Guests: Aamer Madhani, James Fox, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The shooter is identified, and the nightmare becomes more clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been able to confirm the identity of the gunman at Norris Hall. That person is Cho Seung-hui. He was a 23 year-old South Korean here in the U.S. as a resident alien.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The murderer Virginia Tech authorities thought had left the campus, perhaps the state, was a Virginia Tech student, was still on campus, had reportedly left behind an extraordinary letter.
Tonight, the terrifying story behind the overwhelming tragedy, and the echoing questions of what might have been done to avert it.
And the increasing confusion over why the man did it, and who his target was.
And Virginia Tech mourns. The convocation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKI GIOVANNI: We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The formality of a group event, the informality of internal reflection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about those students that were in those classrooms, they never had a chance to go home, they never had a chance to call their mom, their dad, their loved ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And tonight, a disturbing question about us. We mourn, appropriately, genuinely, compassionately as as many as 30 American kids are dead, violently, senselessly, pointlessly. Yet 30 American kids dead, violently, senselessly, pointlessly, is the story of the last 10 days of the war in Iraq.
Why is our national mourning so profound in the one case, but so muted in the other?
And the U.S. attorney scandal continues. Congressional immunity for one former aide to Attorney General Gonzales, more damning congressional revelations from another former aide.
But we begin tonight at Virginia Tech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s go, Hokies! Let‘s go, Hokies!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let‘s go, Hokies! Let‘s go, Hokies!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s go, Hokies! Let‘s go, Hokies!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
Five weeks ago, a 23-year-old English major from Virginia Tech University walked into a gun shop in nearby Roanoke, Virginia, and, using nothing more than a credit card that could handle a $571 purchase, walked out with a nine-millimeter pistol and a box of ammunition.
Yesterday, that gun was one of two weapons found with the fingerprints of that student on it, after he had used it to kill 32 people and injure dozens more, before he turned the weapon on himself, the deadliest shooting in American history.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the shock giving away to sadness today, as well as to confusion, the identity of the shooter doing nothing to answer the central question on this, the day after, how could anybody do anything like this?
What has happened in Blacksburg, Virginia, is only beginning to sink in, the campus coming together today to remember the victims, not all of whom have yet been named publicly, officials today identifying a student as the shooter, law-enforcement authorities saying he was Cho Seung-hui, a student who had been set to graduate in just a few weeks, a South Korean resident alien who had emigrated with his family as a child, who had been in this country since he was 8 ½ years old, authorities still sifting through evidence at what they are describing as a horrific crime scene at the university‘s Norris Hall, one of the two buildings targeted by Cho yesterday morning, this afternoon, President Bush and the first lady among those attending a packed memorial service on the university campus.
For more on all of the day‘s events in Blacksburg, we‘re joined now by our correspondent there, Kevin Corke.
Kevin, good evening.
KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening to you.
You‘re right, so many, so many questions still yet to be entered in this senseless tragedy. What would possess someone to do this? How could it happen in this very small, bucolic college town? And what might have been done, perhaps, to protect the students in that long stretch between the first shooting and the second shooting? Those are just some of the questions we‘re facing tonight.
OLBERMANN: Based on all that we‘ve learned today, is it evident, is it clear, is it safe to conclude that he did not plan this overnight, this was not something that was spur of the moment, or even just a weekend‘s work?
CORKE: You know, I didn‘t ask it that way, but I did ask a law enforcement official something like that. I said, Does this look like something that he had planned out over a long period of time? And his answer was, frankly, no. And I think you can sort of make the leap that this is something that perhaps came to a head.
We‘re not sure what the trigger was. Was it a domestic circumstances they were talking about initially? We‘re just not sure, Keith. But we do not, we do not believe at this point that this was something that was planned out over a long period of time.
OLBERMANN: The convocation today, Kevin, certainly only a drop in the proverbial bucket of this healing process. Tell us more, though, about this afternoon‘s service.
CORKE: It was emotional, to say the least. I know a lot of people at home may have had an opportunity to watch it on MSNBC or on the “NIGHTLY NEWS” this evening. It—it‘s difficult to express how emotional it was for so many of the students. They just wanted someone to talk to them, someone to listen to them. They had that opportunity today.
