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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 19

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley, P.J. Crowley

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

The new kind of politics sounds a lot like the old kind of politics, as the Democrats conduct their Take Back America Conference.  Senator Obama, obviously about 2002, more subtly about a presidential rival, one who said she would not vote for the war knowing what I know now.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We knew back then this war was a mistake.


OLBERMANN:  The mistake that is the signing statement, the government‘s own report tonight, federal officials have disobeyed at least six laws, which President Bush signed into law.

Attendance will count.  Why did Rudy Giuliani leave the Iraq Study Group?  Because he had never bothered to attend one of its meetings, and was told to show up or ship out.

Which is the same message at Abu Ghraib, not to the wrongdoers, but to the general who investigated.  How Donald Rumsfeld‘s Pentagon threw him under the bus.

The bus to Hollywood may have a new passenger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got to do better than buying a pair of glasses from the flea market.


OLBERMANN:  Judge Larry from the Anna Nicole Smith case is a judge no more, but he might soon be a TV star.

Speaking of TV, the only question now is, why did all the spoofers take so long?




OLBERMANN:  And for those of you who don‘t like the “Sopranos” parody, there is a “Sopranos” parrots-y.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

If not the Civil War, then certainly the Depression.  Not since one of those two epic events has a single topic seemed each day ever more inevitably poised to utterly dominate a looming presidential election, the way the importance of the war in Iraq seems to grow every day, even after you think it‘s at 100 percent already.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, today alone it was a weapon used by one Democratic front runner against the other.  It took a bite out of the campaign of one Republican former New York mayor.  And it certainly contributed to making that man‘s successor a former Republican.

On the ground in Iraq today, more violence on an echoing theme, a truck bomb striking a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing 78 people, wounding more than 200 others, the man who ordered the invasion dealing instead today with the mess his foreign policy has created in Gaza, President Bush meeting in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel.

Meanwhile, the ex-New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, still hope his—hopes his own lack of foreign policy experience has not hurt him in the 2008 campaign, the newly revealed fact that he chose his checkbook over getting some credentials in that area just might hurt him.  The former New York mayor reportedly quit the Iraq Study Group, having failed to attend a single official meeting, because its schedule conflicted with his own six-figure speaking gigs, New York‘s newspaper “Newsday,” which broke the story, pointing out that, quote, “By giving up his seat on the panel, Giuliani has opened himself up to charges that he chose private-sector paydays and politics over unpaid service on a critical issue facing the nation.”

Meanwhile, late this afternoon, Mr. Giuliani‘s successor, Michael Bloomberg, still mulling an independent run for the presidency, suddenly switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent, NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert saying Bloomberg will not decide on a third-party bid until early next year, after it becomes apparent who the Democratic and Republican nominees are, the Democrats seeking that status jabbing today with Iraq as the weapon while wooing union voters in Washington, Senator Barack Obama eager to stress his prewar opposition to the war, something that definitely sets him apart from Senators Clinton and Edwards, who both voted to authorize that conflict.


OBAMA:  We‘re spending $275 million dollars a day on a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never have been waged, a war that you and I were opposed to from the start.  It is time to bring our troops home.


OLBERMANN:  To whom is that a reference?  Senator Clinton, meantime, with a different kind of problem, perhaps a long-term one today, (INAUDIBLE) of her own campaign‘s making.  Remember the contest to vote for the campaign song on her Web site from a preordained list of five choices?  Well, having first broadened that list to include a few write-in candidates, the campaign has announced a winner, which happens to have been be one of the write-in suggestions.  Of all things, a Celine Dion song that was originally written as a jingle for an Air Canada commercial.  We‘re not making this up.  The tagline of the song is, “You and I were meant to fly.”

Time now to call in the very fly Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”

Dana, good evening.


Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  To the Republicans first.  How badly does it undermine Mr.  Giuliani about Iraq and about foreign policy that he evidently, based on the “Newsday” reporting, chose these large paychecks for speaking engagements rather than a membership, essentially, on the Iraq Study Group?

