updated 5/1/2007 1:32:53 PM ET 2007-05-01T17:32:53

Guests: Philip Giraldi, Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, Jason Bateman

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

Tenet, anyone?  The former CIA chief‘s book is out, already attacked for propping up the Bush administration‘s excuses to go to war in Iraq, now being truth-squadded by the State Department for claiming the administration targeted Iraq from the hour the Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore.

More like, Tenet, everyone?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  The idea that the president has made up his mind when he came to office that he was going go war against Iraq is just flat wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, OK, we‘ll just take your word on that.

The first at-length interview with George Tenet on cable, Tom Brokaw asks the $4 million book advance question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  While people think, Well, why are you talking now?  Why have you been silent so long?  I certainly wasn‘t silent within the purview of my job and in the councils of the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thus has President Bush even more chaos nipping at his ankles, and the prospect of having to veto money for the troops on tomorrow‘s fourth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have made my position very clear.  Congress chose to ignore it, so I will veto the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Vetoed by the D.C. madam.  One deputy secretary of state gone already, the one who used to run the AIDS program and make grant recipients swear their opposition to prostitution.  Why should we take this Washington sex scandal any more seriously than any of the other ones?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH JEANE PALFREY:  I believe there is something very, very rotten at the core of my circumstance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, I believe they have medication for that now, Madam.

And first, Harry Potter, and now this.  Bart Simpson frontally nude.  You mean, we‘re going to have to see what it looks like after finally somebody does eat his shorts?

And our special guest tonight, actor, former “Simpsons” guest star, got a new movie out.  His fantasy baseball team is in third place to my second.  Jason Bateman will join us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have made a huge mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You got that right.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Eat my shorts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from Los Angeles.

George Tenet predicted the attacks of September 11.  George Tenet predicted that the justifications for war in Iraq would not hold water.  George Tenet predicted that the war itself would be laden with unacknowledged problems.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, as any sportscaster could tell you, the best way to enhance your reputation for predictions is to not reveal any of them until after the season is over.

In his new book, George Genet appears to be the Jimmy the Greek Snyder of post-season predictions.  For years, the former head of the CIA has been slammed by both the administration and its critics for failing to foretell 9/11, or anything like it, and for mistakenly foretelling that the war in Iraq would be justified and easy.

But in the center of the storm, his book, he says we‘ve got it all wrong.  He got it all right, he just didn‘t tell anybody while it would have mattered still, such as before September 11, before the Iraq war, or before the elections of 2005, Tenet, assuming the role of Cassandra today, forgetting the crucial point that Cassandra made her prophecies public beforehand, and, unlike Mr. Tenet, did not allow public falsehoods to stand unchallenged for years, Tenet‘s credibility on a book he had years to research, and for which he received a purported $4 million, coming into question even before the book hit the shelves.

Today Tom Brokaw interviewed him, beginning with the small detail that the former administration neocon Richard Perle was not in the U.S. on September 12, despite the fat that Tenet‘s book claims September 12 was when Perle confirmed to Tenet that the administration would target Iraq for the events of that awful day previous, America‘s former intelligence chief getting his facts wrong in his preface, before he even hit page one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TENET:  I know the conversation occurred.  I may have been off by a couple of days.  The encounter occurred, the conversation occurred.  It reflects what he has said publicly soon after 9/11.  So I may have gotten the days wrong, but I know I got the suchness of that conversation correct.

BROKAW:  And what you wanted to leave was the impression very strongly that there was a very strong core group that came into office determined to go after Iraq.

TENET:  Tom, it‘s ironic that in the days or weeks after 9/11, Iraq would already be on an agenda item for some people.

BROKAW:  And from the CIA point of view at that point, there was no connection whatsoever between Iraq and the attacks of 9/11.

TENET:  No, there was none at all.

BROKAW:  But if the country was not getting the true story, which it‘s fairly clear from your book that it was not, that the vice president had one clear view of what was necessary in Iraq, that the Defense Department had its own intelligence operation going on, and Condoleezza Rice was not responding with alacrity to your warnings, very clear warnings, in July of 2001 that an attack was imminent, doesn‘t the country deserve to know that?

TENET:  Well, well, Tom, I chose to do my job in a way where you stay inside the system, you do your best, you push, you push your objective analysis, you make people aware of what you believe to be true.  While people think, Well, why are you talking now?  Why, why have you been silent so long? I certainly wasn‘t silent within the purview of my job and in the councils of the administration in terms of what we said and how we said it.

BROKAW:  You were with Colin Powell when he went to the United Nations, the centerpiece of the administration‘s attempt to sell this country on the war.  You were sitting behind him when he made that presentation.  Was there ever a moment that day when you thought to yourself, We‘re way out on a limb here?

