Guest: Ken Bazinet, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Mary Schiavo
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Poll numbers slightly up, defense secretary, possibly out, Joe Lieberman, possibly in?
The CIA leak investigation, back in court, re-presenting to a new grand jury, and “TIME”‘s Viveca Novak due to tell what she knows.
The shooting aboard the Miami jetliner, at least one witness
supporting the skepticism. “I never heard the word ‘bomb‘ until the FBI
asked me, ‘Did you hear the word “bomb”?‘”
Up to 20 San Francisco cops to be suspended for a self-satirical home video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don‘t you try using some gel (INAUDIBLE) have hair?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Is it offensive, sexist, homophobic, and racist, or just stupid, stupid at the cops‘ own expense?
The awful anniversary, 25 years since the murder of John Lennon. We will imagine.
And then there are cute, puffy animals, debut day for the D.C.‘s pandas. Did they do anything, juggle, ride a bicycle, smoke a cigar, something?
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
It sounds like a perversion of reality television. Maybe it‘s just its next mutation, a version of “The Apprentice” set inside the Bush White House, the task, war in Iraq, the twist, no matter how badly anybody does, nobody ever gets fired, three architects of the conflict having already been bestowed with America‘s highest civilian honor, two more, it seems, now moving on to greener pastures and eligible for it.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, nothing breeds success like failure, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said to be engineering his own exit strategy from the Pentagon on his own terms, while former deputy Paul Wolfowitz, already ensconced in his next post, feels he has nothing to answer for or to apologize about.
More on both in a moment. But we begin with President Bush flirting with a comeback of his own, the president‘s job approval numbers improving significantly in the latest “New York Times” poll, 53 percent disapproving of his job performance. That is down from 57 percent one month ago.
Of course, that is due in large part to the state of the economy, and evidently not at all to the state of the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans now calling in this poll for some sort of timetable for troop withdrawal, 32 percent wanting a reduction in the number of troops, 28 percent wanting a total pullout, 24 percent looking to keep troop levels where they are.
As we mentioned, Donald Rumsfeld‘s withdrawal might be imminent from the Pentagon, “The New York Daily News” reporting that the defense secretary is expected to quit his post in the new year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, the leading candidate to replace him, his current deputy, Gordon England, but it‘s the dark-horse candidate that everybody‘s talking about now, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat who ran against the Bush-Cheney ticket in the 2000 election, all of those glowing Lieberman references in recent speeches given by the president and the vice president beginning to look a little less bizarre.
White House correspondent Ken Bazinet, co-author of the “Daily News” report, joins us now from Washington.
Good evening to you, sir. Thanks for your time again.
KEN BAZINET, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: My pleasure. Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: Working backwards here about Senator Lieberman, we had Republicans in FDR‘s cabinet. William Cohen was defense secretary in Bill Clinton‘s. But a Democrat of any shape, stripe, or form in the Bush administration, would there not be rioting from the hard right?
BAZINET: Well, you know, we already have Secretary Mineta, obviously, at Transportation, so it‘s not out of the question. But this, is as you pointed out, a war council position. So it‘s significant.
I think possibly, if this long-shot appointment were to take place, I think that you might have a rebellion just this side of Harriet Miers on your hands, quite frankly.
OLBERMANN: One other question I have regarding Senator Lieberman, not to overdo it, because, as you point out in the piece, it‘s such a long shot. But is it to be assumed that he‘s over that tiny little glitch in the 2000 vote, or has he forgotten he was Al Gore‘s vice presidential running mate? Or what would the thought process be to participate in a government to which he is historically going to be marked down as utterly opposed from its beginning?
BAZINET: Two points on that, I think, Keith.
Number one, his position on the Iraq war from the beginning has been consistent. He‘s been extremely hawkish, certainly as hawkish as President Bush has been. He‘s supported the president 100 percent. And I think that it wouldn‘t be out of the question, under these conditions, meaning, at a time of war, for him to step in in a position like this if it were to be offered to him.
The other thing that he has to consider is, he‘s getting on in years. And where does he go from here? He‘s already been part of a failed presidential ticket. If a Hillary Clinton, for instance, were to become a president, I‘m not sure that she would welcome him into the administration, simply because he went out of his way to embarrass her husband during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with that very famous speech, pretty much lambasting President Clinton from the floor of the Senate.
OLBERMANN: To some degree, we‘re talking here with truly the cart in front of the horse. The secretary had to—would have to leave first for any of these possibilities, either the Senator Lieberman or Deputy Defense Secretary England to come in. But if Mr. Rumsfeld had a dollar for every time somebody said he was resigning, he would be as rich as the vice president. Why would he contemplate leaving now?
