Guests: Al Gore, Chris Cillizza, Paul F. Tompkins
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Memorial Day is now every day. Ten more American service personnel killed in Iraq, 115 there this month.
And there are other casualties, of a kind. “I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither.” With that, Cindy Sheehan is out. Her resignation as the face of the antiwar movement.
Al Gore, 50-50 about running. So says one of his closest friends and financial advisers, a source of Howard Fineman‘s and “Newsweek.” That ever-present question, and his latest quest, no less than returning facts and dialogue to the American political discourse, outlined in his new book, “The Assault on Reason.” Our special guest tonight, the former vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: When the American people are treated as objects for just herding in one direction or another, that‘s insulting to the integrity of our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: New presidential polling, McCain and Giuliani capable of beating Clinton, Clinton capable of beating Romney and Thompson, but Obama capable of beating anybody.
Quarantine. For the first time in 44 years, the American government puts an American traveler in American isolation, after he flies twice internationally while afflicted with a rare, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.
Lindsey Lohan in rare form. Forty-eight hours after the DUI, she‘s seen again, evidently the worse for wear, on the streets of Hollywood. And now she‘s in rehab, or in her case, re-rehab.
And Miss USA, try misstep. The latest in the epidemic of catwalk catastrophes. What‘s going on here? Too much oil? Weak ankles? Black ice? Nah, just make it part of the competition. Winner chosen on best two out of three falls.
All that and Al Gore, now on COUNTDOWN.
In his Rose Garden news conference last week, President Bush, having told Americans to expect heavy fighting in Iraq in the months ahead, warning of a, quote, “bloody, very difficult August,” the month Mr. Bush should have been warning about, perhaps, the one we are in right now.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, 10 American soldiers dying in Iraq on Memorial Day, making May, with three days still to go, already the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops, as well as the deadliest overall month since November 2004.
It freezes the soul to wonder what Mr. Bush imagines August would look like in comparison.
Mr. Bush‘s sixth Memorial Day as a wartime president one of the costliest, U.S. officials announcing the deaths of the 10 American soldiers yesterday, American casualties for this month now at 115 and counting, at least one top U.S. official having trouble keeping track of the death toll, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, not even close in estimating the number of Iraq war dead in a Memorial Day interview.
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GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You know, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001, that the number who have died, sacrificed themselves, since that time is approaching that number.
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OLBERMANN: For the record, General, it has long since exceeded that number. As of yesterday morning, 3,456 Americans had lost their lives in Iraq. And you, sir, have just lost a large measure your credibility, antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan deciding that she has already lost far too much to the war in Iraq, in addition to the life of her dear son Casey, Ms. Sheehan saying she is tired of being smeared and ridiculed, particularly now by the left, in a Memorial Day resignation letter, posted on the blog DailyKos.com, concluding it is time to get out, quoting her, “Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next ‘American Idol‘ than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans pay politics with human lives. I‘m going to take whatever I have left and go home. I‘m going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost.”
OLBERMANN: As promised, a pleasure to once again be joined by Vice President Al Gore. The new book is “The Assault on Reason.”
Thanks for your time again, sir.
GORE: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Cindy Sheehan‘s point, that this country cares more about a game show than the war in Iraq, so she‘s getting out of the whole process, do you agree with her? And is what she‘s saying kind of representative of what you‘ve written about in the new book?
GORE: I don‘t agree with that sentiment as it was expressed. I think that our public airwaves and, more importantly, the national conversation of democracy, if you will, now is dominated by elements that were not features of the conversation that our founders expected that we would have.
And a lot of the—a lot of the public forum is taken up not just with trivialities, but also with very cleverly constructed propagandistic messaging that really doesn‘t take logic and reason into account.
And we—there was never a golden age when everything was all logical in the past, of course not. But the relative role of facts and logic and reason used to be much larger than it has become in the age of 30-second TV ads and the multiscreen experience.
OLBERMANN: The sense of defeat in her statement, that the country doesn‘t want change, that she‘s beating her head against a wall, taking out the specifics of her and her situation, it does seem to be symbolic of what we‘re talking about, though. How on earth do you change the broader sense that protest, that dialogue, that involvement is meaningless or pointless?
