updated 8/29/2007 1:06:10 PM ET 2007-08-29T17:06:10

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Jonathan Turley, Derrick Pitts

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Senator Larry Craig is going to stick it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG, ®, IDAHO:  Let me be clear, I am not gay. I never have been gay.  I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Idaho Republican blames the Idaho media for his arrest in a Minnesota airport men‘s room and for his decision to plead guilty and for not telling anybody about it for two months, not for the double entendre though with which he started his statement. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Thank you all for coming out today. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And not for his, in retrospect, remarkably bizarre characterization of President Clinton on “Meet the Press” nine Januarys ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  You are in naughty boy, bad boy, a naughty boy, probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The mind-bending story of the Senator Larry Craig, including Mitt Romney throwing him off the presidential campaign and under the bus. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, full coverage. 

The president goes nuclear.  2007 speech, 2002 imagery. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Iran‘s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The big question—is he still scaring anyone with this stuff? 

There is still a big job posting at Mr. Bush‘s Department of Justice. 

The first day after Fredo goes into the lake.

Jonathan Turley on how much D-A-M-A-G-E there‘s been at the DOJ.

And take two for Miss Teen South Carolina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Some people out there in our nation don‘t have that.  I would love to

re-answer that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And, “Luke, I am your space debris.”  The Star Wars light saber goes into orbit. 

All that and more right now on “Countdown.” 

(on camera):  Good evening.  Exactly 11 months ago today, Congressman Mark Foley became an infamous man eventually—many Republican leaders believe—helping their party lose control of Congress.  Tonight, in the fifth story on our “Countdown,” Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig taking a step, some Republican insiders have suggested to NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, could start him down the same path.  Not just belligerently denying he did anything wrong and in Minneapolis airport men‘s room, despite his own guilty plea, which he kept secret, but also angrily picking a fight with his own state‘s leading newspaper. 

It was June 11 when Senator Craig was arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct.  These are the mug shots.  His guilty plea on a lesser charge August 8.  The exhaustive investigation published by the Idaho Statesman newspaper, coming today, vehemently but vaguely denied by Senator Craig.  That investigation, including a taped interview with a man whom the paper does not identify who claims that he and Senator Craig engaged in oral sex three years before Craig‘s arrest.  Some of that tape in a moment.

Today, much of the focus was on the details of the arrest.  The police claim that Craig reached his foot under a bathroom stall divider to tap the foot of a plain clothes officer.  And even his reported explanation that he has, quote, “a wide stance.”

Speaking today, Senator Craig addressed not specifics about any allegations except the matter of his own sexual orientation.  It started with the strangest possible selection of words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Thank you all very much for coming out today.  I will read a statement.  First, please let me apologize to my family, friends and staff and fellow Idahoans for the cloud placed over Idaho.  I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport.  I did nothing wrong and I regret the decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff, and fellow Idahoans.  And for that, I apologize. 

In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision.  While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away.  I did not seek any council either from an attorney, staff, friends or family.  That was a mistake.  I deeply regret it. 

Because of that, I have now retained counsel and I am asking counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.  For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11.  For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the “Idaho Statesman.”  If you saw the article today, you know why.  Let me be clear, I am not gay.  I never have been gay.  Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, the Statesman has engaged in this witch hunt.  In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress, the Idaho Statesmen investigation and the rumors it has fuelled all-around Idaho. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator‘s Craig‘s claim that he revealed his arrest to no one apparently conflicting with a report by the Minneapolis airport police, which says Craig returned to that police station 11 days later and, quote, “Craig told me that they he needs a contract so his lawyer can speak to someone.”

A spokeswoman, though, for the Airport Commission seeming to support Craig‘s claim, telling “Countdown” prosecutors never heard from his attorney or attorneys. 

