updated 9/20/2004 10:44:33 AM ET 2004-09-20T14:44:33

Guests: Michael Duffey, David Blum, John Kelly, Nick Warnock

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening.  This is Friday, September 17, 46 days until the 2004 presidential election.  Last week‘s Pew poll had Mr.  Bush leading Senator Kerry by 12 points.  Yesterday‘s Pew poll had Mr. Bush and Senator Kerry tied.  Last week‘s Gallup poll had Mr. Bush leading Senator Kerry by seven points.  Today‘s Gallup poll has Mr. Bush leading by 13 points. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, never mind the Killian memos, maybe somebody is making up these polls.  That 13 part margin was dismissed with a laugh by a prominent politician who today said simply, he doesn‘t believe it.  Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.  The galloping Gallup numbers among likely voters, Bush-Cheney 55, Kerry-Edwards, 42.  One thing that differentiates Gallup from the other polling, they don‘t accept undecideds.  They ask them which way they‘re leaning and they figure that into their big number.

The only other polling today from Rasmussen Reports, its daily tracking poll has Bush ahead 49-45, about a half point percentage, a half percentage point gain for Kerry from yesterday.  But if you really want to go nuts, read a month‘s worth of those Rasmussen polls. 

Kerry, though, regained the lead in the 16 purple states, according to Rasmussen.  But his margin is actually 7/10 of 1 percent.  And Rasmussen discovered one more fascinating fact about the upcoming debates, 37 percent of voters would choose to watch baseball‘s World Series rather than a debate between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry.  Perhaps that was part of RNC Chairman Gillespie‘s circumspection when told Gallup has his boss up by 13 points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED GILLSPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATL COMM:  I think we‘ve, I think we‘re probably, it‘s hard to say if we‘re ahead.  It‘s close.  It‘s like the election as a whole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The insider blah blah from both camps is in surprising agreement. Were an accurate poll possible, it would probably show Mr. Bush up by five or six points.  Of course sometimes in politics, some things happen whether they‘re possible or not. 

Ask Florida, ask Ralph Nader.  He is back on the ballot.  The state supreme court voting 6-1 to overturn a lower court‘s ruling that Nader‘s Reform Party does not qualify as a real national political party and thus he does not qualify as a real presidential candidate.  That lower court had noted that the Reform Party had a bank account of $18.18.

No matter, says Florida, Nader will be on the 25,000 Florida absentee ballots mailed tomorrow and on Florida‘s trustee voting machines six weeks from next Tuesday.  Nader was tonight banned and barred from the ballot in New Mexico. 

Back on the trail and back on the horse for John Kerry after he fell off yesterday in Las Vegas and landed on some of the key lines of his speech, crushing them.  Today the attack was more personal, buttressed by a new TV commercial that contained and easily had an easily digestible premise, that even though he claims he has severed all ties financially to the company, Vice President Dick Cheney has received $2 million from Halliburton since he took office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Dick Cheney‘s old company Halliburton has profited from the mess in Iraq at the expense of American troops and taxpayers.  While Halliburton has been engaging in massive overcharging and wasteful practices under this no bid contract, Dick Cheney has continued to receive compensation from his former company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Kerry also said that Mr. Cheney and President Bush have quote, mismanaged every aspect of the war in Iraq and ignored price gouging in Iraq, quote “by their big money friends.”  And if you don‘t like the speech, there‘s so the ad, official DNC stuff. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLITICAL AD: I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind.  I haven‘t had now for over three years.   The truth?  As Vice President Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton, Halliburton got billions in no bid contracts in Iraq.  Cheney got $2 million.  What did we get, a $200 billion bill for Iraq, lost jobs, rising healthcare costs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: A Republican spokesman called the charges against Cheney quote, breathtakingly dishonest.  Speaking of which, more fodder for the politics of itchy and scratchy.  This country‘s chief weapons inspector in Iraq has completed drafts of his 1,500 page report and concluded that there were no weapons of mass destruction in that country.  Charles Bolter (ph), head of the Iraq survey group, may issue his final report to the intelligence services and the Bush administration before the end of this month.

The good news for them is limited.  Bolter also found that at the time that the war began, Saddam Hussein only had small research and development programs for chemical or biological weapons and almost nothing nuclear and that while he may have had intentions of restarting weapons development.  that was to be sometime in the future. 

In January, Bolter‘s predecessor, Mr. David Kay, Dr. David Kay reported on WMD in Iraq, quote, we were almost all wrong.  And if one Pennsylvania congressman is correct, there may not be any WMDs in Iraq, but there will soon be a lot more U.S. servicemen.  Democrat John Murtha of Western Pennsylvania warning today that he‘s been told of a guard and reservist call-up right after the election. 

Quote, I have learned through conversations with officials at the Pentagon that at the beginning of November 2004, the Bush administration plans to call up large numbers of the military, guard and reserves to include plans they had previously put off to call of the individual ready reserve.

