Guests: Neal Katyal, Alan Sepinwall, Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Paris Hilton sent back to jail to serve more time than she would have had she just stayed there, dragged from the courtroom screaming and crying for her mother. And the whole thing covered like O.J. Simpson or the L.A. riots. I am not kidding, though, lord, how I wish I were.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ruled that he was remanding Miss Hilton to the sheriff‘s custody to serve the remainder of her sentence at Century Regional (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No! No! No, no, no!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, yes. In here somewhere, the actual serious legal questions, was she actually getting celebrity justice, or would someone named Paris Hilton already be home free? And did her attorneys screw up by agreeing to a reduced sentence, and then still trying to get her out early?
Plus, there‘s all the dumb stuff.
And the first-ever edition of Paris Hilton Dragged Kicking and Screaming from the Courtroom Puppet Theater.
Also, there will be a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And the G-8 summit was apparently sick of President Bush. So why shouldn‘t he have gotten sick at the G-8? And that beverage in his hand was what?
Pentagon asks for a do-over at Gitmo, not new legal trials for the detainees, but a demand that the military judges overturn their previous decision to rule the military tribunals illegal.
Speaking of illegal, how will “The Sopranos” end? The challenge faced by the viewer, and by me, (INAUDIBLE) I‘m several episodes behind and still hope to be surprised.
Well, whatever they come up with, they cannot possibly beat the plot in the saga of Paris Hilton and premature jocularity.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
On radio this afternoon, I promised not to open this newscast with the Paris Hilton saga. I lied.
In our fifth story, to be fair, this was before a Los Angeles judge ordered her back to jail to serve more time than she would have served had she just stayed there. And she had to be dragged from the courtroom kicking and screaming and yelling for her mom. And she wasn‘t doing that because she was upset that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had been fired.
Ms. Hilton dressed down for her return to court this afternoon, no makeup, hair disheveled, wearing baggy trousers, some kind of smock. She hugged her family and friends good-bye before sheriff‘s deputies cuffed her for the ride to court. She was in tears leaving home, and according to observers inside the court, she kept crying throughout the hearing, only pausing to turn around to her parents and mouth I love you.
As the judge neared his decision, her entire body began trembling, and when he read out his decision that she should return to jail for the entirety of her 45-day sentence, Hilton screamed, cried out for her mother, and had to be forcibly removed from the courtroom and taken back to jail by deputies, the sheriff of L.A. County saying this evening Paris Hilton was to be physically and psychologically evaluated in a medical ward at what L.A. calls the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, this while her attorneys draft a writ of habeas corpus to appeal her sentence.
As why Paris Hilton was let out of jail in the first place, that sheriff, in an extraordinary news conference this evening, said she was released to home custody due to her severe psychological problems, that you saw some evidence of her problems in court today, that unbeknownst to him, she was on medication before coming to jail, that others convicted of similar charges regularly do not serve any time because of jail overcrowding, that essentially, he thinks she is being unfairly punished because of her celebrity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: The issue of special treatment regarding my decision to release Miss Hilton to home detention after serving five days of her sentence was based on her severe medical problems. I just can‘t trust her tenuous status. And as you were there in court, you saw some of that, when she was being taken out.
In my opinion, now that she‘s back in custody, we will continue to keep her there. The criminal justice system should not create a football out of Miss Hilton‘s status. The only thing that I can detect of special treatment is the amount of her sentence, because under our 10 percent early release program, she would not have served any time in our jail, or would have been directly put on home electric monitoring system.
So the special treatment, in a sense, is because (INAUDIBLE) appears to be her celebrity status. She got more time in jail. I have to take care of this woman because that is my responsibility. Not getting much help from anybody else, let me say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to Robert Shapiro, who dealt with perhaps the biggest celebrity trial ever when he defended O.J. Simpson.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir, and thanks for persevering through these evident technical problems. Our apologies.
ROBERT SHAPIRO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: My pleasure to be here with you, Keith. And how are you doing today?
OLBERMANN: Not bad, except for this. Give us your assessment. The sheriff‘s essentially saying what Paris Hilton‘s family has said, that she got more jail time because of her celebrity, and that our apocryphal lawbreaker Harris Pilton would have been home already. Do you agree?
SHAPIRO: You know, Keith, finally the truth comes out. I‘ve been practicing law for 37 years in Los Angeles. I‘ve talked to lawyers, judges, and prosecutors. No one has ever heard of anybody being treated like the way they‘re treating Paris Hilton.
And one of the things that I think would be good for you or other investigative reporters to do is to go check on Judge Michael Sauer (ph). Go check on his records. He‘s been on the bench for 25 years. He was a former city attorney. He is still hearing traffic arraignments.
