updated 8/25/2005 11:06:58 AM ET 2005-08-25T15:06:58

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jeans Cruz, Marc Spitz, Terry Bennett

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of she‘s stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Revisions on winning the war on terror.  The president, August 30. 

2004.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t think you can win it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president, August 24, 2005.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And we will win the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  More revisions, on assassinating the president of Venezuela.  Pat Robertson, Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON:  If he thinks we‘re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Pat Robertson today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON:  I didn‘t say assassination.  I said our special forces should, quote, “take him out.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  More revisions.  More stories my producers forced me to do.  Olivia Newton-John, hopelessly devoted to her boyfriend, vanished or ran away?

And if you‘ve got it, flaunt it.  The 25 most incredible rock star body parts, from Elvis‘s pelvis, to Keith Richard‘s liver, to Tommy Lee‘s...

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

The president returns to four favorite phrases in his latest mid-vacation speech.  Protester Cindy Sheehan returns to the president‘s haunts in Crawford, Texas.  And the anti-antiwar protest that‘s supposedly sprung up from the grassroots against Sheehan may return to haunt the president.  It‘s not quite as grassroots as is claimed.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the music is getting louder, and the dancing is getting faster.  And if two months ago, there was not a full-fledged political battle over this country‘s opinion or opinions on continuing in Iraq, there is now.

The president first.  Day three in Idaho for him, bookending his Western vacation from his Western vacation with a speech to members of the Idaho National Guard.  While all Bush audiences are friendly, today‘s audience friendlier and more frenzied than most, not altogether surprising in a state where Mr. Bush won 68 percent of the vote last year.

The tone of his speech, familiar.  The talking points, more familiar still.

More on what they are and whether they are resonated in a moment with “The Washington Post” political reporter Dana Milbank.

The recurrent theme today throughout, that the fight will continue so that those we have already lost in Iraq will not have died in vain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror required great sacrifice as well.

In this war, we have said farewell to some very good men and women, including 491 heroes of the National Guard and Reserve.  We mourn the loss of every life.  We pray for their loved ones.  These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country.  And now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Cindy Sheehan and the other Gold Star Moms in Texas, still looking for a face-to-face an answer from the president as to what exactly their sons and daughters did die for in Iraq.  Ms. Sheehan back to making that request in person tonight, returning to Camp Casey, as she calls it, earlier this evening, before she had left, Ms. Sheehan telling readers of her blog that Crawford is where she belongs.  So long as the president is there, she will be, too.

Her first stop upon her return, placing flowers by the cross that bears her son‘s name, the timing of her return fortuitous.  The president also expected back from his own private Idaho tonight.

Meanwhile, there is the group that reversed the Sheehan equation and showed up in her home town of Vacaville, California, with a caravan of military families and conservative activists who proclaimed, “You don‘t speak for me, Cindy.”

Several partisan Web sites reported that the anti-antiwar group Move America Forward was not quite as grassrootsy a response to Sheehan as it first seemed, that it had, in fact, been launched by a Sacramento public relations firm with strong connections to the Republican Party.

Those Web sites are right.  While the online evidence has been scrubbed that the PR firm Russo, Marsh, and Rogers actually put up the Move America Forward Web site, Move America Forward still lists as its chief strategist and one of its board members Sal Russo of the PR firm Russo, Marsh, and Rogers.

And the Move America Forward fax number in that area code is 441-6057, while the Russo, Marsh, and Rogers fax number in that area code is 441-6057.

Let‘s call in Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”

Dana, thanks for your time.  Good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You wrote in the paper today that there was no mistaking the talking points of the administration on Iraq, and this afternoon in Idaho, certainly no mistaking the president‘s talking points.  By our count, in ascending order, his speech had seven references to the September 11 attacks, eight mentions of the word “sacrifice,” nine uses of “courage” or “courageous,” and the double-play of “national security” and/or “protecting Americans here at home” was in there 13 times.

This is obviously a familiar pattern.  But when he used it in his last national address on Iraq, it didn‘t seem to register.  And at that time, there wasn‘t this degree of organized antiwar protest.  Is it registering now?

MILBANK:  Well, the best way we can measure it is by looking at opinion polls, which are imperfect.  But there are two of them out this week.  One has him at 36 percent support level, the other has him at 40 percent support level.  We have to wait for the all-important “Washington Post” poll in the coming days.

But if these levels are accurate, we‘re looking at the kind of popularity that Jimmy Carter had during the Iranian hostage crisis, the sort that the president‘s father had just before he lost the election to Bill Clinton.

So it seems each time the president is in trouble, he goes to the well and brings back September 11.  It has—it seems to have, at least, diminishing returns for him.

OLBERMANN:  We mentioned that the terminology, though, even in its attempt to be consistent, is not entirely consistent.  We are now back, apparently, to the war on terrorism, and to his claiming that we‘re going to win it.  It was only a few weeks ago that there was this switch to the global struggle against violent extremism, which did not roll off the tongues necessarily here.

