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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 24

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Richard Wolffe, John Dean, Jonathan Turley, Maria Milito

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

The vote.  The House sponsor of the Iraq war supplemental funding bill not voting aye, the speaker of the House of Representatives not voting aye, the kingpins of the Senate not agreeing on whether or not to vote aye, the presidential candidates risking much by voting aye or nay.

The most ominous congressional roll call since the Iraq war authorization, the vote.

Preceded by the trip through the looking glass in the president‘s first full-scale news conference since Valentine‘s Day.  Not a lot of sweethearts.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think America‘s safer without Saddam Hussein.  They‘d come and get us.


OLBERMANN:  So we are safer.  Except if we aren‘t.


BUSH:  They are a threat to your children, David.


OLBERMANN:  To his children, just David Gregory‘s children?


BUSH:  It‘s a danger to your children, Jim.


OLBERMANN:  Everybody else‘s children are apparently OK.

The politics of press conferences, and Democrats crawling from the wreckage of their own compromise with Richard Wolffe.  A president less credible and more incredible with John Dean.

The Alberto Gonzales meeting with Monica Goodling, asking her her reaction as he went over his story of the U.S. attorney firings.  It sounds wrong.  Wait till you hear what it sounds like when contextualized within the timeline of the scandal by Jonathan Turley.

Gonzalez says he was just comforting her.  Yes, comforting a young colleague named Monica.  Like we need another one of these stories.

So, yes, the Justice Department‘s a shipwreck, the Democrats are enabling the war, motherhood is now a stunt for 60-year-old women.  But there‘s good news tonight, “American Idol” is over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The winner of “American Idol,” ladies and gentlemen, Sanjaya!


OLBERMANN:  Little funny there.

Oh, and one more thing from the president‘s news conference.  Watch the birdie.  Boy, sometimes the symbolism just comes down so heavy you have to wear a hat.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


BUSH:  It‘s going to be hard work.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

If the people of this country, through their votes, tell President Bush to get us out of Iraq, they are ignored.  If the Democratic representatives of this country, through their legislation, tell President Bush to get us out of Iraq, they are ignored.  But if his remarks at a news conference today are to be believed, always a dicey proposition with him, if members of the Iraqi government tell President Bush to get us out of Iraq, we‘re out.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the Democrats tonight have officially voted themselves out of the getting-us-out game, at least for the moment, so your best bet, maybe your only bet, is to contact your nearest representative.  Representative of the Iraqi government, that is.

First, the House, passing legislation by a 280 to 142 vote to continue funding the conflict without a troop withdrawal deadline, or even nonwaivable benchmarks, the Senate expected, barring a sudden contagion of courage, to follow suit with passage presently, the Democratic leader of that body, among those straining to justify having caved, Harry Reid and others, rationalizing to “The New York Times” that the majority party would be left more vulnerable by attacks from the White House had it left for vacation this Memorial Day weekend without a deal on Iraq, more charges of a do-nothing Congress from a president who has taken more vacation days than any, than they would be anger from the left.  It is enough to make any Democrat cry.

So, of course, it was the Republican leader of the House bawling today, Congressman John Boehner wrapping up debate earlier this evening with some of the waterworks for which he is famous and scary.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I think at the top of our list is providing for the safety and security of the American people.  That‘s at the top of our list.  After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on?  When are we going to defeat them?  Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, if we don‘t do it now, and if we don‘t have the courage to defeat this enemy, we will long, long regret it.


OLBERMANN:  When are we going to take on the terrorists, sir?  I thought you and your party had personally protected us against them for the last five years.

Just because Democrats in Congress appear willing to accept whatever crap the president gives them does not mean the reporters who cover the White House are, at least, not judging by the questions they asked him at today‘s first news conference since February.  Mr. Bush, meantime, crapped upon, both literally and figuratively in the Rose Garden this morning, first by an hour of hard questions, second, by a bird that pooped on his suit, as indicated.

Mr. Bush could not take it out on the bird.  Where is Dick Cheney when you need him?  But he seemed to take it out on the reporters by referring to their children, specifically the children of NBC‘s own David Gregory, and not in a pleasant, How are your wife and kids? kind of way, more in a, If we don‘t fight al Qaeda in Iraq, your kids will be dead kind of way.


BUSH:  It‘s better to fight them there than here.  And this concept about, Well, maybe, you know, let us kind of just leave them alone and maybe they‘ll be all right, is naive.

