Guest: Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Recon in Iran. The U.S. reportedly running secret missions to determine how to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. A huge denial from the administration; a huge yawn from the intelligence community, which says, no kidding.
Heartbreak in Florida.
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EVAN SCOTT, ADOPTED BOY: Daddy? I don‘t want to go...
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OLBERMANN: The judge orders an adopted child back to his birth mother, saying he‘s so young, he won‘t remember the trauma.
The woman from the RadioShack ads is the best actress? Star Jones was contractually prevented from mentioning a dress designer? Robin Williams thought he was Janet Jackson? Another entertainment train wreck. The Golden Globes, analyzed by Michael Musto.
And I‘m sorry, sir, that isn‘t a toothache you‘ve got. It‘s a nail you shot into your own head with a nail gun, only, you didn‘t notice for six days. That will be $150. Please pay the nurse on the way out.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
It is a topic sensitive enough that the Pentagon would issue a detailed list of what it considered the inaccuracies in the reporter‘s story. Yet within the intelligence community, it‘s such a no-brainer that one group of global strategists looked at that story and asked, “What makes anybody think this is news?”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Sy Hersh‘s story in “The New Yorker” magazine claiming the U.S. has run secret reconnaissance missions into Iran, to choose where to attack if Iranian atomic weaponry is about to go online.
The Bush administration howls. The intel experts grab the magazine and search through the cartoons.
“The Coming Wars” is the article‘s title and in it, unnamed officials telling reporter Hersh that the administration has been in—deploying covert task forces to eastern Iran since last July to hunt for nuclear weapons and weapons capabilities.
Hersh claims the president has signed executive orders sanctioning such options with the reported goal of identifying up to three dozen sites for destruction by targeted air strikes and, quote, “commando raids.”
The actions, Mr. Hersh notes, are being directed by the Pentagon under the civilian eye of Secretary Rumsfeld in order to avoid the legal restrictions that would face the CIA act—acting on its own, with the secondary impact of weakening central intelligence.
The Pentagon compared it to an alternative history novel that Hersh is purportedly also writing. A spokesman saying the article, quote, “is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed.”
But the Strategic Forecasting Intelligence Service writes, “It comes down to this on the broadest level. Hersh‘s story simply restates what is known or logical.”
Rarely do you get one story that contains both the key questions, is this really true and if true, is this really news? For some answers, I‘m joined now by MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S. Army Col. Jack Jacobs.
Good evening, Jack.
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The big one first, nuclear site recon in Iran. Is it really true?
JACOBS: Yes, I hope so. If we‘re not doing it, then we should be.
And we should have been doing it for a long, long time.
We‘re probably about a year to a year and a half behind where we should be in trying to ferret out where all the sites are that are critical to the development of nuclear weapons, and quite frankly, hitting them, as well.
We spent our penny, unfortunately, in Iraq, and should have been spending it in Iran. But there‘s still probably a window of opportunity about 18 months to 24 months when we can hit the site. But we‘ve got to get intelligence first.
OLBERMANN: The second question, predicated on this idea that if we haven‘t given the military specific targets, we really should have. Does this constitute as much news as it seems to be today?
JACOBS: Well, it seems to be a lot more news than it really is. The fact of the matter is that the public hasn‘t paid very much attention to it, because at least partially, the government hasn‘t paid very much attention to it.
We are behind the eight ball. This should have been news a long time ago. It is not news now. And quite frankly, the only news that would be news is if we hit some of these sites.
Now, the Israelis hit—hit a site in Iraq and set the Iraqis back about a decade and made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to develop nuclear weapons. We‘re long overdue in doing exactly the same thing in Iran.
And when asked, Israelis I spoke to, when asked why don‘t they do it, they said, “Well, you‘re going to have to do it. You painted us into a corner and you waited too long.”
OLBERMANN: Jack, why the Pentagon‘s extraordinarily strong and detailed response to the Hersh article? Are they—what are they doing? Are they scrambling to plug a leak? Are they worried that Iran didn‘t know that there was recon? Or did somebody use “The New Yorker” to get Iran nervous? Or some other option?
JACOBS: Well, maybe the latter. I think somebody is trying to get Iran nervous. And we should be trying to get Iran nervous. I think the leak is probably a calculated leak.
Having said all that, it shouldn‘t be news to the Iranians that we have been trying for some time to parse exactly where everything is located. We do know that for a long while, there were high-speed gas centrifuges in places like Al-Bali (ph), Al-Bashia (ph). And times, that there were about 450 Russian advisers in various places, assisting with potential assembly and so on.
