updated 3/27/2007 11:37:36 AM ET 2007-03-27T15:37:36

Guests: Jon Soltz, Richard Wolffe

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

The attorney general who knew nothing of the plan to purge the U.S.  attorneys, turns out he was at an hour-long meeting about it, according to e-mails between the White House and the Department of Justice.

And an Alberto Gonzales aide, his counsel, says she will take the Fifth in front of the Senate, all of which makes this for Mr. Gonzales more than just troublesome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I was more focused on identifying

or making sure that the White House was (INAUDIBLE) -- was appropriately advised of the progress of our review.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So you were focused on advising the White House on a subject you knew nothing about?

We will truth-squad the Pete Williams exclusive interview with Alberto Gonzales.

As three more Republican senators join the chorus of the doubtful, the White House deputy press secretary kind of left twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I understand the inconsistency of my own statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The military claims it understands the inconsistencies of its own statements about the death of Pat Tillman.  Nine officers, four of them generals, knew getting truth to the family was delayed.  But there will be no criminal charges.

Speaking of DeLay, the former House majority leader in hot water anew.  “Liberals,” he writes, “have finally joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler.”  Uh-oh.  A free special comment tonight.

Elizabeth Edwards on the campaign trail.  While the first polling suggests her husband decision to stay in the campaign is supported by two out of three Americans.

And YouTube has its Internet awards, we have ours.  The nominees in the first category, stuff you missed on TV but the Internet made famous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you want to woo-woo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Either I live in an apartment with vaulted ceilings.  Uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE), that‘s one of the reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, put that on the news.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  OK, we will.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my God!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

Only in America.  The man who prosecuted Pete Rose is defending the woman who spoke for Alberto Gonzales.  And John M. Dowd, who wrote baseball‘s famous Dowd report on Rose‘s gambling habits, says his client, the counsel to the attorney general, will make no gamble.  She will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, one wonders if her boss should have followed suit rather than say what he said in an exclusive interview with our own Pete Williams.  We‘ll fact-check that interview in a moment.

First, the Gonzales headlines of the day.  He will get his second turn to talk to Congress on April 17, and will be facing an increasingly hostile crowd, three more prominent members of his own party now going public with their skepticism about his trustworthiness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful, and if we find he has not been candid and truthful, that‘s a very compelling reason for him not to stay on.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  You cannot have the nation‘s chief law enforcement officer with a cloud hanging over his credibility.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  He has said some things that just don‘t add up.  I like him as a person, I really do like Attorney General Gonzales.  But he has been wounded.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  And about the wounds inflicted by this scenario.  Somebody from the branch of government sworn to uphold law and prosecute the bad guys shielding herself the same way so many of that department‘s targets do.  The aforementioned Mr. Dowd‘s client is Monica Goodling.  She is also the Justice Department‘s White House liaison.  And Mr. Dowd says she has invoked her right against self-incrimination.

“The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real,” Senator Pat Leahy, who holds the subpoena power in this case, expressing his disappointment at her decision, pointing out in turn that, “The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms.  Goodling‘s concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before this committee under oath.”

Nobody is under oath on e-mail or in front of a television camera, but the combination of the two can do as much harm as swearing false witness, the latest revelations from the e-mail document dump from the Justice Department showing that the attorney general did meet about and discuss the imminent firing of seven of the U.S. attorneys.

One of the two key e-mails is from Kyle Sampson, asking to schedule a meeting among himself and the attorney general and White House liaison Goodling and the deputy attorney general, McNulty, and his chief of staff, Mike Elston, and the deputy associate attorney general, William Moschella, and the director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Michael Battle.

The other e-mail is a reminder about that meeting, which went from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the attorney general‘s conference room on Monday, the 27th of November last.  That is 10 days before the dismissals became official, which appears to completely contradict the attorney general‘s claim on March 13 of this year that he, quote, “was not involved in any discussions about what was going on,” the White House seeking to explain that discrepancy through the deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  My reading of it is that the attorney general has said, I understand that there‘s a March 13 piece, but I also looked back on March 14, when he did an interviews back and forth, I think it was with CNN, CNN network, in which he said, and he said consistently, that he does not recall being involved in deliberations about who—which U.S. attorneys might be asked to be replaced for the remainder of the term.  But he does say that he‘d signed off on the final list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doesn‘t the events of last Friday illustrate perfectly why a transcript is necessary?  In other words, you have more documents that come out Friday.  You have the attorney general saying something that appears inconsistent.  And then you say, Ah, but look at the transcript of CNN on the 14th.

