Guest: Jesse Jackson, Jim Vandehei, Arianna Huffington
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Homeland security director goes home. Is his successor to be New York city former top cop or the man who ran the 2002 Olympics?
The Arnold amendment. Why the push to let the foreign born be president if Mrs. governator now says forget about it, it‘s in the going to happen.
U.S. Citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in, so writes Jesse Jackson today. He will join us. We will have the latest from Ukraine.
And the departures along with the one succession horse race as television‘s big three, all about to leave the air at about the same time. Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings. Ken Jennings, looser.
All that an more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Who is there, orange, orange who? Orange you glad you aren‘t secretary of homeland security any more and you don‘t have to issue any orange alerts.
Our Fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, yet another second term change in the Bush administration, as the country‘s first and thus far only counter terrorism czar becomes the seventh cabinet level official to exit.
Tom Ridge, appointed to the original job of Homeland Security director the month after the 9/11 attacks, informed his boss this morning, his 180,000 employees by e-mail shortly thereafter and the media this afternoon that he will resign. The former governor of Pennsylvania still speaking the parlance of his agency. He said that in the immediate future he intends to, quote, raise some family and personnel matters to a higher priority. Among them, going to his son‘s rugby games.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, everybody knows I love public service, did I it there 22 years. But I just want to step back and pay a little more attention to some other personal matters. I haven‘t been disappointed a single day I have been secretary. However, there have been days—I like going to work every day, there were certainly days I have enjoyed it more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ridge‘s resignation has been anticipated for weeks and it will not happen until February 1. Two components that have enabled a crowd of potential successors to build up. Ranging from speculative musings like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to more practical predictions like Giuliani‘s former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. To try to figure out Ridge‘s exit and whoever will be entering, I‘m joined by Jim Vandehei, national political reporter of “Washington Post.”
Thanks for your time this evening, sir.
JIM VANDEHEI, “WASHINGTON POST”: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Before we talk about the future, let‘s talk about what has just become the past, along with the assumptions that Tom Ridges was going, was assumption that he was going more for personal reasons than political ones.
Is that a solid conclusion?
VANDEHEI: I think we have to take him at his word. I mean, listen, I think this is the second most stressful job in America today next to president. To take 22 agencies, 180,000 people and roll them into one big terror fighting machine. On top of that, you have to think of 1,000 ways that terrorists could hit America, 1,000 ways to stop it. And then sit back and worry each and everyday that people are going to die under your watch and that‘s how you are going to be remembered. I think, that‘s gives him plenty of reason to want to stepped aside and go spend some time with his family.
OLBERMANN: As successors, I mentioned Bernie Kerik, there‘s also Asa Hutchinson, who is Ridges deputy. There is Tommy Thompson from HHS. Mike Leavitt from EPA. Joe Allbaugh from EMA. Fran Townsend who is the White House security advisor. And in your newspaper today, two more governors are mentioned, the ex-governor of Virginia, James Gilmore and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts who was, himself, formerly the head of the Salt Lake City community.
Is there a favorite among these?
VANDEHEI: President Bush is masterful at keeping his card close to his vest. I think what you have to look for is probably going towards a seasoned bureaucrat. You‘re taking a huge agency and you need some one with experience in trying to bring all these different people together, all these different factions together. And then get this agency to function and do it‘s job, which is one of the most important jobs in government today. If you look at someone like governor—former Governor Gilmore of Virginia or you look at someone who is inside the agency right now, like Asa Hutchinson, former Congressman who‘s now running and heading up sort of transportation and borders inside the department or his number two, Fran Townsend.
I think you are going to see a seasoned bureaucrat, because I think that‘s what it will take.
OLBERMANN: When Ridge‘s position was originally created, but before he was appointed, there was a lot of talk in that time of crisis about how surprise a choice it would be, how out of the box. It was not. It was a standard issue politician and not bureaucrat, I don‘t mean that in the negative sense, but someone who could run an agency. It was long then that the charges began that homeland security was often tweaked for political purpose.
Is there any evidence of any thought of putting someone unexpected in there now, a Democratic, somebody from not mainstream politics, somebody to make the fight against terrorism seem more bipartisan?
