updated 10/7/2005 10:37:06 AM ET 2005-10-07T14:37:06

Guest: Lawrence O'Donnell, Craig Crawford, Evan Kohlmann, Mo Rocca, Peter

Diamandis

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

The blockbuster in the CIA leak investigation.  The special prosecutor says he cannot guarantee he will not indict Karl Rove.  Sources close to Rove say he has not received a target letter.

Lawrence O'Donnell, who broke the story that Rove was the secret source of a “TIME” reporter, joins us.

Harriet, the nominee.  How the Bush administration is courting the right and the religious right, how the White House is now all the president's women, with Mo Rocca.

And rocket racing.  New plans for pilots to race each other in the sky this time next year.  Right.  We keep screwing up foam on the shuttles, but we're going to get NASCAR in space.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It is not necessarily one for Karl Rove.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, sources close to the president's political brain telling NBC News that he has not received a so-called target letter from the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case, but that Rove will testify to the grand jury for a fourth time.

And the Associated Press quotes sources directly familiar with the investigation who say that the prosecutor has warned he cannot guarantee Rove will not be indicted.

Prosecutors not asking Rove to testify, he himself apparently offering, according to sources close to him, an 11th-hour appearance that comes with this very important caveat.  As we mentioned, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald warning Rove in writing that he cannot guarantee Rove will not wind up being indicted, a warning that Fitzgerald did not give before Rove's previous grand jury appearances, a sign that legal experts are not alone in calling ominous.

Much of what we have learned about this case over the past few months has owed to the reporting of political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, executive producer of NBC's “THE WEST WING,” as well as a contributor to the blog the HuffingtonPost.com and an old friend of COUNTDOWN.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  On the Huffington Post today, you're saying that there's an obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the Rovian offer to testify again.  Let's start with that.  What is it?

O'DONNELL:  Well, he definitely is a target of the investigation now.  There shouldn't be any doubt about that.  This case is long past the stage where he would have gotten what they call a target letter.  I've spoken with a number of U.S. attorneys today who say this is not a situation in which you get a target letter at this point, even if you are a target.

Remember, Rove is not being subpoenaed to testify again.  He is volunteering to testify again.  That is probably because the prosecutor's office has indicated to his lawyer that he is likely to be indicted.  And so Rove then is volunteering to go to the grand jury to try to clear it up directly with the grand juries, in effect, to go around the prosecutor's possible intentions.

Everything that Rove's lawyer has said today, he's chosen his words very, very carefully.  And I don't disagree with a single word he has said.  But every word his lawyer has said today is consistent with the possibility that Rove could be indicted next week.

OLBERMANN:  From a legal standpoint, though, as a layman, that would seem kind of bassackwards here to me.  An indictment might be imminent, so let me see if I can go there and talk my way out of it.  Does Mr. Rove not risk...

O'DONNELL:  It's a...

OLBERMANN:  ... giving prosecutors...

O'DONNELL:  It's a...

OLBERMANN:  ... rope to hang him with that they may not have?

O'DONNELL:  That's right, it's an extremely desperate legal strategy

to volunteer yourself to the grand jury, when the prosecutor is telling you

·         and by the way, this is the exact equivalent of a target letter—the prosecutor is telling you, If you come in here, you might be indicted.  That's the warning they attach to subpoenas for targets.  That's the language that the prosecutor was given to him, and the AP now says they gave him that language in writing.

So you have to feel your back to the wall.  You have to feel that I could be indicted.  My only hope is to try to convince these grand jurors face to face not to indict me.

Now, Keith, that raises the likelihood that the issue that Karl Rove is trying to get past at this point in the grand jury is perjury, because if it's the underlying crime involving a security breach, there's very little you can do at this stage of an investigation to talk your way out of it.

Perjury, however, as President Clinton showed us, is something you can actually talk your way out of.  You can say, I didn't understand the question I was asked under oath.  That verb I used, I, but I meant this, I didn't mean that.  You know, the meaning of the word “is,” that sort of thing.

Karl Rove could need to go in to the grand jury to desperately try to clarify language that he's already used to this grand jury, that they may be on the verge of basing a perjury indictment on.

OLBERMANN:  When Jim VandeHei in “The Washington Post” reported over the weekend that the lawyers for two of the witnesses in the case had spoken to Mr. Fitzgerald and gotten the impression that Fitzgerald was looking for charges of criminal conspiracy, I was asking here, could Fitzgerald be looking for those charges, or leaking that he's looking, to try to shake somebody, to try to flip somebody, to try to get somebody in the White House to cut a deal and testify against everybody else in the White House?

That's not predicated necessarily on charges of criminal conspiracy. 

Could that be—could a deal result from a perjury charge?

