updated 12/3/2007 11:16:25 AM ET 2007-12-03T16:16:25

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Eugene Robinson, Jon Soltz, Laurence O‘Donnell

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Sex on the city, “Rudygate” day three, riding to the rescue, Bernard Kerik who says this is all ridiculous.  I‘m sure Giuliani welcomes the support of a guy just indicted on 16 counts of governmental fraud and from his ex-deputy mayor who first insists Mayors Koch and Dinkins handled their security bills exactly this way and then says, “I‘m going to reverse myself on that.  I don‘t know when it started.  I don‘t know why it started.”  The candidate, himself, now refusing to say anything.  The latest on Giuliani‘s tryst fund.

And Mitt Romney is in favor of open-ended immigration but only from one group from one foreign nation.  Cubans.  Quote, “In my opinion the more the merrier.”  Everybody else has to get an immigration identity card.

Out of context Congressman Murtha says the surge is working.  Republicans stopped listening right there and declared victory.  The rest of his sentence was, “But that‘s only one element.  The Iraqis have to do this themselves.”  If they only hear what they want, obviously they‘ll only say what they want.  Now the Secretary of State accused of planting a question in one of her own news conferences and even Andrew Card can‘t believe what Karl Rove said about how Iraq started when did because Congress pushed for a vote sooner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD:  Sometimes, his brain gets ahead of his mouth.  And sometimes, his mouth gets ahead of his brain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And I‘ll read you the Friday Night comic strips.  Bill O‘Reilly‘s very useful advice for young people as channeled by vile Left-wing smear merchant, Tom Tomorrow of the “Village Voice.”  Topic number nine—sex.  Sex is a very special thing that happens between a man and a woman who are married and is also something that an employer may occasionally discuss on the phone with subordinates of the opposite gender in a perfectly innocuous and non-creepy way.  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, November 30th, 340 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Sex on the city.  The good news, a long-time friend a man once seen as joined to Rudy Giuliani‘s hip has rushed to Giuliani‘s aid.  The bad news, the long-time friend is disgraced and 16 times indicted, ex-New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik.  And then again, if the subject is using public facilities to enable illicit liaisons with mistresses while on the taxpayer‘s dime, Mr. Kerik knows his subject better.  Day three of the scandal and only Mr. Giuliani seems to think his version will be the last word on the matter.  The candidate refusing to take questions about the allegations, while in South Carolina today saying, quote, “We‘ve already explained it,” and walking past reporters after a town hall meeting.  The problem - the story and the accounting does add up.  The New York City Comptroller‘s Office, the one during Mr. Giuliani‘s term were first to raise questions.  Their requests to the Giuliani administration completely ignored.  The current city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., telling the “New York Times” that travel expenses should have been charged to a single budget account.  Quoting him, “It‘s definitely not the preferred way that one would like to see business conducted.”  You will recall that Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that this was just the standard way to see that the bills got paid quickly and that the police department reimbursed city hall eventually.  Today, the once and current police commissioner, Ray Kelly saying, he has never known the NYPD to have a problem paying its bills on time before Mr. Giuliani was mayor nor since.  Commissioner Kelly adding, there is no review of spending practices underway by the department at this time.  But not to worry—

Giuliani‘s own top cop coming to his rescue.  Bernard Kerik, putting aside his own share of scandal to give his former boss a character reference.  Quote, “There would be no need for anyone to conceal his details, travel expenses and I think it‘s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that the mayor or his staff attempted to do so.”  But today‘s award for best performance by a former Giuliani employee, sorry Mr. Kerik, goes to Joe Lhota, who served as deputy mayor.  Mr. Lhota is telling the “New York Daily News” on Wednesday night, that the Giuliani administration billing practice has, quote, “Gone on for years and predates Giuliani.”  When told yesterday that officials from the Dinkins and Koch administrations had refuted that, Mr.  Lhota and the entire story crumbled.  New quote, “I‘m going to reverse myself on that.  I‘m just going to talk about the Giuliani era.  I should only talk about what I know about.”  On that encouraging and hopeful note for mankind time to turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine.  John, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve heard representations (ph) that this is business as usual in the city of New York from Police Commissioner Kelly, who‘s had two separate terms around the Giuliani administrations; the current comptroller of the city of New York, Mayor Koch denied this.  Officials in Mayor Bloomberg‘s office, officials in the Mayor Dinkins administration.  Why is Rudolph Giuliani with the weight of all that, think his will be the last word on this?