But a lot of that stuff has now gone underground and is extremely difficult to find. I think this news is news that‘s long overdue but unfortunately is a bit late.
OLBERMANN: Col. Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, great thanks for your time tonight as always, sir.
JACOBS: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush meanwhile learned last week that he would not go into his second term with an approval rating of less than 50 percent. More good news for him today on that front.
“TIME” magazine out with a poll showing the president‘s approval ratings up four points from its sampling of a month ago, now at 53. Gallup had him at 52 last week.
And the Ipsos Poll for the Associated Press producing one of the highest positives for the president‘s—president in months, 60 percent saying their feelings are hopeful. But 47 percent claim they are worried, meaning that at least seven percent of this country is both hopeful and worried. Who knows where they fit into this number.
Fifty-three percent believe it is unlikely that there will be a stable Democratic government established in Iraq. The president is not only not part of that 53 percent, he believes his policy in Iraq was endorsed by the public on November 2.
Mr. Bush continues a series of interviews with mainstream media outlets. His conversation with our David Gregory in a moment.
But from the sit-down with “The Washington Post” comes the quote about the election and Iraq: “We had an accountability moment, and that‘s called the 2004 elections. The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates and chose me.”
Not everybody agrees, Senator Ted Kennedy saying now that Iraq was no more ratified by the election than Vietnam was by President Johnson‘s victory in 1964.
David Gregory‘s interview for MSNBC and NBC News took place earlier today. Thus it could incorporate both Iraq and Iran and address the apparent downgrading of Mr. Bush‘s push for an amendment banning same sex marriage to the back burner—David.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, I began by asking the president about the upcoming vote in Iraq and whether the low turnout by Sunni Arabs, which is expected, would mark a victory for insurgents.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, David, I think having the vote is a victory for those of us who love freedom, including the people in Iraq.
And you‘re right. They‘re staying away because of fear, not because they don‘t want to vote, because of fear. But the fact that there‘s a vote is fantastic.
GREGORY: Even if there‘s very low turnout?
BUSH: Well, we‘ll see. But obviously, it‘s the notion that people are given a chance to vote. And when it happens, America will be more secure for the long run.
GREGORY: It‘s clear, sir, there‘s no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
GREGORY: Do you think that the word of the United States is still good enough around the world for you, our future president, to ever again launch a preventive or preemptive military strike?
BUSH: Well, you might remember that the intelligence that we used was close to the intelligence that the—that the U.N. had about Saddam Hussein and that many countries had about Saddam Hussein.
But we did find out that he had the intent and the capability of making weapons, which in my judgment, still made him a dangerous man. And the world understood how dangerous Saddam Hussein was.
GREGORY: Could you ever do it again, though?
BUSH: We‘ll hope we don‘t have to. But if we had to to protect America, you know, if all else failed and we needed to use force to protect the citizens of the United States, I would do so.
GREGORY: About Iran. Will you rule out the potential for military action against Iran if it continues to stonewall the international community about the existence of the weapons?
BUSH: I hope we can solve it diplomatically. But I will never take any option off the table.
GREGORY: I‘d like to ask you about a campaign promise you made, which was to fight for a ban, a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Yet you‘ve told the “Washington Post” that‘s something that you no longer plan to push for.
Why shouldn‘t that be seen as not a campaign promise but a campaign stunt?
BUSH: There‘s a certain reality to dealing with the Congress. Yes, I‘ll push for it. Yes, I‘m still for it. But I was just telling—I just want people to understand that there‘s a mentality on the Hill that says the way things are, fine. In other words, states are protected from the decisions of one state to the next because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
GREGORY: Let me ask you about Social Security. You said this past week, speaking to the younger workers, that they have to imagine a system that is flat bust. Your words. Democrats call that a scare tactic.
BUSH: My point was, why don‘t we fix it now? Because I know the longer we wait, the harder it is to fix it. And I‘m interested in working with Congress on all different ideas. I just happen to believe personal savings accounts will be a, you know, an important part of encouraging ownership.
GREGORY: You‘re not afraid that this is like Clinton trying to take on healthcare?
BUSH: Well, you know, I—obviously, I‘m not afraid to take on big issues, and I think that‘s what the people want from their president.
GREGORY: Mr. President, what‘s going to go through your mind Thursday morning?
BUSH: I think I‘ll have a different perspective this time. I think -
· I feel like I‘ll be a participant and an observer. I look forward to soaking in much more of the atmosphere and the environment.
It will be a proud moment. It‘s a good speech. I‘m looking forward to giving it. It speaks to the values and hopes of our country. And I guess the best way to summarize it is, freedom is powerful.
