updated 7/19/2004 10:02:51 AM ET 2004-07-19T14:02:51

Guest: Michael Musto, Mickey Sherman, Charles Slepian, Craig Crawford

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Martha Stewart tells the judge, “I have been choked and almost suffocated.”  Martha Stewart tells the media:

MARTHA STEWART, OMNIVISION:  “I have been choked and almost suffocated. 

OLBERMANN:  The key words here appear to be “choked and almost suffocated.”  Five months in the pen, five months of house arrest. 

Serene political discourse:

CONGRESSWOMAN CORRINE BROWN (D) JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA:  ...what I called the United States coup d‘etat.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve always had passion in politics, but did it somehow just get amped up?

One hundred and two million dollars to prescreen airline passengers, the CAPS System.  Now they‘ve scrapped CAPS.  But don‘t worry they‘re devising a new plan that‘ll cost new money.

At first Rosie tried to sell us theater ticket, then Michael shot a music video, now Martha is trying to hawk subscriptions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Our magazines are great, they deserve your support. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Can‘t anybody just go to jail anymore? 

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  Good evening, as he speculated that he might well face jail time for Watergate, Richard Nixon optimistically observed that many men did their greatest writing in prison.  After today‘s sentencing of high doyen of household hints we can update that.  Many defendants now do their greatest selling on the courthouse steps. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Stewart gets five months in jail, five months of house arrest; two years supervised release and a five of $30,000.  But with that she received, at no additional cost, the chance to plug her Webs ite, her products, her online penpals, her magazine three times, and her company six times.

More in a moment on turning your worst nightmare into your best sales pitch.  First, Ms. Stewart‘s other remarks.  Before sentencing, unexpectedly she did address the court; she told Judge Miriam Cederbaum that her trial and conviction for having lied about a suspicious stock sale was an “almost fatal circus,” in which she was “choked and almost suffocated.”  She asked the judge for the opportunity to “continue serving my country.” 

She got, in essence, the minimum sentence.  Then she got the microphone, and after the sales pitch, she wound up doing a rather flat impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the “Terminator.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  I‘ll be back.  I will be back.  Whatever I have to do in the next few months, I hope the months go by quickly.  I‘m used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I‘m not afraid, I‘m not afraid, whatsoever.  I‘m just very, very sorry that it‘s come to this.  That a small personal matter has been able to be blown out of all proportion and with such venom and such—gore.  I mean, it‘s just terrible. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But once again, a high-profile, if not huge, highly significant court case has been, to some degree, overshadowed by how the defendant, litigants, or the convicted acted in its immediate aftermath.  Martha Stewart claimed her remarks outside the federal court, were not a sales pitch, in fact they came complete with everything except an 800 tollfree number.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Perhaps all of you out there can continue to show your support by subscribing to our magazine, by buying our products, by encouraging our advertisers to come back in full force to our magazines.  Our magazines are great, they deserve your support.  And whatever happened to me personally shouldn‘t have any effect, whatsoever on the great company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Gone are the days when the suspected, the arrests, the accused, or the convicted could be counted on to throw a raincoat over their head or otherwise try to ostrich the media.  Today, five minutes on live TV is photo opportunity first, shameful, life-shattering moment second.  Martha Stewart‘s live infomercial was just the latest in a series of bizarre sideshows to the presumed legal main events.  And it wasn‘t the first plug.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, COMEDIAN:  Tomorrow, November 13, “Taboo” opens on Broadway.  I‘m the producer of this musical.  It emits light, and yellow and god, and love and I am proud that during the time when they were trying to rip me down, I gave birth, to a beautiful child, in the form of musical theater.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For Rosie, it was musical theater and for Michael Jackson it may have been a musical video, never mind the fact that he went to an arraignment and an episode of “American Bandstand” broke out.  There was also the “I‘m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille” moment.  Jackson, directing a videographer. 

We are to presume these were just home movies?  That they won‘t show up on a Jackson DVD somewhere?  That a performer doesn‘t have either be intending to produce nor have any talent to actually perform outside a court?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURTNEY LOVE, MUSICIAN:  You don‘t do the married man thing, one rule, no married man, ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING):  Somewhere, way up over the rainbow skies are blue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even those without professional performing experience are now taking these moments when crime has bisected their lives and making them into little stage plays like the former boss of Enron just last week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN LAY, ENRON:  I knew nothing at the time that would give me any—any suspicion of what was going on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And there seems to be a trickle-down effect for the nonfamous celebrities.  Last October in Van Nuys, California, William Strier with a dozen passers-by in sight, a woman in a Hooters outfit at a pay phone, and a cameraman rolling, shoots an attorney he doesn‘t even know, Jerry Currie, in broad daylight.  So maybe Martha‘s sales pitch wasn‘t quite so shocking after all. 

It is telling that none of that videotape is more than nine months old.  In what way it is telling is a little bit more difficult to assess.  Here to help us through the new territory is “Village Voice” columnist and society perceiver-at-large, Michael Musto.

