updated 2/10/2005 2:26:58 PM ET 2005-02-10T19:26:58

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jayne Weintraub, Nick Redfern

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

In the grip of the talon news scandal, the White House gave Jeff Gannon press credentials for a year even though that allegedly wasn‘t his real name, even though his news Web site was run by a Texas Republican politician, even though he allegedly owns another Web site called hotmilitarystud.com.  Jeff Gannon resigns. 

Where‘s Jeff Gannon when you need him?  The president‘s big budget criticized by conservatives. 

What are they putting in the drinking fountains?  Another female school teacher accused of an affair with a 13-year-old boy. 

And give Scottie a government grant.  Scientists seriously investigating the possibility of actually teleporting.  Would a person‘s weight have anything to do with this, could I be beamed up. 

WILLIAM SHATNER, ENTERTAINER:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) engage.  We need more signal. 

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  The White House thought it had a tiny scandal on its hand, a storm in a teapot over the granting of credentials to a writer from an unknown news organization operated by a Texas Republican politician, pseudo reporter, who asked questions of the president and press secretary so softball in nature, that they embarrassed even arch-conservatives.  Turns out that was the good news. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight the writer known as Jeff Gannon has resigned his position with Talon News after a series of accusations.  Foremost of them, that that may not be his real name.  hand the trade publication writing that a series of Internet blogs, “Posted allegation yesterday that Web sites such as hotmilitarystud.com, militaryescorts.com, and militaryescortsm4m.com, were registered to the same owner as Gannon‘s home Web site, jeffgannon.com—according to the blog Media Citizen.

That blog reports that the acronym m4m is common Internet short happened for men for men.  Gannon or his investigators at the Web site Daily Coast have identify him, James J.D. Guckert, had been at the center of a small controversy, largely limited to journalistic and intensely political circles for several weeks. 

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, today, wrote to the president, asking in essence if Gannon or Guckert was a plant.  Given White House press room credentials in order to provide Mr. Bush with what some more established reporters analogize, to life lines for the TV series “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  The scrutiny intensified after president called him—called on him at Mr. Bush‘s January 26 televised news conference.   And Gannon or Guckert asked a question, during which he stated that Democratic Senate leaders “Were divorced from reality.”  And he misquoted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, as having forecasted an economy so bad it would produce soup kitchens.  The remark was actually in jest by the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.  Gannon or Guckert posted a brief note on his personal Web site, explaining the end of his reportorial career.  Quoting it, “Because of the attention being paid to me, I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News.  In consideration of the welfare of me and family, I have decided to return to private life.  Thank you to all those who supported me.   

Reached by COUNTDOWN by e-mail for further comment, Gannon wrote only I have nothing to add to my statement posted on my Web site.  The bona fides of Talon News have also been questioned.  Bob Everly (ph) identified himself as the it‘s editor-in-chief.  He is a Texas Republican activist and party delegate, who also runs the political organization GOPUSA. 

The Web site of Talon News offers a one-sentence mission statement of sorts.  Talon News is a news company, which covers political, national and world news.  Talon News focuses on those stories often overlooked by other media outlets.  Evidently it is also recruiting.  Want to join the Talon News team, click here to find out more about being a volunteer reporter for Talon News. 

Further editor and publisher also today states that Gannon‘s name turned up on a list of reporters who federal prosecutors wanted to question in the leaking of the identity of the covert operative Valley Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson.  During an interview with Wilson, Gannon had referred to being in possession of a secret memo identifying Plame.  In a moment, the journalistic implications, even the security implications of the presence of Gannon/Guckert inside the White House. 

First you heard his questions described as softballs and sounding like plants.  Better we let you judge for yourself with videotape of some of the actual questions at the actual White House news conferences, from Jeff Gannon, formerly of Talon News and formerly Jeff Gannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Go ahead, Jeff. 

JEFF GANNON, TALON NEWS:  In your denunciations of the Abu Ghraib photographs, you‘ve used words like sickening disgusting and reprehensible.  Will have any adjective left to adequately describe the pictures from Saddam Hussein‘s rape rooms and torture chambers?  And will Americans ever see those images? 

MCCLELLAN:  I‘m glad you brought that up, Jeff, because...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Go ahead, Jeff. 

GANNON:  Doesn‘t Joe Wilson owe the president and America an apology for his deception and own intelligence failure?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Go ahead, Jeff. 

GANNON:  Why hasn‘t the administration made more of the U.N.  inspectors‘ report that says Saddam Hussein was dismantling his missile and WMD sites before and during the war?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Go ahead, Jeff. 

