updated 10/6/2005 12:20:29 PM ET 2005-10-06T16:20:29

Guests: Dana Milbank, Alex Turner, Michael Musto

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

The Miers nomination.  The conservative backlash against the president‘s I-like-her approach gets some quotes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, TEXAS:  It is not enough to just say, Trust me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The no-bid nomination, so to speak.

And the no-bid reconstruction.  Who‘s getting the Katrina contracts?  We know this much, not companies in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama, 90 percent going to other states.

What are the odds there really will be an avian flu epidemic here this winter?  What are the odds it‘s just another false alarm, like last year?  You‘ve forgotten about last year, haven‘t you?

And the celebrity baby watch.  If you‘ve got a couch, jump up on top of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY:  You are gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If you know a newscaster, insult him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM CRUISE:  You don‘t even—you‘re glib.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are having a little Scientology baby.

Full-team live local late-breaking in-depth blockbuster coverage and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUISE:  You got to understand, I really care about Brooke Shields.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

Sooner or later, every president gets clotheslined (ph) by somebody in his own party.  Invariably, the clothesliner believes the president hit first.  Lyndon Johnson had Eugene McCarthy, Bill Clinton had Joe Lieberman, Richard Nixon—well, eventually, Richard Nixon, had everybody.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Trent Lott, the previous majority leader in the Senate, extending the controversy in his own party over the president‘s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court by saying it was simply no longer enough to trust Mr. Bush‘s judgment on the quality or the appropriateness of a nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, TEXAS:  I do think he has picked some really good nominees.  But like all of us, we make mistakes every now and then.  And it‘s our responsibility under the Constitution, in the Senate, to review this nominee.  It‘s—he‘s not the nominee.  And it‘s not enough to just say, Trust me.  You know, is she qualified by her experience?  Is she the most qualified person?  Clearly, the answer to that is no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The senator speaking to MSNBC earlier today.

And perhaps of even greater significance, comments made today by Senator Lott‘s Republican colleague Sam Brownback of Kansas, a powerful conservative who actually sits on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Brownback establishing that he has a litmus test on abortion, even if the president does not.

When asked this morning if he‘d vote against Harriet Miers should she imply that Roe v. Wade is a settled law, Senator Brownback answering, “There‘s a good chance that I would vote against her in that case, if she says Roe v. Wade is settled law—which I and many millions and millions of Americans would disagree with, if for no other reason, and because of the effects that Roe v. Wade has had throughout this society, and obviously on the unborn.”

Conservative columnists continuing their rebellion.  George Will also of the opinion that just because the president says, Trust me, does not mean the president‘s nominee is worthy of sitting on the nation‘s highest court.

He writes, “There is no reason to believe that Miers‘s nomination resulted from the president‘s careful consultation with people capable of such judgments.  If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers‘s name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.”

In equal and opposite measure, the White House fighting back, first addressing concerns about Miers‘ convictions by lobbying the religions right about her evangelical beliefs.  Second, combating charges of cronyism by unleashing legal surrogates to do their bidding in the media.

One man fitting the bill for both tasks, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht.  At different times over the years, Miers‘ colleague, Miers‘ boyfriend, Miers‘ friend, and the man she turned to on the night 26 years ago when she said she decided to be born again.

The president has not been willing to say, and we will likely never hear it from the nominee herself, but on “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS” earlier tonight, Hecht was certainly willing to say unequivocally that Ms.  Miers believes life begins at conception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  According to conversations you‘ve had with her, is she a pro-lifer, in other words?

NATHAN HECHT, TEXAS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE:  She‘s pro-life, and she has been a committed member of mainstream conservative evangelical church for a long time, whose position is pro-life as well.

A case has been made in Texas for the last 30-plus years.  We think of her as a hero down here already.  And when the rest of the country finds out about that, and it will come out during this process, and during the confirmation hearings, they‘ll be more convinced that this is the right person for the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So the Miers story changes again.  And to try to assess where it is and where it is going, let‘s call in Dana Milbank, the national political correspondent of “The Washington Post.”

Good evening, Dana.

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

Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As we try to digest that use of the phrase, “mainstream conservative evangelical,” as I said at the start here, every president has a renegade or a bunch of them.  But do they usually question their leader‘s judgment in such a blunt way on such a key issue?

MILBANK:  It really seems pretty rude, doesn‘t it?  And the president was just down in Mississippi promising to rebuild Trent Lott‘s house and sip lemonade on the porch.

But you know what this is about, is that the president‘s been with them for five years now, every step of the way.  But if conservatives don‘t get this one chance to remake the Supreme Court, they say everything else is lost, if they get another Souter, another Kennedy.  So this is the big enchilada for them, and they‘re not willing to just take him at face value.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of remaking, there is a political edge to it in addition to a judicial or philosophical one.  I mean, in the best of times, in the best of political parties, chaos is just a moment away.  The slightest sense that some power is up for grabs, and your best friend becomes your worst nightmare in a split second.  Are the statements like Lott‘s or Brownback‘s suggestive of that being the case, perhaps imminently now, for the Republicans?

