updated 10/28/2004 11:04:27 AM ET 2004-10-28T15:04:27

Guest: Craig Crawford, Kay Maxwell, Susana Meadows, Jenny Eliscu, John Higgins

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  New battleground states, Arkansas, Hawaii, West Virginia, in play.  Old battleground themes, where did the Iraqi munitions go?  The president finally answers Senator Kerry.  And returning battleground veterans.  When he tried to run Katherine Harris down with his car, he says, he was only exercising his political opinions.  Their political opinions.  Why Howard stern and Eminem could have much bigger impacts Tuesday, than say, this guy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get out of my face. 

Looking into assisted living for the retired?  Two geriatric specialists suggest try humming anchors away. 

From the Bill O‘Reilly tape as read by Michael Moore.  All that and more on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, October 27.  Six days until the 2004 presidential election.  Undeniably, it was an example of one man doing what critics had accused his opponent of doing so often and to such great harm.  Remaining silent when the situation called for a response.  No.  Not him.  If he had remained silent, we wouldn‘t have to have this silly clock. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, inside the one-week poll.  The president pulls a John Kerry making no comment on a hugely controversial issue for nearly 36 hours, leaving the field wide open for Senator Kerry to continue to pound the administration on the disappearance from an Iraqi ammo dump of 380 tons of explosives, many of them usable as detonators for nuclear devices.  Mr. Bush finally spoke up this afternoon.  In Iowa this morning, the senator, hitting the Iraq munitions story hard for the third straight day, accusing the Bush campaign of quote, “dodging and bobbing and weaving” on explanations of how exactly we lost track or simply lost such a cache when the International Atomic Energy Agency had warned the administration before it invaded Iraq that the 760,000 pounds of explosives were being kept at the al Qaqaa stockpile.  The president finally came to his own defense while simultaneously taking aim at Kerry at a rally in Pennsylvania. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser misquote, “we do not know the facts.”  Think about that.  The senator is denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts.  And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander-in-chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How long before that phrase turns up in an ad for Senator Kerry?  The president may have furthered the controversy in saying we do not know the facts the president was evidently trying to quote.  Remarks made yesterday by Kerry‘s top foreign policy adviser Richard Holbrooke.  But what Ambassador Holbrooke actually said on Fox News was this.  “You and I don‘t know what happened.  We do know one thing.  The U.N.  inspectors and the IAEA inspectors had told the American military this was a major depot, everyone knew it was and it wasn‘t clarified.  Now the thing has been looted.  I don‘t know what happened.  I do know one thing, in most administrations the buck stops in the Oval Office.”

The confusion and apparent lack of context unfortunately does not stop there.  If the polls were a compass, anywhere you point them would read north.  But there is one potentially significant result today.  Pew Research‘s poll showing that many undecided voters have yet to choose a candidate but those who have chosen are leaning towards Kerry.  Last month it was the other way around.  Bush 34-28 among undecideds.  Since then Kerry making substantial gains now at 40 percent compared with 38 for the president. 

Nearly half of all undecided voters still on the fence.  Hence the name undecided.  In the “Washington Post”/Sunset daily tracking poll, Senator Kerry losing one point of his lead since yesterday.  49-48.  But closing the gap in the Zogby daily tracking poll done for Reuters now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there by just one. 

On Zogby‘s tracking of the three biggest battleground states, the president strengthening his position in must-win Ohio.  And in Florida, the senator pulling ahead in Pennsylvania.  Then there‘s the big poll, the one next Tuesday.  The electoral college calculus.  Spitting out 33 different ways this race could end in a tie. 

“Washington Post” White House correspondent and frequent COUNTDOWN guest Dana Milbank, crunching the numbers in a computer model and coming up with nearly three dozen potential scenarios in which the electoral college vote would look like this. 

Kerry, 269.  Bush, 269.  That would put the election in the lap of the House for the first time since 1824.  Says Milbank, none of these scenarios is likely to occur next week but neither is any of them farfetched.  Milbank also quotes a Democratic voting organizer as saying the odds are one in three that Mr. Bush will win the popular vote but lose in the electoral college. 

And imagine this election night scenario.  Bush and Kerry locked at 267 apiece waiting for the vote count from Hawaii to come in.  Its four electoral votes deciding the election.  The Aloha State, now one of the unanticipated battlegrounds.  The Democratic Party suddenly playing defense there, buying local ad time.  The independent liberal groups Moveon.org and Media Fund also opening their wallets. 

But wait, there‘s more swing out there.  A flurry of interest in two other states.  First Arkansas.  Two recent polls there showing the state a statistical dead heat.  The “Washington Post” reporting that for weeks, former president Clinton has been telling the Kerry campaign not to give up there.  In West Virginia, another unexpectedly tight race.  A state that Kerry‘s campaign had indeed given up on.  Organized labor it‘s thought keeping it close for the senator there. 