MILBANK:  Well, to his credit, he doesn‘t sell out his civic responsibility on the cheap.  He earned some $11.4 million over a 14-month period.  So at least he didn‘t go easy.

Now, it is possible also the Iraq Study Group was planning an actual trip to Iraq, and, as you know, Mayor Giuliani has never been to Iraq.  And this would have broken his unbroken streak there.  So that may be another reason why he didn‘t want to go down this road.

OLBERMANN:  Boy, the joke about, We all know what you are, we‘re just arguing over the price suddenly comes to mind.  But moving on here, he‘s got another problem.  His Iowa campaign manager is now out of his campaign and is in the president‘s budget office?

MILBANK:  That‘s a potential problem.  And the -- (INAUDIBLE) -- he has a—Giuliani has a bit of a problem already in Iowa, where he‘s lagging Mitt Romney.  But the problems got worse throughout the day.  Now we hear that his treasurer in South Carolina, another early primary state, has been indicted on cocaine charges by a federal grand jury.  So a bit of a headache today for the Giuliani campaign.

OLBERMANN:  And the Democrats at this Take Back conference, the union conference in Washington, the Obama-Hillary battle, which has sometimes been stark and required apologies, is this going to—it seems so obvious to answer this one that it‘s going to heat up in some respects.  But is it going to get more tense?  Is it—are these barbs going to continue, or is there some point at which they rebound negatively against Senator Obama?

MILBANK:  I don‘t suppose so.  I mean, I think we‘ve demonstrated over and over again that you can‘t get to negative in politics.  And everybody likes to say how they can‘t stand the negative campaigning.  That‘s exactly what works.  So if anything, it‘ll get more and more harsh.  What‘s interesting is a guy like John Edwards, who‘s out of this current back and forth, is up in the polls in Iowa, much like Romney is over Giuliani.  So there‘s a couple of ways to read that.

OLBERMANN:  Now, we all know that the winning candidate is the one who

has the best song.  Why, if you‘re going to select a song for your

campaign, why would you—if you‘re the Clinton camp—give the

Republican National Committee ammunition?  They‘ve already come out with

this complaint that the Clinton campaign has outsourced its campaign song

to Canada, never mind the fact that it‘s Celine Dion.  Is there, was there

do we know, was there some attempt to fix this election, either by people who wanted her to have a Canadian theme song, or did they ever contemplate throwing out the vote (INAUDIBLE) going to the Supreme Court with it or something other than this?

MILBANK:  It is disturbing, but, of course, it could have been worse.  They did least at not pick the Celine Dion theme to “Titanic.”  I was at a Clinton rally a couple of weeks ago, and the theme song she came into was the theme from “Devil Wears Prada.”  So clearly that was a good move to skip that one.

And if you look carefully on the Clinton campaign‘s Web site announcing this decision, the jukebox that she‘s looking at, the first song visible on the upper left side is “One Bad Apple.”  So we have to put this in perspective.

OLBERMANN:  I guess we do.  And give me the perspective on the Bloomberg announcement.  I mean, he was, he was often thought of and acted as a Republican in name only, he‘d been a Democrat.  But is this purely about an independent presidential campaign?  Or was there some sort of measure of anti-Republican protest in his decision today?

MILBANK:  There‘s certainly a measure of it.  He may have been the last man identifying himself as a Republican in this city.  So he is, in that sense, speaking for his constituents.  And as you noted, the whole switch to the Republican Party was something of a charade that he no longer needs to keep up after two terms in office.

But certainly Chuck Hagel‘s very interested in what he‘s saying there.  There‘s clearly a wider opening for an independent candidate in this cycle than there has been in some time.  So it‘s very exciting for those of us following this.

OLBERMANN:  And nothing says independent better than being, having, having been a ex-Democrat and an ex-Republican.

Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.”  As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One unanswered question during the Bush administration has been how the 1,100 signing statements the president has enacted since taking office, thereby giving himself the option of ignoring sections of bills, have been interpreted by the rest of his federal government, a new study providing the first evidence that bureaucrats might be taking the president‘s word over that of the letter of the law.  In a small sample, the Government Accountability Office found that federal officials have disobeyed at least six new laws that Mr. Bush has challenged in his signing statements and enforced 10 more, as they were approved by Congress.

