Guests Howard Fineman, John Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Duck season, rabbit season, duck season, lame duck, and way early. Forget approval ratings, forget honesty numbers. Now a majority of Americans saying President Bush will not be able to get much of anything done.
Will the vice president finish out his term? Predictions of a Dick Cheney resignation, from none other than Nixon White House counsel John Dean. He joins us to explain.
New details about the chilling confession. Why did this woman try to become the fourth suicide bomber in Jordan‘s deadly hotel attacks?
The weather nightmare that just won‘t quit. Eight separate tornadoes in Iowa, winds of 150, and someone records just about every moment of it.
And best inventions ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBOT: I can show many facial expressions, like happy, like sad, and surprised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And I can look askance.
“TIME” magazine has its picks. We salute all robots. Now, come along with me, you terrified mechanical dunderhead.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
Some nights, the metaphors just take care of themselves. Air Force One making a pit stop Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska earlier this evening, its passenger in chief seeking some refueling of his own.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, with apologies to Sammy Cahn and Frank Sinatra, it‘s the President Bush Call Them Irresponsible tour. Eight days in Asia, phase two of the Bush campaign to rehabilitate his image at home and abroad.
In a moment, more on just how bad things look politically on the home front with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.
But we begin with tonight‘s speech in the Last Frontier State, President Bush touching down in Alaska earlier tonight, a few hours to gas up. He met the troops, and also to mete out a little punishment to any Democrat irresponsible enough to have criticized the war in Iraq and how we got there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war. But it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people.
Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq and reached the same conclusion, Saddam Hussein was a threat.
The truth is that investigations of intelligence on Iraq have concluded that only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world, and that person was Saddam Hussein.
Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They‘re playing politics with this issue. And they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that‘s irresponsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Add to the war in Iraq a liberal dose of Libby indictment, pun intended, plus a dash of the withdrawn nomination of Harriet Miers, and the recipe for disaster that has characterized the Bush presidency in its second term begins to take more close shape.
The latest “Newsweek” poll showing just how much political trouble the president is in, only 36 percent of those Americans surveyed approving of the job he is doing, consistent with the other polls in the last two weeks, a whopping 68 percent expressing dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the country, the highest that number has ever been in Mr. Bush‘s presidency.
But wait, there‘s more, half no longer believing Mr. Bush is honest and ethical. That‘s actually better than in some other polls, where it has been as high as 57 percent. And it is a sharp turnaround from just one year ago.
Speaking of “Newsweek,” its chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman, joins us now to assess, just how bad is it?
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
OLBERMANN: Is it possible that we‘re overstating how bad those poll numbers are for the president? Is there some silver lining in there that we have overlooked?
FINEMAN: I don‘t think so. I was talking to a Republican today, a top strategist, who said, you know, he hasn‘t seen numbers like this since he‘s been in the game, which is quite some time. I suppose the only silver lining you could find is that the Democrats don‘t really have any better answers on the war than this president does.
But what‘s happened to the president is that his numbers for honesty, honesty have crumbled, and just as important, his backing by the core Republican Party has begun to crumble as well.
So without the reputation for personal honesty and character, and without the hardcore support of his own Republicans, he‘s in deep trouble, probably is glad he‘s getting out of the country for a while.
OLBERMANN: The effort to get himself out of the deep trouble began, obviously, on Veterans Day, on Friday, in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Bush began this campaign to rehab his image by essentially accusing anybody who was critical of the war in Iraq or of how it started, or perhaps of even looking, investigating this question of prewar intelligence, of being deeply irresponsible.
We just heard tonight, in Alaska, he did exactly the same thing, used exactly the same analogies. Is there any indication yet that the strategy is working for him, either within his own party or within the public as a whole?
FINEMAN: No, I don‘t think so. And the numbers are so bad now that they‘re not going to be turned around by that kind of thing.
But he has two additional problems. First of all, he accepted bipartisanship when the war was gearing up. But he didn‘t really seek it out. He didn‘t really make bipartisanship, the notion of politics ending at the water‘s edge, the hallmark of his policy. It was sort of my way or the highway. And, you know, a majority of the Democrats, not all Democrats, but a majority of the Democrats in the Senate went along.
