Guests: Howard Fineman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Politics makes strange everything, Dick Cheney waving the flag for Tom DeLay at a DeLay fundraiser as DeLay gets one of his indictments thrown out.
Hillary Clinton waving the flag for an anti-flag-burning constitutional amendment?
George Bush‘s poll numbers just flagging.
The 35-page guidebook to victory in Iraq apparently not enough, the government now offering you—yes, you -- $1 billion if you have a plan to stabilize 10 key Iraqi cities. No nukes, please.
A massive mandatory steroid-testing program in a major sport. Baseball? Nah, wrestling. Steroid tests in wrestling? To make sure they‘re taking them?
Brittany kicks out Federline, they say, divorce nearing. And why did the 297 million other Americans figure him out before she did?
And this reminder. When you want to knock down your old mill, please, always hire professional implosion specialists.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
We always knew Congressman Tom DeLay was a polarizing figure. How polarizing, we had no idea.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, split decision. Conspiracy charges against the former majority leader have been dropped, while the more serious money-laundering indictment, that still stands, Texas Judge Pat Priest, who was not on “The Munsters,” dismissing the conspiracy case late this afternoon, Mr. DeLay‘s lawyer successfully arguing that the Texas conspiracy statute does not apply to the state election code.
No such luck on the money-laundering charge, though. That may proceed to trial, making it unlikely, but not impossible, that the man they call The Hammer can regain his post as House majority leader, a spokesman for Congressman DeLay spinning the half of the decision he likes best, quoting, “The court‘s decision to dismiss Ronnie Earle‘s numerous charges against Mr. DeLay underscores just how baseless and politically motivated the charges were. Mr. DeLay is very encouraged by the swift progress of he legal proceedings and looks forward to his eventual and absolute exoneration based on the facts and the law.”
Mr. DeLay can also count on the continued support of friends in high places, the vice president tonight headlining a fundraiser for Mr. DeLay in Houston, $4,000 and change getting you in the door. Plus, it gets you your own Kodak moment with the veep.
Christmas card photo with Dick Cheney, $4,200, escaping conspiracy charges on a technicality, priceless.
One bit good news for President Bush that might not make the latest poll numbers seem hopeless, that they might actually have been worse for his former opponent, Senator John Kerry.
Nevertheless, the new batch of polling finding fresh ways to chart the president‘s descent, only 41 percent of those surveyed for “TIME” magazine approving the job he is doing, 1 point lower than it was in the magazine poll in September, even worse, fully 76 percent of those who disapprove saying they are unlikely to change their minds, with three in five of the opinion that they would like the next president of the U.S. to be completely different from George W. Bush.
Yet, if another election were to be held today, even after all that has transpired in the last year, Americans still virtually split on whether they‘d actually prefer Senator John Kerry.
So who is completely different than George Bush, and, by extrapolation, completely different than John Kerry? If that did not already describe Senator Hillary Clinton, it may do so now, after she has taken on what looks like one giant, incongruous step to the right, the junior senator from New York to co-sponsor legislation that would make it illegal to desecrate the American flag by, oh, say, burning it.
It‘s always wise, before wrapping yourself in the flag, to make sure it is not on flame.
Last year, Senator Clinton said she did not believe in a constitutional ban on flag burning but did think it ought to be a crime. Just as she told Tim Russert, quote, “I have no plans to run for president,” perhaps knowing that plans and verb tenses and positions on flag burning can always change. There is, of course, no comment yet from any actor Tim Robbins, but it‘s a safe bet his butt-kissing request from last week to Mrs. Clinton still stands.
To this odd mix of news, we call in our chief political mixologist, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
OLBERMANN: Let‘s work backwards. Hillary Clinton just got the support of what group, while losing what other group? Is it a net win, a net loss, or is it just transparent grandstanding that‘s going to frost everybody‘s beer stein?
FINEMAN: Well, I think she‘s been trying to show for some time that the military culture, and that notions of patriotism, aren‘t foreign either to the Democratic Party or specifically, to her. She‘s been running to the right and running towards the military and running toward the flag ever since she got elected in New York.
And that‘s the way she‘s running for reelection there. I dare say she‘s made more visits to Fort Drum in upstate New York than she has to the West Side of Manhattan. And this is just a continuation of that trend.
You may remember, when Jack Murtha came out with his let‘s-withdraw-quickly proposal in the House the other week, Hillary Clinton, over in the Senate, was not jumping on that bandwagon. She‘s been very cautious on that topic.
OLBERMANN: But the opposite of caution might apply to some of this running hard to the right. Is there not a chance, given the nature of the base of her support, that she could run right off a cliff?