That‘s six out of 16 that were disobeyed, a little more than 37 percent.  Apply that percentage to the 1,100 laws Mr. Bush has challenged, and the potential for rebellion suddenly extends to 412 laws.  The catch, and there is always a catch, the GAO report to Congress says, quote, “Although we found the agencies did not execute the provisions as enacted, we cannot conclude that agency noncompliance was the result of the president‘s signing statements.”

Let‘s call upon the constitutional stylings of George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert.

Jon, good evening.



OLBERMANN:  The official White House response to this report, courtesy of the spokesman Tony Fratto (ph), reads, “We are executing the law as we believe we are empowered to do so.  The signing statements certainly do and should have an impact.  They are real.”  If that‘s the case, might this percentage be higher than six out of 16, might the headline here be that the majority of the bureaucrats are actually siding against the White House and against the concept of the signing statement?

TURLEY:  Well, I think what it indicates is that there are people in the government that realize they‘re going to be here long after this president goes back to Texas.  And what he‘s asking in these signing statements, after all, is violating the law.  I mean, he is rewriting legislation duly enacted by Congress.  And so I think there are some people in the agencies that are not very comfortable following the president down this path, because when they reach the end of that path, he‘s not going to be in office, and they‘re still going to be in the government.

OLBERMANN:  The administration has said that the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.  Is the danger, though, here with the signing statements that Mr. Bush gets to interpret the Constitution his way?  Is that, I mean, this may be naive and old-fashioned, but shouldn‘t, isn‘t that up to the courts?

TURLEY:  It‘s supposed to be up to the courts.  And, in fact, you have to remember that this president has been reversed in pretty stark terms by courts all around the country, who‘ve said that his interpretations of his own authority is not only extreme, but, at points, dangerous.

But also, he‘s not interpreting the Constitution when he‘s rewriting these laws.  The Constitution is perfectly clear.  It‘s not subject to interpretation on this point.  Congress writes the law.  He can veto it, but he can‘t rewrite it.  And when you look at these laws, that‘s what he‘s doing.  Notably, many of these laws that he has refused to comply with involve sharing information with Congress, which is a longstanding problem with this president.  He has, perhaps, the most contempt of any modern president for the separation of powers, and specifically the powers of the legislative branch.

OLBERMANN:  I said earlier naive and old-fashioned.  Of course, the word I should have used was quaint, which has come up before relative to the Geneva Conventions in this administration.  But so how do you protect legislation and legislative bodies?  What does Congress do to make the laws signing-statement-proof?

TURLEY:  Well, they can do two things.  One is, they need to be more specific.  All politicians love ambiguity.  They show up (ph) these things (ph) for the parties, when the bills pass, and the signing statements, and they get all the signing (ph) of the bills, and they get these pens that they can put on their walls.  But ambiguity really breeds mischief, and this president has shown that.

The other thing is, they‘ve got to put something behind their rhetoric.  They have to start to get tough and to start withholding funds, withholding confirmations, using those powers that the framers gave them to protect their own institution.

OLBERMANN:  So ultimately, where does it, do you defend this president‘s right to go and veto legislation?  In other words, with Democrats in control of Congress, he‘s gone to the veto rather than the signing statement.  Do you defend, more importantly, do you believe the Constitution defends that for him to do as he wishes?

TURLEY:  Oh, yes, I think that, you know, it‘s perfectly appropriate for him to veto legislation he disagrees with.  I may disagree with him on the vetoes, but that is what the framers thought would be done when he disagreed with a law.  They never anticipated that he would sit down with a red pan and just to rewrite it.  They assumed he would veto it.

But I expect he‘s going to be doing both.  He‘s grown addicted to these signing statements.  And he truly believes, as do people in his administration, that they have a binding effect.  They do not.  And as they go through the courts, I expect that even Republican appointees on the courts will say that as well.  He does not have a role of amending legislation.  He can veto it, and I expect he‘s going to be doing that more and more.