O'DONNELL:  Fitzgerald's definitely in a position to make deals at this point, Keith.  He has all the evidence that he was going to get through Judy Miller and everyone who testified prior to that.  He is running by far the most professional, leak-proof, high-profile Washington investigation we have ever seen.  I don't believe Fitzgerald uses leaks as a way of communicating with the witnesses.

I believe that the Fitzgerald prosecutors simply call up Bob Luskin, Karl Rove's lawyer, and say to him, This is the posture of the case.  This is what is likely to happen.  The grand jury is likely to indict your guy.  Do you want to talk to us anymore?

At that point, Rove says, Yes, I would at least like to talk to the grand jury.

This is the way you flip them at this stage of the game.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence O'Donnell, contributor to the Huffington blog, executive producer of “THE WEST WING.”  Even you couldn't write this stuff.  Thank you kindly, sir.

O'DONNELL:  No, I couldn't, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

Remarkably enough, Karl Rove's possible legal problems were bookended by two pieces of terror news.  Before, came a presidential speech on the war on terror.  After, came a supposed terrorist threat to New York's subway system.

Stop what you're thinking.  It is just an amazing coincidence.  The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt.  Just a coincidence.

The threat in a moment.

First, the speech that preceded it by hours, Mr. Bush returning to the theme of scaring the bejesus out of anybody who will listen, offering what was called a major speech on the war on terror, comparing the conflict to the fight against fascism and communism, comparing Osama bin Laden to both Hitler and Pol Pot, perhaps making up for lost time, more than four years after the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden now back in the crosshairs as White House public enemy number one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Would the United States and other free nations be more safe or less safe with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people, and its resources?

Bin Laden has stated...

Bin Laden says...

... Osama bin Laden...

... Osama bin Laden's most senior deputies...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, the challenge for the president, overcoming not terrorist chatter, but political clatter.  First, there are the many times he has made speeches just like that one before, the oratorical equivalent of, Perhaps you did not hear me the first time.

Then there's the bipartisan bluster threatening to drown out the message, beginning with the Democratic leader of the House challenging just about everything in the Bush speech today, including its premise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  The president says that Osama bin Laden mentioned him a few times in the speech.  In previous speeches, with his bravado, he has said that Osama bin Laden can run, but he can't hide.  He's hiding, Mr. President.

The president went into Iraq on the basis of a false premise, without a plan, and has totally mismanaged the war in Iraq.  And now he's trying to justify his action for the series of excuses that are not reasons for us to be there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not an atypical remark there, but there is also a Republican rebellion, members of the president's own party with their own Iraq rebuke overwhelmingly agreeing to ban the military's treatment of detainees in places like Abu Ghraib.  The Senate voted by a 90 to 9 margin in favor of setting humane limits on the interrogation of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, attaching that measure to the $440 billion military spending bill, forcing the president to veto his own spending bill in order to stop the measure.

But wait, this just in.  Chatter pulling ahead of clatter down at the wire today, with late-day word of a bomb threat against the New York City subway system, that news breaking at 5:17 p.m. Eastern time, the start of rush hour, law enforcement officials saying that the threat is, quote, “specific to place, time, and method.”  And as we mentioned, the method is bombing.

Nobody would mention the time, though it inevitably leaked out, second week of October.  Instead, thought, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing plans to flood the transit system with police officers, step up bag searches that were put into place after July's London bombings, the FBI man in New York saying much of the alleged planning has been interrupted by the authorities.  A White House official, though, tells NBC News that it had previously discussed the so-called threat with the Department of Homeland Security, and that it has, quoting the White House official, “doubtful credibility.”

Overall message to New York straphangers, be afraid, but not too much, because we stepped in on this.  But remember, be afraid anyway.

Timing, coincidence.

We'll take up some of the terror-specific elements in a moment with

Evan Kohlmann

First, back to the big picture, the president's speech included.  Let's call in Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and author of “Attack the Messenger.”

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST:  Hi, there.  You're sounding a bit skeptical tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I'm—yes, and I'm going to raise this question as

skeptically and bluntly as I can.  It's not a question that doubts the

existence of terror, nor the threat of terrorism.  But we've cobbled

together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that -

·         on which—whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country.  How could the coincidence be so consistent?

CRAWFORD:  It's, it is a pattern.  One of the most memorable was just after the Democratic Convention in the 2004 election, when they talked about the threat to New York and even the World Trade—World Bank, and it turned out that was based on intelligence that was three years old, (INAUDIBLE) even before 9/11.

There is a pattern here.  And I think it's difficult sometimes to take it at face value.  But in these moments, when it looks like a crisis, it's (INAUDIBLE), those of us who bring it up get accused of treason.  That's what Howard Dean was accused of when he raised that after the Democratic Convention scare alert.

