October 26, 2004| 1:20 p.m. ET

Ooh, I feel like Joe Trippi (Keith Olbermann)

NEW YORK — When Trippi said the Internet was the next hub of political fundraising, he wasn't kidding.

We have already received nearly $25,000 in pledges for our little grass-roots campaign, which I find particularly exciting because we don't have a little grass-roots campaign. You, reading this, or watching the show, have started it for us.

You too want to save The Tapes.

I offered here Saturday to pay the reported $99,000 in debts of Bill O'Reilly's accuser Andrea Mackris, if they are the lone reason she's entertaining a settlement offer. My sole proviso was that she agree not to destroy the O'Reilly tapes, and give me a copy of them. Mind you: Just for safe-keeping. Yeah, safe-keeping, that's it. Safe-keeping.

To say I have been surprised by the response is to understate it. Hundreds of e-mails (not surprising: y'all write more than I do, and I write 5,000 words a day), and dozens of them pledging contributions to the bid to Ms. Mackris. Everything from two cents to a thousand bucks. Somebody sent in a PayPal form.

Now I have to discourage that. Don't send money. We think we have a few legalities to straighten out there. The last thing I want to do is wind up as the Soupy Sales of 2004, asking viewers to sneak into Dad's pocket and look for those funny green pictures of the old men in the wigs. But you can pledge all you want, apparently, and, yes, we have notified Ms. Mackris's attorney Ben Morelli of our alternative offer and apparently over at his office they're all smiling quietly to themselves.

I'll update you on anything on that front, and on the O'Reilly story in general, and read some of your e-mail pledges tonight on 'Countdown.'

In the interim, I'll just sit here continuing to feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life" as the entire town comes in and saves both Christmas and the recordings of a dirty old man talking loofas and falafels with an employee young enough to be his daughter.

Sniff sniff.

October 23, 2004| 6:29 p.m. ET

I'll buy those tapes (Keith Olbermann)

NEW YORK - It’s 31 years and three months since Fred Thompson - with the Senate, “The Hunt For Red October,” and “Law & Order” well in his future - was the minority counsel on the Watergate Committee who asked ex-White House aide Alexander Butterfield if he knew of any listening devices in Richard Nixon’s Oval Office.

Butterfield opened his lips, and for a second, nothing came out. Then he said the words that proved a gift that’s still giving. “I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.” That moment was not only the beginning of the end of the Nixon Administration, but to this day people are still transcribing the Nixon tapes, and new sidelights to history are being made public on an intermittent basis.

It is the bottomless beer stein of Nixon trivia; the proverbial cornucopia; the all-you-can-eat buffet for political junkies.

And as I write this, what may be the Turn of The Century cultural equivalent of those tapes is being threatened. Better than the full archive of the crank phone calls to the Tube Bar by the Jerky Boyz, better than the complete set of Joe Morgan self-references on ESPN baseball broadcasts, better than anything.

They may settle the O’Reilly-Mackris case. But it may be at a terrible price: the destruction of the O’Reilly-Mackris tapes.

The New York Daily News and the syndicated tv show “Celebrity Justice” both reported yesterday that Mackris’s attorney has reached out, in a bizarre parlay contained entirely within the hermetically-sealed world of television, to the dark side. It’s her lawyer Ben Morelli to Court TV’s Lisa Bloom, then Bloom to private investigator and fellow pundit Bo Dietl, and then Dietl to O’Reilly’s mouthpiece Ronald Green. And it seems to be getting somewhere.

Harvey Levin, who created and hosts “Celebrity Justice,” and with whom I happily worked at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles in the late ‘80s, came on Countdown last night and said that the tapes are Mackris’s only leverage against O’Reilly, that the preliminary expenses of the twin law cases are hurting her, and that despite the report early in the week that the Fox side had made a two million dollar settlement offer to her, that O’Reilly had in fact offered twice that, weeks ago.

The two provisos on O’Reilly’s end: the tapes must be destroyed, and the settlement must include an automatic clause that if copies turn up at any point in the future, O’Reilly gets his hush money back.

I believe the Time-Life Record Library has a similar money-back guarantee.

I’ve testified in many sexual harassment cases in my days at ESPN and the process is still inevitably stacked against the accuser, so, I understand if she has to do what she has to. And, hell, when they took me off the air in 2001, I took $800,000 from Fox just to not say anything about what idiots they were - until the contract was over eight months later (I think I’ve done another $800,000 worth of damage to them since, because nowhere in the deal did it say I couldn’t start saying what idiots they were once the contract ran out - and they are idiots, by the way - there’s another $17 right there).

So from two viewpoints, I appreciate Ms. Mackris’s position. But I am speaking on behalf of history. I am pleading for the CD listeners as yet unborn. I am thinking of the boxed DVD sets and the orders from Amazon and the dance-mix versions of O’Reilly talking about loofas and falafels, counterpointed with his radio statement from this week: “I just made a decision that I’m just going to ride it out, and I’m going to fight them.”

Fight them. For four days. Yeah, like the Yankees fought the Red Sox.

But, as I said, I am not asking Andrea Mackris to do this alone. The NewsCorp smear machine, known by its colloquial title “The New York Post,” reports she’s exactly $99,000 in debt due to credit card bills and student loans (thus making her about $5,000 more in debt than the average 33-year old in television who has college and grad school loans). She’s selling the tapes and her case to O’Reilly to avoid financial calamity.

Well, if she’s going to get $4,000,000 out of it, I can’t match that.

But if she really wants to fight this, and only needs seed money to keep the legal challenge going, I’m willing to stand up and help her - and help history. I’ll pay off her $99,000 in debts. All I ask is a copy of the tapes, and her agreement not to make any deals requiring their destruction. She can settle with O’Reilly; she can sue him (with the tapes remaining in the public record)  from now until 2027; she can date the guy.

Just save the tapes - that’s all I ask.