By the way, Keith, I forgot to mention about the shooter, and I hate to go back to that, because there‘s so many people that are more deserving of the attention, but I think people might want to know this. Investigators tell me that they felt like Cho felt bullied. They looked at his writing, and by all accounts, and descriptions from classmates here on campus, they said he was a loner, he had very few friends, he was extremely standoffish, and as they looked at some of his writings, investigators say, he felt picked on and bullied, similar, they say, to the perpetrators in the Columbine massacre so many years ago.
OLBERMANN: We‘ve heard so much about the fatalities, about the heroic efforts on the part of one professor in particular, and we‘re going to go into depth on that in the next segment. But perhaps left out of the equation, what do we know about the status of the injured, and particularly the injured students?
CORKE: You know, this is one of those stories, Keith, where you‘re grasping for good news. You‘re begging for something good to happen. And I can at least give you a bit of good news tonight. There were so many injured people, more than a dozen, as you know, fighting for their lives at various hospitals in this area.
Good news tonight. So many of them that were critically injured have been upgraded from critical to stable, almost entirely the group, so we can report that, you know, heaven above can save some lives. It does look better for so many of them right now.
OLBERMANN: Our correspondent Kevin Corke at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Great thanks, Kevin.
When it comes to motive, the question of why Mr. Cho felt compelled to do this. Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that investigators have is a note that they believe the gunman left behind in his dorm room, the story reported first by a national correspondent Aamer Madhani of “The Chicago Tribune,” kind enough to join us now from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
And thank you for some of your time.
AAMER MADHANI, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Oh, you‘re quite welcome.
OLBERMANN: Does this note do anything to answer that question of why he felt compelled to do this? Did—were there any clues about motive in that note?
MADHANI: Well, the note answers that this was obviously someone who
is distraught, that was showing signs of violent behavior. But, Keith, as
you alluded to just moments ago, in a lot of ways, this feels like it asks-
it leaves more questions unanswered. And it makes you ask more how could this have possibly happened. It‘s—it‘s extremely puzzling. Just as more information comes out, it becomes more puzzling.
OLBERMANN: Do we have anything specific from it? Tell us what we know. There‘s been thrown around one particular quote that—give us what we know about that note.
MADHANI: Yes, you know, it‘s sort of this rambling note, and he lists a series of grievances against people on campus and the university. He refers to students as deceitful charlatans, he portrays his fellow student body as rich kids. He complains about the debauchery on campus, and it rambles on that way.
OLBERMANN: And this reference to people making him do it, making this happen?
MADHANI: As well, there‘s also a reference to him saying, You made me do this. That‘s not exactly the exact quote, but something to—of that nature.
OLBERMANN: There was talk yesterday, it was the original thought here, that one of the dormitory victims, having been a specific target of the killer, the—obviously the campus police, the misdirection they went in, was thinking this was a domestic incident that had been closed with the death of the two students in the dormitory, has that theory panned out? Did he know the victim, the first victim? Was he (INAUDIBLE) -- was he in some way involved, or do we know anything more about that?
MADHANI: That is still, it‘s still a bit unclear. There‘s been some reports from people that were friends with the woman that was killed in the initial shooting that said she had no idea who this Cho was.
OLBERMANN: The—this question of the two hours that elapsed between the first shooting and that second extraordinary, horrifying rampage, it played out, obviously, on opposite sides of this very large campus. Have the investigators learned anything more as to what Cho might have been doing in the time between the first shootings at about 7:15 and the, and that final disaster at closer to 9:30?
MADHANI: That‘s really still a blank. You know, they‘ve said conclusively that at least one of weapons—one of the two weapons that was found at Norris Hall, ballistics tests proved that that was used—one of those weapons were used in the dormitory incident at 7:15.
OLBERMANN: Kevin Corke alluded to this earlier. Perhaps you can expand on it. The writing, the writing in the creative writing classes, this was profoundly disturbing. Do we have examples of that?
MADHANI: Yes, you know, there was students in his playwriting class that found his work to be violent and really hard to comprehend. There‘s also been reports of a—one of his professors referring him for counseling because they were so disturbed by some of the messages he conveyed in his writing.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, we know that—how this, how this story, his story turned out, but had there been previous actual incidents of violence reported, or was this all theoretical until yesterday morning?
