Guests: Craig Crawford, Richard Sale, Dan McCauley, Laura Brower, Mo Rocca
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
With nearly six in 10 Americans calling him a liar, President Bush chooses Veterans Day to call them something else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president also invokes John Kerry and the election and claims the Democrats knew as much as the administration did before the war in Iraq, so they‘re just as much to blame.
Is that true? We‘ll examine how much intelligence the minority party even got to see.
No intelligence here. Bill O‘Reilly crosses another line, a serious one. If al Qaeda threatens San Francisco, we should let them.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We‘re going to say, Look, every other place in America‘s off limits to you. except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Why he said that, and why even the guys running his Web site were smart enough to erase it.
The great debate tonight, rules on kids making noise in restaurants, improving the dining experience, or antifamily?
We promise it will not degenerate into this.
(singing): Bombs, bombs, bombs, bombs...
All that and more, now COUNTDOWN.
If you are part of the 57 percent of this nation that believes, according to the latest “Wall Street Journal”-NBC News poll, that the president deliberately misled us to make the case for war with Iraq, Mr. Bush has just called you “deeply irresponsible.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the president attacks the majority, blames the Democrats for going along with him on Veterans Day, and the White House is so eager to get his message talked about, it e-mails the text of his remarks to scores of journalists, with the subject title, “In Case You Missed It.” In case you did miss it, we now bring you the relevant portions of the president‘s address to troops in the Tobihow (ph) Army Depot near Scranton, Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: While it‘s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.
Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community‘s judgments related to Iraq‘s weapons programs.
They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.
And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way, “When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security.”
That‘s why more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges.
These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America‘s will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Democrats in the Senate immediately answering back, challenging the president on the accuracy not just of the prewar intel, but of his statements today, John Kerry, that opponent in the last election to whom Mr. Bush referred, among those claiming the intelligence they received from the White House had in fact been cherry-picked, with the senior senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, charging today that Mr. Bush has returned to the dirty politics of his reelection effort.
Quoting, “It‘s deeply regrettable that the president is using Veterans Day as a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war,” minority leader Harry Reid adding that what we heard from the president today was nothing new. “It‘s not enough to trot out the same lines about Saddam‘s weapons of mass destruction, Iraq‘s connection to 9/11, or how we‘re fighting terrorists there so we don‘t have to face them here. We now know each of these claims to be false.”
Speaking of false, the body of evidence showing most Americans now believe they do not believe what the president says to them continues to grow, the commander in chief taking a hit on the personal qualities section of a new poll from Ipsos for the Associated Press, a clear majority, 57 percent of those surveyed, answering no when asked whether they felt the word “honest” accurately describes President Bush, a whopping 82 percent saying yes when asked if the word “stubborn” described him.
Well, so what on the stubborn. In a moment, we‘ll focus on one specific implication of the president‘s speech today. Does the party out of power see anything close to as much information and intelligence and doubts before a war as the party in power?
First, let‘s call in Craig Crawford, columnist for “Congressional Quarterly,” MSNBC analyst, and author of the widely praised new book “Attack the Messenger.”
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hello there.
These guys sound like that vicing—Viking face-off you‘re going to do later.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps. Who was that speech for today?
CRAWFORD: In some ways, I, I, it was almost like they were talking to themselves, I think, you know, the White House trying to shore itself up, its own arguments. But also, I think they‘re trying to recapture the glow of the election just a year ago, and rally the same conservatives and Republican base and make it a partisan story. (INAUDIBLE) getting so partisan here on Veterans Day was quite surprising, a little out of tradition.
OLBERMANN: And also, perhaps, out of tradition bringing up the last election, which they won, and quoting John Kerry, whom they defeated. Is that a backfire waiting to happen? I mean, does that not flash everybody back to their own childhood, when you try to rationalize doing something by saying, Well, John skipped school today too. And then Mom says, Well, you know, if John jumped of the roof, would you jump off the roof as well?
CRAWFORD: Right. Yes, I, it very much could backfire, and then, and also, it gave Kerry (INAUDIBLE) a moment on the stage, (INAUDIBLE).
CRAWFORD: John Kerry issues talking points almost every day. And, you know, most everyone ignores him these days. But this was an opportunity to get him in the story. And I think the White House wanted that. I don‘t think it‘s necessarily a good strategy, but they do want to recapture that moment of election victory a year ago, because everything‘s been downhill for them since.
