updated 4/20/2004 10:32:37 AM ET 2004-04-20T14:32:37

Guests: David Gergen, John Timoney, Dave Newbart, Craig Marks


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

The White House versus Bob Woodward:  The second wave of revelations from his book that the president redirected $700 million from the war in Afghanistan to planning the war in Iraq two years ago.  That Saudi prince saw the war plans before Secretary of State Powell did.  That Powell was Woodward‘s primary source. 

Terror and talk:  The homeland chief is worried about big targets this summer.  The national security advisor, about attacks before the election.  Why then is the threat level unchanged? 

Side impact testing:  Almost no honor student bumper stickers will be given out. 

Worst songs ever:  If you liked Vanilla Ice, Limp Bizkit, Wang Chung, Billy Ray Cyrus or Jefferson Starship, stay tuned so you can get angry. 

And hair, hair, hair, blow it, show it, as long as god can grow it—my hair. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Thirty-one years ago today, riding with his partner, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward of the “Washington Post” took a huge clunk out of the presidency of Richard Nixon.  On that April 19, Woodward helped reveal the first direct link between Watergate and the White House.  Tying, for the time, the scandal, to the former attorney general, John Mitchell and the White House counsel, John Dean.  On this April 19, Woodward is back, is reporting now in book form.  Perhaps taking a huge chunk out of the presidency of George W. Bush. 

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN:  “Plan of Attack” has been released and all it does is suggest that the president secretly diverted funds towards planning Iraq, revealed his war plan to the Saudi ambassador before he revealed it to his own secretary of state, and has such a strained relationship with that secretary of state that the secretary appears to have become a primary source for the book. 

There are five key components to the No. 5 story tonight.  Fifth, the relationship between Secretary of State Powell and the president.  Mr.  Powell‘s evident cooperation with Woodward has quote, “Jolted the White House,” according to the “New York Times.”  Anonymous administration figures are quoted as saying, “the book guaranteed what they expected, anyway.  That Powell will not stay his secretary if Bush is reelected.”

Fourth, Woodward reports that to guard the secrecy of his intent to go into Iraq, Mr. Bush, in July of 2002, initially funded the planning of the war there by using $700 million congress had appropriated for Afghanistan, and doing so without telling congress he was doing so.  White house spokesman Scott McClellan today insisted congress was fully informed of how that money was spent. 

Third, Woodward writes that on January 11 of last year, the president revealed a secret map laying out the precise military plan for attacking Iraq.  This was done for Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar.  This was done two days before the secret map was shown to Secretary Powell.  This was also done, even though map was marked “top secret, no foreign,” new speak not to be shown to foreigners. 

Second, that advance tip to Prince Bandar was a kind of quid pro quo in exchange for Saudi pledge to reduce crude oil prices late this summer or early this fall in order to knock down prices at the U.S. gas pumps just in time to goose the president‘s chances of being reelected. 

And first, Woodward quotes Mr. Bush as saying something that may or may not play too well, even in this fairly religious country.  Asked if he had consulted his father about Iraq, Mr. Bush said he had not, quote:  “You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength.  There is a higher father that I appeal to.  I‘m surely not going to justify war based on god.  Understand that.  Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I be as good a messenger of his will as possible.” 

In a moment, the impact of these five components as gauged by a veteran of four different White Houses, David Gergen.  But, before we talk to David, the White House rebuts, and as our correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports, Woodward rebuts the rebuttal. 


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Bob Woodward describes Powell as being so isolated that the White House told Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar about the war plans before notifying the secretary of state.  Today Powell denied it. 

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  I was intimately familiar with the plan and I was aware that Prince Bandar was being briefed on the plan. 

MITCHELL:  But, in an interview today with NBC News, Woodward describes Powell as unaware when the vice president and defense secretary first briefed Bandar at the White House on January 11, 2003. 

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “PLAN OF ATTACK”:  Rumsfeld said to Prince Bandar, said “you can take this to the bank,” pointing at the map, the war plan, “this is going to happen.” 

MITCHELL:  So Rumsfeld and Cheney tell the Saudis ambassador, that we‘re going to war before the secretary of state was informed. 


MITCHELL:  Woodward says when the president finally told his secretary of state two days later, it was a brief 12-minute meeting to tell him to put his war uniform on.

WOODWARD:  When you tell the secretary of state who has been resisting and laying out the consequences and the problems of war, that it‘s “time to put your war uniform on,” there‘s no ambiguity about that. 

MITCHELL:  But Powell says he and the president discussed a war plan, not a decision, during that oval office meeting. 

POWELL:  He did not could convey to me a decision on that day, either. 

He sent me back to do my diplomatic work. 

