Guests: Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The president takes questions from the audience after his latest speech on Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: His answer, the entire world thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
The president takes questions from Brian Williams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NIGHTLY NEWS”)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: This says you‘re in a bubble.
BUSH: I feel very comfortable that I‘m very aware of what‘s going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The exclusive interview with Mr. Bush.
From Bush with Brian to Bush‘s brain. How Karl Rove‘s lawyer wound up seeking Viveca Novak‘s testimony. What she said, in her own words.
No clemency. The controversial case of Stanley “Tookie” Williams nears the ultimate end.
And you might not want the kids to see this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santa needs a break, Santa needs a drink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What Santa needs is a trip to rehab.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
It is exactly five years to the day since the Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore. Tonight, clear indications that the White House is trying something new to change the image of the winner of that world-changing legal case, and hazy indications tonight that it might also be changing something far more substantive, a British newspaper report hinting at a full or nearly full Western pullout from Iraq by this time next year.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, changes, the president taking questions, unusually mixed, friendly and unfriendly, after a speech in Philadelphia and in an interview with NBC‘s Brian Williams.
First, on this 1,000th day since the beginning of the Iraq war, a cautiously written article that will appear on the front page of tomorrow‘s editions of “The Times” of London, quoting the senior Western diplomat in Baghdad as saying that as soon as the imminent elections produce a new Iraqi government, the U.S. and the United Kingdom will begin talking to that government about, quote, “transfer of security.” It will happen progressively over the next year.
The vaguely worded story refers to a troop pullout, not a partial pullout. It says the action would “appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush that coalition forces will not ‘cut and run‘ and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.”
Iraq‘s foreign minister is quoted as calling it an “early withdrawal,” and claims, “The fate of this country and the whole region could be endangered.”
Back in this country, the president‘s speech to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council didn‘t seem to vary much from previous versions. The difference was in the follow-up. There was a follow-up, questions taken from the audience, not the standard softballs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to know why and you others in your administration invoke 9/11 for the justification of the invasion of Iraq...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirmed that such a danger existed.
BUSH: Oh, I appreciate that. 9/11 changed my look of on a foreign policy.
It was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, You‘re a threat. And the 9/11 attacks accentuated that threat, as far as I‘m concerned. And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused.
And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I‘d make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president was also asked how many Iraqis had died in the war thus far, and gave an answer of, quote, “Thirty thousand, more or less.” The White House says the questioners were not picked in advance. If that is correct, it made the Democratic response to all of this seem really rehearsed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: The American people need and want him to focus on the future and the U.S. role in Iraq. The American people want answers. And after three speeches on Iraq, we are still waiting.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The president today made a wishy-washy statement in an area which requires clarity, certainty, strength. And that is, we must tell the Iraqis that we have done our part. We‘ve done more than our part. Now it‘s up to you to get your political house in order.
REP. JACK MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The president said himself, this is a political war. It‘s a political war where we should be out of it. Iraq is not the center of the terrorism. Iraq is a center for insurgency, and there‘s a major difference. And we could be there for 25 years.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Hours before today‘s speech, the president did something else highly unusual, and nearly as unexpected. He spent part of his morning with NBC‘s Brian Williams, granting an exclusive interview, one that ranged from Iraq to the economy, from Katrina to the image just underscored in the latest “Newsweek” that Mr. Bush isolates himself from any part of reality he does not like.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Mr. President, good morning.
WILLIAMS: You‘re very kind to have us. Thank you very much.
(voice-over): The president was fresh from his national security briefing in the situation room.
BUSH: Well, some of the things I can tell you, and some of them I can‘t.
WILLIAMS (on camera): Well, I understand that.
Now, how do you wake up on a Monday morning? I brought some visual aids. I have “Newsweek” and “TIME.” Cover of “Newsweek,” look what they‘ve done to you. “Bush‘s World. The isolated president. Can he change?” “Newsweek” says you‘re in here not talking to people. So what is the truth, Mr. President? This says you‘re...
BUSH: Well, I‘m talking to you. You‘re a person.
WILLIAMS: This says you‘re in a bubble. And you have a very small circle of advisers now.
WILLIAMS: Is that true? (INAUDIBLE) in a bubble?
BUSH: I don‘t think so. No, I don‘t feel in a bubble. I mean, you feel in a bubble in the sense that I can‘t go walking out the front gate...
WILLIAMS: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
BUSH: ... and, no, you know, Go shopping like I‘d love to do for my wife, although I may, and I‘m not going to tell you what I‘m going to buy her.
WILLIAMS: I understand that.
