Guests: Richard Wolffe, James Moore, A.B. Stoddard, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Gonzales-gate. Paging Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud, please.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you heard complaints about AGs? I have. I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me.
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OLBERMANN: The president does not slip up when he also says the AG, Mr. Gonzales, is right, mistakes were made. And, quote, “I‘m frankly not happy about them.”
As the Democrats promise to subpoena Karl Rove and others, as the first Republican senator calls for the firing of the attorney general, the political purge conducted by Alberto Gonzales strains the very relationship between him and George W. Bush. But strains it enough for the latter to fire the former?
A year and two weeks, and we‘re out. That the Democratic proposal on Iraq in the Senate. It‘s non- nonbinding, meaning it would count. And the Senate approves discussion of it by 89 to 9.
“If I Did It” is back. Why is the family of Ronald Goldman suddenly hoping O.J. Simpson‘s ghostwritten how-to-do-it murder manual does get published after all? Because if it does get published after all, they get the money.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, after 10 years, gotten some measure of justice.
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OLBERMANN: Finally, after 17 ½ years, we get the full measure of confession from Pete Rose.
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PETE ROSE: I bet on my team every night.
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OLBERMANN: Speaking of betting, so Senator John McCain filled out an NCAA basketball bracket. So his presidential campaign offers a prize if you fill out a bracket on its Web site. So what? Well, there was that bill McCain introduced four years ago to make all wagering on college sports illegal. Oopsie.
And another day, another scandal.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay out of my closet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come out!
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OLBERMANN: Who is running “American Idol,” Alberto Gonzales?
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that that was a bad idea.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening.
A Republican senator has called for the firing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In just five days, this issue has moved from liberal rallying cry to bipartisan anger.
And in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s not just any Republican, but ultraconservative John Sununu of New Hampshire. The only people speaking in favor of Mr. Gonzales today were the AG himself, and the president.
And on his way towards tepid support for his old friend, Mr. Bush skidded through a Freudian slip of gigantic proportions, even for him, the attorney general doing little today to help his own cause, his defense seemingly having as many holes as Swiss cheese, perhaps the biggest of them being if he did not know what his own chief of staff had been doing, how does he not come across as either an idiot, or the worst manager of all time?
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ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: My obligation was to ensure that the appropriate responsible people were doing their jobs in evaluating the performance of U.S. attorneys around the country.
I had confidence in my chief of staff in doing that. I had confidence that he would ensure that, to the extent we‘re communicating to the Congress, that that information would be complete and accurate.
There are a lot of things that go on within the Department of Justice that are delegated to other individuals. Obviously, I—the chief of staff and I do speak every day. I had a, I, I, I, of course I directed that, that this evaluation of U.S. attorneys move forward. I, I directed Kyle Sampsons to lead that effort.
From time to time, he would mention to me that about that he might have a conversation with Miss Miers. Obviously, we were, we were receiving input, complaints in certain cases, from the White House about individuals, which is perfectly OK. Obviously, if someone is complaining about the performance of a DOJ employee, I want to know about it.
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OLBERMANN: That defense did not work for Kenneth Lay either.
The attorney general‘s boss, the president, making his first public comments today from Mexico, having been fully briefed on the talking points, including, but not limited to, the political chestnut of the moment. Repeat it with us now, Mistakes were made.
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BUSH: Mistakes were made. And I‘m frankly not happy about them, because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the presidents, U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the president. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys. It‘s their right to do so. The Justice Department recommended a list of U.S. attorneys. I believe the reasons why were, were, were entirely appropriate.
And yet, this issue was mishandled, to the point now where you‘re asking me questions about it in Mexico, which is fine, I mean, (INAUDIBLE) if I were you I‘d ask the same question.
Today, you know, this is an issue that—and so Al, let me just say, Al was right, mistakes were made. And he‘s, he‘s going up to Capitol Hill to correct them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been allegations that political motivations were involved. Is political loyalty to your administration an appropriate factor? And when you talked to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last year, what did you say, and what did you direct him to do?
BUSH: Thanks, Kelly. I‘ve heard those allegations about, you know, political decision-making. It‘s just not true.
I did receive complaints about U.S. attorneys. I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate, and senators were talking about the U.S. attorney. I don‘t remember specific names being mentioned. But I did—I did say to Al last year, you‘re right, last fall, I said, (INAUDIBLE), Have you heard complaints about AGs? I have. I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me.