PERINO:  I see your point.  And I see your point, Jim, and I understand that people would think --  No, and I -- (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE), that you‘re referring to something that there‘s no dispute about what was said, because there‘s a transcript.

PERINO:  Jim, I see your point.  I—but however, I—this is a decision that we have made, is to allow for interviews that would be on the record, where people could take notes.  And I understand that some people would think that that is not a good idea, and that I understand that the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript of March 14.

However, these meetings are not hearings, they are not interrogations, they are not under the Klieg lights.  They are meetings in which members say they want to get to the bottom of the facts.  And if they really want to, they have that opportunity available to them.  And there are other opportunities for members of Congress to get different data points of information in order to pull the full story together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And this just in from Capitol Hill, the House tonight has gone along with the Senate in having revoked that part of the PATRIOT Act which permitted the administration to appoint new U.S. attorneys without Senate or congressional oversight in any fashion.  The vote in the House, 329 to 78, the House as annoyed with this whole process as is obviously the Senate was.

Meanwhile, while Congress is trying to pull all the data together to find the truth on this White House equivalent of a scavenger hunt, the attorney general is trying to explain his apparent inconsistency, perhaps his incompetence, telling our correspondent Pete Williams the same thing the White House told reporters, that the involvement issue is all a question of definition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES:  When I said on March 13 that I wasn‘t involved, what I meant was that I have not been involved, was not involved in the deliberations over whether or not United States attorneys should resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So it depends on what your definition of “involved” is?  As far as why he asked the attorneys to quit, even though he did not know how the decision to fire them was actually reached...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES:  I asked for their resignation not for improper reasons.  I would never have asked for their resignations to interfere with a public corruption case, or in any way to interfere with an ongoing investigation.  I just wouldn‘t do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Course, back in January, Mr. Gonzales testified to the Senate that, quote, “I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons,” and now we know that political reasons are exactly why Arkansas U.S. attorney Bud Cummins was fired, to make room for Karl Rove‘s former aide Tim Griffith.

And as for why the attorney general says he was not involved in deliberation, that is, deliberations over the reasons why these attorneys should have been fired...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES:  I was never focused on specific concerns about United States attorney as to whether or not they should be asked to resign.  I was more focused on identifying—or making sure that the White House was (INAUDIBLE) -- was appropriately advised of the progress of our review.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So he was too busy keeping the White House informed of a decision he knew nothing about to actually do his job and participate in that decision about which U.S. attorneys should be fired.  Would you like to play again, Mr. Secretary?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES:  I was not involved in the deliberations during the process as to who or she—who should or should not be asked to resign.  I depended on the people who knew about how these United States attorneys were performing, people within the department who would have personal knowledge about these individuals, who would have, based upon their experience, would know what, what would be the appropriate standards that a United States attorney should be asked to achieve.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Given that, then, how can you be certain that none of these U.S. attorneys were put on that list for improper reasons?

GONZALES:  What I can say is this.  I know the reasons why I asked these United States attorneys to leave, and it was not for improper reasons, it was not to interfere with a public corruption case, it was not for partisan reasons.  I also, we also know that there is nothing in the documents that indicates that they were asked to leave for improper reasons.

WILLIAMS:  To put this question another way, if you didn‘t review their performance during this process, then how can you be certain that they were fired for performance reasons?

GONZALES:  I‘ve given the answer to the question, Pete.  I know the reasons why I made the decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So he knows nothing about the rationale behind the dismissal decision, but he knows the decision was good and clean and all pretty and stuff.

I‘m joined now by “Newsweek”‘s chief White House correspondent, our own Richard Wolffe.

Richard, good evening.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How disastrous have the attorney general‘s public answers about this been?  I mean, that there sounded like the really bright 7-year-old thinking he‘s pulled one over on the adults about the broken cookie jar while he‘s got the cookies in his back pocket.

WOLFFE:  Well, Keith, it does depend on what your definition of a cookie jar is, or a 7-year-old, for that matter.

I mean, look, on a scale of one to 10, how disastrous is that kind of performance?  I‘d say 11.  You know, he is clearly not got his story straight.  On this rate, you‘d have to say, How can he get it straight for April 17 when he‘s got his testimony up, which White House officials tell me is the critical period for him to prove that he‘s competent and confident?  He was neither in that interview with Pete Williams.

OLBERMANN:  He could not even answer how he could possibly know that the reasons behind the dismissals were above board, and had no input into the decisions whatsoever.  Is he trying the incompetent defense, the simpleton defense?  What is—what‘s the goal of it?  What is he not achieving that we‘re not seeing here?

