Guests: Dana Milbank, Rachel Maddow, Christian Finnegan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Bush doctrine. Number one: Lie about Iran. Number two: Watch as the lie is disproved by the NIE. Number three: Today, repeats number one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Seymour Hersh reporting Bush discussed the new info on Iran with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert two days before he said he first learned the new info on Iran. Are we headed for congressional hearings? Is there a paper trail proving the president knew he was lying when he saber-rattled about Iran? And as he still claims, policies declared in 2006 somehow influenced the decision Tehran originally made in 2003, so, too, does Senator Clinton claim the vote to declare Iran‘s revolutionary guards a terrorist organization. A vote taken 71 days ago, somehow influenced the decision Tehran originally made in 2003.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since that resolution passed, our commanders on the ground in Iraq have announced that we‘ve seen some progress from the Iranians backing off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Backing off the money spending at Homeland Security? At least $4.1 billion given to that department declared wasted.
Horror in Omaha. At least nine dead after a gunman opens fire from the balcony of a shopping mall.
Christmas at the White House. The co-first daughter phones it in after a dare from Ellen DeGeneres?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA BUSH, U.S. FIRST DAUGHTER: Dad?
PRES. BUSH: Yes, baby.
J. BUSH: Are you mad?
PRES. BUSH: No, not at all. I‘m happy to talk to you.
J. BUSH: OK, good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And delusions of grandeur in (inaudible). The Frank Burns of news declares victory in the war on the war on Christmas. Then I have not done the campaign, then the forces of darkness would have won. And this guy knows his forces of darkness. All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
J. BUSH: (INAUDIBLE) wait on this?
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, December 5th, 335 days until the 2008 presidential election. We will go to Omaha and the nightmare of at least nine dead in a mall shooting rampage in the middle of the holiday shopping season presently. In our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: Having yesterday rejected any psychology 101 mumbo jumbo at a news conference dominated by the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Today, when threatening Iran directly, President Bush became a case study for the basic principle taught in every introductory psychology course, projection. That is, attributing your worst faults to others. Like an angry spouse who accuses their partner of hostility and in an unhappy coincidence, it was on a runway in Omaha this morning, before the shootings in the same city that Mr. Bush who will not reveal when he heard it first that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program. It said urged Tehran to come clean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions especially the covert nuclear weapons program pursued until the fall of 2003 which the Iranian regime has yet to acknowledge. The Iranians have a strategic choice to make. They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table and negotiate or they can continue on a path of isolation that is not in the best interests of the Iranian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Accountability and diplomacy for the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do president is entirely a one-way street. During his trip to Omaha today, the president was asked by the poor reporter accompanying him, quote, “Iran‘s president says the NIE is a victory for Iran. They want an apology and compensation, sir. Will we do that? Is the NIE a victory for Iran, sir?” In response, Mr. Bush only smiled and chuckled in replied off camera, “You can mark down that I chuckled,” having accused Iran of doing something it had stopped doing more than four years ago instead of apologizing or giving a diplomatic response of any kind, this president of the United States chuckled. The White House also refusing to answer that question of when Mr. Bush first learned Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. The deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto, waffling on three direct questions about the time line at today‘s news briefing. At yesterday‘s news conference, the president say he was first told Wednesday, November 28th, something his own National Security Adviser as well as numerous intelligence officials dispute. And Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Seymour Hersh also throwing major doubt upon the claim. Now reporting that Mr. Bush had a, quote, “Private discussion about the NIE‘s conclusions with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on Monday of last week, November 26th.” Two days before he claimed to have been briefed on it for the very first time. Faced with inconsistencies, half-truths, full lies and a PR disaster of such magnitude, some neocons apparently feel they‘ve been left with only one option, to slander the intelligence community. Former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, the same one who recommended wiping off the top 10 floors of the U.N. building, calling for a congressional investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FMR U.N. AMBASSADOR: I really think the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have to look at how this NIE was put together because there are a lot of unexplained points in here. I think there is a risk here, and I raised this as a question, whether people in the intelligence community who had their own agenda on Iran for some time now have politicized this intelligence and politicized these judgments in a way contrary to where the administration was going. I think somebody needs to look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, sir, perhaps not in the way you mean. Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The president also said today he believes Britain, France, Germany, Russia, each continue to see Iran‘s nuclear program as a problem that must be addressed by the international community. Is there any reason to believe that all those leaders, particularly President Putin are still all on board with this Bush plan as it now stands?
