Guests: Madeleine Albright
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
They made it up. The official Pentagon report is out. Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq was never directly cooperating with al Qaeda. And before we invaded that country, our intelligence community was unanimous. Any suggestion of a real link between Saddam and al Qaeda was based on dubious or unconfirmed information.
That would make people like the vice president, in 2002, at best, wrong, at worst, a liar. That would make people like the vice president speaking yesterday at best wrong, at worst, a liar.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq. And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, they weren‘t.
Tonight, breaking news of yet another U.S. attorney scandal. Four top deputy U.S. attorneys in Minnesota demote themselves in protest of the incompetence of the new Bush appointee there, U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, who just happens to be the former special assistant to Attorney General Gonzalez.
And the best friend of Monica “Taking the Fifth” Goodling, who has tonight quit the Justice Department.
And it‘s screwed up there. What‘s it like at the Bush Department of State? Our current foreign policy, if you want to call it that, as assessed by our guest, the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
Odd diplomacy here. The Bada-Bing Nightly News? Brian Williams on the set as they begin to wrap up the final season of “The Sopranos.” Long-time Mrs. Soprano fan, first-time Mrs. Soprano hugger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: She will have a statement later on, but that‘s it for now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If you did that with Tony around, he would have sent you out in a concrete boat, and now you‘d be sleepin‘ with the fishies.
To say nothing of being in our Oddball Plays of the Month. As it is now, all I‘ve got is a fake orangutan and the Carmen Electra Ice Capades. Oh, and do I have television‘s World War III.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST: This is justice.
GERALDO RIVERA: This has nothing to do with that poor old lady mayor.
O‘REILLY: And you want anarchy.
RIVERA: Has nothing to do with that mayor.
O‘REILLY: No. You want anarchy.
RIVERA: No. What I want...
O‘REILLY: You want open border anarchy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Bill-O knows his anarchy. In response, tonight, an unprecedented, unpredictable, unbelievable edition of Worst Person in the World.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
O‘REILLY: Jack Mayahoffer (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
For the first time in weeks, the Bush administration has something with which to deflect the cascade of bad news that is the U.S. attorney scandal, highlighted today by the resignation of the silent liaison, Monica Goodling, from the Justice Department, and a new part of Gonzales-gate popping up in Minnesota, all of which we‘ll detail presently.
Unfortunately for the president, in our fifth story tonight, his Monica is being overshadowed by official confirmation of a legacy-defining kind of deceit. Now it‘s the Pentagon itself confirming it. Cherry-picking would be a generous characterization of what the administration did with its prewar intelligence about the nonexistent link between Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq and al Qaeda. A more apt term might be baldfaced lying.
And yet, in the face of the military‘s new report, the president and vice president are still doing it, Mr. Bush having addressed troops at California‘s Fort Irwin day before yesterday in a speech in which he justified the invasion of Iraq explicitly in terms of post-9/11 self-defense, even though we now know his own Defense Department strained to find evidence of such a link, without success, just four months after the attacks in January 2002, then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz wrote a memo to the number three official at the department, Douglas Feith, in which he said, quote, “We don‘t seem to be making much progress pulling together intelligence on links between Iraq and al Qaeda,” that memo contained in a declassified report now released by the Pentagon‘s own inspector general.
The report also all but confirmed that Saddam‘s regime was not directly cooperating with al Qaeda before the invasion, yet you would not know that listening to the vice president yesterday. As the report was being prepared for public release, Mr. Cheney, back on tour, singing his number one hit from 2003, telling listeners of comedian Rush Limbaugh‘s radio show that al Qaeda was operating in Iraq before we ever launched the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHENEY: Remember Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian terrorist, an al Qaeda affiliate, ran a training camp in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, then migrated after we went into Afghanistan and shut them down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq. Organized the al Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June.
He‘s the guy who arranged the bombing of the Samarra Mosque that precipitated the sectarian violence between Shi‘a and Sunni. This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq, and as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We will not play how many things were wrong in that statement.
Let‘s instead turn to Roger Cressey, top counterterror official at the Bush White House till September 2003, before that, similar capacities for President Clinton, now a security consultant and, of course, terrorism analyst for MSNBC.
Roger, good evening.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This is a question I seem to be asking more about Attorney General Gonzalez these days. But tonight, it appears to apply to that vice president. In the face of this Pentagon report released on the same day as those comments that Mr. Cheney made to Limbaugh, would not the vice president appear to be either woefully out of touch, or, bluntly, a liar?