WOLFFE:  I am sure that Alberto Gonzales thinks of himself as a man of the highest possible integrity, and that seems to be, reading between the lines here, that seems to be where his defense has ended up.  Trust me, I know what I was doing.  I‘m not prepared to share it with you, of course, but it was for good reasons.

You know, that‘s just not going to cut it at this stage, and it doesn‘t work for Democrats or Republicans, who are scratching their heads thinking, How could this man be a lawyer and make such a lame argument?

OLBERMANN:  And as if it could get worse, the counsel, Monica Goodling, and her announcement today through her attorney, Pete Rose‘s prosecutor within baseball circles, to plead the Fifth Amendment rather than testify to the Senate.  Obviously, she has to defend herself as she thinks best, and has a right to.  But does the administration want one of the people working in its temple of justice pleading the Fifth to the Senate?  Couldn‘t they do something a little less destructive, like self-immolate in front of the Senate?

WOLFFE:  This is not good PR.  The problem here is that it is all to do with what looks like a coverup.  And we haven‘t been able to connect the dots fully yet on what happened, the exact reasons for each of these attorneys going.  But very few people have been able to make the case that there is something really criminal at the heart of this.

And the White House could go out there and just say, Look, it‘s all political and partisan.  We wanted people who were especially loyal Bushies, to use Kyle Sampson‘s phrase.  But criminal behavior, as she‘s suggesting, I mean, that‘s a step that really, many critics have not gone so far as saying.

OLBERMANN:  From whom—back to Mr. Gonzales for a moment.  Who does he have to fear more from?  Is it Kyle Sampson, when he testifies this Thursday, or is it Republican senators like Mr. Specter and Mr. Hagel and Mr. Graham, and who might ever follow them?

WOLFFE:  Well, judging on this baby, he has to fear his own performance.  Republicans, yes, they‘ve turned against him.  He‘s lost credibility.  And you‘re only seeing the very few vocal independent-minded senators out there.  There are plenty more out there who have lost confidence in him.  And that‘s why his testimony‘s going to be so tough.

OLBERMANN:  And Richard, if it goes nowhere, if there are no indictments, even if there are no resignations, did the White House just come out of this bloodied anyway, based on the fact that the—first the Senate so overwhelmingly canceled out that provision of the PATRIOT Act that permitted all this in the first place, and now tonight, as we mentioned, the House voted 329 to 78?  That means some Republicans voted along with the Democrats.

WOLFFE:  Well, retreat would be a nice option for them.  But the president has dug himself in here, into a very stubborn hole.  Even when they know there‘s real liability there, it‘s really pretty much like the Rumsfeld situation.  The harder people are pushing here, the more the president is saying, I‘m the decider.

And, you know, it‘s really a sort of slow drip, drip here that is going to harm them and harm the attorney general really badly over the next several months.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of cookie jars on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Tom DeLay was forced to resign and leave Washington and the cookie jars there, but that is not stopping him from creating controversy anew, his new book.  In it, Mr. Delay asserts that liberals are like—wait for it—Adolf Hitler.  Special comment next.

And the death of Pat Tillman.  The Army admits nine officers did not tell the truth about it.  Today, we find out if any will pay the price.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, as our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, this brief special comment.

The quote, with the context sucked out from around it, is astonishing.  In a new book, former Republican leader of the House Tom DeLay writes, quote, “Liberals have finally joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler.”

But restore the context, as with anything else, and you change the meaning of any quote.  In this case, you make it worse.  Mr. Delay is comparing how he has been treated to how the world was treated by Hitler and the Nazis.

The book is called “No Retreat, No Surrender: One American‘s Fight.”  It has been out officially for nearly two weeks, and it has not cracked the “New York Times” top 30.  So the fact of this one quotation, first noted only last week by the Jewish “Daily Forward,” could have easily slipped through the cracks.

But even though nobody seems to be reading his book, Mr. DeLay is

nonetheless referring to what he calls a lie, the accusation that he

violated campaign finance laws in Texas, for which he was indicted.  And on

page 156, he writes, “I believe it was Adolf Hitler who first acknowledged

that the big lie—“

Look, stop right there, Mr. DeLay.  If you‘re going to throw around Hitler‘s name, research the reference, huh?  As suggested on the Huffington Post, we have many useful Internet search engines now.  If you type in “big lie, Hitler,” into the one called Google, you get 1,320,000 results.

