updated 12/14/2007 10:42:39 AM ET 2007-12-14T15:42:39

Guests: Phil Rogers, Richard Justice, Craig Crawford, Paul F. Tompkins, Arianna Huffington

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Clemens and clemency: The baseball steroid report is out.  At least 75 players named as users, at least 20 of them still active.  Foremost, seven-time Cy Young Award winner, 354 game-winner - Roger Clemens.  Baseball‘s accusation: He may have won three of those awards; he may have won 141 of those games while using Winstrol, testosterone, sustenant 250 (ph) and decadrebeline (ph).  And there were dozens who used just to keep their jobs as third string catchers.  The punishment recommended by the investigator, former senator George Mitchell?  Mostly—nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR U.S. SENATOR:  I urge the commissioner to forego imposing discipline on players for the past violations of baseball‘s rules on performance-enhancing substances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The COUNTDOWN to 2008: Rudy Giuliani in trouble again.  “Time” reporting, Giuliani partners consulting for the company that conducted the administration secret illegal data mining, that his company was part of domestic spying, that he got a commission when big brother eavesdropped on you.

Three weeks to the day until the Iowa.  The Democratic debate today, Senator Obama asked why he has so many former Clinton foreign policy people advising him.  Senator Clinton laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Hillary, I‘m looking forward to you advising me as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Anybody advising Britney?  She skipped a disposition yesterday because she was sick and at 2:00 a.m. goes to get gas.

Worst Persons: Dan Imus is back and asking quote, “Why don‘t you like Huckabee because you‘re gay or what?” unquote.  And say it ain‘t so, rocket.  Barry, Andy, Mickey, Erick, Lenny, Mo, say it ain‘t so mo.  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Thursday, December 13th, 2007, 327 days until the 2008 presidential elections.  Our full coverage of the Democratic debate in advance of the Iowa caucus‘ follows. 

But first: Baseball.  Tonight, a sport not of home runs and strikeouts but

rather of asterisks and question marks.  Tonight a sport not of elements

called the grace and power but rather of drugs called Winstrol and human

growth hormone.  Our fifth story on COUNTDOWN: Former Senate majority

leader, George Mitchell‘s 20-month long investigation into the use of

illegal performance-enhancing substances is out.  And it calls to mind the

observation of 37 years ago, that player turned author Jim Bowden (ph),

mainly if there existed a pill that would guarantee a pitcher 20 victories

in a season and he knew it would shorten his life by five years, he would

take it any way.  Senator Mitchell has essentially accused Roger Clemens of

doing just that.  Clemens, the seventh time winner of the Cy Young award as

the American League top pitcher who restored a seemingly fading career at

the age of 35 in 1997, who came out of retirement to win six games at age

45 in 2007 took perhaps the biggest hit in the 400-plus page report issued

by Mitchell Commission today.  Quoting a strength and conditioning coach

named, Brian McNamee, from that time on, he injected Clemens with Winstrol

to the end of 1998 season.  Clemens performance showed remarkable

improvement.  Clemens told McNamee that the steroids had a pretty good

effect on him.  Opposing batters hit just 197 against Clemens in 1998,

their worst performance against him over the entire arc of his epic 24-year

career.  But the Clemens story merely the headline in this epic saga did

not end there.  During the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens made it clear

that he was ready to use steroids again.  During the latter part of the

regular season, McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times

with testosterone.  Clemens‘ attorney has denied all of it

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSTY HARDIN, ATTORNEY FOR ROGER CLEMENS:  Roger Clemens, adamantly, vehemently and whatever other adjectives can be used, denies that he has ever used steroids or whatever the word is for improper substances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Within baseball circles, Clemens endurance, in fact, his increasing success when age seemed to dictate his decline was imminent has long been suspect.  Publicly though, he had not been the usual suspect.  The Mitchell report which name at least 75 current and former players is filled with those long linked by fans and the media with steroids, most prominent of them—Barry bonds, the single season and now a career homerun king, just indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in the Bay Area, investigating steroids used by athletes in several sports.  Other names that probably didn‘t shock—Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees and his brother, ex-Big Leaguer, Jeremy Giambi.  Gary Sheffield, like Giambi and Bonds mentioned on that Bay Area grand jury.  And Miguel Tejada, accused by former teammate, Rafael Palmeiro of supplying him with steroids that Palmeiro thought were vitamin B-12, himself just yesterday, traded by from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros, the other public surprises besides Clemens - Clemens‘ close friend and team mate, both in Houston and with the New York Yankees, Andy Pettite.  He just yesterday rescinded his decision to retire and formally signed a $16 million contract to pitch again for the Yankees in 2008.  The Mitchell Report ties him to performance-enhancing drugs as early as 2002. 

