Guests: Dana Milbank, Wayne Slater, Bob Nightengale
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Hammer time is over. Faced with losing his race for reelection to Congress, Tom DeLay quits.
Another pinata removed from the political party. So which party is most shocked and disappointed tonight, the Republicans who supported him. or the Democrats who valued him as such an easy target?
And while he‘s no longer a target of the House Ethics Committee, what legal problems remain? How many more mug shot ops will he get?
At least nobody threw a syringe at him. Barry Bonds makes his 2006 debut amid debris, a syringe without a needle thrown on the field near him in San Diego. The home crowds may support Bonds, the road ones probably not, now.
And this, this is finally explained. The inexplicable, the film that hasn‘t even been released yet, but is already a cult hit, so bad people expect it to be good. Like “Waterworld,” only with a good plot, or a good actor, like “Showgirls,” only with a good plot or a good actress. “Snakes on a Plane.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s going to have snakes. They‘re going to be on a plane. Probably going to be some biting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Exactly how do you mean, biting?
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The careers of the political big shots of ancient Rome all usually ended the same way, in big piles of political big shots eventually pushed into the Tiber River.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, we‘ve cleaned the business up appreciably in the last 2000 years. The big piles are metaphoric now, not grisly ones. But the effect seems to be exactly the same otherwise.
Just throw Tom DeLay over there on top of Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston and Tom Foley and Dan Rostenkowski and everybody else.
The one-time pest exterminator turned congressman turned majority leader, with one last flyswatter up his sleeve, revealing late last night to Chris Matthews that he is quitting, giving up, in a matter of weeks, the seat he has held for more than tow decades, as well as changing his legal residence from Texas to Virginia so that, under the law in Texas, his name will not appear on the ballot come November 7.
In a spate of interviews following the announcement, Congressman DeLay saying that he could have won his bid for reelection, but didn‘t want to risk that small chance that he couldn‘t, that he fasted in search of spiritual health in making the decision, and that given the chance, he would do it all the same way again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL “)
REP. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS: Nothing I‘d change.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Nothing.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re facing, you know, these prosecutors, with two of your former aides who are out there plea bargaining—
DELAY: There‘s nothing there.
MATTHEWS: ... Scanlon and this guy Rudy and Abramoff, and they‘re getting squeezed to give the Big Enchilada over. Doesn‘t that worry you?
DELAY: Not at all, because I haven‘t done anything wrong. I had (INAUDIBLE)...
MATTHEWS: Well, what are they giving their lighten their sentences, then, if they got nothing? What are they offering up to the prosecutors?
DELAY: I don‘t know, but it isn‘t me. I had my lawyers spend all fall investigating me as if they were prosecuting me. And there‘s nothing there. I haven‘t talked to anybody in the Department of Justice. I‘ve turned over everything that I have that they may want to use in their investigation. But I haven‘t been subpoenaed. I‘ve been—my lawyers have been told I‘m not a target of the investigation. This is all guilt by association driven by the left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In other words, just say no.
Well, his lawyers think he‘s innocent, most congressmen, of course, who have been indicted would have skulked out of town in the dead of night, like the last incarnation of the Colts from Baltimore or speaker Jim Wright. Most probably would not have had the chutzpah to smile in their mug shots either. Yet today, his fellow Republicans coming not to bury Tom DeLay, but to praise him, possibly because he was already buried.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a talk last night on my way back from the ball game with Congressman DeLay. He informed me of his decision. My reaction was, it had to have been a very difficult decision for someone who loved representing his district in the state of Texas. I wished him all the very best. And I know he‘s looking forward to—he‘s looking to the future.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have worked very closely with Congressman DeLay and other leaders on the Hill to get things done for the American people. Decision‘s been made, and now it‘s time to move forward and continue working to—with congressional leaders to build upon our record.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: But wait, there‘s more. The man who assumed DeLay‘s position as majority leader, Congressman John Boehner, calling him, quote, “one of the most effective and gifted leaders the Republican Party has ever known.” We‘re guessing that word “effective” was on the GOP talking points memo, because the third-ranking Republican in the House, the majority whip, Roy Blunt, also praised Mr. DeLay as “one of the most effective Republican leaders in a generation.”
Equally effective, at least as a storytelling device, the following graphic delineating just how many of Mr. DeLay‘s former staff members are tied to the disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, DeLay‘s resignation coming only three days after his own former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay‘s offices.
Rudy‘s plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities.
Last year, his former aide, Michael Scanlon, a former partner of Abramoff‘s as well, also entered a guilty plea and is cooperating with prosecutors. Recent court filings also show that Mr. Rudy had accepted gifts and trips from someone described as Lobbyist B, thought to be former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham.
