Guests: Richard Wolffe, Rob Dibble, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead, killed in a U.S. air strike, a pair of 500-pound bombs. But in the postmortem photo, he still looked pretty good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But is that true? Nobody is mourning Zarqawi. But a respected and conservative military Web site had previously reported Zarqawi had become a loose cannon who was handicapping al Qaeda‘s efforts. It predicted an accident may befall him at some point in the near future.
Is al Qaeda celebrating this as well?
Spin versus reality, as the base claims this is a turning point in Iraq, again, after three years of false hopes there, is anybody still listening?
They are listening in baseball. Day two of the human growth hormone scandal. The feds reportedly wanted pitcher Jason Grimsley to wear a wire and implicate Barry Bonds.
And a bigger shudder still now reportedly tied into the mess, the personal trainer of Albert Pujols, who is supposed to be the first star of the post-steroids era. Oops.
And the oops that set “People” magazine against “Hello!” magazine. We‘ve got them. Well, about 4 percent of them. Some of “People” magazine‘s photos of Shiloh Nouvelle Jolie-Pitt. Well, a couple of them. Our long national nightmare is over.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The Web site in question is not exactly a home to liberals. There, between the ads selling T-shirts reading “Re-defeat Communism, No Hillary in 2008,” and the blog suggesting China is ready to attack, was the headline, “Zarqawi Scheduled for Martyrdom.”
Under the auspices of editor in chief Jim Dunegan (ph), StrategyPage.com had written, “The relationship between terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the mainline al Qaeda leadership continues to deteriorate, given that Zarqawi has become a loose cannon and that his actions are handicapping al Qaeda‘s efforts, it seems reasonable to expect that an accident may befall him at some point in the near future. If handled right, it can be made to look like he went out in a blaze of glory fighting American troops, or that he was foully murdered. Either way, al Qaeda gets rid of a problem and gains another martyr.”
That was posted Wednesday morning, our time, about three hours before the U.S. air strike that killed Zarqawi, 19 hours before word first came from Washington.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Zarqawi is dead, it is good news for the free world, but is it also good news for al Qaeda? And as Dunegan prophesied, could the terrorists have participated in giving him up?
Beyond any satisfaction or sense of justice here, are the terrorists also celebrating?
The proof of Zarqawi‘s demise presented to the world in photographic form, his face clearly identifiable, despite the firepower that was used to take him out. At 6:15 p.m. (INAUDIBLE) Baghdad time Wednesday night, American F-16s dropped two 500-pound bombs on a remote safe house near Baqubah, Iraq, killing Zarqawi, his spiritual aide, and four other people, including an as-yet unidentified pregnant woman and child.
The U.S. military says it knew Zarqawi was inside, thanks to people within his own organization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led our forces to Zarqawi...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The White House first heard about the strike Wednesday afternoon our time, but held off telling the public about it, preferring instead to let the new Iraqi prime minister address a cheering media corps early this morning with the news that, quote, “Al-Zarqawi was eliminated.”
After that, the torrent of statements here flowed, all with pretty much the same messages, that while this is a blow to the insurgency, it is far from a knockout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect this sectarian violence to continue.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The death of al-Zarqawi is a strike against al Qaeda in Iraq, and therefore, a strike against al Qaeda everywhere.
But we should have no illusions. We know that they will continue to kill. We know there many, many obstacles to overcome.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Given the nature of the terrorist networks—really a network of networks—the death of Zarqawi, while enormously important, will not mean the end of all violence in that country, and one ought not to take it as such.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: To assess the correct impact of Zarqawi‘s death, I‘m joined now by MSNBC terrorism analyst, Roger Cressey.
As always, Roger, thanks for joining us.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Start with the practical impact on the insurgency. At least 40 dead in various attacks in Iraq since Zarqawi‘s death. What actually has changed?
CRESSEY: Well, not much, because Zarqawi‘s network was not a key element to the overall insurgency. To the extent that they conducted attacks, it was part of the broader effort. But Zarqawi was not a leader of the insurgency like he was, say, three years ago. The insurgency has evolved. I mean, the militias and the criminal gangs and the sectarian violence, of which he‘s a part of, but not a leader of, is far more important now.
OLBERMANN: To where we started this segment, the extraordinarily well-timed analysis from Jim Dunegan‘s Web site Wednesday morning, nobody is saying he predicted that this would happen, but Dunegan is not a wet blanket when it comes to Iraq, he‘s not a liberal, he‘s not antiwar, he‘s not somebody that the right could make mud stick to. He saw this coming, in the sense that the relationship with al Qaeda had soured for Zarqawi. Was he right about that? Was he alone in the—in seeing, as a prophecy, how this was going to turn out, one way or the other?