OLBERMANN: First, the “Wall Street Journal” poll came back with 57 percent thinking that Mr. Bush deliberately misled this country into war. Now this Associated Press poll asked, Is he honest? And 57 percent, same number, say no. We have to face it, he‘s got liar poll numbers now, 57 percent. Will a speech like this decrease or increase that number?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t think it‘s going to change that. I mean, because he‘s not dealing with what people are concerned about. I mean, he‘s not really—he‘s playing the best defenses and offense here by attacking his opponents and debating the Democrats into the debate. But, I mean, Americans are showing some real concern about the trustworthiness of the administration, and I don‘t think want to shut down any debate about how we got into this war.
OLBERMANN: To that point, General Barry McCaffrey said something on this network this afternoon that I thought was particularly telling. He said he thought that from a military point of view, on the ground in Iraq, the White House engaging in the prewar intel debate would only be a distraction, that if the White House wants to restore its credibility and to restore Iraq, focus on the future, focus on doing the job in Iraq, focus on getting the troops out of there when the job is done.
CRAWFORD: I know many of the president‘s supporters, Keith, are very concerned, because they see some good things coming out of Iraq, the, you know, the work on rounding up a lot of the insurgents, and some of the other positives news they want the administration to focus on, instead of, you know, engaging in this whole partisan debate with Democrats.
But that‘s what the White House has chosen to do. And it has had the effect of distracting them and the rest of the country from some of the news in Iraq that they may want to focus on.
OLBERMANN: Separate from all of this today, the “National Journal” will be out with another story tomorrow about the CIA leak investigation and Karl Rove, which says that the—contrary to what most of us have been told or believe or reported that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, delayed his mind—making up his mind about indicting Rove or not indicting him, because he wants to know what Scooter Libby has to say about Rove, good or bad, possibly exculpatory.
Let me quote one thing, particularly, from the Murray Waas piece here. “The ongoing investigation means that Rove‘s legal status is likely to remain up in the air until the final disposition of Libby‘s case. That could be two years from now, or even longer.”
It is quite the opposite of what has been generally reported in the last few weeks. What do we know about this report?
CRAWFORD: Well, everything I hear is, that, you know, what Fitzgerald is up to here is to try to roll Scott Libby. You know, Libby holds (INAUDIBLE) Karl Rove‘s fate in his hands, probably. If he wants to do a deal, and avoid a trial, and testify against Rove, that‘s certainly what it seems Fitzgerald is looking for.
And I actually don‘t see that happening. I—you know, Libby strikes me as the sort of person, a lot like Oliver North, who will go to the mat, who will be the martyr, who will take the hit for the team. And I doubt that‘ll happen. And I think that would have to happen for Karl Rove to actually get indicted.
OLBERMANN: But what about the other aspect of this that Mr. Waas writes about, that we‘re all thinking that we‘ll have some idea in the next couple of weeks whether or not Rove has been indicted or cleared and can go on or go back to where the position that he was before all this. And this is suggesting quite the opposite.
CRAWFORD: Yes, I see this lasting a long time, which helps Rove, because the more he‘s—the more the whole situation is in limbo, the more he can just pretend it‘s not happening. And we‘ve already seen that.
OLBERMANN: But does it, does it, but does that really help him, Craig, if this is—or does it help the White House, if this is sort of sitting there right next to the front door for not two weeks, but two years?
CRAWFORD: Oh, I think it helps Karl Rove, but it doesn‘t help the White House. I don‘t think the White House is much helped by Karl Rove just hanging over the scene, you know, a dark cloud, you know, like the kid on Charlie Brown, you know, with the cloud over his head all the time. I don‘t think that helps the White House at all.
OLBERMANN: Right, we now have a nickname, we have a Scooter nickname for Lewis Libby. We now have Karl “Pigpen” Rove.
CRAWFORD: Yes, I didn‘t want to say it, but you did. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: I get the paycheck. It‘s easier this way.
CRAWFORD: All right.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford, the author of “Attack the Messenger.” As always, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
CRAWFORD: All right, you too.
OLBERMANN: So did Congress and the Democrats have the exact same prewar intelligence and intelligence doubts as the White House did? We‘ll put the president‘s claim today to the truth test.
And al Qaeda gets the welcome mat to come to the U.S. and attack a major city. Who extended the invitation? Bill O‘Reilly. No, I‘m not kidding.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: More than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Same intelligence. Many of those Democrats the president cited as supporting that war would disagree now, such as Congressman Stephen Lynch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I went to the White House and sat with Condoleezza Rice. I went to the White House, sat with George Tenet, the CIA director. I sat with Secretary Powell, the Joint Chiefs.