Three more DeLay political aides indicted in a separate case in Texas, Mr. Delay indicted there as well for alleged money laundering of corporate political donations that prosecutors say were illegally funneled into the Republican remaking of the Texas legislature.
Time now to call in someone whom our court papers refer to as Political Analyst D, believed to be “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Very effective introduction, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly.
Let‘s begin with the timing. Why now? And were this move and the Tony Rudy plea deal coincidences of timing?
MILBANK: Well, I‘ll tell you why now, and that is, Representative Number Two. Forget about Lobbyist A or Thing B, or whatever. When a former deputy chief of staff makes a plea deal, and the prosecutors are referring to you, Tom DeLay, as Representative Number Two, there‘s trouble on the horizon. That‘s sort of the prosecutors‘ code for saying, We don‘t like the looks of this guy.
So Tom DeLay has every reason to expect some more trouble down the road one way or other. So that, I think, quite adequately explains the timing.
OLBERMANN: The party, the Republican Party reaction to his announcement today, glowing is not a word usually coming to mind when a lawmaker resigns in at least the potential of disgrace. Was everybody nice to him because he was nice enough to them to leave, you know, We‘ll miss you so much, so leave now, and we can miss you even more?
MILBANK: Well, I mean, I‘m not sure how really effusive it was. It didn‘t look like the president had much nice to say about him, other than wishing him well. When the congressional—Republican congressional leaders got together to praise him today, they were quite pointed about not taking any questions.
So I think this is the, sort of the typical gracious thing you do when this guy is stepping down, because they have every reason to believe this will benefit them.
OLBERMANN: The other clich’ here, the gone but not forgotten possibility, will this have been the last time we‘ve heard of Tom DeLay as a force to be reckoned with within the conservative movement? Is there some other role for him other than the ones that he has already had?
MILBANK: Well, the president is looking for a new liaison to Capitol Hill, and Tom DeLay is moving to Virginia.
But, no, I think you can expect the Democrats to try to bring this up much more frequently, talking about the culture of corruption. They don‘t want to let him go. He‘s been the best demon the Democrats have had since Newt Gingrich. So if it‘s up to them, he will be very much in the middle of things.
But if not for that, he‘ll wind up like Dick Armey. We—you know, Dick Armey does some fine work today with civil liberties groups, but we don‘t really talk about him anymore.
OLBERMANN: The liaisons you mentioned, his liaisons on Capitol Hill appear to have been what got him, to some degree, in the trouble that he‘s in now, so he might not be—he might be an expert on that field, but not...
MILBANK: An entirely different type of liaison.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Something else that the president said today that did not pertain to Tom DeLay is pertinent to political discussions of the day, West Wing staffing. Are there more changes coming, first of all?
MILBANK: We certainly expect it—and Josh Bolten has indicated as much—in the liaison office, but also in the communication shop.
OLBERMANN: What exactly, do you know? What did Mr. Bush mean when he said that he had told Mr. Bolten, the incoming chief of staff, that his needs are to have good, crisp information to make the decisions with? What does that mean? Is that, keep it short and snappy? Is it that it should be on, on, on, on, on, on starched parchment? Or what does it mean?
MILBANK: I think it was pretty clear he wants Josh Bolten to be watching COUNTDOWN each night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps not for crisp information. No, you have—I mean, seriously, is there any—what is, what is it that is, that is sought here by the president?
MILBANK: It was a little unusual, because the president has always said how he gets his best information through his aides. So this may be a way of him saying, I‘m trying to get out of that famous bubble that we‘ve all been talking about. And that is, in fact, what he needs to do, and he does need to be able to understand what his members up on Capitol Hill are thinking better than he has.
OLBERMANN: Well, I read in your paper how—what, what a—what an insightful political program this newscast is. Perhaps this is the thing for the president to be watching.
MILBANK: It‘s just the thing.
OLBERMANN: “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank, who‘s always very gracious. And has our great thanks, as always, for being with us.
MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ahead, the big political picture post-DeLay, as seen by Pat Buchanan.
First, as we mentioned, the Abramoff scandal is only one-half of the legal battle that was facing Congressman DeLay as the day began, the half in which he has not been indicted. Mr. DeLay still awaiting trial in the great state of Texas, of which he will soon no longer be a resident.
For more on that angle of the story, let‘s call in Wayne Slater, senior political reporter of “The Dallas Morning News,” co-author of the book “Bush‘s Brain.”
Wayne, welcome back to the program. Thanks for your time.
WAYNE SLATER, CO-AUTHOR, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: First of all, did you think there would come a day when Tom DeLay would no longer legally, at least, be a Texan?
SLATER: Well, I guess in the signs of the apocalypse, Willie Nelson goes to Utah is about as bad as it gets. This is close.
