Guests: Joseph Wilson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Israel offers a ceasefire, if the captured Israeli soldiers are released, and Hezbollah pulls back from the Israeli border 20 miles into Lebanon. The Israelis seem willing to back off the elimination of Hezbollah. In the interim, they seem intent on eliminating Hezbollah.
The diplomacy frustrates everybody. At the G8, the president forgets rule one, the microphones are always open, and if you want the U.N.‘s help, don‘t go using the S-word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to just stop doing this (expletive deleted).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And open-mike night wasn‘t over till Mr. Blair figured out that was a microphone.
Brian Williams joins us from Tel Aviv on the diplomacy, Colonel Rick Francona on the tactics.
And our exclusive interview tonight with Ambassador Joe Wilson, the lawsuit against Cheney, Libby, Rove, by he and his wife, and his reaction to Robert Novak‘s remarkable conclusion about Valerie Plame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT NOVAK: I don‘t think I outed her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No additional sources needed on this one. If it is not incredibly hot where you are right now, it just was, or it soon will be.
And a second exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD PITT: I‘m so tired of thinking about myself, you know, I‘m kind of sick of myself.
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OLBERMANN: Our exclusive conversation with Brad Pitt. And when I say “our,” of course, I mean Ann Curry‘s with the “TODAY” show.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
If the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah has left you worried, angry, or confused enough to swear, you are in good company.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the president of the United States, similarly moved, telling British Prime Minister Blair at the G8 summit—and, through microphones he did not know were still open, the world—that Syria needs to get Hezbollah to stop doing this blank.
That part of the story , and what is seen as traction towards a ceasefire, and Brian Williams in Tel Aviv, in a moment.
First, the nuts and bolts of day six of the conflict, Israel hitting over 50 targets in Lebanon, including a rocket that was allegedly capable of reaching Israel‘s largest city, Tel Aviv. And, for the first time during this clash, ground troops entered southern Lebanon, hitting Hezbollah bases near the border before they quickly returned to Israel.
By air, the Israelis targeting roads and bridges, killing nine civilians on one bridge near the southern port city of Sidon (ph) this afternoon. More than 200 people have been killed in Lebanon since the conflict began.
In its capital, Beirut, Israel again hit the airport and the seaport, as well as Hezbollah targets in the southern suburbs, the unrelenting attacks on the city visibly evident during live reports from our Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel, throughout this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Very loud explosion, and there are more loud explosions, as you just heard. Mediators are trying to work out a ceasefire, but apparently without success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From the south, Hezbollah launched dozens of rockets into Israel, 20 of them reaching Israel‘s third- largest city, Haifa, others hitting even further south, to the town of Atlit (ph), about 35 miles south of the Lebanese border. Twenty-four Israelis have died since the conflict erupted last Wednesday, half of them civilians killed by rockets.
As for the Americans stuck in Lebanon, the U.S. evacuated some of them out by air, plans to use a Greek cruise ship to evacuate perhaps thousands more tomorrow.
On the diplomatic front, what looks like movement towards at least the possibility of ceasefire, Israel‘s prime minister scaling back the demand for Hezbollah to be disbanded or destroyed, saying the hostilities could end if Hezbollah stops launching rockets, if it returns two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, if the Lebanese government puts troops on its border.
The rest of the world still seeking to find a diplomatic consensus on what to do about the conflict. In public, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan stood together to call for a United Nations force to stop the bloodshed.
But in an off-guard moment with President Bush at the G8 summit in Russia, when neither leader remembered the first law of microphones, the language became less than diplomatic, with Mr. Bush not only dropping the S-bomb, but also slamming Annan, before Mr. Blair played radio engineer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: What about Kofi Annan? (INAUDIBLE), I don‘t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire, and everything else happens. (INAUDIBLE).
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes, no, I think the thing that is really difficult is you can‘t stop this unless you get this international (INAUDIBLE) agreement. I don‘t know what you guys have talked about (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), but as I say, I am perfectly happy to try to see what the lie of the land is, (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), but you need that done quickly, because otherwise this will spiral (INAUDIBLE)...
BUSH: I think Condi‘s going to go there pretty soon.
BLAIR: Right. Well, that‘s all that matters. If you see that it will take some time to get that together. But at least it gives people...
BUSH: Some process, I agree.
BLAIR: At which you—and—and...
BUSH: I told her your offer too (INAUDIBLE).
BLAIR: Well, it‘s only (INAUDIBLE) she‘s going to—or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Obviously, if she goes out, she‘s got to succeed as it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.
BUSH: See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive deleted), and it‘s over.