TENET:  No, there wasn‘t, and subsequently, of course, we learned that much of what we gave the secretary to say had turned out not to be accurate.  And I‘ll say it‘s an awful thing to reflect on.  Secretary of state represents the United States of America, and we did not help him, and we did not help ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The thousands of dead in Iraq omitted somehow from Mr.  Tenet‘s list of who was not helped, Tenet‘s credibility also coming under fire from his former colleague, Secretary of State Rice, herself responding to Tenet‘s claim that Mr. Bush took office determined to invade Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE:  The president came in looking at a variety of threats.  We then had the September 11 events.  The September 11 events led to a kind of reassessment of what the threats were.  But the idea that the president had made up his mind when he came to office that he was going to go to war against Iraq is just flat wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to a veteran of Mr. Tenet‘s CIA, former counterterrorism specialist Philip Giraldi, now a contributor to “American Conservative” magazine.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

PHILIP GIRALDI, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM SPECIALIST:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  We heard Mr. Tenet defend himself by saying he spoke the truth in the purview of his job, within the councils of the administration.  Is there any reason, to your knowledge, that he could not have spoken the truth to “The Washington Post,” or on this newscast, or just on a street corner somewhere?

GIRALDI:  Well, if George Tenet truly believed that there was a serious problem with the intelligence for going war with Iraq, one of his options would have been to resign and go public with his concerns.  He didn‘t do that.

And I would also add, there‘s very little evidence to suggest that he actually even spoke the truth to the president and to the people in the administration about just how shaky the intelligence was.  Either he was incompetent and didn‘t know how bad the intelligence was, or he was lying to the people that he should have been speaking the truth to.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Tenet claims that the president came into office determined to invade Iraq already.  You heard Secretary Rice‘s reply.  But was it not the Cheney faction, rather than what we might call the Rice faction, that had Iraq in the crosshairs from early on?

GIRALDI:  Well, actually, there—I don‘t think that‘s true.  I think the fact is that reading Paul O‘Neill‘s book and Richard Clarke‘s book, it becomes very clear that this was an across-the-administration perception that Iraq had to be taken out, that there had to be regime change, and that it was both the president and the vice president, and the rest of the security apparatus.

OLBERMANN:  The secretary released a list of talking points came out of State today, gist of them being portraying himself as having rung these alarm bells before 9/11 conflicts particularly with the reassuring testimony Mr. Tenet gave before the 9/11 Commission, saying the administration had responded appropriately to every warning he gave the administration.  We might hate having to root for either side in this, but is one of them right and the other one wrong?

GIRALDI:  Well, I think basically we have somebody who‘s telling one version of a story at one time for one audience, and is telling a different version of the story at another time.  There seems to be considerable evidence, mostly from Richard Clarke‘s book, that Condoleezza Rice was just not interested in Osama bin Laden.

And I think that Tenet, in fact, probably tried to raise this awareness, but the fact was, he failed.  And so there‘s a bit of truth there.  But there‘s also very little truth, I think, in terms of how he testified in front of Congress.

OLBERMANN:  He also wrote on another subject that enhanced interrogation, which he won‘t define, other than to call it that, and to say that it is not torture, has actually saved American lives.  This seems to run contrary to all of the experts in interrogation and in torture.  What do you make of his assertion?

GIRALDI:  Well, of course, George Tenet, one of his most serious problems is the fact that he‘s never actually worked as an intelligence officer overseas.  I don‘t know anyone in the intelligence profession that would support that statement.  This is one of these assertions that cannot be proven in any way.  It‘s reliant primarily just on what he says.  And that everyone I know in the business basically believes that torture is counterproductive, that it doesn‘t produce good intelligence, and that it also degrades the people and the country and the organization that carry it out.

OLBERMANN:  Last question, sir, give me your assessment.  Obviously none of us have read this entire book.  What is your feel about its purpose, its meaningfulness in understanding what‘s happened in this country in the last seven years?

GIRALDI:  Well, to me, it was an interesting point that he asserted that the administration never, ever looked to see if Iraq really was a threat to the United States.  That‘s very interesting.  And also, there was never any willingness to pursue any option except for a military option to deal with Iraq.

I think basically Tenet is—wrote the book for money.  He‘s trying to salvage his reputation.  As far as I‘m concerned, his reputation cannot be salvaged, because he keeps referring to himself as a man of honor.  There is no honor in what he did.  He basically committed a war crime in enabling the administration to go—to start an aggressive war against a country that did not in any way threaten us.

OLBERMANN:  Well stated.

Former CIA counterterrorism specialist Philip Giraldi, now of “American Conservative.”  Once again, great thanks for joining us tonight.

