Guests: Will Bunch, J.K. Rowling
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The president‘s brain, one senator issues a subpoena to Karl Rove, demanding his testimony on the U.S. attorney firings.
The president‘s lawyer, after documents surface indicating Mr. Gonzales lied to them, four senators ask the Justice Department to investigate him for perjury.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The attorney general took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Instead he tells the half truth, the partial truths and everything but the truth.
OLBERMANN: The Edelman letter, the secretary of defense tells its recipient Senator Clinton he truly regrets it. “We do not claim, suggest or otherwise believe,” writes Secretary Gates, “that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies.” So why is Eric Edelman still undersecretary of defense?
The nexus of politics and terror and cheese after the breathless stories about unsettling items found in airport luggage and possible terrorist dry runs. The plastic bags filled with an unknown gel, wrapped in clay, it turns out the plastic bags weren‘t wrapped in clay, they were caked with the gel which had leaked and hardened. They were leaky cold bags, ice packs. Well, maybe that was still terrorist cheese.
The cat who sees dead people, who has an alarming record of curling up next to patients at a Rhode Island nursing home who then die within hours.
And J.K. Rowling, not just full of Harry Potter spoilers, also full of Harry Potter postscripts, like the careers of some of the lead characters after the last book ends.
J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR, HARRY POTTER SERIES: Definitely the passage that I found hardest to write of all—in all seven books, and the one that made me cry the most was...
OLBERMANN: Yes, we‘re stinkers.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. More fascinating than a Senate subpoena for Karl Rove or even a possible Justice Department perjury investigation of the man running the Justice Department, Alberto Gonzales, or even the director of the FBI seemingly agreeing that Mr. Gonzales was not truthfully to Congress; is the White House response to the dizzying day of scandal and deceit about what is statistically the least popular administration since Richard Nixon‘s final week and empirically the most corrupt since Richard Nixon‘s last cover-up, that the Democrats are refusing to do the people‘s business, even if, one might note, defending the people from a rogue president and a lawless executive branch would seem to be business item number one.
No less than FBI Director Robert Mueller now disputing the sworn account that Mr. Gonzales gave lawmakers on Tuesday. Director Mueller has told Congress that the topic of the dispute at John Ashcroft‘s hospital bedside was indeed the Bush administration‘s “terrorist surveillance program,” so-called.
Mr. Mueller‘s word plus the memo revealed yesterday from the national director of intelligence, John Negroponte, raising huge credibility problems for the attorney general, not to mention possible criminal ones.
Since Attorney General Gonzales clearly cannot be trusted to investigate himself, whether or not there will ever be an investigation now falls to this man, Solicitor General Paul Clement, the highest-ranking Justice official removed from the administrative duties of the department.
Four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Russ Feingold and Sheldon Whitehouse today sending a letter to Mr. Clement, asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate the attorney general on charges of perjury.
Now long thereafter, Judiciary Committee Chair Pat Leahy announcing he was issuing a subpoena for senior White House adviser Karl Rove, demanding his cooperation in the investigation of the firings of those nine U.S. attorneys, what is likely to be the first step towards an eventually contempt charge.
A senior White House official hiding behind anonymity when making the claim that “this is becoming an out of control Congress.” Out of control, something the White House is apparently expert in.
Senator Chuck Schumer, in full view and full voice today when declaring enough is enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: The attorney general took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Instead he tells the half truth, the partial truth, and everything but the truth. And he does it not once and not twice, but over and over and over again.
His instinct is not to tell the truth but to dissemble and deceive. Enough is truly enough, not for us, not even for the Senate, but for the 90,000 employees of the Justice Department and for 300 million Americans who need at the very minimum an attorney general who can tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call on our correspondent in Washington, David Shuster.
David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: FBI Director Mueller capping off this disastrous 24 hours for the attorney general. Has anybody come forward with documents, testimony, even a back slap that actually supports Mr. Gonzales‘ version of the story?
SHUSTER: No, nobody at all. I mean, the White House is saying that because some of these issues are classified, therefore their hands are tied in trying to defend Gonzales. But the problem is that what is coming out of the mouths of everybody else under oath suggests that Gonzales lied to Congress.
I mean, James Comey, the former deputy attorney general, he contradicts Gonzales. The lawmakers who met with Gonzales at the White House, they contradict Gonzales. The FBI director has contradicted Gonzales. Documents from the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, those contradict Alberto Gonzales.