BUSH: No, I look, I—I feel like I‘m getting really good advice from very capable people. And that people from all walks of life have informed me and informed those who advise me. And I feel very comfortable that I‘m very aware of what‘s going on.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): It was readily apparent the president had been thinking about his predecessors. He talked today about Lincoln, Washington, and Teddy Roosevelt. Then, the ticking clock of his schedule intruded, and we were reminded of the president‘s approaching departure time.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. We‘ll see you on the aircraft.
BUSH: Yes, sir.
WILLIAMS: They‘re going to drive us out there very quickly.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Will do.
BUSH: You don‘t want to make the president wait, of course.
WILLIAMS: OK, we‘ll—no way, we won‘t.
As we drove up to the hotel in Philadelphia today, there were protesters outside. They were yelling, Shame. Do you see them and hear them from your limousine?
WILLIAMS: Does it matter to you? Does it register?
BUSH: I think after a while, you kind of get used to it. It‘s part of the job. It is the—you know, it‘s part of living in a democracy. They‘re, frankly, smaller than they used to be. But that‘s doesn‘t mean there‘s not intensity out there. I‘ve made some very difficult positions. I fully understand people not liking war. And I can see that.
And on the other hand, I know we‘re making progress. We‘re winning. And it‘s my job to continue the to try to reassure them we are winning, and the stakes are worth it.
WILLIAMS: A lot of people have seen in this series of speeches you‘re giving on Iraq, a movement in your position. They call it an acknowledgment that perhaps the mission has not gone as it was originally planned, that the U.S. would be welcomed as liberators.
BUSH: I think we are welcomed, but it was not a peaceful welcome. There were some in society, the rejectionists and the Saddamists, and the terrorists that have moved in to stir them up, they said, We‘re going to prevent a democracy from emerging. But I think a lot of people are glad. I know a lot of people are glad we‘re there. And they‘re glad we‘re helping them train their troops so they can take the fight.
WILLIAMS: Was the force in Iraq, looking back, too small for the job?
BUSH: I remember the debate at the time. I remember John McCain, for example, saying you needed more troops. And but I relied upon the judgment of General Tommy Franks. I felt then and I felt now that we had the troop levels we needed. History will make that determination.
WILLIAMS: And how about the oil revenues?
BUSH: You mean on the Iraqi side?
BUSH: Yes, they‘re not as great as we thought they‘d be. Yet they‘re substantial.
WILLIAMS: Can we talk about torture for a moment? The United States right now is locked in talks, and they‘re going on in Washington. Why can‘t the United States be definitively against torture, the current definition they‘re talking about?
BUSH: Yes, we will be. We are, and we will be, at home and abroad. The American people expect us to do that which we can do within international law. And our own declaration of supporting the premises of international law is what I really meant to say. To protect us. I mean, if they know something, we need to know it. And we think we can find it without torturing people.
WILLIAMS: Can you meet John McCain at his definition?
BUSH: Yes, I‘m confident we can. On the other hand, we want to make sure that we‘re in a position to be able to interrogate without torture. These are people that still want to hurt us, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Let‘s talk about the economy, a subject I know you‘re anxious to talk about.
BUSH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Are you frustrated that more of the good economic news isn‘t front and center these days?
BUSH: I think it‘s a little bit. But I also think it‘s important to understand why people don‘t see, or don‘t feel the improved economy. I mean, we do have a strong economy. Its third-quarter growth was great. We‘ve added 4.5 million new jobs since April of 2003. Home ownership‘s at an all-time high. Small businesses are flourishing. And this economy is good. And it‘s strong.
WILLIAMS: Will you keep doing this, having these conversations?
BUSH: I will. I‘ll keep taking my message to the people in a variety of formats. It‘s one way for me to be able to communicate directly with people.
I realize everybody didn‘t agree with me. But that‘s—I‘m confident in my message.
The federal government and other levels of government fell down on the job. I was appalled that a nation as wealthy as ours was not table to respond as effectively we should have, and took blame for it. I mean, to the extent that the federal government was ineffective, I‘m responsible. And I understand that.
And now the question is, how do we learn lessons from the response, and how did we effectively help the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana rebuild?
WILLIAMS: Were you watching the coverage? Were you seeing the same pictures that Americans were seeing?
BUSH: I was, I was. I guess my reaction was, Where‘s the communications? I mean, we had newspeople able to really be the fact witness on the ground, when, in fact, it should have been government officials at all levels gathering information, sending it back to headquarters, so that there‘s be appropriate response.
WILLIAMS: After the tragedy, I heard someone ask rhetorically, What if this had been Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Inner Harbor, Baltimore, or Chicago, or Houston? Are you convinced the response would have been the same? Was there any social or class or race aspect to the response?