Then, there is Eric Gagne, the often fearsome relief pitcher, who only Monday had signed a one year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers worth at least $10 million and who‘s track record of intimidating physical performance followed by sudden physical breakdown seems to match the accepted profile of the users of steroids or human growth hormone.  Other active or recently retired players of note identified on the report—

Kevin Brown, a pitcher who won 211 games for six teams between 1986 and 2005.  Outfielder David Justice, who appeared in six World Series.  Catcher Paul Loduca, who just left the New York Mets to join the Washington Nationals; 1995 American League Most Valuable Player, Mo Vaughn and former Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees second base Chuck Nablac (ph) who constant viewers may recall has some kind of connection to my family.  And amid all these names, familiar to varying degrees, are also literally dozens of Ron Malones, Hoseas Mansanejos (ph) and PT Santangelos (ph), obscure relief pitchers and back up infielders whose identities would usually be unknown to the majority of the fans in the very stadium in which they played.  Many were struggling not for millions but for employment, not for stardom but just to stay in the business.  Senator Mitchell talked on this key aspect of motive in his news conference this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  We heard from many former players who believed it was grossly unfair that the users were gaining an advantage.  One former player told us that that one of the biggest complaints among players is that a guy is using steroids and he‘s taking my spot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The players‘ union given that the exact scheduling of Senator Mitchell‘s news of the conference was leaked last week appearing surprisingly flat-footed in response.  Executive Director, Dan Fer, offering neither a pledge to negotiate the blood testing for human growth hormone, apparently now necessary nor an angry promise of legal action about defamation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN FEHR, MLB PLAYERS UNION:  Many players are named.  Their reputations have been adversely affected, probably forever; even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The politicians have now descended.  The same congressman behind the St. Patrick day hearing of 2005 of which Mark McGwire self-destructed want Mr. Fehr and Commissioner Bud Selig to testify to their committee next Tuesday.  And finally, what to do with the players named in the Mitchell report, what to do with say, second baseman Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles and the other 20 or more still active players named in the report or their records or their Hall of Fame chances of those ex-players identified.  For the most part, says Mitchell—nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  I urge is commissioner to forego imposing discipline on players for past violations of baseball‘s rules on performance-enhancing substances, including the players named in this report except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This is in essence a two-part series because of Clemens, Pettite, Miguel Tejada.  The geographical center of the steroid universe would either be New York City or Houston.  We‘ll go to the latter city and the crack baseball reporter of the “Houston Chronicle,” Richard Justice in the moment.  First: The even bigger picture, the effect on the whole sport and its fans.  We now return to Phil Rogers, baseball columnist of the “Chicago Tribune.”  Phil, thanks for your time tonight.

PHIL ROGERS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Happy to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Is that last statement that we played from George Mitchell really the shock here.  Bud Selig this afternoon said he‘s going consider each active player on a case by case basis.  But, Mitchell recommending essentially amnesty for most, maybe all the players then?

ROGERS:  That‘s puzzling, Keith.  I don‘t know if that‘s kind of an olive branch to the player‘s association.  I don‘t think that‘s going to sway Bud Selig.  I think Selig loved most of Mitchell‘s recommendations for changes on the program but that‘s one recommendation that I think Bud that let fly right by because he‘s definitely on the mood to sanction the players that are in this report to whatever degree, he can do that.

OLBERMANN:  Another issue.  Was the report not primary a declaration of war on the player‘s union?  Mitchell blames them for possibly warning players of this supposedly random unannounced test.  He insisted that they need to agree to the state of art drug testing which is blood testing.  What does the union do now?  Dan Fehr has said almost nothing today.

ROGERS:  Well, I think we‘re going get to those points any way.  The blood testing I think is going be a tough thing for the union to swallow.  They made a number of concession over the last five or six years on testing but that‘s going be a tough one.  And you know, George Mitchell, this is an MLB investigation.  George Mitchell is part owner of a Major League baseball team.  This is essentially a management report.  So, it‘s very clear that you know, the players association is going line up against it you know.  And just the fact that Bud Selig went ahead and sanction this report against the advice of some of his own top lieutenants you know, I think basically has the players association on their heels, you know, where they‘ve been for much of the last five years.

OLBERMANN:  Phil, you‘ve seen this imposing document as I have for 400 pages of it.  There‘s cancelled checks copy in it, there‘s postal receipts, all supposedly for steroids or human growth hormone, delivery payments, there‘s on the record , there‘s not a lot of anonymous here.  A two part question: Are all the players named in the same way on this thing?  Are there different degrees guilt here?  And does the evidence satisfy you or do you think any player will actually cry smear and do something about it?