All the information I got was that the threat from Saddam Hussein was imminent, that it was a matter of weeks, possibly months, before he would be able to launch a serious attack against this country, or our citizens abroad, and that we needed to act. That was the information we were given, and that he had weapons of mass destruction.
That turned out to be false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, somebody is not telling the truth here. Either Congress got all the same information as the administration did, meaning a mixture of facts, fancy, and repeated doubts about key informants and dubiousness about the authenticity of various documents, or they did not.
For some clarity in all this, let‘s bring in Richard Sale, an intelligence consultant, formerly an intelligence reporter for United Press International.
Mr. Sale, thanks for your time tonight.
RICHARD SALE, UPI INTELLIGENCE CONSULTANT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Laying aside for the moment the ultimate accuracy of it, and whether what was wrong was already known to be wrong, or it wasn‘t, would any congressman or senator of any party have seen and had the exact same access to the same intelligence that Mr. Bush and the administration did?
SALE: No, absolutely not. The statement is inaccurate, because Congress is actually a consumer of intelligence, it isn‘t an analyst of it. It would not have access to the raw data on which certain summaries and conclusions would be based. And it would have—not have the means to determine what it was being told—if what it was being told were accurate or inaccurate.
OLBERMANN: In October of 2002, Congress got to share in the National Intelligence Estimate, which detailed what the U.S. agencies believed about Saddam‘s weapons capabilities. That one mentioned the Niger documents, which we now know were forgeries, which the Italians now say they warned us were forgeries at some point in—around then, and the mobile biological labs, which was information from an informant called Curveball, whom the Germans called a drunken liar.
Would Congress have known any of the background on where this information came from, or those warnings from the Italians and the Germans about the two sources?
SALE: Probably not. You‘re—what you‘re basically asking, when you raise that question, is that Congress act as a counterintelligence group, that it would (INAUDIBLE), it would somehow be spurred to question and test the veracity of sources. That‘s really not what it‘s supposed to do.
OLBERMANN: One more example of this. Would someone—somebody in Congress, or the entirety of the group, know, have known about the doubts on this man al-Libi, the al Qaeda operative, who apparently lied to his interrogators about the supposed connections between Iraq and al Qaeda? Would they have been aware before the administration used his information as an argument for war that the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, had said, We think he‘s making this stuff up?
SALE: It would depend on (INAUDIBLE) the way the information was circulated. Certainly, it would have gone through the office of the vice president, and gone to the National Security Council. It really would depend on whether the White House was forthright in warning the Hill, cautioning the Hill about its misgivings, or about the flaws in the data that they had been informed of.
OLBERMANN: Assess for me this quote from the president‘s speech today in Pennsylvania. “A bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community‘s judgments related to Iraq‘s weapons programs.” Is that a final verdict on this issue?
SALE: I don‘t believe so. I think in many cases, what the government did was, they set up parallel centers of intelligence, whose actual task was not to determine substantial fact-based conclusions, but they were designed to cull fragments from uncorroborated data in order to bolster preordained—you know, preordained conclusions, yes.
OLBERMANN: In terms of Congress being briefed on this, and being kept in the know, as the president suggested today, and the Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the use of force if necessary in 2003, could you compare this to what, for instance, President Kennedy would have done when he briefed the congressional leaders about the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, in terms of relative amount of information that was shared?
SALE: I think it‘s astounding to watch the way the Iraq threat grew, and it grew to the dimensions it did because intelligence was driven by statements by senior policymakers. For example, in February of 2002, when George Tenet was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about worldwide threats, he mentions Iraq only on page 10 of his 18-page testimony, and only then to make the observation that Iraq may be continuing to build infrastructure that could produce WMD.
Then on August 26, 2002, you have Vice President Cheney saying that Iraq is in possession of biological and chemical weapons. I mean, there are no qualifications. There is, you know, there‘s just—suddenly, it‘s a huge threat. Where‘s the substantiation? Where are the qualifiers? They—you know, it‘s entirely an effort to move the mind of the public.
OLBERMANN: Ironically enough, there were no qualifiers in the president‘s speech today. either. Richard Sale, an intelligence consultant for UPI, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
SALE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: From real wars to pretend ones—we think those are two different topics—the whole toe-breaking, head-chopping, beer-buying free-for-all.
