updated 9/6/2007 10:47:53 AM ET 2007-09-06T14:47:53

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will be you talking about tomorrow?  First he pleaded guilty, then he tried to take it back.  Then he resigned, now he‘s trying to take that back.  Senator Larry Craig, if he can get his own guilty plea nullified, he will not resign from the Senate on the 30th

In the interim, let the nonstop political food fight party begin.  Is the Senator right?  Was his offense far insufficient of the wrongdoing required for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation?  Jonathan Turley on that.

Howard Fineman on the political circus, including the senator‘s sorry wrong number voice mail. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG, ®, IDAHO:  I think it would help drive the story that I‘m willing to fight, that I‘ve got quality people out there fighting in my defense and that this thing could take a new turn or a new shape. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The two overlooked questions raised by that message:  is a guy who does not know that was not his lawyer‘s phone numbers smart enough to be in the Senate and, if he said that before his resignation news conference Saturday, was he not premeditatedly misleading the public into thinking he was out while he was thinking he was still in? 

The unmaking of a president, 2007.  Robert Draper‘s new book, “Dead Certain,” in which President Bush insisted, as late of April of last year, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  Mr. Draper joins us. 

So to, Karl Bernstein, author of “A Woman in Charge” on the would-be President Clinton and the former President Clinton whom she appears to be casting as her campaign comedic foil. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  He could be a vice-presidential candidate, could he? 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Apparently not. 

LETTERMAN:  Apparently not? 

CLINTON:  No.  Believe me, he looked into that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The search for Steve Fossett continues, as does the search for someone willing to adopt this poor pooch, who was just left $12 million from Leona Hemsley‘s real estate empire.  Despite the incentive, nobody will take the trouble to take care of Trouble.  That dog must have really earned that name.

All that and more now on “Countdown.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEONA HELMSLEY, HOTEL & REAL ESTATE OWNER:  Only the little people pay taxes, right?    

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  It is unprecedented to the degree that the office of the official historian of the U.S. Senate cannot come up with another example anywhere in its 20 years of operation—a Senator resigning and then announcing, maybe not.  Our fifth story on the “Countdown,” it‘s not as if Larry Craig resigned on Saturday and three days later suddenly had a change of heart.  We know now the Idaho lightning rod had planned to give himself the loophole of reconsideration even as he headed to the news conference at which he announced his intent to resign. 

The legal hurdles involved in pulling up an un-resignation from Jonathan Turley.  Howard Fineman on whether Senator Craig might be the Republican Party‘s worst nightmare, both presently. 

But we begin tonight with the latest details.  The Senator‘s decision to delay his departure until September 30th making more sense.  Mr. Craig hoping to have the legal case against him, quote, “favorable disposed of” by the end of the month, by which time, he could withdraw his resignation, remaining in the Senate.  This according to a conversation Mr. Craig had today with Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.  That guilty plea Mr. Craig entered after his Minneapolis bathroom arrest should make getting that favorable disposal kind of difficult.  But aiding Mr. Craig in that effort, two of Washington‘s top defense attorneys, Billy Martin and Stan Brand. 

The Senator apparently having thought he was leaving a voice mail for Mr. Martin Saturday morning less than an hour before his news conference in Boise.  But he had dialed the wrong number and the actual recipient gave the recording to the newspaper “Roll Call” which, you guessed it, posted it on its website. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG:  Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling.  You can reach me on my cell.  Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears, by all that he knows, that I‘ve been railroaded and all of that.  Having all of that, we‘ve reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my intent to resign on September 30.  I think it is very important for you to make as bold a statement as you are comfortable with this afternoon.  And I would hope you could make it in front of the cameras.  I think it would help drive the story that I‘m willing to fight, that I‘ve got quality people out there fighting in my defense and that this thing could take a new turn or a new shape—has that potential.  Anyway, give me a buzz or give Mike a buzz on that.  We‘re headed to my press conference now.  Thank you, bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Imagine coming back from the Appalachian State-Michigan game and hearing that message. 

On one of the Sunday morning political talk shows Arlen Specter did say Craig should, quote, “fight the case.”  In the wake of Mr. Craig‘s voice mail message, Mr. Specter making no comment this afternoon at a news conference.  It was entirely another matter, saying in a written statement this morning that he has already said all he intends to say publicly about Senator Craig‘s situation. 

Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. 

Howard, good evening. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  From a Democrat standpoint, is Senator Larry Craig the gift that keeps on giving?  Do they just stand back and watch this circus unfold? 

FINEMAN:  They just love listening to that audio tape and watching everything else that goes on because this is going to last—apparently it‘s going to last.  I‘m out here in Des Moines, Iowa, talking to Republicans.  They‘re just shaking their heads about this.  Here they are trying to get the evangelical Christian base activated for these caucuses in the winter.  This is the last time they want to see. 