OLBERMANN: The case in Texas against Mr. DeLay, part of which had been thrown out on legal technicality, is he still actually facing trial on the rest of it? And how strong does the prosecution‘s case look? Or is it as politically dubious as Mr. DeLay‘s supporters would have us believe?
SLATER: Sure, he faces trial here in Texas. I just talked to his lawyer a little bit ago, talked to folks in DeLay‘s office. Basically, the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, says this resignation changes nothing. They‘re moving forward in Texas on the money laundering and conspiracy charges. Conspiracy charges have been knocked down, is on appeal right now.
That‘s what they‘ve got to say right now. My guess is, there probably will be a trial. It won‘t be until next year, in most all likelihood.
And how strong is it? I got to tell you, you look at the evidence here, and DeLay‘s lawyer, Dick de Guerin, darn good lawyer, is pretty confident that he‘s going to be able to convince a jury that the whole process of sending money up to Washington, laundering it through, and sending money back to Texas in an illegal fashion didn‘t work.
I think the DeLay people are confident they can beat the rap if they ever get to court.
OLBERMANN: Today, Mr. Delay not only proclaimed his innocence on this, but, but, but to a large degree, he was threatening Mr. Earlier, the prosecutor in the case. First he said that in the end, we‘re going to give them a pretty good Texas whupping, and that was not clear that he was speaking entirely figuratively in that.
But second, he also said he was going to have the Texas legislature take away Mr. Earle‘s power in its next session. Can the Texas (INAUDIBLE) legislature do that? And would it now do that for Mr. DeLay under these circumstances?
SLATER: It can do it, it likely won‘t do it, in this case. After all, Tom DeLay will no longer be a congressman with the authority and influence he had before. And he had enormous influence in getting the legislature to redistrict in an off-year.
But the legislature can do that. Ronnie Earle, the prosecutor, is charged with prosecuting public corruption. It‘s a unique thing here in Texas, funded by the legislature. And so the very process of going after Tom DeLay, as he‘s gone after 14 other elected officers, officials in the last 20 years, is part of funding from the legislature. If they want to strip him of that funding, they can do it. It would be a political nightmare if they tried to do it.
OLBERMANN: What is your political gut telling you about the reaction to this it‘s perceived in Texas? Is this going to be portrayed, is this going to be felt as a guy quitting, a guy turning tail, or a guy doing the right thing?
SLATER: Well, you know, nobody quit at the Alamo. Everybody stayed and fought.
At the same time, I think if you look down in his district, the folks there, I think, see him, and many of the folks there see him as a person who was besieged by a Democratic prosecutor engaged in a witch hunt. I think they‘ll embrace, in large part, the Republican successor nominee who comes there.
And I think a lot of people in Texas, by and large, support Tom DeLay. A lot of people don‘t among the Democratic Party. But I suspect that this idea that he would cut and run, that he would do as Nixon said he‘d never do—“I‘m not a quitter”—and ultimately quit, is something that privately, folks aren‘t really proud of.
OLBERMANN: Wayne, is there a sense from that vantage point of yours that the Christian conservative movement in the country is going to continue to view Mr. DeLay positively, or has he become damaged goods because of this?
SLATER: Yes, I talked to a number of Christian evangelical and conservative Christians today. I was there in Washington last week when DeLay arrived at a Values Voters conference. He was accepted like a rock star. It was a standing ovation, and it was quite a thing to see.
I talked to Rick Scarborough, an evangelist from east Texas who‘s known DeLay for a long time. He said DeLay stays solid with the religious right. They‘re going to stay with their guy. Their guy fought for them, they‘re going to fight for their guy.
At the same time, I talked with a couple of other evangelical Christian leaders who say, You know, it‘d be better that he get past this criminal part, and not be behind bars if he‘s going to advocate moral issues to the rest of us.
OLBERMANN: Not to use an unfortunate term, but does the martyrdom help here under those circumstances?
SLATER: It does help. I think ultimately, as you know, Christians like nothing better than the redeemed sinner. And if DeLay does that and comes back in that way, then I think it might portend well for him.
OLBERMANN: Provided he gets redeemed. If he gets prosecuted and convicted, that‘s another story altogether.
Wayne Slater of “The Dallas Morning News,” great thanks for your time, sir.
OLBERMANN: And then there‘s the DeLay problem within the Republican Party. Or is it now the DeLay problem within the Democratic Party. Yes, the GOP loses a pit bull of long standing, but the Dems just lost a slow-moving target.
Speaking of targets tonight, Barry Bonds thought he had problems with the media, and after the first-nighters in San Diego barraged him with everything from sarcasm to syringes, is it possible we were being nice to him by contrast?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Tom DeLay insists that, at worst, he had a 50-50 chance of reelection to Congress. He would not take that bet. But with him cashing in, are the big losers his own Republicans, or the Democrats, who so enjoyed chasing him towards the big old roach motel?
