Guests: Richard Wolffe, John Dean, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, him, Dick. Your worst paranoid fears of six long years, “The “Washington Post” analysis that shows Dick Cheney is the de facto president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There‘s been a lot of accusations about this vice president, going back for many years, and as much as we would like to always get fabulous, glowing press, that‘s not always the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Daring to give nonfabulous press to St. Rudy, the former Bush administration head of the EPA, the former Republican governor of New Jersey says the former mayor of New York was more interested in appearances than in safety, somewhat in the aftermath of 9/11, especially during the anthrax attacks that autumn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: There was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in their HAZMAT suits going in, because they were still recovering from 9/11. They didn‘t want this image of a city falling apart, that nobody would be safe in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The stomach-turning story from Ohio turning anew (ph), a married police officer charged in the murder of his girlfriend and their child. There‘s a third woman charged in the case, and the only witness is the 2-year-old son the dead woman bore him, who told police, “Mommy was drying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy‘s in a rug.”
The suit over the suit. The $53 million pair of missing pants. The court rules.
And the countdown to the final Harry Potter book. Everybody wants to know how it turns out. I think I know.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
If you are appointed by a presidential candidate to head a search committee to find him a vice presidential candidate, and the person you ultimately find and endorse is you, it should thereafter surprise no one that you may be thinking you have completely gamed the system.
Nonetheless, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it had been one of the most cynical jokes made by the critics of the current occupants of the White House, that this wasn‘t the Bush administration, it was really the Cheney administration. And yet empirical evidence tonight that there may be no joke, or even worse, the joke is on us, the first two parts of a “Washington Post” four-part investigative series on Dick Cheney revealing that the power of the entire federal government, it would seem, has been centralized on the vice president‘s office.
If the administration has a hand in it, especially if it is legally questionable but (ph) morally reprehensible, chances are it originated with the vice president, Mr. Cheney filling the roles of president, vice president, president of the Senate, secretary of state, national security adviser, and director of the CIA, among other titles, the vice president‘s team instrumental in drafting the administration‘s infamous 2002 torture memo, which narrowed the definition of torture to mean only suffering equivalent in intensity to the pain of organ failure or even death.
It would be two years before then-national security adviser Rice, then Secretary of State Powell, even knew about that memo. They learned about it only by reading news accounts, just like everybody else.
If Cheney is the de facto president, his current chief of staff, David Addington, is both attorney general and White House counsel. Think Alberto Gonzales, if Mr. Gonzales knew what he was doing, “The Post” revealing that Mr. Gonzales, during his days as White House counsel, would side with Mr. Addington during disputes against his own staff, Mr. Gonzales still siding with the vice president‘s office, apparently doing nothing to investigate its refusal to comply with that executive order requiring federal offices to file status reports on how they‘ve safeguarded classified documents, “Newsweek” reporting that the Justice Department has even gone so far as to claim it has not received any letters from the National Archives about the matter, letters the Archive says it has sent.
It has gotten so ridiculous at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that even President Bush is now trying to claim the Oval Office is not part of the executive branch, and thus he does not have to comply with his own executive order either, even though he, even in name only, is still the nation‘s chief executive, the deputy White House press secretary accusing the media of making that legal argument both more complicated than it needs to be, yet still not recognizing just how complicated it really is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERINO: Maybe it‘s me, but I think that everyone‘s making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, so the president has not had those inspections either, that‘s what you‘re saying/
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Has he been asked to have those inspections by the National Archive?
PERINO: Not that I, not that I, not that I‘m aware of, but again, it‘s the president that‘s discharging the EO. He is the sole enforcer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and just lastly, it‘s a little surreal. I mean, how is it possible that...
PERINO: You‘re telling me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), that you, that you can‘t give an opinion about whether the vice president is part of the executive branch (INAUDIBLE)?
PERINO: Look, all I know is that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a little bit like someone saying, I don‘t know if his is my wife or not.
PERINO: I think it‘s a little bit more complicated than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He‘s the Enforcer, he‘s the Decider.
Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Assess this for me. What‘s actually new here in this report on Cheney? Or is it just that we piled all the stuff that was already known, and it turns out to be a pile as big as the Washington Monument?
WOLFFE: Are you suggesting a different kind of monument?
What we have here is, it‘s a great portrait of Dick Cheney that‘s come out of “The Washington Post” with a lot of texture and context in there. But no a lot that really changes our understanding of him. Remember that this was a guy whose initial Secret Service code name was Backseat, and that goes back to the Ford years. And he‘s been running a backseat operation ever since.