Senator Craig‘s claim of a witch hunt by the Idaho Statesman refers to a lengthy investigation which culminated in a May 14 interview with both Craig and his wife, unpublished until now.  During that interview, the paper confronted the Craigs‘ with allegations from two men who said the senator had propositioned them, one in 1967 and one in 1994.  And the paper played for the Craigs audiotape of a third man who said he encountered the Senator in Washington‘s Union Station, probably in 2004. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACCUSER:  We went to the urinals, where we both unzipped.  The restroom became busy, too busy to do anything.  So we zipped up and then followed each other to the second restroom in Union Station where we began the same process.  And had a—I also performed fellatio for a very, very short amount of time, as that restroom became busy as well.  At that point, we both zipped up and left and went on our separate ways.

I‘ve always been interested in politics, and probably if you—if you showed me pictures of the hundred senators, I could probably name, you know, 75 or 80 of them.  There‘s no doubt in my mind that that‘s who it was.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today, Senate Republicans called for the Ethics Committee to look into all this.  And presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepted Craig‘s resignation as the campaign‘s liaison. 

Tracking the firestorm of reaction today, our own David Shuster.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Give us a little background on Senator Craig in terms of his politics and his position within the GOP? 

SHUSTER:  Keith, Larry Craig is an outspoken conservative.  He has been a fixture in Washington for 30 years.  He served five terms in the U.S. House.  He is in his third term in the U.S. Senate.  He serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee.  He‘s the ranking member of the Veterans‘ Affairs Committee.  He is a leading advocate for gun owners and a top spokesman for the agriculture industry. 

On social issues—and this is where you get the charges of hypocrisy

Craig has pledged his opposition to gay marriage and civil unions.  He voted against allowing gays and lesbians in the military.  He voted against abortion rights.  He guilty in the impeachment trial of President Clinton. 

In terms of leadership, a few years ago, he had the fourth highest position in the U.S. Senate.  He has also served as chairman of the Steering Committee, a legislative action group for Senate conservatives. 

On the night of his arrest in Minneapolis, he came back and voted against a censure resolution of Attorney General Roberto Gonzales.  And the very next day, 24 hours after the arrest, he joined two other members of a group formerly known as the Singing Senators and performed at a charity event singing “God Bless America.” 

OLBERMANN:  Tim Russet said on “Nightly News” tonight that he had spoken to Republicans who are terrified that Larry Craig is the Mark Foley of 2008. They want to see him go away now because they don‘t need him to retain Idaho, which is a pure red state.  Are they pressuring him to announce he will not seek re-election or is this about resignation? 

SHUSTER:  Right now is pressuring him to not seek re-election, but it could be resignation if this gets worse.  The background to all this, Keith, is that the Republican leadership is infuriated that they were blindsided by this, that they did not get any heads that this mess was coming from Craig until they read first in Roll Call newspaper yesterday.  He has not consulted anyone in the leadership about his response to this. 

By comparison, Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter, who announced earlier this summer visiting prostitutes, he has been able to keep the support of the Republican leadership, in part, because Vitter conferred with them about the story and followed their guidance by issuing an apology, not issuing, as Craig did today, a denial—Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  David Shuster in Washington.  Great thanks.

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  As we intimated earlier, and as Mark Foley can testify to, Senator Craig‘s impact may spread far beyond Idaho, affecting the presidential election, gay issues indeed, nationally. 

Joining us now for the radio network Air America, Rachel Maddow, who‘s show airs weeknights on that network.

Rachel, as always, good evening and thanks for your time. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We mentioned earlier that Craig is not longer part of the Romney campaign team.  Here is what the Senator had to say about the Governor Romney before today.               

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Knowing Governor Mitt Romney is knowing someone who first and foremost has very strong family values.  That is something I grew up with and believe in. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mark Foley, family values, Pastor Haggard, family values.  Here we have Senator Craig, family values.  Is it time to assume that when a politician invokes that phrase, they are compensating for something missing in their lives? 

MADDOW:  It‘s Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida, it‘s Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham of San Diego, it‘s Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, it‘s the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, it‘s John McCain‘s Florida campaign co-chair, Bob Allen, it‘s the Bush White House aide, Randall Tobias.  And now it is Republican Senator Larry Craig.  The safest, most conservative way to respond to that is to say that everybody who demagogues on the issue of family values, except for those guys, is definitely, totally, pure as the driven snow and isn‘t throwing stones from a glass house at all.  Those guys are obviously the only exceptions and everybody else is kosher. 

