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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 20

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Dana Milbank, Savannah Guthrie

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

Americans dying in Iraq, and the president still shows no sense of urgency.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know, there is ample time to debate this war.  We need to get the troops some money.


OLBERMANN:  Even though his own Pentagon says it has all the money it needs through the end of June.  And the troops in harm‘s way might just argue with that phrase “ample time.”


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  The White House spin machine has been working overtime in an effort to defend its failed policies.


OLBERMANN:  For the late Pat Tillman, the spin machine began literally before his body was cold.  The latest military inquiry shows an immediate information lockdown, so severe that a soldier, wounded in the same friendly fire nightmare, was placed under guard so he couldn‘t talk, and Internet and phone connections to the base in Afghanistan were cut.

Those troops lucky enough to still be alive and get rotated back to Iraq, it‘s OK, for every month served, they‘ll get an extra day off.

One of the salesmen of that war, Paul Wolfowitz, on the ropes at the World Bank for mixing business and pleasure.  A chief deputy calls on him to resign, because of seeming favoritism about job contracts for his girlfriend.

And talking your way into trouble.  Contestant number one.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran, you know?

(singing):  Bomb-bomb-bomb...


OLBERMANN:  Contestant number two.


BUSH:  If you‘ve got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory or whatever you call them, you know what I‘m talking about.


OLBERMANN:  And from the celebrity division, contestant number three.


ALEC BALDWIN (on phone):  So I‘m going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are.  You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?


OLBERMANN:  Alec Baldwin, leaving a voicemail for his daughter.  What was that song that Kim Jong Il character sang in “Team America World Police,” “You are worthless, Alec Baldwin?”

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


BUSH:  Polls just go poof.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

To hear the president tell it, the American force in Iraq might as well be George Washington‘s starving troops at Valley Forge.  Even though his own Pentagon says there will be no funding issues until July, he says give him the money now, debate whether or not to save their lives later.  Of course, a lot of them will be dead later.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, even as the administration‘s own policy in Iraq is apparently changing in significant, albeit still secret ways, what President Bush has to say publicly about the conflict remains largely the same.

Nary a sign today from the commander in chief that his Pentagon admits it has enough money to pay for his war in Iraq through June, or that military planners now feel that training Iraqi troops is no longer a priority, McClatchy Newspapers reporting that U.S. officials in Baghdad now believe American forces in Iraq will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces themselves, if they have any hope of coming home anytime soon, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, having alleged just yesterday that the White House already knows the war in Iraq is unwinnable, but has escalated the conflict anyway to keep the war going until this administration leaves office, Mr. Reid‘s comments drawing fire from the White House and from its allies, like self-described independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, in a statement the senator accusing the majority leader of, quote, “surrendering in the face of barbarism,” the administration‘s policy on the ground changing in other ways in the wake of Wednesday‘s bombings that killed more than 170, the U.S. military now said to be constructing a concrete wall three miles long in the heart of Baghdad to separate Sunni neighborhoods from Shi‘a, what is being described as a Balkanization of the city, or perhaps a Berlinization of the city, back on Capitol Hill, moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe announcing she would sponsor a bill calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq under certain conditions, in Michigan this afternoon, Mr. Bush once again grossly exaggerating the financial condition in which the Pentagon now finds itself because of his battle with Congress.


BUSH:  It‘s now been 74 days since I sent to Congress a request for emergency funding that our troops urgently need.  The leadership in Congress have spent those 74 days trying to substitute their judgment for the judgment of our generals without sending me legislation.

And now to cover ongoing Army operations, the Pentagon is being forced to transfer money from military personnel accounts.  The delay in spending is beginning to affect the ability of the Pentagon to fund our troops and all our missions.

There is ample time to debate this war.  We need to get the troops some money.


OLBERMANN:  Time now to turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  So we changed everything to train the Iraqis.  Now we‘re changing everything to not train the Iraqis.  Is the president aware that we have now tried every plan except “Plan 9 from Outer Space”?

ALTER:  Well, you know, this, this has been going on longer than World War II.  And they‘ve been trying the same strategies over and over again.  So if you‘re now saying, We‘re not going to train the Iraqi troops, what does that mean?  An indefinite, open-ended commitment to have our young men and women die on the streets of Baghdad.

Even the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said today that it should not be open-ended.  So you have a policy that‘s open-ended, because we‘re not trying to raise up the Iraqi army any more, and yet, the left hand in the administration doesn‘t know what the right hand is doing.  All they can agree on in the White House is, they want to throw the Democrats into the briar patch by making it seem like they‘re against our troops.