FINEMAN: Did he tell the poor reporter to mark down that he chuckled when he said that? No, then talking to people around town late today, the answer is no. There‘s not the sense of urgency now in Europe that there might have been for two reasons. First of all, the facts in the NIE as reported, that Iran is not working on a weapons program now, and more important, what has motivated the Europeans over the years according to people such as Senator Evan Bayh of the intelligence committee who I just talked to about this, Europeans were worried that the United States would do something warlike, would drop a bomb, would start a war, would take the Dick Cheney line, and that‘s what was pushing the Europeans to push for harder economic sanctions. Now even Dick Cheney, as Evan Bayh told me, even Dick Cheney can‘t sell this war and that takes pressure diplomatically off the Europeans.
OLBERMANN: From the diplomatic standpoint - now, could this be any more of a mess? Could Mr. Bush make it any more of a mess than Bayh, in response to Iran‘s anger at being in some respects, at least, either overrated or smeared, his response officially chuckling, how is that going to help anything?
FINEMAN: Well, it‘s not going to help. And the big problem is not his sense of humor or lack thereof, it‘s that he has zero credibility. The two Mikes, say this Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence and Mike Hayden of the CIA are widely regarded around town as credible guys and they put out a credible report here, but the president himself, who is the guy who has to do the negotiating and has to do the diplomacy, has virtually no credibility left for either skill or truthfulness in the world, and that‘s a big problem that we have diplomatically and this just amplifies it all.
OLBERMANN: And speaking to the lack of credibility, Ambassador Bolton, of all people, calling for a congressional witch hunt not to find out, you know, did the president know more than he let on in the last few months or even years, but against the intelligence community, saying they doctored the evidence the wrong way, Norman Podhoretz was saying the exact same thing yesterday at about the exact same time, is this the official neocon response to news that does not agree with their prejudice, if you will? Is this the only thing they can come up with, obviously, once again, how ironic the Intel must be cooked?
FINEMAN: Yes, exactly. I would say to them they‘ve met the enemy, and they is - us. I mean, what happened here is especially, you know, there are 16 different intelligence agencies that contribute information to one of these NIE‘s. Nine of those 16 are related to the Pentagon in one way or another. And the Pentagon used to be the place that the neocons called home. But what‘s happened is that Secretary Gates and the other people in the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, et cetera, the last thing they wanted to do was open up another front in the war on terror, the so-called war on terror in Iran, and they were dead set against it. So if the neocons are upset, they‘re upset with many of the very same people and the very same bureaucracies they used to call their own. That should tell them that at least for now their time is up in DC.
OLBERMANN: Last point, Pat Buchanan was on this network this morning calling for another set of congressional hearings into a different question, well, literally what did the president know and when did he know it, as politically cliched as that sounds, might that be the appropriate investigation at this juncture?
FINEMAN: Well, there are lots of questions about what the president knew, what the vice president knew. The way I hear it among people on the Hill today is that there‘s a lot of thought that this report should have come down two or three months ago and that Dick Cheney was trying to slow it down, but that doesn‘t mean that George Bush didn‘t know a lot about what was in it. There‘s some talk that he knew before he himself said he was first told in August, so there are a lot of questions to be asked.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek.” As always Howard, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The intelligence assessment also dominating the race for president since its release. Better news for some candidates than for others. Governor Huckabee will be getting to you presently, in case you‘d like to spend the time reading in. First at yesterday‘s Democratic debate hosted by NPR in Iowa, all of the candidates welcoming the report, but Senator Clinton still hounded by criticism over her vote in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, defended that vote again and said the policy is now evidently working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: In fact, having designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, we‘ve actually seen some changes in their behavior. The Iranians were supplying weapons that killed Americans. They were supplying technical assistance from the Quds force which is their special operations element. So, I think we‘ve actually seen the positive effects of having labeled them a terrorist organization because it did change their behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, with the opinion that Senator Clinton is not connecting the dots here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There‘s no evidence,
none, zero -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BIDEN: -- that this declaration caused any change in action on the part of the Iranian government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At least here, Senator Clinton gets credit for knowing
where Iran is, and that a National Intelligence Estimate was released. Not
so, the former governor from the town of Hope who is not her husband. Mike
Huckabee drawing a blank when questioned about the NIE in Iowa according to
reporters from the “Chicago Tribune” and Politico.com. reporting the
Reporter: I don‘t know to what extent you have been briefed or been able to look at the NIE report that came out yesterday. Huckabee: I‘m sorry? Reporter: The NIE report, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Have you been briefed or been able to take a look at it? Huckabee:
No. Reporter: Have you heard of the finding? Huckabee: No. The rest of the Republican field expressing their ignorance in different ways. Again, they get points for at least knowing what the NIE is. Former senator, Fred Thompson floating a conspiracy theory and a half, suggesting that maybe Iran leaked the intelligence itself to, quote, “Divert our attention a little bit.” Divert it from what? From why you think Iran is on the distribution list for the NIE? Former New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, capitalizing on the Iran debate by producing a new ad that focuses on the Iran hostage crisis of a quarter century ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One hour in which they released it was the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taken to the Oval Office as president of the United States. The best way you deal with dictators, the best way you deal with tyrants and terrorists, you stand up to them. You don‘t back down. I‘m Rudolph Giuliani, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Forgetting for a moment the other non sequitur in there. Mr. Giuliani also failing a fact check, the “New York Times” diplomatic correspondent over that period pointing out that while it is true the hostages were not freed until a half hour after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated on January 20th of 1981, their release was negotiated over a period of months by Warren Christopher, who was the deputy Secretary of State in the Carter administration. And now time to call our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the “Washington Post.” Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: On the topic of Giuliani, let‘s recall that Fred Thompson had to say suggesting that perhaps the Iranians leaked the intelligence themselves, also part of nonsense here. Let me ask you, when did it become OK to just say apparently the first thing that comes into your mind, why hasn‘t somebody said, you know, Iran, another four-letter country, let‘s bomb them?
