updated 4/4/2007 12:10:35 PM ET 2007-04-04T16:10:35

Guests: Russell Feingold, Larry Johnson, Catherine Crier, Chris Cillizza

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

It‘s more than a military mission.  That‘s why he sent in more military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   The solution to Iraq, an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, is more than a military mission.  Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the Democrats are the ones playing politics with Iraq, and the most vacationed president in history is telling Congress it can‘t take a week off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  They need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk.  And if it‘s, if it‘s got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork, I‘ll veto it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Veto it from his Easter vacation in Crawford, starting tomorrow.

The Democrats are apoplectic.  A rebuttal tonight from our special guest, Senator Russ FEINGOLD of Wisconsin.

A rebuttal tonight from the people in the neighborhood in which Senator McCain said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  The American people are not getting the full picture of what‘s happening here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Baghdad residents are apoplectic about those comments.  Analysts here say by going to that market, Senator McCain may have put soldiers‘ lives at risk, to say nothing of putting at risk his own campaign hopes in 2008.

And while Senator Obama hopes to overtake Senator Clinton at the cash register, late news from New Hampshire that there, anyway, somebody‘s overtaken Senator Obama for second place to Senator Clinton.

Speaking of cash, O.J. Simpson suing to stop the Goldmans from auctioning off the rights to his book.

For the Anna Nicole Smith case, Larry Birkhead‘s lawyer bills him $620,000.  No wonder we hate all the lawyers.

A shooting at an Atlanta mall.  Rush Limbaugh makes a joke out of it. 

No wonder we all hate Rush Limbaugh.

And we‘re pretty sure Keith Richards was not joking.  Asked, Where‘s your father? answered, I snorted him.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH RICHARDS:  It was an experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He is already the most-vacationed president this nation has ever had, having spent 405 days, or nearly two out of every five of them since he took office, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.  We‘re not even counting time at Camp David.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, yet Mr. Bush once again bound for Crawford tomorrow, today slamming Congress for being away from the capital, insisting lawmakers should get back to work in order to do the people‘s business of rubber-stamping whatever it is he wants for his war in Iraq.

And the president‘s hypocrisy on this subject hardly ends with days off, it barely begins there.  There‘s his argument this morning that for time the—for funding the troops, the time for funding the troops, rather, is running out, Mr. Bush saying it has been 57 days since he sent Congress his funding request, warning that if lawmakers fail to act soon, quote, “The price of that failure will be paid by our troops and our loved ones.”

The reality is, after Mr. Bush submitted the previous two emergency supplemental bills during the last Republican-controlled Congress, some 86 days, and then 119 days elapsed, respectively, before he signed those measures into law.  He said nothing about how long the Republicans had taken to blank-check him on those bills.

It should also be noted that both previous funding bills were chock-full of pork, a fact that undercuts even more of Mr. Bush‘s feigned outrage today.  Suffice to say, whatever has gone wrong in the war in Iraq and in the separate fight against terrorism, Mr. Bush tried to blame it on Democrats in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Time of war (INAUDIBLE) responsible for the Democrat leadership in Congress—Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lot of the disagreement, sir, over the way you‘re handling Iraq, disagreement from the public and Congress, stems from the belief that things are not working, despite the surge.  The Iraqis have met few, if any, of the benchmarks that were laid down for them so far.  And people don‘t believe that this can work, and they question the continued sacrifice of U.S. troops to help make it work.

BUSH:  Yes.  Bill, I‘m very worried that there are a group of people that don‘t think we should be there in the first place.  There are some who don‘t believe that this strategy will work.  I‘ve listened carefully to their complaints.  Obviously, I listened to these concerns prior to deciding to reinforce.

This is precisely the debate we had inside the White House.  Can we succeed?  I know there some who have basically said it is impossible to succeed.  I strongly disagree with those people.  I believe not only can we succeed, I know we must succeed.

You know, what‘s interesting is, you don‘t hear a lot of debate about Washington as to what will happen if there is failure.  Failure in Iraq would endanger American security.  I have told the American people often, it is best to defeat them there so we don‘t have to face them here, fully recognizing that what happens over there can affect the security here.

And that‘s one of the major lessons of September the 11th.  In that case, they were safe haven found (ph) in a failed state, where killers plotted and planted—planned and trained and came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.  And I vowed that we weren‘t going to let that happen again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When Congress has linked war funding with a timetable, you have argued micromanagement.  When they‘ve linked it to unrelated spending, you‘ve argued pork barrel.  But now there‘s talk from Harry Reid and others that if you veto this bill, they may come back and just simply cut off funding.  Wouldn‘t that be a legitimate exercise of congressional authority, which is the power of the purse?

