updated 3/13/2007 1:19:36 PM ET 2007-03-13T17:19:36

Guests: Paul Krugman, Jonathan Turley, Philip Giraldi, Dana Milbank, Maria Milito

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

Going, going, Gonzales.  The outcry against the attorney general. 

It‘s more than just him firing federal prosecutors for political reasons.  It‘s him listening to Karl Rove about firing federal prosecutors for political reasons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  For the sake of the nation, Attorney General Gonzales should step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Paul Krugman of “The New York Times” on the politics and the hidden danger, ones who did administration dirty work to keep their jobs.  Jonathan Turley on turning the attorney general‘s office into a center for political reeducation.

You say Dubai, and I say, Hello.  Halliburton moving its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates, avoiding U.S. taxes, avoiding U.S. laws.

Rudy Giuliani, too liberal, or too often married?  John McCain, too newly conservative?  Mitt Romney, too Mitt-like (ph)?  Newt Gingrich, too nuts?  The Republicans may have another option, an antiwar option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  I‘m here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The crime is bad enough, but stalking your 101-year-old victim, and attacking her on video?  More than just a mugging, a psychological issue, perhaps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m not bitter against anybody, but I think he did a terrible thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nine children and an adult buried today after last week‘s horrific house fire in the Bronx in New York City.  And one commentator actually says the real story is his deduction that the children burned alive may have been illegal aliens.

And the cartoons, “American Idol”‘s Antonella Barba will not pose for “Playboy.”  Well, really, at this point, why don‘t they just download her photos like everybody else?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

As Karl Rove‘s hand in firing federal prosecutors for political reasons became visible, as the influence of his death star seeped into yet another White House controversy over the possible ouster of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, this aside (ph), acknowledging that there is nothing worse than quoting oneself.  When asked recently by an interviewer for a one-sentence reaction to Mr. Gonzales, my word-association response was, I‘d like to see his diploma.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, evidently a lot of congressional Democrats want to see it too, and to see him leave, and to find out why he would be listening to Karl Rove about who does and who does not prosecute a nation‘s wrongdoers.

In a moment, Paul Krugman of “The New York Times” joins us to discuss the fallout, but first, the details.

Mr. Rove drawn into this scandal over the weekend, the New Mexico Republican Party chairman naming names in an interview with the McClatchy newspapers, saying that he had complained to the White House senior adviser about the now-former U.S. attorney for that state, David Iglesias, who testified to the Senate on Tuesday, the state party chairman claiming that Mr. Rove told him of prosecutor Iglesias, quote, “He‘s gone,” the White House now acknowledging it had approved the firings but that it had not signed off on any specific names, spokeswoman Dana Perino further conceding that Mr. Rove served as a conduit for complaints to the Justice Department about federal prosecutors.

Mr. Rove‘s “He‘s gone” statement could also soon apply to Attorney General Gonzales, in the Senate, the Republican Arlen Specter saying that the resignation of Mr. Gonzales was, quote, “a question for the president and attorney general, because there have been lots of problems,” Democrat Joe Biden saying Gonzales himself would be, quote, “better off” if he resigned, while Chuck Schumer, the Senate‘s number three Democrat, having today called on Karl Rove to testify before Congress, was yesterday damning the attorney general with faint praise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER:  Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man, but he either doesn‘t accept or doesn‘t understand that he is not longer just the president‘s lawyer, but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution, even when the president should not want it to be so.  And so this department has been so political that I think, for the sake of the nation, Attorney General Gonzales should step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As promised, we‘re fortunate now to be joined by Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University‘s Woodrow Wilson School, as well, of course, as op-ed columnist for “The New York Times.”

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Hi, there.

OLBERMANN:  Is the attorney general‘s culpability in this going to get swallowed up in the Karl Rove swamp?  And is the whole issue going to get swallowed up in the, in the, the swamp that is the Bush administration?

KRUGMAN:  Well, there is a problem of so many scandals for—competing for our attention.  And, you know, there‘s also—this administration has been really good at defining scandal down.  You know, there are big stories, like the, you know, the Justice Department stuffing the Civil Rights Division with anti-civil rights lawyers, that just completely fly under the radar.

And I‘m not sure even this one is going to get the attention it deserves.

OLBERMANN:  And even behind it, as you pointed out, what about the prosecutors who were not fired?  Should we be, perhaps, more concerned with those men and women, the people who might have been willing to do administration dirty work in order to keep their jobs?

KRUGMAN:  Sure, or to advance their careers.  And, look, aside from one, which I assume we‘ll get to, Carol Lam, the firing of the prosecutors was shameful.  But what you really worry about is what the guys who were not fired did in order to keep on the administration‘s good side.