Meanwhile, back in Washington, behind closed doors, the Republican members of the Senate arguing about whether Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, did the right thing by trying to push Larry Craig out of the Senate.  Craig even had some defenders behind closed doors today.  Then you‘ve got the ethics charge which is alive.  Then you‘ve got the fact that if Craig, in fact, does manage to unwind the guilty plea, what happens then?  Does he face a trial on the bigger charge that he was initially hit with?  There are all kinds of questions here.  The Democrats are telling you by their silence, and there‘s absolute radio silence, that they‘re loving every minute of it. 

OLBERMANN:  And no doubt there was a huge measure of hypocrisy in the GOP‘s treatment of Senator Craig.  Is that what was behind Senator Specter‘s support and does he, in fact, still have Senator Specter‘s support?  Mr. Specter seemed tepid on the subject today. 

FINEMAN:  My understanding is behind closed doors Specter was quiet today having caused a lot of heartache for the leadership the other day.  I think Senator Specter initially didn‘t like the idea that Mitch McConnell, who he‘s fought with over the last few years, was responding to the right wing of the party, their presumed fears and anger, by railroading Craig out. 

Now, though, it‘s also a matter of the Senators looking to their own interests.  One of the people complaining about the railroading of Larry Craig is Ted Stevens, who is facing his own investigation in Alaska. 

OLBERMANN:  Based upon that voice mail message and how extraordinarily fortuitous and even Freudian it is that we have that available to us, does it not prove either a willful intent by Senator Craig to mislead, and emphasis on the word intent, or that he‘s not quick enough to recognize when he‘s dialed a wrong number or both? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think that‘s all topped, Keith, by his showing his business card to the arresting officer, saying, what do you think of that?  I mean, that tops it all.  Listen, I think Craig is digging himself in deeper here and he‘s digging his party in with him and the Democrats are watching it with glee. 

OLBERMANN:  Are the Republican presidential candidates going to have to do something about this in terms of their own campaigns? 

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘ve been jumping out right away.  Mitt Romney who is out—who has been in Iowa a million times trying to get the evangelical voters was first out of the box to criticize Craig and saying it was good he was gone.  John McCain did the same thing right away, somewhat surprisingly to me.  Most of the others either have or will do the same thing.  Craig is not going to get any support from the Republican presidential candidates, that‘s for sure. 

OLBERMANN:  To the point of the presidential campaigns and that little coincidence, the $64,000 question, is the Republican Party reconsidering this decision to hold the convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul next summer?  Every delegate, every politician, every journalist who doesn‘t come by bus is going to pass through that airport. 

FINEMAN:  Yeah, that‘s what I was going to say.  I think they will arrange to have everybody come through O‘Hare in Chicago and bus on up to Minneapolis because they don‘t want to go through that airport. 

OLBERMANN:  Might as well put up a plaque.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, Howard, thanks for your time tonight. 

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.         

OLBERMANN:  As for the seemingly sissified task of undoing a guilty plea, which would need to precede the undoing of Senator Craig‘s intended resignation, let‘s turn now to Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School. 

John, good evening. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: 

Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Billy Martin and Stan Brand are no fools here.  By the very fact that they took on this case, that they‘re still on board here, do you think they might have something up their proverbial legal sleeves here?  Some sort of plan to get the guilty plea against Mr. Craig reversed and not put him in a worse situation with the D.A. in Minnesota? 

TURLEY:  Well, it‘s going to be a precarious line to walk but they‘re not without their assets in the fight.  The fact is that frankly I think this charge was bogus in the sense that everything this officer said in his statement was highly interpretive.  I don‘t see how any jury could look at what the officer said and say, yeah, this is proving beyond a reasonable doubt.  The officer is saying the certain actions were signals.  They could also be non-signals and there‘s been a problem with this type of vice operation from the beginning.  Most of these cases end up with panicked people like Craig.  And that‘s the reason they plead guilty.  They don‘t do so well if they‘re challenged in court.  But having said that, he‘s not going to make a sympathetic character at least in front of the court. 

OLBERMANN:  And also, if he waived his right to a lawyer in submitting the guilty plea to the lesser charge, and now is sort of pinning this on the cops and on the prosecutor‘s office in Minneapolis, would they not be predisposed to go after him a little bit harder?  Would they not re-file with the larger charges if he gets out of the guilty plea to the lesser ones? 

TURLEY:  Well, that‘s the danger.  You have to be careful what you ask for.  If they get this cat to walk backwards and they can actually get the plea removed, that also allows the prosecutors to go back and bring the original charge, invasion of privacy.  That comes with the potential one year in jail.  I don‘t think a first offender would get that.  I think it‘s still a weak case but it is a much greater risk to him.  But at this point, I think that this guy is looking at what will be his final moment as a public official.  And he‘s willing to run that risk.  And so these lawyers are going to take him into those choppy waters. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you about the Senate Ethics Committee, which today refused Mr. Craig‘s request to drop its investigation and his claim there is, no matter what this was, it didn‘t rise to the level of the misconduct that‘s required for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.  Is he right about that in your opinion? 

