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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 17

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley, Jeffrey Kuhner

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

Match Game 2005.  Is Bob Woodward‘s Valerie Plame source number one, Dan Bartlett, number two, Karl Rove, number three, George Tenet, number four, Stephen Hadley, number five, Mark Felt, number six, Stephen Hadley, number seven, Dick Cheney, number eight, Colin Powell, number nine, Dick Cheney?

And behind what door do we find Bob Woodward‘s special prize, the one for calling the leak investigation “laughable” and the prosecutor “disgraceful” while he was concealing relevant information?

Who is the president talking to?  Not the vice president so much, though he‘s out there blasting the intel critics.  But almost never, says one report, is the president talking to his own father.

And the day after we showed you this, the story behind the story of the real-life version of “Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show.”  The girls, the girls are a multimillion-dollar industry.  They also sing, I think.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It is a remarkable document, not so much for its content but for its placement, 2,200 words in “The New York Times” today, devoted largely to trying to discern who in the Bush administration told Bob Woodward about Valerie Plame.

It appeared less than 24 hours after it became known that such a source even existed.  Contrast that to how languid “The Times” was in trying to identify Woodward‘s last big source, Deep Throat.  The fact of his existence was known by April 8 of 1974.  The first even passing reference to sleuthing his identity came two months later, on June 9, in the book review of “All the President‘s Men,” a book review written by a young presidential biographer named Doris Kearns.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, who is Deep Throat, Jr.? has been the political talk of the country today.  The whisper in the background has been about Bob Woodward‘s own ethics.

These are the new rules.  Let‘s play the feud.  It is the D.C. parlor game run amok, complete with flow charts and an unnamed senior administration official who tells “The Times” that Woodward‘s elusive Mr. X is not President Bush, is not chief of staff Andrew Card, is not communications director Dan Bartlett.

As for deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, while we know he did talk to other journalists about the case, his lawyer telling the paper Woodward was not one of them.  Over in the vice president‘s office, no official comment from Dick Cheney, Woodward seeming to imply yesterday that it is not the veep.  Former chief of staff Scooter Libby, definitely one of the other officials that Woodward actually did talk to, just not our junior Deep Throat here.

That takes care of the White House.

Elsewhere in the administration, a spokesman for former secretary of state Colin Powell telling “The Times” he is in the clear.  Well, just giving that prewar U.N. speech had made him look like he was swallowing castor oil.

Finally, flaks for former CIA intelligence director George Tenet and deputy John McLaughlin absolving them as well.

There‘s also the question of who Mr. X might actually be.  Culling that list, a purely speculative exercise, but regular viewers of COUNTDOWN already know that will not be enough to stop us, recognizing also that “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank may be the person, the perfect person to assist us in that task.

Good evening, Dana.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Since you were White House correspondent for “The Post,” let me begin by asking you if there are any, say, former press secretaries who might be on the short list.

MILBANK:  Well, Keith, I should first say that my chances of remaining employed at “The Washington Post” at the end of this interview are already pretty low.  So I should preface this by saying, I am free to idly speculate, because I don‘t actually know the answer.

But in the case of Ari Fleischer, I would say he has an ironclad alibi in that he has never conveyed any news to anybody in his life.

OLBERMANN:  John Dean mentioned a name last night from the Web site, which previously had come pretty close on the Libby indictment story.  The name was the now-national security adviser Stephen Hadley.  Is he on the list of possibles?

MILBANK:  Well, he is a Cheney guy, so that puts up a red flag.  But we‘ve had now denials from the administration today that he was the one.  So I‘m afraid we‘re striking out there.

OLBERMANN:  There is a Libby indictment.  The vice president clearly has been angered by all this.  Is there another candidate, perhaps, from the vice president‘s office?

MILBANK:  Well, as you know, the blogs have been long going crazy about John Hannah.  There‘s David Addington, who knew about this because of Scooter Libby, or from talking with Scooter Libby, who is now the vice president‘s chief of staff.  However, he‘s famously tight-lipped.  But remember that there are Cheney people all over the government, in the Pentagon, in the CIA, in the State Department.

So they could be anywhere.

OLBERMANN:  Who are we missing from the speculative list?  How hard are journalists working to try to figure this out?  And how hard is the special prosecutor trying to figure this out?

MILBANK:  Well, I‘m—you can be sure Fitzgerald is trying very hard, and many journalists are trying to very hard, myself not being among them.  But I would note that we have the denial for Powell.  We do not have the denial for his deputy, Richard Armitage, who was, as the world knows, was a good source for Woodward.

