updated 7/23/2004 10:35:25 AM ET 2004-07-23T14:35:25

Guest: Richard Ben-Veniste, John Lehman, Gary Hart, Roger Cressey, Gregory Rodriguez


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

The 9/11 Commission reports to the nation: We‘ll be joined by Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, by the Commissioner John Lehman, by the co-chair of the 2001 commission on national security, Gary Hart, by former White House counterterrorism coordinator Roger Cressey. 

Politics, the vital Latino vote: A poll showing a land slide against the president. 

Selflessness at the age of nine.

MADISON SMITH, TEACHING PHYSICIANS:  What does it take to be a good doctor?

OLBERMANN:  Madison Smith battling against incurable disease and battling to teach physicians how to not just treat kids but to treat them as kids.

And the “Jeopardy” phenomenon. 




OLBERMANN:  We‘ll talk the reality and the psychology of it with one of the most famous game show contestants in American history.  That‘s right, Dr. Joyce Brothers. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  If a 567 page official report about the single most traumatic day in the history of this country can be summarized, it was by a single conclusion from the chairman of the commission that today completed its work.  “The attacks of September 11, 2001,” said the former governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kane, “were a shock, but should not have come as a surprise.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight: Final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, and what do, we as the citizens of this country, do with it? 

In a moment, I‘ll be joined by commission members Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, and John Lehman, and by Gary Hart, co-chairman of the similar counterterrorism commission whose findings in early 2001 were largely ignored. 

First this report in brief.  The headline, that the most important failure did not hinge on a missed memo, but rather on the limits of our imagination.  The imagining first hindered by an outdated focus trying to solve al-Qaeda with vestigial strategies left over from the Cold War. 

Terrorism was not the overriding security concern, the report concludes, under either presidents Clinton or Bush.  When it comes to the issue of blame, the FBI takes the most heat.  Commissioners finding the most serious weaknesses in the domestic arena. 

Although the CIA is faulted for its dependence on, quote, “proxies” in covert operations against al-Qaeda. 

And even Congress takes a hit, the report finding its attention to terrorism “splintered,” its oversight plan “dysfunctional.”

But while the report spreads the blame widely, the commissioners emphasize that American‘s were blindsided by a much deeper failure. 


LEE HAMILTON, 9/11 COMMISSION VICE-CHAIR:  The fact of the matter is, we just didn‘t get it in this country.  We could not comprehend that people wanted to kill us.  They wanted to hijack airplanes and flying the—fly them into big buildings. 


OLBERMANN:  The vice-chair, Lee Hamilton, there.  Still not all the commissioners agreed that it was merely imagination that failed us. 


BOB KERREY (D), 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Ninety percent of the facts that we knew about Osama bin Laden we knew in 1998.  But the full story wasn‘t delivered until after 9/11. 

How in god‘s name are you supposed to imagine a threat if the facts are being withheld from you?


OLBERMANN:  Despite those strains of descent, the commission was firmly united on the list of to top recommendations, many already a matter of public debate.  The first, the creation of a national counterterrorism center.  That center to be overseen by a national intelligence director, a position just below the level of the cabinet. 

Not recommended, however, the creation of a domestic intelligence agency such as Britain‘s MI6.  As for how those recommendations will be received, there was a diplomatic response from the president. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I look forward to studying their recommendations, and look forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations.


OLBERMANN:  And while Mr. Bush held his cards close to his chest, Senator Kerry immediately transformed it into a campaign promise saying that he would convene emergency sessions and conferences involving trying to resolve this threat to American safety. 


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If I am elected president, and there still has not been sufficient progress rapidly in these next months on these issues, then I will lead.  I will lead immediately by convening an emergency security summit.


OLBERMANN:  As mentioned, we‘re fortunate to be joined now live from Washington by one of the members of the 9/11 Commission, the former chief of the Watergate Task Force, Richard Ben-Veniste. 

Mr. Ben-Veniste, thank you again, for your time tonight. 


OLBERMANN:  I‘d like to start with what, I guess, is the most fundamental of all the questions related to this.  You‘ve given this report to the American people.  What should we be doing with it?  What can we be doing with it?

BEN-VENISTE:  Well, we‘ve brought the American public along as we‘ve done these hearings.  Now we have a comprehensive document for the American public to review.  And going forward, our factual investigation over these past 20 months has been intensive and hasn‘t pulled any punches. 

We have held our hearings without fear or favor of criticism.  We have issued a unanimous bipartisan report without a single dissent, not a word of dissent.  And that factual investigation has informed, has provided the basis for our unanimous recommendation on how to make America safer. 

