updated 9/8/2004 10:46:13 AM ET 2004-09-08T14:46:13

Guests: David Dreier, Jim Morris, Elizabeth Edwards, Carl Reiner

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Eight weeks exactly to the election, Vice President Cheney actually says in it today in Des Moines.  If John Kerry is elected, quote: “Then the danger is that we‘ll get hit again and we‘ll be hit in a way that will be devastating.” The politics on U.S. soil, taken to new heights.  John Edwards says Cheney crossed the line.  Elizabeth Edwards joins us to say, no Democrat would say of a Republican, what a Republican just said of the Democrats.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  I don‘t think there‘s a single American, regardless of their party, who wouldn‘t do everything possible to keep us safe.  I don‘t think this is a—ought to be part of the dialogue.

OLBERMAN:  Part one of my at-length interview with the wife of Senator Edwards tonight.

Russian school terror.  The pain will not go away.  The images only increase as new videotape shot during the siege is made public. 

Mr. Science is back.  How to catch a satellite.  And attention, parents, what are your children doing to your I.Q.?  We will ask humorist, father, creative father and the father creator of the father in the Dick Van Dyke show, Carl Reiner.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMAN:  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, September 5 (sic), 56 days until the 2004 presidential election.  If Democrats watching the Republican Convention last week seemed too over the top in their response to attacks on their resolve to fight terror, they probably won‘t seem that way to you tonight.  The vice president of the United States has told a town meeting in Des Moines that unless he and President Bush are reelected, the danger is that we‘ll get hit again and we‘ll be hit in a way that will be devastating. 

Hit by terrorists.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Dick Cheney tells America that a vote for John Kerry is a vote against homeland security, safety, life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is absolutely essential that eight weeks from today on November 2nd, we you make the right choice.  Because if we make the wrong choice, the danger is that we‘ll get hit again and we‘ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  The vice president added that a Kerry presidency would risk a return to quote: “a pre-9/11 mindset that suggests terrorist attacks are crimes, not acts of war.” But it is the stark option that Mr. Cheney believes the election offers that has made the headlines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Dick Cheney‘s

scare tactics today crossed the line.  What he said to the American people

was if you go to the polls in November and elect anyone other than us, then

·         and another terrorist attack occurs, it is your fault.  This is un-American. 

The truth is it proves once again that they‘ll do anything and say anything to keep their jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  In an interview for this program, Senator Edwards‘ wife Elizabeth told us: “I don‘t think there‘s a single American, regardless of our party, who wouldn‘t give everything possibly to keep us safe.”

For reaction to today‘s developments I‘m joined by two guests, Congressman David Dreier is also the co-chair of the California Bush-Cheney leadership team. 

Congressman, good evening.

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMAN:  And Bill Press is an MSNBC political analyst, author of the recently published book, “Bush Must Go.”

Bill, good evening to you.

BILL PRESS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith, good to see you.

OLBERMAN:  Gentleman, I don‘t think this is going to be too gentlemanly but maybe if you let me do the...

(LAUGHTER)

DREIER:  Sure it will.

OLBERMAN:  Let me be the moderator here, at least it will be audible here.  Congressman, as a citizen who didn‘t vote for Mr. Cheney but still thinks of him as my vice president and who tries not to knee-jerk everything based on left or right, I simply can‘t believe he got up and told voters, essentially, elect Kerry and we‘ll get hit again and maybe we will get in a way that will be devastating.  How is that statement by Mr.  Cheney by itself not evoking and essentially doing the work of terrorizing people?

DREIER:  Well, thanks for that, Keith.  So I‘ll keep you in the “undecided” column at this juncture.

OLBERMAN:  Please.

DREIER:  . as we head three weeks from today.  Let me say what I inferred from what Dick Cheney was saying there.  I mean, let‘s go back to three years ago right now.  And I‘m reminded of a statement that was made just days after September 11.  And some of Al Gore‘s strongest supporters said, thank God George Bush is president of the United States.

What Dick Cheney was saying was that he believes very strongly that there has been one leader who has been absolutely unwavering and intransigent when it has come to this issue of the global war on terror.  And we saw just a few months ago a devastating attack which had an impact on the election in Spain. 

And I‘ve got here, Keith, a copy of the cover of “The Economist,” which I‘m sure you saw at that time.  It has playing cards reminiscent of what took place in Iraq.  And it has on it a red X through Jose Maria Aznar who, as we all know, was defeated shortly after that terrorist attack.  And it has—the caption is, “one down, three to go.”

And it has George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia.  The point being, we know that these terrorists are after the United States, but I‘ll tell you, they have an even greater passion in their quest to go after George W. Bush. 

And I think it is very important for to us realize that as we look at this, the cuts that John Kerry supported in the area of human Intelligence, his response to the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, has led many to, I believe, appropriately conclude that his resolve, and his being all over on these issues, is nothing like that of President Bush.