MILBANK:  Well, we‘re getting awfully close to that lame-duck point when it‘s sort of every man for himself.  A lot of senators up for election next year.  And you got to think of all these guys getting ready to run for president.  George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist.  Who knows --  Rick Santorum.  Who knows if one of these guys is going to say, This is where I should really challenge the president to really stake my claim to the Republican base?  Which is, after all, how you get the Republican nomination.

Now, it‘s not clear, these statements yet be tough, but nobody‘s really trying to rally opposition to Miers yet.  So that‘s what we got to watch for.

OLBERMANN:  In watching for that, could what we heard Lott say, and he said it so matter-of-factly at the end of this very wide-ranging interview today here on the network, could that be seen, and could he be seeing this as a way to get some of his lost power back, as perhaps the centerpiece for something resembling a palace coup that maybe focuses first on the Miers nomination, but moves on to all these other issues that a lot of people aren‘t happy with, with regard to the president?

MILBANK:  Well, there‘s no question Trent Lott wants his old job back, pre-Strom Thurmond.  He‘s just had a new book out.  He‘s not making really any secret that he feels he was wronged, and he really feels he was let down by the White House.

So you can see a lot.  There‘s really no love lost there.  You see other guys like John Thune, who felt really disappointed by the White House on the military base issue.  He ultimately got over that.  But he‘s been making some really ominous noises about Miers.

So there‘s a lot of people who see this as a chance to sort of voice that criticism they‘ve had all along.

OLBERMANN:  Getting back to the backlash, the—inside the president‘s own half of the political spectrum, give me a forecast on this.  Will it die down?  Will it linger?  Will it grow?  Could it ever get big enough to force the White House to consider withdrawing Harriet Miers?

MILBANK:  Oh, goodness gracious, they‘ll never reconsider anything.

But the—here‘s the thing, is the—you know, Harry Reid‘s out there cheerleading for her, so you—presumably she gets some Democrats, and she certainly gets all but the most conservative Republicans.  So it‘s still hard to see how she doesn‘t get through.

But this could have, you know, he could—the president could win the battle and lose the war here, and have a lot of angry conservatives.  You know what that did to his father, and you know that really tore the party asunder.  So this could have very long-term damage for the party.

OLBERMANN:  And what do those hearings look like?  What are they—are they going to be messy from the shooting being done from behind the witness, rather than from in front of her?

MILBANK:  Well, I‘ll be behind the witness.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, OK.

MILBANK:  So I don‘t—I intend to do only shooting on your show.  But it could be terrific.  I expect it will be one long pop quiz.  They‘ll say, Quick, what‘s Marbury versus Madison?  You know, what—tell me about the Griswold case.  There‘s a lot of suspicion that whatever her ideology is, she‘s just not qualified in the way other nominees have been to have this job on the court.

So she‘s going to get it from Brownback on one side, she‘s going to get it from Chuck Schumer on the other side.  And everybody‘s going to have a certain suspicion that she doesn‘t know what she‘s talking about.

OLBERMANN:  If they ask her about the Griswold case, and she mentions “National Lampoon‘s Vacation,” I will give her $1,000 out of my own pocket.

MILBANK:  She gets my vote.

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” as always, sir, great pleasure.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

It‘s not that the liberal media has been silent on all this, just kind of drowned out by the conservative media.  But in “The New York Times” today, Maureen Dowd called the Bush administration the, quote, “parallel universe to TV‘s ‘Wisteria Lane.‘  Instead of self-indulgent, desperate housewives wary of sexy nannies, there are self-sacrificing, buttoned-up nannies serving as adoring work wives, catering to W‘s every political, legal, and ego-affirming need.”

Well, take out some of the adjectives and analogies that are like the dentist‘s drill to the conservatives, and they might even agree with that, as the Dowd piece was entitled, “All the President‘s Women,” reported for us by our White House correspondent, David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With her nomination to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers joins a select group of trusted women the president has elevated to powerful positions.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  She‘s an enormously accomplished person.

GREGORY:  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is a longtime friend of the president.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON ®, TEXAS:  He‘s very comfortable with the strong women, and he has promoted women, because I believe that he thinks, as a father of daughters, that women should have an equal place in our society.

GREGORY:  Who are all the president‘s women?

Harriet Miers, a friend of the president‘s for nearly 20 years.  Before her nomination, she was White House counsel and staff secretary, described as one of the president‘s most trusted confidantes.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who as national security adviser, helped shape the Bush administration‘s post-9/11 foreign policy, and often spent weekends with the Bushes at Camp David.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings began her career as a senior adviser to then-Governor Bush of Texas before following him to Washington to head to signature No Child Left Behind initiative.