And the public can go out and if they agree with us, and I hope they will, they can hold their elected representatives accountable in this election year.  And they can ask whether they will sponsor and approve of and work for the enacted legislation that embraces our recommendations.  And if they‘re not willing to do so, they can explain why.  And if the answers aren‘t good, then the voters will know what to do. 

OLBERMANN:  It would be the worst of things today to try to oversimplify what your commission has just completed.  But there do appear to be two central messages in this report.  One, that the built in encumbrances of any bureaucracy, in this case in the intelligence bureaucracy, in part, enabled the attacks because those bureaucracies make the sharing of information difficult. 

But two, that this country now needs a new national intelligence director.  Is there not something of a conflict here?  Could not a new national intelligence director create yet another bureaucracy and even more problems with sharing information?

BEN-VENISTE:  No Keith.  Actually, one leads directly to the other.  What we found was that there were so many stove pipes in the intelligence community where people believe they owned the intelligence, rather than that they had a duty to share the intelligence, that it seemed almost inevitable that our recommendation would be for a way in which to get that information shared within the intelligence community and disseminated beyond the federal intelligence community, to state and local law enforcement personnel who would then be able to enhance and extend the reach of our federal law enforcement and intelligence community. 

And so at the top of that food chain, we suggest putting a national intelligence director who will have the authority to direct the collection of and, in turn, receive the intelligence from 15 or 18 different intelligence agencies. 

And most importantly, control the budget, something which has been lacking before.  The Pentagon has controlled the budget for intelligence, up to 90 percent.  And yet, we spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion a year.  We need to make that a system much more responsive to the 21st century.  It was efficient and served us in fighting the Cold War.  Now, our options are much more directed toward the new enemy. 

OLBERMANN:  The former secretary of the Navy, a member of this commission has John Lehman has also joined us from Washington.  Good evening to you, sir.

JOHN LEHMAN ®, 9/11 COMMISSION:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  The—you‘ve been inside this government in that role in the Navy.  Does it not—has it not, generation after generation, resisted the kind of structural change that your report talks about?  Sometimes with the kind of ferocity that one would hope a government would use in resisting terrorism?  I mean, are there not some bureaucrats who will view these proposed changes as if they were a threat? 

LEHMAN:  Yes, that‘s right.  There are some very entrenched bureaucracies in this town, in the intelligence community.  And you can bet there‘ll be some real guerrilla warfare to prevent what we are recommending which is a revolutionary change. 

This is a total systemic change.  This is not tinkering around the edges, it‘s not moving around the deck chairs.  This is a fundamental change in culture and in organization and in priorities. 

And so yes, there‘ll be resistance, but I am very hopeful that the spirit of unity of purpose that took over our commission, a commission of five strong republicans and five strong democrats who came together in total unanimity that will—this will begin to pervade the debate. 

After people read our report, because this report is the first time that this story has been told comprehensively, in all its detail and all its fact.  This is not fingerpointing.  This is not the blame-game.  It‘s overwhelming fact that is going to change people‘s minds and change how the American people look at the world we live in and the threats we face.  Inaction is not an option. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Lehman on one final point, the fact that the report does not assign blame nor state unequivocally, this was preventable, there was criticism of that in advance, there‘s been criticism today.  Was that conclusion dictated solely by the evidence or was it to some degree influenced by the possibility that if there was specific blame, this whole thing would have just turned into a political powder keg and any recommendations that you made would have been obscured in a political firestorm, if you will? 

LEHMAN:  Well, I think it was much more the fact that we felt the importance of getting the facts out and let the American people understand for themselves what happened, that the failures were deep failures, were important failures, failures first of imagination, of capability.  We don‘t have the capability today to, in human intelligence and other kinds of intelligence, to deal with this enemy.  Failures of management, failures of systemic nature, that it was much more important to look forward and to lay out the story, draw the lessons from that to make all the attention focus on changing this system to make us less vulnerable.  It may be gratifying to some people to put heads on pikes, but the far more important mission here is to make us less vulnerable so this determined enemy of Islamic terrorism can not ever again do what they did on 9/11. 

OLBERMANN:  John Lehman and Richard Ben-Veniste from the 9/11 Commission.  Our thanks for your time tonight, gentlemen, and for your efforts. 

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you, Keith. 

LEHMAN:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Good night. 

Those gentlemen and their colleagues cited previous commissions, both as investigations upon which their own research was built and as lesson about what happens when recommendations about the public safety are ignored.  Therefore, most example, the Hart Rudman Commission, formerly the U.S. Commission on National Security.  On February 15, 2001, it reported that there would be a terrorist attack in this country within at the latest, a few years.  Gary Hart, the former senator from Colorado has a new book out this month called “The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the 21st Century.”  I spoke with him earlier this evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Senator Hart, thank you for your time tonight. 


Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  I would like to start with the same question the 9/11 Commissioners have asked.  They‘ve given us a report, a warning, not unlike the warning your commission gave us.  What do we, as American citizens, do with that report?

HART:  Well, I think, urge our members of congress and the president and the White House to act as quickly as possible.  We‘ve been very lucky that we haven‘t been attacked in the last three years.  We are going to be attacked again.  And there is not sufficient sense of urgency about preparing to prevent that. 

OLBERMANN:  Among these proposals, the national intelligence director, all other kinds of thing that would change the basic structure of intelligence in this country.  How do we defeat our own bureaucracy and enact those changes and others that the commission proposed?

HART:  Political leadership and a concerned citizenry.  There‘s no other way to do that in our system.  I think, first of all, the president and other elected officials have to convince the American people that this is, if not literally, almost literally, a matter of life or death.  This isn‘t just another government shake-up, this is to prevent further assaults on Americans and death—large scale death of Americans.  So, it‘s a matter of great urgency.  It took a year and a half to get the Department of Homeland Security, and it shouldn‘t take that long, that was a massive reorganization.  This is less sweeping, but still very important.  Actually, we should have probably done it back in the 1990‘s. 

OLBERMANN:  What you know of this commission‘s report, what you‘ve seen of it today, can you assess its work? 

Can you give it an overall grade? 

HART:  I think to be accurate about it, one would have to read it in detail.  Did I participate in a briefing this morning before the report was released.  And one must applaud the unanimity of the commission.  Our U.S.  Commission on National Security three, 4-years-ago was 14 members, both parties and it was also unanimous and that makes a great deal of difference in getting these recommendations passed. 

OLBERMANN:  Are the recommendations from this commission consistent with your own commission‘s recommendations?

HART:  I‘d have to see them in detail.  The ones that we heard this morning, in the briefing, seemed coherent with those that we—some of those that we recommended 4-years-ago.  Ours were much different, they—ours were sweeping recommendations having to with a new national security policy post Cold War.  This is really to fix the problems that permitted 9/11 to happen, so it is a bit narrower. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a danger, as many people who were criticizing the report, what had been heard of it, what had been leaked out in the last week or so, is there a danger that because there was no conclusion about the preventability of the events of 9/11, that this report today may take its place, not alongside some of the great commissions and investigations of our history, but perhaps closer to a place alongside that of the Warren Commission? 

Will it be controversial in the future because it will be seen as being, in some degree, incomplete? 

HART:  No. I don‘t think so at all.  I think it‘s going to be history‘s job to assess blame, if you will.  Books are still being written 60 years after Pearl Harbor trying to figure out, could it have been prevented? 

Obviously it could have if everything had fallen into place.  But, I don‘t think a commission that is meant to repair a vehicle going down the road at 90 miles an hour is going to achieve—is going to that purpose if it stops to pick political quarrels.  I think there will be documents come out in years to come, months and years to come, a lot of controversy about whether or not 9/11 could have been prevented.  But I think to get into that debate would have impeded the process of trying to fix this problem as quickly as we can. 

OLBERMANN:  And quite a compelling metaphor for it, that you just gave us.  The former Colorado Senator Gary Hart, whose book is called “The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the 21st Century.”  Thank you kindly for your time, sir. 

HART:  Great pleasure.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll review some of the nuts and bolts of this report with former White House counterterrorism coordinator, Roger Cressey, after the break.

Also, according to the Latino vote this year, helped put George W.  Bush in the Oval Office, but is his support dwindling among Hispanic voters? 

And also, the little girl with the rare disease and an outlook on life more rare still.  Selfless at the age of nine, trying to teach doctors how to treat kids as kids. 


OLBERMANN:  Up next, the man who coordinated counterterrorism policy in both the Clinton and Bush White Houses.  His views on the headlines of the 9/11 report and whether or not anything will really change.


OLBERMANN:  There is one group for whom the 9/11 Commission report today was important: Americans.  There are two smaller groups for whom it was, if not life and death, than at least the echo of life and death.  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: The reaction.  Former White House counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, in a moment. 

First, Beverly Eckert‘s husband Sean Rooney worked and died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Today she said she found it interesting that the report never explicitly said the attacks of 9/11 were preventable.


BEVERLY ECKERT, HUSBAND KILLED IN WTC ATTACK:  Honestly, when you look at the litany of missed opportunities, it‘s pretty clear it could have been prevented.  But, you know, it happened, and they don‘t want to make it a blame game, so they simply want reforms, and I really—will expect that.