MADHANI: Well, you mentioned sort—the recent purchase of the nine-millimeter Glock. There was also, in not-so-distant past, a dormitory fire that he was involved in. There were also allegations that he had been stalking women, but details of that are still unknown.
OLBERMANN: And, and lastly, the little we know of his family, it is, it is almost a complete contradiction, almost implausible to think that, that this is the, the son of the family that‘s been described. Tell us about his parents.
MADHANI: Yes, you know, I think any family, it‘d be hard to think that somebody can come from any family that would do something like this. But his (INAUDIBLE) -- working-class immigrant family that owns dry cleaners and sent their son into Virginia Tech, and their daughter to Princeton, growing up in the suburbs of D.C..
OLBERMANN: Aamer Madhani, the national correspondent with “The Chicago Tribune.” Great thanks for joining us tonight.
MADHANI: OK, thank you.
OLBERMANN: As the investigation unfolds, the questions multiply. There were foreshadowings, as both our correspondents reported. Should they have been enough to have this thing prevented?
And young Americans killed in violent and tragic circumstances. It is rightly a horror when it happens in Blacksburg, Virginia. Do we see it as less of a horror when young Americans are killed in Baghdad, Iraq?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: An unsatisfying word, “identified.” They have identified the shooter in the Virginia Tech nightmare. His identity is another matter altogether.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, details are emerging about Cho Seung-hui. That he was described as a loner might have surprised no one. But he left a long, accusatory note in his dorm room, which, according to “The Chicago Tribune” and ABC News, included the words, quoting, “You caused me to do this.” Then there was Cho‘s classrooms‘ writing, as we mentioned earlier, described by students and teachers as violent, morbid, grotesque.
And the head of the department creative writing at Virginia Tech, Lucinda Roy, not only referred Cho to counseling, she did not hesitate in taking her concerns about him to police. But they told her Cho‘s writings did not contain the requisite intent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCINDA ROY, VIRGINIA TECH CREATIVE WRITING DIRECTOR: I think that they should have been taken more seriously. But I‘m not somebody who would give up easily, so I went back repeatedly with my concerns. And in the end, I felt—I was so uncomfortable that I didn‘t feel I could leave him in the classroom, because some of the other students seemed to be uncomfortable. So therefore—and the faculty member didn‘t—at the time, didn‘t feel comfortable either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We‘re joined now by criminologist, criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, James Fox.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JAMES FOX, CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSOR, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, Professor Roy did something right, maybe the most proactive thing in this entire sad story. But what does she do, what would—what do any of us do, when the counseling either doesn‘t happen, or does nothing, and the police say he‘s not threatening enough?
FOX: There isn‘t much that we can do. We can try to reach out to the individual and offer whatever support we can. But the sad fact is that you cannot reliably identify these gunmen ahead of time. Hindsight‘s 20-20, and, sure, now everything is crystal clear. But I‘ll tell you, in the—
I‘ve taught for over 30 years at university settings, and there are a lot of students who have bizarre behavior. They don‘t make threats, they don‘t have overt signs that would lead us to arrest them. We may encourage them to seek treatment. But they‘re open campuses, and there‘s little that we can do.
If we really want to prevent, actually, the next shooter at a university campus, I would actually tone down this notion that it‘s a record, the largest American history, because his—you know, records are to be broken, and that speaks—is an invitation to those out there who may see this man as a hero, and want to outdo their role model.
OLBERMANN: A great point. But let me ask you this about anticipation, and your point about hindsight been 20-20 is invaluable at the moment. But let‘s add the other facts in here. We know about the writing. There are reports also of stalking. And there‘s a third report here that‘s been alluded to both by “The Chicago Tribune” reporter we talked to, and in the pages of that newspaper, that he was involved in setting a fire to a dorm room.
Those last two things are no longer just writings but actual actions. If they‘re not enough to get the police involved, are they in some way enough to prevent a man from buying a weapon under those circumstances?
FOX: Well, the stalking incidents apparently were unconfirmed, reports, rumors. As far as the setting fires, I wish I knew how far that investigation went. And indeed, if he had been charged and there was some evidence that he was involved with setting fires, that would have led to at least a suspension from school, if not reporting to the police. That in itself would prevent someone, or should prevent someone, from getting a gun, absolutely, positively, yes.