CRESSEY: No, because as far back as last year, if you look at the letter that Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden‘s number two, sent to Zarqawi, it was clear in that letter that there were disagreements, over strategy, over tactics, between al Qaeda in Pakistan and the al Qaeda organization led by Zarqawi.
So there has been a growing disconnect between them for some time. Moreover, Keith, Zarqawi himself had global ambitions. He wanted to be a leader of the global Sunni extremist movement. So you can imagine bin Laden and Zawahiri weren‘t too thrilled about that. You know, Dunegan‘s analysis was right on, up until the phrase where he said, “It‘s reasonable to expect that—“ And then he got into pure speculation.
The timing, of course, is great, given what happened today. But I wouldn‘t read too much into his ability to predict the future, though.
OLBERMANN: And yet, what we have from here, obviously, is, from what the Pentagon has said, what all the leaders involved in this have said, with it—that we traced him through people around him, people close to him. Could the relationship—and admittedly, this is the tinfoil-hat part of it,, the conspiracy theory part of it—could it have so soured that, if not saying, OK, we‘re going to make him into a martyr, we‘re going to give him up, that there was less of an emphasis by anyone there to protect Zarqawi against the continuing and intense American efforts to get him?
CRESSEY: There‘s always a possibility in these type of environments. But got to be careful not to give al Qaeda‘s leadership too much credit or ability to affect events inside Iraq. It‘s certainly possible members of Zarqawi‘s broader network were disillusioned with his strategy and wanted to make a change. There may have been communication between them in Iraq and the people in Pakistan, and the people in Pakistan said, What a great idea.
But I don‘t think this is a “Soprano”-like hit on a made man. Instead, what we know is that the Pentagon picked up Sheikh Rahman, the spiritual leader for Zarqawi, followed him, was able to conclude that Zarqawi was there at the safe house as well, and decided to take the shot.
OLBERMANN: Roger, we‘ll get into the domestic politics of this presently with Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek.” But most of the words here about this were pretty measured, except for one sentence from the president, which the White House made a point of e-mailing to news organizes, “The ideology of terror has lost its most visible, aggressive leader.”
Senator Frist said something essentially ranking Zarqawi as the number one terrorist in the world. Maybe I missed the memo. I‘ve had a couple of days off this year. I thought there was a bin Laden was still somehow involved in all this.
CRESSEY: Yes, I missed that e-mail too. That‘s a stupid statement to make, quite frankly. Zarqawi had a lot of blood on his hands. He was a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands of individuals inside and outside Iraq. But when you compare him to bin Laden in terms of global leadership in the Sunni extremist movement, and the number of attacks that have been inspired by al Qaeda around the world since 9/11, I think it‘s foolish to say somehow he‘s been elevated at the expense of bin Laden. That‘s a very dangerous and dumb assumption to make.
OLBERMANN: Whatever the reaction is on the other end of this, if the, you know, al Qaeda and the insurgents are suppressing smiles right now, or if this is, to them, a catastrophe, let‘s look at it purely from our point of view.
Is the work the Americans were doing, the grunt work, chasing this guy and guys like him down, the—is, it‘s undeniable that they put a win and on the board, and that they needed a win no matter what the reaction is on the other end?
CRESSEY: Oh, absolutely. Look, Zarqawi was still a leader, albeit a minor leader in the overall insurgency. He did have a global following, albeit smaller than bin Laden, and he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. So you eliminate this type of individual, it‘s a very big tactical success. And it speaks to the great work that Task Force 145, the special operations task force, working with other elements of the U.S. military, the intelligence community, even the Iraqis, are having. And we‘ve seen over the past few months, Keith, is more and more of Zarqawi‘s leadership being eliminated.
That‘s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that there are other elements of the insurgency that are merrily going to go along their way, regardless of what happens to Zarqawi.
OLBERMANN: Do they get more prominent, do they get more effective because they are internal in Iraq, and Zarqawi was an outsider, a Jordanian?
CRESSEY: I think that‘s a large part of it. Zarqawi, for all his quote, unquote “success” inside Iraq, was a foreigner in a country that‘s not particularly amenable to dealing with foreigners. So the idea of having a Iraqi elevated to replace him I think would probably through appeal—would appeal to a lot of people inside his organization, putting a local face on this movement would some respects support the goals of other elements of the insurgency.
So one question is, we go back to al Qaeda, the organization, will bin Laden and al-Zawahiri issue statements calling for an Iraqi to take over this network? We‘ll have to wait and see.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. As always, Roger, great thanks for joining us.
CRESSEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As promised, the political impact of Zarqawi‘s death. At a time when the president and his party had trotted out gay marriage and flag burning to try to get attention and build support, does putting Iraq back in the headlines help or hurt the president?