The next thing is, if you look at all the sentences, I would venture to guess that it would be rare that you would find anybody who is found in violation of probation for a driving offense to get the restrictions put on the sentence that Judge Sauer put on the sentence.
Third, the entire system of justice is in jeopardy in Los Angeles because traditionally, the sheriff runs the jail. Any lawyer will tell you that when you go into court and you say, Could you ask the sheriff or order the sheriff to do this? they say, No, the sheriff is in charge of the jail. The sheriff has certain programs that everyone gets. They get work furlough, they get work release, they get early release, they get community service programs.
Paris Hilton gets none of this. She did everything that she was supposed to from this horrendously un—unique sentence that the judge handed out. She showed up early. She surrendered to jail. She was released by the sheriff. She didn‘t release herself. Her doctors didn‘t release her. Her lawyers didn‘t file petitions to release her. The sheriff had three doctors look at her. All three, one psychiatrist, two psychologists, came to a unanimous recommendation to the sheriff.
The sheriff is an elected official. He‘s one of the most respected sheriffs in the United States. He said, You know what? Forget the political pressure. Forget the fanfare, forget this tabloid atmosphere that is permeating this case. I‘m going to do the right thing. And the judge simply wouldn‘t allow it.
OLBERMANN: So the extension, though, the, the—saying that she had to go back and serve the full 45 rather than the 23 days, is that the result of this fight, essentially, over jurisdiction between the judge and the sheriff? How did that come to pass?
SHAPIRO: I don‘t think the judge can do that. By California law, you are entitled to credits for good time and work time. Every sentence I have ever seen results in credits for good time or work time, even though, unfortunately, our jails do not have work facilities, which means your sentence is reduced by—for every two days you serve, you get credit for one.
So the judge simply has made a mistake in trying to impose this restriction on the sheriff. That will not hold up.
OLBERMANN: Can you explain the application of habeas corpus to this? It‘s a favorite topic of some of our viewers, who (INAUDIBLE) obviously be wondering how this applies to a case involving Paris Hilton.
SHAPIRO: Well, I think a couple of things. First of all, this is a very, very serious constitutional issue. And as the sheriff said, she has become a political football in a debate that‘s been going on for the last decade in Los Angeles. And that is, the sheriff is under a federal mandate to have certain restrictions within the jail because of the horrendous conditions that had previously existed.
The courts want to impose sentences, and the city attorney is a person who‘s in his last term, who, by rumor, is going to be seeking higher political office.
And so these fractions are going against one another. The courts say, Well, we know, when we give these sentences, they can‘t possibly be completed, because if everybody that was sentenced to 45 days came to jail, in one week, the jail would be inoperable.
The sheriff then goes to the board of supervisors and says, We need more money to increase our jail capacity to accommodate everybody who the judges want to put in here. The board of supervisors say, The taxpayers don‘t want us to give any money towards jail.
So, at some point in time, someone in an appellate capacity is going to decide, with the separation of powers, who ultimately decides where you stay in jail, how long you stay in jail, and when you‘re released.
And my best legal opinion is, that‘s going to come down in favor of the sheriff.
OLBERMANN: Robert Shapiro, the noted defense attorney. Great thanks for some of your time this evening, sir.
SHAPIRO: My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity, Keith.
OLBERMANN: None of the serious societal issues here—Was there celebrity justice? Did her attorneys in some way screw this up? Why did she trade growing public sympathy for this howling revulsion and ridicule today? -- can be truly appreciated without the context that only Hollywood plus 21st century American can provide.
So now, the day as it unfolded, in capsule form. And you had better sit down for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paris Hilton is waking up in her own bed in her own 2,700-square-foot home this morning, with the paparazzi outside. Sounds normal. But that could all change, depending on a hearing at noon Eastern time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city attorney is furious about this. They didn‘t get consulted. So now, they are not only going after Paris Hilton, trying to get her back in jail, they want the sheriff held in contempt of court.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Los Angeles County Superior Court has announced that Paris Hilton might be allowed to appear by phone this morning.
Robert Kovacik (ph) from KNBC has some breaking news, apparently.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, from what we are understanding right now, Paris Hilton may not be testifying from her home here behind me. So she may now actually be ordered back to court.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How (INAUDIBLE) for both of you. We understand TMZ is reporting a sheriff car is already on its way to Paris‘s house right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an absolute mob scene here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the number of helicopters overhead, it‘s like a (INAUDIBLE) up there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a plane that did go by overhead. It‘s been circling overhead, and it says, “We love Paris, from the Darling family.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we are about, I would say, at this time of day, a good 30 to 45 minutes away from the courthouse in downtown in Los Angeles. Now, NBC reported early this morning that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did I just see a lone protester with a sign, “Liberate Paris”?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her sister, Nicki (ph), arrived here. She opted not to talk to the press. Comedian Paulie Shore, remember him, Chris? Well, he did a little drive-by, asking the media and the people of Los Angeles not to be mean to Paris Hilton and her family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, wait a second. Who‘s going in, Robert? Can you tell?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, ladies. Good morning. Could you turn around so we can see your T-shirts?