And speaking of face-offs, one restaurant owner in Chicago feeling the ire of parents after he cracked down on unruly kids in his place. The great kids at the restaurant debate, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back. And we step away from our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for a moment to enter the segment wherein Vikings battle, stupid criminals mug for the cameras, and people in faraway lands dress up in animal costumes.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Jefferson City, Missouri, a troubled town, where the local gang problem is seriously out of control, the Saxons battling the Normans in broad daylight in Binder Lake Park. These two groups have not had a rumble like this since the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Normans—Norman, is that you? -- won that battle, apparently driving the Saxons to the Show Me State, where they‘ve spent the last thousand years in relative peace rooting for a lousy hockey team.
But the truce obviously didn‘t last. The two went back at it this week. The Normans won again. No one killed or injured. And oddly, a lot of Saxons went out drinking with the Normans after the battle. But did they pay?
To Ashburn, Virginia, where if there‘s one thing that really grates on me, it‘s people who get so involved in cell phone calls they can‘t even be bothered to take part in society with the rest of us. Like this woman, for example. She can‘t get off the phone long enough to properly rob the bank, or the three others she hit in the Washington, D.C., area in the last couple weeks. Police say the MO was the same. The woman shows the teller a gun in her purse, hands over a note demanding money, then yaps away on a cell phone as if without a care in the world.
The FBI has given her a nickname, and they are always so creative with the nicknames. I‘ll let you guess what this might be. Is it, A, the Cell Phone Bandit, B, the Pay Phone Bandit, or, C, the Saxophone Bandit?
Stay tuned later in the show for a surprising answer.
And finally, to Beijing, where there‘s just 1,000 days until the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics. To mark the date, China today unveiled the five official Olympic mascots, all of whom appear to be a Chinese version of Stewy from “The Family Guy.” Oh, oh, the Olympics. Very nice.
There‘s a Chinese panda, a fish, a swallow—and Jackie Chan is a mascot. I love that guy. Anyway, there‘s also a Tibetan antelope and the Spirit of the Flame mascot. Their names are Bei-Bei (ph), Jing-Jing (ph), Huan-Huan (ph), Ying-Ying, Mi-Mi (ph), and Steve.
How‘d that happen?
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, some say it‘s a move against families. Others say they just want kids to behave in restaurants. The dispute that boils away in a Chicago bistro.
And speaking of boiling over, another exhibit in the public trial of Bill O‘Reilly‘s sanity. He has invited al Qaeda to come to our country and attack one of our cities. Kind of makes you nostalgic for the falafel days.
Those stories ahead.
But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama to his friends. He‘s making a rare personal appearance in Seoul, South Korea, this weekend. Rare, because he‘s been dead for 2,048 years. The Chinese have lent the Koreans a rare artifact that is now on display in Seoul, a fragment of bone believed to be from one of the Buddha‘s fingers.
Stop thinking that.
Number two, Robert Brooks, driving 35 miles east of San Francisco the other night. He thought he hit something. A deer, maybe? He stopped the car, inspected, found no damage, found no deer. That‘s when he got hit in the leg by a flying deer. He had grazed the animal. The car coming the opposite way hit it and sent it flying into Mr. Brooks, who suffered a broken ankle.
And number one, our old friend Bob Dougherty, the man suing Home Depot because it left him there when he says he was glued to a toilet seat by pranksters. A former city official in Nederland, Colorado, says Doherty made an identical claim against his city‘s visitors‘ center a year later. Dougherty says that‘s not true. He didn‘t do that. Dougherty has now taken a lie detector test about that, and he‘s passed.
Most importantly, afterwards, he was able to get up from the seat.
OLBERMANN: We told you this story first last night. Something has changed inside the American restaurant in the last decade. Whether it‘s the frequency for which parents go out to eat taking the kids with them, or the final erasure of the vestures of the 19th century cliche, “children should be seen and not heard.” They are being heard at the restaurant. But not at one restaurant in Chicago.
Our third story on the “Countdown” tonight, its request for indoor voices from the kids has set off something of a controversy. Proprietor Dan McCauley, posted a sign in his cafe “A Taste of Heaven.” It reads, in part, “Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices.”
Many parents are seeing the sign as an attack on their respective child rearing skills, are outraged. Some believing this is just the first step toward a dangerous new world where families are relegated to McDonalds and Chuck E. Cheese.