TURLEY:  I have to tell you, I think that he has something there.  You know, historically—first of all, the Senate has not expelled anyone, I think, since the Civil War.  But, more importantly, there has been this unwritten rule that unless you are guilty of something that directly affects your official conduct, that they tend not to investigate.  But more importantly, disorderly conduct, a charge like this, is incredibly low grade.  You could be charged with this for fighting with a flight attendant.  If you‘re going to start to investigate members for that type of plea, you‘re going to thin those ranks pretty fast because the Senate has been occupied by the virtual denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah since it was first created.  Disorderly conduct is the least of their problems.

OLBERMANN:  Joe McCarthy got a censure.  Let‘s just remember that. 

Fifty years ago he got a censure.

But back to whether Senator Craig might not have been swift enough to know that he dialed a real wrong number, the one I asked Howard Fineman about.  Is the great lesson in all of this that one should always talk to a lawyer capable of exploring all of the options before you go in and enter your guilty plea? 

TURLEY:  That‘s the most important thing people can learn from this, putting aside all of the racy facts and the late night jokes.  This is what happens to people when they‘re first arrested.  They panic.  The reason he‘s in this situation is he panicked.  And officers know that.  That‘s one of the reasons the Supreme Court required Miranda because the Supreme Court understood that people actually can plead guilty to crimes they didn‘t commit or plead guilty to crimes that they could easily have fought in court.  And it‘s that moment of panic that is the undoing of many citizens. 

If he had spoken to an attorney, the attorney would have said Minnesota has a standard provision that a first offender can have the record expunged and not have to plead guilty to the facts.  But he didn‘t.  And that‘s a lesson for, I think, all citizens who find themselves arrested for any type of offense. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, as always, sir, great thanks. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We know what President Bush told author Robert Draper for “Dead Certain” but why did he do it and in what context?  Mr. Draper joins us. 

So does the author of what the “L.A. Times” called a model of contemporary political biography, Carl Bernstein on the campaign, and the hopes of his biographical subject, Senator Clinton. 

You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.                

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  First, we have the GAO report telling the benchmarks Iraq has failed to meet.  Today in our fourth story on the “Countdown,” a new story from retired General James Jones, obtained by NBC News prior to its official release tomorrow.  The report, requested by Congress in May, finds signs of progress, especially in the Iraqi army, but concludes that the Iraqi security forces overall, quote, “will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12 to 18 months.” 

Next week, we get the report formerly known as Petraeus but, in fact, not emanating from Baghdad, but rather from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  A report which House Democrats preemptively attacked today.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying individual stories of progress do not themselves constitute progress.  The plural of anecdotes, she says, is not data. 

Whether any of these reports will matter to the man who calls himself the decider has been left in grave doubt by a book called “Dead Certain,” the product of extensive White House interviews including six hours with Mr. Bush himself. 

Joining us now, the author of “Dead Certain:  The Presidency of George W. Bush,” Robert Draper, former editor with “Texas Monthly,” now national correspondent for “GQ.”

Mr. Draper, thanks for your time tonight. 

ROBERT DRAPER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT FOR “GQ” & AUTHOR OF “DEAD

CERTAIN”:  It‘s a pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Your book made its first headlines with the account of the U.S. disbanding of the Iraqi army, portraying the president as being unaware of plans to do so.  The White House implied to the “New York Times” anonymously that you got it wrong, that the president wasn‘t asking how come we disbanded the army, he was asking, hey, why didn‘t our original plan to keep the army together work.  Ambassador Bremer tried to clarify his part of the record.  Do you wish to clarify yours? 

DRAPER:  Sure.  I‘ll tell you what the exchange went like.  I asked the president if Bremer had reversed his policy.  He said yes.  I said did it surprise you and did you, in other words, know that this was coming?  He said, no.  I said, what was your reaction when you learned?  And he squinted little bit and he said, probably, this is the policy, what happened.  But then he said, “I‘m not exactly sure.  I don‘t remember.  You should check with Hadley.  He took notes during this.” 

