Guests: Dana Milbank, Chris Daly, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Iraqization of the war. The Democrats want a timeline for withdrawal, the Republicans only want Iraqis to take the lead. And President Bush reined in. Sea change.
On the other hand, those who believe in a link between Iraq and al Qaeda believe they‘ll get that song on MTV. And I believe I‘ll still get a chance to play first base for the Yankees.
Bill O‘Reilly changes his story again. The invitation for al Qaeda to attack San Francisco, now it‘s just a satirical riff. San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting to decide what to do about that riff.
New technology every day, your cell phone, your iPod, thus, eventually, your iPorn.
Speaking of porn, Michael Jackson, in a mall, in a bathroom in a mall, in a women‘s bathroom in a mall. Cue the puppets.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Sometimes you do not have to vote out a government, pass a law, or fire a gun to effect change in the world. Think of the symbolism of Neville Chamberlain‘s 1938 Peace in Our Time document, the scrap of paper waving in the breeze, or 30 years later, of Walter Cronkite‘s newscast about the futility of Vietnam, and how it triggered President Johnson to abandon hopes of reelection.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, symbolism, admittedly on a far smaller scale. In Knoxville today, Vice President Cheney heckled during a speech. In Nashville, a bid to change the political scoreboard with a song called “Bush Was Right.” And in Washington, competing efforts, one from the Democrats, one from the Republicans, to get this country‘s Iraq policy changed, or at least clarified.
To the Senate first and today‘s dueling amendments, much in both the same, the same call for Iraq to start taking the lead in its own security next year, the same effort to rein in some of the wide authority given the president following the 9/11 attacks.
What is not the same, the Republican measure leaving out the Democrats‘ requirement of an exit timetable for Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Tell us the plan, Stan. Tell us, Mr. President, what‘s the plan? This is the first time this is happening. The purpose of this amendment is clear as it is critical, to require the Bush administration to lay out what we need to do to succeed in Iraq.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Our current misguided policy has turned Iraq into a quagmire with no end in sight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: In California, we have lost about 24 percent of the dead. We are suffering. Their families are suffering. Just to say, Stay the course, stay the course, no matter how badly it is going, is simply not going to help our troops in the field.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats, we have heard again and again, they want an exit strategy, thinking cut and run, an exit strategy. What we are for is a victory strategy, and the president of the United States has laid it out clearly. It‘s irresponsible to tell the terrorists, who we know are waiting to take us out, what that timeline is, because the timeline, once exposed, simply says is, All we have to do is wait, and then we attack.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The need to tell the Iraqi people that we have done our share, we‘re not going to leave them, but we expect from them equal if not greater support than they‘ve given to this date.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this note, the yeas are 79, the nays are 19.
The amendment is agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: The Republican resolution passing in that vote by that wide margin. The question, how much of it represents a sincere, significant piece of public policy, and how much is more or less a knee-jerk response to rapidly eroding public support for the war in Iraq?
Time now to call in “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank for a litmus test of sorts.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What did the Senate really do today?
MILBANK: Well, if this is sincere, I‘ll be next to you playing second base, if you don‘t mind.
But look, this was an extraordinary day, because it was all about everything and nothing. The resolution itself is nonbinding. It doesn‘t mean a thing. It‘s the policy the president was pursuing anyway. They want to get out of Iraq in large part next year.
But it‘s what the minority leader called a vote of no confidence, as we hear. And it is—there is a sense that he can make that as a fair argument. Frist felt that he had to come back and provide an alternative, which says, Well, OK, we think everything‘s going fine there, but still we‘d like to have a different sort of plan coming from the administration.
It‘s an extraordinary rebuke to the president, coming particularly because he‘s overseas, and this whole business about politics stopping at the water‘s edge was just tossed out the window today.
OLBERMANN: And to introduce this segment, I used that term symbolism. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska never toed the party line here, but let‘s listen to what he happened to say today after this vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA: The Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies, in Iraq and elsewhere, and should not be demonized or condemned for disagreeing with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Dana, excluding the 19 who voted against that bill today, did both parties, or majorities of both parties, anyway, say symbolically, On Iraq, Mr. President, we are to the left of you?
MILBANK: Well, I wouldn‘t go quite that far. Both parties were sort of tying themselves in knots. You have a lot of Democrats who don‘t really want a timetable, and have said so, voting for this, because of voting for the Democratic alternative, because they want to embarrass the president.
And then you have the Republicans, who really don‘t want any of this passed, providing their own resolution so that they could give their members something to vote for.