Is it—it‘s beginning to sound a little like John Kerry foundering around for a slogan last year.  Is there a slogan crisis in the White House?

MILBANK:  Oh, a deep one.  It‘s worse than you can imagine.  I actually did a piece a little over a year ago on this.  And the president came up with a different phrase I‘ll read to you.  It was, we actually misnamed the war on terror, he said.  It ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies, who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.

So if we were to put that out in abbreviation form, it would look something like this.  So we‘ve improved somewhat.

OLBERMANN:  You always bring something to the table.

One other phrase that has become higher profile with Mr. Bush, the repetition about the dead, that we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission, was the exact terminology today.  Is there a point at which one of the protesters, even if it was only a dozen protesters, or a Democrat, or both, comes out and says, Hey, wait a minute, that phrase basically says, We‘re going to honor their sacrifice by sacrificing more of them?

MILBANK:  Well, the protesters are already saying it.  We have to make a distinction there.  When it comes to the Democrats, that‘s a different story.  They have a real fear, whether it‘s based in wisdom or something else, that they cannot seem to be wavering on this, seem to be changing their minds.  They don‘t—they can‘t get up and say, Well, we felt we were misled, we supported the war, and now we don‘t.  They want to stick to their guns so they don‘t appear to be waffling.

So don‘t wait sort of by your television set there for the Democrats to change their line on this.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  In the interim, while I don‘t wait on that, in passing, this anti-antiwar group Move America Forward, they didn‘t even wipe the fingerprints off this as a actual creation of PR people associated with the Republican Party.  Does that surprise you?  I mean, have not these guys been real big leaguers in terms of media expertise for four years now?

MILBANK:  Well, a little-known fact is, Sal Russo and his organization were the brains behind the Orrin Hatch for president campaign in 2000.  And that‘s why we have Orrin Hatch in the White House today.

So it was perhaps not the best way to arrange this.

OLBERMANN:  All right, show the prop again, just show the prop again (INAUDIBLE)...

MILBANK:  One more time, Keith, there we are.

OLBERMANN:  ... (INAUDIBLE).  That was one of the ones that didn‘t stick.  “Washington Post” national political reporter and graphics hobbyist Dana Milbank.  As always, sir, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For surviving veterans of Iraq, the return home is not easy.  Nobody is saying it‘s like the March on Washington from the so-called Bonus Army in 1932, World War I vets demanding an immediate payment of a bonus that was scheduled for 1945, some of them eventually shooting it out with General Douglas MacArthur‘s troops within sight of the Capitol.  That all actually happened.

But what if I told you that one of the two soldiers who hauled Saddam Hussein out of hiding is, more than a year after his return from Iraq, and more than eight weeks after he started looking for a civilian job, unemployed tonight?

Specialist Jeans Cruz joins us from New York tonight.

Thank you for your time, sir.

SPEC. JEANS CRUZ (RET.), UNEMPLOYED IRAQ WAR VETERAN:  And thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the job in a moment.  But first, we now have in this country what we certainly didn‘t have when you left for Iraq, maybe when you got back, a very loud debate on how much longer we should stay in that country.  You‘ve more than earned your right to be heard on this.  What do you think?

CRUZ:  To be honest, it is time to pull out now.  As you said, no one needs to die for others who have died.  Everybody has their sacrifices.  And we do not need to sacrifice more people.  We know what everybody else has sacrificed, and we have to praise that right now.

OLBERMANN:  So pulling out at this point, to you, would not be diminishing their memories in any way?

CRUZ:  No.  Actually, it would be showing that, you know, it‘s time to pull out, giving them concerns to families and showing respect, actually, for my concern.

OLBERMANN:  Was there a moment, do you think, when we actually accomplished what we went there for, that you actually accomplished what you went there for?

CRUZ:  Honestly, I thought I did.  A lot of us thought we did.

OLBERMANN:  Was that when you and your group pulled Hussein out of that hole in the ground?

CRUZ:  And that is correct, to include as many years as this has been going on now, it‘s not just one year, it‘s been several.  The more time in the (INAUDIBLE) that‘s gone into it, the more things are falling out for families now.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask about and you this job search.  It sounds like, and I‘m sure you‘d agree with me on this, that your resume is outstanding, captured Saddam Hussein, before that, you‘d been a security guard at the World Trade Center on 9/11.  You have computer skills.  What has it been like going for a job?  I mean, do they just want to talk to you and pat you on the back and then say, No, thanks?  Or how has that been?

CRUZ:  It kind of feels like it.  I‘ve gotten a lot of appreciation from a lot of jobs.  The only thing I don‘t get is a call back.  And, well, currently, now things have been changing a little bit.  And I could really thank a lot of people for that.

OLBERMANN:  What would you want potential employers to know about you?  We‘re sort of giving you a period of time here to sell yourself on national TV, if that will help.

CRUZ:  The best thing I can say, put me to work and I‘ll show what you I could do.