ALTER:  Well, he has Bernie Kerik‘s endorsement.  I mean, it‘s like getting an endorsement on bathroom etiquette from Larry Craig or safety tips from dick Cheney.  I mean, you know, this is the guy who really has great credibility when it comes to playing it straight in the New York City Police Department.  And the scandals just keep popping up to this day about Kerik.  So, the idea of this not being squarely in some regard is ridiculous.  Whether it‘s patently illegal is a different question.  I don‘t think everybody should get hung up on it necessarily being illegal.  There can be big problems including ethical problems that are not necessarily illegal.  So, for instance, just for comparative purposes, the former comptroller of New York state, (INAUDIBLE) you know, his wife, who had cancer, was getting rides, you know, from state paid automobiles and he had to resign over that and here you have Giuliani‘s case, his mistress is getting, you know, round-the-clock police protection.  It wasn‘t quite clear when the handoff went from his wife to his mistress in terms of the city of New York protecting her, so there are a lot of questions out here that we still need to have - .

OLBERMANN:  Yes, there was certainly, there was an overlap.  I think what Kerik is saying is, your wife is not threatening to write a book about all this, so it‘s a little less of a scandal than my scandal as a scandal.  But, is the problem about the last six years and Giuliani and facing inquiries about this official and now merely from the media, is it really twofold, that one, nobody is explaining why these obscure agencies would have gotten these bills, whether it was practice or not practice?  Oh, it‘s practiced.  Why are you doing it that way?  There is some element that doesn‘t seem to make sense to it.  And, two, why they didn‘t clear this up when they were originally asked to clear it up by the comptroller‘s office after Giuliani left office?

ALTER:  Well, I mean, on the first one, yes, this is what‘s propelling the stories.  People are wondering why the Loft Commission, the commission on special disabilities, I mean, the Loft Commission have to do anything with the fact that there were, we now know there were, you know, trysts involved, love nests involved, maybe in lofts for all we know and quite a few of them.  And that‘s not just piling on Giuliani.  I think people say oh, come on.  Trysts?  Those of us who live in New York, you know, this was a daily part of our lives in 2000, this seeing all of the, apparently not all of but revelations about these kinds of trysts and I do think they haven‘t handled it in a very smart way in the last couple days.  Today, apparently they were actually man handling some reporters who were trying to ask him questions about it, which could be a sign of things to come.

OLBERMANN:  And a starter if you want to get people interested in a story from a media point of view start shoving reporters around.  The other side effect of this, you just mentioned it, what people in New York took for granted, which was this storm and drum (ph) about Rudy and his women and basically firing his wife on TV, which he did.  Is there a side effect coming on this nationally, “The oh, yeah effect,” oh, yeah he has kind of an infidelity issue, kind of a morality issue?

ALTER:  Well, I think a lot of people in the rest of the country don‘t know a lot of the details.  They say oh, come on.  He didn‘t really fire his wife on TV.  That didn‘t really happen, did it?  And that‘s just a bunch of liberals were saying this.  But as they sort of pay closer attention, they find out, yeah, actually that did happen.  There is video of him telling a television audience before he tells his own wife that he‘s dumping her and so some of the details of all of this are starting to seep out and when I was in Iowa a few days ago, I did hear some Republicans start to raise some questions about whether his personal life was going to get in the way.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s there.  We‘ll see if it‘s in the way.  Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  Great thanks for coming in.  Have a great weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll see you next week no doubt.  There is no similar meltdown yet for Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate leading in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, at least not yet but a Republican pro choice group is hoping to change that by labeling him a flip flopper on that issue.  The group, Republican Majority for Choice, targeting the former Massachusetts governor with a $100,000 ad buy set to begin airing in Iowa and new Hampshire on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  In 1994 Mitt Romney was pro choice.

MITT ROMNEY, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.

ANNOUNCER:  In 2001 he flipped, saying, “I do not wish to be labeled pro choice.”  In 2002, he flopped.

ROMNEY (voice over):  I will preserve and protect a woman‘s right to choose.

ANNOUNCER:  This year, he flipped again.

ROMNEY:  I‘d like to see Roe V. Wade overturned.