Richard Nixon’s attorney Leonard Garment solemnly recalls the gurgle of advice given the president when the first court orders began to indicate that he’d have to surrender his surreptitious recordings. Alexander Haig, I think it was, said the press should be invited to  the Rose Garden, Nixon should stack all the tapes in front of them, douse them with gasoline, and light the entire collection on fire, thus incinerating history and perhaps saving himself.

Now Andrea Mackris is being told to do the same thing.

And I’ve got a check for $99,000 here as a plea from the future.

Save the tapes! Save the tapes! Save the tapes!

E-mail me at KOlbermann@msnbc.com

We've already received a ton of e-mails offering to chip into the $99,000. Click here to read more.

October 21, 2004| 12:56 a.m. ET

Of Kerry and the Sox (Keith Olbermann)

Santa Monica, CA— So what do you suppose the odds are that the Boston Red Sox will have completed the greatest comeback in sports history, and a Senator from their state will have won the presidency, all in a span of two weeks?

The two things have little to do with one another, save for Kerry’s bona fide, albeit somewhat self-hyperbolized, support of the Olde Towne Team. But they would’ve made a hell of an exotic wager in Las Vegas.

The polls continue to bounce around like Rubber Man on a pogo stick during a hurricane, but here in Los Angeles this week I finally got some professional guidance on how to read them. Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC’s senior political analyst and the man in charge of political verisimilitude for “The West Wing,” guested on Countdown Monday and finally divulged the secret code.

They vary largely because of each pollster’s definition of what a “likely voter” is (that, I knew), but O’Donnell says you can discount that variable in any election - from president to dog-catcher - in which an incumbent is facing a challenger. Historically, he says, the incumbent’s numbers in the last few weeks provide a startlingly accurate set of tea leaves as to his actual numbers on election day.

The simple equation is this: barring the unforeseen, the incumbent’s numbers don’t usually surge late, and the undecideds tend to go almost unanimously for the challenger. As it applies to this election, there are a lot of people rooting for George Bush, still giving him the benefit of any doubt - but reluctantly moving towards voting for his opponent.

Moreover, the President's poll ratings have not gotten into a consistently safe range. He’s topped 50 in several, but in what was the most reliable in 2000, the Zogby poll (now for Reuters News), they’re still Bush 45/Kerry 45 as of Wednesday’s tracking. Zogby himself wrote, months ago, that the election was Kerry’s to lose, and he has stuck by that analysis, noting just as O’Donnell did that the undecideds “break” away from the incumbent, time and time again.

That would make Mr. Bush the New York Yankees in the sports equation, and Kerry the Red Sox who manage to win four straight games while at death’s door.

I can’t pass up the opportunity to explain why what happened on two baseball fields these past four nights is the greatest comeback in sports history, bar none, no exceptions, case closed.

The only other time this has happened in the professional sports in this country that conduct best-of-seven playoffs— baseball, basketball, and hockey— came on ice. One was in a preliminary round, with a far superior team rallying from 0-3 to reel off four straight victories and advance. The other was in the championship series of the 1942 Stanley Cup playoffs, and there’s a tale to tell there.

The Detroit Red Wings were up three games to none, and on the verge of a sweep against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when the referee made a controversial call in Toronto’s favor. Detroit’s volatile coach, Jack Adams, went berserk with anger and wound up with a long suspension, completely deranging the high-strung team he whipped like horses on a good night. Toronto also got a number of injured players back as the series unfolded.

So the parallels to the Red Sox rally against the Yankees are insufficient. On top of everything else, Boston’s baseball team performed its dark magic on four consecutive nights - something no hockey or basketball team has ever been asked to attempt.

There’s a message in there— though I can’t fathom what it is, unless some on-field cataclysm awaits Boston in the World Series. My old friend Clark Booth, possibly the greatest sportscaster in local television history, once observed that if the Red Sox win today, it’s only because losing tomorrow will hurt more. Maybe the message is that.

Wish I could read the message in the Bush-Cheney campaign’s tactics on terror. Here’s Vice President Cheney doing everything but picking the cities likeliest to be hit by a terrorist nuke, while at the same time, the person who’s presumably the best security mind in the government, National Security Advisor Rice, is out of her office to make a nine-speech tour of the swing states. I guess things look bleak, but not enough to keep Condi in a secure, undisclosed location.

There is, lastly, no mixed message in the actions of the Sinclair Broadcast Washington Bureau Chief, Jon Leiberman. He told us Tuesday he had no problem with his employers running what is in essence a 42-minute long version of the Swift Boat ads during the last twelve days of the campaign. But when his bosses informed him that his department would have to dress the thing up as a special news broadcast, with Sinclair reporters packaging together stories to be interwoven with the film, he blew the whistle.

Sinclair, of course, immediately fired him, falling back on that age old bromide of television management, that he had violated his contract by discussing company business with other media. They also brought up his political beliefs— as if they had none themselves— and called him a “disgruntled employee.”

I’ve been a professional broadcaster for a quarter of a century now so permit me to translate what they mean when they call somebody a “disgruntled employee” - it means the guy is right.

To close with a disclaimer, I learned after I blogged about Leiberman on Monday that his agent is Jean Sage, who has represented me faithfully and skillfully for 21 arduous years. She’ll have a good time sorting out the offers for the only man in a political season of flexible morals on all sides, to produce an unalloyed act of conscience.

I’ve never been prouder to write a disclaimer.

email Keith at KOlbermann@msnbc.com

October 18, 2004 | 10:09 p.m. ET

The Tonight Show... with Keith Olbermann (Keith Olbermann)

BURBANK, CA. -- It is perversely comforting that after a quarter of a century in this business, you can still have an out-of-body experience just because you're making your first appearance on "The Tonight Show."

Jay Leno— whose influence on the campaign we will assess Tuesday on Countdown— came by beforehand to visit and just talk politics, and admit that he'll hear laughs from the Kerry people about the Bush jokes, and from the Bush people about the Kerry jokes. Supporters sit in stony silence. It's an amazingly polarized country when you can't do a comedy show without being accused of not presenting exactly 50 jokes about Republicans for every 50 you make about Democrats, or vice versa.