BUSH:  The, the Congress is exercising its legitimate authority as it sees fit right now.  I just disagree with their decisions.  I think setting an artificial timetable for withdrawal is a significant mistake.

It is amazing to me that one, the U.S. Senate passed a—confirmed General Petraeus overwhelmingly after he testified as to what he thinks is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and then won‘t fund him.  And they need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk.  And if it‘s got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork, I‘ll veto it, and (INAUDIBLE) get down to business and get this thing (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For reaction to the president‘s remarks and the threat contained therein, and what happens next about Iraq, we‘re joined now by Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.

Good evening, Senator.  Thanks for your time.

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN:  Good evening, Keith.  Great to be on the show.

OLBERMANN:  And I‘ll get to the specifics about—of this in a moment.  But give me your overall reaction here first.  I mean, it seems hard to be surprised by this president any more.  But did he go above and beyond something today?

FEINGOLD:  Well, it‘s just incredible to me that the president of the United States is planning on vetoing a bill that actually provides the funds that he wants for this next phase of the war.  And the reason is, is, that he thinks he shouldn‘t have to follow the will of the American people, which was expressed in November, and that is that somehow this war has to start to end.

The bill is a very reasonable approach, and the president is being beyond stubborn in saying that we have to provide the funds and have no reaction at all to the fact that the people of this country want us out of this war.  It‘s incredible to me that the president is this detached from reality.

OLBERMANN:  He referred to, in this news conference, in some of the questions, some who believe our strategy there is not working, a group who believes that we should not be there in the first place.  Is it possible, do you think, Senator, that the president does not realize that this group of some people constitutes about seven out of every 10 Americans?

FEINGOLD:  Well, he must know at some level, but he refers to the fact that we‘re back in our states, listening to the people in our states, as a vacation.  Well, he needs a vacation like that, or he needs to get back onto a place like Wisconsin, in the rural areas where I am this week, Keith, doing town meetings, where people are telling me, For God‘s sakes, when are you going to get out of there?  How can you possibly have this thing continue?  What is the president thinking?

He is truly out of touch with the people of this country.  This is not a position of a few people in the Democrats Party.  It is virtually a consensus of the American people that we have got to have an orderly end to this war, safely redeploy the troops in the next few months.

OLBERMANN:  How do we effect that, sir?  How do we get that done if the president is going to be in this form of obstinance and denial?

FEINGOLD:  Sadly, it requires what we‘ve been doing in the Senate and even more, and that means constantly ratcheting up the pressure.  We first indicated that obviously this surge was a bad idea.  And then we tried to pass a resolution having to do with some kind of a plan to end the war, and that didn‘t work.

And so we did succeed last week in passing in the Senate, on a bipartisan basis, a timeline.  You may remember that when I proposed the timeline first in August of 2005, people acted like it was a crazy idea.  Now, the president sees the majority of both houses are for it.

But ultimately, Keith, if he ignores all of this, we have to use our power, our constitutional power, the power of the purse, to say, All right, by this definite date, the funding will end.  By that time, the troops will have been safely redeployed.  And only after that would the funding end.

Senator Harry Reid and I have concluded that a bill or an amendment that would make that date a year from now, March 31, 2008, is the next step, if necessary, if he truly does veto the supplemental bill.

OLBERMANN:  To the power of the purse, for all the president‘s talk of alleged irresponsibility on the part of Congress in his news event this morning, it would seem, in his answer to that question about the power of the purse, the president was forced to admit that what you and your colleagues are doing is, in fact, entirely legitimate.  And if that‘s true, and he says it‘s true, doesn‘t that make his veto the cause of any interruption of funding for the troops, in the unlikely event that happens?

FEINGOLD:  Absolutely, Keith, unless we‘ve shifted into a monarchy.  The whole idea of our system is that these powers are divided.  The president‘s the commander in chief, but the Congress is given the power of the funding, the appropriations power.  We had to provide the funding in the first place, and if we decide this war is a bad idea, which I think just about everybody‘s concluded, then it‘s our—not just our right, but our responsibility to say, Well, by X date, we will no longer do the funding.

And if you—you can ask Republican senators who say this is a bad idea, why did they vote for a date to cut off the funding for Somalia in the early ‘90s?  Remember Black Hawk Down, we lost those 18 brave Americans, and we said, You know, this isn‘t working out very well, we ought to stop this.

And so John McCain and John Warner and all of us voted for a date certain by which the troops were safely redeployed.  And at the end of it, the funding was cut off.  They‘ve already voted for this approach.  It‘s not extreme.  It‘s right in the absolute core of our constitutional powers and our responsibilities as members of Congress.

OLBERMANN:  Senator, President Bush also talked this morning about the consequences of failure in Iraq, and that we would be forgetting the lessons of 9/11 that Al Qaeda was able to operate in a failed state.  And the failed state in Iraq would somehow be your fault.  I‘m missing something in the logical chain there.  Do you know what it is?