OLBERMANN:  Does the Army help at all with job placement?  I know you‘ve been essentially demobilized for about two months.  Do you have to be—you know, as you look for a job and readjusting to civilian life, are you completely on your own?

CRUZ:  Well, no.  Currently I‘m also getting assisted from the VA hospitals and vet centers here in the Bronx and Manhattan, who are helping also for a job search.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a specific job you want out there?

CRUZ:  My best thing would be working with the community, and within the government, that is.

OLBERMANN:  Jeans Cruz, one of the soldiers who nabbed Saddam.  Thanks greatly for your time, for your opinions, and all the best on the job search.  And if we hear anything at this end, we‘ll get the information to you right away.

CRUZ:  Thank you, Keith.  Have a good evening.

OLBERMANN:  You too.

Also tonight, did he apologize?  Or did he apologize not?  On TV, Pat Robertson says he never called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela.  Online, he apologizes for having called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela.  So you have a choice.  Your news, your way.

And the search for Olivia Newton-John‘s missing boyfriend.  Tonight, looking less like an abduction and more like a vamoose.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Televangelist Pat Robertson today apologized for his remarks about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  Then again, he also denied making those remarks.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, on the Web site of his COLOMBIAN Network, Robertson writes, “Is it right to call for assassination?  No.  And I apologize for that.  I spoke in frustration,” a statement made in frustration, but an apology made only in print.

On his “700 Club” TV show, Robertson not only did not apologize, he claimed he had said no such thing.  On TV, at least, apparently the leader of the Christian Coalition was misinterpreted by the Associated Press, Reuters, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NPR, Agence France Presse, Tass, “The New York Times,” “Times of London,” “The Los Angeles Times,” Greenwich, Connecticut “Time,” “TIME” magazine, and “Women‘s Wear Daily.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON:  I didn‘t say assassination.  I said our special forces should, quote, “take him out.”  And “take him out” can be a lot—a number of things, including kidnapping.  There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him.  I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Taken out” could mean lots of things.  Our special forces could take him out on a date.

But I could have sworn I heard him specifically use the word “assassination” on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON:  Well, I don‘t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we‘re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.  It‘s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.  We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.  We don‘t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strongarm dictator.  It‘s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But, of course, Robertson had told the TV audience today that he only said “take him out.”  So I guess if you or I heard the word “assassination,” we must be possessed by the devil again.

Damned liberal media!

One last thing about today‘s denial, the half-denial, anyway.  It‘s so ludicrous on the face of it that you may have missed the face of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON:  I didn‘t say assassination.  I said our special forces should, quote, “take him out.”

OLBERMANN:  This.  What‘s this?  With the nodding.  What‘s that?

Seals can be trained to nod.  But here‘s a question.  Is this a seal? 

Or is it an evil robot sea lion?

And nobody is perfect, especially in the world of rock and roll.  But there are perfect rock and roll body parts, aren‘t there?  Turns out yes, at least 25 of them.  You now have some time here to try to guess the part rated number one by “Spin” magazine.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and once again, we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news and important information for a brief segment of the silly stories, the gratuitous video, and tales from the stupid side.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Bangkok, Thailand, one of the world capitals of odd news. 

You‘ll hear more from them in a moment.  Host to the 2005 Aichi Robot Expo.  A less-than-impressive robot lineup this time around.  Looks like a lot of tabletop models.  But the star of the show, the robotic baby Seal named Paro.  Paro is a comforter robot, designed to respond to a young child‘s touch with a soothing, comforting sound.

A soothing sound, like when you club a seal.  That‘s 13 years of therapy for the kid right there.

To Lebanon, Ohio, which is faced with one of those problems you just didn‘t hear about 20 or 30 years ago.  Town‘s got itself a gigantic new, brand-new Wal-Mart.  So what are they going to do with the gigantic old empty Wal-Mart?  Well, local leaders have got a solution that might solve the problem and relieve their overcrowded prison situation at the same time.  That‘s right.  They want to turn the Wal-Mart into a jail, the old Wal-Mart.

No violent offenders, just run-of-the-mill prisoners, the kind you‘d find at any Wal-Mart.  The new customers would not be able to check out, obviously.  Nonetheless, removing those automatic doors in the front would probably be well advised.

And finally, more free publicity for the online casino that bought our Michael Jackson puppets for charity.  Well, it wasn‘t exactly free.  The company paid $18,000 to 20-year-old Molly Demers (ph) of Rennes, Nevada.  And all she had to do was permanently tattoo GoldenPalace.com on the back of her shaved head.  Demers says she needs the money to go to college in Europe and to follow her lifelong dream, which is cooking stuff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) need some Tylenol.  But you know what?  It‘s worth it.  And a small price to pay to get what I want in life, which is my dream of cooking stuff.  So I—it pays off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I told you her dream was cooking and stuff.  Anything in particular?  Food, maybe?  There will always a job market for people who cook stuff like food.

Obesity grows another notch.

And we‘ll talk to a doctor in trouble for mentioning the term “obesity” to one of his patients.

