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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 24

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: John Harwood, Sharon Waxman, Kurt Iskra

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The politics of diminished expectations.  How the president has changed the spin on Iraq from great progress, greatly underpublicized, to, yes, Iraq‘s bad, but it could be worse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It could be worse?  How?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Could be raining.


OLBERMANN:  The purported London terror plot.  It continues to deflate.  Remember his family‘s claim that this video showed that this man could not have been planning to blow himself up?  Police in England have now released this man.

They say long-term planning in Hollywood is anything longer than an hour and a half.  Did we just see that at Paramount Pictures?  Tom Cruise canned, stock goes up, morale goes down.

And on “Survivor,” dividing the teams along racial lines.  Great new gimmick, but won‘t somebody notice it‘s a little racist?

Speaking of Hollywood, oh, here we go.  We‘ll explain what this is all about.

One of our planets is missing.  Pluto.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You may fire when ready.



OLBERMANN:  And speaking of missing a few planets in his solar system, remember the Florida driver ticketed for speeding and blasting his car stereo too loudly, the guy who thought he knew the magic words to avoid the latter ticket?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sign the citation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... for kids who listen to rock and roll or listen to rap.  I was listening to Bill O‘Reilly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bill O‘Reilly doesn‘t fall into that statute.


OLBERMANN:  The traffic stop at the intersection of Bill O‘s listener and reality.  The officer will join us.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from Los Angeles.

This is Thursday, August 24, 75 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the president‘s war in Iraq going, quite literally, from bad to worse, Mr. Bush‘s rhetoric shifting away from rosy progress reports, upbeat assessments, and evidently undue optimism, shifting towards a new argument, call it pessimism light, going something like this, The conflict in Iraq is not going well, in case you had not noticed, but, hey, could be worse.

Yes, Igor, it could be raining.

“The Washington Post” the first to note, in an analysis piece today, that Mr. Bush appears to have stopped trying to reassure Americans that progress is being made in Iraq.  At Monday‘s news conference, the word “progress” did not pass his lips, instead, the president acknowledging that he has been discouraged, sometimes even, dare he say it, frustrated.



Sometimes I‘m frustrated.

But war is not a time of joy.  These aren‘t joyous times.  These are challenging times, and they‘re difficult times, and they are straining the psyche of our country.  I understand that.

You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die.  Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see havoc wrought by terrorists.


OLBERMANN:  The Bush advisers and certainly the president himself once believing that if certain benchmarks in Iraq were met, the war would be won, yet, a lot of benchmarks, a few elections and a new Iraqi army later, bloodshot and chaos still escalating, White House communications director Dan Bartlett telling “The Washington Post” that with Iraq on the brink of all-out civil war, the administration felt the need to connect with the anxiety of the American public, a striking change from what President Bush was saying about the conflict just two weeks ago.


BUSH:  I think the Iraqi government has shown remarkable progress on the political front, and that is, is that they developed a modern constitution that was ratified by the people, and then 12 million people voted for a government.  And which gives me confidence about the future in Iraq, by the way.


OLBERMANN:  The Republican John McCain suggesting this week that the White House has only itself to blame for setting unrealistic expectations about Iraq, any suggestion that Senator McCain‘s own assessment of Iraq has been equally rosy somehow overlooked in the process, crafting the senator‘s rhetoric on the war soon to be the job of former deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick (ph), “TIME” magazine reporting that Mr. Zoellick, who has held senior positions under the last three Republicans presidents, most recently as deputy to Secretary of State Rice in 2005, is planning to join the McCain campaign for president next year.

That Mr. McCain will be running is not official yet, but it is starting to look like a done deal.  Later this month, McCain will be part of a Senate delegation traveling to Greenland to observe the effect of global warming.  Somebody alert Mr. Gore.  Of course, the fact that the itinerary also includes a political conference at a swanky resort not in Greenland but in northern Italy probably takes the rough edges off the Greenland part.

On the Democratic side of the ballot presumptives, Senator Hillary Clinton has a reelection bid to win before she can launch her own campaign for president, but with her New York victory all but assured, she‘s now taking on the challenge of a Democratic win in Connecticut, Mrs. Clinton meeting Friday with Ned Lamont to discuss how she can help the Democratic Senate candidate in the three-way race that includes Joe Lieberman, now officially on the ticket as an independent.

You will no doubt recall that Mr. Lamont defeated Senator Lieberman in an upset in the Democratic primary earlier this month.  Senator Clinton has already contributed money to the Lamont campaign from her political action committee, now she appears ready to commit some of her time.  The two will meet tomorrow at her home in New York.

Time now for us to call in John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent of our sister network, CNBC, who, of course, also writes the Washington Wire column for “The Wall Street Journal.”

John, good evening.


Keith, how‘s L.A.?

OLBERMANN:  Not bad.  I‘m leaving on Monday.

To the wannabes in a moment, but first to those who are.  Does the administration shift to the, Hey, it could be worse, argument still contain an admission of failure on the administration‘s part?  I mean, in terms of strategy, have they just reached the last ditch?

