updated 4/2/2004 3:17:10 PM ET 2004-04-02T20:17:10

Guests: Robin Wright; Ted Cordes Mo Rocca

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The speech Condoleezza Rice was supposed to give, it didn‘t mention al Qaeda, it didn‘t mention Osama bin Laden, it did say the cornerstone of national security policy should be “Star Wars” missile defense.  The speech was supposed to be given on September 11, 2001. 

The nightmare in Fallujah, the day after, more on the victims, more on the desecrations, and more attacks. 

It is April Fool‘s Day in Washington.  You sort out the gags from the reality.  Administration political policy documents left in a Starbucks?  Michael Jackson conferring with House leaders.  Mo Rocca joins us. 

And never mind, “you‘re fired,” how about, “you‘re bankrupt?” 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This government‘s response to terrorism, today, is such that police have now proposed building a security fence around the U.S. capitol and many congressional office buildings, and the Secret Service is reportedly thinking about shutting down underground train service in New York City when the president speaks at the republican convention there, in September.  But in our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, the first real-time picture has emerged of what this government thought of terrorism literally hours before the attacks of 9/11, and it might as well have contained a warning to watch out for foreign troops armed with bows and arrows, arriving here inside the Trojan horse, or on board the Graf Zeppelin. 

The “Washington Post” has obtained portions of a speech that national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, was supposed to make that made passing references to terrorist groups but emphasized the real threats of the coming years were long range missiles.  Dr. Rice‘s speech was to be given at Johns Hopkins University at 5:30 Eastern daylight time September 11, 2001. 

“We need to worry about suitcase bombs, the car bomb, and the vial of sarin released in the subway,” Dr. Rice was to say, “but why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open?”

In pooh-poohing the Clinton administration‘s focus on terrorist groups, Rice was to say that the Bush administration would address, quote, “the threats and problem of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday by spending more money on missile defense.”  Dr. Rice had said essentially the same thing—that the focus needed to be on the so-called “Star Wars” program, on “Meet the Press” 48 hours before the attacks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR:  To get serious about the business of dealing with this emergent threat.  Ballistic missiles are ubiquitous, now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The “Washington Post” correspondent who wrote today‘s piece on the 9/11 speech that Dr. Rice never gave is Robin Wright.  She joins us from the “Post‘s” newsroom. 

Ms. Wright, thank you for your time tonight. 

ROBIN WRIGHT, “WASHINGTON POST” REPORTER:  Nice to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not going to ask you where you got those excerpts from the speech, but I‘m confident that the administration‘s most ardent supporter would like to and are bound to place all this in a political context and not a very pleasant one.  What has the White House‘s reaction been, both in terms of the original story and since its publication today? 

WRIGHT:  Well, the White House did confirm the excerpts that we ran in the paper this morning, so this is not just from other sources or former administration officials.  The administration understandably was not pleased that the content of the speech were released, but made the case that, in fact, one speech didn‘t make the difference.  But the story, in all fairness, went to great pains to look at the entire record of the top foreign policy officials in the Bush administration, including the president himself, during those eight months leading up to September 11.  And one of the striking things we found is that there were no significant or extensive pronouncements on Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or Afghanistan during that period.  There was reference to Afghanistan, but in context to the lack of freedom.  There was a lot of talk about terrorism, but at the time, the Bush administration defined terrorism differently.  It looked at the major threat as from rogue states, like Iraq and North Korea, and the major threat from long range ballistic missiles which is why they looked at missile defense as a counterterrorism measure. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned the context.  Richard Clark says he occasionally emphasized the positive in briefing the media on administration anti-terrorism policy.  To what degree could the comments in this speech be indicative of the whole White House mindset, as you describe it, literally though, on the morning of 9/11, and to what degree could they be emphasizing the positive as Clarke said he did? 

WRIGHT:  Well, I think Condoleezza Rice‘s speech really did reflect the mind set of the administration throughout that period, right until the moments that the first plane hit the first tower at the World Trade Center.  This was the dominant theme, the construction of a new—an alternative strategic framework for the post-cold war world for the 21st century.  So, her speech was in many ways, a microcosm of the entire Bush administration term in office right until that moment.  And, that‘s reflected as well in the speech she eventually did give eight months later when she did keep her appointment or her pledge to speak to the Johns Hopkins University.  And, the theme then was very different.  There was not a word kept from the original speech.  It focused entirely on international terrorism from Islamic extremists and then mentioned missile defense but only once and then almost in passing. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously Dr. Rice is now scheduled to testify on the record after some considerable debate, in front of the 9/11 Commission a week from now, on April 8.  The visceral impact of the idea that this was the speech that was to be given on the day of these most horrendous attacks, is there a way to assess them yet?  Are you getting reaction that gives you an idea as to why this speech, more than anything else that the administration might have said before September 11, might stick with people? 

