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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 16

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Sara Taylor, Arianna Huffington, Dana Milbank

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

It‘s a final, Hoyer 149, Murtha 86.  Could a battle over who would be the new majority leader in the House really leave any lasting dents in the Dems?


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  As we say in church, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us.”  Let the healing begin.


OLBERMANN:  And how come this story played as Democratic discord, when a one-vote battle for the Republican Senate leadership was seen as just politics?

Who can gauge the impact on politics of Iraq, if the new plan keeps changing, now, a British newspaper saying the president wants more troops for a final push.  Wasn‘t there just an election that insisted he do the opposite?

What happened at UCLA?  UCLA campus police repeatedly TASER a UCLA student at a UCLA library because he couldn‘t produce an UCLA ID during a random check.  And the student is of Middle Eastern descent.  And they reportedly threatened to TASER other students who asked for their badge numbers.

The Great American Smokeout, and why you may not want to wait for the first symptoms of lung cancer.  Mike Taibbi, who quit last year after four decades of smoking and after the death of Peter Jennings, joins us to talk about that and about cancer screening, even if your lungs seem OK.

And the more we get into this, the less it seems OK.  What do you mean, Brooke Shields is attending the wedding?  Guests of the bride, on the left.  Guests of the groom, on the right.  Guests who are glib, stand in back.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


TOM CRUISE:  You‘re glib.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Funny, how when Trent Lott defeated Lamar Alexander by one vote for the Senate minority leadership yesterday, it was characterized in the media as a remarkable comeback story, with the random kidding reference to that ironical word “minority.”  But when Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha both stood for the House majority leadership today, that was characterized in the media as Democratic infighting, with frequent implications that the Dems were already coming apart at the seams.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, damned liberal media bias.  Is there actually any kind of lasting rift within the majority?  And why did it choose the inside-the-Beltway figure of Hoyer over the poster boy of protest, Murtha?

We begin with the details, Mr. Hoyer of Maryland defeating Mr. Murtha, the decorated Vietnam vet from Pennsylvania, by a score of 149 to 86, the backroom politicking led up to today‘s vote, including speaker presumptive Nancy Pelosi‘s endorsement of Murtha widely described as Democratic infighting.

As a result, largely lost in today‘s coverage, that in selecting Pelosi today, the Democrats have elected the nation‘s first female speaker of the House, and that as a reward for having taken a stand against the war in Iraq before taking such a stand was the cool thing to do, Mr. Murtha will chair the powerful defense subcommittee charged with setting the budget for the war in Iraq.


PELOSI:  I want to acknowledge the magnificent contribution of Mr.  Murtha to this debate on the war in Iraq.  I thank him for his courage in stepping forward one year ago to speak truth to power, to change the debate in this country in a way that I think gave us this majority in this November.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND:  My pledge to my caucus and my pledge to the country is that I will work as hard as I can, exercise as much talent as I have, to ensure that the agenda that has been put before the American people, an agenda which is going to reach across to the president of the United States, and say, Mr. President, we need to make a transition in Iraq.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I know you‘d like to know why I didn‘t win.  I didn‘t have enough votes.

I said inside that I work passionately all over the country trying to change the direction of the country.  And I think I played a big role in that.  I‘ll continue to do that.  Nancy asked me to set a policy for the Democratic Party.  Mostly, the Democrats signed onto it.  And I think the Bush administration is beginning to get the word.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to our own correspondent in Washington, David Shuster.

David, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Do the Democrats view this as some great internal rift that‘s going to last forever?  Or is there more story than fact here?

SHUSTER:  I‘d say the latter.  I mean, we can‘t find a single Democrat tonight who says that there is any lasting impact.  They are saying that, yes, there were some strongarm tactics, perhaps even a little bit of backstabbing.  But the damage does not appear to be permanent at all.

I mean, Nancy Pelosi‘s being given a lot of credit for taking a risk, for showing loyalty to John Murtha.  Murtha got what he wanted.  He had never run for the leadership before, but he wanted to run, and he got Nancy Pelosi‘s support.

And then you look at Steny Hoyer throughout all of this.  Hoyer was telling colleagues he understood why Nancy Pelosi was doing this.  He didn‘t have a problem with it, because he felt he had the votes.  And again tonight, Hoyer is the one who‘s telling everybody there should be no lasting impact, this is over, we move forward.

OLBERMANN:  Why did the Democrats choose Hoyer over Murtha?  Was there possibly a concern that, should it have been Mr. Murtha on the winning side, that the media might have been relentless in reexamining alleged ethics violations from his past?

SHUSTER:  No, not at all, especially when you consider that Hoyer has his own ties to lobbyists.  In the end, because Steny Hoyer had gone through the leadership ranks, he had a lot of chips that he had accumulated.  He had worked for the freshmen.  A lot of people owed him favors.  Whereas Jack Murtha simply wanted to run, to run on the issue of Iraq.

