updated 6/30/2004 1:04:55 PM ET 2004-06-30T17:04:55

Guests: Peter Guber, David Gergen Dr. Pepper Schwartz

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

“Fahrenheit” flap flairs further: The Motion Picture Association edits a newspaper ad for the Moore film.  “Censorship,” cry the producers, the critic who‘s quote got cut, and “New York Post?” 

The Saddam turnover:  Now scheduled for tomorrow.  He will say the U.S.-led war in Iraq was illegal.  We‘ll be joined by General Norman Schwarzkopf. 

And the U.S. will recall 5,600 reservists who thought they had already finished their service. 

Another teacher/student nightmare from Florida: 23-years-old, having sex with an eighth grader.  She is a newly wed. 

Speaking of newlyweds, so they‘re suggesting this is a shotgun marriage.  Britney Spears, according to one report, is with child.  Oh, boy. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening. 

The words of a conservative columnist would seem to be appropriate preface, tonight.  Whatever the right does to Michael Moore‘s film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” someday the left will also do to somebody else‘s film about, ooh, say, Hillary Clinton. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  Politics comes unglued.  The “Fahrenheit 9/11” conflagration burst past three more fire walls today.  First a film industry group trying to censor, not the movie, but the newspaper ads for it.  Meanwhile, a number of theaters refused to enforce the R-rating, prohibiting minors from seeing the film unaccompanied by adults.  And lastly, an unexpected backlash, Disney stockholders now reportedly angry because their company refused to distribute the flick and thus refused to make its share of the $24 million the picture grossed in its first weekend in theaters. 

The censorship—alleged censorship, first: As with every film since “Birth of a Nation,” Moore‘s people wanted to advertise it newspapers with the proverbial blurbs from favorable reviews, one was to be from Richard Roper, the “Chicago Sun Times” and the syndicated TV series “Ebert and Roper,” who called it: “A powerful piece of film making.  Everyone in this country should see this film.”  When the ad agency ran Roper‘s endorsement, the Motion Picture Association of America ordered to it drop the line on the premise that the word “everyone” was an inducement to get people to violate the R-rating and let those under 17 attend without parent or guardian. 

Roper told the “New York Post,” quote, “They don‘t trust their own rating system.  If their system worked, everyone under 17 would be stopped anyway.”  The MPAA has turned down the distributor‘s appeal of the censorship, but the issues may be irrelevant.  The trade publication, the “Hollywood Reporter” says that at least four California theaters are ignoring the R-rating and letting anybody in.  The movie houses are all in the San Francisco Bay area, in Berkeley, Lafayette, Orinda, and Oakland.  The owner of the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland claims he is the toughest theater in the east bay when it comes into getting into an R-rated movie.  “We actually enforce it rating system, vigorously.”  But he adds Allen Mishan (ph), who admits to being on the political left, “the R-rating was totally uncalled for in this picture.  I felt this was political censorship.” 

And Republican revolutions and swings to the left may come and go, but money is always with us.  And Moore‘s success has today, really honked off a number of stockholders in the Disney corporation.  You will recall it was Disney that started the whole censorship flap by refusing to distribute the film, turning it over to three independent distributors amid a torrid of political charge and counter charge.  Well, that was $24 million ago, and untold millions yet to come.  The trade paper “Variety” reporting no organized stockholder revolt yet at Disney, but with analysts predicting a domestic gate of $100 million or more, and with the Chairman Michael Eisner seen leaving for a screening for the film on Sunday, stay tuned for the proverbial coming attractions. 

And oh, yeah, the Richard Roper blurb that touched off the latest censorship charges, the “Ebert and Roper Show” is produced by a company owned by Disney. 

One of the keenest observers of the movie industry is Peter Guber, former chief of Columbia Pictures and of Sony Pictures, now chairman of Mandalay Entertainment, he‘s also a professor of film at UCLA, and co-host of a terrific show on the AMC Network called “Sunday Morning Shootout.”  Mr. Guber joins us. 

And thank you for your time, sir. 

PETER GUBER, AMC‘S “SUNDAY MORNING SHOOTOUT”:  You‘re welcome. 

OLBERMANN:  On the ruling on the newspaper ads, Moore‘s people are angry, Roper is described as “outraged,” the “New York Post” today wrote, “censorship is alive and well and rearing its ugly head through Motion Picture Association of America.”  Could all these three people be right? 

GUBER:  Well, what‘s right is all these three people are going to mean more money, more bucks, more people are going to see it, because the controversy is the way this film was marketed, it depended upon it.  I mean, the political point of view of Michael Moore notwithstanding, it was the opposition that fueled the visibility of this product. 

OLBERMANN:  Mel Gibson‘s “The Passion” was, I guess, the latest instance of this, but we, of course, I guess we saw it with “Monty Python‘s Life of Brian” and goodness knows how many more films dating back to Bridget Bardeau and further back then that.  It seems a fairly easy process to create a controversy or at least ride the tide of a controversy, were the political people who got involved in this just kind of neophytes compared to the Hollywood ones who are use to it? 