The other part of the problem he‘s got is, what he‘s really implicitly saying is, We went to war for the wrong reason. But the Democrats made the same mistake I made.
So it‘s a negative argument, not a positive argument. Not to mention the fact that he‘s essentially accusing Democrats practically of disloyalty when he says that they are sending, quote, “mixed signals” to the troops. That‘s one stop short of saying that they‘re undercutting the war effort.
OLBERMANN: That other key element to the strategy, the—well, the Democrats also believed this. He even invoked John Kerry‘s name last week, which makes Iraq sound not like Vietnam but like the Spanish-American War, Remember the “Maine,” and damn the torpedoes, and we‘ll find out later if they really attacked us.
Is it smart to be debating your election opponent a year after you have won the election?
FINEMAN: No. If you‘re George Bush, and you‘re a man of bright lines and black and white, you don‘t want to step into the gray world of John Kerry.
But again, the Democrats‘ problem here is that if you read carefully what, for example, somebody like John Edwards said, when he said, you know, I was misled into supporting the war, he said that in “The Washington Post” over the weekend, if you read what Edwards said, his solutions are for getting out of Iraq, or for, you know, completing the mission in Iraq, they aren‘t really different from George W. Bush.
And I think a better strategy for George W. Bush, rather than to pick a fight when he‘s in this bad of a political position, is to look for some common ground.
But George Bush has never operated as a political leader, nor has his strategist, Karl Rove, by the search for common ground. Instead, they‘ve operated by division and accusation. And that is really going to, I think, dig them in deeper here. But that seems to be the policy they‘re pursuing.
OLBERMANN: Confound your enemies and entertain your friends by (INAUDIBLE), try to, trying to breach some sort of peace with the other side. It would be at least a novel approach.
FINEMAN: He‘s not trying it.
OLBERMANN: He‘s not trying it. “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman. As always, sir, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If President Bush is to succeed in spreading the blame for the failure of the prewar intelligence, pretty much his entire argument will rest upon his assertion that the Democrats in the Senate and elsewhere had access to the very same intelligence that he did. You heard the sound bite just there.
Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, tackling the key question. And if you have not seen this Watergate reference coming down Broadway with its doors open, here it is. What did the Democrats know, and when did they know it?
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president claims Democratic critics knew as much as he did about Saddam‘s weapons before the war.
BUSH: 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.
MITCHELL: But did Senate Democrats really have as much intelligence as the president? Today, Democrats said no, that‘s just plain wrong.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Certainly, the president, as commander-in-chief, has the most information.
MITCHELL: So what did the Democrats know, and when did they know it?
In October 2002, five months before the war, the CIA reported to Congress in this top-secret report that Saddam Hussein was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. The State Department called that conclusion “highly dubious.” But its dissent was buried on page 84.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The very worst that members of Congress can be accused of is trusting the intelligence we were selectively given by this administration, and taking the president at his word.
MITCHELL: Still, even before George Bush was president, Bill Clinton and many foreign leaders saw intelligence and thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
What about the White House claim of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? A year before the war, the Pentagon knew the al Qaeda prisoner making that claim was lying. A Pentagon report said, quote, “It is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.” But no one told Congress.
ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: They‘re not privy to the internal deliberations of the intelligence community, when analysis is being debated, when the validity of sources are being debated.
MITCHELL: Still, did Congress do all it could to uncover the truth?
LEE HAMILTON, 9/11 COMMISSION: I don‘t that Congress was sufficiently aggressive in seeking intelligence.
MITCHELL: Critics say only a handful of senators even bothered to read the CIA‘s prewar briefing or raise questions.
BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: They didn‘t have every document that the president had, but the information that they had was consistent with what the White House had.
MITCHELL: And politics played a part as well. Critics in both parties say Democrats with presidential ambitions were reluctant to vote against the war.
So two years later, the war rages on, along with the argument over how it got started.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the vice president moving towards the center of controversy in D.C. Did Scooter Libby cover up his boss‘s possible role in the outing of Valerie Plame? A new theory saying Cheney is the actual ultimate target of Patrick Fitzgerald‘s investigation. John Dean will join us.
