Guests: William Ibbs, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? With four confirmed dead and perhaps two dozen more still buried under the debris or in the Mississippi river, the questions are raised and the fingers are pointed in Minneapolis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: A bridge in America just shouldn‘t fall down.
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OLBERMANN: As Senator Klobuchar and others wonder if Minnesota tried to maintain its infrastructure on the cheap as every American crossed on a bridge today wondered or shuddered or both. The stories of heroism and good fortune come into focus. The school bus, 60 kids, 60 survivors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: We were riding over the bridge and the bridge collapsed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Full coverage of the day after at the 35 W. Bridge.
The heightened tensions at the capital. The president invokes executive privilege to keep Karl Rove and Rove‘s deputy Scott Jennings from testifying to the Senate. But Jennings appears anyway. He might as well have answered in mime.
What do you do in the White House Senator Leahy asked?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT JENNINGS, DEPUTY TO KARL ROVE: Senator, pursuant to the president‘s assertion of executive privilege, I must respectfully decline to answer your question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Democrats take the lead on counter terror. Senator Obama offers a plan. A plan the president doesn‘t have, along with a clue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He confuses our mission and worse he is fighting the war that the terrorists want us to fight.
OLBERMANN: Make musicals, not war, hard time in a Philippine prison. Two, three, kick turn, turn, turn, kick turn. We get this stuff from the Internet, which Sir Elton John wants to shut down because it keeps people from making real music? Are you saying this isn‘t real music?
And a remarkable twist in the battle versus Bill O. In “Worst Persons” tonight in defense of Bill O‘Reilly. You heard me. All of that and more now on “Countdown.”
(on camera): Good evening from New York. Tonight, almost exactly 25 hours after the I-35 W. Bridge dropped 64 feet into the Mississippi River, the worst such collapse in more than 20 years, the fallen bridge is still moving, girders shifting, concrete crumbling, America‘s great river pushing relentlessly against the rubble.
Our fifth story tonight, the day after. Until the danger of that instability forced them from the water, divers beneath the river‘s surface were limited to taking down license plate numbers of submerged cars and looking into the faces of the people still within. Their numbers still unknown tonight not yet reflected in the official death toll of four fatalities.
As many as 30 others remain missing. Some of those we know who have died, we learned today, spoke to rescue workers as they lay trapped partially crushed asking, please tell those I love I said goodbye.
In Minneapolis tonight, politicians of both parties defended past decisions not to the spend more on their infrastructure as the Minnesota Twins postponed ground-breaking on a new baseball stadium towards which taxpayers may pay $344 million or more.
A columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune writing, “Perhaps this is a sign of shame. If so, it is welcome.”
This in a state consistently ranked one of the nation‘s best for maintaining its bridges, the 35 W. bridge, originally called St. Anthony‘s Bridge, for the nearby falls, officially cataloged as Minnesota Bridge 9340, is one of America‘s 592,000 bridges. It was rated instruct ally deficient in 1990. And as recently as a 2002 federal report, its superstructure getting a four out of score of zero to nine. The bridge scoring a 50 percent rating indicating replacement might be needed. No one that we know of warning of any eminent danger.
Late word from the federal government, an advisory sent to every state calling for the immediate inspection of all steel deck truss bridges similar to the construction of this bridge. More on the safety issues ahead.
The White House said the state is responsible for fixing its bridges but the president told local officials the federal government will assist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered. And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who were suffering right now in prayer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Those prayers coming on the same day a House committee heard that the Bush administration is still finishing relief efforts for California‘s North Ridge earthquake of 1994, a point Mr. Bush may be asked about when he visits the mourning city on Saturday and, again, next summer at the Republican national convention in Minneapolis.
Brian Williams arrived at the scene this morning and joins us from there now.
Brian, thank you and good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Keith, good evening to you.
OLBERMANN: In terms of this event‘s physical scale, what do we who only see it on television not appreciate that those who have seen it close-up can convey?