OLBERMANN:  For the counterterrorism community, perhaps, today‘s report amounted to a postmortem for a dear friend with whom they had kept pleading to go see a doctor. 

Dr. Cressey coordinated counterterrorism policy at the White House under Presidents Clinton and Bush.  He‘s now an MSNBC analyst.

Roger, thanks for your time tonight. 


OLBERMANN:   The 9/11 Commission summarized 9/11 as the failure of imagination.  Who didn‘t imagine, and did the commission sufficiently take them to task? 

CRESSEY:  I don‘t think it was a question of imagination.  The issue was nobody, Republican or Democrat, was willing to elevate terrorism at the expense of other issues on our foreign policy agenda, to make it the number one priority, absent a significant event.  If that was a failure of imagination, so be it.  I think it‘s a failure of bureaucracy more than anything else. 

OLBERMANN:  In terms of bureaucracy, the headline of many recommendations, as a professional in this field, do you buy, for a minute, that we‘re going to be able to throw the CIA and the FBI and the NSA and a bunch of other organizations back into this bowl of alphabet soup and reorder them under a national intelligence director?  Aren‘t they going to fight like hell against that? 

CRESSEY:  Oh, they‘re definitely going to fight like hell, and it‘s not just them.  It‘s going be the Pentagon, and it‘s going to be all their allies on the Hill.  You know, the commission talked about we needed a Goldwater-Nickles reform effort for the intelligence community, like we had at the Pentagon.  It‘s important to keep in mind, the military services fought like hell against that in the 1980s.  You‘re going to see the same type of opposition today.  But if it‘s done properly and if there‘s presidential leadership, and this is key, Keith, presidential leadership to make it happen, it‘s got a shot. 

OLBERMANN:  The tangible details, Roger, the tactical and practical stuff.  What did the rest of us miss in this report that you saw? 

CRESSEY:  Well, one interesting question is whether or not a National Counterterrorism Center can work side by side with the National Security Council.  They say the NCTC should not be involved in policy, that‘s still the purview of the National Security Council.  And in reality, if you have these two bodies functioning close to each other, that‘s going to get confused, so there could be some conflict there. 

Director of national intelligence makes perfect sense, but if you‘re just going to have it at a deputy cabinet level, deputy secretary, that‘s not as much authority as if it was a true cabinet-level person, a secretary-level person.  So I worry about that, that this person is not going to be vested with enough authority. 

OLBERMANN:  Roger Cressey, formerly of the Pentagon, formerly of the White House, now of MSNBC.  As always, my friend, great thanks for your time. 

CRESSEY:  Good to see you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It seems inevitable that on this of all days, there had to be not one, but three terrorism scares.  A train bound from Washington to New York City delayed at Newark, New Jersey for 90 minutes this morning.  Passengers‘ I.D.s checked, a bomb-sniffing dog parading through.  Somebody had found a note onboard reportedly bearing the message, “You‘re all sitting ducks,” and adding what was described as “pro-Muslim, anti-Jewish rhetoric.” 

And a routine inspection of a Turkish merchant ship off the coast of Delaware turned into anything but.  The Coast Guard was looking for smuggled human cargo.  The captain, agitated at the length of the search, announced, “there‘s a bomb onboard.”  There was not.  The senior U.S.  intelligence official says the captain now feels “really bad about that.”  Gee, thanks. 

A third false alarm at the Kerry-Edwards campaign headquarters in D.C.  tonight, because of a bioterror threat there.  A campaign worker opening an envelope, white powder spills out.  Secret Service advised the campaign to call the cops.  They sealed off the building.  Initial tests suggesting it was garlic powder.  Senators Kerry and Edwards, both hundreds of miles away from the home office all day today, they were campaigning their way toward the Democratic Convention next week in Boston. 

COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story.  Up next, a much deserved break from this heavy news of this day, “Oddball” up next.  And when you need a veterinarian, do not go to the training college.  Pay full price. 

Later, long, long before there was a Ken Jennings, there was a woman creating quite a stir with her game show skills.  It launched her into the national spotlight where she remains.  She will have a unique perspective on the “Jeopardy” phenomenon, coming up.


OLBERMANN:  It might seem like the day of the release of the 9/11 Commission report would be a bad time to take our usual dash through the mad follies of humanity.  Maybe it‘s the best time.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And it‘s manatee mating season in South Florida, where each year the gentle giants move into shallow waters to make sweet, sweet manatee love on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.  And each year, tourists swarm around to gawk like this is a seals gone wild video.  Get away from me, you bunch of perverts! 

Police and wildlife officials had to disperse the crowd and give the federally protected manatees some privacy.  The embarrassed animals carried on with their business, but vowed that next year they‘re going to South Padre. 