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, how Mr. DeLay‘s baggage might still carry a lot of weight in the other races this fall.
It is far from certain that his replacement on the ballot will beat the Democratic candidate, former representative Nick Lampson, in Texas. Though Mr. DeLay has officially extracted himself from that race, he‘s powerless to affect how his name and image might be used in an election year in which only 15 seats would be needed to shift to the Democrats in order to hand them control of the House. Mr. Delay may be retiring, but this mug shot of him probably will not be.
Let‘s call in MSNBC political analyst, author of “Where the Right Went Wrong,” former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
Good to talk to you, Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, “WHERE THE RIGHT WENT WRONG”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me start with this kind of contrarian thesis here.
The Democrats may miss Tom DeLay a lot more than the Republicans will.
BUCHANAN: Well, you‘re exactly right. I think with Tom DeLay, they had a live target, a visual, someone they could put right in all their pictures and their ads. But with Tom DeLay out of the picture for six months before the election‘s held, I think the Democrats are going to miss him more than the Republicans.
The Republicans got a break here. They‘ve taken away the central figure who is identified, if you will, with corporate airplane rides and meals and golf trips and all the rest of it. So I think it‘s a benefit for the Republicans today and for Mr. DeLay.
I think he might have gotten beat. It would have cost him an enormous amount of money. And he‘s got other problems on his mind.
OLBERMANN: As a political ghost, to some degree, though, is he still part of the midterms in November? Is he still—or will the attempt still be made to make him the bogeyman for the Democrats? Or a martyr for the Republicans?
BUCHANAN: He will—Tom DeLay will never be a martyr, but as the Democrats using him as a bogeyman, I don‘t think it works very well, Keith. He‘s gone. People say, Look, he was a good leader, he did some things wrong. He‘s gone. Leave it be.
And my guess is, if he has problems in the law, any kind of trial that he‘s involved in won‘t begin before November. I think the Democrats ought to move on to some better target.
OLBERMANN: One more bit of three-dimensional thinking, though, and it dovetails exactly with what you said about a better target for Dems. How about the idea that Tom DeLay was the chief Republican lightning rod, and with him gone, all the criticism, all that interpolitical criticism, will hit the president square in his incumbency, perhaps via Scooter Libby?
BUCHANAN: No, I don‘t think Scooter Libby does it either. I think his trial‘s going to be put over to afterwards. Not one in 50 Americans knows who he is. They probably think he‘s a running back for Grambling College or something.
But I do think this. The president‘s problem, Keith, is that he‘s a 35 percent president, and you‘ve got a party and a country that‘s divided 50-50. The Republicans have got to get off letting people vote on what they think of Bush and Cheney and get on to what the alternative is if you throw us out.
I mean, Charlie Rangel‘s head of Ways and Means. They‘re going to go to impeachment, they‘re going to go to censure, they‘re going to raise your taxes. There‘ll be no more John Roberts, there‘ll be an endless line, gray line of David Souters. All of these issues, Republicans have to got to change the subject, get it onto their strongest issues, and try to force the media and force the election onto at least the issues where they are winning. And that‘s taxes and judges.
OLBERMANN: Have you seen anything in the last five years, from the current state of the Republican Party, especially in the last, say, 18 months, that suggests to you that that‘s possible?
BUCHANAN: The problem is Iraq. Iraq is something that—it‘s there every day. It‘s in the papers. The American people think now we shouldn‘t have gotten in. But we can‘t (INAUDIBLE) walk away from it, and now everybody‘s bleeding. And so that‘s the real problem. I haven‘t seen—and immigration divides the president‘s party, does not unite it.
You know, I really think that the president and the party got to realize they face a real debacle. If the election were held right now, they would lose the House, and they could lose the Senate. So they got nothing to lose to devise an offensive strategy to go at the other side, go to the country and say, We‘ve made mistakes, but here‘s what they represent, here‘s where they‘ll take the nation.
On that issue, I think it‘s still pretty much a 50-50 country. And that‘s the president‘s best bet.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Pat, I read off at the beginning of the newscast the names of the minority and majority leaders and the speakers, all of them in the last 17 years, Jim Wright, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Tom Foley, now Tom DeLay. Is this all we have left of bipartisanship? It doesn‘t make a difference what party you‘re in, everybody skirts the rules?
BUCHANAN: Well, in a way. I don‘t know that—I think Tom Foley just lost his seat. But there‘s no doubt, when you get a figure, he gets up, stands up, and he‘s visible, and he‘s as partisan as Wright was, as Gingrich was, as DeLay was, they are real targets for the opposition to use every tactic they can.
And frankly, Tom DeLay got himself into a lot of trouble through his own fault.