WILLIAMS: It looks like the bridges I‘ve seen in Iraq that were hit by J-dams. It‘s really no different. When you think of the size covered by the wreckage, an eight-lane wide stretch of cement highway suspended 64 feet above the Mississippi River, you have to remember this area, no one who spent time in the Twin Cities, no one has come away not impressed with the quality of life here and the good people to be found here. They have a good thing going. It‘s a kind of compact population of 400,000 and so this will be acutely felt. They‘ve got a GOP convention coming up a year from now that will be the target date and accelerator for the effort to rebuild.
OLBERMANN: Referring to that 50 percent rating today, Nick Coleman in the Star Tribune called this bridge half-chance bridge. He predicted that public sorrow will be followed by public anger. Is that your assessment from what you‘ve been able to see today as well?
WILLIAMS: think that‘s a pretty good prediction. And, Keith, what would happen if the unsexy issue of infrastructure were to actually take fire and take its place among the issues in the campaign and the general election. It‘s tough for the member of the Senate to put their name on a regirdering or resurfacing project or a resurfacing project. It‘s easier to have a big gleaming bridge or a tunnel or parkway that was the result of an earmark on the floor of the Senate that you can say, “I brought home the bacon. We built that.” The drudgery, the grunt work of keeping America‘s cities going, think of all of the bridges, tunnels and parkways made by Robert Moses, the master builder in New York that we work near and use every day. But that is the drudgery of keeping them in shape. That‘s what we‘re talking about here.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, an ordeal like this always yields the full range of story from tragedy to heroism, even to humor. In a moment, Ron Mott is going to be reporting on the survival of the kids on that iconic school bus. What other stories have you heard on the ground today?
WILLIAMS: We interviewed for NBC “Nightly News” a deputy fire chief, 29 years on the job. He gets off-duty last night, gets on his hog and he is going to drive over, as so many people do on a beautiful summer night like this, to the Minnesota Twins game. He sees some police cruisers roll by, turns his duty radio back on and hears what‘s going on. He was moved to tears today talking about what they like to call Minnesota nice, the attitude of the people in this area, the number of volunteers that came out last night.
And oh, by the way, he left our interview to go back in, back to the banks of the Mississippi and supervise another extrication from a submerged vehicle. This one he said was going to be a tough one. That‘s the kind of work that goes on. They are so worried, Keith, about that, the number of confirmed dead merging with the number of missing and presumed dead. This is going to be a tough row to hoe for this great area of the country.
OLBERMANN: In deed and well said, sir. Brian Williams, anchor of NBC “Nightly News.” As always, great thanks.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A team of 19 federal investigators has already begun trying to figure out what happened last night in Minneapolis.
To help us understand its process and the kinds of questions its members will be asking, we turn to an expert, William Ibbs has testified about large-scale construction projects. He teaches engineering at U.C.-Berekely.
Professor Ibbs, thanks for your time tonight.
WILLIAM IBS, PROFESSOR OF ENGINEERING, U.C.-BERKELEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We have heard reports about fatigue, about cracking, we know of several vibration sources. There was construction on the bridge, train tracks below and a large freight train passing below. If the NTSB knows only what we in the public know, what will they look at first?
IBBS: I think one of the things that they‘ll be looking for is what members can they collect and start to reassemble and also what members might be missing. It‘s possible, it‘s conceivable that some key parts of the bridge were—had fallen away or had become unhinged in the weeks prior to this accident.
OLBERMANN: In that awful grainy video of the bridge coming down, we see the center goes first, the outer segments do not hold. Is design an issue? Should we be expecting the bridge to sustain the loss of one section without the rest of it coming down?
IBBS: It‘s not the usual design practice to expect a bridge like this to be able to withstand the collapse of one member. The bridge has to work together as an integrated whole so when you lose one piece, you necessarily are going to have repercussions to the rest of the bridge.
OLBERMANN: The “New York Times” reported that a federal study in 2001 found that only 4 percent of bridge inspectors correctly were able to identify these fatigue cracks. Is that as frightening as it sounds? Do we need to upgrade to more sophisticated checks about structural integrity in this infrastructure of ours?