OLBERMANN:  About, that was, I think, by the way, number 12 on the list.  About the speech, and again, not to question the existence of terrorism, but if a prominent politician takes any issue and seems to be using it as a last line of personal political defense, does history, does our history not teach us, and supposedly the politician, that he risks trivializing the issue, that he risks sounding like Joe McCarthy on communist infiltration?

CRAWFORD:  The president has given this speech so many times now.  It was a bit stronger in his assertion that we will stay the course until the bitter end, until we get victory.  It was a very forceful speech.  But in many ways, he just turned up the volume on a broken record.

OLBERMANN:  But (INAUDIBLE), Craig, as much as the speech, these speeches, this repeated speech, might seem like white noise, there was something today that I don't recall hearing the president say before, that the terrorists' goal was no longer what he said it usually has been in the past, which is destroying our freedom, but that their goal was to rally people in the Middle East to overthrow secular governments in the Middle East, which is what the international terrorism analysts have been saying since 2001.

Did he just get the memo?  Or did somebody say that would sell better here?  How, where did that replace or how did that replace the old line today?

CRAWFORD:  I've (INAUDIBLE) some test marketing out there on what arguments are working and what doesn't work.  I think the toughest argument he tried to make in this speech is connecting the war in Iraq to the overall war on terror.  I think a lot of people aren't buying that so much.

The strongest argument is, Iraq's such a mess, we can't leave, we can't leave the mess there, the chaos that would ensue in a civil war.  And he's trying to make the connection that that would lead to more terror.

I think the real problem with leaving, if he were really straight up and honest with the American people, is that we can't afford chaos in a region where we get our oil supply.  That was not so much mentioned in the speech.

OLBERMANN:  One last quote about the speech from someone, (INAUDIBLE) identify the speaker after I read the quote, which is a cheap trick, but it's useful here.  “This was the kind of speech he should have made a few years ago.  I've been saying a long time, the president needs to better define this war.”  That was from Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.  When he says that, does it suggest that it might be too late to get the message across, no matter how vital it, it may—might be?

CRAWFORD:  Well, you used the word bassackwards about the—Karl Rove's testimony to the grand jury.  That's sort of what the president's arguments on this war have been.  Part of the problem, and I think it hurt the president in the long run, that they did not want a debate on this war before we invaded Iraq.

I remember Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia on the Senate floor saying, Why is this chamber empty? when he was trying to have a debate on this war.  And because we didn't have a debate, the American people didn't really get into these issues before it all happened and before it's too late.

OLBERMANN:  Got the debate now.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC, “Congressional Quarterly,” and the well-reviewed book, “Attack the Messenger.”  Thanks, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  Good night.

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the New York City subway threat.  There is a threat, isn't there?  Yes, says New York.  Not so much, says Washington.

And the disconnect between the president and many conservatives, the fury over the Harriet Miers nomination continues.  Pat Buchanan will join us on what it means for the future of the administration.

You're watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Terrorist threats are beginning to take on the aura of prophets who predict the end of the world.  What are literally doomsayers can tell you when, where, and even how, only we don't send police into the streets every time one of them shoots off his bazzoo.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, an additional problem about the latest supposed threat to the New York City subway system.  Counterterrorism authorities in the federal government do not seem to find it as credible as the local ones in New York do, a U.S. official telling NBC News the source of the threat is the same one who provided the FBI and the military with information that led to the capture of a terror suspect in Baghdad last night.

The source spoke of men being sent to New York to leave bombs in the subway, maybe in briefcases, maybe in baby carriages, during the second week of October.

As other figures in Washington have told NBC News, the source has apparently given some accurate information in the past, and some inaccurate.  And there are reasons, they say, to doubt this new information.

Evan Kohlmann is the founder of GlobalTerrorAlert.com and an MSNBC analyst.

Good evening to you, sir.

EVAN KOHLMANN, FOUNDER, GLOBALTERRORALERT.COM:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  I have to read this.  It just has crossed on the Associated Press wire.  The doubts in Washington about this, while the FBI  man is in New York talking about interrupting some plan or getting some people who might be involved in it out of the way, and he was talking as if they had actually reduced a tangible threat, then he said it was totally uncorroborated.

Now the Washington sources who had said that the threat was at best exaggerated, there's now a quote attributed to a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, a man named Russ Knock (ph), who said, “The intelligence community has concluded the information, this information to be of doubtful credibility.  We shared this information early on with state and local authorities in New York.”

It's beginning to sound like one loud scream of jibberish.

KOHLMANN:  Well, I mean, it's not something we haven't heard before.  We've seen this kind of infighting before between federal agencies over the value of terrorist captures, over the threats to various different targets inside of the United States.

In this case, I'm not really that surprised.  New York has one of the most important counterterrorist programs in the country.  It is independent in some ways of the federal government.  And they do consider New Yorkers to be very important, and they consider New York to be a primary target.  And they treat New York as a primary target.

So everything, whether it even has the ring of truth, is taken very seriously.