“I believe it was Adolf Hitler who first acknowledge that the big lie is more effective than the little lie, because the big lie is so audacious, such an astonishing immorality that people have a hard time believing anyone would say it if it wasn‘t true.  You know, the big lie, like the Holocaust never happened, or dark-skinned people are less intelligent than light-skinned people.  Well, by charging this big lie about money laundering, liberals have finally joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler.”

OK, where do we start here?  Let‘s try the gentlest interpretation.  Mr. DeLay believes that the accusation that he violated Texas campaign finance laws is on some kind of par with claims that light-skinned people are more intelligent than dark-skinned people.  Now, that‘s the gentlest one.

The somewhat less kind interpretation, he‘s equating anybody charging him, just him, with anything, even if it were a lie, with the Nazis.  Just by going after Tom DeLay, you are like that old scoundrel Hitler.

So Tom DeLay is as important as what?  Democracy in 1930s Germany, Poland in 1939, the Jewish people?

So Mr. DeLay, go back to your Google and type in the name “Tom DeLay” and the phrase “delusions of grandeur,” and you get 11,500 results.

Also tonight, Elizabeth Edwards back on the campaign trail.  She and her husband reacting to what some people say was a harsh line of some-people-say questions on some-people-say “60 Minutes.”

And extreme motorcycling, as if motorcycling was not pretty extreme to begin with.

Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1911, the great playwright Tennessee Williams was born.  His death in 1983 precipitated not just great sadness, but also one of the epic stories of television news sabotage.  There were the two producers who hated their none-too-bright anchorman, so they spent the day of Williams‘s death casually dropping by the man‘s desk and referring to the death of Tennessee Ernie Williams, thus trying to confuse him with the country-Western singer and entertainer Tennessee Ernie Ford.  All day they do this.  Anchorman gets his copy for the 6:00 news, and on it, it says only “Tennessee Williams.”  So the anchorman thinks the producers have made a mistake, and twice on the air, he ad-libs, “America mourning the death of the great playwright Tennessee Ernie Williams.”  Anchorman gets suspended.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

And if the producers don‘t send cash, I will tell who they are.

We begin in Mexico City, where apparently they‘ve killed all the bulls, because this appears to be the running of the motorcycles.  Get ‘em!  All part of the big third annual Extreme Motorcycle Competition.  Forty-two thousand fans packed the stadium to watch the antics and spectacular stunts.  You know, if we gave the bulls motorcycles, the usual events in the stadium might be more fair.  They‘d definitely be more extreme.

To Hinkley (ph), England.  It‘s this guy again, the guy with the Star Trek apartment is trying to sell the place again.  Can‘t imagine why he‘s having trouble.  You‘d think it would be a seller‘s market when it comes to entire living spaces redone to look like the inside of the starship “Voyager.”  His asking price, 500,000 British pounds, which is almost Klingon darsecs (ph), a tad pricey for even the wealthiest of nerds.

And finally, to Changmai (ph), Thailand.  You might have heard about this kind of thing.  We believe this is the first time it‘s ever been shown on television.  Come to think of it, you may want to get the kiddies out of the room.  It‘s zoo officials trying to get a male panda more interested in mating with his female cage mate by forcing him to watch panda porn.  How is he supposed to get in the mood with all you guys standing there?  Can a panda get a little privacy around here?  No word if the process worked.  We only know that at one point, the panda shouted out, “Is that Ron Jeremy?”

And also tonight, the Internet equivalent of porn—well, besides the actual porn—the first nominees for our Internet Video Awards will be announced tonight.

And getting to the bottom of the friendly fire shooting of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, nine different officers did not let the truth come out promptly.  Will they face any sort of punishment?

That‘s ahead.

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

Number three, Missouri state representative Jim Guest.  His bill has been passed to let the state opt out of any national ID plan, in part, he says, because it smacks of Big Brother, and in part because the president of End Time Ministries has been telling him, this is part of biblical prophecy, in which humans will be marked, marked, just before the end of the world, and the number 666 comes into play, et cetera.

Number two, President Bush.  It‘s 666 days from the scheduled end of his administration.  Coincidence, no doubt, coincidence.

Number one, Bill Exner of Waterville, Maine.  He has three times caught the same mouse in his house.  Each time, it has escaped.  The third time, he says, it took his dentures with it.  They found the false teeth in the mouse‘s den in the wall.  I swear, says Mr. Exner‘s wife about the mouse in the house, who‘s a denture-stealing louse, he‘s taunting him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When he died in the spring of 2004, Pat Tillman was an all American hero, who had given up safety, millions of dollars in the National Football League to fight the president‘s wars after September 11th.  That spring, the spring of Abu Ghraib, when the blossoms in Fallujah were bodies on a bridge, the Pentagon and the president needed a hero.  They could use one, and they did use one. 

