Guests: Dana Milbank, David Gergen
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Got to get out of here. Got to get out of here. The president scores with a quick comeback.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was trying to escape. It didn‘t work.
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OLBERMANN: But the imagery remains obvious.
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REP. JACK MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: When I saw he couldn‘t get out the door there in Beijing, I hoped we had opened the door for him to start a dialogue.
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OLBERMANN: Dialogue, or just a crawl?
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REP. JEAN SCHMIDT ®: He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run. Marines never do.
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OLBERMANN: Who‘s cutting and running in the CIA leak investigation? Bob Woodward‘s source is again ID‘d as Stephen Hadley, but elsewhere, he‘s ID‘d as Richard Armitage.
Lots of radio news.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people say, can you play (INAUDIBLE) for my snake?
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OLBERMANN: Radio for your pet.
And for your inner sport fan, five days a week of him and me.
And if the president now finds himself locked in the political blooper Hall of Fame, he‘s got plenty of company from the day JFK called himself a jelly doughnut, to the day LBJ called his tailor.
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LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other thing the crotch, down where your (deleted) hang, is always a little too tight.
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OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
For metaphors, nothing could surpass it in a year‘s time, and the howling lunacy in the House last week to the debate over prewar intel and the CIA leak investigation, and it must constantly feel for George Bush what it felt like yesterday, when he tried to leave a news conference in Beijing through a locked door, the proverbial Chinese puzzle.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, we‘ll show you the president‘s struggle to achieve a literal exit strategy in a moment.
First, the continuing escalating debate over the figurative one.
Even though Congress is technically on vacation, both sides of the aisle put out their big guns on Iraq today, the vice president defending the administration and again attacking critics of prewar intel, adding “corrupt and shameless” to his previous adjectives, “dishonest and reprehensible.”
And the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden, offered his own assessment on how to get out of Iraq and blasted the administration for not having figured it out sooner.
First, the vice president.
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RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof. Disagreements, arguments, and debate are the essence of democracy. And none of us should want it any other way.
The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight. But any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false.
Senator John McCain put it best. It is a lie to say that the president lied to the American people.
American soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq go out every day into some of the most dangerous and unpredictable conditions. Meanwhile, back in the United States, a few politicians are suggesting these brave Americans were sent into battle for a deliberate falsehood.
This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.
One might also argue that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself. I‘m unwilling to say that, only because I know the character of the United States armed forces, men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. They haven‘t wavered in the slightest, and their conduct should make all Americans proud.
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OLBERMANN: Two hours after that, Senator Biden took up the chance to criticize the war in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.
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SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: By misrepresenting the facts, by misunderstanding Iraq, and misleading the war, I believe the administration has brought us to the verge of a national security debacle.
I still believe we can preserve our fundamental security interests in Iraq as we begin to redeploy our forces. But this is going to require, in my view, for the administration not to stay the course, but to change the course, and to do it now.
Right now, Iraqis‘ ministries are barely functional. They make FEMA look like a model of efficiency. We should urge the Iraqis to accept offers from France—and they have made offers—Egypt—and they have made offers—Germany, and other countries have made offers to train police and to train troops, especially at the officer level, including training them outside of Iraq. Why can‘t we walk and chew gum at the same time?
We‘re only now beginning to do what several people in this room have suggested, along with me, should have been done two years ago.
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OLBERMANN: Joining me now to talk about walking and chewing gum at the same time, “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
OLBERMANN: Depending on where you heard him in his comments today, if you didn‘t hear the whole speech, the vice president was adding fuel to the fire, defending dissent, admitting that the intel was wrong before the war, saying that just the dissent could adversely affect the war effort. Is he trying to outdo F. Scott Fitzgerald? Is he trying to hold four fundamentally opposing positions at the same time?
MILBANK: The vice president is a very talented man.
Now, here‘s what happened is, yesterday, in Beijing, President Bush tried to sort of ratchet back the tone of the debate. He said we‘ve got to have an honest, open debate, a worthy debate. And now you have the vice president, who‘s always played sort of the Cardinal Ratzinger to the president‘s Pope John Paul, you know, sort of the dour hard-liner, he has to come out and make nice.
So he starts out trying to make nice to John Murtha, but then he has to come out and add a whole new slew of adjectives to the adjectives he used already last week for the Democrats.