GANNON:  I would like to comment on the angry mob that sounded Karl Rove‘s house on Sunday. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Jeff, go ahead. 

GANNON:  Thank you.  With all the reaching out that‘s going on around here, the president said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the Press Corps.  What did he mean by that and why would he will feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly nonpartisan people? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GANNON:  The Welfare Reform Act comes up this year for renewal, does the president supporting effort to insert meaningful work requirements in the bill where today there is none? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Go ahead, Jeff.

GANNON:  Since there‘s been so many questions about what the president was doing over 30-years-ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the national guard?  Did he make speeches along side Jane Fonda did denouncing America‘s racist war in Vietnam?  Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam?  And did he throw somebody else‘s medals at the White House to protest a war that American was still fighting?  What was he doing after his...

MCCLELLAN:  I heard what you‘re saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Yes, sir. 

GANNON:  Thank you.  Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy, Harry Reid was talking about soup lines and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse.  Yet, in the same breath, they say Social Security is rock solid and there‘s no crisis.  How are you going to working with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ali G. from HBO, without the satire.  There is the seamy side to all this too.  The Media Citizen Blog referring to the other purported Internet homes of Gannon and/or Guckert, as having promoted “Allegations of involvement in several Web sites appearing to support gay pornography and promote male prostitution.” 

It is the scandal that just keeps on giving.  To help us recalibrate the focus back to the White House itself, I‘m joined now by Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post.” Until very lately, that paper‘s White House correspondent, and thus until very lately, a guy in the same room as, but not exactly a colleague of, Jeff Gannon. 

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.  But I prefer if you‘d address my by my new pseudo name, Dirk Diggler. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s very nice.  We‘ll get to the journalism here in a moment.  But ultimately, is it not relevant here?  Is the most relevant thing not the fact that somebody in the government decided that a guy apparently using an alias who may have also run a Web site called hotmilitarystud.com would be allowed into the White House every day? 

MILBANK:  Well, that would seem to be the most amazing thing.  And in fact, as of Monday, I saw whatever his name is waiting outside there at the White House.  In Fact, he would probably be allowed to continue doing this as of now, if there weren‘t some Web site called of all things World O‘Crap that got into all these person allegations.  It was Jeff decision or whatever his name‘s decision to step down.  He wasn‘t kicked out of the White House at all.  So that‘s really where the scandal lies in this whole thing. 

OLBERMANN:  Was he—it‘s been reported that he was issued daily passes rather than the proverbial hard pass, the permanent one that admitted him.  Is that correct, to your knowledge? 

MILBANK:  Well, we don‘t know.  I‘ve seen him with something that looked an awful lot like a permanent White House pass, with his face, name and organization on it.  Others have seen the same thing.  We don‘t know for sure.  But either way, it‘s clear that Scott Mcclellan knew that it wasn‘t his real name.  He had to provide his real name to get into the White House.  So, here you have the press secretary to the United States, playing along addressing this guy by his pseudo name.  So there was some degree of complicity, even if he was not granted, against White House rules, an actually hard past. 

OLBERMANN:  About the journalism, you can argue for ever about who should be in the White House press room.  There‘s politics involved, there‘s seniority.  You can make the case that Helen Thomas‘ justification for being there has declined steadily over the years, largely because her news organization, which is my alma mater UPI, gradually vanished underneath her. 

What besides those questions made this case of Gannon or Guckert so egregious? 

MILBANK:  Well—I mean, there—there were a couple of different instances here.  And they, in fact, Helen Thomas was passed over and has lost some of her stature during press conferences because of her decline.  So they were passing over here, because she‘s a columnist.  Jeff Gannon, whatever his name is...

OLBERMANN:  Mr. G.  Mr. G.

MILBANK:  Let‘s call him Mr. G.  He did get to ask a question of the president whether that was deliberate or not. 

You know, what it really comes down to here is that it is not the type of question he was asking.  I find that funny, it was a brief break, it was an amusement.  The fact is he was representing a phony media company that doesn‘t really have any such thing as circulation or readership, it‘s affiliated with something called GOP USA.  So there are many people, Fox News, Washington Times, they are conservative but they are legitimate organizations.  So this guy is not a real journalist.  And he was hanging out there wasting everybody‘s time in the press room. 

OLBERMANN:  And it was pointed out that many of the arms were just long transcripts, essentially, of these news conferences anyway rather than actually any opinion whatsoever, which is basically a transcript service. 