And in the end, a lot of Democrats said tonight they felt that even though Jack Murtha might have a slight advantage in negotiating with the White House over Iraq than Steny Hoyer, the advantage was not so significant that it was worth pushing aside all of the favors that Steny Hoyer had built up, and the fact that Steny Hoyer is much more in line with most Democrats when it comes to fiscal policy and social issues.

And so in the end, it was just a feeling of, We know Steny Hoyer as a leader, we‘ve worked with him before as a leader.  Jack Murtha‘s something of a known unquantity (ph) in this position.  We‘re still going to keep Jack Murtha as the voice of Iraq, but he‘s just not going to have this position.

OLBERMANN:  And the assessment within the Democratic Party?  Is Congressman Murtha really being shortchanged regarding his contributions to the Democrats‘ victory?  I mean, it could be argued that as Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, he‘ll actually have more influence about what happens next in Iraq than he would have been as majority leader.

SHUSTER:  Yes, he‘s not being shortchanged at all.  I mean, first and foremost, he was able to run, he got the green light to run from Nancy Pelosi.  He is now extremely loyal to Nancy Pelosi, if there was any doubt.

The Democrats have agreed that Jack Murtha should continue to be their leading voice as far as pressuring the Bush administration to get out of Iraq.  And furthermore, Steny Hoyer has been praising Jack Murtha, and their relationship already appears to have been fixed.

Yes, this was not a great day for Nancy Pelosi to lose one, but everyone says that if you look at this in the big picture, Jack Murtha will continue to speak out on Iraq and be a leading voice.  Steny Hoyer has the loyalty of his supporters.  And Nancy Pelosi is now seen as somebody who is willing to take a risk and willing to put the focus on getting out of Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  Now, and clearly it was not her first choice, but on the other hand, she gets maybe something close to the best of all possible worlds for herself here.  I mean, she thanks Mr. Murtha for making the victory possible at the elections.  She—the caucus gets what it wants.  She does not seem to be iron-handed.  Is that, I mean, does that—this might work out as a total plus in the end for the Democrats?

SHUSTER:  Yes, and when you ask Democrats about the big picture, they believe that in the big picture, this is just a blip, that this is not going to be such a big defeat for Nancy Pelosi, even though anytime a speaker goes in and loses one, obviously, that‘s something of an embarrassment.

But in the big picture, she has pleased John Murtha with her support for him.  Murtha‘s pleased because he was able to get his election out there.  Steny Hoyer was pleased because he felt that even though there were some strongarm tactic, he understood that Nancy Pelosi was showing loyalty, Hoyer still won.  He‘s telling everybody, Don‘t worry about this.

And so in a way, in the end, I mean, all the Democrats are walking away from this united.  They‘re moving forward.  And a lot of them feel that this has been certainly overplayed by many people who‘ve been covering this.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s David Shuster in Washington.  David, as always, great thanks.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Not that all the stories of intraparty bickering are the exaggerative spin from the losers‘ talking points.  There is finger pointing between two prominent Democratic strategists now, instead of celebrating his party‘s victory in the House, James Carville blaming party chairman Howard Dean for not winning by an even bigger margin, the guru behind Bill Clinton‘s run for president in 1992 saying He believed that Governor Dean, if he had put more money into close races, the Democrats could have won by some 40 seats instead of by just the 29 that they did, Mr. Carville telling “The New York Times” of Mr. Dean, “I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its incompetence,” asked (INAUDIBLE) whether Mr. Dean should step down as DNC chair, Mr. Carville responding in the affirmative, “He should be held accountable.”

Let‘s call upon Arianna Huffington, political gadfly and founder and editor of the blog The Huffington Post.

Arianna, thanks again for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  What is the backstory here?  Why would any Democrat feed that Democratic discord talking point machine, or does Carville have such a point that it is, in fact, the time to speak about this?

HUFFINGTON:  No, it is really a silly remark to make, completely unjustified by what Howard Dean did in this election.  His 50-state strategy clearly worked.  He put a lot of money into field organizing.

You know, James Carville really has lost touch with the American public.  It‘s now 14 years ago since he had a winning strategy in 1992, when he said, “It‘s the economy, stupid.”

And since then, let‘s review some of his great gems.  In 2000, he wanted Al Gore to pick Zell Miller as his vice presidential candidate.  In 2004, he kept urging John Kerry to focus more on domestic issues.  And now he‘s in the living room in Los Angeles 10 days before the election, when he assured us that John Kerry was absolutely going to win, and that he was rightly focusing on these domestic issues, completely missing the point that the election was going to be about national security.

And now, he thinks that the reason the Democrats didn‘t pick up more seats is because they didn‘t spend enough money, instead of the truth, which is they didn‘t spend enough time focusing on Iraq, which was the winning issue of the campaign.

OLBERMANN:  And by the way, you can‘t say Zell Miller on this network, I just wanted to remind you of that.

