updated 11/2/2005 9:26:39 AM ET 2005-11-02T14:26:39

Guests: Richard Wolffe, E.J. Dionne

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

Secret Senate session.  Angry Democrats get Republicans angrier invoking Rule 21 to argue Iraq prewar intelligence manipulation behind literally closed doors.

A second take on the Libby indictments.  Was his alleged lying part of a plan to postpone the whole investigation until after the election?

Second choice, and not happy about it.  So says Judge Samuel Alito‘s mother.

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars.  Those near and far wars now on DVD. 

Yes, like you didn‘t have bootlegs of this one already.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With these new three episodes, you‘re going to finally get the full scope of the drama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And meet the woman who has used her superior mind to train big houseflies.  Big fly beachball blanket bingo?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It has been called phase two, the second half of the Senate‘s investigation into the use or misuse of intelligence before the war in Iraq.  The Democrats have been waiting more than a year for the Republicans to get on with it.  Today the minority went from phase two to phasers set to stun.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the Dems today dramatically took the Senate into an unplanned executive session, kicking out everybody from the gallery, from the staff to the media.  The Democrats were angry, and in response, the Republicans were indescribable.  Senate majority leader Bill Frist called it a stunt.  Senator Bond of Missouri called it the dirtiest trick he‘d seen in nearly two decades in the Senate.

And perhaps most amazing at all, it took precious little maneuvering by Senate majority leader—minority leader, Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  Despite the fact that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly committed to examine these questions more than a year and a half ago, he‘s chosen not to keep that commitment.  Enough time has gone by.  I demand on behalf of the American people that we understand why these investigations aren‘t being conducted.  And in accordance with Rule 21, I now move that Senate go into closed session.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership.  Since I‘ve been majority leader, I‘ll have to say, not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader have ever I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  That having been said, Senator Frist ended the day in public session, saying the relevant committee would report no later than two weeks from yesterday.

Chip Reid, our Capitol Hill correspondent, has been good enough to join us.

Chip, good evening.

CHIP REID, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What was the point here, really?  Was there a secret debate?  Democratic anger?  Or an anything-but-secret attempt to rewrite the headlines tonight and tomorrow from Judge Alito and bird flu back to Scooter Libby and prewar intelligence?

REID:  It certainly is part of that.  I see it as—you could look at it two ways.  First of all, it was just this frustration among the Democrats had been building, building, building over the last year and a half over the foot-dragging, as they call it, of Republicans to look into whether intelligence was manipulated going into the Iraq war, and they finally erupted today.

The other way to look at it is that this was a very carefully calculated political move following on the footsteps of the Scooter Libby indictment to keep that focus on the Bush administration, that it‘s not just about whether somebody perjured himself before a grand jury.  It is about the administration‘s reasons for going to war, and whether the administration shaped that intelligence.

And they want to make sure that that is the focus.  And this was a way to keep that going.

OLBERMANN:  Why were the Republican Senate leaders so honked off?  I mean, they seemed genuinely angry.  And historically, to my experience, anyway, when a politician seems genuine, it‘s because he has been caught flatfooted and unprepared.  Is that right?

REID:  Exactly right, absolutely right.  They were completely caught off guard.  They‘re in control, and suddenly they weren‘t in control.  The Republicans, for a moment, were not in control of the Senate.  It is a violation of Senate courtesy.  It is a slap in the face.

But Democrats will say, Wait a minute.  Bill Frist is the guy who went to South Dakota and campaigned actively against Tom Daschle when he was the Democratic leader of the Senate.  If you want to talk about a slap in the face, talk about that.

So Democrats say when that happened, it kind of changed the rules on what is an affront in the Senate.

OLBERMANN:  And for those of us who only memorize—have memorized the first 20 rules of the Senate, explain the mechanics of Rule 21.  Is it, in fact, all you need is a motion and a second?  And if so, why isn‘t the Senate in executive session every other hour?

REID:  Well, they might, now that they‘ve done this.

But let me tell you, they—all that does is get them behind closed doors to debate a motion on whether they should go ahead with whatever they were going to debate.  All this did was give the Democrats an opportunity to obviously make a big splash, get in the news, highlight this issue of whether intelligence was manipulated, get the Republican back on their heels.

And they did it very successfully.  And one thing, Dick Durbin, one of the top Democrats in the Senate of Illinois, he said today—I mean, in the U.S. Senate, he‘s from Illinois—he said today that if (INAUDIBLE) they don‘t get what they want on this, if this doesn‘t turn out the way they want it, they may continue to do this, possibly on a daily basis.

OLBERMANN:  And contrast that, a lot of propriety-of-the-Senate comments were made afterwards.  Was that for show?  Or were there, in fact, senators on both sides who felt this was a low blow, a dangerous precedent, and several other cliches?