And if you thought the latest drug probe hitting baseball was just about middle relief pitchers named Jason, try the newest names attached to the scandal now, Barry Bonds and the defending most valuable player, Albert Pujols.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The almost hysterical and ultimately short-lived giddiness after the previous milestone events in our troubled history in Iraq was largely missing in Washington in the aftermath of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the cynical joke was already playing through the nation‘s capital and the nation. The terrorist‘s death was trumpeted on a political TV network with the rhetorical question, Is this the turning point for President Bush? And that was greeted with another rhetorical question. You mean the 939th turning point for President Bush?
Let me call in the senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine, Richard Wolffe.
Thanks for your time, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Anything of this magnitude is bound to raise the president‘s approval ratings, but long term, is this—is it really a good idea for the White House to get that word “Iraq” back on the front pages? Will the name Zarqawi not be followed sooner or later by the place named Haditha and the U.S. death count, and if there is surprise in some places when the (INAUDIBLE) insurgency does not get buried along with Zarqawi?
WOLFFE: Well, I don‘t think they have any choice. Iraq is going to be on the front pages for a long time to come, and there‘s no expectation in the White House that they can do anything about that anytime soon. They‘ve long given up trying to control the news flow about Iraq.
But this is undeniably good news for the White House, and, you know, it would be astonishing if the president doesn‘t get a healthy bump in his poll ratings from it.
But you‘re right. There a lot of other problems down the line, and the biggest challenge they have, apart from winning and with extracting American forces from Iraq safely, is convincing the American people that there‘s a plan for victory, and they‘re making progress along that plan.
You know, this is an important thing, but it‘s not going to end the violence. That‘s why the White House is trying to focus on this new government to say, Look, here‘s the plan, we‘re executing it, and please stick with us.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush‘s demeanor seemed very serious, very low key, when he spoke about this. Last month, in that speech, of course, that we discussed right after it happened, he said he regretted using phraseology like “Bring them on” and “Dead or alive” when talking about al Qaeda, did we see visual evidence of a lesson learned?
WOLFFE: Not really. We asked that question of the White House today, and they said no. Really, the lesson they‘ve learned here was from the capture of Saddam. And the lesson here is, it‘s not so much that they were all high-fiving after Saddam, although many people were happy then, and they‘re very happy today. But the lesson is that these things are very short-lived. Just three months or four months after Saddam‘s capture, there was Abu Ghraib, and there was a big spike in the violence. And essentially, public opinion really turned definitively against the war.
So these things these things can be short lived, and there‘s that huge sense of caution here. Again, what they‘re trying to do is much more low key and just saying, Look, we have a plan, please stick with us, and, yes, this is good news, but there‘s a long, long way to go.
OLBERMANN: Is there also concern there in a perverse way that there‘s a gap here now because of the loss of the identifiable enemy that (INAUDIBLE)? That followed the capture of Saddam Hussein. There was no one to go out and chase now. I don‘t think (INAUDIBLE) the average American could name anyone involved in the leadership of the insurgency now that Zarqawi is dead.
WOLFFE: Yes, that is a problem. And they tried to refocus things. You know, originally they were just talking about the enemy in Iraq being foreign fighters, notably Zarqawi. Basically, from the end of last year, they tried to recalibrate that and say, Well, look, you know, there are these Sunnis and the Shias, and they hate each other. And so the problem is much, much bigger than foreign fighters.
But you‘re right, this has been personalized from the start in a way in America that it hasn‘t been around the world. In Britain, for instance, Tony Blair, as it turned out, incorrectly, has always made this about the broader principles, about weapons of mass destruction. Again, obviously, he was wrong there. But it wasn‘t personalized to the extent it was here.
So, you know, you can forgive the American people for thinking this was just about capturing a bad guy, because all of the rhetoric in the run-up to war has been about a single bad guy. It was about capturing Saddam. And once Saddam was captured, the poll numbers started to decline because people said, Well, isn‘t the mission accomplished?
OLBERMANN: I asked Roger Cressey about this from the counterterrorism standpoint. Let me ask you about it from the political standpoint. The quote the White House sent out about this, even though the president was so low key, the quote that was e-mailed was, from the president, “The ideology of terror has lost its most visible, aggressive leader.” And Senator Frist‘s statement from bin Laden, or about bin Laden, was that he was not that active operationally as a terrorist, therefore getting Zarqawi meant getting the number one terrorist in the world.
Is there really an expectation that some people have forgotten that name, bin Laden, at this point?
WOLFFE: Not really. Not from the White House. But, you know, there was an unseemly sort of stampede among several senators today to try and elbow their way into the news. Some of them, obviously thinking about 2008, like Bill Frist, and others just wanting to get on the front page. You know, this isn‘t—you know, they can afford to do things that the White House isn‘t, because they‘re so desperate to get into the news. They can try and overhype this in some way or seem to be jumping on the grave Zarqawi. And while everyone‘s happy that the guy is dead, I didn‘t hear anyone in the White House say, Oh, you know, bin Laden doesn‘t matter, or this guy means an end to the violence.