Michael, good evening.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Was Martha Stewart‘s sales pitch there, weird or was it good business?  Or was it both? 

MUSTO:  I don‘t know, I‘m choked and almost suffocated by that question, Keith.  No, you know what?  It was brilliant.  I loved it.  I applauded her because that‘s what Martha does.  Give her a lemon and she makes lemonade, give her an apple she will make a lawn chair.  She sees that moment as her QVC moment, last chance for like, 10 months or so, to sell her product.  And if I were dragged to jail, I would say, “Read my column and buy my pillowcases.”

OLBERMANN:  But if she had done that in a vacuum, if nobody else had ever turned those moments in legal hell into mini infomercials or tiny little Woodstocks, I‘d agree with you on the idea of keen business sense, and that‘s all that it reflected there.  But as we saw with all of those other tapes, this is suddenly some kind of trend, a bigger picture.  What‘s going on here?

MUSTO:  Well, they‘ve all gone Kool-Aid, they‘ve all gone cuckoo, but it also is very savvy.  I mean, this is your big moment, the entire world is watching, it‘s your last chance for a while to plug your product, your baby, your Broadway show, your magazine. 

And that‘s the kind of behavior, really, that got Martha—that got her in this situation.  It‘s the kind of behavior that made her famous.  She has blinders on. 

I admire her, but I‘m a little scared of her, there‘s a little “Stepford” element there.  And it‘s no accident that the new “Stepford Wives” movie has a robot character based on her played by Glenn Close.  But it‘s also that kind of stick-to-itiveness and won‘t-say-no-quality that made her such a superstar and also has gotten her into jail because, you know, she never sees that she did anything wrong.  Even now she won‘t admit any culpability.  It‘s all about “buy my pillowcases.” 

OLBERMANN:  I know Martha Stewart in court today has nothing to do with the horrible shootings five years ago in Columbine. 

MUSTO:  I disagree.  I think she did it. 

OLBERMANN:  No. Well, but in Columbine was the first time, I think that we saw ordinary people in terrible circumstances, who were not only—not trying to avoid television, but who seemed to be seeking television out, and were admitted—admitting that they were being comforted by being on television after this horrible thing happened, as if it were their TV moment, and it was somehow a award or a compensation for the trauma that we -- that we they had gone through.  Do you think we might be seeing some of that, not necessarily with Martha today, but in these courtroom-step performances?  Has Andy Warhol‘s prediction almost literally coming true? 

MUSTO:  Of course, TV is very cathartic, it‘s very soothing.  I feel great right now, I gave up a weekend in the Hamptons just to do this, and I‘m loving it.  I think I made the right decision.  And TV really is the court of public opinion; it‘s your chance to shine, to promote and to be the best that you want to be.  You don‘t want to break down on the courtroom steps and say, “I did wrong, I shouldn‘t have traded.”

And by the way, I think five months of home confinement is Martha‘s best fantasy ever, don‘t you think?  Five months to sit around that estate and just make doilies and rearrange the furniture? 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, the five months ought to be spent in Bacanovic‘s house, that would be the five month of...

Now, if you actually gave up the weekend in the Hamptons, go down to the car that we sent you and tell them to take you to the Hamptons.  I think that‘s only fair now.

MUSTO:  As long as the camera crew follows me there.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Musto, columnist for the “Village Voice” is always catching something the rest of us miss.  Thanks Michael.

MUSTO:  Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In a moment, more on Martha Stewart‘s legal status, first back to that courthouse step and “Stepford Wives” business.  It may have worked. 

On the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Martha Stewart Living were some of the most heavily traded of the day.  And by the closing bell, they had shot up more than 31 percent.  Presumably mostly over the fact that she got the minimum sentence and the thing was over.  The price jumped from $8.64 a share, to 11 bucks 40 cents.  No one made a bigger profit than the woman in court.  Still its biggest shareholder, Ms. Stewart‘s paper gain about $83 million.  If she had worn a tollfree number around her neck it might have been 84.

She may get an extended chance to cash in and spend that money.  While she twice used the word “shameful” and twice more the word “sorry,” Martha Stewart did not apologize today, and that was as deliberate a choice as was the well-cut black suit she wore.  In what she said and did not say, Stewart made it clear she plans to appeal the conviction.  And today her lawyers were already making that case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER DELLINGER, MARTHA STEWART‘S ATTORNEY:  The court of appeals has to first deal of all with a very unprecedented situation.  It has to deal with a case in which there were, after the trial was over, two extraordinary revelations of perjury—one by a very outspoken juror, and one by a key government witness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, what are Martha‘s chances for an appeal?  Criminal Defense Attorney Mickey Sherman lends his expertise tonight from New York. 

Mickey, good to have you back on the show.

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  What attorney Dellinger just said, the two perjury cases, Judge Cedarbaum already denied a new trial regarding the perjury from the ink expert.  Is there any likelihood that either that case or the juror perjury case could earn Stewart an appeal? 