HARWOOD:  Well, there‘s no doubt about it, Keith, and they‘re all aligning their message with a reality that people are seeing and that the president is seeing in terms of the public mood in the polls.  Mission impossible or anything like it would look sort of ridiculous right now.

And instead, what we saw from the president at that news conference earlier in the week was sort of the equivalent of what we see from candidates at the end of nasty campaigns—You think I‘m bad, look at this other guy.  It‘s the contrast phase.  And so he says, You think Iraq is bad now, think about how violent it would be if U.S. troops left.  That‘s not a great argument, it‘s not a reassuring argument, but it may be the best one they can play at the moment.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to be branded a cynic here, John, but (INAUDIBLE)...


OLBERMANN:  ... the change of heart as articulated by Mr. Bartlett, the communications director at the White House, in this piece in “The Washington Post” would seem to me to be less about the actual disappointments and frustrations and realities on the ground, and more about political expedience.

There are still members of the administration, including the secretary of defense and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who are still talking about optimism and highlighting so-called achievements.  Is there a disconnect there?  How are they going to balance those two things out?

HARWOOD:  I don‘t know, Keith.  I think frustration and expedience go hand in hand in these (INAUDIBLE) -- in this case.  There‘s no doubt that they‘re frustrated and they‘re upset by what‘s happened.  It‘s not what they expected.  The entire course of the war since early 2003‘s not gone the way they thought.

So they certainly don‘t like that.  But they‘ve also got to realize that if they start spinning a message that‘s completely out of touch with the reality the American people see on television screens, it‘s simply not going to work.  And in fact, the president‘s poll numbers have gotten pretty bad because people have thought that they were seeing a reality the president wasn‘t describing.

OLBERMANN:  How are the Democrats planning to play this at the moment? 

There has been this talk of a no-confidence vote regarding Mr. Rumsfeld. 

Is that a reality, or would that backfire?

HARWOOD:  No, they‘re going try it, Keith.  They‘ve got problems of their own, to this extent.  The American people, even while they‘re upset with what‘s going on in Iraq, are not in a favor of a full-scale withdrawal very promptly from Iraq.  And so with that being the case, Democrats want to focus not on troop levels but more on accountability, and trying to hold the president accountable for what‘s gone wrong.

Rumsfeld is the easy target there.  We saw that from Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago when she went after him at that Senate hearing.  And a lot of Republicans privately are quite unhappy with Rumsfeld too.  So they think they can squeeze some of those Republicans by trying to push a vote on the floor, perhaps on a defense spending bill, in September, see if they can make Republican leaders back down, permit a vote, and put Republican candidates on the spot.

OLBERMANN:  John, you just mentioned half of that ballot presumptive for ‘08, Senator McCain being the other half.  He‘s been actively trying to distance himself from the administration.  It‘s not surprising about that, regarding Iraq.  But is it surprising that he seems to be trying to push to the head of the line on global warming all of a sudden?

HARWOOD:  You know, John McCain‘s got a balancing act.  First of all, as the maverick who almost knocked off President Bush in the 2000 primaries, he‘s got to reassure regular Republicans, conservatives, social and religious conservatives, that he‘s close enough to them that they can be for him.

But he also is the significant front runner in the Republican race and has got to think about appeal to the general election audience.  There‘s going be a big anti-Bush mood in 2008.  We‘re already seeing that in the polls.  And one of the ways you can get some distance is by looking at an issue like global warming, where the scientific consensus is moving away from where the president has been and try to make that an issue that‘s one of your own.

OLBERMANN:  And very briefly and finally, John, obviously Ned Lamont would benefit from Hillary Clinton‘s help.  What does Hillary Clinton get out of that?

HARWOOD:  Same balancing act for Hillary Clinton.  Her problem on the Democratic left is that she voted for the war, and she‘s continued to defend that vote.  And so one of the ways that she can make sure she doesn‘t get too far out of whack with liberals in her party is by standing up for the antiwar candidate, Ned Lamont.  She endorsed Joe Lieberman in the primary, but now that there‘s a Democratic nominee, she‘s got to be for that nominee, and that‘s what she‘s doing.

OLBERMANN:  John Harwood of CNBC and “The Wall Street Journal.”  As always, sir, great information, and great thanks.

HARWOOD:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Just as likely to frame the upcoming campaign are two important anniversaries on the political calendar  Up first, next week, the one-year mark for Hurricane Katrina, followed, of course, by the five-year observance of 9/11 next month.

As our White House correspondent David Gregory reports tonight, whichever party is able to commandeer the anniversary of its choice will probably be rewarded on election day.


DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It was 9/11 that defined George Bush as a strong leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 2001)

BUSH:  I can hear you.


GREGORY:  Then came Katrina, and a very different image emerged.

BUSH:  Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency.

GREGORY (on camera):  Now, in this election year, both Democrats and Republicans are using these twin anniversaries to frame the political debate.