Murtha began complaining about low troop levels in Iraq last fall.  Today he added, now as the situation in Iraq is deteriorating, the administration is planning to call up additional guard and reservists again with inadequate notice.  A reaction from the candidate on Mr. Murtha‘s side of the ball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: He won‘t tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and guard units immediately after the election.  Hide it from people through the election, then make the move. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So there are two issues.  A November surprise about military reservists and a looming report from the Bush administration‘s own WMD man that gee whiz, there were any WMD in Iraq.  Yet Senator Kerry‘s thrust today was a personal attack on Dick Cheney and Halliburton.  Are the Democrats trying to stick their heads into the sewers, trying to grab a few pennies while ignoring $50 bills scattered on the sidewalk?

I‘m joined now by Michael Duffy, assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief of “Time” magazine.  Thanks for being with us tonight. 

MICHAEL DUFFY, TIME MAGAZINE: Nice to be Keith.

OLBERMANN: Is there still some tone deafness among the Democrats in this campaign?  Wouldn‘t they get more traction on WMD or a back door draft than by punching Dick Cheney where he has already been pretty much punched out?

DUFFY:  Well, if you don‘t like what the Democrats are saying today, wait 24 hours.  The line in Iraq might just change and I think one of Kerry‘s promises is his positions on Iraq have been subject to almost endless refinement.  And so you may yet hear what you want to hear if you stick around long enough.  I think on WMD, it is a tricky line for Kerry because the public, the public knows that there is no WMD in Iraq. 

It‘s sort of like, you can‘t really get a lot of points by saying that, discovering there‘s no Santa Claus.  They already know this.  So I‘m not sure how much more traction he has.   On the other hand, in the last 48 hours, he‘s begun to make Bush‘s credibility the issue once more.  It‘s a somewhat new tack or a return to an old tack.  But he has said both at the National Guard convention yesterday and again today, that the president isn‘t leveling with people about a lot of things. 

OLBERMANN:  When you talk about the Iraq policy, when you get criticized by Dick Cheney and Don Imus about the same issue, obviously you‘re in trouble on that topic.  Are Senator Kerry supporters and handlers saying to him, look, even if you are right about Iraq, what you are presenting is too subtle.  It is too nuanced.  You need two minutes to understand what you‘re trying to say and the public is only going to give you two seconds.  Come out and take something and hit them over the head.  Maybe if it is WMD, use five syllables, no WMD. Something simpler than what he‘s doing?

DUFFY: I think that‘s very much what the debate was in the campaign.  Earlier in the week, they had tried something a week ago tonight.  They were talking about the war and its costs at home.  Tonight he is talking about the war and the issue of credibility.  There has been a huge conversation.  That‘s a nice way of putting it inside the campaign about whether to even talk about Iraq.  Maybe he should just get away from this tar baby.  But I think they recognize this is where a lot of people‘s attention is focused and he can‘t just ignore it.  President Clinton told him, I think, in the bedside conversations of a few weeks ago, start talking about domestic stuff.  But he‘s going to stick with Iraq because that‘s really where most of the attention is focused. 

OLBERMANN: Sort of, separate from the campaign, Congressman Murtha‘s comments today about Pentagon officials telling him about military calls up right after the election, does this Congressman Murtha have credibility to people who don‘t know who he is? Does he have credibility to make a statement like that?

DUFFY: Well, he does. It‘s a tricky issue. Murtha is the ranking member on a House subcommittee that deals with vast Pentagon expenditures.  He knows a tremendous amount about the Pentagon and knows a lot of generals and has for 25 years. So yes, I think you got to listen when he says that.  It also makes some sense that they would postpone these call ups until after the election.  If you were running for reelection, you‘d probably wouldn‘t put those call ups right there and smack dab in the middle of October either. Kerry has to be careful about what he says about those call ups, because the next question will be, now that he‘s raised it, well, Senator are you for that? Are you against it?  And then he‘ll have to take a position.

OLBERMANN: Then he‘ll have to say, while the administration has not announced it yet, so you‘re absolutely right about that.

DUFFY: Right.

OLBERMANN: Michael Duffy, the “Time” magazine Washington bureau chief.

We appreciate your time, especially on a Friday. Thank you.

DUFFY: You bet. Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Back to Mr. Bush and his Air National Guard service. Two developments, the blogger who so quickly critiqued the Killian documents has been named and it turns out he‘s a conservative activist once involved in the attempt to disbar President Clinton.

And another document dump on the traditional take out the trash day, Friday.  First the papers, among them, correspondence between the elder George Bush and the commanding officer of his son‘s unit in the Texas Air National Guard. The officer, Major General GB Green (ph), wrote then Congressman George H.W. Bush and praised George W. Bush soon after the later joined the guard. 

And the elder Bush wrote him back. That a major general in the Air Force would take interest in a brand new Air Force trainee made a big impression on me.

Also released by the Pentagon today, something more entertaining, perhaps insightful, a copy of a press release sent to Houston newspapers in 1970 about their new second lieutenant and pilot by the Guard itself.  Quote, George Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn‘t get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed, the ad and promo read. Oh, he gets high all right, but not from narcotics.

And early this evening the Web site freerepublic.com nickname Buckhead who within four hours had begun the Internet allegation that the CBS Killian memos were forgeries, was publicly identified by the “Los Angeles Times.”  He is Harry W. McDougal (ph), an Atlanta attorney who was hardly an amateur in campaigning or in conservative politics.