And he said, I have. But I never (INAUDIBLE)-- you know, brought up a specific case, nor gave him specific instructions.
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OLBERMANN: The Democrats are outraged about the administration‘s conduct, now almost beside the point, when Republicans are willing to be outraged for them, Senator Clinton voicing her concerns well before Senator Sununu did, early this morning on ABC News.
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SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The attorney general, who still seems to confuse his prior role as the president‘s personal attorney with his duty to the system of justice and to the entire country, should resign.
The president needs to be very forthcoming. What did he say? What did he know? What did he ask people to do? Karl Rove is clearly in the middle of this. And I think he owes the Congress and the country an explanation.
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OLBERMANN: Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy outlining how he intends to get those explanations, calling for specific hearings at which the attorney general, Karl Rove, and others will have to testify under oath, and if they‘re not willing to appear willingly, Mr. Leahy says he will subpoena them, quoting the Vermont Democrat, “I‘m tired of the, We‘ll brief all of you, but-- I don‘t want that any more. I‘ve had the briefings. I didn‘t get the answers. We‘ll now have them under oath in open hearing.”
Time now to in turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, Senator Sununu today became the first Republican to call for the AG‘s resignation or dismissal. The president looked like there was smoke about to come out of his ears at times when he talked about Mr. Gonzales today. How was it possible that the thing got worse in the 24 hours since we last spoke?
WOLFFE: Well, the short answer is that the cleanup operation has been so terrible. That thrashing sound you hear is the administration trying to keep their head above the water.
And it goes beyond just the cleanup and the PR operation, which has been so self-contradictory, at best. What we‘ve seen here is members of Congress reacting very badly to the ruse that was at the heart of this. Not only were they trying to fire these U.S. attorneys, but they wanted to use the PATRIOT Act to do an end run around Congress, so that these people didn‘t have to be confirmed, there wouldn‘t be oversight.
And there‘s one thing guaranteed to annoy members of the Senate, that‘s this idea that they‘re irrelevant or somehow obstructive to the processes of the executive branch. That‘s what they‘re supposed to be there for.
So, yes, you‘re seeing people—Republicans especially—not just calling for the resignation of the attorney general, but saying either noncommittal things about him, or frankly expressing severe disappointment in everything that‘s gone on here.
OLBERMANN: Is this Sununu statement the first one we‘re going to hear, or the last one we‘re going to hear from the Republicans of that strength?
WOLFFE: Well, remember, this is sort of tip of the iceberg situation. There are a handful that like to come forward, who have that sense of independence that Sununu has. Others, like Trent Lott, say—speak volumes as a member of the leadership by saying nothing. Trent Lott was remarkably noncommittal. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is out there, Gordon Smith of Oregon. And these, again, are the people who are actually expressing an opinion.
I—this has got some momentum to it, and it‘s going to be hard to stop.
OLBERMANN: On the other end of it, the claim from Senator Leahy that Gonzales and Rove and others will be forced to testify before the Senate under oath, is that bark, or is there the threat of bite? Is that legitimate?
WOLFFE: Well, they can certainly get Gonzales to testify. He‘s already said he‘ll cooperate. And the e-mails that they have released, though, just extraordinary, because these are e-mails that you really wouldn‘t expect to see. It‘s communications with the White House. It‘s not just internal Justice Department stuff.
But I imagine the White House is going to fight this very, very strongly in terms of getting Karl Rove up. I just cannot see a situation where they‘re going to say, you know, Executive privilege doesn‘t count anymore. They‘re going to fight this one all the way.
OLBERMANN: The president‘s claim today in Mexico that firings like this are, as he said, a customary practice by the presidents. In fact, in historical fact, it‘s extremely rare for even one U.S. attorney to be dismissed during a president‘s term, let alone eight of them. This is something that the ousted chief of staff to Mr. Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, himself commented on in one of those e-mails that came out in the document dump yesterday.
And this question is thus meant literally. When the spin like that is more easily dismissed and disproved than if you were to lie about whether today is Wednesday or it‘s Tuesday, who are they trying to fool with that?
WOLFFE: I have no idea why they‘re trying to use this line. It‘s so patently untrue. You know, they‘d be better off saying, Listen, these are the reasons we fired these people. I think the hearings are going to go there. What were their personnel failures, their management failures?
Or at the very least to say, Listen, we have different standards. We are the Bush administration. We are going to do things our own way.
But this idea that there was somehow a precedent, that every other president has done this, is patently false.