(voice-over):  Democrats argue the president and his party have broken their promises to victims in the storm zone, part of a strategy to highlight the work left undone.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  There are so many basic problems that have not been resolved in allowing people to live decent lives.

GREGORY:  Some analysts argue Katrina delivered a knockout punch to the president‘s standing that will hurt Republicans in the fall.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA:  9/11 created an image of competence for George Bush, and Katrina destroyed it.

GREGORY:  In response to its critics, just today the White House issued a memo indicating that the federal government has issued more than $100 billion in storm relief, and the president will mark the one-year anniversary of Katrina by visiting New Orleans.

But it is the fifth anniversary of 9/11 that Republicans will use to keep the focus on national security, still the party‘s strength.  In a recent Web ad, the Republican National Committee blamed Democrats for blocking counterterror measures, concluding, “A stronger America, a safer America.”

This week Mr. Bush even cited the Iraq war, arguing Democrats would hurt national security.

BUSH:  And there are a lot of people in the Democrat Party who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period.  And they‘re wrong.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D):  President of the United States has received everything he‘s asked of Democrats, and the Republicans have denied him the one thing he needed in the war on terror, oversight.

GREGORY:  In a year when memories of two tragic events may determine the political future.

David Gregory, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN:  And yet another setback tonight in the attempt to convince the people of two nations that a purported plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights in midair was anything close to how it was initially sold to us, namely, the planned mass killing of unimaginable proportions.

Remember this man, Taid Rauf (ph), a brother of the alleged ringleader of the plot?  A local supermarket owner who released this surveillance video of Mr. Rauf just hours after his arrest said at the time, quote, “Does this look like the kind of a person planning such a plot?  He doesn‘t look like he‘s about to blow himself up.”

Turns out that supermarket owner was right.  British police have now let Mr. Rauf go without charging him.  Only 12 of the 24 people originally arrested have actually been charged so far, eight still being questioned, and four, including Mr. Rauf, who is not a terrorist, have been released.

Also tonight, this just in, size matters.  Yesterday, we had nine planets, and then there were eight.  Throw out all your textbooks.

And the original getting voted off the island, “Survivor” about to return the tired old show, shaking things up by getting racial.  Oh, there‘s only a million ways that might backfire, huh?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  In the year 525 A.D., the invention of the Anno Domino system mean—meant that people had to start counting years from 0 A.D.  In 1582, the adoption of the new Gregorian calendar meant people had to learn a new date, going to bed on October 4, waking up on October 15.

Of course, in January of 1959, the annexation of Hawaii and Alaska meant kids had to learn that there were 50 in the U.S. of A., and not 48.

Now, in 2006, another old, seemingly immutable number discarded, and a new one to learn in its place.  There are no longer nine planets, there are only eight.  What, you didn‘t hear that loud explosion about 4:00 this afternoon?

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the judges‘ votes are in.

And as our correspondent Keith Miller reports, Pluto is now the William Hung (ph) of our solar system.


KEITH MILLER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The planetary neighborhood is shrinking right before our eyes, and Pluto is no longer in the lineup.  That‘s the decision of our planet‘s leading astronomers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So the motion is carried.

MILLER:  Twenty-five hundred delegates to the International Astronomical Union voted today to demote Pluto.  Too small, they said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it doesn‘t matter about the size.

MILLER:  Not enough gravity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a cold one.  You take off your space helmet, your head turns into a giant ice block.

MILLER:  The universe may never be the same.

(on camera):  They‘ve taken away the ninth planet.

ANTON VAMPLEW:  But remember, it is still classed as a dwarf planet, so it is still a planet.

MILLER:  That‘s (INAUDIBLE), that‘s embarrassing.

(voice-over):  Pluto was always seen as the lonely little planet.

SIR PATRICK MOORE:  We‘ve regarded Pluto as a planet ever since 1930, and people are rather fond of it.  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s a lovely name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean it, Pluto, get out and stay out.


MILLER:  The name is part of our culture.  When NASA launched this space probe, it was headed to a planet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And liftoff of “Horizon” to visit the planet Pluto...

MILLER:  NASA says the mission is still a go, even though it‘s now destination dwarf planet.

The Hayden Planetarium in New York City dropped Pluto as a planet six years ago.  At the time, the director received hate mail.

MICHAEL O‘HARA, MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY:  We hope that school kids aren‘t too bitterly disappointed.  We hope that the public, which learned that Pluto was a planet, is willing to unlearn it.

MILLER:  It will take years to update textbooks.  But every now and then, someone will peer through a telescope, and Pluto will still be with us.

Keith Miller, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN:  What was the guy from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” doing in the middle of that report?

Anyway, to our viewers on Pluto, our condolences.

If you are sick of the John Mark Karr story, the same condolences.  We‘ll separate the last week‘s worth of goofy from the big mass of grisly and update you on today‘s developments.

And the parting of the ways between Tom Cruise and Paramount Pictures. 