I mean, what you have going on here is this is the—really the development of a full-fledged insurgency that the president‘s going to have to deal with. He‘s got a more serious one in Iraq, but the Democrats definitely seem to be getting their footing here, and they‘re making things miserable for the Republicans as they look towards next year‘s election.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of that, we raised this prospect that for the Democrats, it‘s an opportunity-knocks kind of gesture for the 2006 elections, and for right now. For the Republicans, though, is it a cover-your-campaign gesture? Are many of them, in essence, at least in this narrow focus, throwing the president under the bus?
MILBANK: Well, some of them are, but you have to consider, only a third of the Senate is up for election next year, and far more of them are sending some sort of a message to the president with this.
But clearly, it had a lot to do with politics today. Of the five Democrats who did not go along with the Democratic version, four of them are from red states, and they‘re up for reelection next year.
Then if you look at the Republican side, the one Republican who went along with the Democrats was Lincoln Chafee, who‘s got a lot of problems of his own up there in Rhode Island.
So you have to think that whatever their actual policies are, this—
I know it will surprise you a great deal—had something to do with politics and the opportunity.
OLBERMANN: Gosh. Lastly, back to the bill, which includes the resolution. Will that bill make it through to law intact, and what will it do?
MILBANK: Well, first of all, the resolution, as we noted, it doesn‘t really matter. But the larger bill, the president has threatened a veto on it. This is because of the torture provisions, the McCain torture—antitorture provisions that were put in there. Presumably, the House, which has still—it‘s decaying there, but they still have somewhat more control over the Republican caucus, can prevent this sort of an embarrassment, this kind of a vote, from coming up.
So with any luck for the president, he won‘t have to have this on his desk.
OLBERMANN: A little more on the torture provisions in our next segment. “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank, as always, sir, great thanks for your time.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Had we wanted to, this could have been the point at which we would mention a brand-new set of job-approval numbers, marking another all-time low for President Bush. But keeping in mind today‘s proceedings on Capitol Hill, we‘ll say instead that today‘s polling possibly just as bad for congressional Republicans as for the commander in chief.
Fewer than one in 10 of those surveyed by Gallup for “USA Today” now saying they would actually prefer a Republican congressional candidate who agrees with the president on most major issues in the next election. Less than one in 10. By a margin of 12 percent, 46 percent believing the country would be better off if the Democrats regained control of Congress.
And attention Whigs and Federalists, a respectable 12 percent answered neither.
(INAUDIBLE) Mr. Bush himself arriving today in Japan for a weeklong summit there, while avoiding those job approval numbers. As promised, there is, to quote Dorothy Parker, “fresh hell for him to contend with.”
For the first time, more Americans in this poll disapproving of the way Mr. Bush is handling terrorism, albeit by the slimmest of margins, 49-48.
Yesterday‘s poll numbers were more about the vice president than about Mr. Bush. They did not leave him happy. Only 29 percent of respondents were willing to say they believe Dick Cheney is honest. At his speech at the University of Tennessee today, others were willing to say other things about him.
But the big question, as our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell reports, is the esteem, or lack thereof, in which Mr. Cheney is held currently by one man. And that one man‘s name is George W. Bush.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Today, the vice president, during a speech in Knoxville, Tennessee, was repeatedly heckled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Though young Senator Baker...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The protest came during one of Mr. Cheney‘s rare public appearances in recent weeks, in a time there are increasing questions about whether his relationship with the president is strained.
TOM DEFRANK, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: There‘s no question that the bond has been frayed. Broken maybe a little bit too strong, but it is definitely frayed. It‘s not what it was. They‘re not as close.
O‘DONNELL: Tom DeFrank writes for “The New York Daily News” and said the main reason for the tension is clear.
DEFRANK: Iraq, pure and simple. Iraq. That‘s where it started. The feeling is that the president got advice from the vice president about how Iraq would play out that didn‘t quite turn out to be as optimistic as the president was led to believe.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY AIDE: Those who‘ve suggested that the vice president, it was Cheney‘s war, or Cheney pushed the president into this, it‘s absolutely not true.
O‘DONNELL: Another source of tension, says DeFrank, flows from the CIA leak investigation and the five-count indictment of the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
Democrats on Capitol Hill had used Libby‘s indictment to embolden their attacks against the administration‘s Iraq policy.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Here we have an indictment of the chief of staff, and we haven‘t had a word out of the vice president.
O‘DONNELL: It has been a difficult few months for the vice president. The latest NBC News-“Wall Street Journal” poll found that Mr. Cheney‘s approval ratings are now in the 20s, and have fallen 15 points just this year. Nearly seven out of 10 Americans believe he was personally involved in the CIA leak case.