To me, Keith, all of this misses the point.  The point to me really is how cavalier this was, that this was a very considered policy.  It was a consequential policy and that Bremer would reverse it on the ground, either implicitly or—with the president signing off or implicitly with the president not vetoing Bremer‘s decision to do so, that all of this was done without any discussion, you know, to me, is a striking thing—that the president didn‘t quite remember how he reacted to it.  That Bremer in writing this memo—which I should tell you I interviewed Ambassador Bremer and he made no mention of this memo to me.  That Bremer would sort of bury the remarks about how he was reversing policy on disbanding the army almost as an afterthought, indicates to me that there was, you know, this level of almost breathtaking casualness about what turned out to be really a disastrous policy reversal, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of cavalier and casualness, I spoke at length here last night about one particularly pungent sequence of quotes about Iraq and I‘d appreciate knowing from you some of the context for them, some of the background color, whatever you have.  Let me again read the president‘s words as you quote them.  “I‘m playing for October-November about Iraq to get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence.”  Were those cavalier remarks?  Did he give an indication he was aware of how bad they might sound? 

DRAPER:  No, they weren‘t cavalier at all.  In fact, I got the sense that he had been thinking for some time about where the surge would take us and when we would see its effects played out.  He was saying—and this an interview done in the spring of this year—that he believed that by October or November, the surge would be deemed a success and, at that point, candidates, chiefly Republican, but I think he actually mentioned all Republican candidates would feel comfortable about the notion of having a continued force presence there not just in Iraq, but in the Middle East or at large. 

OLBERMANN:  You spoke at length with him about certainty, and obviously the title is driven somewhat by that.  He had reacted with outrage with then-Texas Governor Ann Richards‘ decision or statement that she was unsure how to fix school financing there.  He seems to view certainty as a moral requisite for political leaders, especially in time of war.  Did you sense a catch-22 in this, in his feeling that he owes the soldiers his certainty, but the same certainty might not be serving those soldiers well right now? 

DRAPER:  I found that an interesting thing that he really believes and says over and over—that it‘s interesting the president for somebody who seems not to care what others think about him, is actually acutely self-conscious and made a point of saying to me over and over how he‘s aware that when he speaks his message—that he has various audiences and that one of those is certainly the troops and he feels like he needs to project optimism to those troops. 

I‘m not altogether certain that‘s true.  I‘ve talked to many people in the military.  And those in the military, they pay attention to each other, to their fellow troops, to their commander officers.  I‘m not sure it‘s all that important to them what the commander in chief thinks in terms of projecting optimism.  I think the danger that the president gets into with speaking optimistically for the sake of optimism, to buoy of spirits, is it creates the conditions for a credibility gap. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, one small picture item that might provide a great deal of insight that I don‘t think has gotten a lot of attention, at least on television, you tell a story about 1998 and the visit to the juvenile detention center with the then-governor telling this 15-year-old criminal that Texas still loved him, Texas hadn‘t given up on him.  He talked about this incident in his acceptance speech in 2000.  Give us the back story to what happened to that boy after his exchange with then-Governor Bush. 

DRAPER:  Sure.  I actually see it as a chance of meeting between a man on his way up and a boy on his way down.  And after the president talked about this seemingly very human exchange at this juvenile delinquent facility, the kid had a pretty rough time of it.  While the president went on to get the nomination and got this glowing applause for his acceptance speech, the kid got into a lot of trouble at a juvenile facility.  He was sexually assaulted and later ran into a string of trouble and now was impoverished for some time and is in an adult lockup, at least last I checked. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness.  Robert Draper.  The book is “Dead Certain.” 

It‘s dead certain big news all this week.  We appreciate your time, sir.

DRAPER:  It‘s my pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  It may have been the least risky trip the man had taken in a decade or more and still the adventurer Steve Fossett has not returned.  The latest on the search. 

And Kim Jung-Il‘s greatest show on earth.  This North Korean extravaganza features everything but the crowd singing, “You are worthless, Alec Baldwin,” next on “Countdown.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sixty-seven years ago today, two Bolivian and Irish-American parents in Chicago was born a little girl name Jo Tejada.  When she made her debut as a weather forecaster in San Diego in the early ‘60s, moving into acting later on with walk-ons in series like “McHale‘s Navy,” she used her own middle name and first husband‘s last name, and that‘s how we know her today, on her 67th birthday, as Raquel Welch. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

Now here‘s Raquel with the weather.  We begin in North Korea for what the ever modest dictator Kim Jong-Il has said is the greatest show on earth.  Look at them go.  Presented by the Socialist Workers Paradise of North Korea—that is a brand name -- 100 thousand of his citizens, including kids, train for months to perform feats of acrobatic daring do in honor of their fearless leader.  Others sat in the stands and made creepy pictures of children wink at the audience.  No word on just how much this extravaganza cost but considering the people of North Korea are starving, it was probably more than the country can afford.  But who needs food when you are in the greatest show on earth?  Give up show business? 

To the Internet for another edition of our award-winning series “Things Not to Try at Home,” like putting fireworks in your mouth and lighting them.  Don‘t worry, everybody.  He‘ll be fine.  And he is the greatest show on earth.  Though we suspect he‘ll be drinking through a straw for the foreseeable future. 