Company‘s stock is up, but reportedly the company‘s morale has plummeted.

That and more, ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Twenty-six years ago today, on August 24, 1980, I ran headfirst into the side of a subway train idling next to the platform of the Shea Stadium station in New York City.

What, like you need any more information?  Like, that doesn‘t explain everything for you?  Jeez Louise!

Let‘s play Oddball.

By the way, ouch.

We begin in Miami with surveillance camera video from a porn shop there.  Oh, this is going to be hot.  Caught on camera is a customer who police say set fire to the place.  Man reportedly walked in, asked for change, and entered the video booth to watch a movie and do his dirty, dirty business.

After a time, he came out and told the clerk he felt guilty, so he proceeded to ruin it for everybody else by torching the joint.  The rest of the customers were able to zip up and scramble out unharmed, but the guilty conscience arsonist got away.  And I bet he still feels dirty.

To Denmark, for a story that might cause that last guy to set his TV on fire.  It is the 93rd anniversary of Copenhagen‘s famous Little Mermaid statue.  The city is celebrating with 93 young women on a boat jumping into the water next to the statue.  It is an annual event there.  Each year, one more bikini-clad babe joins the group to celebrate the statue‘s erection in 1913.

Now, wait a minute, not its erection, the year it was erected.

Do I smell smoke?

Also tonight, the producers of the reality show “Survivor” take a tack so old it seems new.  They are dividing their teams along racial lines.  Now, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Speaking of bad entertainment ideas, Cruise goes out the door, Paramount stock price goes up the chute.  Will it make any long-term sense?

Details ahead.

But first, time now for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Richard Gonzalez of Rogers, Arkansas, providing another life lesson for the rest of us.  If you decide to pass out drunk around the house, do not select your own driveway.  Gonzalez‘s wife said she drove home early yesterday, heard a loud cracking sound.  The bad news, that sound was her husband lying on the driveway as she drove over him.  The good news, she evidently has a deft touch.  He suffered nothing worse than contusions and abrasions.

Number two, your FBI.  Video host Ed Schulz (ph) pointed this out today.  The bureau‘s wanted poster for Osama bin Laden still says he‘s wanted for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies overseas and is, quote, “a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world.”  Funny doggone thing here.  Five years later, it doesn‘t even mention the Pentagon or World Trade Center or 9/11.

But number one, Katherine Harris.  Trailing incumbent Bill Nelson in her likely Republican candidacy for the Senate in Florida by 35 whole points, she‘s apparently changed campaign tactics again, telling the publication “Florida Baptist Witness” that separation of church and state in this country is a fallacy because, quoting her, “God is the one who chooses our rulers.”

Congresswoman, apparently the Almighty is voting for Nelson this time.


OLBERMANN:  Hollywood myopia, the pursuit of short-term gain at the risk of long term pain, our No. 3 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight.  It is a new phenomenon here, dating only to the filming of the movie, “The Heart of a Race Tout,” the first film entirely made here in Southern California.  That was in 1908. 

Tonight thought, we‘re focusing on two current examples and we start with the latest season of “Survivor:  Cook Islands.”  You can‘t say whether producers deliberately chose to set a show dividing contestants by race on a group of islands named for a white explorer who was killed and, legend has it, eaten by Pacifica islanders.  But, as of tonight, CBS had not responded our request for an explanation as to why an American show, set in the Pacific islands, did not make room for the indigenous ethnicities of either.  And pitting African-Americans verses Asian-Americans versus Hispanics versus Whites at a juncture when the radical right here is calling for Muslim only screening lines at U.S. airports—I don‘t know, maybe it is me.  Maybe there might be something askew about the timing of this from “Survivor.” 

Our second instance of Hollywood myopia, perhaps, comes from Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone who continues to comment on why he‘s no longer doing business with Tom Cruise and in so doing, might be making Mr. Cruise look a little less scary by comparison.  Redstone was clearly happy to see Viacom‘s stock rise by 20 cents after his remarks, but it‘s not yet clear whether that 20 cents may have come at a cost, a cost to be paid by his studio, Paramount.  Redstone today quoted in the “Los Angeles Times” as saying his studio boss should have fired Cruise.  Paramount sources telling that paper moral at the studio evaporated at the news and may ultimately cost Viacom and Redstone more than 20 cents a share.  In today‘s “New York Times,” the head of the CAA, the most powerful talent agency said “Paramount has no credibility right is know clear who is running the studio and who is making the decisions.”  The “New York Times” Hollywood correspondent, Sharon Waxman contributed to that report, she‘s also the author of “Rebels on the Backlot.” 

Miss Waxman, good evening, thanks for your time. 

SHARON WAXMAN, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  Sure thing.  How are you? 

OLBERMANN:  I want to get one thing out of the way quickly before we get into the meat of this.  Sumner Redstone makes more than $17 million a year?  But, unless he was in that movie, “The Heart of a Race Tout” from 1908, I don‘t recall him being a box office draw for Paramount.  Will the Hollywood executives next start cracking down on compensation for Hollywood executives? 