We have some—you know, we have quite a lot of evidence.  We have individual cases.  There was one in New Jersey where the federal prosecutor did what sure looks like an attempt to aid the campaign against Senator Bob Menendez.

But we have statistical evidence.  Donald Shields (ph) and James Creighton (ph) did a study of press reports of attorneys‘ actions across the country, and they found that while that the statewide races, it was sort of rough parity, at the local level, it was seven to one investigations or charges against Democrats compared with Republicans, which strongly suggests you have a real pattern in which the U.S.  attorneys‘ offices are being used to—for political purposes, and it just happens that these eight guys who got fired weren‘t going along with the program.

OLBERMANN:  In this bigger picture, regarding the attorney general, would things have reached this stage, prominent senators insisting on his resignation, Senator Specter saying what he said, as quickly as they have, had it not been for the guilty verdict last week in the Libby trial?  Is there a connection there?  Was there a tipping point of some kind?

KRUGMAN:  Yes, I think there‘s are a couple of things.  One is that the Libby trial reminded everybody of the thuggish nature of what goes on in a lot of this administration.  The second thing is that it probably shows that, you know, you can actually get these guys sometimes (INAUDIBLE) put some courage in.

And, you know, there‘s actually suddenly been more cooperation from the administration.  I think that particularly Gonzales has got to be looking back at his own testimony, in which he asserted that there is no political role in those firings, and wondering, you know, how close to the line of perjury did he skirt?  And he better not do it again.

OLBERMANN:  Are there loose ends still here?  Is there, is there stuff that we should be looking for answers to in the days and weeks ahead that we, that we really haven‘t explored yet?

KRUGMAN:  Sure.  The biggie in the firings is Carol Lam, the U.S.  attorney for Southern California.  And she‘s been on a roll.  She‘d convicted Duke Cunningham, corrupt Republican congressman.  She‘d gotten indictments just two days before leaving office against defense contractor and the number three man at the CIA, who‘s a Bush loyalist who was put in there when they were trying to purge the agency.  And she was investigating Jerry Lewis, who is a powerful Republican congressman on the—that was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The big question has got to be, was she fired to stop those investigations?

And then, you know, we need more of those numbers, the Creighton and Shields numbers are interesting, they‘re very revealing.  But we really need to know a lot more about specifically what went on all across the country.  New Jersey, there are strong suspicions.  There‘s questions in New Hampshire.  There‘s questions in Kentucky.  We need to know exactly what‘s going on in terms of the misuse of the Justice Department.

OLBERMANN:  One more thing.  Do you have an interpretation on the meaning of this White House admission about Rove as a conduit?  What—that seems such an odd statement (INAUDIBLE).

KRUGMAN:  Well, I think they probably figure there are too many people who know that he was involved.  And they‘re not trying to deny that, but they‘re going to try and say, Well, you know, it‘s nothing, the conduit is trying to say, Well, you know, he wasn‘t actually putting political pressure on, he was just passing on what other people were saying.  He might keep his head out of the news, but I don‘t think it‘s going to help Mr. Gonzales.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Krugman of “The New York Times” and Princeton University.  Many thanks for some of your time and your insight tonight, sir.

KRUGMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the politics at work, as well as the full legal implications of this, to say nothing of the fact that Alberto Gonzales‘s only real qualifications for his post might be that his initials, AG, are the same as the abbreviation for attorney general.

Let‘s turn to constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: 

Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Your thoughts on Paul Krugman‘s point that the bigger issue here might be the prosecutors who were not fired, and whether or not they might have been willing to go along with the administration to either advance their careers, or just to hold onto their jobs?

TURLEY:  I think that‘s everyone‘s concern, that not what did these people fail to do that got them fired, but what the other people did do that kept them in their jobs.

I mean, you‘re talking about a pretty impressive group of people.  These U.S. attorneys were not ACLU wannabes, these were tough prosecutors who actually carried some controversial lines for the administration.  But they still were not up to snuff for the purposes of the administration.

You also worry what this tells other U.S. attorneys.  I mean, the impression is that if you go after someone like Jerry Lewis or other powerful people like Cunningham, that you‘re really risking your career, and that maybe you‘d be better suited finding other targets.

Now, that may not be accurate, but I got to tell you, it‘s a lot more convincing when you find out that Karl Rove was a conduit of anything on this issue.  There‘s no reason for the president‘s political adviser to be communicating anything about U.S. attorneys continuing in office.  I‘m surprised someone picked up the phone on the other end.  It‘s just on its face very inappropriate.