OLBERMAN:  Bill, to the factual basis of what Mr. Cheney said today, how would we know, how does he know that we‘re more likely to get hit again, essentially what Congressman Dreier also just said, in a way that will be devastating if John Kerry is elected than we would be if Mr. Bush is re-elected?  There‘s at least one prominent international, fairly conservative strategic intelligence group, STRATFOR, that says George Bush has done everything al Qaeda could have asked of him.  And al Qaeda desperately wants the president re-elected.  Is this not an open question to some degree?

PRESS:  Well, look, first of all, there is absolutely zero evidence, zero, to support anything that Dick Cheney said today.  In fact, John Kerry and the Democrats have been very strong since 9/11 on the war on terror.  They were the first ones to propose a Department of Homeland Security.  First ones to propose more money for the first responders.  First one to propose shaking up the intelligence agencies.

This is Dick Cheney playing the politics of fear and exploiting 9/11 for purely political purposes.  I remember, too, Keith, and David Dreier, those days right after 9/11, when members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats stood on the steps of the Capitol together. Sang “God Bless America.”

We all said, we‘re not Republicans or Democrats, now, we are Americans fighting a common enemy.  President Bush promised members of Congress he would not use 9/11 for political purposes.  That‘s exactly what they are doing. 

And Keith, one last thing.  The only word we‘ve heard from any terrorist group about this election game, right after the terrorist attacks in Madrid that David Dreier talked about, was a terrorist group that sent an e-mail to a London newspaper, and it said, and I quote: “We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections because his idiocy and religious fanaticism,” I‘m quoting, are helping them recruit new member.  So I don‘t think we want to decide this election on whose side the terrorists are on.  I think we are united against the terrorists, period.

OLBERMAN:  Congressman, there is actually a late development in this that I hate to throw at you this way because it seems to contradict your support for Vice President Cheney.  His spokesperson, Anne Womack, on Air Force Two on the way back from Iowa, told reporters that, quote: “What the vice president was saying was, whoever is elected will face the possibility of a terrible attack.  The question is whether or not we have the right policies in place to protect the country.” If the vice president was right in what he was saying, why is the spokesperson backing off from these remarks.

DREIER:  Well, and Keith, that is basically what I‘m saying.  And I don‘t believe that it is backing off.  I think that it is the policies that really we need to look at.  We are—this Saturday, we are going to mark the third anniversary of September 11.  And virtually everyone concluded that we, within weeks or months or certainly years of September 11, 2001, would see another major attack. 

And taking on the global war on terror which, as the president and vice president, and I happen to agree, have effectively taken Iraq as part of that issue, we have been able to keep.  Where is it that we‘re seeing a litany of terror attacks?  We tragically have seen loss of American lives in the war in Iraq.  It is a very serious problem.

We mourn the loss of every single life.  But we have been able to keep it off our soil.  And I believe that it has been because of the unwavering leadership of President Bush and Vice President Cheney that we have been able to effectively do that.  And I believe that‘s the point the vice president was making.

OLBERMAN:  Bill.

PRESS:  Keith, I have just got to tell you, if that‘s not backing down, I don‘t know what backing down is.  That‘s a big flip flop on Dick Cheney‘s part.  I think they realize that they crossed the line.  They realize they went too far, to, in effect, accuse John Kerry of being on the side of Osama bin Laden.

If what Dick Cheney is saying is, we are vulnerable to terrorism, he‘s absolutely right.  If what he‘s saying is the issue is, who can better protect us, who has a better plan, I think that‘s a legitimate debate.  And I think what John Kerry has said here is that it is not just a military solution to terrorism, it has got to be economic, it has got to be financial, it has got to be diplomatic.  It has to be political.  It has got to be an all-out war.  And I think that‘s a better solution.

DREIER:  And Bill, that‘s exactly what Vice President Cheney is saying.  I think.

PRESS:  No, he‘s not.

DREIER:  No, no, Bill, I think what we should do.

PRESS:  Hey David, just try to.

DREIER:  No, no, let me say, I believe we should in fact put forward the goals that John Kerry has had and his 20-year record in the Congress in dealing with the global war on terror and his economic proposals, and all of those things about what you‘ve just spoken, and let the American people make their decision.  That‘s what will happen eight weeks from today.  And I‘m convinced the American people know full well, when it comes to the global war on terror, no one is stronger or could be any stronger than President Bush. 

OLBERMANN:  Gentleman, I‘m out of time.  We‘re giving final word to

Miss Womack (ph) aboard Air Force Two.  Who also said, ask whether the vice

president stood by his statement, Womack, the vice president stands by my

explanation of the statement.  So,

PRESS:  There you go. 

OLBERMANN:  Representative David Dreier, co-chair of the California Bush/Cheney leadership team, thank.  Bill Press of MSNBC and author of “Bush Must Go,” thank you. 