GREGORY: This interview and others mark an unusually aggressive public relations defensive by this White House, which is preparing to push the president‘s agenda in earnest the day after he takes his second oath of office as president—Keith.
OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House. Great thanks.
Also tonight, there has been a John Kerry sighting. At a breakfast commemorating Martin Luther King Day in Boston, he said that while the nation is spending hundreds of millions to create a democracy in Iraq, many were denied that democracy 12 weeks ago tomorrow here. Election day.
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SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thousands of people were suppressed in their effort to vote. Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four or five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans sauntered through in 10 minutes. Same voting machines. Same process. Our America.
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OLBERMANN: Senator Kerry also announced tonight that the Red Sox had apparently won the World Series.
From Kerry to the original JFK new never before heard tapes of President Kennedy‘s 1963 struggles over the civil rights struggles.
And days before the inauguration, the unprecedented steps being taken to protect the president and the public from a possible attack of some sort.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
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ANNOUNCER: This is an “MSNBC Inaugural Minute” with Brian Williams.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Lyndon Johnson‘s inauguration followed a landslide election victory, but he stood in the shadow of a man who wasn‘t there: John F. Kennedy.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For every generation, there is a destiny.
WILLIAMS: This could have been the start of a second Kennedy term, as Robert Kennedy was painfully aware. That day, he visited his brother‘s grave before and after Johnson‘s inaugural.
As president, Johnson would lead to fight for civil rights in Kennedy‘s name and sharply escalate America‘s involvement in Vietnam.
JOHNSON: If American lives must end, and American treasure be spilled in countries that we barely know, then that is the price that change has demanded of conviction.
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OLBERMANN: On this Martin Luther King Day, two images from more than four decades ago coming immediately to mind.
One is of the police in Birmingham, Alabama, terrorizing civil rights demonstrators with attack dogs in May 1963. Another is of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act with Dr. King at his side in July 1964.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, newly released tapes that mark, perhaps, the moment the first image began to dissolve into what would become the second image.
This last month, historians at the Kennedy Library located previously unknown tapes in which JFK discussed the civil rights battle in Birmingham and those photographs with a group called Americans for Democratic Action.
And as Brian Williams reports now, the library picked today to release those tapes.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no federal law that we could pick (ph) to do anything about that picture in today‘s “Times.” Well, there aren‘t. I mean, what law can you pass to do anything about police power in the community of Birmingham? There‘s nothing we can do. There‘s no federal law to support us. No federal statute. There‘s no federal law we can pass.
Now the fact of the matter is Birmingham is in the worst shape than any city in the United States and it‘s been that way for a year and a half.
They have done nothing for the Negroes in that community so it‘s an intolerable situation—that there‘s no argument about, I‘m not saying anybody ought to be patient. And this may be the only way these things come to a head. We‘re going to end up with the National Guard in there and all sorts of trouble.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., arrested twice in Birmingham, spoke out about the violence that tore apart a city and made the world sit up and take notice.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We cannot continue to have Birmingham, Alabama, as the image of the United States, cannot stand that the shape of the word today does not afford us the luxury of such an anemic democracy.
WILLIAMS: At the meeting, Kennedy told the group he knew his administration could do more and promised to do it.
KENNEDY: Well now wait, let me just say on the civil rights we have done not enough because the situation‘s so desperate. But we have shoved and pushed and the Department of Justice has—there is nothing that my brother‘s given more time to. I quite agree, if I were a Negro I would be awfully sore.
WILLIAMS: The president did not limit his criticism to Birmingham. He went on to point out the hypocrisy of a Washington social club whose members, including journalists, did not allow African-Americans. In the president‘s eyes, they were just as guilty as some in the Deep South.
KENNEDY: I had some newspaper man in here telling me about “Isn‘t
that outrageous in Birmingham?‘”
And I said, “Why are you over there eating at the Metropolitan Club
every day? You talk about Birmingham—you‘re up there at the Metropolitan
Some of our most distinguished commentators—every day lunch ... they won‘t even let Negro ambassadors in.
OLBERMANN: Six months later, JFK would be dead. Fourteen months later, and the Civil Rights Act would become law.
For years, the appropriateness of a Martin Luther King Day was fiercely debated in this country. The controversy has all but ended. Yet there is still at least one small patch alive and well at the offices of the tax commission of the state of Mississippi.
A quick call there will explain everything.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. You‘ve reached the Mississippi State Tax Commission. On Monday, January the 17th, the State Tax Commission offices will be closed in observance of Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday. Tax commission offices will reopen on Tuesday, January the 18th. Office hours are from 8 until 5. Thank you. Have a safe and healthy holiday.