MILBANK: I‘m afraid it‘s worse than you even think, Keith. I was with Fred Thompson in South Carolina today, and he said that when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, he prefers to trust not the CIA but the advice of his mother who says if something seems too good to be true, then, it probably is. So, I think you have to have some sympathy for the Republican position here. It‘s sort of like waking up on Christmas morning and finding nothing under the tree for them. This was to be the main issue, a march to war or a potential war, repeating the 2002 campaign in 2008. That is now no longer an option and they‘ve got to figure out what to do about that.
OLBERMANN: John Bolton is Fred Thompson‘s mother? Listen, we‘ve always known that Giuliani planned to run on the 9/11 credentials. Why exactly did he decide to claim if not credit - personal credit for resolving the 1981 hostage crisis, why is he at least try to stand next to it especially when the implication of that commercial is - Ronald Reagan was so great that he solved the Iran hostage crisis in 60 minutes like he was like a photo mat or one-our eyeglass palace?
MILBANK: Right. Well, if this ad doesn‘t work, I understand they have one on the war of 1812, that‘s in the hopper. I think the reason here is fairly straightforward. It may be bit of an awkward transition for Giuliani, but anytime you say Ronald Reagan - that scores. That it‘s no accident that basically everybody is campaigning to be the next Ronald Reagan, and anytime Rudy Giuliani can keep the focus on terrorism and to a larger extent on foreign policy, he‘s going to be on stronger ground.
OLBERMANN: Well, and to the other end of that, Governor Huckabee who didn‘t make any kind of misstatement or crazy claim, but he did not know enough about the topic to give it a creative spin. He didn‘t know anything about this. I mean, he didn‘t know what we know, doing the news, he did make a joke on the radio saying he‘s not an expert, but he did stay at a holiday inn express last night. Yet, when there‘s a presidential candidate trying to break into the top tier who‘s trying to explain a completely out of the loop position on foreign policy, is referencing a rather silly cliched commercial going to be enough to get you over the hump in Iowa?
MILBANK: Well, you might think not, but let‘s remember in 2000, there was a particular candidate who said the leader of Pakistan was General General, confused the prime minister of Canada for a dish made from cheese and French fries, and that man became our president. So, my instinct would be that this wouldn‘t hurt him. I don‘t know enough to be sure on the topic, but I did stay at a holiday inn express last night.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, to the Democrats, if the vote of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, did it not haunt Senator Clinton already, did the NIE just make her position worse especially if it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish her position from you know the Republican field or a Republican president?
MILBANK: It sure does and it couldn‘t have come at a worse time for her. This is just the moment when she calls it fun, but she wants to be striking back at Barack Obama, suddenly in this NPR debate, she‘s all over again on the defensive. We‘re now at a point when people are actually paying attention in Iowa and New Hampshire, and this is costing her very valuable time.
OLBERMANN: Our own Dana Milbank also of the “Washington Post” of course. As always, Dana, great thanks for your time tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A Mideast stretch (ph) to splash the money it provides to major cities New York and an investigation to the Department of Homeland Security discovers it has wasted more than $4 billion of our taxpayer dollars.