OLBERMANN:  What I don‘t understand about that, and you can understand wanting to do it, but Senator Reid had added this element of intent in what he said.  But otherwise, is he not saying basically what the Iraq Study Group said earlier this year, the war isn‘t winnable?  And if—and why are the Republicans attacking him on that part, and not what he said about the administration knowing that it‘s not winnable and going ahead anyway?

ALTER:  Well, because if they acknowledge that the war is not winnable, then, as both Senators Obama and McCain said, young livers are being wasted in Iraq, if it‘s in an unwinnable war.  So you kind of—you can‘t have it both ways.  If it‘s unwinnable, then we have to get out.

And, you know, what‘s so dispiriting about this is that, you know, the definition of insanity, Keith, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  It‘s almost like they think, If we just stay a little longer, that somehow luck or God or something else is going to turn this around, when everybody outside of the administration, and a, you know, few supporters in the Senate, believes this is just the wrong course.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe a good three-mile-long concrete wall will make all the difference.  It did wonders for the Soviet Union in the ‘60s.

Now, this joint news conference today in Baghdad between Defense Secretary Gates and his Iraqi counterpart, Mr. Gates did not sound quite as upbeat as his boss did.  He said the results so far of the security plan in Baghdad are mixed, that our commitment to Iraq is long-term but it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling the streets open-endedly.  Between that statement and what the Pentagon said about its having the money to go until July, where is this discrepancy?  Why is there such a discrepancy on the president‘s side of this equation?  Where is he, where is he?  Is he not listening to what Gates or what the Pentagon is saying?

ALTER:  Look, what you do—what you have here is, you have a president who wants to leave office without having to make the tough decision on withdrawing troops from Iraq.  Leave it to his successor.  I—it‘s a profoundly irresponsible position, but that‘s the one he‘s taking.  You got a secretary of defense who‘s new to the game, who has some grip still on reality, who‘s saying, Look, this is, this isn‘t right.

They‘re not going to resolve that.  They‘re going to finesse it at least until late summer.  You keep hearing, Keith, about late summer.  That‘s when this thing is going to get assessed again.  If the level of violence has decreased by late summer, they will see that as a vindication to continue going.  If it‘s increased, or is at the same very high level, then you‘re going to have a reckoning around Labor Day.

OLBERMANN:  And what are the Democrats doing in the interim, other than Mr. Reid‘s comment yesterday?

ALTER:  I think they‘re turning the screws in several different areas.  You know, there‘s some unhappiness on the Democratic left that they‘re not moving fast enough, but you can tell, say, today, from what the White House spokeswoman was saying, they want—the White House wants the Democrats to cut off funding, to go with the left-wing position, because that would (INAUDIBLE) them—allow them to tar the Democrats with losing the war.

So smarter Democrats are saying, No, we‘re not going to fall for that trap.  We‘re going to have steadily increasing pressure on the policy.  And I think they‘re actually doing it in a pretty sensible way, ratcheting up the pressure on the administration.

OLBERMANN:  “Newsweek”‘s senior editor, our own Jonathan Alter.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir, and have a good weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We already knew the Army waited for a month, more than that, to tell Pat Tillman‘s family that he died by friendly fire in Afghanistan, the Pentagon‘s inspector general now concluding that at least nine Army officers, including as many as four generals, knew the truth but neglected to share it.

Tonight, there are new details into just how strenuously the military prevented that truth from coming out, and how quickly, the Associated Press obtaining nearly 1,100 pages of investigative documents showing that within just hours of Tillman‘s death, the Army went into information lockdown mode, all Internet and phone connection to the operations base in Afghanistan shut down, guards placed outside the hospital room of one of Tillman‘s fellow Rangers, who was also shot in the same friendly fire incident, ostensibly to stop the media from asking him questions, a sergeant told to burn Tillman‘s bloody uniform and body armor to, quote, “prevent security violations, leaks, and rumors,” another sergeant, who realized that the bullet holes in Tillman‘s vest had to have been made by American ammunition, was told to, quote, “Keep quiet and let the investigators do their job.”

One witness who actually saw the friendly fire incident was ordered not to tell Pat Tillman‘s brother and fellow Ranger what happened even as he and Kevin Tillman traveled home to the United States together.

We‘re joined now by Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and author of “Chasing Ghosts.”

Paul, thanks for your time again.


VETERANS OF AMERICA:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Army says the kind of information lockdown that we‘re hearing about is standard.  Whenever a soldier‘s killed in action, to ensure that families only find out about the death of a loved one from an official representative of the military.  But have you heard of this whole sequence of things happening, lockdown, uniforms being burned, armed guards being posted around the survivors to stop leaks?