GUBER:  Well, I think the Hollywood people and the political people can be neophytes in trying to find the magic alchemy that creates this kind of controversy.  You could search your lifetime and not get it.  And you could aim next week with the same exact subject and not get it.  It is really magic.  You don‘t know where it strikes, but you want to be able to mine it, and I think successfully, they‘ve done so.  All of this controversy serves to serve up a opportunity to both the distributor and the filmmaker.  They would never have had the audience without this controversy, this, as well as “The Passion,” as well as other films.  But, you can‘t aim for this.  You can‘t plan for this, it just happens. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course, in Hollywood, as in television, nothing succeeds like somebody else‘s idea that you can just copy.  In politically charged times, everything becomes political, 50 years ago, the baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds changed their name to the Red Leg because they didn‘t want to provoke Senator McCarthy during the Red-baiting scare.  Do you think there is a temporary political flap involving Hollywood and an overheated political arena? 

Or could we have actually turned a corner where we‘re going see overtly political films become a genre just because this produced this kind of numerical box office numbers? 

GUBER:  Not a chance.  In my opinion, they‘ll always have idiosyncratic films, documentaries, or features that feed—that deal with a particular unique subject, whether it‘s “All the President‘s Men” or this particular film.  But, the question is, aiming for the sweet spot, where the audience really is, will be mainstream approach of all the studios.  When they‘re trying to make films to reach this mainstream audience, they have to aim for the center of gravity, and that‘s all of these young people, these 13 to 19-year-olders, these 10 polls (ph), these franchises, these “Spiderman‘s.”  Good, bad, or indifferent, the “Van Helsing‘s” the “Harry Potter‘s,” all of these films, they provide the real basis for success for these movie companies.  This, really, both this and “The Passion” were not distributed by major companies.  They were both done by independent companies. 

OLBERMANN:  So when “Spiderman 2” comes out, it will clean the clock of “Fahrenheit 9/11?” 

GUBER:  It will—let me put it this way, if it to choose which asset I would want to own, if it was my company, it wouldn‘t be even a contest, “Spiderman 2” is a franchise 10 poll, summer picture, a mega picture in virtually in every ancillary and every environment, every market, every core demographic.  This other picture is interesting and is challenging as it is, and the light shines on the subject, is really a political document.  It‘s an editorial document, but the filmmaker who set out to espouse a particular point of view.  That‘s what documentaries do, they‘re not supposed to be journalistic endeavors, the are really a viewpoint of the filmmaker. 

OLBERMANN:  One of the greats of films and film production, Peter Guber.  Many thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

GUBER:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  One more note about Michael Moore, just when you thought you knew where to pin all this on the political spectrum, the filmmaker was slammed by Ralph Nader.  In a personal note placed on his “Vote Nader” Web site, the independent presidential candidate claimed that Moore has “abandoned those old friends of his progressive constituency who helped him and supported him after he was mistreated and let go by Mother Jones.”  Nader is complaining that at the Washington premier of “Fahrenheit 9/11” Moore invited the democratic political establishment.  “Who was not there?”  Nader asks rhetorically.  His old buddies.  Not personally invited, not personally hung out with.  No comment from, Moore. 

The flap on the horizon could make the Moore controversy look like an argument over whether Ted Knight or Rodney Dangerfield was better in “Caddie Shack.”  A novella, to be published the Tuesday before the Republican convention, in which the main character ruminates over how he is going to assassinate President Bush, written by Nicholson Baker who once put out a novel that was essentially a transcript of a phone sex conversation. 

“Check Point” is a 115 page conversation between two men, one intent on killing the president with a gun or radio controlled flying saws or a boulder made out of depleted uranium.  A 1968 Supreme Court judgment ruled that speaking of assassinating the president cannot be forbidden nor punished unless it‘s clear that the speaker‘s intent was to provoke an assassination.  At least two films depicting assassination plots have been made, including “Suddenly,” which starring, of all people, Frank Sinatra as the assassin.  But of course those were not works of fiction about a factual president. 

Meantime on the other side of the thin wall between fact and fiction, the presidential election is exactly 126 days away.  And the latest poll results—and this suggesting a clear victory for none of the above.  President Bush‘s job approval rating has fallen to the lowest point of his presidency, 42 percent, according to a “New York Times” poll released today.  On the other hand, asked their opinion of Senator John Kerry, undecided or unknown was the winner, 36 percent of registered voters have no opinion of him, 35 percent unfavorable, 29 percent, down three points from last month, answered favorable. 