WAXMAN:  Uh, I don‘t think that‘s likely considering they work for him, but you can suggest it. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we have...

WAXMAN:  I mean he‘s—go ahead. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we have an idea what his motive—I mean, we know what his motive was, he was severing relationships with Cruise, obviously there was a lot of dressing to it, but the bottom line was money, but do we know what his motivation was for going public with this?  Why say anything under circumstances like this?

WAXMAN:  Well, there‘s a really a lot of speculation as to why he might have done that, but really what appears to be the case is that Sumner Redstone got a call from a reporter and he just decided to say what he really thought.  And he owns the studio, he runs place and he was—I think what we have gleaned from him is that his executives weren‘t firing Tom Cruise fast enough.  And he‘s firing in the broad sense.  Of course, Tom Cruise was not an employee of Paramount, but they had a 14-year business relationship.  But basically, Paramount had apparently decided to end their business relationship the Tom Cruise and it was not happening fast enough for Sumner Redstone, so he went ahead and, you know, he seems to be having a good time, enjoying his moment bashing movie stars, sounds like. 

OLBERMANN:  Baseball team owners have spent a century complaining that their stars are overpaid back from when they were making $7,000 a year.  It‘s gotten to the point where generations of baseball consumers believe it, they judge almost everything by a guy‘s salary.  Is anybody in Hollywood worried that if the studios say that they‘re paying too much for their stars that the public will start to see the stars as overvalued and view them only in terms of how much money they‘re making? 

WAXMAN:  No, I don‘t think people are ever going to go see movies based on what they think somebody‘s being paid or if they think they‘re being overpaid.  If—they go to see, if they like the movie or if they like the movie star.  So it‘s really a business question within Hollywood—how much is Tom Cruise worth?  Can he bring the audience that a $20 million salary or that a 25 percent of the gross of the box office means?  And if he can‘t, then his stock is going to fall and his price is going to fall.  So, Sumner Redstone certainly felt that Tom Cruise and other movie stars have been taking an awful lot of money, too much money, from the gross take of a movie‘s profits and the studio‘s not making enough profits by comparison.  So he was irritated at that. 

OLBERMANN:  As all good businessmen would be.  But, Mr. Cruise‘s response to this, at least that of his production partner, was that while they were going out anyway or they were the ones who pulled the plug on this because they have this $100 million investment from hedge funds and such.  First off, is there anything to that or was it a cover story, and if it wasn‘t a cover story, is that viable alternative to what we have now in Hollywood?  Could that be something that hurts the studios long-term? 

WAXMAN:  Well, that is two different things.  Yes.  Is it—is it—does Tom Cruise have $100 million from a hedge fund?  It doesn‘t appear to be the case in the sense that what his motive, Tom Cruise‘s lawyer, told me yesterday that it is just talk that he doesn‘t think there‘s any $100 million hedge fund, which is somewhat embarrassing to Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise‘s producing partner who say said that there was.  But so far they have not produced any details or any really substantive evidence that they actually have this deal with a hedge fund. 

Now, as your second question, yes, sure, why wouldn‘t that be a viable way to go for a big, smart movie star like Tom Cruise or anybody else, or a George Clooney, if they wanted to make movies directly with the financier and not work through a studio.  That‘s certainly in a Hollywood that is changing all the time, that is very fluid, that has—faces an uncertain future because of all kinds of reason including competition from other kinds of entertainment.  Why not?  Sure. 

OLBERMANN:  Sharon Waxman, the Hollywood correspondent of the “New York Times.”  Great thanks for your insight, great thanks for your time tonight. 

WAXMAN:  Sure. 

OLBERMANN:  From Bangkok to Boulder, California, the crazy ride, you the news viewer have been subjected to since this story broke here on MSNBC that there had finally been an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case.  There are developments, there‘s stupidity.  What happens when an officer of the law comes face to face with a law breaking Bill O‘Reilly radio listener?  We have played you the tape, now we will talk to the officer himself.  That is ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you got to go and you don‘t know where to go.

BILLY CRYNES, CRAPPER SNAPPER:  You‘ve got find right location. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Billy Crynes is now a self-titled “Crapper Snapper.” 

CRINES:  Backhouse, (INAUDIBLE), little brown shack, earth closet, library, sears seat, it is a passing—no pun intended. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Forty-second president of the United States, Bill Clinton on hand here tonight to watch himself a ballgame.  Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, Clinton grew up—former President Clinton grew up in Arkansas.  They have a double A team Little Rock in Arkansas, a lot of people in Arkansas a Cardinal fans. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It ain‘t worth, you know, jeopardizing your life. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last Friday, snakes in the cinema because reality.  A 12 inch Diamond Back Rattle Snake was found inside the movie theater at Desert Ridge.  So, how did a snake like this get inside?  Whiting says it was brought in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That would be on the line of terrorist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And who could blame him.  No one likes sharing popcorn with a snake. 