Finally, some old, but stellar footage from the world of wide sports.  Fortunately, the padding kept the Utah jazz mascot there from becoming the mascot for the Utah WNBA team.  A good lesson for all you young cubs—stay off the greasy pole.        

The Clinton campaign.  She seems to have figured out how to use him. 

The assessment of Karl Bernstein, author of “A Woman in Charge.”

And in the Hemsley household, it is a dog in charge, a dog so disliked no family member will take her, even though she‘s now worth $12 million. 

These stories and the “Countdown‘s” top newsmakers.  On this day, number three, Justice David Souter of the Supreme Court for the United States and his new book, “The Nine.”  Jeffrey Toobin recounts Justice Souter meeting someone who mistook him for his colleague, Justice Stephen Breyer, asking what the best thing on the court was.  Souter told the man, “I‘d have to say it‘s the privilege of serving with David Souter.” 

Number two, Peter Addison, dumb criminal of the week, vandalized a camp site for underprivileged kids in Adlington in Cheshire in England.  Police had little trouble identifying the 18-year-old suspect since, during the crime, he had written in black marker on a wall in big letters, quote, “Peter Addison was here.”

Number one, an unnamed operative from the private English security firm Store Watch, pursuing a suspect in Portsmouth who had been accused of doing over 200,000 dollars worth of vandalism over three years to the hearses belonging to one funeral parlor.  This man showed the highest form of ingenuity and valor.  He caught the suspect while slashing the tires of one of the company‘s hearses. 

The man did so—the detective did so by hiding in a body bag inside the hearse.  Talk about undercover work. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It only strains hyperbole, rather than breaks it to suggest that before the presidential nominations are decided, President Clinton and would-be President Clinton will have appeared on every popular non-news television except the “Price is Right.”  The third story, the COUNTDOWN to 2008 and the Clinton campaign dominating the airwaves again today. 

Hillary Clinton enlisting her husband to help fight increasing attacks from rivals Edwards and Obama that she‘s too divisive, therefore not electable, a point  we will discuss at length in a moment.  Former President Clinton, indisputable one of the most electable Democrats in decades, spent the Labor Day weekend campaigning with his wife in Iowa and New Hampshire, drawing large crowds to explain how a two-term Senator Clinton has worked with even the most high-bound conservatives in the Senate, then making the rounds in a series of TV appearances. 

The senator on Ellen Degeneres, the former president on Oprah Winfrey, then he with David Letterman, saying he will not be his wife‘s running mate, because it‘s not consistent with the spirit of the Constitution.  And this morning on “The Today Show” conceding to go Matt Lauer that polls do show a lot of independent voters who say they do not like Hillary Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 

Yes, but it‘s something they‘ve been preconditioned to think about by 17 years -- 16 years of attacks.  The reason I know this is true, I have two pieces of evidence for you.  When she ran for re-election in New York, she carried 58 of the 62 counties; 36 of the 40 counties President Bush carried in 2004 with 60 percent of the vote. 

MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  You‘re saying she can reach across party lines. 

CLINTON:  I know she can, and they like her because they know her not what they have been told about her.  In Arkansas, a red state, I‘m the only person who has carried it twice since Franklin Roosevelt.  And it‘s clearly a red state.  She is well ahead of all the Republicans, all of them, including our former governor.  Why?  Because she lived there 18 years.  They know her, not the cartoon that‘s been presented. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Carl Bernstein, a contribution editor for “Vanity Fair,” has written what the “Rocky Mountain News” called the definitive book on Senator Clinton, “A Woman in Charge.”  It‘s always a pleasure to have you here.  Carl, good evening. 

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, “A WOMAN IN CHARGE”:  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Bill Clinton says she‘s not a conservative cartoon, to know her is to like her.  She won voters who voted for Mr. Bush.  You interviewed her enemies, you interviewed her friends.  Is Mr. Clinton right or does she have a serious, possibly fatal problem here? 

BERNSTEIN:  He‘s right.  She is neither the caricature of her enemies, who are rabid in painting her as somebody with horns, nor is she the picture that her acolytes would have you believe, this paragon with no problems.  She is very much the most compelling figure in politics today, and what‘s so fascinating is she is almost nothing like we‘ve been led to believe by both her enemies and her acolytes. 

She is a real flesh and blood exciting, fascinating, at times talks like a sailor, at times talks like a priest.  When you really find out who she is, she is something else out there. 

OLBERMANN:  And out there, the president‘s TV appearances on Oprah, on Letterman, “The Today Show,” they are ostensibly to promote his new book, “Giving,” but the campaign always comes into it, obviously.  Have they managed to find a way to toe that tightrope of her versus him?  Have they done it well, poorly, with discipline?  What do you think?