GORE: Well, first of all, my heart goes out to all those Americans who have lost loved ones, be it children or spouses or partners or brothers and sisters, in the war. And, of course, Mrs. Sheehan is one of those who has tried to also play a role in our national dialogue.
And I‘d like to separate those two things. I think that it is difficult for any individual to gain access to the public forum in the same way that was the case when the printed word was dominant. I think that the Internet is bringing back not only the printed word, but a public marketplace of ideas, that is more accessible to individuals.
And for all of its excesses and bad features, the Internet does invite a robust multi-way conversation that I think is already beginning to serve as a corrective for some of the abuses of the mass media persuasion campaigns that brought us the invasion of Iraq and the ignoring of the climate crisis and the other serious mistakes that we‘ve been making over the last few years.
OLBERMANN: Put in context with me on this, and I want to get back to the Internet, because it‘s obviously, it‘s vitally important to any kind of feedback, any kind of interaction. But in terms of this public perception that it can or cannot effect change in this nation, the Democrats‘ agreement last week to continue to fund the war in Iraq, basically on President Bush‘s terms, do you see one as representative of the other? Fit them together for me.
GORE: Well, I think that it might have happened even without it, even without these trends, because the tools available to the legislative branch of government are less precise, and often more difficult to wield, than those available to the executive branch.
The power available to the executive branch has increased in the television age. And the use of symbols is something the—any president has the upper hand with over Congress, by and large. And when the congressional leaders didn‘t have the votes to override the president‘s veto, then their options were diminished.
I have a lot of faith in Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the new leaders of the committees, but they didn‘t have the votes. And so I understand that their options were reduced sharply.
But there‘s no doubt that a lot of people who felt that they would just instantly change the course of the war may not give them as much credit as they should for trying as hard and effectively as they have. And they‘re not done yet.
OLBERMANN: To one of those points in there, I was intrigued by the suggestion you made in the book about Congress should hold its key votes in prime time. That would get, theoretically, some of the public momentum back. At least people might initially mistake it for some sort of live-action series or reality show.
But why is it that you or I can check on the minute-by-minute progress of a football game or a basketball game or a baseball game or an “American Idol” show on the Internet, on a BlackBerry, on your cell phone, but last week, during those votes in the House and the Senate, I couldn‘t get a representative-by-representative vote or Senate-by-Senate vote, senator-by-senator vote, anywhere on the Internet. What happened there?
GORE: I think that‘s an excellent point, Keith, and it should be remedied. And I have a list of specific recommendations for a lot of the institutions of our society, including the Congress, and that‘s one of them. I think that we should have the most important debates in prime time, so that the American people could watch if they choose to.
And I think that the Congress and all parts of the government should be transparent to those citizens who wish to contact them over the Internet and get a minute-by-minute, second-by-second account of what‘s going on, and give their own opinions during the process.
OLBERMANN: And on the subject of transparency, you also argue in the book, let me read the quote precisely, “The current White House has engaged in an unprecedented and sustained campaign of mass deception, especially where its policies in Iraq are concerned.” Should that not be put in the present tense? Isn‘t the administration still using propaganda and disinformation, especially on Iraq? And what are the immediate steps to try to remedy that?
GORE: Well, the—they have—the president himself has changed his rhetoric slightly on the implied linkage between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but the vice president has not. And overall, more than half of Americans still have the opinion that Saddam was involved in that attack. At the time the Congress voted, 70 percent believed that Saddam Hussein was primarily responsible for the attack of 9/11.
And I think that impression did not come about accidentally, I think that there was an organized effort, with all of these administration spokesmen in the same week going out and using the same phrases, a mushroom cloud over an American city, the uranium from Africa that Saddam was supposedly using to make a bomb that he would then give to Osama, it was all false, it was all nonsense.
But the fact that it was conveyed so skillfully and so effectively that more than two-thirds of the American people had it firmly in mind as the principal reason to support the invasion of Iraq, that‘s an indictment of the integrity of this national conversation of democracy that our founders assumed would take place, with a well-informed citizenry that would hold our elected officials accountable.
And the fact that that‘s not working is not so much an indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, although it is, but much more serious, in my view, is that our nation was so vulnerable to such crass efforts to manipulate opinion and drive the country in directions we would never have chosen if we had a full and open debate.