SHERMAN:  Probably—I mean she‘ll have an appeal, but will it be successful?  Probably not, I mean, they are good issues, but they‘re not great issues.  Supposedly the testimony of the pergored agent really wasn‘t that material to her case and with regard to the juror, did that guy really look like he swayed the rest of the jury?  I don‘t think so. 

OLBERMANN:  The attorneys hit the other point again today that there might have been some sleight of hand that left the jury with the impression that Martha Stewart was charged in that case, with criminal insider trading, when actually she was ultimately only charged with lying.  Is the window closed for her lawyers to make something out of that? 

SHERMAN:  I think it probably is.  You know, probably half the American public thinks that she was charged and probably convicted of insider trading.  It‘s confusing.  But Judge Cedarbaum, I think, in her instructions and throughout the case, probably did a very good job of making sure that this jury, at least on the record, knew what they were supposed to be doing.

OLBERMANN:  She got the minimum sentence, obviously, and she got, in theory, even less, a split five months in the pokey and five months in her own home.  A.  Why did she get the minimum sentence?  And B.  Does it mean she could conceivably serve in jail less than five months? 

SHERMAN:  You know, maybe a couple of weeks less than five months, but not much more than that.  And that was the minimum sentence.  I think the judge was sympathetic to her.  I think the judge recognized that hey, nobody got hurt physically here, she‘s a first offender and this is somebody who didn‘t cause an economic disaster to lot of people.  It‘s not like a Enron kind of thing, or Kozlowski.  And now—you know, maybe the sentencing guidelines should be take—looked at and maybe she shouldn‘t even have gone to jail in the first place.  I think the judge was very, very fair.

OLBERMANN:  Lesson on the whole thing was don‘t lie to the—whatever you did or whatever you didn‘t do don‘t lie to the investigators? 

SHERMAN:  Or—you know, it‘s two lessons, don‘t lie to them, but probably the better lesson, which is probably not the greatest lesson to give, is don‘t even talk to them, because if you talk to them, you‘re probably going to screw up. 

OLBERMANN:  And if you get convicted don‘t forget to plug something on the way out.  The criminal defense attorney...

SHERMAN:  Product placement.

OLBERMANN:  Mickey Sherman, thanks again for your insight, sir. 

SHERMAN:  Yep.

OLBERMANN:  And, oh by the way, if it was bad enough to be Martha Stewart today, how about being somebody whose own jail sentence was overshadowed by Martha Stewart, today.  Her former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic got the same time with a smaller fine.  Five months in prison, five months home confinement, his home and a fine of $4,000.  Mr. Bacanovic did not repeat the gesture he made during the trial itself, nor did he try to sell anybody any chocolate bars for charity. 

COUNTDOWN‘s No. 5 story, tonight: Five months of hard time for Martha.

Up next, plan A cost $104 million of your money—they just scrapped it.  But, they promise a new plan costing more of your money.  This is so you can buy a get-out-of-being-screened-at-the-airport pass. 

And later, on America‘s bravest with a surprise visit home to the family, all the emotion you might expect, plus a little bit of political dispute.  Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s No. 4 story, straight ahead.  Your Homeland Security tax dollars in inaction: A proposal to fast-track low-risk passengers at the airports is scrapped, $104 million later.  Why is aviation security a mess almost three years after the attacks? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The CAPS programs were not about dental work.  CAPS One, Computer Assisted Passenger Profiling System, flagged five passengers booked on American Airlines flight 77 as quote, “Risks to aircraft safety.”  That was in the overnight of September 10 and September 11, 2001.  The information rang no bells, the five men boarded and story ended at the side of the Pentagon. 

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: Months later, CAPS One began to be phased out replaced by CAPS Two, the next generation of the computer program designed to keep terror out of the sky.  But now CAPS Two is being phased out.

It was designed to check travelers‘ names against commercial databases and credit files, hoping to provide a comprehensive picture of each person boarding a flight in this country.  Critics worried though, that the program could have done more harm than good, potentially focusing security personnel towards the wrong passengers.

Though the government spent $104 million in developing the new system, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has killed it off, citing possible invasions of privacy and technical difficulties.  Now the feds must find a new way to fill in the security gap, which has so far managed to make travel a living hell for people named Peter Williams or David Nelson, but may or may not have done anything to slow down would-be terrorists. 

Although specific details have not yet been released, the replacement program would likely screen passengers against a much smaller database of no-fly names, that list would made up of potential terrorism suspects known to the authorities. 

Charles Slepian was a contributor to a 1990 presidential commission on aviation and security, and is one of the experts in the field. 

Mr. Slepian, good evening and thank you for your time. 

CHARLES SLEPIAN, AVIATION SECURITY EXPERT:  Good evening to you.

OLBERMANN:  What went wrong, here?  Where did our $104 million go? 

SLEPIAN:  The Transportation Security Administration and Homeland Security failed to convince the Congress that they could be trusted with the information, that was needed in order to accurately and adequately screen passengers before boarding flights.  And this has been a pattern that they have followed since they were established.  It‘s not the tool that‘s the problem, it‘s the people who run that system.  That just cannot seem to get it right. 