These people attacked us before we were in Iraq.  They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq.  And they‘ve been attacking ever since.  They are a threat to your children, David.  And whoever‘s in that Oval Office better understand it and take measures necessary to protect the American people.


OLBERMANN:  And should anyone think that was a slip of some sort, little more than 12 minutes later, when Jim Rutenberg of “The New York Times” dared to ask, If al Qaeda is such a threat, why have you not yet caught Osama bin Laden, Mr. Bush dared to question the safety of that reporter‘s children.


BUSH:  I would hope our world hadn‘t become so cynical that they don‘t take the threats of al Qaeda seriously, because they‘re real.  And it‘s a danger to the American people.  It‘s a danger to your children, Jim, and it‘s really important that we do all we can do to bring them to justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, why is he still at large?

BUSH:  Why is he at large?  Because we hadn‘t got him yet, Jim, that‘s why.  And he‘s hiding.


OLBERMANN:  And the administration disbanded the CIA‘s bin Laden unit.

As for the question that initially set the president off, David Gregory not alone in wondering just how much credibility Mr. Bush actually has left.


GREGORY:  Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do as you did yesterday, where you raised 2-year-old intelligence, talking about the threat posed by al Qaeda, it‘s met with increasing skepticism.  Majority in the public, growing number of Republicans, appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully.  Can you explain why you believe you‘re still a credible messenger on the war?

BUSH:  I‘m credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we‘ll be attacked.  And I firmly believe that.


OLBERMANN:  He‘d also read the intelligence on Iraq‘s reported WMD in the PDB in August 2001, didn‘t seem to give him any credibility or insight then, Mr. Bush saying today it was a surprise to him that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of destruction, and destruction the best word to explain the unrelenting violence on the ground there, the American soldiers caught amid civil war and chaos.  Except for Mr. Bush.  He has a different explanation.


BUSH:  Yes, I‘m, I, the—there‘s—there‘s—certainly there‘s been an uptick in violence.  It‘s a snapshot, it‘s a moment.


OLBERMANN:  Only moments before, Mr. Bush having warned that it could be a bloody, very difficult August, and that he‘s expecting more casualties in the weeks and months ahead.  That snapshot takes an awful long time to develop.

His patience on Iraq not matched with any measure of patience on the purported pace of the investigation into the continuing scandal at the Justice Department.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m curious, Mr. President, if you‘re concerned about the cumulative picture that‘s being drawn about your Justice Department, and what assurances can you give the American people that the department is delivering impartial justice to the American people?

BUSH:  Yes, thank you, Michael.  There is a—an invest—an internal investigation taking place at the Justice Department.  And this will be an exhaustive investigation.  And if there‘s wrongdoing, it‘ll be taken care of.

This investigation is taking a long time.  (INAUDIBLE) being (INAUDIBLE) drug out, I suspect for political question—political reasons.


OLBERMANN:  One man‘s drug out is another man‘s stonewalling.

As for this wrongdoing Mr. Bush promises will be taken care of, well, he sure did a bang-up job taking care of that Valerie Plame Wilson leak.

Time now to turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, who was in the Rose Garden for that extraordinary performance today.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A question of the timing.  Why push the fake terrorism button so hard the last two days?  He got the cave-in by the Democrats.  Is there any sense why he laid the other stuff on so thick as to return to this old trick, the reference to the threats of the -- (INAUDIBLE) -- to the children of individual reporters?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m displeased he left my children out of it.  Well, it‘s an easy storyline for him, obviously.  I suspect that Tony Blair actually may have some blame here that he struck a very Churchillian tone today.  He did it again with Tony Blair last week.

This idea that only he and Blair could see the threats out there, everybody else obviously therefore just wanting to appease bin Laden.  It‘s a palpably ridiculous, of course.  Everybody knows that al Qaeda cannot be appeased.  They need to be confronted and taken down.

The question is, is Iraq the right way to do it?  And by the analysis of his own intelligence agencies, it isn‘t, in the sense that the core leadership isn‘t there.  It‘s still operational, still active.  And the war in Iraq has clearly led to a fracturing and a growth of the al Qaeda jihadi movement.

So it‘s not that people don‘t see it, but obviously it‘s politically effective for him to (INAUDIBLE) -- to suggest that only he can see the real threats.

OLBERMANN:  The news conference indicated to a lot of us who watched that the president has evidently learned a new phrase.  Twice he said, “Al Qaeda will fight us wherever we are.”  But does that—that new phrase, that might, is that the last time we‘re going to hear it?  Because does it not automatically beg the question, if they will fight us everywhere, if they‘re going to follow us home, what good does it do us to stay in Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Right.  And I suggest there‘s a large tract of Australia that we could, you know, have this contest in.  Why do it in Iraq?  Why try to transform the Middle East by invading and occupying an Arab country, given all the history there?