IBBS: In general, I would agree with your statement, yes. I think the 4 percent number is a bit of an overstatement. I‘m concerned about another aspect of the inspection question. Inspectors, as you know, are going out to bridges generally on a two-year cycle and they‘re pronouncing a bridge either structurally sufficient or structurally deficient. The timeframe that they‘re reviewing the bridge for, the time horizon that they‘re considering whether that bridge is going to be structurally safe is generally a five or ten-year time period.
On the other hand, to rebuild, to redesign and rebuild a bridge these days is generally a 10 to 20-year timeframe. You got a bit of a disconnect there between what the inspectors are thinking of in terms of safety and the reality of how long it really takes to put a bridge up these days.
OLBERMANN: Professor, do you think if we spent as much money as perhaps we should on inspections, on maintenance and all the rest, that things like this still would happen?
IBBS: Less frequently. And maybe when they did happen, they wouldn‘t happen with so much loss of life and so much property damage involved.
OLBERMANN: William Ibbs, civil engineer and professor at U.S.-Berkeley. Great thanks for your insight, sir.
IBBS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: If there is any good news in all of this, it takes the form of one large yellow vehicle that stood out in this disaster. It didn‘t look good at the time, a school bus, spotted immediately by the helicopter cameras immediately after the bridge collapsed, loaded with young children nearly home from a day in the country, now trapped in the bus after it suddenly had plunged 30 to 50 feet with the bridge span and pinned itself against the rail of that collapsed span. Some kids were hurt but the good news is this, the kids are all right and they found their own superhero.
Our Correspondent Ron Mott has been listening to their stories in Minneapolis.
CAMERON: You know how scared I was? I was that scared. Too close.
MOTT (voice-over): Poignant words from 5-year-old Cameron. His bus had just crossed onto the bridge when the bottom fell out.
His aunt Sasha Bouye (ph), a few seats away, thought he was gone.
SASHA BOUYE (ph), AUNT OF CAMERON: I thought my nephew was out of the window. So I did, I really did.
MOTT: As the bridge groaned and crumpled, the 52 children onboard ricocheted off the bus roof and windows.
JEREMY HERNANDEZ, CAMP COUNSELOR: When we hit, I hit my lip on the seat. I came back and we went down again. I felt we were going again towards the water. Then we hit again and kids flying over.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It was scary how the bridge just fell straight down.
MOTT: Twenty-year-old camp counselor, Jeremy Hernandez, sitting in the back row, kicked into action.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: He kicked open the door and told everybody to get off the bus.
HERNANDEZ: I opened the back door and kicked the coolers out. And I jumped out, stumbled out, turned around and then the kids were right behind me. One by one, kids were coming out of the bus. That‘s when it hit. My heart was beating fast.
MOTT: Though his hip hurts today, it will soon heal. But Hernandez says his heart may have been broken forever had anyone on the bus been lost.
HERNANDEZ: I feel lucky that I was in it because I don‘t know what I would have did if I would have been at home and I would have heard on TV that one of the kids had died. Because I see them every day. They come in the gym and they‘re always happy to see me. It‘s like it‘s one of my little sisters or little brothers or something.
MOTT: Tonight, parents are very grateful, not only to have their children near, but also near Jeremy Hernandez when his leadership mattered most.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely want to shake his hand. He took five of my kids off the bus. So I‘m happy for that.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: We might would have been dead or might would have been drowned in that water if it wasn‘t for Jeremy.
MOTT: Tonight, two of the kids remain hospitalized along with two adults also on that bus. And that little 5-year-old we saw at the outset, Cameron, he says the next bus ride he takes might be a bit scary—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ron Mott at the I-35 W. Bridge. Great thanks.
Today in Washington, dramatic evidence that the presidential administration believes it can operate in secret. Executive privilege claimed when a Senator asked a Bush political assistant what he does at the White House. Not what the president does, what he does.