Just to make this more confusing, with Iraq in the lead issue on the voter‘s mind as just ahead of the economy, 60 percent say the war in Iraq has not been worth it, 58 percent say they disapprove of Mr. Bush‘s Iraq policy, and asked if they thought he was telling the truth about Iraq, 59 percent said he was hiding something, 20 percent more said he was mostly lying -- 79 percent, you‘re-not-telling-us-something-factor.  End the result of all that?  Kerry‘s lead over Bush has dropped from a peek of 49-41 a month ago, to 45-44, today. 

OK, either of you party‘s want to make a late change in the nominee department?  To discuss this surprising state of affairs, I‘m joined once again by David Gergen, editor-at-large of “U.S. News and World Report,” advisor to four presidents, director at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School at Harvard. 

David, good evening.  Welcome back. 

DAVID GERGEN, “U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT”:  Hello there, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Eight in 10 Americans do not believe this president is being totally honest with them about Iraq.  He‘s still ahead of John Kerry, that set of conflicting data sure looks like a large number of American would like to either move to Canada or have one of these guys enthrall them in the next 126 days. 

GERGEN:  Yes, I know.  It‘s one of those contests.  People say we‘re going to be electing the evil of two lesser, right? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

GERGEN:  On this one, I would think the that numbers that would disturb White House the most would be those that go to his truth—the president‘s candor and truthfulness.  And he‘s always been known as the straight talking guy from Texas.  That served him well, people thought they could trust him.  Any time your trust numbers start going down seriously, you have to worry about that, because it—that—that—every president tries to have this almost magical, mystical connection with the electorate and you really want to have the situation, where you say something on television, people will automatically say, “I believe that because it‘s who‘s saying it.” 

Eisenhower used to be able to go on about international affairs, for example, well over 60 percent of the country would agree with him just because he was Eisenhower.  He was man—“I like Ike,” he was a wonderfully trusted man.  Reagan had a huge amount of trust up until—and that was a central pillar of his presidency until the Iran/Contra scandal came along, knocked that prop out from under him, spent the rest of his presidency repairing it.  Did a very good job of repairing it, but he paid a price for it.  It was one of those moments that Reagan lost his magic there for a while over this issue of trust, it‘s is hugely important to leadership. 

OLBERMANN:  The “no opinion” number on Kerry, 36 percent, it sounds incredible until you consider that this same “New York Times” poll, taken 12-years-ago, more or less today, showed that 44 -- 44 percent, at that point, had yet to form any opinion about Bill Clinton. 

So there is an opportunity yet for Mr. Kerry, in this? 

GERGEN:  Absolutely.  But, if you‘re in the Kerry camp, the number you‘d watch is his likability index.  People want to trust their president, they also like to—they want to like the president.  And if you‘re in a Kerry camp, you have to look at that and say, “Wait a minute, the more we‘re known, the more we‘re disliked?  We got more people who dislike us then like us?”  That is—that number‘s going in the wrong direction.  I will tell you, Keith, this Democratic convention is shaping up to be a lot more important for John Kerry than we thought maybe three or four months ago.  His acceptance address now, is—I think it is even more important than his choice on the vice presidency.  The choice on the vice presidency may come soon, that‘s critic—it‘s obviously important, but the acceptance address, how he reaches the people, how they sense him up, whether they seem to think “This is a fellow I‘m going to be comfortable watching in my living room for the next four years,” very important.  And that speech will be the single most important watched for them between here and the elections, other than the debates, for John Kerry. 

OLBERMANN:  So in sum David, will this race stay too close to call until we actually have to call it in November? 

GERGEN:  I—in addition to what we just talked about Keith, people -

·         two things: job number here, and Friday, we have some new job numbers, and the body count numbers in Iraq—U.S. body count numbers.  Job numbers go up, and the U.S. deaths go down in Iraq, the president‘s going to be in much better shape.  Iraq will begin to go into inside the newspaper, as we call it, or below the fold.  But, if the U.S. death toll stays up there and these job numbers don‘t materialize, then Kerry‘s got a very good shot right now. 

OLBERMANN:  David Gergen, advisor to four presidents.  As always sir, we thank you for your advice to us. 

GERGEN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN opening tonight with politics from moves to a presidential—or movies to a presidential polls, it looks like it‘s pick your poison. 

Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story, a teacher arrested for having relations with her eighth grade student at her home, in her classroom, in her car.  The twisted twist, she is a 23-year-old newlywed. 

And later, an amazing new window into the womb, an ultrasound like you have never seen before leading to some surprising findings.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is yet another ugly story of a woman teacher‘s affair with an under aged student, only in this one she reportedly told the 13-year-old she did it because it wasn‘t allowed.  Your ethical skin will crawl, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At first blush, it is not obvious if we‘ve been sensitized to this kind of stuff by the Mary Kay Letourneau‘s of this world, or desensitized.  Regardless, our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: another middle school teacher accused of having sex with a student.  He is now 14, she is 23.  There are disturbing twists here.  We‘ll try to figure them out with a professor of sociology, in a moment.  First the sordid details reported by our correspondent, Don Teague. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tampa Middle School teacher Deborah Lafave surrendered to investigators Monday.  The 23-year-old faces three new charges for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student on a road trip to Ocala, Florida. 

