updated 9/14/2004 10:29:20 AM ET 2004-09-14T14:29:20

Guests: Peter Cordani, Michele Zipp, Craig Crawford, Paul Colford, Susan Page

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The Killian memos?  Are they fakes?  Did Kerry supporters make them to be believed?  Did Bush supporters fake them to be discredited?  One source recants. 

After hurricane number 3, Cuba hit hard by Ivan but the Florida Keys seem in the clear.  Why doesn‘t science do anything about these nightmares?  One inventor thinks he can.  He‘ll join us. 

The proof that negative campaign ads work. 

And what about this Anderson Cooper?  Who says he is sexy? 

Guess who won the “Playgirl” newscaster.

And holy house of Hanover, Batman, that protester at Buckingham Palace looks just like you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right you are, boy wonder. 

All that and more.  Same bat time.  Same bat channel.  Now on

COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Monday, September 13.  Fifty days until the 2004 presidential election.  If the test of a first-rate intelligence is as Scott Fitzgerald defined it the idea to hold two opposing ideas and still function, then there are a lot more first-rate intelligences in politics than would appear at first blush. 

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN.  One of the sources who confirmed the so-called Killian memos about George Bush has now also denied them.  A series of books critical of the president is both being suppressed and overhyped and Colin Powell has refuted the claim that he was pressured to make his 2003 speech about Iraq at the U.N. and refuted vice president‘s claim that John Kerry would be tepid on terrorism. 

You might want to take notes on all this.  Secretary Powell first.  He and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge today testified at the Senate governmental affairs committee and the magazine “Vanity Fair” actually became part of the nation‘s political discourse when Senator Levin of Michigan pressed Powell about whether, as it reported, he had been pressured to amplify on or exaggerate the Iraqi threat that he described in his February 2003 speech to the United Nations. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I did not find an analytical basis upon which to make the claim of al Qaeda at 9/11 or the Prague meetings.  And so I dropped them.  Nobody pressured me, nobody called me and said I had to include it.  I got this raw information, looked at it and declined to use it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But in the months before the speech which Mr. Powell today defended, did he characterize to a foreign leader the hardline members of the Bush administration as “blanking crazies?”  So claims a British book out this week written by a BBC reporter which says in the summer of 2002, Powell used that term to his counterpart in the English government, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. 

Titled “The Accidental American,” the book quotes Powell as so calling the neoconservatives in the administration specifically Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Their policies, Powell is said to have told Straw, might have alienated the British government from supporting American plans in Iraq.  Powell and Straw reportedly both contacted the U.S. publishers of the book, Public Affairs, to protest and deny the terminology, but not to threaten legal action. 

And then there‘s a second connection between Powell and Cheney.  You will recall the vice president‘s remarks in Iowa last week suggesting that the wrong choice on election day would leave this country vulnerable to catastrophic terrorist attacks.  Mr. Powell seemed to contradict Mr. Cheney when asked by Tim Russert how he thought a President Kerry would respond to terrorism. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL:  As commander-in-chief, I think he‘ll respond to it in a robust way.  There‘s no commander-in-chief, no president of the United States who does not respond to terrorism.  Now, how he would respond, which strategies that individual would use, I can‘t predict the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If your head isn‘t spinning yet, there are always the Killian memos to turn back to.  That battle of the nth degree.  Nothing new from the outlet that broke the story, CBS News.  But one of that organization‘s secondary sources recanted over the weekend with the memos looking suspiciously but not conclusively like something you could produce on a home computer now but not on a typical early seventies typewriter then with the signatures of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian not matching known signatures too closely and with a reference to a supposed August 1973 memo to the active service of a colonel who had retired in 1972. 

Retired Major General Bobby Hodges says CBS misled him by only reading him the memos not showing them to him and he now thinks they are fakes.  General Hodges does not explain why he agreed to validate the memos without seeing them first. 

Is anybody going to explain how the documents came to be so quickly and thoroughly refuted on a right-wing website not two hour after they were first revealed on CBS.  The originator of the online discrediting of the Killian memos identified himself only as Buckhead (ph).  A little sleuthing on the website on which he posted his typographical criticism pulls up all his other postings and thus a lot more info about him. 

On the site, Buckhead claims he is a lawyer from the Atlanta area who participated last month in a meeting of lawyers for Bush-Cheney, an organization he said will be called upon in the event there are election irregularities and everybody winds up in court again.  He says he has worked for a Congressman.  He says he considers himself prominent in G.O.P.  legal circles in Georgia. 

So the Killian documents come out and are almost immediately questioned by a lawyer with Republican ties and are distributed to other news organizations without comment by the White House.  And they suddenly have one of their principal endorsers retract his endorsement. 