ANNOUNCER:  Take a stand Mr. Romney.  On behalf of the Republican Majority for Choice, ask Mr. Romney to flip flop just one more time and stay there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  More possible ammunition for Governor Romney‘s critics to use against him, the issue of immigration and something very specific to it as well.  The governor having argued against all illegal immigration at Wednesday‘s Youtube debate, all the bickering with Mayor Giuliani to the exclusion of the other candidates.  But one day earlier, before the editorial board of the “Tampa Tribune” newspaper, Mr. Romney have said tougher immigration enforcement should not apply to Cubans, no matter how many, no matter they might get here.  The more is the merrier he said.  Let‘s bring in “Washington Post” associate editor and columnist, Eugene Robinson.  Gene, great thanks for your time tonight.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s start at the back with that abortion ad, the flip flop label, whether justified or unjustified is just one that resonates with people for some reason.  It devastated John Kerry in the 2004 election.  Is this the sort of thing that could cut a hole through Romney, too?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I think it has been - it‘s a negative forum and it‘s been a negative forum all along, this idea that he has flip flopped on a number of issues, especially abortion.  And in abortion, it‘s not an issue on which it‘s that easy to change your mind.  If you think it‘s murder then, you know, yesterday, you think, you‘re likely to think it‘s murder tomorrow and if you don‘t yesterday you‘re likely not to tomorrow, so it‘s—I think it‘s always been difficult for him to explain how he kind of came to this road to Damascus moment and changed on the issue and this ad that kind of has him going back and forth on what is, to many people, were defining, bed rock issue.  Can‘t do him any good.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and the side effect or the sound effect rather is very impressive, too, the creaking door.  They outdid themselves this time.  The candidate who‘s now surged in the polls behind Romney, Mike Huckabee, Romney targeted Huckabee directly in remarks on the campaign trail today.  The pro choice group that produced the Romney flip-flopping ad, could the tactic back fire?  Could they hope to end up, you know, a southern Baptist minister like Mike Huckabee by default?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I think Huckabee was already starting to draw the most committed social conservatives out in Iowa and that‘s what‘s responsible for his rise in the polls out there.  And I suspect his rise soon in national polls.  You know, he is, this is his defining issue, and so I don‘t think a lot of people were going to be driven to him.  I think he‘d be in people who were kind of looking up and saying, well, gee this guy is awfully committed and maybe he has a chance to win, so we‘ll go with him.  I think they were going to go for him anyhow.

OLBERMANN:  Given how aggressive Romney was on the topic of illegal immigration and has been throughout the whole campaign particularly in that debate on Wednesday night.  Is there any straight line between the guy who was in the debate and the guy who went before the “Tampa Tribune” editorial board talking about how any Cuban wants to come here should be admitted no matter how they got here?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think, Keith, and I think you‘re actually suggesting that there is some pandering going on to the Florida electorate.  I‘m shocked you would think that such a thing was happening.  It‘s kind of difficult when you phrase your opposition to illegal immigration the way Romney has.  He‘s trying to be seen as kind of an absolutist on the issue and saying, oh, yeah but for Cubans, you know, that‘s different.  You know, keep in mind, though, that has been the hypocritical position of the entire country for decades now, that Cubans, you know, boy, you got your foot on U.S. soil and you can stay and the more the merrier and in that sense he‘s just kind of enunciating what‘s been the policy of successive administrations.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I‘m kind, we sort of want Venezuela and Cuba together in terms of dictatorships but I guess Venezuelans who would thought, I don‘t know, either I‘m too complicated for or it‘s too complicated for both of us.

ROBINSON:  It‘s too complicated for both of us.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of the “Washington Post,” great thanks, Gene.  Have a great weekend.

ROBINSON:  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  And a day-long disruption for the Clinton campaign today with a hostage situation that ended just hours ago.  At one of her campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, SWAT teams swarming in shortly afternoon eastern, when a man walked in through the Rochester, New Hampshire store front for Clinton claiming to have a bomb strapped to his chest.  That sent local schools into lockdown.  The man holding then, eventually releasing several young campaign workers while negotiating with the police.  The Edwards and Obama store fronts in the same city were shut down as precautions.  About six hours later the suspect came out, untaped the device and surrendered.  The Associated Press identified him as Leland Isenberg (ph).  Local reports call him a troubled individual who had been arrested there three times this year and who had warned his son to watch the news today.  His only reported demand, to speak to Senator Clinton.  She was in Washington and said all this when it was over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I was in touch during the day with the families of those who were held hostage and I really commend their extraordinary courage under, again, very difficult circumstances.  This has been a very hard day for all of us in our campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But it all ended peacefully.  The war over in Iraq, how will that end?  Republicans on the Capitol Hill and the Right wing lunatic, Blogosphere anything but reasonable when it comes to how they‘re spinning Jack Murtha‘s latest comments about the surge.  The comments and the context next.   And having helped push America into the war in Iraq, new revelations about how the Secretary of State helped push herself into that job.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Did Jack Murtha say the surge is working?  Finish, end of communication or did he say the surge is working militarily but not politically and the Iraqis have to do it for themselves?  The lunatic fringe gets into another lather hearing what it wants to hear.