VANDEHEI: I think the big shocker would be if the president reached across party aisle and grabbed a Democrat, someone like Lee Hamilton, who is co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. Someone who is clearly an expert in this area. I don‘t think that will happen. I mean, this president has shown a proclivity towards picking loyalist when it comes to positions of security, be it on the foreign policy side or domestic security that we‘re talking about here today. So, I think you‘re going to find someone he‘s really comfortable with. Someone he feels is a loyalist. Maybe someone like Joe Allbaugh. He used to be part of the Texas triangle, along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. People that are real close with the president or maybe even someone like Tommy Franks who can bring in that discipline from the military into this unit that has to fight terror.
OLBERMANN: Jim Vandehei, at the “Washington Post,” great thanks for your insights today.
VANDEHEI: Take care, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To formalize his resignation, Secretary Ridge had to go international. The president was in Canada, a trip intended to thaw out the chilly relationship between the two countries, which stems from disagreements on everything, from the U.S. decision to ban Canadian beef after a mad cow was discovered in Canada in 2003, to the Canadian refusal to send troops to Iraq. Disagreements which the president brought into the open during a joint news conference with Canada‘s prime minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I frankly felt like the reception we received on the way in from the airport was very warm and hospitable. And I want to thank Canadian people who came out to wave, with all five fingers, for...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The ones using less than five fingers, about 5,000 strong according to police estimates gathered outside the parliament, in protest to the president‘s visit. There were some arrests, one policeman injured. But for the most part, other then pushing and shoving, protesters marched peacefully chanting anti-Bush slogans. Some were even still holding Kerry/Edwards, tag team that will probably not be stepping into a new steel cage ring in 2008 . John Edwards dropping hints about a new bid for the top job in four years time. And hints also of a less than happy post election assessment of his running mate this time.
The senator currently making his farewell tour of North Carolina on his first trip back home. And while not overtly critical of his former running mate, some of his comments seemed somewhat pointed, especially considering John Kerry‘s campaign was often criticized for having lacked focus or something. As his Senate terms expires on the first day of his goodbye exclusion, Edwards told reporters, “The most important thing we need in a future presidential campaign is a message that is clear and strong. And a candidate who believes it to his or her‘s soul. It‘s the core of a successful run for the presidency. Otherwise it sounds like todays message or yesterday‘s poll numbers.”
You wanted to try to locate where a Republican candidate might be stealth campaigning for the 2008 nomination tonight, you couldn‘t find a better place to start than College Station, Texas. There is one hitch, the candidate in college station is constitutionally barred from becoming president. More importantly, today he may have been barred by his own wife. As California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger headed to Texas A&M University, to accept the 2004 George Bush award for excellence in public service. A profile of Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver appeared in “Vanity Fair” magazine in which she said she supported the bid to amend the constitution to permit the foreign born to become chief executive. But she did not think her husband would live to see it affect him. Should there be an amendment, absolutely. America is a nation of immigrants, but practically, forget about it, it‘s not going to happen. The process takes years and this is as far as it goes. Schwarzenegger himself has asked, rhetorically, why not? And a group called, Amend for Arnold and Jen has been pushing, even advertising for the let anybody be president amendment that would benefit not just Schwarzenegger but also the Canadian born governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help us amend for Arnold and 12 million other Americans. Join us at amendforarnold.com. Paid for by amendus.org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And for all we know it could benefit our next guest, a former California gubernatorial candidate herself, political columnist and author, Arianna Huffington.
Arianna, good evening. Thanks for your time.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is Maria Shriver‘s word, the final word on this. Or on the flight to Texas, was Arnold telling her, I‘ll be back.
HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, what Maria said is really that she doesn‘t think it would happen because of how long the process takes. She didn‘t say she was against it. And on the contrary, she said it‘s a good idea. And actually, I completely agree with her. I think it‘s a great idea. I just don‘t see any urgency behind it. As she said it takes a tremendous amount of time, it takes two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, two-thirds of the states to ratify an amendment or a constitution. And although a good idea, it‘s not exactly a front burner idea when you consider how many urgent issues we‘re facing in this country.
OLBERMANN: Is it apparent and is it essential for Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s presidential hopes, whether they‘re in 2008, 2012, 2016, whenever it may be, is it essentially that he not be really seen promoting a constitutional amendment that would apply so personally to him?
HUFFINGTON: You know, I don‘t really think that‘s the issue, Keith, because for a constitutional amendment to go through, you need a huge constituency behind it that really wants it to go through. All you need in this instance somebody like, say, like Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, or Vaclav Havel, some major figure that was sort of waiting in the wings, ready to run for president of the United States and was barred because of this constitutional quirk, which is really a quirk, given what we are now and given the status and the work of immigrants in this country.