HUFFINGTON:  I‘m sorry.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, is there some positioning in here for 2008 afoot? 

And if so, on whose behalf would Mr. Carville be positioning?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, obviously, Carville is very close to the Clintons.  But Howard Dean is no immediate threat to Hillary Clinton, although, of course, she would like to have her guy as head of the DNC.  That would be helpful.  And so there may be some positioning.

Although what, for me, is even more important, is to realize that James Carville has not really said anything interesting or valuable on Iraq for a very long time.  And of course, let‘s not forget that his wife is a charter member of the original White House Iraq Group that plotted the Iraq strategy.

So, yes, he can criticize Howard Dean, but to use this hyperbole of calling him Rumsfeldian, when Don Rumsfeld‘s incompetence led to thousands being maimed in Iraq, and I don‘t know what you can say about Howard Dean that is comparable to that.

OLBERMANN:  On this other larger point about the leadership vote today, why is it that when the Republicans have a contentious vote resulting in them bringing Trent Lott back from the political grave, it is portrayed almost as a heartwarming comeback, in almost all aspects of the media, but when the Democrats have two candidates for the parallel job in the House, that is automatically infighting, and the speaker presumptive‘s reputation is on the line?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, actually, I found it amazing that there wasn‘t more

reference to what happened when Trent Lott had to resign his position,

which, of course, you may remember, was one of the first victories of the blogosphere, because it was the blogosphere that drove him out of office by focusing on the racist remarks that he made, and his racist past.

And here he is, and it‘s as though we have a kind of collective amnesia, and we don‘t remember what happened, and why he had to leave his office.

And I agree, I mean, the fact is that as Jack Murtha says on The Huffington Post right now, he just blogged about his defeat and about moving forward, there is a lot of positive stuff that came out of today, the emphasis on Iraq, Nancy Pelosi being willing to stake her leadership on something that she believed, not just her personal loyalty to Murtha, but the issue of Iraq, therefore demonstrating that she‘s not just a hack who is only going to pick up battles that she knows in advice she‘s going to win.

A lot of good stuff.  But instead, presented as a history and a story of infighting, while Trent Lott is welcomed back into the Senate leadership position.

OLBERMANN:  Kind of extraordinary.  You can read the Murtha blog on  But don‘t do it till the top of the hour.

Arianna Huffington at  As always, a pleasure, Arianna, thank you.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also here tonight, the voters speak, rejecting administration plans for Iraq and voicing a desire to see at least some reduction in troop levels in the near future, so the president is considering sending more of our boys and girls.

And video that defies words.  A UCLA student TASERed repeatedly inside a campus library, solely because he could not or would not produce his college ID.  Who is running that university, Joe Stalin?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  President Bush arrives in Vietnam tonight.  An ever-deepening analogy between his war in Iraq and our ill-fated conflict there preceded him.  He‘s there for a Asian summit and for perhaps a summit of sorts on the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Of course, we used the wrong flag.  The original White House Web site story on the trip showed the banner last used by South Vietnam before it was absorbed by the North in 1975.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, we may be up to our ears in Vietnam metaphors, but this is actually about a British report, suggesting the president wants more troops in Iraq, even as the rest of the country seems to want fewer.

The president wants a, quote, “last big push,” according to sources familiar with the administration‘s deliberations cited by the newspaper, “The Guardian.”  That would mean an increase in U.S. forces by 20,000 soldiers, a recommendation which might also come from the Iraq Study Group.  And a former senior administration official tells that newspaper the president may be alone on Iraq, but he does see the political endgame.

Quote, “Bush is in a state of denial about Iraq.  Nobody else is any more.  But he is.  He knows he‘s got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work.  If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall.”

Meantime, White House officials have confirmed that the president has ordered an internal review of Iraq policy, but they claim it is not intended as an end run around the Iraq Study Group.  Well, that‘s all right, then, we‘ll just take your word for it.

Let‘s call in “Washington Post” political reporter and columnist and MSNBC analyst Dana Milbank.

Dana, good evening.


Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Are we getting a clear picture of how the president sees his choices in Iraq, now that Democrats are pounding at the door, to postpone troop withdrawal and, in fact, increase troops, give this one last chance thing?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s been discussed for a while, and certainly John McCain has talked about this increase of 20,000 troops.  Now, the “Guardian” story you mention was a little bit weasely about it, and said maybe, possibly, up to as many as 20,000.  So we have to keep in perspective, this would be an increase of 10 to 15 percent, not exactly huge, not what a lot of people think would actually be necessary to turn the situation around there.

And as General Abizaid pointed out yesterday, this is something that could only be done very temporarily.  Even now, the military is completely overstretched.  So we‘re talking about a few months here.  So it‘s not completely inconsistent, give it a last go, few months, not working, start the pull out.

