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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 2

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Thomas Ricks, Craig Crawford, Edward Felten, Jeffrey Ross

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

Both men are doing fantastic jobs.  President Bush vows to keep Vice President Cheney through January of 2009, President Bush vows to keep Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld through January 2009.

The Democrats say, Thank you, Lord.  Many Republicans in the tightest of races say, Oh, boy.


ANNOUNCER:  Tom Kean, Jr.  Change the course in Iraq.  Replace Rumsfeld.


OLBERMANN:  But, of course, none of it is Mr. Rumsfeld‘s fault.  The House majority leader says, Remember, it‘s the generals on the ground who are actually running the war.  And Mr. Rumsfeld reminds us anew, You also have to remember to blame the media.

The political realities with Craig Crawford, the war realities with Thomas Ricks.

It‘s not who votes that counts, it‘s who counts the votes.  After the debacles of 2000 and 2004, can you trust machine on which you will cast your vote on Tuesday next?  And if you can, why is the primary manufacturer of them trying to get HBO to kill a documentary saying you can‘t?

Five years, one month, 22 days, and we are still identifying the dead at ground zero.  While the families demand another full search for body parts, some of those already found prove now to have been from one of the flight attendants on American Airlines flight 11.

And a movie cameo is of the moment, but a videotape of it is forever. 

Why politicians should never try to be actors, starring Mark Foley.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Daddy, Daddy.  I missed you so much, Daddy.

MARK FOLEY:  Oh, I missed you too, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There were a lot of bad men, Daddy.

FOLEY:  I know, baby, but it‘s all over now.


OLBERMANN:  You bet it is.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


FOLEY:  God, I love you.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Thursday, November 2, five days until the 2006 midterm elections.

No matter what the outcome once the ballots have been counted, this much is certain.  As long as President Bush has a job, Donald Rumsfeld will have one too.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the president‘s pledge to keep both his defense secretary and his vice president until January 2009, other Republicans echoing his call, and in so doing, insulting U.S. troops in Iraq and the generals by making the mess on the ground there entirely their fault.

In a moment, the military analysis from Thomas Ricks, author of “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq,” as well as the political impact from our own Craig Crawford.

But we begin tonight with the details.  Win or lose, the president saying in an interview with the newswires that he intends for not only Secretary Rumsfeld, but also Vice President Cheney to stay in office for the remainder of his term, at least one Republican lawmaker taking Mr.  Bush‘s remarks even further, Congressman John Boehner, the number two Republican in the House, defending not just the defense secretary, but also shifting responsibility for Iraq from Mr. Rumsfeld to the men and women in uniform on the ground there.

Quote, “Let‘s not blame what‘s happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.  The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely them and the president.”

To save Rummy by throwing the troops under the bus campaign, and coming at a time and the war in Iraq has never looked worse to the American public or even to the military itself, 61 percent of those surveyed by “The New York Times” now saying the U.S. should change its strategy and tactics in Iraq, 27 percent saying it is time to bring all the troops home, only 8 percent thinking we should continue with our current strategy, 69 percent of the opinion that President Bush has not developed a clear plan for dealing with Iraq, and 76 percent now saying Democrats more likely to bring American troops home from Iraq more quickly.

As promised, I‘m joined now by the military correspondent of “The Washington Post,” Thomas Ricks, also, of course, author of one of the definitive works on the conflict, “Fiasco.”

Thank you for your time again tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  If we take at face value what the president, what Congressman Boehner are saying, is there any way that what‘s happening in Iraq is not the defense secretary‘s fault, or at least, if you want to use the world “responsibility” instead?  In other words, give us a reality check on how culpable the generals on the ground in Iraq really would be, when the strategies and the resources are set at the Pentagon?

RICKS:  Well, look, clearly some of it is Rumsfeld‘s fault.  You don‘t get a mess as big as Iraq through the faults of a few officials, plus Cheney-Rumsfeld.  What we‘ve had in Iraq is a systemic failure.  And actually, I think the Democrats can take a page from the Republicans‘ book here.  The generals are part of the problem in Iraq.  A lot of decisions have been made poorly on the ground, and the generals have not really let themselves be criticized.

So it‘s one thing to criticize generals, it‘s another thing to criticize troops.  And I think if the Democrats realize there‘s a difference between the troops and the generals, they‘d be better off.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think that, in, in contained in Congressman Boehner‘s remarks about the responsibility there, is a genuine insult to the generals, not to the troops?

RICKS:  Well, he said the generals, yes.  I think all too often, the generals themselves have blamed the troops for mistakes that actually were made much higher up, and the troops are simply more of the consequences of them.  So I think that‘s probably a good thing that people are talking about some of the mistakes generals have made.

