updated 5/21/2007 1:53:57 PM ET 2007-05-21T17:53:57

Guests: John Dean

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

Gonzales-gate had already turned into an episode of “General Hospital,” now Gonzales General Hospital has turned into an episode of “Law and Order,” talking to then-Attorney General Ashcroft about the illegal wiretaps at his bedside was itself possibly illegal, because you can‘t just blabber about national security stuff in public places like hospitals.

Vice President Cheney‘s defense in the Valerie Plame lawsuit.  It doesn‘t matter if I revealed the secret truth about her or if I lied.  I was only talking to reporters.

His predecessor is back.  Al Gore has a new book, “The Assault on Reason,” and the cover spot on the new “TIME.”  And, gosh, I wonder if anybody‘s asked him if he‘s running for president tonight?

Defending the troops.  Are U.S. military service personnel getting the best body armor possible?  A exclusive report from Lisa Myers.

And even international cycling can make itself interesting, when Tour de France winner Greg LeMond (ph) is threatened by the manager of Tour de France winner Floyd Landis (ph), blackmailed that he would reveal the fact LeMond was abused as a child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a real threat, and it was very—it was very—I hate to say it, creepy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Another kind of creepy, time to declare the offkey winner of D.C. Idol.  Perhaps it‘s...

And something that can make your voice go up that high, the Michigan police man who takes pot from suspects and shares it with his wife, and then has to call 911 for help and information.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How much did you guys have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  We made brownies, and I think we‘re dead.  I really do.

What‘s the score in the Red Wings game?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s the score in the Red Wings game?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All and that more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t watch the Red Wings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

It was 30 years ago tomorrow when Richard Nixon, the disgraced former president, appeared on television and told interviewer David Frost, quote, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Tonight, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Nixon‘s former intern, Vice President Dick Cheney, has provided the nation with this administration‘s equivalent of that claim, his lawyers telling a judge Mr.  Cheney cannot be held legally responsible for anything that he says, true or false, and furthermore, than Cheney, because he holds the vice presidency, an office meant to serve the people, has absolute immunity against any lawsuit brought by any of the people.  More on this extraordinary claim of near-monarchy in a moment.

But there is news today that another top official of this administration may have violated the very law he‘s charged with enforcing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  And breaking news at this hour about him, California Congressman Adam Schiff telling COUNTDOWN tonight that on Monday, he will seek a no-confidence vote for Gonzales in the House, joining his colleagues in the Senate, who are already planning to do so there, the nation‘s top lawman now facing the prospect of both houses of Congress vouching lack of confidence, or voicing lack of confidence, in his ability to lead the Department of Justice, this after “TIME” magazine reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee may investigate whether the midnight ride of Alberto Gonzales, revealed this week by his former deputy, violated laws against disclosure of national secrets, as well as rules about classified information, Mr. Gonzales apparently having discussed secret wiretaps in a nonsecure location, the hospital wherein John Ashcroft lay recovering from surgery for pancreatitis.

It was a very different (INAUDIBLE) that led to Mr. Cheney‘s breathtaking claim, the revelation of Valerie Plame‘s identity as a CIA op.

In the case of her civil suit yesterday, the lawyer representing Cheney and Karl Rove, Jeffrey Buchholz (ph), who works in Mr. Gonzales‘s Justice Department, just to tie this all together, he argued that those officials are above the very law his department is sworn to defend, that it was part of their job to answer criticisms by Plame‘s husband however they saw fit, Judge John Bates rather incredulously asking Mr. Buchholz, quote, “You‘re arguing there is nothing, absolutely nothing, these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment?” Buchholz‘s response, quote, “That‘s true, your honor.”

We turn now to John Dean.  As Nixon‘s White House counsel, a front-row witness to the last administration so openly operating outside or above the law, or both, he is the author, appropriately for us tonight, of “Worse Than Watergate.”

As always, great thanks for your time tonight, John.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First, your response as a Nixon veteran to this claim that the offices allow the vice president, and the president, presumably, to do or at least to say anything they want with impunity regarding anyone who criticizes what they do in those offices.

DEAN:  Well, there has been a trend in the last few years, and certainly under a conservative presidencies, as well as conservative courts, to expand the immunity of high-level officials.  Now, whether Cheney can get away with it or not, I don‘t know.  There certainly is no privilege today, and—but there are a lot of privileges that do encompass people in federal posts and high officials.