REID:  I think they probably—some probably did, certainly some Republicans felt that way.  It is unusual that you do something like this.  Harry Reid made a good point.  Frist‘s argument was, Why didn‘t he extend me the courtesy of coming and telling me?  Well, Harry Reid‘s, obviously, because they would have cut him off at the knees.  They wouldn‘t have let him do it.  They would have interrupted before anybody could second it.

The Republicans would have maintained control.  The only way they could do this is with the element of surprise.

OLBERMANN:  And now, what report are they going to get out of it on November 14 (INAUDIBLE)?

REID:  Well, they‘re going to have three members of each party come back and basically say how things are going with the investigation.  And it‘s hard to believe that the Democrats would come back pleased.  So this is far from over.  And again, the Democrats have threatened to try this little maneuver again down the road.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but this time, we‘ll all be ready.

REID:  Absolutely, 24 hours a day.

OLBERMANN:  Chip Reid at Capitol Hill tonight.  Great thanks, Chip.

REID:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the politics of this, I‘d like to call in Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening to you.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Hi, Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Remember that old TV game show, “Can You Top This?”  The Democrats seem to have been playing it, and playing it effectively, today, at least.

WOLFFE:  Yes, you know, you heard Republicans today that this was a political stunt.  And it‘s really, frankly, shocking that politicians would stoop to politics.  But, you know, that‘s what we‘re seeing here, that the Democrats really don‘t have many cards up their sleeve.  And most of us, let‘s face it, didn‘t know that there was this number 21 card that they had as well.

But it worked, and it worked because, basically, the White House thought that, and the Republicans in general thought that they could dominate this week with the roll-out of Judge Alito as the Supreme Court nominee.  And this has taken us back to last week, which is exactly where the Republicans and the White House didn‘t want to be.

OLBERMANN:  Since last week, Patrick Fitzgerald did not indict Karl Rove.  He certainly did not indict the vice president.  He did not hand the Democrats a means of keeping the ball rolling until, say, Mr. Libby‘s court appearance on Thursday.  And then who knows when there‘s actually going to be, or if there‘s actually going to be a trial?  What is it going to take for the Democrats to build a way, essentially, to keep this issue rolling?

WOLFFE:  Well, congressional investigation is the obvious way.  And there was, you know, according to Republicans I spoke to, who were in very close contact with the White House last week, there was a sort of mentality among the leadership in the White House that this would kind of blow over.  There‘d be the indictment, and then not much else.

And certainly this one senior adviser I was saying was, Look, you know, you guys are—have got your heads in the sand.  As soon as Congress gets involved, then this one‘s going to go on and on and on, and you‘re going to be deeply involved, whether or not you‘re involved in Scooter Libby‘s defense.

And that‘s, I think, where this goes next.  There has got to be some kind of follow-up on the use of intelligence.  And that inevitably gets Congress deep into the weeds of what Libby knew and what the vice president knew.  That—so it does have a second chapter.

OLBERMANN:  But does that not necessarily, especially under these circumstances, especially in this set of circumstances in which we‘ve seen the, you know, a tripartite Republican government kicking the ball around, and doing the proverbial unforced error time and time again, would not something like that really divide up again into team loyalty, even if there was a congressional investigation, would there, would it be a showpiece, or would there be actually some investigating done?

WOLFFE:  We‘re not talking about the facts here.  I mean, the closest we go to the facts was what Fitzgerald was laying out there.  And, of course, remember how scrupulous he was in just sticking to one piece of this investigation, which was the Libby story.

No, this is obviously politically motivated.  But Democrats—look, it‘s interesting seeing how Democrats have evolved here on the war.  Last year, there was the whole debate of, you know, if you know now what you, you, what you knew, if you knew even before what you knew now, or what, how would you vote?  They‘ve gone beyond that.  They‘ve sensed that the mood has changed in the country, and they‘re clearly feeling more confident post-indictment.

So this is a more confident Democrats.  But again, they don‘t have many levers of power here.

OLBERMANN:  On the other hand, they have, as someone described it, the levers of guerrilla warfare.  And this sort of asks this question here, what we saw today, is it a preview of the Alito nomination, or the confirmation process?  (INAUDIBLE) are they sending a signal here that the prospect of a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee is a very real thing?

WOLFFE:  Yes, they are, most definitely.  And it‘s interesting about Harry Reid‘s role here.  Remember, he was actually very complimentary, one of the few people in this town who were complimentary about Harriet Miers.  He has not been anything like as positive about Judge Alito.

And that does signal that he feels, in some way, snubbed by the White House decision.  They don‘t think there is room for compromise on this new pick for the Supreme Court, and they‘re wanting to fight this out now.