OLBERMANN:  Expand upon that—when you say that they‘re not using the information correctly.  What is being done with it?  What is the fear of it? 

SLEPIAN:  Well, there has been a couple of instances where the information has been leaked, generally, to the wrong agencies, and as a result of that, the House subcommittee, I know, was looking into why TSA can‘t seem to keep that information confidential. 

The fear is, that the information gathered for the purpose of profiling would be used perhaps by the IRS, perhaps by other governmental agencies.  So much pressure was brought to bear that the program‘s been scrapped.

Really, at the risk of the traveling public, we can‘t overemphasize the fact that nine of the—rather, 11 of the 19 hijackers were identified by CAPS One.  Two of them were on a no-fly list.  The fact that they were allowed to fly, is a blemish on the FAA, but the tool works, we need it, the problem is getting worse.  And we seem to be moving backwards rather than forwards.

OLBERMANN:  Six or eight months after the attacks, I had a long talk with a dear friend of mine who was born in Iraq, came to this country as an infant, thinks of himself not as an Iraqi-American, but as an American.  He flies a lot, he said to me, “I know that the people who did 9/11 looked like me,” he said, “I don‘t take it personally when my luggage gets searched twice.” 

Is there no compromise between saying, “Oh, no, you can‘t question the 14 guys from Syria who are all traveling on the same flight,” and pretending that the barest touch of a profiling, in these circumstances, in this time, is exactly the same as the Japanese internment camps along the Pacific coast in World War II?  Is there no middle ground with this information? 

SLEPIAN:  Well actually there is a middle ground, we use this kind of profiling information in law enforcement on a daily basis.  If you keep it confidential and use it as a minimal intrusion on people‘s privacy, then the system works.  The fact is that we just have, in terms of aviation security, placed the responsibility, I believe, in the wrong hands.  If Martha Stewart ran her companies the way TSA is run, she would be facing life without parole. 

OLBERMANN:  What—is there something that we need to know about whatever CAPS Three is going to be, that separate it is from CAPS Two technically, or is it, just again, a question of providing information? 

SLEPIAN:  Well, we‘re going to need to know who is going to handle the information and for what purpose and how it will be disseminated, how will it be used.  Gathering the information is not enough.  It‘s how we use the information, that make it is a vital tool.  If we do it in the way that convinces the congress, that the individuals with the responsibility can be trusted, we will have an effective protection.  If we don‘t, we‘ll scrap it again.

OLBERMANN:  Aviation security expert, Charles Slepian.  We thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

SLEPIAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN now, two-fifths complete.  Up next those stories where people are tanked on two-fifths of Jack Daniels.  That would be “Oddball” including MSNBC‘s exclusive primetime coverage of the Running of the Rednecks—that is what those people call it. 

And later, the controversies surrounding Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” they‘re not going away, there are more of them now.  Now the moviemaker might face a lawsuit from a soldier who had no idea he was going to be in the documentary. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We pause the COUNTDOWN to present now, to present our nightly review of the ineffable and the unutterable.  And it‘s clear the Running of the Bulls is a lingering memory that will not let go of its grip on the world of weird news.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

To the streets of the quaint medieval village of—Morristown, Ohio?  For what participant call the Running of the Rednecks.  No, some of these people do not have to die in the bull ring at the end of the stampede.  They‘re running has a purpose, they‘re trying to claim the best spots to camp out during the Jamboree in the Hills.  It‘s a four-day long country music festival, largest one in the world, 100,000 fan, minus the few who did not survive this run. 

“Hey, Einstein” maybe the shortest insult about intelligence in the English language, but it is clear it was never shouted during the installation of the tile mosaic in front of the new $26 million library at the Livermore, California.  Just the mosaic itself cost 40 grand.  And most people say it‘s beautiful thing. 

Even with the little problems, which they may correct at further expense.  Like how they spelled Albert Einstein‘s name—Eistein, without the first “N.”  Or Vincent van Gogh with a “U.”  Somebody clearly was thinking of the actor Michael Gough from the “Batman” movies and the “Age of Innocence.”  And listed among the typos, this spelling of William Shakespeare, ending p-e-r-e. 

Now although we‘re used to it being p-e-a-r-e, that may not be a mistake.  Many of the documents of his own time spelled it that way.  I just don‘t think the artist knew that. 

A still grimmer public mistake has been found, and it took two years for anybody to notice or at least to notice it and to contact authorities.  On July 10, a man named Justin Mattley (ph) was at Ground Zero in New York, and he was reading one of the informational tribute signs located around the area, the one about the attack on the Pentagon.  The start of the sixth paragraph caught his attention.  Quote:

“September 11, 2002 was a pivotal day for America and the world...”

Mattley tells the Web site “thesmokinggun.com” that he e-mailed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to tell them of the typo, that they advised him he was the first to have noticed it, that the sign was being removed, and that the new one will have the right year on it. 

“Oddball” on the records books, now.  Straight ahead, tonight‘s No. 3 story:  First the vice president launched the F-bomb in the Senate, the Whoopie went blue on President Bush.