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, almost three years later the truth is clearer.  We now know from his mother that Pat Tillman considered the Iraq war illegal.  He read Noam Chomsky and did not believe in God nor in President Bush.  And today, almost three years after Pat Tillman‘s death by friendly fire, the Army‘s inspector general told us that the subsequent investigations were thwarted by nine officials who violated procedure and misled people, including Pat Tillman‘s own family, about the truth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you learn why those individuals didn‘t tell the family members what they knew at that point? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think—that‘s detailed in the report, but—and rather than go through the whole litany of it, basically they made a decision to hold the information and we say that that was a violation of regulation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But why?  Did you consider the intent, in your investigation, into why these series of things happened? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I did not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Because some people may want to consider intent, let‘s turn to Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org.  John, thanks for again for your time tonight.

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Thank you for having me, sir.

OLBERMANN:  The Army‘s inspector general refers to nine people, four of them generals, all of whose mistakes or misstatements just happened to get in the way of truth.  Would not intent be a central question if you wanted to know whether people were engaging in a cover-up? 

SOLTZ:  Obviously this is such a horrible story.  After Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan for several days after, it was very clear that the troops on the ground understood what happened.  And I was very confused by the report today, because, on one hand, they want to reprimand nine officers that who were involved, and, on the other hand, they say there‘s not a cover up. 

So, it‘s very confusing to me, because, you know, being an Army officer and serving in the Army, we follow the Army values, which is loyalty and integrity.  And it these officers violated those cardinal rules, which it looks like they have, then they obviously need to be removed from the service and that‘s what I hope to see here. 

OLBERMANN:  The thing obviously pertaining to those nine men is a long way from over.  Congressional hearings are still possible.  The inspector general has referred these nine to the Army to do with it as—or do with them as they see fit.  What will that be?  What will the Army do with these nine men? 

SOLTZ:  Right now, obviously, we just know that the nine officers that have been told that they need to be reprimanded, it‘s just what the investigation says.  So it‘s up to the Army.  It‘s up to the president.  It‘s up to the secretary of defense to reprimand them.  And basically their careers should be over.  They should be removed from the military. 

You know, the soldiers and the officer that were involved on the ground in Afghanistan, the captain, the lieutenant and the battalion XO, they were reprimanded already.  They were removed from the Rangers, but Pat Tillman was awarded the Silver Star in Combat.  That has to be signed off by the head of the Special Operations Command, a three-star general.  So this goes way up here.  And at VoteVets.org, obviously, we‘re an organization that fights for the troops, and this, obviously, is something where the flag officers and the field grade officers haven‘t been held as accountable as the troops on the ground have been. 

These officers need to be removed from the army.  And Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld needs to apologize to Mary Tillman, to Kevin Tillman, to the wife of Pat Tillman, and the president of the United States owes that family an apology also.  He is the commander-in-chief and it‘s about time he acts like it. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll see if Mr. Rumsfeld‘s successor feels the same way as you do about that.  But we heard that one of the officers actually attended Pat Tillman‘s memorial service, and listened to the utterly false accounts of Pat Tillman‘s death and didn‘t tell anybody, knew and didn‘t tell the family that friendly fire was even suspected.  Is that your experience at all typical for the Army, or is it more typical of things that have been happening lately, like missing body armor and the Walter Reed scandal?  Is it systematic or recent? 

SOLTZ:  Well, I think this administration has a systematic problem with integrity and honesty.  There is an opportunity here for a soldier who signed up, you know, 3.2 million contract, joins the United States Army.  I mean, we were shocked.  We said, how can this guy join the United States Army and want to be like us and he‘s a professional football player?  And the he dies. 

And he dies, and people who served with him understood that he felt the Iraq war was not an appropriate war.  It wasn‘t a good war.  And then the Army did something with Pat Tillman that they did with, frankly, Jessica Lynch and something the Army‘s done in history.  But this is very consistent with an administration that fires judges or state attorneys, with an administration that used the death of a soldier, who was clearly a patriot of the utmost integrity, and they abused his death for political purposes. 

The worst part about this is his family, who lost their son, has to mourn for him in a way that they‘re not even sure that they got the truth.  And it‘s a complete disgrace.  And it is a trend that we see from this administration.  It‘s a trend of integrity that we see. 