RIECKHOFF:  No, I‘ve never heard of anything like that.  And it is standard military procedure to lock down the Internet, lock down cell phone communication back home.  When a soldier was killed in my battalion, that was standard operating procedure.  You don‘t want Tillman‘s mother to find out that her son was killed by a forwarded e-mail or by somebody walking up to her at the supermarket.  You don‘t want that to happen.

So a certain degree of caution is necessary.  But to have armed guards, to have this type of conspiracy wrapped around it, is entirely unusual.  And it‘s clear that it was done as damage control.  Mrs. Tillman has been very vocal recently in saying that they knew they screwed up, and they had blown up their poster boy.  They had a real mess on their hands as soon as they knew Tillman was killed.  It was compounded when they found out it was friendly fire.  And there was clearly a coverup.  So the coverup was much bigger here than the crime itself.

OLBERMANN:  So what we‘re finding out, though, here, Paul, is that this didn‘t begin a week afterwards, it didn‘t begin when whoever that was got the message to the Pentagon, Don‘t let the president talk about the details of Pat Tillman‘s death, they may be embarrassing.  This happened literally within hours of this event, of his death?

RIECKHOFF:  That‘s what it looks like.  And there has to be some level of personal accountability here within the chain of command, if those battalion-level, brigade-level, division-level commanders knew that this was going on and they covered it up, or they stretched the truth, or they lied, they need to be held accountable.

And that‘s why we need these open hearings they‘re going to have on Capitol Hill next week.  We should pull this all out, let Mrs.  Tillman testify, let the guys on the ground (INAUDIBLE) testify, and let‘s find out if this was a coverup, not only that impacted the understanding of the Tillman family, but the entire American population that was trying to figure this thing out.

OLBERMANN:  As if that were not all stupefying and mind-bending enough, this other story tonight, the other brave members of the military who are still serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has already extended the lengths of the deployments.  Now it‘s trying to make this compensation effort towards the troops who served more frequently, not through giving them extra money, but through extra time off, but it‘s one day off for every month served.  And then they asked why soldiers are not being compensated monetarily, and the Pentagon said this has nothing to do with budget constraints, and this is what was said, the message for the troops about this.


MICHAEL DOMINGUEZ:  We weren‘t trying to find some metaphysical balance between the service you are rendering, and buckets full of gold.


OLBERMANN:  So I‘m almost speechless.  Your reaction?

RIECKHOFF:  Well, they‘re going to have to start offering buckets full of gold pretty soon, if they want people to sign up and stay in, because the current pace of operations is not sustainable.  Our military is too small for the amount of pressure we‘re putting on it.  And it‘s falling apart at the seams.  Our people are worn down.  Divorce rates are climbing.  We‘ve had to stop-loss tens of thousands of people.

And, hey, we‘ll take the vacation.  Nobody‘s going to say no to an extra day of vacation.  But this is another Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, here‘s a, here‘s a day, give us a month where you‘re putting your life at risk.

Let me ask you a final question about the Senate majority leader‘s comments about the Iraq war.  After Mr. Reid spoke, Mr. McConnell, the—his Senate counterpart in the Republican Party, said, “I can‘t begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is lost.”

Paul, given Mr. Bush‘s Iraq Study Group said virtually the same thing months ago, how do you think the troops are going to react to what Mr. Reid said?

RIECKHOFF:  I don‘t think they‘re going to be that concerned.  They‘re going to be worried about the 15-month extension, the spike in violence, and the other things that impact their day-to-day lives.  Look, Harry Reid‘s not going to increase the number of votes the Democrats are going to get within the military here, that‘s for certain  But I don‘t think that it‘s that big of a deal, and it‘s not going to impact morale.

One of the things that did happen today that concerned me was that during Bush‘s press conference, he actually showed a graphic that showed 24 urban military outposts in downtown Baghdad.  I would argue that showing that to the world, and potentially to our enemy, might compromise morale, might actually compromise operational security.  Not many people have picked up on this.  When I saw that pop up on the TV screen, that sent up a red flag for me that really concerned me.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE), go into that briefly.  Exactly what is the concern?  I mean, is it that obvious to somebody from, from—if that video is somehow seen in insurgent headquarters, or the (INAUDIBLE), the, the insurgent cells there?  Is that going to be a giveaway as to where we are?

RIECKHOFF:  Our enemies aren‘t stupid.  They can look at that and figure out a grid coordinate and try to drop mortars on those exact locations.  I mean, this is like a Geraldo moment during the invasion, when Geraldo started drawing troop operation movements in the sand.  I mean, this is unprecedented in my experience.  Maybe I‘m missing something, but this is a real worry, and I wouldn‘t go throwing this out on the airwaves for everybody to see if I was the president.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Reickhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Thanks for pointing that out, thanks for your time.