MITCHELL:  In fact Woodward and several officials tell NBC News, the president had decided to go to war.  Even though Mr. Bush and the defense secretary, partly to preserve secrecy and placate key allies like Tony Blair, repeatedly denied it. 

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The answer is no.  The president has not made a decision. 

MITCHELL (on camera): Although both the president and Rumsfeld each spent hours with Woodward, some Bush officials tried to portray Powell as disloyal for being a secret source for the book.  Today Powell said “we all talked to Woodward.  It was part of our instructions from the White House.”

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington. 


OLBERMANN:  Now for the insights of David Gergen, editor-at-large for “U.S. News and World Report,” director of the Center of Public Leadership at the Kennedy School at Harvard, and as we always say here, survivor of four different presidential administrations. 

David, thanks again for your time.


OLBERMANN:  Big picture first.  Assess, for me, to what degree George Bush‘s presidency has been impacted by Bob Woodward‘s book.

GERGEN:  Well, I don‘t think that it‘s been hurt, at this point, very

badly because of the mainline of the story, of course, confirm what we‘ve

known in the past, that there was a—an intent, a commit on the part of

the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to go to war very early in the process, much

earlier than was publicly announced.  This does add important elements that

I think are, not only surprising, but disturbing.  The president himself,

is portrayed, in fairly sympathetic light, as a man who‘s asking questions,

had an—seemed to be exercising intelligence and judgment and—you

know, that‘s why the White House has been expressing some pleasure and

Condi Rice said I‘m sure it is a terrific book, even though I haven‘t read

it.  But, I do think it adds elements about the administration that cause -

·         should cause concern, and are disturbing. 

OLBERMANN:  Nobody, not Woodward, not the White House, not Colin Powell is saying, on the record, that the primary background source for most of this book is in fact Secretary Powell, but the “New York Times” reports it today as if it were fact.  The previous presidents have removed key member of their cabinets for far smaller transgressions than that.  Why is Colin Powell still secretary of state tonight? 

GERGEN:  Oh, I think it would be ridiculous to try to let Colin Powell go over this book.  I mean 75 different people talk to Bob Woodward; he‘s got tapes from all of that.  The president of the United States gave two sit-down interviews.  This was clearly a sanctioned book in which people in the administration were encouraged to talk to Bob Woodward.  I saw this before in the Clinton administration in which people were encouraged to talk to him. 

What the White House has got heartburn about is that Colin Powell is not on the same page that they are about what the war looked like and that he appears to be one man who was pressing enough to say this thing has real problems, you—we own it—we break it, we own it.  You know, this was the same role that George Gall played in the Vietnam War; Lyndon Johnson didn‘t listen and George Ball got himself into a heap of trouble.  This president not only didn‘t agree with Colin Powell, but what‘s so stunning about this is how little round tabling they had, how few situations they had.  Here we had Colin Powell in a one-on-one in just a very brief duration to talk about the president‘s decision to go to war, you would think it would be hours of hard discussion asking a lot of questions.  That‘s what the—I think from the president‘s point of view, the weakness of his leadership point of view, is that he doesn‘t seem to be asking hard questions of people and really trying to think this through:  What‘s going to happen?  What‘s going to happen after we get there?  How bad will this gong to be?  After all, Colin Powell and Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft didn‘t want to go to Baghdad the last time around for the very reasons they foresaw this kind of trouble.  Why weren‘t they asking these tough questions at a lot of round tables around the president?  That‘s where the president does not appear to be a strong, effective leader. 

OLBERMANN:  And evidently no one asked the question, can you take $700 million and repurpose it.  The White House is saying that money that was referred to here was appropriated for the war in terror in general, and thus if the president thought in 2002 that the war on terror included planning for a war on Iraq, he was within his rights to spend that money on planning for the war in Iraq.  Are they correct about that?  Or does this one have the makings of something very serious? 

GERGEN:  I would expect that the members of congress are going to ask a lot of questions about this unless they were briefed, unless they were told and gave passive approval.  The White House is saying, yes—

McClellan said they were briefed.  If that‘s the case, they have precious little ground to stand on.  If they were not—and Bob Woodward certainly is making very strong argument, he thinks this may have violated the constitution.  He‘s making the argument basically that they didn‘t, that they kept congress in the dark, and they did divert the funds in ways that subvert the spirit of the constitution. 