OLBERMANN:  But the last point, Jon, the thing I really don‘t understand is if there‘s a crime here, whether it‘s literally a crime or just figuratively one.  If there was a cover-up, why was it undertaken?  It seems it was unnecessary, pointless, panicky, stupid.  I mean, Pat Tillman volunteered from obviously the purest motives of patriotism, gave up as much as anybody could.  He died from friendly fire, accidental, happens in every war, good or bad, justified or not.  Why would the fact that he died of—from that, of that as the cause, why would that, in the slightest, diminish what he did? 

SOLTZ:  Well, I think some of it is that he was an Army Ranger and the Army Rangers, they pride themselves on being the elite.  And although at the soldier level it seemed like there was some integrity and some honesty about what happened, obviously his brother Kevin served with him in Afghanistan.  But if you go up that chain of command through the special operations command, I think partially, in the beginning, there‘s sort of this prestige issue that fratricide shouldn‘t happen in a unit like that.  I think that could have played a role in this.

And there‘s the politics of it.  Here is this American hero and he signs up to go fight the bad guys in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden, and he was killed in a way that wasn‘t the story that America really wanted to hear, and that they wanted the soldier to be a hero.  And frankly, he was, but the administration used it for a political goal and a political reason to make him into sort of a situation that wasn‘t accurate. 

OLBERMANN:  He was a hero enough as it was.  Nobody had to embellish it.  It didn‘t detract from it in the slightest.  That‘s the other tragedy of this, besides the man‘s loss, obviously.  Jon Soltz, former Army Captain in Iraq, now chairman of VoteVets.org.  Jon, thanks again for your time. 

SOLTZ:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, on the campaign trail with Elizabeth Edwards, her first day talking with voters since the announcement that her cancer is back, her first day since controversial “people say” interview with Katie Couric. 

And six weeks after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, the medical examiner finally tells the world exactly what killed her, and it‘s exactly what almost everybody said it was six weeks ago.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The old political excuse, I‘m resigning to spend more time with my family turned on its head tonight.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, reaction to last night‘s “60 Minutes” interview of Democratic candidates John Edwards, his wife Elizabeth and their decision to spend her increasingly precious time on his campaign for president, while she fights incurable cancer. 

Today John Edwards and his wife reacted to criticism of their interview last night with Katie Couric, populated as it was with many questions, including the phrase “some people say.”  The campaign says Ms.  Edwards‘ called Ms. Couric today to thank her for that interview.  Mr.  Edwards said he thought questions about whether they were being callous or insatiably ambitious were tough but fair, questions people, he thinks, are asking. 

And the latest Gallup poll holds that answer.  Taken over the weekend it shows Americans support the decision by the Edwards by 2-1.  More from our correspondent Janet Shamlian. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  She came to talk politics, but the standing ovation from 300 mostly women in Cleveland signaled the issue of most interest was her health.  Without her husband by her side, Elizabeth Edwards spoke of standing by his, and once again defended their decision to continue on the campaign trail following last week‘s announcement that her cancer had come back, a choice that‘s ignited a national discussion on illness, ambition, and priorities. 

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  Maybe this conversation about our own mortality allows us to think about how it is we want to use that unknown number of days each of us has. 

SHAMLIAN:  Her comments follow questions about the choice last night, on CBS News “60 Minutes.”

EDWARDS:  I think it is our intention to deny cancer any control over us. 

SHAMLIAN:  A message she repeated today, one that sparked 1,200 supportive e-mails over the past four days.  And survival stories from women like Judy Gustaffson (ph), living with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer for the last four years. 

SHAMLIAN (on camera):  How much of this battle is about attitude?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s all about attitude and not giving into the disease, not letting cancer win. 

SHAMLIAN (voice-over):  And for voters, a diagnosis that‘s delivered a new debate to presidential politics. 

DEBORAH PLUMMER, CITY CLUB OF CLEVELAND:  It has family, politics, work, life, balance, quality of life, end life issues, which we don‘t do well within our country. 

SHAMLIAN:  Something Edwards acknowledges may be part of her legacy, with cancer on the campaign center stage as a private battle goes public. 

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Cleveland. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  On to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  After more than six breathless weeks of speculation, the official word tonight on what killed Anna Nicole Smith, an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.  The autopsy was finally released today.  Miss Smith died of a combined drug intoxication with the sleeping medication Chloralhydrate as the major factor, according to the Broward County medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper.  Miss Smith was taking eight other prescription drugs, including Methadone, possibly for pain, as well as several anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. 