CHRISTIE: His job is not to go out and to win a popularity contest.
His job isn‘t to be in the headlines.
O‘DONNELL (on camera): Tonight, one source close to the White House says any rift between the president and vice president is, quote, “temporary at best, whatever it is,” and that Mr. Cheney is likely to keep up his usual role as the uber-staffer, a man whose mission is to shape and promote the president‘s agenda.
For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell.
OLBERMANN: Norah, thanks.
And we conclude where we began, with symbolism. Declaring there‘s a lot not being told about the successes in Iraq, and we‘re hoping to recount to young people with a music video that tells the truth, a man named William Green says today he and two conservative musicians who call themselves the Right Brothers have created a song that they say will prove, quote, “WMDs were found in Iraq, and there was a definite link between Saddam and al Qaeda.”
Green says he wants the video shown on MTV and says it‘ll be a test to see if MTV‘s proprietors believe in artistic expression or censorship.
The song has already been created, but not the video, so we thought we‘d give them a little head start on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THE RIGHT BROTHERS (singing): Freedom in Afghanistan, say goodbye Taliban, free elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein locked up, (INAUDIBLE) underground, (INAUDIBLE), America won‘t turn and run once the fighting has begun. Libya turns over news, Lebanese will freedom choose, Syria, (INAUDIBLE), don‘t you know that (INAUDIBLE)?
Bush was right, Bush was right, Bush was right, Bush was right. Ted Kennedy, wrong, Cindy Sheehan wrong, France, wrong. Zell Miller right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hey, if you‘re going to make propaganda music, you got to make it good.
And to answer a couple of questions, no, it‘s not a spoof designed to make the right wing look idiotic. Yes, they really do think they can get it shown on “Total Request Live” on MTV, and if they don‘t, it will be for political reasons and not because the song sucks. And no, neither Country Joe and the Fish nor even the Back Street Boys apparently have anything to worry about.
Also tonight, a search for a missing boy in Iraq uncovers instead a virtual torture chamber. Now it‘s a search for answers. Who was starving more than 168 Sunni men in a secret prison in the new kinder, gentler Iraq?
And Bill O‘Reilly‘s invitation to al Qaeda to attack San Francisco. He now says it was only satire. But he says anybody who disagrees with him is hurting America. Why won‘t he just stand up and say, The falafel stops here?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If the White House thought that at least it could see all the elements of this so-called perfect political storm, it was being optimistic.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, add to Katrina, casualties in Iraq, prewar intel, the Libby indictment, Harriet Miers, and everything else, torture. Again, the Senate rebuked the administration 98-zip this afternoon, demanding that the treatment of detainees at Gitmo and elsewhere be codified and establishing new legal rights for them.
This as U.S. troops apparently stumbled on 168 torture victims in Iraq.
The politics first. In a separate vote by 84 to 14, the Senate voted to permit detainees at Guantanamo Bay to appeal verdicts by military commissions automatically if they are sentenced to at least 10 years in prison, or to the death penalty. They may also challenge their status as enemy combatants. But until they are assigned that status by the government, they remain in legal limbo.
Today‘s amendment part of a Senate defense bill. We‘ve talked about that before already tonight. It also bans torture of detainees in U.S. custody anywhere they might be held, no exceptions for the CIA. That provision opposed and still opposed by the Bush administration.
And then there is the find in Iraq. This looks like Shia versus Sunni. It will ring of concentration camps. And although clearly U.S. forces are not the culprits, this is not Abu Ghraib, Jr., it comes at a difficult time, considering the president said just yesterday that our efforts in Iraq were worth it, in part, because of the new, humane society we are helping to build there.
Our correspondent in Baghdad is Mike Boettcher.
MIKE BOETTCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Sunday, American soldiers came to this building looking for a missing 15-year-old boy. His parents claimed he was illegally imprisoned inside.
Instead, they found 168 beaten, bloodied, and malnourished Sunni Arab men. The men said they had been kept blindfolded 24 hours a day. The deputy interior minister admitted this was the first time his office had heard of the systematic starvation, torture, and abuse there, even though his ministry controls the building.
(on camera): Were people being starved to death?
(voice-over): “Yes, there were some cases,” he responded. But he claimed top Iraqi officials had no idea the building was being used as a secret detention center for suspected insurgents.
U.S. government sources tell NBC News they suspect the Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade, known for its heavy-handed tactics, had taken control of the building and tortured the Sunni detainees.