BLAIR: Because I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel, (INAUDIBLE) Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he‘s done it. And that‘s what this whole thing is about, it‘s the same with Iran.
BUSH: I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. (INAUDIBLE) We‘re not blaming the Lebanese government (INAUDIBLE)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, the meal was great. More on that in a moment.
First, the former president, Mr. Clinton. laying out his position on the current conflict, telling NBC‘s Campbell Brown that it is vital for the U.S. to be fully engaged in the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I‘m not one of these people who believes that it‘s a good thing for the U.S. to be disengaged from the Middle East, because they‘re not going to make a deal, and we don‘t want to be associated with failure. I just don‘t define it that way. I think the historical evidence is, the more involved we are, the fewer people die. And the fewer people die, the easier it is to make some kind of compromise deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, I‘m joined now by Brian Williams, the anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” reporting from Tel Aviv.
Brian, thanks for your time tonight.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Keith, it‘s my pleasure.
OLBERMANN: A telling moment from President Bush at the G8, especially if you juxtapose it against President Clinton‘s attitude towards the whole issue of diplomacy in the Middle East. Is there a sense there in Israel that President Bush has not done enough diplomatic work to help bring about peace in that region, at least compared to his predecessors?
WILLIAMS: Well, I can‘t pass judgment on that. I can say that when we asked the question of a senior Israeli defense official today, a general, How long do you see this playing out? he said, at least another week or two. When people talk about the near future here, Keith, they don‘t add the caveat, unless, you know, a diplomatic solution can be reached.
It‘s kind of a siding of this conflict, and it‘s not front burner here. Day-to-day life is taken up by the fact that the north of Israel is kind of a ghost town, who fired the last volley, how the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, answered back.
OLBERMANN: The president at the G8 evidently laying responsibility for bringing that date a week or so hence closer entirely on Hezbollah and Syria, and in part on the U.N. He hinted at sending the secretary of state to the region. But does it feel on the ground there as if Israel is indeed, as is reported widely, receptive to all these diplomatic overtures? Or, as you suggested there, is there already kind of a schedule, if not a road map, to get out of all this?
WILLIAMS: Well, in this case, the reporting of our colleague Martin Fletcher, which has been so superb, as you know, throughout this crisis, has also been very telling in these details. Martin was among the first to report that this was really, as you know, Keith, a kind of plan that was on the shelf, five years in the making.
Now, it was confirmed to us today, yes, they are picking targets of opportunity as they come up on their computer screens. Where they see a Katyusha rocket launch, they then go after that.
But they—there is a sense that something has to play out. Andrea Mitchell termed it a kind of de facto green light. Others have called it a wink and a nod, that this has—this paroxysm has to work itself out.
One point I would make has plainly to do with the balance of power. It is, as you‘re seeing it play out on television, on this side, you have Hezbollah. Estimates are 10,000 to 13,000 rockets in reserve. How many have they fired so far in this conflict?
On the other side, you have the clearly superior technologically, and in terms of raw firepower, military, of the Israelis. They rule the sky, they rule the night. Their F-16s can drop a 2,000-pound bomb from 10,000 feet.
But both sides have their issues, and have seen great damage suffered.
OLBERMANN: The—speaking of the rockets and Hezbollah, Israel claimed they destroyed a rocket that could have been capable of reaching Tel Aviv. Is that playing on the minds? Is that in the atmosphere in Tel Aviv tonight?
WILLIAMS: Well, we just got back from a quick sortie on foot around the neighborhood surrounding our NBC News bureau here. One point that was made by the locals is, you may see more people dining out at the sidewalk cafes because they are northerners who‘ve been temporarily displaced.
This was, as far as I can tell, both from memory coming here many other times in the past, and talking to the folks who live here, a perfectly average working Monday in Tel Aviv, even though, if sirens sound during this conflict, it‘ll be the first time since the first Gulf War in ‘91, even though the people of Tel Aviv have been told, Keep in mind where the closest shelter is, they can maybe have two minutes‘ warning if the sirens sound.
That was an ominous development, the blowing up of that missile that they say could have been range enough to put this within the sphere of influence.
OLBERMANN: Let me get a little earthier as the final subject to discuss, the president‘s comments, the ones he did not intend to be broadcast nationally, but the microphones were open, the expletive is out there now. People in the United States don‘t seem to be overwhelmingly fazed nor surprised by it. But is it playing well in Israel? Is it playing at all?
WILLIAMS: It is playing. I‘ve watched it tonight with a few of the locals. It is getting a chuckle, this president uttering a word we cannot repeat or utter on television. They have their minds on other matters here. It was the context of the answer, not necessarily the language used, that, as you mentioned earlier in the interview, was of note.