And the latest in Omaha tonight, in a mall comprised of 135 stores. A shooting rampage claims at least eight lives, plus that of the apparently 19-year-old gunman. More on his motives and what happened. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The Department of Homeland Security, not only responsible for politicizing the one issue of our that should have been the most politics-free but now according to an ethics investigation responsible for wasting at least $4 billion of taxpayer money and funneling dozens of its former executives into the very firms to which they gave contracts. Later in Worst Person, guess what‘s happened with Willard Mitt Romney and his lawn care guys again. All ahead on COUNTDOWN tonight.
OLBERMANN: A new government watchdog report offers President Bush a powerful new way to terrify the American people. In our fourth story tonight, forget Iran. He would do much better with one speech outlining the five-year record of his Department of Homeland Security, where even just the waste, fraud, criminality and perhaps worse ineptitude, incompetence and inability to complete virtually anything as catalogs in the new report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. FEMA, of course, comes in for particular scorn. Its pathetic record on Katrina consistent to this day with millions wasted on housing locations and mobile homes unsuitable for human life, consistent with President Bush‘s early decision to downgrade FEMA and appoint party favorites with no relevant experience to five out of FEMA‘s top eight positions. More importantly, under current secretary, Michael Chertoff and his predecessor, Tom Ridge, DHS overall has consistently outsourced millions, even billions for security measures yet to materialize at airports, at seaports, at the border and throughout the nation‘s once admired disaster response infrastructure. While Ridge and at least 89 other former DHS officials have turned their lackluster performance into lucrative private positions often with companies which have benefited from DHS largess. Let‘s bring in Rachel Maddow who‘s show air weeknights on Air America Radio without even a dime of Federal taxpayers‘ money. Good to see you.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA: Nice to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Six years after 9/11, billions of dollars later, where are the cargo screeners, the radiation sensors, the luggage screeners, the bomb detectors, the secured border, stop me if I‘m getting the point across here, the national disaster plan? Where are there things?
MADDOW: Yes, where were they before 9/11, too? That would have been nice. Homeland Security, if you strip away the Orwellian branding, calling it the homeland, for one, but all of the rest of it is basic competent government. That‘s why they were able to take two dozen existing government agencies and combine them under this umbrella to create DHS in the first place. It‘s because that‘s the stuff government‘s supposed to be doing, port security, borders, emergency preparedness, that‘s basic government. And so while the failure of those basic government functions under the roof of Homeland Security is all the more disgusting because of the way they‘ve marketed fear and terrorism in this administration, it really, at its heart, is just a failure of being able to perform the basic functions of government.
OLBERMANN: Right. This is what Churchill said, the prime purpose of any government is the security and safety of its people. It requires no additional mandate after that.
MADDOW: Right. Yes.
OLBERMANN: So, who got the money? Where did the money that was supposed to go to this, when did they turn this into just another pork barrel operation, and instead of keeping us safe, who got the money to keep us safe? Who did they keep safe financially?
MADDOW: Yes, exactly, who ended up with the reward while we all got the shaft? The worse off the government agency, the more poorly run - the agency, the worse the government does its contract oversight, the better it is for people who are trying to pry loose money out of that agency. So, whether you‘re Tom Ridge turning around after your tenure as Homeland Security secretary and cashing right in on that right after your tenure, or whether you are, you know, the organization, the company that sold them hundreds of millions of dollars worth of port radiation detectors without the pesky requirement that they work, the worse off the agency, the easier it is to screw the taxpayer by pulling money out of that agency.
OLBERMANN: What was that thing said by one of the businessmen during the civil war, you can sell government almost anything if you have the guts to ask.
OLBERMANN: And there you have it. Is this incompetence, Rachel, or is it, as Naomi Klein suggests, the intent that this is a system designed not for Homeland Security, but it‘s designed to funnel taxpayer money away from the federal government into the hands of friendly corporations? Is it designed?
MADDOW: Well, we don‘t know unless we know their intent, but I think if you take a big picture on it, it‘s kind of—there‘s a compelling case to make for the way Naomi Klein sees it. In Reagan‘s second inaugural, he said government is not the solution, government is the problem. That‘s been adopted as the mantra of the Republican Party and the Right wing. So if you think the government is the problem and you then make government smaller that makes sense. If you think government is the problem and you make government a lot bigger, the biggest increase in the size of a federal government since World War II, then you have to answer, well, if you think government‘s the problem and you‘ve just made it really big, if you as a conservative think that government can‘t help the American people, but you hugely enlarge the size of the government, who did you do it for? It‘s not for us.