FEINGOLD:  Well, the consequences of failure are what this administration has brought us, the failure to properly read the threat after 9/11, the failure to admit that they had us invade a country that wasn‘t even on their list of 45 countries where Al Qaeda was operating.  This was the failure.  This is he disaster.

And we can still correct it if we can have a safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq, so we can focus on places all the way from Afghanistan, to Indonesia, to northern Africa, to Somalia.  This is a worldwide threat.  Why would you put 95 percent of your resources in one place, where we‘re clearly being hurt and losing ground, when you could use those same resources across the world, with the cooperation with other countries to fight those that attacked us on 9/11?

So Keith, the failure is a failure of understanding and good strategy and the failure is that of the George Bush administration.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.  As always, Senator, our great thanks for your time.

FEINGOLD:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, John McCain‘s rosy assessment of the security situation still drawing fire, Iraqis can‘t believe what he said.  Here, one expert insists McCain put soldiers‘ lives at risk, all for a photo-op.  He will join us.

And the race for the White House on the Democratic side, a new challenge emerging for both Senators Clinton and Obama.  On the Republican, can Mitt Romney turn his campaign cash into actual support?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Well, now we know the exact measure of the success of the president‘s surge.  Residents of Baghdad may now stay up until 10:00 p.m., not just 8:00.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the curfew has been moved back two hours.  On the other hand, the Iraqi government admits the number of Iraqis who died a violent death is rising.

And John McCain‘s Everything‘s great visit may have risked American lives.

Senator McCain‘s Sunday stroll through a market in Baghdad, designed to show the city is safer, but the market was thoroughly searched and swept for security first, in addition to being guarded by 100 soldiers, helicopter gunships, and sharpshooters on rooftops.

Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana had told reporters he and his colleagues and the locals “mixed and mingled like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”  But here‘s what some of the local merchants in that market are now telling reporters.

From an Iraqi glass dealer, “Everybody complained to them.  This area here is very dangerous.  They cannot secure it.”

From a textile merchant, “They were laughing and talking to people as if there was nothing going on in this country, or at least they were pretending that they were tourists.”

And from an appliance dealer, “Do they think that when they come and speak a few Arabic words in a very bad manner, it will make us love them?  This country and its society have been destroyed because of them, and I hope that they realized that during this visit.”

Well, John McCain did say Americans were not getting the full picture.

Larry Johnson joins us now, former CIA officer, who was a deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism under the first President Bush.

Larry, thanks again for some of your time tonight.

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  An Australian newspaper called this “a stunt,” but your version, your term, is a little stronger.  You say Senators McCain and Graham actually put our soldiers‘ lives at risk for a photo-op?

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  This was not your normal ride-along.  This was not—they didn‘t embed themselves with an Army unit that was going on a normal patrol.  Why?  Because it‘s too dangerous.

Instead, that company that secured that area, they had to send soldiers out first, way before the delegation arrived.  They had to sweep the area, they had to secure the spots for the snipers.  And then, in addition to that, you then have 100 soldiers guarding them.

But what captured my attention was, it was only Americans.  There were no Iraqi soldiers there.  That tells me that even the U.S. commanders didn‘t trust Iraqi soldiers enough to have them be the force in play to show what a safe neighborhood it was.

Hey, look, I‘m from Missouri, been to several farmers‘ markets.  I don‘t ever recall having to wear body armor to a farmers‘ market.

OLBERMANN:  Could, other than that gaffe that is so obvious to almost all of us, could McCain and company have handled this in some different way?  How would you assess, how would you try to assess whether the security has improved in Baghdad?

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  It‘s very simple for them to do.  They simply had to go to General Petraeus and say, General, we want to go with any unit that‘s going out on patrol.  We‘ll just settle in the back.  We‘re going to the Humvee, we‘ll ride along with them and see what happens, instead of a shopping trip.

You know, Keith, when you look at the progression of U.S. deaths in the period from January through March-April of 2004, there were about 40 Americans killed per month.  In a year later, in 2005, it was then up to about 50.  Now we‘re up to 80 Americans a month.  We‘re having almost doubled the number of U.S. troops killed today than was the case two, three years ago.

That‘s going in the wrong direction.  And what we‘ve seen this last month is that U.S. troops suffered more casualties than the Iraqi troops.  That says that the United States is being asked to bear the burden that the Iraqis themselves won‘t bear.

And in this case, Senator McCain, who‘s a retired, decorated Navy veteran, and Senator Graham, who‘s an Air Force officer, they should have known better.  But instead, U.S. troops were used as a propaganda tool so they could come back and try to make the argument, See, we could go buy a rug.