How many rats do you smell? 

To talk this over, I‘m joined now by Craig Crawford, MSNBC political analyst, columnist for “Congressional Quarterly” and by way of full disclosure in this case, also a contributor to the CBS program, “The Early Show.”

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You sound a bit suspicious tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Who, me?  Is it political science fiction to wonder though if these could have been faked and planted, either by very, very dumb Democrats or very, very risk-taking Republicans? 

CRAWFORD:  That would be a very sophisticated, and I would have to give an image to anyone on the Republican side who would come up with a script like that to actually set up a news organization with the fake document that hurts your guy and then when it turns out, if it turn out to be fake, then it has distracted the whole discussion from the substance of the story that CBS was trying to report on which is all of the questions about the president‘s National Guard service. 

OLBERMANN:  That presumably, if you go along with this sort of, as we said, political science fiction, that would be the goal.  We‘ve had forged documents in presidential elections since at least 1844. 

So that‘s the question.  Would anybody really have the guts, Democrats, Republicans, whoever, to create a news story that would on the face of it, damage their own candidate just so that the story could be knocked down and would the knocking down of the story actually help in this case, the Bush campaign? 

CRAWFORD:  No.  It does stretch imagination to think that at this stage of the campaign, with so much at stake, that something dumb like that would happen.  Didn‘t we learn that in Watergate?  It is the dumbest things that bring down candidacies and presidencies.  This could be a Unabomber of politics out there just doing this on his own.  But CBS says it is an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) source they got the document from and they‘re a credible news organization and I don‘t think they knowingly put forged documents out. 

So I imagine whatever they do in the way of internal investigation of this thing, they‘ll get to the bottom of and report it. 

OLBERMANN:  But you know, you can get a lot past almost any news organization.  And if anybody doubts that, ask Jason Blair and the “New York Times.”  Let‘s step it back one notch.  Let‘s say somebody on, whether it is a—maybe it‘s a Democratic Unabomber of politics, somebody on Mr.  Kerry‘s side of the ball faked these.  Now you can get much past any news organization especially one in a hurry but you have to expect something like this would get a much further examination and evaluation later on by other people.  And wouldn‘t somebody faking this to try to hurt Mr. Bush have to think about at least the typefaces that would identify this as a 2004 document as opposed to a 1992 document or 1972 document.  And more importantly, the out-of-date references to the retired colonel.  Who sophisticatedly would leave that stuff in this?

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  And it goes back to your double agent theory.  If someone wanted this to be found out to be forged, this looks like a pretty good way to at least create the debate that it was forged. 

OLBERMANN:  Am I out on my own on this, though, Craig?  Are you going to join me out here in science fiction land? 

CRAWFORD:  I like it.  Maybe I want to like it because it‘s good political theater to think that this kind of dirty tricking was going on.  It‘s amazing how this campaign has just become a series of, like, high school pranks, almost, from one story to the next. 

And what really strikes me, Keith, is we are still having these debates over Vietnam and documents about Vietnam.  And the news from Iraq is really starting to make you wonder if we‘re creating another Vietnam over there.  Some of the grumbling from military leaders talking about, that they‘re being held back now is one problem.  It recalls the political folks trying to run the war in Vietnam. 

OLBERMANN:  You know the political rule.  Never talk about today‘s problem because you don‘t know how today‘s problem turns out.  Talk about yesterday‘s problem. 

CRAWFORD:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford.  As always, sir, great thanks for your insight. 

Controversial documents from 30 years ago, or maybe 30 days ago are hardly the only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commotion in this campaign.  Seven of the top 15 books in the “New York Times” non-fiction list this week have political theme.  Here come two more, who‘s critics say are too much. 

The first released title “Chain of Command: The road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib” by the veteran investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh.  It was Hersh, who earlier this year was among first to disclose details of prisoner abuse at the Iraqi prison.  Hersh now alleges that senior U.S.  military and national security officials were repeatedly warned, as early about 2002 about abuse of prisoners in military custody.  Hersh reports also that Condoleezza Rice held meetings about it, but that the issue “disappeared after it was brought to the attention of the Defense Secretary Mr. Rumsfeld.”  Rice has denied that she or other top officials ignored any abuse warnings. 

Then there is the already controversial Kitty Kelly offering the family.  Supposedly the target of a White House media suppression blitz, which has served only to main stream a gossipy book into hits.  Where it‘s author in venues like “The Today Show,” free (ph) parts.