So with this judge, who seemed to reject both sides of the case today, but who is very pro-administration and pro-president, I‘ll be very curious to see what he does.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to Mr. Gonzales.  What does it tell us that after Justice said the two years-plus of wiretapping was illegal, Mr. Bush then chose one of the wiretapping advocates to lead Justice, which was the one department theoretically most likely to stand in way—in the way of Mr. Bush‘s initiatives about the wiretapping?

DEAN:  I suspect that might be one of the reasons he was selected to go over there.  And I, you know, I don‘t think Gonzales has ever really done an independent study of this on his own.  He‘s really just following the cues of Vice President Cheney, his counsel, Addington, who both were pushing Comey the same time that Gonzales was pushing him.  This came out in the testimony, particularly the segment with Arlen Specter during the hearing.

And so I think that it‘s really the reason—one of the reasons that Bush wanted somebody like Gonzales over there.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve been the White House counsel, as Mr. Gonzales was.  Put yourself in his exact shoes.  The president sends you to do an end round—run around the acting attorney general, who is, you know, semi-coherent, hospitalized, that the, the, the attorney general is, and has appointed a, a, a temporary replacement, and what do you say when somebody tells you to go and do that?

DEAN:  Well, you know, my first reaction would have been something that really has not—no one‘s been talking about.  I‘m not sure that you really had authority—I think it was a fool‘s errand, in other words.  I don‘t think that Ashcroft had authority at that time.  He‘d already signed it away.  I don‘t think he could have unilaterally, in the hospital, under the circumstances, had retracted it.  So there was no way he really could override Comey at that point.

And he made that point, of course, to Gonzales himself, saying, He‘s the attorney general, I‘m not.  And there was a very good reason.  I don‘t know what exact agreement, I‘ve seen different forms of these agreements, where a deputy becomes an acting, and it depends on the terms of the agreement.  But there‘s a very good possibility it was a fool‘s errand, that indeed, had they gotten Ashcroft‘s signature, it wouldn‘t have been a valid signature.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they got the right people for the fool‘s errand.  But, I mean, if you‘re dealing with massive illegal wiretaps, I imagine the subtleties of who the acting attorney general and who the real attorney general is at a given moment, no longer, no longer obtains.

DEAN:  Well, there‘s one person who could overrule, and the highest authority, that was the president, and that‘s exactly what he did do when he didn‘t get a signature.  He acted on his own, notwithstanding the fact that the department wouldn‘t declare it legal.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s one thing contained in all this that I was wondering about that maybe has not been addressed.  It used to be that people who went into government were more vulnerable to the law, they had to meet a higher standard than the average citizen.  If you lower those standards, obviously you get away with murder, or whatever you want to get away with.  But is that also a way for people in power to cheapen the idea of government service, so that those people with integrity, like James Comey, no longer want to be involved, and thus no longer serve as a check on the people who don‘t care one way or the other about the ethics?

DEAN:  Keith, I‘m not sure the standards have lowered, I think the philosophy and attitude towards the standard has changed.  And this is something that seems to accompany a conservative philosophy, to have a strong presidency.  One of the ways conservatives are interpreting the strong presidency is somebody who will ignore the law and just go ahead and do what they feel they need to do, and claim authority for the president or their own offices that really don‘t exist.

I don‘t think this is a wise policy.  I think we do see people like Comey, who indeed show that you can‘t roll over everybody when you have a White House that‘s inclined to abuse its powers.  So I think this probably gives hope that there is still that very type person in many of the offices in Washington.

OLBERMANN:  The ember of patriotism, indeed.

John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate.”  As always, John, greatest thanks for your time tonight.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  In case anybody forgot, the root of Mr. Gonzales‘s current troubles lie with his firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year, and his shifting explanations about why they were let go and who made the call.  Today, Gonzales finally lost the support of his Democratic patron, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, who introduced him at his confirmation hearing, “The Denver Post” reporting tonight that he too now says Gonzales should go.