OLBERMANN: It‘s by process of elimination, it has to be for somebody else, it‘s just a question of which of the many somebody else‘s it could be. So, philosophically, close this out for me. Why does the Right care so much about listening to my conversations, reading your e-mails, but not only caring about that, but prioritizing that over inspecting cargo, which actually could blow up even if it‘s just accidentally?
MADDOW: Right. Why are searching our bank records more rewarding than searching the cargo that goes on our planes? Well, eavesdropping and the kind of scuffering of the Fourth Amendment that we‘ve seen, gives the government power, gives them power over our citizens. It gives them the kind of power that they could have never really dreamed of having before 9/11 and before this branding. Whereas searching the cargo containers, “A,” cost money and keeps all of us safe and frankly, you know, when you‘ve got your priorities straight, those things apparently fall down lower on the list.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it begins to look, after you watch it day in and day out for five years, that it‘s all a nice convenient excuse to do what they wanted to do, anyway. Rachel Maddow, the host of Rachel Maddow Show on Air America, as always, great thanks for coming in.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Our nightly reminder that we might not still be living in the craziest place on the planet. Policemen in the faraway land ordered to lose weight by dancing in a group. Seriously.
And good news, everyone. The war on the war on Christmas is over, and Bill O was good enough to win it for you. Worst Persons and the rest of COUNTDOWN still to come.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1782, old Kinderhook, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States was born, vice president under Andrew Jackson. He succeeded Jackson in 1837, but was then defeated for presidential re-election in 1840 and again lost as a presidential candidate in 1848. All of which might explain why there is no Martin Van Buren day and why we didn‘t all spend this afternoon saying, here‘s to Marty! Here‘s to old Kinderhook!
On that note let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Matinda (ph), India, where fitness and fatness have collided in the world of the local police. Fat is derogatory, unnecessary. Let‘s just say policemen with curves. Anyway, the cops have been asked to dance their extra pounds away. And for them no kind of Jane Fonda workouts. They‘ve chosen traditional religious dances—regional dances, because those really make your heart race. I could dance all night.
Police officers have formed 12 teams and are competing to see who can shed the most weight in 100 days. The biggest loser, Matinda edition.
To a zoo near Bangkok in Thailand, where a tiger mama nurses her little tiger babies. Wait, Madame tiger, those are piglets saddling up to your—you know. The six-year-old Bengal Tiger called Simai (ph) is reportedly quite accustomed to nursing little piggies as if her own. She‘s been doing it since age two. Somebody has obviously taken that loose pork and dressed it up in tiger stripes. Is this a true case of inter-species love or a bit of Tom-foolery? Not sure, but at least when the dinner bell rings, mama tiger will not be bringing home the bacon.
Omaha, Nebraska is reeling tonight after a gunman opens fire at a mall. At least nine are dead, him included. The latest from the scene, the latest on a motive.
And one of the first daughters makes a surprise phone call to mom and dad from a TV show. These story‘s ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top there best persons in the world.
Number three, best promotional effort disguised as a news story. See if you can spot it. A Swedish engineering firm claims that Santa Claus should relocate to optimize his worldwide trip to deliver Christmas gifts, that he‘d be able to linger up to 34 microseconds at each home in the world if only he would relocate to the Eurasian nation of Kyrgyzstan.
Number two, best career help, Brendan Lee, lawyer and longshoreman in Boston, who admitted to the court, and thus got probation and not jail time, that he was responsible for some feather-bedding at Massport, the State Transportation Agency in Massachusetts. He got a worker put on the payroll who never worked a day in his life, his own son, his own four-year-old son.
Number one, best person, truly, Alexis Coggins of Detroit. She is in stable condition, recovering from gunshot wounds to the eye, the temple, the chin, the cheek, the chest and the arm. Her mother was being threatened by an ex-boyfriend stalker when he pulled out a gun. Alexis jumped in front of her mother and took the bullets, all six of them. Shot six times.
That Alexis did that was a surprise to many because in her youth she had had a stroke, and her ability to understand what was happening around her was in doubt. That has now been disproved. Another thing about the daughter who unflinchingly saved her her‘s life, Alexis Coggins is the one on the right. She‘s seven years old.
OLBERMANN: The note left behind by a 19-year-old man today said, I‘m going out in style. The man also evidently left behind some kind of explosive device or threat in his car. Our third story tonight, breaking news, those words according to police in Omaha, coming from the suicide note of a man who went on a shooting spree at an Omaha shopping mall, killing eight people, wounding five more, all apparently at random, before turning his weapon on himself. I‘m going out in style.