OLBERMANN: But what was the stuff at the end of the clip that we showed, about maybe charges against the president having an insidious effect on the war itself? If there‘s a good response to that sort of hypothetical that he posed there, does he come back tomorrow and say it without the maybe and attribute it to himself?
MILBANK: It‘s a terrific old debater‘s technique to say, Now, senator, I understand there are some who would say you‘ve been beating your wife. Now, I‘m not willing to say that just yet.
So, well, he may be giving it a try. But this is the tension. This is sort of the cognitive dissonance he‘s having there as he‘s primed to be out in sort of the attack mode. And he‘s at the point where the administration‘s trying to rein things in.
OLBERMANN: Dana, some people are asking about this debate concept that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush are defending it. They are defending the concept of it. But to hear Senator Biden and Congressman Murtha and others talk about it, it does not sound like anybody‘s going to actually engage in a debate over the subject of our immediate or long-term future in Iraq.
MILBANK: No. And that‘s generally the pattern with the administration, which, to be truthful, they‘ve used quite effectively. They used it to pass tax cuts, they‘ve used it with the Supreme Court appointees. We will consult with you, the opposition, to the extent that you agree with us. Or we‘re happy to talk with you about what we‘re planning to do anyway.
But what they‘ve shown repeatedly is that to get the attention, you really need to sort of hit them over the head with a two-by-four, and that‘s why they‘ve been reacting quite strongly in recent days, because the Democrats have taken it to them that way.
OLBERMANN: Two things that might have gotten buried in here, the pullback on Jack Murtha, the president praising him, the vice president praising him, and also that reference by Mr. Cheney today about the prewar intelligence may have been largely mistaken. Are those two firsts? Did they sort of get buried in all this?
MILBANK: Well, a little bit. The Murtha sort of served warning last week when he said that he‘s not very keen on getting advice from a guy who had five deferments. He didn‘t name Cheney by name, but that‘s obviously what he had in mind.
OLBERMANN: We think that‘s the high in the administration.
MILBANK: We think that‘s the record. They don‘t want to get in that kind of a fight with Murtha. And meanwhile, the Democrats aren‘t particularly jumping on to the Murtha plan. So they don‘t have to worry about that. They don‘t want to appear to be insulting a military hero, a decorated Vietnam veteran.
So they‘re wisely moving away from that fight and into the sort of fight that they would rather have, with the John Kerrys of the world.
OLBERMANN: But in terms of using that reference to the intelligence being bad, is that—does that represent cutting their losses and just saying, OK, we‘ll admit that it was bad if you‘ll stop saying that we brought it out deliberately?
MILBANK: I don‘t think they‘re negotiating. But the president‘s been saying that for a long time. In each case, you have the vice president. Remember, he‘s the fellow who said, We believe Iraq has constituted nuclear weapons. He‘s the one who, even after the war, was implying a link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks.
So he is always sort of the last one to yield. So it‘s possible that you have noted a particular first there, although it‘s a first in that he was the last to make that admission.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. (INAUDIBLE), he‘s also updated the calendar. It is now the 21st century in the Cheney household.
Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” as always, sir, great thanks for your time. And incidentally, if you‘re in a rush to get out of that studio there, ask somebody which door to use.
MILBANK: OK. I‘ll check it out.
OLBERMANN: Good advice at all times, especially if your beleaguered, displeased with the media, and jet-lagged. The Presidents Bush have not had good times in Asia. Who can forget the first of them losing lunch at a state dinner?
No such food problems for this president, just doors. The president scoring heavily during the gaffe by his rejoinder, “I was trying to escape. Obviously it didn‘t work.” If somehow over the weekend you missed Mr.
Bush‘s battle with the Great Door of China, here it is in full.
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BUSH: ... appreciation for different aspects of our relationship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)...
BUSH: Thank you all very much.
I was trying to escape. It didn‘t work.
Thank you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: And joining me now is David Gergen, editor at large of “U.S. News and World Report,” adviser to four presidents, and thus survivor of countless moments resembling that.
David, good evening. Thanks for your time.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Good evening, Keith. Good to talk to you.
OLBERMANN: They come much more spectacular than that, President Ford going down the rain-slickened steps of Air Force One comes to mind. But few of these things over the years have seemed to have been so fraught with unintended meaning. Is it unfair to call that one a metaphor for what‘s going on?