On (INAUDIBLE), on the other side, Republicans are saying, That‘s not offering any alternative.  But it does suggest this is going to be a knockdown fight.

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  Did what we see today really sort of, also in line with the president‘s people leaking out the Alito nomination information Sunday night so everybody would have it Monday and try to change the headline and the talking points and all that, is this politics until the midterm elections next year?  Is it going to be just like this, who can grab the media for the hardest for the longest?

WOLFFE:  I don‘t know that it‘s politics all the way till then, but it‘s certainly politics until the State of the Union.  Really, between now and State of the Union, you have this confirmation battle.  You have some foreign travel.  And you have the holidays.  And it‘s going to be long and drawn-out, until the president gets out there in January and says what his agenda is for next year.

OLBERMANN:  The senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, Richard Wolffe.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  The catalyst of that extraordinary closed session today, Scooter Libby.  Tonight, a clamoring for answers from his boss, Dick Cheney, his former boss, and a telling observation from one Washington columnist, namely, that the purported coverup worked.

As for the White House response to the growing political sub-industry over the war, bring on the bird flu news.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It must have been a surprise and a half to Vice President Dick Cheney when he heard that he needed to answer a series of questions about Scooter Libby, namely, did he know Libby was going to distribute the goods on Valerie Plame to reporters?  Did he tell him to do so?  Did Cheney ask Libby why he‘d testified he‘d gotten the info from reporters, when Cheney knew full well that Libby had gotten it from Cheney?

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the questions are not surprising, only the source of them, the former Clinton political aide, now reactionary commentator, Dick Morris, who finds himself in bed—you should excuse the expression—with the likes of “New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof and “The Washington Post”‘s E.J. Dionne, underscoring the kind of answers they think the vice president should be giving the country and the kind they think he‘ll to have give in a court sometime next year.

Libby will be there a lot sooner than that, Thursday, in front of U.S.  District Judge Reggie Walton in Washington.  He‘s expected at that time to plead not guilty to the five felony counts brought against him last Friday by special prosecutor Fitzgerald.  There is not, at this point, any suggestion of plea-bargain negotiations going on, or likely to go on.

There is a sixth charge against Mr. Libby, of course, in the court of political opinion.  It is that when Fitzgerald said this, he was tacitly blaming Libby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  I would have wished nothing better that when the subpoenas were issued in August 2004, witnesses testified then.  And we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In other words, Fitzgerald‘s indictments might have come before the presidential election of 2004, not a year after it.

That point was underscored rather forcefully today in the columns of “The Washington Post” by E.J. Dionne, who began his column with this one-sentence paragraph, “Has anyone noticed that the coverup worked?”

An old friend and valued guest, E.J. Dionne joins us now from Washington.

Good evening to you, sir.

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Great to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So you have no hesitation in connecting the dots here?  You think Libby‘s purpose in the investigation was to drag the whole things out by any means necessary until after last year‘s election?

DIONNE:  Well, I don‘t pretend to be able to read Scooter Libby‘s mind.  But it seems to me that what everybody in the White House wanted to do was to deny that they had any role in this leak as long as possible, and in particular, before the 2004 election.  This would have been very, very awkward if we had been talking about this leak matter, especially after all of the denials and almost-denials in the White House.

So I think what Libby counted on, either because he hoped he wouldn‘t get indicted at all, or at least to delay the business, was that if he said this was being spread by a bunch of journalists, Fitzgerald would have to call on a bunch of journalists to testify, and at least some news organizations would resist doing that, because they would be trying to protect confidentiality of sources.

And it worked brilliantly.  And so whatever happens out of this case, the Bush campaign, if you will, succeeded in kicking an issue down the road to a point when it wouldn‘t affect it in an election.

OLBERMANN:  Two devil‘s-advocate questions here.  Assuming that Mr.  Libby had not thrown the metaphorical sand in Umpire Fitzgerald‘s eyes, to strain that already strained baseball analogy a little further, if he did not lie, as he‘s accused of doing, and Fitzgerald really did get to have that news conference a year ago, rather than last Friday, would not Fitzgerald have been announcing, Sorry, no indictable crimes here, thanks, everybody, for stopping by?

DIONNE:  Well, A, we don‘t know that.  But let‘s assume for the sake of argument that that‘s true.  We still would have known that the White House had not told the truth about not having any role in this.  I mean, the truth is, are—I suppose a relative term here, some of these denials were very carefully phrased, the kinds of denials the Republicans used to condemn when they came out of the Clinton White House.

But they would have had this as a live issue, and that they were trying to slime a guy who had been one of their critics, Joseph Wilson.  So I think it would have hurt them in the election, whether or not there had been indictments, if the truth of this had come out.