Someone just arrived.
There‘s—this is one of the house people that are there.
Hi, you here to see Miss Hilton?
Good morning, ma‘am.
And we have seen a scattered few of them now returning.
Gentlemen, are we doing OK here? We know that the sheriff‘s (INAUDIBLE) car is coming?
You got a Hilton delivery there, sir?
This is—now, this is great, Chris. Look at this. This is a tour bus. These are the (INAUDIBLE) buses that go up and down Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s a tour bus, like, that goes to the stars‘ homes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, when you think of Paris Hilton, what‘s the second thing you think of when you think of Paris Hilton?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t even know if I think of first thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four legs. Four legs, Chris. Four legs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tinkerbell. Well...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that‘s her little dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her little dog. We had a chihuahua sighting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a chihuahua sighting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the—I don‘t know if you know the interior. But if this is a connected garage, presumably he could pull into the garage, close the door, she could get in the car, and they could pull away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Chris, you know what? It looks like that could be the case. Then—not familiar with the Paris Hilton‘s interior, myself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You‘re not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks as if this garage -- That is her longtime bodyguard. Now, Chris, guess what? He took from the trunk, another twist, two to three umbrellas and brought them in the house.
So when we see Paris Hilton come out of the house, we may see her shaded by umbrellas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paris Hilton, now, the interesting news that we‘ve been following today, coming outside (INAUDIBLE). Go ahead, (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to show our viewers right now, TMD.com, on their Web site right now, they have a picture, it appears, of Paris Hilton in the back seat, and it looks like sobbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh, easy, easy! Wait one minute. You guys, easy! Hey, hey, hey, hey! Whoa, whoa! Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move out of the way, people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw me and a couple of other people get plowed over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m on vacation, and I thought I would see a little bit of this. I almost got stepped over everyone besides the cars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vicky, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The judge heard arguments. He heard out the county counsel‘s office, representing the sheriff. He heard the defense, he heard the city attorney. He ruled that he was remanding Ms. Hilton to the sheriff‘s custody to serve the remainder of her sentence at the Century Regional Detention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No! No, no, no!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) contempt.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: As if that could be the end of it. Later, when there are no cameras, we turn to the new journalistic genre, puppet theater.
First, President Bush gets sick at the G-8 summit, and now he needs to get himself a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Peter Pace picks a peck of problems.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) President Bush was doing a Boris Yeltsin this morning, there is no doubt that, at the very least, he had been doing a George Herbert W. Bush.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, an upset stomach forcing Mr. Bush to skip out on some meetings at the G-8 summit in Germany today. Faced with an administration in perpetual crisis, you might be nauseous too. In fact, chances are, the Bush administration already has you sick to your stomach, White House staff saying they‘re fairly certain that a stomach bug is responsible for this, Mr. Bush‘s illness, rather than something the president ate. No pretzels were involved, counselor Dan Bartlett joking that Mr. Bush avoided spending time with the other world leaders as a precautionary step, in order to not follow in the footsteps of his father.
You will recall Bush 41 having vomited and fainted at a state dinner in Tokyo in January 1992, the White House making clear this morning that any illness was not, repeat not, the result of the beer Bush 43 was photographed drinking last night, aides insisting that that brew was nonalcoholic.
Closeup study of the photography seems to confirm that. The label seems to read “Buckler,” and Buckler is a brand of nonalcoholic beer. I coulda had a G-8!
As for news back home that could have made Mr. Bush nauseous, Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace forced to resign because he had been facing a tough renomination fight on Capitol Hill.
Just a coincidence that it was revealed Tuesday that the general had written a reference letter to the judge to try to get Scooter Libby‘s sentence lessened, an action, at minimum, weird for a high-ranking serving military officer, back in the Senate, two more Republicans, Sam Brownback and Gordon Smith, breaking ranks with the White House over the war in Iraq, co-sponsoring legislation that would offer a three-state solution for that country, and a Joe Biden plan to create for semiautonomous regions for Sunnis, Shi‘a, and Kurds.
Let‘s turn now to our own Jonathan Alter, also, of course, the senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.
Jon, good evening.