OLBERMANN:  Mentioning Mr. Rove, Senator Schumer today called on him to testify regarding exactly what you just raised.  We don‘t know if that‘s a subpoena coming with that, with that call.  But the bigger question would have to be, how do you get the congressional investigation going?  How do you get to the bottom of what really has happened, if there‘s so much of proving a negative in there as you suggest?

TURLEY:  Well, I think that they‘ve got more to go on here than in other cases.  You know, the White House invokes executive privilege really without hesitation, and Congress has had a hard time getting information.  But when you have the political adviser to the president communicating to the attorney general and one of his underlings, it‘s hard to see the powerful privilege argument that can be made.

And this may be something that the White House will have to relent on. 

I mean, seeing Karl Rove in this issue is really something that sticks out.  I mean, this is the pig in the parlor.  I mean, not that he‘s a pig.  But he sticks out, and no one wants to talk about it, perhaps, in the White House.  But any involvement of Karl Rove on this issue really screams for investigation.

OLBERMANN:  There was a withering editorial in “The New York Times” over the weekend, which was echoed by Senator Schumer, who said yesterday that part of the problem here is that Mr. Gonzales has never seen himself as more than Mr. Bush‘s personal lawyer, even though he was also the attorney general.  Is that the true extent of the damage here, that, that the judicial branch was co-opted into the service of the, of the White House, as well as of a, of a single party-controlled Congress?

TURLEY:  Well, there‘s a lot of career people at Justice that are very unhappy with what‘s happened to the Justice Department.  You know, the Justice Department has always really sold itself as independent of the president.  They‘re not the president‘s lawyer.  There‘s a lot of career lawyers over there, and there‘s been a lot of complaints that they‘ve been politicalized under this administration.

And in that sense you know, Gonzales is viewed as something of an empty suit for the president, that he is the creation of the president, he really earned his bones with the president by being his lawyer for all these times.

But for many people, he comes across as a type of enabler, that a lot of people in the administration constantly tell the president that he is all-powerful, that he can do all these things, that the law is not going to be a barrier.  And it‘s gotten this administration in a lot of trouble.

You know, at the end of this administration, I think history will tell that this president was ill served by all of these enablers.  And I believe Alberto Gonzales is perhaps the greatest of the lot.

OLBERMANN:  Because he validated the enabling of all the other enablers too.

Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University.  As always, my great thanks for your time, Jon.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More fallout to report tonight, and another firing in yet another Bush administration scandal the Army‘s top doctor finally forced to retire over the conditions at the Walter Reed Medical Center, Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley handing in his retirement papers yesterday, apparently having sealed his fate when he appeared to downplay the decrepit conditions at Walter Reed‘s Building 18 for outpatients, “The Washington Post” having reported that General Kiley was (INAUDIBLE) warned as early as 2003 of the problems at the hospital, our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, reporting that it‘s likely the three-star general will be reduced in retirement by at least one rank, losing one of those stars.

And here‘s tomorrow‘s administration scandal, about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, breaking news tonight regarding the military‘s controversial don‘t ask, don‘t tell policy banning open homosexuality in the armed forces, if possible, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, making it more controversial this afternoon with a claim that homosexuality is immoral, General Pace expounding on the policy as part of an interview with “The Chicago Tribune.”

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct, that are immoral.  I believe that military members who sleep with other military members‘ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that.  I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, the military prosecutes extramarital affairs, like those General Pace referred to, the “Tribune” reporting that the general did not address concerns raised by the 2005 government audit which showed that some 10,000 troops had been discharged as a result of don‘t ask-don‘t tell, hundreds of linguistics included, including 54 Arabic specialists among those linguists.

Also tonight, Halliburton opening headquarters and sending its CEO to Dubai, where Michael Jackson ran off to.  Same motive, or something else?

And a news announcement last week to announce something presidential this week, which turns out to be a news conference this week to announce another news conference at some week in the hazy future.  Dana Milbank ahead on what Chuck Hagel did not announce today, and it might not have been about a presidential bid.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  That the White House low-balled the actual number of troops headed to Iraq as part of the escalation is no surprise, and that an American company might relocate its base of operations to the Middle East would ordinarily be only a slight surprise, and only slightly news.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, turns out that even the corrected escalation number was itself a low-ball figure, and the company moving to Dubai is not Michael Jackson Inc., but rather a firm whose long-term legal troubles in this country could make the pop star‘s look like parking tickets.  It‘s Halliburton.

The troop data first, Mr. Bush yesterday confirming that he‘s sending additional noncombat troops as support, 2,400 of them known (ph), with no irony intended, as enablers.  But it‘s more than 2,400, of course, because an additional nine companies of military police, 2,200 of them, have to go too, bringing the total for now to 26,000, once the resurge, or perhaps resurgitation, is complete.