And confessions of a supposed suicide bomber. Why did Jordan parade out on TV the alleged failed bomber from last week‘s hotel attacks? Is she telling the truth?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney has never depended on the kindness of strangers. Still, even if it is not painful, it must be infuriating to read one week that the president is steamed at you, and then to read the next that the special prosecutor may be cutting through the tall grass towards you, and read that the polls say the country is steamed at you.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Cheney in crosshairs of some kind.
In a moment, the insights of former White House counsel John Dean.
First, Mr. Cheney will always have at least one friend. He today met at the White House for 45 minutes with the controversial deputy prime minister of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi. Mr. Cheney‘s office will provide no details. Perhaps Mr. Chalabi will send it in over the transom later.
Some details, though, in the insights of vox populi. According to the latest “Newsweek” poll we mentioned earlier, Mr. Cheney is held in even lower esteem than is the president right now, only 29 percent thinking he is honest and ethical, 55 percent saying otherwise. Fifty-two percent thinks he, quote, “deliberately misused or manipulated prewar intelligence,” end quote, about Iraq‘s nuclear capabilities to make a case for war. And the same number think he was part of a cover-up to prevent a proper investigation of the CIA leak.
Which might explain the actions of his former chief of staff, “The Washington Post” reporting over the weekend that prosecutors had diary notes written by Scooter Libby that detailed activities in the White House, leading up to the outing of the CIA operative Valerie Plame, including one bring that he heard Plame‘s name from the vice president, though Mr. Libby later testified that he had forgotten about that revelation.
But given Libby‘s own reputation as a lawyer and longtime government official, coupled with the details in his notes, some of his critics posit that he deliberately lied in order to protect his boss, which adds to the speculation that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald‘s ultimate target is in fact the vice president himself.
That conclusion has been reached by John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” and our frequent guest here. He joins us again to explain why.
As always, sir, thank you for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me jump right to the bloodcurdling conclusion you have written about. You can envision a scenario in which the vice president ends up resigning. Do you want to explain that one?
DEAN: I can. When I parsed the indictment itself, the first thing I
noticed is, it is not the typical indictment you see out of a federal
prosecutor‘s office. It‘s (INAUDIBLE) -- excuse me. It‘s very long. It‘s
it has detail that typically you wouldn‘t find in a federal indictment.
In particular, it raises a statute that has nothing to do with the case against Libby, and that is the federal espionage statute, which he gets into in some detail, as well as the executive order that goes with it, that shows the standard of conduct.
Now, what kind of law are we talking about? We‘re talking about a law that covers both intentional release of information that is classified, that can hurt national security, as well as negligent information. And this just, to me, threw all kind of signals that there‘s much more going on here than meets the eye.
OLBERMANN: In regard to the negligent part of that statute, is that what tripped your alarms on alarm bells?
DEAN: Well, when you also listen—and I actually went back and read very carefully Fitzgerald‘s press conference—what he does at some length is, he talks about this statute. And he says, Well, you know, a lot of people dismiss this law as being the equivalent of the British Official Secrets Act, which prohibits any release of any secrets.
He says, Well, I—and therefore, we shouldn‘t use it. He said, I don‘t take that position at all. So he was sort of telegraphing, again, that he doesn‘t have a trouble with this law. So it could be either intentional, or it could be negligent, but what I see is that Mr. Libby is the firewall that‘s preventing him from making that decision as to who indeed above Mr. Libby might be involved.
OLBERMANN: And this would explain Mr. Libby‘s—if he is, in fact, the firewall here, it would explain his conduct, which nobody seems to be able to figure out, why he would not cut a deal, why he would be going to trial with this when supposedly there‘s a strong case for him. Is he, in fact, falling on his sword as some sort of continuing delaying tactic for Mr. Cheney‘s benefit?
DEAN: His story of how he dealt with the information that he released is that he said, I didn‘t get it. The information I released didn‘t come from the vice president, but rather, I got it from Tim Russert, which, of course, we know is a lie. But this takes both Cheney off the hook, it takes him off the hook.
And also, this espionage statute has a conspiracy provision that takes
it eliminate the potential of a conspiracy.
So I keep asking myself, why did Fitzgerald put this reference to the espionage law in this indictment that has nothing to do with this, other than if he isn‘t sending signals that this may be where he‘s heading?