I mean, Alberto Gonzales is all alone on this. And that‘s why legal experts are calling his testimony a seemingly clear case of perjury. Democrats argue, Keith, that the reason the White House cannot defend Gonzales is not because information is classified, rather they it‘s because Gonzales flat-out lied, has gotten caught, but is still being backed by President Bush, thus forcing the “its classified” defense from the president‘s spokesman Tony Snow.
OLBERMANN: Why have no Republicans signed on to this call for a special counsel? Senator Specter seemed to be a lot more outraged about the attorney general‘s testimony on Tuesday than he was today when it came time to actually do something about it.
SHUSTER: Right. Senator Specter was traveling with President Bush today, so the ride on Air Force One may have made it impossible for him to come out and join the calls for a special counsel probe of Gonzales. And a few Republicans and Democrats have indicated they are hopeful that Gonzales will clarify things over the next week because he does have a week to change or update his testimony.
But politically, Keith, even a few Republicans said today away from the cameras that they hoped a special counsel would take charge of this because that would effectively end the high profile congressional spotlight, I mean, at least for a while.
Special prosecutors, as you know, work with grand juries away from the spotlight of Capitol Hill. And as one Republican said today, if the White House really believes, really believes that Gonzales did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to fear with a special counsel.
OLBERMANN: Well, what do we know about the solicitor general, David, Paul Clement, and when might we expect a decision as to whether or not he‘s going to do anything about this?
SHUSTER: Paul Clement is expected to make a decision within 30 days. However, Clement is a Republican who worked for the Bush Justice Department for four years. And even though the solicitor general is independent of the attorney general, Solicitor General Clement is technically part of the executive branch. And that means Clement reports to the White House.
So if President Bush does not want a perjury investigation of his close friend, Alberto Gonzales, and he tells Clement not to name a special counsel, there is really nothing that Congress can do about it. There is no review because there is no independent counsel statute.
And the only thing Congress could do if the president short circuits the Gonzales investigation is to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush or impeachment proceedings against Alberto Gonzales.
OLBERMANN: Yes. It‘s critical to remember at this point that when they finally fired the Watergate special prosecutor in 1973 after the attorney general wouldn‘t do it, and the deputy attorney general wouldn‘t do it, it was Robert Bork who did it and he was at that point the solicitor general. David Shuster, great thanks.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In any other administration at any other time in history this would surely qualify as a watershed moment, perhaps even a Watergate moment. The president‘s top political adviser hit with a subpoena by the Senate. Congress requesting an investigation of the nation‘s top lawman. Well, maybe it‘s just another day at the office. Let‘s turn now to our political analyst, Newsweek senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Behind the anti-Congress bluster in the answer from Tony Snow and others, is there any sense among the rank and file at the White House about the depth and unscalability of the ethical hole the administration seems to have dug for itself?
WOLFFE: No, there isn‘t. This is an ethical hole and Alberto Gonzales doesn‘t know when to stop digging. You have a situation here where the White House is as about as far as you can possibly be from that 2000 pledge to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office.
They would like to say that this is a partisan attack, this is a bunch of hyperactive Democrats, but in fact this has gone beyond that. And I recall just when this story broke about the U.S. attorneys, the key test for Gonzales was whether he would restore competence and credibility to his own reputation. And unfortunately, as we‘ve seen with every new hearing, he erodes his competence and credibility.
OLBERMANN: They have now, as White House counsel, a man who was an eyewitness to Watergate, Fred Fielding. Does he or anybody else in this White House come even close to giving the president a candid account of just how poorly history may view this administration?
WOLFFE: Well, when they think about history, they think about Iraq, Frankly. But Fred Fielding was brought in there really as part of the stonewalling operation. And you have to remember, this personal jeopardy that people feel, having gone through the Valerie Plame investigation, there is a feeling inside the White House that Alberto Gonzales is all that protects them from an independent counsel, from millions of dollars in legal fees that they would have to pay.
And they don‘t want that jeopardy. It is a personal as much as a political thing. So the advice from people like Fielding is, is keep these people at arm‘s length.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Bush is immune to shame, if he does not seek history‘s approval or if he thinks he‘s going to be vindicated for everything by Iraq, is there any political leverage that anybody can exert upon him? Could the GOP‘s 2008 wannabes start pushing him to clean up his act? Would that even matter?
WOLFFE: They could, but it is unlikely. I think impeachment of Gonzales is one thing that would certainly get their attention, I mean, if they‘re concerned about what a replacement would look like and how that could drag itself out.
Having said that, the mindset in the White House is that they think they‘re winning this one politically. I can‘t fathom it myself. I think if there is a good scenario for them, it is that people aren‘t paying enough attention because it‘s a complex story. But their view is that they can just ride this out and the Democrats look shrill.