CHRIS HAWORTH, DETECTIVE:  Basically, she came up here, met the one juvenile who‘s from Tampa, while he was visiting his cousin, they drove around and she engaged in lewd and lascivious acts with him. 

TEAGUE:  The latest charges accuse Lafave of having sex with the boy twice in her SUV while his 15-year-old cousin drove the two around Ocala.  In a detailed police report, the cousin told investigators that prior to the incident, the alleged victim had talked about the “hot teacher who liked him.”  Later, telling his cousin, he would prove to him that she liked him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Deborah Lafave, stand up. 

TEAGUE:  Lafave, who is married and still a newlywed, was first arrested and charged last week in Tampa, accused of having two sexual encounters with the same boy, first in her home, later in her school classroom.  After turning herself in on the new charges Monday, she was released on a $25,000 bond.  Her attorney made only a brief statement. 

JOHN FITZGIBBONS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  There is a presumption of innocence in this country and—when anyone is charged with a crime, and I hope that everyone gives that consideration to Debbie as this case moves forward. 

TEAGUE:  If convicted, Lafave could get 15 years in prison on each of the five charges against her. 

Don Teague, NBC News, Atlanta. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Many disturbing elements to this story, some of them all too familiar, some seemingly new.  Joining us to analyze all of them, Dr.  Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, author of 13 books, including “Everything You Know about Love and Sex is Wrong.” 

Dr. Schwartz, good evening. 

DR. PEPPER SCHWARTZ, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  It sounds like everything this woman knew about love and sex was wrong.  What went on here, do we suppose? 

SCHWARTZ:  Well, it‘s hard to know.  It could be one of these sort of demented ideas that this is a love story, where the adult should know better, but they don‘t.  That‘s often the case with these older women, younger boys.  It could be just a series of self-destructive acts this woman does.  Being a newlywed, having a fling with a 14-year-old sounds self-destructive to me.  And—or it could be that she‘s a high risk-taker kind of a sociopath—you know, who tries to bend the rules in a number of ways.  It‘s hard to know.  If things are as said, and I think the attorney‘s right, we don‘t know if what‘s stated is true, yet.  It could be any or all of the above. 

OLBERMANN:  That age, 23.  Most 23-year-old teachers would never admit to it, but I would say 99 out of 100 would finally confess that they are still terrified of their students at 23.  And a 23-year-old newlywed teacher—could there have been a power element to this, a control issue?  A sort of establishment of one‘s own identity as a teacher in some sort of twisted way? 

SCHWARTZ:  No, you know, I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think it‘s about her teacher role, which was obviously violated.  If there‘s power, I think what‘s happening is the fact that here she has this, let‘s assume, attractive young man to her, that she can—she can have.  She doesn‘t have to worry about being rejected, she‘s going to be a star in his life, she‘s going to be—you know, the best thing that ever happened to him, she thinks, obviously.  And so it‘s a slam dunk, you know, as opposed to going out there with peers or men that are more powerful to her and being in a totally different role. 

So, I think it may come from a sense of powerlessness in her as a woman, but I don‘t think she‘s trying to bend this boy to her will, or at least not on a conscious level. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, about our reaction to this.  People were startled, they were confused, they may have been revulsed by Mary Kay Letourneau, there have been other cases with other similar reactions, but in this case, there seems to have been a lot of laughing, joking around because the woman is young and attractive.  That can‘t be a good sign for the rest of us.  Can it?  What does that mean?

SCHWARTZ:  Well, you know, it‘s kind of a cultural expression.  Good, bad or indifferent, it‘s the fact that we still believe that a young boy having the chance to be sexual with a woman as gorgeous as this one is, to be able to have his teacher sexually, is a lot of young men‘s dreams and a lot of older men‘s fantasies.  So even though we know that the complexity, the psychological complexity of the situation, and perhaps consequences, we don‘t know what those might be yet, are serious, the fact that this is a cultural fantasy is real, and therefore we chuckle and think, at least the men do, and some older and younger men do, what a lucky guy!

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington. 

Great thanks for joining us tonight. 

SCHWARTZ:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story, which sets us up nicely for our next segment, “Oddball,” including a new treatment for everything that might ail you after a night of too much fun on the town. 

And later, the life of the party—of the political party:  Are celebrities the key to spicing up those upcoming conventions?  We put the stars to work, however.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you and we pause the COUNTDOWN now to check in on the strange worlds of man and animal and the goofy things that happen when them worlds collide.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

And we begin at the nearly complete Millau Viaduct bridge in France.  When it opens, it will be the world‘s tallest span, stretching from France to Spain at the height of over 1,100 feet.  It‘s a marvel of modern technology and engineering, for sure.  But one guy just wants to jump off it. 