To Garden Grove, California, and say hello to 73-year-old weight lifter Sri Chinmoy.  And this is Harley.  Harley weighs 660 pounds.  Sri is going to lift Harley.  He‘s going to try, anyway. 

Yeah, I think maybe he did it.  Ladies and gentlemen, it‘s probably some kind of record.  Chinmoi is known as the power lifter for world peace, but he did this stunt to help draw attention to America‘s growing obesity problem.  Well, but where on Earth would you even start with a problem like that?

Finally, how could you forget Martha, the “Oddball” hall of famer with the body and foot of a Seagull and the leg and foot of a Barbie doll?  Doctors glued on the plastic limb and hand after Martha lost her leg in a boating accident.  Well, we thought he was a doctor. 

The surgery was precedent-setting.  Great news for one maimed little stray puppy in India.  Chotu (ph) the dog lost both front legs after he was hit by a car.  But an animal rights activist rescued him and brought the puppy to a prosthetic surgeon.  We can rebuild him better, stronger, faster.  Using the latest state-of-the-art technology, Chotu was given both brand new legs and a set of wheels.  And he lived happily ever—oops.  Well, he might need a little more practice.  Good boy.  Excellent.  Oh. 


That‘s “Oddball.”

Coming up, George Bush speaks the language.  John Kerry is learning it.  And both have released a slew of campaign ads in Spanish.  But has one of them already lost the potentially election-swinging Latino vote?  Details next.

And later, she spent most of her life in and out of the hospital.  Now this young lady is using her own experience to try to help other sick children and their doctors.  These stories ahead. 

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Lars Aake Nilsson, in charge of the Malmoe Homing Pigeon Club‘s annual race in Stockholm.  He released 2,000 of the homing pigeons on Sunday; 1,500 of them have disappeared.  They don‘t make them homing pigeons like they used to. 

No. 2, 16-year-old kid from Detroit swipes an SUV, explains to the cops, I will be honest.  I am a man and I stole the truck for my girlfriend‘s prom that is tomorrow. 

No. 1, Dennis Kucinich, who today, today, dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.  All right, he waited five months to bow out and he chose to do it on the day the 9/11 Commission report was released.  This man still knows how to maximize that media coverage. 


OLBERMANN:  “The Chicago Tribune” headline summed it up this morning:

“Parties Point Crossed Fingers on 9/11 Report.”  The world greatly notes and will long remember what was said here today, but the politicians were still duking it out before, during and after the release of the report. 

Our third story on COUNTDOWN, the bipartisan blame kept the lid on the finger-pointing today and may have obscured one fascinating poll result.  First, the basics, an NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll showing the president with a four-point lead, that released tonight, a slight improvement in one of the biggest hit areas he‘s bee taking.  The majority of the 813 registered voters polled said that removing Saddam Hussein from power was not worth the financial or human cost. 

That 47 percent figure saying it was not was at 51 percent last month.  But the most interesting results came from another very specific opinion survey.  Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the country.  And with increased numbers comes increased voter power and turnout, 20 percent growth in the last election, 5 percent of the overall electorate, an electorate that for now seems firmly within the grasp of Senator John Kerry. 

“The Washington Post”/Univision/TRPI poll released today showing the Massachusetts senator with a commanding 2-1 lead over the president.  It was during Mr. Bush‘s 2000 campaign that Hispanic voters came to such national prominence.  They gave him an unprecedented 35 percent of their support to a Republican. 

Gregory Rodriguez is a contributing editor to “The Los Angeles Times,” senior fellow attention nonpartisan group The New America Foundation. 

Mr. Rodriguez, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Firstly, is this valid?  Is this an Hispanic voting bloc? 

Or is this just a presumption by Anglo politicians? 

RODRIGUEZ:  Bloc is probably too strong of a word.  Hispanic is a generic term used to include a variety of groups coming from all over Latin America.  So bloc, no.  But are there such things as Hispanics in the United States?  Yes.  There‘s many things that make them. 


OLBERMANN:  But two-thirds of them are Mexican-American.  About 6 percent are Cuban.  And they‘re very distinctive and they have very different voting propensities. 

OLBERMANN:  Collectively, nonetheless, they apparently have been in favor of Mr. Bush to a greater degree than any other Republican in their voting history.  And now that support has diminished.  Did he lose it?  Has John Kerry captured it?  Are there issues that are of overwhelming importance to this group more so than any other? 

RODRIGUEZ:  I think the story is that Bush did well.  I don‘t know if it is unprecedented, but 35 percent in 2000. 