But the question is, this is all after the fact, and in -- You know,
the shooter is dead. We‘d like to blame him, but he‘s not around. And so
often happens in the aftermath is, we look for all the other scapegoats, so
did the campus police respond quickly enough? Oh, did they not notice these other incidents in the person‘s background?
Let‘s keep in mind who the perpetrator is and who the one who fully responsible is. These other sorts, we have to understand that this is a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking in the calmness of a TV studio, not a campus police force at 7:15 in the morning, when personnel levels are at— at a low early-morning level, and there‘s a lot of confusion and misinformation about what‘s going on.
OLBERMANN: Big-picture stuff, then, more theoretical stuff. How does the disconnect from reality required to commit murder on this scale coexist in the same mind with enough of a connection to reality, to practicality, to have planned it out as methodically as he evidently did, just from what we know about what the crime scenes looked like?
FOX: You know, I‘ve studied hundreds of mass murderers over the past 25 years, and very few of them are psychotic. Very few of them are out of touch with reality. Sure, they may have a paranoid personality and perceive that everyone is out to get them, and they‘re full of blame, they always blame other people. Oh, they caused me to do it.
And they‘re frustrated and they‘re angry, and they don‘t want to live any more. But they‘re clear-headed enough to seek revenge, to get some measure of satisfaction that other people will pay for what they‘ve done to him, and they‘re certainly able to plan and execute a crime.
And I believe this plan went on for surely a long period of time. He bought a gun over a month ago, he had to wait another month, by Virginia law, to buy a second gun. So it seems the planning probably went on for at least a month. How much evidence do we have to have that this is a methodical execution, not someone who just suddenly snaps and goes berserk, and just so happened to have two guns on—at his bedside for—just for such an occasion?
OLBERMANN: So the resolution to these things is not necessarily in trying to sift through every person who passes through any organization or circumstance or school or workplace, but what? Is it more about response at the time of the event? Or how do we, how do we minimize these things, if we can‘t prevent them?
FOX: Well, you can‘t identify the would-be shooters. And if you‘re very aggressive trying to target them, it could even increase their feeling of persecution.
FOX: What you can do is treat everybody with respect, to upgrade the atmosphere on campus. And hopefully, in the process, we can help lots of individuals, not just the potential mass shooters.
OLBERMANN: James Fox, criminologist at Northeastern University.
Thanks for your time tonight, Mr. Fox.
OLBERMANN: Thirty-two people lost their lives on the campus of Virginia Tech. We pay tribute to them, including one professor who helped to have save some of his students, a professor who had himself survived the Holocaust.
And the tragedy in Blacksburg, young Americans, late teens, early twenties, dead. Are we minimizing deaths just as real of Americans just as young in Iraq?
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The images of the candlelight vigil tonight at Virginia Tech University at Blacksburg, Virginia, as we approach the 35-hour mark since the end of the carnage there. An extraordinary image on an extraordinary day of sadness, representative of the sadness around the country for what we have seen there in the last two days.
One of the shooting victims at Virginia Tech, one of the hero professors, had survived the Nazi Holocaust and was killed yesterday on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Perhaps the worst of the bitter ironies in stories like this is that the shooter‘s life takes up so much more news time than his victims do.
If we cannot correct that, let‘s at least let our correspondent, Mike Taibbi, bring the balance back closer to a correct proportion.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were makeshift memorials, so many reminders that something had fundamentally changed, students alone or in groups, trying to confront all that had been taken from them in this place that seemed so safe.
Some of the victims whose families have confirmed their deaths, 18-year-old Reema Samaha, only a freshman, but already teaching dance and inspiring her students.
KRISTEN FIELDS, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: She was really good at belly dancing, and she was a really good teacher.
TAIBBI: And, said her brother, eager for her future.
OMAR SAMAHA, REEMA SAMAHA‘S BROTHER: She had the whole world laid out in front of her, and she could do anything she wanted to do.
TAIBBI: The first two victims, 19-year-old animal lover Emily Hilscher of Woodville, Virginia, who, police say, might have been a specific target of the killer. And 22-year-old Ryan Clark—everybody called him Stack—a residential assistant in the dorm, a member of the Marching Virginians school band, and a native of Martinez, Georgia.
BRYAN CLARK, RYAN CLARK‘S BROTHER: He was a fun-loving, outgoing individual. Loved to be around people, and loved to share his passion for music and education and other things with others.