Next week, Gonzales faces not one but three potential turning points in his new career as an attorney general, with active congressional oversight, one, as we have just learned tonight, a no-confidence resolution in the House Monday, along with the already announced counterpart in the U.S. Senate, that would be two, and then three, the testimony on Wednesday of the linchpin in the saga, Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales‘s liaison at the White House, and Democrats success all—suspect also served as the White House liaison for targeting disloyal U.S. attorneys.

Our own David Shuster has covered this whole story from its very beginnings.    

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right, first of all, tonight‘s story, a no-confidence vote with Congressman Schiff and others involved in the House.  Is that a better bet in the House than it is in the Senate, or the other way around?

SHUSTER:  No, absolutely.  In fact, this is something Republicans have a strategy for trying to stop the no-confidence vote in the Senate through the use of the filibuster, but there‘s no parliamentary maneuver for them in the House.  So if Nancy Pelosi decides, You know what?  I‘m going to allow my Democrats in the Judiciary Committee to go ahead and introduce this, and I‘m going to put it in front of House for a vote, there‘s no way for the Republicans to stop it.

So in the house, again, and the Democrats, of course, have the majority there, it‘s going to be very easy for the Democrats to pass and send a message that way.

As far as the Senate, even though the Republicans are counting on somebody standing up, offering a filibuster to try to somehow stop this from moving forward, it‘s increasingly likely that the Democrats would still get the 60 votes they would need in the Senate to break the filibuster, and then at that point, all bets are off as far as how many senators are actually going to move forward and say, Look, we don‘t have any confidence in Alberto Gonzales.

And the one thing, Keith, you keep hearing over and over from Republicans now, a few weeks ago Republicans were saying, Look, the firing of the federal prosecutors, it‘s very difficult for people to follow that.  It‘s very easy, these same Republicans say, for people now to see that Gonzales was the guy who tried to steamroll the Justice Department by visiting a guy who was sick in the hospital, just having had gallbladder surgery.  That story is resonating Republicans say (ph) that‘s one of the reasons so many Republicans now are breaking loose.

OLBERMANN:  And David, about Monica Goodling‘s testimony, I mean, it‘s being viewed almost like looking forward to the opening of the Olympics or the National Football League season.  What are we actually going to expect out of this next week?

SHUSTER:  Well, Monica Goodling, of course.  She was the liaison to the White House for the Justice Department.  She is the person that congressional investigators believe had all of these sort of key connections between the Justice Department and officials at the White House, like Karl Rove.  As it stands, the congressional investigators are convinced that Monica Goodling.

She may not be willing to throw anybody under the bus at the White House, but on the other hand, she‘s 33 years old, she‘s never testified before, she has no courtroom experience, she is described as fairly fragile.  And here‘s somebody who has immunity to testify, but she‘s also going to be reminded, You have to tell the truth, that if you don‘t tell the truth, you could be prosecuted for that.

So Democrats are hoping to frighten her, perhaps, and also simply get her to go through these documents one by one, all of these documents that show that Karl Rove and officials at the White House were fueling this effort to fire some of these prosecutors.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you‘d think an attorney would know that you‘re not supposed to lie under oath.  Then again...

MSNBC‘s David Shuster.  Great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.  You too.

OLBERMANN:  In Iraq, do our troops have the best body armor to protect them on the front lines?  An exclusive report tonight from Lisa Myers.

And Al Gore might run after all, volume 206.  Cover of “TIME,” new book out next week.  How much longer might this presidential tease last?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a NBC News exclusive report into whether our troops in Iraq are getting the best body armor possible.

Meantime, today the fight about the war itself goes on in a closed-door session.  Democratic leaders offered the White House some concessions in trying to negotiate an Iraq funding bill, which included allowing the president to waive compliance with a deadline for troop withdrawal.

White House chief of staff Josh Bolten rejected that deal, seeing in it what would happen if the president actually waived that compliance deadline.  And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said negotiations were not dead, but that accountability was at issue.

As is pertaining to the question of how best to protect the troops in actual combat.  With that, here is our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For troops in the line of fire, body armor can mean the difference between death and life.

The U.S. Army insists our troops have the very best.  And without question, that armor has saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BRIG. GEN. MARK BROWN, U.S. ARMY:  The body armor we issue to our soldiers today is the best in the world, bar none.

MYERS:  But is it really the best?