Jay also had a wonderful take on O'Reilly-Gate, or, as I got to ad lib during my eight minutes of looking down on myself from above, I called it: Dialing for Dollars. He said "this reminds me of that great Andy Griffith movie, 'Face In The Crowd.'" Having each found one of the other 100 people who've seen this underrated classic, we threw lines from it at each other. It doesn't surprise me that the only other person I know to have seen it— Al Franken— made the comparison between O'Reilly and Griffith's hick-turned-evil "Lonesome Rhodes." It's a great film, and Jay says if you like that one, you'll love "The Great Man." Got to get that one.

And before I check out a quick word of praise for Jon Leiberman, the lead political reporter for the Sinclair Stations. He told the Baltimore Sun's David Folkenflik that his employers had crossed a line by deciding to pre-empt primetime network programming to show the Anti-Kerry film "Stolen Honor" on each of its 62 stations beginning Thursday night. "It's biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election," Leiberman said. "For me, it's not about right or left, it's about what's right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election. I have nothing to gain— and really, I have a lot to lose. At the end of the day, though, all you really have is your credibility."

Jon is 29, and he and I share a great agent. And he knows tonight just how much he had to lose— Sinclair fired him tonight.

He'll get another gig, probably quickly— those kind of ethics are rare and still a commodity even in our vexed times.

And ultimately, he only lost a job. Sinclair Television lost any shred of credibility or objectivity it might have had left. Shame on them.

(Click here to watch an interview with Lieberman by MSNBC's Alison Stewart.)

E-mail at KOlbermann@msnbc.com

October 15, 2004 | 5:55 p.m. ET

Nader or Nadir? (Keith Olbermann)

Am I complimented or concerned?

Ralph Nader said after we recorded an interview just now for tonight's Countdown, "please thank Keith— he's very good."

We talked to Nader because as an article in "The New York Times" today suggested, he has potential to once again influence the outcome of a presidential election, if for no other reason than— he can.

Polls showing he has the potential to swing the results in nine battleground states including Florida, and a tenth, Ohio, if he wins a suit to get on the ballot.

I asked him about the quotes he gave to "The New York Times" that Senator Kerry wouldn't make a good president because "he's not his own man. Because he takes the liberals for granted, he's allowing Bush to pull him in his direction. It doesn't show much for his character," and how these seem to contradict his comments in May after meeting Kerry at his campaign headquarters when he called Kerry "very presidential."

He actually got me to laugh out loud with his answer.

I don't agree with the premise of Nader staying in the race (and he analogizes the chances he won't, in an entertaining way) but for the first time I think I have a glimpse of why he's doing it. And you might just, too, if you see the interview on Countdown.

Or maybe he was just blowing smoke with the "he's very good" thing.

October 15, 2004 | 12:25 p.m. ET

Boake O'Reilly? (Keith Olbermann)

You could have knocked me over with a feather last night when the media critic Michael Wolff answered my question about how deep the damage to Bill O’Reilly could go, and concluded that if there really are tapes of O’Reilly’s purported conversations with his associate producer, it could finish him.

Wolff’s not exactly going out on a limb here. The attorney in Andrea Mackris’s suit against him, Benedict Morelli, says “O’Reilly is going down.” O’Reilly himself said he might “go down.” Given the subject matter, I wish they’d both come up with a different phrase.

This just brings me back to Boake Carter. I invoked Carter’s name as a historical parallel to O’Reilly in this space yesterday, and then again on 'Countdown,' but time kept me from explaining the reference— and it needs considerable explanation.

Carter was, in short, the preeminent news commentator in this country in the mid-to-late 1930’s. Other primordial radio newsmen have survived by reputation to the present day—  Edward R. Murrow, H.V. Kaltenborn, Lowell Thomas, even Walter Winchell. But for four or five years, Carter was better-known and had higher ratings than any of them. Twice he won the annual listeners’ popularity poll. And then came a fall so great that it was as if he had never existed.

He was Russian-born of British parents, and surviving recordings of his commentaries for CBS sound like every comedian’s half-way decent impression of the generic-sounding Englishman. He signed on with “Ello— Boake Carter speaking,” and ended his broadcasts with “Cheerio.” And in between, in a voice reminiscent of the old-time actor Clifton Webb, he railed against all things moderate and liberal. Graduating from spot coverage of the Lindbergh kidnapping and trial to a regular nightly news show, Carter became a severe isolationist and a member of an overtly Anti-Semitic organization, Carter could claim that the sinking of an American gunboat on a river in China by the Japanese was part of a secret plot by President Roosevelt to engage the country in an Asian war. He defended Japan’s actions.

Carter’s story is chronicled in an obscure but useful scholarly text called “Those Radio Commentators,” by Professor Irving Fang, who at the time of its 1977 publication, was in charge of the radio-tv program at the University of Minnesota. That Carter is not better known today than Professor Fang give you a hint as to what happened next.

As Carter became more and more extreme in his commentaries - Fang calls them “increasingly irrational”— pressure on CBS and his sponsor General Foods grew. And suddenly, on August 26, 1938, CBS canceled his newscast. For more than a year, at a time when radio news was king, Carter had no outlet. He devoted himself to public speaking, his syndicated newspaper column, and a series of books with titles like "Why Meddle In Europe?" He appears to have given just one interview about his dismissal, in which he insisted he’d been “purged” by the Roosevelt administration, and, when asked to explain what he meant by the term, made a cutting gesture across his own throat. Finally, in September 1939, with the CBS cancellation never fully explained, he got a thrice-weekly commentary program on the Mutual Network.

