updated 5/31/2005 7:48:12 AM ET 2005-05-31T11:48:12

Guest: Michael Duffy, Barry McCaffrey, Phil Bronstein, Bill Bell, Nathan Cornelius

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The nomination of John Bolton.  How could his Senate opponents stop it when they just swore off filibustering?  Do we have a new United Nations ambassador, or not?

Is Abu Musab Zarqawi dead, or not?  Iraq‘s defense minister says he‘s wounded but will not say how he knows that.

Cross burnings.  One of the least-proud parts of our American heritage suddenly coming back from the dead last night in Durham, North Carolina.  That city‘s mayor will join us.

And what is...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You lose, buddy.  The “Jeopardy” king knocked off in a question about the first two astronauts to orbit the earth.  And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lake Gatoun, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming which river?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nathan Cornelius knew which.  The national geography bee winner will join us.

By the way, “Jeopardy” kings and geography champs may come and go, but that Trebek, he‘s always with us.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you glad it‘s over?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

If you‘re a controversial politician with a reputation for a temper and a taste for vengeance, and you‘re coming up for a critical vote in the Senate, May 26 would seem to be the day you want them to call the roll.

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago today, May 26, 1868, the Senate voted down each of the last 10 articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson, each of them by one vote.  And Johnson thus remained in office.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN on this May 26, the U.N. ambassador-designate John Bolton should have been so lucky.  He is still just ambassador-designate.  If you thought Senator George Voinovich of Ohio was nearly crying yesterday, what about tonight?  He and nominee Bolton and majority leader Frist and minority leader Reid are all going to have to wait until after the Memorial Day Senate break, to June 6, probably, to get an up-or-down vote.

Democrats demanded more classified information from the Bush administration about Bolton‘s record, stuff they say Bolton‘s staff was permitted to see.  At about 6:00 tonight Eastern, the Republicans tried to cut off debate and force an immediate vote, the cloture process.  If all 55 Republicans had supported the cloture measure, they would have needed five Democrats to join them.  They only got three as it was.  No cloture, no vote on Bolton, no spirit of compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER:  We got what, to me, looks like a filibuster.  It certainly sounds like a filibuster, looking at the vote today.  It quacks like a filibuster...

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  It is now the 25th day of May -- 26th day of May.  This is the first filibuster that‘s been conducted in this Congress, if, in fact, we want to call this a filibuster, the number one.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  We are willing to vote 10 minutes after we get back in session, if, in fact, they provide the information, information which Mr. Bolton‘s staff had access to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To review the Bolton nonvote, I‘m joined now by Michael Duffy, “TIME” magazine‘s Washington bureau chief.

Michael, good evening.

MICHAEL DUFFY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  What happened?  I mean, the Democrats and Voinovich had seemingly left their fireworks at home, or spent them up yesterday.  And this still winds up getting postponed for 10 days or more?

DUFFY:  Yes, we had another spontaneous event here in Washington.  You know, that‘s happened three or four times this year.  It‘s kind of something.

Well, basically, Senate majority leader Frist went to the floor and didn‘t have the votes, again.  And this is a vote that a lot of people thought would go the Republicans‘ way.  But the Democrats were able to mount here in the last 48 hours serious questions about documents that they think they ought to have, the Senate itself ought to have.  And they managed to make that stick.  It also didn‘t help the Republicans that a couple of their members got out of town.

OLBERMANN:  But that debate was so boring and so anticlimactic and suggestive of nothing that in the middle of it, Lamar Alexander used his time to talk about the Clean Air Act, and Mr. Reid and Ted Stevens used some of theirs to wish Senator Byrd a happy wedding anniversary.

And at the end of this, Frist, looking like he‘d been blindsided, was accusing the Democrats of filibustering, and Harry Reid slipped, as we heard, and said this was the first filibuster in this Congress, if you want to call it a filibuster.

Where did this come from?  Did—was it assumed, as you suggested there?  Was it—did even the Democrats assume Frist had the votes?

DUFFY:  Well, the Democrats don‘t believe they actually have the votes to stop Bolton from being approved.  But as long as the administration, the White House and the State Department, refuse to offer up some documents that they‘ve given to Bolton about what Bolton did when he was at the State Department, I think the Democrats are going to have the upper hand here in saying, Hey, it‘s an institutional thing.  You ought to let us see what you let other branches of government see.

The other thing is, when Frist said, you know, it‘s a filibuster, yes, it is a filibuster.  And they never agreed not to filibuster diplomats and other appointees.  It was just about appeals court judges.

So, you know, it‘s apples and oranges as far as most senators are concerned.  And this thing is going to go in now to June.

OLBERMANN:  It is all apples and oranges, but, of course, they are still all fruit.  Where does it fit into that big fruit, to the post-judicial compromise, and the—well, you‘d have to call it buyers‘ remorse, that certainly a lot of Republicans and maybe some Democrats felt after the judicial filibuster compromise.

Was this to some degree backlash against that deal?