OLBERMANN: And the, the standing behind this idea that there was a miscommunication problem with Congress, that it‘s a personnel matter, how come that‘s not been expanded upon in some way?
WOLFFE: Well, yes, now, listen carefully, when he says he‘s unhappy with the way things are going, the president is really saying he just doesn‘t like the way the communications have gone. This is a very limited apology. And they can‘t expand it, because actually it‘s all out there in writing. They mapped out the game plan. Everyone signed off on it.
It just happens, you know, to quote Don Rumsfeld, you go to battle with the army you have. And this army hasn‘t been up to the fight.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and the army is not supposed to send each other e-mails about defecting.
Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and with us here on COUNTDOWN. As always, great thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: To a president who values loyalty, his relationship with Alberto Gonzales goes way back. But does that automatically mean it will go any further? We‘ll examine the long history between these two men.
And the turnabout in the Senate, the Republicans suddenly agreeing to debate the Democrats‘ war plan for Iraq. Is there an honest dialogue here, or a secret motive?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: ... president since Andrew Jackson has had his kitchen cabinet, the coterie of close friends and informal advisers, upon whom he can rely. The big difference in the Bush White House being the roles held by most of his friends are far from informal, filling key positions in an administration that prizes loyalty above all else, even, it seems, above competence.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the curious friendship between President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales, their roots growing deep in Texas. As general counsel to then-Governor Bush, Mr. Gonzales managed to get the governor excused from jury duty, which, incidentally, saved him from having to disclose a 1976 arrest for drunk driving. He later served as the governor‘s secretary of state before becoming his White House lawyer, and then his attorney general, and also, it seems, at the same time, his White House lawyer.
For more on this, let‘s turn to James Moore, co-author of the book “Bush‘s Brain.”
Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”: Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: While no one would describe Mr. Gonzales as Mr. Bush‘s brain, it does appear he spared him this potentially damaging revelation of that drunk driving arrest. Tell us that tale, if you would.
MOORE: Well, the governor was called to testify or to be a member, I‘m sorry, of the jury that was hearing a case in Travis County in central Texas, where Austin is located. And his name came up at the pool, and he sent Alberto Gonzales down to keep him out of the pool.
And he used the relatively specious argument that it was possible that someone on the individual‘s case might end up in an appeals process that somehow eventually gets it in front of the governor, and the governor might have to make some sort of ruling. And the court more or less said OK. But it ended up being more or less a nonsensical appeal.
But ultimately, what this whole thing was about was hiding the fact that George W. Bush had a DWI, or, in some cases, I guess it‘s called DUI, record on his arrest, his driving record. And they didn‘t want that exposed. So Gonzales worked his hardest to keep him out of that jury pool.
OLBERMANN: Were there Gonzales-gates in Texas, marginally or more than marginally (INAUDIBLE) comparable to what we‘re going through now? And if so, how did he survive them?
MOORE: Well, I don‘t think that you could say there was anything like a Gonzales-gate, Keith. I mean, we‘re talking about a guy who sort of suffers from the heartbreak of ineffectuality. He didn‘t really exist until he hooked up with Bush.
And the thing you have to understand about this relationship is, George Bush moved in a world where he wasn‘t really exposed to ethnic minorities. And so he was always reaching out to develop these relationships. And this one, for Al Gonzales, turned out to be a relationship of utility as well. He was an average individual who saw a chance to hook up with somebody who was going somewhere.
And he ultimately became George W. Bush‘s legal houseboy and followed him all the way to Washington by doing the things that he knew George Bush wanted done. The problem is that along the way, he turned the law into something political, which is precisely what it‘s not supposed to be.
OLBERMANN: Legal houseboy not far from the terminology that John Dean used on this program, of course, the Nixon White House counsel, who said that simply put, he thought Mr. Gonzales was in over his head at this point, never prosecuted a case in his life, never been given or appointed to public service by anybody other than Mr. Bush.
Was that the reputation he had in Texas? Was he the brilliant legal mind, or, as you put it, the legal houseboy?
MOORE: Well, in fact, I don‘t think he had a reputation until he hooked up with George W. Bush. And then, and then he grew it into something. And if you look at a lot of the things he did, such as on the death penalty in Texas, where we executed, in Bush‘s administration, I think, 150-some people, we executed the first woman since the Civil War during Bush‘s terms.
And what happened was that essentially Mr. Gonzales knew that the governor was going to run for president on a conservative—an appeal to conservative fundamental principals, and the death penalty was one of them. So he constantly wrote the memos that supported those kinds of things.