To take temperatures of the ever changing political climate of this day, I‘m joined by MSNBC political analyst, senior columnist for “Congressional Quarterly” Craig Crawford.  Good evening. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi, Keith.  Sometimes you look at all these states.  I know it is a big country.  But there are just too many states.  If some of the smaller ones could double up on electoral votes. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re sounding like Abe Simpson from “The Simpsons.”  Mr.  President, there are too many states remove seven of them.  Now we have new battleground states.  How many are we going to have by Monday? 

CRAWFORD:  A lot of these other states want to get in the act.  And maybe they‘re getting jealous, all the attention the other states.  But yes, we‘ve seen also New Jersey is now a tight race in at least one poll.  Kerry is looking at a couple of southern inroads.  Arkansas and West Virginia.  I even heard today they‘ve made a media buy in southwest Virginia, state of Virginia which nobody thought they would make a pitch for.  I think a lot of it, is they‘ve just got so much money on either side.  Both campaigns.  They have a lot of mad money they can spend and run some gambles in some of these states.

OLBERMANN:  Goody for us!

Dana Milbank‘s electoral tie numbers in the “Washington Post,” clearly the most frightening of this day.  But are the ones in the Pew Research about the undecideds, the most important, that the lean has gone from heavily towards Bush to slightly towards Kerry? 

CRAWFORD:  That‘s what we‘ve been waiting for is to see where these undecideds go.  And this poll is fairly clear that those that are breaking are breaking toward Kerry, confirming the old conventional wisdom that undecideds tend not to break for the incumbent.  If you get inside these numbers in this poll, Keith, it is very interesting.  It is the war in Iraq that moved a lot of these people who did move to the decided column and also among the hard decided voters in this poll, people who are not soft, who are definitely planning to vote for Kerry or Bush, Kerry leads comfortably. 

OLBERMANN:  You were also all over the numbers that we have not heard lately.  Not states but demographics.  Nascar dads, Catholics, left-handers.  Which of the numbers do you think are interesting and really matter?

CRAWFORD:  I‘ve been interested in looking at the rural vote and how Bush is doing so well, up to 66 percent favorability among rural voters.  And that is really why states like Wisconsin and Iowa, traditionally Democratic states are in play for President Bush because he‘s doing so well among those rural voters.  Basically he and Kerry are mere opposites.  Kerry is about 60-40 in the cities.  Bush, 60-40 in the rural.  And they‘re fighting to the death in the suburbs. 

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.” 

Great thanks and we‘ll see you when it‘s time to count the votes.

CRAWFORD:  I hope it is not a tie. 

OLBERMANN:  I have a bad feeling about this. 

CRAWFORD:  But I‘ll go to Hawaii and wait for the vote. 

OLBERMANN:  You wait for the vote for Hawaii.  Excellent. 

There has never been any doubt that Florida—is not a bad place to be either during the vote count—would once again play a key role in this election.  You saw John Dean here last night, you know that both sides are already gearing up for a legal battle over votes, voting and voters.  One that may make 2000 look like an argument over a parking spot.  It is starting already in Florida.  Major newspapers across the state reporting that tens of thousands of absentee columns are missing in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  Anybody said Miami-Dade? 

By missing, of course, we mean voters who requested absentee ballots and have not seen them in their own mailboxes yet, never mind actually voting, filling them out, and sending them back.  58,000 in Broward so far.  Thousands more in Palm Beach.  Early voting looking better and better.  State election officials blaming the U.S. Postal Service.  The Postal Service saying, no, what we‘ve received, we‘ve delivered.  Voters, no surprise, frustrated and angry.  The advice offered to all of them by Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood—start remembering that name.  Glenda Hood.  You may hear it a lot—keep checking your mailboxes. 

But wait, there‘s more.  A secret document apparently obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggesting a plan to disrupt voting in predominantly African-American districts.  How might a liberal website have gotten such a document?  It claims the Bush campaign accidentally sent it to them. 

Here‘s how.  The Web site seen here is called GeorgeWBush.org.  Those last 3 letters making all the difference.  It is a parody site, not to be confused with George W. Bush.com.  That Web site belonging to the Bush re-election campaign. 

The folks at the parody site, apparently not aware that their e-mail server even had a dead letter file.  The happened to look in it recently, discovering months of communications, much of which was either from or intended for Bush campaign staffers. 

One such document seen here listing the names of more than 1,800 voters in the prodominately black, and yes, traditionally Democratic areas of Jacksonville.  A state election supervisor in Florida who has seen the list telling the BBC, the only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voteers on election day.  Once challenged, one can only vote provisionly and only after presumably having made a fuss. 