RIECKHOFF:  Sure.  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First Senator John McCain makes a joke about bombing Iran, then he gets questioned about whether that joke might not have been appropriate.  Wait till you hear his response today.

And then the president gives us a trivia question.  He says, quote, “If you‘ve got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I‘m talking about.”  And here‘s the trivia question.  No, I don‘t.  What the hell are you talking about?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  So we‘ve already had an actor as president, but the world may have to wait a bit longer for a standup comic-in-chief.

Our fourth story, our nightly look at campaign ‘08, beginning in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where earlier this week, Republican candidate John McCain was asked a very serious question about whether the U.S. should attack Iran.  McCain briefly put aside the foreign policy wonk image and donned the mantle of Shecky McCain, standup candidate.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, that old, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran, you know?

(singing):  Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb...



OLBERMANN:  Then it was on to Vegas, baby, where the senator was asked if “Bomb Iran” might have been a little insensitive.


MCCAIN:  Insensitive to what?  The Iranians?  My response is, lighten up and get a life.


OLBERMANN:  Actually, we were thinking insensitive to the Beach Boys.

Senator McCain also told the Las Vegas fundraiser the tragedy at Virginia Tech shows the need to examine mental health laws, not gun control laws, and that Democratic senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, has lost all sense of propriety by suggesting the war in Iraq is already lost.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, a brain teaser.  Two men run for president, both win the popular vote, but only one actually serves, so far.  So will Al Gore run again?  President Clinton is helping his wife campaign, but he gave his former vice president a boost last night on the Larry King show.


FORMER PRES. BILL CLINTON:  And then you‘ve got, and you got Senator Edwards doing well, you got Senator Obama doing well, you got the prospect that Vice President Gore might run.


OLBERMANN:  He was from Tennessee, right?  Wait a minute, got Edwards and Obama, Gore, what about the missus?


CLINTON:  You know, I believe she‘d be the best president by a good long stretch, for all kinds of obvious reasons, or at least they‘re obvious to me.


OLBERMANN:  Former Clinton campaign chief James Carville was a little more direct.  He says Al Gore will, and quoted George Will, “Running for president is like sex, you don‘t do it once and forget about it.”  Carville also suggested, in the patois of New Orleans, that Obama needs more seasoning, while Mama needs more spice, Mama, of course, a reference to Hillary Clinton, who today met with the Rutgers women‘s basketball coach and the team, a visit that had been delayed because of the bad weather this week, and precipitated by the bad taste of former MSNBC host Don Imus, Senator Clinton drawing a line between Imus‘s words and Coach Stringer and her team.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She and her players have shown us the difference between bravery and bravado.  They have reminded us with eloquence and passion about the promise of this country.  They are living human markers of our progress in this country, and how far we have come, and how much further we have to go together.


OLBERMANN:  The senator saying everyone should take the Rutgers pledge to speak up and say, Enough is enough, when somebody belittles women and/or minorities.

Meantime, President Bush had a lot to say this week.  His Q&A session with citizens in Ohio inadvertently turning into open-mike night at the Chuckle Hut.  His ruminations on marriage, love, polls, chicken-plucking institutions.

And our Oddball department continues to work for you, and it will, until the cows come home.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Because of various screwups in the calendar, there is reason to believe it actually happened on April 26, but in some quarters, it‘s believed that on this date in the year 121, the future Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was born.  He was a pretty good emperor, but it was as a philosopher that he made his mark.  His private notes to himself about his own conduct were first published as “The Meditations” in 1558.  They have not been out of print since.  And they expect that lawsuit over his royalties to be resolved any millennium now.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Australia, with the COUNTDOWN Cow Chase of the Week.  And it is a doozy.  Lucky for us, too, with all the big news bumping the Oddball segment lately, our Plays of the Month package coming up was looking a little thin.  If you don‘t mind, we‘re going to stack the deck with the Oddballs we missed this week.  Down goes the cow.

Here‘s a beautiful home in the landslide district of Newfoundland, three bedrooms, gorgeous view, (INAUDIBLE) --  Never mind, let me show you something else down the block here.

Hello, I‘m Keith Olbermann, and welcome to Bullfight (INAUDIBLE) Mexico.  Never mind.  This guy is going to miss his spleen like nothing you can imagine.

Hey, it‘s a wild boar with his head stuck in a fence, everybody.  A boar with his head stuck in a fence.

Stay calm.