FINEMAN: I don‘t think so on this, because I think this is largely a symbolic matter. She‘s not saying it should be a constitutional amendment. I‘m assuming if she supports a statute, she‘s willing to have that evaluated by the Supreme Court.
So that the hardline First Amendment people, and the free speech people, while they may tsk-tsk about it, I don‘t think it‘s the kind of voting issue for them. And I think right now, Hillary is running to the right as far as she can without ruining her chances of locking up the Democratic nomination pretty easily in 2008.
And I know it‘s way early, and I know you never say never, but she‘s certainly in a very strong position there. She isn‘t giving up that much of her capital with this.
OLBERMANN: The current president, those “TIME” magazine numbers, there was an old Allan Parsons song, “I Wouldn‘t Want to Be Like You,” 60 percent saying they prefer some imaginary new president unlike the current one. But maybe more to the point, this president‘s approval rating on how he‘s handling Iraq, that‘s his current focus, he is at 60 percent disapproval on Iraq. The recent efforts would, by extrapolation here, not seem to be working so well.
FINEMAN: I don‘t think they are. I saw that “TIME” did that poll after the president‘s speech of last week. There was no bump up in his numbers. As a matter of fact, he lost a point or two there. I think the general view among the political experts is that he didn‘t really gain a whole lot with that speech the other week. He may have slowed the deterioration a little bit.
But at this point, if you take all the polls together, he‘s at about a one-third job approval rating, which is about as low as you can go unless you‘re going to fall down into the Jimmy Carter 1979 basement. And he‘s not there yet.
I think, as I‘ve said, that a part of Bush‘s aim here is to keep up some momentum for the elections in Iraq, and to try to show the various actors and players in Iraq that America is not losing its will, or at least he, as president, isn‘t losing his will in the war. That was as important to him as anything else.
Plus, to try to somehow repair his standing in terms of honesty with the American people. But boy, he‘s got a long way to go on what used to be his lead strength with the people.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of repairing one‘s self, to Tom DeLay, the breaking news of the night, his attorney has made that split decision out to be a big win. Is he right about that? Or is it just what it seems to the rest of us, a split decision that would still keep him from returning as the smiling majority leader?
FINEMAN: No, I think in this case, a split decision is a loss, because what DeLay and his friends in the House who I talked to over the last several days were hoping for is that the charges would be dismissed, so that DeLay could quickly have a procedure in the House, either late this year or early next year, in which he could reclaim his job as majority leader.
Even though he‘s the floor, even though he‘s doing things, like, for example, when that big dust-up in the House over Jack Murtha and Jean Schmidt, you know, DeLay was the guy brokering the apology there.
He really has lost a lot of clout, has no official standing, and I think at this point, is probably not going to get it back. Somebody like Congressman Mike Pence of Ohio—of Indiana, who‘s a rising star in the House, and others, maybe even Roy Blunt, a friend of DeLay‘s, may end up challenging him for the leadership. I don‘t think he‘s going to be back.
OLBERMANN: But at least he‘s got Dick Cheney there tonight.
OLBERMANN: “Newsweek”‘s chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman. As always, sir, great thanks for your time.
FINEMAN: You‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One more problem dogging the Bush White House on our political docket tonight, the paper trail now catching up to those claims that the state and local officials were really to blame for the atrocious government response to Hurricane Katrina.
Kerry Sanders reporting now, thousands upon thousands of documents reveal that the reason the White House does not want to play the blame game could very easily be because it would almost certainly lose that game.
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Hurricane Katrina caused havoc, behind the scenes, a storm of a different sort. You can hear it in this recorded phone call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): We requested it, have requested it, been requesting it, and nothing‘s coming.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SANDERS: That‘s an angry Louisiana official. Ten days after the hurricane, FEMA still hadn‘t delivered promised food and water.
It‘s one of the 100,000 documents presented to congressional investigators chronicling the massive failure of local, state, and federal emergency coordination.
The day Hurricane Katrina hit, Governor Kathleen Blanco says, in an executive summary, that she told the president in a phone call, “We need everything you‘ve got.”
Then, four days later, the governor says she handed an official letter to the president asking for federal help. But it took another five days before she got this e-mail from a presidential aide. “Could you send a copy of the governor‘s 9/2 letter to the president? We found it on the governor‘s Web site but need an original to formally process the requests she is making.”
SILAS LEE, NEW ORLEANS POLITICAL ANALYST: This verified what she was saying all along, that she was reaching out to the federal government for help, and the federal government basically acted like a negligent parent.
SANDERS: Today, a White House aide responded, saying Louisiana‘s request for help was already being processed.