And countering both terrorism and lies about softness on terrorism, Barack Obama, the latest Democrat to offer something the president doesn‘t seem to have on the subject, a plan. You are watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As if another demonstration is needed of just how much esteem this administration holds for the role of Congress or the people, witness our fourth story on the “Countdown.” Congress asks for clarity from the attorney general. Alberto Gonzales repeats his obfuscations. Congress subpoenas White House Advisors Karl Rove and Scott Jennings to testify. Rove doesn‘t even show up. And although Jennings did, he did not testify too much thanks to what Senator Pat Leahy has dubbed the new way to taking the Fifth.
SENATOR PAT LEAHY, (D), VERMONT: Are you aware of any presidential decision documents since the 2004 election which President Bush decided to precede with a replacement plan for U.S. attorneys?
SCOTT JENNINGS, DEPUTY TO KARL ROVE: Sir, pursuant to the president‘s assertion of executive privilege, I decline to answer at this time.
LEAHY: As special assistant to the president, deputy director of police affairs, what role do you have in the selection of nominees to the U.S. attorneys?
JENNINGS: Senator, I will decline to answer that question pursuant To the president‘s assertion of executive privilege...
LEAHY: Woe, woe, woe, wait. I‘m just asking what role you have in the selection of nominees to be U.S. attorney. I‘m just talking about what you do. I mean—let‘s not be too contemptuous of this committee. I‘m just asking you what role do you have in the selection of nominees for U.S. attorneys. You work at the White House, you‘re paid for by taxpayers. You work for the American people. I‘m just asking what kind of work you do.
JENNINGS: Sir, I understand. And based on my understanding of the letter I have from Mr. Fielding, this falls under the president‘s assertion of executive privilege and, therefore, I must respectfully decline to answer at this time.
LEAHY: It sounds like the American taxpayers are paying you to stonewall.
OLBERMANN: Much like the attorney general. In response to the Judiciary Committee request that he clarify his testimony from last week, Alberto Gonzales sent a letter reiterating what was in Tuesday‘s letter from the national director of intelligence, namely that the term terrorist surveillance program specifically referred only to the warrantless wire tapping program, not all the other still classified intelligence mattes in the president‘s NSA intelligence order, adding that, quote, “As I testified, however, I recall that there was not a serious disagreement between the Department of Justice and the White House in march 2004 about whether there was a legal basis for the particular activity later called the Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Thus, reprising the symmatical tap dance that set off this political firestorm. His letter drawing a sharp response from not only the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his Republican counterpart as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, ®, PENNSYLVANIA: You have a wily witness who has evaded the information which this Senate oversight committee was entitled too. Just because it‘s not perjury does not mean it‘s the way the highest ranking legal officer in the United States ought to respond to a Senate inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To analyze the wily witness and the other wascally wabbits, I‘m joined now by our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.”
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “WASHINGTON POST”: And my attorney.
OLBERMANN: Yes. What‘s up, doc? So is this conclusive that the administration has just given up even pretending to have any respect for Congress or this old antiquated, quaint idea of balance of power?
MILBANK: That assumes there was a golden age when the administration was pretending to respect Congress. And the fact is they‘ve been quite open about this from the very beginning, all of those years ago to the vice president‘s Energy Task Force. They said we want to get presidential power back to where it was before Nixon. And lo and behold they‘ve done just that.
What you‘re seeing now in all these confrontations is the backlash.
Because of the change in control in Congress, there is a pushback going on. That‘s what we‘re seeing now. I don‘t think the contempt has changed at all.
OLBERMANN: One intriguing thing that may have been set up here, as Mr. Jennings showed, claiming executive privilege does not preclude you from appearing in front of a congressional hearing, even if all you do is refuse to answer the questions and do the equivalent of making shadow puppets against the wall.
Given that he appeared but his box did not, does that increase the likelihood, make an easier path toward contempt of Congress charges against his boss Karl Rove.
MILBANK: Certainly. It‘s always easier to accuse somebody of contempt if they‘re behaving in a contemptuous manner. You see Jennings, Sarah Taylor, the more junior White House officials being set by the White House out there while the president protects Harriet Miers, Josh Bolton and Karl Rove. So certainly a lot of anger among the lower-level White House officials at this point.