ALISHA RYU, VOICE OF AMERICA: They were extremely emaciated, for the most part, you know, almost like Holocaust victims that you‘ve seen in World War II films.
BOETTCHER (on camera): Iraq‘s ministry of interior would not allow us inside this facility to take a look at the conditions these prisoners were held in. However, there are photographs that exist showing the various wounds and torture marks of the various prisoners.
(voice-over): Iraqi security sources, who have seen the photos, say they show a man who is little more than skin and bones, others whose bodies are completely covered in welts, and torture devices.
Tonight, American troops are on post outside the secret prison. The U.S. military and the Iraqi government have launched an investigation to determine who operated this chamber of horrors.
Mike Boettcher, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, tourism, not terrorism. The kind of explosion you can just enjoy on face value. Kaboom.
And everything today seems to be ready-made to grab and take on the go. So why not bring your porn with you? iPods gone wild. That‘ll keep you watching COUNTDOWN, huh?
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now and pause our COUNTDOWN for a segment full of fiery ‘splosions and bizarre creatures and -- No, it‘s not time yet for the Bill O‘Reilly segment.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in New Zealand, where they‘re showing off the crown jewel of the Kiwi Navy, HSM—HMS “Wellington.”
What the hell, what the hell‘s the difference what they called it?
It‘s dead now.
Actually, the “Wellington” was 36 years old and had been decommissioned for a number of years, so they meant to blow it up. But the New Zealanders decided that the frigate should live forever as an artificial reef 80 feet below the surface of Houghton (ph) Bay. So they packed it with explosives and blowed it up real good. They blowed it up real good. It is now literally sleeping with the fishes.
On the shores of neighboring Australia, Harriet the Tortoise shakes her head and says, I remember when those Kiwis discovered fire. Now I‘m supposed to be impressed by ‘splosions? And guys misreading scripts?
Harriet is thought to be the world‘s oldest living creature, celebrating her 175th birthday this week. She was hatched on the Galapagos Islands in or about the year 1830. She may have been one of the tortoises studied by Charles Darwin when he developed his theory of evolution.
Oddly enough, though, she‘s a big believer in Intelligent Design. In fact, most of it is based on her thoughts.
Finally to Chicago, and there‘s no turtle on this naked woman, just some raw fish. The Kizo-Ku (ph) Sushi and Lounge, the latest restaurant to embrace the sushi-on-a-naked-woman trend. Five hundred bucks for this all-you-can-eat spread. No forks.
The woman is actually a local belly dancer named Tabitha, and she loves the work. It‘s a lot less strenuous than her day job, and she gets to keep whatever hunks of fish fall into her navel.
Is it satire to invite al Qaeda into an American city in order to attack it? Speaking of women wearing sushi, that‘s Bill O‘Reilly‘s story, at least his latest version of it. But in San Francisco, the city board of supervisors does not see the spoof.
How many spoofs do you see in this story? Michael Jackson adjusting his makeup in a women‘s restroom in Dubai, and there‘s a shrieking female taking pictures of it.
Those stories ahead.
But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Candice R. Martinez. She‘s been arrested in Virginia. Police allege she is the cell-phone bandit, the woman who robbed four banks, all the while blabbing away into a cell phone. You would think they would have told us this one fact, but they did not. We do not know if, when arrested, she was on the cell phone.
Number two, the garbage barge attached to the tugboat “Kurt R. Luedtke.” It was sailing along, crossing Lake Erie this morning. Then the crew turned around somewhere between Cleveland and Sandusky, and it was missing, just gone. Hey, isn‘t this where it used to be? So if you see a 150-foot-long garbage scow float past where you are, call somebody.
And number one, unnamed members of a transvestite gang in Thailand, Police say three members of the group have confessed they robbed a tourist from Bangladesh of $7,300 in cash and valuables by joining him in his hotel room. And while kissing him, they each spit hidden lozenges full of sedatives down his throat.
So this reminder—next time you‘re in Bangkok and you take three transvestite prostitutes back to your hotel room, if the first one spits something down your throat, please ask him and the other two to leave, immediately.
OLBERMANN: “Patriotism,” Dr. Samuel Johnson famously wrote, “is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” If that‘s true, Bill O‘Reilly has reached his last refuge. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is looking at a resolution calling for O‘Reilly to be taken off the air by his TV masters, FOX News, and his radio syndicators, Westwood One.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the man who has been to all but about 1 percent of the population an obnoxious and perverted but fundamentally buffoonish character is in the deep woods now. He has not only amplified on his call to have al Qaeda attack San Francisco, he has also defended it while at the same time doctoring the transcript of it, while at the same time claiming that all those who criticize him are against America.