(on camera): There are more records documenting FEMA‘s disarray, including one parish official complaining 50 Kansas firemen operating under FEMA authority were just sitting around.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): And my fire department is screaming for help, because we can‘t get many—we can‘t get all the firemen back into the parish, and these guys are available, and, you know, fire‘s a real hazard here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): So the liaison is aware of this, but nothing is happening? That‘s the bottom line?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s correct.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SANDERS: Tonight, administration officials say they don‘t want to play a blame game.
Kerry Sanders, NBC News, New Orleans.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, another blame game. Here may be Iraq in a nutshell. Two years and 10 months into a war, and the administration is asking you, the viewer at home, for any good ideas on how to stabilize 10 key Iraqi cities.
And there was a plan to safeguard the homeland after September 11. But the commission that designed that plan says the administration and Congress are failing miserably at its implementation.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As the military told us late Friday, after nearly everybody went home, and, as we told you, fulfilling the theory of take-out-the-trash day, the Bush administration has confirmed reports that it was buying positive coverage in Iraqi newspapers.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, probably should have saved that money to pay for a plan to pay others to stabilize and rebuild Iraqi cities. Or maybe the Pentagon should have spent some of that money in Europe to get some kinder headlines upon the arrival there of Secretary of State Rice.
The headline-buying and the billion-dollar contest to save Iraq in a moment.
First, correspondent Andrea Mitchell on the secretary‘s rude reception, stemming from one word, torture.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Rice arrived in Berlin tonight amidst an uproar over revelations that the CIA has been interrogating al Qaeda suspects in secret prisons in Europe.
Before leaving Washington, Rice warned European allies not to criticize U.S. practices if they want U.S. help.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries.
MITCHELL: Human rights groups have said the prisons were in Poland and Romania.
JOHN SIFTON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Secretary Rice‘s response is filled with distortions, accuracies, misstatements of law. It‘s really a disingenuous and somewhat patronizing response.
MITCHELL: Rice also denied that the U.S. tortures prisoners.
But Europeans are convinced the CIA is using interrogation techniques at these black-site prisons like waterboarding and sleep deprivation.
JEFFREY SMITH, FORMER CIA GENERAL COUNSEL: This administration early on defined torture so narrowly that activity could be conducted that everybody else regarded as torture.
MITCHELL: Tomorrow, Rice will meet with Germany‘s new chancellor and face tough questions about this man, Khalid el-Mazri (ph), a German national abducted by the CIA two years ago, taken to Afghanistan, and interrogated for five months.
KHALID EL-MAZRI (through translator): I wanted to know why I was there. And he said, You are here in a country without laws, and no one knows where you are.
MITCHELL: Eventually, the U.S. admitted it was a case of mistaken identity. Diplomatic sources tell NBC News el-Mazri tried to fly here two days ago to file suit against the U.S. But Immigration officials in Atlanta sent him back to Germany.
(on camera): Why? Because two years after being cleared, el-Mazri is still on U.S. watch lists as a suspected terrorist, exactly why Secretary Rice is on the spot as she travels through Europe.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: In Iraq, when the White House released its “National Strategy for Victory” last week, all 35 pages of it, there was little surprise at the dearth of new information, despite the fanfare of the president‘s speech.
But on that same day, and to no fanfare, the government put out a help-wanted sign in the form of a good old federal grant, more than $1 billion to anybody who has a plan to stabilize Iraqi cities that are key to defeating the insurgency. USAID, an agency of the State Department, is posting its new grant as of last Wednesday, the eligible applicants unrestricted, open to any kind of entity, the title, innocuous enough. Strategic City Stabilization Initiative, the description deadpan, yet illuminating.
“The United States Agency of International Development is seeking applications to design and implement a social and economic stabilization program impacting 10 strategic cities identified by the United States government as critical to the defeat of the insurgency in Iraq.” Tellingly, it continues, “The number of strategic cities may expand or contract over time.”
USAID plans on providing up to $1.3 billion in grants. But the site adds, perhaps ominously for all contenders, “Funds are not yet available for this program.”
And it‘s not going to get funded by cutting back on how much government contractors pay low-level workers in Iraq, either. Despite the billions offered there, and the billions already spent, it turns out those workers are getting about 45 cents an hour, UPI‘s Pentagon correspondent Pam Hess reporting that the Halliburton subsidiary KBR has a $12 billion contract to serve meals to 80,000 troops at dining facilities across 43 military bases in Iraq, but KBR itself subcontracts for the cheapest labor from so-called third-country nationals, in this case, 770 laborers from Sierra Leone in Africa.
They work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for $150 a month. That is about 45 cents an hour. That is to stock, prepare, serve, and clean up at those dining halls.