And then, when you see what‘s happening now, I can assure you that this whole scheme to get rid of these AGs, when Karl Rove came up with it, and he thought, Look, I can get rid of the people who are attacking Republicans with their investigations, and in the process, I can also lard the bench for the future. I can put these people in positions where they will be ready to be appointments to the next Republican administration. They‘ve all probably been vetted and asked the important questions about Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. Gonzales is the perfect guy for Karl to go to and say, Here‘s the plan, let‘s find a way to work it out. And he would, because he has that kind of loyalty to Bush.
OLBERMANN: So the cut to the chase question, given what we know of this mess, of Mr. Bush, of Mr. Gonzales, of the relationship between the two men, what are, A, the chances that Bush actually fires him, and, B, what are the chances that Gonzales would quit to spare him?
MOORE: I don‘t think that Bush will fire him, because it is, you know, after all, loyalty is everything to this guy. And that is one of his many Achilles heels. He would not ask Gonzales to step down, unless I‘m terribly wrong.
I do believe, however, that Albert Gonzales may reach the point where he realizes he‘s damaging the administration, an administration which looks like it can‘t be damaged anymore, Gonzales might think he‘s actually doing enough damage that he can‘t, cannot continue to stay. And he might step aside.
But frankly, I think they‘re going to fight this, like they do everything. They‘re going to dig in their heels. And they‘re going to say, No, no, no, no, this is the way we do it. And we‘re going to circle the wagons, and we‘re not going to let Karl Rove testify. And we‘re going to do what we always do. And I think Gonzales will stay.
OLBERMANN: James Moore, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain.” Great thanks for your perspective and your insight and your time tonight, sir.
MOORE: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A relationship of a much different variety. What was up with Simon Cowell trying to out Ryan Seacrest on live TV? Michael Musto joins us.
Score one for the bulls. Goring, goring, gone.
And the scoreboard just changed for baseball immortal Pete Rose. We all thought we knew how often he had bet while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Today on the radio, Dan Patrick and I interviewed him. Mr. Rose corrected the record. It was much, much more often.
Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: March 14, 1933, widely stated as the date that Winston Churchill shocked his fellow British politicians by insisting his country needed to increase its air defenses after the election of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany. England‘s avowed policy was disarmament, because its government knew that it knew everything, and that Hitler was no threat, and that everybody who said otherwise was wrong, and, you know, morally or intellectually confused.
With that reminder of the danger of governmental certainty, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin with an Oddball sports report from Valencia, Spain, where the bull is always the underdog, but every now and then, well, there you go, big fella. That‘s Matador Fernando Cruz. He‘s down in three rounds. He‘ll need some stitches, but, remember, Fernando got dressed in that silly outfit and entered that ring to kill that bull, so don‘t be giving the cow any guff. At least he got a good shot in.
In fact, all in all, not a bad day for the bulls. Another one later was also able to take a guy out as his final act on this earth. Go down swinging, boys. It is, after all, what the bloodthirsty fans pay to see.
To spring training in Florida for a far less painful sports highlight from a Boston Red Sox game. Well, I did say less painful. That is Red Sox prospect Jeff Corsoletti (ph) at bat. Caleb Ginsburg (ph) was the catcher for Northeastern University. Mr. Corsoletti, in case you need a refresher after getting beaned by that throw back to the mound, you played last season at Wilmington of the Carolina League.
A surprise announcement from the Senate today. The war debate, postponed time and time again, would due to (INAUDIBLE) -- partisan bickering, will actually now occur. Is there a motive for the GOP finally caving in?
And the new motive for publishing the O.J. Simpson “If I Did It” book.
Why the Goldman family is applauding this.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg News, yes, the place created by Mr. Giuliani‘s successor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York, reporting that although the former mayor does not handle the account personally, Mr. Giuliani‘s law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, lobbies for Citgo, Citgo being the oil company fully owned by Venezuela and thus under the control of its ruler, the man everybody loves to hate, Hugo Chavez.
Number two, former Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding. Clark County sheriff‘s deputies in Oregon called to her home at 5:00 a.m. because she looked out of her trailer and saw four men and a woman trying to break into her car. Police say Ms. Harding‘s account of the alleged crime was, quote, “implausible.” They say she explained she was on new medication and was having some sort of adverse reaction to it.