WRIGHT:  Well, the fact that it was given on September 11 really is going to resonate, I think, and probably will be brought up in the investigation—the testimony.  I suspect also that the 9/11 Commission will ask for a full text.  There are democrats on the Hill, including Senator Schumer from New York, who‘s been very active because of the World Trade Center in New York; he called on the White House today, to release the full text. 

OLBERMANN:  Robin Wright of the “Washington Post.”  it was a disturbing, almost a heart breaking story.  Thanks for and it and thanks for your time tonight. 

WRIGHT:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And now perhaps, we know why the White House was so reluctant to have Dr. Rice testify.  We‘ll find out next week. 

Continuing our fifth story, you may want to warm up those “Star Wars” missiles.  NBC News has obtained what appears to be a planning memo authored by an Al-Qaeda militant.  It is almost reminiscent of the books the Nazis compiled on who to round up as they invaded and conquered France, and Poland, and all of Europe.  That chilling news reported tonight by senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Amid the deadlist string of terror attacks worldwide since 9/11, what appears to be a new Al-Qaeda message obtained by NBC News lays out, in chilling detail, a priority list of human targets for terrorists, titled:  “Targets Inside Cities.”  The lengthy document extols what it calls “military diplomacy...written with blood and decorated with body parts.”  And lists preferred targets in the following order of importance:  Americans, British, Spanish, Australians, Canadian, and Italians. 

BEN VENZKE, TERRORISM EXPERT, INTELCENTER:  This document is a play list, if you will, of the future attacks that we can expect to see from Al-Qaeda. 

MYERS:  The message is signed by this man, Abdulaziz al-Mukrin, leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.  And appears in an Internet magazine well known to al-Qaeda operatives and militants—we‘re not showing the web address.  The document seems to suggest going after, not just economic and religious targets, but individuals.  Bankers, businessmen, diplomats, rabbis, missionaries, tourists, even Muslim scholars who cooperate with the enemy.  It also tells terrorist cell worldwide to turn the land of the infidels into hell and provides detailed instructions on how to pass information, yet avoid direct contact that might help police connect the dots. 

STEVE SIMON, FMR. NSC COUNTER-TERROR OFFICIAL:  It shows that there‘s an appetite for this kind of guidance on the part of would-be Jihadists.  It‘s operationally significant because it tell us the kinds of targets that Jihadists are looking for. 

MYERS:  What‘s more, the document boasts that violence works, claiming that the Madrid bombing, which killed 191, toppled the Spanish government and led to a decision to remove all Spanish troops from Iraq.

VENZKE:  Al Qaeda learned that it was able to carry out an operation that would have an immediate political impact and change the position of a country. 

MYERS (on camera):  Tonight U.S. intelligence says the message appears to be authentic.  It preaches that beyond eliminating immediate targets, these attacks achieved dual goals, quote:  “Spreading fear in enemy lines and lifting the morale of the Islamic nation.” 

Lisa Myers, NBC news, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And ultimately, whether Al-Qaeda was the reason or just the pretext for going to war in Iraq, the consequences and the realities there are unchanged.  We saw them yesterday in the ambushing, killing and the desecration of the bodies of four American in Fallujah.  We‘ve learned more about who they were, former Navy SEALS working for a North Carolina security firm.  About what reaction has been to their deaths and about the attacks in the same region that have followed their horrific ends.  Our correspondent in Iraq is Richard Engle. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGLE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today in Fallujah, more violence against Americans.  Three U.S. soldiers injured when their Humvee hit a roadside bomb, later torched by local residents.  This city still burning with anti-American rage and there seem to be no regrets in Fallujah for yesterday‘s barbarism when residents killed, dismembered, and drags four Americans through the city. 

“It was a wonderful act of holy jihad,” said this man.  “We are delighted to kill Americans.” 

AMB. L. PAUL BREMER, CHIEF U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ:  The cowards and ghoulds (sic) who acted yesterday represent the worst of society. 

ENGLE:  Today a warning.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMET, DEP. DIR. COALITION OPS:  The Coalition Forces will respond.  They will be in that city.  It will be at a time and a place of our choosing.  It will be methodical, it will be precise, and it will be overwhelming. 

ENGLE:  The shocking savagery in Fallujah was front page news around the world, but in Iraq, barely a mention.  Of the 12 daily paper we picked up at random today, eight didn‘t have cover the story at all.  The chief editor of the “Saba” newspaper, which only carried a single mention on an inside page, admits now it was a mistake. 

ISHMAEL ZAVER, IRAQI NEWSPAPER EDITOR:  Would I say that some people might, don‘t like to show it because of the shame they feel. 