And look, it‘s the world‘s biggest shish kebab, meat on a really long stick.  (INAUDIBLE).  Now you know what happened to that last boar.

And finally, here‘s astronaut Sunny (ph) Williams running the Boston Marathon in space.  Her hair is really bouncy.  OK, boys, you got enough?  All right.

Cut to the newsmakers.

Paul Wolfowitz helped us to get into war.  Now he helps his girlfriend get a raise at the World Bank, where they both work.  Well, where they both work for the moment.  The latest.

And Alec Baldwin‘s custody battle with his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, goes wildly public.  The angry voicemail for his daughter.  Has either parent forfeited any pretense to custody?  What about the ethics of disseminating the tape?

That‘s ahead.

First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number tree, Venus Ramey.  The Kentucky woman finally caught somebody stealing machinery from one of her sheds, so she shot out the tires on the guy‘s car.  Not that interesting, except Ms. Ramey is 82 years old, and she was Miss America in 1944.

Number two, the Internets, a bizarre, almost unbelievable report from the Web marketing company Hitwise (ph).  Two years ago, the percentage of Web sites visited by Americans that featured pornography, nearly 13 percent.  This past February, percentage of Web sites visited by Americans that featured pornography, 11 percent.  At the same time, online communities and chat rooms have jumped from 6 percent to better than 10 percent.  People lost all the bookmarks.

And number one, Toto, Limited, Japan‘s leading manufacturer of toilets, recalling 180,000 of its Toto Z model, complete with bidet.  There was a small problem with the electrical wiring in the bidet.  It could catch fire and shoot flames upwards.  So, see, it was not something you ate.


OLBERMANN:  The World Bank formally began operations 61 years ago, created and funded by the Earth‘s leading nations, first to help Europe recover from World War II, and later to help developing nations develop with billions in grants and loans.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the board today set up a group to consider whether the man appointed by President Bush to run the World Bank, the same man once called the architect of the Iraq war, back when the war was assumed to have had a plan, should now be removed from his post. 

That man is former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.  The offense in question?  Giving his girlfriend at the World Bank, Shah Reeza (ph), a 45 percent raise, boosting her salary to 193,000 dollars.  The World Bank board also looking at the 200,000 dollars salaries paid to two of Wolfowitz‘ advisors.  Among those calling for him to go are the rest of his staff, the “Financial Times” as well, and the “Economist” newspaper and conservative Pat Buchanan, who called Reeza‘s salary, and Wolfowitz‘s own pay of 400,000, quote, “the systematic looting of our country by parasite who are paid the world‘s fattest public salaries, supposedly to alleviate the suffering of the world‘s poorest people.” 

Among those calling for Wolfowitz to stay are George W. Bush, and spokes persons for George W. Bush.  Aside from that whole starting the war thing, this is not Wolfowitz‘s only controversy in the news today.  The Defense Department confirming that back in 2003, while he was still at the Pentagon, Mr. Wolfowitz personally steered a contract for studying ways to set up a new Iraqi government to Shah Reeza.  Could there be a pattern here? 

Joining us now, Dana Milbank, MSNBC political analyst, national political reporter for the “Washington Post.”  Dana, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  Does using two positions of public trust to enrich your girlfriend qualify as corruption or stupidity, or is it just two kids crazy in love? 

MILBANK:  You know, this is a classic case of Washington style rough justice.  Here is a guy who started a war that caused hundreds of billions of dollars, and 10‘s, if not hundreds of thousands of lives, and he is going to wind up going down for getting an extra 50 grand for his girlfriend.  It‘s sort of like he got away with robbing the bank, and is now getting busted for J-walking. 

And what‘s happening here, of course, is the president is, once again, as he is with Alberto Gonzales, in this position of standing by a guy out of loyalty, even though he didn‘t belong in the job to begin with.  Paul Wolfowitz is not a banker.  He‘s not a manager.  He is an academic.  But he was put in this position out of loyalty.  And he is being punished now by a lot of the employees of the bank for other mistakes and mismanagement as well.  But this has been the issue to rally around. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and the Al Capone method always works, even at the World Bank.  Back this up a little bit, explain why we care about the World Bank? 

MILBANK:  Well, a lot of Americans don‘t care about the World Bank, but there is a lot of reason to care.  They will be giving out something like 30 billion dollars worth of loans this year, particularly to the poorest parts of the world, such as Africa.  And the bank is extremely influential in determining economic and social policy all across the developing world.  And it‘s one of those last few surviving multinational institutions that have been troubling lately. 