So I think he‘s out there on his own.
OLBERMANN: Any time we talk about anything relating to Iraq, it goes right back to the Pentagon, obviously, and the eight top generals who called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. The retired generals, the recent reports at Haditha, it seemed that his job was even more in a tenuous situation than it had been previously. How does the capture of Zarqawi impact him? Does it give him job security?
WOLFFE: Perversely, I think it actually removes job security from him. A number of people in the White House and around the president told me that essentially, the president was looking very closely at getting rid of Don Rumsfeld, up to the point where everybody started leaning on him to get rid of Don Rumsfeld. And now that Rumsfeld has got this success under his belt, the pressure will decline in terms of people saying, It‘s time for him to go.
I think there may be a second look taken here at his position, because people have been saying for a very long time, the president and many people in the White House are not happy with his performance.
OLBERMANN: What an ironic outcome that would be.
Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, sir, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: You may guffaw and I may wretch, but as many people or more will crane their necks to see these pictures from “People” magazine as those pictures of Zarqawi. It‘s the Pitt-Jolie baby, Pitt the Younger.
And topping both, World Cup fever strikes again. First it was sheep, now it‘s penguins playing soccer. I wish it was penguins playing soccer. I‘d watch.
All that and more, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1925, Edward Carl Gaydell (ph) was born in Chicago. Twenty-six years later, he appeared in one and only one major-league baseball game as a pinch hitter for the old St. Louis Browns. Nothing odd about that, except that he only stood three feet, seven inches tall. He walked on four pitches.
Contrary to popular belief, the stunt that put him in a big-league uniform was not inspired by a James Thurber short story. Another height-challenged player, an actor named Jerry Sullivan, had played in a minor-league game between Baltimore and Buffalo in 1905. In his only at-bat, he slammed a single over the third baseman‘s head.
In memory of Gaydell and Sullivan, and human growth hormone, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in South Korea, where the months of hype have all been building to this, the World Cup of soccer is here. Not here. These are parrots at the Seoul Aquarium. Parrots with World Cup fever. Well, yes, it‘s kind of like bird flu. And sadly, these little guys will have to be put down. I made that up.
But look at these penguins. They can play soccer too, yes, indeed. Look at them soccer! I‘d say we‘re happy to get the World Cup underway, and finally be done with all these silly soccer pet tricks, but frankly, they really are more interesting than the actual games (INAUDIBLE).
Ill mill (ph) again?
To Albany, to the amazing spectacle that is the controlled demolition of a 1,000-foot TV tower. Crews using a controlled explosion to take down the damaged tower on the left, and just look at the precision in which the damaged tower is brought down, while the one on the right remains perfectly intact. And it‘s a good thing too, because that tower on the right is broadcasting WALB-TV live to viewers all over the great Albany area. Oh, boy. Oh, that‘s not—that‘s not good. That‘s a bad thing. You suck! Never mind.
That video might be usable as an analogy for baseball‘s Jason Grimsley human growth hormone probe. It has now touched two very famous names that may topple, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols.
And another famous name in another controversy, how will a race team sponsored by Scientology sit with fans of NASCAR?
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the market research firm Student Monitor, in its biannual survey of college students, found that in terms of what‘s, quote, “in,” unquote, drinking beer has fallen into a second-place tie behind having an iPod. Losers!
Number two, Cameron Evans, a delivery man for Galactic Pizza of St. Louis. Its delivery people wear Superhero costumes, white tunics, beige leotards, tights, and boots when they deliver your pizza. The outfit came into play the other day when a mugger grabbed the purse of a woman named Theresa Scarmon (ph) on a St. Louis street, only to find himself being chased by a guy in a white tunic, beige leotards, tights, and boots. Superhero Evans and two passers-by tackled the robber and got the purse back.
And number one, the now-2-year-old pride of the Des Moines, Iowa, flood control district. “The Des Moines Register” was tipped off by an anonymous source to check out the new photo of the city detention basin. Aha. Say, is that a detention basin in your city, or are you just glad to see me?
OLBERMANN: When news of baseball‘s latest drug scandal broke, the federal raid of the home of a journeyman Arizona Diamondbacks‘ pitcher whom agents believe not only used but distributed the illegal performance enhancer, human growth hormone, there were many yawns. Who was Jason Grimsley? What sort of big name was he? How about if the story now includes the names Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols? Those names big enough for you?
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the HGH scandal now touches both the homerun hitter who personified the so-called steroid era of baseball and worse yet, also touches the homerun hitter who was supposed to be the first homerun hitter of the so-called clean era of baseball.
