Guest: Jonathan Turley, Greg Mitchell, Michael Sessions
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Trouble with the Supreme Court nominee again. Judge Alito ruled in favor of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Company. Unfortunately, Judge Alito had $400,000 in Vanguard Mutual Fund funds at the time, after he had written to the Senate saying he would disqualify himself from any case involving Vanguard Mutual Funds. Oops!
It depends on what the meaning of “I don't think” is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Did Scott McClellan say, “That's accurate”? Did Scott McClellan say, “I don't think that's accurate”? And why is the White House so exercised over this? Maybe they could use their indoor voice?
Are the new rules at a Chicago restaurant a sign somebody's finally taking a stance against screaming kids? Or are they antifamily?
And another feel-good story about the election of an 18-year-old mayor. But wait, there may be a recount. He's winning by two votes, Mom's and Dad's.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
It's either yet another case of the Borking of a judicial nominee, derail a nomination, in this case for the Supreme Court, one drip at a time. Or instead, it's a legitimate, troubling stop along the paper trail of a jurist's life work.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, either way, new questions now concerning judicial ethics of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
As Judge Alito made the rounds on Capitol Hill today, new questions concerning when a judge has to fulfill a promise to recuse himself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, and when he does not. And those questions put the Republican leadership on edge.
Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter asking the judge in a letter, quote, “to make a full public response on the propriety,” unquote, of his having failed to remove himself from two different cases, one involving the Vanguard Mutual Funds Company, he found in the company's favor. The other, Smith Barney. He seems to have found against them. Vanguard and Smith Barney, two firms with which Alito had invested.
By doing so, Judge Alito seemingly breaking a promise to the Senate Judiciary Committee made while filling out its questionnaire before it confirmed him as a circuit court judge in 1990, the current Judiciary chair advising today that it would be best for the nominee to get ahead of the story. “I think it is not advisable to wait until that time which would allow columnists, radio, TV talk show hosts, and your adversaries to speculate o this issue to the determent of your nomination.”
Well, that boat has sailed, those in the know already preparing skipping ahead to the recusal section, question number 23, when Judge Alito returns this questionnaire submitted to him today by this Judiciary Committee.
And if the Vanguard, Smith Barney cases were not troubling enough, the third item on the recusal watch, Judge Alito, a member of the appeals court which reviewed a 1995 case in which his sister's law firm represented one of the parties.
The judge has now replied to Senator Specter's letter with one of his own. “I respectfully submit that it was not inconsistent with my questionnaire response for me to participate in two isolated cases, seven and 13 years later, respectively.” He said the 1990 questionnaire only covered his plans for initial service. And he had been unduly restrictive towards himself.
The first to raise questions about Judge Alito's personal conflict in the Vanguard case, even before he was officially nominated, was George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley. He is good enough to join us right now.
Jonathan, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: I'm a layman, but it would seem to me these are throat-cutters. I mean, to the degree that the case could be made, he shouldn't be on a federal court after this any more. Is it egregious, or is this a layman's exaggeration?
TURLEY: Well, I don't think it's an exaggeration. I think it's serious no matter how you look at it. The point is that there's—it's not that Judge Alito doesn't have an argument here. It's a technical one. As we used to say, it's a good Philadelphia lawyering, in that he can argue that he didn't technically own an interest in Vanguard. There's an argument to be made on either side, that he didn't meet that very narrow definition.
The problem is that being involved in the case with Vanguard was serious enough that he expressly promised not to do it in his confirmation hearings. And it was serious enough that when it was raised, he recused himself from the case.
So this doesn't look good. It doesn't show good judgment. And I'm a little bit curious as to when he says that it proved too restrictive for him to continue to comply. These are the only two Vanguard cases I know that came in front of him. And it doesn't seem particularly restrictive. The odds that he would have a third such case are rather remote.
OLBERMANN: You can look at those who oppose Chief Justice Roberts or Harriet Miers or anybody else and say, Well, look, those were purely political issues and motives. Is this not something simpler and more resonating with the average person judging this at home that they seem to be about money and ethics, rather than about politics, that he was one way or the other, ruling about financial issues, or financial gain, at least, for two companies in which he had some kind of financial stake?