And we got all the buzz phrases and no fist fights.  Thank you, gentleman.

Against the back drop of Mr. Cheney‘s comments, U.S. lawmakers operating on the assumption that perhaps that more than a vote against John Kerry, will be necessary to protect the nations against another terrorist attack.  Using, this first day back from summer recess, to take on a possible overhaul of U.S. intelligence agencies and giving themselves less than one month to do so.  First there was McCain-Feingold, the revamping finance campaign law.  Now we have McCain-Lieberman, a bill introduced today, that would adopt all of the major recommendations put forth by the 9/11 Commission. 

Members of the House drafting a similar bill.  Senators McCain and Lieberman, who by the way also drafted the bill that created the 9/11 Commission, said they hope it will pass before Congress adjourns again, October 1. 

While Capitol Hill was engaging the turf war, on the ground in Iraq, U.S. forces were engaging in the very real kind.  An especially violent day in a conflict that reached an especially sad and significant milestone. 

First the fighting.  For a third straight day, American soldiers battled Iraqi insurgents in a Baghdad slum, known as Sadr City.  At least, 35 people were reported killed, including two Americans were killed.  Five more American killed today in roadside bombings and other attacks throughout that nation.  U.S. forces appear to be carrying out most, if not all of the fighting.  The “associated Press, reporting that no Iraqi security forces were seen today.  The latest deaths pushing military casualties figures past a sad milestone. 

The Pentagon announcing today that 1,000 American have now died in uniform in Iraq from hostile and not hostile causes.  One thousand three, if you include Defense Department civilian contractors.

The White House responding with a statement.  “We remember, honor and mourn the loss of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice”—Press Secretary Scott McClellan.  Then running a comparatively new tact, measuring battlefield loses against the terrorist attacks, “We also remember those who lost their life on September 11th.”

The Democratic challenger, during a campaign stop in Cincinnati, had his own response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The first thing that every American wants to say today is how deeply we each feel loss.  How much this means to all of us as American.  The sacrifice that we feel on a very personal level.  And our thoughts and our prayers are with the families that most recently have learned the loss of a loved one, but also with all those others who are still working through their pain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  While a statement more reflective than invective in that statement, the response time of Senator Kerry‘s remarks, marking significant shift in his campaign strategy.  The Democratic challenger not only speaking out ASAP, but matters be damned while doing so.  The “Chicago Tribune” characterizing this newly aggressive tactic as to get even, get mad. 

It appears Senator Kerry is not the only one with the so-called Swiftboat Veterans for truth attacking the senator from the right.  On the left, we can expect another group calling itself Texans for Truth that will launch its own ads questioning Mr. Bush‘s service or non-service in the Air National Guard.  The ads begin airing this Friday.  Kerry officials say, they have nothing to do with the group or the ads. 

COUNTDOWN opening up tonight with the politics in the war on terror. 

And yes, it is September 7, not September 5.  It‘s a typo. 

Up next, tonight‘s no. 4 story, a verbal typo.  What the president meant to say.  Not even the White House can figure out exactly what he was trying for about OB-GYNs and love.  So, we‘ll ask presidential impressionist, Jim Morris instead. 

And later, anger in Russia.  Mourners take streets, the same day that dramatic new video is aired showing what happened inside the awful Beslan school siege. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Up next the President and the Gynecologist.  A campaign issue that has lead to some unfortunate laughs on the campaign trail.  The presidential impersonator tries to do some translating for us.

And later Elizabeth Edwards joins us on here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This wasn‘t the way the adherents hoped to get it back in the news and back into the political discourse, but for now it will have to do them. 

Our 4th story on the COUNTDOWN today, the president steered out of the skid from what he said last night.  Too many OB-GYN‘s aren‘t able to practice their love with women all across the country. 

As the “Los Angeles Times” gently put it this morning, it is not clear what Bush meant to say but it was presumed that he misspoke. 

In an appearance this morning in Lee‘s Summit, Missouri, the president repeated the first half of the message.  Too many good doctors are getting out of the business, but switched completely away from the obstetrical, and gynecological zone and only referred only to neurologists.  Later Cydalia (ph), he got back on the horse what threw him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Talk to an OB-GYN these days.  Find out what that is like.  When these OB-GYNs are getting sued right and left, it makes it awfully hard for a person to be able to find a doctor to deliver the baby. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Everybody mangles speech.  I have more problems with Poplar Bluff, Missouri, than Mr. Bush has with nuclear.  But this was something else, we even asked the White House Communications Office exactly what the president was trying to say yesterday.  The answer we received was, “he was talking about medical liability.”  So we‘ll try it again with the next best thing, the noted presidential impressionist and impersonator, Jim Morris. 

Jim, Welcome back.  Thanks for your time. 