BAZINET: Well, it‘s been a very tough year. I think you‘ve seen a lot of reporting that suggests, and I think accurately so, that the president has lost some faith in Secretary Rumsfeld. I think that President Bush is—probably views him as someone who he has to really run his information through the wringer now.
There are some people who would say that Senator Rumsfeld, along with Vice President Cheney, were responsible for really convincing the president that Iraq was the right thing to do, and not only the right thing to do, but that our troops there would be welcomed, as you know, with open arms and cheered as liberators.
But I think this time, you know, what you have to look at is,
Secretary Rumsfeld has in the past indicated this would not be an eight-
year job. But what‘s interesting this time is that we‘re hearing from
White House people and people close to the White House that that‘s what
they‘re talking about, their expectations. And that‘s what we led with
today, the fact that so many people are expecting to hear, you know, that -
from Senator Rumsfeld himself that he‘s had enough and it‘s time to go sometime early next year.
OLBERMANN: And does he immediately walk right from his resignation to a Medal of Freedom ceremony? I mean, we‘ve had George Tenet get one, Tommy Franks got one, Paul Bremer got one. It would be—and is that an indicator of how dissatisfied the president would be with his work?
BAZINET: Well, I don‘t think it is. I think it‘s just the badge of honor. Remember, Secretary Rumsfeld twice tendered his resignation over the Abu Ghraib disaster, and the president refused. The word was, and I think accurately so, that the president did not want to—anyone behaving like something was wrong, like Iraq was a failure, as if Iraq was a failure. So I think that what happens here is, you serve your time, you do your job, and the president says, Well done, and he hangs a medal around your neck.
OLBERMANN: As we used to say in radio, it‘s leaving here fine. “The New York Daily News” White House correspondent Ken Bazinet, thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
BAZINET: My pleasure (INAUDIBLE).
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, Secretary Rumsfeld‘s former second in command, Paul Wolfowitz, the neocon who once said that the people of Iraq would welcome the U.S. as liberators, now choosing not to say much about anything about Iraq, our friend Dana Milbank at “The Washington Post” reporting that the former deputy defense secretary, now president of the World Bank, gave a speech yesterday in which he did not mention Iraq at all, instead addressing the virtues issues of peace, the audience at the National Press Club in Washington not willing to let that pass without comment, someone asking Mr. Wolfowitz, How do you account for the intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? and Wolfowitz answering, I don‘t have to.
Before passing the buck, he blamed the intelligence community and concluded the session by stating that Iraq will become a place of tolerance and freedom in the Muslim world. Quote, “I think the whole world, frankly, should be enormously grateful.”
On the ground in Iraq today, little for which to be grateful, including a claim by insurgents that they have beheaded an American hostage, what may be the last images of Ron Shulz (ph) alive, a Sunni insurgent group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, claiming today on a militant Web site that it has killed the American contractor, having posted this video of his capture Tuesday, the White House saying tonight it could not confirm the death.
But with national elections just one week away, another deadly attack in Baghdad, a suicide bomber boarding a crowded bus before detonating his explosives, at least 30 killed, nearly 70 Iraqis killed in suicide attacks in the last three days.
And a far less violent political note, the scales of gratitude tipping heavily in favor of Karl Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin. Should the White House adviser actually escape charges in the CIA leak investigation? One day after meeting with new grand jurors, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald today visiting the offices of the law firm representing the “TIME” reporter Viveca Novak, her conversations with Mr. Luskin thought to be crucial to his client‘s defense.
Whether she provided sworn testimony about that conversation today in a deposition form, no one could say. What has been said so far, at least anonymously, is that Ms. Novak apparently let slip in a chat last year with Mr. Luskin that one of her colleagues, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed Mr. Rove about Valerie Plame, the CIA officer at the heart of the case, Mr. Rove ultimately changing his testimony, it is reported.
As a result, if true, and if Mr. Rove wins a get-out-of-jail-free-card
as a result, political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell says every penny Rove has
paid Luskin would not be enough, the executive producer of “The West Wing”
and contributor to the HuffingtonPost.com calling the attorney an on-the-
record liar in his latest blog posting. And we think he means it as a
compliment, writing that if Fitzgerald does not indict Rove after hearing
from Ms. Novak, it would be Novak who saved Rove, which is to say that
Luskin gets credit for the save.
Lawrence O‘Donnell joins us now, an old friend of COUNTDOWN.