OLBERMANN: Back to the not so wily witness, Alberto Gonzales defending his testimony by accusing everyone else who has testified about the disagreement, about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, of confusion over terminology.
Given that Senator Specter thinks this investigation is going to end the attorney general‘s tenure, and Senator Leahy say he will bring in the inspector general if Gonzales doesn‘t properly clarify his testimony by that deadline of tomorrow, is there anybody who is going to buy the attorney general‘s explanation at this point?
MILBANK: No. I don‘t think anybody does and probably the attorney general doesn‘t mean it. While he might be—there might be a case that he is guilty of baloney, Senators on both sides seem to have decided that there is not a case for perjury. The question is what do you? Do you pursue the contempt of Congress route? Then president cuts them off by not letting federal prosecutors take the case to court.
Some folks, as you‘ve noted in previous shows, have started talking about impeachment. The problem is they‘re sort of up against a dead end here and unless the president relents, it‘s unclear, even if everybody wants Gonzales gone, exactly what they can do about it.
OLBERMANN: How about a trade? It seems inconceivable, given the little credibility and respect that this attorney general engenders in Congress at his point for the president to be simultaneously pushing these changes to the FISA law that would put more power into the attorney general‘s hands to monitor surveillance?
Could he be offering a trade, given those FISA changes, and I‘ll change attorneys general?
MILBANK: Oh, if he did change attorney general, they would give him the FISA changes in a first round draft pick. But already the Democrats have pushed back on the FISA, the surveillance law because of the way the attorney general behaved already.
The White House has made some concessions there in having the director of national intelligence brought in as well as the attorney general. There is going to be a lot of haggling here and the Democrats are dug in on this.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC. As always, thanks, Dana.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I will kill you, I will f-ing kill you. Unless the lyrics in the latest Britney Spears song catalog have changed dramatically, those words might get her in a lot of trouble.
And have you every heard the old song lyric, “I‘ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts?” There they are, all standing in a row. What do you mean there‘s an easier way to break them open. Next, on “Countdown.”
OLBERMANN: Repeatedly and insistently, our friend the Internet tells us that 73 years ago today, Mr. William Franks set a world record for twirling a so-called Indian club over his head 17,280 times in one hour. Sounds very nice. That record would have required him to toss the thing around his head 288 times a minutes and five times a second.
As implausible as that sounds, actual clinical tests conducted this afternoon suggests even I can make the wrist motion that would be required for Indian club twirling, about 175 times in a minute.
Thank you for your attention. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in India, where this man hates these coconuts. This is Kaychab Swain (ph) and he is trying to break the world record for broken coconuts by bashing them with his elbow. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Onlookers ooed and ahhed as Mr. Swain busted 72 green coconuts in a minute, shattering the old record of 65. He also shattered his humerus (ph) and his olna (ph). The good news, a talent scout for Almond Joy candy bars was on hand for the demo. Now Kaychab is going to be bashing coconuts in the big leagues.
Richland Hills, Texas, where we have video evidence of two of the stupidest criminals of all time. This is surveillance video of two men breaking into a store that sells spy equipment. The police have close-up pictures of their faces, a picture of the license plates on the getaway car, plus 17 different camera angles of the robbery. The store is called Spy Supplies. You morons couldn‘t have knocked over an Arby‘s? The thieves made off with thousands of dollars in surveillance equipment, but the store owner is confident they‘ll be caught and he‘s confident they‘ll be smiling for one more flush bulb when they get their mug shots in the big house.
Finally, we jump in the Oddball way back machine and we pay homage to the gods of the Internets for salvaging this footage from a 1989 horse race. It is the best race horsing name of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Hoof Hearted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hoof Hearted on the extreme outside. Colorado (INAUDIBLE) Hoof Hearted, Hoof Hearted on the outside. It‘s close. Hoof Hearted in the winners circle.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama‘s five-stage plan to counter terror. I don‘t know, a plan to counter terror? And Elton John‘s plan to shut down the Internet for five years so people who won‘t stay inside blogging can—
OK? Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, The kinder squirrel, so named because the little bushy tailed rodent enters the same grocery store in Yuvaskula (ph), in Finland every day, and steals a Kinder Surprise brand chocolate egg. He promptly unwraps the foil, eats the chocolate shell. There is a toy inside each chocolate egg. The squirrel promptly takes it home with him.