And number one, former Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding. Four hours later, sheriff‘s deputies were again called to the trailer where a friend explained Harding was, quote, “seeing animals,” unquote. They say they checked out the trailer, reassured her there were no animals inside. There were no—there‘s no word about any ghostly apparitions of Nancy Kerrigan in the trailer.
OLBERMANN: It only took three years and 359 days after the United States officially went into Iraq for the United States Senate to officially even start to discuss a real way to get out of Iraq. The same amount of time it took the Pentagon to finally start calling this conflict what it is, a civil war. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Senate Republicans, after filibustering the last two Democratic attempts to start a debate on non-binding measures about Iraq, agreeing today to let discussion commence on a binding measure.
89 to nine the vote to proceed to consider a motion that calls for the president to start redeploying troops within four months, with the goals of getting most of them home or at least out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. The subject of getting out of Iraq prompting a blistering attack on the administration and the Congress from Senator Joe Biden.
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SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It‘s about time we have the courage to stand up and say to the president, Mr. President, you have not only put us in harm‘s way, you have harmed us. You have no policy, Mr. President. I‘m so tired of hearing this floor about courage. Have the courage to tell the administration, stop this ridiculous policy you have. We‘re taking sides in a civil war. This is a cycle of self-sustaining sectarian violence, that 20,000, 30,000, 50,000, 100,000 Americans will not be able to stop.
Mr. President, this is ridiculous. There is no plan. Did anybody in this floor—did anybody count on the utter incompetence of this administration when they were given the authority they were given? Absolute incompetence. As long as the president keeps us on this ridiculous path, taking us off the cliff, I ask my colleagues, does anybody think they‘re going to be able to sustain keeping American forces in Iraq at 160,000 for another year an a half?
What do you think? What do you think is going to happen in Tennessee, in Delaware, in Illinois? Are we going to break this Army? What are we going to do hear? How many times do we ask those 175,000 marines to rotate, three, four, five, six, seven time? Mr. President, you‘re leading us off a cliff. Stop. I yield the floor.
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OLBERMANN: Despite Mr. Biden‘s remarkable remarks and despite all the rhetoric, the bill the Senate is considering is not as strong as a House measure. It lists deadlines for the Iraqi government to meet and requires all troops to be withdrawn by August 2008. Senate Republicans can still stop any actual vote on the resolution in Senate by refusing to allow the 60 votes needed to stop the debate.
If you have been following the etymology of Republican talking point, more evidence today that micro manage is the new term of choice with which to slam the Democratic plan.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: They would not declare war or end it, as the constitution provide, by micro manage it.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: The Democrats strategy can be characterized as one of slow bleed, micro manage.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE: That‘s why I will vote against this and any of the resolutions that seek to micro manage the war.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Congress has been given many great responsibilities by our constitution, but the daily micro management of war is not one of them.
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OLBERMANN: Funny, Senator Lieberman also got that memo. And of course micro manage would be better than no management at all. To take political temperatures on this, let‘s turn to A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill Newspaper.” Thanks for your time tonight A.B.
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: If I‘m a Democratic senator, do I smell a rat here? Why would the Republicans suddenly acquiesce to debate? Is Iraq suddenly easier than Alberto Gonzalez?
STODDARD: There could be a bit of that here. I do think that with 21 Republican senators up in the next cycle, there are many Republicans who actually really want to get on the record. We‘re into month three of the new Congress, after an election in which the voters obviously called for an end to the war. And I think these Republicans especially want to be on the record telling their constituents how they feel about it, about the most pressing issue before the Congress.
They don‘t want to be dubbed with blocking this debate any longer.
OLBERMANN: Will it be voted on? Will it actually get to that stage or is there going to be a blockage on this?
STODDARD: As of tonight, there is no deal. I am told by both sides tonight, they are reviewing a new proposal by Senator John Warner, the details of which have not yet been released. But in the morning the two leaders expect to get together and we‘re likely to see, if all goes well, the Democratic proposal along with a Republican proposal or two or three. Most likely the one that Senator Judd Gregg has proposed, which is—it says the Congress will not cut off funding for troops in the field.
And if things go wrong and just the Democratic proposal is on the table, the Republicans will block it again. You have to remember that the supplemental war funding debate that‘s taking place in the House will move to the Senate in a few weeks. And ultimately, when we‘re talking about real dollars, everyone will be on the record at that point.
OLBERMANN: The president has reiterated his promise to veto anything that sets a timetable in Iraq. So, considering that and despite Joe Biden going off today and the other things that have been said, is there anything that either House can do or pass that will actually start getting troops out of Iraq, other than some dramatic and dangerous perhaps cut in troop funding?