And the wheels came off. He unexpectedly aligned himself with Roosevelt, the man he’d claimed had “purged” him two years earlier, going so far as to write the president frequent letters and praising him unabashedly in print and on the air. Then he broke with the anti-Semites and announced he was converting to a strict sect called “Biblical Hebrewism.” He began to fill his commentaries and columns with almost indecipherable biblical stories and prophecies. Apparently at the suggestion of the religious group, he divorced his wife, married one of the members, established a kosher kitchen— and a haven for other sect members - in his home.

Even after one of the leaders, an African-American named Abner Goldberg, was arrested for draft evasion, Carter stuck with his new epiphany. He brought the sect’s leader, Moses Guibbory, to America and declared on the air that Guibbory’s book would be as influential as the Bible and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Upon moving into the Carter home, Guibbory told him to divorce the second Mrs. Carter but insisted all three of them continue to live under the same roof. Mutual Radio gradually cut back his schedule and moved him from primetime, to late afternoons, to noon. And in 1944— a little more than six years after his unexplained dismissal by CBS— came the announcement that Carter was dead, his age variously given as 41 or 46.

The cause of death was listed in the Los Angeles Times as, fittingly, “apoplexy.” Later accounts cite a cerebral hemorrhage, a stroke, or a heart attack. But those later accounts are fewer and fewer. The name “Boake Carter” has appeared in The New York Times, for instance, only in passing, and only three times, since 1968. The last reference was in 1981 - in the middle of Lowell Thomas’s obituary.

The story of Boake Carter has been ringing in my head for months as I’ve contemplated the continuing dizzying ascendancy of Bill O’Reilly. I won’t bore you with comparisons of their rises to prominence— criticizing O’Reilly is not only a fully-staffed industry, but my adding to it could easily be seen as a competitor’s hissiness. But the parallels in impact and tone are obvious, and the ominous lesson of Carter’s crash should be cautionary.

I don’t know if O’Reilly has a fall ahead of him reminiscent of Carter’s. I certainly hope not— Carter’s borders on tragedy. But the pattern seems vaguely similar, and Michael Wolff’s comments raise the very clear prospect that the ordeal can await any who treat so much, so contemptuously, and so publicly.

October 14, 2004 | 3:48 p.m. ET

The Falafel Factor (Keith Olbermann)

It's not about the sex.

OK, it is about the sex.

The late comedian Bill Hicks once observed that anybody who made a huge public stink about their own public morals, or about somebody else's lack of them, was almost inevitably hiding something in their own past or present. Hicks died in 1994, thus missing his theory, already affirmed by the falls of the Jim Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggarts of this world, being publicly applied to Bill Bennett and Rush Limbaugh— although he pretty much forecast Limbaugh's embarrassment.

Dear old Hicks completely missed Bill O'Reilly .

He would've enjoyed this, as he enjoyed seeing any moralizing knuckle-rapper hoist, as my Grandmother liked to say, on his own petard.

For months I have been telling people that Bill O'Reilly was the 21st Century version of Boake Carter. It would've been a hell of a comparison if anybody knew who Boake Carter was. That, of course, is my whole point. You can search the Internet until your modem falls off and you'll come up with almost nothing about Carter, save for the (erroneous) attribution to him of the quote about truth becoming the first casualty of war. My point in invoking Carter is that he was as influential and famous as O'Reilly was, for as long as O'Reilly was, in the 1930's. And until a board game with his face on it turned up the other day, I hadn't even seen anything about him on eBay. It's as if he had been erased.

Yes, I'm deliberately keeping you in suspense about Boake Carter. I'll give you some time to try to ferret him out, and I'll write about it later.

Goodness knows we're going to have some time to talk about such comparisons. When Bill O'Reilly called this "the worst day of my life"this morning on the Regis & Kelly show, I'm guessing he thought the days would somehow get better as they marched in this petty pace. I'm guessing he's dead wrong. This one's going to go on for months.

For now, there are three big obvious questions— which on the show tonight, we'll put to the attorney John Q. Kelly, who has opposed Andrea Mackris's attorney in court before:

1) Why did this producer leave Fox News, go work at CNN, and then go back to Fox? She could've been punishing O'Reilly by leaving, and thinking she'd resolved a burgeoning problem by coming back on her terms. Or she could've been setting him up. Or he could've read her return as a green light to start talking about loofah sponges.

2) Why is Fox so publicly convinced that O'Reilly will be vindicated by what are almost certainly extant, high quality tapes of these conversations between O'Reilly and Mackris? This would, at first blush, seem to suggest that they will indicate she was a willing participant. But how would Fox know this? Its only source would be O'Reilly. And he might be absolutely convinced she was a willing participant, not a harassment victim— and damn wrong. You may recall who it was who convinced Fox to go ahead and sue Al Franken, thus ensuring the success of Franken's book and setting up the first occasion to my experience in which a plaintiff was literally laughed out of court by a judge. Bill O'Reilly's judgment may not be what it seems— and that's written by somebody who has assumed for the last 20 years that he didn't have any judgment to begin with.

3) Lastly: why, in his public impersonation of Christ fresh off the cross here, has O'Reilly not said “This isn't true?” Or “I can explain this?” I mean, honestly, whenever somebody accuses me of being difficult to work with or of changing jobs quickly or even of stuffing the ballot box in the Playgirl poll, my first response is not to insist that I'm the victim of an international political conspiracy.

OK, so that's the semi-serious discussion of this morality play, the overture for which has just been struck up by the orchestra.

Here are some less serious observations: With which blunt instrument do you suppose Roger Ailes wants to hit him? To claim, on tape, that Fox News has influence going to the very top of the country and can wipe out anybody, is dangerous, dangerous stuff, suggestive of delusions of grandeur. Delusions of grandeur are bad things in news organizations. Ask Dan Rather. Ask The New York Times.

I loved the O'Reilly suit against Andrea Mackris. Just her threat of legal action caused him "great mental strain, anguish and severe emotional distress,” which is the first time I've ever heard him offer an explanation as to why he's like that.