Number two, Dererk Ladner of England. He had not even realized it, but when he bought his usual weekly lottery ticket, he had already bought one that week. So when he won, it turned out he didn‘t win just half a million pounds, he won a full million.
Number one, Mr. Harry Potter. No, he does not win in Little Whining. He is from Bradenton, Florida and he is 78. He didn‘t have time to read the books. He gets a little tired of the kids who look up his name in the phone book and call him. They want to know if I‘m Harry Potter. I tell them I‘ve been Harry Potter for darn near 80 years. There was no comment from his wife Val de Mort.
OLBERMANN: A stark, even staggering sign that the nation has truly rejected how this administration has dealt with other nations and the threat of terrorism. The law firm of Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, the man who maniacally pursued Bill Clinton to impeachment—his law firm has given more to Hillary Clinton‘s campaign than to all of the Republican candidates combined. And one of the firm‘s partners confirmed Iraq was a major factor.
Our third story tonight, our COUNTDOWN to 2008 and another Democrat underscoring the party intention to be the ones perceived as being serious about counter-terrorism. Senator Barack Obama turning up the heat in an aggressive foreign policy speech aimed at stepping up the war against Islamic militants. Obama accusing the president of giving us color-coded fear at home and ignoring those who attacked us on 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: The president would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of al Qaeda‘s war against us. He confuses our mission. And worse, he is fighting the war that the terrorists want us to fight.
A misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies, ties down our military, busts our budgets, increase the pool of terrorist recruits, alienates America, gives democracy a bad name and prompts the American people to question our engagement in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama pledging to quickly get out of Iraq and to concentrate on al Qaeda. now known to be regrouping in Pakistan. He also warned the Pakistani president that if his military won‘t interfere with al Qaeda within Pakistan‘s borders, ours would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges, but let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high valued terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us for analysis, “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter. Jon, thanks for your time.
JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, a reporter today asked Obama if he would use nuclear weapons against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said he would not in any circumstance, that it would be a profound mistake. Then he called the question a hypothetical and said he wouldn‘t discuss it any further. The far right immediately pounced, took the quote out of context, claimed Obama said he would never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances, leaving out the terrorist part and the Afghanistan part and the Pakistan part.
But also Senator Clinton immediately pounced, saying a president should be careful about telegraphing his or her moves in advance. Is Senator Obama carving a niche for himself or has he just managed to cut himself?
ALTER: I don‘t think he is committing hare care (ph) with any of this. He trying to indicate that Democrats can be tough on national security. And also to remind people that over the last six years, we‘ve taken our eye off the ball. We have not gone into those hills between—mountains, really, between Afghanistan and Pakistan and gone after the man who did this to us.
It‘s beyond understanding why we haven‘t. So I think he‘s trying to sort of jerk us all back to that. On the other side has been this attitude that if you do that, you will open up Pakistan to being taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. The problem with that is that the Islamic fundamentalist parties make up a very small part of the Pakistan political structure and the likelihood of them taking over is very small.
So this has been an inflated claim by the administration. You now here it echoed by some of the Democrats who want to go after Obama, but I don‘t think going after Osama bin Laden destabilizes Pakistan. And the assumption that it does is what is off kilter (ph) in this whole debate.
OLBERMANN: Clearly what happened in the 2002 elections, the 2004 presidential election was predicated on the Republicans using the idea and hitting people over the head with the idea that they could handle terrorism and the Democrats simply could not.
Is the arithmetic of politics such that between now and the 2008 presidential election, any Democrat, Senator Obama or whoever else is the candidate, whoever else is in the run for the candidacy, could actually take that and turn it on its head and make the Democrats look like the party that would be tough and sensible, with a plan, and the Republicans as sort of scatter shot?