There are so many questions you‘ve got to ask there.  But the crucial question comes back again.  Listen, take the president at face value yesterday when he said the core al Qaeda leadership were coordinating attacks with al Qaeda in Iraq.  The question is, why not go after the core leadership in Iraq?  He says the hunt is still on.  But clearly, it needs more resources, the war in Afghanistan needs more resources.  Where are those resources?  They‘re bogged down in Iraq.  So, you know, he doesn‘t meet his own logic here.

OLBERMANN:  On the vote tonight, and the irony here is that as you and I speak, Senator Harry Reid is speaking at this moment.  That bit of convoluted logic from Senator Reid, is that the real reason for the Democrats‘ capitulation on this, the idea that they couldn‘t withstand criticism relative to Memorial Day and being on vacation, or is there something else to it that has not yet been reported?

WOLFFE:  Well, it obviously stretches belief to breaking point.  The Democrats have a strange strategy here.  They declared at the outset that they were always going to fund the troops.  Then they talked as if they were going to stop funding the war.  And, of course, what‘s happened, the White House said, Well, they‘re going to fund the troops anyway, so let‘s hold out.  They‘ve inflamed their own antiwar base.  It was bound to lead to this kind of disappointment.  I‘m still scratching my head as to why they took the strategy on themselves.

OLBERMANN:  Hearing Senator Kerry, and to a lesser degree, Speaker Pelosi, speak against this bill tonight, in the representative in their—representative chambers, what does the deal do to Democratic leadership, especially about Iraq?  Is there any sense of fracture within the party, or is this not going to have a long-term impact?

WOLFFE:  You know, I was at a rally with Barack Obama a couple of months back, where he was heckled by antiwar protesters talking about cutting off funds.  I think this is an issue that is going to dog the presidential candidates more than the congressional leaders.

They‘re the ones who have the tough call here, whether they‘re going to position themselves for the primaries or the general, whether they‘re going to listen to their own principals, or try and tack one way or another with the polls.  You know, the -- 51 of Democrats say they don‘t want to cut off funds for the—say they do want to cut off funds for the troops.  It‘s a tough call for them.  But they, really, they listen to their heart.

OLBERMANN:  One last thing about the president‘s news conference.  The aerial visitor, obviously that‘s why you should hold these things indoors.  But where do you stand on the symbolism there?  Is it bad luck, is it good luck?  Or was it just the bird‘s editorial comment?  What was it?

WOLFFE:  The bird clearly hates our freedoms.  And I have to say that the only people who say it‘s good luck to be pooped on are the people who haven‘t been pooped on.  So, you know, maybe Tony Blair has something.  Things can only get better.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent and getting-pooped-on expert for “Newsweek” magazine.  Great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Much like the bird poop on his sleeve, the stain on the president‘s credibility is proving tough to wipe away.  John Dean will join us on that.

And another Monica factor.  Did Attorney General Gonzales try to influence Ms. Goodling‘s testimony about the U.S. attorney firings?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  He says we‘re trying diplomacy in Iran, and yet the Navy just arrived on its doorstep.  Says the surge in Iraq is working, yet sectarian violence is actually up.  He says we need to fight them over there so they won‘t fight us here, yet he concludes al Qaeda will fight us anywhere.  And if the Iraqis ask us to leave, out we‘ll go.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN seeks to answer that which the president could not credibly do in the Rose Garden this morning, has he got any credibility left?

It‘s a pleasure, as always, to be again joined by Nixon White House counsel John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate” and “Conservatives Without Conscience.”

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  When asked by David Gregory what still makes him a credible messenger, the president replied, I‘m credible because I read the intelligence.  As we pointed out earlier, he also allegedly read the intelligence on the WMDs, and on al Qaeda before 9/11 in the “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” PDB.  Hasn‘t his so-called reading of intelligence actually harmed his credibility?

DEAN:  I was quite surprised by his answer when I heard it today.  It was really about the weakest answer he could have given, for the very reasons you state in the question, Keith.

Credibility‘s the coin of the realm for a president, and this president‘s really spent most all of his.