Pujols first. The incumbent National League, most valuable player who before a recent muscle injury had hit 25 homers in this season‘s first 53 games, was linked to the Grimsley investigation by a popular website called deadspin.com. In the affidavit released yesterday from the agents who original interviewed Jason Grimsley in April, Grimsley was quoted as saying a former employee of—name redacted—and fitness trainer of major league players once referred him—Grimsley—to an amphetamine sources who later provided Grimsley with amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and Human Growth Hormone. The website goes on to quote unidentified sources who say the trainer is Jeff Milfield—now, Mihlfeld, rather.
He has been the personal trainer to Albert Pujols dating back to 1999 before Pujols went into professional baseball. Pujols‘ team, the St. Louis Cardinals made no comment on the report. Mihlfeld‘s sister described Mihlfeld and Pujols as soul brothers and in a 2005 diary on baseball‘s official website, Grimsley recounted his recovery from major arm surgery and credited in part, my trainer, Chris Mihlfeld.
And then there‘s Barry Bonds. The newspaper the “Arizona Republic” quoting Jason Grimsley‘s attorney as saying that the cooperation the fed wanted from his client was to wear a wire, a concealed microphone to engage other ballplayers in conversations in hopes of finding incriminating evidence against the man who just passed Babe Ruth to move into the second place on the all-time homerun list. Attorney Edward Novak said when Grimsley refused, he was quote, “outed by the feds.” Grimsley himself has yet to make a substantive statement, though at his home in Arizona, Wednesday, he told reporter Joe Dana of our NBC station, KPNX, off camera, quote, “There things that will be said that will all come out. People that know me know me. We‘ll just have to leave it at that that.”
Not everybody‘s being so circumspect. Jeff Nelson, Grimsley‘s former bullpen mate with the 1999 and 2000 world champion New York Yankees, scalded his old colleague in the pages of the “Chicago Tribune.”
“Take blame and take the hit and don‘t be putting it on anyone else.
‘Hey, I got caught with it, and I‘m going to bring some other guys down.‘
That‘s what‘s wrong,”
Others ex-teammates were a little more understanding. Yankee‘s captain, Derek Jeter to the “New York Times,” “Talking to authorities, I don‘t know if you can lie about it, can you? That‘s when you get in trouble. That‘s completely different from Jose Canseco. Canseco was writing a book.”
More reaction now from Rob Dibble, former all-star relief pitcher of the Cincinnati Reds, now one of the hosts of FOX Sports Net‘s “Best Damn Sports Shows, Period,” and of his own baseball show on XM satellite radio.
Rob, thanks for your time.
ROB DIBBLE, SPORTSCASTER: No problem, Keith. Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s work backwards, Jeter seemed sympathetic to Jason Grimsley and the old idea of the knock on the door from the feds, Jeff Nelson apparently thinks he should have shut up and gone to jail. What do you think Jason Grimsley is and ultimately will be here? Is he the victim, the turncoat, unwitting savior of the game? What is he?
DIBBLE: I think he‘s the go between, between a distributor and some of the big name players. And if he has to give up the big name players to save his own hide, that‘s his deal. But, the quicker we rid the game of the dishonorable players, I think the game will be in a better state. And I always had guys on my team, Keith, that were the lesser players, the middle of the road, middle relief guys or the backup outfielders, those were the guys that supplied other guys with amphetamines or whatever they needed and, because a big name guy can‘t go directly to somebody like that.
OLBERMANN: Rob, this claim by the lawyer that they wanted Grimsley to wear a wire and actively try to incriminate other players, particularly Barry Bonds, would that have been a point of no return here, if he had done that, and another player had found out, what would have happened to Jason Grimsley?
DIBBLE: Well, I would say then your—maybe your life is in jeopardy or your family is in jeopardy. I think, now you‘re stepping over the bounds of, you know, reality and seeing a move on TV and actually really destroying somebody‘s personal life. But, if these other guys are guilty, Keith, I truly believe that they should be outed. And I also think that the player‘s union needs to get out there and do more proactive stuff. Don Fehr, (inaudible), they just sit back and they let guys like Albert Pujols and others players have to defend themselves publicly.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll get to Pujols in a moment, but you wrote something fascinating on your blog on the FOX website. Let me quote this here, “Mostly I blame myself,” you wrote, “back 12 years ago when we almost killed the game the issue of testing came up at a player representative‘s meeting and when I stood up and asked for better testing throughout Major League Baseball, I was shot down by many other player reps.”
That would be 1994 at the time of the awful strike that ended the season and the owners cancelled the World Series and such. Do you have idea, in retrospect, how bad the steroid human growth hormone problems might have been then? How many percent of the players might have been using them then or even now?