ALTER: They have to if the Democrats want to win. This is still a 9/11 election. It‘s our second one, but the idea that we can sort of put all that behind us and talk just about health care and other domestic issues or other foreign policy issues is not going to cut it for the Democrats. They have to regain their credibility on terrorism, but they have a lot to work with because the Bush war on terror has been a failure.
OLBERMANN: How about the war between Obama and Clinton? There is new polling that was taken after these dueling you‘re naive, you‘re naive, everyone is naive, wands, spells, shot between Obama and Clinton over foreign policy. There was a national poll of Democrats. It showed Hillary Clinton with an even bigger margin now, 21 points over Obama. That was seven points greater margin than in June.
On the other hand, the polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina show they‘re in a dead heat. Is there any indication, with these seemingly conflicting numbers, who is in better shape at this point?
ALTER: Clearly Hillary Clinton is in better shape and she is starting to close the sale with a number of voters, particularly with women voters. But this thing has a long way to go. Just look at six months ago, Keith, when we were talking about this. If someone came on your program and said that in the middle of 2007, Barack Obama would be the rich candidate with most of the money and Hillary Clinton would be winning the debates with her eloquence, you would have said what, that‘s all backwards.
This thing can all turn around again and probably will several more times before the primaries start.
OLBERMANN: As Howard Dean would remind us. One other thing here, today John Edwards criticized the sale of Dow Jones, “Wall Street Journal,” to Rupert Murdoch, criticized Hillary Clinton for having taken 20,000 dollars in campaign contributions from News Corp. They obviously run Fox Noise and now the “Wall Street Journal.” Edwards says she is pretending to be friends with the very people who demonize Democrats. She should give that money back. Were there points scored there or is this too arcane for people?
ALTER: Pretty arcane, maybe with some Fox haters. But you could argue that Peter Churn (ph) and Gary Ginsberg (ph), the Fox executives who are Democrats—it‘s good to have some Democrats in News Corp. Otherwise, they go all the way over the edge. So I think Democrats should be happy that it‘s not an all Republican shop over there.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. As always, John, our great thanks for your time.
Yes, Bill-O makes an appearance tonight in Worst, two of them actually, but one is not what you would expect. I‘m defending him.
And the mighty celebration breaks out among the premium members at Bill-O..com. No, we‘ll explain what this video actually is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Britney Spears providing more fodder for the ultimate Lifetime movie about her. Maybe it will be the Sci-Fi channel. In our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, Keeping Tabs. Now, she has thrown a baby bottle at the paparazzi, while throwing too much junk food at her babies. A photographer is preparing to sue Miss Spears because, he said, she threatened him after her body guard had already roughed him up.
It happened when Andrew Dietz (ph) and another photographer were trying to take pictures of Miss Spears and her two children as they left a Las Vegas spa last week. Miss Spears reportedly said, quote, I am going to kill you, end quote, or, she added, someone else would.
Then before several witnesses she threw a baby bottle at the photographer. “Help” and “Help Us,” the blaring cover stories of “US Weekly” and “Life and Style Magazines,” referring to Miss Spears‘ children. Unnamed sources in “US Weekly” saying that 22-month old Shawn probably has dental problems because Miss Spears leaves a bottle of juice in his mouth and the she feeds both children crap, like Doritos and soda, even ice cream before bed because the cold makes them sleepy.
Ever since Rosie O‘Donnell left “The View,” there had been plenty speculation about who might replace her. Now we know, it‘s Whoopi Goldberg. She will not take up her duties until September. Miss Goldberg said her new job was a, quote, big old thrill for me. Though she is an outspoken opponent of the Bush administration, the big old question is whether she can generate the same kind of hot topics that Miss O‘Donnell constantly supplied.
There are on going discussion regarding yet another new host, according to a “View” spokesman that would replace Star Jones, who left more than a year ago.