But it‘s not really something that Arnold can impact very much one way or another. It‘s something which is beyond him, and it‘s probably something that will happen, but it will not happen, I think, within a timeline that will benefit him.
OLBERMANN: As a rhetorical question, could you look into whether or not Vaclav Havel is interested? We might be able to use him still.
It‘s been a long time since I studied the constitutional convention, but my recollection was that the foreign-born ban was placed there to preclude the prospect of a president who would suddenly hand this country over to—the country of his birth, like England. That doesn‘t seem to be a realistic prospect anymore. What is the rationale, do you suppose, for keeping the restriction in place?
HUFFINGTON: I think there is no rationale, beyond the fact that it is there and there is no real constituency powerful enough, energized enough to get through what it‘s going to take, to really change something like that. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason for it.
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, political columnist and author. Most recently of the book, “Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America.” Arianna, it‘s always great. Thanks for joining us.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Voting irregularities. From Kiev to Cleveland. Reverend Jesse Jackson wants to know, where is all the outrage here? He will join us on COUNTDOWN. And the investigation into the plane crash that involved NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol. The coroner with one small piece of consolation for the family and for the families of the flight crew members killed. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: There is one small platform of peace on which the family of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol and his surviving family members can stand tonight. The coroner in Montrose County, Colorado confirming late this afternoon that 14-year-old Teddy Ebersol was, quote, “killed instantly” when he was thrown clear of the family‘s crashing chartered plane and then its wreckage fell on top of him.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a day of continuing investigation, starting about 130 miles southwest of Aspen. Coroner Edward Yang (ph) said that the captain and flight attendant who also perished in Sunday‘s crash were also killed instantly. Of them and the youngest member of the Ebersol family, Yang (ph) said, “there was nothing that could have been done to save their lives.” Dick Ebersol suffered broken ribs, a fractured sternum and has fluid in his lungs. His oldest son, Charlie, incurred a broken hand and has some back pain.
Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation has already concluded that if the plane ever actually became airborne, it was not that way for very long. Lead investigator Arnold Scott describes skid marks on the runway. He also said the families of the flight crew had been escorted to the accident site and permitted to stay there for about 10 minutes today. Scott says his crew has not ruled out any possible cause, nor ruled anyone in. He does say the visibility was so poor at the time of the accident that snowplow drivers working either side of the runway from which the plane departed not only lost sight of the plane, but did not initially know there had even been an accident. Scott is hopeful that the flight data and voice recorder will help the NTSB establish the cause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCOTT, NTSB: The CDR recording captures the entire accident sequence, including the takeoff and subsequent action that occurs during the final minutes of the recording.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As we wish for a moment for that time two weeks ago when a fan player brawl was the top story in sports television and not the Ebersol crash, police in Auburn Hills, Michigan have two significant developments in their investigation of the Indiana Pacers group fight, now 11 days back. They say the have finally identified the chair-throwing guy. The as yet unnamed suspect is a 35-year-old resident of a Flint, Michigan suburb, a Pistons season ticket holder. Lieutenant James Manning said the suspect‘s attorney confirmed his client threw the chair. Smart admission, it would seem, given that the chair thrower had been fingered following repeated broadcasts of the tape by Detroit television stations. CSI: NBA.
The chair thrower has not yet been interviewed, is not in custody, but he could be charged with felony assault, according to Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca. Four Indiana Pacers players will also be charged, probably with misdemeanor assault and battery. Gorcyca telling “The Detroit News” that whoever was involved in fistercuffs will be charged, regardless if they were wearing a jersey. Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O‘Neil wore those jerseys in the well publicized parts of the fight. Police now say a fourth Pacer, reserve center David Harrison, was also involved and is subject to prosecution, even though the basketball commissioner did not suspend him.
The investigation into the death of Mrs. Laci Peterson has now boiled down to whether her husband will go to prison for life, or die by lethal injection. The penalty phase under way today after a bizarre three-hour delay. Judge Alfred Delucchi considered a bartender‘s claim that he overheard a juror discussing the case, according to a defense source. But the judge did not excuse any members of the jury and did not explain anything.
That paved the way for this afternoon‘s emotional testimony. Taking the stand, Laci Peterson‘s mother, who rose from her seat and shouted in her son-in-law‘s direction, “she wanted to be a mother,” Sharon Rocha yelled. “That right was taken away from her.”