OLBERMANN:  The other devil‘s-advocate question, E.J., what happens to the premise of Libby risking his own neck to postpone this until after the election, if Fitzgerald now winds up indicting Karl Rove anyway, as he may still do?

DIONNE:  Right.  And, of course, we still don‘t know.  I‘ve never seen an issue where I‘ve heard more different opinions in Washington over a shorter period of time, in terms of what happens to Karl Rove.  But assuming, again, you‘re right on the premise of the question, I think all that shows is that it would have been worse if this had come out earlier.  If Karl Rove was in any way vulnerable, it sure would have been worse for President Bush in October 2004, than October 2005.

OLBERMANN:  Last, we saw today, lastly, E.J., what Harry Reid did in the Senate.  Presumably he read your column.  If he hasn‘t, I‘m thinking the same thought that occurred to you probably occurred to him.  It‘s his job.  Are we going to see the Democrats pick up on this theme and try to extend the Libby story, by saying, apart from everything else we know and don‘t know about it, it also muddied the last campaign?

DIONNE:  Right.  Well, I think—I wrote that column because I think it was—it‘s very important, people are saying it was very important to make that point.  People are saying, Well, finally this was resolved.  But, you know, when the central objective might have been achieved, we ought to pay notice to that in how the—perjury in this particular case, assuming that‘s what‘s proved, actually had a political purpose.

And I think what you saw in the Senate today is, the president made a big effort to sort of kill this story by nominating Judge Alito, which was a red flag for liberals, red meat for conservatives.  It was going to send off a great political fight, which was good for the president, because it distracted attention.

Then Democrats in the Senate today said, No, we can find ways to call attention back, not only to the particular Fitzgerald investigation.  But to how the American people were served by the way intelligence was used and misused before the Iraq war.  So I think the Democrats showed today that they‘re not going to let the issue fade.

OLBERMANN:  E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post,” always a pleasure to speak with you, sir.

DIONNE:  And to you, sir.  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for coming on.

OLBERMANN:  Which brings to us an advisory about tomorrow‘s news hour, when my special guest will be Ambassador Joseph Wilson.  Joe Wilson on COUNTDOWN, 8:00 and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific, here on MSNBC tomorrow.

Still in this news hour, who says you can‘t teach an old housefly new tricks?  The Internet brings us something.

And one of the oldest tricks in the journalistic book, want to know what a public official really thinks?  Ask his mom.  Oh, boy.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and again we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for a brief collection of animal stories, weird people, and dumb criminals.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in the vast cyberworld known as the Internets, where once again, we come across strange video from a foreign land we don‘t know anything about.  We have no context for it, we don‘t know how old it is, where it came from.  All we know is, it appears to prove the Japanese have learned how to train houseflies to do circus tricks.  At least she has.  Look at him go!  This is great.  People will pay thousands to see this.

The humans seem to be exercising some form of mind control over them, or finger control over them.  And they‘re commanding the flies to do their bidding.  If I could learn this trick, I could train flies to take over job on this show, including mine.  Think of the leisure time.  (INAUDIBLE) that all day.

Palm City, Florida.  Here‘s a good old-fashioned cow chase.  Shouldn‘t we have the cow-chase music?  There‘s been a few on the loose since the hurricane came through.  This one‘s name is Sparkle.  And it must be because she keeps herself so clean.  Sparkle had been on the run for days.  She was finally corralled after doing a triple Lindy into the local swimming pool.

Marco, moooo!

Finally, to the San Francisco Zoo for another episode of rhinoceros versus big pumpkin.  This is Gene.  He‘s a 3,000-pound black rhino.  His keepers put a 500-pound pumpkin in his pen as part of the big annual Boo at the Zoo event.  Oh, baby, he‘s going to smash this pumpkin.  Here he goes.  Come on, buddy.  Come on, smashy, smashy.  Come on.  Come on!  Hey, where are you going?  Come on, come back and smash the pumpkin!

Ah, what a gyp.

There will be plenty of pumpkins and other things smashed when this man‘s Supreme Court nomination reaches the Senate.  In a moment, we‘ll meet Samuel Alito.

And the president unveils a plan of attack against bird flu, whereupon a senator reminds us, We in the Senate, we already did most of that.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Chris Hamburger.  Chris Hamburger, a senior at Drake University in Des Moines, won a magazine essay contest.  The prize, Mr.  Hamburger won his own weight in hot dogs.

Number two, Sammy Sosa, the baseball slugger.  The hero of the Dominican Republic unemployed tonight.  He has filed for free agency after the Baltimore Orioles made no effort to re-sign him for next season.