But certainly the way it‘s been working inside the White House, he‘s had officials placed throughout the administration who effectively report to him more than their own bosses, whether at the State Department or the Defense Department.
And so what you‘re seeing here is a filling out of the picture. But we knew he had a hand in these things, especially early on in the first Bush term.
OLBERMANN: Certainly if it‘s not new, it is newly and better lit than it was before. Until now, the vice president was able to conduct most of the activities in great secrecy. With these publications, these reports, many of those secrets seem to be out, at least more than they were before. He‘s not a man who tolerates leaks kindly, CIA leak involving Valerie Plame certainly an example of that, and do we expect fallout from the vice president‘s office after the publication of all this?
WOLFFE: Well, I think one thing that‘s extraordinary here is that very little seems to have come out of the vice president‘s office itself. And that is a very striking thing in my experience with the vice president‘s office. Not that people don‘t leak, but people don‘t even know inside the vice president‘s office what‘s going on.
One senior Cheney aide once told me that information flows upstream, it never flows downstream. They don‘t know what he‘s doing, what he‘s thinking. And these are people in his own team. You know, I think the vice president‘s position is basically, as he told me when I interviewed him a few months ago, he‘s vice president, and they are not.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Now, as Alberto Gonzales is attorney general and no one else is, we‘ve been assuming all along that that is something that Mr. Bush wanted. Is it, in fact, something that Mr. Cheney has made impossible to change? And what is the connection there?
WOLFFE: Well, I think the Gonzales relationship is critical here. You know, folks in the White House have told me that one thing that people haven‘t understood about the whole issue of the U.S. attorneys is, is this question of where will it all end? If they get rid of Gonzales, then someone else is going to come in, and they‘ll be more pliable to congressional demands.
I think we‘re seeing the same thing now, whether it‘s about the vice president complying with the executive orders or not. Gonzales has been useful for both the president and for the vice president. That‘s certainly something that comes out very strongly from this “Washington Post” series.
OLBERMANN: And from your own publication, Senator Schumer responding with this idea of asking Mr. Gonzales to recuse himself from the Justice Department‘s investigation, such as it is, of the Cheney violation of the executive order. Is there anything likely to come from that, or is it just as likely that the Justice Department will now claim it never received any letters from Senator Schumer?
WOLFFE: Yes, what investigation? The question here is whether Congress is a better check and balance than the executive branch. And you heard Dana Perino say that, Well, the (INAUDIBLE), the president is the guy who enforces all of this stuff. I think you got to trust the founders here. Congress can and should do its job. It‘s just got to be very persistent.
OLBERMANN: Has the vice president‘s office become a black hole where facts we‘re not supposed to know go to, go to, go to be hidden?
WOLFFE: That‘s how they would like it to be, in terms of what you can see. Because you can‘t see through a black hole, and the vice president doesn‘t like this kind of attention. He doesn‘t like speaking to the press. And remember what happened when he had that unfortunate encounter with his friend. You know, even when it comes to a personal accident, they don‘t want to go out and talk about things. It‘s a very, very bizarre operation, but it‘s worked very effectively, both for Dick Cheney and George Bush.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.” As always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: No one more qualified, perhaps, to speak to the legal implications of a de facto Cheney administration, or to the remarkable secrecy such a shadow presidency has operated under, than Nixon White House counsel John Dean, now, of course, author of “Worse Than Watergate” and “Conservatives Without Conscience,” as well as a columnist for Findlaw.com.
As always, John, great thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Would “co-president” be a kind way of putting it? And by that, I mean kind not to Mr. Cheney but to Mr. Bush.
DEAN: It‘s a fair way to put it, certainly. This—we always have known this was a partnership. What we didn‘t know is how the partnership balanced out. And I think we now are seeing who the senior partner may be in this relationship. And that is not kind to Mr. Bush.
OLBERMANN: Why do we think, why do you think, having studied this thing through the number of books that you have, and just through life here, why do you think Mr. Bush has ceded so much of his certainly not constitutional power, then practical power, to a vice president, to this vice president?
DEAN: I think it started initially because Bush himself wasn‘t sure he could handle some of the job, and he brought Cheney on for particularly the national security and handling Congress and things like that when they first came to Washington.
What happened, though, is, it grew like Topsy, with Cheney very much knowing how to take control, knowing where the levers are, building a very strong staff, doing it all with no transparency whatsoever, but actually quietly running the White House. And it got out of control.