ENGLE:  But shame is rarely voiced by many Iraqi newspaper editors who routinely print lies and slander.  The U.S. threatened to shut this editor‘s paper, for claiming American soldiers deliberately murdered an Iraqi child. 

(on camera):  The U.S. is so concerned about perceptions on Iraqi streets, that in November it established a 50-member team to put together a daily classified report called “The Mosquito,” detailing all the rumors in the Iraqi media.  It‘s become required reading for top U.S. officials, here. 

(voice-over):  But this week, protests when the U.S. did shut down a newspaper run by a radical Shi‘ite cleric.

DAN SENOR, COALITION SPOKESMAN:  Using a newspaper to provoke violence is unacceptable.  In a democratic society, it is still unacceptable. 

ENGLE:  The paper‘s cried censorship, accusing the U.S. of giving Iraq democracy and then taking it away.  But the worry here, that irresponsible words can inspire the most heinous of actions. 

Richard Engle, NBC news, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Opening the COUNTDOWN tonight with terror:  The White House focus, pre and post 9/11, and the fallout political and mortal. 

Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story:  The decency battle on the airwaves. 

Move over, Miss Jackson, the FCC may next be coming after Oprah Winfrey. 

And later, taking on the Trump:  Matt Lauer asks the questions, knowing full well he will not hear the dreaded words, “you‘re fired.”

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Up next on COUNTDOWN:  You can say the work “God” and you can say the word “damn” but put the two together and you could be in trouble with the FCC, say nothing about talking about salad recipes.  We‘ll explain all about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  They could have been talking about what was for lunch.  They could have been serving recipes for their low cab diet, but in this case, the tossed salad did not arrive ahead of the entree.  Now, could it now arrive with a fine?  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN:  The fickle finger of the decency debate now points at Oprah Winfrey.  The FCC has begun to review complaints about her top-rated talk show, and though they are remaining tight-lipped about the probe, speculation centers on an episode of “Oprah” that focused on teen sex.  In case you are eating a salad right now, you may want to hit mute. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, THE “OPRAH WINFREY” SHOW:  Let‘s talk about that secret language, Michelle. 

Yes.

WINFREY:  I didn‘t know any of this. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have—yeah, I‘ve gotten a whole new vocabulary, let me tell you. 

WINFREY:  I did not know any of this.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Salad tossing.  Cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes. 

WINFREY:  OK, so what is a salad toss? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There is nothing else I can say about this that is either relevant or true.  We‘ve left the rest to your imagination but Ms. Winfrey did not and to all the people who are up in arms about the episode, the loudest is not some stay-at-home housewife or stay-at-home mom, it‘s Howard Stern.  The shock jock at the top of the FCC‘s most wanted list has been raving about the indecency of “Oprah.”  His charge is not that she went too far but that she should be fined just like him or that neither of them should be. 

All this coming the day after the National Association of Broadcasters announced it is considering a return to a voluntary decency code, something reminiscent of the self-imposed haze office that the motion picture industry instituted to fend off government control and regulation in 1922. 

Ted Cordes is a 35 year veteran of the television industry, recently he served as vice president of program standards at NBC, he was in charge of approving all the network‘s entertainment programming. 

Thank you for your time this evening, sir. 

TED CORDES, FMR. VP NBC STANDARDS:  Sure, glad to be here. 

People tend to be...

CORDES:  It‘s an interesting time.

OLBERMANN:  Yeag, and one of a series of interesting times.  People tend to forget the context in stuff like this.  Are we seeing a change that is permanent in how broadcasting is watch dogged?  Or is this another swing of the pendulum? 

CORDES:  I think nothing that is ever permanent.  I—things last for more than two months, it‘s unusual, they change daily.  Whatever‘s happening out there in the world influences television.  Television follows the currents and whatever the currents are, they‘ll be reflected and that will be changed. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned that—the currents and current events and

events in the world.  The impact of news and no one, I think, in news can

forget what happened six years ago now, on the predecessor program to this

one, I would not even use the word “affair” to describe the Monica

Lewinsky/Bill Clinton story just to try to be a counterweight to how much -

·         what was considered acceptable language had changed just because of that news story.  How key was that Clinton/Lewinsky nonsense to, sort of, accelerating the pendulum swinging first outwards and then back? 

CORDES:  I think it ranks right at the top of thing that have influenced television changes.  People ask me often:  “Are we influenced most by cable, the “Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under, or what influences us the most?  I always answer that I think Monica and Bill were the one that have influenced more.  Words were used, terminology was used, first of all in news, and in the newspapers, and then people became accustomed to hearing these things and then it spread over into regular entertainment programming.  People became accustomed to hearing and it television will reflect this. 