BUSH: Somebody I heard, you know, a couple of people, you know, said Bush didn‘t respond because of race, because he‘s a racist, or alleged that. That is absolutely wrong, and I reject that. Frankly, that‘s the kind of thing that -- You can call me anything you want, but do not call me a racist.
Secondly, this storm hit all up and down. It hit New Orleans, but it hit down in Mississippi too. And people should not forget the damage done in Mississippi.
WILLIAMS: Biloxi was hit terribly hard.
BUSH: Absolutely, and...
BUSH: ... Pascagoula, and Waveland. You know it, you saw it firsthand what it‘s like, it‘s a -- And we have people from all walks of life affected by that storm. I remember saying that, when I thanked those chopper drivers from the Coast Guard, who performed brilliantly, they didn‘t lower those booms to pick up people saying, What, you know, what color skin do you have? They said, A fellow American is in jeopardy, and I‘m going to do my best to rescue that person.
WILLIAMS: It‘s been two months since your last visit to the region. Was there any notion of making it a domestic Marshal Plan of your administration, of saying, Let‘s get together and rebuild this area?
BUSH: Well, we‘re doing that. We got $62 billion on the table. As Brian, as you know, the devastation is so big, it‘s going to take a while to rebuild. I think its very important for people to not focus on politics but focus on how we work together to achieve what we all want, which is a Louisiana and a—that‘s vibrant, and a New Orleans that‘s a shining light down there, and a Gulf Coast of Mississippi that‘s been rebuilt and is vibrant and thriving.
OLBERMANN: More of Brian Williams‘ day with President Bush, and analysis of the president‘s speech and of that interview, from “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Milbank.
And the Architect, the man who helped put a Bush back in the White House, will Karl Rove avoid indictment? Viveca Novak recounts her unexpected role in the CIA leak investigation.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The impression is nobody‘s fault but his own. More than two years ago, the president told an interviewer he does not read newspapers nor seek news or opinion elsewhere in media, that he was usually just briefed by Andrew Card or Condoleezza Rice, or he occasionally read “The Dallas Morning News,” or stuck to the sports sections.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, more of Mr. Bush‘s interview with Brian Williams, and whether or not the president is likely to watch it or even read about the interview later.
WILLIAMS: Once and for all, how much television news do you watch? How much do you read the morning papers, newsmagazines? How much do you see in an average week?
BUSH: I see a lot of the news. I, every morning, I look at the newspaper. I‘m, I, I‘m not, I can‘t say I‘ve read every single article in the newspaper, but I definitely know what‘s in the news. Occasionally, I watch television. I don‘t want to hurt your feelings. But occasionally.
But I‘m very aware of what‘s in the news. I‘m aware because I see clips, I see summaries, I have people on my staff that walk in every morning and say, This is what‘s—this is how I see it. This is what‘s brewing today, you know, with—on both the domestic and international side.
But it‘s a myth to think I don‘t know what‘s going on. And it‘s a myth to think that I‘m not aware that there‘s opinions that don‘t agree with mine, because I‘m fully aware of that.
OLBERMANN: Joining us now, “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank, who certainly, since he left his White House beat, is likely to be my fellow member in the-president-doesn‘t-read-or-watch-our-stuff club.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
I‘d be careful there, Keith. He said he reads newspapers. He doesn‘t watch TV.
OLBERMANN: He didn‘t say which newspapers.
For weeks, we have been wondering if Mr. Bush had any new strategy for getting his points across. Is what we saw today in that interview, in that series of interviews with Brian Williams, in the question-and-answer, seemingly open session in Philadelphia, are those indications of a new style, a new approach? Or was this all happenstance?
MILBANK: Well, you know, some approval ratings in the 30s or something that really can clarify your thinking. But I wouldn‘t go too far in saying that this president has changed his style. This president has one style, and that worked extremely well for about four years and has worked rather poorly him for the last year. And that‘s very direct. It‘s push your program through the Congress. It‘s rely on loyalists to the greatest extent possible. Don‘t take risks by reaching out to people.
Now, we certainly saw more candor in this speech, and we‘ve been seeing that in other speeches lately. It‘s something of a tactical shift. But I don‘t think you‘re seeing a new President Bush. I think there‘s only one.
OLBERMANN: If there is some effort, at least, to show him not bubbled, unbubblicious, does it work when he does an interview in which he says, Well, we were welcomed in Iraq, but we were not welcomed peacefully? And he says that he‘s very aware of what the media says, even though he does not actually read the news, is that going to penetrate the idea of the bubble, or just solidify the idea of the bubble?