One footnote, the workers may also get $40 more a month for expenses. Their housing and trailers and their meals and uniforms are free, the Halliburton folks pointing out that this should be compared not to wages in the U.S. or even in Iraq, but to those in Sierra Leone, where the average annual income is $100.
No one can say what the price would be if the trial of Saddam Hussein actually devolves into a circus. We may fine out, Saddam telling the judge today, quote, “I am not afraid of execution. Execution is cheaper than the shoe of an Iraqi.” Now, that‘s a comment that may have been lost in translation.
But he also expressed sympathy for the pressure on the court, saying his confrontational style is for the sake of Iraq. Saddam‘s lawyers, including former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, walked out over a preliminary dispute with the judge, Clark ultimately describing security measures for Saddam‘s counsels as, quote, “absurd.”
On to the first witness, then, who described how agents of the former president carried out the arrest, torture, and killings of Shia in Dujail in 1982.
And the allegations first reported in “The Los Angeles Times” that the military pays for positive news coverage in Iraq are now facts. U.S. officials in Iraq confirmed just that in a statement released Friday evening, though they said the practice of buying advertising, or editorial space, or both, is customary in that country.
And though the Pentagon and some lawmakers seem intent on defending the tactic, President Bush is said to be upset by it, so says his national security adviser, Steven Hadley. Appearing on two of the Sunday news programs, Hadley said the president is, quote, “very troubled by it” and has asked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to look into it. Hadley also said the program could be shut down if it were proved it went against, quote, “policy guidance.”
Which policy, and whose guidance, not entirely clear. But for all the
news articles in Iraq that the military has apparently bought, there are
still the headlines to come. The “Village Voice” newspaper offered 10 cent
satirical prime examples, notably, “Baghdad Among Top World Cities for Electricity Conservation,” and “New Ministry of Interior Torturers Far Cry from Saddam Era; Only ‘Some Skin‘ Peeled Off Now, Say Victims.”
And “All-American MPs Bring Cheerleading to Abu Ghraib. ‘They Really Love to Do the Pyramid,‘ Say Coaches Graner and England.”
There‘s even a media-training program suggested by the newspaper, with a visit from distinguished American journalists Armstrong Williams and Judith Miller.
Evidently, someone needs to buy a training program on how to do a proper implosion. We‘re not modeling the Leaning Tower of Pisa here, folks. Come on, people.
But first it was the giggling, then the catfight, then the arrest.
Now the lawsuit part of the saga, I got punched out by a cheerleader.
All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for what can most accurately be described as three short pieces of neat video.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Portland, Oregon. You know, I may have gotten the wrong end of that stick. This war on Christmas, this may not be a delusion after all. No, no. It‘s just a fire demonstration. You can put your pants back on, Mr. O‘Reilly.
The Portland Fire department giving a amazingly effective demonstration of just how fast a holiday tree can be go up in flames if you‘re not careful. Not a Christmas tree, mind you. Those will stand up to a flamethrower, OK? It‘s these holiday trees. The damn liberals soak ‘em in gasoline.
To Sioux Falls, home of the tallest building in all of South Dakota, the Zip Feed Tower. Yes, the Zip Feed Tower, everybody, the second-tallest building in all of South Dakota. Seems they had a bit of a mishap with the scheduled implosion over the weekend. The running joke to the huge crowd, it turned out, was that someone was on the other side who tied it to a tree. Yes, that‘s pretty good. That, or the city hired those sophomores from Implosion Training College.
Finally, to Australia, where for once hundreds of natives saw a huge ball of fire streak across the night sky, and alcohol was not the explanation. A meteor captured on tape over Mandura (ph), crashing into the ground outside Perth. This Australian astronomer did nothing to dispel any stereotypes you may have heard about the Aussies. His quote, “The meteor was no bigger than half the size of a Volkswagen car, and may have been as small as a carton of beer.”
Now, we all know an Australian carton of beer is half the size of a Volkswagen car, sir.
Also tonight, what remains of the 9/11 commission slams what remains of this nation‘s counterterror efforts.
What remains of the Britney Spears marriage? Another one of those stories my producers are forcing me to do. Michael Musto will help.
All that ahead.
But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Daniel Zeiszler of San Francisco. So he was in his hotel room trying to extract methamphetamine from his own urine when—well, do I really need to tell the rest of this story? Anyway, when it didn‘t work, he decided to pass the time by smoking a cigarette. Kabloom. Sentenced to five months in jail. Your eyebrows will grow back.
Number two, Gregory Allen Williams arrested in Knox County, Tennessee, accused of a rare dumb-criminal double-header, stealing a hot-air balloon and on the same day, breaking into a house and forcing the family inside to feed him.