OLBERMANN:  A lot of writers and performers have been upset over the years, and obviously still today, with what they see as double standards regarding content regulation, if we want to call it that.  Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey essentially talked about the same topic, this business we don‘t have to go into detail about regarding teenage sexual terminology.  They use the same terms, and we report on it here.  So, that‘s they different shows, but only Howard Stern is threatened with a fine.  Are there double standards?  Should there be one?  Should there be times and phrases where words and phrases and topics are OK and others where they‘re not? 

CORDES:  Well, you mentioned three shows and three different standards, so there you have a triple standard.  There‘s as many standards as there are shows.  No two—no two instances are the same.  And what the FCC will do, they‘ll take this complaint—they take all complaints, they‘ll consider it, they look at the context.  I could give you examples of shows that air at the same time—the same time periods and they don‘t have the same sorts of standards because of audience expectation.  Audience grows to know what a show can do, what they will do, and that‘s what they expect of the show, and if the show violates this, if they go overboard or go off the bounds of what the audience expects, then they‘re going to get into trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  Hence perhaps, all the reaction to the events of the Super Bowl.  Ted Cordes, the former vice president of NBC standards.  Many thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

CORDES:  Sure.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  The last word on all this is still up for grabs, but the last laugh has been awarded to Howard Stern.  After weeks of warning his show would be yanked off the air all together, today millions of listeners tuned in to the Howard Stern show and heard this, from the general manager of Stern‘s home station Viacom, quote, “can no longer bear the weight of the government pressure and its affects on our corporation.  While we‘re sorry to end the “Howard Stern Show,” we promise quality programming in the future.”

After two disk jockeys played music for nearly one hour, Stern finally came on the air to advise his listeners to check their calendars.  Not your ordinary April Fool‘s Day joke. 

Still on the No. 4 story, talk about comments from employers.  Host, Steve Ducey, from “Fox News” may be hearing similar sounds of disapproval from his own bosses.  In a speech to a Christian school dinner in Abilene, Texas, Ducey told a crowd of about 400 that 9/11 had awakened a morally permissive world, hence the reaction to Janet Jackson.  He also blasted cell phones that take pictures, quote, “I just don‘t want to see somebody naked on my phone.”  And he also ripped—Bart Simpson?  “It was so shocking,” Ducey said of the fictional boy who made the Fox television empire possible.  “And don‘t get me wrong, I‘m all for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  I just don‘t want to hear cartoons cussing.” 

You think you heard cussing from the cartoon?  If Fox reacts as it usually does to its own employees who criticize that corporation, Mr.  Ducey‘s going to hear a lot of cussing in Australian.

And lastly, four more things you should know about tonight‘s No. 4 story.  The top four real-life “Oprah” shows that might have made you blush. 

No. 4:  Releasing your inner sex pot:  Making over your sex life with lesson like pole dancing 101. 

No. 3:  Suburban teens, the new prostitutes:  How pimps are making their ways into good homes. 

No. 2:  An unrelated story, secrets of sperm donation. 

And No. 1:  Randy Jackson:  Inside a gastric bypass. 

Where‘s the FCC when you need it?

Two down and three to go, up next here, those news items that just have to be seen to be believe.  The collection of absurdities called “Oddball.”

Run, Rover, run.  I know you can make it to the easy pass lane. 

Then later, a police release of a statement.  A strange statement on the investigation into the alleged abduction of Audrey Seiler.  There now seems to be inconsistencies in the case, but they‘re still searching for a suspect, details ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause to it instead bring you those oddities of news.  Yesterday we said you needed to drive off the highways and interstates to instead find the stories on the dusty back roads.  Well, sometimes it‘s the other way around.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Release the hound! A very large Afghan, the dog, not the sweater/blanket, got loose on the Southfield freeway in Detroit during the morning rush hour. 

There‘s a dog on the southbound Southfield. 

For half an hour he made much more progress than did commuters.  At one point, he even busted out of a police snare and caused this man‘s hat to fly off for some reason.  Finally, what was apparently the dog‘s owner showed up, then the hound let the man lead him away with the leash.  The leash was the guy‘s belt which certainly would explain how the poor dog wound up loose on the freeway in the first place. 

(SINGING):  And come and listen to a story about a town named Irving, a Texas city where the fishes now are swerving, because one day they were processing some sewage and up through the ground came some bubbling gooage.  Effluent (ph) that is, liquid filth, Texas pee.  Well, the first thing you know, the Trinity River‘s not clear.  Town folks said let‘s move away from here.  Said the intake line at the plant was out of and it everywhere you looked was black flowing—trouble. 