GIRALDI:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The war that Tenet and company got the U.S. into claiming a heavy toll, over 100 American troops in April alone killed, while the president prepares to veto funding for said war four years after “Mission Accomplished.”

And as if there were not already enough scandal on Capitol Hill, an alleged madam who provided high-class escorts to high-profile Washingtonians releasing part of her client list.  But is she unable to put her credibility where her mouth is?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is the kind of symbolism and desperately sad timing that is ever more likely to occur as a war predicated on lies stretches out indefinitely.  President Bush, faced with the prospect of vetoing a bill that funds the troops on the exact fourth anniversary of his declaration of “Mission Accomplished,” and a former CIA director seemingly picking and choosing out of a thicket of prewar lies and misinformation in describing in a new book his own actions and inactions, all of it as the human cost of the war in Iraq rises still.

Five more U.S. troops killed in Iraq over the weekend, four of them in Baghdad, bringing the U.S. death toll to at least 104 for April, making it the deadliest month for U.S. forces this year.

It is the sixth time since the war began that the U.S. death toll has topped 100 in one month.

Meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid will hold a signing ceremony tomorrow for Congress‘s Iraq war spending bill, NBC News has learned.  That against the backdrop of President Bush‘s own words four years ago tomorrow, that, quote, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” as he stood aboard the aircraft carrier “Abraham Lincoln” with, of course, the words “Mission Accomplished” hovering over his head, the president today reaffirming his intention to veto the war funding bill, despite that symbolism now hovering over his head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I have made my position very clear.  The Congress chose to ignore it.  And so I‘ll veto the bill.  That‘s not to say that I‘m not interested in their opinions.  I am.  I look forward to working with members of both parties to get a bill that doesn‘t set artificial timetables and doesn‘t micromanage and gets the money to our troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in “Newsweek” magazine‘s chief White House correspondent, MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Richard, good evening.

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

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the head-banging between the two branches of government over the war in a moment.

But first, this enigma that George Tenet represents, and the latest version of what occurred in the runup to the war.  This truth-squadding effort under way by the State Department and Secretary of State Rice, with regard to his new book, is that not a double-edged sword?  You truth-squad a part of the government, how likely are you to discover unfortunate truths about the government?

WOLFFE:  Well, there‘s a lot of revisionism going on, and it‘s obviously not just from George Tenet.  When you have Condoleezza Rice say things like imminence was not about who was going attack us the next day, it‘s just a distortion of the debate at the time.

Reporters were pressing her repeatedly.  I remember pressing her repeatedly about what made Iraq an imminent threat.  She never said, as she says now, Well, it‘s is because we‘re stronger today to deal with this, and we shouldn‘t wait until tomorrow.  No, what she said was, we shouldn‘t wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

They were suggesting imminence without actually using the word “imminent.”  And I‘m afraid the more they try and revisit this period, the worse those explanations look.

OLBERMANN:  And more obvious, in addition to being worse.  Mr. Tenet is essentially an anti-whistleblower.  He could have gone public with his reservations prewar, he could have resigned and gone public.  But he did not do that.  Which is going to resonate more from this book, do you think, his own silence, or his portrayal of the administration that never doubted Iraq was an imminent threat, never doubted that the only resolution for Iraq was invasion of Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Well, George Tenet has been trying to play both sides of this argument all the way through.  He was with Colin Powell in the runup to the war, and he was with the president and Dick Cheney.  He was with them and against them all the way through, and he‘s doing that again now.

I mean, for instance, look at what he said about Tora Bora.  He said that this was going to be a war that the CIA would lead after 9/11, he thought he would take on al Qaeda on his own terms.  He never said, Mr.  President, we haven‘t finished the job.  Well, let‘s go back and finish off al Qaeda.  So he never raised the problems.  Never mind going public, he never really raised them internally in the runup to the war in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  What do we get about the president‘s role in the first year of this administration, the first two years of this administration, based on Tenet‘s book?  He almost seems like this Alberto Gonzales-like figure, who either didn‘t know what was going on, or couldn‘t remember anything from one day to the next.

WOLFFE:  Yes, you know, I just don‘t buy this idea that everybody else made the president do it.  It was Richard Perle or it was Dick Cheney.  No, when it came to Iraq, this was the president‘s decision.  He was fixated on the threat of Iraq before 9/11, now we know pretty clearly.  This was his decision.  And you‘ve got to actually, at some point, take them at their word here.  The president is the decider.  It‘s his war.  For whatever reason, he decided that war was the only option, and he‘s got to bear the brunt of this.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Murtha said yesterday, appearing on “Face the Nation” on CBS, that impeachment, let me quote him directly, “is one of the ways Congress has to influence the president.”  The speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has not officially changed her position or even unofficially changed the position that, from the Democrats‘ point of view in the House and the Senate, impeachment‘s off of the table.  But is it notable that somebody of Murtha‘s stature and position would now talk about it, and would use it as some sort of last resort, some sort of equivalent of the invasion of Iraq for, for the president‘s attention?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s notable that he raises it, and actually the polls are surprisingly strong, certainly among Democrats, about support for impeachment.  But the idea of impeaching someone just as, or threatening to impeach as a piece of leverage seems strange to me.  Either you are serious about impeachment, or you‘re not.  Just talking about it doesn‘t not convince anyone.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we did lower the bar a little bit on this 10 years ago.