TAIBBI (on camera): It‘s a vast campus, 2,600 acres, 26,000 students. But every student we spoke to said he or she is feeling the loss personally.
(voice-over): For the families of several victims, including 20-year-old Ross Alameddine of Saugus, Massachusetts, it simply took too long to confirm that the worst had happened, until nearly 11:00 at night, said his mother, Lynette, more than 13 hours after the shootings.
LYNETTE ALAMEDDINE, MOTHER OF VICTIM: It‘s horrifying. It‘s really horrifying. And I‘m just trying to keep it together.
TAIBBI: And it wasn‘t just the young who came under fire. In India, the family of engineering professor G.V. Loganathan, 51, was stunned.
PALANIVEL LOGANATHAN, G.V. LOGANATHAN‘S BROTHER: They‘re all feeling terrible. We don‘t know how to (INAUDIBLE) think.
TAIBBI: And in Romania, a terrible sadness over the death of 76-year-old mathematics professor Liviu Librescu. Relatives say students have e-mailed them, saying the elderly Holocaust survivor blocked the classroom door against the gunfire with his own body, saving several lives before losing his own.
PROF. NICOLAE TOMESCU, LIVIU LIBRESCU‘S FORMER COLLEAGUE (through interpreter): He had huge affection for his students, and he sacrificed his life for them.
TAIBBI: In the coming days and weeks, the stories of all the victims will be known, 32 narratives of accomplishment and limitless hopes, gone in two bursts of gunfire from a single killer, on a spring day now etched in memory and infamy.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Blacksburg.
OLBERMANN: There are other young men and women to re remembered, to be eulogized, same ages, same aspirations, some trying to work their way into colleges like Virginia Tech. Our grief about the victims at Virginia Tech is genuine, even noble. What happened to our grief about those kids we‘ve lost in Iraq?
And while the events in Blacksburg postponed the testimony today of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it is not delaying the prospect of congressional immunity for his most controversial aide.
That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is an unspeakable and overwhelming tragedy, up to 30 young Americans killed violently, pointlessly, and the rest of us left with an urgent and almost helpless feeling that somebody could have done something to prevent it, and that everybody must do something to protect the next potential victims.
Yet, the same number of young Americans of approximately the same age have died in Iraq in the last 10 days. Clearly, while one might take issue with the comparison, one can not ignore the similarities. Moreover, in a practical sense, the deaths in Iraq could have been much more readily prevented, and the desire much more easily fulfilled, to protect the next potential victims there.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, no one questions the nation‘s grief about Virginia Tech. But have we suppressed our grief about Iraq? Today the president told the packed memorial service at Virginia Tech that this was a day of sadness for the entire nation, that, quote, people who never met you are praying for you. And, of course, he‘s right.
Flags fly at half staff across the nation. Memorial services are being held at other campuses. At the University of Texas in Austin, the site of America‘s first mass killing on a campus, the clock tower Charles Whitman used as a perch to killed 16 people, it will be darkened. After all, the deaths of 32 mostly young Americans in Blacksburg are extraordinary and extraordinarily sad.
Unfortunately, in Iraq, it is a very ordinary experience. According to the latest Iraq Coalition casualty count figures, in just the last ten days, 32 American troops, many the same age as those Virginia Tech students, have died. And about the same number of Iraqi civilians die in shootings and bombings in and around just Baghdad every day. So it seems fair to ask the question, if the violent deaths in Virginia send the nation into shock and expressions of concern and anxiety, why is not the continuous flow of American blood in Iraq generating a similar reaction?
Why isn‘t our flag permanently at half staff? For political analysis of this, let‘s turn to Richard Wolffe, chief White House correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine.” Thanks for your time tonight Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Right now, in Colorado, there is a dispute over the placement of a monument to a Navy Seal who was killed in Afghanistan. It‘s a statue of him holding a rifle. It‘s right near the two schools. Some parents are not happy about it. Of course the statue was supposed to be put up in Littleton, Colorado, where Columbine high school is. Do you sense a difference between how we treat deaths at home like this in Virginia and deaths in Iraq, and is that difference invisible to the people who are creating the difference?