Plus: A report tonight that the Bush administration habit of trying to fix the news goes as high as Secretary of State, Rice.  She planted a question at a news conference where she was answering the questions.  Ahead, here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For the congressman who‘s been a forthright opponent of the war in Iraq, it was another honest assessment from his point of view on conditions in Iraq.  But for the Right wing it was a chance to paint him as a hypocrite and to renew fallacious charges that the Democrats are threatening to cut off funds to the troops in Iraq.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Congressman Jack Murtha says in essence the surge is working militarily but not working politically.  The troops are doing their job but the Iraqi government is not its.  Congressman Murtha‘s comments came after he returned from a trip last week to Iraq and other countries in the region.  “I think the surge is working but that is only one element,” he said in a teleconference to reporters in four cities.  “It‘s working because of the increase in troops but the thing that has to happen is that the Iraqis have to do this themselves.” 

And Murtha said in the same teleconference that the Iraqi central government was, quote, “Pretty close to dysfunctional” and that quote, “We can no longer afford to spend $14 billion a month on the war.”  But Right wing blogs called Murtha a hypocrite who now supports the surge and the House Republican whip, Roy Blunt did his part, presaging no doubt the disingenuously weighed argument to come, “With one of the Democrats‘ leading war critics now saying the surge in Iraq is working, it is difficult to understand why the majority continues to push an irresponsible withdrawal plan that jeopardizes critical support funding for our troops.”  This afternoon, Mr. Murtha said in a statement that quote, “The military surge has created a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government.  Unfortunately the sacrifice of our troops has not been met by the Iraqi government.”  Let‘s bring in Jon Soltz, who served as an army captain in Iraq in 2003 and is currently the chair of Votevets.org.  Jon, good evening.

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Thank you.  How are you, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Murtha‘s office issued that statement part of which I just read as if to clarify something that had only been distorted by people who wanted to distort it.  I mean, it hasn‘t it been clear even to supporters of the surge, supporters of the war, that there were two aspects to the surge, what would happen militarily and the opportunity and the mandate that it created for the Iraqis politically?

SOLTZ:  Yes.  I mean, obviously here, they‘re spinning Jack Murtha‘s thought.  I mean, we learned very young as army officers when we study military strategy that according to Klasovich (ph) that war is politics by other means.  And what we really need from the surge is a political success of Iraqi reconciliation and reconciliation across the Middle East.  And look, this is no surprise when you put five combat brigades in Baghdad, 15,000 to 16,000 of the best fighting men and women in the world inside the, you know, the city streets of Baghdad, you‘re going to control terrain.  I mean, they‘re the best in the world.  That‘s what we expect.  But we‘ve seen no political progress.  And you know, this is their ability to try to spin what Jack Murtha said, you know, the same what they use to Ken Pollack and Michael Hannalen (ph)  statement when they came home, to try to support a surge that were basically declining anyway.  I mean, First Calvary Division is pulling a brigade out of northern Iraq as we speak and did not replacing it.  So, the surge is basically, is on the downside now and we see no political progress.  And it is what it is.

OLBERMANN:  First and last time that the credentials of Jack Murtha and Michael Hannalen, let alone has been considered close.  If the surge, is as you pointed due in any way, the argument of the military success of it, it becomes less relevant, does it not?  I mean, the focus should be how best do you deal with a government that hasn‘t come close to the kind of political reconciliation that‘s necessary?

SOLTZ:  Well, in Kosonov and Bosnia and Haiti and many wars of this country, we use military force to create political leverage—the threat of going in to get political reconciliation or the threat of going out to get political reconciliation.  This administration has done neither, so it‘s a really you know, big problem and the point with the surge ending is twofold.  One, the American army has been decimated by this administration.  You know, when George Bush ran for president in 2004, he argued that we didn‘t need to increase the size of the army.  When he became president in 2000, he wanted to go from ten combat divisions to eight.  So, we have to pull these brigades out anyway, so, you know, there‘s nowhere else to go.  And the second part of it is that this is a political strategy on behalf of the White House not to lose the war in Iraq but it‘s not a strategy to win the war in Iraq and that just not good enough when you have the best army in the world over there fighting.  Because the president, he just doesn‘t want to loss but he has no strategy to win.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the point of expectations, Jon, I mean, the reaction to Murtha seems to be as if this was a final score, as if there were a surrender onboard the Missouri after World War II.  Oh, boy.  Murtha said the surge is working.  Erase the rest of the sentence and that‘s it.  That‘s all those who want this war want, is for somebody to say, yeah, we had a military success there or relative military success over the last three months by having a number of troops there.

SOLTZ:  It‘s not the end all for the soldiers that are in Iraq or the American public that knows Osama Bin Laden the man who attacked this country on 9/11 is sitting in a country that‘s you know, about to fall apart and has a nuclear weapon in Pakistan.  And that‘s a humungous, obvious concern here.  For the Republicans and the president, this is the final straw for them.  They‘re concerned about getting you know, clocked in the election next year, the Senate and the House Republicans with the loose seats in both sides and possibly the White House.  So, for the president it is an end all.  His only strategy here is to not lose which is to pump the football on the war in Iraq for the next president.