OLBERMANN: Well, is there any evidence that they might be right in that to any degree? I mean, back to that answer from the White House: The Democrats are pursuing corruption headlines rather than doing the people‘s business.
I mean, we know Congress is getting low approval ratings now. Is there anything in those polls to give us any guidance about this particular aspect of it, you‘re investigating too much or you‘re investigating too little?
WOLFFE: No, because the polls don‘t really break down very well along partisan lines. Are people frustrated with all of Washington and politics? Are they frustrated with the war? Again and again, it‘s the war that rises to the top.
So, look, Democrats have to show they can do something, but with a president that doesn‘t want to deal with them, everybody looks bad.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of Newsweek and MSNBC, as always, Richard, great thanks for your time.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The secretary of defense distanced himself from the accusations of unpatriotic criticism against Hillary Clinton from the undersecretary of defense. So why is the guy still undersecretary of defense?
And news breaking at this hour that confirms the Army cover-up of the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman, and it may be far worse than any of us thought. And there are e-mails between Army lawyers congratulating each other from keeping it from becoming a criminal investigation. Details ahead and Wesley Clark‘s reaction. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Edward R. Murrow put it best and put it simply: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.” True as it pertained to Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, true as it pertains to Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman in 2007.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Edelman‘s boss refutes Mr. Edelman over his answer to an inquiry from the junior senator from New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In fact, I asked the Pentagon a simple question: Have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic, that I shouldn‘t be asking questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Defense Secretary Gates having now replied to Senator Clinton‘s second letter: “I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and emphatically assure you that we do not claim, suggest or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. I agree with you that planning concerning the future of U.S. forces in Iraq, including the drawdown of those forces at the right time is not only appropriate, but essential.”
A spokesman for the senator is saying: “She is disappointed that Gates did not repudiate the unacceptable political attack. There is absolutely no room,” the statement continues, for impugning the patriotism of those who rightfully engage in congressional oversight.”
MSNBC analyst General Wesley Clark served for 38 years in the Army, including time as supreme allied commander of NATO.
General Clark, thanks again for some of your time tonight.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), MSNBC ANALYST: Thanks. Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You know a little bit about this delicate balance between military and civilian power. Undersecretary Edelman said Mrs. Clinton‘s questions reinforced enemy propaganda. Mr. Gates disassociated from that statement today. Why does Mr. Edelman still have a job working for Mr. Gates?
CLARK: It is a very good question, because it was very bad judgment, what he sent forward. I imagine that letter was approved. It was probably coordinated through the Pentagon with the White House because of Senator Clinton‘s profile.
So I would suspect that this is all a political game by Karl Rove and the establishment in the White House as to how to handle the Democrats‘ approach.
OLBERMANN: The defense secretary says he is planning a drawdown but he is still not giving up any information until General Petraeus makes his report in September. From a military point of view, is that actually good policy contained in there?
CLARK: Well, the policy is what he is doing inside the Pentagon. If I were Secretary Gates, I‘d be consulting with the Congress. I‘d be trying to work with the Congress instead of making enemies with the Congress regardless of whether they were my party or the other party.
And my experience in the Pentagon, when I was on active duty, is, that‘s what we did, whether the congressmen or senators were Republicans or Democrats, it didn‘t matter. We wanted support and understanding.
I don‘t understand why Senator Clinton‘s questions weren‘t answered in the first place, why wasn‘t she invited over for breakfast with Secretary Gates? That‘s the way it‘s normally done. They discuss these things privately. There is an understanding that you don‘t reveal the sensitive data.
Senator Clinton could have said, yes, of course the Pentagon is doing its proper planning and looking ahead. Everything could have been OK. So you have to ask yourself, well, this is a political quarrel, who wanted such a quarrel? Only the White House.
OLBERMANN: General Clark, let me turn from this story—we expected to spend all of our time with you tonight talking about this, but there have been two developments in the Pat Tillman story, a fiasco, there is no other word for it now.
And this awful report tonight, parsing through these documents obtained by the Associated Press that indicate that Army investigators were denied permission to see whether or not Pat Tillman‘s death in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger was a deliberate fragging, was a case of murder, even though the shots were seemingly so close together in his head that they looked to the doctors on the scene that they might have been fired from only 10 yards away.
Not only was their access denied here, but the Army lawyers were congratulating themselves in e-mail traffic from keeping this from becoming a criminal investigation. Do you think this case is still wide open?