We know that the top two officials of the CIA have been ruled out, but we don‘t know about other officials of the CIA.  Like, I don‘t know, Valerie Plame.  Maybe she unmasked her husband, rather than vice versa.

But there‘s a whole number of other officials there.  And think about it, there are thousands of senior administration officials through this government, literally thousands.  And we have not gotten denials from many places.  I would point out even the first lady‘s office has not formally issued a denial.

OLBERMANN:  The second reference in “The New York Times” in the pursuit of the identification of Deep Throat in 1974 was an FBI story, a story about the FBI beginning its investigation to find out where any sensitive material that might have been leaked came from.  And one of the two names, and it was Mark Felt.  So the theory might be that the name is already out there.  Is your—would you sign onto that theory?  Or is it too early to tell?

MILBANK:  Keith, I‘ll sign onto any theory you would like me to sign onto.

But certainly, the whole episode of Mark Felt could probably—and since it also involves the particular journalist we‘re talking about tonight, could be a lesson too, that it had been out there.  And it wasn‘t terribly exciting.  It wasn‘t one of the most flamboyant, exciting high-profile figures.  It could be just a little cog in the machine there, which may have led Bob Woodward to say why he thought it wasn‘t such a big deal in the first place.

OLBERMANN:  Last sensitive question, I think.  If it‘s too sensitive, just skip it.  The description that Mr. Woodward gave of the individual from whom he gleaned this knowledge was a present or former member of the Bush administration.  Is it possible that the term “former” was thrown in there to broaden the pool and protect the original—or the actual person?

MILBANK:  I think we‘d better go get that denial from Karen Hughes, Keith.  She was former at the time.  But she‘s back now.

But, no, sure, that—there‘s a whole bunch of other officials who have been before the grand jury, who had left the White House by the time they appeared.  So this unfortunately expands the universe.  It‘s not helping us narrow it down.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any explanation as to how it was that this particular conversation, from the official‘s point of view, did not reach Mr. Fitzgerald‘s attention until the last seven to 10 days?

MILBANK:  I‘m sure there are many good explanations for it, and my colleagues are hard at work on this, even though it‘s obviously an awkward position for “The Washington Post.”  But I think I still am employed at this point.  So we‘d better stop there.

OLBERMANN:  I think you are, and I think you did an excellent job of that tap-dance atop the tightrope while holding the anvil. 

Congratulations.  You‘re the winner tonight.

“Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.  As always, Dana, great thanks.  And there‘ll always be a spot for you here if there‘s ever a problem.

MILBANK:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  There is a secondary issue, of course, summed up by that question, What about Bob?  Reaction to Mr. Woodward‘s conduct in the new light of his revelation have ranged from outrage, to a demand for an investigation, to pure satire.

John Harris, the “Washington Post” national political editor, told one of his newspaper‘s online chats today that by no means should Woodward be fired.  But, quote, “He is in the doghouse with Len Downie,” the paper‘s managing editor, “and justifiably so, for not sharing his role in this matter,” unquote.  He also said Woodward was eating a sandwich.  We‘ll call it just a blank sandwich.  You can fill in the word.

Woodward publicly apologized to Downie yesterday.  Not enough, suggests the man at the center of the original story, former acting U.S.  ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson.

He has formally called on “The Washington Post” to formally investigate Woodward because he had spend so much time criticizing the leak investigation.  “It certainly gives the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Wilson says.  “He was taking an advocacy position when he was a party to it.”

And the satire, from “The Hartford Courant” blog of Dennis Horgan, who, we must disclose, is the father of one of COUNTDOWN‘s senior producers.

“Oops,” he writes, “I just found my notes.  I must belatedly report that I too was told that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent in August of 1982.  It slipped my mind to tell anyone here at the office.  I have been soooooo busy and can hardly be expected to keep every silly little thing in mind.  Just because I‘m paid to do that doesn‘t mean I have to do that, does it?”

Editorials and op-educates were also written, including one in “The Baltimore Sun” by our friend Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, who joins us now.

Good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN:  I gather that your principal complaint with Woodward is close to Joe Wilson‘s, that he had an either-or in this situation regarding his own conduct, but he chose both of the above.

TURLEY:  Well, he basically made the wrong choice at every turn in the controversy.  And his conduct is inexcusable, even though it seems to be in the process of being excused.

You know, here‘s a guy who committed not a momentary lapse, but a premeditated and prolonged act of extremely unethical conduct.  You know, he spent two years going on shows, attacking this investigation, questioning whether a crime was committed, all the time knowing that he was a witness, that he was engaged in the same type of conduct.

