updated 11/10/2005 12:29:15 PM ET 2005-11-10T17:29:15

Guest: Dana Milbank, Roger Cressey, Mark Zaid, Deborah Hale

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

Democrats elect two governors.  Republicans say, So what?  Those states already had Democrats as governors.

The new NBC poll says 57 percent believe the president deliberately misled the country to make the case for war with Iraq.  Republicans say, Next question?

A question of security clearance.  If a jilted boyfriend‘s complaint can cost a Pentagon employee her clearance, why does Karl Rove still have his?

And if Judith Miller really did have clearance, not anymore.  She‘s out.

Dozens dead in Amman, Jordan.  Three hotels popular with Western tourists bombed, the U.S. thinks it‘s Zarqawi.

Want to buy a house in Denver?  How about if it comes with the woman who lives there?  As she pursues the man and real estate investor of her dreams, she‘ll join us.  But a warning to her if she finds him.  The wedding could turn out like this, like a Scooter Libby novel.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

The nice thing about an election in this country is that even if it had been rigged or it required the Supreme Court to actually decide it, it‘s—then it‘s the equivalent of the end of the game in sports.  The arguing is over, and it‘s a final.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, oh, no, it isn‘t, not any more, anyway.  After the three key off-year elections yesterday, the Democrats are insisting they gained a tide of momentum and something of a minireferendum on the Bush administration.  And the Republicans are noting that the Democrats already had the two governor‘s mansions they gained last night, and the voting had nothing to do with the president.

In Virginia, where a year ago Mr. Bush was reelected with 54 percent of the vote, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Kilgore, lost to Democratic contender Tim Kaine 46 to 52.  In New Jersey, a tight and particularly vicious race between Republican Doug Forrester and Democratic Senator John Corzine, saw Corzine comfortably gaining the governorship by 10 percentage points.

On the other hand, in California, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got a political slap in the case from his constituents, who voted no on all four of his ballot propositions in the Golden State‘s annual special unscheduled same-time-next-year election.  For good measure, voters also turned down an abortion proposition that Schwarzenegger had also supported.

Beyond noting that Democrats neither gained nor lost on the governors‘ tables, though, the White House is actually trying to paint the vote as something of a moral victory, even though the president actually stumped for the losing Virginia candidate, Kilgore, earlier this week, and Mr.  Bush‘s popularity in Jersey has been so buffeted that local Democratic candidates ran radio ads saying the Republicans didn‘t want the president to campaign for them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  If you go back to the elections that took place yesterday, look at Virginia.  The legislature in Virginia remains a strong Republican majority.  The legislature in New Jersey, there was no change in terms of the legislature.  In Virginia, you had a Democratic lieutenant governor previously, and now you have a Republican lieutenant governor.  You have an attorney general that is a Republican that—or candidate that is Republican that is leading in that race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There is no effort to spin the other kind of poll numbers tonight.  An NBC-“Wall Street Journal” opinion survey out this evening, and it boils down to this.  President Bush is popular and his beliefs and policies are endorsed by the citizenry, providing you are comparing him to his father‘s presidency in October of 1992.

This Mr. Bush‘s approval number down to 38 percent.  A year ago, he was at 49, two years ago, 51, three years ago, 63.  The historical comparison, this president, at 38 percent approval, his father‘s low was 32 percent 13 years and one month ago.  Mr. Clinton‘s low, 41 percent, just about four months after he took office.

Some of the interior numbers.  Do you approve of the job the president is doing on the war on terrorism?  Fifty-five percent say no, 39 percent yes.  A year ago, this was 51 percent yes.

How about the old right direction-wrong track question?  Sixty-three percent say the country is now headed in the wrong direction.  Last year at this time, that number was at 48 percent.

Which party would do a better job dealing with Iraq?  Democrats 33 percent, Republicans 30 percent, neither or a tie, 31 percent.  The Republicans have not previously been behind in this category.

The CIA leak investigation, is it a serious matter or not?  Seventy-nine percent saying it‘s serious.  Is it just Libby, or are there others in the administration who may have acted illegally?  Eight percent say it‘s just Libby, 78 percent say there may be others.

And lastly, the pollsters did not call it the $64,000 question, but they might as well have.  Do you think that President Bush gave the country the most accurate information he had before going to war with Iraq, or do you think that President Bush deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq?  Fifty-seven percent now saying the president deliberately misled this country.  Thirty-five percent say he gave the accurate info.

Compare that to March of last year, when only 41 percent thought he had deliberately misled the country, and 53 percent were sure that he had not.

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

Good evening, Dana.

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

Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That last one is a killer.  With a different party makeup in Congress, would that be the kind of thing that the Democratic leadership would look at and say, It‘s impeachment time?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s tempting to imagine what might happen in that, but that‘s not the way it‘s stacked right now, so that‘s, of course, out of the question.