But, you know, in the process of buying a rug, they did the same thing that George Bush did in New Orleans, right after Katrina, had the lights, had the speech, turned the lights off.  It wasn‘t real.

OLBERMANN:  This particular market, Ashorja (ph), has been previously the scene of terrible bloodshed.  They had more than 60 deaths in two car bombings in February, and a roadside attack as well.  One of the merchants told reporters that visits like this, trying to show that things are safe, actually wind up making things worse.  Is that, is that jibe with your experience?

JOHNSON:  Yes, that‘s absolutely correct, because what happens here is that the merchants who were seen selling the rugs, they‘re assumed to be collaborators, that somehow they‘re cooperating with the Americans.  And it puts them in a very difficult situation.  It would have been one thing if there were actually Iraqi troops there interacting with those Iraqi merchants.  Then they might not be under that suspicion of being American agents.

But in this case, Senator McCain and Senator Graham and Congressman

Pence, they have put not on American soldiers‘ lives at risk, they put Iraq

they put the Iraqi civilians at greater risk.

OLBERMANN:  And sure enough, there was another attack at that market about 36 hours later.  The prophecy fulfilled already.

The former CIA officer Larry Johnson.  As always, Larry, great thanks for being with us tonight.

JOHNSON:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of photo-ops and screw-ups, here‘s a windup (INAUDIBLE), wow, just a bit outside.  Oddball.

And if you asked Keith Richards, How‘s your father? he‘ll tell you, He‘s a great hit, man.

Explanations ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1715, the first president of the United States was born near Port Tobacco in Maryland.  Of course, that would be John Hanson, President Hanson.  Obviously he wasn‘t the first president.  He was officially the first to serve in the position retitled President of the United States in Congress Assembled.  He was chief officer of Congress in 1781 and ‘82.  But his tenure makes the answer to a great trick question.  And if there‘s alcohol involved, possibly a great barroom brawl.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We began at Center G Failed (ph), we‘re throwing out the first pitch for Oddball tonight, Cincinnati‘s mayor, Mark Mallory.  Oh, that‘s embarrassing.  Not only did he pull a Tommy LeSorda, but look, umpire Randy Marsh ejected him from the game.  Former Reds player Eric Davis on hand to receive the pitch.  Looks like he got all dressed up for no reason.  But don‘t beat yourself up about this, Mr. Mayor.  Obviously, this is harder than it looks.  Got a pitcher like that on my fantasy league team.

To India, where, speaking of beating yourself up, this guy has a broken heart.  And now, we‘re pretty sure, a fractured skull.  Why are you doing that, sir?  His name is Yadab (ph).  He says his girlfriend left him.  Can‘t imagine (INAUDIBLE) seems like a bright enough.  Are those fluorescent lightbulbs?  Daredevil stunts and public displays of self-flagellation with broken glass and fire.  It‘s just his way of dealing with the girlfriend going Adios.  But I bet he meets somebody else real soon.  Maybe a nice nurse.

Finally, to just outside Paris, France, for the coolest video of the day, fastest train ever, nonlevitation (INAUDIBLE).  Look, big train go fast.  It‘s called the V-150.  It hit an astonishing 354 miles per hour, a new world record for a train on traditional rails.  And I know what you‘re thinking.  Does it have a bar car?  Not yet, but on a train like this, you probably want to keep your wits about you anyway, because, if you have to use the toilet at 354 miles per hour, and the engineer hits the brakes, you‘re in trouble.

Moving on swiftly, Barack Obama still counting his first quarter presidential campaign cash, but he actually beat Hillary Clinton‘s record-setting fundraising.  And what good does it do him if he slipped into third place?

And he was happy enough to cash in on his confessional book, “If I Did It,” but now O.J. Simpson‘s suing to stop the Goldman family from auctioning off the rights.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Pizey (ph) the python.  The three-foot snake got lost at his owner‘s office.  Fortunately they found him after looking for three days.  His owner works at Google.  That‘s right, it was a Google search.  Hah, hah, hah, hah.

Number two, Superior Court Judge Joseph Falcone of Newark, New Jersey.  The case of John Peragallo (ph) was before him,  Peragallo was accused of drunken driving on a Zamboni machine at an ice rink.  He was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards, told police he‘d had some sambucca (ph) and two Valiums at breakfast.  The judge ruled today you can‘t be charged with DUI while you‘re driving a Zamboni, because you can‘t drive it on a highway, and it doesn‘t carry passengers.