And when I quit turns into I quit more than once, how falling off the wagon and picking up the tobacco again, just once, mind you, might be the best thing that happens to you in the quitting process.

Those stories ahead.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Jennifer Wilbanks.  Well, the international influence of Jennifer Wilbanks.  Police in Guatemala are accusing an unnamed man of having faked his own kidnapping as a cover story because he skipped out on his wedding.

Number two, Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, together again.  Dodi‘s father thought it would be nice to put up a statue of them, she with a plunging neckline, he barechested, and put the statue right in the middle of Harrod‘s Department Store in London, which he owns.  You can‘t buy class, you know?

And number one, the cabinet prime minister Tatsin Shinawatra (ph) meeting in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok.  According to news reports from that area, which we are still checking, a woman suing a plastic surgeon in that city says there is a witness, a member of the Thai cabinet who was at the same clinic to undergo penile enlargement.  Who did it? the prime minister screamed reportedly at his ministers.  Tell me!  They‘re just hoping he also did not say, We can‘t have penis enlargement in Bangkok!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s been nearly two years since a federal judge threw out a class-action lawsuit.  Two obese teens had claimed that McDonald‘s had made them fat.  Back then, the number of overweight Americans was still less than 24 percent of the population.

Our third story tonight, the waistline expands, the percentage does too.  But if you‘re a doctor, and you try to tell those facts to a patient straight on, you might get sued.

A new study by the organization Trust for America‘s Health suggests we‘re at 24.5 percent obese now, the number more startling if you weigh just adults.  That‘s 64.5 percent.

The organization‘s data drawn from the Centers for Disease Control, also showing that the percentage is unchanged in Oregon and up in all 49 other states.  The state of Mississippi is the net heaviest, Colorado the average lightest, the study authors remembering—or reminding us that health is only the first casualties.  Then it‘s wealth.  Obesity will soon strain the collective wallet of the health care system, although it will always make lots of money for people who invest in companies specializing in bigger seats on buses and door widening. 

We mentioned yesterday in the worst persons in the world segment, the woman patient who filed a complaint with the state of New Hampshire after her doctor told her she was obese and had better lose weight.  The state board of medicine investigated and turned it over to New Hampshire‘s attorney general, which asked Dr. Terry Bennett to take a medical education course and acknowledged he had—quote—“made a mistake.” 

Dr. Bennett said no to that.  He didn‘t think he had done anything wrong. 

He joins us now from Manchester, New Hampshire. 

Dr. Bennett, good evening.  Thanks for your time. 

DR. TERRY BENNETT, OBESITY ADVICE ANGERED PATIENT:  Hi.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  This sounds, on the whole, nuts.  What is she complaining about?  I mean, if you call her fat, fat, the water rat or something, I could understand this.  But what happened?  What did you say? 

BENNETT:  Well, you are running down a razor blade when you‘re talking to an obese patient of either gender.  They wouldn‘t be obese if they weren‘t really good at ignoring reality.  So, you have to overcome that mind-set and deliver the news without making somebody angry, because, if they‘re angry, you lose them. 

So, you‘re running right down a razor blade.  Too little, they don‘t buy it.  Too much, they‘re mad.  And that‘s the case every time.  So, I always have to look at their face and figure out what‘s going on.  And I thought I was doing that.  This woman walked out of my office, did not appear to be unhappy, went to get her husband, who is also grossly obese.

And I had talked about the future for the both of them to her.  And, blindside, three weeks later, I get notice from the board that I have got a complaint.  Well, I have hundreds of obese patients.  There was one on  -- that‘s been on this television circuit with me, Linda Haney (ph), who has been very articulate. 

She says, take a good look at me through the camera.  Take a good look at me, because you, Mr. and Mrs. America, are paying for me with your increased insurance premiums.  And it is going up and up. 

Well, OK, it is time.  But, if you look at the facts now, 60 percent, 65 percent, whatever number you want, are obese adults.  More than 70 percent of physicians no longer address this at all, because they‘re looking at the same kind of mind-set and the behavior that I have gotten here. 

Now, the regulations of New Hampshire say that the board does not address insult, does not address fees, does not address bedside manner.  Where do you think this falls if it is not amongst the insult bedside manner contingent? 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  People who don‘t want...

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT:  And disruptive...

OLBERMANN:  Yes, people who don‘t want to hear it. 

But, now, you said that—you mentioned the razor‘s edge here. 

BENNETT:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  I have went overweight in varying degrees since I had my tonsils out when I was 6.  And I know exactly what you‘re talking.  I had one doctor, a cardiologist, who asked me, did you ever notice you don‘t see a lot of fat old people, which I thought was a heck of a way of getting the point across without basically saying, you‘re fat, buddy?

BENNETT:  Hammering...

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  But I had another doctor who, when I told him that I had put some of the weight back on because I‘d had this leg injury and I hadn‘t been able to do workouts, he said, you know, being overweight has nothing to do with exercise. 

And I never went to see him again.  Is it—is there enough sensitivity to how much of a razor‘s edge that is in the medical community, do you think? 