STODDARD: As you‘ve seen, the Democratic leadership has capped their constitutional—the option of their constitutional authority to cut funds off the table. They‘ve chosen the back up option which is sort of death by 1,000 political cuts. And if you look at the big picture, it‘s likely to work. Although it seems now that the Republicans are united and the Democrats are in disarray. There are many, many motions to pressure the president and the other party, are likely to either succeed in forcing real change in the war, or are likely to make Republicans run in 2008, gain, on the Iraq war.
OLBERMANN: Without minimizing the potential importance of the event that I‘m going to mention, let me ask one more question about this. The prospect of politics of distraction going on here. News today that Khaled Sheik Mohammed apparently confessed to a litany of charges to his interrogators, captors, keepers. This was declassified in the beginning of February, about five weeks ago, and we found out about it today. Is there a suspicious that that sort of information is put out on a political timetable?
STODDARD: It depends which party you‘re asking. There‘s a lot going on. We‘ve gone from the Scooter Libby verdict to the trouble at the FBI and trouble with the Justice Department and the firing of the U.S. attorneys. I think that if you ask the Democrats, they‘re not trusting of when they get information and why they get it at the time that they do for sure.
OLBERMANN: A quick reaction to Biden‘s explosion? Has there been a reaction to that tonight?
STODDARD: Not that I hear. Senator Biden has really, as you know, really led the field of Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination in being the most vocal on the Iraq war, most willing to put his specifics on the table. I think that they look to him as a real leader. I hope the debate unfolds and I hope that he‘s heard?
OLBERMANN: A.B. Stoddard, associate editor for “The Hill, great thanks A.B.
OLBERMANN: The O.J. Simpson confessional book, which he claims was not a confession, may in fact now see the light of publishing day with the support of the family of one of the murder victims.
And Pete Rose corrects me on the radio today and unveils a doozy of a confession in doing so. Just how big was his gambling problem? That and much more ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It‘s been more than 10 years since the glove didn‘t fit and the jury acquitted. When last we saw O.J. Simpson, he was the star of a documentary that never aired, the author of a book that never hit the shelves and the cause of a book editor hitting the streets. Good taste and lawyers put “If I did It” in limbo. You may be able to reed it eventually.
Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, as our correspondent Jennifer London reports, someone other than Simpson will own the rights to a very wrong book.
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The O.J. Simpson story never seems to end. Now a new chapter. A California judge has ordered the rights to O.J. Simpson‘s never published book, “If I Did It,” be sold at a public auction, blocking the rights from going back to Simpson. That means that the book will go to the highest bidder, perhaps fetching as much as 10 million dollars. And that money, the judge ordered, will go to the Goldman‘s.
The murder victim‘s family has been battling Simpson for years, trying to collect the 38 million dollars they won from him in their 1997 civil trial.
FRED GOLDMAN, FATHER OF RON GOLDMAN: Finally after 10 years, we‘ve gotten some measure of justice.
LONDON: Last year, when it was first announced that Simpson had written the book, there was a pre-publication fire storm. The Goldmans called the so-called confessional revolting.
GOLDMAN: We were disgusted and appalled. One, that he was going to capitalize on Ron and Nicole‘s murders. And two, from everything we heard, that this was going to be the equivalent of a how to murder two people book.
LONDON: The book‘s publisher, Judith Regan, was ultimately fired after it was discovered Simpson received a large sum of money for writing the book. And media baron Rupert Murdoch, owner of the publishing company, bowed to public pressure, and scrubbed plans to publish the book.
(on camera): The question now, given this latest ruling, how soon, if ever, will the book appear on store shelves? That ultimately depends on who buys the book at the public auction.
(voice-over): The Goldmans will likely not receive any profits from the books sale, if it‘s ever published, but thanks to the judge‘s ruling, neither will Simpson.
GOLDMAN: We always felt that him capitalizing, making any money on the murders of the two people that he killed was disgusting. This will put an end to that for sure.
LONDON: Simpson‘s attorney, Yale Galanter, told NBC News it‘s a hollow victory for the Goldmans. He says the rights to the book have little value and rest not with Simpson, but with a separate holding company, owned by his children.
YALE GALANTER, LAWYER FOR O.J. SIMPSON: We believe it‘s an extremely ripe issue for appeal, because it has nothing to do with Simpson at all. His children shouldn‘t be punished for his misdeeds.