You get the sense both parties have learned their lesson about impeachments, recall referendums.  You‘re seeing—just as you‘re seeing that, some of that voter remorse out there in California.  I think both sides are realizing now that there‘s a reason we have elections and set terms, and you get the chance to make the decision over again in the next election.

So there‘s no serious threat to President Bush right now.  But it sure is about as ugly as it can look.

OLBERMANN:  But it does beg the point of the midterms a year from now.  Before the midterms of 1998, poll came back with this number, 51 percent said they thought of those elections as a signal of support or opposition to the president, Mr. Clinton at that point.  Before the 2002 midterms, the same statistic was 50 percent.  And today it is, it is now 60 percent, 6-0.

So are those congressional and Senate elections next year, a year from now, shaping up as a referendum on this presidency?

MILBANK:  Yes, about that there can really be no question, it most certainly is.  The Democrats have long been trying to make this a national election, about national issues, sort of like it was in 1994.  Certainly, if the president‘s numbers continue at this level or deteriorate, you could see the reverse of 1994 in some sort of a tidal wave of that order.

Now, we have to remember, this is an eternity in politics to get to next year from where we are now.  So a lot of that could change.  But it would be hard to dispute that this will definitely be that sort of referendum.  Doesn‘t usually go well in the best of circumstances for a president in the midterm elections in his second term, and these aren‘t the best of circumstances.

OLBERMANN:  Shaking off the polls for a moment, this poll, anyway, last night, the Democrats win in New Jersey, where they‘d already had not just one Democratic governor, but two of them.  In Virginia, they already had a Democratic governor.  Schwarzenegger got his clock cleaned in the ballot props in California.  Isn‘t the Republican take on this right, or were there, in fact, national implications last night?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s the sort of thing where none of it really means anything, because the history would indicate that there‘s no particular lesson to be learned, or things to follow in the following year or the year after that.

But, of course, everybody had their statements ready last night, and as soon as the Democrats prevailed, they say, Aha, this is going to be the pattern for next year, and had the Republicans won, they would have been saying the same thing, and, you know, instead, everybody reversed places.

But it—look, it means something, it certainly means something that President Bush was there in Richmond on Monday night, and he allows himself now to be seen that this is a rebuke of his policies.  People said he was going to own the result of that anyway.  But he certainly does now, whether it‘s deserved or not.  It gives the Democrats a perceived sense of motion.

OLBERMANN:  Dana, I know there will be viewers who will want to put a foot through the television with all these poll graphics that we‘ve actually shown already.  But we‘ve also, in this poll, done some potential 2008 presidential head-to-head questions.  Who would you vote for?  And a preface before we run through these.  The people who participated in this poll broke down into 39 percent who voted for Bush last year, and 37 percent who voted for Kerry.  So this is not weighted particularly one way or the other.  Kind of reflects what happened last year.

All right, the first one, Hillary Clinton would beat the heck out of Bill Frist, but John McCain would beat the heck out of John Kerry, but John Kerry would beat the heck out of Bill Frist, and John McCain would edge Hillary Clinton, but with 14 percent undecided.

Is this just fun for pollsters and political junkies and people who make graphics on television?  Or is there any ph meaning here?

MILBANK:  I think we both deserve the foot in the face right about now.  But, of course, it‘s meaningless, but it‘s a tremendous amount of fun.  All this indicates is how well these people are known.  So McCain does well because people know him.  If you‘d put Guiliani in there, he‘d do well because people know him.

But guess what?  These guys have a lot of trouble getting through the Republican primary before they can get that sort of a matchup.  The primaries encourage the extremes in their parties to get in there.  So this is really just an artifact of who we know.

And I think if you‘d put Oprah in the poll, she‘d trounce them all, and perhaps Olbermann might be edging out Frist at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I don‘t know about that.  But we do—we are sure that Harold Stassen would be beating William Jennings Bryan by this point.

Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” as always, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, if you‘ve always wanted an exciting career in national political journalism, there‘s a job freshly opening up tonight.  Judith Miller has retired from “The New York Times.”  She scooped her employer of 28 years, put the news on her own Web site first.  She will write one last item for “The Times,” a letter to the editor in tomorrow‘s editions in which she explains she is leaving in part because some of her colleagues disagreed with her decision to testify after 85 days in jail in the CIA leak case.

“But mainly,” she writes, “I have chosen to resign because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a ‘New York Times‘ reporter never wants to be.”  Behold, I have become News, destroyer of worlds.  She apparently does not mention her reporting on nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, nor her exact relationship with the indicted White House aide Scooter Libby.