ROGERS:  Well, I - there‘s definitely two levels of guilt, Keith.  You know, an interesting thing to me is there‘s really no paper trail for Barry Bonds, no paper trail for the Balco guys at all.  And you know, it puts up a system of evidence where Barry Bonds could be less culpable now than Jose Canseco or some of these guys that are you know, linked to Kurt Radomski, the supplier that a had been the Mets clubhouse guy.  So, yes, I think there is two levels and I‘m not sure that Barry Bonds didn‘t just kind of go to the back of the list with a lot of these lesser guys moving in front of them.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, to that point, if the insinuation is that Roger Clemens won three Cy Young awards while juiced, and Bonds broke homerun records while juiced, the integrity of the individual performance is if it wasn‘t before is in question now.  But are the integrity of the games and the penance they contributed to winning in question?  Should we wonder right now would the San Francisco Giants have been in the World Series in 2002 if Bonds didn‘t use steroids?

ROGERS:  Well, take a look at those 2000 Yankees.  You know, I believe there were eight or nine members of the 2000 Yankees that were named among the 78 players today.  So, you know, yes, historians are going to be able to go back and look at that but that‘s one of the most questions you will never get to the bottom of and some point in time, that‘s where what Mitchell says you know, move forward makes some sense.  Because, there‘s really no way to unravel how many homeruns Barry Bonds would have hit without it how many of Roger Clemens wins after ‘99 and ‘98 were contributed to by steroids.  A lot of stuff we‘ll never going to get to the bottom of.  So, you know, to look at it, we‘re seeing accomplishments, too, just complicated it even farther.

OLBERMANN:  Phil Rogers, national baseball columnist of “Chicago Tribune,” here for this very busy day in New York.  Great thanks, Phil.

ROGERS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  On now to Houston and Richard Justice, the stellar baseball writer and columnist of the “Houston Chronicle.”  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD JUSTICE, HOUSTON CHRONICLE:  Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The former MVP, the Astros traded for yesterday, Miguel Tejada on this list, the Astros former native sons, favorite native sons, Clemens and Pettite on this list.  What is it like baseball while in Houston tonight?

JUSTICE:  It‘s anger.  I don‘t think anyone shock you know.  These names have been branded about for a while.  Yesterday news conference announcing Miguel Tejada, Ed Wade (ph), the general manager of the Astros was asked that very question sort blew it off, the way you blew off the questioner.  I doubt he thinks he‘s quite blew off question today. It‘s something you have to deal with.  My guess is, in this whole thing, Keith, you know this, revenues have soared, attendance has soared, I think baseball has braced for this.  A fire storm for a couple of days, then, we‘ll get back to business as usual.  Certainly, making this deal to Miguel Tejada, the Astros knew this was coming.  You and I can guess this easily, you make it any way and then you move on.  In talking general managers around the game they did business this winter without worrying about the Mitchell report‘s impact.

OLBERMANN:  Or perhaps, they got things done more quickly knowing that Mitchell report would be out today, (INAUDIBLE), Pettitte signs, Tejada gets traded in the days beforehand.  Right now, this is the Mitchell report, that‘s we‘re calling it and that‘s what everyone‘s calling it.  Do you think as time passes, this will in fact, evolve into the Roger Clemens report?  Give us a d different perspective not just on Cy Young Awards but even maybe that incident with Mike Piazza and the broken bat in the World Series in 2000 and could this keep him out of the Hall of Fame?

JUSTICE:  Sure it could keep him from Hall of Fame and every accomplishment now is diminished or called into question as Dan Fehr said today at his news conference.  These reputations that were hurt will not be repaired.  You can have evidence it or what people are going to remember when these guys walk down the street, and you have Pettite‘s on that group too, you‘re going to say, well, I‘m not sure that guy did it with right way.  So, everything is called into question and it‘s a hard thing to disprove, you know.  We‘re not shocked.  But when you see it in black and white - and in Clemens there, I don‘t know how you read the Mitchell report but Clemens was the first guy I went there and read the evidence on.  And Mitchell has put together a report with a stunning amount of detail.

OLBERMANN:  I identified Houston as one of the geographical center of this.  But to be fair and this is the point where Rogers touched on that I wanted to get through with you.  Jason Giambi, Ferry Sheffield (ph), Clemens, Kevin Brown, David Justice, Nablac (ph), Pedek (ph), even on the fringes, Ron Valone (ph), Danny Neagle (ph), Bobby Stalila (ph), Randy Velarde (ph), Ron (ph),there‘s a lot of ex-Yankees on there, a lot of them were not on the World Championship teams in New York but without justice and Clemens I don‘t think they would have won the World Series in 2000.  Did the validity of particularly the Yankees success since 1996 just come into question?

JUSTICE:  Well, yes.  But I also think we have to go back to who talked to George Mitchell.  He didn‘t get a lot of cooperation from players and were only a few people to Mets clubhouse guy, Clemens former trainer.  So, that‘s the guys that were implicated, I think you know, you know, you can look and I think you mentioned this, you can look in every clubhouse, there were guys experimenting.  I have always thought 20 percent heavy users, another 20 percent experimented or some sort of use.  So, it‘s everywhere but the Mitchell report is based on the people that cooperated with him and it was guided heavily towards the Yankees.