I think we need to know more facts before we come to any conclusion on that, Keith.  If the White House has got a defense let‘s see what the congress has to say.  Let‘s hear from them.  I think they—I think the country deserves some answers on some of these things, they deserver an answer on this.  And the question that‘s rising tonight is:  Is George Tenet being hung out to dry as the CIA director in this book by his opponents.  Are they trying to make him the fall guy on this?  They try to say that George Tenet was telling president it‘s a slam dunk case, but he was telling his associate, it‘s not so iron clad, it‘s a little fuzzier than that.  Is that accurate or is somebody really trying to do George Tenet in? 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve only talked about George Tenet as the possible fall guy for all of this, I guess, for about eight months, now. 

David Gergen, advisor to four presidents and frequent guest, here. 

Always worth our time and we hope so for you as well, sir.  Thank you. 

GERGEN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  If you go, by the way, to COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com, you can read excerpts of Bob Woodward‘s book, “Plan of Attack.” 

And this programming note:  Chris Matthews, special guest Wednesday night on “HARDBALL”:  Bob Woodward.  Be there, aloha. 

And one more thing before we leave the No. 5 story:  Politics and presidents.  It‘s all been Mr. Bush so far tonight, to be fair, something about Senator Kerry.  If you missed him on “Meet the Press” yesterday, we have boiled down his 60 minutes with Tim Russert to the most important 45 seconds.  Well the most important 45 seconds based on the news judgment of a show that‘s obsessed with numbers, like ours. 


TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Senator Kerry, welcome. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Glad to be here.  Thank you, Tim. 

First of all, No. 1...No. 2...No. 1...No. 2, then No. 3, we need a president who understands No. 4.  Guess what, Tim?  Eight million...ten million. 

Guess what, Tim?  Eleven million.

RUSSERT:  Senator...

KERRY:  Let me just finish...think of the year 2000...2004...the year 2020...2029...I think we can do better...2037. 

Let me be very clear to you.  You and I earn a lot of money. 

$6 trillion in the last six-five-four years, that‘s what you said, but that said, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4...and here‘s the bottom line:  No. 1. 


OLBERMANN:  And that‘s 30 for today.  Thus the fifth story, Woodward and Bush, Kerry and the COUNTDOWN‘s completed.  Yes, we will show that again later in the show. 

Up next, our No. 4 story, the final word from the final exams:  Side impact airbag tests.  They fail and you may not survive. 

And later the public relations revenge of Wal-Mart?  It has hired image consultants, it is fighting back against cities resisting it. 

But first, like we said, we‘d show you Senator Kerry later in the show

·         like now as our feature COUNTDOWN‘s “Opening Numbers.” 


TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Senator Kerry, welcome. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Glad to be here.  Thank you, Tim. 

First of all, No. 1...No. 2...No. 1...No. 2, then No. 3, we need a president who understands No. 4.  Guess what, Tim?  Eight million...ten million. 

Guess what, Tim?  Eleven million.

RUSSERT:  Senator...

KERRY:  Let me just finish...think of the year 2000...2004...the year 2020...2029...I think we can do better...2037. 

Let me be very clear to you.  You and I earn a lot of money. 

$6 trillion in the last six-five-four years, that‘s what you said, but that said, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4...and here‘s the bottom line:  No. 1. 



OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s No. 4 story is up next.  The grades are in on side impact crash tests.  Forget the seatbelt, forget the front airbag, only one safety measure might be enough to save you and the government is not even requiring it.  Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  There are fewer of them, bad drivers running red lights, American killed on the roads, but as our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN suggests, not fewer enough.  With nearly 10,000 of the 42,000 traffic fatalities last year coming in so-called side impact collisions, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety decided to test how the new mid-size cars did against SUV‘s in such accidents.  As “Dateline” NBC‘s chief consumer correspondent, Lea Thompson reports, the results are nothing short of terrifying. 


LEA THOMPSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  When an SUV comes careening into you from the side...


THOMPSON:  ...it is the deadliest place you can be in a car. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, he hit a car! He just...

THOMPSON:  If you‘re hit from the side, all you have between and you the other guy is a few inches of door and some window glass. 

O‘NEILL:  When we rate cars, what we‘re trying to do is embarrass the manufacturers that have poor performance. 

THOMPSON:  Brian O‘Neill runs the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization financed by insurance companies.  Its mission is to make cars safer and as a result, cut insurance costs and payouts.  All vehicles on the road have to pass a government side impact standard, but this one is much tougher.  The institute use as soccer mom as the driver and this sled represents a high heavy SUV or pick-up, slamming into your car at 31 miles an hour.  Here comes the 2004 Mitsubishi Gallant.

O‘NEILL:  He got a head strike.

THOMPSON:  With a possible skull fracture, the institute gives the Gallant the worst rating:  “Poor.”

The drivers of the 2004 Dodge Stratus, on the top, and the Suzuki Verona, on the bottom, also take very heavy hits. 

O‘NEILL:  A person probably has a very good chance of dying. 