OLBERMANN:  Listening to his language moving this forward to Iran today, it sounds so eerily, frighteningly similar to his language about Iraq in the months before the war authorization and the eventual conflict there.  He emphasizes he only has a problem with the regime, not with the people, the government‘s defying the world, isolating itself.  He‘s going to work with other countries to contain the threat.  Meantime, there‘s this, you know, show of force, nine Navy ships, almost worthy of Teddy Roosevelt, arriving in the Persian Gulf.  Does he expect—or how does he expect anyone to believe him this time, when he says he‘s really working the diplomatic route?

DEAN:  Well, I don‘t know if anybody does believe him, Keith.  From what leaks out of Washington, we all know that it appears that our posture with Iran is going forward on two tracks.  There‘s the track that—the diplomatic track that Secretary of State Rice is pursuing, but there‘s also the military track that Vice President Cheney is pushing.

The rumor has it, of course, that Rice has the president‘s ear right now.  But Cheney‘s a hardball player, and he may well involve another third country that will force the issue and force the president into a military posture.

OLBERMANN:  This may be a dubious question to ask, given what the Democrats are doing in the Senate as we speak, but given his lack of credibility, particularly when it comes to this issue of diplomacy and Middle East countries and war, if the president decides to go after Iran militarily, would he ever be able to get congressional approval for that?

DEAN:  Well, in the abstract, I think it‘d be very difficult.  We don‘t know what the actual situation would be.  I think, more than likely, Keith, what he would do is claim he already has the authority, one in the authorization of force to fight terrorism, or in a defensive matter, in dealing with the war in Iraq.  So he wouldn‘t—he might not even try to get it, and just claim he‘s got it.  This president is not particularly concerned with the niceties of those legalities.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of legalities and niceties, the president, at his news conference today, reiterated this belief that the Justice Department investigation on the firings scandal is being, quote, “drug out for political reasons.”  Obviously, one of the reasons the investigation is taking so long is, the White House will not let its aides testify, will not release all the documents.  Is it fair to argue that the president is actually guiltiest, in terms of dragging out this investigation for political reasons?

DEAN:  I think it‘s not only fair, I think it‘s an accurate description.  I think it was a highly hypocritical response on his part.  Indeed, if he supplied the witnesses and the documents that were needed, the investigation could be wrapped up quickly.  It‘s because no one knows what exactly happened in the White House that this investigation is being pursued.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, to what is being finalized in Washington as we speak, with the Senate voting on the funding bill for Iraq, one thing that‘s contained in there is a reporting by President Bush, with supposed details on what‘s happening, what these voluntary waivable benchmarks are going to be.  You have written at length about the president‘s ability to file a report with absolutely nothing in it.  Are we likely to see this again?  Senator Kerry just predicted that you could right now say what Mr.  Bush will tell the Senate and the Congress about how well things are going in Iraq.  You can say that now about what he‘s going to say in August, could you not?

DEAN:  I think that‘s a very accurate prediction.  He might also issue a signing statement saying, This is authority the Congress doesn‘t have.  So he might play this any one of a number of ways.

OLBERMANN:  You got to give him this.  They have all the angles seeming covered.

John Dean, former White House counsel.  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us tonight.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also this evening, get your hands off my buns.  The annual bun grab in Hong Kong, that is.

Speaking of playing bun grab, “American Idol,” it‘s a final.

That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  May 24, 1626, the date 381 years ago traditionally observed as the one on which Peter Minuit brought Manhattan Island from the Canarsie tribe for $24 worth of trinkets, the worst deal in this history of this continent, at least until the Democrats signed of on the Iraq supplemental tonight.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Hong Kong with our favorite (INAUDIBLE) related deadly sporting event.  It‘s the big annual bun-snatching competition, taken off the schedule for years at the city‘s bun festival after a spate of horrible accidents and deaths.  The tower of bunny goodness is back, and safer than ever.  No chance of anyone falling off this thing, no siree bob.  Just snatching rolls for fun and prizes and the good luck in the harvest season that comes with victory.  No, I kind of liked it better when they used to fall.

Union Station in Kansas City, where they‘re bringing a little bit of spirituality to the joint this week with a colorful sand sculpture crafted by Tibetan monks.  It is a painstaking process, taking hours and days to complete.  Each grand of sain --  Let me try that in English.  Each grain of sand is carefully put into place to symbolize peace and harmony in the universe.

There‘s a problem here, fellas, there‘s no peace and harmony in the Kansas City train station.  That is a toddler wandering around without Mom, caught here on the surveillance camera waltzing under the velvet ropes, doing a little tap dance on the Tibetan sand sculpture.  Mom did come along and yank the kid out of there, but not until the sculpture was ruined.  For their part, the monks were not upset, saying, quote, “What the hell do we care?  We‘re getting paid by the hour here.”  So wise.