BENNETT:  Well, let me explain the exercise part, because it is interesting.  If you eat a teaspoon of sugar, you have got to brisk walk a mile-and-a-half to burn it off. 

If you didn‘t eat it and you brisk walk, you burn off a teaspoon of fat.  So, your weight is really starch-in-your-diet dependent.  And Atkins, in so far as he carried that concept, is right.  And if you eliminate all the junk, all the stuff that Atkins was trying to peddle and simply look at the two fuels we begin, starches, fats, you don‘t eat starches, you burn fats, you can‘t eat them fast enough, you burn you, we call that losing weight. 

That‘s a simple concept and that is the one I try to get patients to buy into.  But they deny that they eat starches.  So, you have got to overcome all of that and get past it.  And then you can get them to lose weight. 

OLBERMANN:  Was this woman a regular patient of yours?  Had she been there before?  Had you...

BENNETT:  She had been five or six times.  I could never get her to step on my scale, so there is not a recorded weight in my chart.  I mean, it‘s that level of denial. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, there is need for oversight at all times of the medical profession by government at each level.  But I think—I mean, do you feel like you‘re in a spider web here because of how this has spun out? 

BENNETT:  The reason that I have gone public here is that, already, 70 percent, certainly, 70 percent of pediatricians—there‘s a Harvard released study -- 70 percent of pediatricians do no confront the parents of obese kids in America now. 

I think it is about 70 percent of adult practitioners will write in your chart morbidly obese and not mention it to you, because, if they do, their 15 minutes expands to 20 or 30, they have got you unhappy and they may get a complaint, as I have had.  Well, that‘s a brave new world. 

I mean, if a doctor can‘t tell you the truth and expect to be defended in his right to do that, you can always change doctors.  It‘s not like I hold a gun to people‘s heads and make them come see me. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

BENNETT:  They need to get value when they come to see me, in my view.

I have a lot of knowledge.  I have spent 40 years at this.  I have a prepared spiel that incorporates all these horrible facts.  And I tell them, look, this is going to be horrible.  This is what‘s going to happen, OK?  The future is clear.  If I can get to you believe, we choose a different future and you get to walk through the tulips with somebody that you love for a lot further in this life. 

Those are the choices.  It‘s that important.  If I can‘t do it, what do I do?  Talk about the weather?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  How do you think—how is this case going to end, do you think? 

BENNETT:  If—if I have it my way, and if the patients—there‘s more than 100 patients that have signed a petition to the governor that he should fire our attorney general.  The attorney general could have shut this off at any point in time. 

There‘s no crime here.  I have broken no law.  You cannot say that I have done anything offensive in the greater scheme of things.  Certainly, I‘m not an addict.  I‘m not an alcoholic.  They‘ve tried to make me admit that I‘m a disruptive physician.  Not true.  Not happening.  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Terry Bennett, well, I guess at least the petition from the 100 patients must be the silver lining in this.  Our great thanks for your time and good luck getting the message out. 

BENNETT:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  Which brings us to our nightly attempt to get the message out, soon to be weekly, how-to course on quitting smoking, based on my own experiences and yours, the ones you send in to our COUNTDOWN Web site.

And, tonight, we get to deal with the most dangerous piece of advice about how to stop your cigarette, cigar, pipe, chaw, snuff, or rubbing it into your forearms addiction.  This is very dicey stuff, so do not take this as me telling you to do this, nor as an authorization from an authority to do this. 

But one of the ways you might stop smoking is by smoking.  We‘ve previously discussed what to do if you fall off the wagon and you have a smoke.  First, it‘s to let yourself off the hook to some degree.  This is addictive substances.  Million of dollars have been spent making it even more addictive.  Even a lion tamer gets to have a chair in there with him.  All you have is your willpower, the few tricks we can show you and some gum. 

So, if you quit and then you smoke, remind yourself, you have now had, say, one cigarette in 37 days, or whatever it is, and then get right back up on the horse.  And here‘s today‘s point.  Sometimes, you may have to go back and smoke again to realize just how useless it really is. 

I fell off the wagon last night.  I loaded up the pipe with my favorite tobacco and lit up.  And, as I did it, I knew it was nuts.  But I also knew that, for the previous 27 days, part of me had been screaming, I really want to smoke my pipe.  I really want to smoke my pipe.  And then I felt abused, denied by not being able to.  It was so enjoyable and I liked it so much and I missed it.  And it didn‘t call or write or anything. 

Well, the results were surprising last night.  They might be instructive to you.  The pipe full of tobacco did nothing for me.  The first thing that surprised me was how much smoke there was.  What was this all about?  I have been deliberately walking around in a self-created smog alert for 27 years?  I missed Los Angeles that much? 

The second was the heat in my mouth.  Pipe smokers know this intuitively.  I think cigarette smokers might get used to it more readily, but who needs that?  Are you going to stick a lighter in your mouth? 