JIM MORRIS, POLITICAL IMPRESSIONIST:  Well, it‘s always wonderful to be here on MSNBC.  Wonderful to see you again. 

OLBERMANN:  Before we get started, I thought we should get a little refresher course on what he said last night.  Let‘s play the tape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Too many OB-GYN‘s aren‘t able to practice their love with women all across this country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Jim, what was the original version of that? 

What was the president supposed to say? 

MORRIS:  I don‘t know how you want me to talk.  What do you want me to say?  That all ports of entry are going to be inspected for anything that shouldn‘t be coming in?  I mean our defenses must remain—our defenses must and will remain impregnable or something like that, I don‘t know.  

(LAUGHTER)

MORRIS:  It sort of gives—now Keith, it sort of gives a different spin to the phrase, what‘s up, doc?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMAN:  I had only one theory myself and obviously it pales in comparison to yours, but that the original text was: “too many OB-GYNs aren‘t able to practice with gloves with women all across this country.  Is that the healthcare crisis that Mr. Bush was referring to?  The gloves are off, so to speak?

MORRIS:  Well, I suppose so.  But the last thing we‘re going to do is pull the rug out from under the elderly and the handicapped.  That would be an awful thing to do, pull the rug out.  We would have canes and rockers flying across the room. We don‘t want that to happen.  I care, I care about healthcare.  I need to do something about my lip here.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMAN:  I don‘t know if this is the right specialty, the medical specialty.  We might need a different doctor for you.  But Senator Kerry has promised that the rest of his campaign is going to be tougher to get even, get mad.  You don‘t think that maybe the subject of OB-GYN‘s will show up in the rest of the campaign or the debates, do you?

MORRIS:  Jeez.  I hope not.  Kerry has got enough things to worry

about.  But him getting mad, you know, is—very bellow-y, isn‘t he?  We -

·         we believe—I believe, we—we believe, we are the can-do people.  We are the optimists, Keith.  We are the knights who say me, not nay.  I say, let‘s send away the naysayers, the nitwits, and the nick-knack paddy-whackers and let‘s not give any more dog a bone. 

In this election, that is what is at stake. 

Steak.  That is the first thing he said I can understand. 

OLBERMAN:  There you go.  The debate preview.

MORRIS:  I think we know enough about—we know enough about steak in Texas.  Thank you very much.  Maybe he should get lessons from Al Sharpton.

OLBERMAN:  Oh no, let‘s not drag him into this too.  By the way.

MORRIS:  It‘s not what you say, it‘s how you say it.  I was for NAFTA before.  If I become president, which is what I‘m after, I won‘t change NAFTA unless I “hafta.”

OLBERMAN:  One thing—as we thank you, Jim, one thing about Kerry, the phrase “my friends” is in there every time.  My friends, and I always reach for my wallet.  When I hear “my friends,” I reach for my wallet.  Jim Morris is America‘s premier political impressionist and impersonator helping us out in our little investigation into what the president said and did he know that he said it.  All the best, Jim.  Thanks again.

MORRIS:  I‘m perfectly well aware of what I‘m saying.  It‘s what I mean I get no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMAN:  COUNTDOWN now past Nos. 5 and 4.  Thanks, Jim. 

Up next, sure, Pamplona has the running of the bulls, but wait until you see from Reeve Point (ph), Montana.  “Oddball” up next.

And later, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, it was considered a shoe-in for Best Documentary at the Oscars, so why is Michael Moore passing on that category?  The answer, to influence the election.  That‘s a surprise, huh?  We‘ll explain. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMAN:  We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news to check in with today‘s surreal news.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Reeve Point, Montana, the fifth annual running of the sheep, just like the bulls in Pamplona, minus the suicidal human participants, minus the inevitable post-jog slaughter of the four-legged.  Apparently the “runnin‘ mutton” are quite happy to take part in this particular sprint.  About 2100 of them made a trip down Main Street.  And at the conclusion, they all got sheared, sheared.  OK, you humans who watch, now you have to get shaved, too. 

And if you‘re one of the hopeful bidders in the eBay auction of a

Tupperware container full of wind from Hurricane Frances, you‘re out of

luck, it went for $1.26.  But there may be hope for something even cooler -

·         hotter, actually: solar wind.  Yours for the taking provided you can get a helicopter with a big hook on it, and you can catch the falling Genesis space capsule before these trained stunt pilots snag it.

Genesis, returning from a three-year space mission collecting solar wind and other particles.  It will re-enter the Earth‘s over Oregon tomorrow.  Scientists don‘t want it to touch the ground, hence the mid-air snatch idea.  And yes, this is additional evidence that life divides equally into old “Simpsons” sketches that come true and stuff that comes true that was written by the great comedians Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding who had their character Lawrence Fechtenberger (ph), interstellar officer candidate, try to catch a satellite in a bit from 1954 with a baseball glove. 