GERGEN: That‘s inevitably what happens. And as you well know, I remember, I think it was Gary Hart when he lost the—an election he wasn‘t expected to lose, one of the primaries, the next day he ran into a door. He got through all the doors nicely, but he ran into a revolving door, and that became the metaphor for every—for the whole thing.
And that happens. But I do remember President Reagan, when the press got locked in, and Sam Donaldson was trying to get out of it in Sao Paulo, and all these Brazilians were sitting there, and he couldn‘t get out the door. And he started yelling, Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! It was a terribly embarrassing moment.
OLBERMANN: Just to show that it‘s evenly spaced among politicians and reporters. Yes, and again, to that point, you fall down, you get locked in, you get locked out, it happens. The first time I ever went into a press box in a sports stadium, I tried to get in sideways in a side door so nobody would notice me. Little did I know that the reason it was the side door was that on the other side of it, that‘s where they kept the two dozen folding metal chairs leaning against it.
So when I pushed the door in, they all fell over.
Accidents are accidents. But on—you know, at the other things that are going on currently, like Scott McClellan trying to tie John Murtha to Michael Moore last week in a statement after Mr. Murtha‘s suggestions about getting out of Iraq, those are not accidents.
OLBERMANN: Those are (INAUDIBLE).
GERGEN: Yes, that didn‘t work either, did it?
OLBERMANN: Yes, but those are—but are—those don‘t qualify as accidents. Those qualify as sloppy mistakes, do they not?
GERGEN: Absolutely. And you know, they just blew that one. And just as you know, that woman, Miss Schmidt, Congresswoman Schmidt did, in going after Jack Murtha on the floor of the House, and Mean Jean Schmidt. It was just a—it was—she blew that, and she may lose her seat over it.
So, you know, it—I think every—we‘ve got—we‘ve created a toxic atmosphere in Washington now in this debate over Iraq. We do need a ceasefire, as Bill Clinton started arguing today.
The president is facing—it‘s not just who‘s winning the war on points, but in this particular instance, it‘s very different from when they argue about taxes or other issues. Because on this one, you know, we have men on the ground out there. This is not just about politics. And the sand is running out of the hourglass here on Iraq now.
I think it‘s really important that we are moving into a new phase or have turned a corner now. So we‘re in a countdown, literally, in Iraq. I don‘t know how long it‘s going to last. But I think the president has about six to 12 months now. Whatever the debate happens, he‘s got about six to 12 months to find an exit out of Iraq, or public opinion is going to start moving through the polls, and everybody‘s going to start running.
OLBERMANN: In “The New York Times” today, in reference to the alleged rift, or at least coolness lately between the president and the vice president, the former congressman Ben Weber, who is a good friend of Mr. Cheney‘s, was quoted as saying, “Any friction between them would be viewed the way kids view an argument between Mom and Dad, and that is, it is a lot more serious to the kids than it is to the parents.”
Do you think, from what you know of the situation, that that‘s an accurate description of what‘s happening behind the scenes in the White House? And is it having a gloom effect that is more effective on those who are seeing it than those who are participating in it?
GERGEN: Well, I think it‘s interesting when Elizabeth Bumiller from “The New York Times” writes a piece like that. It‘s clearly been elevated now. You know, you had last week a fellow from “The Washington Times” saying president was angry at the vice president, angry at a lot of other advisers, only talking, basically, to a lot of the women around him in his life.
We‘re seeing hints of that elsewhere. Now it surfaced in Elizabeth Bumiller piece. There‘s clearly something going on. Whether it goes beyond the sort of—the orneriness of every president who‘s dropped 50 points in the polls, it doesn‘t happen very often, but you can get testy real fast when you go down 50 points in the polls. It‘s understandable he‘s starting to lash out a little bit.
But whether it‘s actually meant a change in policy, I see zero evidence that it‘s meant a change of policy in Iraq. I think he‘s still taking very much the Cheney hard line, and they are together in this one thing on the debate now. They‘re saying basically, OK, it‘s OK for you Democrats to debate the war. But you cannot attack us on how we got into the war and whether we misled you or not.
They‘re making a clear separation on that.
OLBERMANN: David Gergen, editor at large for “U.S. News.” As always, sir, a pleasure to have you with us.
GERGEN: Good to talk to you again, sir.
OLBERMANN: Taking the war debate from talk to action. The military reality on the ground in Iraq, and the effects that a troop pullout would have, practically speaking, and psychologically.
