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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 27

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Jonathan Turley, Eugene Robinson, Wayne Barrett, Chuck Nice

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

Wiretaps without a warrant turn magically into subpoenas with a punch.  The Senate Judiciary Committee hits the White House, and the vice president‘s office, demanding documents from the internal debate over the legality of the administration‘s warrant-free domestic eavesdropping.  The White House just would not turn them over, neither would the vice president.  Thanks a lot, Dick.

The latest tarnish on the halo of St. Rudy of 9/11.  After the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, the authorities, he says, should have done more to prepare for future attacks.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It was a big mistake to not recognize that it was a terrorist act and an act of war.


OLBERMANN:  Who does he blame?  Then-President Bill Clinton.  Mr.  Giuliani does not even mention that never recognizing it was a terrorist act or an act of war might also have been a big mistake on the part of the mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, a Mr. Rudy Giuliani.

Will Ferrell courts comedy and controversy again.  Little Pearl is back for her farewell foul-mouthed performance.

Apple hypes and laughs.  iPhone comes out Friday, new product addicts in line Wednesday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m here early because I want to be amongst the first people to get my iPhone.


OLBERMANN:  Talk about call waiting.

And Paris Hilton keeps the L.A. City Council waiting.  It debates her release rather than debating a troubled city hospital.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Only in America would Paris Hilton trump health care.


OLBERMANN:  Oh, did he say Trump is going to be here too?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

If you‘re scoring at home, or even if you‘re alone, sharpen your pencil, the White House now claiming it will not release documents related to the warrantless eavesdropping program on the grounds that the executive branch has a right to receive confidential advice, while at the same time still refusing to comply with its own executive order regarding the safeguarding of classified documents, order meant to apply to all entities within the executive branch.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, something the White House might find more difficult to argue against, congressional subpoenas, Senator Leahy telling President Bush, Enough already, the Senate Judiciary Committee issuing subpoenas firs to the vice president‘s office, now to the White House, for documents related to Mr. Bush‘s NSA spy program.  Also named in the subpoenas signed by committee chairman Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council, meantime, Mr. Cheney morphing his legal argument to keep his secret papers out of the hands of the National Archives, the vice president‘s chief of staff, lawyer, and general consigliere, David Addington, sending a letter Senator John Kerry yesterday, in which he now says Mr. Cheney‘s office will not comply because it is not an agency.

“Dear Senator Kerry,” Addington writes, “The executive order on classified national security information, Executive Order 12958, as amended in 2003, makes clear that the vice president is treated like the president and distinguishes the two of them from agencies.  The executive order gives the ISOO under the supervision of the archivist of the United States responsibility to oversee certain activities of agencies, but not of the vice president or president.”

Let‘s turn now to try to understand how this meshes with the Constitution to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a scholar of constitutional law.

Jon, good evening.



OLBERMANN:  The White House responded to the subpoenas by saying, It‘s unfortunate that congressional Democrats continuing to chose—choose the route way of confrontation.  But without a confrontation, was the White House simply going to comply with this?  And if the White House now does not honor the subpoena, is it not being confrontational constitutionally?

TURLEY:  Well, there‘s a lot of people chuckling when the White House said that, because it has literally been years.  The members of Congress have demanded information about the domestic surveillance program.  There have been hearings.  I testified at some of those hearings, others have.  And no information has been forthcoming.

Even allies of the administration, such as I—Senator Specter, and Senator Feinstein, who‘s been very cooperative with the administration in the past, they were stonewalled on many of these points.

And so there was a great deal of laughter when they said that, because there has been literally no avenue that has been found to get this information out of the administration.

OLBERMANN:  What sort of time frame?  Do we have any idea that—what we‘re looking at for a court fight between the White House and the Senate?  Is it possible the White House could just run out the clock until its administration is over here?

TURLEY:  They could.  I mean, they could do a sort of Tai Chi of litigation and just move incredibly slowly.  This president doesn‘t have long to go.

But there is one thing that might concern them about the court, and that is, you know, for many years, since we first found out about this program, some of us have said that this was clearly criminal act that the president called for, that under federal law, it‘s a federal crime to do what the president ordered hundreds of people to do.

Now, if we‘re right, not only did he order that crime, but it would be, in fact, an impeachable offense.  Now, both sides, both Democrats, Republicans, have avoided this sort of pig in the parlor.  They don‘t want to recognize that this president may have ordered criminal offenses.  But they may now be on the road to do that, because the way Congress can get around the executive privilege in court is to say, We‘re investigating a potential crime.  And if they do it here, that crime was ordered by no one other than George Bush.