And lastly from “Oddball,” the definition thereof, Bill O‘Reilly, “The New York Daily News” reporting that he is considering running for the Senate.  The host of Fox News Channel‘s fact or fiction show has, says the newspaper, anyway, confided to friends that he is seriously considering a run at the New York seat in 2006.  That would be the year Senator Hillary Clinton would be running for re-election.  The paper says that to burnish his bona fides as a moderate Republican, O‘Reilly has contemplated endorsing John Kerry in this election.  If Bill O‘Reilly will get off TV and run for senator or dog catcher, I‘ll not only vote for him, I‘ll campaign for him.

“Oddball” in the record books. 

Up next, our No. 3 story.  Elizabeth Edwards joins us with candid remarks on life on the campaign trail.  Her take on the war on terror and the political war.  And if you like political figures who don‘t sound like politicians, you‘ll enjoy this interview.

And later, the hazards of parenting.  Do kids really drag down mom and dad‘s I.Q.?  Yes, apparently the only answer or question is, by how much?  These stories ahead, first your COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.

No. 3, President Bill Clinton.  As he recuperates from quadruple bypass, the restaurant adjoining his presidential library prepares for its November opening.  Cafe 42 offers fried chicken meatloaf, toll house cookies—or fried chicken and meatloaf or perhaps both at the same time, with the cookies, all the stuff he can‘t have anymore.  No word if Cafe 42 will itself be adjoined by Bubba‘s House of Discount Angioplasty.

No. 2, Craig Nordstrand of New Zealand, a karate expert, is fourth don black belt, proved that the cliches are true.  Attacked by four muggers in Suva in Fiji, he asked, “Do you want karate?”  They said yes.  Final score, victim four, muggers nothing. 

And No. 1, Sylvia Sutherland, the mayor of Sylvia Sutherland in Ontario, Canada, says she plans to pose naked for a calendar that will raise money for his city‘s flood disaster relief program, meaning this might be the only time you can say this to Mayor Sutherland without getting into trouble.  Say, get a load of those sandbags!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was July 30 when most of us first heard the story out of freshly minted Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards‘ annually fulfilled family tradition by celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife, Elizabeth, at the nearest available Wendy‘s restaurant.  If that did not sound like the modern equivalent of young George Washington cutting down the cherry tree or at least the man from Hope, what could? 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, OK, join with me in putting away my Mr. Cynic hat for a little while.  Tonight, Elizabeth Edwards, in the first of a two-part conversation, which we could best summarize thusly.  If you only watch political interviews in which people talked like politicians are expected to talk, change the channel now.  She doesn‘t. 

I spoke with the candidate‘s wife this afternoon. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Mrs. Edwards, thanks so much for your time. 

E. EDWARDS:  It‘s great to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  I wanted to start with the news of the week, the sense that the Democratic campaign might not have been tough enough, that Senator Kerry has gotten his closer face on.  He‘s rearranged the campaign team.  He and your husband are getting or going to get a lot rougher to get even, get mad.  Is there any truth in any of that?  Or were we in the media just looking for a good Labor Day political story? 

E. EDWARDS:  Oh, I think maybe a little of both. 

I think that the Republican Convention was pretty rough and took a lot of swipes.  And I think that it‘s important to respond to it, which means that we have to take a different tone in response than we did when we were talking about just what John Kerry and John Edwards are going to do about jobs or what they are going to do about health care. 

So now we‘re having to answer a lot of the fear-mongering, I think, that happened in the convention.  So we‘ll do it.  We‘ll do what‘s necessary to make the case to the American people why these two men should be the next president and vice president. 

OLBERMANN:  Anybody with an opinion in any election sits around and wonders, how can the other side feel the way they do?

E. EDWARDS:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not asking you, gosh, Mrs. Edwards, how could anybody vote for President Bush, but, rather do you, from being on the campaign trail, sense why they would? 

E. EDWARDS:  Well, I talked to a lot of independent voters and some Republicans voters as well who are disillusioned and looking at whether John Kerry has the answer.  I don‘t really talk to the true believers so much, though I wish they would come. 

I mean, I‘m happy to talk to just about anybody.  I think, though, that probably the same dynamic is happening in 2004, in some respects, that happened in 2000, which was that they see George Bush as an of affable kind of guy.  He got up at the end of his convention speech, sort of made fun of himself.  The stuff that you like to make fun of on your show, he made fun of himself for doing at the convention. 

And everyone likes someone who is a little self-deprecating.  And then I think they have painted a very compelling picture of themselves as the sole place Americans can go if they want to be safe from terrorism.  I don‘t think it‘s an accurate picture, but they have painted a compelling picture.  And it is our job to make certain that the real abilities of John Kerry and John Edwards to address exactly these same issues is in front of the American people. 