McDougal is a member of two prominent conservative attorneys‘ groups, the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the Federalist Society. In 1998, McDougal helped draft the petition that led Arkansas to suspend Bill Clinton‘s law license for five years and he assisted rather in the legal challenge against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  That challenge was led by Kenneth Starr.

CBS remained essentially silent today for the second consecutive day on the Killian memo story, but not everybody at the network was silent.  Venerable “60 Minutes” commentator and 55-year CBS News employee Andy Rooney has spoken up. Referring to his employers and his colleague Dan Rather, Rooney tells New York‘s “Daily News,” quote, I‘m surprised at their reluctance to concede they‘re wrong. I‘m unsure if they are whistling in the dark instead of apologizing. Rooney also was quick to defend Rather as a quote, good, honest news man.

While earlier in the week, Rather‘s long-time colleague Bob Schieffer urged his network to get all of its information out in public and resolve this. So far, Rooney and Schieffer just about the only CBS broadcasters to comment on events.  Just about the only people at any broadcast network to comment. Joining me now to try to explain that phenomenon is David Blum, author of “Tick, Tick, Tick: The Long Life and Turbulent Times of ‘60 Minutes.‘” Mr. Blum, good evening.

DAVID BLUM, AUTHOR OF 60 MINUTES BOOK: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Should we be more surprised that only Rooney and Schieffer have said anything about this or should we be more surprised that anybody at any network has said anything about this?

BLUM:  Well, it took guts to say something. I don‘t think very many people at CBS would dare speak out and the other networks are keeping (ph) up by covering this story as they should.  It‘s surprising to me that Dan Rather would dig in his heels this way about such a long period of time being criticized. The story has obviously got problems and he should have been the first one to admit it instead of the last.

OLBERMANN:  But in writing your book, you had to have studied the vetting process by which a source story would get on the air at “60 Minutes” and thus at CBS News. Is there something evident to you that somewhat went wrong in this process, because no matter what—as far out as some people might suggest, oh, they just made this up. That does not happen. It cannot happen. People would be fired along the way if they tried to do that. I don‘t care if it‘s at CBS News or Fox News.  Do you have a theory based on your experience in dealing with their vetting process as to what may have gone wrong here?

BLUM:  Well, it seems likely that they were just anxious to get the story out as quickly as possible.  Dan Rather has been in ratings trouble for quite a while now and he‘s always looking for another angle to get more ratings, more success, more attention to himself and I think he rushed this story out and the evidence now seems to be tainted and he‘s continued to hang onto this position that the evidence in wrong, that the story is right.  But journalism 101 tells you that‘s just not the way it works. If your evidence is wrong, your story is automatically thrown into question and he‘s just been unwilling to admit that.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, truth delivered by lies is unfortunately still alive, exactly.  You have been in touch with people behind the scenes though of CBS. What is going on there in terms of their reactions? Is there a sense that they have perhaps the makings of a Jayson Blair scenario there or is there support for Dan Rather or what‘s going on?

BLUM: Jason Blair situation was a bit different in that it was intentional. I don‘t think anyone thinks Dan Rather intentionally put a story on the air that he knew to be false. But the problem is that morale is very low.  People are wondering why hasn‘t Dan Rather been willing to admit any kind of mistake?

It‘s very difficult to work at a network where you know, you‘re being attacked on a daily basis, on an hourly basis and the network‘s taken this position that this is just a bunch of you know, Internet bloggers, people in their pajamas writing notes on the Internet.

In fact, this is a lot of serious journalism being directed at CBS‘ way, pointing out their mistakes and their intransigence has just been astonishing to me and I think astonishing to a lot of people who work at “60 Minutes.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes, 50 years ago, they got the same kind of treatment from Joe McCarthy, but it does not mean the circumstances are identical.  David Blum, the author of “Tick, Tick, Tick: The Long Life and Turbulent Times of ‘60 Minutes.‘” The turbulent times continue and we thank you for being with us sir.

BLUM: Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN opening up with politics and the latest polls to a few minutes with Andy Rooney. Up next, tonight‘s number four story. Kobe Bryant questioned by police last summer on tape. His concern, keeping all this from the public and his wife. That worked well.

And later, the clean up from Ivan

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If a picture is worth a thousands words, how much are these words worth?  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the NBC news exclusive, the Kobe Bryant audio tapes, and what they could do to the civil case against the basketball star.  Leaked originally to “The Veil Daily,” which says it was mailed to the newspaper anonymously. 

And now the subject of howling by defense attorneys as a violation of Bryant‘s rights.  It was the night after Bryant was accused of having raped an employee at the resort where he was staying.  75 minutes with the police, a conversation recorded in a parking lot, and later, a room at the resort itself.  And it began with Bryant lying about having any physical relations with that woman. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DET. WINTERS:  Did anything happen with that woman? 

KOBE BRYANT:  Like what? 

WINTERS:  Did you guys hug or kiss?

BRYANT:  No.

WINTERS:  OK.  I‘ll be blunt and ask you, did you have sexual intercourse with her?

