updated 4/3/2007 9:55:59 AM ET 2007-04-03T13:55:59

Guests: Joseph Biden, Anne Kornblut, Paul F. Tompkins

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

Dowd describes a president secluded, bubbled in, wrong on Iraq in 2004, with John Kerry right.  Maureen Dowd on the president‘s boy in a bubble?  No, Matthew Dowd, Mr. Bush‘s own ex-chief campaign strategist and top aide, in a stunning repudiation of his old boss.

His old boss‘s machine, with a not-so-stunning hatchet job in response.  See if you can spot the talking point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, I think that he‘s had some personal hardship.

DAN BARTLETT:  He‘s been on a long personal journey.

PERINO:  The personal journey he‘s been on over the past couple of years...

BARTLETT:  There‘s the knowledge that he‘s going through a lot of personal turmoil, but all...

PERINO:  He has had some personal hardship.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain‘s personal hardships caused by his personal journey into the wilderness continues in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  The American people are not getting the full picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Like the mob of security surrounding the senator, 100 soldiers, three Black Hawk choppers, two Apache gunships overhead, all of which not appearing in your picture.

And that market the senator walked so easily in, it has since been attacked.

The Bush campaign confession, the reality of Iraq, and his vision for America, next year, from our special guest, presidential candidate Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware.

Speaking of the candidates, record campaign cash figures released for the first quarter, Senator Clinton leads all Democrats, Mitt Romney blows away the GOP field.

They raised almost as much money as Will Farrell, $33 million over the weekend, for a figure-skating movie.  Is he Hollywood‘s greatest leading man?  We know what Meredith Vieira would say.

And Britney Spears, the diaper-wearing astronaut, and President Bush -

what do they have in common?

Paul F. Tompkins breaks down the 2007 Most Foolish Americans list, because Mr. T was not available.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MR. T:  And I pity the fool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

Since the William Howard Taft, American presidents have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch on baseball‘s opening day, somewhere, somehow, in war and in peace.  Thirteen opening day games today, sites from New York to Denver to Los Angeles, President Bush the first former baseball executive to sit in the White House, and he didn‘t go to a one of them, not even the one taking place exactly three and a half miles from the White House.

Official explanation, he was too busy.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it had nothing to do with the possibility that he might have gotten booed, or that he perhaps had to focus on another opening day, in which his former chief campaign strategist threw a ceremonial first pitch right at Mr. Bush‘s head, Matthew Dowd publicly expressing remorse for having gotten the former Texas governor elected and then reelected as president, and giving Mr. Bush a second dusting by doing so inside the pages of “The New York Times.”

Mr. Dowd had been a top strategist for the Texas Democratic Party who had crossed party lines in order to go work for then-Governor Bush, because he believed the Texas Republican would bring bipartisanship and a spirit of cooperation to Washington, Mr. Dowd admitting that his son‘s impending deployment to Iraq is an important factor in his current break with the president over his policies, no such loss of faith on Iraq for Senator John McCain, despite having spent the weekend in that wartorn country, the Arizona Republican and presumptive presidential hopeful now leading a congressional delegation there, declaring at a news conference yesterday that the new American security plan is making progress, and that most folks in the U.S. only ever hear the bad news about the conflict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The American people are not getting the full picture of what‘s happening here.  They are not getting the full picture of the drop in murders, the establishment of security outposts throughout the city, the situation in Anbar Province, the deployment of additional Iraqi brigades who are performing well, and other progress—signs of progress that are having been made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Why, it‘s the media‘s fault, that‘s a new thought.  It turns out Senator McCain himself was not getting the full picture of what happens in Baghdad on those days when he does not happen to be visiting.  Most shoppers at an open-air market like the one Mr. McCain visited yesterday do not enjoy the protection of more than 100 U.S. soldiers and three Black Hawk helicopters and two Apache gunships overhead.

Today in Baghdad, in the absence of such an armada, a suicide truck bomber who had been hiding his payload under bags of flour managed to kill at least 15 people in a Kurdish neighborhood of the city.  Snipers, meanwhile, returned to the same marketplace visited by Senator McCain only 24 hours ago.

Our own correspondent in Baghdad, Tom Aspell, commenting on the absurd level of Mr. McCain‘s protection this morning here on MSNBC.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TOM ASPELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, if he was escorted by 100 armed American soldiers with Black Hawks and Apaches overhead, my gosh, even Paris Hilton could probably ride a bike (INAUDIBLE) a bikini through Anbar Province and get through the other side.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By the way, back to skipping the baseball first-pitch ceremonies, President Bush was swamped today.  Why, at 2:35 p.m. Eastern, 90 minutes after the Washington Nationals first-pitch ceremony three and a half miles away, the president had to give out the commander in chief‘s trophy to the Navy Academy College football team.  So there.