“The Times” says it negotiated a severance package with her attorneys but declined Ms. Miller‘s demand that she be permitted to write an op-ed challenging various allegations against her.  Maureen Dowd.

Speaking of Judith Miller, Ahmed Chalabi is in the country, welcomed by the vice president, the secretaries of Defense and State, and the national security adviser over the next week or so, despite what we now know was his dubious record on weapons of mass destruction information from Iraq.

The question, then, to our correspondent David Shuster, who‘s been following Chalabi‘s progress in the capital today, would have to be, why?

Good evening, David.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you.

It has never really bothered this administration that Ahmed Chalabi fed them bogus information that was used to sell the war.  And that certainly didn‘t seem to be an issue today when Chalabi was making the rounds in Washington.  As you mentioned, he met today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  The White House says that he will be meeting with other allies of Chalabi in the administration, including Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The FBI, however, is also interested in Chalabi.  The bureau says that Chalabi remains under investigation for allegedly passing U.S. intelligence to Iran.  However, Chalabi says he‘s never been contacted by the FBI, perhaps because of his growing political power in Iraq.

In any case, protesters angry about the deputy prime minister‘s chequered past tried to greet him today at the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank.  The think tank thought ahead, though, and brought Chalabi up to the garage.  In Chalabi‘s speech, he said Iraq was making progress in the delivery of food, electricity, and security.

Chalabi then declined several invitations from reporters to apologize for the false prewar intelligence used by the White House to frighten America into war.  Chalabi would only say he is sorry about the deaths of U.S. troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMED CHALABI, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:  We are sorry for every American life that is lost in Iraq, and we are—I regret every loss of American lives, of American lives that happened in Iraq subsequent to the end of fighting with Saddam.  As for the fact that I deliberately misled the American government, this is an urban myth.

This question is pregnant with implications.  Too many people have said too many things, and much has been said.  It is not useful for me now to comment on it.  We are not now engaged in this kind of debate in Iraq...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  May not be a debate in Iraq, but it certainly is one here in Washington.  And Chalabi was asked if he would be willing to testify to Congress, and he said yes.  Chalabi also said that he is not an Iranian spy.  And furthermore, Keith, he talked at length about Iraqi oil deposits.  And in a scene reminiscent of we were all hearing three years ago, Chalabi said Iraq‘s oil would eventually transform the Middle East, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Chalabi getting all kinds of invitations today. 

MSNBC‘s David Shuster, great thanks.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Ethics class back in session at the White House.  Karl Rove‘s turn reportedly today.  But why isn‘t he turning in his top-secret security clearance, when others get theirs yanked through so much less?

And more terror in Jordan.  Suicide bombers at hotels, hotels with names that resonate strongly here, Hyatt, Radisson, Even Days Inn.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In Jordan, in much of Europe too, the numerical abbreviation for the date is the opposite of the way we do it here.  There it is day, then month.  Thus today, in Amman, Jordan, was 9/11.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, as of 3:00 a.m. local time there, there are 57 reported dead, about 110 wounded, after hotels belonging to three U.S.-based chains were hit by suicide bombers.  And late word tonight, security officials with the Marriott Hotel in Amman telling NBC News that a car full of explosives has been found in the parking garage of the nearby Meridian Hotel.

Keith Miller is monitoring developments from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH MILLER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  There was no warning.  The near-simultaneous blasts hit three hotels in the center of Amman shortly before 9:00 tonight.

The first explosion ripped through the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. 

Moments later, explosions in the Days Inn Hotel and the Radisson Hotel.  The bomb there was detonated during a wedding reception for some 250 people.  Police report all three blasts were set off by suicide bombers.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC TERRORISM EXPERT:  Any time you see this many attacks happen in a short period of time, it‘s either a member of the al Qaeda organization, one of their networks, or a self-styled jihadist who supports the al Qaeda cause.

MILLER:  Senior counterterrorism and intelligence officials tell NBC News that the prime suspect in tonight‘s bombings is Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

SIMON HENDERSON, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT:  To hit targets in Jordan is a neat way for Zarqawi both to punish the Jordanian government and punish the United States.

MILLER:  Jordan has trained 40,000 Iraqi police cadets and soldiers placing the country high on the hit list of radical Islamic groups.  Last August, Zarqawi claimed responsibility for rockets at two U.S. warships in the Jordanian port of Aqabah.

And Jordanian intelligence managed to foil plans to attack tourist sites in 1999, code named The Millennium Plot.  The Radisson Hotel was on the list of the intended targets.

As a neighbor of Iraq, Jordan has become a gateway to the Middle East.  The hotels hit tonight house Western diplomats, Iraqi politicians, and businessmen traveling to Baghdad.