WOLFFE: Absolutely. And it should be. The evidence of some problems is very, very clear. Mary Tillman and the Tillman family have been incredibly courageous in pursuing the truth in this. And the truth is not yet out. If there is even a hint that there was something like a homicide or a murder in this case, it should have been fully investigated and proved or disproved.
And we don‘t really know how far up—was it the secretary of defense‘s office? Was it the White House? Where did the idea that you shouldn‘t give any indication of what happened to Tillman—just go ahead and go through with the burial ceremony, give him the Silver Star, where did that—where was that idea blessed?
You can be sure that that idea did not originate or stop at the two- or three-star level. That was—someone approved that all the way to the top because Pat Tillman was a political symbol used by the administration when it suited their purposes.
OLBERMANN: Well, we have assumed from the beginning that that was exactly the scenario, that this possibility that his death from friendly fire would somehow affect in some way that neither of us have ever been able to understand, somehow affect people‘s appreciation for his patriotism and his sacrifice.
Does it not begin to look more and more like that we‘re going in the wrong direction in this? That they were not trying to protect something slightly negative from coming out, but in fact protecting the accusation that his mother has made and has not gotten a lot of attention to that perhaps he was indeed murdered? Were we actually underestimating what was being covered up here?
WOLFFE: It‘s very possible. We just don‘t know, Keith. I think the responsible thing for the Pentagon to do and for the Congress to do is to demand that the investigation be reopened and people all the way up the chain of command to the very top discuss what happened, when, why. We get to the facts about why the murder charge wasn‘t fully investigated.
I looked at some of the investigations. I looked at the tape. I looked at the rerun of the scene. I have met with the Tillman family. And honestly, the distance—even the investigator said that the shots were fired at less than 100 meters. And OK, the light was failing, but he had a clearly recognizable silhouette, his weapon was clearly visible, the type of weapon.
It‘s really hard for people to understand this. The investigation needs to be reopened and followed through to its conclusion.
OLBERMANN: As opposed to the ruling today that a three-star general is likely to be demoted and other officers will be admonished and that‘s it so far. General Wesley Clark, former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe, our great thanks as always for being with us, sir.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, did you finish the Harry Potter book? Do you still have some unanswered questions about the plot? Much to our surprise, the author J.K. Rowling provides some of the answers, the ones she left out of the final novel.
And you don‘t really want to meet Oscar the cat in person, because Oscar can apparently tell if you‘re going to die today. Yikes. Coming up on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Eight-six years ago today, Jean Parker Shepherd was born. It is impossible to overstate his influence on American comedy. His radio monologues presaged Garrison Keillor, and influenced many who went into other kinds of humor like Jerry Seinfeld, Spalding Gray, and cartoonist Bill Griffith.
His works became the movie classic “A Christmas Story,” and he narrated it, plus, we‘ve been able to find and steal the original recording of Shep‘s theme song, Eduard Strauss‘ “Bahn Frei,” which you will hear shortly after I say, let‘s play “Oddball.”
There it is, wooo, keep your knees loose. We begin at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. And it‘s the “Oddball” dog chase of the week. We‘ve got a dog on the runway, boys. Is that Vivy (ph)? Anyway, this stray pooch strayed onto the tarmac near Terminal 4 at around 6:00 a.m. Airport security gave chase across several runways as an inbound U.S. Airways jet had to be diverted.
The pooch was eventually apprehended and then adopted by a group of airport mechanics who now call the doggy Mr. Barkie von Runway Incursion (ph). I made that up. Actually, animal control took it to the pound.
To the Internets, viral video from China, home of NBA great Yao Ming.
But don‘t let that fool you, there they are still working on the basics.
(VIDEO OF BASKETBALL BACKBOARD FALLING FORWARD ONTO PLAYERS)
OLBERMANN: Revenge, revenge of the backboard. Yes, before you take it to the hole, make sure that the basket is fastened to the ground. The kid looked like he lost his head in the accident. Did not be, that case, but it turned out to be a close shave, dunk you very much.
Somebody in the government wants to make us to think there have been close terrorism shaves on airplanes lately, except, one of the examples turns out to have been a leaky pain aid belonging to a 66-year-old woman named Sarah Weiss (ph).
And a celebrity interview with actual news in it. J.K. Rowling reveals plot details she left out of the final Harry Potter book. You may want to get a pencil and a piece of paper and write all this down with your wand, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: A prominent office building in Washington, housing the local headquarters of ABC News, was evacuated today after workmen found a suspicious powder in the basement, Aspirin. The airport in Long Beach, California was evacuated today after the discovery of a suspicious device, a video game. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, you can‘t do anything but evacuate and you can‘t keep it a secret when you do.