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OLBERMANN: Robert E. Lee, the military leader of the Confederacy, was born in January 19th of 1807 in Stratford, Virginia. A member of Mississippi‘s Sons of Confederate Veterans explains that there, the third Monday in January, quote, “started out as the lead holiday. Then we added King.”
By that logic, you could broaden it out to put in others who, like Lee, were born on the 19th, or like King, on the 15th. Folks like Edgar Allan Poe, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton and Charo.
There‘s obviously a racial component to the joining of the celebrations of the birthdays of Dr. King and General Lee. But even before you get there, what about a much simpler idea? That Robert E. Lee led the military operations of a rebellion against the elected government of the United States, one that led to the deaths of 620,000 American citizens.
When will construction workers rise up against the nail gun? Yes. Again, only this time it‘s diagnosed by a dentist. You will not believe this story.
Also, a bitter custody battle coming to a head, a judge ruling that at 3 ½, this boy will not remember the trauma of being sent back from his adoptive parent to his birth mother.
OLBERMANN: Every night we pause the COUNTDOWN right about here, because after all the pain and strain of the news, sometimes leaves you feeling like you have a hole in your head.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
That, strangely enough, was not the feeling that Patrick Lawler had. He thought he had a toothache. Actually, no, he had shot himself with a nail gun while on a construction job in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Six days later, after the aspirin and the ice did not ease the toothache, he went to the dental office where his wife works, and he got an X-ray. The nail had been shot an inch and a half into his brain and it just missed his right eye.
Come to think of it, Mr. Lawler said, he had been having some blurred vision.
As to how somebody could shoot themselves in the mouth with a professional nail gun and not know it right quick, Lawler explains he did remember accidentally hitting his face with the nail gun. He just thought it was with the back of the nail gun, not the business end.
They removed the nail. He‘s fine, and doctors say he is the second person they‘ve treated who has shot himself with a nail gun and not known it.
But nails in the brain are almost an epidemic.
April 2000, Tony Smart of England. Tony not so smart. For a week, he thought he‘d suffered a scratch on the back of his head.
Here‘s Mr. Isidro Mejia, Lancaster, California, the world‘s champ. He fell off a roof onto the guy who had the nail gun. And got six of them. He‘s fine now.
Just a month ago, an identified South Korean gentleman, severe headache. It turns out the nail on the right was shot into his head four years earlier.
Meet Mr. Jed Bryant of South Dakota. “I knew I was in trouble,” he said last year.
And July, 1998, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, construction worker Travis Bogumill. A co-worker got him whereupon Mr. Bogumill said, “You just nailed me in the head.”
None of these people reported serious consequences, although Mr. Bogumill, the last one, said he was suddenly no longer capable of multiplying two, two digit numbers in his head.
On the other hand, he can now store straws there.
Some guys get six nails in their heads. Some guys get model Ferraris. The pope visited by the Formula One racers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello and the entire Ferrari racing team today. And they gave him this swell toy version of their racecar.
And they congratulated him on having sent in the most box tops.
We‘ll get the most votes in the Iraqi elections, when many of the candidates have to remain anonymous for their own safety. The latest from Iraq and from Iraqi people in the voting booths here.
No as to the end result for this country‘s elections, security for Thursday‘s inauguration reaching levels the country has never seen before.
Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the day.
No. 3, Carl Brown, who runs a bar in the Mail Coach Inn in Swindon, England. He came one a foolproof method of stopping patrons from snorting cocaine in the restaurant bathroom: spray the toilets with WD-40, which he says when mixed with cocaine automatically causes nosebleeds.
No. 2, Alfred Blane, wanted by the police in Bainbridge, Georgia. Police tracker dogs followed him into a mobile home and then kept sniffing around the floor model TV. Sure enough, Mr. Blane, who was nearly six feet tall, was curled up, hiding inside the television cabinet.
What did the police want him for? Last September, as two deputies were putting him into a squad car, he somehow escaped. Of course he did. He‘s Houdini.
And No. 1, Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, addressing the National Bureau of Economic Research Conference at Harvard, suggesting that, quote, “innate differences between the sexes could explain why fewer women succeed in careers in math and science.”
That‘s Lawrence Summers, the future ex-president of Harvard University.
OLBERMANN: It‘s not just a question of whether or not the elections in Iraq will go off relatively unscathed two weeks from yesterday.
In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, a series of reports on whether the threat of election related violence there could possibly translate into a threat of election related violence here. And on the threats of inauguration related violence here.
We will start on the ground in Baghdad. Our correspondent is Jim Maceda.
JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another suicide car bomb exploding today outside an Iraqi police headquarters in Baijin (ph) in northern Iraq, scattering bodies, spreading panic, at least 10 killed, mostly policemen.
Further south near Baqubah, gunmen fired on an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint, killing eight before speeding away.
In all, at least a dozen more attacks today against Iraqi police and soldiers, those supposed to provide security for the January 30 election. Over 200 killed this month alone.
SAIJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: We‘ve seen more attacks in more parts of Iraq than ever before.
MACEDA (on camera): But perhaps the most disturbing attacks are increasingly in areas which, until now, both U.S. and Iraqi officials had claimed safe enough to vote.
(voice-over) For months, Iraqis used the road from Baghdad to Kut to avoid roadside bombs and gunmen on the so-called Highway of Death. But on Sunday, at least 17 Iraqis were killed near Kut, a stark message that nowhere is safe.
GOHEL: What is worrying everybody, on the day of the elections, they could target specific polling booths. There could be a blood bath.
MACEDA: There are other worries. In Ramadi, several bodies were dumped onto streets with attached notes warning others not to vote or else.
Today kidnappers struck again, this time abducting the Iraqi Catholic archbishop of Mosul. The Vatican calls it an act of terrorism.
And using a new tactic, insurgents fired mortars at schools designated as polling stations. Basra and southern Iraq was relatively quiet. But today, three schools were damaged.
British forces in Basra have just beefed up their units, part of about 300,000 U.S., foreign and Iraqi forces who will be on hand to try to calm voters‘ nerves come election day.
LT. ANDREW SHAND, BRITISH PATROL COMMANDER: We‘ve got to get out there and be seen to be trying to secure things as much as possible.
MACEDA: Trying to prevent a catastrophic attack that could derail the whole experiment in democracy here. But so far, playing catch-up with the insurgents.
Jim Maceda, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps 90,000 of the votes in the Iraqi election will be cast in places like the old El Toro Marine Base in Irvine in Orange County, California.
Today Iraqi emigres in this country began registering to vote in this country. They will vote in person beginning a week from Friday.
But are the polling places here and in 13 others countries where Iraqi expatriates can vote certain to be safer than the ones in Iraq?
Our correspondent Kerry Sanders is in one of the five U.S. cities in which the Iraqis can vote: Nashville, Tennessee.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nashville, Tennessee, is a long way from Iraq. But today thousands of Iraqis began registering to vote in this and in four other U.S. cities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m very happy for today.
SANDERS: Why Nashville? This southern city has the largest Kurdish population in the United States. Still fresh on their minds, Saddam Hussein‘s brutal gassing of thousands of Kurds in 1988.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This vote means that something like that will never happen again.
SANDERS: From Maryland to Michigan to Illinois, to California. Iraqi nationals and those of Iraqi descent began their roles in this first ever democratic election. But not all are happy.
In San Diego, home to one of the largest Christian Iraqi populations, potential voters complained the last-minute voting plan is unreasonable: no absentee ballots, only five registration sites nationwide.
AUDAY ARABO, IRAQI-AMERICAN: Those who live in the and U.S. and love the U.S. would like to see the best for the country they came from. Yet they‘re being disenfranchised.
SANDERS: Hussein al-Jubori (ph) lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 12 hours from the nearest registration site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope, you know, that maybe the next time they could do it the right way.
SANDERS: In Michigan, home to more than 90,000 Iraqi nationals, religious leaders insist voting is a duty. But today, a disappointing turnout there, too.
Organizers announced polling locations across the country only three days ago.
MIKE AMITAY, WASHINGTON KURDISH INSTITUTE: The election process reflects the ignorance and incompetence that you see more generally in the Bush administration‘s policy toward Iraq.
SANDERS: Organizers blame extensive security requirements.
JEREMY COPELAND, ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: We‘ve done the best we can to set up very quickly. In just over two months, we‘re going to be operating the—what is arguably the largest and most far-reaching out of country voting program ever.
SANDERS (on camera): The cost for Iraqis to vote outside their country, $92 million, the majority paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Nashville.
OLBERMANN: If it all goes well, at some point in the future, Iraq will inaugurate a president. Even given the state of play on the ground there in some hypothetical democratic future, it is hard to imagine that the security could be any tighter than it will be for our inauguration about 60 hours from now.
Here‘s Pete Williams now on how Washington hopes to do better than the last presidential event, the funeral of Ronald Reagan, which was low lighted by the full fledged out of run evacuation of the capitol after the apparent discovery of a rogue aircraft.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the president stands on this platform at the capitol Thursday, he‘ll be at the center of the most heavily secured public event ever in Washington.