But number one, the board of trustees of America‘s oldest independent boarding school. They finally gave in over the weekend. Three hundred and forty-three years after the school‘s founding in Bifield (ph), Mass., it will change its name to the Governor‘s Academy. Up till now, it‘s been known by the last name of the governor whose bequest set it up in 1763, the lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Governor William Dummer.
The Dummer Academy.
OLBERMANN: It has been one of the administration‘s main selling points on the war: fight the terrorists over there so we don‘t have to fight them over here. Yet four years after the attacks of 9/11, four years after the battle for Afghanistan, two years and 10 months after the invasion of Iraq, we are still in no position to defend ourselves against terrorists here.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the dismal assess today from the now disbanded 9/11 commission. Its members drew up a report card to show how well the administration and Congress have implemented the panel‘s 41 recommendations. And as our correspondent Lisa Myers reports tonight, the grades are almost bad enough to merit expulsion.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chaos of Katrina was made worse by the frustrating inability of first responders in New Orleans to communicate with each other with anything more than hand signal and binoculars. The very same inability to talk that plagued rescuers on 9/11.
If the Pentagon were attack again today, police in key Virginia suburbs could communicate by radio with the FBI, but not directly with police in Washington, D.C. In many cities, the problem is even worse.
THOMAS KEAN, FRM. 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Four years after 9/11, it is a scandal. That police and firefighters in large cities still can‘t talk to each other reliably.
MYERS: The 9/11 commission gave the president and Congress an F on that and bad grades in other key areas. There‘s still no unified terrorist watch list to screen airline passengers, little progress in screening cargo and checked bags, minimal improvement in information sharing within the government.
KEAN: We‘re frustrated, we‘re passionate and we‘re angry because the United States government is not doing what it needs to do to protect American citizens.
MYERS: The commission charged that Congress continues to dole out homeland security funds for pork. Newark, New Jersey bought new air conditioned garbage trunks. Washington D.C. sent sanitation workers to self-help seminars.
JAMES THOMPSON, FRM 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Why aren‘t our tax
dollars being spent to protect our lives? What is the rationale? What‘s
the excuse? There is no excuse
MYERS: The government does get good marks in some areas: cutting off terrorist financing, going after terrorist sanctuaries, a biometric screening system at the border. The White House argues many of the bad grades don‘t reflect all the progress.
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Are we finished? No. We‘ve got more to do. We‘ve done a tremendous amount to help secure the country.
MYERS (on camera): But the commission worries there is no sense of urgency. For example, Congress is finally considering a bill to set aside space on the airwaves to help first responders communicate. It takes effect in 2009. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Joining us from Texas, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. Great thanks for your time tonight.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TEXAS: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Do you agree with this assessment? It seems to be uniform that all aspects of government deserve a very poor report card on homeland security.
LEE: You know, I‘m a parent. And I believe that when a student is given a wake-up call, the best thing to do is get the parent and the student in the room and tell them enough is enough. I absolutely do agree with the 9/11 commission, commissioner‘s report. We deserve an F frankly, because the American people are simply not safe. And certainly, not more safe than they were after 9/11 to a great degree. And that‘s a great concern.
Our work has been slow. It has been with good intention. The creation of the Homeland Security Department. The creation of the Homeland Committee in the House and certainly the oversight committees in the Senate. But that is not enough. The American people expect more and they deserve more.
OLBERMANN: Something specifically about this slowness. Two of the failing grades on the report card were relative to the government‘s allocation of homeland security funding and about that issue of better radio communication for the first responders. There are measures to address both those problems, but they‘re moving very slowly through Congress. Why are they moving slowly?
LEE: Absolutely. Let me share with you several points. First of all, in the FY06 budget, we have directed the analog or spectrum to begin in 2009. That creates the opportunity for interoperability. Absolutely too long a period of time. We must act now.
We have a bill, a bill that has been authorized by Congresswoman Harmon and Congressman Weldon. I‘m an original co-sponsor and a supporter, along with many other members, particularly those of the Democratic caucus. And the bill simply has not gotten the political will to move.
And we saw interoperability work against us in 9/11 and again, with Hurricane Katrina. First responders cannot speak to each other. There‘s no excuse and I hope now with the 9/11 after report, the failing grade, that we‘ll move quickly. The political will is needed.
The high risk issue, whether or not we are protected by spreading our money thin in all parts of the America, or whether we focus on sights like Washington, D.C., New York, and various other locations. This is be to insult our rural areas, it is to play the game right.
And frankly, we have not done it right. We have a bill going through the House and Senate right now that establishes a risk based funding. We have an amendment by Nita Lowey that establishes a risk based funding on the Patriot Act. Two issues that I‘ve been a strong supporter of.