Good to see you again, sir.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Keith.
I do mean this as a compliment...
O‘DONNELL: ... to Bob Luskin. I‘m just saying that he lied to “The Washington Post” when he said to “The Washington Post” the other day that if Karl Rove doesn‘t get indicted, it will not be because of his lawyer‘s particular skill or cleverness. I would submit to you, it will be exclusively because of Bob Luskin‘s cleverness. And Keith, next time you get arrested, Bob Luskin‘s the guy to call. I have his phone number for you.
OLBERMANN: Well, we—he used to be an analyst on the previous version of this show, so I think we have the number somewhere in the back as well, because, of course, the entire political world consists of 38 people.
What is Rove actually paying Luskin for? Is it his command of the law? Is that what has been finessed here? Or his ability to work the media?
O‘DONNELL: Both of these skills. He is a—he‘s just a supreme
operator at both levels. The way he‘s handled Fitzgerald in close-contact
meetings and negotiating this case, the way he has manipulated the media in
terms of his press spin, all of which has turned out to be true. It‘s very
it‘s hair-splitting language he uses, it‘s very careful language. And crucially, the most important thing is his ability to have a meeting with Viveca Novak, in which Viveca Novak tells him that Matt Cooper‘s source was Karl Rove.
Now, exactly what Viveca Novak said is unclear. There have been some blogs by friends of hers, by friends of Viveca Novak‘s, describing what they believe to have been the meeting, presumably with Viveca as their source. And one of the friends describes it this way. She assumed that Luskin knew that—that—about the Rove-Cooper discussion, and that she wasn‘t tell him anything that he did not know.
So here‘s a friend of Viveca Novak‘s saying, she told him that “TIME” magazine‘s supersecret source was Karl Rove, a source that Matt Cooper was willing to go to jail to protect. Here‘s another “TIME” magazine reporter telling the source‘s lawyer, in effect, tipping him off, intentionally or not, but functionally, tipping him off that this is a loosely held secret, that this secret is going to come out. And if you guys are smart, Karl better testify honestly about this, which he had not yet done.
Karl Rove spoke to the FBI, did not ever mention Matt Cooper, testified under oath to the grand jury, did not mention Matt Cooper. He claim that was a failure of memory. And then Fitzgerald says to them, says to Rove, says to Luskin, in effect, How—what made you go research your e-mails again and discover this e-mail that provokes your memory, that, yes, you did talk to Matt Cooper? And Luskin then says, Viveca Novak. She‘s the person who jogged our memory.
So Viveca is absolutely crucial to the Rove defense. That‘s why she‘s under oath today with Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald‘s trying to find out if Viveca‘s version of that conversation is the same as Luskin‘s version of the conversation, which he already has from Luskin.
OLBERMANN: It struck me the moment that that conversation was reported or even hinted about between Luskin and Viveca Novak, that whereas fireworks had gone off on the subject of Bob Woodward, fireworks had gone off on the subject of Robert Novak, fireworks about Cooper, fireworks about Judith Miller, the Viveca Novak part of this, which is, as you suggested, just sort of passing on the slightly secret information about who the supersecret White House source is, just nobody seems to have noticed its import. Why is that?
O‘DONNELL: It‘s a gigantic event in the press element of this story. You know, Bob Woodward got a lot of criticism when his involvement came out. I‘m not sure all that was fair. I don‘t think it all was fair. But I think the hardest questions for any reporter in this case are all targeted as Viveca Novak. Why were you, Viveca Novak, a “TIME” reporter, talking about a “TIME” supersecret source to that lawyer? What reason could you possibly have?
And in, and her friend‘s account, the reason is, she thought that Luskin already knew. Now, was (INAUDIBLE) she was having a conversation with Luskin where she actually believed that Luskin was going to tell her that Karl Rove spoke to reporters? He was never, ever going to tell anybody that, and he shouldn‘t have. It would have been a violation of attorney-client privilege. He couldn‘t.
So the dimensions of this conversation are already crazy in terms of a reporter‘s reason to be in it. And it functions as a complete tipoff to Rove‘s lawyer about how to proceed with the case. And he wisely proceeds in the way that he‘s been tipped by Viveca Novak, a “TIME” reporter.
OLBERMANN: The kind of nugget like the Watergate Committee got when Alexander Butterfield said, Yes, there was a taping system. Oh, you didn‘t know that?
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O‘Donnell of NBC‘s “West Wing” and the Web‘s Huffington Post. As always, sir, great thanks for your time.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the investigation into the shooting death on that American Airlines plane yesterday in Miami, the first witness to address whether or not he heard the dead man speak of a bomb, a witness who says he did not hear him speak of a bomb.