It‘s not directly related to this, but at a place I frequently patronize, the staff and management glanced visibly last year when a mother changed a child‘s diaper at their table in the restaurant.
But back to this issue. I‘m joined now by one of the parents upset by the cafe‘s action, Laura Brower.
Ms. Brower, good evening. Thanks for your time tonight.
LAURA BROWER: Hi, thank you.
OLBERMANN: And also with us, “Taste of Heaven‘s” owner, Dan McCauley.
Thank you, Mr. McCauley.
DAN MCCAULEY, OWNER, “TASTE OF HEAVEN”: Good morning, Keith, how are you—good evening, Keith, how are you doing? It‘s been a long day.
OLBERMANN: I imagine. Let me ask you both a series of, I guess these are double-devil‘s advocate‘s questions here.
You first, Mr. McCauley. Do you have any similar regulations against, say, adults who laugh or talk too loud or diners who have their cell phone ringers set to deafen or are you only targeting noisy kids?
MCCAULEY: Well, actually, Keith, I wish you‘d pay attention to the wording on the sign. It says, “Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when they‘re come in to ‘A Taste of Heaven.”
So we are targeting the sign towards everybody. I didn‘t want the sign to just be inclusive only of children. I want everyone to be courteous about the other people in the restaurant, and to remember they‘re sharing the space with other people and to be considerate and conscientious of the people that are around them.
OLBERMANN: MS. Brower, I remember, as if It was yesterday, my folks and I went out to eat every Sunday morning, pancakes at “Bickfords.” And before I was even able to read the menu, I knew we were in public and that meant I needed to be quiet and, pretty much, seated all the time. It‘s not that way anymore, why not?
BROWER: I think it is that way, but 20 years ago or 25 years ago, there weren‘t as many cafes that they have now, and I just think that people go out more with their children. They‘re able to feel a little bit more comfortable going out to restaurants and cafes. And I just think that when we were kids, it was more unusual for parents to go.
In fact, my mother thinks it‘s wonderful that we‘re able to get everybody together, and the diaper bags and all the things you have to take with and you go out to a restaurant.
And she wishes that she could have done that but, I think, it just wasn‘t done then. And it‘s more acceptable now.
OLBERMANN: Mr. McCauley, a lot of parents will respond to this situation by saying, you know, one thing here, have you ever been tied to kids 24 hours a day? You know it takes a village to raise a child? Is not your restaurant part of that village?
MCCAULEY: Well, it is, indeed. All we‘re asking is, again, while they‘re here at the bakery, in my restaurant, what we‘re asking is, during that time, just be considerate of the people around you, and just be conscientious that you‘re sharing the space with other people.
What we‘ve been specifying to people is part of training kids and supervising them in restaurants is a socializing process, and so we‘re hoping that they‘re learning that you behave one way at home, you behave one way on the playground. You behave one way in the classroom, but one way during recess. You behave one way at grandma‘s house. I remember when I went to Grandma‘s house; I had to really behave.
I‘m hoping children can learn that when you go to a restaurant, you have to really behave because you have to be considerate of the people around you. I don‘t think that‘s asking too much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So Ms. Brower, is that asking too much? What‘s your complaint with Mr. McCauley‘s regulation?
BROWER: You know what? I never had a problem with the sign that he put up. I never had a problem with it. In fact, I just ate there on Saturday. And I expect my children to act the same way everywhere they go.
I expect them to treat people with respect, to listen to me or to my
husband, to act the way that, you know, that I would want to see other
children act. And so there really isn‘t a different way for them to act at
home or—like I have a playgroup on Fridays. In fact this evening we had
our playgroup. And one of the mothers left because her daughter was doing
she asked her daughter to stop something. She tried to take care of it.
Her daughter kept doing whatever it was, I was in a different room—and she said, “I‘ve got to go. I‘m sorry. I have to go. She‘s behaving poorly and I have to leave.”
So we expect our children to behave the same way wherever they go.
And I really feel like, maybe, the mothers or the parents that Mr.
McCauley came in contact with are the minority and not the majority.
OLBERMANN: Well, when I see a parent in that situation in a restaurant, who takes the child out under those conditions, I want to pick up the tab for them when they do it.
Laura Brower and Dan McCauley, may all your meals be peaceful. And thanks for your time. Thanks for joining us tonight.
MCCAULEY: Thank you, Keith.