The Republican state campaign spokeswoman, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, telling the BBC the list was not put together in order to create a challenge list.  But refusing to say that it would not be used in such a manner. 

It is impossible to calculate exactly what the odds are that your right to vote would be challenged next Tuesday.  But the odds are probably a lot better or worse than you think.  What are you supposed to do if somebody tries to stop you? 

For some practical advice, I‘m joined now by Kay Maxwell, the national president of the League of Women Voters. 

Ms. Maxwell, thanks for you time tonight.

KAY MAXWELL, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS:  My pleasure.  Nice to be here.

OLBERMANN:  You obviously prepare voters for these things, and have great experience with them.  Tell me first, what a vote challenge would look like.  Guy walks up to you, you‘re in line, you‘re sign in, where is this happening?  And what does he say to you? 

MAXWELL:  Well it would depend, probably, on the particular individual, but likely you would be challenged and in front of the election officials.  But I think the advice to people is don‘t panic, stay calm.  If you‘re challenged, all you have to do then is sign an affidavit that indicates that you are in fact an eligible voter.  You‘ll be given a provisional ballot and it will all be sorted out later.  So, stay calm. 

OLBERMANN:  So you have 3 essential pieces of advice when and if this happens.  And you‘ve mentioned the first, don‘t panic.  But your second piece of advice consists of 2 little letters, I.D. 

MAXWELL:  Well, I.D. is important.  But before we leave the provisional ballot, I would just like to say that we want people to know they can get the provisional ballots.  If they get to the polls, there names aren‘t on the voter registration list, and we think this may happen a lot this time, because we‘ve had such an increase in voter registration. 

So know that you‘re entitled to a provisional ballot.  And this is first time that this will be the case in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  But if you have to vote a provisional ballot, do it. 

But also, be sure that you bring identification with you to the poll.  They‘re going to be different requirements and different states.  But play it safe, bring a driver‘s license, bring a tax bill, bring a lease or something that shows your name and current address.  So, come with that I.D. just in case. 

The last item on our checklist is kind of an amalgum.  Three words, read, ask, wait. 

MAXWELL:  You got it.  First of all, read the instructions that are available at the polling place.  They‘ll tell you how to use the machines that are there, provide voters‘ rights, answer your questions that you may have. 

But if you still have questions after reading that, then don‘t hesitate to ask the poll workers.  If you have any questions at all, they‘re there to help you.  Don‘t let any question go unanswered. 

And finally, so that you can stay there, hopefully where you won‘t to have wait in line for a long time, but that may happen, but if it does, come prepared with a book, stand in line, don‘t leave.  It‘s too important that you get out and vote on November 2. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed it is.  And a good recommended reading line is the one about 1876 election.  That was a lot of fun. 

An honor to be joined by the National President of the League of Women Voters, Kay Maxwell, great thanks for your time and for your advice. 

MAXWELL:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, this has been a tough week to be Katherine Harris.  First, C-Span video from earlier this month was posted on the Web, in which Florida‘s former Secretary of State, now Congresswoman was shown caucusing from with a colleague from Arizona.  And the lighting in the Congress was so bad, you could not tell if she was whispering into his ear or kissing it. 

Now from Sarasota, news that the driver of a silver Cadillac sped through an intersection last night in Sarasota, then hurtled onto the sidewalk, where Ms. Harris and some supporters were standing. 

The driver later identified as Barry M. Seltzer swerved away at the last moment and drove off, but not before witnesses wrote down his license number. 

Upon his arrest, Mr. Seltzer told police, I intimidated them with my car.  I was exercising my political expression. 

Not exactly Zell Miller‘s dream of dueling, but close.  Mad as hell Zell, on the stump with the president today.  What powers do swing state sidekicks like Zell actually hold?  More or less campaign power than is held that Eminem or Howard Stern?  Their impact ahead.  COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was just before Labor Day when we last saw him, smoke coming out of his nose, dark promises and mumbled threats of vengeance coming out of his mouth.  And that was just on HARDBALL.  Our No. 4 story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight‘s campaign guest stars include Senator Zell Miller, also known as the key note speaker at the Republican National Convention and would be duelist. 

In Ohio, he said of John Kerry today, he‘s out there in the land of Oz.  The biggest star in the Republican Party will not come out till the weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down most opportunities to campaign for President Bush outside California, but he has conceded one joint appearence in Columbus, Ohio the day after tomorrow. 

Stumping for the Democrats meanwhile, Kerry‘s theme song performer Bruce Springsteen, who will actually speak at rallies in Wisconsin and Ohio tomorrow. 

Recording that event for posterity, “Newsweek” editor Susana Meadows, who was in Columbus.  Thanks for your time tonight.