And number one, Pete Carroll, coach of the nation‘s number-one-ranked college football team, USC.  His team‘s tail back, Lendale White, stormed off the practice field last night, swearing, swearing he was quitting.  Next thing his horrified teammates knew, White was on the roof of the building next to their field.  Then they saw him, still in his number 21 uniform, plummeting four stories to the ground.

As players froze with fear and terror, Coach Carroll started laughing.  It was his Halloween prank on his team.  White waved happily from his hiding spot on the roof.  It was a dummy that went over.  USC announced today it will be rescheduling its remaining games around the psychiatrist appointments for half of the team.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  From President Carter‘s mother Lillian to President Bush‘s mother Barbara, there‘s nothing like a public figure with an outspoken ma.  And there‘s nothing much a public figure can do about an outspoken ma.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, another “fortunate son” as Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito went out to press the flesh with the senators who will vote on him, back in New Jersey, his 90-year-old mother Rose threw a little gasoline on the fire of the administration‘s nomination troubles by announcing, she thinks her son was upset that he didn‘t get there in the first shot, that Miers got it. 

Rose Alito also cleared up something nobody ever got straight about Harriet Miers: “He‘s against abortion,” she told the newspaper, The Trenton Times, “we both are.” As for the nominee himself, he spent the entire day answering questions on Capitol Hill, meeting with Democratic Senator Tim Johnson and Republican senators Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, and Mike DeWine.  The latter two shared their thoughts about the candidate and his chances of confirmation, dismissing all mentions of the other f-word. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE DEWINE ®, OHIO:  I would be prepared if the filibuster—which I don‘t think will happen, but if a filibuster was tried, to vote to change the rules of the Senate to stop the filibuster. 

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  I doubt that there will be a filibuster.  First of all, there never has been a leader-led partisan filibuster in the history of the federal judiciary. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Those comments were made before Rule 21 was invoked this afternoon.  In any event, who is Samuel Alito?  After the nomination of Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan at the Fed, we learned Bernanke was a childhood baseball statistics freak.  Now we discover that Judge Alito‘s first ambition was to be commissioner of baseball. 

The rest of the picture, from our justice correspondent Pete Williams. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  At Princeton University 33 years ago, Samuel Alito wrote in the school year book about himself. “Sam intends to go to law school,” he said, “and to eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court.” 

The son of an Italian father, he grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. 

TONI MARIE BRUSNAHAN, ALITO‘S NEIGHBOR:  Here they were, immigrants that came from Italy and now first generation being nominated to the Supreme Court. 

WILLIAMS:  Alito‘s 90-year-old mother Rose, who got in hot water Monday for saying he opposed abortion, offered a less inflammatory prediction. 

ROSE ALITO, MOTHER OF SAMUEL ALITO:  He‘s going to be a good one.  And he‘s going to do the right thing. 

WILLIAMS:  Pride, too, at his high school where a former teacher told reporters that Alito stood out even then. 

ELAINE TARR, ALITO‘S ENGLISH TEACHER:  If you gave an assignment and just required an adobe hut, Sam would deliver the Taj Mahal. 

WILLIAMS:  After earning his law degree at Yale, Alito worked for the Reagan administration, at the Justice Department, and argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court.  The first President Bush chose him to be a federal appeals court judge in 1990, and his most controversial legal opinion came a year later.  He voted to uphold a state law requiring women seeking abortions to notify their husbands. 

KAREN PEARL, PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  And the Supreme Court has said, absolutely not.  That‘s unconstitutional.  A woman doesn‘t give away her rights to her own liberty and her own freedom simply because she‘s married. 

WILLIAMS:  Alito is 55, married, with two children, a diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan, and says a former law clerk, someone who expresses strongly held views politely. 

ADAM CIONGOLI, ALITO‘S FORMER CLERK:  He was a fantastic mentor.  He took time to work through opinions that he had drafted with us to give us a sense of how he approached the issue. 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Judge Alito says his real childhood ambition was to be commissioner of baseball.  Now he hopes to settle for the Supreme Court bench. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As we suggested earlier from a cynic‘s point of view, the indictment of Scooter Libby, the nomination of Judge Alito, and the secret session in the Senate all had an element of, I‘ll see your 50 and raise you 50, to them.  And let‘s not forget today‘s big bird flu announcement.  Not Big Bird, but bird flu.  H5N1, the current strain of avian flu, has killed 62 people in Southeast Asia, most of whom worked around poultry. 

Mr. Bush used the word pandemic 76 times in his speech on the subject today.  There‘s no vaccine nor any immediate indication that this is going to become a human-to- human transmission disease. 