TURLEY: Well, I guess what I'm most disturbed with is the spin we had today. I mean, frankly, this is something that he might be able to get around with by just saying, You know what? I made a mistake. And I probably should have recused myself. Judges are supposed to recuse themself when there's an appearance of a conflict. You're supposed to err on the side of recusal, particularly on the appellate court, where it's not that big of a deal for an appellate judge to stand aside in one or two cases in 15 or 17 years.
The other thing is that we have to keep in mind that it's not that he had a lot of money at stake. This company has hundreds of billions of dollars. So he probably had less than a buck at stake in this, if that at all. But there's still that appearance.
I think people understand that you shouldn't rule in a case where the company that you have this type of direct association with.
OLBERMANN: The time-lapse part in today's response to Senator Specter, that the 1990 questionnaire only applied to his tenure on the Circuit Court of Appeals. I guess, from what I'm reading in it, that it only applied to the start of that tenure. Is that legally true? Is that accurate as well?
TURLEY: Well, that's a little bit odd, since his interest in Vanguard continued. I'm not quite sure why they're introducing this sort of temporal element to ethics.
What's clear is that he did break his promise from the confirmation hearings. How serious that is, I'm not too sure. I think it's ironic. You know, I've been writing for years that these senators do the same thing. These guys routinely legislate in areas where they have direct financial interest.
So it's going to be a rather interesting hearing, with these senators doing this Claude Rains and being shocked that anyone would ever do anything in an area where they have a financial interest.
But putting that aside, we expect more from judges than we do our politicians.
OLBERMANN: And that is, by the way, the video we're showing right now, is a coincidence that we're showing the shot of Senator Frist with the judge.
But sum this up for me.
OLBERMANN: Truly it is. The thumbs up or the thumbs down on this, politics aside, on this, on an ethical point, whether it's a technicality or the explanation is a technicality, do you think the judge's nomination is in jeopardy?
TURLEY: I don't think his nomination's in jeopardy. But I got to tell you, this is a hit below the water line. And he can take a few more. But we're still early in this season.
OLBERMANN: George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, as always, sir, great thanks for your time.
TURLEY: Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: The nomination of Samuel Alito not only meant to please the president's conservative base, but also to supply a bright light in what has largely been a dark time for Bush administration, a strategy that might be working better were members of the president's own party playing along.
Republican lawmakers, reeling from Tuesday's election results in the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races and the ballot props in California, many of them had already been avoiding the president. More may be doing so as a result.
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who's facing a tough reelection campaign next year, now planning to skip a Bush event in Pennsylvania tomorrow. Other Republicans, never accused of having close ties to Mr. Bush, no longer willing to keep their apparent disdain for the current administration under wraps.
Senator John McCain, Vietnam prisoner of war and the man who nearly beat Bush in the 2000 primaries, now taking on the administration in the form of the vice president over its policies permitting the torture of military detainees.
Colleague and former majority leader Trent Lott undermining the current leadership's call for an investigation into who leaked the existence of secret CIA prisoner—prisons, saying that the Republican senators had talked about it in their policy lunch last week, and that perhaps one of them leaked the information himself.
Here to help us assess just how bad things might really be for that Republican Party is former presidential candidate, veteran White House staffer, and MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan.
Good evening, Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Are we overstating things here? Or is the Republican Party in some sort of danger of losing its control of the government?
BUCHANAN: Oh, I think if the election were held, the 2006 election, were held right now, the Republican Party would be in danger of losing control of one or both houses of Congress. And as of right now, the president of the United States could not be reelected against a strong candidate. But we're a year out.
But there's no doubt of it, people are sort of opening their own shop. I think Mr. McCain is looking to the presidential election. He's being more of a hawk on Iraq than the president is. I think you've got an authentic conflict between him on the torture issue, where he, of course, was a POW tortured, and the vice president, who I think generally believes that when we pick up al Qaeda types, you cannot treat them with the Marquis of Queensberry's rules if you hope to find out who they intend to massacre and murder next.
OLBERMANN: On the subject of Republican candidates who are running for reelection next year, or just speculating about it, is avoiding the president the right or the seemly strategy? I mean, J.D. Hayworth, the Arizona representative, on this network yesterday saying just—answering no, he would not want the president to do ads for him.
BUCHANAN: I don't think that's a good strategy right now. I really don't. I think we're too far out, and you're antagonizing the president of the United States. And it puts out the word that Republicans are beginning to look upon the president as something of a Typhoid Mary. I don't know who that helps. But there's no doubt about it, as of right now, if you were in the last two weeks of an election, and you're in a state like Pennsylvania, and the president, say, is at 35 percent nationally and 32 percent there, he's not the man you want coming into Philadelphia.