OLBERMANN:  Would you have ever believed we‘d get to a state in American history where a line-item veto would seem like a moderate change in our way of life?

The constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley.  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The abuse was appalling enough.  The details on how the administration lied about it, and how it sought to stymie the investigation of Abu Ghraib, are almost as shocking, and they‘re coming out now.

And nine days after, and here come the parodies.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  The first man to investigate the torture of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has broken his silence to reveal his belief that the real culprits higher up remain unpunished, that he was prevented from identifying them, and that both President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld knew about the abuses well before they said they did.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, retired major general Antonio Taguba also telling the “New Yorker”‘s Sy Hersh that his career was destroyed.  He was forced to retire as punishment for his pursuit of truth.

Much of Taguba‘s interview pivots around Rumsfeld‘s congressional testimony of May 7, 2004, 10 days after Hersh first reported on the Taguba report.  Rumsfeld told Congress that Taguba report did not get to the Pentagon before the leak, that he first saw the photos the day prior to his testimony.  Now, however, Taguba says Rumsfeld‘s staff knew about the report in January.

Quoting Taguba, “The photographs were available to him if he wanted to see them.”  And his reaction to Rumsfeld‘s testimony, quote, “There‘s no way he‘s suffering from CRS—can‘t remember s---.  He‘s trying to acquit himself.”

“There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff,” the photos, “was gravitating upwards.  It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher.  The president had to be aware of this.”

About the convicted military police in the case, Taguba says, quote, “Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority.”

Let‘s turn now to P.J. Crowley, former Pentagon spokesman, currently senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

P.J., thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  How serious are these allegations from General Taguba?

CROWLEY:  Well, I mean, they are very serious.  I mean, they don‘t break a lot of new ground.  I think obviously Secretary Rumsfeld is extraordinarily disingenuous, if not, you know, downright misleading in saying that he didn‘t know what he didn‘t know.

I think what is more shocking is, the Sy Hersh article opens with a scene where General Taguba is briefing Secretary Rumsfeld days after the photos have been released, and Rumsfeld is still trying to figure out what to say about these things.

I mean, these photos were strategic.  Recall the war on terror, a battle of ideas.  And when we try to figure out why we lost in Iraq, Abu Ghraib factors, you know, well into this.  And why they didn‘t understand what they were facing and try to work to head off and blunt the impact of these photos is still a mystery.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, the other key part of this thing is the idea that Taguba was stopped, was unable to investigate further.  What would we look for, what should we expect to find if somebody was given the power to investigate where General Taguba was not?

CROWLEY:  Well, I mean, part of this is technical.  You know, General Taguba was—his authority was convened by (INAUDIBLE) General Sanchez, you know, in country.  He did not have the authority to investigate the CIA (INAUDIBLE) the authority to investigate Rumsfeld.  I mean, there have been a number of investigations beyond General Taguba‘s report.  Obviously, I don‘t think that we have yet have the full scope and full understanding of how we got to this point.

I (INAUDIBLE) we certainly have to look back on some fundamental decisions made in 2001, right after 9/11.  We threw out the book, we threw out the legal system, the detention system, the interrogation system.  And what happened at Abu Ghraib extends and from those decisions made by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush.

OLBERMANN:  In addition to those decisions and the policies that paved

the way for torture, in whatever guise you want to put it in, there also

seemed to be this sickening mindset at work.  Part of Hersh‘s reporting

included this quote, “A senior general in Iraq had pointed to him,” meaning

Taguba, “that the abused detainees were ‘only Iraqis.‘”

How much do you think that kind of sentiment actually contributed to Abu Ghraib?

CROWLEY:  Well, enormously.  I think our—this is a reflection of our basic lass—lack of preparedness, our underestimation of what we were facing.  When the insurgency happened, we were shocked by it.  You know, the edict went out, you know, find out what this is all about, do whatever it takes.  And we started rounding up people willy-nilly, probably a handful of terrorists, some insurgents, but mostly common Iraqi citizens.  We absolutely violated our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention to care for an occupied population.

OLBERMANN:  With all respect to how forthcoming General Taguba has just been, would we not all have benefited, would not the Iraqis have benefited, would not the world have benefited, if the general had come forward with some of this information back in 2004, when Congress and the voters really needed it?