OLBERMANN:  In all of his recent interviews, the president has been saying that the U.S. is making progress, that is the phrase that he has used again and again in Iraq.  And yet, taking a look at this color-coded diagram that the U.S. military itself has used to assess the situation in Iraq that was printed in “The New York Times”  yesterday, a rather remarkable document on the face of it, it would appear, would it not, that the only thing Iraq is progressing towards is chaos?  I mean, it says—the—it‘s a graphic depiction, as graphic as possible.  Is this accurate?

RICKS:  I would think it is.  I think Iraq has been deteriorating for a few years now, and that the slide has accelerated recently.  And the only question is, is the progress being made towards chaos or civil war, or some combination of the two?

OLBERMANN:  It‘s presumably useless to assign blame in a particular direction.  It‘s Rumsfeld‘s fault, it‘s the generals‘ fault, it‘s the troops‘ fault.  But would changes make any sense?  Could a new secretary of defense, hypothetically, improve the scenario in Iraq?  I mean, even during the civil war, President Lincoln fired his first secretary of war, changed the generals in command seemingly every few months.  Is it, would it be of any use to change the secretary of defense?

RICKS:  Well, changing the secretary of defense might send a signal, but I don‘t think it really would particularly change the direction of the war.  To do that, you probably need a presidential decision to change the direction of the war.  A removal of the secretary of defense might be a reflection of that.

But I think it is actually useful to look at assignation of blame, as long as you‘re willing to look at several groups, rather than just one or two people.  Blaming one or two people is simply going to scapegoat people without really speaking to the massive problems we‘ve had in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  Thomas Ricks, the military correspondent of “The Washington Post.”  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us tonight.

RICKS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Beyond the war in Iraq, that “New York Times” poll containing more bad news from a historical perspective for the Republicans heading into Tuesday‘s election, Mr. Bush‘s approval rating in this poll hovering at 34 percent, 9 points below where then-President Clinton‘s job performance number was in October 1994, just before the Republicans surprised the Democrats, and then some, by taking control of the House.  Also, it‘s 28 points down from Mr. Bush‘s rating on the eve of the 2002 midterm elections.

And now, as promised, time to look at the politics of this with our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly” and author of “Attack the Messenger.”

Craig, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  All right, it may be a debate that can be argued in either direction militarily, but in vowing to keep Secretary Rumsfeld, even as his poll numbers and, if you want, the war‘s poll numbers themselves go from bad to worse, it would seem Mr. Bush has either made a serious gaffe, or, in trying to go for his base, at least he‘s taken a very serious risk in the final week of the campaign.  Should the Democrats not be jumping all over this, if not, in fact, dancing in the streets tonight?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, I think the president was better off politically trying to end John Kerry‘s career than prolonging Rumsfeld‘s.

But there is, you mention the base.  There is that fact.  We are at the point in the campaign where Bush likes to let the bats out of the belfry, where he tries to stir up the base, tries to, you know—and Rumsfeld‘s one of those figures who‘s very popular with the some—with the very conservative pro-military base of Bush‘s coalition.

So I think maybe they are trying to send that signal.  There are a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who don‘t agree with that strategy, but that‘s certainly what the White House is trying to do here.

OLBERMANN:  All right, if you are a Republican candidate, like Tom Kean, Jr., in New Jersey, who has a campaign ad out that says, Replace Rumsfeld, what in the world do you do now?

CRAWFORD:  Right.  Well, I think, you know, these Republicans are just going to have to keep running for the hills, trying to create that distance with President Bush.  Again, there, I have found this split between congressional Republicans and the White House, the White House being insistent that what they‘ve done in the past will work, that if they stir up that base, that‘ll be enough to get over the top to win these majorities.

You know, the president has campaigned for a long time.  This is his last campaign.  He‘s not going to change the way he does things.  Whenever I see Bush at the, at the, in the endgame of a campaign like this, Keith, he reminds me of that witch in “Wizard of the Oz” who flings the flying monkeys out to go after Dorothy and her entourage.  That‘s kind of what Bush does at this point, and it‘s worked for him in the past.

OLBERMANN:  The other bad news, perhaps, for the Republicans, and you wonder where the Democrats are on this, that color-coded Iraq assessment charge of the military‘s that got into “The New York Times,” we just showed it, the Pentagon is now, instead of dealing with what this says about chaos in Iraq, the Pentagon is now focused onto who has leaked this chart to “The New York Times,” as if that chart were not more important by, you know, a factor of a million times, what‘s happening in Iraq, what it represents, they‘re worried about the document itself.

Is this another classic example of the Bush administration blaming the media as a distraction from the public—for the public from the real issue at hand?