CRESSEY: Well, at very least, he‘s delusional, Keith. And as we‘ve seen before, the vice president doesn‘t let facts get in the way of any argument he makes on Iraq. Simply put, they are still—he still believes what he thought was true in 2002, 2003. We now know that was not the case. And regardless of whether information comes out to prove him wrong, he‘s sticking to his guns.
Says more about him and his unwillingness to listen to anybody else than it does anything else.
OLBERMANN: Your colleague Dick Clarke, Richard Clarke, has spoken at length about the pressure that President Bush put upon your office to look for a link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, even after being told that there didn‘t seem to be any link. Does that make you even more surprised that five years later, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are still beating this Saddam-al Qaeda drum even harder and louder than ever before?
CRESSEY: Well, you think how bad things have gone in Iraq, what else do they have to beat? I mean, it really says more about the state of things in Iraq today that the vice president‘s still insisting a flawed and faulty argument in 2002 and 2003 is valid today. I mean, what you have, Keith, is, you have the vice president and a small band of fellow Kool-Aid drinkers who refuse to accept the reality that there never was state sponsorship by Saddam Hussein of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Were there contacts between al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes, in the 1990s in Sudan. But that did not translate into state sponsorship in 2003. In effect, what the vice president has done, he‘s taken 2 and 2 and come up with 2,000. And we‘ve seen that all throughout the Iraq endeavor.
OLBERMANN: Was there anything in that report from the Pentagon, Roger, that we did not know before? Or does the provenance of the report by itself kind of validate for history what this government has done?
CRESSEY: I think it does validate what we‘ve seen in prior reporting. But what is amazing, Keith, when you step back and look at Iraq right now, is, the administration has created a self-fulfilling prophecy to its own mismanagement and ineptitude. There is an al Qaeda presence in Iraq today. It‘s pretty strong, it‘s going to be there for years to come. And the fact that the vice president is now pointing to this self-fulfilling prophecy as justification for not changing our policy in Iraq is just mind-boggling.
I mean, they, in effect, helped create the very circumstances that allowed al Qaeda to establish links inside Iraq. It‘s just stunning.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of self-fulfilling, the vice president mentioned Zarqawi. When it comes to the damage done by the administration‘s actions, do we have to look any further that the fact that the administration never pulled the trigger on taking Zarqawi out because it wanted him to make its rationale for this war?
CRESSEY: Well, think back in 2003 and -- 2002 and 2003, Zarqawi was operating in a terrorist camp in Kurma (ph), in northern Iraq, a part of Iraq that was not under Saddam‘s control. The administration had information, intelligence, that he was there. They could have attacked that camp. It was part of their policy of preemption against terrorist facilities. It would have been completely justified.
They chose not to do it because they thought building the broader case, the international case, to go to war with Iraq was more important.
Now, think what would have happened if they attacked that camp and maybe have killed Zarqawi. Think of the hundreds of American soldiers that would have been alive today if Zarqawi was killed in 2002, 2003.
OLBERMANN: Roger Cressey, MSNBC terrorism analyst. As always, Roger, great thanks for your time.
CRESSEY: All right, Keith. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And for more on the political implications of the new Pentagon report, let‘s now turn to our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
OLBERMANN: If even now, in the face of this overwhelming evidence, not just that that link didn‘t exist, doesn‘t exist, but that the administration knew it didn‘t exist at the time it had been hyping it, how can the president and the vice president keep making that claim with a straight face?
MILBANK: Well, has this delightful Rip van Winkle quality to it, doesn‘t it, that nothing that seems to have happened over the five years that we‘ve seen seems to reflect itself, particularly in the vice president‘s rhetoric. The president himself is more careful to dance around it.
I think the reason that it keeps going on, and it‘s being directed, obviously, when it‘s made on Rush Limbaugh‘s show, towards the base, I think it is being done, as Roger was suggesting, because there is no other card left to play. This is sort of the central folkloric narrative of the Bush administration, that it was al Qaeda and it was weapons of mass destruction. Once those are gone in the public imagination, there‘s no recovering.
OLBERMANN: But is there any recovering even if it—if the stuff doesn‘t go? I mean, the—certainly, the administration, by what you just said there, doesn‘t believe that any but the most diehard of its own supporters still believes anything that the administration says at this point. What use is this, is holding up this imaginary excuse for war? What, what, what—how much worse could it get for them if they said, Hey, we were really, really wrong?