BERNSTEIN:  He‘s a figure that‘s held in enormous affection by Democrats.  Right now her job is to beat an unexpected opponent who is doing very well in picturing himself as the agent of change and Hillary Clinton as someone who is shop worn.  And Bill Clinton is being very effective in undercutting that shop worn image, even though that imagery comes from the Clinton presidency. 

It‘s a very fine tightrope that they have to walk, and yet, if she is going to win both the nomination and the presidency, people in the country and in the party have to be reminded of how this president contrasts with the present one and how his administration, in many regards, looks awfully good, particularly in terms of policy, compared to what we‘re experiencing now.  So he‘s her greatest asset. 

OLBERMANN:  And in a softening of the image thing, which is in there along with electability as these two primary considerations.  When she was on the Letterman show last Thursday, she seemed to be casting him in this new light.  Letterman said does he sometimes forget he‘s not running?  She said, if they hadn‘t amended the constitution he might be.  And Letterman said, in a clip we played earlier, he could be a vice presidential candidate.  She replied, apparently not, but trust me, he looked into it. 

Did they figure out how best to use him in this campaign as kind of a gentle self-defeating punch line? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think this little co-ketish (ph) duet that you‘re seeing there is pretty far from the point.  There was never any question he would run for vice president.  It‘s an absurd notion.  They know that they can get some mileage by being this couple that is a celebrity couple unlike anything we‘ve ever seen. 

He‘s the greatest politician of our time probably.  And she has

persevered from going from a figure who was held in really great disregard

if you remember back to her failure in health care—to after her husband‘s impeachment becoming a figure of great admiration in our country.  And now she is running on the strength of, as Bill Clinton said there, having won an awful lot of upstate Republican votes in New York. 

She has a story that is very different and what‘s been so much fun about spending six, seven years writing a biography of her is to find out how different she is than the robotic picture that even she has drawn of herself in her own campaign at times and in her own autobiography.  She‘s much more fascinating. 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately what about the electability thing?  The “Boston Globe” had this internal memo out of the Edwards campaign that suggests that in New Hampshire voters are going to make up their minds in the primary based on electability.  And thus Edwards will keep up that line of criticism, attack, if you will.  Have they got—has she got a handle on that, besides having him come out and say, yes, well, look how she did in New York? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think that perhaps her strongest argument is that she and Bill Clinton have beaten the Republican machine two times out for the presidency.  No other Democrat has done that since Roosevelt.  Again, her problem is looking shop worn compared to Obama, or Edwards for that matter.  One person I talked to who actually—she consulted, said, you know, she stands for all the right things.  She has a terrific record in the Senate.  But I‘m not sure I want the circus back in town.  That is her problem. 

If she can stay away from that perception of the circus coming back to Washington, she is in a very commanding position right now.  She‘d have to win, if she were the nominee, all the states that Al Gore won plus Florida, or many other combinations.  So electability is not just by popular vote, but also by how it works out in the individual states and the electoral college.  And I also think that she and Bill Clinton are very much keeping their eye right now on the mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, who has taken a real look at whether he—at least I am told—whether he wants to run or not.  And I think he‘d like to if he can see a way. 

OLBERMANN:  Run as a third party candidate or run with her? 

BERNSTEIN:  He would not run with her.  As a third party independent candidate, probably with Chuck Hagel, who gave a fascinating interview to the “Washington Post” a couple weeks ago, in which he acknowledges that he‘s looking at a ticket.  You know, it‘s a long shot that they would run.  But Bloomberg, if he saw a way clear, I think he would like to do it.  And that could spell great trouble for the Clinton campaign, and throw the whole thing, in both parties, into a kind of mess.  But it‘s still a long shot. 

OLBERMANN:  Carl Bernstein dropping in a little news at the end here,

author, of course, of the much regarded biography of Hillary Clinton, “A

Woman in Charge.”  Great thanks, Carl

BERNSTEIN:  Good to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  No news continues to be bad news in the hunt for the missing adventurer Steve Fossett.  And that dog is worth 12 million dollars.  Not enough for her relatives to live with that dog, however.  What up, dog?  Later in COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Two and a half days after he took off on a solo flight in the Nevada desert, there is still no sign of millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett.  But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, rescuers are hopeful that the skills he honed while sailing, flying, gliding, skiing, and driving around the world will help his survival chances.  Our correspondent is Leanne Gregg. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You don‘t want to fly low in these canyons in extreme conditions. 

LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Clear weather and less wind allowed aircraft to get a closer look in the search for Steve Fossett.  Today, additional resources helped boost their efforts. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re really excited to put this aircraft through its paces today. 

GREGG:  An aircraft equipped with an imaging system that can zero in on even the smallest parts of the missing plane. 