On the other hand, in Pleasanton, California, it is not raining crap, it‘s raining fish.  They deadly Pipe Fish can travel at speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour.  No, this is the restocking of the Shadow Cliff‘s regional recreational area for the upcoming fishing season.  There it is, 750 pounds worth of Thunder Trout! Thunder trout! Tan in color, a light red horizontal stripe, and sportsmen, are they ever elusive.  And when well mobilized, 30 or 40 of them can pull a fisherman out of the boat, yank his pants over his head, and send him to Davy Jones‘ locker, in less than 10 minutes. 

All of which brings to us two “Oddball” stories are attacked to the thematic hip.  Floyd W. Schuler of West Virginia is suing U.S. Airways claiming it did not warn him about the adverse effects of drinking while fly.  Mr. Schuler was aboard a 1999 flight when he had a couple of adult beverages. 

Upon deplaning at his destination, Southwest Florida International, Mr. Schuler promptly plummeted down the escalator.  His suit seeks damages in excess of 15,000.  He insist that‘s U.S. Air was negligent in not warning him that the effects of alcohol are greater at night on airline passengers.  Mr. Schuler was 57 the, and apparently didn‘t know too much about the connection between drinking alcohol and getting drunk from it. 

And a victory in a similar suit in Brazil.  Bernd Naveke has won $2 million there, in damages, from a brewery.  The brewery at which he worked.  The brewery at which he worked as a beer taster.  The brewery at which he worked as a beer taster for 20 years and became and—ta-da—and alcoholic.

Resuming the COUNTDOWN, tonight‘s No. 3 story is next, beneath the veneer of serious statesmanship and hallowed walls and halls of government beats an occasionally foolish heart.  Or maybe always a foolish heart.  Mo Rocca join us to do surgery on that heart next. 

And later, Donald Trump gets grilled and gets some competition.  But first, COUNTDOWN‘S top three newsmakers of this day. 

Number three, Justice Dean Mildren of the Supreme Court of the Northern territory of Australia, upon discovering that a career burglar had been let out on bail just as Mildren shouted, who was the idiot who did that?  It turned out; he had let the guy out on bail. 

Number two, Weidong Xu of Boston.  The former Harvard professor bilked 35 people for $600,000 in scams involving SARS research.  He promptly took the 600,000 and lost it in the Nigerian e-mail scam we all got. 

And number one, Mrs. Anette Lie, or Lee (ph) of Norway.  She is the figurative Mother of the nation, having produced over 500 liters of breast milk last year.  She sold it.  Got enough to buy herself a new car.  She said it‘s genetics.  Her mom and grandmother were the same way.  Two words of warning to all visitors to the Lie home.  Protective goggles! 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN with the third story on it.  The politics and in it, every day is April Fools Day.  That having been said, it seems as if the political parties have saved some of their silliest for this annual festival of gags. 

You will recall that Richard Clarke‘s explosive revelations were first heard the day before the release of his book during an interview with “60 Minutes.”  Quotes from that interview now being used in ads by the political organization, moveon.org.  Apparently, it seems without the permission or knowledge of Mr. Clarke. 

Clarke now asking them to cease and desist.  Clarke saying he wants to limit the issues he raised about the Administration‘s inaction in the weeks preceding 9/11 to questions of policy, not questions of politics.  

Move on, also figuring prominently in conspiracy charges leveled against the  Kerry campaign by the Republican National Committee and the President‘s own re-election campaign. 

The formal complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission yesterday charges that the Kerry campaign illegally bulked up its own ad spending.  Doing so by coordinating advertising with organizations like Moveon and the Media Fund.  Both of them so-called unaffiliated outfits which can accept unlimited donations of so-called soft money. 

A senior so-called adviser to the so-called campaign responding, “Bush and the Republicans have taken March Madness and April foolishness to new levels.”  

But wait.  There‘s more.  A Pentagon political adviser leaves a hand drawn map to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s home in Star Bucks.  Dr.  Condoleezza Rice voted “Maxim” magazine‘s girlfriend of the day.  A humanitarian award presented to Michael Jackson.  April fools?  You wish.  Joining me now, the man we often turn to when politics go postal on us. 

That‘s great.  Television personality Mo Rocca.  How is your salad, bud?

MO ROCCA, TV PERSONALITY:  It tastes a little different than when I got it before the show started.

OLBERMANN:  You bet you it does.  Let me begin here.  A Pentagon political advisor scratching out notes on what Secretary Rumsfeld should say on the Sunday morning circuit in response to Richard Clarke?  He then leaves them in a Star Bucks along with a map to the secretary‘s home?  I think this happened in one of Robert E. Lee‘s generals in the civil war.  It is nothing new, but obviously it‘s nothing smart.

MO ROCCA:  Right, sure.  And for a Republican to leave that kind of information in a coffee shop on Dupont Circle is like if Robert E. Lee left that material somewhere deep in the union.  Maybe at the White House.