OLBERMANN: The premise of the book appears to be, in sum, and if I‘m wrong, please correct me, or someone will send in an e-mail immediately, for democracy to work, people need to connect with each other, connect with the political system, and actively take part in the democratic process. But at the heart of it, aren‘t you demanding first that people think? How do you—you can‘t force them to think.
GORE: Well, I think that all of the activities of democracy that come natural to us as human beings, regardless of where we were born—immigrants who come here from other countries take to our democratic processes like ducks to water, because it‘s a universal desire for dignity and respect.
But when the conversation is diverted to these trivialities and to these propagandistic efforts to sway public opinion this way and that in a one-way dialogue, then people don‘t have a way to join the conversation.
One of the reasons why so many Americans feel as if their votes don‘t count, that their opinions aren‘t heard, and that they have no way of meaningfully participating in our democracy, is because they know that, for example, in the last election in November, 80 percent of the campaign budgets and contested races were spent on these 30-second TV ads. Those are one-way. They aren‘t based on facts and logic. And campaigns never have been entirely thus based.
But, when the bulk of it is made up of these mass persuasion techniques that don‘t respect the facts and don‘t respect the people who are the objects of this persuasion, then we get the kinds of serious mistakes that we have seen with the climate crisis, with the invasion of Iraq, with the mass warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens, eliminating the prohibition against torture that General George Washington laid down that‘s been respected by every president and both parties for more than 200 years.
These things happen not just because one White House makes terrible decisions, but because we are more vulnerable to these kinds of sophisticated efforts to bypass reason and logic to reach a preconceived policy that was decided before the facts were ever brought into play.
It‘s like the old line from “Alice in Wonderland,” first the verdict, then the trial. If they decide to invade Iraq regardless of the facts, then there‘s no discussion of the facts that‘s going to matter. But we the people, without using the phrase in a way that inevitably sounds corny, we the people must reclaim the integrity of our democracy by using the new tools that are now beginning to be available to us, to insist on respect for reason and logic to a degree that our founders hoped would be the case.
OLBERMANN: So you‘re wondering about the other thing with Al Gore, the running stuff? Think you‘ll find he is now officially undecided. Our interview continues.
And among the candidates who are decided, Senator Obama gets extraordinarily good news from the polls.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The only reason Al Gore‘s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was even in a position to win an Oscar this past February was because he had lost the 2000 Florida recount.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, as plan B‘s go, Mr. Gore‘s comeback career has been hugely successful.
But he as his finding out on the media tour for this, his latest book, “The Assault on Reason,” questions about whether he‘s planning to take another shot at the White House are impossible to escape. Many, myself included, cannot help but wonder if, on global warming, on Iraq, on any of a number of imperative issues, Mr. Gore could surely be more effective from inside the Oval Office than from the top of the bestseller lists.
More now of our conversation with Al Gore from earlier today.
OLBERMANN: Listen, by the way, one other topic while you‘re here, I know nobody ever asks you about this, it‘s the prospect of you seeking the presidential nomination next year. There‘s an item in the “Newsweek” June 4 issue that reads, “He,” and that would be you, “is 50-50, according to one of his closest friends and financial backers.” What‘s your reaction to that item?
GORE: Well, whoever that was doesn‘t reflect my thinking. And I can‘t even answer the question, Keith, without sounding repetitious. You know my answer. I‘m not thinking about running. I don‘t expect to run. Yes, I haven‘t ruled out the possibility at some point in the future, but I‘m not keeping that exception alive to be coy. I really don‘t expect to be a candidate again.
But here we are, 500 days or so before the next election. I don‘t see why, you know, everybody has to close the doors and say, OK, let‘s narrow the field, and make your bets. I‘m an American citizen. I‘m going to continue speaking out on my views forcefully and as best I can.
And this book, “The Assault on Reason,” is really about not politics or candidates, but about the way the whole system operates, and how it‘s gone off course, in my opinion, and how we can set it right again.
OLBERMANN: And it is a call to action to the American electorate, to get more involved in the things that really matter to our survival, not just as a democracy, but, as you pointed out in “An Inconvenient Truth,” as the human race.
But to that point, sort of threading these two things together, could it not be argued that the best thing you could do personally to get the changes you say that we need is to actually become president of the United States?