BRYANT:  No.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then, investigators told Bryant they had physical evidence that he had.  The no harm, no foul turned into an admission of sex, consensual. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DET. LOYA:  What makes you believe it was consensual.

BRYANT:  Because she started kissing me.  It was, you know, just doing regular things, all of a sudden, she lifted up her skirt.

WINTERS:  I mean, was it possible that at some point she could have told you “no” and you didn‘t quite hear her?

BRYANT:  No. Absolutely not.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And like a bad text book rendition of the stages of grief, Bryant went from denial to acknowledgement to bargaining. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BRYANT:  Is there any way I can settle this.  Whatever it is, I mean...

WINTERS:  Well, what do you mean by settle?

BRYANT:  If my wife found out that anybody made any type of allegations against me, she would be infuriated.

LOYA:  Kobe...

BRYANT:  That‘s all I care about.

WINTERS:  And I understand...

BRYANT:  What she says, I don‘t care about...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Later asked by a detective are you willing to pay that? 

Bryant is heard replying, I got to, I got to.  Oops. 

There is no longer any criminal case, but there certainly is a civil one, and we all know what happened to say, O.J. Simpson in a civil one.  Our guest does.  John Q. Kelly represented the Brown family in that case, and has joined us again here to comment on this one.  John, good evening.  Thanks for joining us.

JOHN Q. KELLY, ATTORNEY:  Hi Keith. 

Sure.  How are you doing?

OLBERMANN:  All right.  In actual cash and prizes, what is that tape worth to the alleged victim here in a lawsuit? 

KELLY:  We‘re probably looking at an eight figure sum that Kobe is going to end up paying for—to keep the rest of this out of the public eye. 

OLBERMANN:  In the tapes, even in just those segments, is there a worst part, or is it pretty much all worst? 

KELLY:  Well, there is nothing good for Kobe there.   I guess the most damaging thing, beyond the obvious, is the discussion about his, at least one other incident in Virginia with the woman named Michelle.  I‘m sure his wife isn‘t going to be—wasn‘t too excited when she found out about that either. 

OLBERMANN:  How does that work in?  The story was reported in Sports Illustrated, though I don‘t think we heard the actual tape reference to it, that he is talking about having had a consensual relationship with this woman Michelle in Virginia, and they don‘t put a timing on it.  We presume it‘s after the marriage, because why would it have been brought up at that point.  But where does that line up being part of a civil case?  Is that something that—what does it suggest? 

KELLY:  Sure, she would be a potential witness.  The accuser‘s attorneys would want to take her deposition to either corroborate the statement that Mr. Bryant has made on tape, and if she doesn‘t corroborate, if she contradicts it, it would be helpful to their case.  But in any event, she would provide relevant evidence and testimony to the civil case and maybe well within their rights to take her sworn testimony. 

OLBERMANN:  John, the tape itself, mailed anonymously to “The Veil Daily” newspaper, how does something like that happen?  And did somebody break the law in making it happen? 

KELLY:  They didn‘t break law.  And probably the worse someone is going to pay is sanctions from the court, because the TRO put on the case.  But what happens, Keith, is both the defense attorneys and the prosecution would have sent the original tapes out to what are called audio enhancement labs where they make sure they try to enhance the tape itself, pick up every word and they make multiple, duplicate copies of tapes.  And then a transcript from the enhanced tape. 

And it‘s very easy for some low level person who is working in the recording studio, either for the prosecution or the defense where it was sent, to make one extra copy and stick it in their pocket at some point.  So my guess is they are going to find out at some point where the tape came from. 

OLBERMANN:  Would there be a most motive in sending the tape out?  Does it help force a settlement?  Is it a message to Kobe Bryant, this is what you are going to be up against? 

KELLY:  I could only speculate, but it‘s probably somebody who is not happy to have seen Kobe walk in the criminal case, and wants to see him face the same embarrassment and shame that the accusers been put through. 

OLBERMANN:  And I think he just did.  Criminal defense attorney John Q. Kelly.  As always sir, many thanks, many thanks. 

KELLY:  Sure. 

OLBERMANN:  And if there‘s Bryant news, it follows as the night into day that there must be other celebrity crime news.  Your entertainment dollars in action.  Day 305 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  Jackson in Santa Maria, California had a pretrial hearing.  He was not required to attend.  Again, with family members in tow, again they‘re all dressed in white. 

Attorney Thomas Mesereau later made a statement about Jackson‘s previous settlements with accusers, and proved for once and for all that Michael and LaToya Jackson are not the same person. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MESEREAU, JACKSON‘S ATTORNEY: Many years ago he did pay money rather than litigate two false allegations that he had harmed children.  Michael Jackson now regrets making these payments.  Nevertheless, these efforts to settle are now being used against him regardless of the merits or the truth behind them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A lot of hair in that picture.  COUNTDOWN, past our No. 4 story story, Up next, the stories of no import, but which have tons of curb appeal.  “Oddball” is next.  And yes that is a man tearing up phone books.  Last time I get a surgeon from the Yellow Pages!