ALTER: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: White House counselor Bartlett explained that the president stayed in isolation this morning to avoid following in the footsteps of his father. He may have said more than he knew. That might explain how most decisions are made during the Bush administration, might it not?
ALTER: Yes, I guess you could argue that. You know, George H.W. Bush doesn‘t go to Baghdad, so the son does go to Baghdad. George H.W. Bush has the Technicolor yawn at the Japanese banquet, his son wants to avoid that. So there you have it. He left the room, and the French president came out of the meeting alone, saying the president of the United States had been indisposed.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of indisposed, General Peter Pace, last month, his renomination as chairman of the Joint Chiefs was widely expected. Tonight, it‘s over, and he‘s headed to retirement. What happened? How big of a defeat is it for the White House that they were not willing to face the kind of spotlight that the renomination process would have put them under?
ALTER: I just think this is an amazing little story, Keith. Here you have Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who confesses publicly that the reason that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, was not renominated was that they didn‘t want to face a tough Senate hearing. In other words, they didn‘t want basic accountability in what is supposed to be an open society.
Our officials, military, civilian, whatever, are supposed to go up and face questioning from the people‘s representatives on Capitol Hill, especially on something as critical as the history of this war. So for them to admit that they‘re actually making a major personnel change so as to avoid that minimal act of political accountability is, to me, you know, just another sign of what the values are of this administration.
OLBERMANN: But is there a kind of strategic genius in that? I‘ve used this analogy before, the old then-Los Angeles Raiders football team did not have, for a period of a couple of years, an actual media relations person, so that if you called to find something out, you had to guess who it was you were going to ask, and they wouldn‘t tell you. In other words, if there‘s nobody there to be accountable, can they get away with anything?
ALTER: Well, they‘re not getting away with anything. I mean, this president has some of the lowest ratings in modern times. So it‘s not as if the American public is having the wool pulled over its eyes anymore. That happened for a few years, that era is now over.
So if they want to continue to hold the line on their policy, though, they‘ve got to go up on Capitol Hill and defend it. And their refusal to do it, I think, is another sign that the air is just going out of the tires on the war, and that I think you‘re going to see them have no choice but to succumb to the political pressure in the next six months and begin to make a change in direction.
OLBERMANN: And a hiss that might be representative of that, this new Iraq War resolution, co-sponsored by Mr. Brownback, Mr. Smith, should this be filed still under purely symbolic, given that it‘s nonbinding, and Mr. Bush already has his funding blank check?
ALTER: No, you know, I‘ve been saying all along that I think these—each one of these bits of pressure ratchets up the opposition to the war. And now, it‘s extending to the Republican Party. That‘s how this war is going to be brought to an end, is when Republicans get off the reservation. That‘s starting to happen now. It‘s very important. And I think we‘ll look back at these defections as being markers on the road to a new policy.
OLBERMANN: Yes, that tire running a little low.
Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Great thanks. Have a good weekend.
ALTER: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: At roughly 48 hours until the final “Sopranos” episode, who will still be alive when the credit rolls? Don‘t tell me, I won‘t seeing this for another month or so.
And the Paris Hilton of the bear community caught on tape, and behind bars. Bears behind bars.
Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Nineteen years ago yesterday, actor Michael Sara (ph), who excelled as George Michael Bluth (ph) on the late lamented series “Arrested Development,” was born. This is the kind of thing you like to acknowledge on the birthday itself, not the day after. But he was born in Canada. And we had an American Revolution anniversary to mention yesterday, and I got the government here mad enough at me as it is. I don‘t need that too. He moved on.
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Steubenville, Ohio, for the first in a Friday fun pack of COUNTDOWN‘s scariest bear chases caught on tape.
(singing): Bad bears, bad bears, what you gonna do?
This one caught on a police car dashcam. He must have outstanding warrants or something, because as soon as he saw 5-0, that bear was out of here. And look at him run, he‘s moving faster than Paris Hilton‘s attorneys. Cops never caught this 300-pound fugitive fuzzball.
Maybe they could learn a thing or two from the officers in Martinsburg, West Virginia. They used a variety of maneuvers to corner this big boy, until Animal Control showed up with the tranquilizer gun. After that, they just needed to contain the drunken beast as he stumbled around shouting obscenities at The Man. He finally passed out, woke up later in the woods, wondering how in the hell he got there, and why there were swear words written all over his face.
To China for a piece of video we must precede with the disclaimer that the man (INAUDIBLE) on the bicycle was not seriously injured. Yes, we have a hard time believing this too. Talk about being thrown under the bus. When the vehicle finally completed its “Beverly Hills Cop”-style spin-out, the guy pops out with only minor injuries. Hello. He‘s probably wondering why he hadn‘t looked both ways before crossing. We would call him our luckiest man of the day, but there was some guy out in Ohio who was saved by wearing pantyhose during a robbery. It‘s a long story.