THOMPSON:  They both get “poors.”  The 2005 Nissan Ultima? 

O‘NEILL:  A person would almost certainly not survive the crash. 

THOMPSON:  The Mazda Six?

O‘NEILL:  The kinds of forces that probably in this case would lead to a fatal injury. 

THOMPSON:  Also, both “poors.” 

(on camera):  The institute says in order to avoid serious injury or death, in a side impact crash like this, every person in the car will have to have an airbag to protect the head.  But is that enough? 

O‘NEILL:  No. By itself, it‘s not. 

THOMPSON (voice-over):  Both the Hyundai Sonata, on the top, and the Saturn L, on the bottom, do come with standard side airbags, but the structure of the Sonata collapses too much, and the 2004 Saturn L‘s head curtain is too short for a small driver.  So, they both get “poors.” 

However, a well designed car with head and body side protection can really make a difference.  Here‘s the Chevrolet Malibu without side airbags:  A poor.  But when you add them as an option, the Malibu gets the second highest rating:  “acceptable.” 

This is a low-end Honda Accord without side airbags, on the top, and a higher end accord, which comes standard with them, on the bottom.  The Accord with head protection goes from the worst to the best:  a “good” rating. 

The same thing on the Toyota Camry: a “poor” on the top, a “good” on the bottom.  The only difference in these cars is head and torso side airbags. 

What do makers of these cars to have say about this test?  Nissan says this side impact test is extremely severe, but wants people to know, 45 percent of its new cars have side or curtain airbags as standard equipment.  Honda says all 2005 model accords will get side curtain airbags as standard equipment.  DaimlerChrysler, maker of the Dodge Stratus says, “no single test can determine a vehicle‘s overall safety.” 

THOMPSON (on camera):  What do manufacturers need to do? 

O‘NEILL:  Manufacturers need to start making these side impact airbags that protect the head, standard equipment. 

THOMPSON:  Lea Thompson, Ruckersville, Virginia. 


OLBERMANN:  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it is working on a tougher standard.  Even so, it will not require side airbags, despite the fact that the federal agency‘s own studies show hundred of live would be saved each year with them. 

For more on how your car fared in these tests, and also the side impact ratings on small SUV‘s, log on to COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com, and while you are there, sign up for our newsletter, if you so wish.

COUNTDOWN past the No. 4 story.  Up next, the stories we cannot give the import of a COUNTDOWN number to, but we‘re compelled to tell you about them anyway.  “Oddball” is just around the corner.  Good luck on the corner, fellow. 

Then later, do you ever lie awake at night wondering why that career of Vanilla Ice kind of fizzled?  No, I didn‘t think so.  But, that would be why his hit is on the list of the 50 worst songs ever.  Some of the other big losers coming up—worst song ever. 


OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it to bring you that part of life‘s rich pageant which most resembles the comedy of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.”  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

The Python boys once had a sketch about an escaped sheep who held up banks and eluded the authorities for years at a time.  Sure enough, it has happened.  Well, the eluding of the authorities part. 

New Zealand shepherds have finally apprehend “Shrek, a Merino ram who got loose about six years ago and has not seen a barber since.  They think that‘s him or it could be outfielder Johnny Damon of the Boston Red Sox.  Experts say the six years without a shave meads “Shrek” is carrying enough wool on him to make 20 mens suits, 15 if you want a vest. 

Of course for “Shrek” there‘s another option, just as there was for Bruce Kolevnekov (PH) of Moscow.  This is Bruce, he is not yet 14, yet he‘s already been lost to the world of publicity stunts.  Bruce is pulling trolleys with his hair—he pulled them nine feet, nine-and-a-half inches.  Russian authorities were so impressed; they have hired Bruce to pull one of the trolleys around the streets of Moscow.  Because, if you‘ve ever seen Moscow‘s trolleys, you know Bruce looks like he‘d be a much more reliable form of propulsion. 

And a little sports for you.  Pete Cabrinha has set a world‘s record for largest wave surfed.  Seventy feet high in the area in Maui known as “Jaws.” 

I will now recreate Mr. Cabrinha‘s remarks during his record breaking ride. 

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhh! Splash!

COUNTDOWN continues with our No. 3 story.  Your preview:  Secretary Ridge announcing stepped-up plans to secure high-risk terror targets here at home.  Advisor Rice warning of the real danger of a pre-election attack, but why is the terror threat alert level staying yellow? 

And the news from Iraq:  Some coalition forces calling it quits, and the president naming the man who will deal with Iraq after the transfer of power. 

Those stories ahead first are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

No. 3:  The activist group “Food Not Bombs.”  One of its members, two of its friends, arrested in Tampa yesterday on a charge of quote, “feeding the homeless without a permit.” That‘s right, in the United States, like we were talking about pigeons. 