But let me ask you finally, is it fair to contextualize this in light of the well publicized administration payments to Armstrong Williams and 2 other columnists to support their policies?  Is this a mutation of that?  Or is it just lousy judgment?  In other words, was he a plant?  Or was he just an ineligible presence? 

MILBANK:  Well, I think he is probably somewhere in between.  You saw from the clips you played there of Scott McClellan turning to him as a life line.  I call him a foil.  You turn to this guy when you want to get the heat of off of you from another subject. 

It follows a pattern in this administration.  We have seen not only the Armstrong Williams case, but cases in which people—there have actually been actors used posing as journalists in advertisements.  This seems a awful lot like that.  This didn‘t have as far reaching consequences, but it was of a similar vein. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, if that is your real name.  His credentials both impeccable and legitimate.  Now a political correspondent, formerly the White House correspondent beat guy.  Great thanks, sir.  Who knows what will turn up next on this. 

MILBANK:  Who knows.  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As if, quote, “Jeff Gannon” unquote and Armstrong “Punditry starting at $2 a pound” Williams and government press releases dressed up as TV news reports we‘re knotted up.  There is a way, easier and more direct still, for the government to get across what it would call news and what critics would call propaganda: start its own television network.  What-ho, the Pentagon Channel. 

It will be broadcast free of charge to subscribers to the Dish Network.  The satellite TV service already in about 11 million homes.  This not some part-time network sharing a spot on your remote with C-Span 9, or the off track Betting Channel.  It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of Department of Defense news briefings, military news updates, interviews and at least regularly scheduled programs around the services.  “Update From Each Military Branch,” Focus on the Force, special reporting on actual missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and something called “Studio Five” an interview show where the guests are all Pentagon officials. 

The network is new to the public, but not knew.  It was launched internally by the Pentagon last May.  But now it‘s out there competing against all the other information style channels.  And it might need to goose the level of planned programming. 

Having amassed a wonderful track record ourselves, we at MSNBC are never loathe to suggest new shows for other networks.  So for the Pentagon Channel, how about “Rumsfeld Country.”  The secretary of defense interviews reporters, reads his own poetry and opera singers appear to give voice to some of his more lyrical news conferences.  Paul Schaffer conducts the orchestra.

“The Apprentice.”  Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz sets tasks and goals for 16 admirals and generals with a twist, no matter how badly they do nobody ever gets fired. 

“CIS: Guantanamo Bay.” 

And the live webcam from Abu Ghraib Prison. 

And of course like every other channel, “Law & Order” reruns.

Meantime, in a totally up connected story, White House senior adviser Carl Rove has been promoted to assistant to the president.  Actually the man long identified a “Bush‘s Brain” has gotten 2 new jobs in the second term: assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff.  An analysis of the job titles in the administration by the Washington Post suggests Rove was already in charge of political affairs, intergovernmental affairs, strategic planning and liaison to outside groups.  It conclude he is now also responsible for coordinating the policies of the homeland security, national security, domestic policy and national economic counsels. 

White House press credentials for freelancers under assumed names, sorry, not his department.  You will have to see somebody else. 

Also tonight, 9 Sri Lankan couples claimed him after the tsunami.  New developments in the deeply symbolic case of baby 81. 

And your military tax dollars in action.  $25,000 bucks spent researching teleportation.  Throw in some dilithium crystals buddy and a used Clingon and I‘ll give you $23,995 for it.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Another earthquake near Banda Aceh, Indonesia.  When it hit today with 5.7 force, police screamed.  Tsunami, tsunami and hundreds, maybe thousands fled for higher ground.  There was no tsunami. 

Our No. 4 story on the COUNTDOWN.  The first one 6 weeks and more ago remains enough in Indonesia and in Sri Lanka.  You will recall the story of Baby 81, the infant boy orphaned or separated from his parents during the chaos of December 26.  And the 9 mothers claiming him as their own. 

Our correspondent Ned Colt has been following the heart-wrenching identification and custody process.  He joins us now from Hong Kong with the latest.  Ned, good evening. 

NED COLT, NBC NEWS:  Good morning from here, Keith. 

This baby clearly has captivated world attention.  In many ways, Baby 81 has become a symbol for the tens of thousands of families that were impacted by the tsunami. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLT (voice-over):  It is the critical step in an identification process that has already taken more than six weeks.  Baby 81, named that because was the 81st admission to a coastal Sri Lankan hospital the day the tsunami hit, was found 9 hours later on a pile of debris alive. 