I think what happened here is, there was an overabundance of caution.  And I can't necessarily blame the New York authorities for that.  But are you asking, is this a credible terrorist threat?  No.  It doesn't look like there's a credible terrorist threat against the subway system.

Is it good to be alert and aware?  Well, that's a different story.  It probably benefits us to be alert and aware, because even if there's not a real plot from Iraqi insurgents going on right now, that doesn't mean that it couldn't happen in the future.

OLBERMANN:  The coincidence factor, which is more of a political thing than a terrorism issue, but as we mentioned here, a quick hour or so of research has produced a list of 13 reasonable occasions in which events that have been politically disadvantageous to the current administration have been occurring simultaneously, or followed quickly upon, with (INAUDIBLE), with something related to terrorism on a big scale.

And I'm just—in your opinion, from your perspective on the counterterrorism threat, can they—can coincidences like that, in that volume, really be coincidences, or do we have to look at the prospect that somebody could really be playing domestic politics with terror?

KOHLMANN:  Well, I would concede to you that there are those that play domestic politics with terror.  And we even had an incidence of that last week.

I, unfortunately, I mean, I just disagree with the administration when they say they arrested the number-two most important al Qaeda official in Iraq.  I don't believe that they did.  He was an important guy.  He wasn't number two.

However, this particular piece of terror-related news, this threat against the subway system, I'm not sure it's generated of national politics.  The reason being of the source.  It's really coming from New York.  And the federal agencies that you would think would be spouting off President Bush's policy, like the Department of Homeland Security, are the one that are pouring water on it.

So it doesn't appear that this news item is being generated from D.C.  It appears it's being generated right here from New York by individuals that I think are really more concerned with what would happen if New Yorkers woke up one day in the midst of a major terrorist attack and turned around and said, Why is it that five years after 9/11, that the New York FBI and New York Police Department are still unable to protect us?

I think that's really the concern here, not generic political motives.  But, again, that's always a concern, and it's something you have to pay attention to.

OLBERMANN:  But does it worry you, in the larger definition of what you—what your expertise is, that there is the terror that is caused by people intentionally trying to take jetliners and crash them into huge skyscrapers, and then there's the terror that is created by people who are on their way into the subway at 5:17 in the afternoon, and told, Oh, by the way, we might have—there might have been a terrorist threat.  We're not sure, and we think we stopped it.

But totally contradictory and self-conflicting information that is broadcast nationally, so it becomes a national story, (INAUDIBLE), becomes the lead story in the national news.  Is there not a kind of terror created by the response to terror when it's handled this way?

KOHLMANN:  Well, I think, really, this should be taken as a bit of a warning sign.  It should be taken as a warning sign that this chaos that we're watching right now is symptomatic of a lack of progress being made by federal and state counterterrorism authorities, in terms of identifying al Qaeda cells, in terms of identifying what's a real al Qaeda threat and what's not.

Right now, we're still kind of babes lost in the wilderness, really.  It's amazing how little is really understood about what's going on.  And that's why plots like this that are really only semicredible, if at all credible, are being trumped up into what you've seen on television today.

OLBERMANN:  Evan Kohlmann, founder of GlobalTerrorAlert.com, very reasoned and calm analysis tonight, and we appreciate that greatly.  Thank you.

KOHLMANN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN takes a breath and goes high-tech.  Now, this is our kind of story, truly, robotic fish.  What else do you need?

And later, (INAUDIBLE) high-tech in the skies.  Move over, NASCAR. 

How does racing rockets every Saturday afternoon sound to you?

Keep turning left, boys, keep turning left.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Time for the much-needed pause from the excitement of real news and fictions that get passed off as news, so COUNTDOWN can bring you our award-winning segment dedicated to those magnificent fish and their flying machines.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin at the London Aquarium, where this carp is superior to all the rest of the fish there in every way, better, stronger, faster.  It's a bionic carp, the world's first self-controlled robotic fish, developed by English scientists for—well, for no good reason, really.

It's got sensor controls, navigation abilities, so it can swim around its tank and react to its environment.  And when you fry it up, it tastes very much like a common transistor radio.

One fish, two fish, red fish, plane fish.  Everett, Washington.  We first reported this story last night to you in our Worst Persons in the World segment.  Hey, look at that funny-looking fish plane.  It's an Alaska Airlines 737 for the low, low price of just $500,000.  It has been painted to look like a really big salmon, a Salmon-30-Salmon.  Half a million bucks, your tax dollars in action.

A government grant, courtesy Senator Ted Stevens, to help promote the Alaskan seafood industry.  It's a pork fish.  Fish has already taken flight, so keep your eyes peeled for it.  Look, up in the sky.  It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a gigantic waste of taxpayer dollars.