OLBERMANN:  According to that “Guardian” article, however weasely it might have been, there was a four-point plan from the Baker-Hamilton panel, the ISG, that may be emerging here, more troops to secure Baghdad, more money to train Iraqi forces, as well as the previously leaked proposals, increase the regional cooperation, possibly even from Iran and Syria.

Will Baker-Hamilton wind up giving the president political cover for this?  Does the administration‘s internal review provide a backstop bit of political cover?  What is the structure here?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s hard to know.  I mean, you‘ve got a—you got a situation where there are no good options, and the president is going to fumble forward and get the best option possible.  It does provide cover in the sense that it‘s going to present a menu of options, and he can say that these options are all justified by the commission.

On the other hand, his own internal study will allow him, as we have discussed previously, to say, Well, it‘s actually my idea, it‘s not being forced upon me.  So I think we have to realize that the Baker commission is not going to be coming forward with some sort of a silver bullet here.  They‘re going to say, Here are four or five not-so-good options for you, Mr. President.

OLBERMANN:  But if this is the option that he goes for, after the election results from last week, wouldn‘t the Democrats and the administration fight the war about the war all over again?  And who wins that politically, as the Democrats are incoming in January?

MILBANK:  Well, you‘d think the Democrats really have to fight this fight, and fight it very vigorously.  I mean, on the one hand, they‘re quite fragmented.  We saw, as you just mentioned, Jack Murtha voted down by his colleagues two to one today, not exactly the strongest reaffirmation of their position on Iraq.

But they are now in control of the Congress.  They can‘t just sit back.  They‘re in control the purse strings.  If they want to put their money where their mouths are, they can say, We are going to defund this war.

OLBERMANN:  Is the kind of contrast that could develop in that period of political time something that would really benefit of Democrats?  Could they call for some sort of immediate phased withdrawal, advocate the best strategy, put the pressure on the Iraq government, and yet not have to suffer the possible consequences of seeing that plan implemented, since the president would never agree with it in the first place?

MILBANK:  They could.  And that comes down to the question of what they‘re really there for.  There‘s the opportunity to score some political points here, but if they—if we‘re going to take them at their word, that the—as Nancy Pelosi said just today, that she is dedicated to ending this war in Iraq, it‘s not really about scoring sort of the political point here, but about forcing the president‘s hand here.  And they now actually have the tools to do that.

OLBERMANN:  Is he going to accept that?  I mean, this president does not like to have hand forced.  And although he may sometimes say that he understands what has to—what the realities are, that doesn‘t often translate into action.

MILBANK:  Yes, there‘s no indication that he will accept that.  And, of course, he can veto whatever the Democrats come up with.  But you can sort of see this coming together here.  The president wants the face-saving gesture of saying, OK, we‘re going to make one last final push, if that doesn‘t work --  Perhaps the Democrats will accept that tradeoff.  They can still get the withdrawal plan.

I mean, everybody is sort of coming to the same view, that this isn‘t working, and everybody needs a face-saving way out.

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC, of course.  Thanks, as always, Dana.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A late reminder out of Iraq about how dire the security situation is there.  Fourteen contractors kidnapped today south of Basra at a security checkpoint, military officials telling NBC News that four of those taken are Americans working for a private security firm called the Crescent Security Group.  Once again, the kidnappers posed as Iraqi police.

Also tonight, a man, some grapes, and a mission.  He means to do this, folks.  The Guinness World Record folks will be watching Oddball again.

Speaking of which, only a day and a half to pick out your Tomcat wedding gift.  The big question still is, where exactly I do‘s will take place, and also, who invited Brooke Shields?

The latest from Italy, ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Dawes Butler was born on this date in 1916.  His name may be unfamiliar, but the cartoon characters he gave voice to are immortal and incredible in their prominence, from Yogi Bear, to Huckleberry Hound, to Captain Crunch, to Elroy Jetson, to playing Beanie to our dear friend Stan Frieburg‘s (ph) Cecil.  And late in his life, Dawes‘ butler shepherded an aspiring voice actress named Nancy Cartwright, who might be more familiar to you in the guise of her most famous alter ego, Bart Simpson.

On that note, Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Toulouse, France, with a cool-ass video of a big-ass plane.  Burt, watch your language.  It‘s the Airbus A-380, the largest passenger airliner on earth, taking off for a 17-day flight around the world.  Before the double-decker behemoth can be put into service, it has to get certified by proving it can fly and stuff.  Up, up, up, up.

Hence the trip around the globe, and even hence, crazy crosswind landing tests in extreme conditions in Iceland.  Little, little to the left, little, little -- (INAUDIBLE) -- let, let—good, good, OK, good, good, good, good.

Requirements call for the plane to make landings in crosswinds of 23 knots minimum for certification.  They were 40 knots gusting to 56 on this day at Keflavik (ph) Airport, which means the big plane comes in almost sideways.  On board, a bunch of test pilots, who are all pleased with the results, and a few special guest passengers, who used that opportunity to test the barf bags.