And, lastly, there was the flavor, burning tobacco.  Do you really like the flavor of burning tobacco?  This was why falling off the wagon may have been one of the best things I have done in the smoking process.  It was like going back to the first day I tried smoking, when I was 19, and this time making the right decision, based purely on the merits of the process. 

Who says this is good?  So, again, I‘m not recommending that you quit smoking and then try it again and pick up another cigarette.  But, if it works out that way, you may be really surprised by the outcome.  You may have given yourself enough space to actually now evaluate whether or not you ever want to again of your mouth taste like an ashtray.  I don‘t.  I didn‘t even finish the bowl of tobacco last night.

I tapped it out.  I ran water through the pipe to ruin it.  Then I gathered up all the pipes I had and all the cleaners, all the matches, and the tobacco tins that I own.  I wrapped them up and I threw them out.  May you do the same. 

We want your tips and experiences.  E-mail us at the Web site.  And feel free peruse the suggestions of our fellow recovering sufferers on how you can say, I quit. 

Also tonight, missing person or runaway?  New doubts about the disappearance of Olivia Newton-John‘s boyfriend. 

And stalkarazzi at it again, another celebrity getting chased by photographers into another car crash.

Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We watched this little guy earlier.  He was having a problem with a loose front tooth.  Mom was trying to get this tooth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t do it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sister is doing play by play. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you see the little twist? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

Oh, there we go.  That‘s a good shot of the mouth right there.  He‘s still got that tooth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you just do the deal?  There it is. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Max‘s Italian Beef on Chicago‘s North Side has been serving up “Ghetto Fries” for more than a year.  Now a recent marketing blitz is prompting some Chicagoans to question the name. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t approve at all. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I personally wouldn‘t eat something called ghetto fries. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘d like an order of ghetto fires, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Restaurant owner Larry Estes explains, a former white employee nicknamed “Ghetto Girl” came up with the recipe and the name. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is pretty good.  Like I say, a ghetto is a state of mind. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE 700 CLUB”)

PAT ROBERTSON, HOST:  I didn‘t say assassination.  I said our special forces should—quote—“take him out.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE 700 CLUB”)

ROBERTSON:  If he thinks we‘re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.  It is a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE 700 CLUB”)

ROBERTSON:  I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Stories my producers forced me to cover.  He‘s been missing for seven weeks.  Something is just not adding up.  Is the vanishing of Olivia Newton-John‘s boyfriend actually nothing more than a staged disappearance?

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you think Olivia Newton-John sang “My Boyfriend‘s Back,” you‘re getting your decades and your genres mixed up.  It was actually the Angels who made the song a hit in 1963.

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, more stories my producers forced me to do.  And the question of whether or not Ms. Newton-John gets to sing that oldie about her missing boyfriend just got a little more complicated.  It has been reported that somebody saw him get off a boat at the dock, the boat from which he supposedly vanished. 

And there are also hints this may be less of a disappearance than an escape. 

Our correspondent Jennifer London has been following this latest version of the story and joins us now from San Pedro Harbor, just south of Los Angeles. 

Good evening, Jennifer.

JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

We are learning more about Patrick McDermott‘s financial situation.  But his whereabouts continue to be a mystery.  On July 1, he boarded a fishing vessel, Freedom, here in San Pedro, California.  It was an overnight fishing trip.  There were 22 other passengers on board and six crew members.  And according to the crew members and some of the passengers, they reportedly say they saw nothing unusual happen overnight on that boat. 

They didn‘t see him fall overboard.  They didn‘t see him be pushed overboard.  They say nothing suspicious happened.  Yet, he hasn‘t been seen since the boat returned here on July 1. 

Now, something to keep in mind is, the harbor master, the dock master here says, in all his experience, he thinks it would be almost impossible for somebody to fall off a boat, whether intentionally or perhaps being pushed, without somebody seeing something.  He says the passengers tend to sit in the back of the boat.  So, if somebody were to slip up to the bow and jump overboard or slip overboard unintentionally, then, as the boat goes forward, the passengers in the back would see this person in the water.  They say that simply didn‘t happen.

Something else to consider, at 6:00 p.m. on July 1, when the Freedom was returning to the dock, somebody, presumably Patrick McDermott, settled his bar and food tab.  Now, they say that, when the boat returned here at 8:30, that‘s when they didn‘t find Patrick McDermott.  His belongings were found on the boat.  His car was in the marina parking lot, but he was nowhere to be seen. 

So, could there be another explanation for it?  Did someone else sign this bar tab?  Here‘s what the attorney for the Freedom has to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK MICHEL, ATTORNEY FOR BOAT OWNERS:  If I was speculating, I think it is conceivable that somebody else could have paid his galley tab, but it is very unlikely.  And that‘s typically not the way it is done, particularly with a single fisherman. 

But he‘s—he would be establishing—he would be socializing with the other passengers and could have established some kind of a relationship. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONDON:  So, what do his finances have to do with this?  Well, we have learned, NBC News has confirmed that he did file for bankruptcy in 2000.  And there were some reportedly problems with his ex-wife.  There may have been some problems with child support payments.  That has led to some speculation that perhaps he staged his own disappearance. 