Once again, if the government finds something initially suspicious in airport baggage, does it have a right to reveal its suspicions without revealing the later innocent explanations? What was theorized and proclaimed a possible terrorist dry run turns out to be a leaky cold pack inside the luggage of a woman in her 60‘s.
And once again we must examine the nexus of politics and terror. The bulletin from the Transportation Security Administration; “Incidents at U.S. airports may suggest possible pre-attack probing,” raised the specter of possible dry runs to law enforcement and airport officials, dated July 20th, last Friday, but not leaked to the media until four days later on Tuesday. We‘ll return to that curious timing in a moment.
The bulletin cited incidents, quote, resembling improvised explosive device components at U.S. airports from last September to now, including blocks of cheese packed in luggage near a cell phone charger or near wires. And, in another instance, ice packs that, quoting from the bulletin, had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel. But those ice packs at San Diego‘s Lindbergh Field contained the usual blue gel, according to the local TSA security director there.
They belonged to a woman named Sara Weis (ph), 66 years old. They had leaked, creating what the chief of police of San Diego described as a clay like substance around the edge of the packs. There was tape on them too. It turned out that was clear tape and not duct tape. Thus, the local TSA director does not know why the TSA in Washington incorrectly identified it as actual clay in the bulletin, nor is anybody saying anything about why, when interviewed afterwards, Miss Weis, who owned that bag, the first question asked to her, according to an interview she gave tonight to ABC News, was do you know Osama bin Laden?
Of course, remaining open the question about the cheese. The answer to all of it really could be found in that bulletin, which said initial investigations did not link passengers carrying these items with terrorist organizations. And the TSA has since said on its website that it sends these alerts out routinely, 90 over the past six months. Which bring us back to the timing of the bulletin‘s release to the media, coming on the same day that Republican Senator Specter told Alberto Gonzalez that, quote, your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable. And on the same day “the New York Times” reported that generals in Iraq envision U.S. troops to be there through 2009.
Joining us now a senior writer at the “Philadelphia Daily News,” Will Bunch, who detailed some of this in his superb online blog. Will, good evening.
WILL BUNCH, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS: Hi Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Not bad. We also know now that those local TSA screeners in San Diego spent three hours clearing this poor woman‘s baggage and, in the end, she said I‘ll throw out these leaking ice packs if that will make it easier. And they let her get on a plane. You wrote yourself the local officials did the right thing. But to put to you your own question, why did the TSA officials in Washington place blatantly incorrect information in a bulletin that is sent nationwide and leaked to the media?
BUNCH: That‘s the exact question here, Keith. I mean, we have a three-step process. First, as you said and I said, we have TSA screeners who are doing a good job. They were checking out something in baggage that didn‘t look right. And they spent several hours with this woman. I don‘t think anybody has a problem with that.
Then the next step is the TSA officials and their bulletin—put out this bulletin. The information is just flat out wrong in some cases. As you reported, this was not clay. This was just a leaky bag, leaky ice pack. And they put four of these incidents together. None of these incidents—three of them have been reported on in the local papers now. None of them sound like a dry run at all.
These were U.S. citizens, like this woman who you talked about, and it was put together to make this bulletin. And then the third step is how did this get leaked to the media? It was leaked to a couple major news organizations. And all yesterday afternoon it was top of the hour lead story in the afternoon, bumping these other stories off the news, Gonzales, the contempt citations from Congress and all the other stories.
OLBERMANN: Does that not underscore the ease with which someone could, on any given day, given that they had 90 of these bulletins over the past six months, just let one fall in the hands of the media for that purpose, or are we being utterly too cynical here?
BUNCH: No, I don‘t think we‘re being too cynical at all. It‘s good that these transportation safety officials share some of their raw information. When the raw information gets packaged in a certain way like this—and clearly this was packaged and shipped to the media in a way that I—particularly the use of the word dry run. I don‘t know who used the word dry run first.
But once that phrase dry run—that‘s a scary sounding scenario. You can see why, at first blush, people in the media would run with this phrase, terrorist dry run. It sounds horrible. We‘re at the height of the summer travel season and none of the evidence suggest that it was going on.
OLBERMANN: Will any clue on the cheese—first off, the story was that the wires were in the cheese. Now we‘re hearing, no, they were next to the cheese. There was cheese and then there were wires. There were cell phone components. If there is cheese inside a—or wires inside of cheese, that could look like plastic explosives with a detonator attachment. That could look like a dry run.