Frankly, I have to be honest with you, Keith.  I don‘t think there‘s a single American, regardless of their party, who wouldn‘t do everything possible to keep us safe.  I don‘t think this is—ought to be part of the dialogue.  No one should be questioning—someone is going to be president in—next January.  And I don‘t want any American, Democrat or Republican, feeling like that person doesn‘t have every bit of the will to protect us that they need. 

So that‘s why I don‘t spend any time suggesting that the president isn‘t devoted to protecting us.  But neither do I think it is a worthwhile use of their time to be saying that John Kerry is not as interested and as prepared to do exactly the same thing. 

OLBERMANN:  Amen on the bipartisan quality.  And perhaps someday in politics, we‘ll see it again.  Who knows.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve been described as your husband‘s top political adviser.  What are you telling him about this campaign about convincing people down the homestretch, even just specifically on this issue of national security?

E. EDWARDS:  Well, I don‘t really advise him about much of that stuff.  I‘m more of a sounding board for him.  He‘s: “I‘m thinking about saying something this way.  What do you think of it?” just the way a normal husband and wife do.  So I don‘t really advise him in terms of saying, I think you ought to take a completely different tack than you‘re taking right now. 

I think that he—he now feels compelled to make the case again about what exactly Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards would do.  So he talks about port security and he talks about chemical plants and he talks making even our airlines safer.  They‘re things that we could be doing that we‘re not.  So he talks about those things and tries to explain how comprehensively he and Senator Kerry have thought about the issues. 

But exactly how he says it, I trust him.  He‘s better at that than I am. 

OLBERMANN:  Would you assess for us?  Do you think that the campaign has made mistakes?  Maybe I‘m pushing too much here for these forthright, honest answers that we‘ve talked about.

E. EDWARDS:  I give you a little, you‘re going to take a mile, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

E. EDWARDS:  No.

No, I mean, every campaign makes, I think, probably makes some mistakes.  I mean, I saw you in dumbfounded silence yesterday about one that George—a misstatement George Bush wishes he could have back.  There‘s always...

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

E. EDWARDS:  Our leaders are human.  And we don‘t pretend otherwise. 

What we hope to have are sort of thoughtful people who recognize when they make a mistake, that they can correct it.  And one thing I think the American people are looking for, too, is that they can also take responsibility for the mistakes.  And I think Senator Kerry has said—I think you heard it over the weekend, a number people saying this wasn‘t a particularly good August for the campaign. 

And we need to get back on track and talk about—respond to these charges and get back on track talking about the ways they‘re going to address the problems that face most Americans in their home. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, I‘ll give you one now that could be a softball that you could just pass on, if you want. 

E. EDWARDS:  OK, I like that.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any idea what the president said in Missouri yesterday, what he was trying to say?  Do you have a clue or...

E. EDWARDS:  Yes. 

I think that, instead of love, he might have meant livelihood. 

OLBERMANN:  Livelihood. 

E. EDWARDS:  Livelihood.  Is that good? 

(CROSSTALK)

E. EDWARDS:  He referred a couple weeks ago on Rush Limbaugh‘s show to Iowa as the hinterlands.  I think he probably meant heartland when he said that. 

(LAUGHTER)

E. EDWARDS:  I‘m just trying to give him a break.  I don‘t know for certain what he meant. 

OLBERMANN:  Anybody who has ever stood in front of a crowd has said something they meant and said something they didn‘t mean and said something that didn‘t make any sense whatsoever.  But...

E. EDWARDS:  I know.  I always tell John I meant to say no when he asked me to marry him instead of yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  I would be remiss here if I didn‘t get your assessment of Teresa Heinz Kerry.  You presumably knew her before this campaign, but have come to know her much better since.  What is she like, in your opinion? 

E. EDWARDS:  This is an immensely intelligent woman who has an incredibly interesting life. 

And she has chosen as an adult, when she could have chosen any kind of idle activity that she wanted, has chosen instead to spend virtually all of her free time devoted to causes that she makes happen through her foundations that her husband‘s company and her husband‘s, her first husband‘s wealth provided her.  She has made a difference in health care in western Pennsylvania and really across the world. 

She‘s fought environmental fights.  She‘s worked for prescription drug plans in a number of states across this country.  And this is a woman who didn‘t have to do any of it.  And I have immense respect for her.  She‘s been, I think, particularly with some journalists in western Pennsylvania, a target for a long time.  And there‘s really no reason whatsoever for that to be so.  I respect her.  And I think that there‘s no question whatsoever that, when elected, when her husband is elected, she will be the most generous first lady we‘ve ever had. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The rest of our interview with Elizabeth Edwards, Mrs.  John Edwards, tomorrow night.  And she‘s probably enough of a regular viewer of this program—improbably enough—and whose reason for turning out to have become one may actually bring a tear to your eye, as it did to mine.