(on camera):  Jordan‘s King Abdullah cut short an overseas trip tonight and condemned the terrorist attacks as the work of a misled deviant group.

(voice-over):  Tonight, the country‘s borders are sealed as the government launches a manhunt for those responsible for planning the attacks.

Keith Miller, NBC News, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  You saw him in Keith Miller‘s report.  Let‘s get additional insight now from MSNBC terrorism analyst and former counterterrorism coordinator with the National Security Council staff, Roger Cressey.

Good evening, Roger.

CRESSEY:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Jordan has not been impervious to terror, but nearly so. 

What do we think changed today and tonight?

CRESSEY:  I think it‘s a great case, an unfortunate case, where the jihadis have been trying for years to conduct a major attack inside Jordan.  Jordan has great law enforcement and intelligence capability.  But when there‘s constant opportunities that are always being stopped, sooner or later these guys are going to get lucky.  And it looks like that‘s the case today.

OLBERMANN:  About the nature of the casualties, the Jordanians are saying that the vast majority are Jordanians.  There are also many Egyptians, many from Bahrain, many from Asia, specifically South Korea.  Was that the intent?  Or when it‘s a roster of hotels like Days Inn, Hyatt, Radisson, and now this latest report of a fourth attack being stopped at the Meridian, were they selected because they were thought likely to yield a lot of European and American victims?  Were they selected for the names?  Why those places?

CRESSEY:  Certainly selected for the names, like the Radisson was back during the millennium plot, symbols of America, it‘s a symbol of American power in some respects.

But also, I‘m sure they were looking to kill as many Americans as possible.  Amman is a staging area for a lot of Americans before they go into Iraq.  So I‘ll be amazed if we don‘t result—see a result of American casualties.  Let‘s hope that‘s the case.  But I‘m sure I expect there will be some.

OLBERMANN:  State Department saying, and again, it‘s the last word, we won‘t know probably till daylight there, but the State Department was saying that everybody that they know of is accounted for.  So we‘re not sure on how that‘s going to turn out.  Maybe, as you said, it will be an amazing and fortunate thing relative to this country, anyway.

About the timing, I pointed out the November 9 abbreviation, largely outside of this continent, making today 9/11.  Also today, just today, Jordan had indicted six people who were not connected to al Qaeda for a reported foil attack plan on five-star hotels.  Are those things just coincidences to this?

CRESSEY:  Well, the symbolism of 9/11, I‘m sure, is not lost on the people who perpetrated this attack.  We have to (INAUDIBLE) -- what we see now, though, is a healthy and unfortunate reminder that there are a number of candidates, be it Zarqawi‘s network, which is the most likely one, jihadis who decide to attack the Hashemite Kingdom for a variety of reasons, or even al Qaeda‘s central organization, all of whom have objectives that coincide with targets inside Jordan.

So we saw this plot disrupted a month and a half ago.  We see the one that was successful today.  It‘s a safe bet that there‘ll be other attempts after this one too.

OLBERMANN:  The MSNBC terror analyst Roger Cressey.  As ever, Roger, great thanks for your time.

CRESSEY:  OK, Keith, thanks.

OLBERMANN:  A much-needed break from the serious news of this day.  Pandas, in love, tying the knot.  Wasn‘t this just outlawed by voters in Texas?

And this lady has her house up for sale.  If you play your cards right, you might not close that deal, but she may come along with the whole transaction.  We‘ll meet her.

That and more (INAUDIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We strive for balance here each evening in this news hour.  Not the phony-baloney kind of balance you hear about on that reactionary channel, but equal time, for animals, for people who make their socks out of corn, and for dumb criminals.  We report, you deride.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Thailand, the kind of story that Senator Santorum warned us about, yet Scooter Libby finds strangely arousing, bears getting married.  Panda bears Chwong-Chwong (ph) and Lin Kwee (ph) have been living together for two years at the Chiang-Mai (ph) Zoo.  She‘s into him, and it‘s not like the ladies are lining up at his door, so the two got hitched.  Actually, two people in panda suits got hitched on their behalf, which must be legal in Thailand, I guess.

No word if, also on the pandas‘ behalf, those two consummated the marriage dressed like that.

In Japan, one company is set to revolutionize the clothing industry when it releases its new line of everyday wear made out of corn.  Yes, sweet, bountiful American corn, grown here, shipped there, fermented, and somehow turned into socks for the masses.  Mmmm, corn socks, ahhh!

They‘ll cost slightly more than regular cotton and wool.  But after a long workout, you can wrap these babies around a frankfurter and have a corn sock dog.  That alone is worth the bucks.