Is that the final version of the story or is it just things were near each other?
BUNCH: Well, there were two of these Velveta-capers or whatever you want to call them. One was in Baltimore and apparently that was a person‘s DVD charger that was placed next to some processed cheese that for some reason they decided to bring on their vacation. In Milwaukee, which I guess is the processed cheese capital of the world, it hasn‘t been reported yet what that cheese was or what the wires were that were next to it. We don‘t have enough information about that.
So far three out of four were talking about things in suitcases that were a little bit funny that were near each other. But again, they didn‘t appear to be the work of any terrorist doing any dry run. There were no arrests in any of these cases. That should tell you something.
OLBERMANN: Will Bunch, senior writer with the “Philadelphia Daily News,” and before we go, I wanted to share something with the viewer.
Front page of the student paper at the Hackely School in Tarreytown, New
York, February 21st, 1975; here‘s the lead article with the byline from
your senior editor in chief, yours truly—Bill Roberts being the
president. And here‘s our then cub reporter, “85 Percent of Seniors
Propose Projects” by William Bunch. It‘s nice to see you recovered from
working from me, Will
BUNCH: That‘s why I went into journalism, Keith. I learned from the best.
OLBERMANN: Well, I hope you learned from better than me later on.
BUNCH: You‘re welcome, Keith. Good to see you again.
OLBERMANN: Meet Oscar the cat. Oscar—well, Oscar apparently decides who lives and who dies. Oscar, you‘re needed over at Lindsay Lohan‘s career. Mrs. Lohan is upset about this next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Part of it makes perfect rational sense. Part of it has the makings of an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or M. Night Chamalon‘s (ph) next movie. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, if dogs can warn their owners when a seizure is imminent, and helper monkeys can aide their unconscious human masters, why shouldn‘t a cat in a Rhode Island nursing home be able to sense when a patient is about to die.
On the other hand, this cat appears to be able to sense when a patient is about to die. Our correspondent is Lee Cowan.
LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the third floor of the Stearhouse Nursing Home in Providence, Rhode Island, bedside manner has a name, Oscar. In between naps, the two-year-old cat makes his rounds, poking his nose into patient‘s rooms. It‘s a pretty busy schedule. He only stays when he has to, when he somehow knows that a patient‘s time has come. That‘s when he curls up beside them and waits. Jim Abeshouse sees Oscar every single day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other day I was sitting by Barbara‘s bed. He jumped on my lap. Then he jumped on the bed. But he only stayed a couple of minutes. I guess he knew everything was under control, so he just left, which is good. I‘m glad he didn‘t stay.
COWAN: What a relief. Oscar is hardly ever wrong. He has predicted death accurately in 25 cases over the last year and a half. He has been commended by Hospice and now even the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has taken notice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the accuracy is remarkable.
COWAN: Dr. David Doza (ph) wrote Oscar‘s story, mostly out of amazement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This cat has nailed it on every occasion and frequently we‘re wrong.
COWAN: No one can explain it. There are a host of theories. Perhaps it is scent. Maybe he is used to the nurse‘s routines. It may all be biochemical.
(on camera): Whatever it is, there is something oddly reassuring about all this. Oscar isn‘t so much a grim reaper as he is a comfort to those lucky enough to have family members around or a final companion for those who don‘t.
CATHY SALLS, NURSE: They want to know somebody else is there.
COWAN: They‘re not alone.
SALLS: They‘re not alone.
COWAN (voice-over): A curious cat with a curious gift, providing a quiet answer to that uncomfortable question that all of us will eventually ask.
Lee Cowan, NBC News, Providence, Rhode Island.
OLBERMANN: Curiosity killed the cat, but as we start Keeping Tabs, probably a good idea to keep the grim reaper away from Lindsay Lohan‘s career. Lohan had been booked on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Tuesday. But after her arrest early that morning, actor Rob Schneider pitched in, dressed up in drag—I think—prompting this response from mommy dearest, quote, “We have a great respect for Jay Leno, but we are disappointed in the path he chose to allow a guest to make light of a very serious situation concerning Lindsay.”
No word if Mrs. Lohan is likewise disappointed in the path her daughter has chosen to follow or if she, perhaps, is disappointed in her own parenting skills.
The man who formerly claimed to have impregnated Anna Nicole Smith and is currently, inexplicably, married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, has a new tale to tell. Prince Frederick Von Anhult telling “Entertainment Tonight” he just happened to be driving by Sunset Boulevard when he was forced off the road by three gun toting ladies. He claims they stripped him of all his possessions, including his clothes, and left him handcuffed to a steering wheel.