And the company reaping billions from the war will now be trickling down into the Middle East economy, Halliburton announcing this weekend that it will relocate its headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Congressman Henry Waxman announcing about five minutes later that he will hold hearings about the move, exploring security issues, Halliburton privy to sensitive military information, financial issues, Halliburton being blamed for billions of dollars in fraudulent, wasteful, or unaccounted spending.

Let‘s turn to a conservative voice on these stores.  Philip Giraldi, contributing editor at “American Conservative” magazine, former officer at the CIA.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

PHILIP GIRALDI, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “American CONSERVATIVE” MAGAZINE: 

Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  A number of analysts suggest that Halliburton‘s move motive is not obvious at all.  It‘s not about escaping domestic pressures, it‘s not about legal trouble ahead, it‘s not even about taxes, but it‘s about where the action is.  Do you buy that argument?

GIRALDI:  I don‘t particularly buy that.  The—I think that probably Halliburton is motivated by a whole basket of interests.  And certainly, going from the United States, where it is subject to corporate taxation, to Dubai, where there is no tax, would be one issue.  Going from the United States, where regulation of corporations, to Dubai, where there is no regulation, would be an issue.  And, of course, there is the litigation issue, that if Halliburton were to move out of the United States, the access to it for litigation over contracts in Iraq and other issues would be much diminished.

OLBERMANN:  Is it akin, is that scenario akin to another scenario, where, say, in 1989, Enron had moved to Murmansk?  Are they actually protecting themselves or any of their officers?

GIRALDI:  Well, they‘re certainly giving themselves some protection.  Obviously, if Halliburton is going to continue to operate in the United States and have government contracts, which it intends to do, it‘s still going to have a certain amount of exposure.  But if you move your leading executives out of the country physically, you move a lot of your operations out of the country physically, the legal issues become a lot more difficult.

OLBERMANN:  The congressman, Mr. Waxman, wants hearings to ask how Halliburton‘s move would affect taxpayers, affect national security.  Can you take a stab anticipating some of the answers he‘s going to hear if he has those hearings?

GIRALDI:  Well, it kind of depends how Halliburton spins it.  The, the, the (INAUDIBLE), the company within Halliburton, KBR, that does most of the military contracting, Halliburton is saying is going to be spun off.  Now, just exactly how that takes place, and where KBR winds up, of course, will be a major issue.

OLBERMANN:  The, the company, of course, fed U.S. troops spoiled food, it gave them contaminated water.  Now it‘s choosing to buy over Texas (ph), whether it‘s for tax, taxes, or whatever reason is at the heart of it, as you suggest, a bundle of them.  This may seem a really naive question, but under those circumstances, why does the administration still deal with them, and, on the other end of the stick here, would a liberal linchpin like George Soros have bought 1.9 million shares in their company less than a month ago?

GIRALDI:  Well, to answer the last part first, I would imagine Soros sees it as a good investment.  The whole problem with Halliburton and all the defense contractors in general is that the whole system is corrupt, that you have people who are in the government going out of the government, going into these countries, like Dick Cheney—companies, like Dick Cheney did, making a lot of money, and then getting back into the government at a higher level, where they naturally protect their interests.

So the system itself is bad, and these people and these companies are not interested in what is good for the United States.  They‘re interested in what‘s good for themselves, primarily.  And quite honestly, they‘ve been a large constituency in pushing the war agenda that has brought us Iraq and is probably about to bring us Iran.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s, it‘s a shame that President Eisenhower‘s farewell address is not tattooed somewhere where everyone can read it, about the military-industrial complex.

Philip Giraldi, investigative journalist, former CIA officer, our great thanks.            

GIRALDI:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of taking money and running, a massive hunt in New York for a thief who seems to be beating up old women even after he has gotten their money.

And it‘s the first time I‘ve ever yearned for Jackie Stallone‘s psychic dogs, a guinea pig that can tell the future using cards.  OK.  That‘s next.

This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1832, Charles Cunning ham Boycott was born.  He is the man for whom the boycott, the refusal to patronize a business, was named.  In 1880, he was the rent collector for a wealthy landowner in County Mayo, Ireland, where the renters and workers decided to go on strike to refuse to harvest the potato crop.  Mr. Boycott objected, the town rose up against him.  They would talk to him, they wouldn‘t serve him food, they wouldn‘t set next to him in church.  So not only is the boycott named after him, but he didn‘t even invent it, he was its first target.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Chennai, India, where the hottest thing going in this beach community is the guinea pig that can tell the future.  I will be eaten later this afternoon.  Chennai, apparently, the epicenter of the fortunetelling rodent craze, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, anything that can fit into one of those little cages and chew on a Tarot card can be used to scan the rube, I mean, consult the Hindu god Ganesh for this week‘s lottery numbers.  This little one flips through cards, and he delivers one to the customer to determine his future.  Oh, look, it‘s the Death by Rattlesnake card.  Yay.