SUSANA MEADOWS, NEWSWEEK:  Oh, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Are the celebrity endorsements of real value at this stage?  And if so, is that why the Republicans were so strident about entertainers expressing political views because they might drag people in who would ordinarily be staying home on Tuesday?

MEADOWS:  I think that—I don‘t think they‘re going to persuade anybody, but I think absolutely they can get people excited about voting.  When was the last time Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up in your backyard?  I mean, if you‘re an 18-year-old girl and you‘re lazy and maybe not inclined to vote and Ashton Kutcher tells you it‘s the most important thing in the world, you might actually go vote. 

OLBERMANN:  Yea, but you don‘t know about my backyard, it is a fairly interesting backyard. 

Regarding Schwarzenegger, he is difficult to define at this point, because he is half celebrity, half politician.  And he is also kind of a half-hearted in his support, I would think, regarding Mr. Bush because not only has he seemed to have been distant in this campaign but last week, he endorsed the proposition, 71 in California, which would restart stem cell research there. 

Was he staying away from the president or was the president staying away from him? 

MEADOWS:  It seems the president was perhaps staying away from him, although, I don‘t know about the negotiation.  We‘ve seen from Bush only the last week or two this reaching out to the more moderate voter when he talked about, he believes in civil unions for gay people, and then we have Zell Miller who‘s a Democrat who‘s out there talking about Bush.  And I—

So I think Schwarzenegger is part of that where we saw in those polls you were talking about.  If the undecideds are breaking in Kerry‘s direction, Bush has got to staunch that flow. 

OLBERMANN:  Is that who Zell Miller is being sold to in Ohio Today?  Or what—what is the—I mean, obviously—OK, Zeller Miller, he spoke as the key note speaker for the Republican while a Democrat.  We get that part.  But what does he do on a campaign on a Wednesday before an election? 

MEADOWS:  It is hard to say what is up with him.  I think he does two things.  I think that he is a strong—I think he makes a strong point when he says I‘m a Democrat and I‘m voting for Bush.  I think that appeals to moderate voters.  But I also think he appeals to the base.  As you were saying, he‘s the fire and brimstone, red meat, get angry guy.  And that‘s what the base likes to hear.  So, he is pretty all-purpose, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m sure he would agree with you on that.  Susannah Meadows, of “Newsweek” checking from Columbus, Ohio, as the celebrity get out there with the candidates and by themselves.  Many thanks for your time. 

MEADOWS:  Thanks for having me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Play the tape. 

Holy baby Bilbo bones, Batman.  See, I couldn‘t have said that if you didn‘t see this shot.  Did JRR Tolkien‘s hobbits actually exist?  That will be making headlines in “Oddball.”

And later, you heard for a cruise for a week, for two weeks, for three weeks.  How does cruising for years and years and years sound to you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause our COUNTDOWN of today‘s political news to allow your boiling blood to briefly simmer down with a relaxing tonic of weird news and strange video, until we go back to the politics. 

But just for this one shining moment, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin on the island of Flores, Indonesia where researcher have apparently discovered the skeleton of Bilbo Baggins.  Actually, scientist say they found the bodies of seven dwarf-like creatures closely related to humans.  Homo Floresiensis or Flores man stood upright, but he was just three feet tall.  He worked with stone tools and fire before the entire species was wiped out by a volcano, not a very big one, though, more than 12,000 years ago.  Kind of a low volcano.  Not before one of them though cast a ring of power into the molten lava of Mount Doom, there by saving Middle Earth and the Shire.  Oh, wait.  This is Flores man, not the fictional hobbit, right. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here‘s one of the arm bones of a hobbit.  It‘s half the size of my arm.  And everything else was half size in the hobbit.  Half our height.  And until this discovery last year, no one had imagined that humans could be that small in the recent past. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Exney (ph) on the Obbithey (ph).

Meanwhile, a new warning tonight to those of you planning to decorate your front porch with a plump and juicy pumpkin this Halloween, you may be attracting unwanted elephants.  And once they‘ve made a home in your yard it‘s extremely difficult to get rid of them.  Most pest control companies will not even take your phone call.  Elephant like these at the Baltimore Zoo love a good pumpkin and often take them down in one big dangerous bite. 

And this footage from a German zoo proves that even baby elephants, which can easily be mistaken for trick or treaters, will stop at nothing to smash open the giant gourds to get at the pumpkiny goodness inside.  Experts say if you must have a jack-o-lantern this weekend, you should first carve it 25 feet below the ocean‘s surface, somewhere in the Florida Keys.  These divers off Key Largo are competing in the First Annual Amoray Dive Resort Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest.  More than 30 of them competed and were judged on speed, design, their ability to keep a candle flame going down there.  The divers were not bothered by the local yellow tail snapper population, but three elephants required mouth to mouth resuscitation after trying to reach the delicious underwater pumpkin booty. 