Now, we have been told from time to time that Bush has tried to bring him up short or pull him back. But Dick Cheney‘s not the kind of fellow who‘s too inclined to that, and I think as long as he has the mantle of the (INAUDIBLE) -- at least the impression that Bush is authorizing this, he‘s going to push it as far as he can push it.
OLBERMANN: Realistically, John, this might be, in terms of the Constitution, the ultimate scandal, the president is supposed to be the president, and the vice president is supposed to be the vice president. He‘s not supposed to have carte blanche to run roughshod over every—anything, or anybody he doesn‘t like or doesn‘t want, including the Constitution.
Do you see this reality, when it‘s gathered together in one place, as in “The Washington Post” series, playing out any differently than previous scandals have? In other words, would anything of consequence actually happen in the wake of this?
DEAN: Well, it certainly should call the attention of the Congress to this issue for the first time. Cheney‘s actually building on the model of Vice President Mondale, who was a very powerful vice president. But he stayed very loyal, he stayed within the boundaries. Cheney has, as I say, taken it a little bit further. And in doing so, he‘s shown the lack of accountability that this office actually has under the Constitution.
And it‘s a very appropriate time for Congress to explore this issue, and indeed put some parameters on the office, because (INAUDIBLE) he is actually accountable to nobody other than George Bush, who can‘t fire him.
OLBERMANN: The, this may be really grasping at straws, but this argument that Ms. Perino made today, that because the vice president‘s paycheck comes in part from the Senate, he‘s not beholden to the executive branch. Certainly David Addington‘s salary is paid by the executive branch, as well as the salaries of the rest of the vice president‘s White House staff.
So why should Congress continue to pay those salaries? Might that be a way to stop Mr. Cheney, the sort of sideways approach that was used in certain criminal prosecutions in the 1930s, not to draw the too (INAUDIBLE), too tight of analogy to Al Capone?
DEAN: Well, we know that this is certainly a potential power that the Congress was given by the founders, for every kind of situation that might come up, where they thought somebody was playing outside the boundaries, that they always had the power of the purse. They certainly have it here. Now, Cheney could theoretically become a dollar-a-year guy and say, I don‘t care about the salary. I suspect he doesn‘t want to start paying for his staff‘s salary, though.
And the Congress could start say, Listen, you‘ve got to make a decision which branch you‘re playing in. And we want an allocation. And this all came up under a classification executive order, and as vice president and the presiding officer of the Senate, you don‘t have that kind of approval. So you‘ve got to decide where you‘re going to fall on this line and let us know, because we‘re going to pay you accordingly. That would get his attention, I think.
OLBERMANN: Didn‘t finally, didn‘t the patron saint of the modern, the current era conservatives, Ronald Reagan, was he not faced with almost a co-presidency, or a President 1A, opportunity with Gerald Ford in 1980? Didn‘t he see the dangers in this?
DEAN: They talked about it, as we understand, and it never really went too far, because it wasn‘t clear exactly that Ford was prepared to step back and be vice president again. But it would have been a very unique situation. I‘ve often thought that it‘s surprising, in all these years our system has operated, that the vice presidency has not become a more developed office than it really has.
Cheney indeed, as you mention, it‘s a black hole. He‘s starting to fill that out and take it to where nobody has taken it before, and there are no boundaries, Keith, as to where he might take it.
So it‘s a troublesome issue that‘s (INAUDIBLE) this. And hopefully “The Post” series will keep attention focused on it.
OLBERMANN: Well, as Marcus Aurelius pointed out, we supply the surprise in life. And I guess we can stop supplying the surprise here, it‘s finally happened.
John Dean, the White House counsel to President Nixon, author of “Conservatives Without Conscience.” Great thanks, as always, for joining us, John.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The next president, if it‘s Rudy Giuliani, he will get there on the three digits that comprise 9/11. Did a fellow Republican just put the first hole in the mythology of Giuliani and ground zero?
And our modern mythology, the Harry Potter books, come to an end in less than a month. I think I‘ve figured out the conclusion, who lives, who dies, and how. Just an opinion. You might want to get a pen and take notes.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: With more than 16 months to go until the 2008 election, Rudy Giuliani‘s response to 9/11 has now come under assault for yet another reason, radios and the selection of the site for the command post aside. And it‘s from a fellow Republican.