The ruling that may close Gitmo. The Pentagon tells the judges, wrong answer; come back when you‘re ready to agree. Professor Neal Katyal from the Hamdan case joins us again.
Never mind what the Paris Hilton circus says about her. What does it say about us? We‘ll, of course, not ask that until after we play Paris Hilton puppet theater. Sorry.—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: When the government takes two unprecedented cases to trial on the same day and both judges dismiss the charges for the exact same reason, the government can accept the rulings or seek to rectify the flawed legislation upon which the cases were based. In our third story tonight, the Bush administration has found a third way today, telling both judges, in effect, wrong answer, try again.
The cases at stake, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, bodyguard and driver to Osama bin Laden, and Omar Khadir, accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed American Sargent Christopher Spear in Afghanistan. Hamdan, you may recall, challenged the Bush administration‘s first circumvention of existing criminal and military legal processes.
After the Supreme Court found in his favor, Congress rushed through the MCA, the Military Commissions Act, ostensoubly to provide a legal basis for Mr. Bush‘s military tribunals. The problem, Congress applied the MCA only to unlawful enemy combatants, but all detainees have been classified only as enemy combatants, a distinction that led to the dismissals, a distinction that the Pentagon again said, for the second time today, was just semantics, not necessarily an ideal argument before judges who are sworn to uphold the letter of the law.
We are once again privileged to be joined by the lead attorney in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal. Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
NEAL KATYAL, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Start, if you would, with the contention that the difference between enemy combatants and unlawful enemy combatants is just a matter of semantics.
KATYAL: You know, this is just a continuation of the old Bush administration policy from 2002, when Alberto Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions, which is our most sacred treaty governing war, quaint and obsolete. Now we‘ve moved from quaint and obsolete to just a matter of semantics.
There is nothing semantic about it, Keith. What this is about is simply the basic fairness that we extend to prisoners of war in times of war, and the basic fairness that we expect for our own troops.
OLBERMANN: And this request to these judges to essentially just change their rulings, is this sort of a metaphor for the entire process that you have been through, to say nothing of what Mr. Hamdan has been through? I mean, the Bush administration keeps asking the same question until it gets the answer it wants.
KATYAL: Right, they try incredibly hard. They keep asking the same question over and over again, and they keep losing, time and time again, in every court to hear these questions. And so what they have now been able to try and do is they‘ve gone to Congress, and said, hey, Congress, strip the ability of the federal courts to even hear these challenges; eliminate the right to habeas corpus. Then we won‘t have to worry about these legalities anymore.
That‘s really fundamentally un-American. But that is what they have been trying to do. Today‘s decision, as you say, is just part of that basic idea. We want a mulligan. We want a do-over. Because we can‘t get it right after literally six years now. They can‘t get it right. And they can‘t get it right for just the simple reason that they are departing from our proud American tradition, our tradition in the military of courts-martial, our tradition in the civilian courts of civilian adjudication.
OLBERMANN: Considering the importance of these cases, and the traditions you just mentioned, it seems unlikely that the judges were cavalier about their original rulings. They didn‘t flip a coin to make these decisions. What happens if they stick by them?
KATYAL: If they stick by them, then the administration will be forced to have had new tribunals, once again, for the 380 men down there, to decide whether they are unlawful enemy combatants. That, or they could appeal this decision from Monday to a higher court, the Court of Military Review, which was set up by Congress last year, which the administration never bothered to fill with judges until this week, and only until after the president said, I vigorously disagree with the decision on Monday.
Then he appointed some judges to it, I understand. So you can suspect what kind of judges those are. I think the important question that should be asked is, if some other country did that to our troops; if they captured our troops, tried them. They lost because of a procedural defect, and then the executive in some other country started appointing judges after criticizing the ruling to appeal that decision, how would we feel about the basic fairness of that?
OLBERMANN: We would call it Stalinist Russia. The Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday, sent the full Senate this bill that restores the right of habeas corpus. And if the relevance of that wasn‘t clear to everybody, the attorneys for Paris Hilton just filed for a writ of habeas corpus. Professor, how would the bill‘s passage affect these cases and the rest of the non-Paris Hilton detainees?
KATYAL: Well, I think it is quite clear. What will, if habeas corpus is restored, is that we‘ll be able to challenge these cases—challenge the Guantanamo policy in federal court and we will win. Because what they are doing is unconstitutional. That‘s why the administration spent so much political capital trying to strip habeas corpus from the federal courts. They‘re basically afraid.