Speaking of booty, here‘s Howard Stern and his loyal audience, to say nothing of Eminem‘s audience.  Will these two men inspire thousands of fan to hate the candidate they hate? 

And speaking of thousand, our telethon that really is not a telethon, to raise money to by the Andrea Mackris tapes.  You at home keep sweetening this pots. 

Those stories ahead.

Now, though here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

No. 3, Dan Schenkein, is the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Forks, North Dakota.  And he‘s happy to report that the Grand Fork has now been recovered.  The six foot tall grand fork, one of 50 scattered around the city, was stolen over the weekend.  But it has now been located.  Police say that the suspects in the crime are considered armed and extremely hungry. 

And no. 2, Erin Kappen, of Essexville, Michigan, she works for the 7-Eleven there.  She gave birth earlier this month to a boy who weighed, that‘s right, seven pounds, 11 ounces.  Her employers have rewarded her with a check for $711, which as she may soon learn is also the exact price of the diapers at 7-Eleven. 

And No. 1, Marshmallow the parrot, of Memphis, Tennessee.  Two unnamed burglars broke into the house in which Marshmallow lived.  They stole DVD players, computers, radios and then sped away.  Then one of them says to the other one, you used my name in front of that parrot.  So, the burglars went into the house and they stuffed Marshmallow into their getaway car.  And that‘s when police happened on the scene and that‘s when the high speed chase began.  The burglars crashed, Marshmallow escaped, not only unharmed, but able to proudly say, I‘m a parrot not a stool pigeon. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You may think of fans of radio‘s Howard Stern or rap‘s Eminem as inexplicable and as perhaps even mesmerized, you know, like those groups of flies you see in the summer, all buzzing about in the same confined two or three foot square and then suddenly they all move simultaneously, exactly one foot to the right.  Why did they do that?  Why did they do that then?  Did somebody tell them to do that? 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, those Stern and Eminem fans may wind up deciding next Tuesday‘s election.  For good or for ill, they do what their idols tell them to do, or at least it seems that way.  And they are telling them, go out and defeat George Bush. 

Eminem‘s message in a moment.  First, the latest salvo in the Stern war against the president‘s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. 

As our correspondent James Hattori reports from San Francisco, Stern and the chairman are now battling on the air. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES HATTORI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From host to irate caller, Howard Stern phoning into a San Francisco radio station, confronting FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You honestly are an enigma to me.  I really don‘t even think you‘re qualified to be the head of the commission.  Do you deny that your father got you this job? 

MICHAEL POWELL, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN:  Oh, I would deny.  I have the same credentials that virtually anyone who sits in my position does.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HATTORI:  Stern and Powell go way back.  According to one study, Stern‘s show racked up $2.5 million in fines, nearly half of all fines for broadcast indecency since 1990.  Stern says Powell and the FCC are singling him out. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

POWELL:  I don‘t think that we have made any particular crusade of “The Howard Stern Show” or you. 

STERN:  Yes, OK, Michael.  That‘s why I‘ve received the largest fines in history and I‘ve said the exact identical thing that Oprah Winfrey said and you says she‘s beloved and I‘m not.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HATTORI:  Powell says the FCC is investigating recent comments on Winfrey‘s show and that his agency is only responding to the public‘s complaints about all shows, including Stern‘s. 

POWELL:  I think his general view is that there are no limits, there should be no limits.  And I think the American people think differently. 

HATTORI (on camera):  Stewart and Powell won‘t have each other to kick around much longer.  In 2006, Stern is taking his show to subscription satellite radio, which is currently not subject to FCC regulations. 

James Hattori, NBC News, San Francisco. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Then there is another icon of the same demographic, one registering to vote for the first time this year under his real name, Marshall Mathers.  His latest video, which appears under his stage name, Eminem, encourages his peeps to do the same. 

That message, however, makes Howard Stern look nuanced.  The video for “Mosh,” premiering just one week before the election, invoking images of the horror of showing September 11 with an animated version of the rapper reading “My Pet Goat” to a classroom full of kids.  And those are the subtle parts. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMINEM, RAPPER:  Someone is trying to tell us something.  Maybe this is God just saying we are responsible for this monster, this coward that we have empowered.  This in bin Laden.  Look at his head nodding.  How could we allow something like this without pumping our fists now?  This is our final hour.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The menacing imagery culminates in a call to register to vote.  Eminem has stopped short of endorsing any one candidate, but he told the magazine “Rolling Stone”—quote—“Whatever my decision is, I would like to see Bush out of office.  Every mother ‘blanking‘ vote counts.”  Same registration catchphrase of the League of Women Voters, I believe. 