In our fourth story tonight, former EPA administrator, former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman, insists she‘s not picking a fight with the man who might be president, it‘s all the media‘s fault. At a hearing today on governmental handling of environment at the (ph) standards and hazards at ground zero, Whitman was asked about her statements blaming the city, which just happens to have been run by Giuliani at the time, for the number of rescue workers there without respirators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITMAN: New York was in the primary responder, I did say that, yes, because that was how the emergency response works out, that‘s how it happens. They are the primary responder. But I don‘t believe I ever blamed—there are those—and Congressman, I can understand how you might be misinformed on that, because the press is dying for a fight here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Giuliani apparently happy to oblige, a former aide telling “The New York Post,” quote, “She‘s making this stuff up,” that same aide also being quoted in Giuliani‘s rebuttal on his own campaign Web site. Giuliani‘s attempt to salvage his air of uber-competence, however, failing to refute another assessment from Ms. Whitman, this one coming last week to local television in New York, regarding his performance during the anthrax attacks that followed on the heels of 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITMAN: When we first went up to go into that NBC building, there was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in their Hazmat suits going in, because they were still recovering from 9/11. They didn‘t want this image of a city falling apart, that nobody would be safe in it. So what we did, because they were resistant to that, as I said, OK, let‘s get a trailer up there. Because I‘m not going to let the people go in the building without Hazmat suits.
BRIAN THOMPSON, WNBC: Did that delay the response to e0 Rock?
WHITMAN: Hours, yes, but not days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Governor Whitman talking to Brian Thompson (ph) at WNBC in New York.
Let‘s turn to our political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.
Jon, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me spin this forward a bit. The 9/11 air issue and what Governor Whitman meant, it‘s not precise, clearly. But she said after the anthrax at Rockefeller Plaza, he was more worried about appearances than the safety of EPA workers. Can a Giuliani opponent, a Republican in the primaries, a Democrat or an independent in an election, if it comes to that, get away with the questioning of St. Rudy of 9/11?
ALTER: I think they can. And, you know, Karl Rove is the originator of the strategy of going after your opponent‘s strengths, and that that works very well, so they went after, you know, John Kerry‘s strength with his Vietnam War record, with the swiftboating. So I think a clever opponent of Rudy Giuliani, in either the primaries or in the general election, would go after his strength. He‘s running to be president of 9/11. He has staked everything on his, you know, supposedly magnificent leadership in this period.
So to the extent that there are cracks in that leadership, whether involving anthrax or the number of firefighters who don‘t like the job that he did, or some questions about whether he used enough respirators at ground zero, any of those things could and probably will be used against him.
OLBERMANN: So what is his strategic response, his best strategic response there? I mean, given our recent experiences with president infallible—presidential infallibility, to what extent have we seen Mr. Giuliani admit to any mistakes prior to or after 9/11? And should he, should he go out and, like the lawyers say, grab your biggest problem and announce it yourself before somebody else does it for you?
ALTER: Well, he will try to explain his way out of it. I don‘t think you can expect to see him apologizing for anything. I mean, (INAUDIBLE), that was not exactly his strong suit. And he‘ll try to say that he was, you know, balancing the need for the safety of the workers with the need to recover bodies as quickly as possible, and doing the best job he could.
And that‘s, to some extent, a valid explanation for some of these decisions. But they are more controversial than first appeared when he started to run. So the idea that he‘s somehow going to be treated as St. Rudy for the duration, when it comes to 9/11, I think is in tatters.
OLBERMANN: And clearly, he didn‘t get that kind of treatment from Governor Whitman. She seems wanting to shift blame to the city, but without mentioning the guy who was running it at the time, and today making a very formal official blame-the-media announcement, which we could just probably find on the calendars that are issued to politicians, it‘s time to blame the media again, it‘s been too long.
ALTER: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: How, but how successful has her navigation been on this?
ALTER: I don‘t think very successful. You know, she‘s got a lot to answer for in the way the EPA handled this at the time, and there a lot of people who got sick down at 9/11 who want some answers.
She tried to back-and-fill today, Keith, because over the weekend, it was pretty clear that she was, you know, blaming Mayor Giuliani and the city in ways that can be used in attack ads down the road, because they were done in a public forum. So today she tried to say, No, no, no, it really wasn‘t Giuliani‘s fault, it was somebody else‘s fault.