And outrage in San Francisco over a tongue-in-cheek video made by the police. We‘ll show you this tape. You can decide if the outrage is much ado about nothing.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: In telling the story yesterday of the shooting of Rigoberto Alpizar at Miami International, we prefaced it with a reminder. When British counterterror forces shot Jean-Charles Menezes in a subway station in July, their officials said, with absolute certainty, that he was a suicide bomber stopped in the nick of time. It turned out he was an electrician from Brazil who wasn‘t even wearing a vest, let alone a bomb vest.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, that skepticism here yesterday
seems to have been justified, albeit far from proven. As of yet, no
witness has come forth to say that as he raced off the parked jetliner that
they heard Mr. Alpizar say anything like, I have a bomb. And one
passenger, John McAlhany, has told “TIME” magazine, “I never heard the word
‘bomb‘ until the FBI asked me, ‘Did you hear the word “bomb”?‘”
In a moment, the assessment of airline security expert Mary Schiavo.
First, the latest from our justice correspondent, Pete Williams.
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officials today revealed that both air marshals fired their weapons, three to five shots in all, after Rigoberto Alpizar ran off the plane, claiming he had a bomb, twice ignored their orders on the jetway, came toward them, and reached into a backpack strapped to his chest.
His relatives today declined to criticize.
JEANNE JENTSCH, SISTER-IN-LAW: Rigo Alpizar was a loving, gentle, and caring husband, uncle, brother, son, and friend.
WILLIAMS: The witness on the plane says Alpizar‘s wife ran after him, saying he was sick, and then said, just after he was shot, that he had mental problems.
MARY GARDNER: And she started saying, My husband‘s bipolar. He is—you know, doesn‘t have his medication. And it was just crazy.
WILLIAMS: But even if the marshals heard her beforehand, the former air marshal instructor says they‘re trained to ignore potential distractions when confronting a threat.
JAMIE SMITH, FORMER AIR MARSHAL INSTRUCTOR: If he‘s working in conjunction with someone else, and that person is trying to distract the air marshals or to delay them in getting to him, that‘s something that they have to take into consideration.
WILLIAMS: Officials say the marshals in Miami identified themselves, as demonstrated in earlier training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the police. Hands on top of your head.
WILLIAMS: And they say the marshals repeatedly told Alpizar to get on the floor, another training rule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back down (INAUDIBLE), get down.
WILLIAMS: But advocates for the mentally ill say the training should be reviewed.
WILLIAM FITZPATRICK, NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS: We really need more structured, more in-depth training that really teaches people more than just what mental illness is, but sort of how to manage the situations.
WILLIAMS: Roughly 2,000 federal air marshals are posted on a fraction of the 25,000 daily flights, concentrating on routes into major cities and international flights. They travel in pairs, sometimes threes, and receive extensive firearms training.
(on camera): Though the shooting was on a jetway, the air marshals say they‘re trained to fire in midflight, if needed, to prevent someone from bringing it down.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Legislators on both sides of the aisle declaring yesterday‘s unfortunate event a success, an illustration of the effectiveness of the federal air marshal program. But that one witness, Mr. McAlhany, describing instead a deadly mistake ending the life of one of the passengers and terror for the rest of them caused by the air marshals.
Was it that? Joining me now is the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo, currently an aviation disaster attorney representing victims of the 9/11 attacks in cases against the airlines involved.
Thanks for your time tonight.
MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION INSPECTOR GENERAL:
OLBERMANN: Firstly, do we yet have any idea, are we close to knowing if this is a slam-dunk either way? Is it too early to be calling it a success or a mistake?
SCHIAVO: Well, you have clues both ways. But you can‘t call it a mistake or a total failure, because federal law enforcement officials perceived a threat, reacted to the threat, and reacted to the threat in the way in which they were trained to do.
Of course, it‘s not a great success, because the threat to which they reacted, the threat which they perceived, was not exactly as they perceived it. However, it goes beyond the threat, because, as Justice Department studies and others will tell you, in policing, most use of force by the police on statistical average occurs in an apprehension situation with someone on drugs or mentally ill or under the influence of alcohol.
So they did what they were supposed to do, and the facts were not quite as they perceived them. But they will be evaluated on what they perceived. That‘s how you evaluated a use of force.
OLBERMANN: Put yourself in charge of that investigation into the justification for the use of deadly force. What do you most want to know that you don‘t know now?