MILBANK: Well, the bubble is actually an invention that long predates this president. In fact, they call the bubble, this motorcade of 20 cars that chases him around. And it is impossible to reach out of it.
Now, on the one hand, I‘d say we are probably at a low point, so a lot of abuse is going to be heaped on the president for just about anything at this point. So the bubble aspect that may be part of sort of the regal presidency, at some point, is going to look to be some confining thing at this point.
On the other hand, because this is his style, because he will not, by and large, reach out to Congress, even members in his own party, he has an incredible amount of ill will built up on the Hill, even among Republican lawmakers. And that is potentially quite dangerous for him. And it‘s something that is—he‘s not really going to overcome, regardless of what sort of changes he makes.
WILLIAMS: But to that issue, “Newsweek” is, in the current issue, is pointing out that the White House has made some overtures to the opposition, that the president would be entertaining some Democrats from the Hill this week. Is there any suggestion that he is at least making an effort, symbolically, to step out from that closed circle of advisers and essentially, the people who sit there and agree with him, or at least agree with his fundamental philosophy?
MILBANK: I think there is. And we should watch and see if there‘s a new chief of staff if Andy Card leaves. Is it going to be Rob Portman, who is a long-time hand in Washington, a lot of experience up on the Hill? Or is he going to go to one of his trusted inside advisers?
But the president needs a mechanism for reaching outside of the bubble. Karl Rove had a Rolodex full of about 50 people he would talk to each week, sort of get a pulse of the nation in the sense that you couldn‘t get being inside of this bubble. President Clinton had his private phone lines, and, of course, a cadre of young interns to tell him exactly what was going on each day.
This president doesn‘t have that sort of mechanism. So he has to create one, so that he can reach out and actually see what you or I would see if we were on the street.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, did you hear anything of substance, either in the Philadelphia speech or in that interview with Brian, that suggests any substantive policy changes? I guess what I‘m asking in there is this “Times” of London very vague report in tomorrow‘s edition that suggests that perhaps U.K. and U.S. forces would be out of Iraq by this time next year. Does that report overlap in the slightest with this president‘s current viewpoint, or anything that was said today?
MILBANK: Not really. That‘s a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, we‘re really just debating about, you know, is it going to be 12 months, is it going to be 36 months in Iraq? And that‘s really what we‘re fighting about here. So I wouldn‘t say there‘s anything of substance necessarily coming along those lines.
But you did their president today saying 30,000 Iraqis have died in this war, talking frankly about the over 2,000 American troops that have died over there. You heard him accepting John McCain‘s antitorture language more clearly than anybody in his administration has before.
So you‘re seeing sort of more candor, more signaling of the policy at the edges. But I wouldn‘t expect them to come out with any sort of report like what we‘re hearing from “The Times.”
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post.” As always, sir, great pleasure, and thanks for your perspective.
MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And this programming note. If you would like to see more of the Brian Williams exclusive interview with the president, it will air in its entirety here on MSNBC tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, “A Day with the President: An MSNBC Special Report.”
Also tonight, remembering Richard Pryor. His comedy career was virtually a string of uninterrupted successes, his personal life something else altogether.
And damned liberals. The latest attack on Christmas. They‘ve drowned a tree. They‘ve drowned it. You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone. Victory will be mine!
OLBERMANN: We‘re back, and for a moment, we pause our COUNTDOWN for a brief segment of stories the other guys call fluff news. But here at COUNTDOWN, the fluff is our bread and butter. Mmm, FlufferNutters, mmm.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Weekeewatchee (ph), Florida, hello. Here, our search for the true meaning of Christmas has led us under the sea. No holiday show captures the traditional values and spirit of Christmas more than the annual event put on by the fine folks at the Castaway Scuba Shop. The tree was weighted down so as to not float away and decorated with ornaments tied to its branches.
And between that and Santa‘s mermaids, the whole deal will get Bill O‘Reilly‘s seal of falafel—approval.
To Cumbria in England, where this is the board of tourism‘s big idea to draw people to the lake district this holiday season, sheep singing Christmas carols. Yes, come to Cumbria and see our singing sheep. We also have very tall cliffs from which you can leap because the sheep never shut up.
Finally, to Providence, Rhode Island, where no holiday season would be complete without Tony LaPore (ph) directing traffic as the Dancing Traffic Cop. He‘s actually a retired police officer, but every year at this time, he either rejoins the payroll or escapes from somewhere and shows up to dance in traffic for all the fine folks of Providence.
He‘s been doing this since 1984, usually showing up the first week of December and dancing around until late in the month, when they come looking for him. Kidding. Perfectly sane. Just watch out for the plow. Watch out for the plow.