OLBERMANN: Obviously, we don‘t know what pressure Mr. Fitzgerald would be putting on Mr. Libby, or where, ultimately, the direction of his investigation is going. But can he put a case together against the vice president without Libby‘s cooperation?
DEAN: I don‘t think he can. That‘s why I say I think Libby is the firewall. During the press conference, he said that it was the fact that Mr. Libby lied that made it impossible for him to make a judgment as to who might be guilty of what, as far as the substantive leaking crime was involved.
So clearly, this has blocked his ability to get to those facts, and that‘s why he brought the indictment against Libby. But I don‘t think it‘s over. As I say, I think it‘s only act—scene one of act two, if you will.
OLBERMANN: Is that why this went to the wall in terms of that first grand jury, that he waited till the day it expired? He had to wait, because he was trying to push Libby, and push Libby, and push Libby? Is that the explanation for that part of the first act?
DEAN: It certainly is one good explanation. We know that he offered Libby a deal, but it included prison time. Libby wasn‘t interested in that. So Libby figured, Why not roll the dice? Maybe I can, one, keep it going until after the election, which I suspect he can, given all the national security implications, and that way, it‘ll eliminate any problem for the Republicans.
And then they can look at it, and maybe his boss can help him, if he does find himself in deep trouble.
OLBERMANN: Back to the original question. There aren‘t a lot of people who were around White Houses in which vice presidents have suddenly departed for reasons other than health. The idea there might be a change there is something that, timewise, could not occur until after next year‘s midterm elections, correct?
DEAN: Well, that would be my hunch, because what I see happening is, if there is a change in the Congress, either the House or the Senate, or both, get under the control of the Democrats, it‘s going to be Katie-bar-the-door, and investigations of these issues that the people of America really want to know the answers to. And that may well be a campaign issue in ‘06.
So I think Mr. Cheney‘s future, and I suspect his health, might be much worse after ‘06, should a Democrat Congress be in place and starting investigations.
OLBERMANN: At least we would be told his health would be much worse.
John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.” As always, John, great thanks for your time.
DEAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Do you see Dick Cheney in this crowd somewhere? Perhaps he should be there. The launching of the lanterns and their ancient secret purification ritual. I don‘t know. It just looks pretty to me.
And from doggie DNA to a real-life dog. The cloned pooch who tops the list of the best inventions of the year. We‘ll not only give you that list, but also the list of the best robots ever.
All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s important news for a segment of unmanipulated, unspun, pure gratuitous video.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Chang-Mai (ph), Thailand, for the beautiful and amazing Lantern Festival, natives and tourists from around the world gathering to launch thousands of paper lanterns into the night sky, praying that their sins and bad luck will be tied to the flying lights and just sort of get lost in the distance.
They‘re crafted of thin paper, wire, and string, light enough to fly like hot-air balloons, powered by a small fire. You know the physical principles here. Participants view the festival as a chance to pay homage to Buddha, and to hopefully watch their misfortune float away. But those, of course, with really bad luck watch their misfortune float away, catch fire, and then crash-land on the roofs of their own homes.
To Minneapolis, where a free concert by a boy band turned into an all-out melee over the weekend. Things went bad when the crowd of mostly teenage girls stormed the stage and began tearing at the clothes of the members of B-5. B-5? Bingo, I‘ve got a bingo here.
No one was seriously injured, thanks to the rapid response of the Minneapolis PD, which knows how to handle a crowd of screaming lovesick teenaged girls when it sees one. That calls for the heavy artillery, apparently. Whoa, pal, what are you planning on doing with that thing?
Finally, to the Barnes and Noble store in Anchorage, Alaska, where the drive-through service is really picking up. Police are investigating why this Subaru Outback smashed through the bookstore‘s front window and plowed through the travel section, appropriately enough, before coming to rest in nonfiction.
Officials believe the driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake. Jeez, I never heard of that happening before. Nobody injured, but a HazMat team had to be called in to clean up the Ann Coulter books that had fallen to the floor and opened by accident.
Also tonight, it‘s hard to say what‘s more chilling, the on-air confession of a 35-year-old Iraqi woman who says she was the fourth bomber in Amman, Jordan, last week, or the possibility that she is not telling the truth.
Then in Iowa, terror of a much different variety, a deadly tornado captured on extraordinary home video.