CRAWFORD:  I think so.  And they are quite good at it, and do it quite often.  The only problem I see, Keith, when they do this, is that they‘re confirming its truth.  I mean, if they‘re saying, Who lake leaked this?  Gosh, we didn‘t want anybody to know that, but then they don‘t preserve the option to say, Oh, it‘s not even something we pay attention to.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of references in the media, Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, have both this week blamed the increase in violence in Iraq on insurgents who are trying to influence the elections, break the will of the American people, staging events so they will be covered on the media and in American television.

Given seriously how little coverage of the atrocities that occur on a daily basis in Iraq is, is there, is this being taken plausibly anywhere?  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s another version of the president saying, A vote for the Democrats is the same as a vote for the terrorists.  I mean, is it, is it, is it passe?  Was this something that worked in 2004, but does not cut any ice in 2006?

CRAWFORD:  Again, it‘s flying monkeys out of the castle.  I mean, they‘re trying, they‘re doing what they‘ve done before, it‘s worked before.  It‘s one reason we have gotten surprised, been surprised in past Bush elections, when these polls show it going at one direction, and he pulls it back.

These races are so close, Keith, that their calculation in the White House is, if they can stir those folks to get to the polls, they can beat out John Kerry, they can do anything they can to demonize the Democrats, say voting for them‘s voting for terrorists, anything they can think of, it‘s enough to get over the top to win in those close races and eke out a majority, keep a majority in the House and Senate.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, whether John Boehner was referring to just the generals, or the generals and the troops, how did he get away with that when John Kerry had the entire world fall down on top of his head?

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think it‘s a (INAUDIBLE), it‘s a matter of, you know, taking the clips out of context or not, and making a campaign message out of it.  It has to be driven.  Somebody has to drive it.  And Democrats don‘t tend to do that.  I go back to when Rumsfeld said similar things about, You find—you fight with the Army you have, not the one you want.  I mean, he was talking about body armor, but you could have clipped that out and said he was slamming the troops.

Democrats don‘t have the—you know, they don‘t go for the, they don‘t go for the throat (INAUDIBLE) on stuff like that.

OLBERMANN:  At five days left.  Our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, columnist of “Congressional Quarterly.”  Craig, great thanks.  Good night.

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  One more note on this.  In a television interview, the president has now decried the tone in Washington, saying it‘s gotten really ugly.  And he was evidently proud that he had stayed above the infighting, because, quoting again, “I really don‘t think it‘s fitting for the president to drag the presidency into that kind of mud-slinging.”  Less than 24 hours earlier, Mr. Bush had been telling a crowd in Georgia that the Democrats‘ plans could be summed up thusly, quoting again, “The terrorists win, and America loses.”

Didn‘t drag the presidency into mud-slinging.  Check back into this dimension now and again, sir.

Perhaps one of the best indicators of just how toxic the secretary of defense and his war might be to the GOP, there‘s at least one anti-Rumsfeld ad out there, not from a Democrat but from a Republican contender.

And yet another scandal to brush the Bush administration.  One of its closest evangelical adviser, Pastor Ted Haggard, resigning amid accusations he had a three-year relationship with a male prostitute.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Among the less-reported tidbits from David Kuo‘s book “Tempting Faith” were President Bush‘s thoughts on the first war with Iraq.

Our number four story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, what‘s become of Mr.  Bush‘s political goals for the war?  Kuo writes that Bush talked about his father‘s Iraq war, saying, quote, “He had a lot of political capital after Iraq.  He didn‘t use it.  I would never make that mistake.”

In fact, as far back as 1999, then-Governor Bush reportedly told the family ghostwriter, Mickey Herskowitz, quote, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.  My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he wasted it.  If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I‘m not going to waste it.  I‘m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed, and I‘m going to have a successful presidency.”

Seven years later, however, Iraq is about as successful for Mr. Bush politically as it is militarily, with hundreds of races nationwide, and new ads airing all the time, it‘s hard to get an exact count right now.  But it‘s easy to find political capital about Iraq figuring prominently in the campaign ads of the Democrats.


TAMMY DUCKWORTH:  I‘m proud of my service in Iraq, and the sacrifice I made when our country called.  But two years later, things are even worse, and Congress still won‘t ask hard questions or demand a new course.

ANNOUNCER:  “The Daily Herald” calls Tammy Duckworth “an independent voice.”  The “Tribune” says, “She‘d shake up the comfy, entrenched politicians in Washington.”

DUCKWORTH:  I‘m Tammy Duckworth, and I approved this message to say, I will ask those hard questions about Iraq, about reckless spending and our dependence on foreign oil, because we need change.



ANNOUNCER:  We expected Rob Simmons to know better.  Instead, he followed George Bush.  Simmons votes for the war in Iraq, votes against cracking down on fraud in Iraq reconstruction contacts, votes against requiring benchmarks for success.

Simmons says Congress can debate the war, but not in public.  Simmons votes to stay the course, again.

If Rob Simmons was going to change, he would have by now.