OLBERMANN:  About the Addington letter regarding the vice president, it‘s beginning to sound like a game of 20 questions, like the old “What‘s My Line?”  Is he, is he an agency?  No.  Miss Kilgallen.  Is he part of the executive branch?  Does Addington‘s argument now have any merit, or is it mere legalese, and are they trying to hide the definition of what he actually is, what the vice president actually is?

TURLEY:  Well, I think we have a pretty darn good idea what the vice president is constitutionally.  He happens to be found in Article II of the Constitution, where other executives, including the president, are found.  And his duties are laid out.  There‘s never been a question about that.

The position adopted by Mr. Addington and Mr. Cheney, to put it bluntly, was absurd.  I mean, it was—I had—it was completely frivolous.

And what really is striking about this is the lack of coherence and control within the administration.  The vice president‘s office is a true center of gravity unto itself.  I mean, in past administrations, if someone like Mr. Addington made such a moronic argument as this one, they would be out of a job the next week.  I mean, he started this huge controversy.  Everyone that of any credibility said that it was a ridiculous argument.

And now they‘re trying to backpedal and say, Well, we‘re going to go with a different argument.

I think that what it really shows is the lack of sort of adult supervision within the administration of somebody to come up with a coherent and single position for the president.

OLBERMANN:  So that would be a no, that‘s $25, turn the cards over, and we‘ll turn to Bennett Cerf.

Last question, Jon.  Some senior officials in the administration were trying to claim today that all this, this letter, everything else, amounts to the vice president‘s office throwing in the towel on the argument that he—that it‘s not part of the executive branch.  But it‘s still not going to comply with the order.  Is it really just a—what is—I mean, is this an attempt to stop what Congressman Emanuel talked about yesterday, cutting off the funding?  Is it just more smokescreen? Is it just more delay?  What is it?

TURLEY:  Well, frankly, I think that it‘s opportunism.  This administration, I have to say, has a certain contempt for the law.  They treat it like some of my criminal defendants used to treated it, you know, that they come up with any argument that might work, and they want you to try it out with a court of law.

And it‘s a sort of shocking development, you know, it shows not just a contempt for the law, but a contempt as well for a co-branch of the legislative branch.

But at the end of the day, they will lose, and they‘re making the situation worse.  They‘re giving Congress all the power it needs to push executive privilege right out of a courtroom.

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  The constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley, who should know.  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The fourth and final installment of “The Washington Post” investigative series on Mr. Cheney detailing the alarming level of secrecy that has enveloped the veep‘s death-grip on the nation‘s environmental and energy laws, the only kindness, it seems, Mr. Cheney has shown to the environment over the past six years being that secrecy.  It‘s a variation of the backpacker‘s rule, take on nature, but leave nothing, just your footsteps, and even any trees.

For more on all things Cheney, let‘s turn to “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson.

Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.


OLBERMANN:  One of the best anecdotes in today‘s installment in your paper focused on this hands-on effort by Cheney to side with the farmers in Oregon over endangered salmon, basically because farmers can vote, and very few fish have the right to vote.  This led to one of the biggest fish kills the West has ever seen.  Course, the fish didn‘t see it coming.

But in a larger sense, given this level of secrecy that Cheney‘s managed to operate, haven‘t we all been kind of the fish in this barrel?

ROBINSON:  I think we have been.  I mean, you know, we kind of thought that, behind the scenes, Dick Cheney was doing all kinds of nefarious things.  But really, we had no idea how well he was doing them, how talented he was at making the bureaucracy, making the machinery of government bend to his will.

So we kind of had the image of this guy, you know, he shot poor Harry Whittington when he was supposed to shoot at a grouse or a quail or something, and he almost this kind of crazy old coot, the image of Cheney.  But really, he was a very purposeful, determined, skilled bureaucratic infighter who has managed to get his way on very, very important matters without our being able to see what he‘s doing.

And even now, I have—you know, I have a feeling we only know the half of it now.

OLBERMANN:  But did that—has this changed this week between the reports in the week-long series of reports in your paper, and this fallout from this claim about being in the executive branch, not being an agency, getting hit by the subpoenas from Leahy‘s committee, is there a tipping point here?  Is this the tipping point?  Or does he just not tip?

ROBINSON:  I think this is really an important week in terms of our knowledge of what Dick Cheney has been doing all this time.  I think there are areas that certainly that I‘d like to know more about.  I‘d like to know, for example, what is he talking about when he goes over and talks to the Saudis about foreign policy, for example?  He seemed to be in charge of the Saudi account.  And is he talking to them about some possible action against Iran?  Is he talking—is he divvying up kind of oil revenues or oil quotas somehow?  What‘s he doing over there?