Is political decorum long gone in decision 2004? 

Also, Bobo the tiger: He is in the headlines, of course.  But will he be in our weekly news quiz, called:  “What Have We Learned?” 

All that ahead, but first here are our COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day. 

No. 3: Kenny Cooper of Harrison, Arkansas.  That‘s right, read what it says.  He‘s living as a Native American, though he‘s not, he sold all of his possessions; he‘s living in the rough in the Ozarks owning only his donkey, Pedro.  Cooper now reports somebody has stolen his donkey.  Thus Pedro will no longer be hangin‘ with Mr. Cooper. 

No. 2: The Reverend Scott Breedlove of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, pastor of the Jesus Church, and apparently right out of the “Simpson‘s” cast.  He made an unusual request of the local fire department.  He wanted a license to hold a book burning.  The chief turned him down and suggested using a shredder.  He says Reverend Breedlove told him quote, “Not biblical enough.”

And No. 1: Kind of related, Adam Webber of Salt Lake City was riding shotgun as he and a pal started to throw lighted fireworks out of their car.  Mr. Webber had already lit the large mortar rocket when he realized he made a fateful miscalculation.  He had neglected to roll down the car window.  He has third-degree burns, they are not life-threatening, but they are in his lap.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of   South Carolina was so incensed that the abolitionist speeches of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner that Brooks walked into the Senate chamber and beat Sumner into unconsciousness with his cane.  So let‘s not hear anything about this country having reached a new low in its political discourse.

But in our third story in the countdown, if we‘ve not yet reverted to the days when congressmen whacked senators or vice presidents were shooting former secretaries of the treasury in duels in New Jersey, verbally, we‘re getting closer from Dick Cheney‘s colorful language, to Whoopi Goldberg‘s presidential metaphors, it‘s all very funny, ‘til somebody gets hurt.

Craig Crawford in a moment on the getting hurt part.  First, correspondent George Lewis tonight from Los Angeles about the very funny. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  It was so hot today, John Edwards was using John Kerry‘s head for shade.  That‘s how hot... 

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  And with three and a half months to go until election day, the late-night comics are just getting warmed up.  On “The Daily Show,” Lewis Black  discussing the Republican convention. 

LEWIS BLACK, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  In it‘s infinite wisdom, the GOP chose New York, a city that‘s the hub of world finance, the headquarters of  global media conglomerates, and the home to more than a million Jews.  Hey, terrorists? Come and get it. 

LEWIS:  They‘re all having a field day with those rumors about Vice President Cheney. 

LENO:  Oh, and there‘s talk now that Vice President Dick  Cheney may be dropped from the Republican ticket.  Oh, that‘s a good move.  Lose the smart guy, yes. 

LEWIS:  It was the topic of Dave Letterman‘s top 10 list last  night. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  Number three, Rumsfeld keeps jumping out at him from behind doors, yelling “Boo!”

Number two, as with all major decisions, he‘s asked Cheney to figure out the best way to terminate the vice president.

And the number one sign Bush might be getting ready to dump  Cheney. 

Bush asked his dad if he still has Quayles number.  There you go. 

LEWIS:  Trying to leave the country laughing all the way to the polls.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So we have two kinds of F-bombs in politics these days, the funny and the other.  To review some of the low lights of late, Vice President Dick Cheney all but bragging about his Senate floor verbal throw down with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.  Looking at it long enough, and the red stripe on Mr. Cheney‘s tie starts to resemble a scarlet F.

Comedian Whoopie Goldberg paying a high price for a few cheap laughs.  Her obscenity strewn criticism of President Bush at a Kerry-Edwards fundraiser costing her the job as pitchwoman for weight loss products.  Nobody said comedy was easy.

And the relative merits of what Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown had to say on the floor of the House last night, all but secondary to her delivery. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA:  I come from Florida, where you and others participate in what I call the United States coup d‘etat.  We need to make sure that it doesn‘t happen again.  Over and over again, after the election when you stole the election, you came back here and said, get over it.  No we‘re not going to get over it.  And we want verification from the world. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ...taken down.  She said that you stole an election.  I believe that those are not...

BROWN:  ...participating in a coup d‘etat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BROWN:  You participated in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I ask that those words be taken out. 

BROWN:  You...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All members with suspend. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To Congresswoman Brown‘s credit, it is safe to say her comments probably would not be getting air time, let alone two nights‘ worth of running‘s worth had she chosen to remain polite.  Is that the only option left for being heard?  Our next guest is always polite, always insightful, and as a result, always heard.

Craig Crawford, columnist for “Congressional Quarterly” and our own political analyst, joining us now.

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY:  Good to see you.  Now you got me in charge of the low life.  That‘s my new...

OLBERMANN:  Ah, but on top of the low life.  Have we really had a drop in  decorum in politics lately?  Or does it just seem that way?

CRAWFORD:  I think we have.  The parties are locked in such   mortal struggle here for supremacy.  The nation‘s split down the middle.