JOE COURTNEY:  I‘m Joe Courtney (ph), and I approved this message.



ANNOUNCER:  Rick O‘Donnell‘s latest idea, send 75,000 more troops to Iraq.  O‘Donnell goes even further than George Bush and would send 75,000 more troops into combat to defend a failed policy.

Another bad idea from Rick O‘Donnell.

Ed Perlmutter has a different idea.

ED PERLMUTTER:  In Iraq, we have to hold the president accountable and have real debate in Congress.

I‘m Ed Perlmutter, and I approved this message, because Iraq is mess, and something has got to change.


OLBERMANN:  That‘s not to say no Republicans are talking about Iraq.  In the state of New Jersey, the Democratic and Republican Senate candidates are racing away from Mr. Bush and away from his war.  Here is the ad from Democrat Bob Menendez.


ANNOUNCER:  Tom Kean, Jr., follows George Bush on Iraq.  Kean, Jr., says he would have voted for the Iraq war, and we should stay the Bush administration‘s course, with no end and no victory in sight.

We can stay the Bush-Kean, Jr., course...


I‘m Bob Menendez, and I voted against George Bush‘s war in Iraq.  I approved this message because we need to bring our troops home safely and soon.


OLBERMANN:  And now watch how the Republican, Tom Kean, Jr., excuse me, Iraq in his ad.


ANNOUNCER:  Tom Kean, Jr., an independent reformer, protecting the environment, supporting stem cell research.  Tom Kean, Jr., change the course in Iraq, replace Rumsfeld, support our troops.


OLBERMANN:  Apparently, postwar planning is important in politics too.

In the spirit of the GOP, time for a divertissement, like the world‘s biggest skateboard ramp, perfect for practicing your kickplit (ph) backside tailside big spin, dude.  Heck, could be seen from outer space.

And speaking of big spin, meet one of the new guys now in charge of the shots at United Artists Studios.  Charlie Chaplin founded this place to have it turn out like that?

That‘s ahead.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The odds that you can walk into a large room full of people and meet somebody who shares your birthday are a lot lower than intuition would tell you.  It‘s, like, 35 to 1.  And, of course, if you extend this over history, the odds get easier still.  Having said that, though, it‘s still startling to know that two American presidents, Polk and Harding, were both born on November 2, and at least five “Playboy” Playmates.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin outside San Diego, with a skateboard ramp so big it can be seen from a helicopter.  Oh, well, that looks like fun.  Eight stories tall, longer than football field, it was built by professional skateboarder Bob Bernquist (ph) on his 12-acre farm at a price of $280,000.

There are two things I think we can take away from this story.  A, professional skateboarders apparently make way more money than any of us ever imagined.  And B, I‘m guessing this whole spread will soon be owned by somebody‘s next of kin.

In San Francisco, home of that liberal Nancy Pelosi and her liberal San Francisco values, in fact, if the Dems win next week, this will be Pelosi‘s choice to head the Arms Services Committee, a marijuana plant in a glass box.

Actually, it‘s an exhibit at an edgy downtown art show called “Who‘s Afraid of San Francisco?”  But it is a real plant, and that‘s got some people all worked up.  The gallery owners are hoping the controversial display will spark up discussion among visitors.  Well, something‘s going to get sparked up.

Less than a minute, that‘s how long it takes to hack into the Diebold voting machines that are waiting to record your choice on Tuesday.  Oh, here we go.  We will talk to a computer professor who did just that.

And don‘t quit your day job.  Politicians taking to acting, even in their own campaign ads, not just Governor Richardson, who you see here.  Also former congressman Mark Foley.

Speaking of Republican sex scandals, evangelist Ted Haggard, a frequent and valued adviser at the White House, resigns after a male prostitute claimed he slept with the pastor for three years, for money.

Those stories ahead.

(INAUDIBLE) COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, God—if that is your real name.  A new Harris poll shocking many students of American culture, 42 percent of us admitting we are not absolutely certain that there is a god.  But look, either he invented skepticism for a reason, or he doesn‘t exist.  Either way, you are covered.

Number two, the town fathers of the city of Bengalooru, India.  Don‘t go looking for it in your atlas, because until yesterday, it was the city of Bangalore, India, but they changed the name to make it closer to what the original settlers called it when they founded the place in the 14th century.  Then it was Bendakalaru (ph), which translates as “town of boiled beans.”

Number one, Lloyd Kuykendall of Morris, Illinois, facing drunk driving charges and other prosecutions after he pulled up to the window and asked the attendant to fill up his tank.  Unfortunately for Mr. Kuykendall, he, the window, and the attendant were all at the Bradewood (ph) Nuclear Plant at the time.  He mistook it for a gas station.  Obviously there‘s a problem at Bradewood.  Two weeks ago, another motorist pulled up to the same window and tried to pay the power plant guard a dollar, thinking he was at a toll plaza on the interstate.