(on camera):  An NBC News investigation, including independent ballistics tests, suggests there may be something better, called Dragon Skin.  Some soldiers and their families have tried to buy Dragon Skin, believing it offers better protection.

But the U.S. Army banned Dragon Skin last year, even before formally testing it.

(voice-over):  We went to the factory where Dragon Skin is made.

(on camera):  So this is Dragon Skin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s it.  It‘s a unique system comprised of individual scales, if you will.  As you can see, it‘s flexible, it‘s pliable.

MYERS (voice-over):  The Army‘s current body armor is called Interceptor.  We found the man who designed that body armor a decade ago, Jim McGee, a retired Marine colonel.

(on camera):  What is the best body armor available today, in your view?

COL. JIM MCGEE (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS:  Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down.  It‘s better than the Interceptor.  It is state of the art.  In some cases, it‘s two steps ahead of anything that I‘ve ever seen.

MYERS (voice-over):  Why?  He says more stopping power and more coverage.  McGee says the Army‘s Interceptor uses four plates to stop the most lethal bullets, leaving some vital organs unprotected.  But McGee says Dragon Skin, with disks that interconnect like medieval chain mail, can wrap most of a soldier‘s torso, providing a greater area of maximum protection.  McGee has no financial stake in Dragon Skin.

MCGEE:  If you would ask me today, Jim, we‘re sending you to Iraq tomorrow, what would you wear? I would buy Dragon Skin, and I would wear it.

MYERS (voice-over):  He‘s not alone.  The CIA bought Dragon Skin for these elite operatives in Iraq, they say after it passed CIA testing.  But Brigadier General Mark Brown, in charge of body armor for the Army, says the Army conducted its own tests of Dragon Skin last year.

BROWN:  Thirteen of 48 shots that were taken at Dragon Skin were penetrating, full penetrating shots.

MYERS:  So Dragon Skin failed.

BROWN:  Dragon Skin failed miserably.

MYERS (voice-over):  Brown says those tests led the Army to ban Dragon Skin, with this safety of use message warning soldiers of death or serious injury.  There‘s just one problem.  The Army banned Dragon Skin in March, almost two months before that testing began in May.

(on camera):  But General the Army banned Dragon Skin before the Army even tested it.

BROWN:  Lisa, I‘m not aware of that.  I don‘t know that it had not been tested at that time.  I wasn‘t here.

MYERS (voice-over):  NBC News has learned that well after the Army ban, select soldiers assigned to protect generals and VIPs in Iraq and Afghanistan wore Dragon Skin.  This soldier, who asked us to conceal his identity and voice, says he wore Dragon Skin on certain missions with the full knowledge of his commanders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I wore it, and I saw other people wearing it.  It conforms to your body.  It gives you more mobility.

MYERS (on camera):  Does the ban on Dragon Skin apply equally to everyone in the Army?

BROWN:  Lisa, yes, it does.

MYERS (voice-over):  However, sources in these documents reveal that the security detail for a top general in Iraq bought and wore Dragon Skin.

(on camera):  If Dragon Skin is good enough for a three-star general, shouldn‘t it be good enough for other soldiers?

BROWN:  Lisa, even three-star generals make mistakes.

MYERS (voice-over):  A Pentagon spokesman said that general, Peter Corelli (ph), had no knowledge that Dragon Skin was prohibited, and he never wore Dragon Skin, though it‘s possible his staff ordered it for him.

The Pentagon says Corelli acknowledges his bodyguards ordered and received concealed body armor, but he didn‘t know the armor was Dragon Skin.

Given the controversy over body armor, NBC News commissioned an independent, side-by-side test of Dragon Skin and the Army‘s Interceptor vest.  In that testing, Dragon Skin outperformed the Army‘s body armor in stopping the most lethal threats.

Retired four-star Army general Wayne Downing, now an NBC News analyst, observed the tests.

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING (RET.), NBC ANALYST:  From what we saw today, Lisa, and again, it‘s a limited number of trials, Dragon Skin was significantly better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Lisa Myers reports.  You can see more of that reporting, including the results of those independent tests, on “DATELINE NBC” Sunday night.