WOLFFE: Well, I would never want to take anything away from the justified shock people have at the campus killings, but we have become hardened to the killings in Iraq, and the civilian and military deaths there. We have to ask ourselves how we got into this position. And I think the answer is that initially we felt there was a purpose to the war, and the sense that 9/11 had maybe distorted the costs we were prepared to bear in any armed conflict, because of the scale of the civilian deaths in 9/11.
Now, you have to look at whether the sacrifice is worth it, because the debate in Iraq is not about the people who died so much as the people who are still being asked to make that ultimate sacrifice. And the question is, have we lost sight of what we‘re trying to do in Iraq now, and are the deaths, the future deaths, worth it?
OLBERMANN: Richard, politically, for whatever Congress may do, may not do about funding, time lines, et cetera, deadlines, pull outs, are the lives and deaths of those kids there, many of the same ages, same aspirations as the kids at Virginia Tech who died yesterday, some of them in the Army to put themselves through college. Have the deaths been taken out of the political equation? Have even the war‘s opponents de-emphasized the individual tragedies of military deaths?
WOLFFE: I do not think people see them as individuals, which is sad. Some of the home town newspapers do, and that‘s the right way to treat it, but look at the debate now about who is going to play this game of chicken, who is going to blink first on the spending, the time lines, the deadlines. Really what we have lost in the last couple of weeks of a focus on things like Don Imus and this awful shootings in Virginia is the lack of progress, in fact, the backward movement, in terms of the politics in Iraq.
If there‘s ever a purpose for people to die, for the troops to die in Iraq, it‘s so that Iraqi politicians can step up to the plate. What we have seen in the last few days is suicide bomb in the Iraqi parliament, the withdrawal of supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr for the Iraqi government. These are backwards steps, so you have to ask yourself, what is the strategy? Why is it worth American troops to die over there right now?
OLBERMANN: She would be asking some of these questions about the different reactions inwards? Is television part of this? With due respect to everyone involved in coverage there, it is a lot easier to go 24/7 from Blacksburg, Virginia, and tell that story than it is to go 24/7 from Baghdad and Tikrit and tell one of those stories.
WOLFFE: Well, it is extraordinarily difficult, and, of course, the correspondents in Iraq are taking enormous personal risk to deliver the stories we do see. But yes, we have become hardened in the news media to the Iraq story. Four years into the war it‘s hard to get peoples‘ attention.
And remember also, we have this self-imposed taboo here about showing death, about dead bodies, and that is a very real fact of life in any war. I think that also contributes to the idea that somehow these deaths don‘t really mean as much as something closer to home.
OLBERMANN: Does this thing at Virginia Tech influence the debate about Iraq, or do these two things just continue to run down parallel tracks without anybody recognizing similarities?
WOLFFE: Sadly, I think they are a separate track. We‘re going to see the value of American lives differently from the value of lives over seas, and that is sad, but it is true of all countries around the world. It is a sad fact of life, until we wake up and see that those people dying over seas are just as valuable as they are here.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, Richard, great thanks for your time.
WOLFFE: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: The problems for Alberto Gonzales go from bad to worse. One of his top aides could be offered immunity soon in exchange for her testimony, presumably against him. That and a day of facts found and victims remembered on the campus of Virginia Tech. COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was supposed to testify to the Senate Judiciary committee, ostensibly about the ouster of eight U.S. attorneys around the country, but also really about the possible ouster of Alberto Gonzales. The Virginia Tech shootings understandably delayed that testimony until Thursday. But in our number story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, that delay may end up working against Mr. Gonzales.
He released his prepared opening statement on Sunday, but just since then several new developments have emerged that might have him sending his copy back to the boys in rewrite. First there is a report in the newspaper “The Albuquerque Journal” which puts President Bush and Karl Rove at the center of the firing of David Iglesias, the attorney in New Mexico, even though Gonzales said the firings were the consensus of his department, Justice.
Then there was word of closed door Congressional interviews this weekend with current and former Gonzales aides, including more from Kyle Sampson, offering new details about U.S. attorney meetings Gonzales did in fact attend. On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee decided to seek interviews with four of the new U.S. attorneys hired by Gonzales, and tomorrow that committee will meet to discuss granting limited immunity to the former Gonzales aide, and liaison between Justice and the White House, Monica Goodling, who has refused to testify about her role as that Justice liaison with the White House.
Let‘s turn again to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University to help us see how these new developments may be changing the playing field for the attorney general. Jonathan, thank you for your again time tonight.