Up next, our No. 2 story, a dramatic new view of the terror attack in Russia and the mother forced to choose which of her two children would be freed.  And later, decision 2004 meets the Academy Awards, how the presidential voting will impact the Oscar voting. 

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I thought I would bring you back a local delicacy, Sam.  There is a deep fried Oreo. 

SAM SHANE, NBC ANCHOR:  No, you‘re kidding.

JANSING:  Yum.

SHANE:  Does it has the white stuff in the middle? 

(CROSSTALK)

JANSING:  Let‘s see. 

SHANE:  There it is.

JANSING:  Yum.

SHANE;  Chris Jansing live in Missouri.

JANSING;  I‘ll fight you for it. 

SHANE:  OK.

BUSH:  It is great to be back in Columbia.  It is nice to be here at the Boone County Fairgrounds. I was hoping to get a corny dog.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He‘s kept his age well, hasn‘t he?  He‘s gorgeous. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think he looks a day over 22.  He will be around for another, I hope, 500,000 years. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Up next, the assault at Beslan, new video inside the school as the attack unfolded and how terrorists who wanted to free the hostage children became victims themselves.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The breadth of the horror in Beslan, Russia, should be measurable just by the numbers, 335 victims dead. 

But in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, new information, new visuals proving it can be worse even than that seems.  One of the surviving suspects told authorities at a Russian TV network that when three of the gang protested holding children as hostages, they were shot by the leader, who then let Zalina Dzandarova leave the school with one of her two children, but not both of them.

Suddenly living the movie “Sophie‘s Choice,” Mrs. Dzandarova walked away carrying her 2-year-old son, Alan, leaving her 6-year-old daughter, Alana.  That was last Thursday; 24 hours later, the hostage siege ended and they found Alana Dzandarova unharmed in the hospital.  When she saw her mother, the little girl just smiled and said, “I‘m not going to school anymore.”

It is amazing that anybody in Beslan ever will, not after videotape recorded by the terrorists was publicly released. 

Our correspondent is Jim Maceda. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The chilling foot aired on Russian TV tonight showed what it was like inside the school gym hours after it became the flash point of the 53-hour hostage siege. 

Islamic militants, some in camouflage, had herded over 1,100 students, teachers and parents on to the floor, captives fanning themselves in the stifling heat, militants seen wiring makeshift explosives around the hostages.  A female hostage taker dressed in the black points a pistol.  The gym floor appears stained in blood.  In another scene, a masked militant seems to be testing a detonator with his foot under a basketball hoop, while a small child, frightened, holds his hand behind his head. 

This perhaps one of the bombs that exploded two days later, collapsing the roof and sending hostages fleeing, many to their deaths, as Russian forces stormed the building. 

(on camera):  The images were released on a day when hundreds of thousands protested across Russia against an unprecedented act of terror that killed more than 150 children. 

(voice-over):  In Moscow, the largest protest.  Tens of thousands called on President Vladimir Putin to get tougher on terrorists, some drawing the battle lines. 

“We can‘t tolerate this any longer,” he says.  “Now there are heroes and there are enemies.”

Back in Beslan, there were dozens more funerals today and more grief from stricken Russian families, as the death toll rose to nearly 340, and all over Russia, the fear that it could happen again. 

Jim Maceda, NBC News, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  If a transition from terror to entertainment could possibly be made, where better to begin it than with the movie that did the very same thing?

“Fahrenheit 9/11” and some odd strategy from Michael Moore leading our nightly celebrity roundup, “Keeping Tabs.”  Moore says he has decided not to submit the film in the best documentary category at the upcoming Academy Awards.  He says he would like to give other documentary makers a chance at the Oscar.  He says he want to enter it into the best picture category instead.  He says he is trying to get the film on TV before the election.  That alone would disqualify it from consideration as a documentary.  And, of course, Moore‘s critics argue, the film isn‘t really a documentary anyway. 

Up next, our No. 1 story tonight.  Parents, you can have your children or you can have your I.Q., but evidently not both.  We‘ll ask about Carl Reiner about that. 

Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To borrow the Hawkeye Pierce line from “MASH,” I don‘t have any kids.  I remain my only child.  But my reproductive friends have some tough facts to face tonight, facts I‘ve tried to tell them.  Only they either, A, don‘t want to hear or, B, can‘t quite seem to summon up the brain cells to grasp.  It turns out it may be B. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a five-year study just concluded at Indiana University suggesting that upon the birth of their first child, 100 percent of parents lose at least 12 I.Q. points, and the average loss is 20.  If the study is right, let me explain to you parents, 20 is eight more than 12. 

The Kinsey Institute started with 200 childless married couples.  They were given standardized intelligence quotient tests; 173 of the couples bred successfully.  They were given more I.Q. tests.  All 173 couples scored lower the second time around, lower by at least 12, lower by an average of 20.  The loss may not be reversible.  It may be compounded for each child you have.  And most of the brain power, say Indiana researchers, was lost in the area of objective thinking. 