One of the things the president wants to change is that there‘s no vaccine.  He announced today his strategy for developing vaccines and emergency plans.  They sound remarkably similar to strategies approved by the Senate last week.  Mr. Bush‘s would protect about 20 million citizens.  That‘s about one in every 15 Americans against the possible outbreak. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  By strengthening our domestic vaccine industry, we can help ensure that our nation will never again have a shortage of vaccine for seasonal flu.  And by putting in place and exercising pandemic emergency plans across the nation we can help our nation prepare for other dangers, such as a terrorist attack using chemical or biological weapons. 

Because a pandemic can strike at any time, we can‘t waste time in preparing.  So to meet all our goals, I‘m requesting a total of $7.1 billion in emergency funding from the United States Congress. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Regarding the Senate, a reference to the chicken and egg argument would be unfortunate here, but unfortunately, that‘s exactly the argument that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa made this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Many of the points the president just made tracked very closely with what we‘ve already done here.  I‘m surprised the president keeps saying he‘s going to ask Congress to do these things.  We‘ve already done it.  We put the money in there a week ago in the appropriations bill, for our labor health human services appropriations bill, and we addressed all those issues.  We put the money in there for global surveillance, for vaccine production, and especially for state and local public health entities. 

I‘m glad the president mentioned that because his budget that he sent up this year cut over $100 million from our state and local public health agencies.  So I hope he‘ll come up and help us put the money back in there for that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  From global flu worries to health problems of a much more personal nature: how posting diaries online is helping patients battle disease.  Is blogging what the doctor ordered? 

And the royal road trip kicks off in New York City.  Will Camilla grab headlines or trigger ho-hum reaction here in the colonies?  I wonder when we‘re going to stop calling them colonies.

Those stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The nature of the investigation is that it is ongoing. 

You asked about this matter, this matter is ongoing. 

The context of an ongoing investigation. 

I mean, if you‘re asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation.

This is an ongoing investigation. 

Well, we hope people are not trying to politicize an ongoing investigation. 

You‘re asking this in the context of an ongoing investigation. 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  This is Mike Ballmer (ph) and Dan Sheer (ph).  You won‘t find poles on their boats.  Mike and Dan don‘t even need dip nets.  They prefer to shoot them.  It‘s called bow fishing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You actually shoot them with an arrow? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Well, when the carp won‘t bite my piece of porn (ph) I usually force-feed him 32-inch fiberglass arrow. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bow fish or die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not an addiction, it‘s an obsession. 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Lewis “Scooter” Libby was indict on two down of obstruction of justice, three counts of perjury and one count of not being as smart as Karl Rove.  By the way, it‘s not the first time a guy named Scooter has been in deep with the law.  We all remember a certain incident in 1982. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was a marvelous and snarky reaction to a marvelous and snarky innovation.  A cartoon in The New Yorker signed “Gregory” showed a conversation between two dogs. “I had my own blog for a while,” one dog told the other, “but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking.”

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, obviously not everybody finds merit in the Weblog, but tonight a twist that will make even the blog cynical stand up and applaud.  Blogging, it turn outs, can be beneficial to your health. 

An explanation now from COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In one of my blog entries, I say, well, “yesterday I did not know what a blogger was and today I are (sic) one,” so. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For Perry Caris (ph), blogging is just one more weapon in his battle with cancer.  Perry, diagnosed in February with non-Hodgkin‘s lymphoma when doctors found a malignant growth on his tongue.  After surgery came chemotherapy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you find out you have cancer, it changes your life completely.  You go through shock, you go through denial, you go through a lot of very deep emotions. 

NOVOTNY:  So after chemotherapy came a new prescription, online therapy in the form of an Internet journal.  Perry‘s doctors now encouraging patients to help themselves and others by writing about their experiences on the hospital‘s Web site. 

DR. BERNARD CHINNASAITI, HIGH POINT REGIONAL HEALTH:  The benefits are tremendous.  Basically you‘ve created your own virtual therapy.  And the good thing about it is you can cut in and cut out when you choose to.  And you can do it at your pace. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a good chance to vent, to tell the good and the bad and other folks can know better what to expect on a cancer journey. 

NOVOTNY:  Perry documented his journey daily, inviting the outside world in, helping him feel stronger emotionally, while helping his family, friends, even his doctor, understand his struggle. 

CHINNASAITI:  I think what a great place to get information from.  Always go to the source.  I mean, and this is as pure data as you‘re going to get. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There were times when, you know, I would break down and cry because it was just really highly emotional to read it.  And our children would read the blog entries as well.  They might not understand all of what was in the entry but they could get a feel for what daddy is going through. 

NOVOTNY (on camera):  In recent America Online study, nearly half the bloggers polled said they use blogging as a form of therapy.  But because prescribing it for patients is so new, doctors warn there may be drawbacks. 

CHARLES GOODSTEIN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY:  It like writing on a postcard.  And what you‘ve written is then available to anybody who sees this card on the way through the mail.  When we put things on a blog, we don‘t know who is responding, what motivations people might have.  It is not the same as seeing a therapist. 