Initially, 9 couples claimed the infant boy as theirs, but only one has followed through to it step, D.N.A. testing checking the blood of the adults and Baby 81 to see if there‘s a genetic match.  To date, the 2 adults and the baby arrived in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo to undergo tests.  Doctors hope to have results soon.

MAYA B. GUNASEKERA, DOCTOR:  Because we understand the situation so we will try to be—on our part we‘ll try our best to do it as soon as possible. 

COLT:  It has been an emotional and chaotic experience.  Last week the couple claiming Baby 81 as theirs stormed the hospital.  The woman, 25-year-old Jeneta (ph) held him for few moments before nurses took him back. 

GEOFF KEELL, UNICEF:  They have been through an incredible amount of trauma and right now the intense media interest is actually making matters worse for them and they are really breaking town under all of this media scrutiny and pressure.

COLT:  If the couple is determined to be Baby 81‘s parents the child will be handed over to their care immediately.  If not it is unclear what will happen next.  Though for Baby 81 there‘s no shortage of prospective parents. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLT:  DNA results in Sri Lanka typically take a couple of weeks but there‘s a rush on these tests.  There should be answers quite early next week, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What an extraordinary story.  NBC‘s Ned Colt from Hong Kong with the story of Baby 81.  Ned, great thanks. 

The tsunami only inundated 11 nations in the Indian Ocean but clearly the effects were worldwide.  Now we have what may be the final number on American casualties.  The State Department reporting there were 18 certain U.S. fatalities, 10 in Thailand, eight in Sri Lanka, but 15 other American nationals are presumed dead all but one of those in Thailand.

The White House this afternoon meanwhile asked for $600 million more in relief aid for the victimized nations in the form of a supplemental appropriations request.  That would bring the total American outlay in the region to $950 million. 

What would it cost to relieve a U.S. coastline if a tsunami struck here?  The director of the International Tsunami Information Center under the aegis of the UN says, quote, “it is not if but when an American shore, Pacific or Atlantic, gets hit.  The Pacific threats are well known.  The Atlantic ones could be several active volcanoes in the Caribbean or earthquake ridges off the coast of Spain, Portugal and Africa.”

Also tonight more from the file of dangerous things done by people in other countries.  The Oddball express approaches.  Slowly.

And too true to just be odd.  Another woman teacher, this one in Tennessee accused of sex with a teenage boy.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the actual news to cover the weird stories and cool video that would otherwise be ignored or worse still covered as real news by somebody else.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Poland with the annual (UNINTELLIGIBLE) festival where the main attraction the snow horse races.  Horse-drawn carriages, horse-drawn guys on skis, they don‘t care.  Show up with a horse and tie something to the end of it.  The track is narrow and tricky in some places.  Each year hundreds of spectators show up hoping they will be lucky enough to see a really good crash.  Nobody seriously injured at this year‘s event but the horses promised to try harder next time. 

To Wilmington, North Carolina where the owner of a Pop-a-lops (ph) Candy Store claims this is the world‘s biggest gummy bear.  It is available just in time for Valentine‘s Day, seven pounds, 12,000 calories and guaranteed to give that special someone in your life permanent intestinal blockage.  The store is selling the giant gummy bears for $50 each including shipping and a map featuring all local emergency rooms. 

Couldn‘t be any worse than passing 40 anacondas.  Officials at a Swiss

zoo celebrating the achievement of their 19-foot anaconda mama.  She gave

birth this week to 40 cute little 27-inch long babies.  Each snake has been

sorted and carefully stored in these individual containers.  Next week they

will be shipped to the TV show “Fear Factor” where they will be eaten alive

by washed up swimsuit models.

Also tonight the battle over the budget particularly over prescription drugs.  And Mr. Bush enlarging the federal government to the shock of Republicans?  Speaking of funding how about forking over taxpayer money to see if moving the U.S. military through time and space in a teleporter will work. 

These stories ahead.  Now here are the COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers.  Number three, the folks at White Castle Hamburgers in Cincinnati are now accepting reservations for Valentine‘s Day.  You can have a candlelit dinner to two in the parking lot.  In Cincinnati where the forecast for Valentine‘s night is 39 degrees with snow showers. 

Number two, American Airlines has become the latest carrier to eliminate on board pillows.  Why would it do that?  Because it says it will then say $675,000 a year. 