Meantime, following her initial story, three Democratic senators today asked for a formal investigation.  The GAO is expected to examine the issue.  And today, NBC News also heard from the Pentagon and General Peter Corelli.  The general reiterated he never wore Dragon Skin, but some members of his staff did wear a lighter version of the banned armor on certain limited occasions, despite the Army ban.

General Corelli said his biggest concern with the Lisa Myers report was that it may have left the impression that he and his staff were issued better equipment and were therefore more secure than other soldiers throughout the Army, and that, he said, is not the case.

First, Prince Harry is told he cannot go to Iraq, now his military superiors are telling him where he cannot go in England.  No more Harry Potted.

Speaking of which, why there is a rule against policemen keeping the marijuana they find on suspects.  The 911 tape that sounds like a Cheech and Chong sketch.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1919, Dame Margot Fonteyn was born.  She danced as the finest ballerina of her time until 1979, when she was 60, leading to a priceless Monty Python joke about outdoorsmen in Alaska claiming to a passerby that they‘ve just seen her perform.  “Do you know how old she is?” asks the character played by Graham Chapman, rhetorically.  “She‘s 206.”

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

A rare one-topic brownie-related Oddball tonight from Dearborn, Michigan, as we are handed the best 911 recording since that lady called the emergency response number last week and asked for a nanny.

This one from former police officer Edward Sanchez, who called to report he and his wife were OD-ing on the brownies they made using special ingredients, which he had confiscated during drug busts.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

EDWARD SANCHEZ:  I think I‘m having an overdose, and so is my wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, you and your wife?

SANCHEZ:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Overdose of what?

SANCHEZ:  Marijuana.  I don‘t know if it had something in it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.

SANCHEZ:  Can you please send rescue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you guys have fever or anything?

SANCHEZ:  No, I‘m just—I think we‘re dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, how much did you guys have?

SANCHEZ:  I don‘t know.  We made brownies, and I think we‘re dead, I really do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, how much did you put in your brownies?

SANCHEZ:  I don‘t know.  I...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Was it in bags?  Who made the brownies?

SANCHEZ:  I, I—my wife and I did.

Cuba, come here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, get her.

SANCHEZ:  She‘s on the living room ground right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is she breathing?

SANCHEZ:  She‘s barely breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is she awake?

SANCHEZ:  I think so, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, can you look?

SANCHEZ:  Pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you look?

SANCHEZ:  Could I—yes, I can feel her.  She‘s laying right down in front of me.  Time is going by really, really, really, really slow.  What‘s the score on the Red Wings game?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What?

SANCHEZ:  What‘s the score on the Red Wings game?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve got no clue.  I don‘t watch the Red Wings.

SANCHEZ:  Oh, OK.  I just wanted to make sure this isn‘t some type of, like, hallucination that I‘m having.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, why?  What does the score say?

SANCHEZ:  Three to three.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Officer Sanchez reportedly also said he suspected he was hallucinating the success of “American Idol.”

Warning, the same effect can be induced by listening to our D.C. Idol competitors.  The final episode and winner tonight.

And the final episode of the drama, will Al run again?

But first, COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Aaron Vigil of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  There is a reason why they post those dire, frightening warning signs about electrocution and stuff at the electric company‘s substations.  Mr. Vigil, 18, is in critical condition after he tried to tag the place, to cover it in graffiti, while 115,000 volts surged through it.  Among other things, when he tried that, his clothes caught fire.

Number two, Thomas Michael Glynn, he‘d been ordered by a judge to have no contact with his ex-wife so of course he went and proposed in person to his ex-wife on the “Jerry Springer” show, with his probation officer watching at home on TV. He‘s in jail now.