DIBBLE: Well, I did know a few guys on my team, Keith, that were using steroids and it didn‘t really help them. I mean, their careers were shortened, it didn‘t make them any better and so I really didn‘t pay much attention to it. And at the time I was more worried about guys who had drug abuse problems that were getting by because—you know, they weren‘t testing for marijuana and cocaine and when I stood up, and I was the player representative for a few years for the Cincinnati Reds during the strike, you know, Scott Sanderson and other player reps just shot me all to hell and said hey, just sit down. It‘s a privacy thing; you don‘t know what you are talking about. And since I was a younger player and I didn‘t have the time as the older players, I did sit down. And now in retrospect, I looked back and I said while I was on the inside, I should have had more to try to speak out against some of the stuff that was going on.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, those who remember Scott Sanderson are not surprised that when you invoked his name, there. Let me ask you, though, lastly, this latest report here tying Albert Pujols to the personal trainer that Grimsley said led him to the supplier of basically everything. Does the invocation of the name Pujols surprise you? Is there a reason anymore to look at baseball and assume that even the majority of the players aren‘t using something to enhance their performance?
DIBBLE: I don‘t know if there‘s the majority, I still believe in my heart that the majority has some honor and wouldn‘t dishonor the game or themselves by cheating or looking to gain an edge above and beyond what god has given them. They‘re talented beyond, you know, 99.9 percent of the rest of the world. Why do you need to enhance that? That‘s what has sickened me, Keith, that these guys, whether it be Barry Bonds or Canseco or Caminiti or whether McGuire was using andro, whatever, we‘ll never know. But Sosa, Palmero, they were already the elite best, Keith. That‘s what saddens me that the elite, best guys will do something to gain an edge on the weaker guys. That bothers me.
OLBERMANN: Something we‘ll examine in the day and weeks and probably months to come. Rob Dibble, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds, now one of the hosts of the “Best Damn Sports Show, Period.” Thanks for joining us, Rob, appreciate it.
DIBBLE: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: From unapproved additives in baseball, if you will, to something fuel a new controversy on racetracks. Well, if Viagra can sponsor a car, why not scientology? Heck, why not “People” magazine selling its new edition with the photos of (inaudible)? The Brangelina baby ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Jimmerson (ph) Lake, we trail a jetski piloted by a conservation officer who skimmed past a family of mute swans. The male not only followed, it took flight and chased the officer.
They were swining (ph) and now at the swans, harassing the babies and the mother and the father and you know, you know, the swan attacked him after that. You know? I mean, I would have attacked him after that, too.
CONAN O‘BRIEN, LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN: Britney Spears announced that she recently hired a male nanny. Asked why, Britney said, I want to show my son that a man can hold a job.
(inaudible) Oklahoma still rocks and rolls twice a week. One of the skaters that cones around regular is Velda Chain, but (inaudible) talent show‘s best when the regular skate stops and the limbo contest begins.
Through the years, Velda and her family have developed a sure way to get really low, with a kind of outrigger motion that puts everything horizontal.
VELDA CHAIN, LIMBO CHAMPION: And I learned from Uncle Joe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Velda is well into her mid-sixties.
CHAIN: They can come out and if see me go under like that, they just go sit back down. They don‘t even want to try.
OLBERMANN: Do you think Shiloh is going to have a tough life with the same name as a terrible battle from our Civil War? Subject of frenzied bidding and internet poaching at age one week? “People” magazine gives us our first glimpse of the happy family. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The first ads on racecars were, shockingly enough, for automotive products. Small stickers for STP oil treatment and such, which you usually could not see unless you were standing next to the car itself and it wasn‘t moving. From such tiny acorns do giant trees grow and auto racing, as a result, meets Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and L. Ron Hubbard.
Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, the stickers turned into big stickers and the big stickers turned into full body paint jobs and the full body paint jobs turned into team sponsorships and before you knew it, it was the Viagra car just edging the “Soprano‘s” car for the checkered flag. So now, why not? A racecar sponsored by scientology. Our correspondent, Michelle Kosinski is at Trackside at Homestead, Florida—Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Keith, well there is a time around these racetracks when a team could get a beer or tobacco or motor oil to sponsor them. These days it seems that everybody wants a piece of the action and fortune 500 companies, food and drug manufacturers and now, scientology.
(voice-over): Racing and religion? Well, burning rubber has gone with M&M‘s, Viagra and the movie the “Passion of the Christ.” All have sponsored race cars and now scientology will too.
MARK MCKINSTRY, BROGE PUBLICATIONS: “Dianetics” is the No. 1 self-help bestseller and NASCAR is the No. 1 spectator sport in America, it seemed like s a perfect match for us.
KOSINSKI: Yes, scientology, the religion of Tom Cruise and the silent birth is revving it‘s engines. The Dianetics‘ team car is on the local circuit in California, but they‘re aiming higher. The scientologist owner says the principles of removing stress and self doubt will give the scientologist driver an edge.
GRANT CAROONE, CEO, FREEDOM MOTORSPORTS: It allows him to be free of negative images and pictures that have caused him to back off. And in racing he needs to go at it to win. Just like in life.