OLBERMANN:  Conservative with a small “C”.  Mitt Romney was asked today by Larry Kudlow on CNBC whether Senator Craig should resign.  I will show you his answer and ask you whether there is a double standard at work here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not know the circumstances right now of his setting, so I really can‘t make that call without having reviewed it, Larry.  I will review that and will give you a call on that.  I certainly feel that Bill Clinton should not have stayed in office. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Clinton, again?  Really?  How do this work?  Parse this for us, Rachel, please. 

MADDOW:  Mitt Romney is in a little bit of a spot because he is running for Republican nomination and he has to be really, really anti-gay in order to compensate for being the governor of same-sex marriage Massachusetts if he wants to win over the Republican nomination.  So Mitt Romney‘s in the sport where, on the one hand, he could throw Larry Craig under the bus, which is what I think he will do.  If he does not do that, he ends up standing with Larry Craig through this awkward series of denials, however implausible, that Larry Craig appears to be mounting as his strategy here.

If I were Mitt Romney, I, too, would retreat to the comfortable political ground of blaming Bill Clinton. 

OLBERMANN:  You mention the implausibility factor.  Why pick a fight with the newspaper?  He said, without a shred of evidence—there is a lot of evidence.  You may not like the anonymity of the sources, but this man has been answering questions like these since the congressional page scandals of 1982.  What is the psychology and what are the political psychologies of pulling a Gary Hart,” I double dare you” against the media? 

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly was this is.  You identified that correctly.  This is the exact wrong strategy to take if you really do want to try to weather this as a storm.  If I were the gay-scandal-getting-out-of advice incorporated, if I were trying to give him some advice on how to get out of this, I would say do anything, except to deny that you were ever gay and had ever done anything like this because all it takes is one incident among the so many of them that have been alleged against Larry Craig.  All it takes is for one of them to be proven and he is absolutely sunk. 

OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of Air America.  As always, great thanks for your time.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As the story unfolds, more coverage tomorrow night on “Countdown.”  We can promise you this, under cover Sergeant Karsnia‘s police report on the arrest of Senator Craig reads like an old script from Joe Friday and Dragnet.  We‘re going to present it to you that way.  The story you will see if true.  The names have not been changed to protect anybody.  My name‘s Karsnia.  I carry a badge in a toilet.  Tomorrow night, here on “Countdown.”

Tonight, another re-run.  The Finias (ph) T. Bluster of presidents starts evoking images of mushroom clouds again to scare and thrill the American Legion about Iran.

And two big openings at the Department of Justice.  Wanted, one new attorney general and one repair job on the Constitution.  The analysis of Jonathan Turley ahead. 

You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  First, it was to stop Saddam Hussein.  Then it was to stop al Qaeda.  Now it is Iran.  Our fourth story in the “Countdown,” the ever-changing rationale behind the war in Iraq and the ever-shifting goal posts that ensure the administration‘s surge strategy keeps them from getting to the end zone.  President Bush now arguing that Iran is as big a threat in Iraq, and therefore, in Bush speak, a threat to us as is the local al Qaeda brand name in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And Iran‘s active pursuit of a technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.  Iran‘s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.  That is why the U.S. is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions.  We will confront this danger before it is too late. 

Iraq is at the heart of the Middle East.  And the two dangerous strains of extremism are vying for control of the Middle East have now closed in on this country in an effort to bring down the young democracy. 

Shia extremist, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people.  The Iranian regime must halt these actions and, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.  I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran‘s murderous activities. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As for a young democracy caught between two violent forms of extremism, President Bush said the so-called surge is working, asserting that, even though the national government hasn‘t achieved anything it has promised, local governments are showing improvement and sectarian violence is down. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  There are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the

objectives we set out.  Security progress must come first and only then can

political progress follow, first locally, and then in Baghdad.  So it is

going to take time for the recent progress we have seen in security to

translate into political progress.  In short, it makes no sense to respond

to military progress by claiming that we have failed because Iraq‘s

parliament has yet to pass every law it said it would

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president thus conveniently forgetting what he said about Iraq‘s national government and its responsibilities when he announced this strategy in January. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.  If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The re-re-repackaging of the surge, no surprise.  Indeed, it appears that even the intelligence on Iraq today, much like the intelligence on Iraq in 2002, has been favorably reworked by the administration. 