The more finger-pointing there is, the more the public gets the sense, beyond New York, that, hey, not everything went swimmingly that day when it came to leadership and in the aftermath. And I think you will see this become at least something of a political issue, although perhaps not as much as his behavior on (INAUDIBLE) in the Iraq Study Group, the Baker- Hamilton commission, which I think will be a bigger problem for Giuliani.
OLBERMANN: As they navigate this, is it possible that instead of one of them taking the fall here, Whitman or Giuliani, they‘re both going to take the fall, in terms of what actually happened healthwise after 9/11?
ALTER: Oh, I think clearly, to some extent, they both will take the fall. But Whitman‘s not running for anything. You know, she‘s in political retirement. Giuliani‘s got a lot at stake in holding all this together and holding his image together. It‘s really—it‘s the totality of his campaign, Keith.
So if this starts to get eroded even a little bit, it could have real serious consequences for his candidacy.
OLBERMANN: “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter. Jon, as always, great thanks for your time tonight.
ALTER: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also, Paris Hilton. No, I‘m sorry, I‘ve got the wrong page. And you, Madam, you clearly have the wrong dog. It is a dog, isn‘t it? Now, Paris Hilton. She‘s getting sprung from the joint. Late- breaking, high-calorie, low-protein news content.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date 104 years ago, Eric Arthur Blair was born. You know him as George Orwell. He wrote the novel “1984.” But—what? I‘m hearing—About 11? I‘m hearing that about 11 of our viewers are indicating they didn‘t know it was a novel. And we‘d like to welcome those members of the Bush administration to our audience.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin at the county fair in Sonoma, California, where Elwood, a Chinese crested chihuahua mix, is this year‘s big winner in the world‘s best-looking rat contest. Oh, no, sorry, it‘s the world‘s ugliest dog contest. Just like the big Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, except that if this winner runs off into the neighborhood outside JFK Airport, no one‘s going to go look for him. Elwood came in second place in this event a year ago. Apparently last year‘s winner spent all the prize money on plastic surgery.
From an ugly dog to an ugly incident at an Irish air show over the weekend. No one seriously injured when a door fell off the side of that British military helicopter. Hello. And dropped into the crowd of spectators below. Three people suffered minor injuries, but none of them serious ones. They‘ll have a great story to can tell their grand children while they all light cigars with the money they win in the big lawsuit.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the incident, which marred an otherwise spectacular air show. The But, in door‘s defense, it did do that series of loopy loops on the way down. Look out.
OLBERMANN: It is an awful story. We have not reported on it before. We will tonight though because of changes in the labyrinthine murder plot in Ohio.
Speaking of a plot, I‘ll tell you how Harry Potter ends. Spoiler warning, I am going to walk you through my theory at the end of this news hour just for kicks.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. Actually, the top 50 news makers of this day, all tied for first place. They are 50 of the 141 high school seniors honored today at the White House as the annual 2007 presidential scholars. They met Mr. Bush and presented him with a hand written letter, Dear Mr. President, it reads, “as members of the presidential scholars class of 2007, we have been told that we represent the best and the brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe that we have a responsibility to voice our convictions.”
“We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Conventions to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants.”
One of the students told the reporters that the president by claiming this country does not torture. I guess all the other stuff he didn‘t disagree with. Those 50 kids are my heroes.
OLBERMANN: A policeman with a wife, a pregnant girl friend, and a third woman, perhaps just a friend, suspected of having helped him cover up the purported murder of the expectant mother. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, sometimes even the tabloid stories of our day defy understanding, but still demand an attempt. They body of 26 year old Jesse Davis, nearly nine months pregnant, was discovered on Saturday. And today Canton, Ohio police officer Bobby Cuts Jr. was arraigned on two counts of murder.
Bond is set at five million dollars. The next hearing in the case one week from today. The woman he stands accused of killing, Jessie Davis, discovered in a wooded area of the Cayahoga Valley National Park. She had been missing for more than one week. Mr. Cutts was possibly the father of her unborn child.
His two year old son with Miss Davis, likely the only witness, had told investigators, with chilling, heart rending precision, quote, mommy was crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy is in a rug. Now a woman described as a high school friend of Mr. Cutts, Myisha Ferrell, was also formally charged today with obstruction of justice.
Police searched her home after discovering the body of Miss Davis, and removed evidence that included bottles of bleach. There are also reports that Mr. Cutts told investigators where to find the body, and that he claims to have arrived at Miss Davis‘ home as she was dying and that he panicked, and called a friend for help.