And who outed Valerie Plame to Bob Woodward? A new suspect thrown onto the list of possible sources, and a couple of old ones are still on there.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Criticism, questioning, calls for pullouts from formerly hawkish congressmen. They may or may not truly jeopardize the troops in Iraq. That would be theory.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the fact is that our neighbors and sons in Iraq are without doubt in danger from the insurgency. The past several days have been among the deadliest there since the original invasion of March 2003, 162 Iraqi deaths, eight American and British troops killed.
What would happen militarily were there a pullout?
First, the latest bloodshed. A car bomb, presumably intended for American troops, exploding just north of Baghdad today, killing at least four Iraqi civilians and wounding another eight. Another incident outside an American military base in the town of Baquba, American soldiers firing on a car whose driver apparently ignored warning shots. That killed another three people.
Added to the mix today, another demand from the region that the U.S. establish a timeline for withdrawal. Iraqi members of the Arab League meeting in Cairo, reiterating that foreign troops should be pulled out, and with a schedule. There should also be established in Iraq an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces.
Back here, a plan was submitted directly to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld just this past Friday by the Army‘s second in command, General George Casey. The plan calls for brigades of about 2,000 soldiers to begin pulling out of Iraq early next year. But with the administration‘s stance being decidedly one of staying the course, what is reality at the moment?
I‘m joined now by retired Army colonel and MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs.
Jack, thanks for your time tonight.
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: What would happen to U.S. troops in Iraq if, next Monday, we announced they would all be pulled out by June 1 or January 1, 2007, or pick a date?
JACOBS: Oh, I don‘t think it would make much difference. Tactically, the enemy is not very much interested in attacking American troops. They like to stay away from them. You can see our offensive up in the northwest is going on and on, because we continue to contact enemy troops and slaughter them.
They would prefer to set off IEDs, blow up marketplaces, and so on. So I think an announced pullback wouldn‘t have any deleterious effect necessarily on American troops, because the insurgents just—they just basically want to stay away from the American troops for the time being.
OLBERMANN: And what would happen to the insurgency? What would the -
would there be a change in the nature of the insurgency if a timetable for withdrawal were announced?
JACOBS: That‘s a different story altogether. I think you‘ve got a country that‘s kind of fractious, that‘s not fully formed. The government isn‘t put together yet. You‘ve got three major ethnic groups, all vying for some place at the table and some kind of superiority. And I think an announcement with a specific timetable would probably make it easier for the country to come apart, would probably strengthen the insurgency, and will ultimately, I think, bring the government to pieces earlier than it otherwise would.
OLBERMANN: When do military realities take over for us, that recruiting is down, that there is no draft, that there is not an iota of support for a draft, that the criticism of the war has been steadily, incrementally increasing? Does the math at some point simply say we have to be out no later than such-and-such a date?
JACOBS: Well, there‘s no doubt about the fact that this is very difficulty on the armed forces. The reserve components, in particular, the Guard and the Reserve, are extremely tired. Many of these units have been through Southwest Asia two and three times.
Recruiting is getting difficult for the active forces, and is going to be almost impossible for the Reserves in the ensuing years.
So there‘s no doubt about the fact that this is very, very difficult on the forces.
Having said all that, I suspect that, in any case, we‘re going to start withdrawing troops maybe symbolically at the end of this year after the election. And I predict we‘ll be down to about maybe 90,000 to 100,000 troops in Iraq this time next year. And that will be driven at least as much by political realities of a midterm election than it is, much more so that than it is the military realities in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Give me a psychological reality based on your own experience. You were a decorated serviceman in Vietnam. That war and our leaders were questioned every day for six or seven years, depending on what sort of starting date you‘d like to pick. Is this debate now, by itself, the kind of danger to morale or to safety that the administration has been portraying it as?
JACOBS: Well, it doesn‘t help very much. Though I was recently in Iraq, a few months ago, morale is excellent even among the Reserve components, who were dragged away from their homes to go to Iraq. We have a highly professional force. It‘s all volunteer. And they think they‘re doing a good job, and they are doing a good job.
I remember when I was in Vietnam, and it was not a very popular war. I was in just about the last unit to be—combat unit to be extracted from Vietnam, to be withdrawn from combat in early 1973. And our morale was still good.
I think the debate is probably healthy. It doesn‘t have a deleterious effect on the fighting forces, certainly not up to this point.