What guy?  That guy.  Felix Baumgartner, daredevil, stuntman, crazy person.  He‘s flown across the English Channel on fiberglass wings and to the moon on gossamer wings.  He‘s leapt from the arms of a giant Jesus in Rio de Janeiro and now he‘s come to France to base jump off the world‘s tallest bridge.  He also had to climb the world‘s tallest bridge just to get up there.  What he did was highly illegal.  The guards at either end were not in on the deal.  He feel—fell—free fell for seven seconds before the chute opened.  Right about there.  Made a perfect landing, and then did some fancy stunt driving to avoid getting arrested.  Look at him go!  Felix Baumgartner, everybody.

To Baumgartner, who looked rather like one of those giant lizards, with the big thing—nevermind.  He may need a drink, may end up with a hangover, may unexpectedly have a cure for the hangover, or at least a treatment—prickly pear, no that‘s not a painful condition, it‘s cactus juice.  Taken before drinking, researchers in New Orleans say, it leads to milder hangovers, in most participants in their survey.  It is a little tough getting down, but try it with a shot of Jagermeister—mmm, pointy, aaaaah. 

Finally, from the heartland in a time of war.  To support their son as he fought in Iraq, Bob and Alexis Saskowski (ph) of Bettendorf, Iowa, tied a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.  It disappeared, so did its replacement.  Again and again the family tied new ribbons on that tree.  Again and again, they vanished.  Twelve all told, over eight months.  They assumed vandalism, delinquent teenagers, perhaps.  Finally they turned to a home security camera. 

The results were shocking.  Look carefully at the bottom left-hand side of the screen.  The culprit.  The squirrel.  A squirrel was removing the ribbons and dragging them to his nest.  And now you know the rest of the story!

Straight ahead on COUNTDOWN, the third spot.  Your preview:  The deadline is nearing in Iraq for corporal Wassef Hassoun, an American Marine captured by terrorists.  Is there hope insomuch as three Turkish hostages have today been freed?

And the handover for Saddam Hussein:  Tomorrow he‘ll be back in the legal custody of Iraq.  General Norman Schwarzkopf will join us to talk about all of the day‘s headlines in that nation.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.  No.  3, Tom Forsythe, a photographer from Utah who likes to photograph Barbie dolls in suggestive positions and then put the pictures them on the Internet.  The manufacturers sued him for damages to their product‘s reputation.  He sued back.  He has won.  Mattel owes him $1.8 million. 

No. 2 police in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, they thought they found the severed hand of a baby.  The tests are back.  It was a doll‘s hand.  We believe that story is not related to the Barbie pornography thing. 

And, No. 1,  Simon Jones of Southampton, England.  He‘s been arrested, accused of extorting money from “Playboy” magazine.  Jones claimed he had hacked into the company‘s computers and had downloaded all of its confidential customer data.  Having obviously watched the “Austin Powers” film one time too many, he had offered not to sell the data if they paid him $100. 

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s now over 36 hours since Iraq regained its independence.  And, already, there are a number of historic firsts.  Much has been made of the good firsts.

But there‘s also been the first roadside bombing, the first U.S.  deaths and the first call for more American troops.  And in our third story tonight, one fervent plea that there not be the first post handover hostage execution.  Wassef Ali Hassoun, the 24-year-old Marine corporal, had been missing for more than a week when Al-Jazeera‘s network first broadcast pictures of him held hostage, his captors ominously holding a sword above his head as if symbolizing their vow to kill him tomorrow unless Iraqi prisoners are freed. 

His family and friends appear limited now to hoping that the fact that Hassoun is a Lebanese-born Muslim might deter his abductors from their threat.  And after having kept a vigilant silence since the release of those images, Corporal Hassoun‘s family has now spoken out, making a public plea for their son‘s life. 

George Lewis is again outside the family home in West Jordan, Utah. 

George,          good evening.

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

Well, for the third day in a row, Corporal Hassoun‘s family is keeping a vigil here inside this house.  Neighbors have been coming by all day with food and encouraging words.  One of the neighbors, a former Marine named Milt Kelly, got the Hassoun family‘s permission to plant the American and U.S. Marine Corps flags in the front yard.  Later, he told reporters that, in tough times, Marines always stick together. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILT KELLY, NEIGHBOR:  I‘m a neighbor.  I‘m also a former Marine.  And that‘s what we‘re here for. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS:  Representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps came by this afternoon and met with the Hassoun family for about 2 ½ hours, amid some unanswered questions about the corporal‘s disappearance. 

My colleague, Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon, is hearing from Defense Department officials that, at first, the Marines had classified Hassoun as a deserter.  They thought he had gone to see his wife in Lebanon.  Later, when the hostage video came out, they reclassified him as a captive. 