GORE: Well, I respect that argument, and I‘m under no illusions that there‘s any position as influential as that of president of the United States. I don‘t think I‘m necessarily very good at politics or at a lot of the things that our modern political system rewards. And as a result, I‘m serving in other ways. I‘m involved in a different kind of campaign, to persuade people to solve the climate crisis.
And it‘s really as part that effort that I‘ve addressed the problems with our democracy. I‘m convinced that we have to fix the foundations in our democracy in order to make better choices and solve the climate crisis.
OLBERMANN: All right. The one last topical or nontopical question, depending, I guess we would view it as topical and you would view it as nontopical. You mentioned the door closing. When does the door close?
GORE: I have no idea.
OLBERMANN: You don‘t know that? That‘s still up in the air?
GORE: Oh, I thought you were talking about deadlines and dates and so forth. I really don‘t know those dates.
OLBERMANN: That‘s where we‘ll leave it. The 45th vice president of the United States, Al Gore, whose new book is “The Assault on Reason.” I hope you are as successful with it as you were with “An Inconvenient Truth,” and that the results are as positive for all of us.
GORE: Thank you very much, Keith. And thanks for your passionate involvement, in your own way, trying to address a lot of these same issues.
OLBERMANN: You‘re very kind, sir. As ever, great thanks for being so generous with your time.
OLBERMANN: Well, I tried. More with Al Gore, including the possibility that the Internet might still save our democracy, tonight—tomorrow night, rather, here on COUNTDOWN.
Now, a frightening health alert. They told him not to fly, not with drug-resistant tuberculosis. He flew anyway. Authorities now scrambling to find his fellow passengers.
And, boy, this is happening with startling regularity these days.
Another modeling-related tragedy.
That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: This is another one of the several anniversaries, May 29, 1849, when Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have issued his famous maxim, You can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can‘t fool all the people all the time. Except, according to exhaustive research by the Abraham Lincoln Association, he never said it. The first reference to him ever saying it is more than 20 years after his assassination. So evidently, you can fool all the people all the time.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Yes, this didn‘t fool nobody. We begin in Mexico City, site of last night‘s annual crowning of a sexy lady to rule the universe, Miss Universe pageant. (INAUDIBLE) is a known fact that most of the universe lacks any gravitational pull, Miss USA, Rachel Smith, proved last night at the stage in Mexico City does not. And down goes Frazier. Really a very, very nice and smooth drop. Smith got up, dusted herself off, kept smiling all the way to a fifth-place finish, never lost the smile. Turns out they do take some points off for not knowing how to walk, but not that many. Whee.
Speak of gravity, time for the annual Gloucester Cheese Roll. Each year, contestants from all over gather in the hamlet of Gloucester, in England, to get drunk, climb Coppers Hill, and then wildly helicopter down the side of that hill, chasing the elusive cheese whiz. I‘m sorry, cheese wheel. My gosh, this gets better every year. Actually, it did get slightly better this year. They added a race just for the ladies. And I‘m hoping that Rachel Smith, Miss USA, is watching. This is how you fall down.
And finally, if ladies smashing down a hill after cheese is not your thing, how about women in bathing suits racing on a horse track? And they‘re off. It‘s the incredibly classy Hollywood Park bikini race. It‘s like the Python joke about the Queen Victoria handicap. It‘s Queen Victoria, followed by Queen Victoria, Queen Victoria, and Queen Victoria. I don‘t know if they do this all the time or if this is the first time, but boy, what a finish.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) with a final surge (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) reaches for the wire, Blazing Blondy doesn‘t get there (INAUDIBLE) in the final (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE) street sense to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that‘s right, that was Miss USA falling there at the finish line.
Senator Clinton can beat some Republicans, Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani can beat some Democrats. But only one Democrat or Republican can beat everybody else according to the latest polls. And it‘s not Lindsey Lohan. Back to rehab.
First time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. Number three, an unnamed elephant in the Indian state of Orissa, who has it figured out, figured it out. As traffic approaches, the elephant blocks the local highway, taps on the windows with its trunk and then sniffs for vegetables or bananas and then eats them and then, and only then, gets out of the motorists‘ way. Yes, it‘s a toll elephant.