Those stories ahead.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Sebastiano Lo Monaco, the actor playing Eddie Carbone in the Arthur Miller play “A View from the Bridge” at a theater in Mestre (ph), Italy. He‘s given more than 300 performances, and in each one, on cue, he has lit up a cigarette as the character. Yesterday, for the first time, a woman in the audience shouted for him to put it out. He did. The play was then suspended for 15 minutes.
Number two, the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia. Sales of kangaroo meat in Australia have been sluggish, and officials believe that has to do with the animal being so closely associated to the country‘s national identity. So the kangaroo-meat marketers have started a competition to find a new euphemism for the stuff, sort of like how we call our cow-meat beef, and our pig-meat pork.
Except they say they need a name with a sexy twist. Dead-kangaroo meat, but sexy? How about -- No, I got nothing. Sorry.
And number one, Steven Ridge and Zachary Arabie, two escaped convicts from Louisiana. After using a Popsicle stick as a key to get out of jail in September, the two pretended to be Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Tulane University.
They joined a fraternity at the University of Tennessee. They have been hiding out for two months there, attending frat parties and actually dating co-eds. They were only caught because they got busted trying to buy gas with crudely counterfeited $10 bills.
I call the movie rights!
OLBERMANN: The essential element of any suicide element of any suicide attack is that the perpetrators not be caught under any circumstances. Arrest and prosecution, in part, neutralize the entire premise. They also provide a chilling insight into the minds of those willing to usurp the most realistic right of others, to live, based on the least tangible thing in the world, a twisted religious or political belief.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, thus the questions tonight in Jordan. Is the woman captured by authorities there really the four bomber from last week‘s attacks in Amman? And if she is, how could she have watched as her husband‘s bomb vest worked and her own did not?
Our correspondent is Tom Aspell.
TOM ASPELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a chilling show and tell, 35-year-old Iraqi Sajida al-Rishawi opening her coat to display the disabled bomb taped around her body, 15 pounds of powerful RDX explosive studded with ball bearings, built to cause maximum casualties.
With no emotion, she described how she and her husband, explosive belts around their bodies, went to the Radisson Hotel.
SAJIDA AL-RISHAWI, WOULD-BE BOMBER (through translator): There was a wedding at the hotel. There were women and children. My husband executed the attack. I tried to detonate and it failed. People started running and I ran with them.
ASPELL: It seems al Qaeda in Iraq tipped off Jordanian police to Rishawi‘s existence on Friday when they issued a self-congratulatory claim of responsibility, noting there were four bombers, including a married couple, a new tactic.
STEVE EMERSON, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: A married couple would almost never be investigated as a potential suicide couple because it has never been done before.
ASPELL (on camera): The bombers came here to the Tala al-Ali district of Amman, rented a furnished apartment, and then on Wednesday night, took taxis to their targets.
(voice-over): Jordanian authorities say neighbors in Tala al-Ali alerted the police when they realized the Iraqis had vanished after the explosions. Police arrested Rishawi in the area Sunday morning.
Using women as suicide bombers is a growing phenomenon. Over 120 women have carried out suicide missions in seven countries since the early 1980s.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, TERRORISM EXPERT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY:
Counterterrorism officials are going to have to widen the net, because it is clear now that al Qaeda is recruiting from pools of people we never imagined before.
ASPELL: And there may be more women suicide bombers in the terror pipeline. Some radical Islamic clerics have sanctioned using women as weapons.
Tom Aspell, NBC News, Amman.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s call in NBC News terrorism analyst Steve Emerson.
Good evening, Steve.
EMERSON: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll examine the questions of her credibility in a moment. But if she is legit, how valuable is she to that investigation?
EMERSON: I think this is probably the most invaluable tool for investigators they could ever find. She is a smoking gun. She walks right back to Zarqawi, probably was personally recruited. They have the suicide vest itself, they‘ll determine the signature, they‘ll know who drove her to the apartment, who rented the apartment. I mean, this is a woman now with many answers in her head, if she is rational or if they could coerce it from her if she doesn‘t volunteer it.
OLBERMANN: But if she is legit, why is she cooperating to any extent with them? Is not the premise of this that she is not supposed to cooperate with them? And why would she be wearing the vest on TV? Does any of that fit psychologically with the profile of the suicide bomber?