In Lebanon, Hassoun‘s brother made a plea to spare the corporal‘s life. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMI HASSOUN, BROTHER OF MISSING MARINE:  I would like to call on the kidnappers, please, he‘s a very peaceful guy.  He was not there to hurt no one.  His intention was just to help.  And he is a soldier doing his job.  And he is a very loving and caring person.  He‘s a Muslim, too.  He always prays the five prayers.  His Koran is always in his pocket.  He loves all people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS:  Now, the captors have said that Hassoun would be beheaded unless the U.S. releases prisoners being held in Iraq.  It is unclear.  There are differing accounts of whether there‘s a deadline for tomorrow or no deadline at all.  There have been differing accounts of that.  So the family obviously very nervous, very anguished, still waiting—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  George Lewis at the Hassoun home in West Jordan, Utah—many thanks, George. 

Good news with just a touch of discomfort thrown in for three Turkish hostages in Iraq.  They have been released, supposedly on the instructions of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because, says a voice on another tape released to the hostage channel, Al-Jazeera—quote—“They pledged not to support the nonbelievers again” and that they had promised not to resume their reported work with an American contractor. 

This was done, says the voice, for the sake of Turkey‘s Muslims.  And while the handover did not stop the threat of hostage-taking, it also did not prevent what has become an almost daily event in Iraq, the roadside bombing, three more Marines killed when a bomb went off near their convoy east of Baghdad, a spokesman for the Marines telling the Associated Press that the convoy was driving through a residential neighborhood when a blast hit the lead vehicle. 

Further north of the capital, insurgents launched mortar rounds on a U.S. base near the city of Balad.  Five Iraqis were wounded.  No American casualties were reported. 

Back here, you probably have never heard of Individual Ready Reserves. 

There‘s a chance many former U.S. soldiers have never heard of them either.  And there‘s a chance they don‘t know that its existence means they really aren‘t former U.S. soldiers.  They might wind up back in Iraq or Afghanistan.  So says the Pentagon, in other words, of course.  It has announced an involuntary mobilization of 5,600 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, particularly former civil affairs personnel, former military police, to fill personnel holes in that theater through the rest of the year. 

Some of these initial tours could start within the month.  A senior defense official telling the Reuters News Service—quote—“Sometimes, there‘s a misperception by some of the individuals that I‘ve done my obligation.  I‘ve been in the Army, thank you very much, and I‘m done.”  But you‘re not there, evidently. 

Saddam Hussein is not done, not by a long shot.  But his schedule for this week is complete, handover tomorrow, arraignment Thursday.  So said Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Allawi today.  Hussein, held incommunicado since his capture just before Christmas, will be handed over to the new Iraqi Justice Ministry tomorrow, with U.S. soldiers continuing to guard him until further notice. 

On Thursday, he and as many as 11 of his former government colleagues will be charged before an Iraqi judge with crimes against humanity that seemed to be focused on the Iran-Iraq war of the ‘80s, the 1988 gassing of several Kurdish communities, and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.  Hussein has 20 lawyers, one of them telling a French organization that his client will refuse to acknowledge any court or judge and will insist that last year‘s U.S.-led war was illegal. 

No man perhaps is better placed to discuss the turns and trials this week in Iraq than our next guest.  He commanded Operation Desert Storm, the Gulf War of 1991, now an NBC News and MSNBC military analyst, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf. 

As always, sir, an honor to have you with us. 

NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  General, let me start with the big picture.  I would like your reaction on not just the handover of sovereignty in Iraq, but the fact of the pushing-up of the timing of it. 

SCHWARZKOPF:  Well, I think that was very, very significant.

Obviously, the handing over the power was very significant.  But the fact that that decision was made by an Iraqi to move it up—now, a lot of people had been talking about it and they kicked it around.  But the final decision to move it up was made by an Iraqi.  And that was a clear indication that this transfer of power is in fact going to go ahead. 

OLBERMANN:  And this other handover, the one we‘re expecting tomorrow, on paper, at least, if not fully, Saddam Hussein, with your appreciation for history, with one of the charges against him pertaining to the invasion of Kuwait, after which you fought, does this process, does what we‘re going to see in the trial of Saddam Hussein have any precedent in your mind? 

SCHWARZKOPF:  Well, the first thing that comes to mind naturally is Nuremberg.  You had a whole bunch of members of Hitler‘s party standing up, saying, I was just doing my duty.  And I imagine you‘re going to see exactly the same thing when they try all these subordinates of Saddam Hussein. 

A little bit closer to home, Milosevic, and the fact that he was just tried for wars crime, too.  So it is not without precedent, certainly.

OLBERMANN:  To the term closer to home, do you have a personal reaction when you hear what happened to Saddam Hussein and what will happen to him in the next few days? 

SCHWARZKOPF:  Well, I would be less than honest if I didn‘t say I was delighted when they captured him.  I was distressed when they couldn‘t find him at first.  And I was delighted that he is going to be brought to justice, and his bully boys, because he didn‘t do it alone.  He had a lot of people doing it with him. 