In a moment, the San Francisco supervisor leading the call for O‘Reilly‘s dismissal will join us here. First we go back to where this started.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL O‘RIELLY, HOST, “THE RADIO FACTOR”: 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 in to 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 Colt Tower? Go ahead.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: While redacting that particular part of his radio program from a week ago from his Web site, last Friday O‘Reilly went on someone else‘s radio program, a conservative talk show, and defended his position.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: And what I said isn‘t controversial. What I said needed to be said. And I‘m not—I‘m just—I‘m sitting and I‘m looking at a city that has absolutely no clue of what the world is, none. You know, if you had been hit on 9/11 instead of New York, believe me, you would not have voted against military recruiting. Yet the left-wing, selfish land of Oz philosophy that the media and the city politicians have embraced out there is an absolute intellectual disgrace.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then last night on his TV show, he backtracked slightly, calling his comments a, quote, “satirical riff,” before insulting San Francisco voters yet a third time and threatening his detractors on the Internet, for good measure.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: What did the citizens of San Francisco think was going to happen after they voted to oppose military recruitment? We‘re in the middle of a war on terror, and these loopy voters did something like this and I‘m not supposed to call them on it? Come on. Can you imagine this happening during World War II?
So I‘m glad the smear site‘s made a big deal out of it, because now we can all know who was with the anti-military Internet crowd. We‘ll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on billoreilly.com.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And you thought Senator Joe McCarthy was dead. San Francisco‘s Board of Supervisors is now debating putting a measure on its agenda next week calling for FOX to fire the big giant head, or for his radio people at Westwood One to discontinue his radio program. The man leading that charge, supervisor Chris Daly joins us now from San Francisco.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
CHRIS DALY, SUPERVISOR, SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me play devil‘s advocate here. Let me assume for a moment that he isn‘t lying when he said that this stuff about inviting al Qaeda to blow up your city was a satirical riff. If I had gone off on a similar satirical riff while standing in line at San Francisco International Airport, I would be arrested, right?
DALY: Quite possibly arrested, and just consider if, you know, your background was Arab-American, it would be taken very seriously. I think San Franciscans right now, as Bill O‘Reilly digs in, we have a message to Bill O‘Reilly, we don‘t find your satirical riff funny. We find your words damaging, you know, and dangerous for 770,000 San Franciscans, over 100,000 San Franciscans who are children, you know, this is dangerous, FOX News and Westwood One need to take some accountability for this and terminate Bill O‘Reilly‘s employment.
OLBERMANN: Maybe just as important as underscoring that this is not patriotism, it is hate speech, and self-promotional hate speech at that, is the point that it is broadly inaccurate. I mean, what is he leaving out particularly when he says, as he did a week ago today: “In San Francisco they are voting on two initiatives, one would ban military recruiting.” That‘s not the entire story on those propositions, is it?
DALY: Not the entire story. He is talking about propositions H and I on the ballot. I was the main author on Proposition H, which will ban handguns for most San Franciscans. We have had a problem with homicides, handgun-related in San Francisco. That is our response, 58 percent of the voters voted in favor of that measure.
And he is talking about Proposition I, which was put on the ballot by signature, citizen petition, over 15,000 signatures were to place Proposition I on the ballot. It too got 58 percent of the vote last Tuesday. And it‘s a statement of policy.
Basically what Proposition I says is that it should be the policy of the City and County of San Francisco that we discourage military recruiters on campus. And, you know, you don‘t have to watch the latest Michael Moore film to know that some military recruiters, not all, are selling—you know, are selling goods to American young people.
And in San Francisco, while we think that young people should have other options, those who are in poor communities, those who are in poor schools, lots of them don‘t have real economic opportunity, and so Proposition I also called on my board, the board of supervisors, to do more in the budget for 18-year-olds coming out of college, and we plan to do that next budget year.
OLBERMANN: So this is—he says, you know, San Francisco is banning military recruiting. It‘s on the actual campuses and it‘s to discourage, in any event.
OLBERMANN: I‘ve mentioned this many times before, he has been bouncing around this business for 30 years. And he has always been viewed as a guy who is several light bulbs short of a marquee. Why not just dismiss him as the Michael Savage-type, to quote another figure who is familiar in your city, one of these learning-challenged hypocrites who believes in rights for everybody who agrees with him and for nobody who doesn‘t?
DALY: Well, it is an interesting point. Certainly “Hard Copy” is a long way from “Sportscenter,” which I used to watch you on every night, a legitimate news program—sports news program. And you can say, write the guy off, but unfortunately, he‘s become very powerful, not just in influencing public opinion in Middle America, but seemingly influencing policy made in Washington, D.C.