Last week‘s national intelligence estimate stated that the political situation in Iraq will only get worse.  But is also stated that the security situation is improving.  That ray of hope turns out to have been asserted by none other than General Petraeus who successfully had the security assessment changed to reflect what he calls recent improvements. 

Joining me now is our very own Richard Wolfe, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEWSWEEK:  Good to see you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So murderous regime, wants WMD, danger to world, need to isolate, military power authorized—a very familiar set of issues.  But is there any substance behind it or is raising the specter of Iran just an attempt to distract the American people from what is not going right in Iraq at our hands? 

WOLFE:  I do not know what is more scary here, all the saber rattling about Iran or the fact that, I know from my conversations with very senior White House officials that the president is only recently woken up to the very destabilized nature of this region and the rise of Shia power, which he has done more than anybody else to contribute to. 

Iran was always a hostile regime, at least since the Iranian revolution.  And if you‘re looking for an excess of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, it was always there.  The president has taken a long time to come to terms with this new Shia power and the idea that Iraq isn‘t going to be an ally in the war on terror and is going to lean toward Shia countries like Iran.  So I think the scary thing is the president is only just finding out about this rather than the idea that he may go to war. 

OLBERMANN:  Is what we heard today a template of what Mr. Bush plans to say after the non-Petraeus Petraeus report?  And is the real tragedy of Iraq the fact that , because he was so lose with the truth about Iraq, that many Americans will not believe him about Iran or any other nation, even if he‘s telling the exact gospel prophetic truth? 

WOLFE:  It is not as a credibility problem in America.  It‘s a credibility problem around the world.  If you‘re going to take some kind of sanctions, whether economic or security, against Iran, then you need to be able to make the case.  People very high up in the White House do not believe they have any significant, reliable intelligence about Iran.  There is a credibility problem across the board here.  It is very sad that American power has been—and credibility—has been exposed in a way that it has been.  But that‘s the facts and that‘s something this country is going to have to deal with for the next generation.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of credibility, NBC News confirmed today that an investigation is under way into whether or not U.S. troops, including a senior officer close to General Petraeus, are responsible, in part, for the disappearance of thousands of weapons in Iraq, weapons that were paid for by American tax dollars with a specific purpose.  And this isn‘t it.  How damaging is that to U.S. credibility in the region and to this administration? 

WOLFE:  Well, not the best way to teach a country about democracy and good government, but in the context of what‘s happened in Iraq, it‘s not the most shocking development.  The scale of corruption and embezzlement and gun running is enormous.  The more worrying side of things is where have these weapons gone.  A lot of them are being used against American troops, and that is really the failure here which is most damaging thing here.            

OLBERMANN:  Our Richard Wolfe of Newsweek magazine.  As always, sir, thanks for your time.  Good to talk to you.

WOLFE:  Any time. 

OLBERMANN:  No word from General Petraeus about these weapons. 

What is with the upsurge in UFO videos?  That‘s looks like conclusive evidence, but it‘s not.  Why is NASA sending movie props into space?

Also, no, it is not the most regretful wish of Senator Larry Craig, is a mass toilet fire half way across Alabama‘, when “Countdown” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Marvin Davis was born this week in 1925.  There‘s some conflict over whether this is the anniversary or it‘s Friday.  Never the less, he was a billionaire oil man who loved to buy and sell things.  He was denied his greatest desire, his own baseball team.  At least four times, between 1977 and 1980, he reached a tentative agreement to buy the Oakland A‘s, and once the Chicago White Sox, and move them to Denver.  Thwarted, he then turned to another vision, launching a fourth broadcast television network based at the movie studio he just happened to own, 20th Century Fox.  Not long after it started, he got tired of it and sold the fledgling outfit to some Australian guy Mud Rock or something. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

We begin in a place familiar to some of today‘s news makers, the

toilet.  In Theodore, Alabama, where a fire in the Pot of Gold warehouse

melted and destroyed 300 portable toilets.  Be thankful that smellevision

thing never caught on, like the fourth network.  Police suspect foul play,

to say nothing of foul odor.  The owner of the Pots of Gold have offered

10,000 dollars for any info.  Oddball has this advice for investigators in

a crime of this nature, whoever smelled it, dealt it.  Whoever denied it,

supplied it.  And if you said the rhyme, you did the time, which implicates

Never mind.