OLBERMANN:  Final point, the story of my friend, the player of Mormon faith, didn‘t have a cup of coffee, never have a Coca Cola, never have a cigarette on his life, trying to extend his career a year or two, he tried steroids, threw them up a hour and half later but he tried them.  After the first 20 or 30 names on this report, it‘s Chris Donalds, Fernando Vinia (ph), Todd Plat (ph), is the real insidiousness here that these guys that were not guys looking to hit 60 homers, these are the guys who‘re looking to hit six home runs?

JUSTICE:  Yes, you know, Brad made this point a couple of times.  There were two levels of users, those are stars trying to be even bigger stars.  But, there‘s the guy that‘s in the minor leagues, the 28th guy on the rooster, he‘s got two kids, he‘s trying to get a mortgage payment, thinks that if he can use steroid, he can make a big league team, get a contract.  There are tons of those guys out there.  It‘s just I‘m not condoning it but I‘m just saying you can understand their level of thinking.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Justice of “Houston Chronicle” of this extraordinary day in American sports history, as always, Richard, thanks for your insight.

JUSTICE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The co-chair of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign in New Hampshire resigning 26 days before the primary there.  The subject of her campaign, head to head with Senator Obama in Iowa in our debate of the day.

And Rudy Giuliani hits yet another iceberg.  His company consulted for the firm that actually mined the data during the Bush administration‘s eavesdropping scandal.  He made money off invading your privacy.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As the co-chair of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign in New Hampshire quits, they will not quit debating.  The Democrats in the last brawl before the Iowa caucuses.  Bush tonight, a cabinet member actually takes responsibility for the Blackwater massacre, not fault, just the responsibility.  And in Worsts: Bill O obsessed with two stories about teenage girls taking naked photos of themselves.  Oh, here we go.  All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Three weeks to the day until the Iowa caucuses and reports that Senator Clinton had already locked up the Democratic presidential nomination before the voting had even started appeared to have been greatly exaggerated.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: With nearly every poll now showing Senator Clinton has statistical dead heat with Senator Obama in both Iowa and New Hampshire.  The co-chair of Mrs. Clinton‘s New Hampshire campaign resigning late today over comments he made about Mr. Obama‘s admitted used of drugs as a teenager.  The dirty politics threatening to overshadow this afternoon‘s debate in Des Moines.  Mrs. Clinton‘s campaign saying she apologized personally to Mr. Obama for the remarks this morning.  Bill Shaheen, the husband of the former New Hampshire governor, Jean Shaheen have been told that Republicans would exploit Mr. Obama‘s admission of experimentation of drugs as a use which would hurt his chances if he were the candidate in the general election.  By late this afternoon, Mr.  Shaheen seen here at the night of the 2004 New Hampshire primary with Senator Kerry, had stepped down, saying in his statement quote, “I deeply regret my comments yesterday and say again that they were in no way authorized by Senator Clinton or the Clinton campaign.”  In Des Moines this afternoon, at the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses, the candidates playing nice, perhaps too nice even after Senator Obama was asked about his foreign policy credentials by the moderator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN WASHBURN, DES MOINES REGISTER:  With relatively little foreign policy experience of your own, how will you rely on so many Clinton advisers and still deliver the kind of break from the past that you‘re promising voters.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I want to hear that.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, Hillary, I‘m looking forward to you advising me as well.  I want to gather up talent from everywhere.  You know, we haven‘t talked too much about the war but one of the points that I have tried to make during the course of this year, during the campaign is I want to change the mind set that got us into war.  Because I think since 9/11, we have had a president who essentially fed us a politics of fear and distorted our policies in profound ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator Clinton‘s foreign points of her own with the thinly build slide aimed at both Senator Obama and former Senator John Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Everyone wants change.  Well, everybody on this stage has an idea on about how to get change.  Some believe you get change by demanding it, some believe you get by hoping for it.  I believe you get it by working hard for change.  That‘s what I‘ve done my entire life.  That‘s what I will do as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time for us to change gears by calling in our own Craig Crawford, columnist with “Congressional Quarterly” - CQPolitics.com.  Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY:  Nobody was on steroids during that debate, I can tell you that.

OLBERMANN:  By the end of the campaign, they‘re going to need them.  Mr. Shaheen try to paint himself as the lone gunman in his statement on that controversy but the Huffington Post has been reporting since Monday that journalists and Democrats have been receiving e-mails and other messages from the Clinton campaign and from allies pointing them in the likely direction of the youthful indiscretions of Senator Obama.  He‘s got the momentum right now, she does not.  How does she get out of this one without looking desperate?