And the big problem is, I‘ve talked to several members of  Congress over time about this issue now and again when these kinds of eruptions occurred.  And again and again, they point out that they spend so much time fundraising, they don‘t spend any time with each other.

I talked to one recently, who said you know, I haven‘t really spent any time with another member of Congress for about a month.  But I‘ve been to six or seven fundraisers.

OLBERMANN:  So we also put in those I approve this message  requirements for the political ads, thus cleaning them up to some degree.  Did we wind up in doing that, pushing all the venom back into the politicians themselves?

CRAWFORD:  Maybe now they actually have to take responsibility for it, which we thought would be more of a chilling effect on negative ads than it has been.

There is evidence that it has caused a backlash against some  of those who run negative ads.  I think Dick Gephardt experienced that in Iowa when he ran some tough ads against Howard Dean.

The president‘s ads against Kerry, $70 million basically calling him an un-American liberal have not moved the numbers that much against Kerry.  And I have to wonder if some people are just, you know, repulsed by that kind of advertising. 

OLBERMANN:  When it gets more specific and more quotable about Dick Cheney and Whoopie Goldberg and language, I know there are two purely party points of view on this.  But isn‘t it odd that you‘re seeing many of the same people who were kind of quietly proud when the vice president used that common Anglo Saxon expletive toward Senator Leahy, the same ones come back and just carve up all Democrats because Whoopie Goldberg made her remarks at a  fundraiser.  Is there a small inconsistency there?  Or am I picking nits?

CRAWFORD:  Oh, I like it say in Washington, if hypocrisy were  a virus, we‘d all be dead here in Washington.  It happens on both sides.  And this is actually part of the problem, is everybody thinks they have the only way.  They only have the right answers to everything.  And when they do something wrong, it‘s OK.  And when the other guy does the same thing, it‘s terrible.

You know, it really is a case of, you know, no compromise.  And it reminds me of Benjamin Franklin broke the debate at the constitutional convention and reached consensus by saying, let‘s - let us all come together and doubt a little of our own infallibility.

And that‘s what a lot of people here in D.C. need to do.  Doubt your own infallibility now and then and recognize the other guy has a point. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but you know that before they do that, they will all start walking around with canes again.  We‘re going to go back to that era first before... 

CRAWFORD:  They used to carry pistols in Congress...

OLBERMANN:  Absolutely.

CRAWFORD:  ...at least we don‘t have that. 

OLBERMANN:  That we know of.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.”  Craig, as always, many, many thanks. 

CRAWFORD:  Good to talk to you.

OLBERMANN:  Then there are occasional signs of actual decorum, usually the result of families that diverge politically but not sentimentally. 

First came the news of the Ron Reagan‘s address to the Democratic convention on the issue of stem cell research and his mother‘s approval.  Now word that Maria Shriver on leave from NBC News but not from duties as the wife of California‘s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will also attend the Democratic confab in Boston.

First off, Ms. Shriver, is the niece of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.  She will be in the arena when he addresses the convention a week from Tuesday.  Secondly, she will be attending the dedication of a park in downtown Boston to be named in honor of her grandmother, Rose Kennedy.

And then there is this bit of heartening bipartisanship after the Dick Cheney‘s going to leave the ticket rumor rose afresh yesterday, like an over inflated souffle, word that a majority of Americans want him to remain as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

A Gallup poll indicating that 59 percent overall favor his retention.  That figure was just 51 percent last October.  Republicans,  no surprise, favor Mr. Cheney‘s status by 71 to 25.  Democrats are in favor, 53 to 39.

And if you think about it, that should be no surprise either. 

COUNTDOWN now past our number three story.

Up next, Iraq reunions—from one mother‘s delight, to a surprise visit caught on tape.  And a sad update about another family reunion of which we told you first several months ago.

And later, Britney Spears, after all the headlines that mocked her she has finally read the one that has gone just too far.  Why and how and against whom, she is threatening to sue.  Those stories ahead.

First here at COUNTDOWN, top three sound bites of this day and a big thank you to our friends at ABC News and “20/20” for their help on number three. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  I would have hoped for at the most, home confinement, community service.  And instead, I have five months of incarceration.  With that said, it could have been worse. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, THE CONAN O‘BRIEN SHOW:  This week, a poll came out  saying that most people believe Kerry is more intelligent than you. 

GEORGE W. BUSH IMPERSONATOR:  Yes, I know that poor guy can‘t catch a break can he?

O‘BRIEN:  Well, sir, wait a minute.  What do you mean?

BUSH:  Well, being intelligent, Conan, didn‘t you hear the  news?  The Senate just finished that investigation.  You heard what they found, hotshot. 

O‘BRIEN:  Well tell us what that is?  What?

BUSH:  That intelligence is bad. 

O‘BRIEN:  You had an incident a few weeks ago where you used the F-word in Congress.  Are you worried about making another slip-up?