KOSINSKI: Whatever the message, NASCAR has become the holy grail of marketing. More than 100 fortune 500 companies are joined the sponsors of racing totaling more than $1.5 billion last year (inaudible) for NFL sponsors.
LARRY DEGARIS, JTU CNTR. FOR SPORTS SPONSORSHIP: Everybody wants in.
KOSINSKI: Other unexpected sponsors: Senator Bob Graham in his bid for president; Spongebob Square Pants; Pork: and Boudreaux‘s Butt Paste for NASCAR babies with diaper rash.
Sports researchers say NASCAR sponsorship speaks louder than words. That fans view them as more sincere than other types of ads. And that may work for scientology, too.
DEGARIS: It will probably, at least, open the ears of the NASCAR audience and maybe make them more receptive to hearing the message in the first place. That‘s not to say that they‘ll accept it.
KOSINSKI: Research does shows, though, that there is a kind of danger associated with this type of marketing, because race fans are so loyal drivers and their sponsors that they may turn away from the sponsors of the competition. NASCAR didn‘t want to comment on this point on scientology, but they did say not everybody can be a sponsor, that they wouldn‘t allow, say, a pornography company to come in and advertise in this arena. Back to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Michelle Kosinski where scientology is taken not to a spaceship, but a racecar in Florida. Great thanks.
A simple segue then to celebrity and entertainment stories of “Keeping Tabs” and Donald Trump who used to be a famous billionaire businessman has apparently given all that up to become a full-time game show host. Thank you, Wink.
“Variety” magazine reporting Trump has signed on to executive produce a new reality program based on the world‘s most famous board game, Hungry, Hungry, Hippos. No, I‘m sorry, that‘s a typo. It‘s monopoly. Details are scarce other than the show would be produced in conjunction with toymaker, Hasbro, and be all about acquiring real estate. Likely to be shot in Atlantic City where Trump would stay in his Boardwalk Plaza hotels while the rest of the crew lives in a three-room flea bag down on Baltic Avenue. I get to be the top hat!
And for some reason this counts as breaking Hollywood news. Teri Hatcher has landed a movie role. It‘s her fist big screen gig since her stunning performance as Ms. Gradenko in the 2001 blockbuster “Spy Kids.” But thanks to success of ABC‘s “Desperate Housewives,” you‘ll now be able to see her in her upcoming boxing film Resurrecting the Champ,” the true story of a newspaper reporter who finds a homeless boxer and guides him back to glory. Hatcher will be playing the ring card girl. Oh, no, just kidding. She‘ll be the homeless guy. Oh no, just kidding again.
Not kidding here. It‘s the most anticipated baby photo in the history of history. “People” magazine pays a pretty penny exclusive Brangelina baby pics, my producers will pay for forcing me to cover this crap again. That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
The bronze to an unidentified Dutch driver pulled over for doing 68 in a 35-mile-an-hour zone. He told the cops he had just washed his car and was trying to dry it. That did not explain why he was doing so without a license.
Our runner up, another sadly anonymous nominee, this was a 33-year-old woman in Saint Peters, Missouri. She had just bought a Chihuahua puppy, unfortunately the puppy died, so she went to the home of the dog breeder and evidentially decided to partially act out not one, but two “Monty Python” sketches. She hit the breeder over the head with the dead puppy several times.
But our winner, Elaine Baker from Spencer, Iowa, appropriately named, busted by the cops there for the possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of meth, apparently unaware that the law says, you know, the police can listen in during your one phone call. Ms. Baker phoned home and told her 18-year-old son to raise some bail money by selling the pot she had stashed in the refrigerator. Now he‘s under arrest for possession. Thanks mom! Elaine Baker of Spencer, Iowa, today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”
OLBERMANN: Celebrity status is not absolute, it lies on a spectrum. I believe that was said b by the philosopher William Hung. And celebrity does not always track with talent, but in our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, there are clear indicators when a magazine pays millions of dollars for pictures of your child, either it‘s the second coming or you are a celebrity. Another sure sign you‘re famous, when you L.A. obstetrician makes a house call to Namibia. That‘s the way it played out for Angelina Jolie, so reports “People” magazine. Obstetrician, Jason Rothbart, flew to Africa for the cesarean section of Ms. Jolie nearly two weeks ago. The magazine now releasing two of its exclusive photos of baby Shiloh. The Shiloh-rama issue of “People” hits newsstands Friday. Executive of “People” must have felt pressured, as well, since the cover of Britain‘s “Hello!” magazine with its exclusive photo was bouncing around the world wide web, apparently after a leak. Some attributed it to “Hello!” magazine people. As for how much cash “People” magazine people coughed up for a handful of baby pictures, the managing editor is not saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, “TODAY”: How much?
LARRY HACKETT, MANAGING EDITOR “PEOPLE”: I‘m not going to tell you.
LAUER: Four million dollars is what‘s being reported.
