purification ceremony and then, unceremoniously gave it the fewest days in the calendar.  The Anglo-saxons called it the solo monit (ph), translation, mud month, or kale monit, translation, cabbage month. 

So, in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, what better month to celebrate angry animals, dumb criminals, pointless competition and spectacular video.  It is the Oddball plays of the month, February edition. 


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We begin in Beijing, China. 

We begin in Indoor, India.

We begin on the mean streets of Williamsville, New York, a town so tough, even the fish have tattoos.

We begin at the hair and hound fair in Dortlund (ph), in Germany, home of the ninth annual Championship of Deer Callers.  That‘s crazy talk.  Dears don‘t wear no collars.  Well, there was that one with the garbage can lid stuck on his head.  Oh, callers.

We begin with politics in Carson, California, with a shocking assault caught on tape.  A brutal attack or the worst dive since Sonny Liston?  You make the call. 

We begin in Cleveland, Ohio, where the big story is this wild and wacky weather.  Let‘s get a report that we found on the Internets from the intrepid John Lokeman (ph) of channel 19, Cleveland‘s Action News.  And we‘ve got action. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you chat with us for a second?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How long have you been out here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve been out a couple of hours, getting the building clear. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s cold out here.  Some people are just out of their minds.  What are you going to do?  It‘s nuts.

OLBERMANN:  The Italian island of Stromboli, where the local volcano has erupted and piping hot red sauce is oozing out of the crevices, mmm, hot Stromboli. 

In New Zealand, where fisherman have caught an extremely rare giant squid in the antarctic waters off the southern coast, extremely rare when they caught it.  It will be medium rare by later tonight.

Ways to have fun when the warm weather returns.  In the TV news business, this is called a tease. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And definitely the place to be thinking about Summer, especially if you are the outdoors type.  I‘m Stephanie Silviar (ph) and coming up, we‘ll show you some things you can do to have fun in warm weather. 

OLBERMANN:  Film at 11. 

We begin on the Internets, where we are constantly following the latest trends in the whole Diet Coke and Mentos movement.  Dorm room Coke and Mentos booby traps. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Want some ice? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  That‘s all right. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know about the first one.  I‘m not buying the second one. 

Deerfield Beach, Florida, hello.  You may remember this story from a couple of weeks ago.  An 80-year-old woman on her way to take the driving test crashes through the front window of the DMV.  What if we told you the real irony was that Superman himself was there that day and did nothing to help.  It‘s tough to see in all the commotion.  There is clearly a guy in a Superman costume, who enters the office in the upper right portion of the screen.  Does he use his super powers to begin saving people, maybe lift up the car and toss it back out into the parking lot?  No.  He stands there and watches as others jump into action.  You sir, you are not fit to wear this uniform. 

To Pennsylvania, where we find the early front runner for dumbest criminal of 2007.  He smashed the door on the left to get in and tried to go out on the right.  Wait for it.  A video of a woman having a little bit of trouble with the manual shift transmission. 

Now here‘s a man in Thailand doing squats on the back of a giant

elephant, and I heard about the whole sex tourism thing, but this is just -

Once again, we have a big black bear in a back yard tree, who just won‘t cooperate with the authorities, so the brought out the tranquilizer gun.  Speaking of when the lights go out in Beijing, hello.  Yay, watermelons. 

This elephant, she don‘t like minivans.  OK, now everybody, spit!

Supposedly this shows some Canadian soldiers test firing a new shoulder-fired anti-tank missile. 


ROBACH:  And that pretty much sums up February.  And that does it for the Friday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Amy Robach, in for Keith Olbermann.  Have a great weekend everyone.



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