Not smart.  Although it should all be place in the context.  I have a copy of the note here.  The note did say in part, “we don‘t need to puff this up.  We need to be careful as hell about it.”  Now if I were spinning for them, I would say that was advice on preparing a double macchioto with extra foam.  Because it is very dangerous.  The milk steamers are incredibly hot.  If you don‘t know what you‘re doing, you can get hurt.

OLBERMANN:  Clearly Mo, they were very careful as hell about the document and about how they handled the Richard Clarke thing, leaving it in the coffee shop. 

Next item.  Dr. Rice voted by “Maxim” magazine as today‘s girlfriend of the day.  We‘re not making this up.  There‘s a quote from her on the magazine website. 

“I never sat down and thought, I‘ll be a major in political science and soviet studies, get a PhD, become a professor, serve in the first Bush Administration, become provost at Stanford, and then become National Security Advisor.  Not planning has permitted me to except the twists and turns.”

Mo, especially in light of today‘s story in the “Washington Post”

about the speech that she was going to give on 9/11, talking about how

ballistic missiles were biggest threat to our safety.  How smart is it to

have the National Security Advisor who is talking about how she succeeded

by not planning?

MO ROCCA:  Keith, you have to admit that spontaneity is pretty hot.  I mean, it is a hot quality.  I think that it is fair to say that Condoleezza Rice is our hottest national security advisor.  That‘s not to take anything away from Madeleine Albright or Sandy Berger.  Both of whom are very hot.  Madeleine Albright of course was never actually the national security advisor.  She was just on the council.  I‘ve written a song.  Condi Rice is our National Security Chief.  Isn‘t that nice?  Anyway, she inspires me that way.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll put it on our Web site.

MO ROCCA:  Good.  A sound clip there.

OLBERMANN:  Wasn‘t Henry Kissinger the national security advisor before he became Secretary of State?

MO ROCCA:  Right.  And I don‘t want to offend Jill Saint John by saying that he is not a real looker.

OLBERMANN:  Also, let‘s talk about our favorite humanitarian going to Capitol Hill.  Michael Jackson.  An award from the African Ambassador‘s Spouses Association.  First off, there‘s news right there.  There‘s an African Ambassador‘s Spouse‘s Association.  But he gets an award for his work.  Another example of our tax dollars in action.

MO ROCCA:  I think it was really inspiring to see him on the Hill.  I think that the maxim that Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people should probably be changed to Washington is a Hollywood for really weird looking people that have been driven out of the actual Hollywood.

I think that might be more appropriate.  Look.  The fact is that ever since Jim Traficant was put in the slammer, there‘s been an absence there.  There‘s been a real void.  We need somebody to fill that niche for a lunatic on Capitol Hill.  And I think that maybe he fits the bill. 

It also could be a symptom of Washington feeling withdrawals.  Because Clinton brought along all these fabulous TV stars.  And then after the Clintons left, Hollywood went with them.  So maybe this is the best that Washington can do right now.  The Hollywood star under indictment, I suppose.

OLBERMANN:  Mo Rocca, television personality, and friend of COUNTDOWN, and song stylists and salad consumer.  As always.

MO ROCCA:  This washes away the taste.

OLBERMANN:  It sure does.  Clean it right up.  As always, thanks for joining us.

MO ROCCA:  Nice shirt, right?

OLBERMANN:  I was going to say, it matched the salad.  Thanks Mo. 

Wrapping up the third story tonight.  Number two on the COUNTDOWN ahead.  A violent beating caught on tape.  This is in a correctional facility in California.  Those doing the beating are officers.  Those being beaten are young offenders.  No one charged with a crime. 

Later, the silence of the Simpson‘s.  Why Homer, Bart, Lisa and even Mr. Burns have ceased that infernal tutalling (ph). 

But first, hear what COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.R. TRIPLETT, $239 MILLION JACKPOT WINNER:  I would like to have $5 worth on the wagon wheel.  If I had just spent $1 that day, I would have won it.  I wasted $4, really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You wasted $4.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Speaking of hot, let‘s bring out some of our able-bodied models.  Look at Al. Al has the whole get up on here.  And Al, you look fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is my naughty schoolgirl look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell me about the math again (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even when there is video-taped evidence pertaining to a crime, the outcome is often not what the videotape would initially suggest.  Consider the Rodney King video and the fact that the officers who were seen beating him were found not guilty. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, two cases in which what we see may or may not be what we get.  First to the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility.  This takes place in January in Stockton, California.  You can see two young inmates being repeatedly punched and kicked by guards. 