And finally, this just in, rare color videotape of the Wright brothers' 1903 first flight has been discovered.  Oh, no, maybe not.  It's a recreation.  That 737 in the background was probably a giveaway, wasn't it?  This flight, made near Dayton, Ohio, to mark the 100th anniversary of what Wilbur called the Wright brothers' first practical flight, 38 minutes in the air in 1905, which proved the plane could take off, be fully controlled, and land safely later in 1912.

The brothers painted their plane for the first time to resemble a really big trout.

One thing not getting off the ground, the nomination of Harriet Miers, the conservative outcry still loud three days after the president announced his pick.

Pat Buchanan and then Mo Rocca join me with very different analyses of this.

Holy smokes, Batman, literally overnight, Wayne Manor has gone up in a conflagration.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, the folks at two of the Deseret bookstores in greater Salt Lake City.  The stores are owned by the Mormon Church.  So, boy, were they surprised when customers came back in and returned DVDs to the stores, DVDs of the movie “Sons of Provo,” the story of a Mormon boy band called Everclean.  The DVDs were labeled correctly, but they showed another film called “Adored: Diary of a Gay Porn Star.”

Oops.

Number two, James Durney of Lenox, New York.  Came time for his paternity test.  He didn't want to pass, so he had somebody else take the test for him.  The mother blew the whistle on the scheme.  There have been arrests.

And, number one, Matthias Hahnen and Robert Doerr of the University of  Saarbruecken in Germany.  As part of a class project, they have developed a beer coaster that will send a signal to the bar tender when your glass is empty.  Look, if you are so drunk that you can't tell when your beer glass is empty, you do not need a bartender to give you a refill.  You need the bomb squad to hose you down, so you will not explode.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Get out your movie puns involving the name Harry, and you have got your headline for the latest on the Supreme Court nominee. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, we have got James Dobson, the SpongeBob critic, doubting whether or not he's made the right decision by endorsing the president's nominee.  It is truly deconstructing Harriet, or dirty Harriet, or, best of all for you Hitchcock fans, the trouble with Harriet. 

You think your day was bad yesterday.  Spare some thought for RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, White House adviser Ed Gillespie and others.  It was their job to face dozens of angry conservative activists behind closed doors to try and sell them Harriet Miers, “The Washington Post” citing anonymous participants in that event saying that—quote—“It was very tough” and—quote—“They got pommeled.”

Among the activist groups on the record about being unhappy with the nomination, the Free Congress Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and the Eagle Forum.  But even groups that have publicly supported the nomination may not really be sure about it, case in point, Focus on the Family and James Dobson.  He got a confidential briefing from the White House on Ms.  Miers and returned the favor with a ringing endorsement. 

But even now, even he is having doubts about backing her, praying that he made the right choice.  During his radio show on Wednesday—quoting him here—“Lord, you know I don't have the wisdom to make this decision.  You know that what I feel now and what I think is right may be dead wrong.” 

For more on the backlash on the president's pick, we turn to MSNBC political analyst, former presidential candidate and author of “Where the Right Went Wrong,” Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hey, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  How strong is this reaction, revolt, against Harriet Miers?  Could the nomination actually be impaired or even voted down by Republicans in the Senate? 

BUCHANAN:  There's a real firestorm.  It's authentic.  It's genuine. 

It was massive. 

And that's why the president of the United States, 24 hours after he made the nomination, had to go out in the Rose Garden to try to damp it down and say, she is a good woman.  I know her.  I understand her.  Can she be defeated?  My answer to that is yes.  What has happened, Keith, is that the endorsements of her, open endorsements by Republicans have stopped. 

It is going to come down to the Judiciary Committee hearings.  She is going to have to make the sale herself, because it has not been made by the president.  There's skepticism and there's doubt.  He'll get the benefit of the doubt from Republicans.  But unless she makes that sale, I think there's a possibility the Democrats will have to vote against her as an evangelical Christian who is pro-life, whereas Republicans might vote against her on grounds of that she just does not rise to the level of a Supreme Court justice in terms of knowledge, understanding, capacity. 

OLBERMANN:  The conspiracy theorists on the various Internets have posited a theory that the conservative backlash over her nomination is, to some degree, manufactured, that it was there to help Democrats think she is less conservative than she is. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Are—are—is somebody giving somebody else too much credit? 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  You mean, I'm being run by the Democratic National Committee, huh? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, somebody is being run—being run by somebody.  We know that, right?

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, listen, I got with Laura Ingraham at 9:00 a.m.  that morning, an hour after it was right on the radio.  Ann Coulter is an independent spirit.  I think I am. 

I don't agree with Bill Kristol on many things, but he was out at the same time I was.  This is authentic, Keith.  This is real anger and bitterness of folks who expected a great battle for the Supreme Court.  We have been waiting 40 years to alter this court around, to make it a constitutionalist institution. 