But the last four years, the Bush people have been saying where they‘re going to get 40 in 2004.  And right now, it looks like they‘re getting about 30.  So I think that the point is, is that Bush really had a chance some of realigning American politics by getting this growing minority group into their camp. 

And what has happened really is that the Hispanic strategy unraveled after 9/11, after Iraq.  And the absence of a domestic policy, there really is a waning support for Bush among Hispanics, although the polls seem to indicate that the majority of Hispanics think the guy is a likable, strong leader. 

OLBERMANN:  In fact, this poll asked which candidate has made more of an effort to reach out to the Latino community, and the president was a clear choice by 15 percent over John Kerry.  What explains that and what is going to be the result of the Latino vote in the fall?  Is the geography such that that impact is not going to be as significant as it might seem or could it be vital if not decisive in Florida?  Give me the lay of the land. 

RODRIGUEZ:  The fact of the matter is around 60 percent of Latinos in this country now live in states that are already wrapped up.  They live in Texas, California, and New York. 

And only about 20 percent of Latinos live in battleground states.  So really, we‘re seeing really a loss of interest among the major candidates in the Latino vote.  Four years ago, it was all the rage.  There was Latino stories on MSNBC every other day.  How many have you done in the last three months?  There are other things that are more important, perhaps, but also Bush is pushing the Latino angle less because he needs it less. 

Four years ago, he was running as a compassionate conservative.  And he needed to say, look, Latinos support me, so I‘m a different kind of big tent Republican.  This year, he is running as sort of a hard-core, hawkish, old-style Republican.  So, really, the Latino angle has really diminished.  And if the Bush camp isn‘t going after the Latinos, the Democrats don‘t have to watch their back quite as much as they did four years ago.

OLBERMANN:  Gregory Rodriguez, contributing editor to “The Los Angeles Times,” senior fellow of The New America Foundation, Greg, thanks for you insight tonight, sir. 

RODRIGUEZ:  All right, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  That wraps up the third story tonight, luring the Latino vote.

And up next, meet Madison Smith, a 9-year-old patient who is teaching doctors about 9-year-old patients. 

And later, big breaking news from the world of music.  Who‘s No. 1?


Up next, the “Jeopardy” king, Ken Jennings, his winnings, our obsessions, a uniquely qualified analysis from perhaps the most famous game show contestant ever. 

And a reminder about our own quiz:  You can play the quiz master by e-mailing your news questions to COUNTDOWN@MSNBC.com.  And tune in tomorrow.  Watch me try, emphasize try, to answer them.


OLBERMANN:  If only it were true that little girl getting terribly, terribly sick happened so seldom that each one of them was national news.  It isn‘t true. 

Thus, when you first hear about 9-year-old Madison Smith, you may well be tempted to turn away, for fear of assuming yet another sadness to the collections of sadness that must inevitably be in your own life already.  Don‘t.  There‘s something extra special here. 

Our No. 2 story tonight reported by COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny. 

Monica, good evening. 


When Madison Smith was diagnosed with a rare disease at the age of 3 ½, she and her family could have chosen to focus solely on her illness.  Instead, after a few years and a few hundred medical tests, Madison decided to write a book and educate the people she had grown up with, her doctors. 


MADISON SMITH, 9 YEARS OLD:  How to be a doctor for kids. 

NOVOTNY:  Medical students, get ready to meet your new teacher, not him, her; 9-year-old Madison Smith knows a lot about doctors and is not afraid to share. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  White coats.  All the students are wearing white coats today.  Are those OK?  Or do white coats make you nervous? 

SMITH:  They freak me out. 


NOVOTNY:  This little professor with some help from her mom, Marcy, leads the class in a course on better bedside manners, an area she knows all too well. 

SMITH:  And it will be over soon. 

NOVOTNY:  Five years ago, Madison, diagnosed with a rare inoperable tumor, began a journey that‘s taken her in and out of hospitals, usually more in than out. 

MARCY WALLACE, MOTHER OF MADISON:  The second Madison was diagnosed, people just didn‘t know what to do with us anymore.  To find out that you can get sick and the doctor doesn‘t know how to make you better, it‘s kind of shocking. 

NOVOTNY:  What her doctor does know, the large tumor is slowly taking over Madison‘s body. 

DR. THEODORE MOORE, UCLA MEDICAL CENTER:  If we can halt the growth a bit, then we can buy her time.  We don‘t know how much time, but buy her time. 

NOVOTNY:  So far, it is working.  And while the doctors are working to make her better, Madison has decided they could use a little help, too. 

SMITH:  It felt like that I was not there, that they were just talking to the parents and not me. 

NOVOTNY:  So she‘s written and illustrated a how-to book for physicians, required reading for Madison‘s students. 