And perhaps nobody is closer than Karen Hughes, one-time counselor to the president, and now an ambassador charged with reshaping America‘s image in the Muslim world.

KAREN HUGHES:  They have been loyal.  They have been totally, 100 percent, with no agenda, but to make him a great governor and a great president.

GREGORY:  Miers, like many close to the president, has worked by Mr.  Bush‘s side as he built his political career.  All are strong-minded women, not afraid to voice their opinions, not unlike the women in the president‘s own family.  The first lady back in July on her choice for a Supreme Court nominee.

LAURA BUSH:  I would really like for him to name another woman.

GREGORY:  Observers stay the trust placed in these women is not political pandering, but a show of true support for their abilities, an image at odds with the caricature of a backslapper and former frat boy.

JOHN DICKERSON, “SLATE” POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  No matter what people may think of this president, or think of the job that these individual women have done in the positions they‘ve held, it‘s clear that the president has put them in those positions and kept them there and given them power because he believes in their merit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  David Gregory, out of the White House for us tonight.

Also this evening, it was one of the president‘s key promises when he visited New Orleans, incentives to get local businesses back on their feet.  So why is the government giving no-bid contracts to out-of-state firms at taxpayer expense?

And teen starlet Lindsey Lohan surrounded by paparazzi.  Soon after this picture was taken, she crashed her car for the second time this year.  But the authorities say the photographers had nothing to do with it. 

That‘s not what she says.  We‘ll talk to one of the guys who was there.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it may well turn out to be one of the great rebuilding efforts in human history.  But right now, all we know is, the only rebuilding about 3,000 New Orleans city employees will be doing is of their careers.  They have been laid off.

And that great rebuilding effort will be done almost exclusively by companies not based in Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, if you liked the chaos right after the hurricane, you will love the long-term screw-ups.

Touring the disaster zone right now, former president and chief hurricane relief fundraiser, Bill Clinton, today, visiting and chowing down with Red Cross workers in Louisiana, and off to visit Mississippi and Alabama next.

In New Orleans, meanwhile, just a day after having laid off roughly half the city‘s workforce of 6,000, Mayor Ray Nagin warned that other areas in the state might soon have to follow suit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS:  (INAUDIBLE) all started in New Orleans.  The other parishes are starting to talk about it.  I‘m sure the state‘s going to get around to it at some point in time also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, about the actual rebuilding, “The Washington Post” reporting more than 90 percent of the prime federal contracts to reconstruct the Gulf Coast have gone to companies in the unaffected 47 states.  And it‘s not just because some of them might have made better bids for those jobs.

As our chief investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, reports, much of this was done without bidding of any kind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, MSNBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In Pass Christian, Mississippi, where most schools were destroyed, today, 56 mobile classrooms are being readied for students to arrive next week.

But critics complain the federal government paid way too much, $88,000 per trailer.  That‘s $30,000 more than a Mississippi company says it would have charged for the very same job.

KENT ADAMS, ADAMS HOME CENTER:  It makes me mighty angry.  We‘re just absolutely throwing tax dollars away.

MYERS:  Kent Adams says for 20 years, his family‘s company in Yazoo (ph) City has supplied mobile classrooms to the state, and that he already had half the trailers needed, and the rest lined up for quick delivery.  But instead, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave a $40 million no-bid contract to the subsidiary of an Alaskan company, Akima Site Operations, who‘d never done this kind of work before.

ADAMS:  We really needed this, not just for us, but for our own community, and for the state of Mississippi.  I think it would have produced a lot of jobs.

MYERS:  The Corps of Engineers says Akima could deliver the classrooms faster, and is also being paid to manage the project.

Still, a Mississippi congressman calls the contract exorbitant.

REP. RENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI:  The only excuse you can come up with is that we expedited it.  Well, you did, but you paid twice as much for it.

MYERS:  Critics also say FEMA is paying through the roof to temporarily cover damaged roofs in the Gulf with blue tarps.

(on camera):  The government is providing tarps like this free and paying an average of $2,500 to get them nailed to a roof.  One contractor admits that for that price, you could shingle an entire roof.

(voice-over):  The government and the companies justify the price, citing costs of housing and feeding workers in the storm zone.  Still, some roofers say it could be done for much less.

SCOTT SIEGEL, MAGGIO ROOFING COMPANY:  After seeing these numbers, I would love to get that contract.

MYERS:  Critics say again and again, taxpayers are paying too much, driving up the already staggering costs of Katrina.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And, by the way, this is why FEMA gave $3 trillion to the big Jim McBob Blow-‘em-Up-Real-Good Dynamite Company.  I made that part up.  This is actually a legitimate kablooey, as in Oddball.