BROWER: Thanks very much.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of speaking, the slow, painful death of the English language in the workplace and what some businesses are trying to do about it before it‘s too late.
Speaking of painful death, Bill O‘Reilly inviting an attack from al Qaeda. Pat Robertson conjuring the wrath of God against the Pennsylvania town. Mo Rocca putting all that into the kind of perspective only he can provide.
All that ahead. This is “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: Coming up, words and how to use them. How businessmen misuse them and are trying to recover. How Bill O‘Reilly misused them to invite a terror attack on San Francisco. These stories ahead on “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: Perhaps despite all your preplanning, you could or couldn‘t care less. You certainly are entitled to plead innocent to knowing about it, although technically, you can only plead guilty or not guilty. And whether you‘re inferring it and I‘m implying it, or I‘m implying it or and you‘re inferring it, it‘s probably not ironic none of this woke you up at 6 am in the morning and literally stood your house on its ear.
But in our number two story in the “Countdown,” before we further this debate by going any farther, before we founder and not flounder on the difference between less and fewer, face it, as our reporter, Roger O‘Neill, reports, at the end of the day, the use of the English language in American business is going to hell in a hand basket for all intents and purposes.
ROGER O‘NEILL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seems us Americans ain‘t talking too good, don‘t write worth a lick and worser with e-mails.
Our grammar, punctuation and spelling are, is abysmal and corporate America is saying stop.
When Texas Communications Company, Valor, discovered its workers, including managers, weren‘t communicating it enrolled them in remedial business writing class.
Jeff Harrington thinks computers are partly to blame for dumbing-down English.
JEFF HARRINGTON, People who are used to using Blackberry‘s instant messaging and they‘re transferring that way of writing into all forms of writing.
O‘NEILL: A recent survey found Fortune 500 companies spending more than $3 billion a year retraining workers in basic English. Even writers have trouble writing.
ROGER PETERSON: This is sentences is 45 words long.
O‘NEILL: “Sacramento Bee” columnist, Don Morrison, sees the enemy every time he looks in the mirror. Morris is a client of Roger Peterson, who was among the first to notice Americans butchering their language.
ROGER PETERSON: How about this expression, “for all intents and purposes.” What does that mean? “At this point in time.” What does that mean? How is that better than saying, “now.” “Awfully?” That was an awfully nice dinner you just served me. Well, it was a nice dinner or was it an awful dinner? Make up your mind. We simply now must salvage American English.
O‘NEILL (on camera): “Unbelievable.” One of today‘s “in” words, overused or used incorrectly. Unbelievable means, I don‘t believe a thing I just said.
“Anxious.” The president is anxious to meet the prime minister. Which means he doesn‘t want to meet him at all. And “irregardless.” “Best of all.” Look it up in the dictionary. You won‘t find it, because it doesn‘t exist. It‘s not a word. Unbelievable.
Roger O‘Neill, NBC News, somewhere in Wordville.
OLBERMANN: All of which—talk about not being able to talk. All of which, segues us somehow into tonight‘s roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And you‘ll never believe who has became involved in the saga of the suspended Philadelphia Eagles‘ football superstar, Terrell Owens. Ralph Nader, the former Green Party presidential candidate. Maybe that explains it. The Eagles wear green uniforms.
Owens was suspended for four games after ripping management, ripping the quarterback and trading punches with a former star player. Now Nader has written to the commissioner of football urging that Owens be reinstated.
“There is a great tradition in this country of respecting free speech and the Eagles and NFL should express those values in handling even churlish speech. It‘s not a matter of law,” Mr. Nader concludes, “but of principle.”
Of course, free speech only prevents the government from punishing you for saying what you want. Your employer can still kick your butt with impunity for it.
Any way, ever the consumer advocate, Nader also sees, quote, “A consumer issue at stake here. Fans purchased tickets for Eagles games on the assumption they will see one of the game‘s most exciting receivers.”
And bringing new meaning to the phrase “couldn‘t get arrested,” the comedy, “Arrested Development,” has been canceled. FOX has slashed it‘s order for the Emmy-winning show from 22 to 13 episodes. That makes the third season. This one, the last.
The sitcom, never a ratings winner despite the, as ever, impeccable performance of Jeffrey Tambore, it has started to hurt the successful drama that followed it, “Prison Break,” and, when arrested, doesn‘t lead to prison, it‘s time for the noose.