LONDON: The auction could be held at the end of the month. And then a new chapter in the O.J. Simpson story will begin.
Jennifer London, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: To the next chapter for Britney Spears then in our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. She may have found a new boyfriend. His name is Jason Filya (ph). If are to believe the National Enquirer, and why not, the lead guitarist of a rock band called Riva, and in a match worthy of Jerry Springer, Miss Spears met him in rehab, wants to move in with him when she gets out of there.
A friend says quote, Britney adores Jason. He‘s been a tower of strength. Enquirer claims that Miss Spears calls and e-mails Mr. Filya constantly. Apparently he‘s finished his treatment already. The two have reportedly pet names for each other. He calls her sugar, kitten and my lady. She calls him Mr. Secret Underground Guy. She‘s got a way with words though, doesn‘t she?
Kind of a surprise today, out of baseball‘s banished hit came Pete Rose. He says that while manager of the Cincinnati Reds he bet on more games than the rest of us thought. Rose joined Dan Patrick and me on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio this afternoon. And I had repeated the history of his gambling violations, as the timeline has always been generally known.
While managing the Reds from 1984 through 1989, he frequently wagered on his own team to win, never bet on them to lose, but often did not bet on them at all, which lent itself to a least the appearance that he might have used key players only in the games on which he had placed the bets. That‘s when Pete sprung a shocker big enough to merit a report on one of the network news casts tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE ROSE, FORMER BASEBALL MANAGER: I bet on my team every night.
ROSE: I didn‘t bet on my team four nights a week. So I wasn‘t sending single out—I‘m not going to use my closer on Friday night or Saturday night. And I was wrong.
OLBERMANN: Do you realize how strange this is? Now you‘re telling me more than we thought. Our roles are reversed here.
ROSE: You followed the Dowd Report. That‘s what Paul Janson said, and he was absolutely right.
DAN PATRICK, ESPN ANCHOR: Did you bet on them every night? You bet on the Reds every night?
ROSE: I bet on my team to win every night, because I loved my team.
I believed in my team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Baseball has approved an exhibit inside the red‘s ballpark honoring Rose, leading to speculation it might be reinstating him in the near future.
For all we know, Pete Rose may have filled out brackets. The office pool type friendly wagering on the NCAA college basketball tournament, technically it‘s illegal. Practically, it‘s an American ritual. And it may have just gotten a presidential candidate, John McCain, into more trouble. On his campaign website, he‘s filled out his own brackets, his predictions of who will win each game in the tournament. And his website is offering prizes, a McCain 2008 fleece, a hat or a pin, for anybody who fills out brackets there.
Only one small problem. As recently as May of 2003, Senator McCain introduced legislation to prohibit gambling of any kind, even in Las Vegas, on college sporting events, including the NCAA tournament, on which at least 70 million dollars is bet legally in Vegas. McCain introduced a similar bill in 2001. Is there a place on this website where you can win a McCain fleece if you correctly wager on whether or not he introduces it again?
Another iconic element of American culture, Michael Musto. Also the nightly “American Idol” controversy, the host and the snarky judge, prodding each other to come out of the closet. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to whoever hooked up the toilets at Miller Park, the home of baseball‘s Milwaukee Brewers these last six seasons. Tests yesterday showed that at least some of the toilets flow into a sanitary sewer, that goes not towards a water treatment plant, but rather, directly into the storm sewer that goes directly into the Manomonee (ph) River, no stops, right into the river, straight from you. And you thought all these years the Brewers had been crappy.
The silver, the Lancaster Fire Brigade in England. One of its firefighters, Mark McCrackon, turned out to be the perfect match for a bone marrow transplant for a teenage girl dying of Leukemia. He needed to take a week off for the delicate operation. The fire department said they were delighted to give it to him, provided he took it as unpaid leave.
But tonight‘s gold to the law lords, a kind of super-appeals court in Birmingham, in England. Brothers Michael and Vincent Hickey spent 18 years in jail for a murder they did not commit. When their convictions were overturned, each was awarded huge settlements, more than a million dollars each. But now the law lords have sent the Hickey brothers a bill. Vincent owes $244,000. Michael owes $478,000.
Why? Room and board during their 18 years of false imprisonment. The law lords of Birmingham, England, today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: One of the things the judges do on “American Idol” when they are not listening to or critiquing the so-called singers, on-air banter between themselves and the host, Ryan Seacrest. Whether lively or insipid, it is normally just time filler, helping to stretch the show into a two hour, ratings gobbling, brain cell gobbling extravaganza.