DUFFY:  Well, I don‘t know.  I didn‘t, you know, there—when I used to cover Capitol Hill day to day, we used to have (INAUDIBLE) deals called “get me through the night” deals.  And they were just deals that sort of patch you through and get on to the next fight.  And that, to me, is the kind of deal.  It wasn‘t a grand compromise that they cooked up the other day to get past the judge thing.

But it doesn‘t really set to rest any of the other differences that are great between the two parties, particularly about things that have to do with what the Bush administration did over Iraq.

And so I think that, you know, Frist is in for a weekend of hurt.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, it used to be that major nominations, cabinet positions, U.N. ambassador, this sort of stuff, had a shelf life.  If you did not get your guy confirmed within a month or five weeks, he was a dead fish, and you had to toss him back.  Is that not true anymore?  Can John Bolton sit on that shelf through June 6 or beyond?

DUFFY:  Well, it‘s not good, because the longer there is for him to sit, the more pressure there will be, and the more conversation there‘ll be about what may be or may not be in those documents.  And that gives the Democrats more time to mount, you know, different offenses.

And so I—it‘s clearly not good for Bolton that this thing gets kicked into June.  And it is also possible here that, you know, the White House has yet to really play whatever card it wants to play.  It either has to give these documents up or stand by Bolton.  That hasn‘t happened yet.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Duffy, the Washington bureau chief of “TIME” magazine, great thanks for your insight tonight.

In one of the places where diplomacy is not exactly the first option, the biggest news out of Iraq today, the country‘s minister of the interior said he believes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is injured.  “We‘re not sure whether he is dead or not,” said Bayan Jabber (ph), “but we are sure that he is injured.”  He did not say, though, how he‘s sure.

And Pentagon senior operations officer General Carter Ham said that while he would love to be able to confirm those reports, the U.S. has no independent corroboration, and even if Zarqawi were dead, quoting Ham, “it would not cause al Qaeda in Iraq to cease to function.”

Still, it‘s an issue, so much so that after one Islamist Web site today reported that Zarqawi had asked somebody named Abu Hafs al-Gurni (ph) to take over for him on an interim basis, another Islamist Web site just as quickly came back denying the appointment of anyone named Abu Hafs.  And American intelligence is not even sure there is anybody named Abu Hafs al-Gurni.

On the ground, somebody in Iraq still has the capacity to shoot at and shoot down an American helicopter near Baqubah.  One of two two-seat U.S.  reconnaissance choppers fell victim to small-arms fire from the ground.  No word on casualties.

The spate of car bomb, meanwhile, addressed materially for the first time by the Iraqi government, which says it will send 40,000 troops into Baghdad to seal off the city and hunt the insurgents there.

To analyze that, and the importance of Zarqawi, I‘m joined again by retired U.S. Army general Barry McCaffrey, now an MSNBC and NBC News analyst.

General, thanks, as always, for your time.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously we don‘t have any particulars from Iraq‘s minister of defense about his plan to plug up Baghdad and hunt down insurgents there.  But I‘m wondering about both your overall thought of—regarding such a plan, and also, if you‘re wondering where they‘re going to get 40,000 experienced Iraqi troops.

MCCAFFREY:  Well, Lieutenant General Petraeus has got about 165,000 police and army trained now.  They‘re equipped, they got trucks, small arms, leadership.  So they‘re actually exist.  Taking 40,000 troops and trying to seal off a city with of 5 million people with, you know, 675 checkpoints, very difficult to do.  Doesn‘t sound realistic.

So I think what it is, it‘s a signal.  These guys are going on the offensive.  They‘re sick of sitting back and taking these rash of car bombs.

OLBERMANN:  Would this be taken from the same playbook, or at least the same philosophy, as the U.S. operation in Fallujah, going street to street, door to door, essentially try to chase out of town whoever you don‘t capture, and at least deny them ability to form a base somewhere?

MCCAFFREY:  No, I don‘t think so, Keith.  Fallujah was an all-out fight.  We essentially drained the city of innocent civilians and went in there with the better part of a Marine division.  Two Army tank, that task force, and fought all the way through the city.  That was a horrific fight, that, of course, the Marines did quite well at.

Baghdad, a lot of the population are Shi‘a Muslim.  Al Sadr City, the heart of the empire, there simply can‘t be a street-to-street battle.  The key to Baghdad will be intelligence.  When will the populace go to the police, go to the army, and say, Here‘s where the bombers are forming up?

OLBERMANN:  And that, obviously, intelligence and what we know and what we don‘t know, brings us to Mr. Zarqawi.  Two turns of mind regarding him.  Our NBC staff in Baghdad, talking with a Western diplomat who said he did not want to be identified, saying that despite what General Ham might have said at the Pentagon, Zarqawi being dead or Zarqawi being incapacitated would be a significant blow to the insurgency because he is the poster child—that was the terminology—the poster child for al Qaeda.  Do you buy that?