DICK CHENEY IMPERSONATOR:  Conan, the only F-word I‘ll be using in this campaign is freedom.  Have you got that, [bleep]  face?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At first glance, tonight‘s number two story on the “Countdown” has all the trappings of the traditional feel good saga.  Soldier back from Iraq, but he and his stepfather have decided to surprise his mother.  On that, the two men agreed on our being in Iraq.  That‘s a different part of the same story, both told to us tonight from Illinois by correspondent Ron Allen. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For Dave Bruce, a moment every parent of every soldier in Iraq dreams about. 

DAVE BRUCE, STEPFATHER:  I‘m so proud of him.  Very proud. 

ALLEN:  He is at the airport to meet his stepson, Army Specialist Jason Okara, 27.  Finally home on a 30-day leave from Iraq. 

D. BRUCE:  Yes. 

ALLEN (on camera):  An emotional reunion, that‘s actually part of an elaborate plot.  Jason‘s mom works here in this mall.  And she has no idea he‘s in the country.  Until of course, Jason stormed his mom‘s shoe store. 

JANE BRUCE, MOTHER:  Oh my God.  Oh my God. 

SPC. JASON OKARA, U.S. ARMY:  Surprise!

J. BRUCE:  Oh my God.  Oh, my baby.  Oh, my baby. 

ALLEN (voice-over):  Jane Bruce had been worried sick since her son‘s tour was extended and his leave delayed. 

J. BRUCE:  It‘s the worst thing you could possibly go through as a mother. 

ALLEN:  Together now, but conflicted about what‘s happening in Iraq. 

OKARA:  I would like to go back so I can, you know, help my, you know, fellow soldiers out and to be a leader for them. 

D. BRUCE:  Let‘s pull out and protect our country.  And let‘s not try to solve everybody else‘s problems. 

J. BRUCE:  This is my boy. 

ALLEN:  A family savoring a magical moment.  And like many with soldiers at war, hoping one day soon he‘ll be home to stay.

Ron Allen, NBC News, Aurora, Illinois. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Jason Okara and his parents at least have the option to disagree.  As of 10:00 a.m. Eastern time this morning, the Pentagon reports the number of American servicemen and women who will not be returning from Iraq has reached 888.

And you may recall the story of Private Joseph Wagner and his mother Patrice Confer (ph) of Altoona, Wisconsin.  He sought and was granted an emergency leave from his unit in Iraq because his mother had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the ovaries and the liver.

In April, doctors thought Ms. Confer had about a month to live.  The good news, they underestimated her.  She is still alive.  The bad news?  Even after the Army extended Wagner‘s leave twice, it ultimately lasted 81 days.  He still had to go back yesterday.  Both mother and son said they knew that the good-bye they were saying was their last. 

Not the happiest segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity news, the one we call keeping tabs, but still a somewhat appropriate one.  “Fahrenheit 9/11” director Michael Moore is notorious for  including clips of people in his films without their permission.  Fair use, they call it.  We even have a “Countdown” executive who was unwillingly included in “Bowling for Columbine.”  Don‘t get her started on that.

But he may have now - fair used the wrong guy.  Army  Reservist Peter Damon, who lot part of both arms in Iraq was interviewed for NBC Nightly News.  The clip wound up in Moore‘s  film, a fact that was discovered by Damon‘s wife, Jennifer, in the theater.

Peter Damon was to see the film today and then comment on how he feels about it, and whether or not he intends to do anything about it.

Depending on his political persuasion and whether or not he‘s up for a 300 mile road trip, there‘s a chance Sergeant Damon could see the film for free.  A Lewisberg, Pennsylvania theater owner not only inviting card carrying Republicans to a special screening tomorrow of “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  He‘s also waiving the ticket price.

So far, no word of anybody taking Eric Fayden up on his offer.  If they do, he would be best advised to restock the concession stand.  Fewer Mike and Ikes, less popcorn, more rotten vegetables.

More traditional tabs, subjects and stars.  The attorney for Britney Spears says she is going to either get a retraction or she‘s going to sue “The New York Post.”  Some month they‘re having.  The New York tab ran a front-page photo of Spears yesterday drinking something out of a small vessel.  “The Post” said it was whiskey.  Her lawyers says it was ginseng, a non-alcoholic herbal supplement.

Moreover, the clerk at the liquor store in Venice, California, at which Miss Spears was photographed confirms to the rival newspaper, “The New York Daily News,” that Miss Spears was drinking ginseng.  She did not buy any alcohol at all.  “No alcohol.”

Hmm, Britney Spears versus “The New York Post.”  Who do you root for in that?

Straight ahead, here on “Countdown,” from running of the bulls to Bobo, to black holes, it‘s been a busy and rewarding week of news.  I will be put in the hot seat to see just how much of it, if any of it, I can remember.  I don‘t even remember it now.

All that ahead.  But first, here are “Countdown‘s” top two photos of this day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, it‘s the end of the week you may have noticed.  And frankly, new policy.  There is no more number one story on the Friday countdown.  Instead, we thought this is the place to put the new and we think improved test of your ability and mine to retain the news of the week gone by, the little segment we like to call...

ANNOUNCER:  What have we learned?