But I will say this. He is one of the most effective Republican leaders in putting together a majority for the Republican Party and getting things done that I‘ve seen in my lifetime. He was a real worker, he‘s a dedicated conservative.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan. As always, our time with you well spent and effective. Great thanks for it.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the $20 webcam was supposed to help him meet new friends. Instead, he told Congress today, it helped turn him into a child porn star and drug addict, usually while under his parents‘ roof.
And you know the old cliche, the hair of the dog that bit you. No, this is not hangover advice, this is sewing advice. Sewing with the hair of the—
That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Not one but two of the founding fathers of NBC News were born on this date, April 4, not just John Cameron Swayze, who anchored the network‘s first TV newscast, but also Bill Ryan, who was the correspondent on the air the day President Kennedy was assassinated, and later a great local newscaster in New York for NBC.
I will now celebrate their contributions to this organization in the least appropriate and journalistic manner imaginable by saying...
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin once again in India, with the COUNTDOWN Leopard Chase of the Week. Panic in the streets of Panjim (ph) as the full-grown adult meat-eater led forest officials on a three-hour hunt through the tourist hot spot. They speculate the leopard came in from the nearby jungle. Do you think?
Yes, oh, you know, he didn‘t drop in from a Lucino Visconti film. It was finally taken down with a tranquilizer gun and will be brought to a nearby zoo to live out its days. No one injured, including the leopard, although one kid named Kumar reportedly tried to ride the thing to White Castle.
To Denver, where we meet Gauge (ph) Evans, the dog hair spinner. For years, she has carefully brushed the coats of her longhaired husky dog and wondered, What, oh, what do I do with these disgusting clumps of dog hair left on the brush? The answer, make wool. This is known as wool-gathering. Taking the hair and putting it into her magic machine, Evans has been spinning dog hair into gold for herself for years now, and she‘s now offering her services to others.
Show up with a sack of dog hair, and before you know it, you‘ve got an afghan blanket that smells like an Afghan hound. For a lovely sweater, if you don‘t mind wearing it with a matching flea and tick collar.
Nothing fancy you want to do with the leavings of these animals. It‘s the leaving itself it‘s fancy with them. Cats in the toilet everybody. Look at them go. Perhaps you have seen this type of thing before, Lord knows we have shown it to you often enough before. The company called the Litter Kwitter with a K is offering the way for your kitty to learn how to use a people toilet to do his dirty, dirty business. Just buy a handy $89 kit, any cat can do it. Most of them seem to get the hang of it. But the greatest reward for the folks at Litter Kwitter clearly they are extremely satisfied customers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To come home and there is a little business in the toilet, you never think you are going to be so excited about that, but there it is. You are just jumping for joy, calling everybody you know. She did it, she did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You, sir, have no life.
Baseball fans are not throwing kitty anything at Barry Bonds. But what about that thing in midair? Judging by opening night, might the public be less forgiving or less disinterested than everybody assumed? How about bad movie scripts, how about throwing bad movie scripts at home. The online phenomenon. The film “Snakes on a Plane” and how could it be a hit if it doesn‘t hit theatres until August.
Those stories next, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this evening.
The first, Randy Rencher has already been sent to prison and escaped. He robbed banks while wearing the correction officers‘ uniform he escaped in, and he is back in a Chicago jail and demanding prison meals be inspected from now on. He said dinner last Friday made him severely ill. If you don‘t like the food, don‘t move into the restaurant.
Number two, the April Fools victim in Salisbury, Maryland, an unnamed man goes into a restaurant in Denny‘s, takes the customary seat and becomes stuck there. Glued tight. Paramedics took the man to the hospital and needless to say, they also took the toilet seat to the hospital.
Number one, the dumb criminals of the week who broke into a middle school in Huntersville, North Carolina stole a car full of audio visual equipment and sped off into the night towards Charlotte, 15 miles away. Unfortunately 10 miles away they were apprehended while knocking on the doors of local residents, asking for gas money. That‘s right. They filled up the car with electronics, but did not fill it up with gas.
OLBERMANN: The baseball season is barely 48 hours old and already a tradition has been overturned. Instead of the throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, last night saw the throwing out of the ceremonial first syringe.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, here we go, the fans get to join in on the Barry Bonds steroid scandal and judging by the syringe thrown near bonds during the opening game in San Diego. The syringe without a needle, we should mention. The fans may be angrier than the reporters are. On opening night, in San Diego Bonds swatted a double and the first pitch he saw on the season and then things seemed to go downhill.
Fans, some subdued yet still creative, holding up various disparaging signs, among them they read “Baroid,” “Hank Hero, Barry Zero,” referring to Barry Bonds‘ race to reach Hank Aaron‘s record of 755 home runs. And “Cheaters Never Prosper”. I don‘t think that‘s original.