OLBERMANN:  Two other specific issues that we just touched on, General, the Defense Department announcement that it may deploy up to 5,600 soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve, soldiers who had, they thought, completed their active duty and may often now to go Iraq or Afghanistan.  Even the Pentagon called this an involuntary mobilization.  In your opinion, is that a good idea or a bad one? 

SCHWARZKOPF:  Well, unless you want to have a huge standing army sitting around with an awful lot of people in it waiting for something to happen, it‘s a very good idea.

I would take umbrage with the fact that the IRR didn‘t know that they were IRR.  They certainly did know that they had special skills and therefore were subject to being called back to duty.  Actually, the number could go up as high as 200,000.  But it‘s not going to go that high.  But this is something that has been around for a long time and without—it doesn‘t leave you the requirement to have a huge standing army that has nothing to do whatsoever.  And it is the right thing to do. 

OLBERMANN:  Last item.  It is not on the front burner today, but we heard yesterday about another investigation at the Abu Ghraib facility and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, the possibility that Iraqis there may have been deliberately exposed to extremely hot weather or extremely cold weather as part of their interrogation. 

Can you sum up the impact of Abu Ghraib for us?  It has been dismissed in a lot of quarters as just bad behavior on the part of a few American service personnel.  Is it just that? 

SCHWARZKOPF:  No. 

No.  I have seen visual proof of some of the things that were done to these people, and it was absolutely intolerable.  It is very, very difficult to concede that any American citizen at all is going to subject human beings to what they subjected those people through.  And a lot of people say, well, it just goes with the territory.  I don‘t buy that at all.

This was a handful of people that obviously were going wild.  But what they‘ve done is they have given a recruiting poster for the Saudis and the killers for years to come.  We‘ve given them a hunt—a recruiting poster and all they have to do is say, look, this is what Americans are, show the pictures, read the tapes of some of these people who talk about what they went through. 

It‘s just intolerable.  And, as far as I‘m concerned, it has done serious, serious damage to any relationship between and United States and the Iraqis for many, many—and the Arabs, I‘m sorry—for many, many years to come. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness. 

Well, the commander of Desert Storm, now NBC News analyst, General Norman Schwarzkopf, thank you again for your time, sir. 

SCHWARZKOPF:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Good night. 

The liberated and the captive in Iraq taking the third spot on COUNTDOWN tonight.  Up next, voluntary mobilization for the Kerry campaign, a sprinkling of Hollywood stars looking to glam up the decidedly unglamorous Democratic Convention.  And later, why there might be a good reason for Ms. Spears to have married in haste this time. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Up next, two very different examples of conventional celebrity wisdom: A, always juice up dull political gatherings with some star power: and, B, never let Courtney Love out in public by herself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is remarkable to ponder that, in a country which, for 50 years, actors were often booed simply because the man who assassinated President Lincoln happened to be one of them, that we could ever have reached a time when they would not only not be booed; they would be invited to participate in the actual nominating elections. 

Our No. 2 on the COUNTDOWN tonight, in August, the Republicans will stick with the Rudy Giulianis and the Zell Millers of this world, Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer counting as just an actor.  Now he‘s just a politicians.  But the Democrats have other plans.  “The Los Angeles Times” reporting that at least five prominent Hollywood performers will be at their convention in Boston. 

A Democratic strategist tells the paper that Sean Astin, Ben Affleck, Alec and Billy Baldwin and Larry David may be used on stage biographically to say who Kerry is, in other words, no singing. 

We here at COUNTDOWN of course want to pitch the Dems on a more substantial policy-related role for each of these beloved performers. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR:  I do expect that, just because you‘re a Republican doesn‘t mean that you‘re necessarily a person of, you know, of low conscience and that you can‘t support the minimum wage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

AFFLECK:  I‘m selling these babies right here. 

(APPLAUSE)

AFFLECK:  I had the name trademarked, printed up about 50,000 units, all sizes, 100 percent Egyptian cotton, beefy T‘s.  This is a quality product, folks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  OK, Affleck, you‘ve got the outsizing issue. 

Now for campaign tone advice.  Who do got for campaign tone advice?

LARRY DAVID, ACTOR:  I‘d like to thank my parents, who always taught me that, when you have the opportunity to annoy someone, you should do so. 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  All right, which one of you wants to help with debate prep?  Astin?  Astin?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”)

SEAN ASTIN, ACTOR:  I heard it from his own mouth.  He means to murder us.

9

ANDY SERKIS, ACTOR:  Never.  Smeagol wouldn‘t hurt a fly.

ASTIN:  You miserable little maggot.  I‘ll stove your head in.  Call me a liar.  You‘re a liar!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Excellent. 

Then there are the other issues, the, you know, the power is the ultimate aphrodisiac stuff.  This is going to come up, gentlemen.  Look who the nominee married.  Can one of you Baldwins help on this?