MILBANK: You wonder. Look, (INAUDIBLE) the president‘s somewhere around 32, 33 percent in the polls, and those are the diehard supporters. The president does not seem to have found any way to rebuild credibility.
So he‘s just going to continue to play the same card he‘s played all along.
OLBERMANN: So practically, is anything going to happen after this? I mean, the Pentagon report was only released to the public because Senator Levin of Michigan requested that it be released. Could there now be some sort of push to investigate the prewar intelligence claims by this administration? I mean, that phase two of Pat Roberts‘ Senate investigation into those claims never seems to have happened. Might it happen now?
MILBANK: Yes, I think it will, because Senator Levin has said it will. He said this last month, that they intend to continue with phase two, that they want to look at Doug Feith‘s office now, this—in the Pentagon, this is the office that created this—wasn‘t really an intelligence report, it was really a bullet points, talking points, making the case, al Qaeda and Iraqi.
So he has said that they will indicate that they will go further into this. The question is, how much more can they really come up with here? We find out that in September of 2002, Scooter Libby, the vice president‘s chief of staff, is being presented with what is essentially propaganda, 16 of the 25 central conclusions in it were refuted in real time by the Central Intelligence Agency.
OLBERMANN: All right, lastly, the political end of this in terms of looking forward. Is there anything in here that might drive the remaining Republicans who would be thinking principally of Mr. McCain running in ‘08, who continue to support the White House, how are they going to be affected by a report like this when people can just sort of roll it up into a ball and hit them over the head with it?
MILBANK: And that‘s exactly what they‘ve been doing in terms of the polls with John McCain right now. He‘s scheduled a—what he‘s calling a major speech at the—at BMI, a military academy in Virginia, for next week on Iraq. Very hard to see how he gets around this, because, as we were indicating, the two central underpinnings of the war, the weapons and the al Qaeda link, have now been completely decimated.
It‘s completely unclear how he can recover, even though he‘s dealing with a fairly weak field, with Romney having troubles with his hunting, and Giuliani having troubles with abortion. It‘s really an extraordinary situation.
OLBERMANN: Well, given that McCain is going on “60 Minutes” to essentially say that all the stuff that he said about how safe that market was in Iraq was wrong, maybe, maybe someone will come out and just say, I screwed up. We‘ll find out. I‘m not holding my breath.
Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
As always, Dana, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
MILBANK: You too. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: The White House liaison at Justice just up and quit, and four deputy U.S. attorneys just volunteered for demotion rather than spend another day associated with Mr. Bush‘s U.S. attorney appointee in Minnesota.
And the administration slams the speaker for talking to Syria. Well, why shouldn‘t we be trying diplomacy, especially when some indications are that the stuff with Syria‘s already working? Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright joins us tonight.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Late developments tonight in the continuing probe of Attorney General Gonzalez and the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Gonzo-gate taking a twist that sounds like a plot line from a very bad network TV drama. They‘re best friends. One has quit the Justice Department, the other has just seen four of her top deputies quit rather than work for her, Monica Goodling, the former liaison between Mr. Gonzales and the White House, resigning from that job effective tomorrow.
She had already taken a leave of absence and notified investigators that she would plead the Fifth rather than incriminate herself in the investigation, a move thought to be unprecedented for any Justice Department official ever.
Attorney General Gonzalez is still bracing himself for his April 17 grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee, still searching for elusive answers about the firing of those U.S. attorneys, and though Monica Goodling is out, tonight he has yet another headache, originating with Goodling‘s best friend, this time, Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, confirming that three of her top prosecutors voluntarily demoted themselves, along with another top executive in her office, in apparent protest over her management style, said to include quoting biblical verses and dressing down her associates.
Although Paulose was not a replacement for one of the eight fired U.S. attorneys, her predecessor reportedly quit before he could be ousted for not adhering to Bush politics. And not only is Ms. Paulose connected to Ms. Goodling, but she was also the former assistant to Attorney General Gonzalez.
Joining us tonight from Washington, Faiz Shakir of the Center for American Progress, editor of ThinkProgress.org, who‘s been following Gonzo-gate from the beginning.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
FAIZ SHAKIR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Again, the professionalism of a Bush-Gonzalez U.S. attorney is being questioned. What do we know about Rachel Paulose?
SHAKIR: Well, Rachel Paulose is a 33-year-old Bush loyalist. By all accounts, she is a devoted Bush loyalty from the very beginning, a party insider, much in the line of many of the other party loyalists that we‘ve seen placed into high government positions, like Michael Brown, and, of course, Monica Goodling, who you were talking about, Tim Griffin, another.