EMERSON: Yes. I mean, I don‘t think we should ascribe very rational, you know, normal behavior of somebody who gets caught and who is prepared to carry out a bombing. I‘ve seen interrogations of those who have tried unsuccessfully to carry out bombings in Israel. And they do reveal exactly what they did. So I don‘t think that we should believe that somehow this is a conspiracy.
OLBERMANN: How skeptically thought might the Jordanians be looking at the specifics in that confession? Because the idea that she would have gone into the same ballroom as her husband suggests an unusual deployment, let‘s put it that way, in terms of the resources in a multi-pronged attack, does it not?
EMERSON: Yes, well, I mean, look. In the end, the fact that you have a married couple willing to detonate bombs together and kill everybody else while they die themselves apparently is what motivated them. So to ascribe somehow the regular, normal, rational, you know, logic to their behavior would be wrong here. This is a woman who is obviously, you know, fanatical.
So, you know, in the end the fact is she did try to carry it out. Or there is a possibility, Keith, that she chickened out and essentially that she ran out. But she would not admit that on camera or in an interrogation because that would be a lot of shame to be brought to her.
OLBERMANN: Are there pros and cons, particularly cons for the Jordanians to treat her that way? Is it going to somehow further incite attacks against them, or is it in some ways seen as a triumph for al Qaeda that she‘s on television there in some way?
EMERSON: Well, I think the fact that there‘s such a conspiracy culture emerging now that‘s doubting even the validity of it would have been absolutely overwhelming if the Jordanians had announced they had captured someone but didn‘t put her on camera. They needed to put somebody on camera and demonstrate.
Now they‘re probably going to have to put more than just the three minutes now because there are so many unanswered questions when people look at it. You know, we have conspiracy cultures here, but it is far more rampant there, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Give me your assessment of the overall effect of the support or lack of terrorism in the Middle East , particularly in Jordan, but broadly after the protest marches at the end of last week in which they were shouting, burn in hell Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
EMERSON: Good question. I‘m a little bit hesitant about drawing too many conclusions because I‘ve seen interviews with those in Jordan who have said, you know, some of them have said if they carried it out against Jews, we would have supported it, but they carried it out was against Muslims, we don‘t—we reject it. So there‘s sort of a schizophrenic personality here in terms of rejecting attacks on their own but accepting it in terms of attacks on Americans in Iraq or else in Israel.
OLBERMANN: The NBC News terrorism analyst, Steve Emerson.
Steve, great thanks for your time tonight.
OLBERMANN: That one suicide vest may have failed to detonate of no matter to those who died and that Radisson Hotel, one of three devastated by last week‘s attack, was where leaders from this nation paid their respects, former President Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton today. reminiscent of the days when leaders visited ground zero.
Here the Clintons and their daughter Chelsea went into the bombed-out Radisson Hotel. They were already in the Middle East in Israel and proceeded to Jordan at the invitation of King Abdullah. President Clinton dismissed suggestions that the attack was motivated by the close ties between Jordan and the U.S., quoting: “This same crowd has tried to kill a lot of innocents in Jordan before.”
Back here, Iowa picking up the pieces after an extraordinary string of late season deadly tornadoes. A rare close-up look at an even more rare November twister.
And Michael Jackson hasn‘t even finished his promised tribute to Katrina victims and he is already moving on to another project. Who the great gloved one is honoring next.
Those stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every Monday, this group of friend gets together for a laugh even though nothing funny is going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not about a joke. It is not putting anybody down. It is simply laughing for the sheer joy of laughing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get a good laugh started, the club says you have to stretch first. Once the laugh gets going, it feeds on itself and grows.
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: New York City just put three hybrid taxis on the streets. These high mileage taxis. You know, less pollution, the hybrids. And the technology is amazing. They actually run on the driver‘s B.O., that‘s how they power it.
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: And which issues would prefer the Democrats over the Republicans: environment, gas prices, health care, Social Security, education, reducing deficit, energy policy, the economy, government spending, taxes, trade issues, foreign policy, abortion, immigration, ethics in government, and Iraq. Sixteen of the 19 issues we presented to people, they chose the Democrats. Is your party in trouble.