No. 2:  A rare smart criminal, a guy calls a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Pittsburgh and tells the manager that a thief is headed to the place, but not to worry, the staff should cooperate with the thief, let him leave the building, police will pick him right up.  You see where this one‘s going, right? 

Minutes later, the thief does walk in, the chicken folks give him $200 and he leaves.  And, you are correct, sir, the caller and the burglar were the same guy.  He is still at large. 

And No. 1:  Baseball‘s Philadelphia Phillies.  They have announced the

special promotional giveaway at the old ball yard for Mother‘s Day: A free

pink Phillies cap to all women 15-years-old and older.  Mother‘s Day caps -

·         15-year-olds?  Are you guys sure that‘s the message you want to be sending? 


OLBERMANN:  If, on this ninth anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, you are an American citizen trying to figure out what your government knows and doesn‘t know about terror, what it does and doesn‘t think, what it does and doesn‘t expect, good luck to you. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, what we might call American chatter and how you have to try to interpret it for yourself.  Given that Islamic terrorists believe they influenced the Spanish election with the gruesome bombings in Madrid next month, will they try to do that to our election this fall?  Homeland Security Director Ridge today telling a news industry convention in Las Vegas that terrorists will have plenty of symbolic events to target, including the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington during Memorial Day weekend, the G8 Summit in Georgia, Fourth of July celebrations, the political conventions in Boston and New York and Election Day.


TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  This time, obviously, we do not have specific threat information around any of these events.  But ladies and gentlemen, we do have our common sense.  And we don‘t need a change in the threat level to make us safer and more secure. 


OLBERMANN:  But yesterday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that something before the election—quote—“seems like it would be too good to pass up for them.”

And ABC News added to the anxiety by reporting that a rare secure conference call on April 9 informed law enforcement agencies nationwide that terror operatives ready to conduct—quote—“a potential terrorist attack” are already in place.  However, an internal NBC News report suggests secure calls like that happen all the time. 

Thus, the threat level remain unchanged, still at elevated, yellow, as it has been continuously since January 9, unchanged even though Secretary Ridge spent part of the day ticking off potential juicy targets, Dr. Rice suggested an attempt before the election would seem too obvious to pass up.  No terrorist threat, but a lot of citizens perhaps shaken by those two statements. 

To try to give a color coding to how well we‘re reassuring and preparing the public, instead of just scaring them, I‘m joined by John Timoney, 29 years in the New York City Police Department, four years commissioner of police in Philadelphia, and now chief of police in Miami. 

Chief Timoney, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  When Secretary Ridge or Dr. Rice says this kind of dire thing and people look to the terror alert system and they don‘t see a change, is the government winding up doing more to scare people inadvertently than to educate them deliberately? 

TIMONEY:  No, I don‘t think so.  I hope not.  I‘m certainly not scared and I don‘t see the people of Miami being scared.  I think what you‘re seeing here is the next step, if you will, on refining the system. 

As you‘re well aware, the Homeland Security Office is only a year old.  It started a year ago, March 1.  And it‘s been a learning process.  There were some missteps, but by and large, headed in the right direction, I believe.  They‘ve made a decision a few months ago to go more of a regional threat.  And I think now they‘re going to look toward specific industry, whether it‘s the chemical industry, the banking industry, the hotel industry.  I think that will be the next iteration. 

I think that‘s where Tom Ridge is headed. 

OLBERMANN:  Clearly, if the first goal of a color-coded threat level is an easy means of communication, an instant recognition for government and law enforcement particularly, then the second goal must be making it intelligible to the public.  And I have to admit, I went to college.  I think most of my brain still works.  They‘ve lost me at some point along this line. 

I don‘t know when it goes up, when it goes down, or what I‘m supposed to do differently based on what the color of the day is.  Is that not nearly as big a problem as the risks of terrorism themselves?  

TIMONEY:  In the early days, there was some of that, where there was a feeling that somehow it wasn‘t sufficient just to have law enforcement involved, that there was a notion that somehow you had to have the public involved. 

And I don‘t believe that.  I think there‘s a role for the public, but it‘s kind of a minor role, just really be on the alert, if you will, for something suspicious, but, by and large, assume a normal business.  And I know this seems to be some inherent contradictions.  And then of course, there are pundits all the time looking to poke fun. 

OLBERMANN:  One final matter, Secretary Ridge today formed a new task force to coordinate public and private security for this string of big events that he laid out this spring and this summer.


OLBERMANN:  Who in the private sector gets invited into this process and why them? 