These were not wide stance toilets. 

To the Internets, where all it takes to achieve stupid video greatness is a camera and a moron and these two punks are no exception.  This is the view from inside a car as a couple of kids doing 60 on the highway remove the steering wheel.  Look, mom, no brains.  Intermittent wipers we heard of, but this is ridiculous.

We assume these two ninnies made it out of the car alive, unless it was the next of kin who posted the video. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Kind of a metaphor for what Alberto Gonzales did at the Department of Justice.  Jonathan Turley joins us to sift through the debris there. 

Here‘s your next attorney general.  Believe it or not, this will soon be in space.  Not Mark Hamill, his saber.  These stories coming up.  Now, here‘s COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.

Number three, Eric Munoz of Redwood City, California, the dumb criminal of the day.  Security cameras recorded images of a man robbing a Bank of America two weeks ago wearing the yellow hard hat and orange vest of a local electrical equipment company.  The next day, police found the hard hat and the vest in an abandoned car and they also found there a Polaroid of Mr. Munoz wearing the hat and the vest. 

Number two, an unnamed man from Japan, the dumb non-criminal of the day, whose diving 30 meters off the coast of Yonoga (ph) in Totori Prefecture when a three foot shark happened upon him.  He was so surprised he did what almost any of us would do in the circumstances, he promptly stabbed himself in the arm with the harpoon he was carrying. 

Number two, Winnie Langley of Coyden (ph) in London, in England.  She is celebrating her 100th birthday by doing something she has done every day since July 1914, smoking.  She claims never to have inhaled.  She also discourages anybody from starting.  But she has smoked five cigarettes a day since she was seven years old.  The estimate is she has now smoked 170,000 of them and has outlived both her husband and her son.

Why did she start smoking?  She says she, like so many other people in England, in the weeks before World War I, were simply too worried about the implications of assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria Hungary.  Archduke Ferdinand; the woman has been smoking since the summer Archduke Ferdinand got shot!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the 68th attorney general of the United States, Richard Kleindienst resigned at the height of the Watergate investigation, then President Nixon was so hard pressed to get any successor confirmed by the Democrat-controlled Senate, that he not only had to nominate perhaps the most liberal man of his administration, Defense Secretary Elliot Richardson, but both he and the attorney general designate had to agree with Senate demands that Richardson would appoint a special Watergate prosecutor. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, with a Justice Department in tatters and an administration in disarray, you might think President Bush would also have to bend over backwards to get a replacement for Alberto Gonzales confirmed.  Instead, it looks like the only thing the president plans to bend backwards are three fingers and a thumb.  The lame duck attorney general in New Orleans today and not referencing his exit in a speech there.

Democrats already warning that any successor had better be, as Senator Charles Schumer warns, a pro, not a partisan, not a pal likely to give the president a pass, Gonzo style.  A new name in the rumor mill today, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who once defended Gonzales‘ use of the word quaint to describe the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners.  Were he to leave the Senate, of course, his successor would be appointed by the Republican governor of Connecticut. 

Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School has now seen the entirety of the Gonzales Attorney Generalship, mouth agape throughout, and joins us tonight.  John good evening.

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT:  Hi Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  While we all worry about the who, should the Democrats be worrying about demanding a price for confirming anyone George Bush sends them, the way their predecessors did in Elliot Richardson‘s day of 34 years ago? 

TURLEY: There is a very obvious issue that still remains on the table.  Before a new attorney general takes over officially, they may want to close the books on the business of the last attorney general.  Specifically, they have a lot of subpoenas out there.  A lot of information has not been turned over.  This happens to be one of those powers that Congress can use in response to a president who has refused to comply with Congress‘s oversight authority. 