NOVOTNY:  This week, Perry found out that after six rounds of chemo and a three-month break, he is cancer-free.  And while his blog may not be the cure, it is at the very least, a comfort. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If I‘ve got folks reading it, I need to keep them posted on how it is going. 

NOVOTNY:  For COUNTDOWN, Monica Novotny. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And we turn now to our nightly round up of celebrity news and gossip, “Keeping Tabs.” And the British royals just ain‘t what they used to be as Prince Charles and his bride, Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall began their week-long official visit here today, a Gallup poll suggested exactly 19 percent of us were interested.  As Robert Moore from our affiliated British network ITV prepares to fill us in on the first day, consider this: for the seven-day trip, Camilla has reportedly brought with her 50 different outfits. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT MOORE, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In a gesture that will be widely appreciated in America, they began their tour with a visit to ground zero.  The duchess on her inaugural foreign trip, laying flowers at the site where nearly 3,000 people died on that September day.  “In enduring memory of our shared grief,” the royal couple wrote.  And all around them, the memory of lives lost. 

Sixty-seven Britons were killed on September the 11th, and Prince Charles and Camilla dedicated a small garden to their memory. 

CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES:  Both my wife and I were profoundly moved by what we saw there.  And I think it is so fitting that their lives will be commemorated in this garden. 

MOORE:  If over the next week Americans tune into this visit at all, their curiosity will be centered on Camilla. 

KATRINA SZISH, EDITOR, US WEEKLY:  The American jury is still out on Camilla.  I think if you asked anybody, probably their first answer would sort of be a shrug of indifference.  We are still a nation in love with Diana. 

MOORE:  But if the jury is still out, the recognition factor, as we found out today is still very high.  We showed Americans a photo of the duchess. 

(on camera):  Do you know who this woman is? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Camilla Parker Bowles. 

MOORE:  No hesitation? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No hesitation. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Camilla. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, yes.  Camilla. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Camilla.  Camilla Parker something. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  From her visit, I think we will slowly began to fall in love with her as we did Diana.  But it will be slow. 

MOORE (voice-over):  The duchess was clearly nervous at times today, aware she is on show for the next week, aware, too, that there is always the danger of public indifference. 

(on camera):  Of course, Princess Diana captivated America.  But this royal tour will be seen in a different light, it will be judged a success if the royal couple receive a friendly reception and if it helps raise the profile of Camilla on an international stage. 

Robert Moore, ITV News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, America‘s answer to the duchess has claimed another actor.  First, Paris Hilton shot down Tom Sizemore and his tale of how she seduced him.  Now during one of her parties, Christian Slater fell off her neighbor‘s roof.  The music at Hilton‘s shindig got too loud for the neighbors.  They complained.  Mr. Slater, who was at the party, promptly climbed on to the neighbor‘s roof.  Of course he did.  Wouldn‘t you? 

The New York Post quotes anonymous sources who say that Slater in fact fell off the roof only after being Tasered by police.  The L.A. police deny that.  They say the paper made that part up.  They describe Slater as not injured, not hurt, not arrested.  They did not make a statement about if he‘s not sleeping with Hilton. 

And when the White House seemingly needs him most, Jeff Gannon is back.  Ah, not in the press room though asking questions about whether or not Scooter Libby actually owns a scooter, but rather, freelancing for a Washington newspaper, The Washington Blade.  It is one of D.C.‘s two avowedly gay papers. 

Gannon, born James Guckert and briefly a White House correspondent in the most tenuous sense of the title, wrote to the trade publication Editor & Publisher that he denied he was hostile to gay concerns in his columns adding, quote, “I do, however, strongly disagree with those who claim to represent the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” unquote.  Asked then about his own sexual orientation, he replied, “my own personal life is a private matter.”

And it is the blockbuster of all blockbuster DVD releases.  Blockbuster news about this blockbuster.  The final installment of the “Star Wars” saga hitting store shelves.  We pay tribute to those diehard Jedi fans who put the fan in fanatic.  That‘s ahead. 

But first, time for the list of COUNTDOWN‘s three nominees today for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” The bronze winner: Rocky Perkett (ph), one of the two Oregon men who found and raised an injured black bear cub, named her Windfall, kept her in their home, let her shower and blow dried her hair for her.  Authorities raided the Perkett cabin and took the bear away because you can‘t keep a bear like that.  It is against the law.  To which Rocky replied: “Everything they done here was unlegal.  Since it‘s all unlegal, I hope they will bring her back.”  That‘s not why he‘s on the list.  Rocky insist they treated the bear like a daughter, but added: “The only thing we did wrong was love one another.”  Uh-oh.