Kelly is the tabloidy author of the previous controversial biographies of Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, the British royal family.  This book alleges drug use and other serious indiscretions during the youth of the president.  Miss Kelly‘s defenders note that no court has ever found against her for libeling anybody.  One disclaimer here, I have been acquainted professionally with the editor of this book, Peter Gethers and I found him to be a genuinely dedicated journalist. 

But 700,000 copies of that book will go sale tomorrow.  And some of the stories of the most nefarious behavior are attributed to unnamed sources.  And adding the Hersh and Kelly offerings to the opposite ends of that book shelf, there now seem to be too many political books to count. 

I‘m joined by Paul Colford, media columnist from the news paper “The New York Daily News.”

Mr. Colford, good evening.   

PAUL COLFORD, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Few living voters could remember this.  There was a time in this country, that every presidential, each party put out its official book of candidates, sometime more than one.  Often books about the other candidates.  They all owned their own newspapers and often all of this media output bore no resemblance to the truth whatsoever. 

Are we now kind of laissez faire way headed back to the era? 

COLFORD:  We‘re certainly seeing an abundance of books about the buy and about the candidates themselves.  I mean, speaking of the candidate just in this race on the Democratic side, Senator Kerry, wrote a book that was out before he secured the nomination.  He has a book in tandem with Senator Edwards since then.  And there are two other books about Kerry that he cooperated with.  So there‘s just an explosion of interest in these people and in these personalities that accounts for at least some of the interest and these books as a whole. 

OLBERMANN:  You pointed out in one of your columns, that four years ago last week, the number of political books on that “New York Times” best seller list, was one.  And now of the top 15, it‘s nearly 50 percent.  Why is that? 

COLFORD:  Well, so many things of magnitude have happened in the last four years of course.  9/11 happened.  Every day people do have everyday about terrorism, of course.  The election in 2000 that followed story your referring to, was so close and so much antagonism ensued from that.  That that the electorate has been divided on many fronts ever since then.  And now we have a presidential election which has brought back a lot of those memories, and it will turn on the votes of very, very few people in the final analysis.  So, I think people for a number of reasons are very much legitimately concerned about politics and current affairs.  So, That‘s What has expanded the market for these books. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, what‘s your intuition on the Kitty Kelly book? 

Is she just a gossip who can rumba around the liable laws or is she a mistreated truth teller or she both or what?

COLFORD:  I have no doubt with her book has been thoroughly vetted by a reputable publisher.  That is Doubleday.  Doubleday is not a schlock publisher by any means.  Doubleday was a publishing house—may she rest in peace, that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked for.  And so, whether that makes for 100 percent certitude as to what‘s in the book, that‘s another issue.  But I‘m sure it passed the smell test of the lawyers.  And even if it didn‘t pass the smell test of “Newsweek” magazine.  The fact that the “Today Show” will take her apart or take interest in it over the course of three mornings, I think, speaks to what they know to be the interest of her readers. 

OLBERMANN:  Paul Colford, of the “New York Daily News,” many thanks for your insights, sir. 

COLFORD:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, what do you do after you‘ve hogged off both Chris Matthews and the college Republicans at American University.  That is the dilemma now faced by the writer of Michelle Malkin.  Her address on the campus at Washington D.C. tomorrow, was canceled by the president of the college‘s college Republicans Group. 

The “Washington Post” quotes his e-mail to Mrs. Malkin as reading “Our first priority in the next few months is insuring President Bush be reelected.  Staff members of the Bush Campaign have frowned on us, for having an event centered on the internment of Japanese-Americans.  He also warns about possible protest, “about an issue we frankly can not defend at heart of hearts.”  Mrs. Malkin told the newspaper she had planned to critic, “Teddy Kennedy and Karl Rove for coddling the illegal alien lobby.”

I‘m sorry we missed that.

COUNTDOWN opening up with the political science fiction. 

Up next, tonight‘s number four, the science if any of polling.  No matter how you look at it, the senators—the centers—the numbers are not looking good for the senator at this point.  We‘ll look at what needs to change or what they may think needs to change at the Kerry camp. 

And later, the fury of Ivan.  It has devastated the Caribbean but there are reason to be cautiously optimistic about its impact on the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was about this time of year, 56-years-ago, that the then three major polling organizations, Roper, Crossly and Gallup, decided enough was enough.  For weeks, their surveys of the electorate had turned up more and more evidence of less and less of a presidential horse race.  They stopped polling and announced the winner of the 1948 presidential election by a land slide would be Thomas E. Dewey. 

Our fourth story, that tired tale has been told by every Democrat and every Republican on the downside of a race by every journalist seeking to advance a cause or any journalist just seeking to advance a story.  But it does underscore the fallibility of the polls, to say nothing of what we have seen this year, their changeability. 