OLBERMANN:  Now just last night, we decided what the heck, you‘re as much a part of this show as I am.  On my bad nights, you‘re much more a part of the show than I am.  So we are now accepting questions from you via e-mail on our Web site.  The lovely and talented emcee of the new what have we learned, Monica Novatny is thus your representative in my humiliation. 

Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVATNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  It is a tough job, but I‘m very happy to do it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, thanks.

NOVATNY:  It‘s a pleasure.  Let‘s start by reminding viewers you can take your news quiz by logging on to our website at countdown@msnbc.com.  And if you want to try to stump Keith with your clever queries next week, click where it says e-mail the show.  And send us your news quiz questions, along with, and this is the fun part, suggestions for what we like to call anchor punishment to be administered if, and or when he loses.  And he will lose.

Type “news quiz” in the subject line.  And we promise to read them all.

And now with the assistance of some of our viewers, we have compiled an array of rapid fire questions that you should have no trouble at all answering in 90 seconds.  Are you ready?

OLBERMANN:  I just want to say you know at the outset that I did sleep anchor on Tuesday.  I don‘t remember any of the news...

NOVATNY:  Does that mean you‘re ornery?

OLBERMANN:  No, no, I meant I slept—I was sleepwalking while anchoring.  So Tuesday, I may have missed.  But we‘ll give it a try.  We‘re just doing a lightning round now, is that right? 

NOVATNY:  Just a lightning round.  90 seconds this time.

OLBERMANN:  How interminable.  OK.

NOVATNY:  Here we go.

OLBERMANN:  All right.

NOVATNY:  Chip from California writes, “Two NASCAR pit crews scuffle after an accident between their respective drivers.  Name the drivers?”

OLBERMANN:  Cain was one of them and the other one was Abel. 

NOVATNY:  He was not Abel to get that right.  Sorry, it was Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart.

OLBERMANN:  Tony Stewart.

NOVATNY:  Bonus question, where did that take place?

OLBERMANN:  Martha Stewart‘s brother, no.  Where did it take place?

NOVATNY:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  At a NASCAR pit?

NOVATNY:  In?

OLBERMANN:  You didn‘t state geographically where in.

NOVATNY:  We‘ll move on.

OLBERMANN:  Skip it. 

NOVATNY:  That was the bonus question.  Chicagoland Speedway.  Now take look at the monitor, please, sir.  What does this icon represent?

OLBERMANN:  Teacher. 

NOVATNY:  Yes, that‘s right.  Who‘s the chairman of the newly  created U.S. election assistance commission?

OLBERMANN:  Forest Desores, Jr. 

NOVATNY:  Deforest Sore, Jr. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, I was close enough.

NOVATNY:  I don‘t think we‘ll be able to take that.  Now we‘ll check with the judges.

OLBERMANN:  I heard the bell go off.

NOVATNY:  I don‘t think - no...

OLBERMANN:  And it says two correct answers. 

NOVATNY:  Everyone from Ohio wants to know the unreleased Beatles recordings discovered in a flea market suitcase may have belonged to which associate of the band?

OLBERMANN:  The roaddie, the guy, Evans. 

NOVATNY:  Yes.  We‘ll take that.

OLBERMANN:  You bet you will.

NOVATNY:  How many people were gored by bulls this year in Pamplona?

OLBERMANN:  Actual gorings, 38. 

NOVATNY:  No, 16, sorry.

OLBERMANN:  Should get a margin.

NOVATNY:  Students at Western Illinois University want to know the average number of papers you throw after an oddball segment. 

OLBERMANN:  After an oddball segment?  It‘s usually three. 

NOVATNY:  Actually it‘s five. 

OLBERMANN:   How could they know better than I do?

NOVATNY:  It is five and we agree.  Moving on, as of yesterday evening how much had “Jeopardy” champ Ken Jennings won, sir?

OLBERMANN:  A million dollars and more. 

NOVATNY:  Yes and $50,460.  And time is up.  That‘s it.

OLBERMANN:  So how many did I get right, smart ass?

NOVATNY:  Three right. 

OLBERMANN:  Three?  And one them was about how many—I know how many pages there are at the end of the... 

NOVATNY:  I‘m so sorry we don‘t have anchor punishment this week because I think three would definitely be under the minimum limit allowed.  But we will start that next week. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s three pages that I throw.  They‘re my pages.  That‘s all I have left. 

NOVATNY:  Judges say five.  You‘re going to have to bring it up with them. 

OLBERMANN:  Judges.  Ex-judges.  Ex-employees.  Well, there it is, the  vengeance of the viewers and the ex-judges.  Again, go to our website and find out how to submit a question and how you can participate in deciding what kind of punishment I‘ll be facing, like this was not enough, starting next week for getting answers wrong.

I may be sentenced to five months house arrest at Martha Stewart‘s house.  Until then for your host Monica Novatny, thanks for watching the new and improved edition of...

ANNOUNCER:  What have we learned?

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s countdown.  Thank you for being part of it. 

I‘m  Keith Olbermann.  Good night.  Three.  And good luck. 

Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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