OLBERMANN: Do me this sort of narrow-focus issue right, that -- Take the temperature on the Alito thing. I'm with you generally on the absurdity of opposing nominees on their personal beliefs. I mean, if you're the president, you get to pick the guys from your team. But does this thing now look like it will be interpreted or perceived as a money-slash-ethics thing, as opposed to pure politics?
BUCHANAN: I think, Keith, you're exactly right. I think the American people generally will be more bothered if they perceive someone who is up there ruling in his economic interests. And the perception that he did not tell the truth or was not straight with the committee, I don't think it's helpful.
I think that probably is more serious, I mean, from my standpoint, because I believe Alito, before I heard this today, I think Alito's going to sail through. I don't think they're going to use the filibuster on him. I agree with Jonathan Turley. This is a shot below the waterline.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and you wonder, when you hear that there are expiration dates on promises to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's—that, that, that (INAUDIBLE) for another day. Let...
BUCHANAN: You don't, you don't do that in your marriage oath, I think.
OLBERMANN: Yes, or not intentionally, anyway.
All right, big picture question to finish it up with.
OLBERMANN: Republican strategy right now nationally. Is there any?
BUCHANAN: I don't see it right now. The president had a good choice in Alito. I think what he's got to do, Keith, I think he has got to do something about this war. That is the thing that's that's pulling everybody down and everything down.
And secondly, there is a strategy he could take. He could say, Look, we're going to give amnesty to the illegal aliens. But right now, we got to defend the border. That's the hottest issue going.
So I think the president ought to get on the offensive and stay out there on the issues where he's got his base with him. And—but I don't see the strategy right now. I think they're waiting for Fitzgerald.
OLBERMANN: A former presidential candidate, now MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan. As always, Pat, great thanks for joining us.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of friends and the administration, Pat Robertson has just landed himself in it again. Not content with having merely called for the assassination of a foreign leader, the televangelist has now threatened an American city with the wrath of God. Robertson was talking about the story we told you about yesterday, that the voters in Dover, Pennsylvania, threw out all eight of their school board members who had introduced the so-called Intelligent Design teachings into the school system there.
Today on his TV show, Robertson told them in Dover not to expect any help from above, quoting here, “I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help, because He might not be there.”
Leave a message after the beep.
The problems have already begun in Dover. They get Mr. Robertson on the cable there. The last time he railed like that against a place was in 1998, when he warned Orlando that its gay-friendly attitude, as he put it, put it at risk of hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorist bombs.
Also tonight, rewriting history. The White House says a briefing went one way. The videotape sure suggests it went the other way. Will transcripts ethics class also be coming to a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue near you?
And the terror in Amman, the latest on the investigation. We'll show you what measures were taken here when the bombs went off overseas.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: This is not to make any undeserved comparisons, but does a distant bell ring when you hear this?
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the White House calls “Congressional Quarterly” magazine and Federal News Service, urging them to change their transcripts of a Scott McClellan press briefing, insisting they change the phrase “That's accurate” into the phrase “I don't think that's accurate.”
Americans who are both paying attention and who are survivors of having to read George Orwell in high school might be wondering, rewriting history here? Isn't this the way “1984” started? Double-plus ungood.
The debate goes back to a week ago, Monday, October 31. Our own David Gregory asked Mr. McClellan about the fact of some kind of White House involvement, legal or illegal, in the dissemination of Valerie Plame's name. What do you think McClellan says in reply? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Maybe there's a question of legality. We know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.
MCCLELLAN: That's accurate.
GREGORY: So aside from the question of legality here, you were wrong, weren't you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The transcripts, compiled by “Congressional Quarterly” and Federal News, both quote Mr. McClellan as answering, quote, “That's accurate.” The White House transcript reads, quote, “I don't think that's accurate.” Have a couple more listens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MCCLELLAN: That's accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Back and to the left. Back and to the left.
Let me call in Greg Mitchell, editor of the news industry publication “Editor and Publisher.”
Good evening, Greg.
GREG MITCHELL, EDITOR, “EDITOR AND PUBLISHER”: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Before we get into what did Mr. McClellan say and when did he say it, this idea that the White House asked these two independent transcription services to change their versions, what do we know about that, how, and how fervently they asked?