And number one, Mr. Cordae Lee Black of Phoenix, latest supergenius, allegedly drove the getaway car as an accomplice, robbed this Compass Bank at Central and Southern.  But Mr. Black dropped his wallet in the bank parking lot, so naturally, an hour later, while robbery detectives were still at the bank, Mr. Black went back to the bank to look for his wallet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Well, yesterday‘s headlines for the presidential race focused on the big numbers, the cash raised so far.  Today, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the real story may lie not in the totals, but in the breakdowns of who got what from whom.  Those details taking some of the gloss off Senator Clinton‘s numbers in particular, especially given reports that Senator Obama‘s numbers, which he will release tomorrow, will rival hers.  Obama‘s camp milking the suspense today with word that they were still counting the cash from some 5,000 house party fund raisers this past weekend. 

If that alone does not constitute political kryptonite to Senator Clinton‘s claim of inevitability, some of the fine print might.  I turns out that while Clinton is boasting 50,000 individual donors, Obama claims more than 83,000, allow with the implication that his support is broader than hers, and that his donors are less likely to have given the legal maximum already, and therefore more likely to give again later. 

And then there‘s John Edwards, showing up today in a poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire research center in second place in that state, surging ahead to nose out Obama as Senator Clinton‘s top challenger there, with Clinton‘s numbers also down, after giving her a run for her money in the amount of cash raised online. 

Joining us now with a political audit of the numbers is political reporter Chris Cillizza, whose blog “The Fix” can be found at “WashingtonPost.com.”  Chris, thanks for being with us tonight.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Between Obama‘s money numbers and Edwards‘ New Hampshire poll numbers, is that Clintonian aura of inevitability officially over as of now? 

CILLIZZA:  I think it is damaged slightly, but I don‘t think it is over.  Let‘s take them one by one.  John Edwards moving up in polling.  I don‘t think we should be terribly surprised by this.  Remember, he got a lot of press around his wife‘s announcement that she had cancer.  Certainly not the kind of announcement he would like to draw press from, but the reality of the political circumstances is he benefits from it.  He is moving up in a lot of these places. 

John Edwards hasn‘t doesn‘t anything special in New Hampshire.  He is not on TV.  He hasn‘t appeared in the state, you know, repeatedly since that announcement, but people have seen them on TV.  They are excited about them.  They are interested in them.  So that explains that. 

On the Obama front, I think that is potentially more troubling for Senator Clinton.  Look, the one big thing that she always had in this race was her money, her fund raising ability, the she was going to have so much more than everyone else.  If a guy who was in the Illinois State Senate four years ago comes within three, four, or two or one million dollars of what someone whose husband was president for eight years and has been in the Senate for six plus years can raise in the first quarter, I that that is very worrisome for the Clinton campaign. 

OLBERMANN:  On the other side of the equation, the former GOP front runner John McCain seems incapable of catching any kind of break.  When he is not explaining why he only raised 12.5 million dollars, he‘s defending this rosy portrait he made of Iraq, as we discussed earlier, which really is falling apart at the seams.  Is he now at risk of having that Baghdad trip and that statement and those pictures turn into the equivalent of the Governor Dukakis tank moment from the presidential race? 

CILLIZZA:  Look, I think it is a very difficult confluence of events, as you point out, for Senator McCain.  It is not just that trip and his statements.  It is the comments he made last week, saying General Petraeus drives around Iraq in Baghdad in an unarmored humvee.  And, it is the money.  It‘s all of those things sort of coming together.

And I Senator McCain needs to bounce back and bounce back quickly. 

His campaign, even when he put out his fund raising numbers, said we are

reevaluating.  We‘re going to restart this thing.  I would expect within

the next week or at most two weeks to see Senator McCain try and basically

re-kick off his presidential campaign. 

We‘ve talked about this on the show before.  I think what we‘re going to see is him try to be more of that maverick, more of that outsider, more of that reformer.  He is more comfortable doing that.  And he is hard to sell.  He himself finds it hard to sell himself as the establishment choice.

OLBERMANN:  It could have been worse, of course.  It could have been McCain driving a tank in Baghdad.  That would have looked worse than whatever he did.  As to the man who replaced him as the number one among the Republicans, at least to our knowledge, to the polling knowledge.  Rudy Giuliani telling the media to back off his wife.  The “New York Post” had reported she used to participate in surgical tool sales demonstrations that needlessly killed puppies, not unlike that one or this one.  Let‘s just milk it a little more, that one.  Could she be a real problem for his campaign?  Could that one idea be a killer? 

CILLIZZA:  I don‘t think so.  But remember, I think what all these politicians try and do is have it both ways.  We‘ve talked about this with Hillary Clinton before is that she wants to talk about the good things that her husband represents in the public eye, you know, the balanced budget, the years of prosperity, et cetera, et cetera.  But she does not really want to talk about the negative portrayals of her husband in the media. 