MCCAFFREY:  Yes, I think so.  It would be a huge shot in the arm certainly to the Iraqi police and army, and our own troops.  At the same time, look, this is a Sunni Muslim insurgency, the old Republican Guard, intel officers, Ba‘athist leadership.  There‘s a few thousand foreign fighters.  They‘re very dangerous.  But we are watching the beginnings of a civil war.  This is an insurgency to take control of the country again.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the estimate for the Center for Strategic and International Studies is—just came out this week, and it said that maybe 5 or 10 percent of the insurgency is foreign fighters, and that those disaffected Iraqi Sunnis are the huge problem.

Would there still not be that threat of civil war, even if Zarqawi died, and the al Qaeda branch office was closed?

MCCAFFREY:  Yes.  Although I think Zarqawi and his jihadists are very keen on inciting sectarian violence.  They‘ve come out very strongly against the apostate Shi‘a Muslims.  They‘re clearly trying to murder their senior clergy, religious leadership.  I think his death will actually be a step forward.  But it won‘t end the Sunni rebellion to regain control of this fractured country.

OLBERMANN:  Like everything else, there is always another page in the chapter.

MSNBC‘s military analyst, General Barry McCaffrey, as always, sir, an honor to speak with you.

MCCAFFREY:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks.

Finally tonight, on the subject, an acknowledgment of Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay from the U.S. military.  The commander at Gitmo, Brigadier General Jay Hood, says he is investigating at least five incidents where the Muslim holy book was mishandled by guards and interrogators at the prison.  The inquiries are still ongoing, but three of those incidents appear to have been deliberate.

The commander declined to go into any further detail on what exactly was done to those Korans, but did he insist that none of them were flushed down toilets.

And one last note about all this, Gitmo and Iraq and political battle lines.  Remember Walter Jones?  He is the Republican congressman from North Carolina, the one who, at the start of the war in Iraq, came up with the idea of taking a swipe at France by renaming French fries freedom fries.  That was his proposal at the commissary at the Capitol.

He has now announced that this country went to war, quote, “with no justification,” Congressman Jones telling the “Raleigh News and Observer” that he wished the name change had never happened and the war too.  Quoting him again, “If we were given information intentionally by people in this administration to commit the authority to send boys and, in some instances, girls to go into Iraq, that is wrong.  Congress must be told the truth.”

Also tonight, thousands protesting in California.  Against what and whom?  Against Governor Schwarzenegger, and perhaps the critic in chief, another actor named Warren Beatty.  How about two actors running for governor in the same state at the same time?

And awaking from a nightmare.  A little girl abused in her Russian homeland, adopted here, but subjected to child pornography here.  She may now be able to put the man who adopted her in jail for life.  You will hear her story.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was all so much fun, the thrill of grabbing a sitting politician by his lapels and flinging him out of office, the excitement of literally dozens of candidates from the genuine politicians to the artificially enhanced porn stars bidding to succeed him, the coy favorite expected to decline the opportunity, instead accepting it with dramatic fashion on the set of the “Tonight” show, no less.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, yes, the California governor‘s recall election of 2003 was all a lot of fun, until somebody got hurt.  And that somebody would be Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Pinocchio, you‘re a real politician now.  There are mass protests against you.  Thousands of nurses, teachers, other state employees, 10,000 of them picketing the capitol in Sacramento, 6,000 more in Pershing Square in Los Angeles.  Their complaint, Schwarzenegger demanding that California‘s $6 billion budget shortfall be closed one way or the other by the legislature, by the 15th of next month, or he‘ll just start slicing off jobs.

Opinion polls showing the governor‘s approval rate is now at 40, four-oh, percent.  Yesterday he slapped around state legislators who voted themselves a 12 percent pay raise, their first increase since 1998.

But what really put the Arnold blowback on the national map was this man, Warren Beatty.  He gave a commencement speech at the UC-Berkeley School of Public Policy and accused Schwarzenegger of having a reactionary right-wing agenda, of bullying labor and the little guy.  And he said it was time to define a Schwarzenegger Republican.  A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who says he‘s a Schwarzenegger Republican.

Sounds like what Schwarzenegger was saying about Governor Gray Davis two years ago.  And when Schwarzenegger‘s communications director called Beatty a crackpot, that sounded like what Davis was saying about Schwarzenegger two years ago.

So is this going anywhere?

I‘m joined now by Phil Bronstein, editor of “The San Francisco Chronicle.”

Phil, thanks again for your time tonight.

PHIL BRONSTEIN, EDITOR, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”:  Thanks for inviting me.

OLBERMANN:  The theory has been that what makes this news, a veteran liberal criticizing a Republican governor in California, what separates it from the past examples of that is that the entertainment industry had maintained almost a uniform speak-no-evil kind of silence about Schwarzenegger, even if they might be personally opposed to him.  And this has suddenly been broken by Warren Beatty.  Is that an accurate picture of what‘s gone on here?