HACKETT: There have been numbers printed over the past two weeks, $3.5 million, $5 million, those numbers are wrong and these numbers are wrong.
LAUER: Is it more than 3.5 and less than 4.5?
HACKETT: You know, I admire your perseverance, if didn‘t have this job, you might come work for me at “People” magazine as a correspondent.
LAUER: Well I mean, but what ballpark are we talking about here?
HACKETT: It‘s a substantial amount of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Is it bigger than a breadbox? Well, turn all the cards over (inaudible). Let‘s call in “Village Voice” columnist, Michael Musto.
Thanks for your time, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hello!
OLBERMANN: Here we‘ve got the first legal picture of baby Shiloh, which almost sounds like hello. “People” magazine say check out the super sized pout. Is that it? This the money thing, here? Everybody satisfied now that we know the baby has Angelina‘s lips as opposed to Brad Pitt‘s lips?
MUSTO: No, she doesn‘t only have Angelina‘s lips, she has Angelina‘s hips and they swivel, let me tell you. But you know what? The “Inquirer,” Keith, is saying that Brad Pitt‘s not even the father. I guess Angelina‘s brother is the father, that would make this kid her daughter and her niece. This is like “China Town.” Actually the only one we rule out as the father is John Voight, not because he‘s Angelina‘s father, but because he‘s impotent. I kid.
OLBERMANN: The photo composition of the cover is intriguing and it does sort of support conspiracy theories, here. The baby is positioned near the word “exclusive,” the banner that “People” magazine has run, if you notice that there, on the lower left. Then you have Mr. Pitt gazing at the baby, but Angelina Jolie is looking at Mr. Pitt as if it‘s all right, you did what you have to and get out of here. You want to do an armchair analysis for us?
MUSTO: No, I actually think Brad is going “what have I done” and Angelina is fixing her gaze and going, you‘re stuck, kid, you‘re stuck, Brad. This is it, I‘ve got you now. And I think the kid is going, I‘m tired. I‘m not waking up for just $4.1 million. Meanwhile Zahara‘s off camera, you little bitch. And housewives all around the world are looking at this going I had a baby too, I‘m like Angelina. It‘s like no, you‘re a cow. She has an Oscar and Brad Pitt, you have a fridge full of Sara Lee. I kid again.
OLBERMANN: The obstetrician who went to Namibia, which sounds like the start of a very bad joke. There‘s this obstetrician, he went to Namibia—he said that Ms. Jolie‘s scheduled c-section, quote, was a fantastic experience. Is it just me or is there something really creepy about the quote?
MUSTO: It‘s just you. I think it‘s fantastic. I‘m, in fact, jealous of women that can have their bodies really sliced opened by doctors and have a human life pulled out of them that will ultimately bilk them for every penny they have. Then again, I also like root canal, colonoscopy, and J-Lo movies.
OLBERMANN: We have another quote. Angelina‘s Jolie‘s brother who you mentioned, James Haven, who talks about his first glimpse of Shiloh with her parents, and this is the quote, “I walked in the room and it was so overwhelming I had to walk out.” Now, of course, Michael, I feel exactly that way right now. I‘d like to walk out, but her brother?
MUSTO: Well, as I mentioned before, were you listening? He‘s the father. OK.
OLBERMANN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
MUSTO: No. he‘s the father and he had to leave before people picked up on the fact. It‘s not Angelina‘s pout, it‘s his. It‘s his hips that the baby has. Why won‘t you buy this?
OLBERMANN: Obviously I am buying the plausibility of it. What was that—recap that incident between the two of them that people don‘t immediately recognize?
MUSTO: They kind of air kissed on an award show and I wrote that they were having an affair and I‘m not giving to get up. I still say they‘re married and having babies.
OLBERMANN: All right, let‘s switch over to the money side of this. “People” magazine will not say, as you heard, what it paid, but if it was anywhere in the neighborhood of $4 million, even if it was just $3 million, is that now the gold standard? Do we calculate downwards for what the Britney Spears-Kevin Federline child might be when the second one is born, how much that‘s going to cost?
MUSTO: I think the K-Fed‘s will probably get double-digits—high double-digits, ninety-nine cents and that would enable them to get some beef jerky at the ninety-nine cent store and that‘s worth pimping your baby, don‘t you think? I actually hear that Britney is going to skip the middlemen and just have a camera attached between her legs, so first thing when the kid is born, she‘ll have pictures. The kid will hit its head, but why not have that be the first thing that happens, just like the other kid?
OLBERMANN: I thought she already had a camera permanently positioned between her legs. Or is that just the music videos?
MUSTO: Just update the lens. I don‘t know. I don‘t know.
OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto.
OLBERMANN: As always, more entertaining than the topics he covers. And if you‘re Ms. Jolie-Pitt‘s brother, you can give him a call. Thank you for your time.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,134th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.” Good evening, Joe.
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