OLBERMANN:  John Mark Karr finally in Boulder, Colorado tonight.  Today‘s trip capping off a week they can only describe as bizarre.  We‘ll take a look at the lighter moments in the macob (ph) story and we‘ll be joined by the Florida policeman who‘s dashboard camera captured everything as he pulled over an irate Bill O‘Reilly fan.  Nothing but lighter moments there.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.



STEWIE GRIFFIN, “FAMILY MAN” BABY:  “Breaking News,” oh this should be rich.  Must be something with monumental, earth shattering importance or they wouldn‘t have that earth there, shattering.  Earth shattering.  It‘s earth shattering breaking news.  Oh do tell me! Tell me! Tell me!


OLBERMANN:  Make sure you are sitting down.  Put down any fragile items, brace yourself.  Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, breaking news of the utmost importance in the JonBenet Ramsey case about, of course, the man who has evidentially spent the last five years trying to convince somebody that he is the prime suspect.  He‘s on the move. 

That‘s right, at 2:45 Easter Time this afternoon, a plane arrived in L.A.  from Colorado, apparently the last one built by the Wright Brothers.  At 3:49, more breaking news, John Mark Karr, cuffed by Boulder authorities and on to said plane and finally, breaking news at 7:36 Eastern Time, John Mark Karr in Boulder.  I repeat, he is in Boulder, in Colorado. 

Oh, and don‘t forget the breaking news that we brought you last night at 8:35, it was official and it‘s breaking, John Mark Karr now has lawyers.  So, let‘s reassess just how the hell we got here from last Wednesday when word come of Karr‘s arrest through the minute-by-minute updates on what he ate during his plane ride back over the weekend to the hours of coverage leading up to his two minute extradition hearing.  This is the week that was and frequently and the week that wasn‘t. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  NBC NEWS has learned that JonBenet Ramsey‘s father believes that authorities in Colorado have made some sort of arrest in connection with his daughter‘s murder. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old man who has been charged in connection with the death of JonBenet Ramsey. 

IAN WILLIAMS, ITN NEWS:  He was picked up from his cell at that immigration detention center in the middle of the afternoon. 

Intriguing Lieutenant General Suap (ph) who is the of the immigration police and said that he has invited Karr to sing along the Bee Gee‘s song, “Words,” after Karr had told him that he liked that band.  But, Karr declined the offer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are also getting in brand new video right now.  You may not believe this, take a look.  This is video from 1987 of John Mark Karr singing at a friend‘s wedding.  You can see him here, playing the guitar; he‘s got much longer hair, much more hair, quite frankly.  John Mark Karr here, holding up a pair of shorts hiding his face.  Incredible. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The journey home has begun. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  JonBenet Ramsey‘s confessed killer flying back to the U.S. in the lap of luxury.  On the menu, pate, roast duck...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fried king prawns and chocolate cake. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Steamed rice, broccoli and chocolate cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Champagne, drank beer and wine. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Karr had roast duck with soy sauce and yellow noodles.  And meal No. 3 consisted of pizza, chocolates and Evian water. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like the BBIB (ph), let‘s be honest about it.  So, you can understand when he goes to the bathroom there will be 20 people watching him on him. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Any idea what‘s on the menu today for him? 

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  He is going be getting jail chow. 

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC NEWS:  There‘s a lot of traffic outside the courthouse.  Inside what we‘re looking at is a ceiling. 

RITA COSBY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  As we‘re looking again, this is the ceiling of the courthouse there in Los Angeles. 

BREWER:  There‘s the ceiling of the courthouse. 

COSBY:  (INAUDIBLE) to be getting underway, and again, looking at the picture, that is the ceiling. 

BREWER:  There‘s the ceiling tiles we are getting to know by heart at this point. 

OKWU:  We‘re told from inside the courtroom that a glass box has been transported into the courtroom and they‘re putting it into place. 

BREWER:  Michael, let me interrupt you, I got to just clarify here, when you say glass box, is that your assumption that—or are you getting details that this is a person-sized glass box that he‘s actually going be in it or are you talking about a small glass box? 

OKWU:  No, we‘re certainly not talking about a small glass box.  He was expected to be placed in some sort after of a cage—Contessa. 

BREWER:  Michael, are you prepared to be on John Stewart‘s Comedy Central show tonight, talking about your big glass box and how many people are going to be inside it? 

OKWU:  I know I was really dancing around that, Contessa.  But you know, my duty as a correspondent is to bring you latest from the courtroom and... 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is breaking news out of Long Beach, California it is our understanding at this moment, that this is the airplane that has been sent to pick up John Mark Karr. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s cuffed, he‘s shackled, they‘ll put him in the back of the plane, they‘ll sit him down, and he won‘t be drinking alcohol. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re looking at a picture, also, on the right side of your screen of a small—relatively small turbo cropper, just taking off from Long Beach Airport. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The International Astronomical Union coldly announced in (INAUDIBLE) today, Pluto is dead.  Ouch!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Breaking news into MSNBC, wheels on the ground in Boulder, Colorado. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Looks like they‘re going to go ahead and make a right-hand turn, so that‘s where they‘re going, not sure—the destination as far as we know is the Boulder County jail.