SMITH:  It feels like you‘re like tiny and the shot is huge. 

MOORE:  When you have a 9-year-old girl that has experienced more of life than most of the students out there already, and she‘s speaks from the heart, they‘re all ears. 

NOVOTNY:  Her class includes a question-and-answer session. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What‘s the scariest part about going to the hospital? 

NOVOTNY:  And some stand-up. 

SMITH:  Doctor joke.  What do you call Anastasia when she‘s sleeping? 



NOVOTNY:  And while they‘re laughing, they‘re learning. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We forget how it felt to be a kid and how it feels to be so small. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it just makes us think about and try to be more humane. 

NOVOTNY:  And it turns out, Madison has been teaching more than just students all along. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Even after 20 years of being a pediatrician, I think I‘m always learning from her. 

MOORE:  The biggest lesson I‘ve learned from her is, when adversity come, there are ways to rise above that and make a difference in our world. 

SMITH:  P.S., listen so you can be a good doctor. 

WALLACE:  You did good.  I‘m proud of you.  Good job.


NOVOTNY:  Madison‘s mother, Marcy, is also teaching.  She started Madison‘s Foundation.  In this case, Madison stands for moms and dads in search of needed support.  The foundation‘s Web site serves as an information clearinghouse on rare pediatric diseases, along with a database to help connect families with children facing similar illnesses. 

For more information on Madison‘s foundation, you can go to our Web site at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Monica Novotny, great story.  Many thanks. 

NOVOTNY:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll keep tonight‘s edition of the celebrity roundup, “Keeping Tabs,” to a minimum, but this is big news. 

After three decades in the music business, guess who finally has a No.  1 album?  This guy, Jimmy Buffett.  There isn‘t one song on that entire C.D. about a hamburger.  The singer has a developed a huge following of Parrot Heads over the years.  They dress in beach wear.  They drink margaritas.  And they groove to Buffett‘s brand of food rock.

But he previously only reached as high as No. 4 on the charts.  His new album has sold 260,000 copies in the first week.  Now, we are assuming that the C.D.s here were bought to listen to, rather than to be used as those Chinese stars that they throw around in the kung-fu movies. 

Also tonight, politics meeting up with sports.  A star baseball player opposed to the war in Iraq making his protests public by refusing to leave his team‘s dugout during the playing of “God Bless America,” now doing so in the one ballpark in which they interrupt each game to play “God Bless America.”

Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays is a native of Puerto Rico, an ardent protester of the Navy‘s long use of the Vieques facility there for weapons testing and its aftereffects there.  “I‘m not trying to get anyone mad,” Delgado told the “New York Times.”  “This is my personal feeling.  I don‘t want to draw attention to myself or go out of my way to protest,” though, last season, Delgado continued to join his teammates on the field whenever “God Bless America” was played.

Delgado and his team played at Yankee Stadium in New York last night and today.  And there, on the personal instructions of the Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner, the game is delayed between the halves of the seventh inning for the playing of the song.  When Delgado came to bat in that seventh inning last night, fans in New York chanted, USA, USA.

Tonight‘s No. 1 story, the top winner ever on “Jeopardy.”  But why do we care?  Our special guest probably the most famous game show contestant ever, who also knows a lot about why we care about anything, that‘s ahead.

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


OLBERMANN:  Before we get to our No. 1 story, back to the 9/11 Commission report briefly.

And, understandably, details from a 567-page document come out when we find them.  One more we needed to share with you tonight that was just revealed.  The commission has concluded that the passengers aboard Flight 93, the one meant by the hijackers to crash into the Capitol or the White House did not in fact break into the cockpit. 

Evidently, though, their attempt to regain control of the craft, their rebellion, led the hijackers to deliberately crash the plane into the woods of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

America‘s fascination with the game show is so longstanding that a movie about a fabulously successful contestant starring Ronald Colman and Vincent Price came out in 1950, which would seem to be about the last time Ken Jennings lost on “Jeopardy.” 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, in a moment, of the most famous game show contestants in this nation‘s history will join us to analyze—and we do mean analyze—this phenomenon.  Jennings won for the 36th consecutive time on the program that aired last night.  We will maintain the suspense for you about tonight‘s edition.  There was no suspense last night.  Jennings ran his total to over $1,194,660, largely because he seemed to have been pitted against what appeared to be two inflatable rubber dolls. 



KEN JENNINGS, CONTESTANT:  What is Glenn (ph)?

TREBEK:  That‘s right. 


JENNINGS:  What is Woody (ph)? 

TREBEK:  That‘s right. 


JENNINGS:  What is miles? 

TREBEK:  Yes. 