And on the subject of odd, just when you thought the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes thing couldn‘t get any stranger, comes today‘s breaking news.  They‘re breeding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN once again to return to our high arts and culture segment, now with 30 percent more ‘splosions.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Florida, where someone blowed up the old Clearwater Memorial Bridge.  Sorry if you were hoping to see that bad boy come crashing down.  That‘s the new one on top.  It‘s staying.  We promised ‘splosions, nobody said anything about bridges actually falling down.

That said, this bridge in Maryland did fall down.  Unfortunately, the camera only captured the ‘splosion.

We sent you out to capture the whole bridge, and you didn‘t stay? 

You‘ll to have use your imagination.

To Brooklyn.  Local news reports are referring to this as the modern-day Jack and the Beanstalk.  Well, that would imply that the other Jack and the Beanstalk story was true, and it was from, like, 1927, which, to my knowledge, is not the case.

Anyway, in this example, the kid‘s name is Ayasik (ph), and the magic beans came from the garden center at the local Lowe‘s store.  Young Ayasik Spanol (ph) thought he was playing squash seeds back in the spring.  Not so much, now.  He bought three of them at the home improvement store, traded in the family cow.  But it soon became apparent, this was no ordinary squash plant, when six-foot vegetables began to sprout.  The boy‘s father believes they‘re really big zucchinis, or he‘s just happy to see you.

Finally, to the Florida Evergades—Everglades—Everglades for a special Oddball bonus explosion.  This one is really very gross.  Actually, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife boats released photos of this hideous scene that they encountered in the swallowed vast swamp, the aftermath of what must have been the epic battle between a Burmese python and an alligator.  The 13-foot snake clearly won the battle, his six-foot foe whole.  But the ‘gator was apparently too big for him, and the python exploded.

Eeeuw.

But it does serve as a reminder to all of us, always plan your portions carefully.

Days after a new law signed in California cracks down on the paparazzi, the actress who helped spark it, Lindsey Lohan, is involved in another accident that her people blame on the paparazzi.  We‘ll talk to one of the photographers who followed her before the crash.

And the roads of Idaho, a high-speed chase there ending like that. 

Amazingly, the police officer involved escapes without a scratch.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, police in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, summoned to a local school.  They actually had to separate two students fighting and go to their homes and file a report and take pictures and everything.  The two boys were 6 years old, and the fight had begun when one of them dropped his pacifier.  I‘m not making this up.  Well, if you‘re 6 years old and you have a pacifier, there‘s a problem.

Number two, the unnamed geniuses in Hawaii.  Number one, the guy, number two, the male prostitute.  Guy steals check, pays the prostitute with check, prostitute tries to cash check, everybody gets arrested.

And number one—and I‘ve been waiting for this for years—Ulf Ilback of Stockholm in Sweden.  He and his son went out shooting, hunting geese, in fact.  Well, his son got one, a 12-pounder, which, from a height of 60 feet, landed squarely on the elder Ilback‘s head.

Take a gander at that!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Love them or hate them, celebrities are the last minority group about whom you and I can make public jokes, mock, satirize, chase, criticize, impugn, and do puppet theaters about without some self-protective group rising to their defense. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, that is changing somewhat.  Whether you think prominent entertainers need more protection or more reality checks, in California, they‘re going to get the former, protection, at least, from the paparazzi.  Did it come too late for actress Lindsay Lohan or was the three-car accident in the toniest part of West Los Angeles yesterday, the one she blamed on photographers again, actually just the result of a bad driving session from a teenager, her?

Our reporter from the war-torn intersection of Beverly and Robertson Boulevards is Stephanie Stanton. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HERBIE: FULLY LOADED”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I think I can get you a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE STANTON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In her latest film, “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” actress Lindsey Lohan portrays a race car driver.  In real life, witnesses said she was driving on a West Hollywood street around 5:00 Tuesday evening when she crashed her black Mercedes into a minivan that was making an illegal U-turn. 

KATHERINE STARR, WITNESS:  Just this gigantic, huge explosive sound.  It was like a bomb going off.  And then you could actually their air bags exploding.  And then, in that split-second, right as it happened, she, whoever she was, obviously, Lindsay Lohan, ran into the Hideaway (ph) antiques store. 

STANTON:  Lohan and her female passenger suffered minor injury.  Raymundo Ortega was behind the wheel of the van.  He was taken to the hospital on a stretcher. 

Lohan‘s publicist blamed the paparazzi, who had been following the actress earlier, as she ate at this trendy L.A. restaurant and spent the afternoon shopping.  But sheriff‘s officers said they were not involved.  And Raymundo Ortega does not believe Lohan does was being chased by paparazzi. 