SCHIAVO: I would want to view, interview every witness on the plane to see what others heard. I would look for surveillance tapes at the airport. They‘re usually very plentiful. And in the arrest situation, if the person did not respond to the officers‘ commands, and if he did make any threatening gestures towards the police, then the force will be ruled as justified.
OLBERMANN: Nobody has yet stepped forward, as we noted, and said, Yes, I heard him mention a bomb. All the accounts seem to be, he was arguing with his wife, he ran off the plane, he was very stressed, his wife said he was sic. And it happened so fast. Are these details that are relevant to the decisions that were made? Or are they simply descriptions of a tragedy and a mistake in understanding of what was going on?
SCHIAVO: Well, they‘re very relevant, but again, it will be focused on what the officers perceived, what the marshals perceived, and if their perceptions, if they were reacting to what they perceived, and the situation to them looked as if it was threatening the plane, the passengers, the airport, that‘s their job is to stop the threat. And unfortunately, they have to stop the threat. They have to use force. And that is deadly force. That‘s what they have.
And so that‘s what they will be looking at. And that will be pretty much the bottom line in term of whether it was justified. For the future, obviously, an airport presents problems over and over again. We have mentally ill persons who travel. We have alcohol in airports. We have people who don‘t obey the commands of flight crew, much less, astonishingly, not U.S. marshals. So those things have to be reviewed.
But it appears they had to react to the situation. And I can scarcely imagine what we would be saying if they had not. I‘m sure that more than one person would be saying, Well, he could have taken us out with a bomb if he didn‘t respond.
So there‘s much to be, you know, much to be looked at. But it will be examined on the basis of what the officers perceived.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you one other question here from—based on what John McAlhany told “TIME,” this other passenger. He said, “Somebody came down the aisle and put a shotgun... “ This is after this all happened. “Somebody came down the aisle and put a shotgun to the back of my head and said, Put your hands on the seat in front of you. I got my cell phone karate-chopped out of my hand. They were pointing the guns directly at us instead of pointing them to the ground. One little girl was crying. There was a lady crying all the way to the hotel.”
Apart from the actual shooting, and leaving that issue aside for a moment, does this suggest that the marshals may have overdone the post-shooting scenario?
SCHIAVO: Well, it can. But the marshals are also trained to look for others in cahoots with the suspect. In other words, they were trained very much after 9/11, in that they did not work alone, they worked in groups of four and five. And they‘re trained to look for other suspects. The cell phone presents a good issue, because they were warned about cell phones containing guns or explosives. And so they might have been very spooked about a cell phone. That has been a warning for some time.
OLBERMANN: Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general of the DOT.
Great thanks for joining us tonight.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: From the deadly serious to the urgently needed comic relief, and how to burn off those extra holiday pounds. Uh-oh. Please don‘t try this at home.
And America‘s fascination with the panda. As the newest little cub gets all the attention in D.C., the San Diego Zoo says, Hey, we got a panda. What‘s wrong with us?
That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It‘s that time again for us to pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for the two minute segment of wacky video, soon to be a major mowing picture. Actually, it will be a one-hour holiday special, but then if we can get Mel Gibson—I‘ve said too much. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin with disturbing video from Lithuania of this kid who they call the rubbery boy. He‘s the rubbery boy, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, the rubbery—oh, my goodness he is rubbery.
Little is known about him except that he seems to come from a good home. His parents seem supportive. Did you think I was going to say they seem tranquilized?
And he does his own version of the famous “Animal House” crush the beer can scene.
It could have been worse. It could have been full. All right, everybody thoroughly uncomfortable? Then our work here is done.
Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania where—mommy! mommy! There‘s a bear under the porch. Jimmy, one more time with that and I‘m going to wring your scrawny—oh, you mean that bear under the porch. A 600 pounder, a black bear to be exact. Usually he is a about it more feisty than that. But local officials shot him full of more tranquilizers than Mr. and Mrs.
The 15-year-old bear chosen this place to hibernate which was likely the same place he used to hibernate before a house magically appeared there. He‘ll sleep off the rest of the winter on state game lands. He‘ll love the games they play there.
Speaking of which, San Francisco hit with another video scandal. This time home video made by police officers mocking police officers. Should they be punished for making it or should the mayor get in trouble for releasing it?
And a rare public appearance by Yoko Ono. She‘ll remember her husband on the 25th anniversary of his murder. We‘ll go live to Central Park for a tribute to John Lennon. Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Mr. Cengiz Esme of Parsus in Turkey. His wife went shopping and disappeared. A day later, the phone rang. It was Mr. Esme friend Mechlech Yatzi (ph) who explained he had run away with her, but he want to make it up to Mr. Esme, he offered him his own wife. In other words in Turkish, he said take my wife, please.