You think that‘s impressive?  Check out this guy catching grapes in his mouth.  It‘s Steve the Grape Guy.  Steve Spalding, already the Guinness World Record holder in the amazing art of speed-grape catching.  This event wasn‘t just about speed, it was also about endurance.  With the help of a bunch of unemployed friends in Steve the Grape Guy T-shirts, Spalding smooshed his own previous record, spending 30 minutes catching more than 1,200 grapes in his mouth.  He can also do flies.

After a brief celebration, he spent the next 30 minutes in a nearby men‘s room.

Also tonight, extraordinary video from a library at one of the nation‘s leading universities.  Was a UCLA student picked out at random by campus security, told he had to produce ID, and when he did not, repeatedly TASERed for it?  The latest from a shocked campus, next.

And it‘s the day of the Great American Smokeout.  You say you quit?  Congratulations.  Now our own Mike Taibbi, who has done that, will join us to say, maybe you should take the next step and get a CAT scan for lung cancer.

Those stories ahead, but now time for COUNTDOWN‘s three newsmakers of this day. 

Number three: coach Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars and coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers, who will go back to the future this weekend.  In this day of color-coded parkas and logo-encrusted everything, they will be wearing something outrageous as they march up and down the sidelines of their respective games, suits and ties. 

Number two: Charmayne James, competitive equestrian, actually, barrel racer.  The best horse she ever rode was the retired 10-time world champion Scamper.  So, Ms. James paid $150,000 to have Scamper cloned.  The clone was born in August.  He is a little young to race.  But Ms. James notes that you touch Scamper on a spot behind his ear, and he bristles.  When you touch the clone in the same spot, he does, too. 

And number one: Aparasida de Souza (ph) of Brazil—more particularly, her cat Mimi, who she claims has given birth to a litter of three cat-dogs.  She says, three months ago, Mimi had a little soiree with the neighbor‘s dogs, and there you go, cats with dog characteristics—fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.


OLBERMANN:  It was one of those moments that could have been worse, clearly, but it hardly seems possible that it could have been more controversial. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: a student in a computer room at the Powell Library at the University of California at Los Angeles approached, apparently at random, by campus community service officers. 

They ask him to produce his student I.D. card.  He can‘t, or he won‘t. 

They leave.  Moments later, they return with UCLA campus police officers.  Now he tries to leave.  And the officers Taser him, again and again, as his horrified and angered fellow students watch, and one of them records the whole thing on a cell phone. 

And, to make the stakes a little higher, the student‘s name was Mostafa, Mostafa Tabatabainejad.  He has already been Tasered once, as the tape of this extraordinary incident begins. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here‘s your Patriot Act!  Here‘s your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) abuse of power!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stop—stop fighting us. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not fighting you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will leave.  I will leave.  I said I would leave!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Officers, we want your information. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then stand up!






UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... abuse of their authority.








OLBERMANN:  And it continued from there. 

I‘m joined now by Sara Taylor.  She is a reporter for the UCLA campus paper “The Daily Bruin.” 

Thanks for your time tonight, Sara. 


OLBERMANN:  There appear to have been several accounts of the circumstances surrounding the student being hit by the Taser in the first instance.

One was that he refused to leave the library.  The other, he was on his way out, when an officer grabbed his arm.

Do we have any idea what‘s—what actually is the truth?  Have you heard?

TAYLOR:  Well, from what I heard, he was walking towards the door at the time when the two officers approached him. 

My understanding is that he did not leave immediately when he was requested to by the community service officers, but that he did leave within just a few minutes of being asked. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it—is it clear that the only thing he did originally was not produce this I.D. card? 

TAYLOR:  You know, I wouldn‘t go so far as to say that anything is clear.  However, it does seem that that is what started the incident, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  The university put out a statement.  It says that, when he went limp in the—you can see it in the tape.  He went limp for whatever reason, and—and deliberately would not stand, would not cooperate with the officers. 

Is that clear that that is what happened?  Or is there a chance that he simply couldn‘t stand up, because it is pretty clear that he has been Tasered here three or probably four times. 

TAYLOR:  There definitely is a chance that he was unable to stand up. 

I remember speaking to some sources yesterday who said that Taser does have the ability to incapacity someone for as many as 15 minutes.  So, that is definitely a possibility, yes.

OLBERMANN:  There was—there was also a quote attributed to him as this was happening where he said that he had—he told them he had a medical condition, and they went on with this.  Has—have you been able to verify that quote? 

TAYLOR:  I have verified the quote, yes.  But I don‘t know what he was referring to.  I don‘t have any further information. 

OLBERMANN:  One of the eyewitnesses said that, when the other students crowded around the scene—and this went on for some minutes after this, and went down a set of stairs, as you‘re seeing here now—when the other students crowded into the scene, they were warned, if they got too close, they might be Tasered.