OLBERMANN: The message got across one way or the other. Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” of course, as always, sir, our great thanks for your time.
WILLIAMS: Keith, thank you.
OLBERMANN: How long can the fight between Israel and Hezbollah play out? Might it have been a little over the top for Newt Gingrich to declare this world war III?
Our coverage of the Middle East continues.
And tonight, a COUNTDOWN exclusive. Ambassador Joseph Wilson joins us for his first TV interview after he and his wife filed their lawsuit against the vice president and Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: World War III has been forecast many times before, some even of the belief it has already happened, the term first used to describe the cold war of the 20th century recently gaining currency in reference to the Bush administration‘s war on terror.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, World War II, episode three, history, or at least Newt Gingrich, once again jumping the gun, apparently, the former Republican speaker of the House among the first to suggest that it is not too soon to begin framing the current showdown between Israel and Hezbollah, a showdown that is not yet even a declared war between countries, as the next great worldwide conflict. That there is a political benefit to raising the specter of apocalyptic destruction not lost on Mr. Gingrich, who told “The Seattle Times” over the weekend that he is very worried about the GOP‘s chances in the fall elections, adding that public opinion can change, quote, “the minute you use the language of World War III,” the message, Mr. Gingrich believes, becoming, OK if we‘re in the third world war, which side do you think should win?
For a reality check, time now to call in retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Rick Francona, who spent years in Iraq working as a liaison to the Iraqi military, before the first Gulf War, working as well for the CIA in northern Iraq after that war. He is, of course, now an MSNBC military analyst.
Colonel, good evening.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Not to suggest that what‘s happening right now in the Middle East isn‘t serious, or to overlook that it might not escalate in a dozen different ways and maybe a dozen others we can‘t even imagine, but considering there are signs that Israel might be talking ceasefire here, is the use of the phrase World War III at this point inflammatory, irresponsible?
FRANCONA: I‘m not going to put those kind of terms on it, Keith, but it certainly doesn‘t apply, let me say that. I mean, right now, this has been limited to Gaza and Lebanon, and hopefully it‘s going to stay that way.
OLBERMANN: Does the ceasefire report, return the Israeli soldiers, back up Hezbollah 20 miles into Lebanon, put Lebanese troops on that border, does that sound like a viable outline of a ceasefire, or are there roadblocks we don‘t know about?
FRANCONA: I think the roadblocks are the distance. And that‘s not quite been ironed out yet. The Israelis want to move the Hezbollah, anything that has to do with Hezbollah, out of the launch envelope of anything that can strike northern Israel. And we‘ve already demonstrated—seen demonstrated the results of Hezbollah using longer-range rockets than that.
So how far up are we going to push Hezbollah into Lebanon? If you believe that they‘ve got a rocket that can go 60 to 80 miles, are we going to push Hezbollah 60 to 80 miles up into Lebanon and put the Lebanese army between them? That pushes Hezbollah all the way up to Beirut.
OLBERMANN: On where this is going, you heard Brian Williams report from Tel Aviv and the expectations there that there is the prospect of this being at an end by perhaps this time next week. Are there other players, though, in this equation who could conceivably benefit from this escalating, and do they still have the prospect of escalating this further?
FRANCONA: No, I, I, you know, I really don‘t see the benefit to anyone of this escalating. You know, people have said, Well, you know, Syria, Iran are behind all this. But if you look at the localization of the conflict, I mean, it‘s still in Lebanon. No one wants this to expand to Syria. Syria certainly does not want to get involved in a war with the Israelis. They know they can‘t win it. They would be perfectly satisfied if this ended in a ceasefire.
So I think you‘re going to see a lot of pressure put on both sides, you know, the Iran and Syria, probably (INAUDIBLE) pressuring Hezbollah to accept something, and, of course, the rest of the community pressuring pushing Israel to accept something.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned Syria. Has Iran‘s role in this been surprising for its seemingly they did not press this possibility of making it, making something worse in the Middle East?
FRANCONA: Well, I think the Iranians have calculated this pretty well. They stand to gain in this. In fact, they were the ones that were recommending some sort of ceasefire, even offering their good offices to talk to Hezbollah. Well, you know, it‘s kind of disingenuous, since many people believe that they were behind all of this. If you believe some of the theories, it‘s that Iran was trying to deflect the tension from their nuclear program, especially during the G8 conference.