CRAWFORD:  She doesn‘t.  But that doesn‘t mean she has not done harm to Barack Obama in the long run.  The Clinton campaign wants to call into questions in Democratic minds of voters out there that he might not be electable.  He may face as a neophyte of the politics of these campaigns.  There may be things out there that could come out.  So, they‘re trying to get the message across.  You might call this a murder-suicide.  You hit the opponent and may take out yourself in the process.  You know what?  If that‘s what happens to Hillary Clinton in Iowa and John Edwards wins Iowa, she might not mind that.

OLBERMANN:  In the spin room, after the debate today, the Obama Adviser, David Axelrod said Mr. Obama had told Ms. Clinton today that leadership came from the top in regards to negative attacks, negative campaigning.  Do you think that meeting might have been instrumental in leading to Shaheen‘s resignation or this thing just coincidences?

CRAWFORD:  If that was a strategy, that would be part of it for the person responsible to take themselves out, to be fired from campaign and it helps control that damage, the backlash to take that high road.  It also allows the story to keep being repeated.  Because, you know, first the Clinton official talks about past drug use.  Then, Senator Clinton apologizes to Senator Obama for her aide talking about past drug use.  Then, they fire the official who had talked about past drug use.  So, that keeps getting repeated and the details on what Obama has admitted in his book and most recently on the campaign trail talking about with high school students just keeps it in play even though there‘s backlash against Senator Clinton.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the leadership issue cuts both ways.  The Obama send out an email trying to raise money of a Clinton adviser brings up past drug use.  Is that a mistake or is that just necessary?

CRAWFORD:  I think, the more the details of his admission are discussed, if you go back and read what he wrote in his book, the first book, the ‘95 I think it was, he talks about that he was on the road to being a pot head and a junkie.  And he talks about that he did blow but never did smack.  Some of the language in there, Democrats for some time have been talking about; the “Washington Post” did a different story on it before he announced.  So, there‘s been concern out there.  And it‘s not theoretical.  The question about whether Republicans would using it against him.  When I was in new Hampshire a month ago and Barack talked about his past drug use with high school students, Mitt Romney immediately jumped on it and said it was inappropriate to be talking about that to high school students.  So, we‘ve already seeing the early signs that Republicans are focused on that issue.

OLBERMANN:  Inappropriate to talk to high school students about why you shouldn‘t do drugs.  Fantastic.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and of course, CQPolitics.com.  Thanks, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Imagine an entire city and entire world powered by eel electricity, eel as in slimy things.  But keep imagining, apparently all they can do is keep this one Christmas tree lit.

Speaking of lit, Bill O, Imus, and comedian Rush Limbaugh, all competing for the tonight Worst Person Honors.

First though: Time for the latest for some of the administration scandals in bushed.  Number three: Lunatics running the asylum gate.  Congressional auditor say the White House pressured the environmental protection agency to reduce the number of times companies have to admit they released toxic chemicals in to the environment, 22,000 fuel reports per year.  Number two, attorneys gate:  The Senate Judiciary committee, votes 12 to seven to the Specter and Grassley voting aye for contempt citations against Karl Rove and John Bolton.  But they refused to testify about the political purging of those nine US attorneys.

And number one:  Blackwater-gate again.  The murder of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater mercenaries, shot them without provocation or caused in Baghdad in September.  Member of the administration has accepted responsibility for this.  “Of course anything that happens in this department, I‘m ultimately responsible,” says Secretary of State Rice.  So you‘ll be resigning then?

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OLBERMANN:  40 years ago today, in Texas, was born Eric Marlon Bishop, now an actor-comedian, you know by another name.  The other name came about as a kind of break in a comedy club on amateur night.  And, he noticed that the club owner always gave women comics a chance since there were so few of them.  So, Eric Bishop thought about that, thought that one of his childhood comedic heroes, Redd Foxx, and submitted his name.  Not Eric Bishop but, since it was androgynous, Jamie, and thus, the club owner gave a try-out to Jamie Foxx.  Let‘s play “Oddball”.

An aquarium in Japan where the Christmas tree is juiced up on eel—an electric eel in a tank rigged to harness the 800 watts the eel produces every time it moves, hooked up to the lights on the Christmas tree.  The electric eel is the ultimate renewable energy with limitless possibilities: cars, homes, computers—all could be run on eel?  Let‘s hear what the creator of this ‘electricity‘ tank has  in store.

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UNIDENTIFIED JAPANESE MAN (through translator):  If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we will be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, you would not want to use them to light up houses or charge up electric cars or anything.  The Paddington station in London would have trains run on electric humans.  Actually, this is convicted drunk driver, Luke Noon(ph), serving his sentence trapped in a giant upside down pint glass.  Because, evidently, Britain no longer has public stocks to bolt the guy into.  This is part of England‘s attempt to curb drunk driving during the Christmas season, the worst period for that crime in that country.  The offender and his glass will be touring other train stations before the holiday.  Proving that every cloud has a silver lining, though, that will be just enough time for him to beat David Blaine‘s record for being trapped in glass in England.