This is the same kind of situation.  I think Rudy Giuliani wants Judy Nathan, now Judy Giuliani, to vouch for him.  She is constantly quoted as saying he‘s a lovable, good man.  Well, you know, this is something that he needs.  He‘s been married multiple times before.  He has that sort of erasable New Yorker image.  He needs someone to soften him. 

The problem is that when that person softening him becomes controversial, you can‘t have it both ways.  You can‘t say I want her to be in the public eye because she does good the things for me.  And if there are negative side effects, say, you have to leave her alone.  You have to take the good and the bed. 

OLBERMANN:  And, as to Mitt Romney, he is the cash leader.  That surprised everybody among the Republicans.  More money, the “New York Times” reports, is coming from Utah per capita than from any other state.  Does that have any significance in terms of what he can expect the rest of the way, or how he will be perceived outside of that place where he lived so long?   

CILLIZZA:  Well let me say two things.  One, I do think that Mitt Romney at some point is going to have to say, here is why I am a Mormon.  Here is what I believe.  Sort of a big speech that outlines the people, because I think there is a lot of gray area, a lot of lack understanding from people out in America, especially Republican primary voters, especially southern evangelical conservatives. 

So I think he‘s going to need to do that.  But past history has taught that where money comes from doesn‘t matter all that much. 

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza of the WashingtonPost.com, great thanks for joining us as always Chris. 

CILLIZZA:  Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN:  They are fruity, tiny, and brightly colored, and full of booze.  Why parents say this latest alcoholic drink is aimed entirely at kids. 

And a literal definition of the phrase parents beware.  What Keith Richards once put up his nose ahead.  But first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  NBC‘s correspondent Stephanie Stanton joins us from the state with the highest prices in the country, California.  Sounds like somebody had a crunch up right there, but what are the prices like where you are?  What was that? 

STEPHANIE STANTON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it looks like somebody hit the gas pump and just drove away.  So we just had an accident here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you kidding?

STANTON:  Pretty crazy, well he just drove away, otherwise we would show you.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wow, OK, interesting.

SANTON:  Yes, so anyway, back to the gas prices—

BUSH:  The bottom line is this:  Congress‘s failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines.  Others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just before 2:00, employees at this downtown Quiznos say the coyote simply walked in.  And why not?  The front door was open?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then he went around and tried to jump over the soda cooler and just fell back in. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did they say at dispatch when they said coyote in Quiznos?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ten-four. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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OLBERMANN:  It sounds rather like the argument used by R.J. Reynolds for the Joe Camel, the cigarette smoking ungulate who was as recognizable to children as Mickey Mouse.  Just because it appeals to kids doesn‘t mean we marketed it to kids.  In our second story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, Anheuser-Busch claims its bright colored, fruit flavored alcoholic drink trinket is only marketed to adults.

But as our correspondent Peter Alexander reports, advocacy groups and parents are not buying that pitch.

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PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Some are spicy, others hot. 

CASSIE JOHNSON, MOTHER:  When I went on the web site, the first thing was loud music.  It was flashy.  There were bright colors, orange and green.  It was definitely a fun kids place. 

ALEXANDER:  It may be fun, but a closer look reveals that its no place for kids.  Spikes, by Anheuser-Bush, is sold in several flavors, like Spicy Mango and Hot Melons.  Each two ounce bottle, barely bigger than a bottle of nail policy, contains 12 percent alcohol, and some parents are concerned. 

JOHNSON:  What bothers me most is that they‘re targeting my kids and my under aged drinking kids, junior high, high school age.  That is who this is going after. 

ALEXANDER:  James Moser, who works on alcohol policy at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, agrees. 

JAMES MOSER, PACIFIC INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH AND EVALUATION:  Spikes is just the latest of a whole series of these types of products that the alcohol industry has put out that cater to youth tastes and you the culture. 

ALEXANDER:  Anheuser-Bush, the nation‘s largest brewery, says it only markets its products to adults and should not be blamed for underage drinking. 

FRANCINE KATZ, ANHEUSER-BUSCH:  Two-thirds of teens who drink say that they get their alcohol from their parents or from other adults.  That‘s where we really should be focusing our efforts.  I mean, all of this fear mongering about a 12 percent product that goes into a beer is nothing more than that, fear mongering. 

ALEXANDER:  That fear is real for Judy Dalson, who has two teenage daughters. 

JUDY DALSON, MOTHER:  We have prom coming up, dances, end of the year parties, and this is going to be the stuff that kids are going for if they‘re going to try to sneak something in.  Even on the website it talks about how these are for fun experimentation and trying new things.  Well, kids of that age, they don‘t need to be trying those things. 

ALEXANDER:  But experts warn since teens account for a sizable percentage of all alcohol sales in the U.S., Spikes could become the latest product those teens might try. 

JUDY VINING, EXPERT:  It doesn‘t take rocket science to figure out that this is going to be something that kids are going to like.