And later, the Donald on his soap box, firing people again.  But this time, it‘s the biggest boardroom ever.  The twist no one saw coming.  Greg, did I sell it enough?  Do you think the people at home think I care? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  And once again, we take our nightly detour away from the COUNTDOWN to deal with the news so unimportant, so inconsequential, we devote an entire segment to it.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And this man really hates phone books.  It‘s pastor Ed Charon, the Guinness World Record holder for phone book ripping.  And he‘s taking his show on the road.  The 69-year-old faster pastor recently ripped through 525 books in one day.  Charon says the secret is his powerful banana hands, which have torn over 14,000 books in half all over the United States.  And across the country, small business owners are asking themselves, why isn‘t anyone calling?

To Rome, where Caesar has reinstituted the ancient spectacle of public battles unto death, or, three bankers have opened a gladiator school to help pudgy executives get into shape.  It is the Jazzercise of the 21st century.  The Scuola Gladiatori Roma has been open for three years now and has attracted dozens of Spartacus wanna-bes who are looking to get some exercise, blow off a little steam and perhaps kill a guy on their lunch hour.  Do you like gladiator movies?  Others, of course, just like to wear the tunic. 

And just in case you think pro athletes in this country are getting younger and younger, say hello to Nile Mason (ph), age 7, who has just reportedly signed with the Spanish soccer club Real Madrid.  Niles‘ father told “The Sun” newspaper that the kid impressed the team so much at a two-week soccer camp that it signed him to train exclusively at its academy.  Where?  To ready him for his pro career, they already have him practicing kicking folding chairs into the stands and hitting fans with them. 

“Oddball over.”

Up next, tonight‘s No. 3 story, the Hurricane Ivan aftermath, still two million without power, tornadoes reported near Washington, D.C.  And later, this is what it feels like when I have to answer your news quiz questions.  These stories ahead.

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

No. 3, Kryptonite, the manufacturers of world‘s leading bicycle lock, they are beginning a massive recall because it turns out the impregnable lock can be picked using only a Bic pen.  Seriously. 

No. 2, the fire department of Tarentum, Pennsylvania.  They spent $557,600 on a new fire truck, but failed to make one critical calculation.  The thing is too big for their fire station garage. 

And, No. 1, Valerie Plame.  The outed CIA special agent and her whistle-blower husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, will be the models—they are the model for a new comedy-drama series on Fox Television.  What are they going to call it, “Everybody Loves Uranium”?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was hardly the most important outcome of Hurricane Ivan, but don‘t tell those who witnessed it.  Employees of the Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Alabama, wading in waist high water, where their front gate is supposed to be, pistols in hand hunting alligators, their own alligators escaped from their own zoo. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, that is a small picture of the extraordinary impact of the third hurricane to hit the South in 34 days. 

A big picture now from Mobile and Brian Williams. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR (voice-over):  Only now, two days after Ivan‘s arrival, is the total scope of the damage becoming clear, the deadliest hurricane in five years, at least 33 dead, the barrier islands battered by the 130-mile-an-hour winds.  While weaker, it‘s still moving and overwhelming parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas.  It will be felt in 15 of the 50 states before it‘s gone for good.  Until then, the power is out tonight for a 1.5 million homes and businesses. 

GOV. BOB RILEY ®, ALABAMA:  We got hit in the face and we got hit hard.  Our nose is bleeding today.  We‘re still a little woozy.

WILLIAMS:  Everyday life here is still anything but.  It has become a scramble for staples normally taken for granted.  There‘s a feverish demand for water and ice.  Food is scarce all along the Gulf Coast.  When hot dogs went on sale in Pensacola, a line formed immediately. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There ain‘t nowhere to get nothing else. 

WILLIAMS:  And over the past 48 hours, gasoline has become liquid gold.  Stations that have had it and the power to pump it quickly become overwhelmed. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Everybody get a little bit of gas; $10 is the limit. 

WILLIAMS:  The shortage has a lot of people here feeling vulnerable all over again. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s rough.  Anybody wants to send us something, send gas. 

WILLIAMS:  In this region where everyone has a need, radio has come the rescue.  Radio station WABB in Mobile has stayed on the air throughout in two states, working in low light, decidedly low technical, no frills, no shoes. 

(on camera):  It‘s a small Alabama top 40 station and with the power out, operating on generators, it is hot, it is dark.  In that way, it‘s just like thousands of homes in this region, except for this.  The studios have turned into bunk rooms for the past few days. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The ice and the water distribution again beginning today at 12:30.

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  The lines are jammed with questions and they get answered on the air and off.  In some cases, they are the only friend the listeners have. 

DAYNA FOXX, WABB:  You realize that these people just want help.  They Just want to get back to normal.  And you are their only source. 

WILLIAMS:  That means in this region of devastation, every flashing light is someone in need heading into another long night. 

Brian Williams, Nbc News, Mobile, Alabama. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Ivan has not been a hurricane since yesterday afternoon, but that does not mean it stopped existing or destroying.  Problems tonight stretching from the D.C. area all the way to Pittsburgh, about 250 miles to the West. 