First, he told Congress that the meeting with Monica Goodling never took place.  Now he said it did, but it was not how she described it.  That would be lying to Congress, right?  Fortunately, they had Alberto Gonzales‘s successor ready.

Wow.  “American Idol” wraps up its year with reincarnation.  Cool.

Those stories ahead.

Now, here, though, are the COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Bruce Forest of Weston, Connecticut, once known as one of the most notorious pirates of music and movies on the Internet, and dubbed Prince of the Darknet in a book about Internet piracy.  He was today sentenced to five years in prison for using a homemade bomb to blow up a public toilet.  I‘m thinking this is a long story.

Number two, Chih Hsien Wu of Fort Collins, Colorado, allegedly has a thing for women‘s underwear, has stolen some, allegedly, from the campus of an area around Colorado State University.  Police are, in fact, inviting all women there who have lost undergarments since last September to view photos of Mr. Wu‘s collection to see if any of it is theirs, any of the 1,300 pairs of panties he now has.

But number one, the unnamed tipster in Bellingham, Washington.  She saw a man walk into St. Joseph Hospital there armed with an assault rifle.  The hospital was locked down, then evacuated.  SWAT teams swarmed the neighborhood.  And then the woman who reported the nightmare saw him again and realized it wasn‘t an assault rifle he was carrying, it was an artificial leg.  No explanation if it was a spare, or he was hopping, or it was a rental.  But police revised their description of the man from “armed and dangerous” to “legged and not dangerous.”


OLBERMANN:  Senate Democrats saying today they will not start work on their historic no confidence vote on Alberto Gonzalez until June 11th.  President Bush today said Democrats have drug out the investigation, despite the fact that he is preventing key witnesses from testifying and is the first person to mention any kind of drug.  In our third story tonight, all this coming as the Justice Department may have confirmed one old lie and or added a new one, this the second day realization after former White House liaison Monica Goodling‘s testimony, revolving around a mid-March meeting after Congress asked her to testify, which led her to tell Gonzalez she wanted out. 


MONICA GOODLING, FORMER GONZALES AIDE:  He then proceeded to say let me tell you what I can remember.  And he kind of—he laid out for me his general recollection. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Recollection of what, Mrs Goodling? 

GOODLING:  Of some of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some of the process regarding what? 

GOODLING:  Some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S.  attorneys.  And he laid out a little bit of it and then he asked me if he thought—if I had any reaction to his iteration.  And I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about and I didn‘t know that it was—I didn‘t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point. 


OLBERMANN:  Goodling‘s story poses several problems, one the possibility that Mr. Gonzalez tried to influence her testimony, which both of them deny.  But two, the apparent fact that Gonzalez later lied to Congress by claiming he did not speak with his top aides about the firing scandal to avoid interfering with investigations.  DOJ‘s claim that the meeting was innocent appearing to confirm that it did take place, contrary to what Mr. Gonzalez testified. 

Three, DOJ‘s claim last night that the meeting with Goodling occurred before the agency began its internal investigation.  The “Washington Post” today reporting, quote, “the meeting occurred after the Justice Department‘s Office of Professional Responsibility launched an investigation into the firing on March 14th.”  

Let‘s bring in constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley, professor at George Washington University.  As always sir, great thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  The DOJ denial says the meeting was innocent because Mr.  Gonzales was not trying to influence Goodling‘s testimony.  A, would a prosecutor agree with that and B, he‘s not influencing her, OK, but isn‘t there a problem with him just asking what she plans to say? 

TURLEY:  There is a problem.  In fact, the Republicans are going to have a problem with this, because, you know, this Justice Department under this administration prosecuted people like Ken Lay for witness tampering by raising recollection issues with former subordinate to see, quote, if he got the facts right. 

Also people like Chris Cannon, a friend of mine, who argued during the impeachment that Bill Clinton tampered with witnesses and he made a persuasive argument on the law, saying that you don‘t even have to have a pending proceeding.  You can‘t tamper with a witness by trying to influence their future statements in official proceeding. 

So this does raise serious problems for this administration and for Republicans in general because of past cases. 

OLBERMANN:  And the simple statement, that paper statement that came out about this time last night that said, well yes, there was a meeting, but it was innocent.  I was just trying to comfort her over the signature of the attorney general.  Does that—is that just prima face evidence that he lied when he said there was no meeting with any of his underlings? 