Finally, to Colchin, India, where Mr. P.C. Thomas may look like he sits at a typewriter all day just mashing the keys.  And that‘s because that‘s what he‘s doing.  He‘s making art.  Thomas has used his typewriter to draw a world map, the Taj Mahal, several calendars, oddly enough, though, never to write a letter.  All of his correspondence is done with a giant paintbrush (INAUDIBLE).

He says it takes lots of patience and a very steady hand to create one of these works of art.  One mistake, and he has to start all over again.  Somebody buy this poor guy a word processor, or at least a bucket of White-out.

Also tonight, if the bar for revoking somebody‘s security clearance if very low, why does a man still under investigation by a special federal prosecutor still have his?

And a Paris Hilton fender-bender.  Note to self, remove coat from head before operating vehicle.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the is day.

Number three,  Peter Dorsey, head of the mapping department of Owen County, Indiana.  He has a great bargain offer for you, a parcel of land half an hour outside Bloomington, an hour or so from Indianapolis.  The asking price is $1,500.  The drawback, this piece of land is one inch square.  It was apparently how somebody beat the system back when there was a residency requirement in the area for using the local recreational lake.

One inch square.

Number two, an unnamed man in Broward County in Florida banged up, not seriously injured when he fell out of the back of a truck traveling on I-95.  So did the sofa he was apparently holding in place.  Yes, you‘re right, he made that fateful mistake of agreeing to help friends move. 

And number one, the school board voters of Dover, Pennsylvania, eight of the nine board members were up for re-election yesterday, they had all supported and introduced to the local schools the so-called science of intelligent design.  All eight of them were defeated, thus proving Darwin‘s theory of evolution. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What do you do if you are an ex-White House official and at a White House news conference the media asks questions about you, and in answering them, the press secretary never refers to you by name.  It happened yesterday to Scooter Libby, or as Scott McClellan called him exclusively, “that individual.” 

Our number three story, the answer is, if you are Mr. Libby, you start a legal defense fund.  The answer to the question, what does Karl Rove do, is a little less obvious.  Libby first. 

One of his attorneys has confirmed that fundraising has begun among what should be sympathetic Republicans to cover the legal expenses of the indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.  The Washington Post reporting on the Sunday after the indictment that such a fund would be established.  And it has been. 

The silver lining to Libby‘s departure from the White House, the legal limit for contributions, $5,000, no longer applies in his case.  But there‘s not yet any plan for telethon. 

As to Mr. Rove, it‘s not fundraising that‘s at issue, nor even making him stay after school for those White House remedial classes in ethics.  His critics want to take his library card away from him.  Why, they ask, is a man who has been notified that his conduct relative to the public identification of a covert CIA operative still in possession of his complete national security and intelligence clearance? 

Given that the part of that ethics refresher course in the White House is about the handling of classified info; given that all White House employees are given clearance, Rove included, only after they have signed a classified information nondisclosure agreement, given that that agreement reads in part, “I have been advised that any breach of this agreement may result in the termination of any security clearances that I hold”; and given all that, Democrats, including the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, continue to tub-thump for Rove‘s clearance to be revoked or at least suspended. 

And The Los Angeles Times has run a laundry list of lesser figures who lost their clearances for what would seem to be lesser causes.  An Army officer having spoken out publicly about pre-9/11 intelligence failures got into a dispute over $67 worth of charges to his military cell phone, he lost his clearance.  An intelligence analyst sent his resume over a public fax machine, his was suspended temporarily.  And a man called the Defense Department to say one of its woman employees might not be reliable, the woman‘s clearance was suspended for months, the caller turned out to be the woman‘s ex-boyfriend whom she had dumped. 

So when do you lose it and when do you keep it?  For some perspective, I‘m joined now by Mark Zaid an attorney who specializes in national security cases and has in fact represented more than a dozen intelligence officers in clearance cases. 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Against the background of those three examples in The L.A.  Times, the rationale for not suspending Mr. Rove‘s clearance would seem to be hard to fathom.  What is that rationale, do you know? 

ZAID:  Well, not personally, but the rationale probably is that the president and/or the vice president have deemed it still in their interest to have Mr. Rove have access to clearance.  When it really comes down to it, the buck stops there.  It puts the agencies in a very awkward position since they could potentially control the flow of classified information to Mr. Rove, but yet the president or the vice president can turn that key automatically because they, of course, are at the head of the table. 

OLBERMANN:  Who ordinarily makes the decision in a case?  You‘ve just explained the process that would affect Mr. Rove.  But just to take out of that small hat of examples we have from the newspaper, this unfortunate woman at the Pentagon with the vengeful ex.  Is it a direct supervisor?  Is it a choice of different people who might have—who might be able to make that judgment call? 