Also testifying, Mrs. Peterson‘s stepfather, brother and her sister Amy, who broke down several times in tears. Peterson‘s attorney Mark Geragos asked no questions of the witnesses. He was presumably aware of the four jurors who were seen quietly crying.
And in the case of six Wisconsin hunters shot to death, at a brief hearing today the lawyer for the man accused of the crime says his client was mentally competent to stand trial. Chai Vang is charged with six counts of murder. Preliminary hearing set for December 29th.
Completely unsettled is what happened on November 21st. Vang claims the hunters shot first and shouted racial slurs at him, but the criminal complaint and the two survivors say it was Vang who opened fire, and that four of his victims were shot in the back.
From the serious business of investigation to its more comical cousin, the car chase. A new twist courtesy of the curators of the “Oddball” department. And the end of another run. We‘ll bring you the question that brought the champ of champs on “Jeopardy” down.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN for our nightly trip into the absurd news and cool video that just doesn‘t quite fit anywhere else in the show. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost turning in the alarm. Ho, ho, ho, everybody! ‘Tis the season for dramatic demonstrations of holiday fire safety tips, like this one from the Anaheim, California Fire Department. Never leave a burning asceteline touch next to a dried out Christmas tree. Especially not in Anaheim.
As you can see, it takes only seconds for flames to fully engulf the tree, the presents, the chestnuts, and the entire house, which is why it‘s also a good idea to put your tree in a room which only has three walls, as shown here, leaving an easy escape route out into the junkyard.
To Oklahoma City, for the COUNTDOWN “Car Chase of the Week.” It was an undercover drug bust gone bad. The suspect is on the run, but it has been a bad year for the suspect. As we check the “Oddball” scoreboard for ‘04, we can see it‘s cops 56, and the guys who try to escape the cops, zippity-do-da.
And it will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for this rural route renegade, because
a Lincoln towncar does not qualify as an offroad vehicle. So we‘re going
to have a foot chase. Watch out, buddy. There is a car—there is a car
· there is a car there. Oh, that had to hurt.
He is uninjured and we can prove it. Look at him run! Even though he has thrown a shoe, the suspect turns on his feet, and they‘re not going to get him! He‘s over the river, he‘s through the woods, he‘s almost to grandma‘s house. And then comes—there is barbed wire here, pal, barbed wire coming—oh. Barbed wire.
Police quickly follow in to take this man into custody. Ouch, there it is. He‘s down. Right there. Just like that, this free-range fugitive is on his way back to the high density feed lot known as the big house.
Finally tonight, new advances in the world of science. Researchers in Great Britain have developed the technology to recycle the mobile phone—well, the cover anyway—manufacturing them from biodegradable material. One hundred million phones are thrown away each year, but these are made of a new (UNINTELLIGIBLE) material, which contains small seeds and can be composted after use, as demonstrated here. The user simply buries the phone in an ordinary household flower pot, and within weeks it begins to disintegrate. Leftover seeds mixed with the compost, and the whole mess keeps ringing for up to a decade.
The electoral crisis in the Ukraine threatening to escalate out of control. Negotiations break off. Legislators try to backtrack. Protesters try to storm the Parliament building.
And the recount here. Last night, Ohio‘s secretary of state criticized Jesse Jackson for entering the fray. Tonight the reverend joins us to respond and to assess events in Ohio. Those stories ahead.
Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.
No. 3, Stelian Ogica of Bucharest, who spent two years in prison for having falsely claimed he won the Rumanian lottery and someone had stolen his ticket. Like Alicia Battle. This week, he won the Rumanian lottery, the biggest payout ever, nearly $43,000 -- or in his country, a billion layees.
No. 2, Susan Sewell of Provo, Utah, who was rejected when she wanted to adopt a kitten at the local animal shelter, because she already owns a dog. Turns out Provo law says you can own up to two cats or up to two dogs, but you cannot have dogs and cats living together. Then it‘d be mass hysteria, or another Bill Murray movie.
And No. 1, Virgin Mobile, a cell phone company in Canberra, Australia. That company has found what Aussie mobile customers apparently need most, someone to stop them from making embarrassing drunken phone calls in the middle of the night. They are offering a service to their customers to block themselves from drunk dialing, their exes, their bosses or their ex-bosses, while out for a night of boozing. Just one more technological advance to keep Australians from ever addressing their nation‘s collective drinking problem. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The analogy was so obvious and in some senses so loaded that it had not been used publicly even by any of the 20 percent of this country which still questions whether or not this month‘s elections were legitimate.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Jesse Jackson changed that in a hurry today. He entitled his op-ed piece for “The Chicago Sun-Times” “Kiev? What about Cleveland?” The reverend joins us in a moment.