Contributing to her death, a viral infection.  She had had a fever of 105 from a stomach flue three days before she died, though she had been recovering, also a bacterial blood infection, though under control with antibiotics, could have been caused by a contaminated needle from Miss Smith‘s injection of B-12 shots. 

But authorities said they found nothing to indicate foul play.  Seminole County Police Chief Charlie Tiger said that evidence, including laptop computers, hotel security tapes and exhaustive interviews with witnesses, produced nothing unusual relating to Anna Nicole Smith‘s death. 

If there is a new normal for Britney Spears, she has not quite found out what it is yet.  Out of rehab, but into the hospital, though happily only for a bad tooth.  The oral news courtesy of TMZ.com.  Miss Spears was admitted to Century City Hospital in L.A. yesterday evening for emergency work on her choppers.  She was reportedly experiencing great pain in one of her molars, which means this visual representation is merely COUNTDOWN‘s hypothesis what have a different kind of tooth problem might have looked like. 

Anyway, Spears left the hospital less than an hour later and her publicist, Larry Rudolf, said rumors that his client was still in meltdown mode are quote, all wrong.  She had a tooth ache. 

And no heartache, as it proves, for Harry Potter fans, at least in terms of casting the two remaining films in the franchise.  Actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint (ph) and Emma Watson have all signed deals to play their roles for the last two installments, that according to “Variety.”  Mr. Grint had said that Miss Watson was, quote, tired of being known as that girl from Harry Potter. 

Yes, like she‘s got a lot of choice about that left to her.  The nearly back-to-back filming of the Harry Potter books has both made and consumed the actors‘ young lives, although Mr. Radcliffe has proven there is some time left for other work, as in the London stage play Equus.  So apparently Miss Watson reconsidered. 

From movie magic to Internet magic, it‘s the first annual—possibly the last annual Keithie awards, the best of the best video clips on the Internet, and you get to help crown the winner.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to comedian Rush Limbaugh.  He will not let up on John Edwards, now saying that the decision to reveal Elizabeth Edwards‘ illness was made in order, quote, to jump start the campaign.  This is to see if it will jump start the campaign.  What we need here, sir, is something to jump start your brain. 

Tonight‘s runner up, Army recruiter Sargent Marcia Ramode (ph).  Using the Internets for prospects, she contacted and tried to sign up a Mr. Cory Andrew of Jersey City, New Jersey.  He e-mailed back wondering if they want accept him since he‘s gay.  Sargent Ramode, using her military e-mail address, wrote back no, because, quote, being gay is disgusting and immoral, unquote, and, quote, you must be a total idiot and so stupid to presume that you do not know what gender you are, unquote, and that he, quote, should leave the United States, unquote. 

And we remind everyone everywhere that no e-mail is private ever again. 

But our winner to the government of the city of New York, Rudy W.  Giuliani, then mayor, city contractor, and a retired Sanitation Department official say in court papers they witnessed the city putting a rush order on the sifting of the debris from the World Trade Center in October of 2001.  Thus not only were body parts of the victims, some at least, lost, but that some of that debris wound up in the pile of junk used to fill pot holes on the streets of the city.  And if you were wondering where New York City‘s memorial to the victims of 9/11 was, now you know. 

Then mayor Giuliani and the government of the City of New York, today‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The premise was that YouTube had become such a part of our life so fast that it had to create its own awards show.  Even faster, the YouTube awards, announced last week, to handed out this week.  So, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, we immediately stole the idea, only we call them, to save time and lawsuits, “the Keithies, The First Annual Best of the Stuff We Found on the Internets Awards,” A title both catchy and succinct. 

Tonight we pay homage to the fact that besides e-mail and porn, the best part of Internet may be its role as safety net, because with hundreds of TV shows broadcasting simultaneously, you could have no idea how many screw ups your missing live?  Thus, our first category, stuff the you missed on the TVs that the Internets made famous award. 

In a moment, our five nominees, and then how you can vote for your favorite.  First, let‘s take a look at the whole field. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  There‘s no shortage of contenders in a category like this.  And on the eve of nomination, everyone was nervous. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s the Joane Romsky‘s (ph) that got a lot of publicity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am sorry. 

OLBERMANN:  When we informed the nominees, those left out were dumb struck. 

ROBERT NOVAK, COLUMNIST:  I think that‘s bull and I hate that. 

OLBERMANN:  Some even lashed out more than that. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kiss my ass.

OLBERMANN:  There were outstanding efforts from the home shopping network. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I live in an apartment with vaulted ceilings.   