ZAID:  Each of the agencies has a security office.  And those security offices are usually outside of the political spectrum.  These are usually career employees at these agencies, and they will make decisions as to whether to suspend or revoke or deny a clearance.  And the information that could lead to that could come from a supervisor or it could come from someone who is a neighbor, could come from any different sources or could come from a police report that the person got pulled over for a DWI.  In fact, many times, the information that‘s derogatory that leads to a revocation comes from the individual themselves during security clearance processing, like a polygraph exam. 

The problem with this Rove situation is because he‘s so high up and because the president and the vice president, at the end of the day, can control the flow of information, it sets a terrible example for the rest of the community when you see—like the examples that you cited, which were all clients of mine, you see individuals who committed far less breaching concerns or damaging issues to the national security, lose their own clearances. 

OLBERMANN:  Does it always, in other cases, boil down to the proverbial judgment call?  I mean, could we find parallel examples to those clients of yours, or someone, maybe even, whose story parallels Mr. Rove‘s in some way, that went the other way? 

ZAID:  Yes, the clearance process is very arbitrary and very inconsistent, not just even just throughout the different agencies, but even within agencies.  You can talk to anybody who works in, say, the DIA or CIA, they will tell you, well, this supervisor had this infraction but yet kept their clearance, but yet, I did the same thing and I lost my clearance. 

And the process has unfortunately become where the agencies use security clearances as weapons against individuals, particularly whistleblowers and in the place of what otherwise would be a personnel decision, because they know if they revoke your clearance or even suspend it, essentially your career is over and you will be silenced.  You will lose your job unless you are in a position, like Mr. Rove, where your boss is the one who controls the flow of information. 

OLBERMANN:  So ultimately in this case, it is Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush who have the—who are the bosses in this situation?  There‘s no other potential input in it? 

ZAID:  Well, put it this way, let‘s say Mr. Rove has signed an agreement and has information flowing to him from the CIA, if the CIA says that we are no longer going to provide Mr. Rove with information, at least temporarily, because of what happened, the president and the vice president can disregard that determination and still provide the information. 

If you remember Bob Woodward‘s book, “Bush at War,” anyone who has had clearance and worked in this environment, when they read that book, they are stunned by the amount of classified information that was revealed to Bob Woodward without a security clearance. 

Why?  Because the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, and the CIA director decided to disclose it.  When they disclose it, it‘s unclassified.  When I or someone else who has a clearance discloses it, we lose our security clearance. 

OLBERMANN:  And I suppose that also explains why Judith Miller had clearance, or at least thought she did.  Mark Zaid, who knows this question of security clearances backwards and forwards, is an attorney specializing in the field.  It has been very informative.  Great thanks for your time tonight. 

ZAID:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Back to school taking on a whole new meaning tonight.  Mom and dad hoping to learn just enough of this stuff to help their kids‘ homework headaches in math.

Paris Hilton sure has good taste in men.  That‘s the boyfriend at the wheel, Mr. drive-your-Bentley-with-your-head-covered.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.  Look out, there‘s a truck right there. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is in retrospect hard for me to believe, for those who know me now, it often provokes shouts of, liar!  You are lying, you lie you liar!  I was once a math prodigy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Liar!

OLBERMANN:  Yes, see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You are lying!

OLBERMANN:  Then came the day that my teachers started to write up there on the chalkboard stuff that looked to me like nothing less than auto accidents.  The actual crash point took place during trigonometry, but it began in algebra, which leads us to our number two story on the COUNTDOWN.  What does somebody like me, who would have kids do if those kids came to them and said, can you help me with algebra homework?  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins me now with the answer to the kid‘s question, not to the algebra problem. 

Good evening, Monica. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.

My math decline also began in algebra.  I, however, was lucky enough to have a true math genius in my home, my dad.  And with his help, somehow I made it all the way from algebra to calculus.  And he still remembers all of it.  I do not.  So if you‘re like me and you worry about what your kids will need help with, you may want to consider going back to school. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What happens in the answer is a decimal?  Three X equals negative six.  One two three plus zero.  Plus zero is still three. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  It‘s not gibberish, it‘s algebra.  You may not remember how to solve for Y or why it even matters.  And helping your kids out with math homework may sound about as appealing as going back to class.  But throughout the country, that‘s exactly what some parents are doing. 

FRAN PITTELLI, BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS:  The parents need to know what‘s going on.  We have a lot of new technology, we have new techniques, we have different expectations. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The last time I took algebra, it was 32 years ago. 

So I figured I would try to get my brain to just like wake up a little bit. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A dollar-twenty-five X equals 20. 

NOVOTNY:  In Baltimore County, Maryland, the three-day course just for moms and dads starts off tentatively. 