The U.S. Coast Guard has already started blocking boat traffic along 14 miles of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
(on camera) Overhead, helicopters like this one from Customs and Border Protection and military jets will patrol the skies, waiting to close in on any planes that stray into the no-fly zone for private aircraft, 30 miles in all directions on inauguration day.
ROBERT GRANT, CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: And determine what they‘re doing, and then to push them out of the air space, direct them to land somewhere outside the Washington, D.C., area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please have all your bags open.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): Everyone attending the swearing in and parade will be screened, as they were four years ago. But this time, the secure area will be much larger, with cars and trucks banned for more than 100 city blocks out of concern over possible vehicle bombs.
For the parade, we heard yesterday, 6,000 police and federal agents will be deployed: in plain clothes, on rooftop and inside buildings along the way.
Precautions will range from the high-tech, like sensors for airborne hazards, to old reliables. Park Service police have prepared the horses to handle potential chaos.
The Secret Service, in charge of the entire effort, can call for help from more than 7,000 military personnel directed from mobile command posts. They could be dispatched from any direction, including over water using fast hovercraft.
The government has even mapped out how radioactive chemical or biological weapons would spread. Military medic and decontamination teams stand ready to treat thousands in the event of an attack.
MAJ. GENERAL GALEN JACKMAN, WASHINGTON AREA TASK FORCE COMMANDER:
We‘ve worked just about every threat contingency that we could think of out there. We worked through all the what-if‘s, how we would respond.
WILLIAMS: And although officials say there‘s no specific threat, there‘s still deploying almost all they‘ve got.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: They‘re also deploying almost all they‘ve got in the 11 nations decimated by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Now there‘s something new to deal with there: a warning from Danish officials about a, quote, “imminent terror attack on foreign relief workers in Aceh province,” prompting at least one relief organization to pull back.
The Indonesian military is already escorting aid workers in the area, citing concerns that separatist rebels might ambush aid convoys in order to steal food.
And fighting between the rebels and military broke out on the may not highway connecting the province‘s two largest cities, Banda Aceh and Medan. The United Nations has now banned its people from that road and warned all of its staff to be on alert for terrorism.
Three weeks after the disaster, the death toll continues to rise. Today dramatically, in Sri Lanka. The government confirming another 7,275 victims, which puts the international toll at 175,458 dead.
Add one more in Chile. Three young men thought it would be funny to run down a beach in that South American nation at 2 a.m. this morning, yelling that a tsunami was coming. The rumors sparked mass panic throughout Concepcion, Chile‘s third largest city.
As many as 12,000 people fled their homes, running for higher ground, piling into their cars to escape the city, one woman dying of a heart attack. Dozens of others treated for shock. There were at least four traffic accidents.
The local regional governor called the false alarm, quote, “a bad joke.”
Park City, Utah. The search for victims of last week‘s avalanche now officially over. On Sunday, rescuers found the body of 27-year-old Shane Maixner from Sand Point, Idaho. Although three other people were initially reported as missing, authorities now believe that Maixner was the only one killed in the slide.
The sheriff‘s department says it would reopen the search if specific information about other victims comes to light.
Also tonight, a 3-year-old boy taken from the only home he‘s ever known on the advice of a judge who says the boy will never remember the trauma. The battle over little Evan Scott.
When first it was British Parliament that was upset by the photo. Now the European Union is threatening action. The Harry outrage goes continental.
Those stories ahead. Now the COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They brought Lionel in to be treated, and they were examining him in the treatment room, and he was just laying there. And just—he wasn‘t causing any trouble. He wasn‘t balking at being there—he was just laying there just as cute as he could be. And as quiet as he could be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cat must have been taking a drink from the heated birdbath in Ruth Bogenreif‘s backyard. It jumped while still wet, from the birdbath to the fence and instantly froze to the metal.
RUTH BOGENREIF, RESCUED CAT: His head with his paws froze to it.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same kinds of idealism and character have marked the life of Alma Johnson Powell. Like her husband, she was raised by strong and decent people.
In Birmingham, where Martin Luther King was jailed—Birmingham, which was—jail was also the home of the Johnson family. That‘s where she was raised, in other words.
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OLBERMANN: A custody battle grabbing national headlines as both the logic of the judge and the motives of the parents are questioned. And the Prince Harry Nazi flap grows.
OLBERMANN: The judge said it‘s better to do this now rather than later, because at age 3 ½, the adopted child being sent back to its birth mother, quote, “is young enough and resilient enough that a return at this time will cause no lasting emotional scars.”
That suggests that the judge does not know enough basic psychology to be anything less than a menace to his own community.