You are also encouraged to read the entire 22-page Mackris suit on The Smoking Gun. The stuff is mind-boggling, a series of lefts and rights by O'Reilly to his own reputation.

None of its content, I expect, is covered in O'Reilly's new book, "The O'Reilly Factor For Kids,” which is now available at bookstores— batteries not included.

The best part is where he confuses a loofah sponge mitt, used for exfoliation and excitement purposes, with a falafel. I've been dating since 1974 and I can't recall a single woman who ever got excited by a falafel.

So. It's not about the sex.

It's about the falafel.

October 13, 2004 | 11:25 p.m. ET

Bush-Kerry III: The Tempest in Tempe (Keith Olbermann)

Final scoring:  Reading round summaries, Scorer notes he failed to mark a point to Bush and subtract one from Kerry in Round Nineteen. Scorer wrote Bush's Answer strays back to 2000 election, mumbles away, now uses McCain against him, and Bush is suddenly angry, 'retreat and defeat in Iraq.'"

Scorer apologizes to both fighters. He intended to here give Bush a point, and take one point away from Kerry for leaving himself vulnerable here for leaving himself open to sucker punch. Bush had followed Kerry's two McCain invocation jabs by reminding audience McCain had endorsed him, not Kerry.

Nineteenth round scoring is thus adjusted from draw, to Bush, 2-0.
Rounds won now adjusted to Kerry 12, Bush 5, Even 4.
Net points now adjusted to Kerry 18, Bush 3.

10:58 p.m. ET
Points scoring:
The Scorer's Table unenthusiastically reports this bout as going to Senator John Kerry by 12 rounds to 4, with 5 rounds even. On individual points, Senator Kerry is awarded a net total of 19 points, and President Bush a net of 2, having undermined his own effort with no less than eight points subtracted, three of them in a disastrous 12th Round in which the President had to be told time was up, answered a question with, in essence, 'all of the above,' and stumbled by inadvertently criticizing himself by claiming the borders of Texas were tighter than they'd been when he was Governor there. He also lost points for having twice invoked the 2000 election, and for once having given back at least a minute of time when the question hadn't really been answered.

The Scorer's Table acknowledges that the chief scorer was in a surly mood because he was kept from Yankee Stadium. New York leads Boston, 3-1, bottom eight, with Boston threatening.

10:41 p.m. ET
Immediate Post-Match: Kerry and Bush shake hands warmly. Kerry slaps Bush on arm. And Teresa's the first out on to the podium for the hug. And here come the Bush girls. Huge hug between Teresa and Laura. Now Kerry kisses Laura Bush. Point to Kerry. Bushes are first off the stage. Bush never mentioned "run not hide." Kerry catches Bush on a truth foul on Osama Bin Laden, when Bush said he didn't recall saying he didn't focus on him. "I just don't spend much time on him really, to be honest with you," President said during Afghanistan war, opening up the Thursday morning quarterbacks.
Two immediate supplemental points to Kerry.
Interim final scoring upcoming.

10:31 p.m. ET
Round twenty-one: Closing Statements. Kerry first, invokes bipartisanship, quotes FDR, now goes into set piece of laundry list of promises. "Let me just make it clear; I will never allow any country to have a veto" over our security. This is more like school figures in figure skating than boxing. Somebody hit somebody below the belt! Kerry gets in "stronger" and "respected." Bush now. Starts with story of a West Texas painting in the Oval Office by Tom Lee. Point to Tom Lee. Credits hard work of Americans for economic growth and educational improvements. This has not been a good fight and it's coming to a tepid conclusion. Somebody wake up the crowd. The lines at the airport may be enormous. Hardball may go off the air an hour early.
Round: Draw, 0-0.

10:30 p.m. ET
Round twenty: Bush receives on what's the most important thing he's learned from the strong women around him. "To listen to them. To stand up straight. And not scowl." Bush gets big laugh and one point. But now he veers away into a stump speech about promising Laura she wouldn't have to make political speeches. And here comes the warm and fuzzy. Where's "run not hide" -- we get "love at first sight." Kerry says all three of them "married up." Bush doesn't get the joke. Kerry gets the laugh "...me, more than others." Point to Kerry. And Kerry brings up his late mother, makes strongest sound bite of the night, says she told him on deathbed "Integrity, integrity, integrity." Kerry needed to connect with audience, does so. Point to Kerry. Round, Kerry 2-1.

10:24 p.m. ET
Round nineteen: Kerry receives on loss of the unanimity of the time after 9/11 and how next president will deal with bringing nation together. Kerry stuns: "Let me pay a compliment to the President... he did a terrific job." Point to Kerry. Bush says thank you and Kerry moves to punch him in the teeth. "The most divided America in our recent history." Says Democrats are "locked out" of meetings. "I don't care if the idea comes from the other side." Invokes McCain again. Says no secret meetings with special interests, no ideological efforts to push people aside. Brings in McCain again on campaign finance reform. Bush says his "biggest disappointment" is partisanship and says "No Child" involved Ted Kennedy. Point to Bush but Kennedy's probably swearing. Answer strays back to 2000 election, mumbles away, now uses McCain against him, and Bush is suddenly angry, "retreat and defeat in Iraq."
Round, Draw 1-1.

10:20 p.m. ET
Round eighteen: Bush receives on faith in policy decisions. Says he prays a lot, faith is personal. Softball for Bush and one point for warm and fuzzy. Defends atheism, all religions. But Bush speaks of "calmness in the storms of the presidency" and now ducks out of the way, invoking principles, and "Armies of Compassion," leaving himself open if Kerry takes the risky chance. Kerry smiles quietly, says he respects everything President's said, and his faith. Quotes Bush "freedom is a gift from the almighty; Everything is a gift from the almighty." Kerry notes his favorite commandments. And there's the punch: more loving of our neighbor to do. Point to Kerry. Light taps to Bush's faith, scores but doesn't bloody.
Round, Draw 1-1.