CINDY RYAN, SEARCH AND RESCUE:  It goes not that, not that, yes, that. 

GREGG:  Close friend Richard Branson, who helped fund many of Fossett‘s adventures, says it‘s important the aviator be found soon, but he holds out hope he‘s alive. 

RICHARD BRANSON, FRIEND OF FOSSETT:  If he‘s managed to crash land in the desert, you know, I think there‘s every chance that we can—that he‘ll come back again. 

GREGG:  The 63-year-old pilot took off from a private airstrip near Yerington, Nevada Monday morning, and was expected to return by noon.  He was scouting a location to attempt to break a land speed record in a car.  The search is concentrated in an area between Yerington, Nevada and Bishop, California. 

RYAN:  If anyone has to be lost out there, this guy has the skills to survive. 

GREGG:  For the man who was first to fly around the world alone in a balloon and to make the first solo non-stop flight in an airplane, those who know him hope this is one more obstacle to overcome. 

Leanne Gregg, NBC News, Nevada. 

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  On to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Jude Law‘s arrest after a confrontation with a photographer.  Jude‘s run-in with the law happened Tuesday afternoon in London after an awards ceremony.  The unnamed photographer claims the actor tried to grab his camera during a scuffle, according to Britain‘s press association.  Mr. Law‘s lawyer says his client denies the allegations and that the actor voluntarily went to a police station in West London.  Mr.  Law also made counter allegations regarding the paparazzi‘s behavior. 

Police are investigating. 

Happier tidings for the actress Halle Berry.  She is expecting her first child tonight—expecting tonight, not due tonight.  Miss Berry told “Access Hollywood” she is three months pregnant and that the father is her boyfriend, the model Gabriel Aubrey (ph).  Berry wrote in an email that she has waited a long time for this, quote, now the next seven months will be the longest in my life.  Make that 19 years. 

Berry has won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Boston—Golden Globe—a Boston Globe?  She won the Boston Globe.  She won a free subscription.  Of course, motherhood is the prize that just keeps on giving.  Free copies of the Boston Globe.

How much is that doggie in the window worth?  At least 12 million and no one wants to take care of her?  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world. 

The bronze to Jon Totan (ph), the former head of a state-owned power company in Fuyong (ph) in China.  He was convicted of taking bribes and general corruption and was reading a four-page letter of apology to the court while weeping copiously.  Only later did anyone realize Mr. Jon‘s letter of apology had been plagiarized.  It was the same one read by a former party chief in Ton Don (ph), China, which had been printed in a newspaper two weeks earlier.  His tears were believed to be his own. 

The runner up tonight, Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, upset that Jonathan and Anna Bartha of Colorado Springs had written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper critical of a campaign donation he had received last year.  The Congressman twice called the Barthas at home, left voice mails, one in which he warned them that there were, quote, consequences to this kind of thing, and a second in which he got a little more threatening. 

Quoting, I have to make sure this is resolved one way or another and, like I said, I‘d rather resolve this on a scriptural level.  But if you are unwilling to do that, I will be forced to take other steps which I would rather not have to do.  The Congressman has now written his own letter to the Barthas, reading, I apologize for any confusion my voice mail may have caused. 

I don‘t think there‘s any confusion, Congressman. 

But our winner, Michelle Malkin of the lunatic fringe and one of Bill-O‘s caddies over there to Fixed Noise.  She has been vivisected by another prominent commentator.  Michelle Malkin, this individual is quoted by the “Boston Globe” as saying, is the most vile hateful commentator I have ever met in my life.  She actually believes that neighbors should start snitching out neighbors and we should be deporting people.  It‘s good she‘s in D.C. and I‘m in New York.  I would spit on her if I saw her. 

Who said that?  Who smoked Michelle Malkin?  Geraldo Rivera.  Michelle Malkin, today‘s Worst Person in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I have observed here previously that all of human existence seems to divide almost evenly into real-life versions of the sketches by the British comedy troupe Monte Python and real life versions of the work of American comedians Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding (ph).  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, chalk up another one for Bob and Ray.  They once created a character who had been reduced to publicly demonstrating how to use a pencil sharpener, because the aunt for whom he had been named had left her millions not to him, but rather to her pet Airedale and, quote, he ran through the entire estate in a couple of months. 

When real estate terror Leona Hemsley bequeathed 12 million dollars to her dog Trouble, her wishes were clear, Helmsley wanted trouble in paradise, expecting that the eight year old Maltese would live her life in luxury, before joining Helmsley in the family museum, presumably after her death.  Now, although the pooch is far from being in peril, she may be in a state of doggie limbo. 