San Joaquin County prosecutors decided not to pursue criminal charges against the officers, and also four others allegedly filed false documents after the beatings.  But California State Senator Gloria Ramero released this tape released saying she did so to convince prosecutors to reconsider that decision. 

The president, the guards‘ union at the Chaderjian responded that the counselors were defending themselves, and says that out of the camera‘s view, the altercation had spilled out from an office and was much worse than this one angle suggests. 

The second half of the number two story.  Another crime about which questions have been raised.  And in this example, about which questions, about those questions have now been raised.  The kidnapping of University Wisconsin student Audrey Seiler.  Our Correspondent Jeannie Ohm joins us from Madison, Wisconsin.  Jeannie, good evening.

JEANNIE OHM, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you Keith.  It has been a strange day, to say the least.  First of all, we‘ve heard from a few of Audrey Seiler‘s friends, and they‘re very upset with what has happened in the last 24 hours. 

Yesterday they got great news that their friend is OK and happily reunited with her family.  Then they watch, as public opinion seems to turn against Audrey Seiler.  People openly questioning her credibility.  And adding to the confusion, police have released very little information.  And this afternoon, the police chief read a statement that seemed to be more confusing and raise more questions than answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASSISTANT CHIEF NOBLE WRAY, MADISON POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Like in any other major investigation, there may be inconsistencies.  But we are continuing forward with this investigation.  Let me repeat that.  Like in any other major investigation, there may be inconsistencies but we are continuing forward with this investigation.  It is not our role or the role of police, of a police department to speculate on the outcome of an investigation until it has been completed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OHM:  And to show that Madison police are actively pursuing this investigation, at that news briefing they did release a composite sketch.  A description that Audrey first gave to detectives.  A white male in his 20‘s with a few more details added about the rectangular shape of his face, and his chubby cheeks.  Again, Madison police saying they are moving forward with the investigation.  Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Jeannie Ohm covering the aftermath of the Seiler kidnapping in Madison, Wisconsin.  Many thanks. 

From the truth being stranger than fiction, to the inescapable fact that the makers of fiction are stranger than anything.  We have our nightly round up celebrity news that we call “Keeping Tabs.”  And it is more don‘t, than excellent! 

The trade paper variety reports that the six stars of the Simpson‘s have gone on a wildcat strike.  The six have reportedly skipped two script readings in the past three weeks, thus delaying production of next year‘s episodes.  As Homer once told Lisa, if you don‘t like your job, you don‘t strike; you just go in everyday and do it really half-assed.  That‘s the American way. 

Kind of on strike are Dan Castalleneta, and Julie Kavner the voices of Homer and Marge, Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith who play Bart and Lisa.  And Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer who basically play everybody else.  Though it is Shearer who portrays the notorious businessman Mr. Burns.  He appeared here on COUNTDOWN last month.  I asked him if Mr. Burns could offer any advice to then just convicted Martha Stewart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY SHEARER:  I would I advise Martha to do as I would.  To go prison, take your medicine, wait until they privatize the prison, and then buy the dump.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Enjoy that clip.  It might be all the Simpson‘s you get for a while.  “Variety” reports the stars want their pay to jump from about $125,000 an episode to about $360,000.  What good is money if it can‘t inspire terror in your fellow man? 

Speaking of terror and inferior, there‘s Jason Blair.  They may have printed a quarter million copies of his book but they only sold 1,400 of them in the first nine days.  Thus the remainder of the promotional book tour for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) “New York Times” reporter has been canceled, and the unsold 248,000 copies may be used to even up every uneven table in the country. 

Our number one story is up next.  Here‘s a hint why Richard Branson may soon have more than just Matt Lauer to push around.  But first, hear COUNTDOWN‘S top two photos of this day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  His hit reality show may have turned him into the ultimate barometer of success, or at least business survival.  But today, Donald Trump is facing what could be a monumental failure.  The top of the COUNTDOWN tonight, and our number one story.  

Trump‘s famed Casino Empire deep in debt, and on the brink of default.  More on the fire facing the man behind the phrase “you‘re fired” in a moment.  First, one sign that he is still on top, there is now an apprentice to the apprentice.  The British billionaire Sir Richard Branson will play the role similar to that of Trump‘s for a new on FOX reality show, tentatively called “Branson‘s Big Adventure.” 

Like “The Apprentice,” contestants will have to tackle business dilemmas.  But the twist is they will also have to keep up with Branson‘s globe trotting lifestyle, traveling the world over while they try to prove their corporate prowess.  The ultimate prize for the around the world in 80 days with a CEO reality show yet to announced,  catch phrases are being tested.  “You‘re fired, my lad.”