OLBERMANN:  Jon Soltz, co-founder and chairman of Votevets.org.  As always, Jon, great thanks, have a good weekend.

SOLTZ:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they put me in a cartoon on the Simpson‘s last week.  Why shouldn‘t the Frank Burns of news get his own?  Bill O in the funny pages.  We‘ll read it to you live.  Bringing your bike to life in ways never before imagined.  Whatever happened to the good ole days?  You just have a little bike with the (INAUDIBLE) on it, a little bell that just go and down, and the baseball cards and spokes.  Let‘s go to a commercial.  We‘ll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1874, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at the family home Glenham (ph) if you want to call a palace that covers seven acres a home.  Of the million interesting things he did and said in 90 years of life, we mention on this birthday the shortest of his brilliant comments.  If you‘re going through hell, keep going.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Queens.  The “New York Times” has found a new breed of biker.  See those boxes on Mohan Samaros (ph) bike?  They‘re speakers, including four twelve inch speakers pumping out 150 decibels.  But wait.  There‘s more.  A whole group of Caribbean kids are tricking out their bicycles with top quality audio systems.  The guy on the right, well the one on the right there, that plays his Ipod.  The one on the left went old school, he‘s got a 50 CD changer.  But it‘s not just audio.  This man has got a DVD player upfront.  Me, I had one of the metal bell things in mind of it and I was partial hearing and seeing oncoming traffic before it was too late.

But Badarada (ph) , Australia, home of the next Steve Irwin -- 19-year-old Stewart Parker who‘s about running 50/50 odds of ever becoming 20-year-old Stewart Parker, says Nelson, all seven feet of Nelson, have been best buddies since he was a kid.  Nelson‘s diet includes live mice, chickens, rabbits.  Does Nelson ever get a hankering to throw Stewart on the Barbie? 

STEWART PARKER, GATOR MAN:  He‘s not trying to get.  It‘s an alligator‘s way of asking for food. 

OLBERMANN:  I cannot stress this enough.  Mr. Chambers, Mr. Chambers, to serve man, it‘s a cook book!  Remember, sir, Nelson may think of you not as Stewart Parker but merely as Stew. 

To Hong Kong, where a bevy of Spanish hair stylists have landed to display their talents just in time for the festive holiday season.  Thus, customers at a local shopping center became guinea pigs or rather the lucky recipients of the latest craze.  What‘s that?  Holy yule tide, there‘s a Christmas tree in that woman‘s hair.  Holidays are grand. 

That‘s right, nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a hair-do that will keep you from sleeping at night.  There is an old “Saturday Night Live” sketch like this with Maureen Stapleton (ph).  But I don‘t have time to explain it right now. 

The administration‘s latest fake news scandal.  Condi Rice planted a question with a friendly reporter.  And the epic that is the life of Bill-O told in a sweeping new comic strip.  The dramatic reading ahead.  These stories coming up, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best free election excuse, the bronze here goes to Rodrigo Cabrezas, the finance minister in Venezuela, accusing business leaders and citizens in that country in advance of the vote Sunday that would expand the powers of President Hugo Chavez of trying to create a sensation of product shortage during the elections by hiding vast quantities of toilet paper.  We know there are sectors that are hiding toilet paper, he adds, accusing the sectors of, quote, playing dirty. 

Number two, best compartmentalization, Terry Dison of Liverpool, England.  At a court hearing, he was barred from driving for a month after a drunk driving incident.  so six minutes later Mr. Dixon was arrested driving home. 

And in number one, best strong police response, Detective Lieutenant Leo Borowsky of the police department of East Point, Michigan.  Happy‘s Pizza delivered a pie, some chicken, some ribs and shrimp, a combo priced at $17.18 to 19-year-old Jessica Gray.  She took the food and stiffed the guy.  She wouldn‘t play—wouldn‘t pay rather, or play. 

Police came back and then she and the friends would not open the door to the cops, so the cops opened the door with a battering ram.  Get the door.  It‘s Happy‘s Pizza and they‘ve got a battering ram. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  From the president who promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House today we get not one, not two, but three examples of current and former top officials trafficking in dishonesty, in some cases rewarding it and treating it literally as if it were a joke.  In our third story tonight, lies and consequences; desperate to shake responsibility for Iraq in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came up with a PR strategy to distract attention from her role in the war, according to a new book by “Washington Post” reporter Glen Kessler (ph).