And various other things I‘d like to know.  But certainly, we know more than we did.  But it, you know, if you want to call it a tipping point, my question is, what‘s going to tip?  Who‘s going to tip?  Dick Cheney has a constituency of one, really, and that‘s George W. Bush.  He seems quite happy with Dick Cheney, and his performance as vice president.  And just as he‘s happy with Alberto Gonzales.

You couldn‘t find 10 people in Washington, outside of the White House, who believe Alberto Gonzales should remain as attorney general, yet George Bush keeps him there.  And so I think he‘ll keep Dick Cheney where he is.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any impact on that in the 2008 election?  Is, you know, if the people don‘t know who Machiavelli is, does it matter to them who Machiavelli is and what he‘s done?

ROBINSON:  I think it—if this affects the race one way or the other, it certainly has to be good for the Democrats, people, you know, who are paying attention.  I suppose there might be people who are on the fence, who look at some of what Cheney has been doing, clearly skirting, you know, just kind of pushing the envelope, playing the fringe on every issue, claiming a vast executive power, except, of course, when he‘s claiming that he‘s not part of the executive branch at all.  But vastly more executive power than previous administrations.

Certainly some people must look at this and say, Enough is enough.  We got to vote for the other guys.  I don‘t think it helps any particular candidate on the Democratic side, but I think Republicans in general can‘t be happy about all these revelations.

OLBERMANN:  Eugene Robinson, columnist, associate editor at “The Washington Post.”  Great thanks for your time tonight, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Rudy Giuliani criticizes President Clinton for having not done enough in the wake of the first World Trade Center attack.  Kind of an odd gambit, given that in that same wake, Mr. Giuliani promptly put the city‘s emergency command center in the World Trade Center.

And Will Farrell‘s first short movie with a swearing toddler raised eyebrows.  So of course, now he has made a sequel.  Pearl the Police Officer ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  For years, it has been the all-purpose answer to explain many of the current president‘s problems, his foreign policy blunders, even why he ignored warnings about an impending terror attack just before 9/11.  When all else fails, blame Bill Clinton.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the favored Bush method of CYA has been picked up by a man who hopes to succeed him, and he‘s used it even though, in throwing the ex-president under this bus, he may in fact be throwing himself under the next one.

Rudy Giuliani‘s overriding theme is terror, pure and simple, the continuing threat, the constant warfare he says we must wage against it, the constant state of fear he is encouraging in this country, Giuliani‘s popularity built almost exclusively on his media presence immediately after 9/11, but now he‘s making an extraordinary claim about the first attack on the World Trade Center, and the Clinton administration response to it, Giuliani telling a conservative audience in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that the 1993 bombing which killed six and injured more than 1,000, for which 10 terrorists were pursued, arrested, tried, and ultimately convicted, was virtually ignored as a terrorist act by President Clinton.


GIULIANI:  It was a big mistake to not recognize that it was a terrorist act and an act of war.  And then we were attacked at Khobar Towers, Kenya, Tanzania, 17 of our sailors were killed on the U.S.S.  “Cole,” and the United States government under then-President Clinton did not respond.  Bin Laden declared war on us.  We didn‘t hear it.  I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn‘t see it, couldn‘t see it.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Giuliani‘s self-congratulation aside, it‘s a claim made all the more puzzling since he specifically defended Bill Clinton‘s counterterrorism efforts only last September.  And, yes, by the way, he became the mayor of the city in which the World Trade Center stood 10 months after it was first attacked, and he didn‘t do a damn thing to heighten counterterrorism in the aftermath of the first attack.  Matter of fact, he decided to—the perfect place to put the city‘s emergency control center would be inside the World Trade Center.

Wayne Barrett has covered Rudy Giuliani‘s career for “The Village Voice” and as co-author of “Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.”

Thanks for joining us again tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  This was Giuliani speaking at Regent University, the Pat Robertson place.  No better place or way to appeal to the real conservative, the religious right, than to blame Bill Clinton for the ills of the world there.  Later in the day, in front of a Jewish group, he said he was not really blaming anybody going back that far.  Has he ever mentioned the ‘93 bombing before?  Did he often mention terrorism before 9/11?

BARRETT:  He mentioned the ‘93 bombing once in the eight years that he was mayor, and that was in his inaugural address in 1994.  And he used it as a metaphor for self-help, for personal responsibility as part of his welfare program.  He certainly never talked about the World Trade Center bombing.  Not only publicly, but in the course of the book, we interviewed everybody who was considered to be his first police commissioner, and this is within months of the attack in ‘93.  The question never came up in the interviews that he conducted or that were conducted by the transition committee that he established.

Look, what does it say that he never even had a multiagency drill in the World Trade Center in the eight years in between the incident?  Not only did he put the command center there, the firefighters were carrying the same radios that malfunctioned on the day of the ‘93 bombing.