KEN MEHLMAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Tim, usually when I get a poll like that, I would fire the pollster. That‘s my response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tornados in November in Iowa just are not supposed to happen. That‘s not just what an out-of-stater would guess, that‘s the assessment of the state‘s governor, Tom Vilsack. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, they‘re not supposed to happen but they did.
More than 70 homes destroyed and one life ended in Dallas and Hamilton counties, that‘s north of Des Moines, by eight twister. Regardless of the unlikely timing, Iowans are supposed to know from birth what to do and what not to do when one hits. Jeremiah Nance (ph) didn‘t or wouldn‘t. He raced outside to capture the tornado, hitting his hometown of Woodward with a video camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
Oh, my God! (INAUDIBLE) get over here! Grab that dog! Grab the dog!
Grab the dogs!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) it ain‘t going (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my Jesus lord! Oh, Jesus!
Are you all right? Are you all right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
All right. Hey (INAUDIBLE), come on, let‘s just go.
Is everybody up? Everybody has been accounted for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know. Has anybody checked inside that house or who lived in the house? Yes. The one on the corner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Incredibly, this seemingly endless season of brutal weather remain seemingly endless. Tropical Depression Number 27 has formed west of the island of Saint Lucia in the southeastern Caribbean. It is expected to become a tropical storm by early tomorrow and potentially, Hurricane Gamma by week‘s end. Yes, they have run out of the actual names list long ago. Forecasters predicting the storm‘s track will take it south of Jamaica, meaning it will likely miss U.S. shores. Most likely.
We take the hard right now into our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And Michael Jackson makes his triumphant return to COUNTDOWN with the first details of his post-trial pop plans. According to msnbc.com‘s Jeannette Walls, the gloved one called the president of his fan club and told her that he‘s, quote, “writing constantly,” and that he‘s about to go into the recording studio to put down one of his first songs, titled “You Are So Beautiful.”
A Joe Cocker tune, apparently. He apparently wrote this song during the trial. And is dedicating it to the screaming hordes of fans who supported him throughout the ordeal, particularly this guy. Or maybe his song is called, “You Are So Bountiful.”
If Martha Stewart thought prison was bad, now she knows about prime time television. When it is all over, she will have spent more time in jail than she did on “The Apprentice.” Martha‘s version of it is finished for good after next month‘s finale. NBC has declined to pick up on another round of the struggling reality show which debuted to disappointing numbers in September.
The high doyenne of household hints will still be available for your viewing pleasure on her syndicated daytime “Martha,” and of course, her new insider stock tips program on CNBC. Yes, I made that last part up.
Also, he slept with the nanny. She fooled around with the new James Bond. Now apparently though Jude Law and Sienna Miller are back with each other again. They showed up together, though on opposite sides of the red carpet, at the premier of her new film, appropriately entitled “Casanova.” And according to Miller, they‘re, quote, “working things out,” which means we can all sleep a little easier tonight, especially that nanny.
We could all be sleeping longer, too, if that robot we all had been promised ages ago were in every home. As TIME magazine picks its inventions of the year, we pick our top robot inventions of all time.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted tile of “Worst Person in the World.” Bronze winner, the employees of Enduval N.V. (ph) in the Netherlands. They were setting up dominos for an attempt at a new world record this week, more than 4 million of them. Friday night, a sparrow flew in through an open window and knocked over 23,000 dominos. The bird paid with his life. An exterminator finally managed to shoot it with an air rifle. Guys, 4 million dominos, you left the window open and you shot the bird?
Runners up, the staff of Saint Mary‘s Nursing Home in County Monaghan in Ireland. It has found a new way to keep the elderly patients in good cheer. It has added a pub. The patients can booze it up from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Regular bar prices. Assistant director Rose Mooney (ph) says, quote, it means the patients aren‘t bored to death. That‘s right. It means they‘ll drink themselves to death.
But the winner, Alaska governor Frank Murkowski. The man who wanted to charge Bill Clinton for the Ken Starr investigation, he has got another winner, he has had the state upgrade the turboprop previous governors have used and had it buy him a $2.6 million executive jet instead. An Alaska radio station has called it “bald ego.” Murkowski says the state can afford it. Besides which, he complained that the turboprop didn‘t even have a bathroom, which led to the runner up in that name the plane radio contest, “Incontinental Airlines.” Governor Frank Murkowski of Alaska, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!