For some reaction to the latest news from Iraq, and out of the White House, we‘re joined tonight by Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Senator, thank you for some of your time tonight.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh, happy to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, your reaction to this interview over the weekend with “The New York Times” in which the president‘s former chief political strategist, Mr. Dowd, says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced?

BIDEN:  Well, it doesn‘t surprise me, in one sense, that, you know, I, like a lot of Americans, rooted for President Bush after 9/11.  I thought that maybe, hope against hope, he‘s a different party, but rooted for him.

And I think that the way in which the president squandered so many opportunities to unite the country and unite the world is the greatest disappointment.  Anyone would have made mistakes, but there seemed to be virtually no effort to unite the country and unite the world.

And I—and no, no call for shared sacrifice, no call for a bigger commitment to deal with larger problems, no really reaching out to other countries to participate in the whole process of trying to control the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, no energy policy.  It was—it‘s just been a gigantic disappointment.

OLBERMANN:  Senator, you said you were rooting for Mr. Bush, and Mr.

Dowd said...

BIDEN:  I was, for real.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but I—but he said he had faith in him, this is Mr.  Dowd speaking, and it was misplaced.  Do you, did you have, to some degree, faith in him that was misplaced, because on the one hand...

BIDEN:  No, I didn‘t, I must admit, I didn‘t have any faith in him.  I did not—I mean, I, don‘t get me, I don‘t mean that as a personal comment, (INAUDIBLE) faith in his leadership ability.  But initially, immediately after 9/11, he reacted, in my view, very responsibly, the way in which he sought worldwide consensus to go into Afghanistan.  Remember all the talk, Keith, about we‘re going to—the -- (INAUDIBLE) if you went into Afghanistan, every embassy from Jakarta to Tunisia would be burned to the ground.  He was steady about it, he seemed very focused.

And then, once we were able to take down the Taliban fairly quickly, hubris set in, and the arrogance of an administration that didn‘t level with the American people set in, and he seemed, no pun intended, hellbent on going to war in Iraq.  And it all seemed to—I don‘t know, it just an incredible lost opportunity to unite the world, and to get this nation back on its feet in many ways.

OLBERMANN:  Give me the answer to the question that so many potential presidential candidates, especially in the Democratic Party, have to answer in this year nearly run-up to the first primaries.  On October 10, 2002, you hit the ball out of the park in a couple of quotes that seem almost to have been sent back from the future.  “There is a danger that Saddam‘s downfall could lead to widespread civil unrest and reprisals,” you said.  You said, “One third of that population in Iraq hates the other two thirds of that population.”  You said, “The American people need to know that most experts believe Iraq will require considerable assistance politically, militarily, and economically for the decade after.”

And yet on the other hand, at—you even voted to authorize the use of force.  Do you have a reconciliation between those two—that—those statements and that vote at this point?

BIDEN:  Yes, if you look at we voted for, we voted to give the president authority to be able to avoid a war.  The whole idea was to—in the (INAUDIBLE) -- in the argument made by the secretary of state and others, and those of us who voted for it, was not to go to war.  He was not in—that was not what he was supposed to do.  He was supposed to use the coherence of an entire nation supporting him to go to the United Nations, get the inspectors back in, not get—not let the arms embargo be lifted, not let the sanctions be lifted on Saddam, to completely isolate him.

But what did he do?  He made a feint toward diplomacy.  Initially, it looked like he might actually try something, but six months later, he just dissed his secretary of state and all those voices in the military, and he did something out of character, how he dealt with Afghanistan.  And if I had ever known how incompetent this administration was going to be, and the use of the authority we gave him, I would have never voted that way.

OLBERMANN:  Iraq today, sir, we talked last week in another context about Senator McCain and about Iraq, but now what he‘s just said over the weekend, about the tranquility there, and the earlier comments about streets that you could walk down on, you‘ve been there, you‘ve been there recently.  Is, is, it, (INAUDIBLE) -- could you possibly mistake, could anybody possibly mistake 100 troops and three Black Hawks, and, and the, and the overhead armada, if you will, as a natural state of events there?  Is there, is there anything other, any other conclusion to draw than, than Senator McCain misled us with his statements from Iraq?

BIDEN:  Well, I think John took a look at --  Look, I‘ve been there seven times.  The first time I went, I was able to walk through those town squares with no vest on, in the open, right after that statue went down in that circle that everybody remembers so vividly.  And what happened was, we did not do what we were supposed to do then, what many of us urged, which was to get immediately get paramilitary police in there, to increase the number of troops we had to stabilize the country, to begin to pass on responsibility to the Iraqis quickly.