This guy has big ratings. He is bombastic and he uses that to promote his show and boost up his ratings. And his little mini empire that he is building with the radio show and with his books and his children‘s book, you know, for crying out loud, and you know the guy has a huge following, and with that comes a huge responsibility.
He occupies, you know, a lot of airwave, and with that comes responsibility. The guy has got the right to say whatever he wants, and he has the right to speak his mind, I guess. I‘m not trying to encroach on his First Amendment rights, but he doesn‘t necessarily have the right to be a so-called anchor on FOX News.
OLBERMANN: I bet he would not admit right now to influencing policy in Washington. In any event, San Francisco supervisor Chris Daly, who has introduced a resolution calling for the firing of Bill O‘Reilly. Good luck with it. There is still advertisers to deal with. We‘ll see what happens, thanks for joining us.
DALY: Absolutely. The vote will be on Tuesday.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, iPod nation meets porn nation. The adult entertainment industry, poised and ready as usual to cash in big time on whatever the latest must-have gadget is.
And from porn to drugs. Major League Baseball and its players get the hint, stiff new penalties for steroid users. That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If you think we have witnessed a revolution in personal electronic devices in the last few years, well, to borrow Al Jolson‘s line from the first talkie motion picture: “you ain‘t heard nothing yet.”
Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, with the caveat that I also work for ESPN, the sports network‘s mobile service, a cell phone that will also summon up broadcast quality highlights, news, and other services, says today it expects it will sell its first six charter sponsorships to advertisers for a total of $2 million at startup.
Specialty stuff sent right to your cell phone or iPod or a combination cell phone, iPod egg-flipper is the next wave of mass communications. And as with every next wave of mass communications since cavemen started to draw on the wall, sooner or later, this one will get around to pornography. On that note, we call in Monica Novotny with more.
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Not because I‘m an expert. Keith, good evening. We have quickly grown accustomed to carrying around our portable gadgets. But now that iPods have video and the adult industry is offering content, we are left to ask the age-old question: Is that porn in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
STEVE JOBS, CEO, APPLE COMPUTER: There is no market for video-on-the-go today, so we‘re going to have to create it.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): From music videos, to adult film, get ready for a XXX world where size doesn‘t matter.
BRIAN COOLEY, CNET: It is no surprise when the adult industry goes anywhere because they‘re very good at making money at emerging media. So the portable video player is a total obvious slam dunk in their eyes over in the adult film industry.
NOVOTNY: The industry, poised to score with short adult video clips that can be downloaded from the Internet for your cell phones and digital media players, like the iPod.
PARRY AFTAB, WIREDSAFETY.ORG: Portable pornography will explode that allows you to take things that you may not have been able to get otherwise with you wherever you are, at school, at work, on the go.
NOVOTNY (on camera): Adult content on the Web is already a $2.5 billion business. But will that translate from the computer screen to the small screen?
COOLEY: I don‘t know if the portable video player solves a similar need. How many people said, gee, I wish I could watch a porn loop on the bus? It doesn‘t make any sense.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Maybe not, but one online Web site featuring amateur pinup girls in revealing three- to five-minute video clips says it logged 500,000 downloads in its first 24 hours of targeting iPod users. And if you are a parent, experts say it‘s time to pay attention, because those users could be your kids.
AFTAB: This is not the old Playboy magazine we used to hide under the mattress. Some of the kids—things our going kids are going to be able to see are going to be pretty bad, a lot worse than any of us had ever dreamed they could see.
NOVOTNY: Now the members of the CTIA, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, have already announced a voluntary pledge to proactively provide tools and controls to try to manage content for cell phones. And as for the iPods, those downloads come from the Internet via computer, of course. So once again, it‘s up to parents to monitor what their kids are doing online.
OLBERMANN: See, the problem is, I worked with a guy who, in fact, asked about whether or not he could have a continuous porn loop on the bus. So I think.
NOVOTNY: Not here I hope.
OLBERMANN: No, no. But I think that might be a problem, and it especially becomes a problem, I mean, that‘s that ESPN phone that I was talking about. And the video on here is better than it is on the monitor next to our camera. What happens when all control is lost once these things get into the literally handheld version?
NOVOTNY: Right. Once the iPods go wireless, that‘s when the experts say they think there will be a real problem because teens then will be able to jump in and they won‘t—parents won‘t have that tracking ability the way they do on the computers right now.