Again, that is speculation.  The Coast Guard, which is the only agency investigating this disappearance, tell us, they do have a couple of new leads.  But right now, Keith, they are treating this as a missing-persons case. 

OLBERMANN:  Picking up the bar tab is an unusual thing for someone who is being kidnapped or the kidnappers or someone who is just vanishing. 

Jennifer London at San Pedro Harbor, south of L.A., tracking the missing boyfriend of Olivia Newton-John, great thanks. 

While that story my producers forced me to do looks less and less like a police issue and more like a celebrity version of Jennifer Wilbanks, there‘s another music-related disappearance, a music producer not only gone, but having made a 911 call about being chased by dogs. 

Our report is from the NBC station in Los Angeles and correspondent Patrick Healy. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK HEALY, KNBC REPORTER (voice-over):  The now missing music producer, Chris Julian Irwin, had set out to rustic solitude of Topanga Canyon for the home studio he called tree fort.  Its walls adorned with gold and platinum albums of artists ranging from Queen Latifah to David Bowie, but something early Sunday morning sent Irwin fleeing down the hillside in panic.

SHARON RIOLO, MISSING MAN‘S SISTER:  If my brother took off running for his life, there was a reason.

HEALY:  Authorities say the 47-year-old made a cell phone call to 911 and two more to a friend, saying he was being chased through the canyon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said I‘m running down a creek.  I‘m being chased by somebody.  There may be dogs involved.

HEALY:  Aided by search dogs, sheriff‘s deputies found Irwin‘s eyeglasses but no other trace of him.  The family suspects a connection to a $50,000 check he received through an Internet get-rich quick scheme.

Family and investigators are to meet later this morning, discussing possible avenues to pursue, among them, identifying a mystery man with whom Irwin had met the day before he disappeared. 

Outside Los Angeles, in Topanga Canyon, Patrick Healy, reporting for NBC News. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  An easy, if not altogether comfortable segue, then, into our nightly roundup of the celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

At first, it was Lindsay Lohan.  Now another starlet gets into an accident precipitated by relentless celebrity photographers.  Scarlett Johansson from the movie “Lost in Translation” could not manage to lose four SUVs that had followed her into Anaheim, California.  She tried to escape into the parking lot at Disneyland, swerving her car into another car containing a family, nobody hurt.  The photo agencies say their cars were no closer than a block to Johansson‘s vehicle, blithely ignoring the fear factor involved in the process and also ignoring her 911 call. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, ACTRESS:  Unfortunately, we have a bunch of paparazzi cars also following us. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why?

JOHANSSON:  I‘m Scarlett Johansson, an actor.  They have been following me all the way here.  But we have gotten into an accident, not with the paparazzi, but with a woman behind us.

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the print version of a restraining order against a photographer.  Justin Timberlake wins a libel suit against the British tabloid “The News of the World.”

According to the paper, Timberlake had cheated on his girlfriend, Cameron Diaz, trysting with model Lucy Clarkson.  Now the paper has admitted that the story was fabricated, apparently by Clarkson.  It must pony up an undisclosed sum described as substantial and run a prominent apology.  “The News of the World” is part of the Rupert Murdoch News Corporation conglomerate.  I‘m shocked.

More celebs.  What do Courtney Love, Elvis Presley and Tommy Lee have in common, apart from a tendency to overindulge in stuff?  A part, an all-time great rock ‘n‘ roll body part. 

That‘s ahead.  But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for coveted title of worst person in the world. 

Our first nonhuman nominee ever, T63 Artemis, the security robot at a Japanese mall.  It is supposed to launch a smokescreen whenever it perceives suspicious behavior.  Sure enough, Japan‘s prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, came into the mall.  And T63 Artemis sprayed him with smoke.  Must have been the prime minister‘s big head of hair. 

Your runner up, Brit Hume, another reason that the phrase FOX News Channel is just a brand name, not a description.  Hume criticized as excessive the TV coverage Pat Robertson‘s call for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, because, he said, Robertson has no influence, probably why FOX has had Robertson on their network 10 times in the last year. 

I am now officially on the clock.  I‘m awaiting the traditional anonymous personal response from those at FNC, so proud of their work that they will not attach their own names to their own comments. 

But the winner, Victoria Gotti, announced in “The New York Daily News” over the weekend that she has breast cancer.  It is not true.  She said this morning that she has precancerous cells that have been found in her breast and—quote—“If you look it up on the Internet, it is cancer.” 

Between them, “The Daily News” and “The New York Post” count this as the third time in the last four years she has claimed she has had the disease, but didn‘t.  Victoria Gotti, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Time it was when the only thing more famous than Betty Grable‘s legs was the phrase Betty Grable‘s legs. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, we‘ve long identified pop culture figures by their body parts and vice versa, from the World War II pinup gal‘s gams to the pelvis of Elvis, Bob Hope‘s nose, and Michael Jackson‘s noses. 