What did we do?  We had too few troops, we didn‘t do any of what I suggested, and civil war broke out.  Now, what John may be looking at is a specific neighborhood, a specific place, but look what‘s happened, Keith.  The number of murders has increased, the number of death is increased, and it‘s like squeezing a water balloon.  If you bring order by the virtue of what you saw to one market and one neighborhood, what happens?

You see what‘s happening out in the outskirts of Baghdad now.  There are more murders.  A famous example they gave, as you‘ll remember, because you reported on it, Keith, Tal Afar.  Tal Afar was given as the example of a city where, a year ago, 6,000 Americans and then 4,000 Iraqi, they reestablished order, et cetera.  Then we left.  Tal Afar now is uninhabitable.  That‘s the same thing going to happen with this program.

You may be able to bring order into a neighborhood, but you don‘t have enough troops to bring order to the country, and even if you did, it doesn‘t produce a political solution.  A political solution, the only way you‘re going to do that is separate the parties, give them local control, with a limited central government.

OLBERMANN:  Relative to our separations of, of, of, government and what we‘re doing about Iraq, where do you think we stand on the president‘s threat to veto the war funding bill if it includes a timetable for withdrawal?  Do you think he‘s going to do it?  And if he does it, what do the Democrats do about it?

BIDEN:  I‘m not at all certain he‘s going to do it.  That bill that we passed in the Senate also has the language of Biden-Levin, the Biden-Levin amendment, which says not only set the date of March of 2008 as a target date to get the bulk of our combat troops out.

But it says something else, Keith.  It changes the mission, it says, Mr. President, here‘s what you do.  You cannot thrust these troops in the middle of a civil war, you can use them to train Iraqis, protect, keep al Qaeda from occupying large swaths of open territory, and protect our troops.  If you do that, Mr. President, you need a lot fewer troops.  You can start to bring our troops home.  And you can then move to a political solution of local control.

But if he vetoes this, Keith, he is vetoing the overwhelming sentiment of the American people, and not only denying troops the care that they need when they get home, but he‘ll be denying troops the ammunition and the capacity they need while they‘re there to stay safe.

It will be a high-risk thing.  I‘m not at all sure he‘s prepared to do that.  Lot of bluster.  I‘m not at all sure he will risk the wrath of the American people in putting the troops in that precarious position.

OLBERMANN:  You, of course, also sit on Judiciary.  Today we learned that the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, has canceled a family vacation to begin prepping for his appearance before your committee, possibly as early as next week.  Does that sound, sound logical to you?  How hard would you have to study about your own agency?

BIDEN:  I think he should cancel his tenure.  I think that‘s what he should cancel.  I think he should step down.  I called for his resignation some time ago, I voted against him in the first instance.

Keith, even if it were not an issue of these U.S. attorneys being fired, and his apparent inconsistency in what he said he knew and what he knew, the way in which he‘s managed that department has been a disaster.  Look at what happened with the implementation of the whole—of the, of the, of the legislation we gave the FBI to be able to deal with terrorism, look how it‘s been abused.  Look at what‘s happened with his memorandums on torture and on the Geneva Conventions and the rest.

He is more President Bush‘s personal lawyer than the nation‘s lawyer.  He should step down.  And I don‘t think he has the confidence of even half of the Republican senators.  He should cauterize this wound and step down, and step down now.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, a political question, a campaign methodology question.  This, this new Web site, HeadtoHead08.com, you got videos posted of the position on Iraq of each Democratic contender, yourself included.  (INAUDIBLE), I‘m not sure, which does this most closely resemble, is it YouTube, or is it one of those multiple quote car insurance Web sites?

BIDEN:  Actually, it‘s YouTube.  What we did was --  Look, I think this campaign is not about money but about issues.  And I took what other, what the other candidates put up as their preference of what they state their position is, and they put on YouTube, and put them side by side.  And some of them are good, and some of them are better, and some of them are worse.

And but I think it‘s really important that we get back to focusing on the difference among us, not in terms of our personal lives, or (INAUDIBLE), the difference among us but on the issues that exist between the basically—the six (INAUDIBLE) -- there may be more than six, but the six Democratic candidates.  And that‘s what this is intended to do, so people can compare, and see which position they prefer.

OLBERMANN:  It is, you know, an educational, and it‘s even entertaining Web site, HeadtoHead08.com.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, a pleasure to speak with you again, sir.  Thanks for...

BIDEN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  ... thanks for your time.

BIDEN:  Nice being with you, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of the candidates head to head, how about the money version of that?  Senator Clinton with ringing cash registers, now Senator Obama‘s may ring more loudly still, and the leading fundraiser among the Republicans is a shock.