Meanwhile, the Canton Police Department has suspended officer Cutts without pay. The precise cause of death of Miss Davis has not yet been released. Let‘s turn now to the former FBI profiler, now MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt. Clint, thanks for your time tonight.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR FBI PROFILER: Hi Keith, good evening.
OLBERMANN: If authorities are correct and Mr. Cutts is guilty of this double murder, is there a psychological portrait that would mesh with that, in particular?
VAN ZANDT: Some would suggest that he is a suspected murdering, lying, conniving, manipulating, sociopath, psychopath, anti-social personality. That is clearly emotional on my part. That is where he would fall in. When you have to describe the type of person who could do something so malicious—I mean, not only to allegedly kill a woman, but she is carrying, allegedly, his nine month old child. And, Keith, I mean, give me a better story than this. You‘ve been a cop ten years. Come on, work a little harder. Will you?
OLBERMANN: Two things, Clint, that separate this story and turns it into the stuff of high drama and almost tragedy; two and a half year-old boy, Blake Davis, is potentially the only witness. Is it likely the police could have gotten more information from him than that heart rending sentence that they divulged to the public? And could he testify, if it comes to that?
VAN ZANDT: Two answers. Number one, I think it is likely. I think there are some things that the police may well have held back. Realize when you interview someone this young, you can not ask a leading question. You have to let him tell you what happened. Sometimes people will give a child like this two dolls and let him take the dolls and demonstrate what might have happened.
So, either verbally or physically, he might have shown—he might have told the police something else. I think that exists.
Number two, you can‘t put someone like this on the stand, Keith, because the defense always has the right to cross-examine. And short of a dying declaration—that‘s where I‘m talking to someone; they give the information. They know they are going to die, and they die. And then I testify on the stand that is what they told me.
Short of something like that, you have to be able to cross-examine. And a child of this tender age—it just—number one, you can‘t put him through this. And number two, it would not work.
OLBERMANN: Something else, as I suggested, that may elevate what we‘re talking about, the infamous Scott Peterson case, this one, countless others, homicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women. And the statistics about violence against pregnant women, especially late in pregnancy, are startling. Do we know why that is?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I think there are a lot of answers, Keith. You know, some will suggest that‘s a very challenging, emotional time, both for the woman and for the man. You have to consider your life is changing. Your finances are changing. Your living arrangements may be changing. And if you add to that someone who really does not want the responsibility of parenthood, let‘s say fatherhood, who sees that as an additional responsibility that he just doesn‘t want to take on --
in the case of the suspect, not only does he have a child from a woman in California, and not only does he have a child from the victim, but he also is married with a child too. He may not have been willing, for a number of different reasons, to take that on. But, you know, that is such a quantum leap, Keith, for you and I to try to explain the unexplainable.
How, number one, you can kill a human being. Number two, someone that you emotionally may have thought something of. And number three, he is accused of killing his own child in the womb. That is just—that is beyond understanding.
OLBERMANN: Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, as always, thanks for joining us. It‘s a grim story. Thanks for helping us try to fathom it.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lighter legal matters, unless you were the guy who was sued, the court case in which 53 million dollars in damages for a pair of lost pants was demanded has been resolved.
And shortly so to will the awful clothing clash between Paris Hilton‘s golden hair and her prison orange jumpsuit. That is next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, peace in our time. The lawyer suing the dry cleaners for 53 million dollars because they lost his pants has now also lost his shirt in court. Our correspondent is Tracy Potts.
TRACY POTTS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sigh of relief after two years fighting over this pair of pants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: : What we have here today is justice done.
POTTS: Judge Roy Pearson sued Custom Cleaners for 54 million dollars. He claims they lost his pants and tried to pass these off as his. He even asked for 15,000 to rent a car to drive to another cleaners.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has to be a joke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could any pair of pants be worth 54 million dollars?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was trying to make a statement, and the judge did not rule in his favor.
POTTS: Trial lawyers say even though this case was, in their words, ridiculous, it proves consumers deserve their day in court.
BILL SCHULZ, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE: Those that would limit the rights of plaintiffs to seek damages where they have been injured—those rights need to be protected.
POTTS: Judge Pearson did not answer calls. He will have to pay up to 5000 in court costs, and perhaps some attorneys‘ fees, estimated at 100,000 dollars. Jin and Soo Chung say they lost thousands after Pearson posted these signs in the neighborhood. Now they just want to get back to business.
SOO CHUNG, CUSTOM CLEANERS: I have tried to live hard and work hard and tried to make a living in this country.