And keeping tabs, regular, Paris Hilton is facing accusations from her ex-best friend and co-star, Nicole Richie. Richie has been telling friends she believes Paris is crank-calling her late at night, almost every night. A friend of Richie‘s told “In Touch Weekly” magazine that she‘s been getting the calls. Quoting the friend, “The call doesn‘t have proof but she‘s almost sure it‘s Paris.”
Reps for both deny the story. But can you imagine those calls?
Hello? Is Mr. Freely there? This is Paris Hilton calling.
And speaking of pranks, who could top Pat Robertson threatening Dover, Pennsylvania with the wrath of God? Who else? The big giant head sticks his big giant foot in his big giant mouth again. That‘s ahead. You bet it‘s ahead.
But first, time for “Countdown‘s” list of three nominees for the coveted title, Worst Person in the World.
The bronze goes to Meagan Oglesby, a nursing assistant at a nursing home in western Port, Maryland. She has been convicted of ripping the time-release painkilling patch from the arm of one of the residents in the nursing home and sucking the painkiller out of it. Man.
The runner up, Gerald Walpen, a member of the Federalist Society. Introducing the governor of Massachusetts in a society luncheon he said, quote, “Today, when most of the country thinks of who have controls Massachusetts, I think the modern day KKK comes to mind, the Kennedy/Kerry Klan.”
The governor, Mitt Romney, has now condemned the introduction. But at the time, he just laughed.
But the winner, the one and only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Arguing for a $250,000 cap on malpractice awards, saying medical lawsuit abuse is the top healthcare crisis in his state. Well, guess who turns out to have testified on behalf of a plaintiff in a malpractice suit against the doctor? Yes, when Mrs. Rick Santorum sued for $.5 million because of a botched visit to the chiropractors, the Senator testified. In fact, he testified that they both suffered. Suffered because she had gained weight and no longer had the confidence to campaign with him. And he suffered because he had to carry the laundry upstairs for her.
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
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OLBERMANN: We have compared him previously to Boke Carter, who went from being America‘s most popular and honored radio news commentator 1938 to unemployed in 1939 to crazy in 1942, to dead in 1944. Well, it turns out the better analogy might be Father Coughlin, the Catholic priest from Michigan, who broadcasted fiery speeches to millions of listeners in the ‘20s and ‘30s, until he started supporting groups that wanted to attack American synagogues and blow up the federal reserve.
Our number one story on the “Countdown,” Bill O‘Reilly actually said something so demagogic, so potentially traitorous, that even own people tried to erase any record of it. The Father Coughlin of our time went on his radio show this Tuesday, and his trolley went so off the track of how the voters of San Francisco voted on this one issue this week. He told terrorists to, pretty much feel free, to target that city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX TELEVISION HOST (voice-over): Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I‘m not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I‘m the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, “Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you‘re not going to get another nickel in federal funds.
Fine, you want to be your own country, go right ahead. And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we‘re not going to do anything about it. We‘re going to say, “Look, every other place in America is off-limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Cory Tower? Go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Someone at the O‘Reilly Web site tried to cover that up. I can‘t imagine why. Removing the entire part about al Qaeda from the show‘s transcript. Heads up to that enterprising individual, it‘s on tape. Removing the words from the transcript doesn‘t make the audio magically disappear.
And then there‘s Pat Robertson, who tried a similar trick this summer when he denied having called for the assassination of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. When some bright spark on his staff, presumably reminded him it was all on tape, he sort of apologized.
Not so in his latest rant against the people of Dover, Pennsylvania. As we first told you last night, residents in that town had voted out the entire school board membership who had introduced Intelligent Design into the school system there. An election result that prompted this response from the televangelist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: I‘d like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there‘s 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. And 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, then don‘t ask for his help, because he might not be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And just like Mr. O‘Reilly, Mr. Robertson did not know when to shut up. After he made those comments, he released a statement clarifying his position, quoting here, “I was simply stating that our spiritual actions have consequences. It they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”
Let me call on television personality, “Countdown” visitor of frequency, Mo Rocca.
Good evening, Mo. Thanks for your time.
MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Good evening, Keith, thank you.
OLBERMANN: Are O‘Reilly and Robertson in some kind of race to see which one of them can go crazy first?
ROCCA: Well, Keith, November is a sweeps month. That means that...
OLBERMANN: For the televangelist business.
ROCCA: Exactly. No, television networks pull out the stops for higher advertising revenue. Most television shows will feature a long lesbian kiss. O‘Reilly and Robertson issue fatwas against large swaths of the American public.