We begin in the District, where tonight our local station, WRC, had to forego airing the “NBC Nightly News” to instead tell its viewers to take coverage from tornadoes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE WATREL, WRC:  We decided to stop earlier this afternoon on an overpass, Jim, average because we knew there was tornadic activity in the area.  And sometimes it‘s just best to pull off to the side of the road and kind of wait for it to come to you. 

But that‘s what we decided to do today.  We were up an overpass on—we were heading south on 29 and we decided to wait on the overpass over Route 28.  So, anyway, as we were here, all of a sudden, off to the east of us, we started to see a major funnel cloud forming, a very big wall cloud, extremely dark in spots and light behind it. 

And then, to our amazement, just, Mother Nature is absolutely amazing, we watched it form into a funnel cloud and then come down to the ground.  Now, the video that we‘re looking at, at this point, though, is from Opal, Virginia and that‘s halfway between Remington and Warrenton.  And that was shot by a man that stopped by to talk to us today, Mark Slade (ph), who is from Spotsylvania.  He was on his way up to the Washington area, and, actually, he was leaving Fredericksburg and called his wife, hey, let‘s get out of here because—he said, let‘s get out of here because there‘s tornadoes coming.

And they went—came right into the tornado that hit around the Opal area.  So this is Mark‘s wife driving.  Mark is shooting video out of window of his car.  And they‘re trying to jockey to position to see an entirely different tornado than what I saw here on the edge of Prince William and Fairfax counties. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  Coverage from WRC of the tornadoes in the greater D.C.  area. 

To western Pennsylvania now, specifically Pittsburgh.  Seven inches of rain have fallen this evening, sparking evacuations from rising high flood waters.  A statement of emergency in Allegheny County.  There are at least 30,000 without power.  We can expect scenes like this throughout parts of the Northeast this weekend as the remnants of Ivan barrel onward. 

Moving from real-life disaster to reality TV disaster.  The best one in the room gets fired on “The Apprentice”?  Fire Bradford?  What about firing Donald?  Then, later, nine different potential causes of death, yet funk legend Rick James did not actually die from any of them. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Lessons learned from last night‘s “Apprentice,” lessons learned from this week‘s news—“The Apprentice” segment and the news quiz ahead.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)         

OLBERMANN:  If you are among those who draw your life lessons from NBC reality series “The Apprentice,” you may have already gotten this tattooed on your forehead backwards, so you can read it in the mirror every morning.  If you don‘t have to go to the boardroom, don‘t go to the boardroom.

Our No. 2 on the COUNTDOWN, our Friday night quarterback, Nick Warnock, analyzing the state of play in the game.  First, the recap.  The task was selling ice cream.  The losers, team Apex.  The biggest loser, the only person who was actually except from getting fired until the boardroom. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE APPRENTICE”)

BRADFORD COHEN, CONTESTANT:  I think that I performed up to my abilities on this task.  I would be willing to waive my exemption. 

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  OK, I‘m going to accept that. 

COHEN:  I have no problem at all. 

TRUMP:  That means you may lose.  Are you willing to do that?

COHEN:  Absolutely. 

TRUMP:  I‘m going to accept that.

COHEN:  That‘s fine. 

TRUMP:  Bradford, I think it‘s stupid what you said.  So what I‘m going to do is, I‘m going to accept it.

COHEN:  That‘s fine, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP:  And you may get fired tonight. 

COHEN:  That‘s fine. 

TRUMP:  OK, good. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have something to say. 

TRUMP:  You ought to shut up.  I mean, you are probably not going to be chosen, in all fairness.  I don‘t know what the hell you keep talking for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t think I am, but there is something that should be said. 

TRUMP:  You are almost as bad as Bradford.  The problem is that Bradford made an impulsive decision, a stupid, impulsive, life-threatening decision that, frankly, if you were running a company and made that kind of a decision, you destroy that company instantaneously. 

Bradford, you‘re fired. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. 

She is next.  Get her out of here. 

As promised, I‘m joined by a veteran of the first year of “The Apprentice,” Nick Warnock. 

Nick, good evening.

NICK WARNOCK, FORMER CONTESTANT, “THE APPRENTICE”:  Good evening, Keith.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Play Bradford for me.  Do you do that?  Do you voluntarily go into the lion‘s den when you have the pass that lets you stay out? 

WARNOCK:  We‘re looking at the biggest “Apprentice” blunder possibly of all time.  There is nothing that can top that at this point.  He has given the gift of immunity and then he gives it back.  I would have fired him on the spot just like Trump did. 

OLBERMANN:  But was there any other cause in your opinion or did Donald just wig out at that point? 

WARNOCK:  I think he wigged out a little bit, but it was an impulsive decision.  This kid was cocky.  He was arrogant.  He did a great job in the first episode.  And now episode two comes and he does something impulsive like that.  You can‘t make decisions like that.  It will wreck a company.  It will wreck an organization.  And ultimately it wrecked Bradford. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but I turn it around and say, look, earlier in—just in that boardroom scene, he said, you‘re the best one in the room.  And I have never been in business-business, but I have been in my business, which is top-heavy with what we would call idiosyncratic managers for 25 years.