And number one, Emma Thomason of Whitehaven, England.  Her live in boyfriend, father of her two children was finally going to make an honest woman out of her. Then Jason Wilson did something to upset her and she did what every bride to be would do. She packed all his clothes, CDs, DVDs etc.  in his van, drove it to the harbor and the released the hand brake.  To retrieve Mr. Wilson‘s stuff, authorities had to partially drain the harbor.  As to Mr. Wilson‘s reaction, it was calm and surprisingly logical. Quote, I haven‘t told her yet that the wedding is off, but I think she can put two and two together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: While lately having admitted the existence of the problem, the Bush administration is again emphasizing it will not support any limits, targets or plans to reduce greenhouse gas admissions blamed for global warming.  Polls show a majority of Democrats, independents, even Republicans consider global warming a crisis and favor immediate action.  Due in no small part to the efforts of Al Gore and his documentary “Un Inconvenient Truth,” a phenomenon that has pushed the issue to center stage. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, is this the climate Al Gore needs to recycle himself back into politics for 2008?  Asked about the intention (ph) to run again in a “Time” cover story, Gore saying he‘s not convinced that that‘s the best way to pursue his environmental passions, and he has another book coming out next week that could pave the way for a White House run. Heavy on politics, democracy, the media and the mess Americans now find themselves in at home and abroad, his Oscar-winning documentary spawned a round the world speaking tour that continues to be a huge draw, tickets selling out in a matter of hours even being hawked by scalpers because of the demand.  In July he will take place (sic) in a global warming music festival designed to reach two billion people on seven continents. And then there‘s even talk about a Nobel prize nomination in the fall. 

Here we go. What about the fall after that? Let‘s turn to “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter. Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK SENIOR EDITOR: Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN: The polls show the environment is a major concern for most voters, Republicans as well as Democrats.  He hasn‘t said no.  Is Al Gore still undecided or is that just a plot line that we in the media have created and perpetuated for our own reasons?

ALTER: I think right now he is not winning, not running. He could be winning. He‘s not running. But a close aide of his, a former aide told me recently, he put the chance at about 10 percent that he would jump into the race at some point.  He has a long time before these filing deadlines.  He could wait until October before getting into this thing.  So it‘s possible but not likely. 

OLBERMANN:  What do the leading Democrats think about him right now, with Senator Clinton, Senator Obama or any of the others rather have him say yes,  I am in right now, or is this Al is at the horizon, but no closer thing just fine by them. 

ALTER: What would really be fine by them if he doesn‘t run.  But I think if he were to run, they  would rather he gets in now because of course you‘re more attractive when you‘re not running. Once you get in, then the scrutiny starts and that whole non-political patina kind of wear off.  So his best bet if he does decide to run, which he hasn‘t yet, would be to kind of get in when Obama and Clinton‘s fatigue has hit at the end of the year, not too long before the New Hampshire primary and then try to ride a wave.  He has the name recognition and the access to the money on the Internet to do it if he wants to. 

OLBERMANN:   And obviously you‘d want to also try to see if you could finesse this thing and wait until after the Nobel nomination. 

ALTER: Right, which is October.

OLBERMANN:   Bill Clinton has been promoting a green cities initiative to try to kick start cleaner energy projects in 16 cities and this isn‘t just in the country, but around the world.  A cynic or a political student might say this is a little green insurance for his wife‘s campaign in case Gore runs. Do you read it that way?

ALTER: I think that‘s a little unfair.  Clinton was talking last year about all of this, before Hillary got in the race, before there was this talk about Gore. I remember seeing him say you know they need some more fluorescent, these compact fluorescent bulbs.  He was trying to make them cool and sexy, giving a speech about light bulbs.  He has been doing this for a while.  I think it‘s more along the lines of green is cool right now and Clinton likes to be cool. 

OLBERMANN:   Get a load of them light bulbs.  Unrelated to Mr. Gore John, Iraq is still the issue, trumps everything in the election.  There have been stories about Senator McCain missing 10 of the last 14 roll calls, votes on Iraq. It‘s not unusual for candidates to miss votes, but other candidates have not been as absent.  Senator Reid‘s office called McCain on it.  Is that politics purely or could skipping votes actually materially hurt McCain materially?

ALTER: Well, it could conceivably hurt him in Arizona.  It‘s home state voters who care the most about that kind of thing.  I think if he is asked about on the campaign, he could plausibly argue, look, my position on Iraq is extremely well known.  I am hardly dodging votes. I am just out campaigning.  I don‘t think that this is something that will hurt him.  He‘s got some bigger political problems right now, his campaign arguably is not in very good shape, and you know, it used to be that Rudy Giuliani for instance look like an annoyance to McCain, but his lead over him in the polls has held up consistently week after week after week.  So McCain is in a hole and he‘s got to figure out how to get it going. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter, “Newsweek,” MSNBC, many thanks as always.

Have a great weekend. 