10:16 p.m. ET
Round seventeen:
Kerry receives on further need of Affirmative Action. Kerry jabs saying it's still needed and Administration failed to lead fight on discrimination that could've obviated need for Affirmative Action. Kerry is straining, but says we have a long way to go. Kerry says there is still the stark resistance of racism. Says Bush is first President never to meet with NAACP. Point to Kerry, but truth squadding needed here. Bush says he met with Black Congressional Caucus, mumbles about quotas. Wobbling now, invokes Pell Grants again, hasn't answered question, now into Small Business Loans. Now Bush pounding podium.
Round, Kerry 1-0.

10:12 p.m. ET
Round sixteen: Bush responds on why he didn't insure extension of the assault weapon ban. Says it wouldn't have passed. Fancy footwork towards prosecution of those who commit crimes with guns. Kerry turns neatly. "I'm a gun owner," endorses second amendment. Stunning point to Kerry as N-R-A cheers. Twice refers to hunting, says he heard a story of an AK-47 while hunting in Iowa. Neat footwork. Says terrorists can buy assault weapons in America. Point to Kerry. Says he wouldn't have settled for politics.
Round, Kerry 2-0.

10:10 p.m. ET
Round fifteen: Kerry receives on what to do if there's no draft, and how to relieve the reservists and national guardsmen. Accuses President of "bad judgment" says "military is overextended." Softball to Kerry and he turns on it. Point to Kerry. Will add two divisions and increase special forces. Beats Bush to "War on Terror" reference and brings up alliances but opens himself to Angry Bush. Bush "broke faith" in the way he took country to war. Can President respond? Will we finally hear "He can run"? Bush must score here. "The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to succeed in Iraq." Oh and the punch misses. He's talking about thanking the troops in Bangor, Maine. Now Kerry sips water while Bush talks. And Bush finally brings in "Global Test" and "international approval." Point to Bush. Kerry can score if supplementals allowed and here it comes. "I have never suggested a test... in fact I've said the opposite." Talks about Americans' guts, creates a new phrase, "Truth Test." Bush can hit him hard but he has no more than Kerry's 1990 vote. Oh and there's a hit "Can't pass any test." Point, Bush
Round: Bush, 2-1.

10:05 p.m. ET
Round fourteen: Bush receives on Kerry's statement Bush never said he wouldn't try to overturn Roe v. Wade. Bush answer is about judge litmus test, then abandons his time. Minus one procedural point to Bush, who's on an issue in which he seems to be sweating worse than Bill O'Reilly at a conference of women in television. Kerry comes back saying Bush still hasn't answered the question. Time management: says Bush renegged on promise to fund "No Child." Point to Kerry. Bush responds with "a liberal Senator" at 1:01 of the debate. Bush getting fired up on "No Child," but swing misses. Kerry reprimands Bush sternly on not getting the job done. Point to Kerry on hard hit to the solar plexus.
Round, Kerry 2 to -1.

10:01 p.m. ET
Round thirteen: Kerry responds on raise for minimum wage increase. Schieffer's voice is straining now. Split screen of Bush drinking water while Kerry talks makes it look like a ventriloquist's act. Can we get him a sippy-straw? Kerry calls for minimum wage increase. Kerry says "I'm tired of politicians talking about family values without valuing families," broadens it to gender inequity on pay. Point to Kerry. Bush says he supported McConnell minimum wage increase, but says "No Child Left Behind" is really a jobs program. Bush bobbing and weaving. We're a long way from the minimum wage and Bush is getting sterner. Speaks of "minority achievement gap."
Round, Kerry 1-0.

9:57 p.m. ET
Round twelve: Bush receives on what Schieffer says was the most emailed question: illegal immigration. Which is it: societal, security, economic issue? Bush says it's everything. Minus one point for answering "all of the above." Bush introduces "temporary worker card" allowing workers and employers to "mate up." Can the OB-GYN's be far off? Straying from the conservative base here; I can hear Pat Buchanan screaming in Tempe all the way here in New York. Bush opposes amnesty and talks about line crowding. Schieffer has to tell Bush time's up. Minus one point for red light foul. Now Kerry's voice strains as he swings to gap between incomes at the ends of the spectrum. Says president broke promises on immigration reform. Says borders are leaking more than 9/11 and connects solidly. One point to Kerry. "It's against the law to hire people illegally." Minus one point to Kerry for tautology. Bush responds saying Kerry doesn't know the borders. Swings hard, but says the borders of Texas are tighter now then when he was Governor. Oops. Minus one point to Bush. Kerry rebuts evenly.
Round, Kerry, 0 to -3.

9:52 p.m. ET
Round eleven: Kerry receives on Greenspan's comments on cutting Social Security benefits. Does that mean no changes? We're all getting older thanks to this debate. Kerry invokes Tim Russert. Says he can redirect Bush tax cut to top 1% to extend Social Security into 2020's. Punches getting weaker. Kerry says he was part of saving of system in '90s, will do it again, steers back to job growth and here come the Herbert Hoover references. Bush smiles, says he heard no plan to fix Social Security and "more of the same." Point to Bush. Bush claims tax cut went to "middle America," says Kerry opposed the measure to get country out of recession. Point to Bush, but he leaves his gut wide open for Kerry pounding on job growth, who got the tax cut. Bush pounding the podium.
Round, Bush 2-0.

9:48 p.m. ET
Round ten: Bush receives on collapsing financial state of Social Security. Where does he get the money to cover it? Oh and Bush is on the defensive, saying a 2000 charge that "if George W. is elected" Social Security recipients won't get their check. Minus half a point for invoking the wrong campaign. Minus half a point for calling himself "George W." Bush invokes the Moynihan Committee and his advocacy of it. Point to Bush for cross-party iconic reference. Kerry back clearly with "an invitation to disaster" if young people can take money out of Social Security as Bush proposes. Says Bush has never explained the short-term transitional funding. Point to Kerry. Bush smiles oddly as Kerry quotes Washington Post. Kerry strong "I will not privatize it."
Round, Kerry, 1-0.