WOLFFE:  That‘s true.  But if you‘re going to talk about high crimes and misdemeanors, then the case can be made.  But throwing it into a war spending debate seems to me superfluous.

OLBERMANN:  Everything else has been thrown into this debate.  It‘s almost—it seems inevitable.

Our own Richard Wolffe, chief White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  As always, Richard, great thanks for joining us.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Turning from manmade disasters to the natural kind, your penne a la Aetna is ready.

And do have a cow, man.  Bart Simpson frontally nude in the “Simpsons” movie?  This maybe you don‘t have to see.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John Luther Jones died 107 years ago today at Vaughn (ph), Mississippi.  You may know him by his nickname.  He was the engineer on the Cannonball Express, the Illinois Central Railroad train from Chicago to New Orleans.  He encountered parked freight trains ahead on the track, and rather than save his own life, he ordered his assistant to leap from the engine while he stayed on board to slow his train down in order to save the lives of as many of his passengers as he could.  In fact, he saved them all.  He was the only fatality.  Thus the story and the song, “The Ballad of Casey Jones.”

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin on the island of Sicily with just plain cool video of one big scary volcano.  Mount Aetna, I‘m not glad I metcha.  The Italian volcano began erupting on the 29th of last month, but overnight it kicked it up a notch.  Officials say the eruption poses no imminent danger to residents or tourists.  But remember, never touch that red stuff.  It‘s very, very hot.  It is the third eruption of Europe‘s highest active volcano since the year 2001.  This time, it shot lava 600 feet in the air, the kind of spectacular display of raw natural destructive power that makes a man take a deep breath and contemplate just how much better this would all be in high-def.

I‘m sure the Discovery Channel has (INAUDIBLE).

To Miami.  I‘m starting to understand why guys keep getting caught on surveillance video trying to steal entire ATM machines.  Can you blame them?  Basically a big box full of money just sitting there in public, practically begging them to steal a backhoe and take that sucker down.  The temptation too much for these guys to bear.  Police say they tried this routine at four separate locations but succeeded only in knocking the thing over.  They were unable to crack it open to get at the rich money goodness inside.

Lastly, to Dallas, Texas where apparently they have found all those bees which have been disappearing.  They‘re all up in this guy‘s grill.  Chris Hutchinson says a huge swarm of bees took up residence in his Brinkman (ph) about a week ago.  If you‘ve ever had bees in your Brinkman, you know just how painful that can be.  Rather than handle this the way we‘re all thinking, which would be to fire it up, he called the bee experts in to remove it.  To the bee-mobile!  The hive mostly removed, the grill is now usable again.  Yes, of course, everything he cooks will have a nice honey-roasted thing going, plus dead bees all over it.  Why it‘s crunchy.

A deputy secretary of state has already resigned because he availed himself of her massage services.  Who else is the so-called D.C. madam‘s client list listing?

Boy George in trouble for a similar reason, allegedly trying to kidnap an escort.  I‘m thinking there‘s more to this story.

All that ahead.

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

Number three, Sandy Koufax, drafted by the Modallin (ph) Miracle, the new Israel baseball league.  The former Dodgers immortal is 71 years old.  The team explains its very effective publicity stunt by saying that since Koufax retired in 1966, he‘s had 41 years of rest between starts.  No better than Chan Ho Park (ph).

Number two, Ross Perusse of Gardnerville, Nevada.  He‘s only 20.  He was trying to buy beer with an ID.  The ID was legit.  Unfortunately for Perusse, it was his old ID from his days as an inmate at Nevada State Prison.

Number one, Donald Bryant of Troy, New York, possibly the dumbest criminal of the year.  He‘d gotten himself convicted of cocaine possession after an informant in the county jail had ratted him out.  But he decided to have the informant murdered, and he promptly hired a guy from the county jail, never once recognizing that the man who he hired to kill the snitch was the snitch.  The guy he hired to kill the guy who had ratted him out on cocaine possession was the guy who had ratted him out on cocaine possession, and who promptly ratted him out on the murder plot.