So she is along those same lines. And, of course, there‘s only two interesting things we know about her—you named them—is that, one, she likes to quote Bible verses around the office, and the other is, she likes to dress down her underlings. And we hope those two aren‘t connected.
So it seems like that latter of those two things, dressing down her underlings, caught up to her here, and there—today we heard that four of her employees are demoting themselves, a very rare move.
OLBERMANN: Yes, none of them are talking. Is there any indication of what provoked this, what offended them to such a degree that they‘d take this extraordinary step?
SHAKIR: Right. Well, you know, I think they‘re keeping to the old adage of, you know, if you don‘t have anything good to say, don‘t say anything at all, because clearly what they—the only thing to have to say is that she is—had a very dictatorial style around the office. That‘s what we‘re learning from sources close to these employees.
And they also said that she was too hard to handle, that because of her dictatorial style, they had just had enough, and they had to get out of there.
So clearly, it seems like this is somebody who is very difficult to deal with because she was placed into this position to carry out a hard-core Bush ideology, rather than to be an impartial administrator of justice, as U.S. attorneys are supposed to be.
OLBERMANN: Early 30s, close connection to Monica Goodling, close connection to Alberto Gonzales himself. Haven‘t we heard some construction like this before?
SHAKIR: That‘s right, I mean, it‘s amazing how the Bush administration treats the position of U.S. attorneys. Apparently, it‘s a prize for those who demonstrate loyalty to the Bush administration agenda. And this is something we‘ve seen all across the scale, right? We saw it in Iraq, the people who were placed in Iraq were CPA employees who demonstrated loyalty to President Bush.
And then, of course, FEMA, with Michael Brown, and, of course, now with the U.S. attorneys, it‘s a prize for being loyal to President Bush to be put into these positions, which (INAUDIBLE) -- which require a great deal of competence. But apparently, as we‘re seeing from these appointees, they have very little of that.
OLBERMANN: The other day, Senator Leahy asked why Ms. Goodling was going to invoke the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if she was still a Justice Department employee, and thus really an unlikely candidate to be prosecuted by the Justice Department. Did she resign tonight to resolve that logical disconnect, or what else could her reasoning have been, do you think?
SHAKIR: It is very difficult to say what it is. Clearly, her having pleaded the Fifth was a great deal of baggage for Alberto Gonzalez and the entire Justice Department. But by resigning, she has now lost the cover of the Justice Department. She can‘t fall back on them and have government counsel here. So that‘s a difficulty for her. She also might have a harder time exerting executive privilege here.
So, I mean, she‘s lost those things. She‘ll apparently retain private counsel. And she‘s not making any comments tonight, but apparently her mother was commenting to the press, and she said that Monica has told her to say “No comment” to everything that she gets.
OLBERMANN: Oh, boy, another Monica‘s mother. I‘ve been through this sometime in the past lifetime.
Faiz Shakir, research director at the Center for American Progress.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
SHAKIR: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In Detroit, incoming, incoming. She‘s not feeding grapes to members of the Detroit School Board, she‘s flinging some of them at them.
And tonight, with this peek inside the real man, we can close the books on the career of Bill O.
Ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-seven years ago today, the 3M Company introduced a new product designed to make life, especially office life, easier. The first Post-It note was sold. And 27 minutes after that, the first Post-It note fell off.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Harris County, Texas, where roving gangs of cattle own the night. This gang of about 30 head has escaped from a nearby ranch to terrorize this suburban street. Over these houses, over these streets hangs a pall of fear.
They flattened mailboxes, trampled flowerbeds, tore up lawns, even broke a sprinkler pipe, sending water shooting into the air. The streets were left covered in mud and manure. One steer even tried to blow up a garden gnome with an M-80. He couldn‘t work the lighter with his hooves. Police suspect a faulty gate at the farm led to the rampage, that and possibly violent video games.
To Oklahoma, where it‘s a dog who finds itself behind bars. That‘s 6-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Baby, a female dog currently incarcerated in a men‘s prison for a crime she didn‘t commit. Her owner—and she is a medical service dog—her owner has been arrested on several felony warrants and needs Baby, so they locked her up with him. Talk about no good deed going unpunished. Officials were hoping to be able to release Baby as soon as possible, but that was before she shanked a guy in the lunch line a couple days ago.