First, the latest from the contested Ukrainian presidential election. The week-long peaceful protests in Kiev are morphing into something else altogether, an attempt today to storm the parliament building after talks aimed at resolving the political crisis broke down.
Supporters of the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, walked out of negotiations after pro-government lawmakers tentatively approved a measure that would have nullified parliament‘s earlier decision to declare the election invalid. The man still listed as having won the election, the other Viktor, Yanukovych, offering an olive branch of sorts, saying that, if he really does become president, he will offer Yushchenko his old job as prime minister.
Yushchenko already spurned that offer, saying the focus should be on election fraud. And there is also compelling new evidence that appears to back up those charges, amateur video shot on Election Day showing some voters being beaten, the footage broadcast on Ukrainian television. Other video purports to show election officials looking at partially destroyed and burned ballots. Investigators in yellow suits seen pouring a substance on the ballots. No word on what it is or why they are pouring it.
It is four weeks to the day since the general election here turned George W. Bush to the White House for a second term. Tomorrow will be four weeks since John Kerry conceded. Tomorrow could also be, although the odds might be approximated at a billion to one, the day an Ohio Supreme Court justice could change all that.
As he concluded his trip through Ohio, Jesse Jackson said its Supreme Court should consider setting aside the electoral outcome there. Tomorrow, a political advocacy group plans to make a similar request directly to that Supreme Court, the Boston-based Alliance for Democracy planning to file a contest of election tomorrow. The request requires a single Ohio Supreme Court justice to either let the election stand, declare another winner or throw the whole thing out. The loser of any such decision can appeal to the full court, which in Ohio consists of five Republicans and two Democrats.
The appeal and recount process in Ohio was going along without to many people noticing it until Reverend Jackson arrived in Columbus on Sunday. He called for a federal investigation into the vote count. He used the word fraud. Today, he wrote that the election was—quote—“marred by intolerable and often partisan irregularities and discrepancies.” And last night, he was blasted on this program by Ohio‘s secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, who insulted him on eight separate occasions, even though I only asked Secretary Blackwell about Reverend Jackson once.
Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us now from Philadelphia.
Good evening, sir. Thank you for your time.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: How are you?
OLBERMANN: Well, I‘m interested in your answers to a series of questions on this subject.
There had literally been no official response to the possibility of a recount from any major Republican organization until you went to Ohio. And then yesterday, there was a press release calling you a professional publicity hound, and Secretary Blackwell on this show calling you a provocateur for hire and you ran around the block and tried to get in front of a parade that was already on the march.
What exactly did you do in Ohio that stirred all this up?
JACKSON: Well, this is November the 30th and the election in Ohio has not been certified yet.
Why has it not been certified? We know that even before the election started, Mr. Blackwell sought to nullify 30,000 votes, saying that they were on the wrong weight of paper. We know that last spring, people could vote in the state, provisional vote, in their county. He changed that process to voting by precinct.
Many of the balloting places changed in the time and it led to much confusion. So you have 155,000 provisional ballots now and confusion. You have 92,000 votes that are yet to be counted. You have an interesting case in Warren, Ohio, where they actually used Homeland Security to lock the press out and to lock independent observers out.
Another thing also I found striking was that Ellen Connally, an African American running for Supreme Court in Cuyahoga County, where is Cleveland, Kerry had 120,000 more votes than she had. But down around Hamilton County and Clermont County and the other part of Ohio, she had 190,000 more votes than Kerry in 15 counties.
You have electronic machines where there are questions about their authenticity. We need a thorough, further investigation. And if the information warrants it, we should then have a recount. And those that ran this election should be recused from managing their own investigation.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans did make one seemingly unanswerable point on this. And you and others may be critical of the Ohio count. But as “The Baltimore Sun” quoted John Kerry‘s chief election lawyer in Ohio as saying, “Our eyes have been wide open. And to this date, we‘ve found no evidence of confirmed fraud.”
If there has been fraud, where are the Democrats in response to it?
JACKSON: Well, I‘m amazed, frankly, at the silence, Friday, of Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party. They promised that we would stay in this fight until every vote was counted.
They appear not to have been acting aggressively, demanding the real questions be answered. For example, the electronic machines, in the case where you have private machines where there is no audit trail, we deserve an open, fair process. Why would we allow them to shift the rules in provisional balloting from county to precinct?