OLBERMANN:  The Pentagon confirmed Mr. Wolfowitz steered a contract to his girlfriend from the Pentagon.  It also said no ethics rules have been broken.  Does this tell us something about the ethics rules at the Pentagon? 

MILBANK:  I suppose it does.  But you have to sort of keep it all in perspective.  And we have had enough Haliburton problems at the Pentagon of late, that, once again, sort of the small potatoes that Paul Wolfowitz was dealing towards his girlfriend are a relatively a small matter for the tax payer, even if it does sort of titillate the public imagination. 

OLBERMANN:  And what is next for the man of Mr. Wolfowitz‘s track record, skills, loyalty to the president?  Is he the next attorney general? 

MILBANK:  Well I hear there might be an opening at FEMA.  The vice president is already in his job, and there are no openings for the Supreme Court.  But, you know, look, Paul Wolfowitz is very lucky that the Gonzales scandal is going on right now.  He is getting all the attention.  And, if anything, he‘s in a much worst position than Wolfowitz is.  Wolfowitz, though, serves at the pleasure of the many countries that participate in the World Bank.

George bush has veto power over anybody who would replace him, as has the power to nominate people.  So he is there as long as the president wants him there. 

OLBERMANN:  But assuming that he does go down, as you suggest, who is going wind up getting out of that first administration intact?  Who will still have a reputation in January 2009. 

MILBANK:  It‘s a different question of who is still in office and who still has a reputation? 

OLBERMANN:  Pick A or B, whichever you prefer to answer.

MILBANK:  I believe the president and the vice president will still be there. 

MILBANK:  Anybody who left the administration with a clean bill?  Did Colin Powell get out in time, or is he permanently stained by what happened? 

MILBANK:  Boy, if not for that one presentation before the United Nations about the WMD, he would have been fine.  And we don‘t hear about Condi Rice running for governor of California anymore. 

OLBERMANN:  No, nor commissioner of the National Football League.  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post,” great thanks, have a good weekend. 

MILBANK:  Thanks a lot Keith.   

OLBERMANN:  President Bush‘s speech in Ohio, one for the ages, not for policy, but for unintended punch lines, from chicken plucking to polls.  Highlights ahead.

And the Don Imus drama triggers another firing; the producer who sparked the racists comments is finally given the axe.  That‘s a kind of symbolic picture there, isn‘t.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN. 


OLBERMANN:  He already brought us verbal gems like “rarely is the question asked, is our children learning,” and, of course, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, can‘t get fooled again.”  Not to mention teaching us new terms, like the Internets and the Google and misunderestimate.  But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the president truly outdid himself in malapropism at Tippecanoe high school in Ohio yesterday, when he decided to go off script and answer questions. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My job is a job to make decisions.  I am a decision—I—if the job description were what do you do, it‘s decision-maker.  The first lesson about decision making is if you are short on a subject, ask for help.  So if you are a student listening, and you are not very good at math, ask for help. 

And now we are involved in a—I call it a global war against terror.  You can call it a global war extremists, a global war against radicals, a global war against people who want to hurt America.  You can call it whatever you want, but it‘s a global effort.  And by the way, the United States is not alone in this effort. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My question is about the U.S. military preparedness.  Currently, the law is that only 50 percent of the military components have to be U.S. made.  My question is about increasing that percentage in keeping a prepared military that we don‘t have to rely on other countries to defend ourselves? 

BUSH:  My answer is, I am really not sure what you are talking about. 

I will look into it. 

Everybody wants to be loved.  Not everybody, but, you know, you run office, I guess you do.  Never heard anybody say I want to be despised, I am running for office.  You know what I am talking about.  Some of you, if you are running a nursery, you know what I am talking about.  If you have a chicken factory, a chicken plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I am talking about. 

And they are coming up, and so we would catch them, and we did not have enough beds on the border.  So they catch a fellow from El Salvador trying to sneak in. 

People often ask me, what are we seeing on TV.  I read three histories on George Washington last year.  I have been in politics long enough to know that polls just go poof at times. 

The year 2006, I read three histories about our first president.  My attitude is if they are still writing about one, 43 doesn‘t need to worry about it. 


OLBERMANN:  In the other celebrity and entertainment news, it‘s Keeping Tabs, and some additional unemployment surrounding Don Imus.  His long-time producer and side kick, the Iago to his Othello, Bernard McGuirk has now also been fired.  McGuirk‘s termination from WFAN radio, which was the flagship station for Imus‘ CBS Radio program took affect late yesterday, according to a CBS Radio spokeswoman. 