One of them says, when they demanded the officer‘s badge numbers, they were warned they would be Tasered.  Do you know whether or not either of those things happened? 

TAYLOR:  Yes.  I actually do know that that happened. 

There is a scene that has been reported to me by several witnesses and that is actually on a video that I have obviously studied very closely, where a student asks for his badge, and approaches the police officer.  And he does threaten to use his Taser on that student as well. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, this is being investigated internally at UCLA. 

Do you know if local police will be investigating what happened here? 

TAYLOR:  I have not heard that they will be, no. 

OLBERMANN:  Has there been any...

TAYLOR:  But they may.

OLBERMANN:  Has there been any statement from the student?  Because it is extraordinary to close this out by saying he was released on his own recognizance, after that amount of electricity was put through his body.  Has he said anything? 

TAYLOR:  No, he hasn‘t said anything on the record yet that I‘m aware of, at least not to me. 

OLBERMANN:  Finally, give me a sense of the—of the campus.  Was this the talk of the—of the community at UCLA today? 

TAYLOR:  Yes, it was definitely something students were very concerned about. 

I had people calling my office and e-mailing me all day today and yesterday.  People really, for the most part, think this was an excessive use, and are very concerned that, you know, perhaps something like this could happen to them as well.  That is something that I have heard from students. 

OLBERMANN:  I would imagine.  Sara Taylor of—reporter of the UCLA “Daily Bruin,” great thanks for your time on this story. 

TAYLOR:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight: surveying lung cancer, the trick to beating it, an early diagnosis.  And NBC reporter Mike Taibbi joins us to share his personal experience with the latest technology that could mean the difference between life and death. 

And a day-and-a-half or so away from the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, is the groom just discovering that one of his previous nemeses is on the guest list?  That‘s ahead. 

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



LARRY KING, HOST:  Never gone searching.

ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS:  Oh, my God.  It just opens up the whole universe.  It‘s so awesome.  You would love it.

KING:  No, I wouldn‘t.

BARR:  Anything you want to know.

KING:  The wife loves it.  I wouldn‘t love it.  What, do you punch little buttons and things?

BARR:  You just click on this thing.  The thing is, you got to be able to read, so you have to have strong glasses when you have over 50, and then you just scroll down and click.  It‘s not that hard.  I can show you how to do it.

KING:  No, thanks.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST:  Michael Jackson is performing at the World Music Awards for...


LETTERMAN:  ... for, like, the first time in 10 years. 


LETTERMAN:  OK.  Go ahead and laugh...


LETTERMAN:  ... but I got to tell you, he looks terrific. 


LETTERMAN:  Michael Jackson, first time in 10 years performing, World Music Video Awards. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  The whistles blow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Cymbals crash.












OLBERMANN:  Beating lung cancer—a very special, very personal report from NBC‘s Mike Taibbi.

Beating the paparazzi—it‘s game on in Italy between TomKat and the cameras.

And beating Bill O‘Reilly—Bill-O, your falafel is drooping.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Right now, there is a 70 percent chance of rain and plenty of clouds for the Rome area this Saturday.  So, we all know what that means.  Expect consider arrival and departure delays for spacecraft coming in for the nuptials of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

Our number-two story on the COUNTDOWN:  It may not be legal.  It may not even be sincere, but, hell, it is going to have cake.  The couple is in Italy.  The parents are in Italy.  Even Brooke Shields is there.  She won‘t be protesting.  It turns out she and the bride are best friends now. 

What brought them together?  Postpartum depression.  Who is the glib one now, Tom? 

More now on the day before the day before the big day.

Here is Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood.”


BILLY BUSH, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD” REPORTER (voice-over):  They are the talk of the town.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes arrived in Bracciano this week.  And the circus that always surrounds them is already in high gear, crowds in the street, paparazzi everywhere.

The long-awaited wedding is set for Saturday, and, we believe, in the medieval Odescalchi Castle on Lake Bracciano, just 20 miles outside of Rome. 

J.D. HEYMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, “PEOPLE”:  They are in Italy, which is the country that invented paparazzi.  And it‘s sort of a whole dolce vita kind of wedding.

BUSH:  With just days to go, there‘s lots of last-minute details, from flowers and dresses arriving at the Hassler Hotel.  The happy family, Tom, Katie, and baby Suri, were spotted coming out of city hall. 

And the ancient Italian town is going to extraordinary measures, with helicopters buzzing overhead.  The mayor‘s request for a no-fly zone was denied.  There is a paparazzi tax of up to $1,200 for any camera shot of the castle from inside town. 

Museums have been closed, new pavement added to the roads, and new flowers and fresh paint applied in the town square, of course, and fixings on the castle. 

HEYMAN:  It is a frenzy of activity, a lot of interest, very glamorous.  It is out of movie.  And that is perfect for two movie stars. 

BUSH:  The guest list has some surprises.  Despite the fact that Tom criticized her for taking antidepressants to battle postpartum depression, Brooke Shields will be in attendance.  She became friends with Katie after Suri was born.