Four new polls out.  One almost wishes they had followed Roper, Crossly and Gallup, and just stopped. “TIME” magazine, the president enjoys an 11 point lead, rendering the statistical margin of error of 3 percent moot.  Not in the “Newsweek” poll.  The margin is 6 points, error is 4.  The latest AP poll continues the trend with the president at 51/46, but half of that can be counterbalanced by a margin of error of 2.5.  Finally, the presidents message seeming to play in the heartland, leading Zogby poll of rural voters by 15 percent.  The margin of error there, 3.1.

Seven weeks from tonight, numbers like that could encourage both Mr.  Bush and Mr. Kerry to sleep late on election morning.  But now, the only people assuming they will stay like that are some of us in the media.  The same ones who, if the margins next week are half of these, will say there‘s been a stunning rehearsal in the polls. 

I‘m joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of “USA Today.” 

Many thanks.  Good evening. 

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY:  Keith, it‘s good to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Before we an lies all that, there‘s more.  Your poll out tomorrow for “USA Today” focusing on Wisconsin, one of the key purple states.  What‘s the headline there?

PAGE:  Well, I think President Bush is in better shape in Wisconsin, up eight points in our likely voters sample.  That‘s not outside the margin of error, which is 5 percentage points.  But it is movement in his direction.  He gets over 50 percent.  Up to 52 percent.  So it is encouraging for Republicans. 

You know, Wisconsin was a state that voted for Al Gore in 2000, but very narrowly.  It is the blue state that Republicans has the best chance of turning red. 

OLBERMANN:  In the old days, back to the general picture, when conventions actually chose the candidates, and this week after Labor Day would have been considered week two, maybe week three of the campaign.  If somebody said to me, an intelligent man said to me today, if John Kerry doesn‘t turn this around right now, he is Michael Dukakis.  Is it panic time yet in the Kerry camp?  Do they think it‘s panic time?

PAGE:  Yes.  I think there‘s a lot of concern in the Kerry camp.  But it is certainly not—the election is certainly over.  At this point, Gore was ahead of George Bush in 2000.  And Bush, of course, now in the White House.  So there‘s—it‘s not an insurmountable lead. 

But the momentum is not in John Kerry‘s direction.  He has had a very tough August.  With the swift boat veterans damaged his reputation.  The Republican convention got people focused very much on the issue of terrorism.  That‘s the issue on which is President Bush has his greatest advantage. 

OLBERMANN:  We have heard since last spring that John Kerry is a good closer.  What exactly—have we seen that?  Does that mean anything in a presidential race?  And what does a good closer do right now in this race? 

PAGE:  Well, you know, I think we‘ve seen it already in this presidential race in the primaries.  John Kerry was basically counted out last December.  He came back strong in Iowa, won the nomination in a couple weeks, much to our surprise. 

By a good closer, it means statistically, he is really focused when the chips are down, when people are counting him out, he starts to articulate a stronger message.  He does a better job of connecting with voters.  If John Kerry were to do that, this would be a good time to start. 

OLBERMANN:  And the last scheduled anticipated possible boom point for either candidate in this campaign would be presumably, the debates, right? 

PAGE:  Very important.  They‘ve often been very important in competitive races since 1976.  They‘ve helped decide the outcome,  especially so this year, I think.  We‘re likely to have two or three presidential debates. 

The only chance voters will have to see these two men side by side.  They have questions about both men.  And it‘s going to be a chance for voters, especially those few voters who haven‘t made up their minds to see them and judge them. 

OLBERMANN:  Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of the “USA Today.”  Many thanks for joining us again.  And thanks for you insight.

PAGE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story.  Up next, the break from the serious news stories of the day.  Holy headlines, Batman.  “Oddball” is up next.  Never let them see you sweat, pal. 

And later, Oprah had a secret, but COUNTDOWN let the cat out of the bag on Friday.  Apparently her studio audience does not watch this program.  And now a mighty squeal has gone up from the crowd. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  And we pause the COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news to enter the strange comic book world kind of news where man, animal and vegetable all compete or the air time.  Let‘s do “Oddball.”

Holy illegal entry, Batman.  Buckingham Palace security has more holes than Ertha Kitt‘s (ph) catsuit.  That‘s 32-year-old Jason Hatch, caped crusader for Father‘s Rights.  For five hours today, he perched high atop a palace ledge, holding guards at bay and demanding better treatment for British deadbeat dads or something. 