POTTS: Tracy Potts, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: And enough of the pants heard around the world, on to Keeping Tabs, our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, and the springing of Paris from her L.A. County pen. It happens tomorrow. After a rough start and 23 days in stir for having her violated her probation. Then it is on to freedom, an interview with Larry King. That will snap her back to reality.
Paris can‘t wait to chow down to a good meal, according to actress Ashley Smith, who paid her a jail house visit yesterday. The mother, Kathy Hilton, also paid a weekend visit. She says her daughter is doing well, excited about seeing the family, but tired of orange. She cannot wait to shed her orange prison jumpsuit.
J.K. Rowling sheds her final Harry Potter secrets on July 21st, when the last Potter book is released. I think I know how this turns out. We will end the news cast with my theory, so be forewarned. That‘s ahead.
But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to an unnamed barber in Amsterdam. He has been arrested for stabbing a man with a pair scissors, one of his customers. He says it was self-defense. They might be inclined to believe him, except the same thing happened, the barber stabbing a client with the scissors, in 2000. The barber may also face charges of making a sketch from “Monty Pythons Flying Circus” come to life, or possibly a live version of Sweeney Todd.
Our runner up, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who told a right radio water carrier interviewer last week how was, quote, going over to vote the other day when he heard Senators Boxer and Clinton conspiring on how to restrict or otherwise clip the wings of right wing radio water carriers.
But Friday on Fixed News—I‘m sorry, Fox Noise, Inhofe said, quote, I have told this story well over 100 times on the radio, on TV, in the last three years. I was going up the elevator with them—This was about three years ago—to vote, and they were yelling and screaming and complaining about right-wing radio. Senators Boxer and Clinton have denied the conversation even happened, which seems utterly unnecessary, considering Senator Inhofe doesn‘t know if it‘s 2007 right now or 2004.
But our winner, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He has announced that he wants to modify the latest immigration bill. Quote, we are trying to include several ideas, unquote, presented to him by right-wing radio water carrier Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt had asked him on air if the compromise included separate treatment for illegal immigrants from countries of special concern. Kyl replied, it‘s going to as a result of your lobbying efforts to me. Check please.
Senator John Kyl of Arizona, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Exactly one month from last Thursday, the last volume of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter epic will hit bookstores worldwide. In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, the author has revealed how it all turns out—to her husband mind you. She hasn‘t told anybody else. That has not stopped others from insisting they have found out. A much hyped online story claims somebody hacked into a computer containing the manuscript.
If you go and read the almost unintelligible posting, you will gather rather quickly the guy sure does not sound like he has a clue what a Harry Potter is, let along access to the greatest literary secret of the moment. But you do not need access. You need to find somebody who has read the first six books.
Hi, how are you. So here is the ultimate spoiler alert. I think I know how the series turns out. It is just my opinion, but I think I am right. If you would like to follow my reasoning, stay with us. If just speculating about a possible outcome would spoil your fun, say good night and good luck right now.
Well, you are a brave soul. Aren‘t you. All right, let‘s start with the inescapable conclusions based on the first six.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): There is this prophesy. See? Harry Potter and his arch nemesis, the darkest wizard of them all, Lord Voldemort; one of them must kill the other. The prophesy was the essence of the fifth novel and was repeated so often in the sixth that some readers were probably reciting it in their sleep.
Theoretically, Voldemort and Potter could kill one another, like those two boxers from the Golden Gloves 20 years ago, who connected simultaneously and knocked each other out. But this would be too cheesy to fool even the most devoted Potterians. And they would not like Harry‘s death much either.
Consider it from the marketing standpoint. Book number seven, “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows,” reaches sweaty palms on July 21st. But the movie reaching theaters July 13th, “The Order of the Phoenix” is only the fifth film. What is the box office going be like for that one if eight days later Potter is killed off?
And the sixth movie and seventh? Who is going to go see them if the world has already known for a couple of years that hero has been offed via the Cruciatus curse?
What about the generations of buyers to come? A Harry Potter emerging alive and well after seven books and 70,000 brushes with death and snakes and curses and stuff; he will become an immortal character of fiction. And fictional immortality means sales of books, DVDs, even film remakes that‘s longer than Professor Dumbledore‘s beard.
Ask Sherlock Homes. So suffice it to say, if Harry Potter dies in the “Deathly Hallows,” J.K. Rowling and her descendants will lose millions of dollars. Since we already know either Potter or Voldemort will croak, it‘s got to be so long, Voldy.