To Sweetwater, Texas, where --  Oh, good grief, the hamster was right.  Settle down, now.  It‘s just the 49th annual Rattlesnake Roundup, the Texas equivalent of Whacking Day from “The Simpsons.”  Thousands of the venomous snakes collected and brought to the Nolen (ph) County Museum, then small children are thrown into the pen to play Indiana Jones.  I‘m thinking that‘s a typo.  Not sure what happens to the snakes when the roundup is over, but perhaps they just let them go out the back.

Also tonight, Senator Chuck Hagel scheduled a big announcement today, then announced merely another announcement.  Though there was obviously some kind of case of cold feet here, it might not have been about a presidential bid.  Dana Milbank with the latest on that.

And speaking of cold feet, no, sorry, this is ex-“American Idol” Antonella Barba, and her feet would be cold for a different reason.  A new career, or just a return to an old one?

Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day. 

Number three, the headline writer at the Alabama newspaper “The Montgomery Advertiser.”  His offering atop a story about research into American‘s preferences in journalism, quote, people still interested in news.  See, the people reading that have already bought—you are not telling them anything they don‘t know.  Never mind. 

Number two, music producer Ricky Lackey, daddy to be times six.  No, not sextuplets.  This Cincinnati man, as he was sentenced for check kiting, advised the judge that he has six children on the way with six different women.  The judge was confused.  Are you marrying a woman with six children, Mr Lackey?  He answered, quote, “no, no, I be concubining.”  No, I be concubining.  It takes a lot to top that. 

And here it is, number one, Anna Clifford, arrested early this morning in Memphis, charged with driving drunk, apparently after her birthday party yesterday.  She blew a 1.0 on the breathalizer, just 0.2 above the legal limit, but enough to cause this.  You have to put remember to put the top down in the car occasionally, missy. 

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s How to Run for President 101, first there‘s the announcement that you are considering a bid, second your announcement of an exploratory committee, third, your announcement that an announcement about an official run is imminent, and finally the actual announcement of your presidential bid.  But today, in our third story, a new level added to the campaign bureaucracy of position One A.  As Dana Milbank will tell us in a moment, it might be called Chucking it all. 

Last Wednesday, Senator Chuck Hagel announced he would be holding a news conference regarding his future plans, future plans being politic code for presidential bid possibility.  Then at said news conference today, he announced that he would be holding yet another news conference regarding his future plans still further in the future. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year.  I will continue to participate in events across this country, raising money for my political action committee, to assist Republican candidates and raising funds for a Senate campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Also, former Senator, current actor Fred Thompson saying over the weekend that he is considering a bid for the Republican nomination, adding that he‘s anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-gun control, supportive of the president‘s troop increase, and supportive of a pardon for Scooter Libby, also mandatory “Law and Order” franchises on all networks. 

If nominated, our next guest will not run.  If elected he will not serve.  Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the “Washington Post.  Dana, good evening. 

DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Hagel‘s announcement that he‘s not making an announcement, was it cold feet or was there some point in there that the rest of us are missing, but not you? 

MILBANK:  This is the political equivalent of Geraldo opening Al Capone‘s vault, looking forward to this for some time today.  He got 15 cameras down there, people flew in from all over.  He got in front of presidential blue velvet curtain and had absolutely nothing to say. 

A lot of people believe that Chuck Hagel is a smart guy and wouldn‘t do something stupid like this.  The speculation is that because he had no money in the bank, because he‘s been taking on the president with such abandon, that he wasn‘t really contemplating a presidential bid.  What he was contemplating is getting out of politics when his term expires next year.

There‘s a lot suspicion that that‘s what was going on here.  Something evidently caused him to pull back from some sort of announcement today.  He had already scheduled the announcement.  So he was left with this extremely awkward scene in Omaha, where he just thanked the reporters and hoped they had enjoyed their steaks. 

OLBERMANN:  But he did reference money raising for a senatorial campaign.  He did not specifically say it was his, right?  

MILBANK:  That kind of money is fungible and can go in one direction towards a presidential campaign, or in another direction, can go to help other colleagues.  Nothing wrong with raising money.  The truth is, if you wanted to explore a presidential bid and not commit yourself, well, start an exploratory committee like everybody else does. 

OLBERMANN:  The interview that he did with “Esquire Magazine,” that will be out next month, Senator Hagel brought up the possibility that the president could be impeached.  In this political climate, I mean this totally seriously, will that remark help him or hurt him if he is, in fact, seeking the presidential nomination of the Republican party? 