And to me, we got the wrong end of the stick here.  I have seen this play out 1,000 times.  The boss fires the best one in the room.  It‘s the boss‘ impulse to do that.  And then he calls his victim impulsive.  I don‘t know if you would disagree with me on this.  But I‘m thinking Trump is the idiot in this.  If I owned stock in Donald‘s imaginary company this morning, I‘m selling after that, because where does the new blood, where does the creativity come if you are going to fire the best one in the room?

WARNOCK:  Well, the first week went by.  He did great.  And now he sees Bradford.  And the only the way you get to know Trump is in the boardroom.  And it‘s the best place to be.

So he is in the boardroom.  He says something like that.  Trump sees he is impulsive, he makes decisions on a dime like that.  And he should have been fired.  I would have done the same thing.  I disagree with you, Keith, but I think Trump made the right decision.  I can‘t have something someone like that on my team. 

OLBERMANN:  It would be a difficult show next week if there were no Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  But let‘s look ahead to next week.

Now, who is dead meat now?  Is it Ivana?  Donald had problems with a woman named Ivana in real life.  You would have thought she would have been smart enough to use an alias?  Who is next?  Who is next out the door?

(CROSSTALK)

WARNOCK:  Jennifer C.  Did you see here in the boardroom? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes. 

WARNOCK:  You knew she wasn‘t going anywhere and she continued to speak up.  If you know you are not going, just keep your mouth shut, hands fold, smile, and agree with everything that he says. 

OLBERMANN:  A compulsive talker does not win, except in broadcasting.  But who wins?  Have you got somebody yet that you think is the one to watch the rest of the way? 

WARNOCK:  I love Raj.  He is doing it in style.  He‘s got his bow tie.  He is well spoken.  He is well dressed.  I love his attitude.  And he is having a bunch of fun.  And I think we‘re going to see some great things from him.  I can‘t wait until he starts leading.

OLBERMANN:  Nick Warnock, in the great traditional of television, one year, you are playing ball and the next year, you are up in the booth with the rest of us. 

WARNOCK:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you much. 

WARNOCK:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  See you next week. 

WARNOCK:  Take care.  Bye-bye. 

OLBERMANN:  A short hop to the other entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” tonight, not happy news.

The Los Angeles corner‘s report is in on the death of troubled singer Rick James.  According to that report, the singer died of a heart attack due to an enlarged heart, though the toxicology report noted what they called contributing factors, notably the presence of cocaine in his system at the time of his death, as well as Xanax and Valium and Wellbutrin and Celexa, Vicodin, Digoxin, Chlorpheniramine and methamphetamines.

The report says none of the drugs were at life-threatening levels.  The man died of a heart attack—induced when he looked at his pharmacy bill. 

Police say actor Edward Furlong was only drunk when he was arrested at a Florence, Kentucky, grocery store.  “The Terminator 2” actor is a lifelong animal rights activist.  And police say he was attempting to liberate the lobsters from their tank in the supermarket seafood aisle.  When cops showed up, they say Furlong was—quote—“arguing with the store‘s management.”   They‘re not saying what the argument was about.  We‘re speculating it had something to do with the live lobsters the actor was setting free in the store.  Just a guess. 

Police incarcerated Mr. Furlong and charged him with public intoxication and wearing a dumb T-shirt.  The grocery store incarcerated the lobsters and sentenced them to death by boiling, being served, then sold at $23 a pound.

Coming up next, I‘ll be plucked, basted and grilled on the week‘s news.  It‘s COUNTDOWN‘s recipe for humiliation, “What Have We Learned?” 

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNA BUSH, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE W. BUSH:  Ironically, when my dad proposed to my job, she was nervous about joining a political family.  Wrong family, mom.

(LAUGHTER)

BARBARA BUSH, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE W. BUSH:  Like Jenna said, my dad is obviously awesome.  But...

(LAUGHTER)

CHILDREN:  We want recess!  We want recess! 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If we don‘t get recess, we can be all grump by all day.  If we don‘t have recess, we won‘t use imagination. 

CHILDREN:  We want recess!  We want recess! 

CHRISTIANO MARTINEZ, VOTING FOR KERRY:  I‘m voting for Kerry because he is willing to help give everyone the same equipment.  A block down, everyone has tons of cones.  We have two. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We‘re going to get some cones fast, all right?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Yikes, it‘s been a long week, and just to make it a little longer, time for our Friday night massacre, your quiz questions, my quiz embarrassment, the news trivia game we call:

ANNOUNCER:  “What Have We Learned?”

OLBERMANN:  I now turn you over to the caring hands of the emcee of “What Have We Learned?” Ms. Monica Novotny. 

Hello.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello.  You know we look forward to this all week, right? 

OLBERMANN:  Sure. 

NOVOTNY:  All right. 

We‘ll start by directing the friends of our COUNTDOWN to our Web site, COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.  There, you‘ll find the link to the official MSNBC News Quiz and an e-mail link.  Use that to send us your quiz questions for the big guy.

And I hold in my hand this week‘s viewers question.  We‘ll put two minutes on the clock and the sexiest newscaster in the universe or whatever that is...