They‘re afraid of little Mr. Hamdan in Guantanamo. They have all the resources of the government. They haven‘t been able to bring a case in six years. And they won‘t be able to unless these jurisdiction stripping measures succeed.
OLBERMANN: Professor Neal Katyal, the lead attorney representing Salim Hamdan, great thanks for joining us again. Have a good weekend.
KATYAL: You as well.
OLBERMANN: It‘s the end of “The Sopranos” series. Will it also be the end of Tony Soprano? I‘m avoiding all of this, because I‘m still several weeks behind. Damn Tivo.
Paris will be getting her way behind—or getting way behind—or getting her way behind on her summer TV viewing; sent back to the big house, and sending our society at large into a tizzy today. What exactly is wrong with us? Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Maybe everybody else wants to talk about “The Sopranos” series finale, the end of it all arriving this Sunday, but not me. I still have six episodes to watch. What do you want from me? I don‘t have as much free time as everybody would like to think. So when my executive producer says that today is the day to do a “Sopranos” segment, to speculate as how it will all finish, I say that‘s what you think.
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, I can‘t do the number two story on the COUNTDOWN. I‘ll get caught up as soon as I possibly can. In the interim, I‘m going to finish up Paris Hilton puppet theater. But meanwhile, no reason why you should suffer. For the “Sopranos” speculation, I leave in you the capable hands of COUNTDOWN‘s very own Monica Novatny. Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVATNY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Keith, are you ready?
May I proceed?
OLBERMANN: Hold on, let me get the iPod in. OK. Go ahead.
NOVATNY: All right. Ever since the first of the final nine episodes, the “Sopranos” has been singing a different tune. Fans and critics seem to agree, the series has been darker than ever, full of foreboding, a foreboding realized when the main characters started dropping faster than you can say Bada Bing.
It was just eight episodes ago that a sullen Tony Soprano celebrated his birthday at the lake house of his brother-in-law, Bobby Bacala (ph). Bobby gave Tony an assault rifle for his birthday. Nice. The rifle made it to last week‘s final scene. Bobby did not; gunned down while indulging in his most child-like past time, in a scene so artfully executed, it rivaled mob classics like “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas”.
And, as if we needed any more reminders that Tony Soprano is the leader of a criminal outfit, his most trusted adviser, Phil, was also hit and hard, sadly, while fumbling to get his gun. So with Christopher already dead, by Tony‘s own hand, he‘s now all but alone. In last week‘s closing shot, clutching that rifle Bobby had given him, waiting.
But our own waiting is nearly over. Let‘s call in the TV critic of Tony Soprano‘s home town newspaper, Alan Sepinwall, who has written extensively about the series, and has quite a following. Thanks for your time tonight, Alan.
ALAN SEPINWALL, “THE STAR LEDGER”: My pleasure.
NOVATNY: All right, you haven‘t seen an advanced screening, but you are you an expert. What‘s your opinion, does Tony die or not?
SEPINWALL: I think he lives. I think they‘ve spent so much time. There‘s been so many scenes over the years where Tony says, a guy like me goes out one of two ways, dead or in the can. But I think they‘re not going to go either way, because David Chase likes to mess with people and what they‘re not going to expect.
NOVATNY: All right, you‘ve written that there‘s so much to deal with in this final episode, but is David Chase the kind of writer who really will tie everything up with a neat bow for us?
SEPINWALL: No. He doesn‘t like that. He doesn‘t like closure. otherwise we would have found out what happened to the Russian, or Ferio (ph), or Melphy‘s (ph) rapist, or any of that.
NOVATNY: Oh, I forgot about Ferio.
SEPINWALL: Ferio is long gone.
NOVATNY: OK, so we might not be satisfied with this ending?
SEPINWALL: Maybe, maybe not; I was expecting something a lot more low key until last week. It kind of shot my theories to hell.
NOVATNY: Shot being the appropriate word. One thing Chase seems to be telling us though in this run-up to the end is you can‘t love Tony, as much as we have, sort of, have fallen in a love with the guy that we should be hating. He‘s saying this guy has got to pay. He‘s a sociopath, who‘s got to pay for his crimes.
SEPINWALL: Well, I mean, the stuff with Melphy last week was kind of a wake-up call for us. She‘s always been the audience surrogate. She‘s the one mostly moral character on the show, and for her to finally have to recognize that Tony‘s a sociopath, that he‘s not getting anything out of therapy, accept strategy, that she needs to put him out of her life, that was, in a way, the show saying we have to get ready to do the same.