OLBERMANN:  Would Woodward thus have been right not to disclose that he‘d had this conversation that might have had some bearing on the investigation as long as he, say, recused himself from commenting or writing about the investigation?

TURLEY:  Well, first, he should have recused himself from all of these appearances, which were many, including one where he was asked point-blank whether he had information on who first revealed the name of Plame.  And he admitted that he was asked by his editor, and gave the same answer, no, which seems to me pretty clearly dishonest.

But then he didn‘t tell his editor, which is one of the reasons that Miller was booted out of “The New York Times” for.

But even after putting those aside, “The Washington Post” was running coverage about what reporters were reached out by people trying to peddle this information.  Now, we now know that Pincus, one of the reporters there, gave Woodward a pass.  Woodward asked him not to include him in coverage on the story.

And so the “Washington Post” readers were not informed that “The “Washington Post” indeed had the earliest such contact.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a way back on this?  Can something be done to remedy Woodward‘s mistakes?

TURLEY:  Well, you know, I find it rather, you know, hard to believe that any of this really occurred.  But you know what?  Bob Woodward is going to survive, it‘s perfectly clear, because he‘s Bob Woodward.  And this is a wired city.  And if anyone who‘s lived in this city knows that.  There is a certain elite, a government and media elite.  And he is one of the people at that table.

And Bob Woodward‘s going to go nowhere.  He‘s not going to be booted out.  And “The Washington Post” has made that perfectly clear.

OLBERMANN:  You wrote in “The Baltimore Sun” today that Woodward‘s revelation brought into question Patrick Fitzgerald‘s vigor in investigating this case.  Did it also not, to some degree, earn Fitzgerald a round of applause?  Because, A, when he said that Scooter Libby had leaked, he said he was the first official known to have revealed Plame‘s name, thus sort of leaving this door open for somebody else to turn up later on?

And also, he was unwilling to shut down the investigation after he obtained that indictment against Libby.  In theory, at least, is there not the prospect that more charges could be filed based on this popping-up of this conversation between Woodward and Mr. X?  Does Fitzgerald not get some credit as well?

TURLEY:  Well, I‘m not sure he gets credit, but he will get an added burden.  A lot of people are going to wonder whether this investigation is going to go into a new and higher gear.  But the fact is that there are many aspects of this investigation that I think really are questionable.

Every time this investigation seemed to go near the vice president of the United States, the lights seem to go out.  I mean, you—and the indictment.  Every time the president, or the vice president seems involved, the indictment struggles not to mention him.  And the vice president was involved in the underlying rationale of the WMDs for the Iraq war.  He was involved in the earliest meetings involving the discussion of Plame‘s name.  He was never called to the grand jury.

And now we know there‘s at least one other official who dropped the first dime that we know of on Wilson‘s wife.  That doesn‘t seem to speak very well for this investigation.

OLBERMANN:  What if that was the result of another obstruction of justice, or in some other way, another misleading of the investigation by whoever it was that Woodward talked to?

TURLEY:  Well, I think it does raise that.  If this official was questioned in the field, let alone called to the grand jury, it is a violation of 18 USC 1001, a federal statute, if you withhold information or mislead a federal investigator.  If the person went to the grand jury and didn‘t reveal it, you could have a perjury charge.

Now, if this person was never interviewed at all, there‘s a question of how vigorous the investigation was.  And there‘s also a question of why that person didn‘t come forward.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s the question, whether they just missed somebody.

Jonathan Turley, who‘s a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, as always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the war about the war.  The vice president shoots back at critics of the administration.

And then, one of the few Democratic hawks says we need to be out of Iraq in six months.

And the Pentagon finally admitting it used a skin-melting chemical, white phosphorus, against enemies in Falluja, but contradicting those who say white phosphorus is a chemical weapon.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Thirty-one years ago, John Murtha became the first Vietnam vet elected to Congress.  In those days, it was not necessarily considered a political advantage.  But as time has passed, Murtha‘s status as a decorated Marine intelligence officer, and before that a grunt in Korea, has taken on an entirely different meaning.  Then-defense secretary Dick Cheney once called him one of his strongest allies in Congress.

Today, the Pennsylvania Democrat escalated the war between the parties over the war in Iraq.  He called for an American pullout, now.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, both Congressman Murtha‘s remarks and a charge of American chemical weapon use in Iraq following the president to South Korea, as did our White House correspondent David Gregory.


DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Far from home, touring one of Korea‘s oldest temples, Mr. Bush has found the growing debate over Iraq impossible to escape.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  This is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion.

GREGORY:  Today, one of Congress‘s most hawkish Democrats, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam veteran who voted for the war, called for troop withdrawal within six months.

MURTHA:  Our military is suffering.  The future of our country is at risk.  We cannot continue on the present course.

GREGORY:  In recent days, the White House has adopted a new strategy of lashing out at Democrats, saying they‘ve become defeatist.  But in South Korea, before Murtha‘s remarks, the president was asked if he thought it was unpatriotic to criticize the war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Patriotic is (INAUDIBLE) to disagree with the president, doesn‘t bothers me.  What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics.  And that‘s exactly what is taking place in America.

GREGORY:  Last night, the vice president was even more pointed, attacking Democrats who voted for the war but now accuse the president of misleading the country.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their back bone.  But we‘re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.

MURTHA:  I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and sent people to war, and then don‘t like to hear suggestions about what need to be done.

MURTHA:  It‘s not just Democrats who are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.  Nebraska Republican Senator Hagel also advocates a drawdown by next year.

(on camera):  The president has steadfastly opposed any timetable for troop withdrawal, arguing such a move would only embolden the insurgents, a position more difficult to maintain as the public grows increasingly anxious about the war.

David Gregory, NBC News, Busan, South Korea.


OLBERMANN:  And a response tonight to Congressman Murtha in a statement from White House press secretary Scott McClellan.  McClellan praising Murtha‘s war record, then adding, “So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” McClellan adding that the eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists.

“We wish him well,” added a spokesman for FOX News Channel.

I‘m sorry, that was a typo, the last part.

The key phrase in the remarks of both the president and vice president, that the Democrats are rewriting history.

Last night, Mr. Cheney also said, quote, “We‘re going to continue to throw their own words back at them.”  Apparently, that is a game for multiple players.

Enter John Kerry earlier today on MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS



SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  They misled us with respect to the planning, misled us with respect to the numbers of allies that would be involved, misled us with respect to the inspections.  This is where, frankly, the president, the vice president, and his supporters distort this issue.  They try to say to America, Democrats want to just cut and run.  No, we don‘t.  We want to succeed.  And we believe we have a better plan for a success.


OLBERMANN:  And it was, in all likelihood, the most feared of the subtexts to the start of the war in Iraq, chemical weapons, or by the third day or fourth day, as analysts assumed they awaited American troops in every Iraqi city, they were simply known as chem.

It proves there were indeed chemical weapons in the Iraqi city of Falluja, and they were ours.

Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski now on the highly flammable and passion-inflaming compounds called white phosphorous.


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The accusations, first aired by Italian television, claimed the U.S. military used chemical weapons, specifically incendiary white phosphorous munitions, against Iraqi civilians during the battle for Falluja one year ago.

Though the U.S. ordered civilians to leave Falluja before the offensive, an estimated 40,000 remained in the densely packed city.

The documentary showed images of badly burned bodies it claims were civilians who had been attacked and killed by the fiery weapons.

Former Army specialist Jeff Engelheart (ph) was at Falluja.

JEFF ENGELHEART, FORMER ARMY SPECIALIST:  I do know that white phosphorous was used, which is definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, a chemical weapon.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman acknowledged today that white phosphorous was used in Falluja but said it is not a chemical weapon and is legal when used against enemy combatants.  Whitman denied the military was targeting civilians.

White phosphorous rounds are normally used to mark targets or lay down a smokescreen.  But in Falluja, the U.S. military used them as offensive weapons.

In a report on the battle of Falluja in “Field Artillery” magazine, U.S. soldiers said the white phosphorous was used in a “shake-and-bake” mission and proved to be a “potent psychological weapon against insurgents” in trench lines and spider holes.

The phosphorous rounds were used to flush them out so other bombs could take them out.

During Vietnam, American forces made wide use of napalm, which has since been removed from the U.S. arsenal.  But white phosphorous can produce even more devastating injuries.

ROBERT MUSIL, PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:  Yes, white phosphorous is very different than even things like napalm.  It goes straight down to the bone.  It burns through any of the flesh that‘s in the way.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.


OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a moment of much-needed brevity and much-needed beverage.  What better way to celebrate wine than to bathe in it?