9:44 p.m. ET
Round nine: Kerry receives on governmental pickup of many large medical expenses and can pay for it on tax cut rollback. Kerry quotes news organizations as calling Bush interpretation of Kerry plans as "fiction" and "untrue." Now Kerry jabs smoothly emphasizing choice, and Bush's eyes flicker wildly. Point to Kerry. Pounds "choice" three times but doesn't answer the how's it getting paid for? Kerry off onto how early diagnosis of diabetes can save $50,000,000,000. Bush responds slamming quoting news organizations but winds up punching himself in the Axis. Minus one point, Bush, for a joke foul. Says independent research calling Kerry plan financially irresponsible. Kerry scratches eye with middle finger extended. Bush says Kerry plan could lead to rationing. Opens himself for major scoring if Kerry hits on flu. But Kerry swings wildly with references to V.A. and Medicare. Kerry pushes Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Is this thing sponsored? Bush responds with increased funding for V.A., but is off point.
Round, Kerry, +1 to -1.

9:39 p.m. ET
Round eight: Bush receives on who's responsible for increased health care costs. Bush receives with snicker, "Gosh, I sure hope it's not the administration." Laugh frightens small children in back round. Bush opens himself up with jabs on health savings accounts, now with a hard punch on medical liability reform, saying Kerry was wrong on the figure of 1% of health costs owing to litigation. Lawyers may sue to shorten this debate. Maybe Kerry will call Bush a liberal. Kerry responds as Bush again goes to the water. Kerry says Bush has "stood in the way of common sense" solutions like importation of drugs from Canada. There's an answer in here somewhere. Now Kerry mentions Rather. Oh, sorry, that's "rather." Now Kerry connects with a jab, tying drug company windfalls to administration moves. Point to Kerry. Bush asks for reply, bangs Kerry as having no record at all on leadership on health care. Point to Bush. "I led." Kerry says he's passed 56 bills, not 5. Open point here on fact check. Come on bloggers -- who's right?
Round, Draw 1-1.

9:34 p.m. ET
Round seven: Kerry receives on Catholic Bishops' warnings that voting for him may be a sin because of his support for abortion and stem cell laws. Kerry has to tread carefully: choice between "A woman, God, and her doctor." And Kerry wakes up: will defend Roe V. Wade, won't let court change it. Point to Kerry. Quotes bible: faith without deeds. Point to Kerry for stealing opponent's thunder. Bush looks challenged. Will he out-religion him? Bush replies with a "hospitable society" and says he understands there are differences on the issue and he can help reduce number of abortions. Again calls Kerry out of mainstream, but holds back on the "Liberal" line and we're 31:40 in to the debate.
Round, Kerry 2-0.

9:30 p.m. ET
Round six: Bush receives on gay marriage -- do you believe homosexuality is a choice? "I don't know," President replies, requires tolerance, consenting adults should be allowed to live as they want, defends sanctity of marriage. Point, Bush. Seems like he's pro-gay rights and anti-gay marriage, pro-amendment but also pro-states choices. Nifty footwork. Kerry answers "We're all God's children, Bob." Oh and a point for bringing up Dick Cheney's daughter. "She's being who's she born as." Says it's not a choice. Kerry is standing on the apron of the ring here, bringing up men or women in marriage who discover they're gay. Jim McGreevey is blushing somewhere. Kerry moves back towards safer ground by defending partnership rights and state management of marriages.
Round, Bush 1-0.

9:27 p.m. ET
Round five: Kerry receives -- is it fair to blame a president for all losses of jobs. Kerry says he can't stop it, Bush can't either. Promises fairer playing field, end of subsidizing "the loss of your own job." Says he'll shut the loophole in a nano-second. Scorer's table is going to pass out in a nano-second. And now Kerry awakens by accusing President of "discovering Boeing during this campaign." Bush smiles quietly to himself, comes back with a "Woo." Accuses Kerry of "misstatements," says he's raised Pell Grants by a million. Maybe this has finally started. Bush insists there's more money in your pocket; his breathing and here it comes -- record doesn't meet rhetoric? Where's the line? Kerry comes back by dismissing the "98 votes" incantation -- says he's voted for cuts over 600 times. Stinging reply on Pell Grants! More are eligible because more people are in need. Point to Kerry. Bush comes back "Senator, nobody's playing with your votes."
Round, Draw 1-1.

9:22 p.m. ET
Round four: Bush receives on what do you say to the American who loses his job to outsourcing. Again another opening for the Liberal or Run lines. Instead slings himself into a clinch on education for kids; steps away from the ropes to broaden out to adult education. The crowd is no longer voluntarily staying quiet; it is asleep. Finally Bush swings -- training assistance. Kerry answers noting the President switched topics and analogizes Tony Soprano telling him about Law & Order. Cultural reference point to Kerry; first hard hit of fight. Thank goodness Bush hadn't taken the sip of water a second earlier, there would've been the first spit take in a presidential debate (Nixon 1960 was a sweat wipe). Bush doesn't get follow-up.
Round: Kerry 1-0.

9:18 p.m. ET
Round three: Kerry receives on "domestic security" and his pledge to keep taxes unchanged on those making less than $200,000. Responds by summarizing "Pay As You Go," but slides on a wetspot and now gives a laundry list of the Bush job losses but the scorer's table is visibly confused. Kerry rights himself with jabs about McCain-Kerry Commission on loopholes— one point Kerry for mentioning the guy in the front row. Claims Bush is supporting the guy who imports ceiling fans from China. Ceiling fans from China, Gracie? Minus one point to Kerry. Bush responds: "rhetoric doesn't match his record." Bush warming up for the bolo punch: will it be liberal or run-and-hide? Bush still winding up. Oh and he blows "Pay As You Go" into "Pay Go." Missed opportunity and minus a point to Bush, who now leaves himself open with the small business tax burden -- will we have wood? There's a wood warning! No follows...
Round, Kerry, 0 to -1.