MILBANK:  Well, of the Republican part is the key.  It may help him with the larger public, in general, but remember, the Republican electorate is that last 30 percent of the population that still supports the president and is largely still supporting him on Iraq and not exactly eager to see him impeached.  Those are the words of a man who wants to run an independent bid for president, or a man who is retiring from politics. 

OLBERMANN:  He also is comparing his war policy.  He says he‘s not anti-war, he‘s just smart about it, the way Ronald Reagan was.  That‘s at least his comparison.  That occurs.  There‘s not really any kind of overt reaction from the right, or from the commentaries from the right.  Senator Clinton compared the historic importance of the first female president possibility to the historic importance of the first Catholic president and is then accused in a place like the “New York Post” of saying that she thought she was the JFK of 2008. 

Is there some journalistic hypocrisy there?  Or am I reading too much into that? 

MILBANK:  I never believed a Murdoch publication capable of hypocrisy.

OLBERMANN:  Or of journalism.

MILBANK:  Of course, these sorts of comparisons go on all the time.  If you are Republican, you compare yourself to the patron saint Ronald Reagan.  If you‘re a Democrat, the patron saint is JFK.  You have to be careful not to say you are the next one.  You just have to honor the memory.  You have to pay homage to that patron saint, but not actually claim to be that patron saint.  

OLBERMANN:  As Dan Quayle learned to his horror in the vice presidential debate in 88.  Last thing about Fred Thompson, Watergate investigation council, actor in “The Hunt For Red October,” senator, DA on “Law and Order,” and regular guest host for Paul Harvey on the radio.  Is he overloading potential supporters with his resume?  It‘s like finding where is Waldo, isn‘t it? 

MILBANK:  Right, and there is the question, if he were to enter, would Rudy Giuliani still be the law and order candidate in the race.  I don‘t think a lot of people are taking Fred Thompson very seriously right now. I was actually on a flight with him on Saturday, and he introduced himself to one of the passengers, saying, I‘m Fred Thompson from “Law and Order.”

So, it shows you where his priorities are right now.  And they‘re not with the American government. 

OLBERMANN:  But it‘s nice.  At least he can say the “Law and Order,” rather than having to get it through “Law and Order SVU,” or “Law and Order” SUV.   Dana Milbank of MSNBC, the “Washington Post,” and off the star turn on the Bill Maher show on HBO.  Congratulations on that and thanks for joining us.

Also tonight, as the manhunt continues for a man who stalked and mugged a 101-year-old woman, deeper questions about why you would seek that kind of victim.  And if you think I‘m making a Larry King segue here, you‘re nuts.  But did Tom Cruise try to convert him? 

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Didn‘t Dick Morris say he might be in that book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you never know with Dick Morris.  He‘s been through this once before, of course, in 1996, with the prostitute who came to his hotel room and—hate to say this on TV—but sucked his toes.  book. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She will not leave my sight.  She will follow me absolutely anywhere. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And Smooshi, she‘s a bit of a jealous type.  Lesson for the day, don‘t go near another woman‘s man, especially if the woman is more than six times your size.

BUSH:  Today, as the president mentioned, we went to Santa Cruz Balagna (ph).  Children are being left behind in Guatemala.  Nos es La Valad (ph).  The local population can become deeply effected by drugs.  This will be your last question, Mr. president.  Then we can start thinking about dinner.  Tortillas, bueno.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The numbers from 2006 are in and the Police Executive Research Forum, led by some of the nation‘s top chiefs and partially funded by the Justice Department says 2005 was no fluke.  In our number two story tonight, violent crime is roaring back.  Following nearly a decade of decline, violent crime bottomed out after the year of 2000, at the lowest levels in a generation.  From 1993 to 2000, Washington spent about a billion dollars a year funding local police.

The current administration has cut that funding, down to less than one percent.  And now virtually every category is rising, murder, rape, assault included.  If dry numbers do not concern you, consider the current case in New York City, complete with the kind of disturbing details all too familiar to those who recall what the city used to be like, and also the disturbing idea that a thief deliberately sought out elderly woman to rob and then beat up.  Our correspondent is Dawn Fratangelo. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Under any circumstances it‘s a callous crime.  But the victim here, a 101 year-old woman.  Rose Morat was on her way to church when a man attacked her inside the lobby of her New York City apartment building.  The man is seen slapping her. 

ROSE MORAT, VICTIM:  All of a sudden I hear this bang and I didn‘t fall, and I was not unconscious, but I was startled. 