Speaking of looking for him, the CIA leak investigation, Viveca Novak of “TIME” tells of how she wound up in the middle of the Plame-Wilson-Rove story, much to her shock and dismay.
And the looming execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the last-minute maneuvers nearly done, Governor Schwarzenegger refusing to stop the countdown to the death chamber.
Those stories ahead.
But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Russia Today, an all-news English-language TV network called Russia‘s CNN. It went on the air Saturday and off the air this morning, replaced by a test pattern. They think their computers were hacked. Me, two days, I‘m guessing one word, cutbacks.
Number two, Ray King, former lefthanded relief pitcher of the St. Louis Cardinals, who failed in all six of his game-saving opportunities for the team this past season, and was traded to the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday, but who makes this list only because of number one, Wilma Flora Eckert. She died at Belleville, Illinois, Saturday at the age of 83.
Remembering that the Ray King trade preceded her death by three days, this is from her obituary in “The Belleville News Democrat” newspaper. “An avid Wednesday-night bingo player at VFW when she was younger and playing softball, she led the league in batting. She made several quilts, enjoyed cooking and baking and she was a big Cardinals fan. She was glad to see Ray King traded.” That‘s right. King, an ex-Cardinal. So Wilma could die happy.
OLBERMANN: As a defense, the phrase “I don‘t recall” is as ubiquitous as it is unassailable, littering the testimony of all measure of witnesses in all kinds of cases. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it is time to add Viveca Novak to that list.
The “Time” magazine reporter now explaining the hows, the why‘s and the whatfors of her involvement in the CIA leak investigation. But definitely not the when‘s. Miss Novak, according to a first person account in the magazine testifying last Thursday that she met with Karl Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin, a number of times in early 2004 for cocktails and conversation. But whether she spilled the beans in January, March or May of that year, she can‘t recall.
And as for why she let slip that Mr. Rove might have been Mr. Cooper‘s source, her defense on that has said that she did not mean to. Writing that she fell Luskin had nearly been spinning her.
“I was taken aback that he seemed so surprised. I had been pushing back had been what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray. I hadn‘t believed that I was disclosing anything he didn‘t already know. I hadn‘t intended to tip Luskin off to anything.”
Ms. Novak also revealing that she did not tell her bosses about her involvement in the investigation until more than a week after she underwent a preliminary interview with the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald last month.
“Unrealistically,” she writes, “I hope this would turn out to be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people at Time knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information. And reporters would pounce on it.” As a result, the magazine says Novak is now on a leave of absence by a mutual agreement with her employers.
Time to call in our own David Shuster to diagram is X‘s and O‘s of where this testimony leaves us. Good evening, David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening to you.
OLBERMANN: If Viveca Novak can‘t recall when she spilled the beans about Karl Rove hanging with Mr. Cooper here, what does that do or mean for Mr. Rove‘s defense?
SHUSTER: Keith, I think it still hurts Karl Rove. Because his lawyer was still counting on Viveca Novak corroborating the idea that as soon as Karl Rove had his memory refreshed, he went to the grand jury and he said, OK, here‘s an update to my testimony.
The problem that Karl Rove has, is his crucial grand jury appearance was October of 2004. And while Viveca Novak can‘t exactly remember when she met with Rove‘s lawyer, she knows it was sometime between January and May of 2004. And even if it was May, that‘s still five months—five months from the time that Karl Rove may have had his memory refreshed from the time in which he went to the grand jury and told them about it. And that‘s where it undermines the very idea that Luskin put forward seven weeks ago that stopped Rove‘s indictment.
OLBERMANN: Even if you‘re giving them the benefit of the doubt, Memorial Day and October 1, it is still four months and that‘s an awfully long period of tame, too. But does this revelation increase our expectation that we‘ll learn the outcome for Karl Rove soon in terms of this investigation?
SHUSTER: I think it does. And the betting Keith seems to be that Karl Rove is going to be indicted. And the simple reason is by all accounts, all lawyers say that this is the final piece that remains to be solved in the investigation.
And the prosecutor just last week by impaneling a new grand jury summarizing testimony for three hours, every lawyer we have spoken with says that a prosecutor does not impanel a new grand jury unless they‘ll have that panel considered charges.
The other part about this, which is so intriguing that Viveca Novak revealed, she said that when she first met with Prosecutor Fitzgerald and talked about her conversations with Luskin, it was an informal discussion. It was nothing under oath. And that something then happened that caused Patrick Fitzgerald to go back to Viveca Novak and say, OK, I need to talk to you again, but this I want to put you under oath.