It was something he had no consciousness about.  He was the United States attorney in the Southern District before he became mayor, and every assistant United States attorney who prosecuted any one of the terrorist attacks that he described in his speech yesterday, every single one of those assistants was hired by him in that office.  We interviewed all of them, and he never discussed the ‘93 bombing or terrorism with any of them.

The United States attorney for the Southern District had many meetings with him, but this question of terrorism never came up.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they (INAUDIBLE), I would think you could use the phrase, he may have viewed terrorism as a police and prosecution issue, but they‘ve already tried to apply that to other people.

We just heard this.  I want to read it again.  “Bin Laden declared war on us.  We didn‘t hear it.  I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn‘t see it.”

I lived not far outside New York City for five years of his mayorship.  I lived inside it for two years.  This is the first time I‘m hearing any of this.  Did St. Rudy of 9/11 figure out the threat from bin Laden before 9/11 and decide to keep it a secret from the American people, say nothing of the people in New York?

BARRETT:  Keith, he wrote in his own book, “Leadership,” that after 9/11, he calls up Henry Kissinger and says, What should I read about this guy Osama bin Laden?  And Henry Kissinger recommends a book written by a guy named Bodansky in 1998 and 1999.  In Bodansky‘s book, Osama bin Laden predicts a spectacular attack on the United States.

It was a little late reading.  He told us how well prepared he was, because he underlined this book many times after 9/11.  He—why is it, I mean, couldn‘t—could there be anything more partisan than saying, Osama bin Laden declared war on us and nobody heard it in ‘93, and not say anything about George W. Bush, who, after 9/11, hasn‘t done a thing to capture him?  Have you ever heard Rudy Giuliani saying one word of criticism?

He said right after 9/11 that he wanted to do the execution himself of Osama bin Laden.  Has he ever said one critical word about the failure of this administration to go after the guy who attacked this city and killed his good friends?  Not one word.

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe he knows where he is, and he‘s just not telling anybody now.

One other Giuliani matter, your latest story in “The Village Voice,” Wayne, on the Web site, is about Giuliani campaigning as a Catholic but being, as you describe him, on the outs with God.  Other than his tolerance for the abortion issue, his multiple marriages, what else, what else in the background could be the turnoff for that conclusion?

BARRETT:  Well, I think what my story tries to do is a bit of a corrective, because the national media is focusing entirely on the abortion question.  The fact is that if you get divorced, and you don‘t get the divorce—the first marriage, the prior marriage, annulled, and you remarry outside the Catholic Church, you cannot be a practicing Catholic.  You are not, by definition, eligible for any of the sacraments.

I quote all kinds of people in this story that emphasized that.  He wants the issue to be played as, he has an estranged relationship with the church over the abortion issue.  He really has a fundamentally broken relationship with the church that he walks around the country telling us he‘s a member of.

OLBERMANN:  So he basically is taking a free pass on his relationship with the church and covering it up as this great liberal multicultural point of view.

Wayne Barrett of “The Village Voice,” also author of “Grand Illusion:

The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.”  Not the first of our conversations about this man, and not the last.  Great thanks.

BARRETT:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  iPhone mania.  You‘re going to pay $600 for a phone and stand in line for three days?  Has it got an audio version of the new Harry Potter book inside?

And your annual reminder, on the Fourth of July, please do not put firecrackers in your pants.



OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1693, the first magazine devoted to women was published in London.  The first cover of the “Ladies Mercury” was adorned with a picture of a model with her Jacobean waistcoast—coat opened saucily to reveal the top quarter-inch of her neck, and had the headline article, “One Tip to Improve Your Sex Life.”

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Westmoreland, California, and it‘s the latest heavenly apparition to appear on a fleshy summer fruit.  It‘s the Virgin Mary on a watermelon.  I for one don‘t see it, but Mary Lou Robles (ph) says she does.  She discovered the vision as she was cubing the fruit to serve at the snack bar at the local prison.  Rather than serve the Mary melon to convicted criminals, Robles took it home and called the news, God bless her.  The melon has now been home for 10 days, and even though it would probably taste great with that Virgin Mary grilled cheese, Ms. Robles says she has no plans to sell it.

To Washington, D.C., and more fireworks safety demos.  Yes, we brought you some of this last week, but that was the New York state safety demo for New York state.  These are from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, and they got bigger ‘splosions.  And they have that lady‘s watermelon.  No!  Let this be a warning to all you kids, you shoot bottle rockets off while it‘s still in the front pocket from your shorts.  Don‘t.  Boom.

And to those who like to watch an M-80 go off while standing on top of an M-80, remember what we always said:  Fireworks are a dangerous business, so give a hoot and read a book.