But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, has the crosstalk between Mr. Seacrest and Mr Cowell now crossed into and out of the closet. Did Mr. Cowell, at the very least, extend to Mr. Seacrest an invitation. The exchange that rocked the world of my executive producer followed a comment by contestant Melinda Doolittle, whoever the hell she is, that one of the hardest parts of performing was wearing high heels.
Then Mr. Seacrest, whoever the hell he is, went down a path he may now regret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”: Simon, any advice on the high heels?
SIMON COWELL, “AMERICAN IDOL”: You should know, Ryan.
SEACREST: Stay out of my closet.
COWELL: Come out.
SEACREST: This is about the top 12, OK? Not your wishes. We are friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All this from a guy who just wears a t-shirt on TV. Joining us now, “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto. Michael good to talk to you again.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: Did something actually happen there is?
MUSTO: Oh yes, this was the gayest TV since Anderson Cooper interviewed Thomas Roberts the other night. Interestingly, it was Diana Ross night on “American Idol” last night. And you know what her big song is, I‘m coming out. It is very cute to see these two inching out of the closet. They‘re the best couple since Jake and Heath, though only in this situation, would Simon be the butch one.
OLBERMANN: What is odd, or maybe it‘s not, was the way that Ryan Seacrest completely set himself up with that line, stay out of my closet. Where does it lie on that spectrum between scripted banter, and, again, Dr.
Freud, Dr. Freud.
MUST: Yes, I think his Freudian Slip is definitely showing and it doesn‘t match his high heels. Look, maybe this was just sexual harassment type banter, of the type they usually throw at the contestants, but I think there is some real feeling, some real affection going on here. I think Ryan really would like Simon‘s thumbs-up, way up.
OLBERMANN: I have also been breathlessly informed by my staff that Mr. Seacrest used to sign off of his programs with is Seacrest out, but this season he doesn‘t say Seacrest out anymore. Does that mean anything?
MUSTO: Yes, he now says, Seacrest, get out of my closet, which was deemed better than word to your mother, or Seacrest in. But now some people are appropriating his old phrase. Rosie is saying, Rosie out. Ellen is saying, Ellen is sort of out. And Star Jones apparently, in her new show, she‘s going to say, Star out of her mind for her gay husband.
OLBERMANN: Lets‘s play one more exchange between Mr. Seacrest and Mr.
Cowell from earlier this season and then get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COWELL: You do the links.
RANDY JACKSON, “AMERICAN IDOL”: Ryan Seacrest, ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Seacrest.
SEACREST: Don‘t call me sweetheart.
JACKSON: Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan.
SEACREST: Don‘t call me sweetheart. We don‘t have that kind of relationship. I don‘t want that kind of relationship. Exactly. We will just work together. That is fine with me. Is that OK with you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now, how did we miss that? That almost sounded like an on-air break up. What was that?
MUSTO: That was then. I think now, Ryan would love that kind of relationship. In fact, if Simon, last night, had said, you should know, sweetheart, instead of, you should know, Ryan, I think they would be the happiest couple right now. They‘d be happier than Clay Aiken and his latest Internet hook up. They‘d have to wake up Paula to go to the wedding.
OLBERMANN: One more clip. This is vintage from his not so distant past, he was working at a TV station in San Francisco as an entertainment reporter, interviewing a body builder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEACREST: Look at that. This is actually—look at that—love oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just what? What was that? What is that?
MUSTO: First of all, he thinks it‘s love oil, but it is olive oil.
It‘s like you say vinaigrette, I say make me wet. First of all, this was done in San Francisco, end of story. Second of all, he is interviewing a body builder, you do the math, and he is rubbing love oil on him. You don‘t see Jay Leno doing that, do you. Then again, you don‘t see him throwing salad dressing on Mavis (ph) and saying, that‘s hot honey. This is all we need evidence wise.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t really care, obviously, but I always thought that this man was a-sexual, all he did was work all the day, because he works on E News Daily, Idol, a local radio show in LA, two versions of the national radio show, when would he have time for this?
MUSTO: Well look Keith, I write a weekly column, I write books, I go on TV, I watch TV and I have a very active—you are right. He is a-sexual.
OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto, great thanks for your time. Anderson Cooper is on the phone for you. I don‘t know what this is all about.
MUSTO: I hope so.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,431st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.
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