And now we have a list, “Spin” magazine out now with the 25 most incredible rock star body parts, everything from the backside of Bruce Springsteen at number 20 to Tom Lee‘s Tommy at 14, to that Elvis pelvis at number five.

The top three are Michael Stipe‘s skull, number three, ranked as much for the brain as for the cranium himself.  The second, Keith Richards‘ liver.  As author Marc Spitz writes, when Richards finally passes, they will line the exterior of the space shuttle with his liver tissue.  And, at number one, Madonna‘s belly button. 

As we mentioned, senior writer Marc Spitz wrote the text.  He joins us now.

Good evening, sir.

MARC SPITZ, SENIOR WRITER, “SPIN”:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Right to the top, Madonna‘s navel.  Should this really have been eligible?  I mean, isn‘t it kind of actually retired? 

SPITZ:  Yes, but we—kind of when we chose the parts for the list, we kind of thought about the classic era.  And, you know, like, Elvis is dead.  Kurt Cobain is dead. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Well, presumably, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SPITZ:  Presumably.  Right.  We know Sid Vicious is dead.  And so, he

you know, Madonna, I guess maybe mid-‘80s Madonna is what we‘re looking for the number one spot. 

Elvis, Sid Vicious, probably, you know, don‘t look as great right now. 

You could argue that Madonna doesn‘t look as great right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  And the old joke from the movie “Airplane” is, and they don‘t smell that good either.

(LAUGHTER)

SPITZ:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Judging relevancy, though, of things here, Springsteen‘s butt at number 20, Tina Turner‘s legs at number 10.  Well, Turner performs, dances with those legs.  And the last time I looked, Bruce Springsteen wasn‘t singing out of his butt.  Is there—was there any kind of use qualifications in any of things? 

SPITZ:  Well, no.  I think that rock ‘n‘ roll is impractical by nature.  So, we didn‘t really dwell too much on the practicality of our choices. 

And, really, it‘s an arbitrary list.  I mean, the reason that Michael Stipe is at number two is just because he‘s at number two.  You know, we like the look of his skull.  So...

OLBERMANN:  So, you do your countdown pretty much the way we do. 

(LAUGHTER)

SPITZ:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  It fit nicely on that page that way, and we felt like it. 

SPITZ:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  But one thing does need some explaining on this whole list of the top 25.  Courtney Love‘s ankles, would you explain that, please? 

SPITZ:  OK.  Well, there are...

OLBERMANN:  There are two of them. 

SPITZ:  Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SPITZ:  And there‘s a tattoo on one of them. 

OLBERMANN:  Ah.

SPITZ:  The—the list includes things that are obvious. 

We couldn‘t really get away with not writing about Tina Turner‘s legs or Tommy Lee‘s penis or Elvis‘s pelvis, because they‘re so revolutionary, maybe not Tommy Lee‘s penis.  But I wanted to include some that were maybe a bit less obvious, a bit more unsung. 

And Courtney‘s ankles, if you‘ll go with me with it, are a bit more metaphorical. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.

SPITZ:  Because she kind of—you know, she falls down.  She stands up.  She‘s always back on her feet.  If you look at her ankles, they‘re pretty solid.  They‘re pretty thick. 

OLBERMANN:  They‘d have to be. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, an excellent point. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  All right. 

And so, ultimately, here, I‘m fascinated by the fact that, in the list, you have a woman‘s navel, another woman‘s cheeks, another woman‘s, Courtney Love‘s ankles, another woman‘s legs, another woman‘s eyelids, another woman‘s nose, another woman‘s forehead and, lastly, another woman‘s armpit. 

But in this era of the obsession of the female breast, you didn‘t go that route. 

SPITZ:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  Was that deliberate? 

SPITZ:  It was a bit deliberate.  I didn‘t want to make this kind of like a lad mag piece, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

SPITZ:  So we didn‘t—we didn‘t put Kylie Minogue‘s butt in.  We put Springsteen‘s in instead.

OLBERMANN:  And 50 Cent‘s chest, instead of...

SPITZ:  And 50 Cent‘s chest was kind of a deliberate—deliberately different approach to it. 

It would have been too easy to be like, well, who has the best boobs in rock ‘n‘ roll?  And it‘s not that kind of list.  I think it‘s—it‘s a very dumb smart list.  It‘s a very pointless, but well-thought-out list. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, yes.  And the biggest boobs in rock ‘n‘ roll would have to be the members of Oasis.  Ta-dum-bump.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Marc Spitz.

I don‘t know.  It‘s the only group I could think off the top of my head. 

SPITZ:  They‘re in there for the unibrow. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And so, they could have been in there twice. 

The senior writer and parts-meister for “Spin” magazine, Marc Spitz, great thanks for your time, sir. 

SPITZ:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And congratulations on the list. 

SPITZ:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m glad we‘re all both not on it. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night and good luck. 

Time to turn it over to “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”

Good evening, Rita. 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  Good evening.  Thanks so much, Keith.

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

END   

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