Number two, the guy who burglarized Lisa Seifert‘s (ph) home in Wasilla, Alaska. She was in the process of reporting the theft of her hand guns, food and alcohol when she noticed an unfamiliar vehicle inside her garage and asleep behind the wheel was a guy evidently passed out wearing one of her sweat shirts. Police have deduced he‘s probably the burglar.
But number, if not the dumbest criminal of the year, close, certainly the least focused one. Two guys walk into a U-Haul in Milwaukee and rob the till. One of the burglars flees with the money. The other does not. He stays, goes up to the woman clerk, one of the people he had just robbed and asks, can I get your number and go out some time? Surprisingly enough, she turned him down.
OLBERMANN: Again, we turn to politics and two of the latest surprises in the 2008 campaign. Our third story tonight, funny, though, wasn‘t it that Vice President Gore new it was 500 or so days to the election? The correct figure is 525, not counting today.
Meantime, good news for a Democratic not undecided and a seismic shift for conservatives that some might call power over principle. First, Senator Barack Obama launching his universal health care plan today in the politically fertile state of Iowa. Obama promising cheaper insurance premiums if you‘re already covered, savings of 2,500 dollars for the average family, he says, and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to cover the uninsured.
It was the latest in a series of Obama campaign speeches designed to dispel the perception that he might be too inexperienced. The strategy seems to be paying off, at least according to a Zogby poll showing Obama is the only Democrat capable of defeating the leading Republican contenders Giuliani, McCain, Romney, anybody else, head to head in the general election.
And while his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton, is preferred by most Democrats, Zogby‘s polling says right now she could not defeat McCain or Giuliani in a theoretical general election. That perceived weakness against Giuliani could be a significant threat for Democrats, because, according to the non-partisan Pew Center analysis, many social conservatives are now more than willing to tolerate Rudy Giuliani‘s more than liberal views on abortion, gay rights, among other items, for the sake of winning. That could reverse decades of demands that any Republican candidate must hold a rigid line against abortion and gay rights.
Now, the Pew report says, many see Giuliani as their only chance of winning next year. Chris Cillizza joins us now. He has been following all of this, of course, in his political blog the Fix at “WashingtonPost.com.” Chris, good evening.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First, the Pew analysis of Giuliani, socially liberal Republican, support from social conservatives. All the other candidates are trying to be Reagan and the Republican right still is warming up to Giuliani. What are we missing here? Where is the disconnect? What fact don‘t we know about this?
CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I‘m missing something because for a long time I have assumed that the more social conservatives get to know Rudy Giuliani‘s positions on abortion, on gay rights, on guns, the less interested they would be in him.
The one explanation—I‘ll give you two explanations. One is they still don‘t know detailed things about the mayor. They have a sense that he‘s more liberal than they are. But they don‘t know the details. The other one could be simply that September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed the calculus of how Republican voters think. National security, who can keep us safer, trumps abortion, gay marriage, those other wedge issues that typically had decided the nominee.
OLBERMANN: The polls, of course, also generally show health care as a top voter issue, even though television doesn‘t mention it. John Edwards first with his fleshed-out plan. Senator Clinton‘s incomplete. Will the Obama plan give him a significant lift? Is it enough to worry the Clinton camp?
CILLIZZA: You know, politics is a strange business. And frankly in the last two hours after Obama put out his plan, I got a statement from both Edwards and Clinton, both of whom expressed some skepticism subtly, but still skepticism that Obama‘s plan does not mandate universal coverage, that this would not cover everyone. It would attempt to do so, but it would not necessarily do so.
That‘s the danger when you put out a big comprehensive plan. It gives a lot of people a lot of time to shoot at it. And that‘s the problem you mentioned about Senator Obama. He has been criticized that his resume is too thin. When he comes out and puts out a policy proposal to show he has some depth to his position, people say it‘s wrong. This isn‘t right.
So he‘s in a catch 22. He has to roll out some big policy proposals, but he also has to realize that he‘s going to have to weather some criticism from his opponents who don‘t think it‘s enough or think it‘s too much.