CROWLEY:  Probably so, Keith.  However, I think you have to understand, you know, how military bureaucracies work.  You know, they‘re faithful to the system.  And unfortunately, in this particular case, you know, General Taguba did his duty very well.  It was a thankless job.  He happened to be the, you know, the guy on deck who was response, he was chosen because one of the people being investigated was a one-star general, General Karpinski, and obviously, he was a messenger.  The message he was delivering was something that the leadership of the Pentagon, which is renowned for ignoring information and intelligence that it did not agree with, you know, they did not want to hear what General Taguba had to say, and they ultimately shot the messenger.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And you can‘t have a messenger who disagrees with the official message until they‘re no longer in the official hierarchy.

P.J. Crowley, senior fellow for the Center for American Progress. 

Great thanks for your time, as always, sir.

CROWLEY:  OK, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And P.J. mentioned former general Janice Karpinski, who was in charge of that prison until 2004, will join us to share her perspective about the abuse, about the subsequent investigation.  She is in loud agreement with much of the Hersh Taguba reporting.  That will be tomorrow night here on COUNTDOWN.

First tonight, he once laid claim to Anna Nicole Smith‘s dead body. 

Now he may be returning to your television.

We offer a preview which may by itself send you in search of some of this, and one of these.  It‘s latrines on the lam.

That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Forty-five years ago today at San Fernando, California, Harry and Lorraine Abdul welcomed their second girl, a child, rather, a little girl named Paula.  You know about her work as a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader and as an occasionally upright judge on “America‘s Got Idol Something.”  But little known is that she briefly attended Cal State Northridge, studying broadcasting.  She did not graduate.  And also, don‘t tell anybody, don‘t anybody tell her she‘s 45.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Philadelphia.  Have you ever wondered how they clean out that 5,000-pound crystal chandelier on the ceiling of the Philly Academy of Music concert hall?  No, we haven‘t either.  Probably Windex.

Hey, Mom, lookit, terlit racing.  This is more of our cup of tea, the first annual Breckenridge, Colorado, outhouse races, 10 teams taking part in the event, rushing down the course, pushing their homemade crap houses, with one team member inside doing his dirty, dirty business.  The winners receive a $500 prize and a gold toilet seat.  Not real gold, mind you, more like yellowed with age.

(INAUDIBLE) segue possible to this story in Tennessee, where there‘s something strange in the bark of this tree outside St. Michael‘s Church in Memphis.  And no, it‘s not gypsy moths.  According to some members, the garden tree bears a likeness of Jesus Christ.  Or possibly, of Jeff Bridges as the dude in “The Big Lebowski.”  So far, the big crowds haven‘t shown up yet, but we‘d advise you to get there early.  Let us not forget the lesson of the Jesus image in the plate glass window of that Fort Worth, Texas, apartment building.

A shattering moment of American cultural history.  You may have loved it, you may have hated it, but you‘ll have to get ready to see it parodied time after time after time now.

Some things, some people cannot be parodied.  They‘re simply given their own TV shows.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, “The Chicago Tribune”‘s high school athlete of the year from Plano, Illinois, football player, wrestler, track, and field star Nick Nasti.  There‘s no other news here.  It‘s just a great name.

Number two, would that that were true for an unnamed golfer at the Wild Creek course in Reno Nevada.  He hit his tee shot off the course into some nearby dry grass.  While trying to play it back onto the fairway, his club struck something that created a spark which in term started a fire which consumed nearly 20 acres just to the northeast of the course.  Firefighters praised the unfortunate duffer for doing just about all he could do in the circumstances.  He was the guy who phoned the fire department.

And number one, Sir Isaac Newton back in the news just 280 years and about three months after his death.  A just published a letter written in 1704 by the man who worked out the laws of gravity includes another bit of data, analyzing the biblical book of Daniel.  Sir Isaac Newton concluded that the world will end in the year 2060.  Hey, you worry about it.  I would be 101 years old.