And you thought 17 seasons of “The Simpsons” had had no impact on American society.


OLBERMANN:  The question of which party controls the House or the Senate or both may turn, five days from now, on one, two, who knows, maybe half a dozen elections, so close that the final outcome will rest on compromised vote counts.  In other words, in a No. 3 story that may well become the story next Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. 

Six years after Bush v. Gore, the elections process in American, 21st century America, is still a mess—a computerized mess.  Diebold, the most notorious maker of voting machines has been trying to get HBO to can its documentary “Hacking Democracy,” spotlighting flawed machines, conflicts of interest, lack of accountability, corporate secrecy, except when it counts.  But you don‘t need HBO to tell you somebody‘s their thumb on the scale. 

Just spend five minutes on the Google. 

Maryland, 4,700 Diebold machines have a crucial part replaced so they won‘t freeze anymore.  In September, problems with electronic voting machines forced some primary voters to go home before becoming voters.  Both a Republican governor and his Democratic challenger are telling voters, use the absentee paper ballots. 

Florida?  Well—the “Miami Harold” found machines in South Florida‘s early voting turning Democratic votes into Republican votes.  Texas, same thing.  Found in Jefferson County.  Ohio, after the May primaries, 24 machines had no data on them at all and officials couldn‘t even find 29 more. 

Virginia, with a tight state-wide race there, on some screens voters won‘t see Democratic Senate James Webb‘s full name because it‘s too long.  And California, officials have learned in recent days that the state‘s most widely used electronic voting machines can be manipulated to let voters cast ballots over and over and over again.  What could possibly let you do that?  It turns out you just press the yellow button on the back, the yellow “congratulations you‘re a high scorer, you‘ve just won a second vote” button. 

One of the most notorious Diebold demonstrations was the work of Edward Felten, a professor at Princeton‘s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and National Affairs, and he joins us tonight. 

Thank you for your time, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  Based on your demonstration how easy would it be for somebody with just a little tech savvy to hack a Diebold machine? 

FELTEN:  It‘s not too difficult at all.  All it requires first is to write a computer virus, the same kind of thing that someone would do to a PC and it takes about one minute to put the virus into a voting machine, from there it will spread to other voting machines and effect who knows how many votes. 

OLBERMANN:  In 2003, the Diebold chairman said he was committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.  He later resigned; he said that that was not exactly what he meant.  Now it turns out, though, that Kenneth Blackwell was the secretary of the state who oversaw those elections is running for governor of Ohio, was a Diebold stockholder.  How worried should all of that—those facts make us in addition to the physical facts that you have determined? 

FELTEN:  Well, I think it‘s not a good thing when you have a partisan politicians, especially ones running for office, who are also running the election machinery.  But I think the main story here is not so much a possibly biased election officials as it is the reliability and security of the voting machines, which really leave a lot to be desired.

OLBERMANN:  In addition to the things that we all worry about, have nightmares about, think we might have seen before in previous elections, what is now the capacity for things just getting screwed up.  That one story about the 24 voting machines that had no results in them after the Ohio primary—how much of the vote—how much of the risk here is just inadvertent or not even getting to the idea of how much of it might be stolen? 

FELTEN:  Well, certainly you‘re dealing with computers here, that‘s what these electronic voting machines are, and whenever you have a computer, you know what can go wrong, data can get scrambled, it can get lost.  These machines, as we‘ve seen, can even—you can see the whole machine lost, so all the usual computer problems, unless you have some kind of paper backup. 

OLBERMANN:  There is constant attention paid to those, soft of, glitzy, famous computer or not computer fraud, but voting frauds, dead voters and people voting repeatedly, and I.D.  challenges and the rest of this.  “USA Today” reported that there has been a secret federal report that found there is little evidence of that kind of fraud.  Is it—are we looking at those smaller problems, so we don‘t have to look at this bigger problem?

FELTEN:  Well, I think we need to look at all the problems.  It‘s important that we get the right people into the voting booth, but then once they get there we need to make sure that their vote is actually recorded correctly.  To have a fair—fare an honest election, we need to get all this stuff right and get it right at the same time.

OLBERMANN:  So, Professor, if the head of what amounted to the Federal Voting Reform Program quit in frustration because they wouldn‘t do any reform regarding e-voting, what‘s the solution, Tuesday, stay home? 

FELTEN:  No, the one sure way to make sure your vote is not counted is to not show up on Election Day.  People have to go, they have to cast their vote and then hope for the best.  Our elections are mostly honest most of the time and we hope that we can continue that on Tuesday, as well. 

OLBERMANN:  How much actual money and reworking, how much actual money, how much actual time would it take to make a safe and reliable computerized voting system in this country? 