OLBERMANN: OK, Al Gore tonight, the “Newsweek” source, 50-50. Parsing his answers form one interview to the next is like trying to judge how much a particular tree has grown in, say, the last four hours. But sometimes you get lucky. Let me play again what he said tonight and then ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: You know my answer. I‘m not thinking about running. I don‘t expect to run. Yes, I haven‘t ruled out the possibility at some point in the future. But I‘m not keeping that exception alive to be coy. I really don‘t expect to be a candidate again. But here we are, 500 days or so before the next election. I don‘t see why, you know, everybody has to close the doors and say, OK, let‘s narrow the field and make your bets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Chris, he also said afterwards that he‘s not sure when the door closes. Is his position any clearer? It sounded to me more like more of a maybe than it was before. Did the tree grow an inch in the last couple hours?
CILLIZZA: You know, I‘ve spent more time than I‘d like to admit trying to figure out what Al Gore is going to do in 2008. What I heard just now was a definite maybe. I think there are two potential reasons. Al Gore is a politician. He understand that if he—and he could have done it tonight—said I absolutely will not run and I won‘t serve if drafted, that would end the speculation. He didn‘t do that.
So there‘s one of two reasons why not. One, he is genuinely considering it at some level and doesn‘t want to close the door. Or two, this is somebody who has a new book out. This is someone who continues to travel the country hoping to raise the profile of global warming through his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Al Gore knows that Al Gore potential 2008 candidate gets a lot more coverage for his issue than Al Gore 2000 presidential candidate.
So it‘s one or the other. Again, he would rule it out absolutely if he had made a decision. So until he rules it out absolutely, I think it‘s valid to continue talking about it and speculating on.
OLBERMANN: I agree with you and I think maybe that “Newsweek” source is absolutely on the money. He may be, good grief, undecided just like he‘s implying there.
CILLIZZA: He may be thinking about it.
OLBERMANN: He may be thinking about it. Chris Cillizza, the man behind the Fix, the political blog at “WashingtonPost.com.” As always, Chris, great thanks.
CILLIZZA: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: A man flies to Paris while carrying a highly resistant form of tuberculosis. Now he is under the first government-ordered quarantine since 1963.
And for a show that bade farewell to Rosie O‘Donnell, “The View” sure spent a lot of time today talking about Rosie O‘Donnell. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The last time the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention quarantined an individual carrying a dangerous disease was 1963. The disease was smallpox. In our number two story tonight, 44 years later, it‘s a man with a rare drug resistant form of tuberculosis in quarantine. And this time there are two plane loads of people who may have been exposed.
The CDC is now tracking down the passengers who flew with him when he traveled to Europe and then back to Canada. Our correspondent in Washington is Tom Costello. Tom, good evening.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. Health authorities here, in Canada and also in Europe are trying to track down anyone who might have been anywhere near this patient. And what‘s particularly troubling is that this man knew he had T.B., yet he decided to travel anyway.
COSTELLO (voice-over): It was on two long trans-Atlantic flights that a single person may have exposed fellow passengers to extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. The patient is described only as a male from the Atlanta area who was being treated for T.B. and had been advised not to travel.
DR. JULIE GERBERDING, DOCTOR, CDC: He was aware of his diagnosis, but at the time that he departed he may not have been aware of the fact that he had extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.
COSTELLO: But authorities say the patient boarded Air France Flight 385 from Atlanta to Paris, arriving on May 13th. Then, on May 24th, left Prague on Czech Air Flight 104 to Montreal. He then drove to New York State. Meanwhile, federal health experts were urgently discussing his case.
DR. CHARLES DALEY, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: They called me a few weeks ago about this case because of their concern that every day or so they found out that it was resistant to another drug.
COSTELLO: Last week, the CDC tracked down the patient, who agreed to check into a New York City hospital. Then yesterday flew to Atlanta on a government plane, where he is now in federally ordered isolation. Tuberculosis is potentially deadly infection that can affect the lungs, as well the lymph, circulatory and central nervous system. Transmitted by coughing, sneezing, even talking.
Only about 10 percent of those infected ever get sick, but this drug resistant strain of TB is very serious, in some cases a 50 percent mortality rate.
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: We have learned from previous episodes where people with tuberculosis have been on airplanes that the people close by, a couple of rows ahead and a couple of rows behind, have been the folks at greatest risks.