Speaking of “Rolling Stone,” I‘m joined now by a contributing editor to that publication and the co-host of its show on Sirius Satellite Radio, Jenny Eliscu. 

Thank you for your time tonight. 

JENNY ELISCU, “ROLLING STONE”:  You‘re welcome.  How you doing? 

OLBERMANN:  What is the impact, do you think, of this Eminem video likely to be?  Is it thousands of his fans rushing to the polls knowing only to who to vote against, not knowing the name of the opposing candidate?  Or are we not giving them or him enough credit? 

ELISCU:  Well, I don‘t think we‘re giving them enough credit. 

I think that Eminem‘s fans, by and large, are young people.  Unfortunately, they may be too young to vote, some of them.  And that could be the biggest problem that the message he‘s trying to send comes up against.  But Eminem has so many millions of fans that you really can‘t paint them all with the same brush strokes. 

Whether or not Eminem saying go out and vote at all or saying go out and vote against Bush convinces anyone is sort of like the big question that we won‘t know the answer to until next week. 

OLBERMANN:  The Stern situation is obviously a lot different.  He started this a long time ago.  And within his world, he has spent a lot time explaining in great detail, sometimes at the expense of the entertainment quality of his show on occasion, that position of his. 

Could he have some kind of an influence?  Is there a way to measure that? 

ELISCU:  Well, I think Stern‘s influence is different, because he is just there every morning delivering his message.  He talks about whatever is important to him. 

And, obviously, his listeners are very easily influenced by what he says.  But I think people take it with a grain of salt, whereas Eminem, his song borders more on social commentary.  It is social commentary.  Stern, he is complaining about a problem that he has been sort of—you know, he is beleaguered.  Michael Powell is out to get him.  The FCC is out to get him. 

And I don‘t know if his listeners will take it that seriously or try and apply it to their own concerns.  What Stern fan has to worry about the FCC? 

OLBERMANN:  Not that he‘s going to be under the control of the FCC anymore.  Now it is no going to be longer be an issue, obviously.

ELISCU:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  But that‘s two years from now. 

ELISCU:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, we‘re also not just talking about Stern or Eminem.  P. Diddy has this whole Vote or Die campaign. 

Most of the coverage of this I‘ve seen has suggested this is something new in political activism directed at the youngest part of the voting demographic.  Is that really true?  Or is it just the modern version of Mort Saul‘s fans supporting Kennedy in 1960 or the Woodstock voters a decade after that? 

ELISCU:  Well, it is not that this is anything new.  But it has been a while.  I think we can agree it‘s been a while since there‘s been this level of effort among celebrities and musicians to try and mobilize the youth vote.

And maybe it‘s because we‘re in war times for the first time in a long time now, thankfully.  But P. Diddy, this interesting thing about this whole P. Diddy Vote or Die campaign, which the entire campaign is basically people wearing T-shirts that say Vote or Die, is that really, you know, it doesn‘t really do anything.  It‘s really just a T-shirt-wearing campaign.  And are your two choices really either vote or die?  Can I have a third choice there?  Maybe if I come down with a case of the flu? 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

And when you get Paris Hilton turning out to not have registered in either California or New York, that sort of takes part of the carpet out from under the whole routine, doesn‘t it?

ELISCU:  Yes. 

And, well, hopefully, though, it is a subliminal message that will creep in there.  Obviously, young people can be very lazy and apathetic about voting.  But if you see these posters up in enough place and you have enough artists that you admire or just celebrities that are in your world constantly hammering home that message that you should vote or else you might die, it might sink in there and be just enough to get kids who would have normally have just stayed sort of home eating Cheetos on November 2 to actually go and pull a lever. 

OLBERMANN:  But you can have the Cheetos and also vote.  We should make that...

ELISCU:  It only takes a few minutes to vote.  There‘s Cheetos later.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Or you could bring them with you. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Jenny Eliscu, the contributing editor to “Rolling Stone,” co-host of the “Rolling Stone” show on Sirius Radio, many thanks for your time tonight. 

ELISCU:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Day 15 of you-know-who gate.  Settlement rumors abounding. 

So does pledge money to save the tapes abound, indeed.

And speaking of tapes, this, unfortunately, is not an outtake from “The Larry Sanders Show,” but it might be why his character Artie could not go back to New York—the Rip Torn ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The countdown within the COUNTDOWN is nearly complete.  Your Bill O‘Reilly news up next and how your grassroots pledge effort to save the tapes is going.  And it‘s a sea cruise and a retirement home.

Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Reminiscent of the coverage of Punxsutawney Phil emerging from his borough and determining how much winter there will be beyond February 2, sources at Fox News Channel are reporting the reappearance of Bill O‘Reilly in their hallways, something they have not seen of yet, adding fuel to the expectation that he has settled or is about to settle the sexual harassment case that has simultaneously horrified and entertained the nation lo these two weeks. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s your entertainment dollars in action, day 15 of the O‘Reilly investigations.  The future of the tapes of O‘Reilly‘s conversations with his ex-producer Andrea Mackris hanging in the balance.  Whether or not O‘Reilly‘s success also is hanging in the balance we will discuss in a moment.  And we will not use the term hanging again in relation to these tapes. 

The show-cause hearing about—which is still scheduled for Friday, at which point O‘Reilly and his attorneys will presumably find out what Ms.  Mackris said on the tapes, the point, as you may have heard Harvey Levin of TV‘s “Celebrity Justice” note here yesterday, that‘s the point at which she could conceivably lose her leverage in this case, just in case she talked about loofahs and falafels as well. 

Ms. Mackris‘ reputation has been under intermittent assault since the story broke.  But, today the newspaper “The New York Observer” quoted another female Fox News employee, a producer, anonymously defending Ms.  Mackris. 

“She didn‘t seem like a really inappropriate, flirtatious, overly sexual person.  You know, there are a lot of people who are here who wear little skirts and heels.  She wasn‘t that kind of person.  She was down-to-earth and wore jeans and didn‘t have the best body.  She wasn‘t one of those people where it‘s like, oh, my God, she‘s hot.  And there are so many of them here.  That wasn‘t her vibe.”

How would you like to read that about yourself in the paper? 

The vibe around these parts continue to be my standing offer to Ms.  Mackris, providing an alternative to settling with O‘Reilly and as part of the settlement, destroying the tape because of her current debts.  I have offered to cover them in their reported amount of $99,000, provided she does not destroy the tapes, and, oh, by the way, gives us a copy. 

Once this was mentioned in our blog Bloggermann, the idea caught on like wildfire.  Though we solicited no pledges, viewers and readers offered contributions anyway to the save-the-tapes fund.  The latest figured by the figure filberts at MSNBC Web control and displayed for you on the Jumbotron in Times Square, $46,372.67. 

Never mind the tape.  Let‘s just keep the money ourselves.  At this rate, we might be able to outbid Fox News on a full settlement package. 

There is one other O‘Reilly development tonight, a virtual crash of the titans at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  There, as part of his “Slacker Uprising” tour, none other than Michael Moore addressed 1,200 students at the Pittsburgh school and regaled them by reading excerpts of O‘Reilly‘s comments to Mackris, as quoted in Mackris‘ suit against O‘Reilly.  Now, for tapes of those reading, I‘ll pay $1.75. 

Despite this major grassroots, unsolicited groundswell, there seems every reason to suspect that O‘Reilly and Mackris will settle and the tapes, loofahs, little brown women, endowments and all, will be destroyed, vanished to some cultural black hole.  And then what happens?  What kinds of careers await both protagonists? 

Joining me to help polish the crystal ball is John Huggins—John Higgins, excuse me—business editor of the trade publication “Broadcasting and Cable.”

Mr. Higgins, good evening. 

JOHN HIGGINS, BUSINESS EDITOR, “BROADCASTING AND CABLE”:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start with Ms. Mackris. 

I‘ve seen a lot of women in broadcasting who won sexual harassment complaints inside offices without publicity and afterwards their odds of being able to still function in those offices is probably about 50/50.  Andrea Mackris is already out at Fox.  Do you think she is also out of TV news? 

HIGGINS:  She is going to have a very tough time. 

Any employer is going to look at a woman who sued her previous employer for any reason and hesitate when they‘re interviewing them.  It is a reflexive action.  If you have got three different candidates for the same gig, if you‘re the boss, which avenue are you going to take? 

OLBERMANN:  As to Mr. O‘Reilly, let‘s say they settle.  Let‘s say the tapes go away, there‘s no more story.  That would seem to be a complete win for him. 

But is it?  Because there‘s no resolution to this, would he get stuck in a kind of perpetual punchline stone?  You think Rush Limbaugh, you think 30,000 painkillers.  You think Bill Bennett, you think gambling.  You think Bill O‘Reilly, now you think phone sex? 

HIGGINS:  Yes.  But it‘s been six months.  If you make Rush drug jokes, nobody is laughing.  So you can make them all you want. 

The danger for O‘Reilly professionally is if he loses his base audience.  I have seen no evidence of that in the last 10 days since we‘ve known about this, as I look at the Nielsens every day.  And it might happen if it continued to escalate.  And if they settle, you are not going to get the audio.  You are not going to be able to play it.  Howard Stern is not going to be able to play it over and over.  And it will probably stall out, unless more cases come out, more women emerge making the same kinds of allegations.