MITCHELL: Well, they called up and wanted them to change it. It's as simple as that. The two places did not back down. It was not changed. The White House, meanwhile, has not changed its transcript. And when we interviewed a spokeswoman yesterday, she said that they weren't going to. And she said that their stenographer in the room heard it a different way, and so they were sticking with it.
So it's sort of—I guess we're—we could call this the 18-syllable gap, going back to Nixon's time.
OLBERMANN: I don't think it's clear precisely what noise he made before the two words, “That's inaccurate.” But it's certainly not “I don't think.” I mean, his lips weren't moving, and there wouldn't have been time. Not even the guy who used to do the high-speed Federal Express commercials about it being perfect in Pittsburgh could talk that fast.
Did they—did the White House say it had more than one person taking notes here? Or did they ay whether or not they checked the videotape, their own videotape of it?
MITCHELL: The spokeswoman told us yesterday that the stenographer was in the room, and she herself was in the room. So there were two people in the room, and that's how they heard it, they say.
You know, this is sort of—they call reporting the first draft of history. And I guess this makes this the second draft of history.
OLBERMANN: We got to chip in and buy the White House a tape machine of some sort.
What counts here journalistically, historically, ethically? Is it what McClellan said? What the White House thinks McClellan said? Or what presumably he meant to say?
MITCHELL: Well, the problem is, I think it's another example of the cover-up being worse than the crime. And we've seen that repeatedly in the Bush White House in recent months. They refuse to admit a mistake. They refuse to admit an error. They could have easily said, It's a slip of the tongue, put it behind them. Certainly the worst thing to do, the very worst thing, was to alter the transcript.
And that's why there's so much attention on it now, and it's—there actually is quite a background to this that you're probably aware of, which is that reporters, for quite some time, have been after Scott McClellan to admit that Karl Rove or—and others misled him, and that he misled the reporters long ago, when he assured them that no one in the White House, particularly Rove, was involved in this.
So they have asked him repeatedly. And this is just the latest example. And, well, we see what happened.
OLBERMANN: So long as we don't wake up tomorrow and find out that Harriet Miers was never nominated for the Supreme Court.
Last part, let's play this tape again, and then we'll each say what we think we're hearing and seeing. Here it is again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Maybe there's a question of legality. We know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations...
MCCLELLAN: That's accurate.
GREGORY: So aside from the question of legality here, you were wrong, weren't you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Greg Mitchell, what did Mr. McClellan say, in your opinion?
MITCHELL: Certainly sounds and looks like “That's accurate.” It certainly—it could not have been, “I don't think that's accurate.” And the suspicion would be that what—he did what we call committed truth, which is that he had a very open moment there, where maybe he actually said something that was not filtered through the spin, was not filtered through what his real job is supposed to be. And something blundered out.
OLBERMANN: Or he misheard it and said that. Because what I'm hearing is, “That's accurate.” But there is just like a quick grunting before “That's accurate,” and something of that side-to-side negative head shake, so that the actual thing, to me, looks like, “Mmmph, that's accurate.”
OLBERMANN: Anyway, editor Greg Mitchell of “Editor and Publisher.”
As always, sir, great thanks for your time.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, we wouldn't call it Oddball without our worldwide network obtaining and feeding gems like this. What exactly is this? Margarita to go.
And he's one of America's newest mayor-elects. We'll talk with Michael Sessions about how he'll juggle his new responsibilities at City Hall and his homework from his senior year in high school, as COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: We're back, and once again, we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day's real news for our nightly science, technology, and dumb criminal portion of the program.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Guatemala, where science is bringing the people new and interesting ways to mix drinks and stuff. Yes, using recycled parts from old bicycles, women like these here can save hundreds of dollars on costly kitchen appliances and in just 20 to 30 minutes, blend themselves a refreshing beverage, and get some healthy exercise in the process.
Come on, pedal for it. Earn that margarita! You can do anything at all with an old bike. This guy turned his into a futuristic corn-shredding machine. Amaize-ing. Ha, ha. Get it? Maize. What will they think of next? If they're lucky, they'll think of a better joke than that.