TURLEY:  It‘s hard to reach any other conclusion.  The fact is that sort of a trifecta, you have a serious question of trying to influence a witness, a violation of internal rules, because he did this after the OPR investigation started, and then, once again, a question of lying to Congress. 

It‘s very serious.  I would be quite surprised if the OPR finished its investigation and did not find this to be improper.  After all, Gonzalez himself defined this as improper.  This was the reason he refused or said he could not supply very important information to the Senate.  He said I just can‘t talk to anybody about what really happened.  When he said that, he knew that he had done precisely that with one of the two most important subordinates in this controversy. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to take a quick break here, John, just to inform the viewers who are waiting that the Senate vote has begun on the supplemental funding bill.  The speachifying is over.  We should have a result within a few moments.  Let me get back to this point about Gonzalez.  Why does it matter whether the meeting between Gonzales and Goodling occurred before or after the Justice Department started the internal investigation that they‘re so proud of and the president referred to today? 

TURLEY:  Well, technically for a 1512 tampering charge under federal law, it doesn‘t matter.  It can be a future proceeding.  It‘s much more serious when there is a formal federal investigation going on and department rules are very clear and you only have to look at Gonzalez‘s own statement.  He used this repeatedly as the reason he could not give important information to Congress. 

When he made those statements, he must have known that he had done precisely what he denied doing, that is, he had tried to go through this account with one of the two most people individuals there are.  And of course, as you‘ve noted, there is a cumulative effect here, that as we strike out lines that he gave Congress that appear to be false, we‘re left with very little beyond his introduction that I‘m Alberto Gonzalez. 

OLBERMANN:  Finally, I mean, I know you have some thoughts on this, what have we learned about the resume of his top official in Bush law enforcement, other than the fact that we learned that his liaison, Ms.  Goodling sounds exactly like Reese Witherspoon‘s character in “Legally Blond?”  What‘s the big resume item here about Gonzales? 

TURLEY:  The problem here is she got a very senior position that usually goes to people with many years of experience and she got it after graduating from Regents Law School in 1999, without much of a resume to speak of.  And so I think it‘s plain that she was selected for some other reason.  She didn‘t have a resume, did not have experience. 

So she was selected, it appears, because of her political purity, her ability to be what people said she became, a political commissar within the administration, and she has admitted to playing that role. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, it‘s a shame they don‘t have any lawyers over there in Justice.  Great thanks as always, sir. 

TURLEY:  Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right, you see from the red banner beneath me that the Senate has indeed passed the Iraq supplemental without any kind of troop withdrawal deadline, without any kind of enforceable benchmarks, with the president reporting and Senator Kerry before this vote was taken.  And it is not over yet, but the number of required votes have passed, have been counted and they‘re still waiting for a final number on it. 

Senator Kerry said we can already anticipate what President Bush will be saying about success that is yet to happen.  Harry Reid ended the—the Senate majority leader ended the arguing about this by paraphrasing Churchill, saying Democrats will “never give in, never, never, never.”

Winston said something like that, but one thinks, perhaps Senator Reid was quoting Monty Churchill who runs a waffle house in Nevada.  We‘ll keep you updated when the final score comes in.

Sixty years old meantime, and giving birth to twins.  The new mother is happy with her decision.  Her 29-year-old daughter, not so much.  And Jordan Sparks apparently won “American Idol.”  We can all celebrate, the crap is finally over.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The Senate will indeed pass the Iraq supplemental spending bill.  The required number of votes has already been achieved but the voting is still going and some of the senators who are critical to the presidential nomination process for the Democrats are just casting their votes now, now that it has already been decided.  Senator Obama of Illinois has voted no.  Senator Clinton of New York has not yet voted.  We will keep you posted. 

It‘s hyperbole atop the original hyperbole offered by David Letterman when he became a father at the age of 56.  Freda Birnbaum of New Jersey, the oldest American woman ever to give twins at age 60, so she can be their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, she and her husband Ken and their family doctor, who all enabled this bizarre en vitro fertilization process joined Meredith Vieira on “The Today Show” this morning live from the hospital. 


MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Everybody has an opinion, including your older daughter, your 29-year-old daughter.  She was quoted as saying, this is her, I don‘t think my mom is thinking about the future, being 80 or 90 and having kids.  She has real reservations that what you‘ve done is not a smart thing. 