JENNINGS:  What is Wayne (ph)? 

TREBEK:  Yes. 


JENNINGS:  What is Isaac?

TREBEK:  Isaac is right.


JENNINGS:  What are California and Nevada?


JENNINGS:  What is Hawaii?

TREBEK:  Aloha.  Yes. 


JENNINGS:  What is enchantment?

TREBEK:  That‘s right. 


JENNINGS:  What is the Gopher State?

TREBEK:  That‘s it. 


TREBEK:  Yes. 


JENNINGS:  Who is James Madison?

TREBEK:  That‘s right.  And that takes you to $9,200.  We‘re going to take a break.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s all about the buzzer.  And somebody should have applied a buzzer to those two challengers with him. 

Still, Mr. Jennings has only been on the air for seven weeks with an average of about eight million viewers a night, a blink of the eye and a sparse crowd compared to what was pulled off by my next guest. 

She was on the game show “The $64,000 Question” for 11 weeks in a row to audiences averaging 50 million a week, 5-0.  Her category was, improbably, boxing.  And she parlayed her fame and her winnings into her career as America‘s best-known psychologist.  That‘s right, our own MSNBC contributor, Dr. Joyce Brothers. 


DR. JOYCE BROTHERS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thank you very much.  You are a game show aficionado, aren‘t you? 

OLBERMANN:  I have become one, yes.  Sure.

BROTHERS:  I saw you on “Hollywood Squares.”  And you not only answered correctly, but you‘re funny.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they give you the questions and the answers and jokes if you are stuck.  And there is also—there‘s a lot of boos backstage.

But I have to start with this one question. 


OLBERMANN:  What man refereed the comeback attempt of an ex-champ against Jack Johnson at Reno, Nevada? 

BROTHERS:  Texas Rickert. 

OLBERMANN:  Texas Rickert.

Now, the last time you answered that, you got $64,000 for it, right? 

BROTHERS:  No.  That was only at $16,000. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, goodness.

BROTHERS:  The $64,000 was a 16-part question with six parts in each question.  And it was the first time in the history of television that a program was allowed to go over its timeline. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness. 

Now, why was it—boxing something you had researched for this or was it something that knew about?  Why...

BROTHERS:  No, I decided that, as a psychologist and a teacher, it

wasn‘t going to be very exciting if I had something like—oh, I can‘t

even think of


OLBERMANN:  Plumbing. 

BROTHERS:  Well, plumbing was one of my choices. 


BROTHERS:  Plumbing was one of my choices and boxing was the other. 

But I didn‘t think plumbing had the kind of juice. 


BROTHERS:  But you could learn all there was to know about boxing. 

You can‘t do all there is about how to do a good broadcast, what you do.  You can‘t learn all there is to know about doing music or art or literature.  So I chose it and I memorized it using the psychology techniques that help everybody learn very well for long periods of time. 

OLBERMANN:  Your experience on this show, and your own training, those two things together, I mentioned that 1950 film, which was called “Champagne for Caesar.”  And it‘s dreadful, but it indicates this country has been fascinated game shows and contestants and the week-to-week drama since radio and the ‘30s.  Why? 

BROTHERS:  We like to see people win.  We like to see people intelligent.  We like to see them—we really are very interested in fame as well. 

One figure is that 75 percent of Americans want to be famous.  And they fantasize about being famous.  And it‘s a way of being famous and also getting a certain amount of accreditation because you are intellectual. 

OLBERMANN:  And is it the instant fame, the idea that fame can be bestowed suddenly because you won a game show 35 nights in a row? 

BROTHERS:  Fame is wonderful.  I can testify to that. 

But in order to stay famous, you have to be able to put it into some good use, to continue it, because it‘s so difficult today with all of the various channels and possibilities, to really stay famous for any period of time. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens to Ken Jennings presuming he eventually loses? 

BROTHERS:  Well, even if he loses, it doesn‘t matter, because he has

his baby.  He has his wife.  And the most important thing you can have in

life is to be loved and be loved in return, which is I think one of the



OLBERMANN:  And, ultimately, of course, your success on “$64,000 Question” and my comparative success on “Jeopardy,” when I did it, obviously, owes to your training at Cornell and WBBR, the radio station there, right? 

BROTHERS:  Well, I have done “Jeopardy,” but only as, I give the answer. 



BROTHERS:  An answer.  And then the contestants have to guess psychology. 

OLBERMANN:  If they ever tell you to go on and they say Al Franken will be on, just say forget it. 


OLBERMANN:  Dr. Joyce Brothers, thanks for coming over.  I appreciate it.  We‘re not quite “The $64,000 Question,” but we try. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 


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