That could be a damaging escalation, but we don‘t see it so far. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  We would have to just go to, as they say, tone and bars for about 10 minutes every night, we think, if this thing actually goes away. 

So, the opposite, obviously, was true of Bill O‘Reilly‘s ratings.  They didn‘t go down after the scandal broke.  They weren‘t eroded.  They spiked.  Was some of that scandal-related or is it election-related?  Or where did that all come from and is it going away? 

HIGGINS:  I think the initial spike from about three million to 3.4 million for the first couple of days was train-wreck related.  People wanted to see what the damage was. 

He didn‘t talk about it, so that drifted off.  But his viewership still seems to be holding in there fine.  That is largely election-related.  All of Fox News, O‘Reilly in particular, is up this fall because, you know, they‘re hot, hot on the election. 

OLBERMANN:  John Higgins, the business editor at “Broadcasting and Cable,” great thanks for your time and your insight tonight, sir. 

HIGGINS:  Have a good night. 

OLBERMANN:  Thus, tonight, another seamless, albeit perhaps seamy segue from the No. 2 story to our celebrity and gossip segment, “Keeping Tabs.”

And I will confess up front to being absolutely prejudiced and biased on this next story, so I am taking his version of events.  I love the work of the actor Rip Torn.  A drunk driving trial under way in New York over this, the former star of “The Larry Sanders Show” ripping police after they arrested him last January in the wake of an automobile accident.  They say he was drunk and this was a drunken tirade. 

His attorney says Torn not only was not at fault in the accident, but he also was not wearing his hearing aids after it happened and thus was not responding drunkenly to the officers.  He just could not hear what they were saying.  Outraged at his wrongful arrest and frustrated by his inability to hear the police, this, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, ensued. 

It could be worse.  It could be R. Kelly.  The infamous R&B singer and alleged amateur video star, reportedly has another new hobby, volunteer at the McDonald‘s drive-through window.  “The New York Post” reports that Saturday in Saint Louis, Kelly was so frustrated by technical problems in his live show—now, who would ever get frustrated by something like that?

·         that he stormed off the stage, screamed at the sound guy for—quote—

“screwing things up” as did he so. 

He then naturally went to McDonald‘s, where he hung out with the manager and wound up working the drive-through window for three hours.  And he kept asking all the younger women customer to show proof of age, I understand. 

Date of birth also important in tonight‘s No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, the damndest suggestion for replacing retirement homes you will have ever heard next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, to the top of the COUNTDOWN. 

And, mom and dad, this is not about you. 

But two doctors at Northwestern University are suggesting that the price of assisted care facilities in this country, what we used to call retirement homes, has gotten so out of hand and so disproportionate to the meager care those facilities provide, that an unexpected and in fact delightful alternative has arisen. 

Our No. 1 story tonight, it‘s arisen, provided you don‘t get seasick.  Seniors who enjoy travel, have good or excellent cognitive function, and require some assistance with activities of daily living are ideal candidates for cruise ship care.  So write Drs. Lee A. Lindquist and Robert M. Golub in the latest issue of “The Journal of the American Geriatric Society.”

Drs. Lindquist and Golub note that cruise ships and retirement homes essentially offer the same services, food, 24-hour access to nurses and doctors, housekeeping and laundry, and, best of all, meal escorts.  And to their surprise and probably yours as well, the costs are roughly the same.  Huh?  The Royal Caribbean cruise line ship Majesty of the Seas costs the same as the Springfield Retirement Castle?  Actually, the boat is a little cheeper.

The doctors find the average assisted living facility cost $28,689 a year per person.  That‘s two Abe Simpson references in one show.  The high-end facilities charge $40,000 per person per year or higher.  But you could just keep sailing board Majesty of the Seas for about $33,000 a year. 

Drs. Lindquist and Golub do note a few downsides.  “Dining room staff,” they write, “routinely memorize which patrons consume which drinks, so that they will be available immediately when the guest is seated.”  The staff, the doctors suggest, would need to be retrained slightly to memorize not which passenger had the vodka-Collins and which the gin topic, but which one takes Lipitor and which one takes the Celebrex. 

Lastly, the doctors close the deal on their idea in a very unexpected matter.  Although, intuitively, we would think of people who would retire to live on a cruise ship as being—having boarded in the doctors‘ term on the ship of the damned, in fact, the doctors observe, relatives and friends would probably go see grandma more often—quote—“if she was living on a cruise ship.” 

So there it is.  Eliminate your guilt about the nightmare of assisted living for the elderly.  Put the parents on the Love Boat.  Let Gopher, Julie and Captain Stubing worry about them. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  Time for me to ship the hell out of here. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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