There is very little reason for the Democrats to confirm an attorney general if they believe that the administration is acting unconstitutionally, withholding this information. 

OLBERMANN:  You have a column in “USA Today” tomorrow where you are going to compare all of the Justice Department resignations and compare serving Bush to opening King Tut‘s tomb.  So Howard Carter and the Egyptologists have something to do with this, too? 

TURLEY:  There may be some curse out there that we have to worry about, because the successor who goes into this office is going to follow a whole line of top-level attorneys who have gone into the administration to face their own demise.  Awful things happen to attorneys that get involved with this administration.  And it‘s only half in jest that if you are going to not just serve, but survive a Bush Justice Department, you‘re going to have to do things differently. 

Now it is true that Alberto Gonzales is hardly a tough act to follow.  It won‘t take much to show a level of independence and integrity.  However, you have to make the decision that you‘re going to fulfill your oath as an attorney, that you are going to serve justice and not just this president. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, so how much damage is there to the Department of Justice and is there a kind of an attorney general designee who could do that in the context of the Bush administration? 

TURLEY:  There is.  The question is whether this president is going to change his past habits.  From Harriet Miers to John Ashcroft to Alberto Gonzales; it shows he has pretty bad choices in the past when it comes to lawyers.  He likes lawyers to tell him what he wants to hear.  That is not what a lawyer is supposed to do.  The question remains, is he going to pick a real lawyer, someone who is going to sit there and tell him what the law says, not just what he wants to hear? 

Some of the lawyers on the short list would fit that description.  These are people who are very accomplished.  They‘re not going to sacrifice their record for a lame-duck president.  But this president is going to have to decide if he actually does want and need a lawyer. 

OLBERMANN:  Any names?  Are we talking the solicitor general here?  If you do have any names, I would suggest for practical purposes, limit yourself to Republicans or Joe Lieberman.

TURLEY:  There are some names.  Many of them are very accomplished people.  Paul Comment, who will be warming this chair is very well respected.  He is respected even by Democrats who have seen him argues cases conservatives don‘t like.  He‘s done that with a certain degree of professionalism.  He does not have any political allies.  But he would be a safe conference confirming candidate. 

I think that frankly Michael Chertoff would be more difficult in confirmation.  He is not popular with some of the senators and his record would be front and center.  Some of the nominees might be more dangerous, like Townsend, who is a national security advisor.  She is more likely to be deferential to the president and the last thing this guy needs is more deference. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University and tomorrow in “USA Today,” we look forward to that.  Great thanks, sir.

TURLEY:  Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The question was about why a fifth of Americans could not find America on a map.  Her answer was about how that meant there was a shortage of maps.  She gets a do over here tonight.  And, Luke, I am your publicity stunt.  “Star Wars” meets Lost in Space as the light saber gets jettisoned into orbit.  I‘m not kidding.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even in the gritty and dark world of beauty pageants, it was one for the ages, Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, who long ago made the right choice, the contest with the tiaras in lieu of, say, the National Geography Bee.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, Keeping Tabs, and the young lady who explained that so many Americans can‘t find the United States on the map because they don‘t have maps; she has now gotten a second chance.

And this time she left out all references to the Iraq and U.S.  Americans.  What the representative of South Carolina meant to say as she rephrased on the “Today Show” this morning in a moment.  First, essential for context, take one at the Miss Teen USA finals. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can‘t locate the U.S. on a world map.  Why you think this is it? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation do not have maps.  And I believe that our education, such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere—such as—and I believe that our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S.—should help South Africa and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  She tried to squeeze in the beauty pageant fall back line, for the children as the MC finally, mercifully yanked the microphone out from under her.  Remember, it‘s not just remembering all the words, it‘s also getting them in the right order.  Miss Upton, who is headed to her freshman year at Appalachian State University delayed her trip to those hallowed halls to visit “Today.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When the question was asked to me, I was in complete shock.  I was just overwhelmed that I seriously think I only heard about one or two words of the actual question itself. 

MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  You drew a blank? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I drew a blank.  I misunderstood.  I made a mistake.  I would love to re-answer that question. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let me ask you the question again.  The question is recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can‘t locate the U.S.  on a world map.  Why do you think this is? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our mouth.  I do not know anyone else who doesn‘t, and if the statistics are correct, there should be more emphasis on geography in education so people will know how to read maps better. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I personally believe the child abuse investigations of Britney Spears may not be what you think.  On the other hand, they may be exactly what you think.  TMZ.com reporting that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services is not investigating allegations of physical abuse.  TMZ says the complaint alleges her children suffer from poor eating and sleeping habits, as well as poor dental hygiene.  TMZ also making the suggestion these complaints may have originated with the ex-husband, Kevin Federline, as part of the on-going custody battle, which explains the age old scary story mothers have used to frighten their children from time immemorial, brush your teeth kids or the K-Fed will get you. 

Putting the Youtube in UFO and putting Luke‘s light saber into space.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s nominees for worst person in the world.

The bronze to Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who has told a fund raiser in Detroit he believes President Bush should choose as his new attorney general Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.  Giuliani reminded everybody that when he was U.S. attorney in the ‘80s, he once hired Chertoff as an assistant. 

So you‘re endorsing another one of your guys to Mr. Bush for a cabinet post?  What happened to that last one?  What was his name?  Something Kerick? 

The runner up tonight, the web masters at Fox News.com.  Yes, they did it correctly on cable, bravo.  But at least one story on the Fixed News website today about the Larry Craig scandal violates the journalistic etiquette of always identifying elected legislators by party.  No Larry Craig R, Idaho.  No Republican Senator Craig.  Just Senator Craig, no party mentioned. 

And your winner, from the same corner of the right fringe, John Gibson, divining that when Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Republicans would probably try to exploit any possible terror act or threat or even rumor, and she would be the best Democrat at both handling the threat and handling the Republican boasting, Gibby has used his superior mind to conclude that she was speaking in code.  Quoting him, she was sending a signal, as they say, to al Qaeda that it would not be smart to attack the United States of America before the election, otherwise you‘re going to get another Bush militarist in their and he‘s going to bomb your cities and kill your kids and your women.   Lay off until I‘m president and I‘ll go easier.

Hillary makes a deal with al Qaeda.  Did she go too far this time.  I know it‘s a deniable quote; well, that isn‘t what I meant, but we all get her drift.

A deal with al Qaeda, John?  Her drift, John?  The only drift, John, is your continuing drift away from sanity.  John Gibson of Fox Noise, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The next space shuttle launch in October will take to the International Space Station an Italian built multi port node called Harmony.  In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, far more easily grasped, the shuttle‘s other payload, a light saber, not just any old run-of-the-mill light saber, but the one actually wielded by Luke Skywalker in his successful quest to defeat the empire. 

It‘s the original prop light saber used by actor Mark Hamill in the first film.  Quite a payload it will be.  On the Space Shuttle Discovery‘s next mission, scheduled for October 23rd, the Jedi weapon will be taken aboard the International Space Station, later returned to earth—or will it? 

It‘s all part of the 30 anniversary of “Star Wars.”  Today, the mega collectors item was transported from California to Houston amid great fan fare, including appearances by Chewbacca, who is landing the planes now—that‘s his job—and R2-D2.

Or, perhaps this is a cover story and a real light saber is going up there to fight the war on terror in space.  After all, the aliens have been busy lately.  Witness the ones who whizzed over Haiti on the evening of August 6th in their highly advanced space ships that photograph really well. 

Well, no, actually, this is not the truly fortuitous video captured it appears to be, but rather the work of professional animator‘s using a Mac Book Pro and commercially available programs.  It took the guy 17 hours. 

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia will be home to a “Star Wars” exhibit in February.  The Institute‘s chief astronomer, Derrick Pitts, joins us now.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

DERRICK PITTS, THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The reality, I suppose, is that the light saber thing is an obviously successful publicity stunt, both for “Star Wars” and the Space Shuttle.  But underneath it, are there dozens of NASA people who wished their work had advanced a little bit faster, gotten a little bit closer to this kind of technology portrayed in this film? 