TIMONEY:  That‘s a good question.  I don‘t think they‘ve flushed it out quite yet. 

But I think you could think of obvious stuff, for example, railroad officials, the chemical industry, the nuclear industry, maybe the hotel industry.  Those are potential targets.  The interesting part of today‘s events is bringing in other Cabinet officials. 

For example, the Commerce Department holds sway over many institutions and many of the businesses going on in this country, whether it‘s interstate commerce, the navigation of railroads, a whole host of things.  And I think it is important that other parts of government get involved, that it is not just homeland security, but maybe the Department of Treasury if it involves banks, the whole idea of setting up national standards and making sure that all the industries are complying with those national standards and best practices. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, no one can argue with that.  We‘ve seen in the testimony in the last couple weeks in front of the 9/11 Commission what happens when people don‘t talk to each other. 

TIMONEY:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  So Police Chief John Timoney of Miami, sir, thanks again for your time tonight. 

TIMONEY:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Our third story tonight is not just about security here, however.  It also involves security for Americans there. 

The U.S. military says Monday was a remarkably quiet day in Iraq, not for the family of U.S. Army Private 1st Class Matthew Maupin.  Its members say they were relieved somewhat to see him looking strong on this videotape shot by his Iraqi captors.  Maupin was taken prisoner on April 9.  He is being held as a hostage.  His abductors say they want to trade him for Iraqi prisoners by U.S. sources.  The family also says it has not had any contact with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has offered to go to Iraq and try to free Maupin, as well as American truck driver Thomas Hamill, who was captured the same day as was the private.

That wraps up No. 3 on the COUNTDOWN tonight, threats and targets.  Our second story coming up, winning hearts and minds for Wal-Mart, the nationwide drive to de-demonize the superstore.  Then later, Paris Hilton can write a book—maybe—but reading it is apparently beyond her.  “Keeping Tabs” is ahoy. 


OLBERMANN:  Not content with selling cheap clothes and affordable household items, the world‘s largest retailer now looking to sell itself.  Get ready for the warm and worker friendly Wal-Mart—next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  On any given day, the number of people shopping at Wal-Mart is about twice the entire population of Greece.  But, as the world‘s largest retailer grows ever more mammoth, more and more shoppers seem to be saying no. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Wal-Mart goes on the P.R.  offensive.  Trying to soften its image as a big bad corporate giant, the company has launched a nationwide campaign to convince consumers that it, too, can be a good neighbor. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wal-Mart has revitalized this corner.  They‘ve moved into a building that had been empty for over five years. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘ve brought jobs to the community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘ve given to a lot of the programs that help our youth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They have brought a sense of respect back. 


OLBERMANN:  But not everyone sees the benefits of having a Wal-Mart in their backyard.  In Chicago, some local residents there are battling to keep their city Wal-Mart free. 

Joining to us now to talk about the newest Wal-Mart fight is Dave Newbart.  He has been covering the clash with the retail giant for “The Chicago Sun-Times.”   

Mr. Newbart, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Chicago could be a very good measure of this kinder, gentler Wal-Mart, at least on the face of it.  What is the situation there now and what is the corporation trying to do about it? 

NEWBART:  Well, Chicago is the largest city in the country that does not have a Wal-Mart currently.  And Wal-Mart has looked at its receipts and found in that Chicagoans spend $500 million in its 30 suburban stores.  So it has been fighting to open two stores on the west and south side. 

But some unions and some Democratic aldermen have opposed it, saying they offer low-paying and poor benefits.  And the Chicago City Council actually put on off a vote on approving it last week, two weeks ago.  And now it comes up again tomorrow.

OLBERMANN:  And Wal-Mart is visiting the newspapers and putting on the P.R. smile to try to get this done? 

NEWBART:  That‘s right, yes.

Since the vote was tabled, Wal-Mart has pounded the pavement.  It‘s met with media.  It‘s met community groups, churches, alderman, and basically said, really, our job are pretty good.  They offer good wages.  They average $10 an hour in the Chicago area.  Good benefits.  And you should let us into your community. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, those ads that we saw, the one from Los Angeles that we saw are trying to break this image of the employer that‘s somewhere between the Burns nuclear plant from “The Simpsons” and the factory where Nicholas Nickleby worked. 

But when they were thwarted in Inglewood, California, hoping to build a huge store there, they went right past local government and got themselves on the ballot with an initiative that would have essentially given them a local fiefdom of their own.  Dealing with the local Wal-Mart P.R. effort, as you have seen in Chicago in the last few months, do you get a sense that you‘re being spun or are they making changes in hopes of getting a better public reception? 

NEWBART:  It might be a little bit of both, but there‘s definitely spin involved. 