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OLBERMANN:  An unpopular war, an attorney general on the ropes, a former CIA chief spouting off.  What else could possibly cause trouble for President Bush?  All that would seem to be left would be a sex scandal.  Our third story, an alleged upscale prostitution case already claiming one high ranking state department name and threatening to expose others in Washington.  Not just male customers but perhaps even women in government who once worked as escorts. 

The alleged madam today denying that anything illegal was done at a rate of 300 dollars an hour, and her motto seems to be just ask any of my satisfied customers.  Justice correspondent Pete Williams has the story of a woman who claims the only parts her escorts ever touched were their wallets and reputations. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Faced with charges of running a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring, Deborah Jean Palfrey is trying an unusual defense, giving phone records, a list of numbers, to a news organization to smoke out the names of former clients.  

DEBORAH JEAN PALFRY, D.C. MADAM:  I do expect their reporting to help identify potential witnesses for my defense. 

WILLIAMS:  She admits running an escort service called Pamela Martin Associates.  The government claims it made more than two million dollars through illegal prostitution.  She denies that. 

PALFRY:  I operated a sexual, albeit legal business for 13 years. 

WILLIAMS:  But her lawyer says she has no record of who the clients were who could testify in her defense. 

MONTGOMERY BLAIR, DEFENSE LAWYER:  Jean never kept a black book.  She kept telephone records.  And from those records significant resources are required to call the identities of the individuals who were making the phone calls. 

WILLIAMS:  So she gave phone records to ABC News, which has already figured out at least one name, a State Department official, Randall Tobias, who resigned last weekend, though he said nothing illegal happened. 

SCOTT MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN:  He felt as though the circumstances dictated the fact that he should resign.  We understand that.  We appreciate his taking that step. 

WILLIAMS:  Legal analysts say threatening to reveal the names of prominent Washingtonians will not get prosecutors to back off. 

SUSAN FILAN, NBC NEWS LEGAL ANALYST:  What is surprising is that somebody who is indicted for racketeering would basically take the government on and wag the little black book in their face and say, come and get me. 

WILLIAMS:  If convicted on all charges, the woman with the provocative phone records could get up to five and a half years in prison. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  No offense meant here, but let‘s turn to a professional, a national political reporter of the “Washington Post,” and MSNBC analyst Dana Milbank.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

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

OLBERMANN:  For those of us who still bear the scars of the Monica Lewinsky nonsense, who once asked ourselves how in the world are we justifying covering this, how in the world are we justifying covering this? 

MILBANK:  There is, of course no justification whatsoever.  But let me try to present a few possibilities.  This time there are 10,000 to 15,000 people on the list.  It is bipartisan.  And not only did it include Tobias and the guy who invented Shock and Awe, but it is now said to include the head of a conservative think tank, a Bush administration economist, a bunch of lobbyists and some cable talk show host.  No, I made that up.

OLBERMANN:  Or guests.  The other obvious question, is there real fear in Washington?  Is it palpable over those houses, over those streets?  Is there a pall of fear of where this could lead? 

MILBANK:  Well, I don‘t think that there is just yet.  I mean, I explain everything.  I thought it getting service for my Ford Escort.  People are beginning—I suppose if you are on that list, and you know you are, you are getting a little nervous.  But you can sort of see where this is headed.  First, the woman herself seems a little bit nutty.  She was making motions to the judge today about her stock portfolio. 

And then also it seems we may wind up with a lot of lobbyists hiring prostitutes.  And, of course, lobbyists are prostitutes during the day time, so none of this would end up surprising anybody here terribly. 

OLBERMANN:  You covered this woman‘s day in court.  Is it already turning into the usual result of D.C. plus sex; it‘s people acting as giddy as teenagers, who just discovered hormones? 

MILBANK:  We love it, absolutely,  My favorite part was the prosecutor, one of the three prosecutors in a wheelchair.  And I am not making this up.  On the back of the wheelchair, in big letters, was the word quickie.  But we can get excited about all sorts of things here in the nation‘s Capitol and we will ride this one as far as we can. 

OLBERMANN:  The deputy secretary who resigned in this, Mr. Tobias, the man who the president had chosen to promote chastity and have people swear off prostitution, he is the first guy to go?  How big an embarrassment could this be specifically for this administration? 

MILBANK:  It is very large embarrassment for Mr. Tobias, obviously.  And the worst part, of course, was the excuses that he made, which sound very much like the I didn‘t inhale variety.  I only got the massage and nothing else, but paid 300 dollars for 90 minutes of this.   Look, for the Bush administration, at least so far, unless we learn a whole lot more, this is pretty low on the list of problems that they have to deal with right now, with Gonzales and Wolfowitz, and most people say, who‘s Tobias.   

OLBERMANN:  Unless some of the replacement U.S. attorneys turn out to have been personnel with this organization, correct. 

MILBANK:  This would add a new wrinkle to the case.  That would be a time to bring in Ken Starr. 