And then came the needle of needling. In the eighth inning, a Bonds naysayer stood up and chucked a syringe onto the field, as in a syringe that would be necessary for the injection of, say, steroids. Here come the syringes.
The bewildered Bonds picked it up and said, quote, “put it off the field so no one would get hurt.”
One other mystery related to all of this has been resolved. This “Trade Barry” sign that appeared last Saturday near the Giants home ballpark in San Francisco. “San Francisco Chronicle” reported yesterday it was actually part of an advertising scheme and today that was confirmed. The billboard, the first in a series performed by the Topps baseball cards people. They are not saying “Trade Barry” from the Giants to another team, but trade Barry‘s baseball cards to another collector.
As a disclaimer, I am an unpaid consultant to Topps and I did not know about the clever billboard thing. Thanks for clueing me in, boys. Top baseball writer from “USA Today,” Bob Nightengale was at the Padres-Giants opener last night and joins us now from San Diego. Thanks for your time tonight, Bob.
BOB NIGHTENGALE, “USA TODAY”: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It‘s only one night and maybe unfair to judge based on that, but does it seem the fans are more opinionated about Bonds now then at any point since this Balco steroid scandal started in 2004?
NIGHTENGALE: Very much so. Probably because he is so close to Ruth. It‘s like people don‘t want him to break Ruth‘s record, even though it is second place, and they certainly don‘t want him to break Hank Aaron‘s record.
OLBERMANN: We hear often in some cases in defense of Barry Bonds, that sports fans don‘t care about stuff like this. They want to see the home runs and use the great line from the pitching coach Johnny Sain (ph), nobody wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. Is Barry Bonds inadvertently disproving this? Is the fan more cognizant now than he was before?
NIGHTENGALE: I think so just because he is so close to some records. And nobody seems to mind in ‘98 with McGwire and Sosa going for the record and breaking Maris‘ mark, but they care now. And he is getting the brunt of all of it. Never mind the couple hundred of other guys who have used stuff.
OLBERMANN: The disparity between the reactions both baseball and from the fans between ‘98 and 2006, is that a lesson learned because everybody let Mark McGwire get away with whatever he got away with it or is that people assumed nefarious reasons for the reactions, including racism, including the Babe Ruth factor? What do you attribute the two different responses to?
NIGHTENGALE: I think a lot of it, the Balco, some personality and some racism, he is still giving plenty of racist letters now more than ever. Without the Balco investigation, maybe none of this stuff would have ever come out.
OLBERMANN: As to Barry Bonds himself, the quote after the game about the syringe incident was, “If they want to embarrass themselves like that,” referring to the fans, is he really in that kind of state of denial about what‘s going on? Does he think that the fans are embarrassing themselves?
NIGHTENGALE: He does. This guy is so focused, it‘s like he is treating this think like he is getting a $20 parking ticket. Just kind of blowing it off. He will look around the stands and listen to people taunting him and just shrugs it off. It‘s almost like he feeds off the stuff, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do you suppose and we are very being speculative about that, but do you think he thinks last night was kind of a one-shot deal and this is somehow going to die down as the season goes along?
NIGHTENGALE: No. I don‘t think so. If they are acting like this in San Diego, imagine when he goes back East. So it was bad, but it wasn‘t horrible. It wasn‘t as bad as New York with John Rocker when he went back there the first time.
OLBERMANN: Or even in Los Angeles when they went out and mooned him. The general reaction though, and speaking of Los Angeles, within baseball, the season is now a tangible thing. We are now seeing the race against time that involves Bonds and the home run record and the condition of Bonds‘ knees and the George Mitchell investigation. It‘s like four track runners out there. I was surprised to see the immortal announcer of the Dodgers, Vin Scully, actually say that he hopes Bonds does not pass Ruth or Aaron while playing against the Dodgers because it would be an awkward moment and he would rather have that awkward moment happen to someone else.
When Vin Scully says that, one of the most positive, even handed, respected people in the world let alone just in baseball, when he said something like that, is it over for Barry Bonds in the court of opinion? Is he already finished?
NIGHTENGALE: Yeah. I think no matter what happens if with Major League Baseball‘s investigation, people are convinced he used steroids. Just because he got big. The bottom line is we don‘t have person who came out and said we have seen Bonds use steroids or injected Bonds themselves. But yeah, I don‘t think anybody will be convinced that he didn‘t cheat.
OLBERMANN: Bob Nightengale, baseball writer for “USA Today” at San Diego for the start of the Barry Bonds march into the record books or the wilderness or both, we‘ll see what happens tonight. Great thanks for your time, Bob.