“This explains why every parent thinks their child is the smartest kid in the class or the best athlete,” says study director Dr. Hosung Lee, “even if that child is as dumb as a box of rocks or needs a calendar to time their 40-yard dash.”  Dr. Lee is a pip, isn‘t he? 

For an opinion, we are honored to be joined by a real-life famous father who also modeled one of TV‘s great dads, Rob Petrie, after himself and who has 21 Emmy Awards among his writing, directing and acting credits, which also include the new movie “Ocean‘s 12” and the new animated sitcom “Father of the Pride.”

Carl Reiner, what a thrill this is for me, sir.  Thank you kindly. 

CARL REINER, ACTOR/WRITER:  The thrill is mine.  I love you, Keith, ever since I first saw you doing sports.  I love you. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, no.  It‘s really—no, we‘re going to get into Uncle Goofy if we go any further. 

So let me start in here about the movie and the show in a moment.  But let me start about this research out of Indiana.  Kids make you at least 12 I.Q. points dumber and maybe 20.  Do you buy any of this? 

REINER:  Not at all. 

What happens, if you have kids, you get busy.  Who has time to take tests?  You take a test, you don‘t care about the test. 

(LAUGHTER)

REINER:  When you‘re young going someplace, I want to do so well on this test.  I want to be considered a genius and get a good job.  When you‘re a parent, you have got other things to think about. 

An I.Q. test, OK, I‘ll take it.  You take it of course early, those people—they should not be bothering themselves in Indiana with these kinds of tests.  Do more important kind of testing.  It‘s not important. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible that also what might be mistaken for loss of I.Q. is merely sleep deprivation?  All my long-term friends who have become parents seem as smart to me as they used to be.  They just seem too worn out to remember what they actually still know. 

REINER:  Absolutely.  You do lose a little bit of the gray cells when you get older.  Memory.  You lose memory of things you don‘t need.  If you look at the things that they flunk on or that brings their average down, it‘s probably very unimportant in the I.Q.

I don‘t believe in I.Q.s anyway.  You know, Einstein had 106 I.Q.  It was wrong.  He was very smart. 

OLBERMANN:  He just wasn‘t good test taker. 

REINER:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Is what it boiled down to.

REINER:  This is not true, what I said.

OLBERMANN:  No.

REINER:  About Einstein. 

OLBERMANN:  Who knows what it was?

Let‘s talk about this new kind of fatherhood, “Father of the Pride,” airing tonight after this show on NBC, produced by DreamWorks.  You‘re the former star of Siegfried & Roy‘s Las Vegas show, which makes you a lion.  Is it tough to do an animated series?  Is it tough to be a lion? 

REINER:  No, I love being a lion, because I have the voice of a lion when they don‘t look at me.  And I don‘t have to put on makeup.  But the animated—by the way, I was the father of the pride.  I was the head lion, as you say.  But when I got a little older and I had to jump through the hoop, I wear a toupee, as I do in life—I did in life as Alan Brady. 

And my toupee gets caught on the rim and I lost my job to my son-in-law, who is not even an African lion.  He‘s a Vegas lion.  He married my daughter.  She married beneath her.  And I got so upset with this guy.  And on this particular show that we‘re seeing tonight, Larry, played by John Goodman, plays—I‘m hearing something in my—oh, there it is. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It‘s the actual background noise from the show itself. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  But before we—in the 45 seconds or so that I‘ve got here, the movie, “Ocean‘s 12.”

REINER:  That‘s me.

OLBERMANN:  You are reprising the character, actually the character playing the character? 

REINER:  Yes.  Saul Bloom is in it.  And all 11 are back, plus Catherine Zeta-Jones, which makes 12.  And it‘s a cut above the last one, I maybe think two or three cuts above.  It‘s very complicated, very good, and very involving.  It‘s one of the better pictures of this year, coming out December 10. 

OLBERMANN:  December—yes, we have the 8th, but it‘s around there somewhere.  We‘ll remind the viewers then.  And bring your I.Q. with you. 

The Hollywood legend Carl Reiner.  “Father of the Pride” on NBC Tuesday nights at 9:00, which is right now on the East Coast, if this is our live show and we‘re not on tape already. 

REINER:  And you‘re not going to ask me why I‘m voting for Kerry?  OK. 

If you‘re not going to ask me, I won‘t tell you. 

OLBERMANN:  You got the plug in there anyway.  So why—I‘ve only got 30 seconds left in the show.  We have to go, and whatever. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Anyway, as I said, sir, it is an honor to have you here. 

Thank you for being with us. 

(LAUGHTER)

REINER:  OK.  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

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

Like our new studio?  Good night and good luck. 

END   

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