OLBERMANN:  Just who we need.  Our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the “Washington Post,” thanks Dana. 

MILBANK:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  And much silently spoken thanks in the White House press room.  Tony Snow returns to work today five weeks after his cancer diagnose. 

And our special guest tonight, the star of one of the most under appreciated shows ever on national television, Jason Bateman, formerly of “Arrested Development,” joins us here unless he runs away between now and then.  But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He claims he is not a betting man.  But at the age of 90, Alec Holden fancied his chances of sticking around for a further ten years to receive his telegram from the queen.  The bookies were not so optimistic though, and offered odds of 250 to one.  A decade on, his bet is paid off.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Twenty five grand is 25 grand, whichever way you look at it.  It wasn‘t one we really enjoyed paying out, but good on him.  He deserved it.  And I think there is still a bit of a smile on my face. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  It‘s time now for great moments in presidential speeches.  Here we go, take a look. 

BUSH:  This is a sophisticated piece of equipment.  You can fly it from inside—inside a truck. 

MARTHA STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST:  And you cut this carefully with a knife, like this.  And the mold does brake.  This is a one time mold.  Some molds you can actually get to work more than once.  If you broke it in half like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That is not a nice thing. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As we see the horizon of the time, when maybe possibly most cancer can be a chronic illness instead of a grim sentence, there are those standing out from the political background, breaking the psychological barriers with their words, and some of the physical barriers with their resilience.  One on of them was at the Democratic debate in South Carolina last week, Elizabeth Edwards.  And in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, another today resumed his duties as the spokesman for the Republican administration, Tony Snow.  For those of us who are professional friends of both of them, as they are friends of each other, this was a damn good day.  Our White House correspondent in David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Five weeks after learning his colon cancer was back, Tony Snow returned to the White House podium today. 

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  You never anticipates this

stuff.  It just happens.  I want to thank everybody in this room.  You guys

GREGORY:  It was an emotional day, as was the afternoon he learned the cancer returned, this time attached to his liver. 

(on camera):  What went on inside your mind? 

SNOW:  You know what my first question was to the surgeon, is this terminal.  That‘s the first question I asked.  And he said no, at least not yet. 

GREGORY (voice-over):  Throughout his recovery, Snow spoke often to the president. 

SNOW:  He wanted to know how I was doing, offered any support.  Said if you want to be phone buddies, we will be phone buddies.  That is all I needed. 

GREGORY:  But Snow, who begins chemo therapy Friday, and faces an uncertain future, says he has received much more. 

SNOW:  You what is touching is love.  You never feel like you deserve it, but man, am I not going turn it down, because it really does make a difference.  It is so unbelievably palpable and helpful.  One of the things I try to encourage people is if you‘ve got something like cancer, don‘t try do it alone. 

GREGORY:  Snow says he hopes by sharing his condition, he can trigger a national conversation about living with cancer. 

(on camera):  Why are you back to work?  Why does that matter a lot to you?

SNOW:  There are a lot of things you want to do when you are sick, and one to make sure that you don‘t act sick. 

GREGORY:  I think really tough questioning, when you‘re up at the podium, will probably be the best medicine for you. 

SNOW:  Yes, no, it is.  I like tough questions.  They are interesting. 

It makes me do my job better.

I am going to make the most of my time with you.  I‘ll take question.

GREGORY:  David Gregory, NBC News, the White House. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From the sublime to the ridiculous, and topping our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, musician Boy George perhaps taking too literally the title of his biggest hit, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”  Under arrest again, this time for allegedly kidnapping a male escort.  The Sun tabloid reporting that a Norwegian man working for a male escort agency went around to Boy George‘s London apartment at midnight so the pop star could take pictures of him.  Five hours later, Boy George apparently grabbed the man, handcuffed him to a wall, produced a box of whips and sex toys, and said, quote, now you will get what you deserve. 

The escort got free and fled.  Boy George got arrested on assault and false imprisonment charges, which we understand could get him a greater sentence than five days helping a New York City sanitation crew.  And also, some hand cuff manufacturer is just going to get a nasty letter about the quality of his workmanship.

Another cautionary tale for any young up and coming pop idol.  It‘s a long fall form the top.  Just ask former “American Idol” finalist Jessica Sierra, arrested over the weekend in Florida.  That is not her album cover, that‘s her Hillsbury Count mug shot after she was charged with smashing a heavy glass over a guy‘s head in a bar.  She was also charged with possession of cocaine, introduction of contraband into a detention facility, and impersonating Tonya Harding. 