NOVATNY: And we can‘t talk about this without talking about Phil Liatardo (ph), of course. It hurt a little bit to hear Phil talking about Tony and that branch of the family, saying, essentially, those guys are a bunch of amateurs. When, here, I have been hooked to the show, thinking, these guys are the Mafia. And Phil kind of debunked the whole thing.
SEPINWALL: And he‘s not wrong. We saw what a bunch of bumblers they were in this episode. This entire season has been kind of a wake-up call. Pretty much every episode has opened up with a character getting up out of bed, and the viewers have to wake up to the fact that Tony is a bad guy, and that he is not nearly the big fish we have always thought he was.
NOVATNY: How much is -- Doctor Melphy; she now kicks him out of the office. There have been some reports—She‘s come out and said that she did shoot a scene for the final episode, but she doesn‘t know, of course, whether that‘s going to make it in or not. But if the whole show started based on this premise of the two of them talking, and that being, I think, the opening scene of the first episode.
SEPINWALL: -- in the waiting room.
NOVATNY: How much do they still need to bring her in to tie it up at the end? Or has she served her purpose?
SEPINWALL: That certainly seemed like exit to me. When she slams the door on him, that‘s Michael Corleon closing the door on Kay in the end of the first “Godfather. That was her saying good-bye, I thought. If they brought her back, it would seem appropriate, because, like you said, the show did open that way, but I‘m not expecting it.
NOVATNY: Interestingly, Kerry Fox (ph), our producer on this, actually did the research and said that this sociopath study that they keep referring to is true.
SEPINWALL: Yes, it‘s absolutely real. You can Google it.
NOVATNY: And we did. So there‘s been a lot of speculation and there‘s even online gambling, of course, as to any of the wild card possibilities. What do you think, could Carmela come in to play, A.J. or Meadow even, the daughter?
SEPINWALL: One of the things I‘ve noticed is at the start of the last season there was that very strange Seven Souls montage with William Burroughs talking about the seven theories of the Egyptian souls. There were eight characters featured in that montage. Four of them died after appearing in it. The four who are still living are Carmela, Meadow, A.J. and Janice.
So the mobsters are dead. The family members are not. They could all be going here.
NOVATNY: And Tony also had that one little, what seemed like it might have been a hint, where he says to Carmella, in last week‘s episode, they don‘t go after the family, meaning the personal family.
SEPINWALL: And Phil has kind of shown a willingness to break the rules, when it comes to getting his revenge on Tony.
NOVATNY: We can‘t wait. All right, Alan Sepinwall with the “Newark Star-Ledger,” the paper for Tony Soprano, and the one I grew up with as well. Thanks a lot. Enjoy the finale.
SEPINWALL: I will.
NOVATNY: All right, let‘s see if we can get Keith‘s attention and turn it back to him. Hello, are you there?
OLBERMANN: Did you say something?
NOVATNY: I hope you didn‘t hear any of that. I guess, I‘m in big trouble if you did.
OLBERMANN: Hear any of what? Thanks Monica, have a good weekend.
NOVATNY: You too.
OLBERMANN: The last time I saw Paris, to quote the comedian Louie Anderson, what the hell kind of world are we living in? A perspective on the whole mess from, of all people, Dana Milbank. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to Judge Robert Bjork, the Saturday night massacre, and didn‘t get on the Supreme Court fame. As recently as five years ago, he urged Congress to put a cap on punitive damages for injury lawsuits and the like. So after slipping and falling on his way up to the Dais to speak at the Yale Club in New York, what did Judge Bjork do?
He sued the Yale club, seeking one million dollars for pain and suffering, plus punitive damages.
Runner up, Pastor John McCarthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, who‘s sermon, broadcast by those fine tolerant folks for work for the Father Cogglin (ph) of the 21st century, James Dobson, says that because America has, quote, elicit sex, adultery, every form or immorality, and, quote, you know a society has been abandoned by god when it celebrates lesbian sex, therefore, quote, god would be just in any calamity that he brought on us, including, quote, the destruction of an entire city.
Just let God speak for himself, pal.
And the winner, Bill-O. Speaking of celebrating lesbians sex, reacting to the arrest and the abduction and murder of the Kansas teenager Kelsey Smith, saying, quote, this guy that‘s charged has a child and a wife, you know, like he‘s a white bread guy. And we‘re all going, what is that?
You were presuming it was going to be an illegal immigrant or a secular progressive, or, best of all, a secular progressive illegal alien. Don‘t use the word we anymore. You represent nobody but yourself, chuckle head. Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World!
OLBERMANN: If your cable was out all day, until a few minutes ago, at the top of the hour, MSNBC will bring you a full 60 minute special on the boomerang that is Paris Hilton‘s freedom. But first, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, we will try to figure out, with the unexpected help of Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post,” what the hell this all really means about us as a society.