FELTEN:  Well, it would cost some money and take some time, but there are things we know we can do.  And the main thing we can do is go to a voter verified paper audit trail.  What that means is that when you cast your vote, the voting machines prints out a piece of paper you can look at and you can say “yes,” this is how I wanted to vote, and then that paper is kept at a polling place for a record, so, in case there‘s any dispute about what happened, you can go to the paper record, compare it to the electronic and figure out what actually happened. 

OLBERMANN:  Professor Edward Felten of Princeton who got into a Diebold voting machine in minute—great thanks for spending a few minutes with us, sir. 

FELTEN:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  From relying on faith at the ballot box to another blow to those of faith related to the election.  Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals is stepping down from that post, even though he is denying a male prostitute‘s claim that he was a customer, almost once a month for the past three years. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you know Mike Jones? 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You had a relationship with.

HAGGARD:  I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Any kind of gay relationship.

HAGGARD:  I‘ve never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I—I‘m steady with my wife, I‘m faithful to my wife, and so I don‘t know if this is election year politics... 


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Jones, a 49-year-old self-described male escort claims he has “pretty damning voicemails” from Haggard, he has yet to release any of them. 


MIKE JONES, MALE ESCORT:  It is a pastor of a large church, who is preaching against the gay marriage amendment and against homosexuals.  But, in turn is having the homosexual affairs behind his congregation‘s back, and his wife‘s back. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And who is he having affairs with? 

JONES:  With me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there money involved? 

JONES:  Yes, there is. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And how much—I assume he‘s paying you? 

JONES:  Yes, in cash. 


JONES:  Between two and $300 per encounter. 


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Jones also claims that Haggard used methamphetamines to enhance the sex.  Haggard is not merely one of America‘s 25 most influential Evangelicals, according to “Time” magazine, but he‘s also a top White House advisor, taking part in regular conference calls with Karl Rove and other Bush advisors.  Mr. Haggard, a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage said he‘s also stepping aside as pastor of his New Life Church.  A spokeswoman there said, “It‘s really routine when any sort of situation like this arises.”  I didn‘t know the arose that routinely.

Also tonight, the families of 9/11 victims speaking out after more remains surface in a manhole at the World Trade Center.  Some of those remains turned out to have been—belonged to some of the flight attendant‘s on American flight 11 from Boston. 

And a turn of fortune for Tom Cruise after getting fired from Paramount earlier this year, he‘s now, in part, in charge at United Artists.  How in the hell did that happen? 

Those stories ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Three more victims identified at Ground Zero from body parts discovered just last month, four years after the families were told all remains had been found.  And Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger may have moved from movies to politics, but as ex-congressman Mark Foley proves tonight, that move does not work in reverse.  COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s hard to believe, but in May 2002, the grieving families of the World Trade Center victims were told that there were no more remains of their loved ones left to be found.  About two years later the same families were told that the current limits of forensic science had been reached and none of the then unidentified remains could be matched to the victims. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, today, today, the medical examiner‘s office of the city of New York announced that remains found last month had led to the identification of three more victims, including Karen Martin, one of the flight attendants on the doomed flight 11 out of Logan Airport in Boston. 

To say the families are reliving that awful Autumn of 2001 is to insult their pain, and as Michelle Franzen reports from Ground Zero, their anger.


MICHELLE FRANZEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Clutching photos and clinging to hope, 9/11 families held a rally at Ground Zero and demanded the city allow federal experts to help in the search for remains. 

DIANE HORNING, LOST LOVED ONE ON 9/11:  We are here in the place where our lost loved ones bodies have lain ignored and unburied for five years—enough is enough. 

FRANZEN:  Families are fed up over what they called a haphazard search.  Last month, the city renewed its recovery efforts after utility workers uncovered remains inside a manhole.  Since then examiners have found more than 200 pieces of remains in places the city said were overlooked. 

Families say the city had lost credibility and want the help of the joint POW/MIA accounting command or JPAC. 

HORNING:  We need an outside agency, like the JPAC, which possesses the organizational skills and the proven technical ability to find our loved one‘s remains once and for all. 

FRANZEN:  Out of the 2,749 victims, more than 1,100 have not been identified.  As painful as it is to continue searching, family members say the alternative is more unbearable. 

BEVERLY ECKERT, LOST HUSBAND:  Because what it represents that has pieces of his body were lying in a sewer or on a roof top, and unclaimed. 

FRANZEN:  So far, the major is resisting the call for an outside agency, but families say they will not give up in their efforts to find victims and give them a proper burial. 

Michelle Franzen, NBC NEWS, New York.


OLBERMANN:  There is no segue possible to our nightly round-up of celebrity and tabloid news, so we‘ll just start. 