Union members would disagree with some of the salary levels they‘ve quoted, as well as some of the health benefits, how good they actually are.  And their response to some of the stories in other newspapers about Wal-Mart managers altering time cards or hiring illegal immigrants, also a little bit of spin.  They basically blame the local managers and say these are not company-wide practices.  So it is a little bit of both. 

OLBERMANN:  So we‘ll see the vote tomorrow.  Dave Newbart of “The Chicago-Sun Times,” many thanks, sir.

NEWBART:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And from one damaged public image to another, we segue out of Wal-Mart to our celebrity and gossip segment, “Keeping Tabs.”

And Britain‘s royal family, they‘ve just become a tougher sell than ever.  A Scottish woman claims Prince William of England has shot her cat, not as he‘s dressed in these pictures.  This would be from his debut from his water polo team.  Anyway, Jeshiera Art said that at her home near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, there was the sound of a huge bang, then a light shining on her house and another on her cat, then a few shots.  And they have not seen her cat since. 

Buckingham Palace confirms the prince had been on a rabbit shoot recently near Balmoral, but denies there have been any cat shoots, underwater or otherwise. 

Back home, see if this is making any sense.  James Brown and his wife, Tomi Rae, are seeking annulments so they can then marry each other.  Separated last July, they announced the split in an ad in “Variety” magazine.  The Browns have been plagued by the fact that she had been married previously, but that marriage had been bigamist and, though it was never consummated and it was never officially annulled.

Brown was then arrested in January for striking the Mrs., reportedly over on the annulment, hence this legendary photograph.  So now they want two annulments, one for their marriage to each other, one for her marriage to the other guy.  And then they can get married again and have a fresh start. 

It‘s one thing to seek a fresh start when you‘re James Brown and you‘re 70 years old.  It‘s quite another to need one when you‘re Paris Hilton and you‘re 23.  The Web site Gawker reports that production of a Hilton book—nobody is calling it an autobiography—is well under way despite a huge problem.  That problem, the socialite and Internet porn star has such a short attention span that she cannot sit down long enough to proofread any of the book herself. 

She is said to have it read to her by phone, but even that has not been enough.  Hilton reportedly asked the editors to overnight the picture of herself that will be used on the cover so she could stare at it while the book folks read her own book to her.  This has apparently helped. 

Tonight‘s top story coming up next.  And we‘ll pretend we‘re playing jeopardy.  Here‘s your audio clue. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  It‘s the final countdown.


OLBERMANN:  That musical delight definitely earned its place in our No. 1 story, worst songs ever. 

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day.


WILLIAM HUNG, SINGER (singing):  She bangs, she bangs.  Oh, baby. 

When she moves, she moves.


OLBERMANN:  You can admit to it now.  You‘re among friends here.  You have a favorite song that by any objective standard just isn‘t any good, “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?” by Hurricane Smith, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” from the late Tiny Tim,” “Don‘t Worry, Be Happy,” from Bobby McFerrin. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, worst songs ever, 50 of them as selected by the editors of “Blender” magazine.  Before we give you a sample and a discussion, this warning.  Around the office all day, the various annoying tunes on this list have been hummed, whistled and downright sung.  COUNTDOWN assumes no liability for ear worms nor for goofy Bryant Gumbel sweaters. 


BRYANT GUMBEL:  The best single in all of ‘86 came from Lionel Richie. 

LIONEL RICHIE, SINGER (singing):  Dancing on the ceiling. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  They say the heart of rock ‘n‘ roll is still beating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Rock ‘n‘ roll need not change the world to be valid. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  I‘m too sexy for your body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course I have been for a long time the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN (singing):  Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony. 

VANILLA ICE, SINGER (singing):  Let‘s kick it.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.  Oh, boy, I‘ll never be able to live that out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m ready to rock. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  You can tell your dog about my leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everyone seems to think we‘re this contrived group where some guy sat down and said, I‘ve got a plan.  I‘m going to make this clean cut group. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing):  Are you tough enough?

CELINE DION, SINGER (singing):  You‘re here.  There‘s nothing I fear. 

And I know that my heart will go on.


OLBERMANN:  Craig Marks is the editor of “Blender” magazine.  He compiled this list.

Mr. Marks, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Let me start by getting the background on this.  Every list is subjective, but is there a theme to these 50?  Is there a connecting thread of craptitude? 

MARKS:  Well, they‘re all hits. 

OLBERMANN:  Besides that.

MARKS:  Well, that‘s a big part, though, because we wanted to make sure that they were all popular songs.  And they‘re all in some ways good.  At least they‘re hummable and they‘re catchy, whether you like them or not. 