And shock is one word for what the administration is feeling after the Supreme Court takes on climate change, turning up the heat on the Bush Environmental Protection Administration.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE), we vote with our feet, our eyes, our fannies.  We vote electronically and cross our fingers.  But American politics of the 21st century actually dictates an entirely different kind of voting, with our wallets.

The fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, numbers are out as important as any primary, as capable of thinning the herd as any scandal or stumble.  Fund-raising figures, in sum, the big winner, Hillary Clinton, the big loser, John McCain, the big surprise, Mitt Romney, and the big mystery, Barack Obama, not releasing numbers yet, but our Andrea Mitchell reporting tonight that he will either come close to or beat the record-setting numbers racked up by Senator Clinton, stunning news if it happens.  It could reshape the race overnight.

But first, the numbers we do know, broken down by party.  From January through March, Senator Clinton raised a record $26 million.  John Edwards took in $14 million, Bill Richardson $6 million, Chris Dodd $4, Senator Biden, our previous guest, $3, Senator Obama, no comment yet tonight.

In the Republican Party, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, clocked in with a stunning $23 million, well above the ostensible frontrunners, Rudy Giuliani at $15 and John McCain at $12.5.

Let‘s turn to Anne Kornblut, national political reporter for “The Washington Post,” traveling with the John Edwards campaign in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Anne, thanks for your time tonight.

ANNE KORNBLUT, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with what Andrea Mitchell‘s reporting tonight.  If Senator Obama is indeed in the same ballpark as Senator Clinton, what does, A, that do to her strategy of inevitability, and B, to the impact of the number that she‘s already released?

KORNBLUT:  Well, we‘ll just have to see when that number comes out.  I think we‘ll know probably by Wednesday of this week.  By all guesses, at this point, it‘s going to be a high number, as Andrea was reporting.

If he does come within reach of her or even top her $26 million, that really will give his campaign a huge boost, and I suspect that‘s why they‘re waiting a few days to announce the number, so it has the maximum impact.

It will also raise a lot of questions, I think, about what she did with the $37 million she raised for her Senate reelection campaign, where she virtually ran unopposed.  She spent all that money.  It‘s money that could have been, or at least half of it could have been rolled over here to really make her inevitable.

So I think there will be a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about how her last campaign was run, the numbers of consultants she has around her, and where all that money is going.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a number inside the number, Anne, as the sportscasters say, when you look at just the online fundraising.  John Edwards was a lot more competitive.  He had $3.3 million online, Senator Clinton has $4.2.  What does that say about who in the party is supporting each of these candidates?

KORNBLUT:  Well, it‘s interesting, all these advisers are saying that the Internet is the great democratizer.  We thought in 2004, we‘re certainly seeing it again here.  Today, when we were traveling with John Edwards, we went to the Stonyfield Farm yogurt plant here in New Hampshire.  And a young girl, a 25-year-old woman who worked there came up and handed the Edwardses an a $100 check.  It‘s that kind of low-dollar donor, who I suspect, if she hadn‘t run into the Edwardses today, would have logged on and sent them a contribution.

It‘s really new donors that everyone‘s seeking to find now.  A lot of old Democratic donors, you know, can only, you know, contribute the limit, the $2,300 for the primary or the $4,600 for the primary and the general.  So the key is really finding lots and lots of new people who can donate in smaller amounts.  That‘s the way to raise these huge amounts of money.

OLBERMANN:  Whatever Edwards makes online, whatever Clinton has, whatever Obama will announce, the Mitt Romney number is extraordinary.  What did we—and by “we,” I mean the media, the voters who participated in polls, basically everybody not related to this man, what did we miss that accounts for him raising nearly $10 million more than his closest Republican rival?

KORNBLUT:  I don‘t know anybody who, outside the Romney campaign, who was not surprised by this figure today.  I think for one thing, because his poll numbers have been so low, he wasn‘t battling the expectations game the way a lot of the other candidates were.  I mean, the Clintons spent weeks, you know, answering the question, How much is it going to be? and trying furiously to lower expectations.

John McCain we saw, as you said, he had a low number with being asked that question.  Romney really wasn‘t being asked that question.  So it was going to come as a surprise no matter what he raised.

But I think, at the same time, people underestimated the power of his networks.  He was a, he was a corporate finance guy for years and years, he knows lots of very wealthy people who can write big checks.  But more importantly, he knows wealthy people who know wealthy people who can write big checks.  And so he was able to really tap into that network, in addition to the network of Mormon supporters.

Again, all of these are not traditional campaign (INAUDIBLE) donors.  They‘re not pioneers, they‘re not rangers, they‘re not tapped out.  So they‘re people who are really fresh and ready to give to Romney.