RAYMUNDO ORTEGA, CRASH VICTIM:  As soon as I started making my turn, she came out of nowhere driving really fast.  And I only had a second to see her.  She was coming really fast at me. 

STANTON:  It is the second crash for Lohan in four months.  Back in May, a photographer was arrested after crashing his car into Lohan‘s Mercedes while attempting to get pictures of her.  That accident was credited with the passage of a new tougher California law that makes it easier for celebrities to sue aggressive paparazzi. 

In Los Angeles, Stephanie Stanton, NBC News. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  That new law was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last Friday.  It hits the paparazzi where they live, tripling the damages that celebrities can claim against them if they are assaulted and prohibiting the photographers from selling those photos for profit.  The law does not go into effect until the 1st of January. 

Joining us now, Alex Turner, a senior photographer with MB Pictures, a photojournalist news agency.  His team was covering Ms. Lohan prior to that crash. 

Mr. Turner, thanks for your time.  Good evening. 

ALEX TURNER, MB PICTURES:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  We just heard one of the other drivers, that guy who did that U-turn, say he didn‘t think she was being chased.  The L.A. County Sheriff‘s Office says paparazzi were no factor. 

How is she in the court of public opinion, anyway, getting away with using this as an excuse? 

TURNER:  Well, Keith, she is a 19-year-old girl.  She is basically making excuses for something that she did wrongfully. 

She was driving a car.  It is an Sl65, which is actually touted to be the world‘s most powerful roadster, 600 horsepower, 12 cylinders, dual turbos.  She is a 19-year-old girl.  She has got limited driving experience and she‘s going over the speed limit down a busy roadway. 

OLBERMANN:  That is Robertson.  She was driving on Robertson Boulevard in a roadster when average traffic on Robertson is going about 22 miles an hour most of the day? 

TURNER:  Yes.  I mean, the speed limit posted on Robertson is actually 30 miles an hour. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

TURNER:  That—that—that area is full of people walking, people making all kinds of turns, trying to find parking, pulling out of parking lots. 

It is one way on each side.  Basically, you can‘t even make—you can‘t even go 30 miles an hour.  You have got to be really creeping by. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, people would have to—and I will just explain this from my 10 years there.  People would have to visualize this as the least Southern California-like street in Southern California, except maybe the canyon drives.  It is literally a two-lane street with a lot of parking, valet parking, people crossing in the street.  It looks like something out of the suburbs of New York more than Los Angeles. 

Now, but about this law relevant to yesterday.  If this had happened after the law took effect, would you have been arrested?  Would photographers just in general have been—would there have been a raid; would there have been a sweep?  What would change in terms of the law once it goes into effect in a situation like this?

TURNER:  Well, I mean, first of all, I think the law is pretty much not enforceable in a sense. 

I don‘t think you can really honestly blame someone else for your own actions.  I mean, there‘s no way that I could—myself a celebrity, how could I get away with saying, well, police officer, I was actually going way over the speed limit because I was being chased by some paparazzis?  I just don‘t feel that is a just law to be signed. 

As far as being enforced, I don‘t think it can be enforced.  There was no chase at all.  She was completely in the wrong by speeding down.  She was in full control of her own vehicle, or lack of control, as it was. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you buy the argument that resonates to some degree with me, that, if you have a celebrity existence, that there are periods of time where you should be able to go out in public without being photographed or without being followed by photographers?  Is there not some privacy window that is available to these people? 

TURNER:  I mean, that‘s kind of a loaded question. 

I mean, yes, of course, everyone wants their privacy.  It is just, you have to be smarter than the average person.  I mean, if you want to have your privacy, there‘s lots of celebrities basically that have decoy cars or other people that drive other certain cars.  And they go out back entrances or something.  I mean, she was out—she was out in the open.  She was dining at the Ivy, one of the hottest spots to celebrity-watch. 

She‘s out there in the patio, walked down the street to a store.  I mean, actually, it was two blocks that she walked on the sidewalk to another store.  I mean, she‘s out in the open.  She‘s a hot celebrity.  Everybody wants to know about her.  Everybody in the country is interested in her.  So, yes, it‘s—once you‘re a celebrity, being—privacy is a hard thing to come by. 

OLBERMANN:  Certainly on Robertson Boulevard in the middle of the afternoon.  As I once heard Oliver Stone say to William Hurt at a restaurant, “These people just won‘t leave us alone!” in that tone of voice. 

Alex Turner, senior photographer with MB Pictures, thanks for your time. 

TURNER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing MSNBC Lohan could be grateful for, she was nowhere near the chase in Fort Hall, Idaho, yesterday, the causes for that one more pedestrian, the result, far more dramatic.  This is how it ended.