It will be now the responsibility of the House and Senate leadership to move this as quickly as possible. Frankly, I think the wake-up call demands that we act now before we get our session in the middle of December.
OLBERMANN: What is it going to take to get back the sense of urgency, both within Congress and within the administration? Are we going to have to have popular pressure? Is there going to have to be some sort of repeat of Katrina? Or God forbid, a repeat of 9/11? What will be needed here?
LEE: Your question is excellent. First of all, all of our intelligence suggests that we are ripe for another, unfortunately, serious terrorist act or attack on the United States of America. We have to explain to the people of America that is the nature of the time in which we live.
I think there are sell points quickly. One is a distraction, if you will, with the tragedy of the Iraq war. The continuing bloodshed that continues in Iraq. The attack on our soldiers. The position that they find themselves in as a sitting duck. And I hope that we‘ll have a full debate on a redeployment of our troops with a successful exit strategy so that our resources are not stretched.
I think the other question, of course, is the political will and the Republican leadership, not willing to make politics or to play politics the question of American security. I have a bill H.R. 4044 that deals with, of course, the question of border security. We‘ll be debating that and marking that bill up.
Let us formulate in a bipartisan way the commitment to fight the war on terror and to protect the American people in a way that distinguishes itself away from politics. The 9/11 commission has given us a wake-up call. I would invite all of them to appear before our committees to give us that wake-up call, and to turn those waves of interoperability of high risk funding, of screening of our airline passengers, of screening air cargo, into A grades.
It is imperative that we act now, because the American people are our responsibility. And we owe them, not only the responsibility of protecting them but we certainly owe them the responsibility of doing our jobs. I accept the responsibility and I think we can get the job done.
OLBERMANN: Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. Great thanks for joining us this evening.
LEE: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight: swifter, higher, stronger, or else. Are the Chinese literally beating their Olympians into shape?
And follow this if you can, the celebrity couple that will not admit to being a couple but whose members do admit that he is adopting her kids. Another story my producers are forcing me to do ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: From Chinese Olympic officials who have reportedly brought a new meaning to the phrase you were beaten before you started, to the ex-stripper wife of the baseball player mad at hubby‘s team because it signed a guy who used to not stand up when they played “God Bless America” because that‘s too controversial and un-American. It is our nightly round-up from that wacky place where the laws of physics and common sense rarely apply. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the world of wide sports.
To China first. Four time Olympic gold rowing medalist and former IOC member Sir Matthew Pinsent told the BBC that he had witnessed officials abusing young gymnasts and swimmers during a recent that trip to China. He said on a visit to the Chi Cha (ph) high school in Beijing, home of the 2008 summer games, he saw a boy beaten so badly by his coach that it left red marks on the child‘s back. A big international controversy made all the bigger by the IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge, who said the international committee will investigate, but that it was probably analogous to the physical punishment still in use in schools in Great Britain as late as the ‘70‘s. “Let‘s not exaggerate,” he told a London paper, “there is no torture. They do not put electrical wires on their bodies. I don‘t agree with any physical abuse, but let‘s not blow up this issue.”
To East Germans who used to blown so many steroids into their young athletes that a pool of their sweat once solidified and won the bronze in the 1500 meters at the Montreal games—well, I made that up, but you get the idea—today we have drug testing. Today we will have drug testing in pro wrestling. This from the business that used to demand its performers take steroids.
The announcement today that an independent agency will test the wrestlers of the WWE World Wrestling Entertainment for roid use that is supposedly in the wake of the death of 38-year-old wrestler Eddie Guerero, possibly from steroid related heart disease. And yes, this does sound as phony as any of wrestlings other plot lines, including its latest road trip to Afghanistan supposedly to solute the troops. Ours, I‘m assuming.
And the cheerleader wasn‘t who she claim she was. She and the other cheerleader were not fooling around in the ladies‘ room and there is, sorry guys, no subculture of all cheerleader romance in the National Football League. On the other hand, there is a lawsuit.
The woman allegedly socked by cheerleader Victoria Renee Thomas has sued her. Melissa Holden was the one in the line outside the ladies‘ room at Banana Joe‘s in Tampa a month ago tomorrow. When Miss Thomas, the blond, and her co-cheerleader, Angela Keithley the not blond, emerged. Evidently after Miss Thomas was unwell in the ladies lounge.
Somebody said something about how long the two took and Miss Thomas was then charged with taking a swing and hitting Miss Holden, the civilian. Miss Holden‘s suit seeks more than $15,000 in damages. In it she says people assume I have a boyfriend or a husband who beat me up. But there may be more to this story, since alone among the witnesses, it was apparently Miss Holden who insisted the two cheerleaders were having sex.