TURLEY: Hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with this thing tomorrow, weighing limited immunity for Miss Goodling. Immunity would not cover perjury, which is the thing she said she was worried about being charged with, that Congress would twist her words, or something to gin up a charge. If limited immunity does not address that concern for her, how would it change things in this case?
TURLEY: Well, it changes things really for the worse for her. She adopted a strategy that was quite harmful to herself by invoking the privilege against self-incrimination, perhaps the first Justice Department figure to do so in modern times. She ended any hope of a public career in her future, and now she may still have to testify, and she can still be prosecuted for any misrepresentation or lie, or obstruction. And if she refuses to testify, she can be jailed for contempt for up to one year.
OLBERMANN: Which of these two facts makes her testimony more salient, that she was a top aide to Gonzales, or that she was his formal go-between with the White House?
TURLEY: I think it is really her liaison role. She was the bridge between the White House and the Justice Department. And to the extent that Rove and president weighed in on this, she may have knowledge of that. She was the traffic cop between the White House and the Justice Department, but she should also likely present information of some concern to Gonzales, because right now he is getting nothing but bad news from former and even current aides, who seem to have pretty good recollections of meetings that he seems to have entirely forgotten.
OLBERMANN: This report out of the “Albuquerque Journal” in New Mexico, that the Justice Department list of those who were going to get it did not include Mr. Iglesias in October. Then the senator from New Mexico, Domenici, went straight to Karl Rove, demanding that President Bush intervene, and suddenly in November Iglesias was on the list. How does Mr. Gonzales square that without putting the onus on the White House?
TURLEY: Well I don‘t know Keith, because, particularly with Iglesias, we have now, it seems, eliminated every rational reason why he was put on that list except for raw power, and very inappropriate uses of power by a senator and a member of Congress. And we also have meetings involving Rove and the president and Gonzales, that seem to have slipped his mind. So he is going to have a very hard time.
And, as you noted, his written statement is really awful. I mean, I think it shocked even Republicans. It is very robotic. And he has been essentially taking acting lessons for a week to give this thing. But Robert Redford could not give this thing and be very convincing at it.
OLBERMANN: What do you anticipate, in terms of the testimony, when we get that far, if we says, I do not recall. Senator Leahy says what to him in response to that?
TURLEY: I think that‘s going to make this a very painful hearing. Because I think he will continue to be quite robotic and say that he does not have any recollection. And his main argument is, look, I routinely do a bad job, but I am really not a bad guy. And they have heard that argument before with the torture memo and with domestic surveillance. He is constantly saying that I am really not an evil guy, I just don‘t do my job very well.
OLBERMANN: A ringing self endorsement. We have this letter from conservatives yesterday about how he must go and what he‘s done to the Constitution. Bob Barr signed this. Richard Viguerie signed this. It was like the two ends of the universe have warped around and met and all the extreme liberals and all the extreme conservatives are together on this point. But in terms of his actually ouster as the attorney general, one way or the other, the tipping point would seem to be what happens with congressional Republicans. Do we have any idea what they are going to be looking for from him on Thursday?
TURLEY: I have talked to a lot of Republicans on the Hill, and I think that many of them would like to toss him from a great height, but there is only one Republican that matters and that is President Bush. And Gonzales knows it. You know, these Republicans do not have a lot to work with. You know, this written statement, I think, really shocked them. He does not offer any other details. He just retreats to the argument that he does not have a good recollection and that the president can fire these people for any reason at all, but that is not relevant.
Just because he has power does not mean he can‘t abuse it.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University. As always sir, great thanks for your time.
TURLEY: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll end the COUNTDOWN where we began, a day of contrasts at Virginia Tech. The candle light vigil tonight at Drill Field on the campus there, extraordinary and compelling scene. Details about the worst of students and events there, poignant memorials to the best if students, teachers and events there. First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
And obviously, in the light of the events at Virginia Tech, a good time for one of the periodic reminders that this is satirical social commentary, not some sort of literal designation. Although, when you hear these, all about Virginia Tech, you may have your doubts.