Bad enough?  Batman, along with another guy dressed as Robin, breached security by simply bringing their own ladder and scaling a fence.  Maybe it was a special bat ladder.  The other half of the dynamic duo was arrested earlier, but not before he spoke to the media. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was very easy.  It was just over a 4-foot fence and the ladder up, and we were in.  I climbed up the ladder (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  A police officer challenged me with a small arm.  He said come down, or I‘ll shoot you.  So I sort of thought about it, very quickly, and came down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Robin was not a chrome dome. 

And that‘s why you‘ll always be a side kick, boy wonder.  You‘ve got no guts! 

Batman was brought down in a big cherry picker and arrested, too.  Can Batman and Robin get out of jail in time?  Can palace security improve their hid just performance?  Can I talk like this for the whole show?  Tune in next time. 

To Greencastle, Pennsylvania.  Where earlier this year, Vernon Kennedy and wife took to praying over their garden for the lord to bring them some wholesome vegetables.  This week they say their prayers were answered when they harvested this humongous carrot shaped like a human hand.  Or at least a Simpson hand. 

Farmer Kennedy isn‘t sure what it means, but he has no intentions of shaving this over a Cobb salad any time soon.  And he is probably rethinking his prayer phraseology as somebody took the part about lend me a hand way too literally. 

Finally to the world of sports, where the unseemly steroid scandals have permeated even the most pristine of competition.  The British Royal Pigeon Racing Association has begun randomly testing their bird and birds of traces of performance enhancing drugs.  Their threatening a 3 year ban for any pigeon caught on the juice.

How long does a pigeon live anyway?

Officials became suspicious last year after a few of the muscle bound birds refused to submit to urine tests after the race and then flew off with the judge‘s car. 

“Oddball” now in the record books. 

Straight ahead, tonight‘s No. 3 story, tracking Hurricane Ivan.  Who will stop the rain?  Believe it or not, inventors are working on drying up hurricanes.  And we‘ll met one of them.  And later, deadly days in Iraq, the insurgency there appearing as fierce now as it was in the days around the fall of Saddam. 

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

No. 3, Lieutenant David Wilson of the police department of Ventura, California, witness to a terrible car accident, a car carrier loaded with four vintage Porsches, each worth $100,000 or more.  Crossing the Union Pacific Railroad, it gets stuck.  They get driver of the truck out, but they do not stop the oncoming freight train in time.  The bad news, the four cars were totaled.  The good news, if you own a vintage Porsche, it just went up a couple bucks in value. 

No. 2, the chickens at Cal State University, Sacramento.  For years, 40 to 60 of them have controversially wandered the campus, free range, free tuition.  The other day, they all disappeared.  They are not believed to have come home to roost, nor crossed the road.  Colonel Sanders.

And, No. 1, Humberto Taveras, the lead man in a party of nine visiting a pizzeria in Lake George, New York.  The diners got their bill.  They discovered, to their surprise, they say, a mandatory 18 percent tip.  They refused to pay it.  They got up to leave, whereupon the restaurant owners had them arrested for failing to pay the tip.  The name of the restaurant?  “Sopranos Italian and American Grill.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We now seem to be approaching them not with fear, but with annoyance.  Why can‘t science do more to tell us about where hurricanes are going?  And, for that matter, why can‘t it do something to slow them down or deflect them? 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Hurricane Ivan eluding forecasters, good news for the Florida Keys, bad news for the Florida Panhandle, a nightmare for the Caribbean, and just maybe an endangered species.  A huge Category 5 storm inching toward the United States at only eight miles per hour, it left 98 percent of Jamaica with no power, half the population of Grenada homeless, 68 people dead throughout the region.  Right now, Ivan is bearing down on the western flank of Cuba with wind speeds of up to 160 miles per hour.  And right in the thick of it, none other than Fidel Castro. 

Our correspondent in Cuba, Peter Alexander, caught up with the dictator this afternoon. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  We are beginning to experience the stinging rain and battering winds as they begin to hit Cuba.  This is the western-most point of this country, exactly where the worst of this Category 5 storm is expected to hit by late this evening. 

Here to greet the storm and to witness its devastation firsthand, 78-year-old Fidel Castro.  As we came to visit with him, we passed eight amphibious tanks.  They were brought in here as protection to take him to safety if the storm threatens his life.  In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Castro told me that he is—that he is appreciative that the storm has not hurt more of his people. 

FIDEL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  No, no, this would be the one that would have caused the most damage, if it had continued along the same path that had brought it from Jamaica.  It would have been very costly and it would have affected services that affect the entire country. 

ALEXANDER:  In total, 98 percent of the people who live in these low-lying coastal towns have evacuated, more than one million people across Cuba overall, a record for this country that fears it may be the worst storm that has hit it since 1932. 

In Sandino, Cuba, Peter Alexander, NBC News. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s Cuba.  What about us? 