NINA RIGGS, OVERLEA HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER:  They are very quiet.  And it was kind of funny because most of them are older than me, but there was still that teacher-student block, like they were afraid to even move.  Like, OK.  And, you know, Ms. Riggs, and that kind of thing.

NOVOTNY:  But parents find motivation in their fear of the future. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have a son that‘s in ninth grade and I thought it wouldn‘t hurt me to get a refresher course to be able to help him when he has some difficulties. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I really wanted just to be proactive versus reactive, you know, if he experiences a problem. 

NOVOTNY:  Some things haven‘t changed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The desk and the chairs are small.

NOVOTNY:  Some things have. 

RIGGS:  When I saw one parent text messaging on his cell phone, it really was hard for me to say, I need to take your cell phone. 

NOVOTNY:  And the kids have one request. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My son said, don‘t embarrass me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think he thought I would embarrass him. 

RIGGS:  These kids these days, they love these kinds of things. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We just learned how to use algebra tiles, which my son talked about last year.  And I didn‘t know what he was talking about.  Now I know. 

NOVOTNY:  Mom and dad making the grade.  It turns out they are a lot like their kids. 

RIGGS:  They are no different from their kids.  And they still puff up a little bit when I say, hey, you did a great job.  You know, so, they are no different. 

Good job.  You got it.  Yes!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  Now, believe it or not, the parents actually asked for this. 

OLBERMANN:  Liar!

(LAUGHTER)

NOVOTNY:  Members of the local PTA asked teachers what they could do to help their kids with algebra and this class was the answer. 

OLBERMANN:  You are lying.  You lie you liar.  Nobody volunteers for algebra.  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great thanks.

NOVOTNY:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll resist the school children segue and moving on to our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news. “Keeping Tabs,” because it starts with Michael Jackson, who has evidently beat it.  Jackson‘s father Joe says his son is unlikely ever live in the U.S. again, that the trip he took to Bahrain is really a first step towards moving permanently from the country, except for work and visits.  The elder Jackson says he expects Michael to come back for a Jackson 5 reunion, can‘t wait for that, and says that his son is currently still working on that song to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina.  We‘re guessing the target date on that release is now the first anniversary. 

Meanwhile, somebody had to tell Paris Hilton today that she has been subpoenaed.  Her eyes lit up, and then the lawyer said, no, subpoenaed.  She is a witness in a kidnap case, so says the L.A. District Attorney‘s Office, but not just any kidnap case, the attempted 2004 abduction of the creator of the “Girls Gone Wild” videos.  The D.A. thinks one of the suspect‘s colleagues spoke to Hilton about his friend‘s involvement in the attempt, which we can only hope involved pulling the guy‘s own T-shirt over his head. 

And it‘s a Hilton two-fer, courtesy of our pal Harvey Levin‘s soon-to-be launched Web site, tmz.com, she was uninjured after a one-car one-truck accident about 2:30 local time this morning in L.A.  She is the passenger as her latest Greek shipping heir boyfriend, the still one wearing his own coat over his own head, suddenly decides he and his Bentley have had enough of the paparazzi. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get out of the way!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t worry, pal, that will buff right out there.  After hitting the truck, Stavros Niarchos nearly hit another guy.  Blocks later, the police found out, no evidence that they gave anybody a field sobriety test.  But they did get got a special nighty-night from Hilton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS HILTON:  Thank you all very much.  We love the police.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We love the police, she said.  No comment from Sting. 

And as Paris Hilton can tell you, a good man is hard to find.  Tonight, how one woman has tried to combine her search for a soulmate with her search for somebody who wants to buy her house. 

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.” Nominated at the bronze level, the folks running Schaumburg High School in Illinois, senior Paul Rofis (ph) wanted to be on the school‘s bowling team.  But Schaumburg only has a girl‘s bowling team.  The school says it is threatening to suspend Rofis, claiming state law prevents him from playing on a women‘s sports team.  Bowling. 

The runner-up today, unnamed suspect in Chicago who attacked 74-year-old Jackie Malarchuck (ph) to get the ring on her pinky on her left hand.  The thief was not subtle.  He took her pinky too. 

But the winner, Jill Misspel (ph), of Englewood, Florida, she is accused of stealing a newborn green-winged parrot from the pet store where she works and trading it for a 1964 Volkswagen Carmengia.  How did she smuggle the bird out of the pet shop?  She hid it in her brassiere.  You know, ma‘am, they have introduced the wonder bra.  Jill Misspel, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A house does not make a home.  We‘re not sure who said that first, a Web site claims it was Bono of U2, though I‘m thinking it might predate him just a little bit.  There‘s another Web site which reports that a bar owner in Washburn, Wisconsin, Morty Baldwin (ph), claimed he was the first to say “a house does not make a home” in the ‘30s. 