Number two, Italian lawmaker Daniela Santache. One of several politicians behind the plan to cut the deficit by putting a 20 percent tax on pornography. You know, when Mary Carey suggested this, they called her dippy.
And number one tie, the tiny Maltese belonging to Lillian Ashton (ph), a gray mane. Ms. Ashton came home to discover her home had been broken into, her jewelry and all the Christmas gifts had been stolen. But the thief had left one clue, he had so agitated little Ty (ph), the Maltese, that Ty pooped and the burglar step in it. Police think they might be able to do a DNA match or something. 1 adam 12, 1 adam 12, the suspect is considered armed and dangerous and he step in—what? Let him go!
OLBERMANN: You‘ll remember the San Francisco 49ers football team made a dubious video. The public relations department‘s attempt to get the attention of the players and teach them how to deal with the media. When made public, that tape cost the director of public relations his job. But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, what should you to about San Francisco police officers who made a dubious video, their attempt to make a silly tape satirizing themselves for a party as vain, inattentive, self-absorbed and out of touch. Do we laugh with them as they laugh at themselves? Or do we listen to the mayor and the police chief who called the video shameful, offensive, sexist, homophobic and racist and call for the suspension of up to 20 of the officers? Or do we note that the way the tape became public in the first place was when it was played at a news conference by the mayor and the police chief?
Let‘s look at some segments and you make up your mind. First, a sketch about an officer so inattentive and self-promoting that as he babbles to the TV camera, he never notices the person trying to flag him down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just when you feel frustrated.
You know what? I‘m going to be out of this district, somebody—somebody will come up to you and...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet another skit featuring a saucy traffic stop by an egomaniacal officer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, ma‘am. Will you turn that off, please? Do you know why I‘m pulling you over?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don‘t, officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Well, can I see your license please?
Actually, what happened? Do me a favor, would you step out of the car real quick?
Do me a favor. Just turn around. You can go ahead and have a seat.
Do me a favor. If you can, can you spell your name in the highlighted area, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought you didn‘t give tickets (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re right. We don‘t. Keep signing. I‘m giving you a piece of advice, if you ever want to end up with a gem like me for a husband, put yourself together and stop using so much tanning lotion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In another, a tribute to the captain from his officers.
Some of them are dressed as Charlie‘s Angels, others in drag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Good morning, captain.
CROWD: Oh, captain. Oh, captain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m flattered. But, you have to realize, I‘m the traffic man (INAUDIBLE)
OLBERMANN: Twenty officers who participated in those videos now you under investigation. The policeman who made the tapes has been suspended already, even though he said it was only meant to be satire to help boost morale in the department during a Christmas party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW COHEN, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE: That‘s all it was, laughing at ourselves, you cannot watch that DVD and think anything else.
DANIEL HOROWITZ, OFFICER COHEN‘S ATTORNEY: They‘re making fun of themselves in these videos. They‘re raising very important issue, the same way Chris Rock does when he makes very biting, cutting comment. But nobody calls Chris Rock a criminal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And nobody is calling any of the officers Chris Rock, by the way. But San Francisco officials disagree, calling the video, quote, egregious and shameful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEATHER FONG, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE CHIEF: This is a dark day, an extremely dark day in the history of the San Francisco Police Department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to make some dramatic changes in the San Francisco Police Department.
OLBERMANN: San Francisco may have a police problem, or it may have a police problem caused by the mayor and the chief. But it could be worse, it could all be in Franklin, Ohio. There an officer allegedly tasered a great grandmother. Five times. And it was all caught on tape.
According to police, 68-year-old Beverly Kidwell came to the station to be arrested for having hit her granddaughter. The lieutenant seen tasering her on this surveillance tape says she was resisting arrest. But Kidwell says she had been waiting a long time in the lobby when she got up to leave, the officer started firing. She said he kept tasering her even when she was curled in a fetal position on the floor. Ms. Kidwell had to be taken to the local hospital after the incident. She is now suing that police department.
And it gets worse. A kind of combination of previous two stories in Hamtramic (ph), Michigan. 32-year-old officer Ronald Depuis, now charged with assault and battery after he got into a dispute with his partner Officer Prima Graham (ph). He want her to pull over to a convenience store so he could get a soda. When she didn‘t, Officer Dupuis reportedly tasered her in the leg. He has been fired. His partner did not suffer any serious injuries. Since there‘s no actual video of Officer Graham getting tasered, we thought we would show you this instead.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it. Oh, god, ya, ya. Oh. It hurts!