The reality is that, in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, they have eliminated almost a third of the voters on technicalities, like 50,000 voters. The 150,000 vote margin of Mr. Bush over Mr. Kerry, we need to know through forensic, computer analysts, in fact, was that tampering? We deserve to know. And right now we do not know.
OLBERMANN: You said that last Friday night, you spoke to John Kerry and you quoted him as telling you that he was in favor of the investigations of the Ohio vote. Where is he? Why did he concede when he did and why does the Democratic Party appear to be trying to fly under the radar in terms of Ohio?
JACKSON: He conceded, in my judgment, much too quickly, because he conceded before the full count was in.
And now he says he has some lawyers on the ground, but his lawyers ought to be visible. They ought to be challenging. Were it not for the Green Party and Libertarians, we would not even have standing in the court on finding what happened. You look at 155,000 provisional ballots uncounted. You look at 92,000 ballots unprocessed.
You look at what happened in Warren, Ohio. You look at the electronic voting process, where there may have been tampering and we do not know. These numbers are beginning to move real fast. Again, I repeat, when I think about Ellen Warren—Ellen Connally, rather, and the gap where Kerry got 120,000 votes more than she got in Cuyahoga County. Yet, in 15 other counties, he got 190,000 votes less. To me, that‘s very suggestive. It deserves a thorough investigation.
OLBERMANN: There are degrees of what could have caused that and the other irregularities you refer to.
On one end of the spectrum, as Secretary Blackwell put it last night, it‘s a free and fair election without significant problems, in the middle, a lot of human and technical mistakes, but they are mostly errors of omission, not errors of commission. And at the other end would be out-and-out electoral fraud. Where do you stand on that spectrum? What of those things do you think happened?
JACKSON: It‘s interesting that Mr. Blackwell is the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign, yet he is the chief person in charge of the process.
Now, if—it seems to me to be unfair for the man who owns the team to also be the chief umpire at game seven of the World Series, that, somehow, that taints the process. But this man has not been a—this Mr. Blackwell in Ohio, Katherine Harris in Florida, those who run the process should not in fact be an advocate for one party or the other, which raises another question.
We really do need the constitutional, federally protected right to vote. We should in fact have federal supervision over federal elections. We do not have, which people think we have, the constitutional, federally protected right to vote. We deserve to move beyond just states‘ rights on national elections.
OLBERMANN: Well, let me see if I can pin you down, though, on that one part of question. Do you think there was fraud in Ohio?
JACKSON: Well, I think so. But we will only know if there is a thorough investigation.
There are some huge number gaps here. Why is it that, 28 days after the election, it has not yet been certified? That‘s a long time to wait.
OLBERMANN: Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, twice candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, thanks for your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it.
JACKSON: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Should there be an Ohio recount, as Secretary of State Blackwell said there would on this program last night, the burden of paying for that effort would fall almost entirely to Buckeye taxpayers at the rate of about 24 cents a piece.
But, in Washington state, should Democratic Christine Gregoire request a recount for governor, she would have to pay for it all by herself. A statewide hand recount would cost an estimated $700,000, 25 cents a vote there. And it must be deposited in full when the full recount is requested. The clock is already ticking now that Republican Dino Rossi has been certified as governor-elect today, after the tabulators decided he had a 42-vote victory. The Gregoire campaign has until Friday at 5:00 p.m. Pacific to file and to raise its money.
Her campaign says it is trying to come up with that money. Rossi called a news conference this afternoon asking Gregoire to succeed. He also plans a victory celebration tonight.
In North Carolina, it appears voters will be heading back to the polls in the race for state agricultural commissioner. The state board of elections has agreed to allow any voter whose ballot was lost in Carteret County to vote again. Anyone who did not vote at all gets a second chance to vote. More than 4,400 votes were lost in Carteret when some of the voting machines failed to record any votes.
The Republican in the race leads by only 2,300 votes. This is not trivial. More than three million were cast statewide, no date yet set for the special election.
And, in New Hampshire tonight, the Ralph Nader requested recount is officially over. Ballot counters finished work in the 11th and final precinct today, the numbers showing few changes from original results, those discrepancies attributed largely to typical counting machine errors and voters who circled ovals instead of filling them in, things like that.
Mr. Nader had the option to expand the recount to other precincts if enough errors had been revealed, but the independent candidate had ruled out continuing. Nader spokesman Amy Belanger calls the result—quote—
“a good statistical representation of the state.”