Anyway, our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, what if a house comes with a built-in wife?  Is it a home then?  Such, symbolically, is the offer being made by 48-year-old Deborah Hale.  She is a woman looking for the man of her dreams.  And one of her dreams is that maybe he‘ll buy her house from her too.  If he is the man of her dreams, though, she comes along with the house in a kind of package deal. 

You may have heard about this, Ms. Hale runs a jewelry business in Albuquerque.  She has also has this 95-year-old house in the Washington Park section of Denver.  She has put up her own Web site, housewithbride.com, to sell—well, to sell the house for $600,000.  It has also been on eBay.  Joining me now is Deborah Hale. 

Good evening, thanks for your time tonight. 

DEBORAH HALE, SELLING HOUSE, BRIDE INCLUDED:  Thanks, Keith.  I appreciate you for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s clear up what I assume is the biggest misunderstanding here.  You‘re not actually auctioning yourself off, right?  What are you doing? 

HALE:  Yes, I‘m not selling myself.  The house is listed for the fair market value, and for the right man, which I hope to meet my soulmate out there, I could become part of that deal.  But, again, I want to clarify, it‘s not an automatic thing.  It has to be based on compatibility, dating, all of those factors. 

OLBERMANN:  But linking yourself with the house in terms of publicity, and again, I‘m assuming both items are available separately, so to speak, you‘re not going to throw out some ideal man because he doesn‘t want to buy the house, right? 

HALE:  That‘s true.  That‘s true.  It‘s a wonderful home.  And there may be a family out there, there may be a couple who is interested in the home.  And certainly, I‘m open to that.  And at the same time, there might be some wonderful man out there who is not interested in the home—I mean, not interested in a home but interested in me and doesn‘t have the money for the home and I‘m also open to that.  I‘m willing to go down this path and being open to the possibilities. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it probably would help if by this part or this time in life that the guy had his own house. But what have the responses been like so far?  What has the reaction to this been like? 

HALE:  Well, it‘s been pretty interesting.  I honestly didn‘t expect this kind of response.  It started as a small little Albuquerque story.  And I‘m just a little gal from Albuquerque.  And my Web site is getting about 15,000 hits an hour, and I have a few thousand e-mails to go through.  So—and reactions have been very positive. 

I‘ve had very nice e-mails from women too who understand as you get older how difficult it is to meet that guy out there.  You have women out there having their own careers, making their own money.  They may be raising children and it‘s tough.  It‘s very, very tough to meet an older, single man around your age.  So I‘ve been getting a lot of support and some very nice e-mails from men as well. 

OLBERMANN:  So being on television for three or four minutes might not provide quite the opportunity for would-be soulmates to find out about you in depth, but if you want to take advantage of this, you are getting several hundred thousand people here all at once.  Do you want to give them a quick self-description of Deborah Hale or something resembling a.

HALE:  A pitch?

OLBERMANN:  . a sales brochure or a pitch, yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

HALE:  A pitch.  Well, there‘s quite a bit on my Web site.  I‘m 48.  I was raised in a really great home.  My father is a minister.  I love pets.  I love children.  I feel like I‘m adventurous.  I‘m an OK cook, trying to get better all the time.  I would love to meet a man who can cook. 

OLBERMANN:  Good luck on that, by the way. 

HALE:  Pardon me? 

OLBERMANN:  Good luck on meeting a man that can cook. 

(LAUGHTER)

HALE:  Yes.  You never know, I might get lucky. 

OLBERMANN:  And since we‘re offering both of these things up, so to speak, what about the house?  Is this a vintage house, an antique house?  How would it be described? 

HALE:  Yes, it‘s a beautiful home, Keith.  It‘s 95 years old, as you said.  It‘s got the hardwood floors.  It‘s all brick.  Well-built.  Three bedrooms, 3 bathrooms.  Hot tub in the back.  And some of the furnishings are included.  There‘s a big-screen TV.  There‘s a game room which has the pool table.  And it‘s just a beautiful home.  A lot of original features.  I, actually, when I was remodeling it, went to the library to look up that style of home and how to used to look.  And I tried to add some of those features back in.  So it‘s just a beautiful home.  A very cozy home. 

OLBERMANN:  But the big screen TV and the tanning bed are not original to the house, is that correct? 

HALE:  That‘s true. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  I just want to get all the details right.  We don‘t want to mislead anybody or get the National Association of Realtors involved.  Deborah Hale, who brings a whole new meaning here to the phrase “market value,” all the best with this.  It sounds like an innovative idea. 

HALE:  Yes, it was certainly—yes, I guess it was a creative idea. 

And I appreciate you having me on, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, thanks for being with us, as well. 

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

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

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

END   

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