And I‘m reminded that the experience of a friend of mine who was a helicopter door gunner came back from Vietnam in ‘67 to ‘68 and encountered a—some communist, who was a protester, berated him for joining the Army. Said, Why would you join the Army? And my friend said, Well, I joined the Army so that I could defend the right of people like you to say stupid things.
And I think that‘s the view of the average American soldier, sailor, airman and Marine. He‘s doing what needs to be done in order to defend freedom. The nonsense, the arguments, the vituperativeness in Washington notwithstanding, it‘s a highly professional force that‘s going about its business.
Over the longer term, however, it will have a deleterious effect. And
but I think we‘re going to start withdrawing troops before it becomes really too much more of a problem.
OLBERMANN: Yes, how much there, how much of a longer term there is, is the other subject altogether.
The MSNBC mill analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs. As always, sir, great thanks for your insight and your time.
JACOBS: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: From the most serious to the least. The domino show to end all domino shows. Another record-breaking edition to the world of Oddball. And only one bird was killed in the making of that scene.
Speaking of animals, the top 40 for Fido. Yes, you heard correctly, radio for your dog, radio for your cat, radio for your snake who likes the music of Enya (ph). You think I‘m making that up, don‘t you?
All of it ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Each evening at this time, we take a break from so-called real news to proverbially shower off with a couple of light and fluffy stories and a bit of cool video, putting us in the good mood before the next round of corruption stories comes up.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in the Netherlands, where, this weekend, the world domino record has been shattered, or you might say it has fallen. Heh heh heh. In this warehouse in the town of Leuwarden (ph), more than 4.1 million of them went down, and they went down (INAUDIBLE). The spectacle took 90 minutes to elapse after a team of international young people spent months setting the dominoes up using rulers and tweezers to line up each individual block.
It was an effort that cost at least one bird its life. As we reported to you previously here last week in our Worst Person in the World segment, a sparrow had flown into the building through an open window, knocked over 25,000 dominoes, before they shot him.
And then this week, they knocked all the dominoes over anyway. I believe this was the original plot line started for Hitchcock classic “The Birds.”
And here we go. See? What have you done? What have you done? This is the town of Perpignan, France on the Spanish border. Well, it‘s kind of near the Netherlands. No one is sure why this town has been invaded by birds only that there are 800,000 of them and they‘re making a huge mess and chasing Tippy Hedren, not to mention creeping everyone else out. Still, officials do seem to have come up with a perfect plan. Stand in the street and shoot fireworks at them. Let us know how that works out for you, huh? if any of you.
Finally, to famous Red Square in Moscow. Which you may remember from such episodes as “Lenin‘s Funeral” and executions under “Ivan the Terrible.” But Sunday, thousands gathered for snow mobile jumping. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.
Ten men traveling dare devil team flying through Red Square air more than 30 feet high. 500 pound snow mobiles beneath them. There was no snow, unfortunately, but officials did bring in enough dirt so the snow and the show could go on before the delighted spectators. Later, the delighted spectators were forced by the government to clean up all the dirt.
Also tonight, who is Bob Woodward‘s secret source? His paper wraps his knuckles. Other publications try to out his outing source.
And what the CIA leak scandal is to the White House, the Jack Abramoff scandal is to Capitol Hill. Why D.C. is buzzing that this investigation could ruin many careers.
Those stories ahead. But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Richard Gontarz from Aldin in upstate New York. He has nearly completed the world‘s largest jigsaw puzzle, an 18,000 piecer. A recreation of the world map from the 16th century. But there‘s a problem, He can‘t find the last piece. The family thinks their dog ate it. I am not making this up.
Number two, Sadrine Helene Sellies of France, he has pleaded guilty and been placed on a year‘s probation by an Australian court. Ms. Sellies hates to fly, really hates to fly. And she has a history of sleep walking and before her flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane, she took sleeping pills and had some drinks. So, perhaps it shouldn‘t have been that surprising that she tried to go outside for a smoke. Her flight was 35,000 feet above the Pacific at the time. She did not manage to open the door.
Speaking of that kind of behavior, there‘s number one tonight. Elvis, he is back as coffee. Elvis Presley Enterprises has authorized four limited edition lines of coffee just in time for the holidays. They bear the king‘s likeness. Says the spokesman, Elvis was a big coffee drinker. Hey spokesman, hey, Elvis was a big everything drinker!