OLBERMANN:  Shut up. 

NOVOTNY:  Has to answer at least half correctly to win a prize.  If not, there will be punishments.

OLBERMANN:  I feel like I‘m Ken Jennings.  I‘m going to be defeated this week, I think. 

NOVOTNY:  Oh, we‘ll be so pleased if you do.  Can we start? 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s find out. 

NOVOTNY:  Two minutes on the clock, please.

Our first question from George (ph) in New Jersey, Democratic opponents said Grover Cleveland fathered an illegitimate child with a clerk.  What was her name, please?

OLBERMANN:  The clerk was named Maria—I was thinking Holden.  But it‘s not Holden.  It‘s Maria. 

(CROSSTALK)

NOVOTNY:  No, sorry, that‘s wrong.  Maria Halpin is the correct name. 

OLBERMANN:  One hundred years ago. 

NOVOTNY:  No. 2, name three of the five things “The Connecticut

Courant” said would be openly taught and practiced if Thomas Jefferson were

elected in

(CROSSTALK)  

OLBERMANN:  Rape.

NOVOTNY:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Vice.

NOVOTNY:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  So not rape. 

NOVOTNY:  Three of five. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  ... two hours that I go through this.

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Rape, pillage.

NOVOTNY:  No.  No.

OLBERMANN:  Sexiest newscaster competitions. 

NOVOTNY:  We‘re going to move on.

No. 3, the British tabloid “The Sun” reported on a protest against Parliament‘s vote to ban fox hunting. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

NOVOTNY:  What was the headline?

OLBERMANN:  The headline on the—I didn‘t see that. 

NOVOTNY:  “For Fox Sake.”  Sorry, that‘s wrong again.  I think you are going down.

From Theresa (ph), No. 4. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Wait.  What the hell kind of question was that?

NOVOTNY:  Who is Jason hatch? 

OLBERMANN:  Jason Hatch. 

NOVOTNY:  I‘ll give you a hint.  He‘s 32 years old. 

OLBERMANN:  He‘s 32 years old.  And he was in the news this week? 

NOVOTNY:  Indeed. 

OLBERMANN:  And he‘s not one of the viewers perhaps? 

NOVOTNY:  No.  It was not.

OLBERMANN:  Jason Hatch. 

NOVOTNY:  Oh, we‘ve got to move on. 

OLBERMANN:  He was on the original “Survivor.”

NOVOTNY:  No.  Batman protester, Buckingham Palace. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, of course, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVOTNY:  From Barbara (ph) in California, what was the name of the concert pianist who lost the use of his right hand?

OLBERMANN:  Again, one of your stories.

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  And his name was—his name was Fleisher. 

NOVOTNY:  Yes.  All right.  I‘m just stunned. 

OLBERMANN:  Come on.  Come on.  Come on. 

NOVOTNY:  What was the diagnosis for Mr. Fleisher after 30 years he was finally diagnosed?

OLBERMANN:  One of his hands didn‘t work. 

(LAUGHTER)

NOVOTNY:  Exactly.  What did they call that?

OLBERMANN:  One of his hands didn‘t work.  There‘s a medical...

NOVOTNY:  No.  It‘s a medical term.  Take that ding away. 

OLBERMANN:  We will accept it, I‘m told by the judges.

NOVOTNY:  That did not count.

From Jan (ph) in California, name the three types of gravity you‘ll experience during the ride of the vomit comet. 

OLBERMANN:  Low, medium and none. 

(LAUGHTER)

NOVOTNY:  Wrong.  Mars, lunar and zero. 

From Lisa (ph) in North Carolina, what percent of the sexiest anchor vote—oh, time‘s up.  Two of seven.

OLBERMANN:  What was the question? 

NOVOTNY:  And, sir, I think your prediction—I think your prediction was right. 

OLBERMANN:  I think the questions helped. 

NOVOTNY:  You just went down. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, first time ever I have lost. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  However, I will be back for the next edition of the game show. 

NOVOTNY:  Well, we can‘t help that.

OLBERMANN:  You won‘t be back for the next edition of the game show.

What‘s the punishment? 

NOVOTNY:  We have a punishment.

OLBERMANN:  Which is what?

NOVOTNY:  Since you lost.  You did not get half correct.  The staff, we pooled all our pennies and you were awarded the sexiest newscaster, so we thought you might just want to get ready for next year. 

OLBERMANN:  In a plain brown wrapper.

NOVOTNY:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  Well, what do I have to do with it? 

NOVOTNY:  It‘s a one-year subscription. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a one-year subscription?

NOVOTNY:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, that‘s great. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Well, OK, let‘s just have a quick look at it now.  And the worst picture of them all is right there. 

NOVOTNY:  The centerfold, in fact.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  There it is in an orange ruffled shirt.  Other pictures may be more revealing, but this is to me the most embarrassing one of all time, even for that magazine. 

Thank you very—thank you very... 

(LAUGHTER)

NOVOTNY:  Don‘t show any more of that. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Monica.  Thanks very much. 

Tune in next time, whenever I can‘t get Friday off, and my sadistic staff subjects me to another edition of “What Have We Learned?”

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

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

,