ALTER: Thanks a lot Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We went to a bicyclists doping hearing and a soap opera broke out.  Allegations of blackmail and sexual abuse stunning a courtroom.  First Prince Harry is told he can‘t go to Iraq. Now the military bans him from one of his favorite past times. Hint: glug, glug, glug.   Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a story that a baseball hall of famer once set a teammate up with a lady of the evening so he could photograph them and hold the photos as insurance in case the teammate decided to tell the hall of famer‘s wife about the hall of famer‘s philandering.  However, blackmail is still a rarity in sports, especially as in our number two story in the COUNTDOWN when that blackmail and the awful truth behind it are utter secrets revealed for the first time in a courtroom as one champion of the tour de France bicycle race confronts another champion of the tour de France bicycle race.  Our correspondent on the truth is stranger than fiction beat is Peter Alexander. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Was reigning tour de France champion Floyd Landis (ph) doping when he won last year‘s race?  That‘s the question that was supposed to be answered at an arbitration hearing this week.  But after three days of mind-numbering scientific testimony, the doping case exploded into a cycling soap opera Thursday.  Think of this as blackmail and the bike as two giants of the sport collided in a California courtroom.  Three time tour champion Greg Lamont (ph) first testified that Landis confessed to him, admitting to doping.  But then Lamont dropped a bombshell, that he had been a target of an intimidating phone call the night before. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a real threat, and it was very—I hate to say creepy. 

ALEXANDER: That creepy caller Lamont says threatened him if he testified he would reveal a private fact about Lamont, that he was sexually abused as a child. 

ALAN ABRAHAMSON, The reaction in court was one of those rare moments where it was like a jolt of electricity went through the place.  Everybody was like what is going to happen next?

ALEXANDER: Lamont said he told Landis months ago he‘d been sexually abused as a way of encouraging Landis to come clean about his alleged doping.  So why the threat?

I think they did not want me coming here today.  I don‘t know why. If you didn‘t do anything wrong why wouldn‘t you? What would you object for me to be here?

ALEXANDER: And who made the call? Lamont claims it was Will Goega

(ph), Landis‘  manager who Lamont says later apologized.  Moments later

while still in the hearing room, Landis  fired Goega.  Throughout the day,

Landis, who is not allowed to comment during the hearing, watched his

defense seemingly crash

ABRAHAMSON: Landis could be seen grimacing and I mean grimacing repeatedly like, huh-uh, huh-uh. Floyd Landis‘ team has built its case on a most aggressive, super aggressive public relations strategy and that strategy took a series if not severe, if not deadly, hit. 

ALEXANDER: And the final twist in the soap opera, Lamont‘s cross-examination was called off.  Why? Because he refused to answer questions about another tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong.  Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:   A brand new off limits for Prince Harry in our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news keeping tabs.  First, the third in line to the British throne was told to stay away from Iraq. Now he‘s been told to stay away from bars.  According to the “Sun” newspaper, Harry has been instructed to lie low while his army unit is deployed in Iraq.  A royal source saying, quote, it has been made clear that these drunken nights out are strictly off limits.  Harry totally accepts how bad it would look for him to be out enjoying himself while others risk their lives. The source colorfully adding quote, you only have to imagine the front page if we had lost a (INAUDIBLE) at the same time Harry was photographed out on the razzle. Apparently, Harry is allowed to spend time with girlfriend Chelsea Davy (ph), so to sum up, no razzle some dazzle. 

Neither razzle nor dazzle for Paris Hilton once she checks into jail 18 days hence and we have more advice rolling in, this time from former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.  In an interview with the “Los Angeles Times,” Fleiss was asked about the hotel heiress going to jail.  Quote, when she wakes up, it will be over Fleiss said and when it is over she will meet her new best friend. 

Now, that‘s advice.  Could you sew those into a pillow?  Fleiss also waxed nostalgic about Hilton‘s past exploits, interlacing a string of obscenities according to the newspaper, as she concluded that Hilton had quote, spent nights in plenty of places worst than jail. 