And then to have what looked like an affirmative action appointment of a friend and a crony was just appalling to many conservatives.  And they reacted normally and naturally.  And the president and his men and Dobson are trying to put this fire out. 

OLBERMANN:  Turning to Dobson and the briefing that he got from Karl Rove, he alluded to—quote—this is Dobson speaking—“some of the things I know that I probably shouldn't know relative to this nominee.”

Should—is that the kind of information that the Judiciary Committee is going to want to have, even if they have to get it from James Dobson? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Listen, I would be surprised if the Judiciary Committee does not subpoena Dr. Dobson and ask him, what were you told by Karl Rove and were you given indications that Ms. Harriet Miers would overturn Roe v.  Wade? 

I mean, if he's indicated he's got specific inside knowledge that has caused him to come out for her, when everybody else is against her, or everybody else is doubtful, I think my guess is, he will get a subpoena. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point.  We mentioned the Senate vote against White House policy at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and such, Lott and Brownback and their comments yesterday about the trust-me message from the president not being good enough for them, what you have described here tonight.

From your perspective, is there a larger rebelling or recoiling against the president from the right or is that just wishful thinking from the left? 

BUCHANAN:  No, there is. 

I think conservatives really are agonized.  They're depressed and a lot of them are virtually heartbroken.  They had expected so much of this president, the promise of the great battle.  That's all they asked, to make it a Scalia, Rehnquist, Thomas court.  And then they were hit with this Monday morning.  And I think it is has affected Bush. 

It is not Ms. Miers, who obviously is a lovely lady and a fine lawyer.  But I think the president has been badly hurt with his own people.  I don't know that he'll ever regain their confidence after this. 

OLBERMANN:  An extraordinary, extraordinary series of events politically. 

MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, as always, sir, thanks for your time.  Thanks for staying with us.  Thanks for your perspective. 

BUCHANAN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  More on this topic in another sense shortly with Mo Rocca.

Also tonight, America has embraced the idea of driving real fast and continually making left, but what about races like this in midair?  Is that a racing rocket in your pocket or are you just glad to see COUNTDOWN continue after this? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Say, rockets aren't just for space travel anymore, kids.,  They are for racing, too.  Place your bets.  And the women of the White House—no, it's not a calendar.  Mo Rocca on why the president has surrounded himself with such a strong female presence ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  From racing chariots to racing cars to racing rockets? 

The need for speed has just taken one step closer to going supersonic. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the birth of the Rocket Racing League, enthusiasts to get a preview in New Mexico this weekend when pilot Colonel Rick Searfoss, who once captained the space shuttle Columbia, will test out an EZ-Rocket, the precursor of the racing rocket, then eventually a league with 10 rocket ships, 20-foot flames shooting from their exhaust pipes, flying 300 miles per hour 5,000 feet up in the air, all of them looking like a giant Tylenol, kind of like the pod races in “Star Wars:

Episode I,” though without the spectacular crashes. 

The Rocket Race League is being pioneered by the same group that dreamed up the X Prize, the $10 million reward for the first private spaceship, which was won by SpaceShipOne last year. 

I'm joined now by the man behind the X Prize, co-founder of the new Rocket Racing League, Dr. Peter Diamandis. 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

PETER DIAMANDIS, PRESIDENT, X PRIZE FOUNDATION:  My pleasure, Keith. 

Good to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  When—when do you hope to be up and racing? 

DIAMANDIS:  Well, we're actually constructing the first four of these X-Racers, we call them, right now.  And we will be racing them next summer in time for next year's X Prize Cup here in New Mexico.  We will be debuting the first prototype this coming Sunday at the countdown in the X Prize Cup. 

OLBERMANN:  If—if you have to race around in the sky, how do you make money off of it?  NASCAR started on the—literally on the sands of Daytona Beach.  And people just sort of stood there and watched.  And there was no profit margin. 

I mean, right now, is it not a little bit like the old joke about the guy who was charging people in Waukegan, Illinois, to watch the Chicago Fire? 

DIAMANDIS:  Actually, no, it's not. 

It's—we have got a tremendous business here.  We are developing, frankly, a whole video game that goes with it, so that people at home, on their PlayStation or Xbox, can literally race in real time against the X-Racers in the air.  We have sponsors that have already started approaching us, the television side. 

This is all about speed and 21st century technology, really going beyond what NASCAR and Formula One are doing right now.  And these vehicles, with a 20-foot flame, are taking off in front of you, doing vertical climbs into the air.  And it is a spectacular sight.  And you feel it in your chest.  It is a lot of fun.  It is a lot of excitement. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you worry regarding safety?  I mean, you've got 300-mile-an-hour rockets around the desert in the air, spectators to watch.  At this point, still, with auto racing, things fly into the stands and hurt people almost on a regular basis.  How would you be protecting the pilots and the fan? 

DIAMANDIS:  Absolutely.  Safety is fundamental. 