Now, what do you expect in a country that also brought us this, the little gem of a TV show?  You‘d think this story would be the show, or at least the lizard.  In fact, the story is the girls.  An explanation when COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news, and also weird Japanese TV video, for a segment that contains neither of those things.  No real news, no weird Japanese video, just happy stories.  My promise to you.

Let‘s play Oddball.

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Japan.  I‘m sorry I lied, but the new 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau has been released, and we felt the need to celebrate.  That was the occasion here in Pakonay (ph), where they love the stuff so much, they filled a swimming pool with it.  Like that new wine?  You‘re soaking in it.

Mmmm.  That‘ll leave a ring around the tub, too.

Actually, the stuff in the pool is a much cheaper wine, which I would recommend strongly against drinking, particularly if you don‘t like it mixed with anything, if you catch my drift.

To Altuna, Wisconsin.  Let‘s meet Ken Hassenmueller (ph), or, as his brand-new vanity license plate identifies him, 666KEN.  He says he paid for the Ken part.  But boy, was he shocked to open the envelope from the DMV and find the Number of the Beast in front of his name.  666KEN says his daughter caught it right away and brought the plate to church to show everyone the hilarious mixup.  And they did smote down Ken and his AMC Pacer and cast him out of Altuna for all eternity.

Finally, to Houston, hello!  For the highlights from the big Juan Gabriel concert, the other Houston goodbye.  That had to hurt.  Twinkletoes Gabriel actually broke his wrist and suffered a mild concussion in the fall, but he‘s going to be just fine.  We brought you this strictly as a public service.

Remember, prancing can be extremely dangerous.  Please leave it to the trained professionals.  Do not try that at home.

Also tonight, the fracturing of the first family.  A new report says the president hardly ever speaks with his father but instead, relies on his mother for advice.  Mom and Karen Hughes, in fact.

And from giant lizards to riding alligators, Japanese TV is weird. 

Weird all the way to the bank for those girls you just saw.

Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s three news makers of this day.  Number three, Martha Stewart.  First “The Apprentice” gets dropped.  Now she gets sued.

Julie Blackman and Associates (ph) says Martha owes them $74,000.  They were here jury consultants.  Maybe she thought there was a money back guarantee.

Number two, gutsy radish.  That‘s what the people in Japan call it.  It‘s a daikon radish found growing through pavement in an the Japanese town of Aoi (ph).  It was seen by the Japanese as a symbol of tenacity and the will to live.  It was seen that way until somebody cut it in half.  The police recovered the severed top of the gutsy radish and put it in some water hoping would it flower or prove tasty.

And number one, Heidi Fleiss.  The former Hollywood madam said she is moving to Crystal, Nevada to run the Cherry Patch Ranch Brothel in which male personnel attend to female customers.  You know, it is always nice to see one of the all-time greats returning to the field in which they once starred.


OLBERMANN:  If the wagons at the White House get more and more tightly circled every day is not breaking news and not partisan nonsense.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, beyond the Iraq debate, the leak investigation, the poll numbers, are new reports of a strange rift between not just the president and the vice president but even the president and his own father.

According to administration sources cited by Jeff Kuhner of “The Washington Times” and “Inside on the News,” the break with former President George Bush spurred by an October interview with the “New Yorker Magazine,” by Brent Scowcroft who was national security advisor in the first Bush administration.  Quoting from that article, “the president is convinced Mr.  Scowcroft consulted with Mr. Bush‘s father prior to delivering the devastating critique of the president‘s Iraq policy.”

The president‘s relationship with Karl Rove not much better.  Mr. Bush had believed Rove‘s claim that he played no part in the leak of Valerie Plame‘s identity.  When facts suggested otherwise in the ramp up to Scooter Libby‘s indictment, the Rove/Bush relationship became tense.  Now, according to Mr. Kuhner‘s column, the president maintains daily contact with only four people.  His wife, his mother, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes.

The author of the column, Jeffrey Kuhner, editor of “Inside on the News” and a columnist for the “Washington Times” joins us now.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  You write about the practical effect of the president‘s isolation.  But what about the isolation itself?  How severe are you being told it is?

KUHNER:  Well, what my sources are basically telling me is that the president is pretty much hunkered down in a bunker.  He feels profoundly betrayed by advisors and aides close to him.

As you mentioned on the CIA leak case, and also frankly on the war in Iraq.  What I found just surprising in talking to people at the White House, was just how deep that distrust went with the president.  Not just with Karl Rove but obviously with his father who, he‘s relied on quite extensively oh the past four to five years in terms of giving him domestic and foreign policy advice.