Then there are the adoptive parent, forced to give up the child by that judge, who then videotape their final moments with the child that had been theirs and turned that tape over to a television network. You can raise some psychological flags right there, as well.
Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, another adoption nightmare in which some of the adults, including the authorities, act like 3-year-olds. And as a result, a 3-year-old may never get to become a normal adult.
Kevin Tibbles has our report.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside a suburban Chicago home, a partial end to a wrenching ordeal as Evan Scott‘s birth mother returns with him to Illinois.
AMANDA HOPKINS, BIOLOGICAL MOTHER: He‘s doing great. He‘s a happy little kid. And he‘s just glad to be home.
TIBBLES: Over a thousand miles away, on Saturday, 3 ½-year-old Evan left another home, that of the Florida couple that was raising him, forced by the courts to return Evan to his birth mother.
GENE SCOTT, ADOPTIVE FATHER: It‘s more than about him. It‘s more than about Evan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can they do this to a little boy?
G. SCOTT: Because they‘re evil.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can they do this to him?
TIBBLES: Dawn and her husband, Gene, had made adoption arrangements and were even present at his birth in May of 2001. But before the adoption was finalized, the boy‘s father demanded custody.
The Scotts provided NBC with an exclusive copy of the video taken as they prepared to say goodbye and the anxiety sets in.
EVAN SCOTT, RETURNED TO BIRTH MOTHER: Daddy, I don‘t want to go outside. I can‘t go there.
TIBBLES: In the end, it was Amanda Hopkins, the birth mother, who obtained custody of Evan.
G. SCOTT: We grieve not for ourselves; we grieve for Evan. But we know he‘s going to always suffer through all this.
TIBBLES: Still, the Scotts vow not to relinquish their legal battle to retain custody.
Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
OLBERMANN: Those adoptive parents, victimized by the birth mother‘s -birth mother‘s sudden change in plans, and by the judge‘s narrowness of mind are Gene and Dawn Scott, and they were guests this morning on “THE TODAY SHOW.”
DAWN SCOTT, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: You can‘t describe it. It‘s almost like a death. We had to focus on him. We had to focus on what we needed to do for him to try to help him understand that we didn‘t want this. We didn‘t cause this. And that it wasn‘t his fault.
G. SCOTT: He did see fear and emotion from me. And when he did that, that‘s when he realized that this was a lot more than just a visit.
D. SCOTT: It‘s OK for him to be angry. If he‘s angry, that was our biggest fear that he was going to bottle this up inside of him and even do more damage to him.
I don‘t believe that it‘s excluding him. There‘s no other way to prove to the court how much this is hurting him, because they seem to think that he‘s going to be fine, that this is—that he‘s got this bond, that he‘s going to his new home and a new mommy and a new dad. And he‘ll be fine.
He was destroyed. He was traumatized. It was—it was horrible. It was a horrible thing. He has told me as I was walking out the door with him, “Mommy, I‘m scared. Mommy, I‘m scared.”
And I said, “It‘s going to be OK.” I said, “Mommy and Daddy will do everything we can to bring you back home. We love you, and you‘re a good boy. This is not your fault.”
OLBERMANN: Let‘s get as far away from that as quickly as we can.
Our nightly roundup of celebrity gossip news, keeping tabs and the Prince Harry fallout continue. The European Union justice commissioner said he thinks a suitable response would be to officially ban the Nazi swastika throughout the union.
But Harry‘s father knows better. The boy will be punished. No girls, lots of pigs.
The London tabloid “The Sun” reporting that, as punishment for wearing the armband to a party, Harry has been ordered by his father, Prince Charles, to clean out a pigsty at the family farm.
London‘s “Daily Mail” report Charles also told Harry that he could not bring his girlfriend with him at the family ski trip at Easter. That might not be a bad idea insomuch as “London‘s Mirror” reports that the girlfriend is ready to break up with Harry over the Nazi photo. Not because of the swastika but because the girl in the photo with Harry isn‘t the girlfriend.
And we won‘t know until tomorrow how much was raised in the NBC tsunami network telethon Saturday night, but we think we can measure just how much broadcasting‘s largest ego was inflated by it.
After his appearance on it, Bill O‘Reilly went back to FOX News for an interview. And over a graphic reading, “O‘Reilly‘s Tsunami Relief,” the big giant head was asked, what was it like being in the belly of the liberal beast?
“Everybody was really nice to me to my face,” he replied. “The experience was 100 percent positive. I‘m sure there were pinheads around, but they didn‘t bother me.”
O‘Reilly made his remarks during Geraldo Rivera‘s program. Wait a minute. Geraldo Rivera is still alive?