FRATANGELO:  He takes Roses‘ purse, rummages through her pockets, then punches her.   

MORAT:  And I looked, and there‘s the blood coming out.   

FRATANGELO:  Rose is recovering from a fractured cheek bone, but still has fighting words.

MORAT:  I would have killed him.  I‘m sure I would have killed him. 

FRATANGELO:  Even worse, just hours later, police believe this same man did it again, the victim this time 85 year-old Solan Gelije (ph). 

SOLAN GELIJIE, VICTIM:  He pushed me and began to beat me on my face. 

FRATANGELO:  The police have isolated this image of the man, passing out fliers and photographs, as the New York City police commissioner said, pulling out all stops to find him. 

The mugger got less than 80 dollars from both women.  Video of the assault on Rose has touched a nerve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The reason this video is really hitting home is this woman was 101-years-old.  I mean, she‘s past the century mark.  She‘ made it that far, and then she can‘t even get out of her door without getting mugged and beaten.  It‘s so horrifying to see that.

FRATANGELO:  As for Rose, she didn‘t make it to church Sunday, her priest paid her a visit. 

MORAT:  I‘m not bitter against anybody.  But I think he did a terrible thing. 

FRATANGELO:  A 101 year-old who lived to tell the story. 

Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  To our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, and a report that our friend at CNN, Larry King, was courted by a certain movie star to join a certain space alien religion.  Dianetics, hello.  Tom Cruise himself may have tried to draft Mr. King into the Scientology fold.  According to the “Palm Beach Post,” King was given a Cruise-guided private tour of the Scientology museum, the new one in Hollywood, called Psychiatry, An Industry of Death.

In interview with that Post, King, who has previously spoken of his own battle with depression, says he like Tom Cruise, but as far as Scientology goes, quote, their attack on psychiatry is incredible.  They hate psychiatry.  I love wedding crashers. 

And this just in, for the first time in 77 days, James Brown has moved, well been moved.  Saturday, in a private ceremony, the family of Mr.  Brown entombed the late singer‘s body in a crypt on Beach Island, South Carolina.  Mr. Brown‘s friend, the Reverend Al Sharpton, presided.  The body had been resting in an air conditioned room at Brown‘s South Carolina home since his death last Christmas.  While the future of the estate is unresolved, according to Mr. Sharpton, his children, quote, wanted to see their father entombed in a resting place without delay. 

However, the body will be moved again upon the completion of a public mausoleum, where the remains should remain. 

Antonella Barba may not remain in America‘s premier singing competition, but could she still become a fold out?  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze shared tonight by David and Sally Mailer (ph) of Cornwall in England.  They decided to climb the Scaffle Pike (ph), England‘s highest mountain, and as oft happens to novice climbers, they got stranded in a cloud and had to be rescued.  What makes these idiots special is that Mr.  and Mrs. Mailer decided to bring their five-year-old son along with the climb, and also their 14-month-old son.  They were all rescued.  Now all they have to do is rescue the kids from the parents. 

Our runner up, having found that his pose of moderation does not work, Glen Beck of CNN back to radical extremism, opposing Democratic calls for a timed withdrawal from Iraq, he says, quote, if your bill goes through, I hope you can‘t get to bed any single night without the images of body bags of our American soldiers coming off those planes.  Because you will be just as responsible for their deaths as anyone who has ever strapped a bomb to their chest.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you do it?

Assuming you are right, and you‘re not, could those Democrats maybe get some sleeping tips from you and the other toadies who parroted the administration, and got us into this horse crap war in the first place?  By your logic, Mr. Beck, aren‘t you just as responsible for the first 3,190 American dead in Iraq. 

But the gold tonight, who else, the intolerant and intolerable Bill O‘Reilly, blaming a kidnapped teenager in Missouri for his own sexual abuse was not sufficient.  He has now blamed last week‘s house fire in New York City, which killed 9 children and the mother of four of them, on, quote, so called compassion, unquote, because his show could not confirm the victims were not illegal aliens. 

He described sympathy and compassion for the dead, kids burned alive, as a, quote, new tactic by the pro-amnesty, open border crowd, using children to demand sanctuary for illegal aliens.  He actually said that.  Any issue can be freely discussed, should be discussed.  The issue of amnesty or borders or tactics is for the moment, in the Bronx, with the funerals only today, irrelevant, prioritizing it is indefensible.  It is inhuman.  Bill O‘Reilly has left the human race, the Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, an “American Idol.”  My vacation is over, Antonella Barba now says she will not pose nude for “Playboy Magazine.”  Can‘t really blame her.  Why should she narrow her audience to people who pay for those kinds of images.  In a conference call with reporters the day after the voting public ousted her from the Idol show, Miss Barba said she was staying in LA to work on her career.  Quote, I want to strike while the iron is hot.  But she will not accept anything having to do with nudity and she said, quote, the pictures that have been released of me, the ones that actually are me, they were very personal, private.  It was not intended not for the public eye.