Number one, New Jersey‘s University of Medicine and Dentistry.  It spent $349,000 headhunting for a new president.  A search community, consultants, video conferences as a headhunting company.  The man they found was John Patillo who took over as president of New Jersey‘s University and Dentistry after having previously been interim president of New Jersey‘s University of Medicine and Dentistry.  $349,000 for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Whether it is a genuine sense of betrayal, or that‘s just the jaundiced view of the losers of the past election, there does seem to be some sense that many who supported the re-election of George Bush are not getting what they paid for. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, 50 political leaders gathering in Baltimore over the weekend to strategize how to protest the president‘s plan to expand No Child Left Behind into high schools.  50 Republican leaders including conservative Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.  The president sees Republican values being enacted.  Many of his co-partisans just see government growing bigger and bigger.  Our White House correspondent is David Gregory. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Unexpected from a Democrat, but it was Bill Clinton who said it. 

WILLIAM CLINTON, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The era of big government is over. 

GREGORY:  That was before George W. Bush came to town. 

JAMES THURBER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY:  The Republicans are centralizing power, they‘re growing the bureaucracy, they are growing the budget and taking rights from the states. 

GREGORY:  You wouldn‘t have any idea that the deficit is over $400 billion the way the president talks. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America‘s prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government.

GREGORY:  Many conservative Republicans, the champions of small, limited federal government and the president‘s base argue Mr. Bush is not following his own advice.  And it not just the soaring price of Medicare under this president, but other big spending: the creation of the Homeland Security Department, the farm bill of 2002 which conservatives considered a runaway train, more money for education and this budget‘s call to boost the amount of foreign aid. 

Conservative activists like Stephen Moore are agitated. 

STEPHEN MOORE, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST:  Well, unfortunately, even under a Republican Congress and Republican president in George W. Bush, the federal budget has expanded at faster pace than any president since Lyndon Johnson. 

GREGORY (on camera):  Beyond the growth of government, this White House has made government more involved in people‘s lives, intrusive conservatives would say something they consider taboo. 

(voice-over):  The president wants a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.  Many conservatives support that too, but in the process say the White House is interfering with states rights.  Or take education.  The federal government now wants to extend accountability standards on local districts through high school, again normally the states‘ turf.  Some argue that by making government bigger and more activist the president is attracted new supporters, but at what cost? 

THURBER:  I think what‘s going to happen is the president will have difficult putting his agenda through Congress if the conservatives have a rebellion and it looks like they‘re going to have a rebellion. 

GREGORY:  There‘s still rum for redemption some conserve it was insist.  The president could succeed in restructuring the tax code and Social Security and he could veto any spending bill that gets out of hand.  David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Then again, each Congressman wants the president to continue to spend in his or her district.  So Mr. Bush faces conservative criticism that he is both spending too much money and too little.  And there are other arguments, gay marriage, as David Gregory mentioned, chief among the social issues worrying Bush loyalists.  It was huge in the campaign.  It got into the State of the Union.  in between, Mr Bush said it might just be a states‘ right matter after all. 

Republicans from the South complaining of unprecedented proposed cuts in the farm subsidies which would affect cotton and rice growers there much more than farmers in the Midwest.  But the behemoth the president most wants to tame, one boiling with the broadest unrest, Social Security.  The president‘s talk of reform playing poorly on his post-inauguration road trip. 

Then there‘s not reform, but retrenchment.  In the new budget, the Transportation Safety Administration would be stripped of its biggest programs, many of them being folded into Homeland Security. 

Finally, another program where the Congress draws complaints from some conservatives as Medicare is now expected to cost at least $720 billion, maybe $1.2 trillion over the next decade.  The extra cost attributable to the prescription drug program. 

Are these lovers quarrels or the seeds of divorce?  Joining me now John Harwood, national political editor of the Wall Street Journal.

John, good evening.  Welcome back. 

JOHN HARWOOD, WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there discontent among conservatives, or is that just a Democratic daydream?

HARWOOD:  There‘s discontent, Keith, but I think we are a long way from divorce.  The president has exceptionally high approval ratings from his Republican base who he did very well with in the election last fall.  There certainly is some grumbling and there‘s some tension. 

Any time your running a majority coalition, you face a conflict which exists in politics all the time between people who are for ideas in theory except in as much as it affects them.  So lots of Congressmen want spending reduced in general, but not their district. 

And this is what the president is bumping up against.  Republicans have the whole ball of wax in Washington now, they have got to make decisions.  And that‘s where some of these things gets hard.

OLBERMANN:  Tell me, David Gregory used two terms in that story there, room for redemption and the possibility of conservative rebellion.  Is there an indication as to how far along we are in one direction or the other?  And if it is trending in that way, or trending in the opposite way? 

HARWOOD:  Well, in terms of redemption, Keith, I do think some of these conservatives ought to step back and give the president a break.  By their own standards if they want red meat on smaller government they have got a whole big hunk of it in their mouth right now with the Social Security program. 