In fact, when we announced the Rocket Racing League in New York this past Monday, Patricia Smith, the associate administrator of the FAA, was there with us.  We're working with the FAA. 

When the pilots are flying on this, they're going to have a heads-up display that shows them their own lane that they're flying in.  They're flying in their own virtual race course, if you would.  And the people at home watching on television or on the Internet are going to see, literally, a goal post, if you would, that they're going to be flying through.  So, they're going to see when they have to hit those—those marks. 

And it is going to be a race, a three-dimensional race in the skies just in front of you. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Peter Diamandis of the Rocket Racing League, up in the air next year, thanks for your time tonight.  And remember...

DIAMANDIS:  My—my pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  ... wear that seat belt, too.  Thank you. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  With that, here we go into the wild blue and sequined yonder of entertainment news, our segment “Keeping Tabs.”  We begin in Pasadena, California, home of Wayne Manor, the great mansion home of Batman in all them recent movies.

And holy towering inferno, Batman.  Wayne Manor has burned to the ground.  Shut the hell up, boy wonder.  The eight-bedroom mansion was actually featured in many movies, 20 of them, dating back to the 1930s.  It was empty.  It was for sale at the time of the fire.  Not anymore.  It is a total loss, cause of the blaze not yet determined.  Some investigators think the perpetrator could be one of the cape crusader's lesser known enemies, Flamy McPyromaniac. 

And if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and child are not royalty enough for you—the insiders call them TomKat, by the way—Prince Charles of England and his wife, the nonprincess, will visit this country officially starting next month, the palace announcing the prince's first tour of this country since 1994, his first anywhere since his marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles.  They will visit San Francisco, Washington and New York, doing four nights at Madison Square Garden with Foghat as the opening act. 

No, sorry, that's Paul McCartney.  White House spokesman Scott McClellan confirming today the royal couple would have lunch and dinner with the president on the 2nd of November.  When asked what they would be dining on, Mr. McClellan said, I'm sorry, that is a litmus test question. 

Camilla was used to being the other woman, Judge Priscilla Owen, perhaps not so much, the Harriet Miers nomination exposing a reported legal love triangle.  Mo Rocca will analyze that as only he can.  That's ahead.

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

Principal Herman Allen of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg; 25 member of the Gibbs class of 1951, the class that James Meredith graduated with, many of whom donated money to build the new $47 million campus.  They wanted to take a tour of the place at 10:00 last Friday morning during their class reunion.  Principal Allen banned them from campus, said the group of 70-year-old men posed a threat to the safety of the current students. 

Nominated at the silver level, the French designer Ivan Roddick (ph).  His new line of hooded sweatshirts has masks, some of them with fatigue coloring, just like the kind terrorists wear.  Moron.

But the winner, the school board of Duval County, Florida.  As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools have to hand personal information about all students to military recruiters unless a student's parents demand otherwise.  But, in Duval, if the student's parents demand otherwise, the school not only keeps the kid's personal information away from the recruiters.  It also drops his or her name from sports, scorecards and programs, the honor roll, and the school yearbook. 

It is either/or.  Either you let the military try to recruit your kid or he doesn't get his picture in the yearbook.  I understand they do it that way in Iran, too.  The school board chairwoman says they're going to try to change the rule.  But, until then, the Duval County, Florida, School Board, today's worst persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When he nominated her to the vacant position on the Supreme Court of these, the United States of America, President George W.  Bush told the American people—quote—“I know her heart.”

What may have seemed more than a little creepy then now makes perfect sense.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Harriet Miers is a man killer.  Yes, behind that seemingly bland exterior beats a rather potent heart, apparently, one capable of besting the competition, not only professionally, but also personally, Ms. Miers ultimately getting the nod here for the top spot here, despite previously speculation that it might go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Priscilla Owen. 

Poor Judge Owen.  It's not the first time she's been one-upped by Harriet.  It seems she once dated Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht.  Along comes Harriet Miers.  Before you know it, reports the blog Wonkette, Miers and Hecht were dating.  She's converting to evangelism.  And a quarter of a century later, he's making the rounds defending her nomination, Judge Hecht telling the President Bush “Legal Times” that Miers is—quote—“very kind.  She always remembers everyone's birthday.  She'll be finding a present for somebody in the middle of the night.”

Hey now on the presents for somebody in the middle of the night.

So, it would seem that everybody, from the president on down, with the

·         perhaps the exception of that other judge, is just wild about Harriet. 

In point in fact, when it comes to appointing women to leadership roles, Mr. Bush is second only to Bill Clinton.  Create your own joke at home here, please. 

Good time to call in presidential historian and TV personality Mo Rocca. 

Good evening, Mo. 

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY:  Good evening, Keith.  I'm going to dispense with any comment about the exchange of briefs. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.