From the start of the controversy, there were calls for Mr. McGuirk to be fired, along with Mr. Imus.  On his radio show, the simulcast which MSNBC ended one day before CBS pulled the plug, Imus had referred to the Rutgers women‘s basketball team in racists and sexists terms, but the remarks form Mr. McGuirk immediately proceeding were also strikingly offensive. 

The producer had originally referred to the team as, quote, some hardcore hoes.  Apparently it took Mr. McGuirk‘s bosses only seven days after Mr. Imus‘ termination to realize that he had deserved the same.  Geez, there was a lot of weeping around this network about McGuirk, too. 

No resolution yet for Larry Birkhead in his effort to get legal custody of his daughter.  A Bohemian court wrapped up a closed hearing today without make any final determination.  Mr. Birkhead‘s custody of seven month old Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern is widely expected now that his paternity has been proved.  But the child‘s grandmother, Virgie Arthur, is reportedly still trying to reach a visitation agreement with Mr.  Birkhead that would end her effort to get some kind of shared legal custody. 

Mr. Birkhead says he expects to start his life with his daughter outside the Bahamas, and soon. 

Custody battle of a very different sort, the extremely ugly turn in the fight between Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger over their 11 year old daughter.  After he insults his daughter on tape, and somebody else releases that tape, should either of them get custody.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of other nominees for the Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to Bill-O.  You will recall that Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson told the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, quote, I am in the private sector, and for the first time in my life, I am earning money.  You know, that‘s sort of part of the Jewish tradition, and I do not find anything wrong with that.  He added, what I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, was the accomplishments of the Jewish religion.  You have been outstanding business people, and I compliment you for that. 

Bill-O has now explained there was no insult, nor stereotyping there by Mr. Thompson.  He was basically giving the crowd a compliment and saying you‘re good business people.  So, Bill, if somebody said you Irish are the best sexual harassers, you would take that as a compliment? 

The silver, to Governor Thompson, who is now trying to pin the controversy on the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Newspaper.”   The Milwaukee paper, he says, has never supported me in anything, he told Bill-O.  The Milwaukee paper endorsed Thompson for re-election as governor of Wisconsin in 1998.  Eighteen days ago it editorialized about Thompson‘s presidential dreams, saying, quote, there is actually more than a bit to commend his candidacy. 

But the winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, explaining to his radio audience that Cho Seung Hui was, well let me quote it, “this guy had to be a liberal.  You start railing against the rich, and all this other—this guy is a liberal.  He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line.  So it‘s a liberal that committed this act.” 

He was a delusional paranoid, Rush.  He was disconnected from reality,

Rush.  You can‘t be a delusional paranoid, disconnected from reality, Rush,

and have a political ideology.  I mean, Rush, you could not have that

political ideology of yours and be a delusional paranoid disconnected from

never mind. 

Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN:  No one expects divorce to be pretty, and after the love is gone, long lasting feuds are surprisingly public.  There‘s also no need for the messiness to become public though.  Sometimes the parties insist on making it so.  It becomes a stomach turning affair when a proxy war is fought by parents using their children, or in this case on child.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a phone message, evidently left by Alec Baldwin for his 11-old daughter.  When you hear it, you might well guess who could have leaked it to the website  It would likely be a good guess.  Our correspondent is Natalie Morales.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR:  OK, I want to tell you something, OK?  I‘ve made (EXPLETIVE DELETED) of myself trying to get to a phone to call you at a specific time. 

NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And so begins Alec Baldwin‘s scathing message to his daughter, Ireland.  Baldwin shares custody for the 11-year-old with his ex-wife, actress Kim Basinger.  The divorced couple has had a long-running feud, and one of Hollywood‘s most bitter custody battles. 

Baldwin voice mail tirade to his daughter was over a missed phone call.  He thought they had set up a specific time to talk on the phone, but she did not pick up.

BALDWIN:  When the times come for me to make the phone call, I stop whatever I‘m doing, and I go and I make that phone call, at 11:00 in the morning in New York, and if you don‘t pick up the phone at 10:00 at night.  And you don‘t even have that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) phone turned on.  I want you to know something, OK?  I‘m tired of playing this game with you.

I‘m leaving this message with you to tell you you have insulted me for the last time.  You have insulted me.  You don‘t have the brains or the decency as a human being.  I don‘t give a damn that you‘re 12 years old or 11 years old, or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass, who doesn‘t care about what you do, as far as I‘m concerned. 

You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone.  And when I come out there next week, I‘m going to fly out there for the day, just to straighten you out on this issue.  I‘m going to let you know just how disappointed in you I am, and how angry I am with you that you have done this to me again.  You have made me feel like (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  And you have made me feel like a fool over and over and over again. 