Tom Cruise has landed a new role as studio chief, or nearly studio chief.  He and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, have been chosen to run United Artists.  Wagner will be chief executive, Cruise will star in the movies, the two of them will have full control over its production slate of four films a year. 

The move to U.A.  which is owned by MGM, seen as a comeback of sorts after the Cruise and Wagner production unit was sent packing from their home at Paramount, courtesy of the Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone.

Ironically, United Artists was founded by artists like Charlie Chaplin and D.W.  Griffith nearly 80 years ago.  Cruise will also be allowed be allowed to make movies with other studios under this new deal as long he promises to keep off the couches. 

And the public relations rehabilitation of Mel Gibson continues courtesy of Courtney Love.  Courtney Love says that it was Mr. Gibson who helped her to her path road to recovery.  In an interview, she describes a scene where she was in a Beverly Hills hotel room with several men doing drugs, Mr. Gibson kept coming to the door trying to talk to her.  Ms. Love says she told him to blank-off, “I know him and he‘s a nice guy.  It didn‘t matter who it was, it could have been Jesus I didn‘t care.”  She said, Gibson then had an addiction counselor chat about her about treatment, Ms.  Love did not say when this hallucination—I‘m sorry—intervention occurred. 

And who would have guessed that Mel Gibson had something in common disgraced page predator Congressman Mark Foley.  Apparently they are both alcoholic actors.

That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze to funnyman Brent Bozell, self-appointed president the self-created Media Research Council responding to my special comment last night with a press released headlined, “MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann Preaches Hate Speech.”  He offers himself up for interviews about me, to which I say, “Brent, thank you, keep talking me up, mention 8:00 p.m.  Eastern, if you can.”  Seriously, this is the guy who wrote the Willie Horton ad.  And in the press release he calls me a “brown shirt” and he thinks people are preaching hate speech.  Buy this man a mirror. 

Our Silver tonight, Sean Ashby of Aussie Bums Company in Sidney.  His new product, the Wander Jock, men‘s underwear with a difference.  “The fabric cup protrudes everything out in front instead of toward the ground.  The design of the underwear separates and lifts.”  He says.  Listen, mate, I don‘t particularly need to be separated, thank you.  But I am told Brent Bozell is on the phone looking to order a dozen, to wear on his head. 

But tonight‘s winner, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay coming out in favor of torture—one kind of torture in particular.  “I don‘t think waterboarding is torture,” DeLay told an audience—small audience, at a community college on Long Island New York.  “My definition of torture is you physically harm someone by cutting them, by cutting their fingers, and sticking things in their eyes, sticking their fingers in electric sockets.  Waterboard is a frightening experience, but the person does not have any physical damage.”  Well, there it is, he is the bug killer after all.  So you are saying, Tom, that when somebody in some other country waterboards American troops or maybe American civilians they‘ve “detained,” you‘re going to be OK with that? 

Tom DeLay, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  Someone long ago said it, might have been D.W.  Griffith, “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.”  In our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, certainly politicians are often times acting, but that craving for the spotlight also leads them to try out the real thing on occasion—enter Mark Foley.  Yes, that Mark Foley, the disgraced former congressman who seemed much more interested in the internets than in feature film made his contribution to the big screen in 2001 in a cameo role playing a congressman referred to as “Republican Fairchild.” 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Daddy, daddy.  I missed you so much, daddy. 

MARK FOLEY ®, FMR.  FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN:  Oh, I missed you too, baby. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There was a lot of bad men, daddy. 

FOLEY:  I know, baby, but it‘s all over now.  God, I love you. 


OLBERMANN:  That‘s right, there were a lost bad men.  The congressman, who was the chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, the congressman who resigned after revelations of his alleged predatory emails to teenage boys—that guy played a congressman who hires mercenaries to recover his kidnapped daughter. 

Those vigilantes were called the “Liberians,” which was also the original name of the movie, released in 2001, it bombed, was re-released two years later as “Strike Force” with the tag line, “no mission is too impossible.”  The re-release went straight to DVD. 

As for politicians appearing in their own political advertisements, they have now gone from playing pasteurized versions of themselves to roles that really show off they‘re acting chops.  Just released, “Ned Lemont goes to Washington.” 


NED LEMONT (D), CONNECTICUT:  This is supposed to be a government of the people.  Is this a government our people really want?  Rushing our troops of to war, trampling on our civil liberties.  Senators who rubber stamped these policies, then looked the other way.  Heck no! I‘m going to be there to fight for the people of Connecticut not the special interests and I‘m going to be there to fight for a stronger and safer America. 

I‘m Ned Lamont and I approve this message.

CROWD:  So do we.


OLBERMANN:  That would be some stiff competition for Governor Bill Richardson‘s version of “City Slickers.” 


ANNOUNCER:  Since Bill Richardson became governor, we‘ve seen some changes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a new law man in town. 