Kessler today telling C-SPAN that a Rice aide planted a question with a, quote, friendly journalist about a potential presidential run, thus inflating her image and also succeeding in moving the conversation off of Iraq.  Of course, at this FEMA news briefing in October we already knew that all the questions were fake.  The fake reporters posing those fake questions to that real FEMA official were, in fact, his subordinates, tossing, as you might suppose, the softest of softballs. 

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, reacted with outrage, calling it one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I‘ve seen since I‘ve been in government.  And that‘s saying something. 

Today we learned how he responds to dumb and inappropriate behavior, with promotions.  Take FEMA reporter Cindy Taylor (ph), now heading FEMA‘s Private Sector Office, fake FEMA reporter Mike Windomsky (ph), promoted to deputy director of public affairs.  And, in our third example, you may remember the lie that Karl Rove told to Charlie Rose, like Rice, shifting blame for Iraq elsewhere, astonishingly to the Democratic Senate from 2002. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  One of the untold stories about the war is why did the United States Congress, the United States Senate, vote on the war resolution in the fall of 2002? 

CHARLIE ROSE, PBS ANCHOR:  Why? 

ROVE:  This administration was opposed to it.  I‘m going to talk about that in my book. 

ROSE:  Tell me.  Give me something. 

ROVE:  No, no. 

ROSE:  Give me something. 

ROVE:  I just did.  I told you the administration was opposed to voting on it in the fall of 2002. 

ROSE:  Because? 

ROVE:  We didn‘t think it belonged within the confines of the election.  There was an election coming up in a matter of weeks.  We thought it made it too political.  We wanted it outside the confines of it.  It seemed to make things move too fast.  There were things that needed to be done to bring along potential allies abroad. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We showed you here proof of Rove‘s dishonesty from the White House website, but the White House itself never weighed in.  Only today, when asked point blank about it, did Mr. Bush‘s former chief of staff confirm Rove‘s dishonesty, in a manner suggesting the administration lies about a war that has killed and maimed thousands of Americans, constituted a joke. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE”:  Karl Rove went on Charlie Rose and he blamed the Democrats for pushing him and the president into war.  Is that how it worked? 

ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  No, that is not the way it worked. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What the heck?  Seriously, what the hell was that about? 

CARD:  The Democrats have pushed us into a lot of stupid things, but they didn‘t push us into war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, yes.  You worked with Karl.  Is that Karl spinning beyond the White House? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Spinning out of control? 

CARD:  Karl is very smart and he‘s—sometimes his brain gets ahead of his mouth.  And sometimes his mouth gets ahead of his brain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And sometimes neither of them works.  Let‘s turn now to MSNBC‘s political analyst Laurence O‘Donnell, also a contributor to HuffingtonPost.com.  Good evening to you, sir. 

LAURENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  If the White House and Card knew that Rove had lied on national TV in such an audacious way about the White House, about the war, why wouldn‘t they correct the record at the time or maybe the next day? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think from the White House perspective, Rove no longer works there.  He is not our responsibility.  But really, Keith, it‘s hard to think of a president like this.  It‘s hard to think of someone of a high position in the White House being out of the White House for a few months and then saying things that everyone knows are completely false.  I mean, no one from the Nixon administration came out and said, oh, gee, the Democrats forced us to break into their campaign headquarters. 

It‘s just the strangest thing.  I think the White House was probably as shocked by Rove‘s audacity as all the rest of us were.  You know, the only defense you could come up with for Rove, other than lying, is that he simply doesn‘t know what he‘s talking about.  I mean, that‘s the most honorable defense.  He was not in any of the National Security Council meetings leading up to the war.  He wasn‘t really a player at all in the decision making leading up to the war. 

It‘s very clear from the accounts of those meetings in Bob Woodward‘s books and other accounts of how this proceeded that the White House was, in fact, very eager to get this done at a certain point in the calendar, and the Democrats in no way, no conceivable way, added any urgency to what became George W. Bush‘s mission in Iraq, and when to start that mission. 

OLBERMANN:  The second part of this, though, is not just What rove said, but what Card said today, this explanation that he was merely blabbing something faster than he could think about it.  I mean, that‘s nonsense on the face of it, because Rove specifically said it is something he had already decided to write about in his book.  And it‘s conceivable it just came to his head at some point, and now he is trying to rationalize it and put together something that explains what he said on the show or what happened five years ago.  But, clearly, either way, Card‘s answer does not explain Rove‘s answer.  And you‘ve got—the question is why would Card replace one lie with another one? 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, Andy Card worked with him.  They‘re sort of friends.  But not really.  Card did flatly contradict him.  He‘s not going to find the most negative language he can come up with to contradict him.  But Rove—people who worked with Rove in the White House, there is a lot of negative opinion about Rove from people who worked with him in the White House.  And that opinion now is much more available off the record now that Rove is out of there. 