COSTELLO: Health experts say this case illustrates just how interconnected the world is right now and how a single trans-oceanic flight can quickly spread some of the most dangerous diseases on the plant. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Tom Costello in Washington, great thanks. As every tabloid news person knows, celebrity knows no three-day weekends. And so we begin our nightly roundup of tabloid news tonight with a celebrity feud that did not take the weekend off. Rosie O‘Donnell‘s dust-up with Elizabeth Hasselbeck Wednesday got new life on the Internets this week. O‘Donnell posted messages on her blog about it, for one thing griping about this split screen that her producers at “The View” used, but also answering a fan‘s question about a what transpired afterwards with Hasselbeck, E.H.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O‘DONNELL, FORMERLY OF “THE VIEW”: Did E.H. send you apologies?
She called. And Kelly and her spoke for a long time. And I haven‘t spoken to her and I probably won‘t. And I think it‘s just as well. And I wrote her an email and she wrote me back and there you have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or there you don‘t have it. Because that was Saturday and on today‘s edition of “The View,” Miss Hasselbeck painted a picture of their weekend communication that was much, well, rosier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH HASSELBACK, “THE VIEW”: This weekend we were in communication a lot.
JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”: You were?
HASSELBACK: We were in communication. And you know, I think this weekend gave us the opportunity to tackle our most important hot topic yet, and that was the power of forgiveness. And I believe that we‘ve begun that process. And so now that enables us to move on in a very positive way. So I‘m really happy about that.
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OLBERMANN: If everybody‘s going to forgive each other, we‘re just going to leave. O‘Donnell today responded online herself, sticking to what she said Saturday that they had one, count them one email exchange this weekend.
Britney Spears, meantime, seems to have skipped past the admitting you have a problem step. On a website, the former singer refers to her recent performances in rehab and says, quote, until this day I don‘t think it was alcohol or depression. I was like a bad kid running around with ADD. She says she‘s beginning to use her brain for a change, but that, quote, I am 25 and I do still have a lot to learn. And I am going to make mistakes every day. Like when she wrote every day as one word.
And in a scary closing she said, figuring out life is god‘s job. Quote, I can‘t wait to meet him or her. Pretty sure she‘s hanging out with Justin these days, Brit. From one struggling diva to another, a busy weekend for Lindsey Lohan, putting several re‘s into the word rehab.
That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz who told the BBC that the real reason he had to leave the World Bank after steering contracts to old cronies and guiding through and extraordinary raise for his girlfriend and then throwing his girlfriend under the bus, the real reason he had to leave was the media. You wonder how we got into this mess in Iraq.
Our runner up, the unfortunate Bay Buchanan, claiming on CNN that Hillary Clinton, quote, after 9/11, as a U.S. senator, went on national television and fabricated where her daughter was, talked about her daughter out jogging that morning and stopped near the Towers, heard the planes crash. It was all fabricated. It was all made up. Chelsea herself says she never left the apartment that morning, unquote.
Except, of course, neither Senator Clinton nor Chelsea Clinton said such things. Six days after the attack, Senator Clinton said of daughter on “Dateline,” “she had gone on what she thought would be a great jog. She was going to go down to Battery Park. She was going to go around the towers. She went to get a cup of coffee and that‘s when the plane hit.” That would make what Bay Buchanan said fabricated. It was all made up.
But our winner, Sean Hannity. Bashing John Edwards that is, quote, not really viewed as somebody that is up to the task of understanding the nature in the battle in the war that‘s being waged against us because he got a $400 haircut. Hannity even played videotape of Edwards doing his hair before he did a TV interview.
Couldn‘t stand up to al Qaeda because he gets his hair done. Right, Sean, and your own hair just looks like that right out of bed every morning and Mitt Romney‘s gets to looking like that for free and President Bush cuts his own hair? What does he use, a Flowbee? Sean Hannity, today‘s Worst Person in the World!
OLBERMANN: The number of young and dubiously talented celebrities having problems under the influence is multiplying and fast. So Lindsey Lohan, after her latest flame out this weekend, went almost immediately for the encore. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, DWL, driving while Lindsay. Ms. Lohan reportedly back in rehab now after a three day weekend that would make Paris Hilton blush.