BRONSTEIN:  Well I think what you‘ve got is a former major celebrity, one of the biggest stars, most successful stars in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is no longer making movies.  So I think in Hollywood, it‘s often, you know, What can you do for me?  So I don‘t think Arnold Schwarzenegger can do that much for people anymore now that he‘s not a huge movie star making movies.

Plus, Warren—you know, you have the added mix of Warren Beatty, who has, I think, had political aspirations for some Time, so you know, we‘re looking forward to this star slam in the next gubernatorial race.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, boy, that‘s cold when you say he‘s no longer in there because he can‘t make any movies because he‘s governor.  But that...

BRONSTEIN:  I didn‘t say can‘t.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE)...

BRONSTEIN:  He‘s not.

OLBERMANN:  He‘s not.  Excuse me.

BRONSTEIN:  He‘s actually probably made a wise choice, because Hollywood generally is not particularly kind to people as they get older.  And I think Arnold made a wide transition.  Wise—we‘ll see how wise it is come next election.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, at least for the short term.  This Beatty-Schwarzenegger conflict has been billed as the Terminator versus Bullworth, which would work, except nobody saw the movie “Bullworth.”  But apart from the rhetoric, is there any indication that Warren Beatty is actually positioning himself to run against Schwarzenegger, whenever the next governor‘s vote takes place?

BRONSTEIN:  Well, you know, he‘s been a political activist.  He was involved in the McGovern campaign in ‘72.  I remember him campaigning here for McGovern.  So I—he clearly he has political interests.  And I‘m not going to speak about his movie star career.  I don‘t know how vibrant that is at the moment.  And I think he left himself open in his speech at UC-Berkeley commencement ceremony this weekend.  He certainly didn‘t rule it out.  And usually that means, you know, I‘m thinking about it.

And if you look at the other gubernatorial candidates from the Democratic Party, he certainly provides that star power.  I mean, one of the things that Schwarzenegger has been able to do is bring that myth creation that he did so well as a Hollywood star to politics.  I mean, he‘s great, generally, at press, despite his poll numbers.

And I think Warren Beatty would be the one person who‘d be able to go toe to toe with him.

OLBERMANN:  So the other wild card in this, of course, is that we don‘t know when this election is necessarily going to be, this year or next.  If the governor‘s approval rating is around 40 percent, why exactly would want to have a special election this fall?

BRONSTEIN:  Well, I think he wants a special election because he‘s been used to kind of going over the heads of legislators to the voters, and not only was that somewhat effective before, but I think he just liked it.  He liked saying to legislators, you know, If you don‘t do it my way, I‘m going to appeal to voters, and I‘m a lot more appealing to voters than you are.

I think now he‘s faced with some problems.  Yesterday there were 10,000 people in Sacramento who protested against him.  And today, when they did a fundraising event, they were so terrified of another demonstration that they wouldn‘t even tell reporters what city it was going to be in.

So I think he‘s, I think he‘s—he might be second—having second thoughts about the special election.  But he‘s on that route.  And he said he‘s going to do it.  And, you know, now he to really be a salesman, and he has to be a salesman in the face of a lot of protests and opposition.

OLBERMANN:  What would your expectations be of the tone of a governor‘s race consisting of Arnie and Clyde?

BRONSTEIN:  Well, I think we saw a preview when the Schwarzenegger people called Warren Beatty a crackpot.  I think probably it would be a race that would perhaps not serve the interests of the voters, but it would certainly entertain them.

OLBERMANN:  And we can film it, maybe restart both of their careers.

BRONSTEIN:  Reality TV.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  “The San Francisco Chronicle,” Phil Bronstein.  Once again, thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.

BRONSTEIN:  Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN:  From Hollywood fat cats to a cat with his own ZIP code.

And wait till you see the fish that did not get away.

Here‘s a Michael Jackson headline for you.  Will the jury get to see the defendant‘s privates?  No joke.  That was a decision the judge had to make today on the taxpayer dime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back with our nightly segment full of stupid stories and weird animal video.  And don‘t laugh, this is up for a Peabody Award.  Or is that a Polk Award?  A Jimmy Dean Pork sausage award?

Never mind.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Sacramento, California, where Romeo has finally found a home, if not a floor big enough to support it.  That‘s Romeo, a 33-pound load of a cat who‘s been sitting in the animal shelter eating bonbons and waiting to be adopted.  Don‘t do that, you could start an earthquake!

He‘s about three times the size of a normal cat.  He‘s so fat, even his fur has stretch marks.  I‘m telling you, (INAUDIBLE), don‘t get no respect.

But a friendly local family finally decided to take in the tubby tabby this week.  They said they want to get Romeo down to about 20 pounds, so they put him on a strict diet, Subway sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Now something for Romeo to nosh on.  Or, the other way around.  That‘s Tim Pruitt of Alton, Illinois, holding his catch, a 124-pound catfish, reeled in this week on the Mississippi River.  By the way, that‘s Mr.  Pruitt in the hat.  The thing in the front is the fish, even though he‘s larger than Mr. Pruitt.