Finally to the big Detroit, Michigan, School Board meeting, where the issue at hand is the closure of several area schools. And there‘s a woman in the gallery throwing grapes at the board members. Yes, it‘s that American-style democracy we‘ve heard so much about. The woman was arrested. There‘s not enough for “Detroit Free Press” editorialist Rochelle Riley. Quote, “Problem is, she made Detroit a national laughingstock, and that ought to be a crime.”
All right, take it easy. The grape thrower had nothing to do with that. That was the Detroit Tigers pitchers, fielding ground balls in the World Series and throwing them like they were grapes.
Fake orangutans, all too real, taking the bull by the horn, and the Panda Spice Channel. Oddball‘s Plays of the Month tonight.
And is there a way to steer out of our diplomatic skid? Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright our special guest.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Chelsea Fraser of Brooklyn, New York, arrested, led off in handcuffs as part of a police crackdown on graffiti. Chelsea is 13 years old. They cuffed her after she was seen writing the word “OK” on the desk in her sixth-grade classroom.
Number two, Matteo Fontana, the overseer of lenders in guarantee agencies for federal Family Education Loan Program in the Bush administration Department of Education. This will not shock for you for a minute if you have ever had a student loan. Mr. Fontana is now on administrative leave pending charges, after it was discovered he owns $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company, naturally.
And number one, and we are warning you of the possibility that this is not legit, because the only source thus far is the Web photo site Flicker. Kevin Garrard, who‘s serving with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, got into a firefight with an insurgent, was shot in the chest, but not seriously injured. The bullet deflected by his iPod. Halliburton says it will have protective iPods for every U.S. serviceman in Iraq by the year 2024.
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned yesterday, Vice President Cheney kept House Speaker Pelosi‘s trip to Syria in the headlines by criticizing her for it. But in our third story of the COUNTDOWN tonight, the trip yielded another overlooked headline yesterday. The London newspaper “Al Hayat” reporting that Syrian President Assad promised Pelosi he would work for an agreement between Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel for the release of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped last year.
Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told French TV that one of those soldiers will be released soon. It may not be true, it may not happen but if it is and if it does, it will offer dramatic, albeit small scale, rebuttals of the Bush doctrine that America ought not speak with those nations the president deems evil.
We‘re joined now by Madeleine Albright, who served this nation as secretary of state during the Clinton administration, who‘s recent book, “The Might and the Almighty, Reflections on America, God and World Affairs” is now out in paperback. Madam secretary, great thanks for your time tonight.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It‘s good to be with you Keith. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: As with many doctrines of this presidency, there is a knee jerk appeal to the notion that we ought to simply shun the bad guys. Are we seeing something with Syria this week or between Iran and Britain that contradicts that?
ALBRIGHT: Totally, I mean, I think that something that we have all been arguing for for a long time is that you actually have to talk to the people you don‘t like, because otherwise you will never get a message across. And I think that we have seen some examples of the importance of talking, whether it is with North Korea or now with Iran, that the British have done, or Nancy Pelosi‘s trip.
So it doesn‘t hurt to talk. And talking is not appeasement.
OLBERMANN: When we look at talks about individual incidents, be it the story of the Israeli soldiers or the soldier in this case, or the British sailors in Iran, is it the test of a diplomat to be able to leap frog from a small, focused success, as each of those seems to represent, to the more meaningful progress on the bigger issues, obviously now that would be Iran‘s nuclear program? Is that the true test of diplomacy?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think you have to take building blocks and see if you can put them together. Some of the issues are linked. Some of them are not. But I do hope very much that Secretary Rice, in fact, goes forward with a meeting with Iran, within this set of talks that were held in Baghdad at lower level a few weeks ago.
And I hope that it is possible to talk and to build on this. But I think, Keith, it would require quite a different approach from the one that this administration has been taking, which is basically to say, you are evil. I‘m not talking to you. So I hope very much that Secretary Rice can break through with the idea of talking and building on the blocks.
OLBERMANN: To the point of Mr. Bush‘s approach to this, it is common for his harshest critics to portray him as foolish or simple. But if we stipulate that neither of those things is true, then we have to ask what the administration thinks it has to gain by rejecting diplomacy with states like Iran and Syria, in those two most recent cases, and others, obviously.
Do you have an assessment form your experience of what end would it be perceived as serving, from Mr. Bush‘s perspective?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I can‘t understand it, because he certainly has had plenty of opportunity to, for instance, use the Iraq Study Group suggestions, which are, in fact, to talk to these people, as a way of breaking through what I think, at this moment, is a dead end, in terms of policy.