OLBERMANN: And Rick, the plans about getting the Americans out of Lebanon, the helicopters today, they‘re talking about a cruise ship tomorrow, might be 750 people at a time on that ship. Is there any fear that that could present an easy target for Hezbollah rockets?
FRANCONA: Yes, there is. You know, and Hezbollah has demonstrated its capability to strike ships. We saw them hit that Israeli missile patrol boat. So there‘s a security and logistics team on the ground now. They arrived yesterday. And it will be their job to assess the security situation and make the arrangements with the Lebanese government, with the Israeli navy, who is operating the naval blockade, and also with any other elements, and that includes Hezbollah.
And you can reach them through the Lebanese government. In fact, they make up part of the Lebanese government. It‘s their job to arrange—make the arrangements. And the problem is not going to just be this ship, Keith. It‘s going to be getting the people to the ship. There‘s a lot of American who are trapped down in there in Sidon and Sur (ph) and the southern Beirut area. Just getting them to a safe place to get them to the ship is going to be very, very difficult.
OLBERMANN: And if somebody wants to make that worse, that‘s probably the easiest and worst way to do it.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC military analyst, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Rick Francona. As always, Rick, great thanks.
FRANCONA: Sure thing, Keith.
OLBERMANN: On a busy day, an uneventful space shuttle landing is taken for granted again, although not this view of it. You are on board.
And forget that Angelina dame. We‘ve got an exclusive interview with Brad Pitt. Ooh.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It was not exactly the infamous screamer from “The New York Post” describing a murder-robbery at a strip joint, “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” but 71 years ago today, the entertainment publication “Variety” published perhaps its most famous headline, about movie chain owner Joe Kinsky (ph) of Nebraska, insisting his customers there did not want countrified films like the “Ma and Pa Kettle” series, they preferred sophisticated fare like the “Count of Monte Cristo,” “Sticks Nix Hick Picks.”
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
From the it‘s not necessarily odd news but it‘s headline video department, we bring you the landing of space shuttle “Discovery” at Cape Canaveral in Florida. It is cool because it landed safely. It is extra-cool because this time, we got the pilot‘s-eye view of the action, and it is three times as cool when we speed up the tape and run it over this crazy music. Whatever else you may think of NASA, you have to admit, the director of putting cameras in cool places is doing a real bang-up job. In fact, he‘s today‘s Real Man of Genius.
And there‘s this guy, today‘s Real Man of Stupid. We‘re in Columbia, Tennessee, and here‘s to you, Mr. Driver of a leaky paint truck guy. Police followed the yellow drip road for more than four miles down Highway 31 before they caught up with the driver. He‘s been charged with vandalism because, police say, he knew he was leaking paint. Luckily, his brother drives a leaky turpentine truck, so...
From truck leaks to the more serious kind, the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, joins us for his first television interview since they sued the vice president, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby.
And warm weather comes with the territory. It is July 17. But when everywhere from Albany to Albuquerque is broiling, that‘s a heat wave.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Tiffany‘s. It has recalled its new Sterling silver baby rattle. Cost $195, also built in such a way that it could come apart, and baby could swallow the small Tiffany beads contained within. Baby will now have to settle for a lapis ring or something.
Number two, Wayne Floyd, fined $20,000 today. He was arrested as he tried to board a flight from Sydney, Australia, to Bangkok last November. Customs agents had discovered six eggs from various endangered species, including some cockatoos, on his person. They were hidden in his underwear. Mr. Floyd said he was just trying to surprise his girlfriend. Nice.
Speaking of eggs, number one, our friends at CBS, the eyeball logo and slogans for its TV shows will appear on 35 million eggs to be sold at grocery stores. Thirty-five million, that means 34 million of them will advertise one of the “CSI” shows, right? We‘ve also got a suggestion for a slogan for the other ones, “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. We‘ll have egg on our face real soon.”
OLBERMANN: Were it Robert Novak indicted, and not Scooter Libby, his defense attorneys might be suggesting a plea deal. Were it Robert Novak sued and not the vice president, nor Mr. Libby, or Mr. Rove, his defense attorneys might already be suggesting a settlement.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Ambassador Joe Wilson‘s first television interview since he and his wife, Valerie Plame, filed suit against Cheney, Libby, Rove, and et al. It is necessarily framed by Mr. Novak‘s remarkable appearance yesterday on “Meet the Press.”
In 2003, Mr. Novak told the New York newspaper, “Newsday” that he did not dig out the name of Valerie Plame, that it was “...given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.” Later in 2003, Mr. Novak clarified that statement saying, “What I meant was that the senior official had given me her name.” Reminded last week of the original quote, Mr. Novak said it was not true, “Newsday” had misquoted him. Yesterday Mr. Novak offered yet another explanation that the error was his, a misstatement that “they didn‘t give me the name.”