NIGHTENGALE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, president of the class by day, but he became a teenage porn star over the Internet by night. It is a salacious story obviously but it‘s also a story of actual value and of warning and Congress heard it today. Recognize this celebrity mug shot? Here‘s a hint. The police would not let him pose with his trademark sunglasses. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: He says it all began with a $20 Web cam intended to let him interact with others his own age. That was five years ago when Justin Barry was 13. But the people watching were hardly his own age. Our number two story on THE COUNTDOWN, before he knew it, he had been lured into the life of online child pornography. Today, as our chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell reports he told his story to Congress.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Justin Barry was once a very lonely 13-year-old boy. So he got a Web cam, hoping to connect online and find friends. But he never ended up meeting anyone his own age.
JUSTIN BARRY, CHILD PORNOGRAPHY VICTIM: Part of me wanted to die.
Every day on camera part of me did.
O‘DONNELL: Within 10 minutes of posting his image on line, he was contacted by a sexual predator. He told Congress in dramatic and graphic testimony his story.
BARRY: For five years beginning when I was 13 years old I operated a pornographic Web site featuring images of myself loaded on to the internet by Web cams. I was paid by more than 1,000 men to strip, masturbate and even have sex with female prostitutes while on camera.
KURT EICHENWALD, “NEW YORK TIMES”: It‘s far worse than anything you would want to imagine.
O‘DONNELL: Kurt Eichenwald of the “New York Times” uncovered Justin‘s story.
EICHENWALD: In my reporting, I found Web sites dedicated to finding Web cam videos of hundreds of girls and boys who had been duped into such performances.
O‘DONNELL: In fact, sexual exploitation of children on the Internet is growing. One in every 5 children report being sexually solicited online. Internet child pornography generates an estimated $20 billion worldwide. Online music just $3 billion.
ERNIE ALLEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: For predators it‘s a shopping bazaar. It‘s a place where they can see the children they are interested in, get information about them and target them.
O‘DONNELL (on camera): What‘s perhaps most outrageous is that Justin Barry says he turned over to the Justice Department 1,500 names of potential pedophiles. To date there have been just two arrests. Tonight the Justice Department declined a request for an interview to explain why, citing an ongoing investigation. For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell in Washington.
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s no easy segue tonight to our regular round up of entertainment and gossip, “Keeping Tabs” but we begin by asking are you ready for mug shots? Joining fellow country singers Wynonna Judd and Glen Campbell, we have a new addition to the hall of game. Do you recognize this man? The reference to “Are You Ready” is from his theme song for “Monday Night Football.” You may not recognize him because they wouldn‘t let him wear his trademark, his big sunglasses.
That‘s Hank Williams Jr. Facing assault charges after a 19 year-old waitress at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis said he asked for her a kiss and lifted her off the ground in a choke hold. He says he is innocent and the waitress just wants money. We don‘t know the truth there. But this much is for certain. This may be the first time a celebrity suspect winds up looking better in his mug shot than in his traditional public appearance.
And they managed to get pregnant dolls and racy men‘s magazine pulled from the Wal-Mart shelves, but the conservative group American Family Association just failed in its latest bid to ban “Brokeback Mountain”. The DVD went on sale at 3,900 Wal-Mart stores today. The company says it is not advocating a particular lifestyle. It stocks films based on customer demand. The pressure group‘s special projects director Randy Sharpe (ph) saying, quote, “It wasn‘t even a blockbuster movie so if Wal-Mart is not trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door.”
Mr. Sharpe obviously has higher standards than Hollywood, where the low budget flick grossed $83 million of which $82.5 million was profit. By the way, after Wal-Mart‘s decision, a coalition of liberal pressure groups fainted.
But will Wal-Mart sell “Snakes on a Plane.” How could a movie with a subtle title like that fail to win 83 Oscars next year. Why it‘s a hit months before it hits theatres. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘S list of today‘s three nominees for the “Worst Person in the World.”
The bronze tonight, Sean Ray Nguyen (ph) and Burly Schulder III (ph).
Two of our air marshals keeping the skies safe and for cocaine smugglers. They pleaded guilt to smuggling cocaine, drug money, fraudulent government documents past airport security and on to a plane headed to Las Vegas.
Runner-up, Kelly Johnston (ph). She caught her 15-year-old daughter stealing some of her stuff. The punishment, punch the girl in her in the face, punch her in the head and handcuff her for 17 hours all because the daughter had gotten into her mom‘s marijuana stash. Ms. Johnston has gotten a 13 month term and three years‘ probation.