But I think there are clearly those around him, or he himself, who thinks that somehow he is breaking faith with his own ideas if he talks to people he has called evil. And the whole designation of the “Axis of Evil,” I think, was one of the major mistakes of this administration.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s look at how this plays politically, in terms of next year‘s presidential election just for a moment. New Mexico Governor Richardson, your fellow member from the Clinton cabinet, ambassador to the U.N. while you were secretary of state, is, this weekend, leading this diplomatic mission to North Korea.
Let me put you on the spot, do you consider him or Senator Clinton or somebody else more qualified to lead America on the world stage?
ALBRIGHT: Well I‘m for Hillary Clinton. I think that she is the most experienced. And what we are going to need is somebody on January 21, 2009 that is prepared to lead. And I think Hillary Clinton is that person.
OLBERMANN: And would you like to see Governor Richardson in her cabinet?
ALBRIGHT: Well, Governor Richardson is great. And he is a very good friend and first people have to get elected. But he is great and there are a lot of terrific Democrats and people who are eager to serve and to do something, Keith, to turn around what has been going on. I think it makes me very sad, as somebody who loved representing America, to see the kind of way that we are now viewed abroad, as not having moral authority, and also having been involved in a war that is a total disaster in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: The former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, best of luck with the paperback edition of the book and great thanks for your time tonight.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of diplomacy, Sunday commences the last ever season of “The Sopranos.” And Brian “Bad-a-Bing” Williams will give us a behind the scenes tour.
British rocker Keith Richards says his comment to a British reporter about snorting his dads ashes was a joke that got lost in translation, lost between two people ostensibly speaking the same language. That‘s ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It began with two ordinary guys, a brand new camera and a litter bug caught in the act.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- posted their bold move on YouTube, their anti-littering tactic spawning super hero status. I feel like Batman, says Claude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you be Robin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘ll be your Robin. Sure.
BUSH: Come over here, put your hand out there by the claw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up to 25 pounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It actually, it‘s used for investigating IEDs and new suspicious material.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Mark Mallory (ph) is here from Cincinnati. If you are just tuning in, he was so good at pitching that we decided to have him display it here on national television. Wow.
OLBERMANN: Brian Williams, “Sopranos” fan, sort of makes you wonder why the news casters we have always seen on the landmark HBO hit have been Annicka Pergamon (ph) from New York One and Bobby Rivers from the Food Network. I mean, Brian could have done “Nightly News” from Jersey one night with a Strealis (ph) Pig behind him over his shoulder, but now, now it‘s too late for him.
Our number two story, the “Sopranos” returns for the last time Sunday night. Mr. Williams got a unique behind-the-scenes tour and made it back to file a report.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): One thing that sets this show apart is that Tony has a little secret. And his secret is he goes to therapy. And this is where the magic happens.
STEVE SCHIRRIPA, “THE SOPRANOS”: This is it. Doctor Melfy‘s (ph) office.
Our tour guide through Soprano-land is from Steve Schirripa, who plays Bobby Bocloa (ph) on the show. And everywhere we go on each new set, we can feel the presence of the boss.
SCHIRRIPA: They do bad things to a lot of people, to good people. These are bad guys. They are bad games, but the audience chooses to like them, to root for them.
WILLIAMS: For fans of all things mob-related, there has never been anything like “The Sopranos.” Ten years on the air, enough Emmys to fill the trunk of a car. It‘s the story of an upper middle class mob boss who pads around the kitchen in his robe, which he also wears to go get the paper at the bottom of the driveway. Tony Soprano has two families, his wife Carmella and his two kids; and his under-bosses.
Add to the mix the arch enemies, the feds, the shooting, his heart attack and you begin to get the picture.
DAVID CHASE, “THE SOPRANOS”: Whenever you are on his face, there are a million things going on. I guess, I‘m proud of all the contributions.
WILLIAMS: And it‘s all the creation of a guy from Jersey. David Chase grew up in an Italian-American household and he writes what he knows.
CHASE: I Have a great affection for New Jersey. I just think New Jersey has a lot of character, and I think it‘s a very vital place. It‘s a very interesting place. It‘s such a mix of different kinds of people and, you know, people from New Jersey, they have seen it all.
WILLIAMS: Chase hired some serious veteran actors and some people like Bruce Springsteen‘s guitar player, who had never acted before. Viewers have watched Tony‘s kids grow up on the show, and one measure of how the show has taken off; the actors on it who could do without all the attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it has done to my life; it‘s made me very, very, very famous and I don‘t know if that‘s the best thing that you could have in your life, fame. The work is—the work is the work and it‘s terrific to do it.