OLBERMANN: And it has to happen, obviously.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great thanks on the subject you are an expert on.
OLBERMANN: Internet stuff. What do you think I meant? We expect the downloads, of course, of all of Monica‘s stories to be available shortly at madamenovotini.com.
OLBERMANN: A perfect segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And the steroid problem in baseball is so bad that today, even the owners and players noticed it. Major League Baseball Inc. and its players union agreeing to the second toughening of penalties for steroid use in the last year, adding amphetamine testing next year. That could make today‘s three-hour games last six, seven or 24 hours.
In the wake of Jason Giambi scandal, the Mark McGwire scandal, the Barry Bonds scandal, the first Rafael Palmeiro scandal, and then the second Rafael Palmeiro scandal, the steroid punishments jumped accordingly. The first positive test was a 10-day suspension, is now a 50-game suspension. Second positive test was 30-day sit down, it‘s now 100 games. The third positive test was 60 days, it‘s now a lifetime ban. Plus you get a smack in the side of the head for being stupid enough to have tested positive three times.
Speaking of smacks in the side of the head, we understand that that is what it felt like for Jennifer Aniston after the breakup with hubby Brad Pitt. But today another consolation prize of sorts. She has been named GQ Magazine‘s “Man of the Year”? Well, sort of. They did state the obvious. She is officially “Woman of the Year.” But this is the first time in 10 years the magazine did not select a man for its “Man of the Year” issue. The magazine lauded Aniston for her poise, grace and good humor during the breakup with Pitt. Now divorced, Aniston poses topless, both on the covered and inside the issues, topless, but as they save, “covered.” GQ‘s other two “men of the year,” Vince Vaughn and 50 Cent, excuse me, “Fitty” Cent, fully clothed, amen.
Michael Jackson was fully clothed, the problem was, the clothes were women‘s, as was the restroom. Puppeteer Michael Musto on this subject, next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” At the bronze level, four street cleaners in Rome, you know in that bit where you stand with your back turned to the fountain of Trevi there. and you throw a coin in, it is supposed to guarantee you will return to Rome someday? Where do the coins go? Well, a company retrieves them, splits the money 50-50 with a charity, but not this week. Police say those three—or four street cleaners stole them, as much as 110,000 euros in several weeks. They say it brings good luck—to those guys.
Runner-up, Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council. The stats are in, for July of this year, the FCC received 23,547 complaints about indecency on television. Bozell‘s Parents Television Council says in July the number of complaints it filed with the FCC was 23,542. That‘s right, FCC complaints from the PTC, 23,542, FCC complaints from everybody else in the country, five!
But the winner, Rush Limbaugh. He is offering the gullible a special patriotic deal. They can adopt a soldier, give any U.S. serviceman a free subscription to the Web site. All they have to do is pay Rush Limbaugh $49.95. The soldier gets free access to the Web site and Rush Limbaugh gets nothing out of deal, unless you count the fact that he gets to keep the $49.95! Rush, I see we‘ve found a new doctor. You want to donate something to the troops, man, just give them the free subscriptions. You know, it‘s called charity? You don‘t make anything off of it! Rush Limbaugh, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!
OLBERMANN: It‘s possible all this started because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the term “Powder Room.” With Michael Jackson, of course, who knows? Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, there may be some other explanation for why police in Dubai had to intervene after Jackson was discovered in a lady‘s bathroom in a shopping mall there literally powdering his cheeks, and no, we don‘t know this for sure, maybe even powdering his nose.
Police say they believe the king of pop made an innocent mistake, even though an Australian woman who works at a shop in the mall says it not only was Jackson, it was Jackson dressed both in the traditional Arabic body-length women‘s robe and the traditional Arabic women‘s headscarf. A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates says Jackson had a pleasant 15-minute conversation with a mall employee, then headed off with his children and a male friend and a security contingent to a movie, stopping off at the—well, we can‘t call it the little boy‘s room, we know that.
Inside the woman‘s bathroom, a 37-year-old teacher identified only as Latifah M. (ph) let out a scream when she realized Jackson was a man. We‘re not told how long that took her. Latifah screamed, Jackson screamed. Latifah ran out of the bathroom, then ran back in and started taking digital pictures.
Then according to cops, demanded money from Jackson. That‘s when the police got there, told Latifah her extortion demand was just that, and somebody, quote, “erased the photos.” Damn, no art. Well, we‘ll always have the mugshot.
In a moment, the thoughts of Michael Musto. First, rather than recreate what we pretty much know happened in the lady‘s room, we thought we would try to figure out what led up to the dueling screams. Time reprise “Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.”