The beast is far and away the new world record.  And he was kept alive to be displayed in a tank in Kansas City in a fish store.  Unfortunately, he died in transit.

You know, that‘s exactly what happened to Bubba the 100-year-old lobster.  And no one has ever been brought to justice for that one either.  This fish was never even given a name, but he was estimated to have been 30 years old.  A monument will be erected to him on the wall in Tim Pruitt‘s living room.  It will look surprisingly like the catfish in shape and form.

Also tonight, echoes of an unwanted part of our past.  In North Carolina, three burning crosses found in Durham, along with KKK Literature.  The city‘s mayor will join us.

And a bizarre standoff in Atlanta.  Wanted for murder, he has been keeping police at bay by hanging out on a construction crane for more than 24 hours.

Those stories ahead.

Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, “Star Wars” fans in Karachi, Pakistan.  Nice to see they‘re the same everywhere in the world.  In Karachi, they lined up for five days to buy the pirated DVD copies of “Revenge of the Sith” for $2 each.

Number two, the Cryos International Sperm Bank of Copenhagen.  Danish authorities want to star taxing the 500 Danish crowns—that‘s about 100 bucks—that each donor gets for donating.  The bank is protesting, a spokesman saying the fee cannot be compared to the normal working income because, quote, “it is a special kind of work.”

No, it isn‘t.

And number one, authorities in Prince Edward Island, a small eastern province of Canada, as you know.  It‘s a 24-hour suicide hotline they have there.  Starting Wednesday, the 24-hour suicide hotline will shut down each day at 5:00 PM and reopen at 9:00 in the morning.

A 24-hour suicide hotline and it‘s closed?  We never said it was in a row.  Between 5:00 PM And 9:00 PM, what are you supposed to do?  Please hold, eh?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If there were ever a symbol from our country‘s past that need not be resuscitated, it roared back to life last night in Durham, North Carolina.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: There may be no emblem so loaded with offense, so closely tied to violent racial and religious tensions, and best left to a painful past.  Three large crosses burned at separate locations in Durham last night, all within about an hour-and-a-half.  And as if to leave no doubt about their meeting, orange flyers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one of the locations.  The first reported cross burning at 9:19 PM outside Saint Luke‘s Episcopal Church, the next at a pile of dirt near a construction site, the last at an open field, where those flyers were left.

While investigators believe that none of the sites were specific targets, all three were in highly visible areas.  The crosses, seven feet tall and made out of two-by-fours, were wrapped in burlap and doused with kerosene.  Durham‘s police chief, Steve Chalmers, said, quote, “We‘re not taking it as a prank, we‘re taking it as a serious threat to the community.”  But he added police could not verify that those flyers were from the Klan.  There are no suspects yet.

Burning a cross without the permission of the property owner is a misdemeanor in North Carolina.  The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld statutes that ban cross burning, but only where the intent is racial intimidation.

Joining me now, the mayor of Durham, Mayor Bill Bell.  Mayor Bell, thank you for your time tonight.

MAYOR BILL BELL, DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I suppose that this is something you hoped you would never see again, nor hear of again.  Can you think of anything that might have precipitated this?

BELL:  None whatsoever.  It is probably one of the more shocking things that I‘ve experienced since I‘ve been mayor, in fact, since I‘ve been an elected official.  And it‘s been almost 30-some years.

OLBERMANN:  And it also goes against your own experience in its entirety with the city of Durham?

BELL:  Very much so.  I can‘t recall ever having anything of this extreme take place in Durham.  And in fact, there‘s no precipitating reason that we‘re aware of.

OLBERMANN:  But the community‘s reaction this must, to some degree today, have heartened you, not just anger and repudiation at every turn, but there are to be vigils tonight at the scenes of the cross burnings?  Is that correct?

BELL:  Exactly.  We‘re having three different vigils.  In fact, they‘re occurring probably about 8:00 o‘clock and on into the night.  And I‘ve had phone calls and I‘ve had people to express their shock at this happening.  And in a city like Durham, where we pride ourselves on our diversity, there just is no explanation as to why it took place.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Mayor, whether this was a pure—I don‘t want to say genuine, that gives it an unfortunate proper connotation—but whether this was a pure crime of hate or it was just somebody who doesn‘t understand the history, trying to act tough, who did this, what would you say to whoever did this last night?

BELL:  Well, it‘s not going to be tolerated.  I know the law enforcement people working with the FBI are doing all they can to try to find out who committed this, what we call a travesty and injustice.  There‘s no place for it in Durham, and we‘re not going to stand for it.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything new on this investigation?  I mean, are police still convinced that they were not specific targets, even though one place was a church and the other was at an intersection along Martin Luther King, Jr., Parkway?

BELL:  Well, I know that the police are working on this, and there are certain things they probably do not want to release at this time because it‘s still under investigation.  But independent of whether or not it was intended or not as symbolic of what has happened, and for me, as the mayor of the city of Durham, as a citizen of Durham and as an African-American, it really bothers me and it bothers the community.  And as I said, it‘s just entirely unexpected, shocking, and we hope to bring the people involved in this to justice quickly.