Also on the guest list, Will Smith and his wife, Jada, John Travolta, but, despite that famous incident on the couch, no Oprah. 

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  No, I wasn‘t invited.  But if I was invited, I would go.  I love Tom.  I love Katie.  I wish them the best. 


OLBERMANN:  Well, that was spectacular. 

To our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news.

And we have a 2006 “Dancing with the Stars” champion.  It‘s a guy who used to wear a star—on his head.  Emmitt Smith, National Football League all-time leading rusher, Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, beat out a guy whose greatest feat was being friends with Screech. 

Smith and Mario Lopez were tied, after the judges gave each competitor equal marks on their final dances.  That meant it was up to the people to decide.  And decide, they did.  Smith, who did kind of rely on footwork just a little bit during 18 seasons as a college and pro running back, took the crown, saying of his effort, “We worked our tails off.”

Lopez played the sore loser, saying—quote—“I guess world-class dancing just isn‘t enough.”

I smell a dance fight. 

And, if this wasn‘t already clear, it will be now.  All of humanity divides into two separate categories, those people who have been banned by Bill O‘Reilly, and those who will be banned by him—the latest to get the evil eye, “GQ” magazine, which Bill-O has now added to his don‘t buy/don‘t advertise list, even though he won‘t explain why, beyond this typically cryptic advisory.

“The new editor is marketing the magazine largely to left—far-left Americans, and feels the need to smear me and FOX News Channel.  It is pathetic, unprofessional.  And Conde Nast should be ashamed.”

Condi owns “GQ” magazine?  The secretary of state? 

Oh, Conde Nast, the publisher.  Sorry. 

Folks there think is the problem.  In its new issue, “GQ” has, for some reason, included me among its men of the year.  In a rather lengthy article, I‘m quoted briefly—very briefly—about Bill-O and his loofah and his falafel: “He‘s my Puff the Magic Dragon.  It‘s time to let him go.  But I am grateful to him, because, without his total lack of self-control, we never could have vaulted to where we are now.”

For that, he thinks the publisher should be ashamed?  You want shame, check last night‘s ratings.  Viewers 25-54, between 8:45 and 9:00 Eastern last night, COUNTDOWN, 326,000, “The ‘Oh, Really?‘ Factor,” 324,000.

For the whole hour, we did 70 percent of his business.  And—and poor bill only finished second on his own network for the night.  Sorry. 

Also here, the Great American Smokeout—our own Mike Taibbi joining us on this program, as he kicked the habit over a year ago.  And now he is back to show us the possible importance and value of a C.T. scan in catching lung cancer early. 

That is ahead, but, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze: an unnamed female suspect in Largo, Florida, who pulled a 10-inch name on a Wal-Mart clerk, when the employee tried to stop the suspect from shoplifting two boxing of LEGOs.  The suspect is 7 or 8 years old, and escaped the scene on a late-model bicycle. 

Our runner-up tonight only acts 7 or 8 years old.  Rich Lowry of “National Review Online,” he has written a column quoting a “New York Times” poll that suggested 55 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq.  In fact, the poll indicated only 16 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq.  That 55 percent figure Mr. Lowry tried to slip past the gullible represented those in the poll who would support more troops—quote—“if that meant the U.S. would finally gain control over Baghdad and stabilize the country.”

The title of Mr. Lowry‘s column, “Be Careful What You Believe”—good advice for anybody who reads what he writes. 

But our winner, Mark Nord, chief author of the report in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to have eliminated hunger in this country.  Nobody goes to bed hungry in America any more?  Hallelujah.  Would that that were true. 

The Ag Department did not eliminate the condition we know as hunger, just the word.  The 35 million Americans who could not put food on the table all or part of last year are now described by Mr. Nord as experiencing—quote—“very low food security.”

Mr. Nord would appear to be experiencing very low honesty security. 

Mark Nord of your U.S. Department of Agriculture, today‘s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  In our number-one story, today is the 30th Great American Smokeout.  It‘s also the second of them since the passing of Peter Jennings of ABC News, who was a smoker, who died of lung cancer. 

Our number-one story on the COUNTDOWN:  Jennings‘ death scared many smokers into quitting.  Others of us had more direct warnings.  While we send as much psychic encouragement as we can to you if you are still trying, tonight, the next step in recovery—even if, like me, your lungs feel like you just bought brand new ones from Sharper Image, should you still get proactive?  Should you get a CAT scan for lung cancer?

My friend and colleague Mike Taibbi of NBC News did just that, and took his camera crew with him.

Good evening, Mike.

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Keith.   How are you doing?

OLBERMANN:  Very well.

Fifteen months clean, roughly, for both of us.  Congratulations on that. 

TAIBBI:  And to you, as well, everybody who quit.  I heard from hundreds of them today. 