The quest for privacy would include, presumably, the pictures she took in front of the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.  Let‘s turn to COUNTDOWN‘s very own “American Idol” princess, also the mid day host of New York‘s classic rock station, Q104.3, Maria Milito, good evening.

MARIA MILITO, Q104.3:  Welcome back.  I missed you.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, well, I missed you too, but not necessarily the segment.  I thought we were done with this thing with Antonella Barba.  Now we have to concern ourselves with her career choices after she‘s not on the show anymore?   

MILITO:  Exactly, she was offered 250,0000 dollars to be on “Girls Gone Wild.”  And adult DVDs, I believe 500,000 dollars.  But I don‘t know if she‘s taking those.  She‘s definitely not taking “Playboy,” I hear.  But you are right, who cares, we have seen her already. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me read this quote here, I am not known for the things I would want to be known for.  I would rather present myself in a more classy way.  Right now I want to look at all the offers I get and sort out what‘s best for me.  I am definitely not opposed to acting or modeling or something.  Where are you placing your bet here Maria?

MILITO:  I would say something pornographic.  She can‘t sing.  We know that.  I know she wants to be known as a singer, but she really can‘t sing, so go with your strong points, honey.  You know?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but on the issue of singing, her hometown, Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the mayor has invited her to the Memorial Day Parade and asked her to sing “God Bless America,” which I‘m assuming here that she‘s—they‘re trying to play off the patriotism that she displayed in that photo shoot, in front of the World War II memorial in Washington.   

MILITO:  I think that‘s the reason.  Plus, I also heard she‘s getting a key to the local bordello.  Did you hear that.

OLBERMANN:  First up, there‘s a local bordello in Point Pleasant, New Jersey? 

MILITO:  So I have heard. 

OLBERMANN:  This other—changing topics, but staying within the broad umbrella of Idol, the more distant cast off, who has fared a little bit better than this, Jennifer Hudson, criticized now by Simon Cowell for not thanking “American Idol” in her Oscar acceptance speech.

And she reportedly responded, quote, if I had been any better at my job when I was at Burger King in my middle teens, I wouldn‘t be here either, so should I thank them too? 

And in response, Burger King gave her a lifetime all you can eat card.

MILITO:  Because she needs that.  

OLBERMANN:  Thank you for saying that and I didn‘t.  If that‘s what they gave her, shouldn‘t Simon Cowell be giving her something like an all you can criticize card? 

MILITO:  He was on Extra, and he was talking about the fact that he actually was kind to her.  I don‘t know why she‘s saying that.  I mean, I understand that she was kicked off Idol.  But if she wasn‘t on Idol, I don‘t really think she would be in Dreamgirls, because she wouldn‘t be singing behind the counter at Burger King.  So, you know, it‘s old news.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe, hold the pickle.  Hold the lettuce. 

(SINGING)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s expand your scope, while we have a moment here, and talk about a different reality show.  I don‘t know if you can handle “Dancing With The Stars.”  Can you handle that?

MILITO:  I can handle that, with Heather Mills. 

OLBERMANN:  There is online betting as to whether or not her artificial leg is going to fall or fly off during the show.  She even made a joke about it.  What is this, publicity?  Is it a fair warning to the audience, particularly anybody who‘s actually in the studio?

MILITO:  Think of it, how cool would that be, if her leg flew off while she was dancing.  I mean, I have to e honest, it would be quite cool.  And the fact she joked about it, maybe she‘s expecting that to happen. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re all laughing now, but as my radio partner Dan Patrick likes to say, then someone gets hurt.  Somebody gets hurt by a Heather Hills McCartney leg in their eye.  Somebody‘s going to lose an eye on this. 

MILITO:  Maybe, but it makes good TV. 

OLBERMANN:  I have 25 seconds.  You can talk about the “American Idol” finalists, something about who‘s going to be good. 

MILITO:  I like Melinda and I like Lakisha.  I think they are really talented.  And they are humble.  And they don‘t know that they are as good as they are.  And I think that‘s important. 

But I do hear that there is a guy who‘s claiming to all the other contestants that he‘s going to be the winner.  I don‘t know where that comes from.

OLBERMANN:  That story earlier in the show about Guinea Pig in India

that can read tarot cards.  Maria Milito, our very own winner, our

“American Idol” princess, from New York‘s Q104.3.  Thanks Maria

Great start to being back from vacation.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,429th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  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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