And it‘s all semantics anyway since Mr. Novak has concluded that in writing the column, three years a go last Friday, that triggered a crisis of confidence in the Bush administration, led to the indictment of the vice president‘s chief of staff and now to a lawsuit against a sitting vice president of the United States. He didn‘t jeopardize nor expose any covert agent anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT NOVAK, FOX NEWS: I still believe, I don‘t think there is any question, he got assigned that because of his wife and that was a small part of a very strange assignment. The answer to your question, I don‘t know.
TIM RUSSERT ON NBC‘S “MEET THE PRESS”: But, no regrets outing a CIA agent?
NOVAK: I don‘t think I outed her. I think she was outed by Aldridge Aimes before. I don‘t think she was a—a covert operative.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That of course, contradicts what the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, said in announcing his indictment of Scooter Libby, nearly a year ago. In July 2003, Fitzgerald said, “The fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence committee.”
As promised, in his first television interview since the filing of that lawsuit, the former acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Joseph Wilson.
Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
JOSEPH WILSON, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Good to be with you, Keith
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with Novak. Your reaction to his conclusions?
WILSON: Well, I didn‘t watch it yesterday I just saw your set up piece and Novak is telling another story to another interviewer. When I talked on the phone after he published his article, he had told me that he had a CIA source and then he quoted two senior administration sources. I went back and asked what was it, CIA or administration, he said he misspoke when he said it was CIA. Now he‘s saying Harlow was one of the sources.
Harlow, who was a spokesman for George Tenet out at the CIA has been reported on several occasions as having said he told Novak not to use Valerie‘s name. That, by the way, is sort of a standard CIA language for warning a reporter who may have stumbled on the identity of a operative not to violate the national security of the country by exposing that operative‘s name and identity.
OLBERMANN: To say the least, the statements are a little unclear, a little self contradictory, he‘s not the only one in this case of whom that could be said. Is that the point, or a point, of this lawsuit to clarify for the record who did what and why?
WILSON: Well, I think getting the truth out is one of the objectives and we‘d like everybody to know precisely what happened, we‘d like to know precisely what happened and why they did this. I think the broader issue, of course is, whether or not individuals who have enormous power in our democracy should be entitled to use that power to exact personal revenge, which of course, it what this administration did from Mr. Cheney on down.
OLBERMANN: One your attorneys, Mr. Chemerinsky, was on the newscast Friday, he said the details of what happened and the political element of all this are all relevant, that they‘re not “the” point, that “the” point is the damage you and your wife sustained or may yet sustain. If you got the truth on the record under oath of what happened, a timeline of some sort, a clear picture and there were no damages, maybe not a verdict in your favor, would that be enough from your perspective?
WILSON: Well, I‘m going to leave all that—that‘s a hypothetical I‘m going to leave all that to play out as it may play out going forward. First of all, we need to get the suit to accept it in court, which I think that we‘ll probably succeed in doing.
OLBERMANN: One critical aspect of the suit would seem to be the sense that physical danger to you and your wife and your family resulted from the revealing of her work with the CIA. Your critics on the other hand have suggested that the danger could not have been that great if she was photographed for “Vanity Fair” magazine, or you were both seen at the White House correspondent‘s dinner. How would you rectify the idea of threat with those public appearances?
WILSON: Well, Mr. Novak‘s wife is no danger whatsoever until such time as somebody compromises her identity as a CIA operative, if in fact that‘s what somebody decides they‘re going to do, if in fact that is what she is. It is a fact that Valerie worked in a sensitive position in the intelligence services that obviously brings about a certain level of security threat to us, which level has been—and we‘ve been exposed to it, there have been threats made to us that have come to our attention through the intelligence community. So, these are not just your right-wing Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity listeners.
OLBERMANN: Can you go into any detail about that or is that something that will be coming out in the course of the lawsuit?
WILSON: I don‘t know if it‘ll come out in the course of the lawsuit, I‘m not going to go into any detail other than to say that it is happening, and we‘ve been informed about it and the law enforcement authorities have taken appropriate measures as they saw fit.
OLBERMANN: As to process here, not in the lawsuit, but what all has led up to it, are you any clearer in our mind as to what exactly happened than you were three years ago? Are you certain, for instance, that the exposure of your wife was deliberate and not some sort of inadvertent result of incompetent people playing with fire?