OLBERMANN:  And what does it do to this vision that we‘ve had for the last month, two months, perhaps, of Rudy Giuliani‘s steamrollering past John McCain?  It would suggest that there was another steamroller well ahead of even Rudy Giuliani.

KORNBLUT:  Well, it means there‘s a real race on here.  Giuliani‘s numbers in the polls are certainly high, Romney‘s obviously now won the primary, the early money primary.  And McCain still has a lot of support out there, you know, maybe softer, obviously, as we‘ve seen, but he still has, you know, a campaign team, Washington support, and experience, obviously, under his belt.  So there‘s a real race between these three right now.

OLBERMANN:  Anne Kornblut in New Hampshire for “The Washington Post.” 

Great thanks for your time tonight, Anne.

KORNBLUT:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  How about raising $33 million in one weekend?  Will Farrell for something.  How about for Hollywood‘s leading leading man?

And what could have been a circus tragedy ends up with a happy reunion, the touching story of a man with big hair getting back his tiny little bicycle with a hug.  Group hug.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1972, on the very eve of the baseball season, Gil Hodges, the manager of the New York Mets, died of a heart attack at the achingly young age of 47.  Just three years before, he had orchestrated probably the most unexpected championship in team sports history, the Miracle Mets of 1969.

This was just a decade after the last of his 13 full seasons as the star first baseman of the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers, during which he hit so many home runs, when he retired, he had the second- highest total ever by a right-handed hitter.  He was universally respected, even beloved.  He helped ease Jackie Robinson‘s transition to the majors, both on the field and off.  He has never been elected to Baseball‘s Hall of Fame.  For shame.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in New York City.  An emotional reunion has taken place here.  The circus was in town recently, and, well, I‘d tell you the story, but any news anchor worth his salt knows when you‘ve got video as emotional as this, you just get out of the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow, thank you so much. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that my bike.  Thank you.  That is my bike. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When that sweet other guy with the stupid hair went over for that hug.  The bike had disappeared last weekend as Bello the Clown—that‘s Bello, Bill-O—performed in midtown Manhattan.  The man who found it got a 1,000 dollar reward, a little bike of his own and that hug. 

From a file we call, what to do when you have way too much time on your hands, we go to the race track where one man at the Callfield (ph) Race course in Melbourne, Australia found the exact place to stand at the end of each race to get himself into the next day‘s newspaper.  Y-M-C-A.  If it wasn‘t for the backwards C, it would have been a perfect day.  Ladies and gentleman, Australia‘s only accurate speller.  

The Bush Environmental Protection Agency protecting that is the polluter‘s right to destroy the environment.  It gets its head handed to it today by the Supreme Court.  And another honor for the president.  He‘s on the same list as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and a diapered astronaut.  An explanation ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.

Number, three Jostens, the makers of those fancy rings they give to Super Bowl winners, now offering hand crafted championship rings for winners in fantasy sports leagues, starting at just 100 bucks for a signet ring, custom built with the year, winner‘s name, team name and league officials, J-A-S-O-N-B-8 -- never mind. 

Number two, Phil Young of the No Regrets tattoo parlor in Nagatau, Connecticut.  He shares a parking lot with some other business, and his business neighbors decided to put a sign there encouraging drivers to honk for Jesus.  Mr. Young got tired of the noise or something, so he put up his own sign, honk twice for satin.  Now nobody can hear themselves think. 

And number one, James Elstub of Dewberry, England.  He returned from traveling the ward to find his home burglarized.  Thieves had broken in by forcing a side window at the back of his property.  They stole his entire kitchen, not the flat ware, the oven, the cabinets, the counters.  They stole everything but the kitchen sink.  Wait, this just in, they also stole the kitchen sink. 

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OLBERMANN:  Appointing the people who least want to see an industry regulated as that industry‘s regulators has become something of an art form for the current presidential administration, especially when it comes to the creativity required to turn the Environmental Protection Agency into a subsidiary of the polluters.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, today the Supreme Court took President Bush to the wood shed and ordered his EPA to takes its arm out from behind its back and stop pretending it cannot stop global warming or at least ameliorate it. 

Our correspondent, Pete Williams, monitors the court for us.  Pete? 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.  This is, without a doubt, one of the most important environmental rulings to come out of the court in years, and it puts new pressure on the Bush administration to do something it has so far refused to do, limit greenhouse gas pollution from cars as a way of reducing global warming. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  Today‘s decision is a huge victory for environmental groups and a dozen states, including Massachusetts, which warned it was losing coastline to a rising ocean level caused by melting glaciers as the world slowly gets warmer.  The court said the Bush administration was wrong to claim it had no legal authority to limit Carbon Dioxide and other gases released from new cars that act like the ceiling of a greenhouse, trapping in heat. 