OLBERMANN:  And to see it come out of left field like this, as we‘ve been discussing here, emphasizes, I guess, in a way that you couldn‘t have imagined, either, cross burning is a misdemeanor in North Carolina, and because of those 1st Amendment concerns, the Supreme Court was only conditionally supportive of the law.  So even if you get these guys and convict them, are the people behind this going to get an insufficient penalty?  Is it time to revisit what happens to somebody who does this?

BELL:  Well, let me say I certainly would be in favor of doing that.  But the important thing now is to find the persons that did it, to send a message that we don‘t tolerate it in Durham and we don‘t—won‘t stand for it, and if you do it, you‘re going to get caught.

OLBERMANN:  Mayor Bill Bell of Durham, North Carolina.  Great.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BELL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Far different circumstances for a murder suspect in Atlanta, who is in plain view of anyone and everyone, and that is part of the problem.  That man is not attempting some imitation of a bad David Blaine stunt.  He got to the top of this 18-story construction crane yesterday, 160 feet off the ground, in the busy Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, and he has threatened suicide.

To clarify there slightly, it says “live,” we are keeping this on a seven-second delay in case he falls.  We are not going to show that to you.

The man is identified as Carl Edward Roland.  He is wanted by the Pinellas County, Florida‘s sheriff‘s department for the murder of his former girlfriend, Jennifer Gonzalez, who was found earlier this week.

We don‘t know where he‘s walked out of frame to, the cameraman a little late on the draw here, telling us what has happened.

Earlier this afternoon, Mr. Roland evaded authorities, changing his perch.  You just saw it change again.  The fire department has placed airbags on the roof of the building under construction below.

This is the man going out to that location where we think we saw him walking back from in the live shot.  Let‘s see the live shot again and see what‘s going on.  We‘re trying—this appears to be him walking down now.  This looks to be, one can hope, the end of this situation.

His sister had been brought to the scene earlier, but she did not climb the crane, she merely shouted up to him.  And now the wanted fugitive in the murder case in Florida has paused, and whether he is in negotiations, it is impossible to say.  We‘ll keep track of this for you if developments change from here.

Also tonight, the jury already had to see Michael Jackson in his jammies.  Does it have to see what‘s under them?  Yes, that‘s what your taxpayers‘ dollars bought you tonight.

And the king of “Jeopardy” loses his crown.  Well, I guess you don‘t know everything, then, do you, young man!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As it stands now, Matthew Alan Mancuso is scheduled to be released from prison in January, 2017.  He‘s a convicted child pornographer.  But detectives in Orange County, Florida, believe they have testimony from a new witness who could send Mancuso to jail for the rest of his life for child rape.  The witness is the child, his own adopted daughter.

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN is a remarkable one which may yet have a happy ending.  Our correspondent is Bob Kealing of the NBC station in Orlando. WESH.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEA:  Oh, I can just tell what he‘s feeling.

BOB KEALING, WESH-TV (voice-over):  We‘ll call her Mea.  She‘s 12 years old.  Her favorite color is purple.  Her pet hamster‘s name is B.J.

MEA:  One day, I was watching a show, I forget what it was about.  It was on Discovery channel about hamsters.  That was right after I got it, when we were sitting there, watching it.  That‘s Theodore.  This is Marley (ph).

KEALING:  This insightful and funny 6th-grader...

MEA:  I‘ll give him a hair transplant.

KEALING:  ... has been through hell.  Mea‘s new adoptive mother, Faith.

FAITH, ADOPTIVE MOTHER:  When she was in Russia with her parents, she was stabbed in the back of her neck, where she still has scars.

MEA:  Going down, you don‘t to have pedal.

KEALING:  Russian authorities moved Mea to an orphanage.  Then came new hope, an American from Pittsburgh.  He saw 5-year-old Mea and decided to adopt.  But her savior was just another monster.

(on camera):  He brought her over here specifically to abuse her?

FAITH:  I believe that.

KEALING:  And you said she provided some confirmation for that, too, didn‘t she?

FAITH:  Yes.  She said everything started the same day.

KEALING (voice-over):  For six years, Faith says, Mea was a virtual slave, forced against her will to have sex.  And it didn‘t stop there.  Mea‘s abuser took sexually explicit photos of her in arcades and hotel elevators.

FAITH:  She knew it wasn‘t normal, but she was scared.  And he told her that no one would believe her or that—there was just no way out of it.

KEALING:  The abuser sold hundreds of images of his own adoptive daughter to Internet pedophiles.  Some were taken during Orlando vacations.

FAITH:  My daughter told me that they went to Disney every year, so—they went quite often.

KEALING (on camera):  So what happened there, year in and year out?

FAITH:  He also did things like this at his home.

KEALING (voice-over):  Two years ago, the FBI finally unmasked Mea‘s monster.  In February, 2004, a judge sentenced Pittsburgh engineer Matthew Alan Mancuso to 15 years in prison for producing child pornography of his own daughter.  But he has not been tried for raping her.