I‘ve heard a lot of stuff from people over the last couple months and more this week about how this is typical Karl stuff.  This is—he did a lot of this in the White House, hip shooting.  And not just in this, but in predicting election outcomes that were wrong in 2006.  He really did tell those people in the White House in 2006 that we really are going to win this Congressional election.  And so they‘re not—the White House, I don‘t think, thinks of Karl as being one of their big sources of truth. 

They think of him as a spinner.  They think of him the way Democrats think about James Carville.  I don‘t mean to suggest that Carville was ever dragged in front of Grand Juries the way Rove has been because of his problems with the truth, but that these guys are spinners.  They‘re not the people you turn to for honest opinions or honest frames on anything. 

OLBERMANN:  He already had his math.  Apparently he has his history now.  But Secretary of State Rice is often treated as though she is somehow different from the general run of Machiavellis you find in the Bush administration, as if her problem is incompetence rather than dishonesty.  But does this story about the calculated PR campaign and the questions slipped into the friendly reporter—does that suggest we ought to start viewing her as just another one of the Bush boys? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, she has a real PR problem.  I mean, what she—what they did at the State Department was very different from what FEMA did, which was completely outrageous.  What they did is very standard in politics.  Mike Bloomberg‘s people have been urging reporters to ask him if he is running for president for years, and reporters do ask it because it‘s a fun story.  And so getting a reporter to ask Condoleezza Rice if she was running for president was not such a big deal. 

What‘s so desperate about it is that it includes the attempt to reframe her image coming out of the Iraq war.  David Kay, who was the weapons inspector chosen by the administration to go into Iraq after the invasion, looking for weapons of mass destruction and finding none, said at the end of his experience in the Bush administration that Condoleezza Rice was the worst national security adviser who ever held the job. 

So that is the image she is trying to work against as secretary of state.  And it is a big hill to climb. 

OLBERMANN:  Laurence O‘Donnell, political analyst, contributor to the “Huffington Post.”  As always, great thanks and have a good weekend. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I love trouble or conspiracy theory?  Julia Roberts in a new straight to video release today, paparazis 11.  And the surgeon general of the United States bashes Santa Claus.  Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Little in the vast diorama covered in our number two story, Keeping Tabs, maybe more vexing.  When it‘s rich celebrity versus obnoxious paparazzi who make nice incomes off annoying celebrity film stars, for whom do you root?  The latest, Julia Roberts complaining earlier this month to “Vanity Fair” that the obsession to get pictures of her children and celebrity kids makes her stomach churn. 

Now this tape surfaces.  Just as in the movies, Roberts using her best Broderick Crawford (ph) stunt driving skills to chase down a snoop who was staking out her kids at school. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS:  Hi.  How are you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, Julia.  How are you? 

ROBERTS:  No, listen.  You can turn your video camera off.  I‘m going to talk to you about the fact that you‘re at a school where children go.  Turn it off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, meantime, the death of a celebrity whose odds of living as long as he did must have seemed astronomical.  Dare devil Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel had been in failing health because of diabetes and lung disease, not because of the broken bones he had suffered over the years.  The closest he had come to death was a month-long coma after he crashed trying to jump a Las Vegas fountain in 1968. 

Knieval was colorful at minimum.  They started out watching me bust my ass, he said, and I became a part of their lives.  His biggest success might have been a failed attempt to jump an Idaho canyon on a rocket powered cycle.  It made him internationally famous.  His grand daughter says he died today in Clearwater, Florida.  Evel Knieval had just last month turned 69 years old. 

The “Village Voice” savages Bill O‘Reilly by means of comic strip.  We‘ll read you the highlights ahead.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

The bronze either to Santa Claus or the nation‘s acting surgeon general, Rear Admiral Steven Gelson (ph) who told the “Boston Herald” that we should stop portraying St. Nick as a jolly fat man; “it is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well, and getting exercise.  It is absolutely critical.  Santa is no different.” 

There‘s your freaking war on Christmas. 

Speaking of which, our runner—up, Bill-O.  The Fixed News promotional sheet for his program reads, furry, funny, and full of attitude.  Alf is in the Factor out of the world event.  Plus, Laura Ingram rails against the fornication of TV, that Bill-O has helped to create.  Could it be a negligee situation?  Also, furry, funny, and full of attitude?  If I‘m Laura, I‘m not taking that laying down. 

And our winner, the perpetually anonymous spokesman for Fixed News or Fixed Business News, who is usually Roger Ailes or a proxy.  “Variety” reported Fox had a, quote, strong interest in hiring Jim Kramer away from our sister network cNBC, so the proud spokesman, who will never identity himself or herself by name, sent a series of e-mails to TV blogs that all sounded pretty close to this, quote, strong interest?  Try no interest.  Jim approached us about coming to FBN, and we turned him down because he has no ratings at cNBC and was fired from FNC years ago. 