And a different kind of confirmation regarding another bit of rampant speculation. Nicole Richie is pregnant. In an interview, Miss Richie said she is four months along. The father is Joel Madden of the band good Charlotte. Richie will be serving her four-day jail time for driving under the influence. She says, it‘s her way of, quote, paying my dues and taking responsibility and being an adult.
Elton John says he wants to see the Internet blown away like—I don‘t know—a candle in the wind, in order to save music? That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to comedian Rush Limbaugh, who is back carrying the water and mixing it with the Bush dust and drinking the resultant cool-aid. He has actually said, Democrats have, quote, aligned themselves with the enemy. The enemy kills more soldiers. Their spokesman here in the U.S. are the Democrats. When we kill more of the enemy, the Democrats are silent and they say nothing. But when we have reports of, you know, another IED or pictures of a car on fire, then the Democrats assume the role of media PR spokespeople for al Qaeda, unquote.
Serious question, have you had a thorough neurological work-up lately?
Our runner-up, with great regret, blogger Mike Stark, who went to the home of Bill O‘Reilly as a surprise and posted signs around his neighborhood reading “Bill O‘Reilly Pervert” and videotaped it and posted the videotape online. Mr. Stark is the man to whom O‘Reilly threatened to sick Fox security and send him a little surprise at his home.
No, not acceptable. Whatever you think of him, whatever threats he has made, whatever threat he represents, whether or not he would happily go to your home or his sheep happily come to mine, no matter how he has had his employees stalk politicians or newspaper reporters, there is a line and the good guys are not supposed to cross it. Same if it‘s Ann Coulter. Same if it‘s Melanie Morgan. Same if it‘s comedian Rush Limbaugh. Leave them alone in private. In public?
Our winner Bill-O, explaining his stance on immigration reform, and remember, that is code for we don‘t like Mexican people. So Bill-O says, quote, most Americans don‘t want to hurt any poor Mexican people. They want to know who they are. They want to know where they are and what they‘re doing. They don‘t want them clustering in neighborhoods and changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood.
You know, the same way the anti-immigrant bigots didn‘t want my immigrant German ancestors changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood in 1900. The same way the anti-immigrant bigots didn‘t want Bill‘s immigrant Irish ancestors changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood in 1850. Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World!
OLBERMANN: On one key point, Elton John‘s latest gripe might just resonate, when he says, quote, let‘s get out in the streets and march an protest, instead of sitting at home and blogging. But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, his broader suggestion is down right scandalous, that we simply shut down the Internet for five years. Sir Elton, what about the Google? What about buying your CDs online?
His comments to London‘s “The Sun” were partly about the Internet‘s affect on music. Quoting him, the Internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff. Instead, they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK, but it doesn‘t bode well for artistic vision.”
Sir Elton does admit his own biases, that he is a technophobe luddite, that he records—that rather the records from the early 1970s put, in his opinion, this generation‘s music to shame. So, he says, it would be a, quote, incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.”
Well, after the mass starvation of people who only know how to order food over the net, he could be right, of course. Judging by the past five years, what is the problem? The Internets overflow with all manner of artistry, including this, jail birds in the Philippines who dance to Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, and have become the sensation of Youtube.
Why? It is all part of a prisoner exercise program in Seaboo (ph), the Philippines. It began last year with all 1,600 captives marching, appropriately enough, to Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Other numbers range from Queen‘s “Radio Ga Ga” to this more obscure ditty called “Jumbo Hot dog.”
The pressure of topping themselves might have been the reason that led the warden to dress up one inmate as a nun.
So that is where all the actors from “Sister Act” and “Nuns On the Run” wound up? Maybe Sir Elton would stop his complaining if the inmates did the more prison appropriate “Rocket Man,” you know, “I think it‘s going to be a long, long time.” Or if they attempted to recreate what is, in fact, his greatest classic, the Taiwan rude vile pig song.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELTON JOHN, SINGER: Rude vile pig. Rude Vile Pig. Pig.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Sing it along with him now, in a Filipino prison. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,555th day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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