The van being pursued swerves to avoid spike strips in the street.  It plowed into that police cruiser instead, destroying it.  It went at 70 miles an hour.  The officer on the side of the road, seen running for his life, was not injured.  The driver of the van, a man named Dennis Dixie (ph), not seriously injured, though he is hospitalized and in intensive care.  Mr. Dixie fled when officers tried to hand him a warrant for aggravated assault.  He then opted for some aggravating driving. 

The chase peaked at speeds of 100 miles an hour and landed Dixie with at least one additional charge, felony looting.  And the camera was on the dashboard of another police cruiser. 

And the virtual caravan of car chases ends tonight with this last one from a Seattle suburb.  The driver in this event was a suspect in a home invasion robbery which ended, fittingly, at somebody else‘s home.  When you watch this pursuit, bear in mind it was being broadcast live yesterday and being watched by the family in the house where the perpetrator finally came to rest. 

From the NBC station in Seattle, KING, our correspondent is Mimi Jung. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIMI JUNG, KING REPORTER (voice-over):  The driver of the blue Subaru SVX stepped on it on the side streets of Bellevue.  Once on I-405, he headed north through Kirkland.  He had several close calls with drivers on the freeway.  At one point, he pulled a U-turn on this off-ramp with two police cars in pursuit.  Bellevue spokesman Michael Chu (ph) said the driver was leaving the scene of a crime. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... a burglary, a home invasion robbery that our patrol officers are investigating right now.  We do have one individual who is fleeing from us and acting very dangerous on the roadway right now. 

JUNG:  At one point, the driver stopped to talk to a pedestrian.  Then, when a police car tried to box him in, he took off again.  The driver drove through a fence and across part of the Wayne (ph) Golf Course, his car fishtailing. 

After speeding down was no Juanita (ph) Drive, the driver pulled a U-turn and—check this out—tries to talk to pedestrians again.  This time, a blue pickup truck tries to box him in.  But the driver takes off, with the pickup truck in hot pursuit.  While heading back into Kirkland, an SUV tries to stop the driver, a bicyclist almost getting caught up in the mess.  Finally, after nearly 25 minutes, the car, pursued by several police vehicles, turns into a home driveway. 

The driver gets out of the car and takes off, then apparently thinks the better of it and gives himself up. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re just fortunate that this came to a conclusion without anyone getting hurt on the freeway.  What we were using was your helicopter.  We were watching the live feed from news to help direct police officers to where the suspect was.  I was asking officers to actually turn on televisions in offices to watch the pursuit from the live feed and to relay that information directly to the police officers. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Mimi Jung reporting from KING in Seattle.  For once, we actually helped in a police chase. 

Speaking of Seattle, that was one of the worst places for the 1918 pandemic of flu.  The race to beat the next global flu pandemic.  Clues from the graves of the victims of 1918 could be leading to a big breakthrough for scientists. 

And is it science or just Scientology behind the big celebrity headline of the day?  Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes don‘t have a wedding date yet, but they do have a due date.  Looking forward to this story.  That‘s ahead. 

But, first, here‘s a special delicatessen edition of COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege.   But, in this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can‘t play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it‘s called.  You have got to go out there and....

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST:  The World Health Organization is predicting that the number of obese people in the world will double in the next 10 years. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

O‘BRIEN:  Yes.  Yes.  When Americans heard this, they said, 10 years? 

We can do it in five. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  ... on abortion and whether abortion should be legal in the United States? 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president doesn‘t have a litmus test. 

The president doesn‘t have a litmus test. 

That is a litmus test question. 

It is a litmus test question.  So let‘s not pretend that it is not a litmus test question.  Some people want to impose a litmus test.  There are out there that want to impose a litmus test.  There are some out there that want to impose a litmus test.  The president does not believe there should be a litmus test.  The president does not believe we should have litmus tests. 

QUESTION:  ... understand your comments about litmus tests and your whole position on that.  But I‘m just asking what the president thinks. 

MCCLELLAN:  And I will repeat again that that is a litmus test question. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Science and Scientology coming your way.  Medical experts almost expecting a strain of bird flu to infect humans this winter, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes expecting a baby.  The only strain there might be credulity.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The previous three winters have brought forecasts of flu and flu-related crises that simply never materialized.  First, it was SARS, then, as it was exclusively known then, bird flu from Hong Kong.  Last year, it was the contamination of flu vaccine, and the scenario apparently so dire that the president of the United States got on television and proudly said he was not getting a flu shot.  Neither should you. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, trying to see if this year‘s flu scare, and call it avian and not bird flu, researchers are looking not so much ahead as far, far behind. 

Our medical correspondent is Robert Bazell. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC CHIEF SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed 50 to 100 million throughout the world in just months. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Body of Christ.

BAZELL:  Patricia Wilson (ph) remembers it from her childhood in Brooklyn. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sometimes, when we would go out, we would have our nose tied up with a handkerchief, so we wouldn‘t inhale germs. 