OLBERMANN:  The president had never, the knowledge of the general media, I suppose, sought the counsel of his father before going to war.  But I take it that it is no longer limited to that region in which they‘re no longer conferring.

KUHNER:  Well, that‘s, I think, one of the misconceptions from the I‘m that came out on “Insight.”  The president and the father still have a good personal relationship.  They talk to one another at family functions and so forth.  But what has changed is their professional relationship.

And that is sort of philosophical divide between Bush 41 and Bush, the current president, was really always there.

Keith, as you probably know, many conservatives, myself included, were very critical of Bush 41‘s policies.  We thought he made a tragic mistake in not standing up to Slobodan Milosevic when he was rampaging through Croatia and Slovenia.

We thought he had turned hit back on the democracy protestors in China and Tiananmen Square.  And we felt certain he made a key mistake in not toppling Saddam Hussein after expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

And I think George Bush, for the most part, agrees with that sort of conservative critique of his father and Jim Bakker and Brent Scowcroft.  So this philosophical distance wasn‘t so spraying.  I think what has angered the president is that Brent Scowcroft would go out in public and give an interview to the “New Yorker” and attack the president in such a public and forceful way.  And obviously, he felt that this had to have the tacit approval of his father.

OLBERMANN:  Returning to this president and his river with Karl Rove, you describe it as tense.  But the president is still seen as regularly seeking Mr. Rove‘s advice.  That must be an extraordinary balance.  How is that working?

KUHNER:  Yeah, what my sources have been telling me is that about three or four weeks ago, when the really, the whole story really broke in terms of the CIA leak case and Libby was under, you‘ve been indicted, and the frenzy in the press about whether Karl Rove would be indicted.  That the president felt profoundly betrayed by Rove.  He felt that Rove had sort of misled him.  In terms of not having spoken with Valerie Plame.

And apparently, he had taken Rove to the woodshed.  Really just reamed him out.  So personally, things have been tense between them over the last couple weeks.  But as another item “Insight” mentions, Rove really though is now back in the saddle.  The president and the White House people feel that as this investigation goes on, day by day, and they feel that although things with Woodward may have changed things now.

But at least until a couple days ago, the indictment of Libby was pretty much where Fitzgerald had fired his bolt.  I think now, people in the White House are saying that Rove has to get back to doing what he does best which is win elections.

And last week or so, he‘s been back actively plotting the GOP comeback in ‘06.

OLBERMANN:  Jeffrey Kuhner, editor of “Insight on the News” and a columnist for the “Washignton Times.”  Thanks for your insight.  Thanks for joining us.

KUHNER:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, it is the tail end of the annual Great National Smokeout.  Thousands of people joining the American Cancer Society‘s campaign to quit smoking sometime this month.  The latest installment of our series “I quit.”  And a world premier of a public service announcement.  Ooh, pinch me.

And he was supposed to join the creator of “Star Trek” orbiting the earth in comparative perpetuity.  But no beaming him up quite yet.  Those stories ahead, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites.


CONAN O‘BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST:  This is true.  A nursing home in Ireland has installed a pub as a way of attracting more visitors.  Apparently at the nursing home pub, last call really is last call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With the count 359 to 359, they turned to the law for clarification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In the state code, it requires that with both candidates present, a coin toss is done.

UNIDENTFIED MALE:  So it will be decided by the toss of a coin.  But first they had to find one of the candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Actually, I was hanging Christmas lights.  So I got a phone call that we had to come down and do a flip of the coin for the results of the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With heads on the left and tails on the right, the mayor flipped a coin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The heads are winners.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST:  Today on Japanese TV they had a special about President Bush‘s visit.  They see him differently.  Show the thing on Japanese TV.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s more addictive than heroin, yet about 48 million Americans still smoke.  One of them on this day of the great annual National Smokeout we will try to help you kick the habit that and Japanese teenage TV girl stars.  When COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  If you smoke and you want to quite there is still time and

of all times, today is your best bet.  Forget New Year‘s resolution.  The

third Thursday in November is the annual Great National Smokeout and the

stat show that more people wind up quitting today than on any other day of

the year

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, another edition of our offer to help you break the habit in unconventional often bizarre ways, “I Quit.”  The 29th Annual National Smokeout this is but the 35th event like it having started in Randolph, Mass in 1971, when smokers were asked to give up their butts for a day to donate money they would have spent to a high school scholarship fund.

In 1974, the “Monticello Times” of Minnesota spearheaded D-Day and that‘s Don‘t Smoke Day.  And in ‘76 the California division of the American Cancer Society got a million people there to quit.  At least for the one day.