And again, lawyers say you don‘t put somebody under oath if you are simply dotting your I‘s, crossing your T‘s and checking out somebody‘s alibi. You put somebody under oath if you expect they might be called as a witness in the trial and you want to have some sort of record already in the system.
OLBERMANN: I‘m going to guess on that, that it might have been a date like May 2004. What did she do, returning to the relative roles in this of various journalists? What did she do that is any different from what Bob Woodward has done? And in asking that, I guess I‘m asking why is she put on a leave have absence by her employers, while certainly Mr. Woodward has not been.
SHUSTER: Well, they both share the common sort of string of not having told their editors that they were involve in this. But Bob Woodward at least, when it was clear that Fitzgerald was going to talk to him that that Bob Woodward source was talking to Fitzgerald, Woodward then went to his editors and said, look, OK, I‘ve got to talk to Fitzgerald and here‘s why.
Viveca Novak‘s clear mistake was that even as she was getting an attorney, and even as she was meeting with Patrick Fitzgerald on this informal basis, she kept her editors at “Time” magazine out of the loop. And it was only when Fitzgerald came back and said now I need your testimony under oath, that‘s when she went to “Time” magazine bureau chief Jay Carney. And as she said, Carney and others were not too happy about it.
OLBERMANN: It might have come up the morning that Cooper was packing, thinking he was going to go to jail. There‘s a lot of people, I‘m sure, who might be surprised, maybe not that surprised or that interested, but they would be a little disoriented by the idea that a reporter and a potential source would meet like this from time to time to shoot the breeze, not really to produce a story. Is that common? Uncommon in Washington?
SHUSTER: It does happen a lot. And Keith, I would say it happens a lot more. My own personal experience, it happens a lot more when you‘re dealing with defense attorney. It is very difficult to get prosecutors to talk about what they‘re doing. Because they‘re essentially the offense of the game. They‘re carrying the ball.
It is the defense which is trying to guess the next play. And sometimes what defense lawyers will especially do, if they are new to a case, they will call up a journalist or an old friend of theirs and say hey, Shuster, what do you know about, say, the history of the Whitewater investigation?
Especially if it is a complex case like it was with Whitewater for me. And some of the new attorneys came on board. They would often call me and say let‘s meet for a drink at the Capital Hotel bar in Little Rock. And they would press the reporter, myself or others for information that would help them get to speed.
The problem that Viveca Novak had, is when you‘re in these situations, you have to be careful that you‘re not giving away information that violates your agreement with another source. And clearly Viveca Novak was giving away information that was known only to people at “Time” magazine.
OLBERMANN: Being relied on by the principals in a story like that is a terrifying thing to contemplate. And I‘m sure it is for the people watching this as well. MSNBC‘s David Shuster on the Rove investigation, the CIA leak investigation. Great thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: His supporter say his crimes should be forgiven. His redemption rewarded. But he insists he committed no crimes. The governor of California with a ruling on the eve of the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams.
And remembering a comic fire so brilliant, so dangerous, that it helped inspire tape delay. Richard Pryor in memoriam. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: There was a fundamental incongruity: his application for clemency cited his redemption and growth, not a wrongful conviction. But Stanley “Tookie” Williams has continued to insist as late a radio interview over the weekend, that he never committed the four murders that put him on death row in 1981. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, it would thus seemingly not have been a surprise that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today denied Williams clemency. But since Williams advocates that throughout this case, the seeminglies have not been what they appeared to be, there was still much surprise in many quarters today.
Our correspondent outside the prison at San Quentin, California is James Hattori. Good evening, James.
JAMES HATTORI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. Perhaps you can see behind me, a bit more activity as the evening hours unfold here. More members of the media, more protesters, the lights have gone on. I think it has officially become a scene here.
Meantime, lawyers for Stanley “Tookie” Williams in Washington, D.C. have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to step in and stay the execution. A remote possibility on the minds and judgment of most observers, legal observers. even some of Williams‘ supporters. But for Williams‘ supporters, it is perhaps their last, if remote, chance.
HATTORI (voice-over): Outside San Quentin, protesters keep a somber vigil while inside, a last round of visitors for Williams.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: He said I feel good. I appeal the at peace with myself. I‘ve been in the valley of the shadow of death before. So I stand at this moment, he said, without fear and with much hope.
HATTORI: Williams has spent 24 years in prison, convicted of the 1979 murders of four people in Los Angeles. Before that, he led the notorious street gang, the Crips. But he long ago renounced his past, has worked to ease gang violence, even writing children‘s books. But it wasn‘t enough to convince Governor Schwarzenegger.