WILLIAMS: Edie Falco was mostly a stage actress before becoming Carm Soprano and minutes after they shot the last ever scene in the family kitchen, she talked about the journey.
EDIE FALCO, “THE SOPRANOS”: You are not supposed to have an acting job for ten years, you know, that‘s not what this business is about. But it happened and we have grown—I‘ll speak for myself. I have grown deeply attached to these people. So the prospect of just walking away from this is ridiculous. It‘s just ridiculous and it is necessary. So that is my next difficult task.
WILLIAMS: A difficult task for viewers as well.
(on camera): We will have a statement later on, but that‘s it for now.
(voice-over): Brian Williams, NBC News, Queens, New York.
OLBERMANN: Not even in Tony Soprano‘s family has anyone ever been accused of inhaling the ashes of a dead relative, all to which explains the continuing placement of Keith Richards atop our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. The bemused rocker now says his comment to a British journalist about snorting his dad‘s cremated remains were lost in translation. A spokeswoman had already said that Richards was joking, but Richards‘ horrified family pushed him to respond personally, according to “This Is London.”
“The complete story is lost in translation,” Richards said in a statement. “I planted a sturdy English oak. I took the lid off the box of ashes and he is now growing oak tress and would love me for it. I was trying to say how tight Burt and I were, that tight.” Lost in translation? So, according to Richards then, closeness to his dad may be expressed with this euphemism, I snorted my father?
To Britney Spears then, high on love again, reportedly. She has a new beaux, reportedly. He is a musician, reportedly, Howie Day, and La Spears met him in rehab, reportedly. According to “Life and Style” magazine, an insider saying, quote, Britney just lights up and seems back to her old self when she talks to Howie and says he is the best kisser ever. This is the second new love she has allegedly met in rehab. Jason Fillia (ph) was the first.
Spears‘ mother doesn‘t approve of this one reportedly because Mr. Day has been arrested twice, once while smoking in an airport lavatory, and he was sent to rehab as part of his probation.
Speaking of probationary rehab, Oddball‘s plays of the month March edition. That‘s ahead. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
And tonight, something utterly unprecedented in the nearly two-year history of the W.P. and the W., just watch and then stand by for a shocking announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I just want to get this straight. You were all over there with teenage daughters, are telling me that you are OK with somebody sneaking into the country, becoming drunk, get convicted of a DUI and staying here. You‘re all right with that?
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: My nightmare is my daughters having anything to do with a drunk—let me finish my answer. My nightmare is my daughters having anything to do with a person driving drunk. That‘s my nightmare. It could be a Jewish drunk. It could be a Polish drunk. It could be an Irish drunk. It could be an Italian drunk.
O‘REILLY: No, American—
RIVERA: What the hell difference does it make?
O‘REILLY: It makes plenty of difference.
RIVERA: It does not.
O‘REILLY: He doesn‘t have a right to be here.
RIVERA: He didn‘t commit a felony.
O‘REILLY: He doesn‘t have a right to be in this country.
RIVERA: But that‘s nothing to do with the fact that he is drunk.
O‘REILLY: Yes, it does. He should have been deported, and this mayor and the police chief didn‘t deport him.
RIVERA: Listen, do you know how many people we have in jail? How many of they will are illegal aliens? Illegal aliens commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens do. They do.
O‘REILLY: This guy couldn‘t have been—
RIVERA: Cool your jets. It has nothing to do with illegal aliens. It has to do with drunk driving. Don‘t obscure a tragedy to make a cheap political point.
O‘REILLY: If I‘m the father—
RIVERA: It‘s a cheap political point.
O‘REILLY: No, it isn‘t.
RIVERA: And you know it.
O‘REILLY: This is justice.
RIVERA: This has nothing to do with that poor old mayor. It has nothing to do with the mayor.
O‘REILLY: You want anarchy. You want open border anarchy.
RIVERA: What I want is fairness. We have lured these people—we have lured these people—
O‘REILLY: Oh, yes.
RIVERA: With the—
RIVERA: with the promise of a job, with a country basically full domestic employment. We have for decades lured them here and now we are starting a mob scene to have them—
RIVERA: You want your viewers to go knocking on people‘s doors, door to door, are you an illegal? I‘m going to take you outside and do something to you.
O‘REILLY: I want the law enforced.