ALEXANDER:  Peter Alexander, NBC News, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Parents and substance abuse providing an unbeatable segue to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Even for a man with such legendary drug and alcohol appetites, the latest confession from Keith Richards boggles the mind.  He claims to have done drugs with his dad.  Not alongside his dad, done drugs with his dad‘s remains. 

Telling the British music magazine NME, quote, the strangest thing I have tried to snort, my father.  I snorted my father.  He was cremated and I couldn‘t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.  My dad wouldn‘t have cared.  Adding that his dad and cocaine mix, quote, went down pretty well, and I‘m still alive.  His father, who is not, was cremated in 2002. 

And here‘s a frightening thought, three weeks from Saturday, a rocket lifts off from New Mexico, on board, the remains of Scott from Star Trek and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 200 other people.  Yes, that‘s right, their ashes.  Somebody keep a close eye on Keith Richards on the 28th

And for fans of that classically bad TV series “Knight Rider,” good news.  The star of that show is up for sale.  Not David Hasselhoff, the car, Kit.  Yes, pimped out even before pimping out was cool, this black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, reportedly restored to the glory of its debut, can be yours for the low price of 149,995 dollars.  A California auto dealership is selling it. 

The car‘s owner has spent a decade finding parts for it.  But this

Kit, which is one of four so called camera cars from the series, is no

legal to drive, since it does not have present day smog equipment.  But

it‘s cute red nose glows and hums.  The immaculate voice of William Daniels

is not included 

Nearly eight weeks after Anna Nicole Smith died, the DNA results on her baby are in, but no one actually knows what the results are.  Despite potential daddy Howard K. Stern‘s best efforts to stop the court proceedings, attempts that landed him 10,000 dollars in fines, the DNA lab evidence is being allowed.  But the Bohemian court decided not to release the results today, preferring to string this out for yet another week at least. 

Set your calendars.  Who‘s going to be the big winner in that case?  Obviously Larry Birkhead‘s attorney.  The saga of the bill she just presented for 620,000 dollars, including a request for reimbursement for her husband‘s laundry.  Lawyers gone wild next.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to CBS Sports.  It has not exactly been a good visitor thus far, covering the year‘s Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.  Police there have arrested Michael Allen Crane, a bank robbery suspect, in his hotel room.  He was covered with red dye from the explosive pack.  CBS confirms he was there working for them as a Master‘s technician. 

Not only was CBS paying for the hotel room in which Mr. Crane was arrested, but the purported getaway car was being rented by CBS.  Fore. 

Runners up, security at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. 

Kate Burgess of Canada was laying over there on a trip back from Mexico.  She went through security.  Her bag set off a detector.  A TSA employee announced, that‘s it.  Call police.  This was last Sunday.  He explained it was an April fool‘s joke, but he explained it after Miss Burgess had a stress induced asthma attack.  The TSA says the screener will not be reprimanded, which by itself sounds like an April fools joke, considering that if Miss Burgess made a similar joke to the screener, she could be going to jail.

Speaking of, our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  One woman dead, the man who shot her critically wounded by guards at CNN Center in Atlanta.  Limbaugh says this on the air this afternoon:  I was joking with somebody.  I was wondering if one of the executives was targeted there because they heard they were talking to me about a potential job over there.  But that can‘t be because it isn‘t true. 

Let me repeat this.  One woman dead, the man who shot her critically wounded by guards.  He makes a joke about it, a joke portraying himself as a victim.  Rush Limbaugh, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

OLBERMANN:  The first that we do, let‘s kill all the lawyers.  That line is 415 years old, maybe more.  It is Shakespeare‘s “Henry VI,” and it testament to how long and how violently we and the generations of laymen who preceded us have despised the legal profession.  And Shakespeare was writing long before lawyers included reimbursement for their husband‘s dry cleaning in their bills. 

In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, two cases in point.  Debra Opri, the former lawyer for Larry Birkhead, has reportedly charged her client for attending the funeral of Anna Nicole Smith.  And that‘s not the least of it according to TMZ.com.  Birkhead had reportedly fired Miss Opri two weeks ago.  She fired back this weekend with a bill totally more than 620,00 dollars, including these gems, at Opri‘s rate of 475 dollars an hour, ten hours to prepare and attend the funeral of Anna Nicole Smith. 

That notation entered twice on the bill for the day before and the day of the actual funeral.  And what would total 9.500 dollars for a funeral which Birkhead reportedly asked Opri not to attend.  Then there is the petty 25.75 for laundry service for Miss Opri‘s husband Zawacki, Zawacki Opri.  And other trips to the proverbial cleaners, like pricey dinner tabs, 600 at “Seafood World” in Fort Lauderdale, 161 dollars, a relative steal, at Outback Steak house.  Fifty bucks of that was the tip, incidentally.