Of the many sins of St. Rudy of 9/11, this may be the most dramatic yet: accused of financially profiting off the government‘s clandestine data-mining of American citizens.

And, Britney Spears sick?  Sick enough to skip a legal deposition.  Not sick enough to go out to fill up a tank at 2:00 in the morning.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN...

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OLBERMANN:  Just one day after he  declared himself as the most  transparent public figure he knows, more murky details of his shady business deals have come to light.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN: Rudy Giuliani profiting off invading your privacy, possibly illegally.  “Time” magazine today reporting that his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, made $30 million off a deal with a Florida technology firm called Seisint.  Nothing wrong with that except that Giuliani‘s firm purportedly earned $6.5 million in part as commissions for state and federal contracts which is illegal under federal law.  Giuliani Partners trying to fudge that detail, telling “Time” magazine they only earned bonuses. 

And, despite Giuliani‘s insistence that he is not a lobbyist, his firm did set up meetings between Seisint and Homeland Security—meetings that resulted in the federal government‘s spending $12 million dollars for Seisint‘s data-mining program which was known by the acronym MATRIX.  A company founder even got a chance to pitch MATRIX to Dick Cheney, FBI Director Mohler, Homeland Security Director Ridge, and Governor Jeb Bush at the White House a month after hiring Giuliani Partners.  Thirteen (13) states eventually signed up to use MATRIX because it mined huge databases of information on millions of Americans.  Privacy concerns led all the states to drop it by the end of 2004.  For the program, when the upsized Seisint it was sold, which, thanks to stock options in the contract, earned Giuliani Partners another $24 million.  Turning now to Arianna Huffington, founder and editor of “huffingtonpost.com” and author of “On Becoming Fearless”.  Great, thanks for joining us tonight, Arianna.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  No wonder the guy who told the 9/11 Commission, in essence, “I knew nothing about Al-Qaeda before 9/11,” is now so rabid about homeland security, he gets paid every time an American gets spied on?

HUFFINGTON:  You know, it is amazing.  As I was watching Giuliani on  “Meet the Press” on Sunday, and no matter what was thrown at him, about his lobbying activities, about his relationship to someone close to Osama bin Laden—about anything—he kept to the same talking points.  And, I wonder whether, like the president, he may actually get away with sticking to the talking points no matter what is thrown at him.  And the latest stuff being thrown at him by the investigative team of “Time” magazine is very significant.  He‘s basically profiting from spying on Americans; lobbying, even though he‘s not a lobbyist; and making commissions, which he calls special bonuses, but, in fact, against the law.

OLBERMANN:  The timing of this is marvelous.  As you point out, it‘s the investigative team at “Time” magazine which slogs through corporate documents and got interviews.  That alone kind of shoots holes in his transparency claim but, maybe, it‘s true in an ironic sense, maybe Rudy Giuliani is the most transparent person he knows, which tells you a lot about the people he knows. 

HUFFINGTON:  Well, also remember, he keeps saying that he has given full and complete disclosures—that he has all the disclosure documents that are required in order to run for president.  He also keeps repeating that everything his companies have done has been ethical, legal, and decent because it‘s his word he keeps using again and again.  But the evidence by “Time” magazine today shows that this may very well be illegal, that it is illegal.  And, to get commissions from securing contracts with the federal government and that is precisely what he did.  He actually made $30 million from Seisint  That‘s a lot of money.  He must have done something very good to them to make that much money.

OLBERMANN:  Well, he got them in to meet with the vice-president and the  director of Homeland Security, among other things.  But... 

HUFFINGTON:  That‘s pretty good—within a month of being hired.  Not a lot of people can do  that. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, if he‘s good at this, maybe, he should stick to it full time.  One thing here, you wonder if this is the thing that finally sinks him because, obviously, we saw that the stuff about ferrying the security operation for his  mistress and putting it on the city dime did clearly have some sort of impact on his poll numbers.  But, he keeps maintaining he doesn‘t have to disclose this client list, he can keep ownership of both Giuliani Partners and the legal firm based in Houston while running for president, but with this drip, drip, drip—or flood, flood, flood is more like it—of revelations about him and the relationships that we mentioned earlier—with the government of Qatar, connections once with Kim Jung-Il, how long can he keep having his cake and eating it, too?  You know, the cat(ph) can now be developed: where‘s your client list?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, you would have thought he could no longer be standing,  after everything that has been disclosed about him, starting with his recommending  Kerik who is now indicted.  And, he recommended him, as you remember, for the head of Homeland Security.  Yet, he‘s still standing.  So, I wouldn‘t rule him out that  fast.  There‘s something about him.  The way he‘s still so connected  in the public mind to 9/11.  That may mean that we may have Giuliani to bash for a lot longer.