FREDA BIRNBAUM, 60 YR OLD MOTHER OF TWINS:  Well, on the contrary, I hope I‘m a role model for my daughter that when she gets older that she can make her own decisions based on who she is, rather than what society dictates.  Because as you know, as baby boomers, we have to do this all along.  And here‘s another place for us to make something more comfortable for who we are at this age, because age has been redefined.  Hopefully I‘m going to help her with that as well. 

VIEIRA:  Let me turn to the doctor, because when Freda came in to you and said that she was pregnant, what was your reaction? 

DR. ABDULLA AL-KHAN, DOCTOR:  Wow was my reaction.  It was—I had a little difficulty in believing that she was pregnant until we confirmed it with the ultrasound. 

VIEIRA:  Ken, you‘ve been married to Freda for 38 years.  You are 63.  What was your reaction when she said I would like to try having another baby? 

KEN BIRNBAUM, FATHER:  Well initially we talked about adoption, that was her first impulse and I suggested that we do this.  It was my idea and I couldn‘t be happier the way it worked out. 


OLBERMANN:  The twins go home on Saturday.  Mom goes to the retirement home on Tuesday.  And the voting continues to comes in from the Senate.  Senator Obama voted no after the issue was decided.  Senator Clinton has now voted no after the issue was decided.  The war supplemental, the Iraq war supplemental has passed the Senate.  Obama and Clinton voting no.

While it was still up for grabs, Senator Biden voted yes.  Senator Dodd voted no.  That‘s the scoreboard for the four senatorial presidential would-be‘s in the Democratic party. 

Sometimes age brings wisdom, sometimes not.  Perfect entree to Keeping Tabs our nightly fix of celebrity and entertainment news, actor Tom Sizemore in a fix,  He could wind up in a prison for more than a year after his latest drug bust earlier this month.  The website reporting that the L.A. district attorney will ask for a 16-month sentence for the start of “Black Hawk Down” at a hearing on the 5th of June. 

That is the day the stars behind bars align, because that just happens to also be the day Paris Hilton checks into her new 8 by 12 digs to begin serving time for violating her parole.  If their sentences overlap, they will not be doing lunch together in a prison cafeteria.  Ms. Hilton will be spending her time at a detention center for women, one where they all carry the bible. 

Woody Allen once said 80 percent of success is just showing up.  Now Michael Jackson has proved it can be 100 percent.  London‘s “Daily Mirror” reporting the man in the mirror will be paid 10 million dollars not to perform, but simply to attend the 25th birthday party for his royal highness Prince Azim of Brunei, the oil rich kingdom in Southeast Asia.

So that‘s why the price at the pump shot up again.  Jacko should enjoy the two-day birthday bash, which is said to include goody bags stuffed with diamonds and creme de la mere face cream.  Oh, if only he still had a face left to put it on. 

So for Sanjaya, this means what, he gets 4,000 a year for just showing up?  The final report of the season from our princess of “American Idol.”

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.  The bronze tonight to officer Randy Reynolds of the police department of Talino, Washington, who‘s been reprimanded by his superiors for demonstrating his taser to a willing man at a social function by zapping him in the genitals, twice.  Oh yes, he was wearing his uniform at the time.  What the hell, show it. 



Oh, oh, it hurts. 


OLBERMANN:  Back to work, the silver, the Ben Hill Package store in Atlanta.  Georgia state regulation prohibit the selling of ice at a liquor store in anything but a bag.  The obvious logic there, it cuts down on the chance people are going to open it up and drink it in the car, on the rocks.  Except at Ben Hill, where they are selling ice in cups in a drive through lane.  It‘s the American way says employee Chris Milton. 

But our winner is your Department of Defense.  You may have heard, we‘re in this war, apparently, in which our country is desperately short of Arabic language experts, you know the guys who could, I don‘t know, interpret the next al Qaeda intelligence or whatever the president is waiving at us. 

Forty Congressmen have now written the Pentagon, asking how it could have fired 58 Arabic language experts just because they were gay.  Once again, to the people who thought this was a good idea, what‘s it to you?  The next time there is pre-9/11 chatter and again there is nobody to interpret it in time because they fired the interpreters, because of your religious or political beliefs, your religious or political beliefs, this helps you how?  The United States Department of, quote, Defense, unquote, today‘s Worst Persons in the World. 


OLBERMANN:  Fourteen.  Exactly 14 United States senators voted against the latest blank check given to President Bush on the war in Iraq, the supplemental funding bill.  Among those senator Dodd, who voted no against that bill early on, Senators Obama and Clinton, their votes being cast after the majority had been obtained.  Senator Biden of Delaware, the fourth of the four presidential candidates in the Senate, the Democratic candidates, in any event, voted yes and voted yes early. 