And then to Milford, Connecticut, where a local seafood restaurant manager has stepped forward to save Fat Joe, the 12 ½ pound octogenarian lobster. The manager says Fat Joe arrived in a shipment last week, and he just did not have the heart to throw the big feller in the steamer. Instead, the honorable manager says he'll donate the lobster to the local aquarium, where Joe can live out his many remaining days in a place of honor, right next to the electric eel tank.
At an estimated 87 years of age, Fat Joe is not the oldest lobster we've ever heard of. That honor was held by the dearly departed Bubba the Lobster, the 23-pounder caught off Nantucket last year, who was thought to be 100 years old. But no one went out of their way to save Bubba. Oh, he was hauled out of the water and put in a window. And the poor guy was dead after a day and a half. I mean, it still burns me to this day that a lobster, born during the Teddy Roosevelt administration, could catch such shoddy treatment.
I mean, I'm going to just miss him so much.
He was a great, great lobster, and so sweet and delicious.
Remembering screaming kids in restaurants, are you? Of course, you don't have to remember, because it happens every day. But now one restaurant owner is fighting back, and some parents are fighting back, outwhining their own kids.
But up next, on a serious note, the aftermath of the attacks in Amman, Jordan. The latest on the investigation, and the question, How safe from similar attacks are hotels here?
Those stories ahead.
But first here are COUNTDOWN's top three news makers of this day. Number 3. Peter Flanagan. Funeral home director in Dublin in Ireland. He said the Irish have long had a tradition of burying the dearly depart with some of his or her favorite possessions. The newest such favorite possession? Their cell phones. Can you hear me now?
Number two, an unnamed driver in Cyprus. He was minding his own business in Cyprus, driving his Mercedes when out in front of him jumped an ostrich. At least I pronounced that right. Ostrich. A 400-pound ostrich which severely damaged the car's hood and bumpers. It took police more than three hours to subdue the thing. Stun it. Get the Tasers.
And number one, the educator at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. With lingerie one of China's top products and the Chinese dedicated to improving it, the university has discovered a degree in bra studies. Bra studies!
How many credits can I get for life experience?
OLBERMANN: Jordanian officials say at least one of last night's three suicide hotel bomber was an Iraqi citizen. The man claiming responsibility is the Jordanian born supposed Iraqi terror mastermind, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Iraq as a breeding ground for terrorists. It may or may not have been true in early 2003. It is now. To Amman in a moment. First two suicide bombers detonated the explosives inside a Baghdad restaurant today, popular with local police, this was just as people were gathering for breakfast this morning.
Thirty-three were killed, 19 others wounded. Elsewhere in the capital city, two separate car bombs targeting U.S. and Iraqi military vehicles, injuring an American soldier and two Iraqi policemen. The targets and the carnage repeated up for the in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit.
Seven potential Iraqi army recruits killed when a car bomb detonated outside a recruiting station. The victims were all apparently ex-soldiers from the Saddam regime who had recently been invited to rejoin the army.
Already, of course, the investigation is well underway into yesterday's bombings across the Iraqi border in Amman, Jordan. Preliminary findings are coming in. One of them is that the perpetrators still think violence is going to instantly transform the secular nations of the Middle East into Muslim religious states. Those who do got quite a surprise during a protest rally by Jordanians. Outside one of the bombed hotels.
They shouted burn in hell, Abu Musab Zarqawi!
Our correspondent in Amman is Tom Aspell.
TOM ASPELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today as Jordan began three days of mourning, the people of Amman proudly waved their flag. A sign of solidarity and also, defiance. Defiance against one of their own. Jordanian born terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
As forensic investigators combed the hotel wreckage looking to identify DNA samples of the three suicide bombers, Zarqawi's group, al Qaeda in Iraq in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site said, “Jordan had become the backyard garden for Jews and crusaders fighting Islam.
Today, Jordan's King Abdullah facing the biggest crisis of his reign, toured the bomb sites and vowed to hundred the terrorists down. U.S. officials tell NBC News, the bombers may have crossed the border from Iraq a day or two before the attacks. They believe at least one of the bombers was Iraqi.
(on camera): American counterterrorism experts say Zarqawi intends to widen his war. That he now has cells or networks in more than 30 countries. And with money from Arab patrons who once supported Osama bin Laden, he is now better organized and better equipped than ever before.
ROGER CRESSEY, NBS NEWS ANALYST: They're now pouring money into Zarqawi because he is successful. And the money always follows those terrorists that are the most successful.