The note reportedly found at his home after it was all over. Police are only in the beginning stages at this hour of piecing together the story behind those sad, strange, horrific words. And we have yet to learn much about those whose lives he ended. Information tonight still streaming out of local hospitals, law enforcement and media reports. The Associated Press quoting an unnamed official identifying the shooter at Robert A. Hawkins.
For the latest right now, we‘re joined on the phone by NBC News producer Mike Sulzberger in Omaha. Mike, good evening.
MIKE SULZBERGER, NBC NEWS PRODUCER: Hi, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Fine. Give us what you have.
SULZBERGER: Well, I can tell that you about 20 minutes ago, as I was standing out here, we heard an explosion over in the mall parking lot. We looked over, and it seemed to have come from an area we had been in earlier where they had roped off with police tape two vehicles. And we were speculating that one of those was maybe the shooter‘s vehicle. And as I said, we heard an explosion over there, looked over, and apparently coming from one of those vehicles, a package of some sort had been blown up.
And as you said, A.P. is reporting that the gunman in this case was Robert Hawkins. We‘ve talked to a woman named Debora Maruka (ph) who said she had been taking care of Robert for about the last year. He was homeless and a friend of her boy‘s. This is all according to Debora—a friend of her boy‘s. And she had sort of taken him in about a year ago.
She says that at about 1:00 this afternoon local time, she got a phone call from him saying that he had been fired from his job at the McDonald‘s. This is in Bellevue, Nebraska, where they live. He had been fired from his job. That was at about 1:00. A couple other things he said was that he wanted to be famous. He finished that call by saying I love you. And then the first 911 call came in on this at about 1:42 p.m., so just shortly thereafter.
As you said, 14 people totally involved. That‘s 13 civilians and the gunman. Apparently all of the people who died were in the Van Maur. The Van Maur is a fairly upscale clothing store here in Omaha, sort of like a Macy‘s in New York. After he shot several times, he went out into the mall and continued to shoot rather indiscriminately, and went down past the J.C. Penny. And I believe we have some sound from an eyewitness down at the J.C. Penny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA WIDERIN, SHOOTING WITNESS: I saw a guy run by with this huge gun. And at first it didn‘t register. And then there‘s this woman that had an awful look on her face with two little kids. She was practically dragging the one and pushing the stroller and said, he has a gun and he‘s shooting people. He shot a Teddy Bear. He shot all the stuffing out and it was just weird. It was awful.
Everyone was running. And a man had a new baby, and he had lost his wife with their other son. They were shopping for Christmas clothes for their picture tomorrow. And she wouldn‘t answer her phone. And I felt so awful for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SULZBERGER: And, Keith, at this hour, I can tell you that the scene here is fairly quiet. Actually, what I would best describe is surreal. The Christmas lights have come on the mall, around the mall, I would assume automatically. And it‘s surreal to see those Christmas lights and also all these flashing police lights, you know, framing around those lights as well.
OLBERMANN: What a picture. Mike Sulzberger of NBC News at Omaha, painting it for us verbally. Great thanks, Mike.
To the woman campaigning to put the words of Jesus Christ back into Christmas. Bill-O says you‘re insulting priority, putting the name Christmas back into Christmas. It‘s another epic entry in the diary of dumbness that is worst persons in the world.
And they are in love in real life, they say, but real life sometimes brings pimples. Zack Ephron reportedly can‘t stand anybody seeing his pimples. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: And tonight, we‘re Keeping Tabs briefly on celebrities suffering from teenage angst, whether they‘re teenagers or not. Examples, the star‘s of Disney‘s “High School Musical.” Teenage lead Vanessa Hudgins and co-star Zack Ephron are a number together, but she apparently wants him to start acting a little tougher. According to “Star Magazine,” Ephron freaked out and nearly bailed out of attending her little sister‘s birthday party because his face had sprouted an enormous pimple.
OK, don‘t make the joke. Ephron just turned 20 in October. Vanessa says she would love even if he doesn‘t look like a cover boy on Teen magazine. I read that on national television.
Here is the periodic book news and 30-second plug. “Truth and Consequences” has gotten its first review. “However Olbermann should be labeled journalistically,” Publisher‘s Weekly writes, “the commentary collected here demonstrates that he is a first-rate writer, unafraid of expressing criticisms of most Republican decision-makers and on occasion Democrats. Understanding from the start that Bush defenders would label the Special Comments unpatriotic, Olbermann decided to wear this label as a badge of honor and makes a persuasive argument that he is the upholder of traditional American values, while Bush and his colleagues are the transgressors.” Well, F.A., Bubba.
Jenna Bush is not in trouble for phoning home from the Ellen DeGeneres show. So a grateful nation can sleep soundly tonight. That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst person in the world.