He‘s on the radio every afternoon.  Helmsley had appointed her brother Alvin Rosenthal as Trouble‘s caretaker.  But Rosenthal is evidently not interested.  And a pet trust specialist has told the “New York Daily News” that a guardian will have to oversee the dog‘s inheritance.  The state lawyer Rachel Hirschfeld saying, quote, trouble deserves impeccable care because she‘s been left with a large estate.  The guardian needs to have the pet‘s best interests in mind. 

There‘s also trouble with regard to Trouble‘s final resting place.  Hemsley instructed the dog be buried in the family‘s marble mausoleum but state law may forbid that.  Meantime, Helmsley‘s bow wow is reportedly living in luxury in Hemsley‘s 28-room mansion in Connecticut with the servants looking after her. 

A guardian for a Maltese.  Let‘s turn now to television personality Mo Rocca, author of “All the President‘s Pets,” also publisher and editor of MoRocca180.com, and three-time winner of the “Boston Globe.”  Mo, good evening. 

MO ROCCA, “ALL THE PRESIDENT‘S PETS”:  Thank you very much.  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  If Miss Hemsley planned to leave her brother in charge of her beloved dog, don‘t you think she would have run the idea by him before she died?  Did something go wrong here? 

ROCCA:  I think there was probably a misunderstanding.  The 12 million dollars are in a trust and I think if it were a stipend, a gift to the guardian, then I think Alvin would be down on all fours sniffing that Maltese‘s butt.  I know I would.  I‘d be all up in there for that kind of money.  I think the best option at this point is Larry Birkhead and Howard K. Stern. 

If they became the guardians—think about it, though.  There‘s so much in it for them.  They get the 12 million dollars, then they also have Dannielynn‘s inheritance.  This way Birkhead-Sterns will have more money than Elton John.  

OLBERMANN:  Apparently Trouble is being cared for by the servants in the mansion in Connecticut, if the “New York Post is to be believed, which is always a dicey idea.  But they serve the dog people food by hand.  I mean, it‘s Leona Hemsley‘s family.  They could be serving the dog people by hand.  The very same story says the dog has a personality not unlike Leona Hemsley and that it has been known to bite the staff. 

Is our worry here more displaced?  Should we be more concerned about the dog or the servants? 

ROCCA:  Well, if the dog is actually being served people, as you suggest, I‘m concerned for the dog.  The only thing that‘s more nasty tasting than lamb and rice is disgruntled valet, the amount of wheat gluten they put on that stuff.  Look, a Maltese is a difficult dog.  It‘s been owned by difficult people.  Marie Antoinette had one.  Josephine Bonaparte had one.  Mary Queen of Scotts had a Maltese.  They‘re difficult dogs. 

I think if this dog maybe went and spent some time with the pit bulls that escaped from Michael Vick, it might be scared straight. 

OLBERMANN:  What exactly does guardian for a dog and a 12 million dollar inheritance do? 

ROCCA:  I‘m sorry, I lost you there. 

OLBERMANN:  This idea of a guardian for a 12 million dollar dog, what does the guardian do? 

ROCCA:  Two words, space tourism.  Seriously, I think send the dog out.  Get the dog out of your hair.  Send it to the International Space Station.  I mean, 50 years ago this November 3rd, the Russians sent the first living creature, a dog, up into outer space.  Thirty years ago this December, Josie and the Pussycats went into outer space.  They brought a cat.  Remember that cat Sebastian.  It was kind of a nasty cat.  But if a cat could do it 30 years ago, send a dog. 

OLBERMANN:  Other dog news here.  The president told Robert Draper in that new biography that a guy—the guy who said if you want a friend in Washington get a dog knew what he was talking about.  The president then pointed to Barney as he said this.  But is Barney still on the team or is he off the boat? 

ROCCA:  Well, first of all, that guy was Harry Truman.  No, look, I have nothing bad to say about the way that Bush has treated his dog, Barney.  Bush has been so focused on Barney.  He has been completely and totally and narrowly focused on Barney.  He‘s been absolutely focused on Barney.  The only dog that likes Bush more than Barney is Trouble because of the tax cuts. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, this week segue here, Larry Craig is back in the dog house. 

ROCCA:  This is great. 

OLBERMANN:  Deciding to fight and keep the Senate seat.  Your answer to that question, what‘s he thinking? 

ROCCA:  Hot new trend in politics and pop culture; it‘s called the do-over.  You have Larry Craig un-resigning from the Senate.  You have Michael Brown returning to FEMA.  You have Vanessa Williams reclaiming her Miss America crown.  You have Edward VIII coming back from the grave to resume the crown of England.  Britney Spears renews her virginity. 

It‘s a great new trend.  I like it.  It‘s about redemption.  It‘s also about nostalgia. 

OLBERMANN:  Television personality Mo Rocca, who, if he is correct, will be returning to a satellite radio baseball show anytime now with his brother, also the publisher and editor of MoRocca180.com.  Thanks, Mo. 

ROCCA:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,589th 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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