MICHAEL JACKSON PUPPET: Excuse me, fellas, I have to talk to a man about some makeup. Hmm. Hmm. A little help here? Oh well. You say good-bye and I say hello. Woo-hoo-hoo.
OLBERMANN: Time to turn to the impeccable columnist of The Village Voice, Michael Musto.
Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, COLUMNIST, THE VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What I love about this story, it‘s got be an either/or. Either he deliberately went into the ladies room or he didn‘t, in which case you can say it was some sort of symbolic manifestation of decades of confusion over gender ID, right?
MUSTO: No, absolutely not. Michael is quite clear and quite complete about being a total women. No, no, no, no. It was a total mistake. And in fact Michael had no intention of walking in and seeing women with their pants down for the first time ever. And actually, Keith, it‘s quite a reversal, the shrieking you heard was Michael going, women with their pants down, ew!
OLBERMANN: One thing is missing here. We have no reports on this either way. But if he walked into a men‘s room in Dubai or in Detroit, isn‘t it possible that a guy would have let out a scream too?
MUSTO: Absolutely. And I have total compassion for Michael. I‘m glad he didn‘t go into the men‘s room. Not only would they be screaming. They‘d be wupping his white ass. They‘d chloroforming him and having their way with him. They‘d be tying him up and leaving him in the stall. So he was much better off going into the ladies‘ room and just having one lady shrieking and plotting extortion.
OLBERMANN: But on that last point, now we do see why Mr. Jackson left this country. Police object to something here and he winds up going on trial for six months and being locked in a bathroom and such. But police object to something in Dubai and they don‘t charge the woman for taking the photos, they just erase the photos. It‘s no muss-no fuss.
MUSTO: Yes, they‘re quite lenient in Dubai, in Bahrain. The catch is, it‘s Dubai, it‘s Bahrain. OK, it‘s boring. The big thing to do on Saturday night is sit on the porch and listen to the crickets who are muffled by those little burkas. And you know what, the United States is not that bad, it‘s pretty lenient. Let‘s not forgot that Michael got off, as it were. And I strongly suggest he come crawling back to stay in some Middle Eastern-themed casino and possibly even use the men‘s room if he feels up to it.
OLBERMANN: The whole dress-up thing, the scarf and the body-length robe, that‘s not the new element of this story, is it?
MUSTO: Well, he has never worn that before, but that‘s usually what he dresses his kids in. And by the way, Keith, I‘ve done some reading, they call this scarf “Sheila (ph)” for some reason in Bahrain, and do the reading, I swear, do the research. And actually it‘s the first time Michael ever had something called “Sheila” on his face. He usually has something called baby dumpling.
It‘s a cute look. I‘m jealous, but when he takes it off whatever is left of his nose comes off. So it‘s not practical. But it‘s cute and it reminds me of one of his videos, what is it? Oh yes, “Thriller.”
OLBERMANN: And also by the way, they called the wind “Mariah (ph)” over there. The bottom line here, is there any chance that this was exactly what the cops said it was, and as you alluded to at the beginning here, that this was an innocent mistake and we‘re making too much out of it?
MUSTO: Yes, he‘s in full women‘s drag and it‘s an be innocent mistake that he walked into the lady‘s room. Come on. This is like that guy who used to work at The Village Voice, conveniently enough, who dressed like a fireman and raped somebody. No, this is not an innocent mistake, anymore than serving “Jesus Juice” to a 9-year-old with no father and cancer and awestruck eyes was a mistake. Oh, that was a mistake, I didn‘t know what I was doing. Please.
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe the outfit was so good he convinced himself.
Did you ever think of that?
MUSTO: It wasn‘t that good. I‘ve seen pictures. I got the pictures before they burned them.
OLBERMANN: In the last 30 seconds that we have here, what happened to that Katrina relief song he‘s been working on since like the first forecast?
MUSTO: I think it was the same way as his 9/11 video which was going to be directed by that gay porn director, it fell into that crevice in his nose when he pulled “Sheila” off.
OLBERMANN: Maybe that‘s what he was looking for in the ladies‘ room, whatever happened to that Katrina relief video.
MUSTO: Yes, he really cares.
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s good that he‘s getting away from the publicity and all the bad pub from the United States, huh?
MUSTO: It‘s just good that I‘m being—you know, having puppets for an opening act, once again. Whose career is in the toilet? I have the nerve to criticize Michael Jackson.
OLBERMANN: You missed that easy one there, who‘s career is in the toilet? Michael Musto of The Village Voice, thank you, sir.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann, boy, that was the line of the night. 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.