Data from 1998 indicated that in the nation‘s 46 million adult smokers, at least three million went the whole 24 hours without.  Our contribution to it?  MSNBC and NBC producing a public service announcement.  If you‘ve got 10 seconds, you get to see the world premier of it right now.


OLBERMANN:  What if I told you two words that can help you live longer, save money, and make you smell better.  Say it with me.  “I quit.”  Go to to find out how.


OLBERMANN:  Wow, what a performance.  Of course, it takes much more than a slogan to actually quit.  It usually takes anything and everything you can think of.  And it involves knocking down a lot of the excuses that are actually symptoms of psychological addiction.  One of those excuses is perhaps more pervasive than any other.


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The food excuse.  You‘ve thought about it. 

You may have experienced it.  When you stopped smoking, you gained weight.  You‘re compensating for the loss of the stress release.  You have got oral gratification to find elsewhere.  Most perversely of all, good grief, you can now taste the food.  So many would be quitters fear the fat or let it become an excuse, at least, for not stopping.

Well, you could exercise.  Not only that, would you find exercise easier now that your lungs are not living inside a three alarm fire.  We‘re not talking about joining a gym or becoming a weight lifter.  If you actually just redeployed the time you spent smoking into merely walking, you would probably not only offset any weight gained while you quit.  You might actually lose a little weight.

Maybe the most dangerous of the hidden booby traps to quitting is not even eating.  It is drinking.  Instead of a cigarette, and in order to avoid ice cream, you have a beer.  Well, that‘s no good.  Even ice cream has some nutrients in it.  The beer is empty calories.  And worse yet, it clouds your judgment and you may wind up thinking it is OK just to have a smoke or two while you‘re drinking.  And then order some nachos.

The bottom line about eating and quitting is beautifully simplistic.  Let‘s say do you gain weight.  This makes you suddenly unattractive compared to the you who wreaks of tobacco, wheezes when he tries to stand up and smiles that glistening yellow nicotine smile.  As they say, weight can be lost.  Lungs?  Not so much.


OLBERMANN:  We segue into our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news now.  And there‘s been a hitching and the beaming up of Scottie.  You may recall when the actor James Doohan died in July, his friends decided to fulfill his last wishes, that his cremated remain be launched into space.  He is still earthbound.  The Space Services rocket that was supposed to send the “Star Trek” favorite to his own place where no man has gone before, was to lift off on the sixth of next month.

However, engineers say the Falcon-1 rocket needs more testing.  Sop the earliest new target date is February.  That‘s right.  They do not have the power, captain!  Doohan is not going solo.  There are 200 others to be on board whose remains packed in small tubes, will be eject in space and will orbit the earth for up to two centuries.  It is OK.  It‘s OK.  None is in any particular hurry in the moment.

Quite the opposite for the producers of the Harry Potter films.  They have to churn out as many of them as they can, before the actor who plays Harry, Daniel Radcliffe, reaches retirement age.  He is evidently doing a fine job in the latest movie which opens at 12:01 a.m. prevailing local time, especially considering he is already 37.

The “Goblet of Fire” is the fourth film in the series.  The first that garners a PG-13 rating.  It is already receiving rave reviews from critics and is the current champ of advance ticket sales, besting the performance of this summer‘s Star Wars movie.

The film marks the onscreen debut of his archrival, Lord Voldemort.  Played by the impeccable Ray Fiennes and of course, Harry gets to date Paris Hilton.  I made the last part up.

But speaking of Paris Hilton, this other slimy creature you already met last night.  It turns out the real story is the girls and the band they are in.  And the millions of dollars they generate.  And investigative report.  Monica Novotny is ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title, “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze winner, Sharita Williams (ph) of Houma, Louisiana.  She called 911, summoning police to the Maltenburger (ph) at Thibodeaux, Louisiana.  When they arrived, she explained her complaint and demanded they arrest somebody.  The onion rings they served her were cold.  She got the arrest.  Police arrested her for misusing 911.

The runner up, Tasha Henderson (ph) in Oklahoma City.  The grades of her 14-year-old daughter were not up to snuff.  So Ms. Henderson made up a sign reading, I don‘t do my homework and I act up in school so my parent are preparing me for my future.  Will work for food.  And she had her daughter stand at an intersection in Oklahoma City and hold that sign up.  The Department of Human Services is investigating.  And psychiatrists are bidding for the future rights to the little girl.