First there was the car crash, the 20-year-old actress reportedly running her Mercedes convertible into a cur on Sunset Boulevard at about 5:30 local time Saturday morning. Two friends were with her. Police at the scene found usable amounts of a substance tentatively identified as cocaine, although a lieutenant said Miss Lohan was not carrying it.
Of course, Lohan was not there by the time the cops arrived. Friends had taken her to Century City Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries and was later charged by police on suspicion of driving under the influence. Further charges may follow.
Cue to Monday morning. Less than 48 hours after the crash, Miss Lohan photographed in the passenger seat of this car while it was at a gas station. She was alternately incoherent and retching, according to a columnist for the “Washington Post.” Later the same day, according to TMZ.com, it was check in time for Lohan. Her lawyer taking her to the Promises Rehabilitation Facility in L.A.
If you have a map of these movie star rehab facilities, just look for Promises. Let‘s turn to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also, of course, a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.” Paul, good evening.
PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN: Good evening to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A few more details. Police say Miss Lohan may have been speeding at the time of the crash. She had been at an L.A. hot spot Friday night, apparently one that is willing to serve patrons who might not be the legal age. TMZ.com reports that one of the people she was hanging out with was her buddy and body guard Jazz.
Are we burying the lead here? Is the whole situation summed up by the idea that your pal and body guard is named Jazz?
TOMPKINS: Yes, that is spelled J-A-Z, by the way, which I can only hope is short for Jazz. Maybe she should have a body guard named Wheels, like someone who could be her driver and drive her around places if she‘s going to indulge in underage drinking at these hot spots.
OLBERMANN: I think Jazz dropped the other Z under the advice of an astrologer. That‘s just a guess. This TMZ.com bulletin about her going into rehab included an assertion by a source that this is not the in and out ruse used by other starlets of recent past, apparently referring to Britney Spears. Does this mean we actually have a competition to see whose rehab is better than somebody else‘s rehab?
TOMPKINS: I have a feeling it is going to be a tie if there is such a competition. I think we all know how it‘s going to end up. That raises the interesting question of what exactly is Promises‘ batting average here? Doesn‘t it seem like every famous celebrity user has been in and out of that place a number of times. I don‘t know what their actual rehab method is. Maybe it is actually making you take a promise to not do drugs any more.
OLBERMANN: Rehab, we promise to get it right the second or third time. Clearly she did not lie low after her arrest. The pictures of her slumped in the car at the gas station reportedly taken right after she left an event at the hotel Roosevelt in L.A. with a friend. In fairness, what is the criticism of her for those shots? She is sleeping. She is not behind wheel. Is there not a paparazzi time out for that or for stops at the gas station?
TOMPKINS: You would think. I don‘t know if the paparazzi are waiting to see if she is actually going to drink in her sleep, which I think at this point seems entirely probable.
OLBERMANN: Or, if we get to test one of those things, can you ignite yourself by lighting a cigarette and your cell phone at the same time. Because of this, she is supposed to miss the scheduled filming—it was going to start this week—of a movie called “Poor Thing.” She was going to be in this, Shirley MacLean and Olympia Dukakis.
Obviously you and I and everybody else connected with the world wishes her all the best. But Paul, it cannot be a good sign if you cannot hold on to a movie entitled, of all things, “Poor Things.”
TOMPKINS: Well, I thank you for reminding me that she is ostensibly an actress. I had completely forgotten there for a while. The problem is the Internet. If this was the old studio days, you know, Louis B. Meyer would have her married off to some closeted gay leading man and they could have their Caligula like parties at home. It is easy to suppress those pictures.
I think at this point all these girls should just cut out the middle man and just make a deal with TMZ, you know, try to make that their source of primary income. They don‘t need to make the movies anymore.
OLBERMANN: Or do the reverse, buy it some how. Speaking of selling and buying things, the debris from her car is being sold on eBay? Doesn‘t she get the right of first refusal on her own stuff?
TOMPKINS: You would think that would be the case. Those slivers of plastic that used to comprise the cover of her turn signal are the 2007 equivalent of the chunks of the Berlin Wall. What are her grandchildren supposed to do?
OLBERMANN: Miss Lohan, tear down this wall. Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” and when we‘re lucky to COUNTDOWN. Great thanks, Paul.
TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,490th day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. Up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.” I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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