The president is trying to, in effect, restructure, Democrats would say dismantle, the most popular social program in the history of the country.  That‘s not easy.  And a lot of Republicans were reluctant to go along with the president.  That would be a tremendous achievement from a conservative smaller government perspective if they could get it through. 

So, the rebellion may be from the attempt to do it, because Democrats are strongly against it and Republicans are nervous about it. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, is this a bloody shirt in this?  And if there is is it the news of the last 48 hours about the crazy price of the Medicare drug prescription program and the possibility that it is in the trillions not in the $400 billion range?

HARWOOD:  Keith, that is a deal with the devil that all of those Republicans and the administration entered into with their eyes open.  They jammed it through, they wanted it for the re-election in 2004.  They knew it was going to cost more money than it was advertised as.  And now a lot of them have sticker shock and have some remorse about it.  But I don‘t think there‘s any going back on that at this point. 

They‘re going to stick to Social Security, see if they can get that, then try to move to tax reform later.  Some big conservative achievements and they‘re going to have to acknowledge they‘ve had some failures as well. 

OLBERMANN:  John Harwood, political editor of the Wall Street Journal. 

As always, sir, great thanks. 

HARWOOD:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  If the administration budget has not exactly hit the ground running, its new secretary of state has.  And today she delivered a message to Iran that stressed diplomacy, but it sounded more like warning still and all. 

At a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials in Brussels, Secretary Rice said Iran must halt its nuclear program or quote, “the next steps are in the offing including referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council.” 

Meantime, Britain, France, Germany held a third round of talks with Iran trying to persuade that nation to give up uranium enrichment.  As Secretary Rice suggested the desire, if not necessarily the reality of the U.S. and E.U. being on the same page here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We and the Europeans talk all the time about the importance of sending a strong message to the Iranians that they are being given an opportunity to demonstrate that they are prepared to live up to those obligations.  So, I think the message is there.  The Iranians need to get that message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  From negotiations to courtrooms, yet another teacher accused of sexually abusing a student.  This time it is the P.E. teacher.  And art imitating—something.  A familiar sounding plot in tonight‘s episode of “Law and Order.”  It has pretty much everything except the loofa and the falafal if you know what I mean. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our second item on the COUNTDOWN is another one of those stories my producers forced me to do.  There is another young, comparatively attractive female school teacher accused tonight of having had sex with a 13-year-old boy in her school.  27-year-old Pamela Rogers Turner met the child at Center Town Elementary in McMinnville, Tennesee, that‘s 86 miles Southeast of Nashville. 

It was described as consensual, but of course, legally that word has no meaning when statutory rape is involved.  The twist to this one, she is a physical ed teacher who for a time between permanent residences, lived in the home of the boy‘s family.  Turner has been charged with 15 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and 13 counts of statutory rape.  She is free on bond of $50,000 pending arraignment set for two weeks from today. 

The district attorney there, Dale Potter, telling the Associated Press today the case is, quote, attracting attention because it is a female teacher and that is a little out of the ordinary.  Out of the ordinary, we hope.  Attracting attention out of the ordinary, hardly. 

This dynamic has become one of the media‘s favorite train wrecks.  Ever since Mary Kay Letourneau released from prison just this past August after having an affair with her then 12-year-old student.  The couple has two children together.  They plan to get married they say. 

More recently, the case from Florida, 24-year-old Deborah LaFave charged with 5 felony counts for having sex with a 14-year-old student she met on a class field trip. 

And just yesterday a Harden County, Texas grandjury identified Kathy White on two charges of improper relationship with a student.  She faces up to 20 years in prison.

So is this some sort of new epidemic, or is it an old story just getting more media coverage? 

Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.  Ms.

Weintraub, good afternoon. 

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Hi, Keith.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  30 years ago when I was a senior in high school, a high school with fewer than 300 students, fewer than 75 girls in it, one of the junior girls was going out with one of the English teacher and one of the senior girls was dating one of the math teacher.  Is the reverse of this, and the expansion of the age range genuinely a recent phenomenon, or is it just something that we are find outing about now? 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, I think it is bunch of things.  I think it is more prominent now and more acceptable now to report these things, No. 1.  I think that along with equal rights in the past 30 years that we have to have equal accountability.  And I think that prosecutors are more inclined now to exercise their discretion, file charges against the teachers even if they are women, whereas before they might have just turned their head and said it was almost a rite of passage if it was a boy victim. 