On the other hand, they‘re all very, very awful.  We listened to

hundreds of songs and managed to narrow it down to 50.  And they all

contain certain connective tissue.  The lyrics are bad.  They‘re clunkily

sung.  They‘re badly written.  They often have the opposite intent than

they meant to.  If somebody tells you to have fun tonight, you never would

by listening to these songs. 

OLBERMANN:  So they‘re instructive or demanding. 

I noticed something else interesting about this.  Worst 50 songs, 33 are from 1992 or later.  But of the 13 worst at the top of the list, 10 are from 1992 or earlier.  Basically, you‘re saying that the worst have been the worst for a long time. 

MARKS:  Yes, well, it takes while for a song to earn that title, I think.  You need to live through it, to hear it at weddings, to have to dance to it at bat mitzvahs, to not be able to get it out of your head for it to be as bad as the top 10. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s briefly go through the top three and why they made it to the top of the infamy charts.  Third was Wang Chung‘s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.”

MARKS:  Right, a song that is no fun at all.  If you were at a wedding and someone make you dance to that, you would hate them.  And the idea of everybody Wang Chung tonight just seems like a really unfair thing. 

OLBERMANN:  And, also, they use their own group name seven times in this song.

MARKS:  Yes.  It‘s cheap.  It‘s cheap. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a promotional announcement, is what it is.

MARKS:  And not a good one.

OLBERMANN:  All right. 

No. 2, the infamous “Achy Breaky Heart” from Billy Ray Cyrus. 

MARKS:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s the softball of all time:  What‘s the complaint here? 

MARKS:  Well, there‘s corny and then there‘s cutesy and then there‘s “Achy Breaky Heart.”  And often we talk about the stereotype that people have against country music, that‘s it‘s dumb and moronic and made by really dumb guys with corny lyrics.  And in this case, it is really unfortunately very true. 

OLBERMANN:  You bet. 

OLBERMANN:  And the No. 1, Craig, the worst song ever, you can introduce it yourself. 

MARKS:  It is Starship‘s “We Built This City” from 1986, a once great band, Jefferson Airplane, in the ‘60s, who were these idealists, these utopians, these ‘60s radicals who were against whole corporatization of the culture, who wrote the most corporate rock song that was ever rendered. 

No group was ever less capable of building a city on rock ‘n‘ roll than Starship. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Grace Slick drunk on stage was much better than this song, wasn‘t it. 

MARKS:  Yes, I think she herself can‘t stand that song, rightfully song.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, we should mention, there are actually a couple surprises that people might be stunned, Simon & Garfunkel, “Sounds of Silence” at No. 42. 

MARKS:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  “Obladi Oblada” from the Beatles at No. 48.  You don‘t like the Beatles?

MARKS:  We love the Beatles, but we don‘t like that song.  Same with Simon & Garfunkel.  Great bands can write really twee, pretentious, awful drivel.  And Vanilla Ice doesn‘t have the corner of the market on that. 

OLBERMANN:  But we got rid of him fast enough so that it wasn‘t like out of the brilliant Vanilla Ice collection, there was just this one terrible song.

MARKS:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  He was one for one on the terribleness. 

MARKS:  I think so.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Marks from “Blender” magazine, thanks for your time tonight. 

MARKS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And congratulations on the list. 

MARKS:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Everybody should go out and get the magazine for the full list, for the full list of the really dreadful songs. 

But, before we leave you on such a downer, we thought we would share you COUNTDOWN‘s selection for the all-time top song, best, and, of course, the classic from 1968, the single from his album “The Transformed Man,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by William Shatner, No. 1 all-time, but for how long?  For?  How?  Long?

Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow. 

No. 5, “Plan of Attack,” Bob Woodward‘s book reporting that Colin Powell was kept in the dark, that the president reappropriated funds for war planning without consulting Congress and that he cut some kind of intelligence deal with Saudi Arabia to then lower gas prices here.  The administration is challenging some but not all of the assertions.  Four, side impact slam, a new study showing that getting T-boned, as they say, by the SUV could easily kill you, but a side air bag could save your life.  But the transportation people are not demanding that they be installed. 

Three, targets and threats.  The Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the National Security Agency all concerned about terrorist attacks over the next eight months.  Yet there are no plans to raise the threat level.  Two, selling Wal-Mart, the superstore‘s super P.R. drive to shake off its image of a corporate destroyer of smalltown America begins big-time in Chicago.  And, No. 1, “Blender” magazine‘s list of worst songs ever.  “We Built This City on Rock ‘n‘ Roll” courtesy of Starship topping the list.

And we apologize now for the fact that you‘ll be humming the obnoxious tune all evening, which will at least sound better than their version of it was. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  We built this newscast on rock ‘n‘ roll.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck. 


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