BAZELL:  But just what was the germ?  Much about it has been a mystery. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a section of lung. 

BAZELL:  Today, a team led by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger provided some critical answers.  The scientists were able to recreate the 1918 flu virus in the laboratory. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We had to resort to novel means. 

BAZELL:  The researchers obtained virus samples from a body frozen in the Alaska permafrost in 1918 and from tissues stored in laboratories.  What they learned fuels concern about the current outbreak of bird flu in Arab. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The virus was an entirely birdlike virus that adapted to humans without actually mixing with the previously circulating human strain. 

BAZELL:  The results from 1918 show that, with changes in less than 1 percent of the genetic material, the bird virus was easily able to infect humans. 

(on camera):  And when a new bird virus infects humans, no one has immunity.  That‘s why the virus was able to spread so rapidly in 1918 and why a new one could prove so deadly today. 

(voice-over):  The good news, researchers were able to make a vaccine against the 1918 virus and treat with it drugs available today. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It clearly shows that, with the appropriate use of vaccines and antivirals, you could certainly mitigate the impact of a new pandemic. 

BAZELL:  Many experts say the U.S. needs to speed up vaccine production and have a lot more antiviral drugs on hand, the best precautions, they say, to ensure there will be many survivors like Patricia Wilson to remember the next pandemic. 

Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Entertainers have often been compared to viral lifeforms. 

There‘s no inoculation, however, against our nightly roundup of the celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

Let‘s face it.  The lead blockbuster story, such as it is tonight, would be the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes baby, but we‘re making that a whole segment coming up. 

So, first, the next actors sign up for what history suggests is a temporary marriage well may be Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.  But it ain‘t going to be at George Clooney‘s villa in Italy, several tabloid papers reporting that the director and co-star of “Good Night, and Good Luck” was to host the nuptials.  He says, no.  “I would know,” he says.  “And I can tell you, there is not going to be secret wedding.”

How about a hush-hush wedding? 

And we need to introduce to you two new COUNTDOWN staffers tonight.  This is Gavin Thomas Omelia (ph), who arrived in his demographic on September 20, all 11 pounds and four ounces of him.  Gavin‘s dad is Brendon Omelia (ph), who so artfully produces and edits some of your favorite features, like the Apology Hall of Fame and sound bites of the day.  Gavin‘s mom, Kelly (ph), does the real work. 

And there‘s Logan Matthew Crulic (ph), who is a day younger and about three pounds lighter than Gavin.  Logan‘s mom, Cassie Farnin (ph), is an associate producer here.  And his dad, Chris Crulic (ph), is not. 

We welcome the newcomers and advise the parents, break time over.  Get back to work.

Oh, if that were only the end of the baby news tonight, earth-shattering, blood-curdling news.  Katie Holmes is pregnant.  Tom Cruise is the father.  It has got to be true.  It says it right here.  We will sort all this out with the one and only Michael Musto next.

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

At the bronze level, Ethan Orlinsky, general counsel for Major League Baseball.  He is suing the Carver Academy of San Antonio, a school for 4- and 5-year-olds, nearly all of whom are on scholarship.  Their logo, the school logo, the interlock initials, C.A., Carver Academy, which baseball claims it is its exclusive property because it was the logo their team the California Angels used until 1996, when they changed the team name to the Anaheim Angels, and then this year to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

They‘re suing the school to protect an out-of-date logo. 

Also, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.  He‘s managed to funnel $29 million in federal funding into the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board and put his son on its board of directors.  So, when the board spent half-a-million to paint an Alaska airlines plane to look like a big salmon, it was no big deal.  Hell, it wasn‘t their money.  It was yours.

But the winner, the folks at Progress for America.  Nobody begrudges the conservative group getting up a Web site to get Harriet Miers confirmed for the Supreme Court.  It‘s about the picture of the candidate on the home page of the site.  They touched it up.  They touched it up to remove the bags under her eyes.  This is a 60-year-old woman who is a Supreme Court nominee, guys.  It is not Katie Holmes.

Progress For America, today‘s worst persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And to the top of the COUNTDOWN now.  In that rarest of confluences, it‘s both our number one story and one of those stories my producers forced me to do.

Tom Cruise and his fiance Katie Holmes are expecting a baby, no, their own.  They‘re not sitting there waiting for cousins to stop by with a newborn.  “People” magazine reported it on its Web site today.  And then spokespeople for both mom and dad reluctantly, but immediately, confirmed the momentous news. 

Cruise‘s publicist, his sister, said, “Tom and Katie are very excited and the entire family is very excited.”  All God‘s children is excited, happy, happy, joy, joy. 

If you‘ve not been paying close attention, still don‘t realize that Katie Holmes isn‘t Kate Hudson, this all started in April, when the 43-year-old Cruise, not long out of his marriage with two adopted kids with Nicole Kidman, began dating the 27-year-old Holmes.  In May, he jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey‘s couch to explain how much he loved her—

Katie, that is, not Oprah.