Speaking of that, in baseball term, which is less respectable? Formerly being a stripper who will wind up not posing “Playboy” because they won‘t pay you enough, or being a first baseman who formerly protested the war in Iraq and the military tests at Vieques, Puerto Rico by not standing during the “God Bless America,” but now says he will stand during “God Bless America.”
The woman at the heart of this great philosophical debate is Ana Benson, the wife of New York Mets pitcher Chris Benson. She claims her negotiations with “Playboy” prompted the Mets to consider trading her husband to another team. They deny that. They insist she‘s been a model citizen since he husband joined the Mets. She says posing nude would be, quote, “all American.” And that‘s where the real controversy starts.
About the Mets‘ newly acquired first baseman Carlos Delgado, how are they going to sit there and say it is so controversial, Ms. Benson tells the “New York Daily News” when they sign someone like Delgado who turns his back on our flag? Mrs. Benson, evidently having not gotten the memo that recognizing the patriot sentiments still run high in New York after 9/11. He would cease his past protesting and stand with his teammates whenever “God Bless America” is played.
From that we go somehow to our round-up of the celebrity and entertainment news and our friends at ABC News have filled their nightly network news anchor chair. It was exactly as we told you it was going to be (INAUDIBLE), except they didn‘t choose Charles Gibson. That had been reported separately on Friday by a New York City radio station and always a New York City newspaper. But instead of the veteran Gibson being named to succeed the late Peter Jennings, there will be co-anchor, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff.
Online tonight, “Newsweek” magazine quotes an unidentified well placed ABC News official who says Gibson wanted the job and that ABC even explored ways of having him do it and continue on “Good Morning America.” No network has attempted a multi anchor newscast since Connie Chung and Dan Rather at CBS in 1995. That went well.
Network news had seemingly sworn off the man and woman co-anchor format after the astonishingly bad pairing of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters at ABC in 1976. Shrapnel from that explosion is still occasionally spotted falling back to Earth to this day.
Speaking of falling back to Earth, Britney and Kevin get a baby. Now, allegedly, he‘s out of the picture.
And Brad and Angelina, he wants to adopt her adopted—them producers are forcing me again. All that ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s of the nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.”
Bronze winner is Bill O‘Reilly. Apparently you have him to thank for the recent minor drop in gas prices. He has told an interviewer, “I have five guys inside the five major oil companies. They got scared because of my reporting and reporting of some of others. They said, oh!”
Thanks, Bill. You know, there are more potholes than usual this winter in New York City. Could you get them filled? Feel free to use your contacts or your superior mind or whatever.
The runner up, the Ford Motor Company. It has been a long supporter of gay rights. Advertising its products in gay media outlets et cetera. Friday it announced it was canceling its ad campaigns for Jaguar and Land Rover in such publications. This after months of boycotting by a bunch of homophobes called the American Family Association. Nice. Folding up faster than the bumper on a Festiva.
But the winner, Dr. Dale Perlman of Menlo Park, California. He has been selling an experimental revolutionary anti-lice lotion. You know, for kids. Dry on, suffocation based fediculocie (ph). It costs $285 a dose. He has now admitted that it is actually just a bottle of setifyl (ph) cleanser in a different package. Wholesale cost, $10 and now available without a prescription. The lice man cometh. Dr. Dale Perlman, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: And now a ritual as old as time itself: another celebrity marriage, another celebrity breakup, another story my producers are forcing me to do. The number one on the COUNTDOWN tonight, you saw it coming, I saw it coming, aboriginal natives of Australia saw it coming, the reported split of Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline.
Ms. Spears, according to the London tabloid “The Sun,” giving husband of one year, Kevin Federline an eviction notice last week after he brought home a marijuana-smoking friend. The pop princess apparently fired two long-time security guards on the spot for letting, quote, “weed man” through. The fighting Federlines have been tabloid fodder for months, taking an upward turn after the birth of the couples son three months ago, then came the reports last week that Spears had asked Federline to go to couples counseling. And he replied, you go, that‘s for crazy people.
And from rumors and reported to far more reliable stuff on another celebrity pairing, legal documents filed in L.A. to make Brad Pitt the adoptive father of Angelina Jolie‘s two children. No sleuthing here, Pitt‘s publicist announced the paper work. The names will now be Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Zahara Jolie-Pitt. Good luck with that.
No further comment is being made from Mr. Pitt‘s rep And here‘s a wild guess, though, those rumors that Pitt‘s divorce from Jennifer Aniston and his relationship with Ms. Jolie, are probably accurate.
For analysis of these breaking news stories, where else couple we turn but to Michael Musto, columnist of the “Village Voice. Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Spears and Federline first, as I suggested this, you saw this coming, I saw this coming, inanimate objects saw this coming, how could she have missed it?