Right now, Ivan is slated, expected to make land on the Gulf Coast sometime late Wednesday night, early Thursday morning.  It could hit anywhere between New Orleans and Tallahassee.  That‘s quite an anywhere, depending on its movement over the next two days.  Judging by its current speed, it should progress leisurely through the South, moving up to Tennessee and North Carolina by Saturday. 

Ultimately, why can‘t we change that map?  For centuries in 100 languages, there has been one cliche that tops all the others.  Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.  Peter Cordani and J.D. Dutton think they can.  By dumping a superabsorbent product directly into a hurricane, they think they could reduce the hurricane‘s strength and thus its ability to wreak havoc by as much as 60 percent. 

Mr. Cordani is the chief executive of the company that produces the absorbent material, Dyn-O-Mat.  And he joins us now. 

Good evening to you, sir.

PETER CORDANI, DYN-O-MAT:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  What is the premise here?  Is this like a kind of reverse cloud seeding or what? 

CORDANI:  Yes.  It is in the family of cloud seeding. 

What I have here today to show you, we have a bowl of water.  And I want to show you the ability of the product.  This would be almost like a cloud seeding and you‘ll see instantly how it absorbs all that moisture on contact.  All the water is totally gone in the bowl.  And what we‘re trying to do is absorb the moisture and extract it from it and it will slow the storm down, take a devastating punch out of the storm. 

And also very unique about the product, it has an endothermic feature in it.  It will cool the storm up to 15 to 20 degrees.  And then it will fall down harmlessly down towards the ocean.  And this would be salt water that as it would be falling into our oceans.  And you can see immediately, it reliquefies into water.  All the gel is gone. 

OLBERMANN:  So the worst that could happen to any bystander at that point is to get a glop of gel on their head if they‘re standing under the direct hit.  Is that about it? 

CORDANI:  Correct, though it is all going to be done over the ocean. 

OLBERMANN:  So can this—obviously, it‘s the most ridiculous statement to make, but a hurricane is a lot larger than that bowl of water.  Can it work in a larger venue and can you find out if it can work in a larger venue? 

CORDANI:  Yes.  Approximately about a year ago, we had the opportunity to go up with some aircraft and we cleared a building thunderstorm off the Doppler radar. 

So I believe at this time, working—like, we just put, we just put the product together with Evergreen, where we have the new aircraft.  And now with that aircraft, we‘re getting ready to test.  And between the polymer and the aircraft and the science that we have involved, I think it won‘t be a problem at all. 

OLBERMANN:  Was there a thought that you might try this out on this Hurricane Ivan as it approached Florida? 

CORDANI:  No.  There‘s still a lot of testing to go through.  We‘re trying to get scientific data to convince the science community that this is safe for our environment. 

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t imagine that there would be a pro-hurricane lobby somewhere.  What is holding this up? 

CORDANI:  Well, we are moving as fast as we can.  It took a long time to get the aircraft together, because this is a new design system that Evergreen developed and built.  It is not on paper anymore.  It is actually flying, as you see. 

And a lot of testing and working with the professors like Dr. Peter Ray, trying to get the scientific data we need.  We‘re just in the mix right now of building some advanced Doppler radar equipment, so we can learn and find out what each little particle is doing up there. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, Mr. Peter Cordani, CEO of Dyn-O-Mat, if this works, there will be statues of you up and down the Florida coast.  Good luck and thanks for coming in. 

CORDANI:  Thank you for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  The hurricane, our No. 3 story.  And certainly it‘s a better idea than one billion rolls of paper towel. 

Up next, the war in Iraq, more and more civilians getting caught in the crosshairs.  Insurgents strike back.  It is a mess there.  And, later, season premiers and high-pitched squealing, those two can only combine to mean one thing.  The Oprah secret was revealed today.  And where is our award for getting it right on Friday? 

All that ahead.  But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a little bit different.  But I‘m a little mad at you because...

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s an interesting twist. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  You‘re not the first person in America that way, by the way. 

(LAUGHTER)

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  Hurricane Ivan, you‘re fired. 

Is that OK? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CAPITAL GANG”)

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN:  I would like CBS at this point to say where they got these documents from.  The “60 Minutes” thing by Dan Rather was a campaign operation, rather than an attempt to get to the bottom of the truth. 

AL HUNT, CNN:  Robert Novak, you‘re saying CBS should reveal its source? 

NOVAK:  Yes. 

HUNT:  You do?  You think reports ought to reveal sources? 

NOVAK:  No, no.  Wait a minute. 

HUNT:  I‘m just asking. 