From counting votes to counting cash, Ken Jennings‘ days on “Jeopardy” over. We‘ll show you how his historic era came to an end.
And speaking of endings, broadcast news taking a big hit in a short span of time. Goodbye to Brokaw. And who is next after Rather? The good evening derby ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Goodbye, Brokaw. Goodbye, Rather. Goodbye, Jennings—no, that one, the “Jeopardy” guy. Some big exits on TV to tell you about.
OLBERMANN: We had all known this day was coming. I‘m not being figurative here. I mean, we‘ve known this day was coming because the game show “Jeopardy” tapes weeks in advance. Plus, it was on September 8 on this program that we told you that Ken Jennings would lose after a record 74 consecutive game victories.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, in a final irony, it turns out that Jennings, whose tax bracket changed just a little bit after $2.5 million in winnings, is finally stopped because he didn‘t know about H&R Block. The streak dated to last June 2. It owed in part to the fact that “Jeopardy” used to throw all winners out after one week. It owed in part to the fact that Jennings won the last show recorded before the program summer hiatus.
And it owed in part to the fact that Jennings‘ opposable thumb was a little more opposable than that of his 148 rivals. Thus, he mastered the vital buzzer control. Ahead for the entirety of his 75th game, the 31-year-old computer program gave it back in “Final Jeopardy.” The category was business and industry.
Not only did challenger Nancy Zerg know the answer. Even I knew the answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JEOPARDY”)
ALEX TREBEK, HOST: The category is business and industry. And here is the clue, ladies and gentlemen. Most of this firm‘s 70,000 seasonal white-color employees work only four months a year.
Nancy, you wrote down your response rather quickly, I thought. I hope it‘s correct. Let‘s take a look.
NANCY ZERG, CONTESTANT: I hope so, too.
TREBEK: What is H&R Block? You are right. Your wager, 4,401, taking you up to $14,401. You have a $1 lead over Ken Jennings right now.
And his final response was? FedEx. His wager was 5601. He winds up in second place with $8,799.
TREBEK: And Nancy Zerg, congratulations. You are indeed a giant killer, our new “Jeopardy” champion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Lost on “Jeopardy,” huh? Welcome to the club.
Not a tough transition to our nightly roundup of celebrity and gossip news.
And we start with an old college classmate of mine in trouble over a girl. Don‘t all of you raise your hands at once. This is about Bill Maher. Already being sued for palimony for $9 million by ex-girlfriend Nancy “Coco” Johnsen, the Web site TheSmokingGun.com says Maher has sued back. She accused him of assaulting her, of using racial slurs, of failing to fulfill a promise to marry her.
He has now filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming he was a—quote—“confirmed bachelor” and a very public one, at that, who was simply Ms. Johnsen‘s latest shakedown victim. He describes her as a would-be extortionist. A would-be contortionist? Sorry.
Meanwhile, it‘s not very often that a well-publicized Academy Award winner goes on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and the only thing you recognized is his voice. But that was the case last night when this gentleman appeared with Jay. The shape seems familiar. So do the glasses, but not the absence of a baseball cap, nor the good shave.
It‘s Michael Moore. He told Leno he had shaved because, “I thought I
should look a little sharper for my IRS audit” and added, “If you can‘t
beat them, you might as well look like them.” He also explained how
President Bush defeated Senator Kerry in the election four weeks ago today
· quote—“He got more votes.”
And, finally, one of the great actors of the 20th century has taken his place of honor on Hollywood‘s Walk of Fame, Godzilla, giant lizard, monster, radiation thing, star of over 28 films, given his own star outside Grauman‘s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, marking respect that Godzilla himself was on hand for the event and the—you know, I hate to say this, but I thought he was taller. The big green thing was short on words, but he did deny rumors that he has been dating Courtney Love.
Actually, on hand for the ceremony, in the suit, the 5‘ 4“ Japanese actor Tsutomu Kitagawa. He has played Godzilla for 50 years, including his new 28th Godzilla movie “The Passion of the Godzilla.” No, it‘s called “Godzilla: Final Wars.”
From the Godzillas of the silver screen to the mandarins of network news. NBC had had its post-Tom plans in place for years, CBS, not so clear. But COUNTDOWN has got some helpful suggestions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Top 10 signs Tom Brokaw doesn‘t give a damn anymore.