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OLBERMANN: Fame is fleeting, but not for a newscast here volunteered to get tasered. Also tonight, D.C. has a new superstar. Forget politics, it is all about the panda. Tai Shan‘s big public coming out party.
And a celebrity for the ages. Around the world, fans of the late John Lennon gather to pay tribute to his music, his life and his impact on this, the anniversary of the day his life was ended 25-years-ago.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-five-years-ago, tonight, much of the country heard the next incongruously during a telecast of a Monday night football game, John Lennon was dead at the age of 40, shot by a man who had mixed with the fans who regularly waited outside Lennon‘s home in New York. Tonight, we‘ll take you to Central Park to show you how his widow and his fans have remembered him. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: There is a breaking news story at this hour out of Chicago, reports, unconfirmed at this point, that a plane, possibly a 737, has skidded off a runway at Midway Airport. The information we have so far is very sketchy. As I say, police and fire communications indicating that the plane might be a 737. There‘s no official statement from the police or from the airport. There is because of snowy conditions in Chicago, no way to get visual images yet from the scene except that it was a flight recorded from Baltimore to Chicago headed for Midway Airport. There may have been a hard landing. All of this have been picked up through contact amid the rescue services in Chicago. And that there is the possibility, additionally, that as the plane slid, it may have struck a vehicle, or possibly more than one vehicle, as it went off a landing area and on to the roadway. We‘ll keep on top have that, but again, all that from the Midway Airport in Chicago is reported thus far by local media outlets in Chicago.
Continuing with our new cast here, seven million hits on the web for a voyeur cam watching its every move. Free tickets going for top dollar on the Internet. The driving force on this phenomenon, not Paris Hilton, not that crazy Numa Numa (ph) kid, our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the panda. A star of the worldwide web and Washington, D.C. And as Bob Faw reports, cute little bundle of black and white leading to some green for the zookeepers.
BOB FAW, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pandemonium. No. Panda mania. The hoopla. The media crush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One hundred people...
FAW: All for a black and white bundle of fluff five months old tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very precocious, gregarious.
Yesterday he was doing back flips.
FAW: Born the size of a stick of butter, Tai Shan, the name mean Peaceful Mountain, weighs in now at 22 pounds, is growing a pound a week and wowing the first to see him today, like 11-year-old Brittany Luckette (ph) who helped raise $1,200 to help save the endangered species.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he‘s so cute. I want to hold him.
FAW: Already the National Zoo, Tai Shan is a big money maker. Thirty new panda items in the gift shop here. Seven million hits since his birth on the Zoo‘s Web site.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s like a human baby with the big head.
FAW: So what‘s not to like? Well at the San Diego Zoo, there is this matter of bragging rights.
KAY FERGUSON, SAN DIEGO ZOO TOUR GUIDE: I‘m excited for Washington, D.C. But I have to say, that we set the precedent of who has the most pandas in America. We have four.
FAW: Pandas here like baby Sue Lin have fans just as ardent.
DR. DON LINDBURG, SAN DIEGO ZOO PANDA TEAM DIRECTOR: We refer to these as the charismatic megavertebrates.
FAW: Here, too, pandas are a source of brisk sales and maintenance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She‘s only going to poop about 22 to 25 times a day, which is wonderful job security for our keepers.
FAW: But who is pandering? Whether on one coast or the other, cuddly, charismatic multivertebrae is as cuddling charismatic multivertebrae does.
Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Remembering a tragedy. Twenty-five years ago tonight, John Lennon gunned down outside his New York City home. We‘ll go live to Central Park where fans who remember him and those who were not even alive then have been keeping his memory alive.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World”.
Bronze winner is the Florida Marlins baseball team. Some season ticket holders are asking for refunds after the Marlins traded away their catcher, their first baseman, their second baseman, their third baseman, their center fielder and one of their starting pitchers after raising ticket prices. Today the Marlins said—not only said no, but the team issued a snippy statement saying they continued to deliver to season ticketholders exactly what was promised to the them, exciting and talented Major League Baseball players, unquote. True. Except they‘re all on the visiting team.
The runner up, Bill O‘Reilly. He we go again, proudly reminded his audience that he, quote, didn‘t put Abu Ghraib pictures on this broadcast. The only television journalist not to do so. Wait. Wait. You think you‘re a television journalist?