OLBERMANN:  Given that his lawyers say Karr‘s relatives have engaged entertainment agents and area already shopping the book and movie rights to his story, it‘s an segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity news and gossip, “Keeping Tabs.” 

And we begin tonight with a woman who is famous for being famous, Paris Hilton.  To resume of heiress, party girl, internet sex plot star, burger commercial vixen, alleged singer, and reality TV fixture, we can now add, voicemail hacker? 

The website reporting that Hilton is one of 50 customers recently chucked by her cell phone service company, Spoof Card, for using their services to accessing other people‘s voice mailboxes.  Among the customers hacked, the actress, Lindsay Lohan, who is also Paris Hilton‘s nemesis.  Well that is a coincidence. 

Staying on the celebrity blonde beat, Britney Spears facing off with Jessica Simpson.  While taking a break backstage from her duties hosting the Teen Choice Awards last weekend, Miss Simpson apparently had a very bizarre request for Miss Spears, she wanted to kiss her belly to which the 8-months pregnant Spears replied, reportedly, “hell no.”  “Us Weekly” magazine quoting a witness as saying Jessica was really insulted, but Britney refused to let her do it, thus missing the real headline here, “Britney Spears has apparently acquired some standards.” 

Lastly, to borrow Norman Mailer‘s line, advertisements for myself, I went all Hollywood on you this afternoon finishing up, recording my lines for a guest appearance on television‘s to entertainment program, “Family Guy.”  There‘s the maestro, Seth McFarland, executive producer, voice of Stewie and Peter and Brian and many more.  He‘s explaining to me that I have to read just the lines they wrote for me, that the whole half hour cannot be only about me.  This is what the back of my suit looks like.  And here I am with Tim Russert.  No, I‘m sorry, that‘s a cardboard cutout of Peter Griffin in the lobby of the “Family Guy”-“American Dad” world headquarters.  By the way, I‘m the one on the left. 

Then it was time to say goodbye and that‘s Seth, laughing hysterically when I tried to shake his hand.  Just kidding.  My appearance as shady oil man Bob Grossbeard in the episode “It Takes a Village Idiot and I Married One” tentatively scheduled for next April.  It will be my debut as a cartoon, unless you count this program. 

Speaking of Loony Tunes, the Bill-O drive-by.  We‘ll be joined by the Florida police officer who had a run-in with the rabid O‘Reilly listener.  That is ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

No. 3, oh look, it‘s Bill-O.  He took that “Time” magazine poll which found that 53 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Senator Impression Senator Hillary Clinton and dismissed it.  Quoting:

“I don‘t really believe that poll because it is not scientific in my opinion.”

Not scientific?  So you don‘t the Bible? 

Our runner-up, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  The “Survivor” story we just did, the one about dividing the teams into races, the African-Americans, the Hispanics, the Asian Americans—Rush said the Hispanics might win because of “Their responsible ability to cross borders.  They don‘t get apprehended.”  He said the Asian-Americans might outsmart everybody.  Then he said the African-Americans would be in trouble because they‘re not good swimmers. 

You know, 20 years ago that exact swimming crap got a baseball general manger fired and justifiably so, presumably now, that will happen to Limbaugh.  Yeah right.

But the winner is, the people who run the children‘s area of the San Francisco Zoo.  They have named this American Cream Draft Horse “Coulter.”  This assumes some kind of resemblance between the horse and Coultergeist—

Ann Coulter.  Look, it is a bloody time in American politics, no holds barred.  But this crosses the line to abuse Coulter this way.  This is slander and it is godless and yes, maybe it even is treason.  How dare you people insult that poor horse? 

The management at the children‘s area at the San Francisco Zoo, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  It was Arthur Konan Doyle who once wrote of Sherlock Holmes looking over a bucolic British landscape and seeing not the beauty nor appreciating the simplicity, but instead wondering what awful things were happening there, far from prying or overseeing eyes.  Such is our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight.  To an ordinary street in the pretty town of Largo, Florida and what awaited Officer Kurt Iskra when he pulled over Michael Conrad Forester who‘s car was going much too fast and his car stereo was playing much too loudly.  Officer Iskra will join us in a moment, first, if you have somehow missed it, the awful thing that happened far from prying or overseeing eyes.


OFFICER KURT ISKRA, LARGO POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Sir, you are being cited for speeding which is the reason why I stopped you to begin with for going 55 in a 40.  You‘re also going to be cited, non-moving, for a stereo loud, audible over 25 feet away.   Need you to sign here for the speed, please.

MICHAEL CONRAD FORESTER, BILL-O FAN:  You‘re a very shameful person, you know that.  You‘re a liar.  I‘m saying it just like this...

ISKRA:  OK sir, sign the citation please.

FORESTER:  That you‘re a liar.  You‘re thing about...