And what better way to start than to witness the critical moment when the reluctant debutante was literally removed from the courthouse today while crying for her mother. There is no video of this. But, of course, years ago we decided that the next best option in such non-visual scenarios was to resort to recreations.
The first, and speaking for all of us here, we hope the last edition of Paris Hilton dragged kicking and screaming from the courtroom puppet theory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The defendant is remanded to county jail to serve the remainder of her 45 day sentence. This order is forthwith.
Sergeants, take her away and book her. Sergeant Taker Her Away, Sergeant Booker.
Nice to meet you, Sargent Taker Her Away.
This isn‘t right. Mom, mom, mom. I just broke a heel.
(END VIDEO CLIP
OLBERMANN: Ordinarily we would turn to Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” for political stuff, but here‘s a shocker, political people exist in the same society. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So what, seriously, went through your mind about America as you watched this coverage today?
MILBANK: Exactly what went through my mind is what Paris Hilton said, it‘s not right. We have seen Paris Hilton in a number of unusual positions before, but this one is really extraordinary. And I think we should have some pity that the American justice system has come to this. There are helicopters flying over her head. Al Sharpton is giving press conferences about her.
She‘s being locked away for many days without access to her favorite cup cakes. Worst of all, her lawyers are now going to file a writ of habeas corpus. Apparently, they are not aware that the Bush administration has abolished habeas corpus.
OLBERMANN: Right, you are SOL on that, lawyers. You covered the Libby trial. Aside from camera crews tripping over each other, do you see any parallels here between the Scooter and the heiress.
MILBANK: I see eerie parallels. In both cases the prosecutors are saying that they are trying to destroy the judicial system, whether that‘s by getting out of jail early or by perjury. Both needlessly harsh penalties, in the eyes of the defense. Both trying to make appeals. Both right now in need of the only thing that could really end both of these crisis, and that is a presidential pardon.
OLBERMANN: Yes, pardon Paris—well, they were trying that with Schwarzenegger. They already put that request in.
MILBANK: Technically, it is a state matter. But I think if the president pardons them both on the same day, he will lose a little of the damage from the Scooter pardon.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t give him any ideas. The cover on that politically -
There would be 23 hours and 48 minutes of the coverage of the pardon of Paris Hilton and 12 minutes of the coverage of the pardon of Scooter Libby.
MILBANK: And forget the G-8 Summit.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. What‘s G—that‘s the beverage with tomatoes in it. This is, though, actually already gotten, to some degree, Washingtonian. The “Radar Online” publication reported that Sheriff Lee Baca, who ordered her release, got a 1,000 dollar campaign donation from Paris‘ grandfather last year.
If there were Washington that would be a direct end of the line right there on the credibility of this whole prosecution. Would it not.
MILBANK: It would be. But I think what it tells us more about money and politics is that her grandfather was not throwing around enough money. And that certainly what we know in Washington is that you‘ve got spread the money out. If he really wants to have some results, he might want to set up the 529 and start trying to get that judge recalled.
There are many ways you can spend your money. And 1,000 dollars in politics just isn‘t going to cut it these days.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t know if you heard this, but at the start of the show Robert Shapiro, who, of course, was one of O.J. Simpson‘s defense attorneys, said, frankly, that he believes that Paris Hilton is actually the victim here of stuff that would never happen to somebody named Harris Pilton.
But she is not getting sympathy for that at this point. Is there anything that she could have learned from politicians in trouble or vice versa maybe about quitting while you‘re ahead and gaining some sympathy from the public by toughing it out in jail?
MILBANK: I suspect, in the long run, she will command higher sympathy than most political figures I cover on a regular basis. There was that sign outside the courtroom that said Obama/Hilton 2008. So, I wouldn‘t rule it out entirely. Perhaps the better question, could Scooter and the others here learn something from Paris Hilton?
I mean, he didn‘t have a nervous break down in court, but he did have the memory problems, which did not work for him. I don‘t recommend that he tries the pornographic video.
OLBERMANN: Oh my good—Well, he already wrote that book with the bears in it, and the cages, and the prostitutes in training. How much more pornographic does he need to get?
MILBANK: Eerie similarities.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, this is our guilty pleasure, isn‘t it, covering this story?
MILBANK: I am thinking of moving to Hollywood.
OLBERMANN: Well, not yet, we need to find you for the political stuff. Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, and we did not ask one single question about the Bush administration. So that is a good day for you, I guess.
MILBANK: I appreciate that very much.
OLBERMANN: Great thanks Dana, have a good weekend.
MILBANK: You too.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,500th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq, 1-5-0-0.
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