But tonight‘s winners, amazon.com. The Internet megastore got a big head start pursuing that big NCAA basketball championship merchandising dollar. They sent out an email to an unknown number of its customers yesterday morning, subject line, “UCLA Wins”. They offered 2006 UCLA Basketball National Championship, shirts and caps and other over priced junk. This was several hours before UCLA lost the national championship game to Florida, 73-57. Amazon.com, today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: The movie was called “Plan Nine from Outer Space.” There were flying saucers, zombies, graveyards, police, and Bela Lugosi, for a while anyway, until he died during filming and his remaining scenes were played by the director‘s chiropractor. The film was so bad, it was good. The acting was so bad that one of the guys playing the cops, Paul Marko, is described as the John Gielgud of bad movies.
In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, move over Paul Marko. Samuel L. Jackson may be on the eve of a kind of movie immortality not even the McDonald‘s dialogue in “Pulp Fiction” could begin to hint at. A movie called “Snakes on a Plane.” There are snakes, planes, and Samuel L. Jackson. And months before the film is to be released, it‘s as much of a cult classic as “Plan Nine from Outer Space” ever was.
COUNTDOWN‘s senior reptilian aviation correspondent Monica Novotny joins us now with the details. Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. No one has seen this movie yet. In fact the director is working with editors to complete it as we speak. But fans already love it, just for the name “Snakes on a Plane.” In fact, Samuel L. Jackson says he didn‘t bother to read the script. He took one look at the title and said “I‘m there.”
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: Enough is enough. I‘ve had it with these snakes.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): The most talked about movie this spring—not playing in a theatre near you. Yet. “Snakes on a Plane.” A cult hit starring Samuel L. Jackson that‘s not even finished. Though New Line Studios has released a trailer online. Inspiring a Web fan base thousands strong, still four months away from its planned August release. All thanks to that name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based purely on the title I‘ve never seen anything like this.
NOVOTNY: The epicenter of the Internet action, snakesonablog.com, written by Georgetown University Law student Brian Finkelstein.
BRIAN FINKELSTEIN, SNAKESONABLOG.COM: You know exactly what you‘re going to get when you go to see this movie. It‘s going to have snakes. They are going to be on a plane. There‘s probably going to be some biting.
NOVOTNY: The 26-year-old‘s blog now getting some 10,000 hits a day. Prompting readers to send in their own posters. Mock trailers. Even their own renditions of what auditions for the film could have been like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to kill those snakes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are snakes on the plane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know what kind of airline you‘re running here. But you got a reptile problem.
NOVOTNY: New Line, the studio releasing the film is well aware of the online drama.
FINKELSTEIN: They endorse it. They are very supportive of it. They understand how important it is to the movie.
NOVOTNY: Hoping to turn this Web hit into a box office blockbuster, new scenes were recently shot, to get the film to an R rating and a larger audience.
DEVIN GORDON, “NEWSWEEK”: Samuel L. Jackson is famous for uttering a certain 12-letter swear word in almost all of his movies. And fans started joking about that line. And they actually did inject that line into the script.
NOVOTNY: But Critics say “Snakes” could follow in the tracks of “Waterworld” .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I let you out of here you‘re taking us with you.
KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: Sure.
NOVOTNY: Or “Showgirls.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could sit a little closer if you want. It was a bad idea.
NOVOTNY: Films so bad they‘re good.
GORDON: I doubt very highly whether or not people are really all that excited about the movie. I think that they just see this as kind of a joke. And see it as sort of a joke on Hollywood, too. Sort of a how low can they go, what will they think of next?
FINKELSTEIN: Snakes on a submarine maybe.
NOVOTNY: New Line is getting in on the Internet action, as well. They are hosting an online song contest. Anyone can create and submit a song, any style, any genre, the winning tune will be featured in the film.
OLBERMANN: Snakes, snakes on a plane, I‘ve got some snakes on a plane
But isn‘t the timing on this all wrong? This is late August it‘s coming out, right?
OLBERMANN: The drag time is weak?
NOVOTNY: That‘s sort of the problem. There is speculation now about that. Because New Line would not speak us to on camera about this. They are very excited about the Internet buzz. But the speculation among critics is that they are afraid to come out and talk about it too soon. Because like us, who is going to do the story again in August when it actually comes out?
OLBERMANN: Unless they release that song. Have you written one?
NOVOTNY: I thought you were going to write one.
OLBERMANN: I just did. We just need like six more words, we‘ve got
the song the way songs are today. Work on these six other words. Snakes
on a plane, snakes on a plane, we‘ve got some snakes on a plane
NOVOTNY: We‘ve got some bleep snakes on a plane.
OLBERMANN: Glad you‘re able to put the class part in. COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny is now working on an investigative piece on the movie “Heaven‘s Gate” which she‘ll be renting and watching tonight. Did you enjoy that?
NOVOTNY: Yes. Much.
OLBERMANN: Thanks. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,069th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose, especially if there are snakes on your plane.
Good night and good luck. Ah, see, wait for it ‘til I throw it. Our MNSBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY, LIVE & DIRECT. Good evening, Rita.
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