ISKRA:  Sign the citation.

FORESTER:  That‘s for kids who listen to rock and roll, or listen to rap music.  I was listening to Bill O‘Reilly, OK.

ISKRA:  Bill O‘Reilly doesn‘t fall under that statute?


ISKRA:  OK.  Sign the citation please.

FORESTER:  I was trying to hear—I wasn‘t trying to let everybody else hear my radio, I was trying to hear it myself.


FORESTER:  You‘re a shameful person.

ISKRA:  OK.  Sign the citation, please.

FORESTER:  You‘re a donut-eater and you will rot in hell for lying.  You should be ashamed of yourself...

ISKRA:  You have to sign the second one also.

FORESTER:  You should be ashamed of yourself, but you‘re not because you have the nature of a person, an animal, and the kind of animal I‘m referring to is probably—you don‘t want to hear about, but I‘m sorry you have to hear about it.  It‘s a swine.


FORESTER:  It‘s a swine.

ISKRA:  You have 30 days to take care of both the citations.   Buckle up and slow down.  Make sure you get your registration in the vehicle.


OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, as promised, is Officer Kurt Isra.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

ISKRA:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  From this considerable and safe distance, that was funny to us.  At the time was it at all funny to you?

ISKRA:  It was humorous at the time.  I was just waiting to clear the stop and get back and get with my partners on what had happened, let them view the tape.

OLBERMANN:  What was the reaction when other people viewed the tape?

ISKRA:  They thought it was quit humorous also.  Everybody got a big kick out of it. 

OLBERMANN:  Did anybody else—did any of your colleagues commend you as the man on the street might, for your patience with Mr. Forester?  I mean, you never raised your voice.  How often does it get like that?  Did we just learn a lot more about—about being a peace officer under those circumstances?

ISKRA:  I think it happens a lot more than most people realize, it‘s just in this instance it was caught on my in-car video.  A lot of the time some of the officers don‘t have cameras in their vehicle in order to capture something of this nature.

OLBERMANN:  Do they often—do the people who complain about the tickets often mention Bill O‘Reilly or anybody in particular or is that novel?

ISKRA:  This was a first.  It was a—the unique Bill O‘Reilly defense for the radio.  I‘d never heard that before and can‘t recall anybody else having any type of similar instance. 

OLBERMANN:  Did you have to keep—struggle to keep a straight face during that or are you use to the bizarre, if not that particular kind of bizarre?

ISKRA:  You do get kind of use to hearing some of the bizarre things that people do say.  And you just want smile to yourself and wait until you get back to your cars and shake your head walking back wondering how an adult can behave like this. 

OLBERMANN:  When you asked him that, that was—that one moment where it got out, where you said “Bill O‘Reilly doesn‘t fall under that statute,” have you encountered anybody that thought what they were listening to, no matter what it was, made any difference in a noise complaint situation? 

ISKRA:  Again, that was the first time.  That was the first time I have had an excuse that something didn‘t pertain to the statute because it was either a talk show.  Most of the time it is music that‘s coming from a stereo that causes its to be loud, but in this case it wasn‘t, it was a talk radio show and he felt that he was justified in playing it as loud as he wanted to in order for him to hear it. 

OLBERMANN:  It was playing still on the car stereo when you first approached the car? 

ISKRA:  It was playing at the time that we initiated the stop, upon exiting my vehicle he did turn down the radio. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you know, we had been told he had a month to request a formal request for a trial.  Do you know how that turned out with both the speeding citation and the loud radio citation? 

ISKRA:  He did plead guilt and got a conviction for the loud stereo.  The speeding ticket is still open as of right now and he maintains a not guilty plea on that. 

OLBERMANN:  So, he pleaded guilty after all that about the stereo, he pleaded guilty to that, but is challenging the speeding ticket? 

ISKRA:  That‘s correct. 

OLBERMANN:  And does that mean there‘s going to be a court hearing and you‘re going to have to go talk about it? 

ISKRA:  As of now, yes it is set for a trial. 

OLBERMANN:  But all the references to the Bill O‘Reilly part of it and the radio part of it would—that‘s over as far as the law is concerned, correct? 

ISKRA:  Yeah, that does not pertain to the speed that he is contesting. 

OLBERMANN:  You had said, I noticed, you started to say he had three options in responding to citations then you said—then you stopped yourself and said.  What was the change there? 

ISKRA:  He holds a commercial driver‘s license in the state of Florida.  If you have a commercial driver‘s license you are not eligible to attend defensive driver‘s course to keep the points off your license.  You either have to plead guilty or plead not guilty. 

OLBERMANN:  And he—what did he do?  He operates a crane, is that right? 

ISKRA:  That‘s what he stated to me at the time of the stop, he operates a crane for a construction company. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll look and listen for cranes in Florida.  Officer Kurt Iskra, great thanks for your work and great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ISKRA:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,209th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  From L.A., keep your knees loose.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight, good luck.  

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTY. 

Joe, good evening.



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