And finally, the announcement for which America has waited breathlessly, our first ever DC idol competition is over and evidentally there is a winner.  That‘s ahead.  But first, time (INAUDIBLE) for the worst person in the world.  The bronze to Steve Caniglio (ph), eighth grade teacher at Trinity Lutheran School in Riverton, Wyoming.  Nine days ago he used a bucket and a stick to capture a live bat which had flown into the school.  He kept it in a locked terrarium, made sure none of the students touched it, although he admitted the kids did feed it crickets. But he touched it and so did the teacher‘s aide who had to clean the terrarium out after the bat died.  The bat had rabies.  So Mr. Caniglio and the teacher‘s aid now they have to get rabies shots.  And many parents aren‘t exactly convinced that their kids fed the bat without touching it, can get free rabies shots for the kids too.

The silver, Nuclear Management Company, which put one William E. Clark (ph) in as the head of security at the Palisades nuclear power plant near South Haven, Michigan. He isn‘t working there any more, not after he told “Esquire” magazine that his previous job was government assassin.  He said he used to kill people for this government on assignment in Vietnam, in Iraq, in New Orleans. His ex-bosses say he is mentally ill and he left  his job because of that and that that settles that.  Really which is more scary? An ex-government assassin running security at a nuke or a crazy guy who just thinks he‘s an ex-government assassin running security at a nuke?

But our winner, good old Don Rumsfeld, tanned, rested and ready, reentering public discourse. His aides tell the “Washington Times,” opening up a DC office for his own new non-profit foundation to handle issues dealing with the U.S. and foreign policy, to promote U.S.  engagement in world affairs in furtherance of U.S. security  interests.  In other words, apparently to do exactly the opposite of what he did as our secretary of defense.  Donald H - the H is for happy - Rumsfeld, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Washington, D.C. as the old saying goes, is Hollywood for ugly people.  This week, we‘ve also found out it‘s like Motown for the tone deaf.  Our number one story, Monday‘s night‘s battle of the bands between the news anchor Bob Schieffer and the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow helped prove the theory.  The clash between the Schieffer bluegrass band and the Snow Jethro Tull wannabes or maybe (INAUDIBLE) remind us that there are other slightly more impressive if not memorable performances by beltway musicians.  And it spawned the first and I hope the last countdown, DC idol competition.  We asked you America to go online and vote for your favorite.  Tonight we have a winner, but before we get to the nominees and the first winner of the title of DC idol, a visit with those who did not pass muster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Former Japanese Prime Minister Kozumi‘s passion for the king was admirable but he didn‘t make the cut.  John McCain‘s “Beach Boy” cover was not nearly good enough.  But McCain‘s Barbara Streisand impression gets an honorable mention. 

We didn‘t think it fair to include politicians singing the national anthem, even when politicians butchered the national anthem. 

And perhaps the closest to making the cut without doing so, the fifth Beatle of DC Idol nominees, the singing senators.  The all-Republican group disbanded in 2000 when John Ashcroft lost his reelection campaign. Jim Jeffers ditched the Republican Party and Trent Lott broke the group‘s Casio SK-5 keyboard.

Of course Mr. Ashcroft would go on to become the U.S. attorney general and go on to his solo fame with his smash hit, “Let the Eagles Soar.”  Our first nominee for COUNTDOWN‘s DC Idol. 

Our second nominee is from the Democrat presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his haunting version of “16 Tons.”

I‘m thinking that is what won him the new Mrs. Tennessee Ernie Ford has called to complain from the great beyond.

Third up Bill Clinton as former president in Israel at the 80th birthday party for Shimon Peres. When he was dragged on stage to sing with a 6-year-old Israeli pop star.       

Next it‘s a rap performance, from a man who said in joking that likes to collect stamps, hunt quail and rip the heads off of small animals. Kick it Karl. 

Finally with perhaps the greatest degree of difficulty, dancing, singing, wearing a (INAUDIBLE) costume and also reading the lyrics off a cheat sheet, it‘s then Secretary of State Colin Powell ripping on YMCA.

Now the moment several of you have been waiting for, the - where did that band come from - the winner of the first and last COUNTDOWN DC Idol competition.  It‘s empty.  Oh there it is. Thirty eight percent of the votes, a landslide, it‘s former President Clinton singing “Imagine.” 

Actually did say that Bill Clinton won for that.  Congratulations Mr.  President.  We don‘t have a trophy or an award or anything, but if you come on the show again, we‘ll jimmy something up and present it to you, no charge. That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,479 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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