OLBERMANN:  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN night, it is imperative to remember the context that the movie a “Citizen Kane” pretty much bombed when it came out.  And the reviews and the initial sales of “Moby Dick” were at best, mediocre.  But they and countless other initially unimpressive iconic elements of American culture grew into their status through word of mouth, through imitation, and in many cases through parody.

Thus we bring you this story nine day after the event that spawned it.  What follows was presented between innings on a giant video screen at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.  For more context all you need to know is that the Pirates have had a series of mascots, some of them actual pirates, some of them parrots.

The only other introduction we will offer, this story could be about TV, could be about sports, could be about politics.  You‘ll have to decide for yourself.  And shortly you‘ll see Hillary Clinton and Johnny Sack.




OLBERMANN:  The last mascot was a jalapeno.  Thus, did the floodgates open.  That‘s right.  Parodies of the controversial but in immediate retrospect now unforgettable final scene of “The Sopranos.”  And if a baseball team is going to make one, you can be darn sure a political campaign is, too.




SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There are some great choices.  I ordered for the table.

B. CLINTON:  No onion rings?

H. CLINTON:  I am looking out for you.  Where is Chelsea?

B. CLINTON:  Parallel parking.  How is the campaign going?

H. CLINTON:  Well, like you always said, focus on the good times.

B. CLINTON:  So what is the winning song?

H. CLINTON:  You will see.

B. CLINTON:  My money is on Smash Mouth.  Everybody in America wants to know how it‘s going to end.

H. CLINTON:  Ready?


OLBERMANN:  Going to black, it‘s the new black.  Minus two points for the daylight, plus two points for the cameo by the actor Vincent Curatola as Johnny Sack.

The Clinton premise, though, straining the satire somewhat, posted online at the set up to the center‘s selection of the official campaign song.  Naturally, given all the attention to “The Soprano‘s” ending, the repetition of that one piece of music, the dramatic rise in sales and downloads of the greatest hits of Journey, well, greatest hit of Journey.

That campaign song selected for the senator by the voters at her Web site was, a Celine Dion number originally written as a jingle for Air Canada.

Come on, a softball right at you at 20 miles an hour.  Use “Don‘t Stop Believing” as your campaign song.  I mean, not even Smash Mouth.

From “The Sopranos” to a tenor.  That is a segue.  A rare moment of real surprise in a TV competition thanks to a shy cell phone salesman and a bunch of guys in drag who had unfortunate career histories.  We will explain.

This is likely the first and last time this word will ever be used to describe the Anna Nicole Smith judge, Larry Seidlin.  He is retiring.  Next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  But in our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, when writing that for “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare left out the fourth option.  Some win greatness when the singing group made up of drag queens leading the British version of “American Idol” get thrown off the show in the wake of prostitution charges.

If you haven‘t heard of Paul Potts you will.  Mobile phone salesman turned overnight international operatic sensation.  Our correspondent in London is Mark Potter.  Again, this is Paul Potts, not Pol Pot.


MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  On the day after the biggest night of his life, more famous than Paul Potts ever imagines.  This shy mobile phone salesman deep in debt after long illnesses, had almost given up on his love of singing.

PAUL POTTS, “POP IDO” WINNER:  It has mainly been a passion for me, a private passion that I have kept to myself in and an eight foot square room.

POTTER:  But 10 days ago, Paul Potts found his courage and walked out on stage to audition for a British talent show on national TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What are you here for today, Paul?

POTTS:  To sing opera.

POTTER:  While rolling their eyes, most prepared for the worst, and then .


POTTER:  The audience and the judges were stunned, even the tough ones seen on American TV.

SIMON COWELL, “POP IDOL”:  So you work in a car phone warehouse and you did that.  I was not expecting that one.


POTTER:  Potts first sang opera at a karaoke party and then studied in Italy, worshipping Luciano Pavarotti but never made it big.  Then last night, the final competition.  When the smoke cleared, 2 million viewers cast their votes.


POTTER:  A quiet and a simple man, realizing his impossible dream. 

Mark Potter, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN:  Moving on to the semi talented in our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news.  I keep trying, “Keeping Tabs.”

Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears‘ exes ex.  Ms. Lohan has reportedly decided to cancel her Las Vegas birthday bash since she is still in rehab.  The 21st birthday extravaganza at Pure nightclub in Caesar‘s Palace had been scheduled for July 2.  So you‘ve got a free night.

Meantime, Paris Hilton has supposedly sent a message to stressing that she has been getting no special treatment in jail and saying that most of her fan mail is favorable.

And the first ex of Kevin Federline, Shar Jackson has hired a lawyer over recent claims in “Star” magazine that was pregnant with Fed-Ex‘s trial.  Not true she says and she is tired of her kids, both of whom who are also Federline‘s, by the way, asking if they‘re going to have a brother or sister.

No dispute in other baby news.  Tiger Woods has his first offspring.  Stop that.  And Julia Roberts has borne at third.  Woods‘ wife Elin gave birth to their daughter Sam Alexis Woods less than 24 hours after Woods came in second in the U.S. Open on Sunday.  No truth to rumors that the Ladies Professional Golf Association has already given her an exemption for the 2023 U.S. Women‘s Open.

Julia Roberts and husband Danny Moder meantime have a new baby boy, Henry Daniel Moder.  He will keep company with their two year old twins, Hazel and Phineas.

He achieved the rare distinction of making thee Anna Nicole Smith saga even more seedy.  Now we bid Judge Larry Seidlin a fond adieu as he leaves the bench, maybe for TV.

That‘s ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest three nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze to Frederick Mullner (ph), a 17-year-old who was injured in an occident in southern Germany.  The young man could not sleep because the 76-year-old woman next to him in the intensive care unit was making too much noise.  Or, more correctly, her life support machines were making too much noise.  So Frederick turned the machines off.

Staffers quickly turned them back on and then turned Frederick over to the police.

The silver tonight, right wing water carrier Neil Boortz out with another one of those nice humanitarian remarks.  About immigration, we should, quote, “build a double fence along the Mexican border and stop the damn invasion.  I do not care if Mexicans pile up against that fence like tumbleweeds.  Then just run a coupe of taco trucks up and down the line and somebody is going to be a millionaire out of that.”  With sociopaths like Neil Boortz here it is often amazing to me that anybody wants to come to this country legally or otherwise.

But the winner, Fred Thompson, criticizing Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid for having himself criticized Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace, calling Pace incompetent.  But Thompson, who is the official fill-in for Paul Harvey on ABC Radio, and does podcasts for ABC News did not limit himself to criticizing the senator.  He criticized the senator‘s audience.  Reid, said Thompson, quote, “made his statement about General Pace on a conference call with fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we‘re the bad guys.  This is a place where even those who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job find a home.”

OK.  Two things, 9/11 -- no matter what you believe or don‘t believe about it - 9/11 has nothing to do with General Pace‘s competence.  The president firing him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  That might have something to do with his competence.

And also what the hell does a de facto presidential candidate, no matter what party he belongs to, still doing on the air as a commentator for a national news organization?  How many free ads does he get?  Fred Thompson, today‘s “Worst person in the world.”


OLBERMANN:  Even in the context of the endless Anna Nicole Smith saga it was ineffably ridiculous.  Judge Larry Seidlin wagged a finger and said, quote, “There‘s no circus here, my friend.”

Anyone who had watched him for more than 15 seconds knew just how wrong he was, he was the circus, he was each of the three rings, he was the damned tent.

In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, emphasis on the word “was.”  Judge Seidlin has resigned the bench, leading to immediate speculation that he will go directly from courtroom adjudication to television syndication.  Judge Seidlin of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County, Florida, presided over Miss Smith‘s remains, you will recall, famously saying on the first day of hearings, quote, “This body belongs to me right now.”

Now after serving on the bench for 29 years, Judge Seidlin says in his resignation letter that the time has come, quote, “to devote more of my daily life to my own young family and to pursue the many opportunities that have been offered to me outside the judicial system.”

Like stunt double for that guy who used to be on “L.A. Law.”  But like, what else?