ASPELL (voice-over): Two high ranking Palestinian security officials are among the 59 dead. Over 100 were wounded in the attacks, and today, the Queen Rania visited some of them in the hospital. Ashvar al Halid (ph) had just married his bride at the Radisson Hotel last night when the suicide bomber struck. He lost 10 people in his family. Including his father, and new father-in-law who had just posed for a photograph.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we should show the people all over the world, that this is not Islam.
ASPELL: Tonight in Amman, a candlelit vigil to pray for bombing victims. But on everyone's minds here, a new reality. Terrorism has crossed Jordan's borders. Tom Aspell, NBC News, Amman.
OLBERMANN: The bombers chose their targets carefully and deliberately. A Radisson, Day's Inn, a Hyatt. Three names you would expect to find in pretty much any American city, which as our correspondent Pete Williams points out raises the question, just how safe are we in those places here?
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Within hours of the bombings in Jordan, New York police launched patrols around big downtown hotels. A highly visible show of force.
RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: We have to react quickly to world events. We don't know when there is a bombing someplace else in the world, whether or not it is a part of a conspiracy. A bigger plot.
WILLIAMS: So far, no sign of any connection between Jordan bombers and anyone here. But President Bush expressing condolences at Jordan's embassy said it is a horrifying reminder.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT: We face an enemy that has no heart. An enemy that is defiling a great religion.
WILLIAMS: Could similar bombings happen here? Clearly yes. Says Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: A lot of people say it is not a question of if but when. I think we have to assume that the enemy will continue to try to attack us.
WILLIAMS: Security experts cite several reason why it has not happen yet. More comprehensive terror watch lists. Extensive border checks to the visitors of the U.S. closer monitoring to the sale of potential bomb components like fertilizer. Aggressive investigation of potential U.S. terror cells and many experts agree, more successful assimilation of Muslim immigrants.
CHERTOFF: People feel a sense of equality. That removes one of the bases in which suicide bombers begin to kind of emerge.
WILLIAMS: Still the FBI says one sobering lesson of its study of secure in Israel is that suicide bombers don't fit any profile. Men and women, young and old.
(on camera): And many officials offer one other explanation for why no suicide bombers have struck here since 9/11. And that's luck. Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, parents taking umbrage with one man's attempt to keep children reasonably quiet in his restaurant. Speaking of taking umbrage, he testified under oath to Congress that he did not do steroids. Then he tested positive for steroids. Today Congress decided whether or not to prosecute Rafael Palmeiro. Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: This is a big story. Two NFL cheerleaders from the Carolina Panthers were fired this week after reportedly having sex with each other in a restaurant bathroom. Don't ask me how, but we managed to get exclusive video of the cheerleaders having sex. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States honors Muhammad Ali for his lifetime of achievement and for his principled sense to mankind.
JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: Let me ask you a question. Is Dick Cheney insane?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® AZ: I - It's a funny town, as you know, Washington. One day you're up, the next day you're down. As I was saying to my driver on the way over here, Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: Your answer to this next question will probably depend not on whether or not you have kids but whether or not you have witnessed in a restaurant kids who have become omnipotent!
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN. The man is named Dan McCauley. And the question to you is, is he a new American hero or is he a new American villain? Our correspondent in Chicago is Carl Quintanilla.
CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all began at a Chicago restaurant when the owner Dan McCauley posted this sign at kids' eye level. Telling young customers to behave and use indoor voices after years of watching them run amok.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you come here, just be respectful and remember that there are people around you and be respectful of people. Just be considerate of them. That's all we're asking for.
ELIZABETH WETMORE, TASTE OF HEAVEN PATRON: One of our job as parents is to teach our children how to behave in different situations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want an underdog?
QUINTANILLA: Tess Hartnack's children broke that rule and the restaurant staff let her know it. So she decided to boycott. And plenty of other parents have joined in.
TESS HARTNACK, LEADER OF PARENTS' BOYCOTT: We really feel like we're not wanted in there as families. I know there are a lot of other families in the neighborhood who feel same way.
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Can you say please?
QUINTANILLA: Children's manners have always been a reflection of their parents and their parenting style. But confrontations are becoming more common. Especially as parent with young kids, choose to raise them not in the suburbs but in trendy neighborhoods mixed in with single people or childless couples.
HARTNACK: You do have this clash with these families who are staying in the city.