They‘d kill for Kramer‘s ratings.  By the way, Alexis Glick, Liz Klayman, Neil Cavuto, the heart of a Fox Business machine being watched by literally dozens of investors, each of them dropped by NBC and CNBC.  Fox‘s perpetually anonymous spokesman, but it‘s usually Roger Ailes, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Mayor Laguardia did a lot for New York in 12 years on the job, but he was remembered most fondly for generations by New Yorkers who had been kids during the city newspaper strike in July, 1945.  Laguardia took to the city-owned radio station and read the funny papers, the Sunday comic strips that were not running in the New York newspapers that were not being printed. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, now I am no Laguardia, but I know a good schtik when I see one.  So when the “Village Voice” printed two pages worth of Bill O‘Reilly‘s very useful advice for young people, as channeled by vile left wing smear merchant Tom Tamarrow (ph), I thought you kids at home might enjoy it if Bill-O himself read you about half of it.  So, you all ready?  OK, let‘s go. 

Hello.  I‘m Bill O‘Reilly.  You kids may think of me as a creepy old guy from the TV.  But if you buy my new book “Kids Are Americans Too,” you‘ll learn that I‘m actually a hip and with it guy, who can really relate to the young generation.  And I‘m here today to prove it.  So let‘s get started. 

Topic number one, dating.  As you young people mature, you‘ll start noticing the opposite sex.  You‘ll find yourselves wanting to spend more time together.  You boys may even be tormented by the urge to call young ladies on the phone to discuss hypothetical sexual activities in a manner that some people might consider inappropriate.  I advise against this. 

Topic number two, friendship.  Everyone likes to have friends, but sometimes friends disagree.  If you have an argument with your friends, here‘s what you should do; call them cowards until they agree to appear on your show.  And then, if you don‘t like what they say, cut their microphones.  What are they going to do, whine about it on some blog? 

Which brings us to our next topic.  Topic number three, the Internet.  I know that you young people enjoy using the computers, but always remember the Internet is a very dangerous place.  It‘s filled with vile hate mongers who spread lies and distortions about me, Bill O‘Reilly.

Topic number four, my ratings.  One thing that‘s very important for you young people to understand as you set out on your journey through life is that my ratings are much higher than Keith Olbermann‘s.  And that‘s not the only thing about me that‘s bigger, but that is a topic for a few years from now when you‘re old enough to enjoy a harmless non-creepy double entendre. 

Topic number five, Britney Spears‘ panties.  She keeps losing them.  What‘s up with that?  I make a similarly hilarious joke within the first few pages of “Kids Are Americans Too.”  Anyone who tells you this is creepy should be ignored because they are lying. 

Topic number six, falafels.  They‘re a delicious Middle Eastern food staple, not to be confused with fibrous bath sponges.  Little advice for you fellows, definitely don‘t take any falafels into the shower or suggest to any young ladies that you would like to do so.  That‘s a mistake you‘ll regret for the rest of your life.  Trust me on this one. 

Topic number 11, “the Daily Kos.”  You young people can decide for yourselves what you think of Democrat (sic) candidates who boycott a fair and balanced Fox News debate but attend a vile, hate-filled “Daily Kos” convention.  So go ahead, decide. 

I think they‘re not fit to be president. 

Well, what an astute young person you are, dog. 

Topic number 12, the ACLU.  This is the most dangerous organization in America today.  They‘re worse than al Qaeda and the “Daily Kos” combined.  ACLU stands for atheists, communists and liberals united to destroy everything good and decent about this country.  You can look it up, though I would prefer that you did not. 

Topic number 15, Christmas.  I‘m sure you may have many happy memories of Christmas time, since you are young people who enjoy that sort of thing.  Well, if George Soros and the ACLU have their way, there won‘t be any more Christmas time.  You see, the secularists have declared a secret war on Christmas and it is so secret, I‘m practically the only person who knows about it.  But if they have their way, you‘ll be standing around the holiday tree next Christmas singing songs about pagan gods and exchanging gift donations to UNICEF. 

And I won‘t let that happen.  You hear me?  I won‘t, because I‘m the only person looking outs for you.  Me, Bill O‘Reilly. 

Topic number 16, cartoons about me, Bill O‘Reilly.  Ignore them.  They‘re not funny.  If you want a good laugh, read some cartoons that make fun of George Soros and the ACLU, or that one with the conservative duck.  That‘s what I call humor. 

One more thing.  Keith Olbermann‘s penis is really, really tiny.  Just saying. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,675th 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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