Well, Judge Seidlin‘s last day of the bench will be July 31, and though he doesn‘t specifically mention a TV show, his letter recites interest in the educational system, the media, and nonprofit organizations.  Anybody want to take door number two?  The Anna Nicole Smith hearing put Judge Seidlin in that special category of people who are not murderers but can trace all their fame to a dead body, and it served, whether he intended it to or not, as the judge‘s audition tape.

Roll ‘em!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Waiting for this crucial hearing to begin any minute now in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Howard Stern, how are you doing?  Are you ready for what will be a tough day?  Do you think you‘ll get a decision today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I expect a lot of fireworks.


Hello.  Is everyone being treated well?  All right.  Have water, soda, all right?  Good, nice to have you here.  Is everyone comfortable?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All rise, please.

SEIDLIN:  Let‘s go around the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Richard Milstein (ph) and I would like to make a statement.

SEIDLIN:  You sound like you‘re getting a little bit of a cold.


SEIDLIN:  Get him some orange juice.

I‘m a product of a college in the Bronx, Hunter College that produced schoolteachers.  I guess it was no accident that I did this.  I have a love of students.

I‘ll give you a chance to speak -

I remember when I was in hunter college I was taking a—it was

philosophy -

And he said, Seidlin, I don‘t know whether to give you an A or an A plus, I never gave an a plus, before, I kidded her and said set precedent.

I‘m going to have everyone sit for a minute.

Have a seat.  I want to move on.

You can all be seated.

Have a seat.

I appreciate it, Texas.  Have a seat.

Have a seat, counselor.  Have a seat.

You guys can have a seat.  You can all be seated.  I will ask you to sit now, Texas.  I‘m moving on.

You can have a seat.

I know you‘re getting hungry for lunch.  I‘m going to let you take a break for lunch.

You have a seat.

Everybody have a seat.

I‘m going to ask to you have a seat.  I‘m going stay seated.  You can stand up if you want.  I agree.

I figured he‘s a diabetic and didn‘t eat anything.  I can see the color.

Here‘s my credit card.  Just buy an orange juice.

Like I always say—can you eat a candy bar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A protein bar?  Luna Bar?

SEIDLIN:  Give this to him.  Our sons and daughters are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and other part of the world.  The decisions they make are so much more life-threatening.

I used to teach tennis and I used to wear white shorts and a white top.  It always looked good.  You look good.

In the old days I would take you in the back room and we would be chopping down some trees.

I remember what Haldeman said to Ehrlichman said what are we doing, we‘re just in the wind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I didn‘t want to grow up to be a cop.  I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina believe it or not.  And that dream didn‘t come true.  I didn‘t want to grow up be a cop.

SEIDLIN:  It‘s not too late.  It‘s never too late.


That wasn‘t my idea.  She was working.

SEIDLIN:  Take a second.  Dr. Pepper, the perp is on the phone.  Boy, can I destroy a name.

The candle is burning for us.  Time is of the essence.

And now the dots are starting to fill in.

Anna Nicole loved Marilyn Monroe.  Camelot, knights of the roundtable.  All for one, one for all.  Anna Nicole thinks of Marilyn Monroe, Camelot, knights of the roundtable, one for all, all for one.

You know, I need my glasses.  I need my glasses.

Thanks.  Thanks.  I‘ve got to do better than buying a pair of glasses from the flea market.

So here we have Anna Nicole Smith who is thinking of Camelot, all for one, one for all.

I‘m wrapping this case up if a few minutes.  I gave little antidotes (ph) during this case to try to take the pressure off you all.  I did a lot of talking.  The more you talk in this business, the worse off you are, really.  The less you say, the better.  I mean, I knew that from the beginning.

The wheels of justice are not always round, those wheels, sometimes it‘s a little bit square, and it‘s bumpy ride, like the old West, where it‘s a bumpy ride.  And I‘m not always going to be on that ride with you.


OLBERMANN:  I think somebody found his sign off.  Also, if he doesn‘t like that, he can use Camelot, one for all and all for one, and never the twain shall meet.

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,511th day since the declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night.  And good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, hosted once again tonight by Dan Abrams.  Dan, good evening.



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