“Law and Order,” Hollywood-style.  Little Pearl, the cutest little actor in an ugly role interrogating Will Ferrell.  She‘s back.

And lock up Paris Hilton.  Well, “Lock Up: Paris Hilton.”  The hotel heiress‘s first words on life in the pokey, details ahead.

But first, COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.  Number three, Lindsay Lohan‘s father, Michael, out of prison.  He‘s issued a press release asserting his love for his kids, “Michael, Ali, Cody and Lyndsay,” Lindsay, whose name he has misspelled in the press release “Lyndsay.” 

Number two, Victoria McArthur of Michigan.  She‘s suing the makers of Starburst candy, asking for $25,000.  Her claim?  While eating the very sticky stuff, her teeth became stuck together.  When she got them unstuck, she found her jaw had become misaligned.  She now claims to have temporomandibular joint dysfunction and wants the dough to recover her rehab, plus her pain and suffering.  Will you take it in candy?

But, number one, April Moylan of Port St. Lucie, Florida.  She was with her husband, Michael Moylan, when they went to the emergency room for his splitting headache, one so bad he thought it might have been an aneurysm.  No, actually, it was a bullet.  Mr. Moylan had been shot in the head while he slept by, yep, Mrs. Moylan.  “Honey, when I said I would take a bullet for you, I meant it as a metaphor!”


OLBERMANN:  It was one of the funniest videos on the many Internets this year, Will Ferrell getting hassled for rent money by a foul-mouthed, boozing landlady, Pearl.  Pearl, the 2-year-old daughter of Ferrell‘s comedy Web site collaborator, Adam McKay.  Now, in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, two months after Pearl debuted to the paranoid, almost hallucinogenic cries of child exploitation by the likes of Bill O‘Reilly, she is back, and back for what is described as her farewell performance, and back as the ultimate bad cop, the ultimate 2-year-old bad cop.


ADAM MCKAY, “GOOD COP”:  I‘ve tried to do this the nice way, right? 

Now we do it the hard way.  Get the lieutenant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just lost the only thread you had.

MCKAY:  You know what they call her?  “The Confession Machine.”  This stuff‘s about to get real ugly.  All I can tell you is, in three hours, you will sign that confession.  Good luck.

PEARL MCKAY, “THE CONFESSION MACHINE”:  Hi, punk.  Welcome to my nightmare.

WILL FERRELL, “MURDERER”:  Hey, look, I don‘t know what those two bozos said to you, but I‘m not signing the confession.

PEARL MCKAY:  This is gonna be fun.

FERRELL:  I‘m not afraid of nobody.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna mess you up, punk.

FERRELL:  Look, I‘m not signing the confession, OK?

PEARL MCKAY:  I break bones and laugh.

FERRELL:  You‘re a cop.  You can‘t do anything to me.

PEARL MCKAY:  Sign the confession!

FERRELL:  I‘m not signing anything.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m losing my patience.

FERRELL:  I didn‘t do it, OK?

PEARL MCKAY:  I want my confession!

FERRELL:  Jesus!  Hey, put that badge back on.

PEARL MCKAY:  Now it‘s just you and me.

FERRELL:  Hey, I want a lawyer!

PEARL MCKAY:  I am the law!

ADAM MCKAY:  Sorry, man, there‘s nothing I can do for you.  You brought this on yourself.

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna bite your nose off.

ADAM MCKAY:  She‘s what we call a loose cannon.  We don‘t control her.

FERRELL:  Don‘t look at me like that.

PEARL MCKAY:  I get off on this.

FERRELL:  Come on, lady.  I didn‘t do nothing.

PEARL MCKAY:  You‘re going down, ese.

FERRELL:  God, you‘re frightening.

PEARL MCKAY:  Gotta call someone.

FERRELL:  What are you doing?  Who you got to call?

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m calling 911.  Oh, wait, I‘m a cop.  Hi, Hell.  I‘ve got someone coming to you...

FERRELL:  No, I don‘t want to go to Hell. 

PEARL MCKAY:  Sign that confession!

FERRELL:  I still didn‘t do anything.

PEARL MCKAY:  Game on, homes.

FERRELL:  Jesus.

PEARL MCKAY:  It‘s going to get ugly.

FERRELL:  You are loco.

PEARL MCKAY:  Look what I found.

FERRELL:  What are you doing?

PEARL MCKAY:  I‘m gonna knock your teeth out.

FERRELL:  Stay over there!  You broke my goddamned nose.

ADAM MCKAY:  Oh, what do you know?  My glasses fell off.  I‘m blind.

FERRELL:  You‘re breaking me down!  Fine, I did it!  I did it, I killed all three of them!

ADAM MCKAY:  Well, well, well, what do you know?  Now he can talk.