MEA:  I think it‘s wrong, how he didn‘t get charged with half the stuff he did.  And I don‘t think that should happen to anybody.

FAITH:  She‘s scarred for life.  I mean—and her picture‘s on the Internet, and they can‘t be stopped.  You know, there‘s no way of stopping them completely.  How do you tell a 12-year-old her pictures are all over the Internet?

KEALING:  A few months ago, Mea and Faith packed up and moved hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh.

(on camera):  How do you like it down here?

MEA:  I love it down here.

KEALING:  Her mother says Mea is well aware of how difficult it‘s going to be to bring the man who abused her for so long to justice.  And for that, they‘ll both lean on the faith that‘s gotten them through so much already.

MEA:  Lead me to the tower and rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.  Since I know I have people that are backing me up and are there for me, it makes things easier because I know that they‘re there for me, so—like, with them, I could probably do anything.

KEALING (voice-over):  The child who came to symbolize the plight of all victims of child pornographers says she‘s fine now and happy.

MEA:  How would you like a hug?

KEALING:  Scars and all, Mea has walked through fire and found love on the other side.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Bob Kealing from NBC affiliate WESH reporting from Orlando.

From the irredeemably awful to the ridiculous.  We make a sharp U-turn into celebrity and entertainment news, our nightly segment “Keeping Tabs.”  And we have some very disturbing news about the TV series “American Idol.”  The series is over.  Fox says viewers cast more than 500 million votes over its course.  The 41 episodes drew a total of about one billion, 45 million viewers.

Wait a minute.  That‘s still translates to less than one vote per viewer.  This isn‘t a real election, it‘s just a—a popularity contest!

And the country and Western chick beat the greasy-looking guy from Alabama.  Both now become cogs in the vast machine gradually replacing talent with mediocrity.

Speaking of, what do you get when you combine Garth Brooks, Tricia Yearwood and the unveiling of the Buck Owens Legends in Bronze at the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California?  Brooks and Yearwood, who were not part of the honoring of eight great singers, stole the show, when he unexpectedly proposed to her on stage.  It will be his second marriage, her third.

And completely obscured by this stunt, the night that honored Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens himself, Elvis Presley, George Strait, Hank Williams and Bob Wills.  Especially Bob Wills.  Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, one of the great American bands of any genre in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and they got steamrollered by Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood!

It could have been worse.  It could have been an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Michael Jackson.  Yes, it‘s your tax and entertainment dollars in action, day 556 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  And even in a high-profile case like this, there are some things that need to be kept private for of all our sakes.  Like his privates.

Fortunately, this is all that jurors and we will ever see of Jackson, thanks to Judge Rodney Melville, who today denied a prosecution request to introduce photo of Jackson‘s relevant region into evidence.  The pictures were taken during the 1993 investigation.  At the time, prosecutors wanted to compare the real thing to that accuser‘s drawing of Jackson, a drawing which had a unique blemish in the indicated area.

Speaking of indicated areas, quiz king Ken Jennings—see ya!  But geography champ Nathan Cornelius, we‘ll see him next.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  H.L. Mencken wrote about the backlash against intellectualism in this culture.  Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have been worried about it.  Maybe our descendants, the ones who can still read, will look back one day and say the point at which it really went to heck in a handbasket was the printing of the first bumper sticker that read, “My kid can beat up your honor student.”

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN: No matter how sisyphean the task of the intellectual and the just plain smartish, they keep managing to push that rock up the hill.  And if you don‘t know who Sisyphus was, go buy a book and look it up.

This week, the newest crop of know-it-alls ascendant.  Thirty-one-year-old game show savant Ken Jennings, who has lost “Jeopardy‘s Ultimate Tournament of Champions.”  It‘s over.  Last night was the third and final day of that contest.  At stake, a $2 million award, which was handily won by the former record store clerk Brad Rutter.  The final answer: “The names of these two original Mercury astronauts who orbited the earth in May, 1962, and May, 1963, are also occupations.”  The correct question, “Who are Scott Carpenter and Gordon Cooper?”  And Jennings wrote “Go Brad,” which was not correct.

So that was the culmination of a tournament through which a few hundred, perhaps a few thousand actually passed.  How about somebody being smarter in a subject than five million competitors?  That‘s how many kids participated in the National Geography Bee, vying for a $25,000 college scholarship.  The winner got 31 right out of the 32 questions he was asked in the finals.  Here‘s number 32.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lake Gatun, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming which river?  The correct response: Lake Gatun, part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming the Chagres River.  Nathan Cornelius, congratulations, young man!  You are the 2005 National Geography Bee champion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The 13-year-old from Cottonwood, Minnesota, state champ three years in a row, gets not just the scholarship but also a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society, to say nothing of a lot of TV guest appearances, including right here.

A big welcome and congratulations to Nathan Cornelius.  Nice job.