But how? Will the simple vanquishing of the evil foe be sufficient pay off for a decade of reading? I mean, when Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Holmes‘ Voldemort, Professor Moriarty, he did it with panache. He made the reader think Holmes and Moriarty went toppling arm and arm into the raging waters of the Reichenbach Falls.
So Rowling has to have something pretty spectacular for the end of her series. So what could she do? Kill off Harry‘s buddies Ron and Hermione? That is what that hacker who claims to have accessed the novel, and who claims to be doing the work of the pope in destroying the suspense, has forecast. But isn‘t that a little trite?
In book number six, “Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince,” Rowling already killed off Dumbledore, the popular headmaster at the wizarding school Hogwarts, and got such a bad vibe and so many nightmares out of it that much of those Potty over Potter are almost demanding the headmaster be reincarnated for the finale.
So sacrificing more of Harry‘s pals and heroes would again seem to be just bad business.
But one hint, publicly offered in the advertising for the last book, asks the question whether the greasy Professor Snape, Dumbledore‘s murderer, was a friend to Harry or his worst enemy. Snape has finally, after years of trying, ascended to his dream job, teaching Harry and the others Defense Against the Dark Arts.
In Snape, and in Defense Against the Dark Arts, may rest the explanation of how this series ends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s not really your concern, is it, Potter?
OLBERMANN: The most recent book went into excruciating detail about the concept of a horcrux, perhaps the darkest art in wizardry. In “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” we are told that while in the act of murdering someone, a dark wizard can divide his soul so that he might live on in part, even if his corporeal body expires. He can store the parts of the soul in objects, or, as seen in an earlier book, in a living thing, the big snake in the basement.
Dumbledore has painstakingly explained to Harry that Voldemort has divided his soul six times, rendering him with a lot less soul than, say, James Brown, but a lot longer shelf life than, say, Donald Trump‘s hair.
DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE”: You are fired.
OLBERMANN: To kill Voldemort, Harry has to locate and destroy the remaining horcruxes, the places Voldemort packed himself away like so many boxes in a storage vault.
But what about that scar on Harry‘s face? What is it really, the one seared into him in childhood when Voldemort tried to kill him and did kill his parents, the one that could register Voldemort‘s emotions, even sense when Voldemort is physically near. It‘s got be a horcrux, no? It‘s got to be a part of Voldemort carried on Harry Potter‘s very flesh?
Well, you could kill the last part of Voldemort by killing Harry Potter. The British book makers William Hill have stopped taking wagers on the outcome of the series, in fact, because they report stacks of mail claiming that has to be how the series ends. But that brings us back to our financial concerns and the peeved, if not down right angry revenge that fans, maybe riotous fans, would take against the sixth and seventh films if Harry Potter does not survive them.
So let‘s put this all together. Harry or Voldemort must die. There are pieces of Voldemort‘s soul scattered around on objects and living things. Harry‘s scar has always acted like an early warning detection system. And the dubious Professor Snape, master of Protection Against the Dark Arts, is being advertised as the potential savior in the big wow finish to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
So why not this ending? Harry eliminates all but one of Voldemort‘s horcruxes. The dark lord‘s life is now reduced to this undulating welt on Harry‘s own forehead. To kill Voldemort, Harry must kill himself and is about to, as millions of readers recoil in horror and anger, when who steps out of the shadows but Snape to explain to Harry that there is another way that the last horcrux, Harry‘s scar, can be removed, but at one dreadful price.
Harry can survive it, but his magical skills cannot. To finally vanquish Voldemort, save Hogwarts and Hermione and Ron, and, in fact the magical world, to say nothing of the J.K. Rowling franchise for decades and generations to come, Harry Potter must give up being a wizard.
OLBERMANN: Not bad, huh? The series ends up with self-sacrifice. Uplifting self-sacrifice, but not the commercially disastrous death of the hero. And readers 100 years from now will still be buying the Potter books or getting the Potter chips injected into their brains, or however people read come that day.
Of course, there is one other option for that big finish.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Harry, Ron and Hermione enter a diner. They order Butter Beer and onion rings. Voldemort is sitting at the lunch counter, marking time. Outside, Ron‘s sister, Ginny, is having a hell of a time parallel parking, even though she‘s using her wand. And just then the door to the diner opens and Harry Potter looks up and—the last 11 pages of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” are freaking blank.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,517th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good look.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.