OLBERMANN:  And, conveniently, he‘s provided us with all the tools  that are required to bash him.  Arianna Huffington, of course, of “huffingtonpost.com”.  Thanks, Arianna, good night. 

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Katie Holmes‘ startling revelation about Tom Cruise, quote: “He makes me blush.”  Take a number, lady. 

And, what comedian Rush Limbaugh did in submitting his entry for “Worst Persons”—well, that ought to make every human being blush.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Liza Minnelli falls off a stage, is caught before she‘s hurt.  Katie Holmes contributes something to the lexicon of weirdness about Tom Cruise. A tough one to call on “Worst Persons”: Dan Imus reverting to type, comedian Rush Limbaugh reverting to intellectual dishonesty, and Bill O. reverting to something really eeky?  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our brief look at celebrity and entertainment news tonight begins with the falling star, literally.  Some alarming for Liza Minnelli and her audience at a concert in Gotword, Sweden.  Minnelli, appearing ill and out of sorts onstage after performing several songs with local musicians.  The concert promoter says that you could see she was in pain, it was a terrible situation, Ms. Minnelli eventually toppling off the stage, was caught by a stagehand, taken to a hospital, and then flown back to the United States.  No word from her manager on what caused the collapse, only that she was very ill.  Liza Minnelli is 61 years old.

Author J. K. Rowling has sold only 400 million Harry Potter books—it turns out that it is 400 million and one, including a handwritten copy of a book of fairy tales auctioned off in London yesterday that went for several million dollars.  Ms. Rowling putting out one of only seven handwritten copies of the “Tales of Beadle the Bard” on the block, a book she hand-made for friends and very close colleagues, after finishing her Harry Potter opuses.  The leather-bound silver-mounted book was expected to sell for about $100,000.00 but bidding pushed it to up to nearly four million, the money benefiting Children‘s Voice, a charity co-founding—co-founded, rather—by Ms. Rowling to help institutionalize kids.

So, Ms. Spears, you want regular or unleaded or she would just pump

the gas directly into your brain?  Britney‘s late night at the truck stop -

that‘s ahead but time out first for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World”. 

The bronze: Dan Imus asking a radio guest, quote: “Aren‘t you like Huckabee because you‘re gay or what?”  So, if you had shown number eight in the Imus pool, you‘re our winner!

Our runner-up: comedian Rush Limbaugh, completely pulling out of context a  clip of Bill Moyers on PBS analyzing John McCain‘s indifference when a woman supporter referred to Hillary Clinton as quote, “the bitch.”  Moyers compared the impact of that word to terms like bastard and to racial or religious epithets which he used.  Comedian played only the part in which Moyers used those epithets and criticized their use.  He seems pretty sure that Moyers had, quote, “lost his mind.”  Comedian, take note: you need to learn your own business—Broadcasting 101, Honesty 101. 

Let me illustrate just how intellectually dishonest what comedian did was.  In the same show, Limbaugh complained about an attack on him.  He said, quote, “There‘s this just like a straw dog argument that simply emanates from the clich’s that these Liberals have on Conservatives and that is racist, sexist, bigot homophobe.”

Now, how far away did he get to Moyers after taking that statement and having it edited, it sort of reads, in describing, quote “Conservatives”, unquote, Limbaugh used these terms: “racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe.”  Ooh, dramatic confessions tonight from comedian Rush Limbaugh.

But, our winner: Bill O. with a whopper.  His top story last night:

another internet scandal involving another American kid.  First, several girls in Syracuse, New York, each photographing herself and sending the photo to a teenage boy.  Then, a 13-year-old girl in Texas taking a picture of another 13-year-old girl‘s, unclothed back with a cell phone camera.  This was Bill O.‘s top story with the father of one of the girls as a guest and a psychologist and then a comedian—three guests for this epidemic of teenage partial nudity.  An epidemic consisting of two events.   He was fascinated by it, angered by it, inflamed by it, obsessed by it.  The shrink said she wouldn‘t punish the girls.  Bill O. said, “But this is a big one!”

“Shrink:  Yes, but in a technological...”

“No, let me stop you for a moment.  This is big!”

Shrink said, “It is big.”

“This is big!”

Shrink said, “Yes.”

Bill O. said, “OK, now, I‘m thinking about my father—I think, I would have been chained in the cellar for, perhaps, two years, maybe 18 months.”

Bill, steer out of this kid quickly, very quickly.  Right now, you‘re getting worked up over the thought of caning naked 13-year-old girls in the cellar for maybe 18 months.  Stop while you still can.  Bill O‘Reilly—today‘s “Worst Person in the World”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Britney Spears, the Virgin Mary, and Tom Cruise would not seem to have that much in common with one another but they converge in the lives of two of our favorite Hollywood divas, beginning with Britney Spears and her miraculous recovery and subsequent midnight gas run.  Our number story in COUNTDOWN, you might recall that she failed to show yesterday at a deposition in her child custody fight because, her lawyer said, she was too sick. 