An this crap you pull on me, with this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) phone situation, that you would never dream of doing to your mother, and you do it to me constantly, and over and over again.  I am going to get on a plane and I‘m going to come out there for the day.  And I‘m going to straighten your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out when I see you.  Do you understand me?

I‘m going to really make sure you get it.  Then I‘m going to get on a plane, and I‘m going to turn around and I‘m going to come home.  So you better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with.  So I‘m going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are.  You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?

MORALES:  A spokesman for Baldwin issued this statement to NBC News after the phone message hit‘s website: “In the best interest of the child, Alec will do what the mother is pathologically incapable of doing, keeping his mouth shut and obeying the court order.  The mother and her lawyer leaked this sealed material in violation of a court order.  Although Alec acknowledges that he should have used different language in parenting his child, everyone who knows him privately knows what he has been put through for the past six years.


OLBERMANN:  Natalie Morales our reporter, who could have added that voice mail is forever.  Miss Basinger‘s lawyer saying that the message proves Mr. Baldwin is, quote, out of touch with reality, according to  And Mr. Baldwin reportedly filing legal papers to determine if Miss Basinger is the one who gave the voice recording to TMZ, and to have her held in contempt of court. 

Joining us now, the Washington correspondent for Court TV, Savannah Guthrie.  Thanks for your time tonight, Savannah. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with this ethical race to the bottom.  How much could Mr. Baldwin nasty message affect his standing in a continuing custody issue.  And if it is the case that his wife is the one who released this, his ex-wife, how could it affect her case for custody? 

GUTHRIE:  Well this tape isn‘t going to help either party, for the obvious reasons; the tape speaks for itself.  It does not put Alec Baldwin in a terrific light as a father.  His tone is totally inappropriate, angry, menacing, borderline threatening.  And a judge considering who to grant custody to, who to grant visitation to, is going to look very hard at a tape like this. 

The judge is also going to wonder how this tape got into the public domain.  This was supposed to be sealed.  There is a small universe of people who would have access to this tape.  If the judge believes it‘s Kim Basinger, the mother, who released this tape to the media, he‘s going to have real questions about her credibility, and he is going to be furious that it is out there in the public domain and that it was a violation of the court order. 

OLBERMANN:  If this had just gone to the judge, this recording had been taken by Miss Basinger privately, how could it have affected the case without the publicity?  What possible advantage would the publicity be to her and her argument, other than humiliating him and making them look terrible? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, I can‘t fathom what possible strategic advantage this would give, making this tape would give, in the private case, before a family court judge.  This not even a situation where maybe a party is out there trying to influence a potential jury.  This is family court.  There is an audience of one. 

The judge will determine who will get custody.  The judge is going to hear this tape, and getting this tape out there in the public domain is only going to make the judge mad, because if the judge thinks that Kim Basinger is the source of the leak, there are going to be serious questions about the judgment of a parent who would put out this terrible tape, where the child is clearly victimized, out there for public consumption, for the whole world to see. 

OLBERMANN:  Putting the legal issue of custody aside, what are the ethics of taking such a recording and leaking it to the media?  There is a report also tonight that the daughter was OK with the release of the tape.  But even so, what are the ethics of that?  What are the ethics of we in the media playing it? 

GUTHRIE:  That‘s a good question.  I think there are obvious serious ethical problems for whoever leaked this tape to the media.  If it was a third party, that person has a lot of problem, because there‘s a child, an 11-year-old child in the middle of this.  If it is the mother, it is doubly bad, because that‘s someone who is clearly not taking into consideration the affect that it would have on the child. 

And who cares if an 11-year-old little girl says it is OK for the tape to be out there.  The adults around her are supposed to have better judgment and are supposed to see that obviously it‘s not good for this tape to be out there.  The publicity does not benefit the child.  This family court decision is supposed to be about the best interests of the child, and having this tape out there makes clear that no one seems that interested in what is best for this little girl.   

OLBERMANN:  In 30 seconds, give me the overview, how often do the divorce situations and custody fights get this bad? 

GUTHRIE:  Well I think things get ugly in family court all the time.  I mean, family court judges will tell you, you know, there is nothing more ugly than what happens inside the courtroom.  What is odd here is that it is out here on the world stage and we‘re all hearing it, and it is celebrities, people whose faces we recognize, people who out there people think they know, because they are celebrities. 

So that is what‘s unusual about it.  It is always disturbing to hear a father really go after his child like this.  It is just hard to hear.  It is sad that there is a little 11-year-old girl in the middle of all this. 

OLBERMANN:  And that voice mail is out there forever for her too.  Court TV‘s Savannah Guthrie, as always, Savannah, thank you.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,468th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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