WILSON: Well, when you see the vice president annotating a copy of my opinion piece with “did his wife send him on a junket,” that‘s essentially a talking point to his staff. So, the uncovering of—the compromise of her identity was clearly deliberate. The question is why—I think we now know from a number of the filings in the Libby case, that the vice president thought that his manhood was threatened, or certainly that was the excuse, somehow he felt having read three articles that perhaps I was suggesting he had sent me.
Ironically, none of those three articles. The Prisoff (ph) article, the Spencer Ackerman (ph) article in the “New Republic,” and my own article all make very clear that it was the office of the vice president that asked the question and led the CIA to send me. The vice president later acknowledged that he asked the question and indeed I would argue the vice president was well within his right rights and obligations to have asked the question, because if Saddam had purchased uranium from Niger, it would have been only for a nuclear program. It was a question worthy of asking. It was a question that got a serious response. The fact that the vice president didn‘t read the articles and somehow thought that he was being targeted in this is unfortunate, but that‘s his problem, that‘s not my problem. I wrote my article he just didn‘t read it very well.
My own view, of course, is—is that‘s just a subterfuge, that they decided that rather than coming clean on a misstatement of fact, a falsehood in the State of the Union Address, that decided this was one way they were going to justify this character assassination and smear campaign, and part of which was a compromise of Valerie‘s identity.
OLBERMANN: And that route was what, do you think? Was Rove to Libby to Cheney to—do you know that yet?
WILSON: No. I suspect—my theory is that Cheney basically annotated the article, which was the equivalent of saying, will no on rid me of this troublesome priest, and Libby and perhaps others and Mr. Rove, certainly the, went around and leaked Valerie‘s name among other things.
Now Libby argues that they wanted to get the facts out. Of course the facts that they didn‘t get out in leaking this information were that the White House had been told on three occasions in early October, we don‘t want the president to be a witness of fact in this matter because the evidence is weak and the British have exaggerated the case.
The deputy national security advisor later offered his resignation because he found these documents in his files. Getting the facts out did not include getting the National Intelligence officers letter out which was circulated around the administration in January and represented the consensus view of the American intelligence that the Niger claim was “baseless.” Those were the facts that were getting out. The stuff that they were getting out were just basically the crap, for lack of a better word, that it seeped into the State of the Union Address in the first place.
OLBERMANN: An appropriate term to use on this day that we played the president at the G-8 Summit.
WILSON: I could have quoted the president, I suppose.
OLBERMANN: One more item here that tracks back to what Novak was saying. He didn‘t stay it yesterday, evidentially he will not it. But it has been widely reported that his original source was the former under secretary of state, Richard Armitage. I read an article this afternoon from Christopher Hitchins. Hitchins says that because Armitage had a—let me get it right—“A visceral hatred of the neo-conservatives” Armitage as Novak‘s source, annihilates the idea that there was any Bush administration vendetta against you. Would it do so?
WILSON: No, I don‘t think so because I think it‘s now very clear that there was a vendetta. The vendetta was run out of the vice president‘s office. It was Libby and it was Karl Rove. We know that. We know that they were leaking Valerie‘s identity to the press. That is all in testimony. So whether or not Novak was part of that other plot or whether or not Novak was just a sideline in all of this, I have no idea. Hopefully when we go through discovery we‘ll be able to learn some of this.
OLBERMANN: Ambassador Joe Wilson on the beginning—the very beginning of that part of the road, as always, sir, great thanks for your time.
WILSON: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
The exclusive interviews are not over quite yet here on COUNTDOWN, Brad Pitt sitting down and talking to us and by us, I mean Ann Curry of the “Today” show, but our people will be pushing the play button on the machine, thus it is our exclusive.
And the intense heat gripping every corner of the continental United States, nowhere is it exclusive. There an end in sight or was Al Gore wrong by being too conservative about global warming? Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Depending on just where you‘re watching this from, your weather is set on bake, broil, or perhaps melt. And in the red-hot glare of media attention, Brad Pitt, in an “excusive” interview on why he‘s dragging cameras to trouble spots around the world. That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Weather is weather. It‘s summer, it gets hot in summer. But in our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, when it gets hot in summer everywhere all at once, that‘s news. On the daily list of high and low temperatures for 104 American cities issued by the National Weather Service, 87 of them hit 90-degrees or higher yesterday and that was before the heat wave fully consumed the northeast this morning.
Here‘s Kevin Tibbles‘ hot lead from Chicago.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sun up in Chicago, temperatures already in the 80s and climbing fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s tough, you just keep going.
TIBBLES: Highways signs warn of excessive heat.
SHERYL MCGILL, CHICAGO HUMAN SERVICES DEPT: Each day that the severe heat persists brings more danger.