NOVAK:  I‘m just saying in that case. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Up next, the insurgents in Iraq, anger growing as the death toll among Iraqi citizens grows.  And later, why the Bush or Kerry camps might want to enlist the COUNTDOWN staff to help with their advertising campaigns.  We won an election, and we played dirty, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Missiles and mortars and car bombs flew around Baghdad yesterday in a way that resembled more the so-called shooting war of March and April 2003 than any of the time since.  In that city, at least 25 Iraqi civilians were killed.  The total for the rest of that nation yesterday was at least 59 dead and 200 more wounded. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, any sense that Iraq is calming down is wishful thinking and none of those figures included today‘s barrage against the insurgents in Fallujah. 

Our correspondent in Iraq in Mike Kirsch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE KIRSCH, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Just after sunrise, American forces struck with airstrikes and artillery fire.  The target, a hideout of key operatives of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  The battle went on for several hours.  The U.S. military said their attacks were precise.  But at Fallujah‘s general hospital, doctors say an ambulance rushing with wounded from the initial blasts was hit by a shell, killing the driver, a paramedic and five patients. 

“America says that Fallujah is a hotbed of mujahedeen.  But there are only families, women and unarmed people,” he says. 

The U.S. military denies the ambulance strike, but says it did attack two vehicles with mounted guns. 

LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE SPOKESMAN:  We do not target innocent civilians.  Terror networks and the militias that are out here use their own Iraqi civilian population as human shields. 

KIRSCH:  By day‘s end, at least 20 people were dead in Fallujah, another 29 wounded, this the second bloody day in a row, over 80 killed yesterday in Iraq.  On Sunday, in Baghdad alone, insurgents staged 28 attacks, including four suicide bombs, two which went off within moments of each other. 

Today, the funeral for the Palestinian reporter who was covering the aftermath of one of those suicide bombings, an attack on an American Bradley Fighting Vehicle.  People at the scene say they were fired on by a U.S. helicopter gunship.  The U.S. military says the helicopter took fire from the crowd below. 

(on camera):  The danger is that as more civilians are killed in the crossfire between Iraqi militants and U.S. forces, more ordinary Iraqis are becoming enraged, moving away from support of the U.S. and joining the insurgency. 

MICHAEL O‘HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  We are looking at an insurgency that shows no signs of being whittled away or intimidated or anything else. 

KIRSCH (voice-over):  U.S. intelligence sources tell NBC News that on any given day, the number of insurgents can swell to 20,000.  And after today‘s airstrikes, say Iraqis, that number is sure to grow. 

Mike Kirsch, NBC News, Baghdad. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From the tragic in our No. 2 story to the ridiculous, our nightly segue to the world of real news to the unreal world of celebrity and gossip news.  We call it “Keeping Tabs.” 

And we told you so.  Guest host Alison Stewart in this chair last Friday quoted the crack COUNTDOWN investigative, on your side, I-team unit as reporting that Oprah Winfrey had a surprise plan for her studio audience to celebrate the first episode of her new season.  There were three possibilities. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST:           One, she has in her possession the body of a dead alien which she will reveal live on the Monday show.  Two, she‘s going to give away a brand new car to every single member of her live studio audience.  Or, No. 3, she‘s lost another 85 pounds during the show‘s hiatus.  Tune in next week to find out which one is true. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “OPRAH”)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST:  All right.  Open your boxes.  Open your boxes.

One, two, three.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)                

WINFREY:  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  Everybody gets a car!  Everybody gets a car!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right, 276 brand new cars for her viewers.  She gave 11 out of them out at the start of the taping, gave everybody else a box.  And she said one of the boxes contained the keys to a 12th car.  Well, all the boxes had keys.  Of course, the cars were American. 

All the audience members had been selected after friends or family had written in explaining their need of a new car.  That woman set off the alarm.  We would do this here on COUNTDOWN, too, except we don‘t have a studio audience and I don‘t drive. 

Still ahead, how in the world does “Playgirl” magazine teach us something about the modern era of campaigning?  The art of the ad coming up and how I got caught in the middle.  Well, just see for yourself.  Not that. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  Hello.  I‘m Keith Olbermann and I did not approve this message. 

NARRATOR:  This year, America finds itself at a crossroads.  A decision must be made and every vote could mean the difference.  We‘re not talking about some meaningless presidential election.  It‘s “Playgirl” magazine‘s hunkiest anchorman contest.  And Keith Olbermann needs your help.  Without your votes, “Playgirl” magazine may, by default, name this guy or even this guy the sexiest anchorman. 