No. 7, refers to all countries as Belgium. No. 5, reads news with a mouth full of Cool Ranch Doritos. No. 4, already sold his anchor desk on eBay. No. 2, begins telecasts by setting the mood with Luther Vandross. And the No. 1 sign Tom Brokaw doesn‘t give a damn anymore, during exclusive interview, he sucker-punched Ron Artest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No. 9 was, new sign-off, that‘s all I got, losers. I think that was originally John Cameron Swayze‘s.
It is a unique time in TV history. Great rivalries often see one participant step out of the competition, but rarely do two of them leave within four months of one another.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the eve of the first shoe dropping. Make that the first anchor dropping. Tom Brokaw set to host his last edition of “NBC Nightly News” tomorrow, and reminding “The Seattle Times,” when Huntley and Brinkley broke up, they thought network news was over. When Walter Cronkite retired, they thought it was over.
Brian Williams takes up the scepter and orb on Thursday. And amid all the goodbyes, he has all the best wishes of his many friends in this building.
There is no such orderly transition planned for when the second shoe drops on March 9. That‘s when Dan Rather steps down from “The CBS Evening News” and is replaced by, no man can say. Part of the problem underscored by the same “Seattle Times” piece that quoted Brokaw today. It identified one of the front-runners for Rather‘s job as White House correspondent Brian Roberts, it‘s John Roberts. Brian Roberts is a second baseman with Baltimore Orioles.
As the Rather replacement race gains steam and media coverage, this thought. I was told that the key to being a network anchorman was the ability to say good evening two nights in a row, one of them in New York and the next one in Uzbekistan.
ANNOUNCER: This is “The CBS Evening News.”
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Without:
ANNOUNCER: Dan Rather reporting from CBS News headquarters.
OLBERMANN: Get used to this.
The president of CBS News says an announcement is at least a month away, and this really is the first time a network has not had a successor in place since ABC got rid of Harry Reasoner in 1978. So, as D an Rather himself would say, this race is as tight as the rusted lug nuts on a ‘57 Chevy.
And the leading candidate, John Roberts.
JOHN ROBERTS, CBS NEWS: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Roberts is the straight-from-central-casting anchor type, former CBS weekend news anchor, now White House correspondent. Those are three of the most frequent things to appear on a network anchor‘s resume. Ask the only man in American broadcasting who is not rumored for the job.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: But John Roberts is merely the in-house favorite.
News analyst Andrew Kendall (ph) says no line of succession, no need to name a new anchor yet. CBS could go for a while with venerable, folksy Bob Schieffer of “Face the Nation.”
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: And good morning.
OLBERMANN: CBS says it will look within and without.
“Newsweek” says CBS looked at Matt Lauer.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Good morning.
OLBERMANN: And Tim Russert.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Good Morning.
OLBERMANN: Big Russ, they are not going to get him.
So, “The Los Angeles Times” reported CBS would look at its own Russ, its Saturday morning co-host Russ Mitchell.
RUSS MITCHELL, CBS NEWS: Good morning.
OLBERMANN: “The L.A. Times” also said our own Lester Holt.
LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: Good afternoon.
OLBERMANN: Either Russ or Lester would become the first African-American to regularly host network weeknight news since the days of Max Robinson on “World News Tonight.”
But, wait, there‘s more. How about Chris Matthews?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: He is a candidate, says Paul Levinson, the chairman of the communications department at Fordham University. He has another candidate.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Paula Zahn.
To fill Rather‘s shoes, unidentified posters to the TVNewser Web site have suggested Julie Chen of CBS, Anderson Cooper—Anderson Cooper? -- and our own Martin Savidge and John Seigenthaler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And good evening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.
OLBERMANN: Well, if we can list nominees of anonymous bloggers, why not mention two names on “The Dan Patrick Show” on ESPN Radio?
OLBERMANN: Bob Ley.
BOB LEY, ESPN: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: And me.
(on camera): Good—line?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evening.
(voice-over): Lastly, some dark horses, like Martha Stewart, folks we think could do the job and maybe folks who need the job. Walter Cronkite.
WALTER CRONKITE, ANCHOR: Good night.
OLBERMANN: Hell, they never should have made him retire in the first place. Raj from “The Apprentice,” ex-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, Kent Brockman, Colin Powell, Andrea Mackris, Craig Kilborn, Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy from the movie “Anchorman,” and a man fully qualified for this job, since he can say the magic words, William Hung.
WILLIAM HUNG, SINGER: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: So, they could hire a new newscaster or maybe they could just take the show off the air and replace it with a blog.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.
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