Also tonight, from competing preview shows on the red carpet to washed up actresses prevailing on the awards stage. The Golden Globes as deconstructed for us tonight by our celebrity CSI, Michael Musto. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: With commercial television in this country not yet 60 years old, we do not yet have enough empirical evidence. Does TV comedy predict everything, or does it just seem that way?
Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, we had one of those moments again last night at the Golden Globes Awards. October 1976, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE‘s” sketch about an episode of Jeopardy in the distant future in which the category movies included this question, “Original Tidy Bowl man in TV ads won eight Oscars.”
Last night the voters selected as best actress in a TV comedy a woman whose accomplishments since 1997 basically boiled down to a series of commercials for RadioShack.
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TERI HATCHER, ACTRESS: A network who gave me a second chance at a career when I couldn‘t have been a bigger has been. And just—I can‘t believe I‘m a part of even getting to stand here in front of all of these movie stars.
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OLBERMANN: Teri Hatcher might have been the big winner but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made sure there were no real losers, insomuch as the goody bag given to the show‘s presenters was valued at $38,000 and included a diamond pendant, a Janet Lee luxury dog carrier, $1,100 worth of teeth whitening, almost a week‘s worth, and of course all the RadioShack batteries and Tidy Bowl they could carry.
Now our goody bag to you, to analyze the night, “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto.
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It wasn‘t a flawless awards ceremony. Of course, if it had been, we‘d be up here ripping it. Start with Miss Hatcher‘s performance, would you?
MUSTO: Well, first of all, she said she‘d never been nominated for anything before. Lies. She was up for a Razzy Award. I forget what movie it was. I think she lost to Pia Zadora.
By the way, I love you, Pia. Thank you for the watch.
Anyway, a lot of people online are saying that Teri had, like, a Sally Field movement. You‘re not supposed to reveal that kind of vulnerability. I actually think it was cute that she admitted she‘s a has been.
However, she didn‘t seem to realize she‘s going to be a has been again in about 15 minutes.
But you know what? In Hollywood with awards, you‘re supposed to campaign, write a speech, spend a lot of money getting a stylist to get you expensive clothes, but you‘re not supposed to admit that you‘re happy to get the award. And she broke that cardinal rule: don‘t look like you need the award.
OLBERMANN: Resume has-beenness, already in progress.
What about the big risk that always is Robin Williams getting the Cecil B. De Mille Award, for one thing, but invoking or evoking Janet Jackson?
MUSTO: Well, that‘s pretty old by now. Even I stopped with the Janet jokes but he made it fresh.
I was afraid that Robin would go to that “Patch Adams” place and become mawkish. He only did that towards the end when he talked about Christopher Reeve. And that was OK.
Jamie Foxx did a similar thing, where he gave a very snappy, funny, informative speech and at the end kind of pulled away so the camera could see that he was going to cry about his grandmother.
These people are actors. They fake sincerity very well. But I actually thought Robin was very funny. He also brought up Pia Zadora, like I just did. So I can‘t complain about that.
OLBERMANN: As always, the pre-awards show are bigger—if smaller scale, they may be bigger train wrecks. Which was worse: Star Jones not being able to mention the names of the dress designers, because she has a contract with one of them or Joan and Melissa Rivers not being able to mention the names of some of the stars because they‘d forgotten who they were?
MUSTO: Well, Star also forgot the name of Denis Leary‘s last name.
Joan forgot Ron Howard‘s entire name.
So I like Joan better, because she‘s more real. None of us would know these people‘s names anyway. She probably thinks Denis Leary is Dennis Miller.
And Joan is funny and off hand. And Star is always trying to impress you with how many people she knows. And “Oh, girlfriend, when are we going to get together again?”
But yes, she definitely was soft-pedaling the labels. She‘s become much more sensitive since she said that God plucked her from, you know, doom in the tsunami, because she was in Asia a couple of weeks before that.
So in other words, God is sitting around going, “We‘re going to kill 150,000. It‘s their turn. But not Star. Let‘s save her.” That sounds more like Satan‘s work to me.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And it was sponsored, too, on top of everything else.
MUSTO: Yes. By Tidy Bowl.
OLBERMANN: Extraordinary. Michael Musto. Whenever a celebrity gaffes, we of course, we count on you to be there to explain it for us. And you have done so once again, sir.
MUSTO: Where‘s my goody bag?
OLBERMANN: We‘ll send over the $1,100 worth of teeth whitening stuff.
OLBERMANN: Not that you need it, buddy. Thanks, Michael.
And that‘s COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it. Keep it here, I need it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night.
I didn‘t insult him, did I? Did I? I hope not. Never mind. Good luck.
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