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR:  In this modern era, I think we fully expect presidents to behave like human beings.  And human beings, men are going to conceal their sexual peccadilloes probably at any cost.  That‘s human nature.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

BALDWIN:  But I think what I‘m most known for is my wiener. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Your wiener?  Wow.  You don‘t say. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  OK.  So that‘s everybody.  Wait.  What, there‘s another Baldwin brother?  Well, we still need a transportation captain. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  An easy segue, thus, to our nightly roundup of the unwashed, the unloved and the unseemly, the celebrities in our midst, “Keeping Tabs.”

And if you are “Keeping Tabs” on Britney Spears and the incoming Mr.  Britney Spears, No. 2 that is, good luck.  She may be pregnant.  That‘s the report from London‘s tabloid “The News of the World.”  They said is.  We changed it to maybe because they are “The News of the World.”  That‘s why, says the paper, Spears is getting hitched in the first place.  She‘s due to be married November 20. 

Spears‘ record label is confirming the engagement, but not the toddler.  This is where husband No. 2 comes in.  Just yesterday, we were telling you David Federline (sic), whose ex-girlfriend, Shar Jackson, is expecting their second child next month.  What is this guy‘s sperm count, 80 billion?  And who the hell is David Federline? 

And there‘s another Courtney Love courtroom drama.  Of course there is.  It‘s been absolutely weeks since the last one.  She showed up 5 ½ hours late to the New York hearing on the charge she threw a mike stand at a rock club last March.  When the judge advised her he had already issued a warrant for her arrest, she said, sorry, then asked for permission to smoke in court. 

As lawyers conferred at the bench, she leaned over the shoulder of the courtroom artist and was heard to say, hey, get the nose right. 

Lastly, at the insistence of the members of the crack COUNTDOWN staff, I have been persuaded to remind you that Thursday is the last day of voting in the Playgirl.com survey to determine its readers‘ choice for the sexiest, most intelligent newscaster on network or cable news.  There are 18 nominees.  I, no doubt by dint of clerical error, am one of them.

Here are the standings as of balloting this afternoon.  Sean Hannity of Fox is running away in first place.  Well, we know why that is.  Alan Colmes keeps voting for him.  Tied for second, why, look, I‘m hanging with Mr. Cooper.  Shepard Smith is fourth.  Bill Hemmer on CNN is fifth.  Remember, ladies, he‘s older than he looks.

Rounding out the top 10, Lauer, Andy Rooney, good God, Brian, Tom and Peter.  Other notables.  Lester Holt is 12th.  Geraldo Rivera, having vacated last place and zoomed past Wolf Blitzer and Harry Smith into 16th.  A lot of write-ins for Stone Phillips and Forrest Sawyer.  First among the write-ins is our own Dan Abrams. 

A reminder that you can vote in the “Playgirl” poll via our Web site, COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.  But why you would want to, I leave to your own conscience.

Moving swiftly on, we are one story shy of a completed COUNTDOWN.  Up next, walking in the womb.  You won‘t believe this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Doubtless you‘ve been in this situation, a close friend, family member, even a co-worker sharing the joyous news that they‘re expecting a child, and then they pass you a picture.  You smile.  You say all the appropriate things one says at such times, all the while thinking, what is this?  Could be a baby, could be a Hubble space photo.  Who can tell?

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the same London scientist who brought fetal photography to new heights a year ago has enhanced his process again, made it usable earlier in the pregnancy. 

And as correspondent Lawrence McGinty of our affiliated British network ITV reports, the system is called a 4-D KretzTechnik ultrasound.  Its results boggle the mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE MCGINTY, ITV REPORTER (voice-over):  Twelve weeks old and this fetus is walking, taking determined steps up the wall of the womb.  With new scanning techniques, doctors are finding out that reflexes like walking occur much earlier than they thought. 

STUART CAMPBELL, CREATE HEALTH CLINIC:  This is very typical of a newborn baby.  If you hold a newborn baby with their feet against a flat surface, the baby makes stepping movements.  And this little fetus is...

MCGINTY (on camera):  It‘s as if he‘s walking up the womb. 

CAMPBELL:  Yes.  He‘s making stepping movements. 

MCGINTY (voice-over):  The new technology is like a conventional ultrasound scan, but it produces moving pictures in three dimensions.  And it‘s this that‘s allowed doctors to look at what babies do in the womb.  It turns out they‘re very active early in pregnancy. 

CAMPBELL:  I think the bonding is enhanced enormously by this.  And if you see the reaction of the parents to these images, it is so overwhelming. 

MCGINTY:  Later on, at 30 weeks, the fetus can open its eyes, but it can‘t see anything because the womb is dark.  And scanning two weeks later shows this fetus yawning widely, though it‘s not breathing air.  It‘s breathing through the placenta. 

So a whole new picture of the life of the early fetus is emerging. 

Lawrence McGinty, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Something for Britney Spears and Kevin Federline to think about.  Sorry, Kevin.  I don‘t know who the hell you are either.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 

END   

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