If you believe that version of events, he has a princedom to sell to you. They were Marilyn Monroe, Ursula Andras (ph) and Leslie Andown (ph). What happened to all of the characters in the Harry Potter series after the last book ended? Believe it or not author J.K. Rowling is ready to tell you even after she left that data out of the last book. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to Mike Prejorick (ph), head of public works for Carey, North Carolina. Resident Vinay Jane (ph) had complained that his tap water tasted funny. Little did he know, one day the city turned off an irrigation pipe, all of Mr. Jane‘s sprinklers went dry, but their taps still work. For Mr. Jane, his tap went dry but the sprinklers worked fine.
Yes, the city had connected its sprinkler system to the drinking water pipes and his house water pipes were connected to this treated waste water in the city sprinkler system pipes. He had been drinking treated waste water, only intended for sprinkling the lawn.
Our runner-up, Bill-O, who is now losing his death match with the website the Daily Kos. The latest foot in mouth, what is the difference between David Duke and the hate stuff that he puts on his website with his bloggers and this? What is the difference? Well, there is no premium membership at the Daily Kos, say like at BillOReilly.com, where a veteran member posted about Hillary Clinton, quote, if she wins, which hopefully she won‘t, my guns are loaded for the revolt, are yours?
Blogger Mike Stark, once Bill-O‘s target in the Fox security episode reports that the FBI was advised of that and other threats against the senator‘s life on Bill-O‘s website and the Secret Service is now investigating. So Bill, you‘re complaining about hate speech on a website while the Secret Service is investigating your website for hate speech and death threats? Bill-O, you were a punter, punt!
Who could beat that, only our winner, Coulter-geist. One of the great unintended confessions of all time; in her latest column she writes, quote, Fox News ought to buy a copy of Monday‘s Democrat debate on CNN to play over and over during the general election campaign, because, she says, it was so filled with liberal conspiracy theories that would frighten normal Americans.
Surely, Anne, you meant the Republican party ought to buy a copy of Monday‘s debate and use it in ads during the general election. What you just wrote there about Fox News buying a copy and playing it over and over again, that implies that Fox News has some kind of vested interest in making sure the Democrats lose. That is, in affect, the advertising arm of the Republican Party.
Ann, we know that can‘t be the case. Right? It‘s a news organization, neutral, fair and balanced, not propaganda. You keep telling us that. Anne, if you‘re going to claim Fox News would violate its sacred responsibility to report and not decide, I‘m going to have to ask you to step outside, where I will say caught you! Coulter-geist, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: It‘s earned the author an estimated 1.12 billion dollars and earned the American publishers at least a billion more. It has earned the movie makers about four billion, and, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Harry Potter is set to earn everybody even more. The final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” has broken almost every book selling record.
It‘s already helped boost Amazon.com‘s profits nearly three fold for the year. And still to come, two more movies, a theme park owned by our parent company, and even a promised encyclopedia of all things Potterian written by author J.K. Rowling. If you haven‘t finished reading the latest tome yet, be warned; there are a few spoilers ahead. But if you have, there is bonus info, as Miss Rowling shares with Meredith Viera some of what‘s not in the books, like what Harry Potter did for a living when he grew up.
ROWLING: More loved Harry than the two who attacked us. Of course there are. There are hundreds, maybe thousands by this time, seeing as they feed off fear and despair. Once I‘m 17, all of them, death eaters, dementors, maybe even inferi, which means dead bodies enchanted by a dark wizard, will be able to find you, and will certainly attack you.
And if you remember the last time you tried to outrun wizards, I think you will agree you need help.
MEREDITH VIERA, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Finally done. How does that feel?
VIERA: Incredible good? Incredible bad, a little bit of both?
ROWLING: At the moment it feels great, to be honest with you. It‘s a
really nice place to be. I am sad. I was hard to live with for about a
week after I finished this book
VIERA: Because you realized it was over or because you killed off some of the characters? I‘m sure that was hard.
ROWLING: I think the whole thing—it was this amazing cathartic moment, the end of 17 years of work. And it is very much tied into things I have done in my life for 17 years, so it brought back a lot of memories.
VIERA: When you started you were not in the same place you are now, by any means.
ROWLING: Life has its ups and downs. Harry has been with me through a lot. I think it was that feeling more than any other, that I will not have that world to retreat into again. That was painful.
VIERA: Do you feel like you have had to say good-bye to Harry?
ROWLING: Yes and no. He will always be a presence in my life really.
VIERA: You left us hanging a little.