Now, behold what appears to be the miracle at the quickie mart.  Spears caught on tape at 2:00 in the morning, pulling in for a fill-up at an L. A. gas station, one of two gas stations sightings overnight, Spears chatting up the paparazzi and posing for them while her assistant filled the Benz.  Of course, Britney being Britney, she drove off, leaving her assistant stranded there and a bit bewildered before returning for her a few minutes later.  “I knew I left something.  I thought, it was a kid.”

And if the image of the Virgin Mary on grilled cheese is not miraculous enough for you, “Oz Weekly” is reporting that Ms. Spears has been tapped to play Mary in a modern film version of the nativity.  Mother of God, indeed!

And, mother of Suri, Katie Holmes, sharing the secrets of marital bliss, after one year, in an interview with “In Style” magazine, quote, “Tom likes me in a suit and mini-skirt nowadays.  He‘ll say, “You look good.  I hope security is going with you.”  I like it when he likes it, it makes me blush.”  Let‘s see if that gets a blush out of comedian Paul F.  Tompkins, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever” and “French Off the Tour Bus” with 80 Man‘s(ph) Christmas Show.  Paul, good evening.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN AND CONTRIBUTOR, BEST WEEK EVER:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, let‘s start with Tom Cruise - Katie Holmes says a mini-skirt gets him caught but a suit will do.  And she gets excited when he says, “I sure hope you have some security.”  All right, it‘s different strokes for different folks, but I don‘t know any woman who responds to “hope you have some security, baby.”

TOMPKINS:  Yes, I tell you, compliments like this are so awkward, are not helping to squash the gay rumor about Tom Cruise.  It is almost like you are going to hear the wheel spinning here: “Think, Tom, think.  How do straight guy say things?  Ah, you had better not get violently attacked out there, you look so hot.”

OLBERMANN:  Or, the writers‘ strike is affecting Katie Holmes - one that you think must be true.  She also says they fell in love in an instant.  Does Mr. Cruise impress you as the impulsive type?

TOMPKINS:  Well, Keith, it‘s easy to be cynical.  But, it only takes an instant to sign a secret marriage contract.

OLBERMANN:  All right, Britney Spears - the old joke about canceling the nativity pageant because they couldn‘t find three wise men but, Britney Spears as the Virgin Mary?

TOMPKINS:  Yes, this is a French film.  It‘s one of those things that it is so screaming to have a controversy created around it.  Like, why else would you cast Britney Spears as the Virgin Mary?  I believe the working title of this film is “Bill Donohue, Please Organize a Protest”.

OLBERMANN:  Is a - little plug for the good old Catholic League there

is that what she was doing at this gas station?  I mean, her lawyer said she was sick and then she starts filming this thing at the gas station because the website said she just couldn‘t come out and face all the photogs yesterday.  Then, like ten hours later, she was practically posing for them at 2:00 in the morning.  Do we know what really ails Britney Spears and why she hangs out so much at gas stations?

TOMPKINS:  Well, maybe, what ails her is gas fumes because she does hang out a lot at gas stations.  And that makes me wonder, the paparazzi are always there at the gas stations, when are they filling up?  Are they filling up at the same time?  Is there a sort of Christmas truce almost where everybody is filling their cars up and they‘re going to get back on the run and chase each other?  Or, do the paparazzi have big tanks of gasoline, you know, those big red plastic jugs in their cars.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

TOMPKINS:  . because they seem to be headed for a gigantic fireball.

OLBERMANN:  Or, there‘s a refueling paparazzi who goes around and helps her on the road.

TOMPKINS:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s one other topic, Paul, before we run out of time.  Tyra Banks, the famous host of “America‘s Next Top Model” and “Tyra Show”, denying blind reports that she had suggested that Britney Spears should have ended it all like Marilyn Monroe, going out in style after she released her last album.  All right, this is a war of words and good taste between Tyra Banks and Britney Spears - who do we root for in this one, Paul?

TOMPKINS:  Well, in the immortal words of - from the poster of “Alien Versus Predator”: “No matter who wins, we lose.”

OLBERMANN:  Gosh, what a mess - Tyra Banks, evaluating the life of Britney Spears.

TOMPKINS:  It‘s nice that she‘s seeing the matter which people should die, though.  That‘s a service I didn‘t expect Tyra to come out with.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s only one thing that could make it worse.  Just cut a plate on this and we‘ll say goodnight.  Professor Tyra Banks.  Paul F.  Tompkins, comedian, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever”, of the Amy Mann -- give Amy our best.

TOMPKINS:  I will, indeed.

OLBERMANN: Great thanks.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,688th 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.

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