In a statement he cited testimony from several witnesses who say Williams told them he was the killer. Schwarzenegger says Williams‘ refusal to admit his guilt weighed against them saying, “without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”
Williams‘ legal team is nearly out of options, having been turned down
by state and federal appeals.
JAN JANDZLIK, WILLIAMS‘ ATTORNEY: We intend to pursue every legal avenue available to us in the time allotted. We have a petition pending before the Supreme Court. We will see that through as is our responsibility.
HATTORI: A response to that petition could come at any time. Some sort of response is expected. And as I say, Keith, most people believe they will not get involved—Keith.
OLBERMANN: James, as you mentioned, it is getting more and more hectic in the area behind you. Are there security preparations being made there? Are officials expecting trouble from protesters? What are they looking at tonight?
HATTORI: It‘s not that they‘re expecting trouble. They don‘t know what to expect, quite honestly. The crowd up until today has been rather light. They are expecting a bigger crowd tonight. There‘s Joan Baez is expected to be here. Mike Farrell, the actor, who has been very outspoken, is also here. So they expect some—a bit of a crowd. There is stepped up security activity as well, Keith.
OLBERMANN: NBC‘s James Hattori just outside San Quentin State Prison in California tonight. Many thanks, James.
One of the witnesses to the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams will be MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby. Stay tuned as she hosts “LIVE AND DIRECT” from San Quentin at the top of this hour.
And unfortunate, but unavoidable segue then into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news which much necessarily begin with a poignant commemoration, tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the first time NBC used a five-second delay on the then brand new ground breaking show “Saturday Night Live.” It was introduced because the network lived in genuine fear that that week‘s host might actually swear on live television. He didn‘t.
Richard Pryor did everything else that night. And on 10,000 other nights in front of audiences ranging from millions to just one at a time.
Richard Pryor died Saturday morning of a heart attack. He is remembered for us by correspondent Janet Shamlian.
RICHARD PRYOR, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: I am a genius.
JANET SHAMLIAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Richard Pryor was a genius, an actor and comedian whose voice was filled with rage. And he raised it about race.
PRYOR: I haven‘t been to the University of Alabama and Mississippi. I‘m not lying, man. They got white folks down there they keep on a leash in the basement.
SHAMLIAN: Pryor lived dangerously close to the edge both on stage and off.
PRYOR: I don‘t want to never see no more police in my life at my house.
SHAMLIAN: But through concerts and Grammy winning albums, Pryor won millions of fans for his mix of comedy and social satire. And he inspired a generation of comics: Eddie Murphy, Damon Wayans, Arsenio Hall.
ARSENIO HALL, COMEDIAN: If you haven‘t gotten something from Richard Pryor and you do stand up, you‘re doing it wrong.
SHAMLIAN: A regular on the light-night circuit.
JOHNNY CARSON, LATE NIGHT WITH JOHNNY CARSON: Welcome Richard Pryor.
SHAMLIAN: He had a hit television show. And appeared in more than 40 films. Including “Brewster‘s Millions” and “Silver Streak.”
Richard Pryor appeared on one of the earliest episodes of “Saturday Night Live.”
PRYOR: I hope I‘m funny.
SHAMLIAN: Executive producer Lorne Michaels.
LORNE MICHAELS, TV PRODUCER: As close as I‘ve ever been to genius, I think he was a genius.
SHAMLIAN: By the end of the 1970‘s, Pryor was Hollywood‘s highest paid comedian. But it came with a cost.
PRYOR: I couldn‘t stop drinking until the bartender said we‘ve got no more (EXPLETIVE DELETED) liquor.
SHAMLIAN: Pryor waged a lifelong battle with alcoholism and drugs.
And in 1980, set himself on fire.
PRYOR: You know what? That looks like fire!
SHAMLIAN: He almost died, later, quitting drinking and drugs. In 1992, Pryor announced he had multiple sclerosis.
PRYOR: Hi. I‘m here.
SHAMLIAN: The disease ended his career. With his health in decline, long deserved recognition mounted for his contributions to comedy.
LILY TOMLIN, COMEDIAN/ACTRESS: I think he is almost universally acknowledged as the greatest comedian of our time.
SHAMLIAN: His wife said he passed with a smile not unlike those he gave to so many.
Janet Shamlian on NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: Lost in the headlines, the unexpected credits you‘ll find in Richard Pryor‘s career: script writing for two Lily Tomlin TV specials, collaboration on the screenplay for “Blazing Saddles” and less than two years after NBC put him on five-second delay because they didn‘t trust him, a prime time series called the Richard Pryor show on NBC.