TIBBLES: The hot weather has already claimed the life of a 3-year-old South Bend, Indiana boy who accidentally locked himself in a car.
Today, every state in the lower 48, except North Dakota, hit the 90s, 26 broke 100 degrees and four hit 110 or more.
From California, where crews continue to battle wildfires, to the plains where crops burn up in triple-digit heat.
In Denver an overheated transformer caused a major power outage at the Museum of Nature and Science.
LAURA HOLTMAN, DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE: When we have to close the museum and have everybody head out of the museum, it‘s a huge disruption.
TIBBLES: In New York extreme heat may have caused a subway train to lose power, leaving 70 passengers stranded in the heat for three hours. In the Midwest, thunderstorms may bring some relief, but heat alerts remain in effect as Americans chill out...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s good it get in the water.
TIBBLES: Any way they can. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News.
OLBERMANN: Water, not the relief, but the killer in Indonesia, another deadly tsunami there, this one hitting an area of the country, ironically enough, that had been spared by the catastrophic tsunami in 2004. A six-foot high wall of water crashing into the southern coast a Java island, this afternoon, sending thousands of people fleeing for higher ground, 86 people there have died, many more are missiling. In the beach resort of Pangandaran area, one witness said that the water line withdrew 1,500 feet about a half hour before the tsunami came ashore. That would have been the only possible warning since Indonesia‘s tsunami warning system has not yet been extended to that island of Java.
On to “Keeping Tabs” and the not unexpected result of last Monday‘s story of a doctor who apparently chose to blow up his multi-million dollar townhouse rather than sell it as part of his divorce settlement. He has died of his injuries. Dr. Nicholas Bartha was in the $6 million dollar building on the upper east side of New York City when it exploded a week ago today after someone, believed to be Dr. Bartha, tampered with the natural gas line. His death, Saturday night, has now been declared a suicide by the Medical Examiner‘s Office.
A judge had ordered the doctor out of the townhouse so it could be sold as part of his divorce, but in a lengthy e-mail sent less than two hours before the explosion, Dr. Bartha said “I will leave the house only if I am dead.” Ten firemen and five passersby—passerby, rather, received minor injuries in the explosion.
And the Kentucky Derby winning horse, Barbaro, still holding on against all odds. Vegetarians saying the horse‘s condition has been stable for three contechative days. Barbaro had been suffering for a potentially fatal disease in his left rear hoof, a complication arising from placing too much weight on that side, nearly eight weeks after he shattered his right hind leg in the Preakness stakes. Eighty percent of the hoof was removed. Barbaro‘s prognosis was poor, but now Dr. Dean Richardson say, “His vital signs are good, he is acceptably comfortable and his appetite remains excellent.”
Also tonight, Brad Pitt in rare sit-down interview blah blah blah charities blah blah blah fatherhood blah blah blah Brangelina. That‘s ahead but first, time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
Our Bronze tonight to Mayor Bill Saravinovski of Rockdale, Australia, just outside Sydney, to disburse drivers who is went to the town‘s main park to race and raise mayhem the city began to blast over loudspeaker the collected hits of Barry Manlow again and again and again. It drove away the drivers, also drove the local residents nuts. Said Maya Dunn of the neighborhood, “I don‘t know how I will cope—Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Havana.”
The runner up, Dr. Barish Strauk (ph), chairman of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Montapior (ph) Hospital in New York. The “New York Post” reports that among 13 active malpractice suits against the doctor are charges that during one tummy tuck he removed the woman‘s naval, and in a breast reduction surgery, he lost a patient‘s nipple. Well, you did ask for a reduction.
Tonight‘s winner, Coultergeist again, for the same thing. She went on another radio show to suggest staffers of the “New York Times” be executed. Hey, Annie, you do realize that there chowder heads stupider than you are and that they don‘t get that you‘re a screaming fraud and that they read or hear what you say and then they send envelopes full of while powder to the “Times” like they did last week, and that one day somebody at the “Times,” probably some guy in the mailroom is going to get hurt and it‘ll be on your conscious—if you have one.
Ann Coulter, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: We have breaking show business news and when I say breaking, I mean, of course, that it‘s about 20 years old. It is legend that before he succeeded in Hollywood, young Brad Pitt from Kakapo High School in Springfield, Missouri supported himself in Southern California by dressing up in a chicken suit and standing outside famous fast food place, of el Pollo Loco. He also chauffeured strippers in limousines around southern California.
Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, couldn‘t have been worse than what he had to do in “Meet Joe Black.” And after the trials and tribulations, he ended up with mega success and Angelina Jolie. Brad Pitt now has become interested in giving something back. Most recently as an advocate for so-called Green Designs in the rebuilding of New Orleans, the kind of structures that would be less harmful to the environment. With him in that city, with an exclusive interview of him, here‘s Ann Curry.
BRAD PITT, ACTOR: I‘m baffled because the people here, on the ground, have not gotten the money yet. They have not received restitution.
ANN CURRY, “TODAY” SHOW (voice-over): Nearly a year after Katrina, Brad Pitt sees firsthand a city still ravaged.
Pitt: We can get in the car from this spot and we can drive for two hours, and we will see this. We will see more of this. And it‘s staggering. It‘s unsettling.
Curry (on camera): By some estimates, something like half - 50 percent - of this city is still abandoned.
Pitt: Yeah, it‘s shocking; in one of our greatest cities. But you see it, it‘s house on top of house on top of car. And this is a story you‘ll find street after street.
Imagine going through the trauma of this, of watching everything you own be swept away, maybe loss of life, and then sitting in this limbo for a year, wanting to get your life back, but not knowing whether it‘s even possible. Are there going to be schools here? Are the hospitals going to be up and running? Are your neighbors going to be back here?
CURRY (voice-over): To this shattered city, Pitt is bringing a new idea called Green Design - that is, a way to rebuild using materials that are less harmful to the environment, and cheaper for people to live in.
Pitt: Right now 45 percent of our pollution comes from the creation of our buildings and the operation of our buildings, which is a staggering number.
CURRY: Joining the non-profit group Global Green, Pitt announced an architectural competition to Green Design a 12-unit apartment complex. It drew 3,000 registrants from all over the world, now narrowed down to six finalists.
Curry (on camera): Not only are you talking about it, you also put some money into this project?
Pitt: Yeah, sure, I‘m sponsoring this competition. I‘m invested in this competition.
Curry: I understand about $100,000?
Pitt: So far. But, you know, my goal is to see something tangible, to see something built that can become an example, a template—a flagship for other people who are facing rebuilding.
CURRY (voice-over): The finalists suggested ways to build that could cut energy costs by as much as 90 percent, and use materials that would decrease the risks of asthma and other health risks.
The excitement generated over plans for a single apartment complex is an indication of just how acutely help is needed. Saundra Reed is a community leader.
SAUNDRA REED, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Everything, every single thing about our lives is impacted. Katrina is still raging for us every day. In my neighborhood, where there was maybe 70 percent low to moderate income renters, they can‘t afford to come home because rent is so high.
Curry (on camera): What do you say to people who react by thinking, you know what, this idea is just idealistic, too far-fetched for an area that needed houses yesterday?
Pitt: Absolutely. We‘re building quickly and building with as little labor force as possible. We‘re sitting here in the middle of New Orleans and they have a shortage of homes, rent rates are through the roof. A family living here is struggling with $100 a month in electricity bills, $200 dollars a month, and you can get that—you can knock that down 90 percent, where it‘s $10, $20 dollars, and it is possible and relatively easy as soon as we change our building practices.
CURRY (voice-over): Brad Pitt, who has been bringing attention to some of the world‘s most desperate places, is now trying to do something for New Orleans. He is a man just getting started.
Curry (on camera): Something is happening to you to make you want to do this stuff because you are doing more and more of it.
PITT: Man, I got kids now and it really changes your perspective on the world and, you know, I‘ve had my day, I‘ve had my day, but I made films and I‘ve really had a very fortunate life and it‘s time for me to share that a bit.
CURRY: Angie said that. She says the reason why she does so much humanitarian work is because having children she feels a greater responsibility.
PITT: It‘s true. It changes your perspective and certainly takes the focus off yourself, which I‘m really grateful for that. I‘m grateful. I‘m so tired of thinking about myself. I‘m kind of sick of myself.
I can‘t do justice to it any more than any other parent can. You feel that you want to be there and you don‘t want to miss out on anything and it‘s a true joy. You want to be there for them if they need anything. It‘s a true joy.
PITT: Yeah, it‘s a very profound love. The best thing I ever did—you know, you can write a book, you can make a movie, you can hang a painting, but having kids is really the most extraordinary thing I have taken on. Man, if I can get a burp out of that little thing, I feel such a sense of accomplishment.
OLBERMANN: Ann Curry‘s exclusive interview with Brad Pitt continues tomorrow—terrific.
That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,173rd day since the declaring of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. We will rejoin you at midnight Eastern and Pacific and tomorrow night, of course. Our MSNBC coverage continues next with “Scarborough Country.”
I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.
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