OLBERMANN:  And—and that is, I guess, stage one. 

But how do you overcome the natural feeling, hell, I quit; isn‘t that enough?  Now a C.T. scan as well?

TAIBBI:  Yes, it‘s typical.

We all know, if you have been listening to this for years, that the most important step they can take is what you did, what I did, which is to stop smoking.  Now, I stopped after 40 years of a pack of unfiltered cigarettes a day.  I won‘t even do any brand placement here.

I quit when Peter died.  I had worked with Peter.  I knew him.  I smoked with him, when we all thought we were going live together.  In fact, we were convinced of it.  And I saw what happened to him, diagnosis to death in four months.

And I said, you know, I—I just—I don‘t want to go that way.  You know, lord, I want to go to heaven.  I just don‘t want to go right now.  And, so, I—I did quit.  I was able to quit.

But, from that point forward, I began thinking, what is the next step?  I knew about and you knew about these spiral C.T. Scans, this technology that is extraordinary, that sees everything, that in a 10-second scan, takes, I think, 284 separate bread slices of your lungs, sees everything.

And, so, I decided to go for that test, to bring our producer, Clare Duffy, along with me, and a camera crew.  Brian Williams at “Nightly News,” and John Reiss, the executive producer, both said, yes, let‘s do a story about this.  See how it goes.  Are you willing to do a story, no matter what the results are? 

And I said, sure.  And there it was.  I went in.  And those are, in fact, pictures of my lungs.  And there was, I guess, the—the only way to put it is good news for that day, no hint of any cancer, no hint of any emphysema, no hint of any plaque in my coronary arteries.

So, for that day, everybody is fine.  But you probably have heard, too, that there is controversy about this, because—that‘s Dr. Claudia Henschke, who you‘re looking at.  She did the study that was published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” saying that she could prevent, or this kind of scanning, regular scanning, for high-risk people, like me, regular smokers, longtime smokers, could prevent 80 percent of the 160,000 deaths a year...


TAIBBI:  ... from lung cancer.

And there are others in her field, oncologists, who said, you know what?  No way.  “That is outrageous,” one of them said, Peter Bach from Sloan-Kettering, because there had not been a control group in her study of 31,000 scanned patients, a control group who are not scanned.  And that study is under way.  It will wrap up in 2010. 

Well, I‘m an ex-smoker.  I‘m in the high-risk group.  I wanted to know now.  So, I went in.  And what I know is a very limited amount of very important information, that, at this time, I have no hint of lung cancer.  I have no hint of emphysema.

OLBERMANN:  Mmm-hmm. 

TAIBBI:  I have a baseline scan, which I can look at in six months or a year.  I get this scan with my annual physical.  By the way, it is not covered by insurance yet, because...


TAIBBI:  ... it‘s not endorsed by the American Cancer Society.

But I will get a scan every year.  And, if anything changes, if anything shows up—and this will see a lesion smaller than a grain of rice—well, then, I can make a decision, in cooperation with my various caregivers. 

What do you want to do?  Do you want a biopsy?  Do you want a PET scan?  Do you want surgical intervention, any of those thing ?

Because I think they do know more now than they did 10 years ago, when they first started looking at these images from these spiral CAT scans.

OLBERMANN:  You—you—you mentioned the—the—the doctor referring to long-term smokers.  Is that the guideline for getting this done?  Or is it age, years smoking, general health?  What is it? 

TAIBBI:  I think they called them smoker—smoking years. 

So, I—if I smoked a pack a day for 40 years, I have 40 pack years, they will call it.  That‘s a lot.  Now, there are other people who smoked two or three packs a day for 15 years.  They would be in the group, too.

But, yes, there are sort of arbitrary cutoffs that they determine experientially for people who are at the highest risk, and who would, thus, they feel, benefit most from early scanning and early screening.  And, you know, I am one of them.  And 30 will do, yes, sure. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, absolutely. 


OLBERMANN:  All right.  So—so, give me the one thing that got you through 15 months of not smoking. 

TAIBBI:  I think I was just done, Keith. 


TAIBBI:  You know, you and I talked about it. 

I—I was just worn out by it, and—and was just looking at what happened to Peter.  And I, as I say, knew him.  I admired him.  He‘s the best I have ever seen in this business.  And, all of a sudden, he was silenced.


TAIBBI:  He was gone.

Ken Auletta, others, said they couldn‘t believe how fast it went. 


TAIBBI:  And I just said, not me, not me.  I am going what I can do. 

And this was what I could do.

OLBERMANN:  May we all have such epiphanies, and not at such great cost. 

Mike Taibbi, congrats again on kicking the habit.

TAIBBI:  Thanks.


OLBERMANN:  And thanks for showing the importance of this test to people.

TAIBBI:  All right.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Mike.

That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,293rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. 

From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night, and good luck. 

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”—Norah O‘Donnell in for Joe tonight.

Good evening, Norah.




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