Speaking of singers in trouble, Britney Spears may be out of rehab and back in the dance studio, but she‘s apparently not ready to get back on stage.  MSNBC.com‘s Jeannete Walls reporting that Miss Spears had been rehearsing to do a small show at a local L.A. club on Wednesday.  Then, at the last moment, either she, or perhaps someone else, decided it was a bad idea and canceled the gig.  But there are rumors she may try it again.  So if La Spears is not your cup of tea, you might want to steer clear of the House of Blues chain in Southern California this week. 

Going full length and apparently full frontal as well.  Bart Simpson in the buff in the first ever Simpsons movie.  And our special guest, on time Simpsons guest star Jason Bateman joins us fully clothed.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to whoever is running Rudy Giuliani‘s presidential campaign in New Hampshire.  It has apologized today for releasing a list of 125 official Giuliani supporters in that state before getting the OK of all 125 of them including Wendy Stanley Jones, identified as state co-chair of Women For Giuliani, only she says she hasn‘t accepted the post, hasn‘t even decided if she wants to endorse Giuliani.  Also on the list, Mike Galante (ph), who‘s Giuliani‘s small business chairman for Carroll County.  Mr.  Galante says he had gotten a few phone messages about the campaign and the job, but had not even called them back.  And oh yes, Mr. Galante says they misspelled his name on the press release. 

Runner up tonight, former Imus producer Bernard McGuirk, who on Fox Noise has compared the end of his show to the round up of communists, then the liberals, then the Catholics, then the Jews in Nazi Germany.  He even misquoted the famous lament of Pastor Martin Niemoller, “first they came.”  Yes, you and Imus and those sent to the concentration camps, Bernie.  And Tom DeLay; Tom DeLay made the same analogy. 

But our winners, the Afghan and Pakistani intelligence people who keep arresting Mr. Shair Akbar (ph), on the left there, from Bag E Matal (ph) in Afghanistan.  He has a big beard like bin Laden.  He has a big angular nose like bin Laden.  So now at least twice following reported sightings of bin Laden, Shair Akbar has been arrested and released.  Thing is, bin Laden is believed to be at least 6‘4, probably 6‘6.  Shair Akbar is a little more than six feet.  So you‘re thinking what, he had five inches of bone and muscle removed from each leg, so he could hide more easily, but he forgot to shave off the beard.  The arrestors of Shair Akbar, today‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Who knows whether it will become a cultural milestone when little Bart Simpson shows off his little Bart Simpson.  But in turning the Simpsons into a feature film, its creators have decided to feature full frontal.  A brief clip from that movie shown here.  As first reported by “Newsweek,” Homer Simpson will dare his son to skateboard naked throughout the streets of Springfield early in the Simpsons movie.  Of course, Bart accepts.  A hot dog in the hands of Ned Flanders is one of the visual puns.   There will apparently be others. 

And Bart‘s middle region is often hidden by plants and fences.  But then, in an instant, Bart in his birthday suit, full frontal nudity, oh the cartoon humanity.  And that the really stretched to a breaking point segue into our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the conversation with Jason Bateman, himself a former Simpsons‘ guest star, actor in the superb “Arrested Development,” also starring in the film “The Ex,” premiering later this week in New York while some of us are stuck out here at the Republican debate.  Great thanks for some of your time tonight. 

JASON BATEMAN, ACTOR:  I love that line, great thanks for your time.  Yes, I‘m upset you‘re not going to be in New York.  How am I going to fill your seat? 

OLBERMANN:  What do you mean? 

BATEMAN:  Don‘t go with the dirty joke.  I can hear your mind spinning.  We will miss you there, but we will carry on.  Thank you for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  My pleasure, obviously.  I must ask you about this, the naked Bart Simpson.  First Harry Potter, David Cross on your show. why—why do we have to have a cartoon nude kid?

BATEMAN:  I don‘t know, but looking at the hot dog that was in Flanders‘ hand, it looks like he is very well endowed.  Or, was the dog going in, or was that—I don‘t know which way that dog was headed.  You might want to run that back.  You see, look, it‘s going in.  And the bullet is on the way inside there.  It‘s very, I don‘t know—

OLBERMANN:  Phallic.   

BATEMAN:  That‘s kind.

OLBERMANN:  Why do great shows do this?  When David Cross came stumbling into the set of “Arrested Development,” or onto the set, in the scene, naked, we saw it all pixilated.  Did the rest of you all have to survive that in person?

BATEMAN:  No, he had a—he had a little nude patch of fabric that was glued around the circumference of his pubic hair region, and he was in it a little bit earlier than he needed to be and kept it on a little bit longer than it needed to be, and, for some reason, couldn‘t keep anything in his hands, kept dropping stuff right in front of you, and leaning over and picking it up.  I‘ve just got to lean over and get this, hang on one second.  I mean, he enjoyed that day very, very much. 