But the winners the folks who run the Web site of the Republican National Committee.  They have assembled a music video of sorts, showing Democrats who favored action against Saddam Hussein.  It is even appeared television.  No complaint with that.

It‘s about the music they used.  It is the old song by Traffic.  “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”  Jim Capaldi wrote the song with Steve Winwood.  Capaldi died earlier this year.  Not only was he a pacifist and a vocal critic of the war, but his widow said the Republican National Committee never even asked for permission to use the song.  The RNC Web masters, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World!


OLBERMANN:  If you‘ve ever seen a Godzilla film and didn‘t immediately realize entertainment in Japan is different from it is here then you weren‘t watching the Godzilla film.

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, in an episode of the “Simpson‘s” George Takei is the voice of the host of the Japanese TV program “Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show” summed up it.  American game shows reward knowledge, he said, Japanese punish ignorance.

We kind of saw that last night here on COUNDTDOWN.  Now we have an explanation for this.

Now, that entertainment.  A fairly large lizard terrorizing 12 screaming girl band members wearing pork chops on their heads.  It turns out the girl band is called Morning Musume (ph), the lizard is called Izansan, the show name well after exhaustive research, it turns out it was a special that loosely translates to “13 Girls in Charge of Christmas” and you thought it was “The Apprentice with Reptiles.”

Regardless, they all make a lot of money off stuff like this.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  In the apocryphal world of Japanese TV encountered by the “Simpsons,” the sadistic game “Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show” was the same channel as it was to the world‘s only all digital puppet news team, satire yes?  Hyperbole beyond any semblance of reality?  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins me now to report no.

The story is not so much about the shows as it is about this girls, right?

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC PRODUCER:  That‘s right, Keith, good evening.  The Japanese pop music group Morning Musume (ph) which translates to morning girls or daughters is among the most popular musical acts in Japan.  Think Spice Girls but with meat products on their heads.

Now, the group was created in 1997.  Its members, teenage girls are chosen by the group‘s producer.  They‘re like a modern day Menudo or Mickey Mouse Club.  As they grow older, members leave, they graduate and they are replaced.  They have several spin-off groups.  What they don‘t have are boyfriends.  The girls must maintain a chaste, virginal appearance for their fans and for the lizards apparently.

OLBERMANN:  Who—who—who are the fans?  Dare I ask?

NOVOTNY:  Obviously we know teens.  Teen girls love the music and follow the band.

OLBERMANN:  But it‘s worse than that, isn‘t it?

NOVOTNY:  Well, it is.  First of all, we know young men like this also.  Two years ago, they were part of a campaign by the Japanese Self-Defense Agency hoping to encourage 18 to 27 years old to enlist in the military.  So the girl groups were in posters throughout Japan.

OLBERMANN:  Twenty-seven years old for teenage girls.

NOVOTNY:  Then it gets a little more .

OLBERMANN:  Worse, worse is the word you‘re looking for.

NOVOTNY:  Yeah, worse is the word.  Their concerts are well attended by much older men, men in their 40s and 50s.  They‘re there apparently to enjoy the music and of course to buy the merchandise.

OLBERMANN:  And the merchandise would be what?

NOVOTNY:  Well, T-shirts, CDs.

OLBERMANN:  Thank god you said that I just thought—when they got too old to be in the group, I thought they became merchandise.

NOVOTNY:  Oh no, thankfully, no.

OLBERMANN:  But it is a huge profit maker?  I mean as we were researching this today like this journalism or anything, it turns out the story behind this is cash, right?

NOVOTNY:  Exactly.  One report had them bringing in as much as $85 million, but that‘s just record sales.  That‘s just the tip of the iceberg because this is a franchise.  You‘re talking about CDs, TV shows and specials like this one movies, musicals, they even have a soccer team.  Dasas Brulante (ph).

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m sure the girls get to keep all the money, right?

NOVOTNY:  Yeah, somehow I doubt it.  There‘s this one producer who apparently had created all of these groups over the years and he‘s a very mysterious person that is in Japan but, yeah, he seems to be probably taking in most of it.

OLBERMANNN:  And the girls are also to do this on TV other than for the fun of being chased by lizards, for what reason?

NOVOTNY:  Everyone that I spoke to, all these experts in Japanese culture today say they get a kick out of this in Japan, that they love to humiliate their celebrities.  And for some reasons the celebrities are willing to do it.

OLBERMANN:  Monica Novotny, stopping off briefly before her trip to Tokyo to play the lightning round with real lightning.  Many thanks.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keeping these roots (ph), good night and good luck.