And apparently working dinners at Graycliff, a Nassau restaurant where Miss Opri met with other lawyers to the tune of about 3,500 clams over two consecutive nights.  Miss Opri‘s own lawyer has defended her bills as fair and responsible.  He will be sending Mr. Birkhead a bill too no doubt. 

And to a case only a lawyer could love, O.J. Simpson suing Fred Goldman over that rancid book Simpson wrote called “If I Did It.”  Simpson‘s lawyer says he is taking steps to prevent Mr. Goldman from auctioning the publish rights to the book, according to ABC News.  A judge had awarded those rights to the Goldmans last month to satisfy part of their decade old civil judgment against Simpson for the wrongful death of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown.

And Fred Goldman has described the book debacle as, quote, a no-win situation.  This is the lesser of all evils.  But Denise Brown has, in a statement, criticized the Goldmans for the auction of the publication rights.  That auction scheduled for the 17th of this month in Sacramento. 

Joining us now, the anchor of Court TV‘s “Catherine Crier Live,” lawyer, former judge about whom we cast no aspersions, Catherine Crier.  Thanks for your time tonight Catherine.

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV ANCHOR:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Getting back to the Opri bill first, it does not fail to fascinate.  Possibly 20 hours total for preparation and attendance of Anna Nicole Smith‘s funeral.  If Miss Opri is speaking at it before or after the funeral, or something like that, you could see it.  But 20 hours prep time to go? 

CRIER:  She should have learned to disguise her bill a little better.  Most lawyers are very good at that.  In fact, the only comments that she made during most of this is, we are under a gag order.  We can‘t comment.  And Larry is looking forward to taking the baby home.  I can‘t imagine that took 20 hours to prepare. 

It‘s pretty extraordinary, but I have a great story for you on that.  When I was in private practice many years ago, a CEO client prepared a bill for our law firm, and it was about three inches thick, and he had in there thinks like walked past senior partner‘s car, removed leaf, .2 hours; wondered past Criers office, wondered what she was thinking, .3 hours. 

And that does give people an idea oftentimes of what legal bills look like. 

OLBERMANN:  As to the reaction to the reaction to this, Miss Opri had charged Mr. Birkhead, reportedly, 475 dollars for making copies of her TV appearances.  We already mentioned the cleaning charges for her husband.  Her publicist also has charges showing up on the Birkhead bill.  And the publicist then said—the quote exactly is, “Deborah Opri always gets paid.  That is what she does for a living.” 

It‘s a rather blunt admission, but aren‘t these exactly the kinds of expenses that drive people nuts?  And how do lawyers get away with that. 

CRIER:  Well, for the most part, they should drive people nuts, and they don‘t examine their bills closely enough.  And, as I said earlier, most of the time these kinds of things are more disguised.  Unless you can really legitimately show that that dinner at Outback was a working meeting, and it was substantive in nature, then you should not be billing your clients for these sorts of charges.

Certainly on the road, if your traveling time, somebody better get in there an negotiate with you, and not be paying that 475 bucks, which should be time reviewing the file, not sitting in an airplane.  But unfortunately the legal profession can do this.  There are plenty of very scrupulous attorneys.  But there are those that might pad the bill from time to time.  And clients better be careful.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of travel and such, there is a bill in part of this, 20 hours of travel time for this attorney, Miss Opri, to get to and from an appearance on 20/20.  So she is getting paid by her client to go on TV?

CRIER:  Well, in some part, she has been a P.R. agent for her client.  And she is trying to sell him to the American people and to courts that might review his case.  And some might argue she has done a good job with that.  He is certainly, I think, the most popular of the candidates for fatherhood of this child.  But, again, you ought to be negotiating these sorts of things, because the upper end of the fee ought to be for the serious legal work, and not for time sitting back in first class. 

OLBERMANN:  And briefly, what is the nature of this possible lawsuit by O.J. Simpson against the Goldmans?  Is there anything there?

CRIER:  Well, I don‘t think so.  Unless, there is one little catch here.  They are arguing that the ten-year renewal time had passed and that basically Fred Goldman did not renew the judgment in time, so maybe they are out of luck trying to exercise at all.  But they got this asset from the court.  They have the right to sell it.  And if Fred Goldman doesn‘t want the world to read it, then he ought to give O.J. credit on the judgment for whatever the fair market value of the book rights are and stick the thing a bottom drawer somewhere, not publish it. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, well, that would require some restraint, I guess, that we can understand if he doesn‘t really manage to muster.  Catherine Crier, host, of course, of “Catherine Crier Live” on Court TV, always a pleasure to talk to you my friend.

CRIER:  Thanks Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,451st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  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.

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