PITTS:  I think the first thing, Keith, is that dozens of NASA scientists wish that their budgets would be anything like the movie budgets to start with.  If they had that alone, they could really make some fantastic equipment.  They‘re doing pretty well as it is, but to get some of those budgets would be great.

OLBERMANN:  Could they make a light saber?  If you had a light saber, a real one, what would the stuff coming out of it be and how effective would it be? 

PITTS:  I‘ve heard speculation that the possibility for something like that might be a substance known as plasma.  Plasma is the fourth state of matter, behind liquid, solid, gas and then there is plasma.  That‘s a highly excited state of electrons.  Frankly, the problem is that plasma doesn‘t hold a force field that these light sabers show that they do.  Then again, plasma does not make that really cool hum sound.  I don‘t know what they would use for that.

OLBERMANN:  It is just neon.  A gas light saber would not work. 

PITTS:  It just wouldn‘t work.  We do not have the technology for that yet, but it is a great idea. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the systems mankind actually has in space, such as the space station, all the satellites?  Are they actually quite fragile?  Could they withstand even a collide with other space debris, as this has been suggested, this thing might be launched in space and left out there, the original thing from “Star Wars?”

PITTS:  The major issue about collisions in space, Keith, is not that the objects are so big.  That is not the idea, really.  The actual problem is the velocity at which they are moving.  If you have an object moving at 17,500 miles per hour, it carries a tremendous amount of momentum.  So even something very small can cause a lot of damage simply because it is moving so fast.  Yes, there is a danger to have lots of space junk flying around. 

We do have to be careful because, in fact, there have been a number of instances where a space shuttle has been damaged, most notably not this last mission, although there was a little bit of a nick in a window glass.  But in a previous space shuttle mission, there was a definite gouge taken out of a window just by a chip of paint flying at 17,000 plus miles per hour. 

So it is a problem we have to be concerned about.  But let‘s also remember that there‘s plenty of room in space. 

OLBERMANN:  Especially that big one billion light year wide place where there‘s nothing at all that they just talked about the other day.

PITTS:  That‘s a good place for us to go.

OLBERMANN:  To the UFO sighting in Haiti, such as it is, Derrick.  This got millions of hits on Youtube.  Evidently, before its creator, who identified himself as Sam Barzoff (ph), explained the actual (INAUDIBLE)  It is a hoax.  Give me the actual astronomical viewpoint on this; are all UFO sightings so easily knocked down? 

PITTS:  You know, there are long ways to explain this actually, Keith.  But there is a sure way that I use that I actually got from astronomer Carl Sagan.  He said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  Video these days, unfortunately, is no longer extraordinary proof because of the obvious work done by this guy.  In my book, what I need is some sort of physical evidence that is irrefutable in its origin or its purpose or any of those things, particularly its origin. 

Nowhere at any time, in any situation, no matter what has come since the days of the 1940‘s, has anyone ever produced anything like that. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you know—You just reminded me of this because I did this at college at Cornell.  Dr. Sagan would not let himself be interviewed on tape for the radio.  He would only go live because he was afraid of it being edited and doctored, just what we saw.  It‘s kind of ironic that that comes up now. 

PITT:  It is, but that line works so very well.  It is so true.   

OLBERMANN:  If other civilizations did ever visit us—this is the 64,000 dollar question—is the logic that they would cloak themselves, or that they would advertise and say, here we are? 

PITTS:  I always want them to say, here we are.  I can‘t understand why it is that very report of UFOs visiting only happens in the middle of the night out in the deep would of Montana, usually three guys with a pickup truck with a keg in the back.  That part gets me.  I don‘t know why a UFO wouldn‘t land on the front lawn of the White House.  

OLBERMANN:  I can answer that for you.  It was the comedian Bill Hicks who said, these are hillbilly aliens and they are lost.  Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at Philadelphia‘s Franklin Institute, already getting ready for its “Star Wars” exhibit next February.  Thanks as always, Derrick. 

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,581st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

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