Ultimately though, it was all about this, Richard Pryor was so funny, that to watch him at length was to risk wetting one‘s pants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRYOR: Funeral was something else, too, because black funerals are different than white funerals, right? You know, white people have funerals. You don‘t give it up at the funeral. You do. I mean, you love your departed as much as we do, but at the funeral you do give the—black people let it hang out at the funeral. They don‘t care. WAAAAA. God have mercy, Jesus, have mercy, Lord, have mercy...
And you know something I found out, when you‘re on fire and running down the street, people will get out of your way. Except for one old drunk. Right? Hey, buddy, can I get a light? Just a little off the sleeve. OK?
My kids boy, when they lie, though, that‘s the thing I love the most, when they be trying to tell them lies and you know they‘re lying, right. You say, um, who broke this? Huh? I said who broke this.
OK. I‘m going to tell you, OK? First, OK. I‘m going to tell you.
First, first, I wasn‘t in here, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the sea of Santas. Some of them are even still sober. We‘ll explain what this is.
First, time for the list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” Bronze winner Kirsty Adams (ph) of Hottoxiter (ph) England. Remember that Saint Louis Cardinals fan, how it was included in her obit that she was happy that the team just traded away the pitcher she didn‘t like. Mrs. Adams is the mirror image. She gave birth to a boy and 25 minutes later, registered him as a member of the fan club of the British soccer team Darby County. Twenty-five minutes later.
Runner up tonight, Joe L. Light of Memphis, Tennessee. For decades, we‘ve heard about people like Mr. Light, but this is the first time somebody like him has been identified by name. It turns out he voted in the special Tennessee State Senate election on September 15 which is a neat trick, given that Mr. Light died on August 6.
But the winner, Warren Roberts, the owner of a strip club in Birmingham, England. He says he and a local hot air balloon operator have combined forces and when it gets warm, they will launch a balloon a 150 feet in the air on which customers will be able to get lap dances. Hey listen, if the customers could get it to go up 150 feet in the air, they wouldn‘t need lap dances.
What? The balloon. Get the balloon to go up. What did you think I meant? Warren Roberts, today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”
OLBERMANN: It has always been true in New York, my bet is that everywhere else it‘s just as true, my experience as well. If people come visit your town at Christmastime—it‘s a close competition every year—who is a bigger pain in the back side: hose tourists or your fellow natives? In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN come the holidays, in my town, there are more annoying visitors than there are annoying native borns. But pound for pound, the native borns are far worse.
You don‘t believe me? Ask Alison Stewart after she went out amongst the gangs of drunken Santas in the streets of sidewalks of New York.
ALISON STEWART, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Santa came to town a little early this year with several hundred of his closest friends.
This red sea of Santas paraded across the Brooklyn Bridge, hopped the subway and even stormed the steps of the Federal Building where the bill of rights was signed. This convention called Santa Con featured Santas of all shapes, sizes and skill levels.
(on camera): If you had to describe this event to someone who never heard of it before, how would you describe it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas spectacular.
STEWART (voice-over): There was chanting, caroling and carousing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s so many Santas, I don‘t know what to do.
STEWART: So many that the spectacle was hard to resist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you don‘t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has she been naughty or nice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She‘s been naughty. Keep it up, though, Santa likes it.
STEWART: The tradition began 11 years ago in San Francisco. Since then, it‘s gone global with Santa Cons planned in Boston, Atlanta and London.
(on camera): How did you Santas all know where to meet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cell phone.
STEWART: Santa rocks the cell phone?
(voice-over): And the web where organizers post a meeting place in the last minute to maintain a veil of secrecy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Santa doesn‘t talk to the press.
STEWART: Most stay in character.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was born into this. I‘ll always be doing this.
I mean, it‘s me and reindeer and my colleagues.
STEWART (on camera): There are four unofficial rules with Santa Con, don‘t mess with the police, don‘t mess with kids, don‘t mess with store security and don‘t mess with Santa!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas.
STEWART (voice-over): Sometimes these Santas are nice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
STEWART: Sometimes they‘re naughty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santa needs a break. Santa needs a drink.
STEWART (on camera): Oh, OK. Well, no drinking and sleigh driving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly not. No. No. Today, we take mass transit.
STEWART (voice-over): Whether a good Santa or a bad Santa, the merrymaking is part fun and part farce. And before you know it, complete Santarchy raised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Santa takes over, everyone will be much happier.
STEWART: Alison Stewart, NBC News.
OLBERMANN: And those are our men in the field defending this nation against the attacks on Christmas.
Once again, somebody else bringing a new meaning to that familiar holiday refrain, ho-ho-ho.
And that‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose.
Good night and good luck.
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