FERRELL:  Are you happy?

PEARL MCKAY:  You‘re gonna sign it.

FERRELL:  I‘ll sign anything you want me to.  Just get her away from me.  I don‘t know who blackened your soul a long time ago, but may God have mercy on it.

PEARL MCKAY:  There you go.  That wasn‘t so hard.  My work is done.


OLBERMANN:  Will you be watching the next Will Ferrell video on your portable handheld computer?  The lines already forming for the release of the new iPhone.  It‘s not on sale for two more days, and wait until you see what it costs. 

And the great card caper.  Has one of the most famous baseball cards of all time been tampered with?

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.


JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  So basically the government has three branches, and he‘s saying he‘s the fourth.  Now, clearly, he‘s not the judiciary.  He‘s clearly not the legislative branch.  So Dick Cheney‘s role in our government, which branch is it?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You have done a really good job.  Thank you for your time.  And thanks for your understanding of the complex, carefully crafted piece of legislation that is moving through the Senate, and you‘ve done exactly what I asked you to do.  That‘s why you‘re in the cabinet.


KING:  George, where were you?


KING:  Ringo.

MCCARTNEY:  No, this is Ringo here.

KING:  Ringo, where were you?

RINGO STARR, MUSICIAN:  I was in the Bahamas.

KING:  I was getting to (INAUDIBLE) George.

STARR:  I was...

MCCARTNEY:  No, you weren‘t, Larry.  You said his name wrong.

STARR:  Shut up, it‘s my turn.

MCCARTNEY:  I know, but he got your name wrong, Ringo, on national television.

STARR:  I know.  Give him a break.

MCCARTNEY:  We can‘t cut it.  It‘s live.

STARR:  Anyway, I was in the Bahamas...



OLBERMANN:  Much like Tony Blair hinting at retirement in 2005, making an official announcement in 2006, then finally actually stepping down today, the release of the iPhone has been impending for so long that it feels like it‘s already last year‘s technology.  But on our number-two story in the COUNTDOWN, the wait is finally—well, nearly over.  Apple‘s first cell phone goes on sale this Friday.  People are already lining up for it, or at least paying others to line up for them.

We have late-breaking news about one of those people in line, but first the report from correspondent Jane Wells.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is how you turn it on.

JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Apple‘s iPhone is the most highly anticipated product of the year, so hot because it‘s so cool.

STEVE JOBS, CEO, APPLE:  Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.

WELLS:  CEO Steve Jobs announced plans for Apple‘s first-ever cell phone five months ago.  It was the first note in a building chorus of commercials, articles, even lawsuits over its very name.  IPhone details have trickled out, as Apple‘s stock price soared 30 percent, and finally, this Friday at 6:00 p.m., you can buy one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘ll be first in line.

WELLS:  Actually, that spot is already taken.

GREG PACKER, PERPETUAL MAN ON THE STREET:  I‘m here early because I want to be amongst the first people to get my iPhone.

WELLS:  The iPhone aims to do it all:  phone, e-mail, Web browsing, music, camera, even play YouTube videos, layered into a sleek fashion statement with a price tag of $500 to $600.  It will be for sale only at Apple‘s stores and Web sites and some AT&T stores.  AT&T is the iPhone‘s sole service provider.

(on screen):  But some consumers who want to buy an iPhone are sitting out round one, hoping that maybe the price will come down, or any potential glitches will get worked out, possible buyers like P.R. executive Scott Pirro (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My strategy is to wait, if I can hold off, 18 months.  I figure, by then, they‘ll be into the second generation, perhaps the third generation.

WELLS (voice-over):  Pirro (ph) isn‘t the only one waiting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m drooling all over the iPhone ads.

WELLS:  Publicist Gail Siderman (ph) desperately wants an iPhone, but she doesn‘t want to switch to AT&T, highlighting the high stakes for wireless service providers wondering how many defections there will be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve got to tell you, it‘s a real tough decision not to buy it right out of the box.  I almost want to be in line to touch and feel and just see what the iPhone‘s all about.

WELLS:  By Friday, she may have to take a number.  Jane Wells, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN:  Oh, there‘s a ringer here, and it‘s not just the one on the phone.  That first guy in the line, the one who said he was there early to get an iPhone, then you saw him again at the end of Jane‘s report?  He‘s trying to get publicity.

His name is Greg Packer.  We first interviewed back in June 2003, four years ago, when the Associated Press actually put out a bulletin to its reporters warning them that he likes to be quoted and that A.P. reporters should not indulge him.  He is the perpetual man on the street.  He‘d already by that stage been quoted by the A.P. in a St. Patrick‘s Day parade, by the “Newark Star-Ledger” about the winner of the “Joe Millionaire” reality show, by the “Star-Ledger” again about the pick of Dewayne Robinson (ph) in the NFL draft, and even by MSNBC‘s own Ashleigh Banfield as he stood in line for Hillary Clinton‘s book.  Now he‘s talking up the iPhone.  Welcome back, Greg Packer.