OLBERMANN:  It seems like a priceless memory that you have repressed.  

BATEMAN:  I love how the person in the prostitute ring is named Tobias. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the name of his character.  Before we talk about “The Ex,” are you disappointed that “Arrested Development” is not still on the air?  Are you angry?  Because there‘s a lot of fans who are really still bitter that it‘s not.  Not at you, obviously.  But those of us who thought of it as the best show we had ever seen on television? 

BATEMAN:  I was always embarrassed to say how much I liked it.  I miss it as a fan.  I miss doing it as well.  But, you know, keep in mind, two and a half years was a lot longer than any of us really expected it to last, because it was so dense and sort of out of the box, and blah, blah, blah.  So the two and a half years that we got was a bit longer than I—

Plus, you know, it was not something that was so flattened out, where you could just sort of have it exist in your living room for six years.  It was kind of a sprinter, that show.  So we got a good run and we are all doing all right. 

OLBERMANN:  And the DVDs are available? 

BATEMAN:  Unless you did not buy them all up? 

OLBERMANN:  I didn‘t buy them all up, just a full set.  Movie?  Is there going to be an “Arrested Development” movie?  Is there a possibility of something like this? 

BATEMAN:  There was talk, and it did not really happen.  I am not sure if it‘s completely off the table, but it‘s kind of good that we are not going to get a chance to screw it up.  I kind of like what we did, and there was a good idea for it, but we will just leave it alone. 

OLBERMANN:  So you are just going to go into the annals of television history like Star Trek, where the network that had you was not smart enough to keep it going? 

BATEMAN:  Actually, Fox, to give them their credit, they stuck with us.  They gave us some good ads.  I don‘t know.  I have no complaints. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.  So, move on.  There is a movie premiering.  It‘s premiering, as we said, Thursday, while I am out here at the Reagan Library.  Tell me about “The Ex.” 

BATEMAN:  That should be a good show in itself. 

OLBERMANN:  I will send you a DVD. 

BATEMAN:  It‘s called “The Ex.”  Zach Braff plays a character that goes to work for his father-in-law.  I am a guy that works at that office.  I‘m an A-hole in a wheel chair.  And I try to sabotage his working experience there because I want to bed his wife.  That‘s it in a nutshell. 

OLBERMANN:  So you play an unsympathetic character in a wheel chair. 

BATEMAN:  Well, can you get away with a great deal in a wheel chair. 

OLBERMANN:  I guess so.  Almost as much as being an animated character? 

BATEMAN:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Could there be a Special Comments movie?  Could you do that?

BATEMAN:  You would have to be the singular star of that, sir? 

OLBERMANN:  No, I am rapidly aging past the role of being able to play myself.  

BATEMAN:  No, not at all.  You don‘t need the use of your legs.  You just sit there and talk.  I would be a big fan of that.  I would camp out “Star Wars” style to see that, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  An hour and a half of a guy screaming at a camera.

BATEMAN:  You are music to my ears, Keith Olbermann.  You are the voice of common sense.  And we all thank you.  Please keep it up. 

OLBERMANN:  Alright, I have another question for you, Damian Easily (ph)? 

BATEMAN:  Listen, I have some holes to fill on my roster? 

OLBERMANN:  How many fantasy sports leagues are you in in an average year?  You‘re in three baseball leagues now, including the one you and I are both in.

BATEMAN:  Yes, I am in three baseball leagues, commissioner of two of them.  I tried football last year.  I joined a hockey one just to fill the hole.  I just want to beat you this year.  This man has never lost.  He has never lost when he has played in a fantasy baseball team.  But you haven‘t played since 1994.

OLBERMANN:  Where are you in the standings now? 

BATEMAN:  I am two behind you, sir, but if you check your mirrors, that‘s me flashing the brights. 

OLBERMANN:  I believe you are 10 points behind me? 

BATEMAN:  Call it what you will, it‘s third place. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a distant third place. 

BATEMAN:  Well it‘s a medal place. 

OLBERMANN:  Isn‘t there some sort of punishment for somebody who finishes—

BATEMAN:  That‘s for last.  I am a safe distance from last, sir.  And you know, you win early, you lose late.  Me and Chuck Zucker are going to take you down.  We‘re going to do some collusion.

OLBERMANN:  You better hope so, because if you are picking up Damian Easily as your free agent choice. 

BATEMAN:  Only a couple weeks, until Valentine gets the knee right.

OLBERMANN:  For those of you that don‘t understand what we are talking about, tough.  Actor Jason Bateman, great thanks for some of your Dodger tickets tonight. 

BATEMAN:  Yes, let‘s get out of here. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,461st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Los Angeles, I am Keith Olbermann, good night and—do you want to do this or should I?

BATEMAN:  You are going to make me cry.  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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