But now the part of his business that Branson probably doesn‘t want to emulate. Donald Trump‘s casinos are in such deep debt, auditors say he could be forced into bankruptcy.  It is a touchy subject for the mogul, whose success is built on a gold-plated image.  But in an interview with Trump, the “Today Show” Matt Lauer did not pull any punches.  Talked to him head on about the possible tarnish to his head.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:  The casinos make less than one percent of my empire so to speak.  It‘s a relatively small investment for me, but it‘s important for me psychologically.  I like the casinos.  The casinos have been very, very good to me over the years. 

MATT LAUER, THE TODAY SHOW:  They were one of the reasons you had such a big turnaround back in the 1990‘s. 

TRUMP:  It‘s one of the reasons I‘m so successful.  I mean I have taken a lot of money out.  Atlantic City has been a great thing; it‘s been a great investment for me.  But the casinos have a lot of junk bond debt on them. 

LAUER:  $1.8 billion worth of debt right now.

TRUMP:  What I‘ve done over the last six months is I focused on the casinos, and I think the casino company will be a very good company in years to come.   

LAUER:  You‘ve got a deal pending now with credit Suisse First Boston.  Basically $400 million they‘re going to put into this section of your company.

TRUMP:  And I‘ll be the big owner of a company, very large equity owner of a company—

LAUER:  But in the deal here, basically you‘ll take a diminished role. 

TRUMP:  Excuse me; my own person is going to be put in the role that I‘ve already put him in.

LAUER:  But what about your personal role?  What‘s part of this deal with Credit Suisse, so they‘re looking at you saying, in your words, you‘re fired? 

TRUMP:  I believe that if I wanted to run the company, they‘d let me run the company.  And I will be running the company as chairman.  But one of my people, one of my men, that worked for me, is going to become the president of the company.

LAUER:  Do you think it is going to turn around?TRUMP:  Have you ever seen me fail?

LAUER:  You‘ve always said that your name is one of your most valuable selling points.  You connect the Trump name to a business, it tends to do better.  Is the Trump name tarnished,   though, if this particular business does not do as well? 

TRUMP:  I think that the name has been a great asset.  But I will also say this.  Nobody has gotten more bad publicity over the years than Donald Trump. 

LAUER:  Why do you think—why are you the target for bad publicity? 

TRUMP:  I just—it‘s an amazing phenomenon,   but I‘m certainly a target.  Now I would say it‘s because of the success of the show.  Brought the name to a level—

LAUER:  That‘s recent though.  That‘s the last few months.

TRUMP:  Over the years, I think I‘ve just gotten tremendously bad publicity.  And I‘ve always been a target somehow for bad publicity.  And no matter what happens, if it‘s just a little bit, whether it‘s a sign on Trump Tower or whether it‘s my hair, I end up getting huge negative stories.

LAUER:  So you have the culmination of the “Apprentice” coming up. 

You are hosting “Saturday Night Live.”  First time ever for that, right?  So the message out there, if the business world doesn‘t go so well, you always have TV?

TRUMP:  It seems to be a rating bonanza.  I don‘t know.  NBC seems to like me a lot as you know the “Apprentice.” 

LAUER:  You‘d be disappointed in the salaries, I promise you.

TRUMP:  No, the salaries are not nearly what I thought.  I was hoping for much more.  Jeff Soka‘s (ph) very tough.  I was really thinking I was going to get a lot more money than they‘re paying me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  If you are going to say something pushy about Jeff Soka (ph) I am going to have to ask you to step outside, buddy. 

Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories.  But before we do that, the number one thing that you still need to know about tonight‘s number one story, Trump‘s austere second in command, Caroline Kepture (ph) may not look it on TV, but the Executive VP with the eyes steely enough to break the top V. school grad is 35 years old.  Only 35 years old.  Good for her. 

Now let‘s recap the top five COUNTDOWN stories.  The ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow. 

Number five, a planned speech from September 11, 2001, revealed Dr.  Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to lay out some of the threats facing the nation.  In the transcript, no mention of al Qaeda nor Osama bin Laden.  She was to say the biggest threat to American security were long-range missiles. 

Four, pointing the finger at Oprah.  The FCC now reviewing viewer complaints against her talk show.  All part of the backlash against indecency on the air, and to many salad recipes.  Just leave it at that.

Three, it‘s always April fool‘s day in the political world.  The recent appearance of Michael Jackson, just one of the many affirmations of the continuing absurdity that‘ is your nation‘s capital. 

Two, crime, and punishment, a violent beating in a California youth correctional facility caught on tape.  Now the officer is under review.   While in Wisconsin, police releasing a cryptic statement about the disappearance of Audrey Seiler, and her friends annoyed at the reference to inconsistencies. 

Number one, taking on the Trump.  He talks money while a rival network talks about an international version of “The Apprentice.” 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being a part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.  

END   

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