The bronze to lunatic fringe columnist Charles Krauthammer, the most skilled of the writers wrongly crediting President Bush‘s ban on embryonic stem cell research for the recent breakthrough in turning ordinary non-embryo cells into stem cells. The scientist who did the lead work on the research did so in Japan, where he was not hampered by the Bush ban. His American counter-part, Dr. James Thompson, has now written that the restriction set back the effort four or five years.
So sorry, Charlie. Also, don‘t tell anybody, but the neo-cons essentially banned stem cell research but just approved a form of cloning.
Our runner up, Bill-O., back to this war on Christmas that only he can see or hear. Telling a guest, quote, there‘s a very effective movement under way to wipe out in the public square all vestiges of Christmas. Stores were ordering employees not to say Merry Christmas. If I had not done the campaign, then the forces of darkness would have won.
Gee, Bill, you are the forces of darkness. This messiah stuff is bad enough, but the context is even worse. He was saying that to an obviously very sincere and very religious woman who‘s leading a push to de-emphasize commercialism at Christmas, and focus instead on the message attributed to Jesus, to care for our neighbors as ourselves. He told her she was trying to diminish what he had done, and that she was naive and she was spending her time “in the land of Oz!”
Bill, they already made this movie you think is real life, “The Christmas That Almost Wasn‘t,” Rossano Brazzi, 1966, Italian.
But our winner, our illegal immigration hypocrite of the day, Willard Mitt Romney. This is a two-fer for him, the second time this has happened. He has now fired the landscaping company that tends to his home outside Boston the day after he and Giuliani went back and forth about which one could be crueler to Mexicans. The “Boston Globe” interviewed the two guys who were working on his lawn. They admitted they were in this country without immigration papers. They were even seen cleaning debris from Romney‘s private tennis court.
It‘s like Lou Dobbs and the undocumented immigrants cleaning up the poop from his daughter‘s show horses. Don‘t exploit people who are doing jobs you‘d never do in a million years, jobs everybody you‘ve ever known would never do in a million years. Don‘t do that and then try to get elected based on how you‘re going to expel the people from this country who will do those jobs.
That‘s not just a basic form of personal hypocrisy, but you‘re permitting people to hate under the guise that it‘s just a respectable political debate. And worst of all, Governor Romney, Mr. Dobbs, you might even get your racist way some day. And then who in the hell would be left to pick up after you? Willard Mitt Romney, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, the intersection of the president who would prefer to minimize his exposure to the public and the daughter who phones home in the presence of the public. Jenna Bush calls her father because she was asked to by Ellen DeGeneres, proving that there is more than one way to get access to the president of the United States and that parent/child relationships are universal to the extent that they are fraught with fear on both ends.
During the show, taped Tuesday and broadcast today, Ms. DeGeneres, rather than starting to cry about a used dog, instead asked the co-first daughter if she was able to call her father whenever she wanted to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN DEGENERES, “ELLEN”: But, like, could you just pick up the phone like right now and call him?
JENNA BUSH, FIRST DAUGHTER: Sure.
J. BUSH: He is going to kill me, though. Maybe—
DEGENERES: Just say hi.
J. BUSH: Do you think I‘m allowed to do this?
DEGENERES: Why not? You‘re his daughter.
J. BUSH: OK.
DEGENERES: I can just call the White House main line.
J. BUSH: What time is it? They‘re definitely asleep.
DEGENERES: No, it‘s only 4:30. So it‘s like 7:30.
J. BUSH: They may be in a holiday reception, but I‘ll try to call my mom‘s line.
DEGENERES: We won‘t look.
J. BUSH: I‘m going to get in trouble.
DEGENERES: Just hit—see if you have a dial tone. Hit nine.
J. BUSH: You are not recording the number or anything?
DEGENERES: No, no, no. I‘m covering the—nobody is even looking.
I‘m not even looking. I don‘t want to get in trouble.
J. BUSH: I could get in really—
DEGENERES: I just want to say hi. I‘ll call your grandfather if he doesn‘t answer.
J. BUSH: We‘ll try it. I‘m not going get anything I asked for for Christmas.
DEGENERES: I‘ll give you a really big one.
J. BUSH: They don‘t have an answering machine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Lindsey.
J. BUSH: Hi, Lindsey. I‘m on the Ellen show. Are my parents there?
My mom, she‘s going to kill me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me—um—
DEGENERES: Hi, Lindsey. How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I think she might be on your dad‘s line.
J. BUSH: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but I‘ll transfer you, just one second.
DEGENERES: I‘ve already talked to her. Let me talk to the dad.