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, CONNECTICUT ATTY. GENERAL:  We have ended the administration‘s denial of reality and defiance of the law. 

WILLIAMS:  In unusually strong language, the court embraced the warnings of scientists who say U.S. cars emissions contribute to greenhouse gasses, leading to global warming.  It ruled 5-4 that federal law does give the government authority to limit emissions from new cars, an action the court said would slow the pace of global emissions, no matter what happens elsewhere in the world. 

The decision does not force the Environmental Protection Agency to impose those regulations.  Opponents of new limits say the EPA could still claim they would be too expensive or might make other kinds of pollution worse. 

SCOTT SEGAL, REGULATION OPPONENT:  We may have years into the future before a finding today that Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant actually results in a regulation.   

WILLIAMS:  But environmental groups say today‘s decision makes it very hard for the government to refuse.

DAVID HAWKINS, ENVIRONMENTALIST:  The only thing that the agency could do would be basically to stand science on its head and argue in the face of all the facts that somehow global warming emissions do not contribute to climate change. 

WILLIAMS:  Some Democrats in Congress doubt the Bush administration will act and say the ruling makes it more important for Congress to set greenhouse limits for new cars. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Surprisingly, a group representing U.S. and foreign car makers tonight is actually calling for the federal government to limit greenhouse gases, instead of letting the states come up with a patchwork of different laws.  Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  Pete Williams at the Supreme Court.  Great thanks Pete.   

Move over Brad Pitt, forget Tom Cruise, Hollywood‘s new lead lead action guy is Will Ferrell?  And Donald Trump versus Vince McMahon.  If they were both on fire, and you really had to relieve yourself, would you just hold it in?  That‘s next, first COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Over the past two or three years, and especially this spring, Bucky the dear has stopped more than his share of traffic along Highway 79. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He got into my corn patch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every year he sports some kind of hay bale spring bonnet.   

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess that‘s why nobody ever shot him.  Don‘t you reckon? 

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE SHOW HOST:  Now, great moments in presidential speeches. 

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

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

BUSH:  I do want to spend a little time on education.  I—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  According to nail experts, few women have nails durable enough to grow as long as Candy‘s.  And at first that was reason enough for her to let them evolve way past the previous, more common length.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  First I started growing them because I could.  They are pretty.  They‘re long.  And OK, I can do that.  And the reaction I got was so enormous, that then I became kind of interested in a whole lot of things about tolerance. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Will Ferrell is an awfully nice man, but, of course, in the film “Anchor Man,” as the uber TV news hair dew Ron Burgundy, he intones, “I‘m kind of a big deal, people know me.  I‘m very important.  I have many leather bound books, and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, if you see Will Ferrell only as the characters he plays, you might be wondering how this guy has become probably the hottest male star in the movies.  You might also be missing the point, as our correspondent Dawn Fratangelo reports.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He is no Olympian, Will Ferrell, but his latest movie, “Blades of Glory,” about an unlikely pair of ice skaters was awarded the gold medal of the box office.  Ferrell‘s success comes in spite of him being, well, Will Ferrell. 

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR:  I just thought you would like to see what a skater‘s body really looks like. 

FRATANGELO:  The anti-hunk you might call him or a ferocious marshmallow, as a “New York Times” film critic described him.  In an industry of leading men like Cruise, Pit, and Hanks, could this be the new face of Hollywood? 

WHITNEY PASTOREK, “ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:  Will Ferrell is able to bring in box office that‘s equal to or greater than some of the people you think of as your marquee actors, simply because people know what they‘re getting with a Will Ferrell movie. 

FRATANGELO:  Ferrell has become a natural at playing those annoying, yet purely American male icons, the vacant NASCAR driver -- 

FERRELL:  I felt like I was on a space ship.  And I am not sure what to do with my hand. 

FRATANGELO:  The wasted frat boy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What the hell are you doing? 

FERRELL:  We are streaking.  We are going up through the quads to the gymnasium.   

FRATANGELO:  The conceded anchor man. 

FERRELL:  What you are about to see is a Channel Four news exclusive. 

His name is Nutty the squirrel and he is three years old.  How about that. 

FRATANGELO:  As inane as his characters can be, Ferrell does what is so difficult for comedic actors, he succeeds in poignant roles. 

FERRELL:  Dad, I love you.

FRATANGELO:  The sweet elf, the lonely tax man, in “Stranger Than Fiction.”   

PASTOREK:  Will Ferrell is really able to open himself up and play these sweet, naive, bumbling fools.  And I think, in a lot of ways, that‘s what Americans find so appealing about him too. 