MUSTO: The woman is not a Rhodes Scholar, she‘s the one who in
concert walks away from playing the piano while the piano is still playing,
OK. Yeah, it‘s a shock that, oh, he was using her for parties. The shock
only shock here is that this lasted longer than that weekend wedding she had to that other guy. This woman has had two divorces by, what is it, 12-years-old? She has Drew Barrymore beat. I mean, her kid is going to have more last names than Maddox Pitt-Jolie, or whatever. But I‘m foreshadowing here.
OLBERMANN: So, the first marriage to that guy from back home on the Bayou when she was on an all night drunk and they got it annulled the next day and nobody remembers who he was, that was still a better bet than this one?
MUSTO: Absolutely. He was drunk, but he wasn‘t weeded out of his mind. And he had actually met Britney before they got married. And besides, Jason Alexander, he was on Seinfeld, that‘s a growth position.
OLBERMANN: I think it was a different Jason Alexander. But it‘s not my topic.
MUSTO: Well, she didn‘t know that.
OLBERMANN: To that point. I know that there are a lot of dumb actresses and singers out there, but after the whole thing with Federline and the woman who bore his two children Shar Jackson, that‘s the name I think, and now this, is Mr. Federline out of the dating pool for celebrity women or is there another, as Mr. Barnham pointed out, another sucker born every minute?
MUSTO: There are so many available women, Keith. There‘s Jennifer Aniston, there‘s Jessica Simpson, there‘s Clay Aiken. There‘s Angelina Jolie in six weeks. And all of them will enable Kevin to go to more parties and to pursue his carrier as the third worst white rapper in history after Vanilla Ice and Eminem, in that order.
OLBERMANN: I thought his job was as a hat model. I thought that‘s what he—like a mannequin in a hat store.
MUSTO: Whatever. Just—throw him to the curve, whatever he does.
OLBERMANN: All right. And speaking of the being thrown to the curb, Ms. Aniston‘s ex, to Pitt and Jolie, announcing that you are adopting the girlfriend‘s kids but you‘re refusing to confirm that you are an item. This is a strange public relations move, is it not? Isn‘t it like saying Mr. Pitt has sold the garbage disposal unit at his home, because he thinks Ms. Jolie‘s garbage disposal is better for their purposes?
MUSTO: Absolutely. And her garbage disposal is amazing. Guys line up for it. It‘s amazing the trick that it can do.
But actually, they don‘t know each other, this is true, Keith. But they are adopting. The fact is, however, she does know everybody else. So, the kid‘s last names will probably more likely be Voight, Johnny Lee Miller-Lolie, that the brother, Thornton-Pitt-Portensky-Warner, et cetera.
OLBERMANN: So, she says also that she and Pitt are considering adopting again. Is that what we‘re going to see next year or a pregnancy, or are they actually going to go out on a date first?
MUSTO: No. That will never happen. Actually—the actual rumor that I‘m hearing, because I‘ve got my ear to the grindstone is that she is pregnant and it‘s not a Katie Holmes thing, this is a baby not pillows and they still don‘t know each other, though. So, the baby will probably be named Jolie-Whoever, and after six weeks, Jolie-formerly-Whoever.
OLBERMANN: Are they going to borrow Tom Cruise‘s sonogram to check...
MUSTO: That‘s been given to charity, as you well know. We got the press release about that.
OLBERMANN: I hadn‘t heard. It is?
OLBERMANN: Oh, lord. Is there going to be a ceremony and a ribbon?
MUSTO: I‘m not here to talk about Tom Cruise‘s sonogram.
OLBERMANN: No, I know that. So, there‘s a last thing that sort of ties this entire world together. If Jolie and Pitt are going to adopt, have they considered, to your knowledge, adopting Britney Spears, because it really looks right now that she could use a good home and some good parenting.
MUSTO: She really could. And she could use a good garbage disposal, because she has a lot of trash to dismiss of, especially her ex-husbands.
And the fact is, Keith, take a good look at little Zahara Pitt-Jolie, that
is Britney, that is little Britney. Angelina has already adopted Britney
and has never even met her. It all comes together
OLBERMANN: Is somebody going to wind up wearing a little vial of Britney‘s blood around their necks?
MUSTO: It doesn‘t come together that much, though, Keith. That was so sixmonthsago.com.
OLBERMANN: Sixmonthsago.com, wow, all right. You certainly dismissed me with that. Michael Musto of the “Village Voice,” helping us thrash through another story my producers forced me to do. Thanks for the company, Michael. I appreciate it.
MUSTO: Thank God, they do, though. Take care.
OLBERMANN: All right. That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keith your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.