OLBERMANN: November 14th, a good day for inventors and inventions.
The first blood transfusion was on November 14th, 1666, involving dogs. Nearly a century later, Robert Fulton was born, he would perfect the steamboat. And on November 14th, 1996, Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe, thereby inventing an entirely implausible alternative biography for himself.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, TIME magazine is presenting its fifth annual “Most Amazing Inventions” issue, and hearkening back to that blood transfusion, TIME‘s “Most Amazing Invention” this year is Snuppy. Woo Suk Hwang and the team at Seoul National University in South Korea cloned this dog this year. Urban legend has it that every time you make a clone, you lose a detail from the original. In this case it seems it was the name. Snuppy, you meant Snoopy, right?
We of course want to know about the robots making the TIME list. Toyota‘s i-unit, a quote: “personal transportation system.” It runs on lithium batteries, can go up to 25 miles an hour, and is made of biodegradable materials. The designer says it‘s intended to be an extension of the human body. I thought they had three different kinds of medicine that took care of that.
More along the lines of pure robotry is this iCat. It is multi-lingual and has a vast array of facial expressions, and it is not at all creepy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ICAT: I can show many facial expressions like, happy, sad, and surprised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If I can buy an iCat, can I get cloned Snuppy to come over and kick its robotic ass? That would be a much-needed diversion while the scientists keep working on fulfilling the promises that I‘ve been hearing since I was a kid and not the guy you see before you soon to need cloning his own self. Robots! Robots to clean, cook, wash! Robots to write the scripts for news casts! Hey, inventors, what exactly are you waiting for? Where is my robot?
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The future, what wonderers will it bring? Well, it is a mystery, but one thing is for sure, the future will be filled with robots. Robots will do anything humans can do, only better.
Need some help with the housework, mom? Dad not around to chip in? Relax. Take a load off. Get your hair done. How about a robo-tini? In the future, you‘ll never do chores again.
Our scientists of today are busy building the world of tomorrow where menial tasks and dangerous duties are done for you, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the finer things, all thanks to the magic of the robot.
Hmm, hasn‘t really turned out that way, has it? Sure, there‘s a robot to detonate bombs here and there, maybe explore some distant planet, like I needed that. Where‘s my robot?
I saw “The Jetsons.” I should have a robot maid, a robot car, a robot golf caddie.
ROSIE, GEORGE JETSON‘S MAID: Come and get it!
OLBERMANN: “Star Wars” is loaded with robots.
C-3PO, HUMAN-CYBORG RELATIONS: It‘s a nightmare!
OLBERMANN: Sure the robots can be annoying, but they follow orders, they fight to save the galaxy, and that was a long time ago, it says right there: “long time ago.” It‘s 2005 over here, what do I have? And don‘t tell me Roomba.
I‘m not saying it‘s lack of effort on the part of scientists these days, but how hard are they really trying to get me my robot? We‘ve got a handful of robots that do some cool stuff like they can fight each other. But who is cleaning my kitchen? I am.
Well, I am paying somebody else to clean my kitchen, but you know what I mean. There should be a robot for all that. And all I see are these robo-jokes. An arm wrestling robot, what is that good for? Robot mice, we don‘t have enough real mice? A walking robot that can‘t walk straight. Have another drink, rummy!
Where is my robot car? Where is my Optimus Prime? The only ones even halfway serious about making robots are the Japanese. Our robots, they waddle around on a tabletop. Asimo over there is at least playing the trumpet. Another one plays the trumpet on wheels.
Sure, rub it in, guys. Have one conduct the whole orchestra why don‘t you? They have even got flying Mr. Soccer ball robot. At lease they are trying. We are over here messing around with Clocky while they are getting robot massages, watching robo-dogs play robo-soccer. It is embarrassing to us as a nation.
If we aspire to be truly lazy as Americans, then we need to get off our butts and build some better robots, and then get back down on our butts and say, Coolio, bring me a beer.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN. On behalf of all of the clod-like (ph) collections of condensers and the traitorous transistorized toads, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose, good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.