FRATANGELO:  Will Ferrell may have been less than graceful with our leading lady Meredith, but this anti-hero, this anti-hunk, by way of “Saturday Night Live,” is Hollywood‘s new leading man. 

Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of stage sports, the fakest fake fight in the history of fake fights topping our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Anybody who has ever watched wrestling, or watched anything Donald Trump has ever done could have doubted that the battle of the billionaires between the orange one and Vince McMahon is totally set up. 

But that did not stop them from hamming it up.  The premise, whoever‘s fighter lost the match would have to get his head shaved.  Given that it might be physically impossible to remove the world‘s most intricate comb over, it was a forgone conclusion that Vince McMahon would be fake forcibly shaved.  Then for extra carnival, Trump got fake ambushed by a fake wrestler, performing a patented fake move. 

Trump moves on, of course, to his next hair showdown versus Sanjaya. 

Who in the hell do you root for in that one? 

Pardon the unfortunate word play, but from a close shave, we move to Hollywood‘s king of libido, Warren Beatty.  Even though he is now 70 years on the old casting couchometer, he is married, the father of four, still raising the flag of conquests, so to speak.  Now telling the tabloids that he is the self centered sex machine about whom Carly Simon sang in her 1973 hit “You‘re So Vain.” 

According to MSNBC.com‘s Jeanette Walls, Beatty says, let‘s be honest, that song is about me.  Search as we might on the Internets, we could not find a picture of Warren on a yacht, wearing a scarf of apricot, nor Nova Scotia for a total eclipse of the son.  We may never know the answer, because Carly Simon says she will never tell, but there is one big clue.  The song implies the guy‘s ego is so big, he thinks the song is about him. 

Mr. Beatty, the match is yours.  Meanwhile, Britney Spears, President Bush, Dick Cheney, O.J. Simpson are all on the same list of American leaders.  What‘s the category and who got left out?  Why are those who got left out happy?  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze to the original Drudge itself.  Quoting an anonymous source, he claims CNN journalist Michael Ware had heckled and laughed at Senator‘s McCain and Graham at their Baghdad press conference.  He insinuated that Ware had a drinking problem.  After Ware flatly denied the report, video hit the web with no heckling to be seen.  And guess what, the report magically disappeared from the Drudge website.  Drudge had called the story developing.  It developed all right, just like photos of you, sir, ugly and wrong. 

The silver to Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, speaking about his political opponents in Washington, Mr. Kingston said, quote, the Democrats honey moon is fixing to end.  It‘s going to explode like an IED.  Mr. Dictionary fails us yet again, hey Congressman? 

But the winner, of course, Bill-O.  He didn‘t like what his guest was saying about prospect that the Bush administration had violated the Geneva Convention.  The guest was Colonel Ann Right (ph), retired after nearly three decades in the U.S. Army.  The end of their on-camera exchange went like this: Colonel Right, “I want to make sure the United States treats people properly.” 

Bill-O, “Sure you do, sure you do.

Colonel Right, “I surely do.  That‘s what I spent 29 years of my life trying to do.

Bill-O, “Sorry, no you didn‘t.  You no what happened to you, somewhere along the line, you started to dislike your own country.” 

Colonel Right, “I served 29 years.  How many did you serve?  Where did you teach the Geneva Conventions?

Bill-O, “Cut her mike.

They cut her microphone off, big man.  You make up stories and people kill you with the facts.  You make threats and your intended victims laugh at you.  Now you are cutting off their mikes.  Are you trying to re-create the last six weeks of Joe McCarthy‘s career or is it just a coincidence?  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Mark Twain once observed, let us be thankful for the fools, but for them the rest of us could not succeed.  It would have been funnier if I had been able to read the quote.  Thus, with acknowledgements that of all they‘ve unwittingly contributed to this news hour, we turn to our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, a list of the biggest fools in the entire country. 

All right, just quite down now.  As named in the Eighth Annual Most Foolish American survey, the survey of 1,000 people foolish enough not to run when the guy said, could I have a moment of your time for a public opinion poll.  Topping the list, bald though now allegedly sober, Britney Spears, 76 percentage saying she has done something foolish in the past year.  You think?

Her former BFF, Paris Hilton, sealed in the number two slot.  Honestly, it‘s like choosing between Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard in a fantasy baseball league.  Michael Jackson, who won the competition four years in a row, comes in third.  But it was squeaker for third place.  Only a single percentage point stands between Jack-O and the fourth place person, President Bush. 