9:15 p.m. ET
Round two:
Bush receives about how flu vaccine shortage occured. Bush seems stunned, admits he's looking to Canada for more flu shot. Oopsie. Minus one point to Bush for a policy foul against his own policy; opens himself up to pounding by Kerry. Oh, and the Texas Thunderbolt comes out of the fog by turning it into a tort reform discussion. Dazzling switch but he's shuffling. Kerry responds by starting at the broad point, and throwing out stats for Arizona. Now the numbers for Ohio. Everything but the Red Sox score (it's 1-0 New York, mid-third). What about the flu shots? Plan to cover All-Americans or All Americans. Bush asks for 30 seconds rejoinder and brings in a definition of a "plan." Bush laughs at end of his answer. Kerry now pounds him with saying the Congressional plan was offered by Bush. Point, Kerry.
Round, Kerry 1 to -1.

9:08 p.m. ET
First round: Bush and Kerry are penalized two points each for debating on the only night I could've actually attended a Red Sox/Yankees playoff game. And that Schieffer too. Is it accidental that John McCain's head just happens to be peeking up camera right of moderator Schieffer? Looks a little like a trophy -- no, that was 2000. And here come the fighters to a standing ovation and a stunner! Bush has switched ties! Bush has switched ties! The man from the red states goes with a red cravat; Kerry sticks with what Mike McCurry identified as his "lucky red tie." Kerry receives with Schieffer's question that "hangs over" the debate— can we regain the safety and security that we had in the past? Obligatory thank you. Both men look rested, eager. Kerry answers "Yes -- we absolutely must be." Right into Iraq at 3:09 of the debate. Trying to weave Iraq into domestic policies. One point to Kerry. Kerry stumbles on a 95% cargo inspection stat. Minus one point for the slip. Also makes reference to "Safer"— that's Schieffer, Senator, not Morley Safer. Answer is lackluster but invokes FDR late. Bush responds. Smiling and calmer. Is he restraining himself? Repeats "3/4 of Al Qaeda leaders are captured." Invokes a 19-year old voter in Afghanistan. Nobody said this was about American domestic issues. Invokes "nuisance" inside the 6:00 mark. Still smiling, cordial. Kerry rebuts not with defense of "nuisance" but to outsourcing of the search for Bin Laden. Bush snickers at reply. Point to Bush but overenunciates "exaggeration."
Round: Bush, -1, to -2.

October 13, 2004 | 7:59 p.m. ET

Bush-Kerry III: The Tempest in Tempe (Keith Olbermann)

So the early-year forecasts about the Internet's (sorry, Mr. President: Internets') influence were right after all. The web would indeed impact the last presidential debate—  although that part about how it was going to help Howard Dean fundraise his way to the Democratic nomination didn't quite come to pass.

No, the Net's work was not so much selective, as editorial. It has altered the equation of analysis. No longer is judgment the sole province of a handful of writers or commentators; tonight, hundreds of thousands will weigh in. Not a bad update on the original premise of the country: Republic 2.0; E-mocracy.

It's not without its perils. That blogs and website analyses are beholden to no one is a great and pure thing— and also a terrible millstone. They can be launderers for party machine politicians. Before the first two debates, they were each the victims/enablers of mass e-mails from the Kerry and then the Bush camps, urging them to vote their man in online polls whether or not said man really deserved the vote. They can spin as relentlessly as the most Ostrich-like White House. They can be mob-like and brutal. They can behave in exactly the way they accuse their hated enemies of threatening freedom.

Of course, so can every newspaper columnist and television news personality in the nation. It's just that these old-media groups still have to raise their hands when asked "who said this?," and, online, that isn't universally true.

All of this is mentioned as preamble to my third attempt to "score" a debate in the manner that old-fashioned boxing writers "scored" a fight." Stream-of-consciousness, round-by-round analysis; points awarded for powerful jabs; points subtracted for fouls or hitting below-the-lowest common denominator.

The first two such reports from the Scorer's Table have seemingly been well-received, quoted widely, and at minimum proved entertaining (I'm told that we got 1.3 million hits last Friday night, and 4 million by the end of Saturday). To me, looking back at the blogs, they've been one thing more, and more importantly. They've been honest to the time. I can't go back later and insert a prediction that the bloggers are going to howl over the President's reference to "internets" — I have to write it as it happens, or I'm screwed. If I think one of the candidates has blown chance after chance to exploit the other's vulnerability, I better deduct points as I see those chances float past. While I permit myself some post-debate "intangibles," even when I awarded Mr. Bush ten additional points after the Hooey from St. Looey, it did nothing more than tighten up the score of a Kerry victory.

There is one area in which I give myself a second-guess. If, as "The Scorer," I question a candidate's statement of fact, and it proves my suspicions were justified, I am permitted to alter awarded points and penalize or reward additionally as I see fit. Last Friday, this was noted during the 13th question ("round") of the debate in which Senator Kerry said that under Republican definitions of small businesses, President Bush qualified as a small businessman because he'd derived $84 worth of revenue from a timber company. The President mocked Kerry, and as I produced the as-live record of that 13th question, I noted it: if Kerry was right, woe be unto Bush.

This is mentioned because if you're reading this to see who "wins"— a) God help you— make up your own mind; but b) check back here an hour or two after the debate ends before you quote me. 90 minutes of trying to transcribe, assess, punish, reward, and just type a debate buys me a little latitude before posting my "scorecard" as final and turning it over to the annals of history.

And thanks for your responses to these things. I don't think any of us know exactly what their use is— but it seems as if they have one.

Me and my big ideas.

October 13, 2004 | 4:26 p.m. ET

Welcome to Bloggermann, Keith Olbermann's blog. Stay tuned for live updates all-night tonight. Keith will once again be live-blogging the debate from 9 p.m. ET onwards.

E-mail Keith at KOlbermann@MSNBC.com.

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