But you know who is sexy and counts down from five every night?  This guy, Keith Olbermann.  It‘s a thinking person‘s thinking person, a Clark Kent with attitude.  Sean Hannity has a face only Ed Gillespie could love.  Anderson who?  America has a choice.  Choose sexy.  Choose Olbermann, Keith Olbermann.  His middle name is sexy.  Won‘t you please vote now?  Go to COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com. 

Keith‘s middle name is not really sexy.  Hannity‘s middle name is Francis (ph) and that‘s not sexy either. 

Paid for by the Committee to Beat Andy Rooney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To our top story on the COUNTDOWN now, politics.  It is a dirty business.  For all the lamenting amongst politicians and voters alike regarding negative campaigning and strong-arm tactics, there‘s one certainty.  It works. 

How do I know?  Besides just being conscience every four years, there‘s this other campaign, one in which I for the most part was an unwilling participant. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Hello.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  And I sure as hell didn‘t approve this message. 

NARRATOR:  Is this the face of America‘s sexiest newsman?  of course not.  But if those fat cats at Fox have their way, he might usurp the title of “Playgirl” magazine‘s hunkiest anchorman.  And what about this Anderson Cooper?  Who says he‘s sexy?  Just look at that face, that hair, those cool, steely eyes.  You know, he really is dreamy. 

OLBERMANN:  Hey, stick to the script. 

NARRATOR:  Oh, sorry.  Sean Hannity, not sexy.  Anderson Cooper, not sexy.  Keith Olbermann, now, that‘s sexy.  Vote for Keith Olbermann at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So guess what happened?  I won.  Woo-hoo.  I am “Playgirl”‘s sexiest newscaster.  It‘s true.  It‘s true.  It‘s in their October issue.  The staff is having a great deal of fun about this.  Somebody had said something about sexiest and intelligent.  I don‘t know where the intelligent part went. 

Joining me now to explain how this possibly could have happened, the editor in chief of “Playgirl,” Michele Zipp.

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Zipp, good evening. 

MICHELE ZIPP, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “PLAYGIRL”:  Good evening.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘m surprised. 

First of all, this is obviously a great honor.  Does it come with anything other than a lifetime of ribbing? 

ZIPP:  Of course it does.  Well, first of all, I want to say congratulations. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

ZIPP:  Your voters were incredible.  And it also comes with not only having the prestigious title of hottest anchorman.  We‘re also giving you a check.  It‘s to the charity of your choice. 

OLBERMANN:  Very nice. 

ZIPP:  And also, I would like to offer you the possibility of maybe another job.  You see, “Playgirl” TV is launching and we‘re a pay-per-view and video on demand. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.

ZIPP:  And we need a newscaster.  So you could take the COUNTDOWN to “Playgirl” TV maybe. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me talk it over with the staff and then with management.  Perhaps, if I don‘t call you directly, possibly in a short period of time.  We‘ll find out. 

ZIPP:  Sounds good. 

OLBERMANN:  What was the final vote here?  I mean, I know I beat Kent Brockman and Ted Baxter and “Salty” Sol Fleischman, who is the old campus sportscaster who used to wear a captain‘s hat.  Who else was among the pathetic mojoless also-rans? 

(LAUGHTER)

ZIPP:  Well, in your campaigning, you did mention about usurping the Fox News guys.  And that you did.  Sean Hannity had to lead for a while, but you took it over after your fierce campaigning.  So I guess America does appreciate a lot of campaigning. 

And if somebody wants the job, America was willing to give it

(CROSSTALK)  

OLBERMANN:  You have got to put your face out there. 

ZIPP:  You do. 

OLBERMANN:  Or is this case, in the case of your magazine, something else.

But, honestly, people have asked, was this rigged?  Did we overly influence the vote by doing those silly sort of mock ads?  Do you view this as legitimate? 

ZIPP:  Absolutely legitimate.  It‘s absolutely not rigged.  We got over 50,000 votes. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness.

ZIPP:  And I was responsible for taking care of most of them.  So I think a lot of you are reluctant winners, because it is an honor.  It‘s a title.  People voted for you.  Your voters, really, they came in amazing and very strong and just saying, hands down, it has got to be Keith Olbermann.  So you have a lot of fans out there.  And they appreciate that smart is sexy. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, shucks, man, what can I tell you? 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Well, could I talk about myself all day, but, conveniently for both of us, I‘m out of town—out of time. 

But Michele Zipp, the editor in chief of “Playgirl” magazine, I would like to thank you again. 

ZIPP:  Thank you and congratulations. 

OLBERMANN:  I would love to tell you the that the real honor was just being nominated, but, of course, if I said that, I would be lying to you.  So I won‘t say it. 

Thanks again. 

ZIPP:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and wish me good luck after that. 

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House, Inc, eMediaMillWorks, Inc.) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,