NATHAN CORNELIUS, 2005 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEE WINNER:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Did you really have it as fast as that?  When we saw your head down like that, did you already know what the answer to the question was?

CORNELIUS:  Yes, I think so.

OLBERMANN:  It looked like it!  Thirty-one out of thirty-two right—this is the adult -- (INAUDIBLE) prepare you for the adult world.  All they want to know about is, Which one did you get wrong?

CORNELIUS:  Yes.  That was Arnhem Land is in northern Australia...

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

CORNELIUS:  ... and includes a large tract of aboriginal land.  And it‘s west of what gulf?

OLBERMANN:  And you said what?

CORNELIUS:  I said Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, but it‘s east of that.  And we were kind of going at a fast pace, and I didn‘t take enough time to think it through, so I said that.

OLBERMANN:  So it was east verses west kind of.

CORNELIUS:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s always the simple things like that when you‘re in a rush.

CORNELIUS:  Yes.  Maybe.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  What little geography I learned when I was your age and younger, I learned off the backs of baseball cards because they would list the minor league cities that the teams played—or the players played in.

CORNELIUS:  Oh.  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Like, where was Aberdeen?  And we were, like, What the heck is Aberdeen?  Where have you learned your geography?

CORNELIUS:  Well, I‘ve kind of always liked it.  I—from atlases I learn a lot and geography books, and I read “National Geographic” magazine.  I guess Atlases is the biggest thing.

OLBERMANN:  If somebody said to you, Why learn geography, what would you say?

CORNELIUS:  Well, if something‘s in the news, then it just really helps to know where it is because, you know, you just know a lot more about it and you know what that place is...

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

CORNELIUS:  ... -and you‘re not, like, Oh, I never heard of that before.

OLBERMANN:  You can picture it.  You can feel it like you‘re almost there.

CORNELIUS:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  This is, I know, something that you‘ve been forced to do all day, but the guys in the control room thought it would be fun, so I‘m going to ask you a couple more questions.  But in return, you get to ask me one.

CORNELIUS:  Oh.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘re actually doing this because the guys in the control room have no idea of the answers to these questions...

CORNELIUS:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  ... or any ones like them, like, Where are we now?  So let‘s play—music—“Stump the Smart Kid.”  That means you.  It used to be me, but then I went into television.  So all right, here we go.  It is a collection of 50 islands.  It once housed a military base during World War II.  It‘s only 4.6 miles square.  It‘s privately owned but also a U.S.  territory.  What is it?

CORNELIUS:  Is it Midway Islands?

OLBERMANN:  No.  No, it‘s not.

CORNELIUS:  Is it Palmyra Atoll?

OLBERMANN:  It‘s Palmyra Atoll.

CORNELIUS:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  We‘ll give it to you.  Absolutely.  Because nobody -

·         if you‘d said Midway Islands and I didn‘t have the answer here, I would have gone, Sure.  Why not?

CORNELIUS:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Number two, it‘s a port on the Parana River, a commercial center exporting agricultural goods, and it was nearly destroyed by a tornado in 1926.  What‘s the name of that city?

CORNELIUS:  Buenos Aires?

OLBERMANN:  No.  Not Buenos Aires.

CORNELIUS:  Montevideo?

OLBERMANN:  Not Montevideo.

CORNELIUS:  Well—no.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we...

CORNELIUS:  I don‘t know what other ports they would have.  What is it?

OLBERMANN:  It‘s Encarnacion, Paraguay.

CORNELIUS:  Oh!

OLBERMANN:  Unless they‘re wrong on that question.

CORNELIUS:  Oh, I never heard of that place.

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s the last—that‘s—they should have asked that you question yesterday...

CORNELIUS:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  ... gotten their money‘s worth here.

CORNELIUS:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  This is a town off Route 95 South, conveniently located off of exit 17, known for factory outlets and an occasional cable news network.  What‘s it called?

CORNELIUS:  Oh, I don‘t know.  Maybe Secaucus?

OLBERMANN:  There it is, Secaucus, New Jersey.  All right, you got one for me?

CORNELIUS:  Yes.  I got one here.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  The betting against me is 150 to 1.  Go ahead.

CORNELIUS:  OK.  The 18-mile-long Tasman glacier...

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

CORNELIUS:  It‘s New Zealand‘s longest glacier.

OLBERMANN:  Of course it is.

CORNELIUS:  And it flows down the slopes of New Zealand‘s highest mountain.  Name the mountain.

OLBERMANN:  Mt. Tasman.

CORNELIUS:  No.

OLBERMANN:  No?  It‘s—it‘s Mt. Countdown.

CORNELIUS:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  All right, I‘m 0 for 2.  What is it?

OLBERMANN:  OK, it‘s Mt. Cook.

OLBERMANN:  Mt. Cook?  Didn‘t do it.  Nathan—Nathaniel—Nathan Cornelius—said it wrong here, even got your name wrong on the piece of paper—Nathan, congratulations on the big win.

CORNELIUS:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  And thanks for coming in.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.

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

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,