GOV.  BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  We‘ll head them off at the pass. 

ANNOUNCER:  Doubled the violent offenders in prisons.  Over 400 meth labs shut down. 

RICHARDSON:  Give me a milk. 

ANNOUNCER:  Seventy-two thousand more jobs and a new commuter rail system. 

RICHARDSON:  Times are changing. 


OLBERMANN:  And I‘m not sure, but I may be the only one owning the remaining copy of “Star Fighters” starring former California Congressman Bob Dornan, because the other copies have been declared biohazards.  As for bad acting by actors in campaign ads, it is legion, here is a recent selection from political bad cinema. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We got a problem.  Our boy down in Washington, Bob Menendez, he‘s part of the federal investigation.  Right.  Feds started looking into these fixed contracts, ba-da-bing, we‘re in it but deep.  And worse, this guy Tom Kean, he wants to clean things up, even cut taxes.  Hey, where‘s our take in that?  We need to get the bosses to fix this thing. 


OLBERMANN:  Oh, it‘s just like the “Sopranos.”  To quote Dan Aykroyd as Leonard Pinth-Garnell on “Saturday Night Live,” “Really bites the big one.” 

Joining me now, comedian and filmmaker Jeffrey Ross, whose documentary of his first trip to Iraq, “Patriot Act,” is now available on DVD and it‘s much better than the acting we saw there.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

JEFFREY ROSS, COMEDIAN:  Hey, Keith, I just want to say, I apologize in advance for any jokes I may botch tonight.  OK?

OLBERMANN:  You drop a line or two.  Thank you kindly. 

ROSS:  In the spirit of Senator Kerry.  In the spirit of Senator Kerry. 

OLBERMANN:  And condensing the timeframe on those things.  I‘m still trying to wrap my mind around the Mark Foley thing.  The film was made in Palm Beach, Florida, one of the producers knew Mr. Foley, supposedly was a movie fan and the congressman was paid $400, he donated it had to charity, do he didn‘t do it for the money.  Would you sense here that even back then Congressman Foley sensed he might need to cultivate a different career at some point in the near future? 

ROSS:  I think this guy has always wanted to be in show business.  I believe he‘s even working on a screenplay called “My Years in the Senate: 

No Child Left Behind.” 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, if Foley could play a cameo, where he‘s the wholesome father of the imperiled child, does that mean that the president could play a cameo as a wise inspirational commander in chief and Dick Cheney could be the entirely truthful vice president who has impeccable aim and has a wife who only writes cookbooks? 

ROSS:  Well, the president—our president, he probably would be a good actor, he‘s great at memorizing lines, right?  “Stay the course,” definitely have to “stay the course, can‘t cut and run.”  You know, he‘s like the Rain Man of presidents.  As far as Dick Cheney goes, I think he‘s been in enough movies in that I think he‘s the in separation for Darth Vader, a dark, shadowy figure who isn‘t afraid to shoot people in the face. 

OLBERMANN:  And just get him the helmet and James Earl Jones‘ voice and we‘re all set. 

This “Strike Force” film that we mentioned, it also features a cameo from Burt Reynolds.  Does that prove, once and for all, that Mr. Reynolds has drifted a long way from, you know, “Smoky and the Bandit?” 

ROSS:  You know, Keith, it‘s a tough business.  You can‘t blame an actor for taking a role.  I was in a movie called “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”  Do you remember that clunker? 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.

ROSS:  Part animation, part animation, part live action.  That movie made so little money I have to send them residuals. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, very nice.  Let‘s go back here to Mr. Lamont trying to unseat Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and doing the Jimmy Stewart bit.  You can just imagine the chain of events that inspired the Mr. Smith advertisement.  I mean, other than the technical achievement here, would Lamont have been better off, you know, taking on another role of Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars,” Tin Man, “Wizard of Oz,” something else besides what he did? 

ROSS:  Keith, we need to start a TV watchdog group, Swift Boat Veterans for Acting Lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Ned Lamont, if he loses the race the next week, I heard he has an offer to play a dead body on “CSI.”  His acting stinks. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, sir.

ROSS:  I don‘t think Ned Lamont could act his way out after wet paper ballot box, quite frankly. 

OLBERMANN:  And goodness knows there will probably be several of those on Tuesday.  I mention the Bob Dornan film, is there a common threat that these guys all need to be the hero, whether it‘s in politics or before a camera? 

ROSS:  I think it‘s glaringly obvious that all politicians would love to star in movies.  I  mean, even Al Gore had a feature film this year about global warming, which I wanted to see, but the air conditioning was broke in the theater, so I was like, screw it.

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Jeffrey Ross, as always sir, great thanks for joining us.  Good luck with the DVD of “Patriot Act.” 

ROSS: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this day 1,279th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Goodnight and good luck.



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