Runner up: Tracey Petway (ph) of Avon, Connecticut.  Mr. Petway is a school bus driver.  He took the Capital Prep girls field hockey team to a road game.  While they were playing, so was he.  The police contend he took one of the girls‘ cell phones, took obscene pictures of himself and emailed them to other students.  Tracey Petway.  How in the hell did you folks not see that coming? 

But the winner: Geraldo Rivera.  On the debut of his new syndicated show he explained why he made so much of that New York Times “nudge nudge” dust-up.  Quote: “I‘m tired of getting made fun of.” Well, then, retire.  Geraldo Rivera, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Shakespearean scholars are not 100 percent certain, but it is believed that on this date, November 1st, 401 years ago, the actors known as the Kingsmen stepped onto a stage in the Banqueting House at Whitehall in London and performed for the first time ever a new play by Mr.  Shakespeare called “Othello.” 

Our number one story on this COUNTDOWN, November 1, 1604, premiere of “Othello.” November 1, 2005, release of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” on DVD.  And you still believe in progress?  Yes, now fans don‘t even have to run the risk of standing in line outdoors far away from their mom‘s basements.  The new disk includes six deleted scenes and an introduction by series creator George Lucas, the Shakespeare of our time. 

You may be thinking I‘m mocking those who worship at his temple.  Oh no.  These are the chosen, the ones that have a permanent residence in the official COUNTDOWN hall of fame, a place where they can take a load off their feet and Sith on it. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(WOOKIEE NOISES)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  In a wing of the hall of fame, far, far, far

oh, my mistake, it‘s right here by the front door next to the gift shop. 

It is here in a special place of honor that we keep our most curious specimen in a secure glass case.  Plastic really, kind of a giant action figure box.  It is the “Star Wars” geek.

The species dates back to the late century, in fact, the late 1970s. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Star Wars,” rated PG. 

OLBERMANN:  With the confusing premier of the first episode of the “Star Wars” saga which, thanks to marketing considerations, later became known as the fourth episode, fanaticism spread across the world as millions of youngsters found themselves captivated by all the space ships and puppets and stuff. 

But a strange thing happened.  About 95 percent of fans grew out of their Boba Fett Underoos and action figure collections and became productive members of society.  The rest, they got stuck somewhere along the way and became “Star Wars” geeks. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Jar Jars are the most irritating thing and should have been edited out of it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, this is just an average Jedi Knight robe. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The critics don‘t know what they‘re talking about. 

It was a great movie. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Grade A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Number one, go for it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How much of a “Star Wars” fan are you?  It‘s obvious, really, isn‘t it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE IN BOBA FETT COSTUME:  Yes, it is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With these new three episodes you‘re going to finally get the full scope of the drama. 

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps they had some trouble adjusting to life in this planet or maybe they just went looking for fellowship in the Force if you know what I mean.  That was certainly easier to find than it was to find a date where some of them who tried to socialize with the normals and found that for some reason it was hard to get women in the clubs to talk to them. 

The fact is when you‘re 10 years old and playing with a plastic lightsaber, you are as cute as a button.  When you‘re 35, you‘re a COUNTDOWN hall of fame geek. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So I modified the toy version of a lightsaber, put a 6,000-volt transformer in it, neon tube for Mr. Neon, and a 9-volt power supply, a couple of switches and boom. 

OLBERMANN:  So these outsiders looked inside for fulfillment.  And they began building stuff.  They build their own space ships.  They build their own robots.  They build their own lousy Chewbacca costumes.  They go to conventions to rub elbows with other “Star Wars” geeks or whatever they‘re rubbing. 

They camp out for days, weeks, months to see the latest installment on the first night, and whatever they do, they do it in full costume, just in case they should ever have to face “Star Wars” geek‘s archenemy, the talking rubber dog puppet. 

TRIUMPH THE INSULT COMIC DOG:  And what is the principles of the Jedi Knight? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To always defend truth and justice throughout the galaxy. 

TRIUMPH:  Yes.  And to eat a lot of Peanut M&M‘s. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t deal with lots of life forms.

TRIUMPH:  You don‘t deal with lots of life forms?  You must be a lonely guy. 

So this is to help you breathe, yes? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE IN DARTH VADER COSTUME:  Yes. 

TRIUMPH:  And which of these.

(LAUGHTER)

TRIUMPH:  Which of these buttons calls your parents to pick you up? 

OLBERMANN:  But for the nearly ever present abuse and mockery, the “Star Wars” geek perseveres that somehow even manages to pass the gene onto new generations, a phenomenon which is baffling to our research scientists here at the hall of fame.  Must be some sort of airborne or contact high kind of thing because we‘re pretty sure they‘re not procreating. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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.

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