For our update on celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” the most famous example of the most famous baseball card has been tampered with, that the conclusion based on research by the “New York Daily News.”  The 1909 Honus Wagner, the so-called holy grail of baseball cards, originally included in packs of cigarettes, withdrawn from circulation either because Wagner did not want to be associated with smokes, or more likely because they didn‘t pay him enough, the one pristine copy of it in question was sold to hockey great Wayne Gretzky and former L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall, his boss, for $451,000 in 1991.  It has since been resold, given away as a prize, and just this February, purchased by a California businessman for $2,350,000. 

The problem is, the “Daily News” has obtained photos of the card that appears to show trimming, particularly on the right side of the card.  It may have been hand cut from a production sheet of cards or, more nefarious still, the card‘s borders might have been in rougher shape once upon a time and then somebody, somebody with the guts of a burglar, trimmed them down, perhaps using an X-Acto knife to make the card look mint.

Sixteen years ago, one of my sources said he‘d been contacted by its former owner, Bruce McNall, and asked to examine the card to see if it might have been altered.  The expert told McNall he was sure it had been.  McNall and Gretzky went ahead and bought the card anyway.

And tonight, my ESPN radio partner, Dan Patrick, star of the “Dan Patrick Show” on ESPN Radio, will be on the David Letterman show with me.  And now I don‘t have to apologize to him ever again for going on a talk show and forgetting to mention the radio show.  We were pretty good, actually.  Check your local listings.

Maybe Paris Hilton will watch!  One of the benefits of being an ex-con, they give you back your remote.  Paris post-big house, L.A. politics swamped by Paris post-big house, that‘s ahead.

But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze, to Darth Vader, News Corp. head Keith Rupert Murdoch.  The “New York Times” reports that, in an effort to spread his tentacles into China, Murdoch has allowed the Chinese government access to Murdoch‘s new Web space, MySpace China, allowing the Chinese government to censor comments, thereby controlling much of the site‘s content.  That was in the “L.A. Times,” not the “New York Times.”  I‘m sure the latest of Murdoch‘s prey, the folks at the “Wall Street Journal,” love that precedent.

The runner up tonight?  Keith Rupert Murdoch.  The “New York Times” reporting Congress almost forced him to rein in his U.S. media empire in 2003.  It was going to pass a bill that no media entity was to control more than 35 percent of the nation‘s TV stations.  News Corp. owned 39 percent, so Murdoch lobbyists went to work.  Republicans, led by Trent Lott, promptly did Murdoch‘s bidding and raised the number to 39 percent.  And guess whose memoir Murdoch‘s HarperCollins published?  Trent Lott.

But our winner?  Bill O.  “So what if I have some conservative positions?” he asks.  “So what if FOX News takes a more traditional stance than NBC News?  News people are supposed to respect opposing points of view.  In America today, that‘s obviously not the case, as many in the media see their role not to inform or enlighten you, but to promote various ideological causes of their own.”  “In the upcoming presidential race, I believe most of the media will help the Democratic Party big time.  Bank on it.”

Traditional stances, like calling 16-year-old guests “pinheads”; like developing a paranoid obsession with NBC News because you hate me, but you cannot bear to actually say my name; by doing what you and Fixed News—

I‘m sorry, Fox Noise—did during the last presidential election, interviewing fake groups, putting fake words in John Kerry‘s mouth, authenticating fake reports from people like the Swift Boat frauds, all of which probably did more to help the Republican Party than even the RNC did. 

Traditional stances, Bill.  The only traditional stance you‘ve ever taken is while you were talking to your producer on the phone.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!


OLBERMANN:  The wheels of government turn slowly, particularly when the wrench thrown into them is shaped like Paris Hilton.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors was trying yesterday to address an inner-city hospital so beleaguered that a patient died in its emergency room lobby last month.  The board eventually got around to its health care crisis, but not before facing Sheriff Lee Baca, to find out why he initially released Ms. Hilton after just a few days in jail.  Meantime, Ms. Hilton has now described that jail cell meltdown, telling “People” magazine, quote, “I was basically in the fetal position, basically in hysterics.” 

With more on the L.A. crisis part of our story that is Paris, here‘s our correspondent, John Larson.


JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After staring at the outside of L.A.‘s jail for about three weeks, what did the Hollywood press say when Paris strolled out?  That her hair was braided, her clothes “hot,” gray jacket, sage top, white pumps. 