OLBERMANN: We‘ve already named him: Deep Throat Jr. Not that it‘s caught on, generally speaking, but within the beltway and within the orbits of those touched by the CIA leak investigation, his identity is being as fervently sought as was that of his Watergate predecessor. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, who told Bob Woodward?
There are at least two nominees tonight, national security advisor Stephen Hadley fingered first by the Web site Raw Story, then yesterday by the “Times of London” by some of those ever helpful unnamed lawyers close to the investigation.
His ambiguous answer during that South Korea press conference on Friday, no doubt, adding fuel to that fire. A spokesperson for the N.S.C. denying Hadley was the source.
Meanwhile, on the pages of “Newsweek,” talk of Richard Armitage being the sources, plural. Raising the possibility that the former deputy secretary of state spilled the beans both to Mr. Woodward and to columnist Robert Novak.
In the reasons for column, says “Newsweek,” Armitage is Woodward‘s friend and frequent source as well as one the few officials who had access to such information.
In the reasons against, no one has ever accused him or his former boss Colin Powell of having drunk the Kool-aid from team Bush, although, that could also fit Novak‘s own description of his source, as quote, not a partisan gunslinger.
Woodward himself catching flak for his conduct from his own employers. The ombudsman for “The Washington Post,” Deborah Howell, writing that its star reporter, part of the DNA of the newsroom, has put the paper in a terrible light. Ms Howell also faulting executive Len Downey for his lack of oversight.
Although, an ombudsman named Deborah should be an ombudswoman just to continue making hits there.
One final twister turning up over the weekend, Karl Rove‘s source may have been Scooter Libby. The president‘s right-hand man testifying that it is possible he learned about Valerie Plame from the veep‘s majordomo before passing that on to two major reporters. And who knew that obstruction of justice, even just allegedly, could be this entertaining?
The whose who of the CIA leak investigation almost as convoluted if not as extensive as the list of government officials jeopardized by the corruption scandal engulfing the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That investigation heating up today in the form of a star witness—Abramoff‘s former business partner Michael Scanlon entering into a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony.
A possible clue to those Scanlon might be able to serve up, his most immediate job before working Abramoff, serving as spokesman for then house majority whip Tom DeLay. As our chief correspondent in Washington Norah O‘Donnell reports, DeLay is not the only Republican running scared.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jack Abramoff was once Washington‘s most powerful Republican lobbyist. But today his former partner, Michael Scanlon, pled guilty in a case that threatens to explode into one of the biggest scandals in congressional history.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a scandal that could reverberate over the next couple years and implicate many members of Congress, top administration officials, and major outside political operatives.
O‘DONNELL: The prosecutors charge Scanlon with conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes of million of dollars and then bribe government officials, including a member of Congress, Republican Bob Ney of Ohio.
LAWRENCE BARCELLA, DEFENSE LAWYER: There‘s a good possibility, given at least the relationship that we‘ve seen so far in the press, I think there‘s a good possibility that Scanlon knows everything that Abramoff knows. And if that‘s the case, then to the extent that there are bodies buried, he knows where every one of them likely is.
O‘DONNELL: Abramoff has not yet been charged in the case, but along with Scanlon, the fees paid to Abramoff were extraordinary. $82 million in four years from the Indian tribes, earning Abramoff the nickname Casino Jack.
Documents also show he asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president from Gabon in West Africa to set up a meeting with President Bush.
Abramoff and his friends are some of the biggest players in the conservative revolution. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay once called Abramoff one of his closest and dearest friends. Others touched by the investigation include Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, anti-tax guru, Grover Norquist and Republican Congressman John Doolittle whose wife work with Abramoff.
At the White House, the former procurement officer, David Safavian, was indicted for lying about his ties to Abramoff.
Abramoff earlier this year told NBC News, he‘s being singled out for actions that are common place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK ABRAMOFF, REPUBLICAN LOBBYIST: It has been devastating. It‘s been devastating on every level for me on a financial level, on a social level, on a personal level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Today as part of his plea deal, Scanlon will pay restitution in the amount of nearly $20 million to Indian tribes he defrauded, and he will have to testify against others still under federal investigation.
For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell.
OLBERMANN: Norah, thank you.
Also, tonight, what are your pets doing while they‘re home alone? Could they be hooked on dog-cat radio? Or perhaps on the new Dan Patrick Keith Olbermann show?