RIVERA: History has seen what happens when you—
O‘REILLY: I want the law enforced and you don‘t.
RIVERA: Bill, you—
O‘REILLY: You don‘t.
RIVERA: -- Congress if they had the courage, the president of the United States, if you look at what he has to say, all want reasoned immigration reform, but to do this tragedy in Virginia Beach, and make it about illegal aliens is a sin.
O‘REILLY: It is.
RIVERA: That‘s a sin.
RIVERA: This family lured no one. This family lost their daughter and -- 347 drunk driving fatalities in the commonwealth of Virginia. Do we care about them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: For the record, the father of one of the girls killed by the drunk driver attended a news conference in Virginia Beach last night at which he said, “we need to heal and to bring immigration—that‘s disrespectful to a family who is just mourning.” Amen.
And relative to our segment here, tonight, for the first, possibly the last time, ever, we declare Geraldo Rivera today‘s Best Person in the World!
OLBERMANN: Every once in a while the last day of the month will land on a weekend. It just happens that we. We don‘t like it here because that means there is going to be at least five days between the end of the month and when we can bring you the Oddball Plays of the Month. This was the case, of course, with March. And if you‘re anything like me, you feel like it has been too long since you have seen such winners as the Prison Idol story or panda watches porn, or even Japanese guy gets knocked into a vat of whipped cream.
Our number one story, good news, the wait is over. It is the plays of the month for March. And it begins when I say, let‘s play Oddball.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Japan, where—hey there is an escaped Orangutan at the Tokyo zoo.
We begin in Chenai (ph), India, where the hottest thing going in this beach community is the Guinnee pig that can tell the future.
I will be eaten later this afternoon.
We begin in Chang Mai (ph), Thailand for the official celebrations of National Elephant Day. Wait, I am supposed to get National Elephant Day off.
We begin with an Oddball sports report from Valencia, Spain, where the bull is always the underdog, but every now and then, there you go big fella.
We begin on a street corner far—three or four blocks down from here. Just one of hundreds of locations around the country with brand new “Star Wars” themed mailboxes. It is all part of the U.S. Postal Service‘s celebration of the 30th anniversary of the movie, culminating later this month with the release of a “Star Wars” stamp. Yay, finally your chance to lick the backside of a Wookie.
Settle down now, it is just the 49th Annual Rattlesnake Round Up, the Texas equivalent of whacking day from the Simpsons. Thousands of the venomous snakes, collected and brought to the Noland County Museum, and then small children are thrown into the pen to play “Indiana Jones?”
I‘m think that‘s a typo.
To the Internets where we found this video of a neat snow mobile trick. I had no idea you could cross a river with one of these things. That might have been expensive.
We begin inside the Maracopa (ph) County Jail in Arizona for another exciting episode of Inmate Idol.
To Hollywood, where it‘s not cats causing trouble, but cat walks. Down goes Electra, followed promptly by her would be rescuer, Soap Star Allison Sweeney (ph), two-fer. The fallen ladies (INAUDIBLE) becoming new additions to COUNTDOWN‘s ever growing archive of cat walk catastrophes.
To Charleston, South Carolina, where I bet you are wondering how this kid got all these scratches on his back. Skate boarding, dude.
If you damn kids are going to skate on the marble, then you‘re going to catch yourself some Charleston justice. Hello.
To Takiyama, Japan, hello. That was a cucumber. From way downtown, bang. And down goes the Orangutan. There is a cart coming behind you. Doh. And what do you know? The concrete canoes are sinking.
To Chang Mai, Thailand, where you might have heard about this kind of thing. We believe this is the first time it has ever been shown on television. Come to think of it, you may want to get the kiddies out of the room. It‘s zoo officials trying to get a male panda more interested in mating with his female cage mate by forcing him to watch panda porn.
How is he supposed to get in the mood with all of you guys standing there. Can a panda get a little privacy around here?
To the Internets for another installment of our award winning series, 575 reasons why Japanese television is better than ours is. Number 180, we never make game show contestants navigate a giant clock surrounded by whipped cream.
OK, boys and girls, what time is it? Time to take a shower, skinny.
And then to the skies, 37,000 feet above Athens, Greece, where the British pop band Jamiriquo (ph) is putting on a show for 200 lucky fans in the first ever concert on an airplane. Frankly I‘m also going to dispute the whole first concert on an airplane thing. Have we forgotten this?
OLBERMANN: Cut me some slack, my momma did not raise no dummy. I dug her rap. That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,454th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I am Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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