ROCCA:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Let's clear up this whole love triangle business, though.  I mean, this support comes from that Wonkette blog.  And whatever dating that Judge Hecht and Ms. Miers did do, they don't anymore.  Is the point here that Harriet Miers bested a rival, both professionally and personally? 

ROCCA:  Well, the point here is that Priscilla Owen is one federal judge who can't get arrested. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA:  I mean, Harriet Miers was head of the Texas Lottery Commission, and she hit the jackpot with Nathan Hecht. 

The problem is, Priscilla Owen has gone through a whole string of Texas judges.  We know that she served on the Texas Supreme Court, I believe, with spicy Alberto Gonzales, who is now the attorney general.  And Alberto Gonzales in a case on parental consent went on the record as describing Judge Owen's behavior—quote—“an unconscionable act of judicial activism,” which is legalese form, just because I'm wearing a robe doesn't mean I can't see your hand crawling up my leg. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA:  So, it's—this is tough—this is tough for Priscilla Owen. 

But I think she'll come back.  I hope she does. 

OLBERMANN:  This—this overall image of the W. in George W. Bush now standing for women... 

(CROSSTALK) 

OLBERMANN:  Secretary of State Rice, Karen Hughes, Education Secretary Spellings, where—where—is there a psychological origin to this, a political origin of this?  What's your theory? 

ROCCA:  Well, it seems very much like the Fellini film “8 ½,” which is also the height of Karen Hughes. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA:  You're asking me to disclose the divine secrets of the W.W.  sisterhood, and I don't know that I can. 

But I will tell you that I think, in part, it's a mommy thing here.  Yesterday, Harriet Miers was wearing very thick eyeliner.  And, today, she wasn't.  And Bush was quoted as saying:  My mother doesn't wear eyeliner.  Only truck stop wear eyeliner.  Take that eyeliner off!

OLBERMANN:  You think there's, at some point in the president's childhood, that his mother said something to him about him being happy to relocate to Texas and how he'd be better off there and, you know, given the disadvantaged circumstances they were in before they got to Texas? 

ROCCA:  Well, it's just—my gosh.  Yes.  No, I mean, it's—it's—it's like “The Grapes of Wrath,” but they went sort of the wrong direction.  Yes.

No, it was it was—they're migrants.  George Bush is Cesar Chavez with a really big SUV and a lock on the Oval Office. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA:  I don't know.

Look at it also as—as maybe these women aren't surrogate mothers.  Perhaps they're all wives, in which case President Bush has been married more times than Mickey Rooney. 

I want to say that one—it would be sexist for us to look at all of President Bush's women as the same.  They each have unique personalities.  And, Keith, you know that my day job is as an anagrammatist.  And so I took Harriet Miers' name and I broke it down...

OLBERMANN:  Uh-oh.

ROCCA:  ... and found that it—there are different clues to her personality.  Harriet Miers is an anagram for a hermit riser, which could mean many things, but it means that she can really bring anyone to life.  She's a hermit riser. 

It's also an anagram for trashier Mier, which means that she could make the Supreme Court an even saucier place than it's already been, even trashier.  And, finally, this is vis-a-vis the other women in the Bush collection there, stir harem ire, that she's going to stir the anger of Bush's harem.  She's going to really work things up. 

And, of course, conservatives are not only—well, they're reading the tea leaves here and they're looking at her first name, Harriet.  Who are the other two most famous Harriets?  There's Harriet Tubman.

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

ROCCA:  And there's Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

OLBERMANN:  That's the one I was thinking of. 

ROCCA:  Yes.  Exactly. 

So, this is a very, very reactionary woman.  I mean, clearly, this is a woman who is against slavery. 

OLBERMANN:  But don't you worry—I mean, you said two most famous.  Maybe the third most famous, certainly to this generation, would be “Harriet the Spy.”

ROCCA:  Well, that's correct.  It is “Harriet the Spy,” in which case, Harriet Miers even isn't old enough to serve on the court.  And she really is inexperienced then. 

I mean, I love “Harriet the Spy,” but she has no business.  I mean, maybe an appeals court. 

OLBERMANN:  Trashier Mier, that would be the one thing that this administration doesn't need right at the moment. 

ROCCA:  It doesn't need that, although it could use some existentialists.  And her—she's also an anagram for, I'm Sartre heir.  I'm the heir of Jean-Paul Sartre.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We will check in and see on—how many of our viewers know who he is. 

TV personality Mo Rocca, as always, sir, a pleasure getting your perspective. 

ROCCA:  Don't you like the divine secrets of the W.W. sisterhood? 

OLBERMANN:  I do.  I love that.

ROCCA:  That is pretty good.  That should be quoted in one of those blogs that go out tomorrow. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  And the anagrams, too.

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

Missed completely.

Our MSNBC coverage now continues with Rita Cosby. 

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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