And the endless show that is the politician, the microphone and the gaff. This might rank poorly if you compare it to say, President Johnson on the phone telling his tailor that his pants are too tight.
The new political blooper wing of the countdown hall of fame. The opening ceremonies when we continue.
OLBERMANN: There were a lot of laughs when the Disney folks announced a radio network that would serve an audience of nothing but kids. Twenty-four hours a day they said of music for children. Big audiences around 3 a.m. feeding time. A smash hit.
Disney, in fact, had to buy additional stations in many cities on which to put kids radio on the air.
Thus our number two story in the countdown. Why not a radio network for dogs or cats or snakes, who like the lilting Irish ballads of Enya?
Our correspondent Jennifer London now on a new radio operation that would have brought a smile to the face of at least one legendary disc jockey, Wolfman Jack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ain‘t nothing but a hound dog.
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Pauly (ph) is relaxing listening to her radio station. Yes, her favorite. One specifically for pets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to say hello, a special hello to Holly.
LONDON: Dogcatradio.com is an Internet radio station. And while it has only been online for about four months, in dog years, that‘s long enough to attract a loyal listening base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The radio station all pets enjoy.
LONDON: Adrien Martinez (ph), a self-proclaimed animal lover, is the creator. He runs the station, which is really just two computers, from a tiny house near Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two things that mean a lot to me. And one is music and two are pets. And I thought, what better way than to combine both? And share them with the world?
LONDON (on-camera): Pet owners have been known to leave the TV on for their lonely furry friends. Many animals, especially dogs, actually seem to watch. My audience here is clearly captivated.
And perhaps the only thing better than a dog‘s eyesight, his hearing. Four deejays broadcast live 17 hours a day. And it is not just for dogs and cats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people say can you play Enya for my snake? Can you play, you know—my rabbit wants to hear a little bit more, you know, Diana Ross.
LONDON (voice over): If all of this sounds a little silly, broadcast producer Eddie Rivera (ph) will tell you, the animal community says it is the cat‘s meow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is almost as though we‘ve started this joke, but they don‘t get it. They simply take it to heart. They simply believe this is a radio station for my cat. This is a radio station for my dog. And they like it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys like it.
LONDON: Animal expert David Rienker (ph) and his dogs like it, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as we keep the dogs preoccupied while their human owners are gone, I think it is wonderful.
LONDON: With an average of 50,000 listeners a day and growing, perhaps Internet radio really has gone to the dogs.
Jennifer London, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Well, who hasn‘t been asked that question? Can you play Enya for my snake?
Coming soon, the all Angela Jolie news network. You give us 22 minutes we‘ll give you a vial of our own blood to wear around your neck. That‘s the segway tonight into our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news keeping tabs.
And after all their supposed efforts to keep their relationship quiet, Miss Jolie and Brad Pitt attended the opening gala of the Muhammad Ali Cultural and Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky day before yesterday.
They arrived in the same car. Miss Jolie was resplendent in a red evening gown. Mr. Pitt was wearing a tux. The appearance is significant in that for the first time, we have pictures of these two together, once and for all, proving they‘re an item.
Unlike the pictures of them from say, Africa or from Italy or from Malibu.
Lastly here, and you know how much I hate talking about myself. News from the world of sports radio. We‘ve been doing it once a week. Now, we‘ll be doing it every day.
My tag team partner Dan Patrick and I will co-host the 2 p.m. eastern hour of his show on ESPN Radio five days a week, starting next Monday. Notice how I said it was his show.
In the news release, ESPN Radio‘s General Manager Bruce Gilbert said, Dan and Keith sound like they‘ve been doing this forever.
Well, Bruce, if you think you feel that way now, wait until you listen to us every day for a couple months. We start again Monday the 28th at 2:00 eastern on 339 different radio stations. Be there. Aloha.
The president probably wished this event had been on radio instead of TV. How does it fit in on the political bloopers of all time? That‘s ahead.
But first time for the list of today‘s three nominees, who come into battle of worst person in the world. The bronze winner another Home Depot this one in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Michael Pannarelli (ph) goes into buy some lumber, borrows a pencil to do some calculations about the board footage. Forgets to give the pencil back.
He is met in the parking lot by a Home Depot employee, who hands him two letters. One that bans him from the chain worldwide and another promising legal action because he stole the pencil. The head office has apologized again.