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What this is doing is it is pushing down the cookie mix.  (LAUGHTER) 

OLBERMANN:  And in the field of news gathering, the competition was intense. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Inspiration in the death of a college football icon. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ohio State.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How long have you been out here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have been out a couple hours.  We‘re getting the building clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s cold out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some people are just out of their minds.  What are you going to do?  I mean, it‘s nuts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Coming up, we will show you some things you can do to have fun in warm weather. 

SHEPPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  J-Lo‘s new song, “Jenny From the Block,” all about her Lopez‘s roots.  But folks from that street in New York, the Bronx section, sound more likely to give her a curb job than a blow (EXPLETIVE DELETED) -- or a block party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As you can see, all of this is just green grass that has recently grown.  And you can see here that this is dry brush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Channel Four‘s Adam Landau (ph) is live in the Jacksonville Beach with the decibel details.  Adam? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE)  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For many reasons—that is just one of the reasons—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, put that on the news.

OLBERMANN:  Weather people have had their share of YouTube moments too

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Getting in on the heavy rainfall—I am so sorry, Bill.  Oh my god.  Oh, god, there it is.  I my god.

OLBERMANN:  And news beaches also made some noise. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s that woo woo. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whistler tips, it is a piece of metal welded inside the exhaust pipes that makes the car audible for almost a mile. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some neighbors are saying way too loud. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s only in the morning.  You‘re supposed to be up cooking breakfast or something by then, so that‘s like an alarm clock, woo woo. 

OLBERMANN:  Famous clips from the entertainment world were considered. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Next we will have a pea salad.  So, enjoy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel like there is much pee-ness going on here, which is nice. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- television chipped in with hilarious hijinks. 

(INAUDIBLE)

OLBERMANN:  And finally, our own network‘s contribution, a clip seen by ten times more people on the web then those who watched it live. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But Maury is back weighing in.  Fat babies held taboo. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  All of our entries are winners in their own way.  Well, in the way that one of them gets the trophy, and the other winners are actually losers.  So here are your nominees for the stuff you missed on the TVs that the Internets made famous award.  First up, the least understandable Freudian slip ever, KOAT Action News, Take it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right after the break, we‘re going to interview Eric Wayhenmeigher (ph), who climbed the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, but he is gay—I mean, he‘s gay.  Excuse me, he is blind.  So we will hear about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  hopefully, he is deaf too.  Next, to those home shopping channels.  Here is idiot with sword. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  11011816 is item number on this one.  And the nice thing about these practice Kitanas—ow, that hurt.  That hurt big time.  The tip just got me, Odell (ph).  Oh, that got me good.  A piece of that tip just got me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Folks, right now, we may need emergency surgery in the studio. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Odell, come on down.  Also in the field from home shopping is look at this horse. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now while we‘re doing that, let me show you something really impressed.  Remember the picture of the horse I showed you earlier?  Well here it is blown up.  This is a big horse.  Order now, you get the camera, you get the printer, four X optical zoom, Schneider lens, photo printer, SD card.  Look at that horse, the bushy tail, the big teeth, the hooves. 

OK, my producer, Tarik Kapes (ph), just told me this is not a horse.  It is a butterfly.  Actually, it may in fact be in moth, but look at what the zoom did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To the worst amateur sketch of all time.  It is leprechaun in the tree. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He looks like a leprechaun to me.  All you got to do is look up in the tree.  Who else seen the leprechaun, say yes. 

CROWD:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Eyewitnesses say the leprechaun only comes out at night.  This amateur sketch resembles what many of you say the leprechaun looks like.  Others find it hard to believe and have come up with their own theories and explanations for the image. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It could be a crack head who got a hold of the wrong stuff, and it told him to get up in the tree and play a leprechaun. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Our final nominee, a man who could not spot an e-mail from a Howard Stern viewer if his show depended on it, the web classic Bill-O and Jack.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Jack Mayahoffer (ph), Springfield Massachusetts, says, “O‘Reilly, I see the new Fox definition of fair and balanced means interviewing DNC chief Terry McAuliffe at both conventions.”

Well, right you are, Mr. Mayahoffer.  Newt Gingrich appeared with us at both conventions.  So did Mr. McAuliffe.  What is the beef sir? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And they he doesn‘t know jack.  There you have it, the stuff you missed on the TVs that the Internet made famous Keithie Award nominees.  Voting open online at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.  You have until noon Friday.  Start now.  Vote early.  Vote often.  Tomorrow night, the nominees in the category everyday idiot‘s.   All your winners to be announced this Friday.

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,443 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   

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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