Speaking of being over, there is “American Idol.”  We knew it was over a few weeks ago, didn‘t we?  At least a few weeks ago.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, after a two-hour spectacular, full of song, self congratulation and kitsch, the latest winner was finally anointed. 


RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  The winner of “American Idol” 2007 is Jordan Sparks!


OLBERMANN:  Next year the runner up will be a guy with a kazoo.  The 17-year-old high school student, Jordan Sparks from Glendale, Arizona won a contest she has been watching since she was 12.  She is the youngest Idol winner ever in a competition that clearly is showing its age.  Close to 30 million people watched last night finale.  But that‘s down nearly seven million from last year‘s big finish. 

Tuesday nights final, with a little over 25 million viewers, also down by six million compared to last year.  At its peak Idol drew 38 million viewers for its season two finale.  Last night the Idol wizard still plied us with generation bridging talent, awards show antics and chutzpah. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The nominees for best presentation are—


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With Joe Perry from Aerosmith. 



OLBERMANN:  And with a tear in my eye, or possibly it‘s bird poop from the president‘s news conference, I present COUNTDOWN‘s very own “American Idol” princess, also, of course, mid day host at New York‘s classic rock station Q104.3, Maria Milito.  Good evening. 

MARIA MILITO, Q104.3:  Hello, my last night as the princess.  I know. 

OLBERMANN:  I have a feeling you and it will both be back.  Even you must feel a sense of relief that this thing finally wrapped up this year. 

MILITO:  Yes, I do.  I feel like a 16-year-old whose pregnancy test came back negative.  It‘s over.  It was a painful season.  But it‘s over.  So yes, I am relieved.

OLBERMANN:  The ratings—it is always—it‘s like saying 80 billion flies can‘t be wrong.  But ratings are a funny thing.  This finale is probably going to rank the third highest television show of the year, only eclipsed by the Superbowl and the Oscars.  But the trending has got to be concerning.  Is there something they can do if they don‘t want it to slip further, other than passing a law limiting the number of new cable channels that are permitted to be on people‘s systems? 

MILITO:  No, but I think what they need to do, and we have talked about it before, is how people can vote.  I mean, the whole Sanjaya factor, I think, affected the show and its ratings.  So maybe—at first I thought, maybe should do, like, a toll call.  But then that alienates people who can‘t afford it. 

So what they should do is like one call per household, or one call per phone.  So if you are lucky enough to live with four people, well, you can vote four times, on four different phones.  I think that would work. 

OLBERMANN:  I am sorry. 

MILITO:  You can‘t over vote for somebody, like let‘s all have a campaign the keep Sanjaya, and you get all these people to vote.  No, you can only vote one time from a phone. 

OLBERMANN:  But you used a phrase that just iced me, you used the Sanjaya factor.  That combines two things I really don‘t like into one.  This beat box runner-up kid, and I said the next guy would be a guy with a kazoo and a piece of paper and a comb, he said backstage he expected Jordan Sparks since they were at the top 24. 

He was actually going to wear a vote for Jordan Sparks t shirt during the showdown on Tuesday.  Producers wouldn‘t let him.  Then he talked about what he wants to do in his forthcoming album.  Why should even the tweens and the teens and the people who are just sitting there in front of their TVs, because they forgot where there remote is, why does anybody need to care about who wins this thing when clearly it is not necessary to win? 

MILITO:  No, it‘s definitely not necessary.  And if you think back to

Kelly Clarkson, the first winner, was by far the winner and the most successful of season one.  Season two, Clay Aiken was more popular than the Ruben, who was the winner.  So it really started all the way at the beginning. 

It is almost like a run away horse.  You can‘t really stop it at this point.  You do not need to win to have a successful career. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve got about 30 seconds left.  Would you like to wrap up the successful career of Sanjaya, in terms of memories? 

MILITO:  Let me tell you something, I loved Joe Perry.  Last night, I hated him.  The fact that he got on the stage with Sanjaya was like a knife in my heart.  It really was.

OLBERMANN:  Did you not play any Aerosmith today?

MILITO:  That‘s right.  I boycotted Aerosmith.  Joe Perry dead to me. 

That‘s it.

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito of New York‘s Q104.3, forever our “American Idol” princess, even when I don‘t have to talk about it anymore.  Thank you for getting me through this national nightmare. 

MILITO:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  I will talk to you soon.  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,485th 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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