The runner up, the commander of the 56th brigade combat team, Colonel James Brown, who was trotted out Friday morning to rebut Congressman Murtha‘s call that we withdraw from Iraq.
He on the ground, Brown said, our job is not done. He might have added our job is not done, but mine is. Colonel Brown was rotated back to Texas yesterday.
But the winner, speaking of Congressman Murtha, Representative Jean Schmidt of Ohio. Even in the context of the house came unglued Friday, she topped them all trying to sneak a slur past all congressional decorum by quoting somebody else using the word coward. John Murtha, the decorated Marine intelligence officer from Vietnam. A coward. Right, Congresswoman. He‘s a coward and you‘re the leading argument against intelligent design.
Representative Jean Schmidt from Ohio, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: It was during a speech in the early ‘60‘s that two-time presidential candidate and U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was supposed to warn of Catholics whose freedom of expression has circumscribed. He instead announced to the crowd, Catholics whose freedom of expression has been circumcised. After the laughter subsided, Stevenson recovered quickly, noting that at least we can all agree that was a religious right.
Our number one story on THE COUNTDOWN, from Adlai‘s blooper to Gerald Ford‘s adventures on his own feet to JFK inadvertently calling himself a jelly doughnut instead of a resident of Berlin by misplacement of an article in German. Political bloopers have transcended time, political party and purpose.
The newest theme of course is doors. It was during the visit of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, to Washington early this month that the surgeon general of the United States came within a few seconds of guiding the Duchess of Cornwall into a plate glass window that he had mistaken for a door. She stopped in time, recognized what part of her body would have been broken, her nose, and in the background her husband Charles would laugh his head.
As the press crowd did in Beijing over the weekend as President Bush added another exhibit to what has to be his wing of what could be a hall of fame of political bloopers. Not that door, sir. That door‘s locked. Don‘t pull on that door. Fire alarm will go off. Chinese police will be alerted, sir. Wait a minute the hall of fame of political bloopers. That gives me an idea, THE COUNTDOWN hall of fame of political bloopers. Roll ‘em.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, MICROPHONE TEST,
1984: My fellow Americans, I‘m pleased to tell you today I‘ve signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
JOHN ASCHROFT, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL (singing): Let the eagles soar, like she‘s never soared before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoa!
ASHCROFT: From the Iraqi coast to the golden shore, let the mighty eagle soar.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some close to Reagan say he genuinely likes Bush and appreciates his loyalty. Bush sometimes gets carried away expounding on his relationship with the president.
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve had triumphs, we‘ve made some mistakes, we‘ve had some sex—setbacks. Sometimes I feel like the—sometimes I felt like the javelin competitor that won the coin toss and elected to receive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did Senator Obama do that Senator Kerry and other Democrats not do?
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Why don‘t we just ask Osama bin Laden—Obama what—since he won by such a big amount! Serious, Senator Obama is really unique and special. I don‘t know him terribly well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy at the height of his popularity praised Berliners gathered at city hall for standing up to the communists in words that still ring today.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a free man, I take pride in the words ich bin ein berliner.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not only are we going to New Hampshire, we‘re going to South Carolina and—Oklahoma and South Dakota and New Mexico and California and Texas and New York and South Dakota and Michigan. And then going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House. Whoa.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY: You said something I don‘t like, shove it.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our key members of the defense team about variety of subjects. We talked about Iraq. We‘re making progress on the ground.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Another thing the crouch down where your [ bleep ] hang is always a little too tight, because they cut me about an inch from where the zipper ends, right up my back to my [ bleep ].
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush returns to the issue debate after an embarrassing moment on the stump Monday in front of an open microphone.
BRYANT GUMBELL: We‘re continuing to monitor developments in Tokyo where this morning the president was taken ill. And there as you can see he collapsed while seated at the banquet table.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have issues in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OBGYNs aren‘t able to practice their love with women across this country.
There‘s an old saying in Tennessee, probably in Texas, maybe in Tennessee that says fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can‘t get fooled again.
I‘m trying to escape. It didn‘t work. Thank you, all. Thank you, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just to explain the Kennedy thing, ein berliner is a doughnut in the way that ein frankfurter is a hot dog. First recorded political blooper attributed to the veteran announcer Harry Von Zell, who in the early 30‘s introduced the 31st president of the U.S. as Hoobert Heever. That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, LIVE AND DIRECT.
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