QUINTANILLA: This restaurant has an adults only section which parent don't seem to mind what bothers them is when the restaurant tries to tell them how their kids should behave.
KELLY MEST, PARENT: That definitely sets a tone where he would not want my kids there. To say that, there's a hostile tone behind that.
JENNIFER RADIS, MOTHER OF THREE: No one can ask a party of adult who are laughing to keep their laughing down.
QUINTANILLA: Dan McCauley said he is trying to improve the manners of the next generation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can I get you?
QUINTANILLA: Even if he risks the wrath of the parents raising them today.
PAMELA MYERS, PARENT: I've certainly become more tolerant as a parent. I remember being in restaurants and having children, you know, screaming or crying and me wondering, why can't those parents get those kids under control? Now that I have a child, I completely understand why.
OLBERMANN: Carl Quintanilla at the ironically named Taste of Heaven restaurant. The owner, Mr. McCauley will join us tomorrow night here on COUNTDOWN. We will address the awful truth of he is not complaining about how the kids behave in public. He is complaining about how their parents behave in public.
Something else they used to tell us kids when I was a young one. Don't point! That provides a segue to the lead item in our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news. “Keeping Tabs.”
And the baseball star who never heard that, nor its corollary, don't point at Congress, would not be prosecuted for perjury. You will recall on Saint Patrick's Day, the Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger at the House Government Committee insisting he had never used steroids. Less than two months later, Palmeiro tested positive for steroids.
The committee investigated charging him with lying to Congress but finally gave in that the timeline didn't work isn't he said he did not use them on March 17 but he didn't test positive until May 4.
Palmeiro, in the latter stages of the season essentially accused his own teammate Miguel Tejada with giving him some sort of tainted vitamin B-12 concoction has since been in essence fired by the Orioles. He says he is grateful that the congressional investigation turned out as it did.
He reminded everybody that he had cooperated with the investigation and he again insisted he has never taken steroids intentionally.
And my cousin mike is in trouble again. Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champ. He is a distant cousin of mine by marriage and adoption. I voted against it but what can do you? But there's been another nightclub incident. Sao Paolo, Brazil, this time.
He says a local cameraman was bothering him at a nightclub. The cameraman said Mike hit him in the head. Ironically, after Cousin Mike was arrested, a passerby slapped him on the head. There we go.
Hi, Mike. Relax. He never even felt it. Not even a breeze. He was released without any charges being filed. He may have to pay costs. There was an eyewitness. Oscar Maroni Fio (ph), the owner of the nightclub. My Portuguese is a little rusty, but unless he is being too colloquial, I can probably handle the translation. So let's play the tape.
“There was a lot of emotion because of this person's fame. He's a man standing. He's a man of international standing. He's a man with a concussion? A man with international repercussions? I'd better wrap this up. It's already over with. And it provoked this euphoria in Brazil.” That's what he is saying.
Yes, teenaged mayors are not unusual. How about a teenaged mayor who won by two votes and could face a recount? He'll join us next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees. For title of worst person in the world. Remembering we have retired Pat Robertson to the “Worst Person Hall of Fame.”
Nominated at the bronze level, Mayor David Miller of Toronto. The city councilors there were surprised to find out they had voted themselves a 12 percent pay raise. It was hidden in a bill raising salaries for the city's nonunion staff. Hidden, councilors say, by Mayor Miller.
The runners up, the voters in the election for the Romaland (ph) District School Board near Riverside, California. They have elected Randy Hail. Evidently 831 voters did not wonder why Mr. Hail ran no campaign, made no appearances, didn't even show up at a school board meeting. See, board member-elect Hail is in prison for a parole violation on previous convictions of spousal abuse and drug possession.
But the winners, Judge G. Ken Rennegar (ph) and security guard Wade Gallegos of Urbandale, Iowa. The city of Urbandale had fired Gallegos as a security guard after he reported that the neighborhood he was protecting was haunted by ghosts. Gallegos said because the city fired him, he deserved unemployment benefits. The city said, the hell you do! Judge Rennegar has just ruled that Gallegos should get the unemployment insurance. He said he is headed for disaster of biblical proportions. Who are you going to call? Wade Gallegos and Judge G. Ken Rennegar, today's worst persons in the world!
OLBERMANN: An 18-year-old has just won the mayoral post in Hillsdale, Michigan and one in Roland, Iowa Linesville, Pennsylvania. Two more have taken seats on the city council of Waterville Village, Ohio and Westbrook, Maine respectively. That youth and inexperience do not equal disinterest is not new in American politics.