And we all remember that last sweep season, the whole hot-girl-action-angle didn‘t quite work out for O‘Reilly.
OLBERMANN: I think, we remember that.
OLBERMANN: Is the theme here ultimately not that these guys think they‘re right about this, that they know who should live and die. But that they think they‘re the only ones who might possibly could be right in this subject?
ROCCA: Well, they are the only two that know who should live or die. But that‘s really incidental. Here‘s the main point, what the point of knowing who should live or die unless you‘re going to do something about it. Both of these men are results-oriented.
Now, that said, I am troubled by Bill O‘Reilly‘s apparent dependence on a sprawling bureaucracy like al Qaeda to carry out a terrorist attack for him. this isn‘t the Bill O‘Reilly I know. The pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps from the O‘Reilly Factor for Kids. He knows it‘s not right for an American to expect a bureaucracy to attack Americans for him.
Now, that‘s why I give Robertson really the edge here. Pat Robertson has a sterling record of prayer-driven, teleconnetic destruction. We all remember 1985 when he prayed that Hurricane Gloria would actually avoid the Virginia Beach headquarters of his empire. And, in deed, the hurricane did avoid it. And afterwards, he rejoiced publicly on air and thanked God.
Now, the people in the suburbs of Virginia Beach couldn‘t hear him because, well, they had no electricity and they were burying their dead.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but your point about O‘Reilly is well taken. I mean, this is the man who, you know, took the national punting championship of a pickup football conference and turned it into an article about his football experience with the Superbowl program.
That is the sort of can-do spirit that we‘re really not seeing here.
MOCCA: We‘re not seeing it at all and it troubles me. And, I think, if you look at something in something like the al Qaeda handbook or, again, in the O‘Reilly Factor for Kids, you‘ll see that self-sufficiency, a high premium is placed on that. And we‘re not seeing that with O‘Reilly right here. I‘m surprised by that.
OLBERMANN: Now, you and I are both fond of justice for people based their own terms. So is there, in your opinion, a -- being a student of both of these things—a suitable punishment for Mr. Robertson to be found in the Bible or Mr. O‘Reilly to be found either in the O‘Reilly Guide Book for Kids or it‘s corollary, the al Qaeda Guide Book for Kids?
MOCCA: Well, I don‘t know that there‘s a punishment. I mean, I think, one of the cardinal sins here, of O‘Reilly, is that he himself has that you should pay your dues before you expect to rise in any sort of organizational hierarchy. And he‘s actually telling his bosses, trying to boss around his bosses in al Qaeda, by telling them which building to attack. Now, they‘re not going to take kindly to that. They don‘t want to be told by an underling, right now, which building to attack.
That said, I kind of want to defend Bill O‘Reilly here. It‘s interesting the choice of the Coit Tower in San Francisco. I mean, San Francisco, of course, is a city with very many gay men. And the Coit Tower is shaped, they say, like a fire hose. But it really looks like something else.
So, I think what we see here is a prime example of gay panic. So I want to offer the Twinkie defense for Bill O‘Reilly here. It is interesting, though, that he didn‘t lash out at the Transamerica building, which is a lot taller. That building he apparently wants to embrace and protect and sooth.
As for Pat Robertson, the quote he said here is, “God is tolerant and loving but we can‘t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever.” So the implication here is that if you stick your finger in God‘s eye, he‘ll stick his finger in your eye. I guess you call that an eye for an eye, which I believe Jesus said in the New Testament.
I‘m sorry, no, that‘s exactly what Jesus repudiated in the New Testament. I get it always confused.
OLBERMANN: Evidently Mr. Robertson does too. I also noticed, when you talking about what the Coit Tower looked like. First of all, it‘s c-o-i-t, so it‘s got the first four letter of coitus. And also it looks a little like a falafel.
MOCCA: It does look like a falafel. So, OK, so Muslims and yes, yes.
OLBERMAN: So his former production staff are brought together in kind of a—yes, I‘m confused by it too.
MOCCA: No, I know, it‘s worth a lot of discussion. The erasing, the deletion of the transcript from the O‘Reilly Factor Web site is, I know, a bit controversial here. But I want to clarify something here.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, I‘m going to have to cut you off, Mo, because I‘m out of time. It‘s ironic, we‘re talking about things being erased and I‘m going to have to erase you.
Mo Rocca, thanks for coming on the show.
MO ROCCA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s “Countdown.” I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.