ROWLING: It would have been humanly impossible to answer every single question that fans have. Because I am dealing with a level of obsession in some of my fans that will not rest until they know the middle names of Harry‘s great-great grandparents.
VIERA: People have gotten a little obsessive.
ROWLING: I love it. I‘m all for that. I‘m delighted they feel that way.
VIERA: I know all of you guys have a lot of questions. So we‘re go to start. Omar, let‘s start with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand you mapped out your vision of the books years ago. How far was book seven from that original idea?
ROWLING: It is really close, particularly. The last third of the book is as I have always planned it. It really is. The only exception would be that one character appears in that last third and I thought that character would die in book five when I started writing.
VIERA: Who‘s that?
ROWLING: Mr. Weasley. He was a person that got a reprieve.
VIERA: Why does he get a reprieve?
ROWLING: Well, I had to keep him in, partly because I could not bear to kill him.
VIERA: Did you ever consider killing Harry or Hermione or Ron?
ROWLING: Yes, definitely. I am very proud of the fact that as we went into this book, many readers believed it was a real possibility that Harry would die. That‘s what I was aiming for, that you really felt that anyone was up for grabs.
VIERA: Did you worry at all when you were writing the book that you might have just devastated a lot of kids by taking Harry?
ROWLING: Of course that affects you. I can remember meeting a boy who said to me please never ever, ever, ever kill Hagrid, Dumbledore or Sirius. I knew I had already done it. I had already killed Sirius. I can‘t pretend that looking at him I did not feel quite awful.
VIERA: Over all, the loss of which character brought you to tears?
ROWLING: Definitely the passage that I found hardest to write of all in all seven books—and the one that made me cry the most—was chapter 34 in this book, when Harry sets off into the forest. I had this enormous explosion of emotion and I cried and cried and cried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything you wish you had or had not written in Harry Potter, mainly deaths?
ROWLING: The deaths were all very, very considered. I don‘t kill even fictional characters lightly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the end you tell us that Neville is a professor at Hogwarts. What do Harry, Hermione and Ron do?
VIERA: That‘ what everyone wants—
ROWLING: Harry and Ron utterly revolutionize the auror department. And Hermione, well, I think she is pretty high up in Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
VIERA: Why didn‘t you mention that in the book?
ROWLING: To tell the truth, the first draft of the epilogue was a lot more detailed. But it did not work very well as a piece of writing. I do have that piece of information for you should you require.
VIERA: We have had a lot of e-mails from people who have read the book and have questions. I want to go through some of them. Was Snape always intended to be a hero?
ROWLING: Is he a hero? I don‘t really see him as a hero. He is spiteful. He is a bully. All these things are still true of Snape, even at the end of this book. But, was he brave? Yes, immensely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Snape didn‘t love Lilly, would he still try to protect Harry?
ROWLING: No, he definitely wouldn‘t have done it. He would not have been remotely interested in what happened to this boy.
VIERA: OK, 19 years later, who is the headmaster at Hogwarts?
ROWLING: It would be someone new. Mcgonagal (ph) was really get on a bit. So, someone completely new. If I ever do the encyclopedia, I am promising I will give details.
VIERA: You‘re going to do that, aren‘t you?
ROWLING: I think I probably will. I am not going to do it tomorrow.
I would really like a break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us a bit about the influences in your work?
ROWLING: It is very, very hard to separate your influences. Things like “Star Wars” or the “Lord of the Rings” or the Harry Potter series; many of—they take the form of quests. They take the form of good versus evil and what that does to people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Harry Potter based on anyone that you know?
ROWLING: No, he is entirely imaginary. So I suppose that must mean he comes from me a bit as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What to you was the most satisfying part of the entire Harry Potter phenomenon?
ROWLING: This, talking to people like you about the books, definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you plan to write more books after this?
ROWLING: Yes, definitely. I will always write. I can‘t imagine stopping writing. I have literally been doing it since I was five years old. I have always been writing. I will still write until I can‘t write any more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you write about wizarding worlds or will it be totally different?
ROWLING: I think I have kind of done the wizarding world.
VIERA: So you can look out at these sweet, innocent faces and say there will never be another Harry Potter book?
ROWLING: I have done my Harry Potter.
OLBERMANN: And you can catch part two of Meredith Viera‘s interview with J.K. Rowling tomorrow morning on “Today.” If you‘re going to stay up reading or re-reading “Deathly Hallows,” we‘ll play part two of it here on COUNTDOWN tomorrow night.
Funny dog gone thing, our vice president has two kids named Riley and Jackson. That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,548th 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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