So, I think that there are a lot of things going on.  And I think that we are in such litigious state these days, many parents of the boys or the girls might see this as a prelude to a lawsuit against the school board. 

OLBERMANN:  But in prosecuting this, even in getting parents to worry about it, generally, is there not still a huge gender gap?  If you say to somebody what worries you more, your 13-year-old son sleeping with a woman teacher, or your 13-year-old daughter sleeping with a male teacher, the responses are not going to be 50-50 are they?

WEINTRAUB:  No, they aren‘t.  And as defense lawyer, that would be the road to take.  Because, number one, as you mentioned in the beginning of the package, it is not a consensual issue, because it is a statutory rape.  It is just by virtue of the fact the child is so and so in age that makes it a rape. 

So, a defense lawyer you have to take some kind of psychiatric route, if it is available and there‘s something wrong or mentally disturbed or a dissociative disorder to investigate.  Or you have to go for jury nullification, basically saying, look, can you really blame her and he looks.  He‘s 6‘1, he might be 14-years-old, but today teenagers look older, act older.  You just never know.

OLBERMANN:  Finally, the glorification of this.  This story is being reported like the last one was, because the teacher was attractive.  You turn on “Desperate Housewives” on TV, there‘s a woman having sex with a 17-year-old.  How can you make this a vigorously prosecuted crime if a fictionalized version of it is up for an Emmy award for best comedy? 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, in “Desperate Housewives” I don‘t know that he is 17-years-old.  I know that he appears to be the young gardener.  But there have to be rules and they have to apply equally to women and to men.  You can‘t have a law that says if you are a female teacher you are not held accountable, but if you are male you would be held accountable. 

So clearly you can see what disarray our system would be in if that happen.  People can‘t do that.  Teachers can‘t do that to kids.  And that‘s said more as mom, I think, than as a lawyer. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, both qualities are welcome for comment here. 

Criminally defense attorney and mother, Jayne Weintraub great thanks. 

WEINTRAUB:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  As we move stealthily into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, keeping tabs, and it is hard to believe this has finally happened, but it has.  There‘s a Bill O‘Reilly controversy and it is not his fault. 

An interesting plot tonight on “Law and Order” on our parent network NBC.  There‘s this married TV host and author who beats the drum for family values and then one of his producers sues him for sexual harassment and claims she has audiotapes of his advances and they settle and she gets 3 and a half million dollars.  And then the TV host—and here is something you never see on “Law and Order,” the host gets shot right in the bookstore. 

Producers insist it is all fiction and their character, Larry Shay, him, is not Bill O‘Reilly. 

As to the real Bill O‘Reilly more on the controversy on the controversy on his essay on this year‘s Super Bowl program.  The latest claim that he would have quote, “dominated in the NFL if he had taken up punting as a career.”  It‘s a long, long story better, say for the Web site just posted there on the Bloggermann blog, countdown.msnbc.com.  The title is “Time to Punt, Bill.”  Happy reading.

In the meantime, if you do not want your illusions shattered about

story book marriages, hit the mute button.  Britney Spears‘ hubby may be

wandering.  And here she had been batting .500 on here spouses.  “In Touch

Weekly” reporting that the second Mr. Britney, Kevin Federline has

“Suddenly started partying like a single guy.”  In addition to going out on

several occasions without his wedding band on, he‘s been hanging out with

his old posse of pals, and flying to Las Vegas for weekends of drinking,

gambling and even lap dances in strip clubs.  Giving them or receiving them

·         well, he‘s a dancer, isn‘t he? 

Is Britney ready to say beam me up.  How about the folks who spent government money to test whether or not you could really can build a “Star Trek” like teleporter.  We will boldly go where no taxpayer has gone before.  Next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  ... just to say the U.S. Air Force commissioned a scientific study of whether or not some future Scotty, in some future real life version of “Star Trek,” could actually beam you up, teleport you through space like a fax. 

No, no, no, our number one story tonight may require this additional context.  The government is spending unknown quantities of taxpayer dollars at the exact time the Administration wants to kill the Amtrak subsidy.  In other worlds, you won‘t be able to go Acheson, Topeka on the Santa Fe, but if your destination is the planet Skyron in the Galaxy Andromeda, you might be in luck. 

A theoretical physicist name, Dr. Eric Davis of Las Vegas, Nevada, got a $25,000 commission to write an 88-page report postulating that teleportation by machine or even by psychic power is “Quite Real and can be controlled.”  Dr. Davis says there‘s have been experiments, in which, billions of atoms have been transported from one place to another. 