O.J. Simpson finished fifth.  That‘s right, O.J.  And it‘s a tie for sixth, anti-Semitic drunk ranter Mel Gibson and Vice President Dick Cheney, who did not have as convenient an excuse as Gibson did.  They beat out diaper wearing astronaut Lisa Nowak, page harassing Congressman Mark Foley, stand up is tougher than it looks comedian Michael Richards, cow jumping Scientologist and actor Tom Cruise, rehab prone actress Lindsay Lohan, the soon to be ex Mr. Spears, Kevin Federline, the soon to be jailed Scooter Libby, Peter Cook, not the late, great British humorist, the guy who allegedly cheated on his wife, Christie Brinkley. 

And at the bottom of the list, at 16th, bride of Cruise, Katie Holmes.  Our friend Paul F. Tompkins has made something of a science on commenting on the foolish in his regular appearances as a contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” and especially when he‘s been foolish enough to join us here.  Good evening Paul. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1:  Good evening Keith.  

OLBERMANN:  Britney Spears shaved her head, flashed her extremities, and was in and out of rehab all year, but even given that, how did she beat out the president for the top honors here?  Is she just better known than he is? 

TOMPKINS:  I think it‘s that we have been with the president longer, so we expect less, you know.  He is winding down his term.  Britney sort of accelerated things to an insane pace this last year.  And I think by next year she might be in serious “Surreal Life,” “Dancing with the Stars” territory.   

OLBERMANN:  That would be the quickest descent ever.  The vice president and Mel Gibson tied.  Should one be more insulted by the pairing than the other is? 

TOMPKINS:  I think Dick Cheney absolutely should be insulted, because, you know, if you are the guy who made the life of Christ movie that was perceived as anti-Semitic and then you go and say anti Semitic things in the town that you profess is run by Jews, I think if you are just plain evil, you have got to be upset. 

OLBERMANN:  There are only, including Mr. Cheney, there are only four politicians on the list, and one of them is now a convicted criminal.  One had to resign after he harassed pages, and the other two are running the country.  Have we short changed the politicos?  Should more of them be on this list do you think?  

TOMPKINS:  I feel like they should have their own list.  I mean, if you really thought about it, they would all be on the own list.  The whole list would politicians, but then it would just be a bummer.  It‘s like when somebody too smart hosts the Oscars, and you are like this is kind of pretentious and dumb.  You know, I mean, unless they‘re going to make it fun.  You can allow politicians like Mayor McCheese and the Pope of Greenwich Village.   

OLBERMANN:  Forty one percent of people surveyed thought Kevin Federline did something foolish this year.  That‘s 13th.  How did he manage to rehabilitate his image so quickly?  Shouldn‘t he not be higher on the fool list just residually from previous years? 

TOMPKINS:  I don‘t know what these people expected from Kevin Federline in the first place.  You know, I think he should be congratulated in many ways.  It‘s like if you see a baby walking a tight rope, if he makes it to the other side, you are not going to criticize him for dropping the parasol.   

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of parasols, Michael Jackson, down to third, is he getting smarter, or is he just vanishing from consciousness, like the Cheshire Cat, what is going on here that he‘s in third place after four straight wins? 

TOMPKINS:  I think that this shows that Michael has graduated beyond foolishness, and he is into this whole other class of weirdness that we can‘t even call quaint any more.  It‘s not—the days of, oh, isn‘t that kind of crazy and eccentric are over.  This guy is on another plain. 

OLBERMANN:  So he has ruled himself sort of ineligible for this, just because he wants to build a 50 foot tall robotic version of himself to run around Las Vegas with laser beams for eyes? 

TOMPKINS:  I have to recuse myself from commenting on that, because I personally I think that is awesome.  How do you not OK that?  If somebody says, we want to make a 50 foot robot of you that has lasers coming out of its eyes, how do you not say, where do I sign. 

OLBERMANN:  Possibly the first rational act in a while, and it involves mechanical devices.  Who is missing from the list?  What is your nomination.  I went through nearly 20 of them in there.  Who is missing on this foolish American list? 

TOMPKINS:  There‘s so many people, but I would like to take a page from “Time Magazine‘s” book, and nominate you, and when I say you, I am talking to my girlfriend, who thought that the YouTube video of the bride cutting off her hair was real. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think she is going to join our list next year here?  Any other predictions, Alberto Gonzales or anybody else you‘re looking for as a draft choice for 2008? 

TOMPKINS:  No, Alberto Gonzales we will have already forgotten about.  By this time next year, I‘m sure either Harriet Miers or Fred Thompson will probably be stepping down as attorney general.  

OLBERMANN:  Fred Thompson going back onto another TV show, possibly something animated.  I think that‘s all he hasn‘t done yet.  Paul F.  Tompkins, comedian, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  As always Paul, great thanks for your time tonight. 

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,450th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I am 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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