The bronze to right-wing columnist Debby Schlussel. In between her references to, quote, Hoprah Winfrey, unquote, she first wrote yesterday that authorities did not immediately identified the shooter at Virginia Tech, so he might have been a, quote, Paki, and part of a coordinated terrorist attack by Muslims. She later updated this to conclude that he was a Chinese national, then a South Korean national. Quote, yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students. The shooter, of course, had been a resident alien who had been here since he was eight and a half years old.
Wait, it gets worse. Don‘t blame immigrants, blame the dead students. The silver to Nathaniel Blake of the publication “Human Events. The students at Virginia Tech, he writes, should be heartily ashamed of themselves. College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, he writes, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Now, let‘s start with you.
Or with our winner tonight, John Derbeshire of the National Review online, fresh from saying he wouldn‘t mind seeing the English sailors captured by Iran physically injured or worse back in England, he writes now, setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn‘t anyone rush the guy ...At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands ...If I thought I was going to die anyway, I would at least take a run at the guy.
This is not one of the action film or James Bond fantasies running through your head, sir. This is real life, and those kids you mock are really dead. John Derbeshire, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Let us end where we began, with our number story, the developments of the day after the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech. The shooter identified, Cho Seung Hui, a 23-year-old English major, senior at Virginia Tech, contrary to the universities‘ original belief, and widespread reports, that the shooter was not a student there. Details emerging about work in a creative writing class, two screen plays, described as so violent and disturbing that the head of the department referred him to counseling and went to the police about him.
Still unanswered, whether Cho‘s first victims in that dorm room were specific precise targets, fueled with precise motivations. Thousands of people gathering at the basketball arena tonight for a memorial. The university termed it a convocation, one which began with a standing ovation for the school‘s president, Charles Steger. Tonight there was an additional ceremony, a candle light vigil on the Drill Field at the school.
And the first draft of this particular moment of history for Virginia Tech and for the nation playing out in pictures and words yet again, involving it into an unintended competition between getting more facts, understanding and mourning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think about those students that were in those class rooms. They never had a chance to go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they started releasing names, that‘s when it really hit me. I mean, I woke up at 5:00 this morning. I really couldn‘t get back to sleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been able to confirm the identity of the gunman at Norris Hall. That person is Cho Seung-Hui. He was a 23-year-old South Korean here in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably the most information we‘re going to get about this young man is through his writings. One person told me it was like reading a nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The writings seem angry, as I recall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One play that we read about, it described pedophilia, and a child who had been molested, who then went after his step father with a chain saw, ended up suffocating him with a rice crispy treat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would go to the police and to the counselors and student affairs and everywhere else and they would say, but there‘s nothing explicit here. He‘s not actually saying he‘s going to kill someone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sign of slaughter. Each of his victim was hit at least three times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After he finished shooting, a lot of the people in the room were motionless, just lying there, blood pouring out of their bodies. And then he left our room and continued to shoot people down the hall, multiple gunshots. It was just a horrible sound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty people were shot dead on the second floor. Several more students were injured sustaining fractures as they fled the gunman by jumping out of the windows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At first they had no idea what it was. They just thought it was hammering from construction. And the teachers started to think that maybe it was gunshots, and the survivor was trying to get her to put the desk up against the door, and right before that could happen, he kicked it in and opened fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Victims were found in at least four class rooms, as well as a stairwell. We know that there were a number of heroic events that took place, students and faculty alike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these gun shots are going on. He eventually came to our door, tried to open the door, didn‘t go. So he tried to shoulder his way in, got the door open about six inches. And we all had to slam the back shut on him. That‘s when he put two bullets into the center of the door, thinking we were up against it, trying to close him out. He then reloaded. I was right against the ground, right against the door. He reloaded his clip. And I thought he was coming in for his second round, but for the grace of god he just kept going.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened here yesterday has reverberated not just throughout the Virginia Tech family, but throughout all of higher education, indeed, throughout the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard the rumors that my father was shot through the door of the class where he was teaching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don‘t know how—Under the circumstances, we are looking forward to how to manage things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are deep emotions that are called forth by a tragedy as significant as this, grieving and sadness.
BUSH: And on this terrible day of mourning, it‘s hard to imagine that a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will become normal. But such a day will come. And when it does, you will always remember the friends and teachers who we lost yesterday, and the time you shared with them and the lives that they hoped to lead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are alive to the imagination and the possibility. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies! We will prevail! We will prevail! We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech!
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,465th day since the declaration of mission accomplished of Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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