But a heated recount pitting a 51-year-old incumbent against his 18-year-old presumed successor, that's new. And it's our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight. The votes in Hillsdale made official today high school senior Michael Sessions besting his predecessor Douglas Ingles (ph) by just two votes. Mr. Ingles (ph) has until Wednesday of next week to ask for recounts. Something he told COUNTDOWN he's not ruled out entirely setting up the young Mr. Sessions for his very first political showdown civics 101.
Sessions who turned 18 in September, too young at that time to make the ballot ran for mayor as a write-in candidate launching his campaign just a month ago with the money he made from summer job, $700, just a little bit behind what Mayor Bloomberg spent to be reelected in New York City -- $67 million. Mayor elect Michael Sessions joins me now from New York where he's already begun the big TV tour. Good evening.
MICHAEL SESSIONS, MAYOR-ELECT, HILLSDALE, MI: How's it going.
OLBERMANN: Well, Letterman tonight. Morning shows tomorrow is that right? Did you expect this kind of attention?
SESSIONS: No. No. It caught me off guard.
OLBERMANN: What do you do with this? This is a total change in your life, isn't it?
SESSIONS: Yeah. Hopefully these interviews just dwindle down a little bit as the weeks go on. I've heard some people say, well we want to come back for your swearing in. So we'll have to wait and see.
OLBERMANN: Do it in secret or something. Between now and then though, what do you do if there's a recount? That's a way to start your tenure or your career in public service.
SESSIONS: Well, I'd have to accept to it, I guess I haven't really—
I haven't really—nobody's really spoke to me about that yet. I have to see what—I'll have to be advised as to what the whole situation so far.
OLBERMANN: What made you make this run? I'm sure you've been asked that question 114,000 times already. But why would you want to be mayor at age 18?
SESSION: Well, you know, it's—you look at the City of Hillsdale. I wish I had the ballot with me to show you. Every person on my ward ran unopposed. There was eight races in the City of Hillsdale, I believe, that was ran unopposed except for one spot in Ward Number Four which had a contest that went on. So I decided I really wanted to throw my name in the race on the ballot back when petitions were due on May 10. But I wasn't able to.
So I was speaking to the city clerk. I said, well, how I can run still? He says, well, you can be a write-in candidate when you turn 18. So I thought, well, I'm going to do that. I turned 18 in September. And a week later, I declared my intent to be a write-in candidate.
OLBERMANN: And according to this margin, you've won by two, 670-668.
SESSIONS: That's what I heard before I came here today.
OLBERMANN: So, now, obviously, 670 is a lot of people in a town of 8,200. But do you think of those two votes that made that put you over the top as the ones your mother and father cast for you?
SESSIONS: Most definitely. It had to have been.
OLBERMANN: What do you do as mayor? I mean, do you get to do
anything self-indulgent or do you get to do anything goofy? If you were in
a British city and elected mayor, they'd at least give you a goofy hat and
robes to wear for ceremonial occasions. What does the mayor of Hillside do
SESSIONS: Hillsdale? He presides over the city council. We have a city manager slash city council government, city government in the City of Hillsdale. And like I said, you know, you preside over the city council. I think the role should be even more. I think the mayor should be out there, you know, communicating with people. He should be out there talking to the city employees. He should be out there, you know he's got to develop great relationships with the people of the City of Hillsdale.
OLBERMANN: Can you fit that in with your schedule with class and homework and all of those other things of senior year in high school?
SESSIONS: Oh, I believe so like I've said many a times, from 7:50 to 2:30 I'm a student from 3:00 to 6:00, I'm going to be out fulfilling this job as mayor. If it's not talking with people, it's meeting with the city manager or the director of public safety or the fire chief or the road workers. I'm going to make sure people see that I'm visible and I care about this town.
OLBERMANN: A status that you held throughout your political career. Michael Sessions, the mayor elect of Hillsdale, Michigan, Hillside is part of my hometown. That's why I got that confused. Like any good politician, you see he is already on an out of town fact-finding tour of New York. All the best, sir. Thanks for your time.
SESSIONS: Thank you, thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC news coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE AND DIRECT.
Good evening, Rita.
RITA COSBY, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thanks so much, Keith, and
good evening everybody
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