In June, he proposed to her atop the Eiffel Tower.  And then, later that month, Cruise went on “The Today Show” and, in a lecture that even made some cringe who oppose the teaching of evolution in schools, he explained to Matt Lauer that 120 years of the advance of psychology was all wrong and only he knew anything about the subject and that Brooke Shields was a victim and Matt was glib.

You‘re glib, Matt.  You‘re glib.

No one, save perhaps Matt Lauer, is better qualified to comment on today‘s blockbuster news than our next guest.  Permit me to call him the columnist of “The Village Voice” and this millennium‘s Boswell to the stars, Michael Musto.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  To start, might the child have been conceived on the Oprah Winfrey enthusiasm couch? 

MUSTO:  Well, there actually are rumors that Katie kind of sat on the furniture after that happened and that‘s how it happened.  Totally not true.

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  Tom is indeed the father, risky business, whatever you want to call it.  He‘s definitely a top gun.  All the other rumors aren‘t true.  Tom‘s sister is the father—I don‘t even know what that means.

Nicole is the father.  No.  My only complaint is that this is being done out of wedlock.  These kids are disgusting.  And they‘re just too outre.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  The Hayes Commission will ban their films henceforth. 

But you have raised a point here, and I‘m going to traipse around this next question delicately.  Tom Cruise, a father.  Artificial insemination?  Immaculate conception?  Neighborhood volunteer?  Pizza delivery boy?  Does this not fly in the face of uh, uh, uh, scuttlebutt? 

MUSTO:  Keith, people are so cynical today.  I don‘t know why people won‘t buy this.  Just because they jumped up and down making hollow declarations of love, why are you not believing this? 

They met, what, in April.  And now she‘s pregnant.  That‘s actually enough time to impregnate somebody OK?  And I do believe it happened.  And I‘m waiting with bated breath for the book that this kid is going to write. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m having trouble with it, because I have an opposable thumb.  That‘s why I‘m having trouble with it. 

From the jumping on the couch on “Oprah” to the proposal atop the Eiffel Tower to this make a fool of yourself on “The Today Show” in two parts, the whole thing has just looked like Mr. Cruise was trying too hard to convince us or convince somebody of something.  What is this all about?  Is there a publicity stunt or a personality recreation or a movie hype going on here at the heart of all this? 

MUSTO:  I have no idea what it‘s about.  But someone, maybe Nicole, needs to make an intervention and work her “Bewitchy” magic, hopefully better than at the box office.

But I don‘t think she actually should, because I need this story.  I don‘t care what‘s going here.  I don‘t care if it‘s true, false or just insinuation.  But I‘m depending on this to get me through until the end of the year.  And, you know, Tom is not that grinning boy next door anymore.  He is speaking his mind.  And it‘s scaring people. 

And I think we need to keep on going with it, because carrying on in front of cameras, that‘s what I‘m doing right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  After “The Today Show” interview about how psychology is all wrong and postpartum depression can be cured with exercise and Flintstones vitamins, is—do you think some child welfare department somewhere is going to be looking after Ms. Holmes after she gives birth? 

MUSTO:  Well, first of all, I thought you were going to talk about Kate Hudson.  And that‘s who I prepared to talk about, so I have no idea who this Katie Holmes is.

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  But I think the whole world is now riveted.  We were riveted from day one by this story, even with eyebrows askance and wondering, you know, what the heck are they thinking?

They have managed to keep this legend going and we are still talking about it.  And so, pop out the baby, Katie, because it‘s helping the career.  Against all odds, against all public cynicism, this baby is going to cement some kind of victory for her in the history books. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

About the eyebrows, this is the way my eyebrows came in the first place. 

MUSTO:  Oh.

OLBERMANN:  So, that‘s what you‘re seeing here. 

But is it possible, ultimately, we‘re giving them a raw deal, that this is just a guy of advanced years, like mine, who finally actually fell in love and is acting appropriately stupid?  Is that possible? 

MUSTO:  I‘m somebody who is willing to go along with anything.  I still believe that the $64,000 question was—was not rigged. 

I—I will go along with this, Keith.  What is there to lose in going along with it?  We all love fairy tales. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Just stop there.

MUSTO:  No, I‘m joking.  Tom is totally the father.  He‘s not MIA. 

He‘s a top gun. 

OLBERMANN:  In the immortal words of Howard Dean tonight on HARDBALL, we‘re not playing hide the salami here. 

Michael Musto of “The Village Voice,” always more interesting than the topic he covers, thank you, sir. 

MUSTO:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Thank you, producers, for making me do that story.  Good night and good luck. 

Our MSNBC coverage continues with “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,