The problem is, if they transported your billions of atoms, when they got there would they still be you or would they just be a pile of billions of atoms that used to be you?

While Dr. Davis recommends spending $7 million a year in further research, the lab director at the propulsion research lab says, that Dr.  Davis‘s paper was all the air force need to know.  Quoting Colonel Mike Heil, “The air force has made the decision not to invest in that anymore and not to contract with Dr. Davis in the future, as well.”

That having been said, gee, teleporting sure would cut commuting time.  And the military implications are astounding, to say nothing of elimination of the entire shipping and trucking industry. 

Joining me by a miracle of science that we know already works is, Nick Redfern, U.S. editor of “Phenomena Magazine” which covers stuff from UFO‘s on out. 

Mr. Redfern, good evening.  Thanks for your time. 

NICK REDFERN, PHENOMENA MAGAZINE:  Hey, Keith.  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything to this.  Could somebody, someday, actually step under Scotty‘s teleporter beam or enter Dr. Who‘s Tardis and wind up on Neptune, or at least, in Neptune, New Jersey? 

REDFERN:  Well, there‘s obviously been made a lot of controversy made about this subject, and also a lot of jokes, beam me up Scotty type jokes,  as you can probably imagine.  I think, you know—although, there‘s been a lot of questions asked about whether or not this project should have gone ahead.  $25,000 really out of the whole Defense Department budget isn‘t a great deal.  And I think, even if there‘s, you know, even a remote possibility that something like this could actually work, then I think it‘s worth, at least, looking at from that perspective. 

And in terms of whether or not the government has had any success—I mean, obviously, we‘re not too sure.  And the fact that the air force has now decided not to contract further, would suggests otherwise.  Back in the 1970‘s, at least, the government definitely did do research in terms of mind-to-mind teleportation, if you like, which was known as remote viewing.  To try to psychicly spy on the energy and have the equivalence of spies, if you like, just literally training their minds to penetrate Russian military installations and missiles bases and places like that. 

OLBERMANN:  But remote viewing, and to the degree that it was successful, and there was some evidence that, maybe it was once in a thousand opportunities it was successful.  Maybe it was more than that.  There was some evidence to it.  But is that, even from there, is it not a great leap to the idea that, merely with your mind you could you order the 3rd Infantry Division to, you know, Iran? 

REDFERN:  Oh sure, I mean, that is the big leap.  It‘s one thing to talked about electronic signals or mind to mind communication, but when you‘re actually talking about, as you said in the introduction, scrambling someone‘s atoms and then transporting them across the world.  I think if that were ever to happen, it would be so far in the future, that it wouldn‘t even really be worth talking about right now.  It think it is something that is just so—too far advanced and is complex. 

OLBERMANN:  Does—is there something about this fella, Dr. Davis?  Because that statement that he made “The top research labs have already reported teleporting matter consisting of a billion or so atoms, and it worked.” I mean, I was looking at that thing, I would have heard about that. 

In your line of work, would you not have heard about that? 

REDFERN:  That‘s something I haven‘t heard about at all.  I mean, that doesn‘t necessarily mean it‘s not happened.  I think a lot of - there‘s no doubt from Davis‘s work, that a lot of intriguing, in depth research has been taken.  And from that reason, you known, I think that it‘s worthwhile looking into this subject.  And I actually applaud the fact that something has been done along these lines.  I think sometimes we do need to think out of the box a little bit in terms of determining where things like this are going to go.  But you know, I think in time, maybe something will come of it, possibly.  Or it‘ll just be one of those projects that was seen as too strange, you know, even for the air force. 

OLBERMANN:  But when they drag in worm holes and such, and start talking about that, there is that fundamental problem.  Yes, that may be a way to transport or teleport, but the likelihood of you being crushed beyond all recognition is still pretty great, is it not? 

REDFERN:  Well, I mean, the other—the big question—to answer that question, the answer is, yes.  But the bigger question, of course, or the bigger concern is this whole issue of teleportation, would it scramble your atoms?  And I think that‘s one we need to be concerned about. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  And if you‘ve ever had your atoms scrambled, you know how painful that could be. 

Nick Redfern, author of “Three Men Seeking Monsters” and U.S. editor of “Phenomena Magazine,” great thanks for your time, sir. 

REDFERN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The real problem with teleporting, of course, if it ever happens is, you might not end up where you intended to go. 

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

Good night and good luck.  No!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Beam me back!  Be me back to you please!  Be me back!  Be me back!  Be me back (UNINTELLIGIBLE) loofah.  Be me back!

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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