But the winner, yes, him again! On radio getting hysterical about this anti-Christmas nonsense. He said he would get the, quote, “anti-Christian forces in this country trying to diminish and denigrate the holiday.” Here‘s the good part. “I‘m going to use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.” Bring horror, he said!
Bill, just remember to bring horror into this world, all you have to do is open your mouth! Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world! .
OLBERMANN: Good news from Midway Airport in Chicago in the breaking story we‘ve been following for you during the hour. According to a spokesperson from the Chicago Fire Department all passengers on board Southwest flight number 1228, a 737 bound from Baltimore to Chicago Midway have been evacuated from the plane, there do not appear to be injuries to those on board the plane. There was not a fire, there was a small fuel leak after apparently a hard landing. Passengers from the plane are boarding buses to get out of the area.
The plane as it skidded hit one vehicle on the streets of Chicago, 55th street and Cicero. They are trying right now, the fire department, to extricate passengers. But the key ingredient here, no apparent injuries in what must have been a very hard landing of a Baltimore to Chicago flight at Midway tonight.
To the top of our COUNTDOWN now, and our Number one story, not everybody you hear on the radio playing music is a qualified disc jockey. It‘s not as easy as it sounds, but an amateur can get away with it for a few hours with a lot of help. And such it was 25-years-ago right now on a fringed December at WVBR FM, the commercial radio in Ithaca, New York owned by students at Cornell University, a fraudulent amateur was on the air that night back visiting his alma mater, kidding around, playing records on the air, and they were records, and the Beatles song in my life, John Lennon‘s haunting revelations of his own large soul, had just started playing when the awful news came across a giant clacking teletype machine. Lennon had not merely been shot twice outside of his own home at the Dakota apartment building in New York, but he was DOA at Roosevelt hospital.
And the amateur deejay, and I‘m guessing you already figured it out, it was me, had to follow that extraordinary song that evoked Charles Lamb‘s 18th century poem and in which Lennon recalled his late friend and former Beatles‘ member Stewart Sutcliffe, I had to follow the lyric “in my life I love you more” with the stark and heartbreaking announcement that simply went John Lennon is dead.
For millions of Americans and countless millions more around the planet, the world changed in a way not unlike the way it did when President Kennedy was assassinated, only we could not even imagine the grimmest most conspiracy theory riddled motive. It was then, it still seems now, to have been a crime without explanation, the ending of a life simply to deprive the man who lived it and those who loved him and those who admired him that bright light he brought into the world.
Tonight, John Lennon would have been a 65-year-old man, perhaps still performing as hip or more so than his old partner Paul McCartney. At some point before the death of George Harrison, an anniversary in itself came to an end nine days ago, and three of them, and Ringo Starr would surely have reunited, if for nothing more than a charity performance or a recording.
Instead, tonight is the 25th anniversary of John Lennon‘s murder. Tonight he remains as he had since December 8, 1980 frozen in time and in memory as the 40-year-old part poet, part insurrectionary who had just months before the end seemed to have found himself. The rest of us, of course, are still looking for him in so many different places.
Foremost of them, perhaps, a part of New York City‘s Central Park, where the faithful were joined by an unexpected visitor today. More from our correspondent Michelle Franzen.
MICHELLE FRANZEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A large crowd of fans from around the world came to Central Park‘s Strawberry Fields to remember John Lennon, the man who influenced and inspired a generation through music and ideals.
JOHN BUCKLEY MCQUAID, LENNON FAN: Lennon and the Beatles were an inspiration to my life. They actually affected the way I live my life.
FRANZEN: Lennon‘s widow Yoko Ono made an appearance at the gathering across the street from her home to honor her husband and connect with fans. Twenty-five years after Lennon‘s death, many are still overcome by emotion.
SILVIA MARINI, LENNON FAN: He was a poet.
FRANZEN: The Beatles‘ member who branched out as a solo artist and peace activist was gunned down outside of his New York City apartment. The shooter, Mark David Chapman, was a disillusioned fan who was upset over Lennon‘s lifestyle and politics.
Friend and former Beatle Paul McCartney reflected and said he remembers getting the phone call about Lennon‘s murder like it was yesterday.
PAUL MCCARTNEY, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I still find it difficult. The world misses John who was a great guy. He was just a special man.
FRANZEN: At the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, devoted fans celebrated Lennon‘s life and legacy with music, moments of silence and memories of the cultural era he symbolized.
OLBERMANN: Michelle Franzen at the Strawberry Fields in Central Park New York.
Our MSNBC coverage continues next with “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT” tonight from Afghanistan. That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep 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.