The Paris show continued Tuesday at the L.A. City Council...

ZEV YAROSLAVSKY, L.A. SUPERVISOR:  Only in America would Paris Hilton trump health care.

LARSON:  ... where a critical discussion about the fate of L.A.‘s failing inner-city hospital was completely ignored by the press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How can I start speaking when everybody has almost walked out?

LARSON:  While they waited for the sheriff to talk about, who else...


LARSON:  ... the sheriff wore county-issue brown shirt, brown tie, hair not braided.

BACA:  The issue of Paris Hilton‘s release was based purely on a medical explanation.

LARSON:  The sheriff was there to, once again, explain why, several weeks ago, he let Hilton out of jail for a day, only to have the angry judge throw her back in. 

BACA:  She had two medical doctors unbeknownst to us.  Each were prescribing medication for her.  She herself was unable to tell us the type of medication or dosage that was necessary.

LARSON:  He said jail medical staff told him Paris was in real medical trouble, but when his undersheriff—wearing brown shirt, brown tie—called the judge...

LARRY WALDIE, L.A. UNDERSHERIFF: He told me, quite frankly, he didn‘t care.  He said he believed she was conning her doctor and our doctors.

LARSON:  The judge—black robe—has not commented.  In the end, the council—business suits—was satisfied that the sheriff did his job, and they thankfully got back to doing theirs.

BACA:  You know, Martin Luther King hospital is a far more important issue than this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Amen.  I couldn‘t agree with you more.


LARSON:  And that‘s when the press—wearing mostly jeans—left.  John Larson—not seen here, but wearing blue shirt, red tie—NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now by comedian Chuck Nice, also a contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK NICE, VH1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”:  Keith, how are you, man?

OLBERMANN:  Is it actually possibly the city of Los Angeles might function better now that Paris Hilton is free?

NICE:  All I know is this:  The Crips and Blood better be on notice, because, quite frankly, they‘ve been resting easy for the last couple of weeks, since Paris Hilton has been under all of our scrutiny.  And now, perhaps, since she‘s “rehabilitated,” the focus might go back to them.

OLBERMANN:  She just could not wait to do this first interview.  She told “People” magazine that she was so bad off that she first went in to jail, that she was in this fetal position, is that really the image she should want us to conjure up?

NICE:  Well, you know, to be honest, that‘s an image that we‘ve already seen.  I mean, quite frankly, we‘ve seen Paris in the fetal position.  It just wasn‘t on her side at the time, if you know what I‘m saying.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I think I do.  She really must have liked these other inmates.  She said more than once that they were all nice, supportive, they talked to her through the vents.  Do you think she made any lasting friends there, vent friends, people you could vent to?

NICE:  I think that‘s a wonderful thing that she has people that she talked to through the vents.  I can just imagine the conversations.  “Yo, girl, when I get out of here, you think you can get me in a club?”  Like, you know, I think that‘s kind of cool that she was able to connect with the inmates that way.  And, quite frankly, her neighbors are afraid that the media is going to be a problem; they might have to worry about Paris‘ little halfway house now.

OLBERMANN:  This is one of the areas, perhaps, in which she has changed.  We‘ve been told about how much she‘s changed.  We were told by her that while she was in jail.  One of her first acts out of jail was to get new hair extensions.  She really has changed, hasn‘t she?

NICE:  Oh, yes.  Well, listen, Keith, you and I both know that, quite frankly, people can‘t see a change on the inside.  So I think right now what Paris is doing is she is metaphorically expressing to the whole her inside change through her new hair extensions.

OLBERMANN:  Wow, you could work for the Bush administration with that one.  Wow. 

Another quote from the “People” magazine interview, she was asked about those who doubt that she will change because of her jail experience, and she said, “They‘re wrong, and they don‘t know me.  I‘m sincere, and they‘ll see.”  So what can she do to cut against the low and perhaps diminished expectations the public would have of her?

NICE:  You know, honestly, she‘s saying all the right things.  The thing I love is that she says she wants to help people now, she wants to help inmates.  She actually said she wants to have a halfway house.  My question was:  Halfway to what?  Like, halfway to the club?  “Hey, I‘m going to the club.  I‘ll meet you halfway.”

OLBERMANN:  And the first parolee into the halfway house, Britney Spears.

NICE:  Oh, yes, without a doubt.  I feel very bad for Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan right now, because the spotlight has been stolen from them, and probably not rightfully so.  At this point, Britney is going to have to like eat a live puppy on national television to get back in the news.

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t give her any ideas.  Comedian Chuck Nice, also of VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” great thanks for your time, Chuck.

NICE:  Hey, Keith, a pleasure.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,519th 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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