J. BUSH: They‘re going to kill me. I‘m going to be in so much trouble.
DEGENERES: Why wouldn‘t they want to say hi to everybody and say happy—Merry Christmas?
J. BUSH: They may have wanted some warning.
DEGENERES: We‘re not, like, barging in in their pajamas or something.
J. BUSH: Mom. That‘s true. I hope so.
DEGENERES: Just a hello.
J. BUSH: Hello.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Hey, Jenna.
J. BUSH: Hi, mom.
L. BUSH: Hey, I‘m not watching you because you‘re just taping right now.
J. BUSH: Yes, but what are you doing then?
L. BUSH: I‘m just sitting here with daddy.
DEGENERES: Oh, hey. It‘s Ellen. I wanted to say hi to daddy.
Hello, President Bush. How are you?
J. BUSH: This is Ellen DeGeneres show.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That‘s great. That‘s great. Ellen, how is my little girl doing?
DEGENERES: She‘s great. She was scared she was going to get in trouble, because I just said, is it easy to just pick up the phone and call your dad any time. She said, yes. And I said, OK, well, let‘s call him. And she goes—and now she‘s scared she‘s not going to get any Christmas presents.
J. BUSH: Dad?
G. BUSH: Yes, baby.
J. BUSH: Are you mad?
G. BUSH: No, not at all. I‘m glad to talk to you.
G. BUSH: I‘m glad to talk to Ellen.
DEGENERES: We‘re showing a picture of you holding your daughters when they were just born. That‘s beautiful.
J. BUSH: The best day of your life. Remember, dad?
DEGENERES: All right. Well, we just wanted to say Merry Christmas and we thought you would want to say Merry Christmas to our audience.
G. BUSH: I do want to say Merry Christmas to your audience and I want to tell my little girl I love her.
J. BUSH: I love you too, dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Never ask him if he remembers something.
Meantime, the holiday party to which Jenna Bush referred was actually on Monday night, a black-tie ball with invites from all three branches of government. But absent from the bash, the vice president, who was otherwise occupied in Arkansas on a hunting trip.
Let‘s turn to comedian Christian Finnegan, who is also a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.” Christian, good evening.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1‘S”BEST WEEK EVER”: Bon soir, Keith.
OLBERMANN: By one count, Jenna Bush said some version of they‘re going to kill me or I‘m going to be in trouble five times. This does include her line that she wouldn‘t be getting anything for Christmas. Are these flashbacks to some past phone home episode, or is she just keenly aware of her father‘s suspicion of outsiders or both or what?
FINNEGAN: Well, there actually was an incident. You see, the White House phone system is extremely complicated. One time Jenna‘s dad put her on hold, picked up what he thought was Condoleezza Rice; Jenna‘s babbling about how some guy gave her a ride in his i-Roc and it was the bomb. Three weeks later, we‘re at war in the Middle East. It‘s just too risky.
OLBERMANN: Well, you know what, it makes sense more than anything that actually happened. She said she‘s worried her parents might be asleep. She worried that they might have wanted some warning. She worried that they might have thought they would go directly into live TV. Are these reasonable concerns? Does the president want to make a cameo on daytime TV, possibly live, or is this the idea of the president in a bubble taken to some sort of bizarre extreme?
FINNEGAN: Well, live TV and President Bush don‘t tend to go together well. You are more likely to hear the president speaking extemporaneously than you are hearing him use the word extemporaneous. But in this case, it was just taste. If President Bush is going to make a cameo on daytime TV, it‘s going to be in the show he actually watches, like “Dora the Explorer.”
OLBERMANN: “Hannah Montana.” According to the first lady‘s office, this was after 8:00 in the evening Eastern time, when Jenna Bush called her parents, and the president and the first lady had just finished dinner with an unidentified friend, presumably they knew who it was. They were sitting in the private residence, and the first lady‘s office said today Jenna is not in trouble for the phone call. So that‘s case closed?
FINNEGAN: No, I‘m not buying it. I am not going to sit here while the White House propaganda machine tries to convince us that President Bush still has friends, named or otherwise. You‘ve got to learn how to see through the lies, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We are also awaiting the National Intelligence Estimate on whether or not Jenna possesses nuclear weapons or materials. If the first daughter was that worried about calling her own father, what would happen if, say, President Ahmadinejad of Iran were to call in. Hey, it‘s Ah; just wanted to make sure you‘re cool with the National Intelligence Estimate.
FINNEGAN: Well, that‘s an official call. Those are handled differently. When President Bush gets a call from a foreign leader, he immediately runs down the hallway and whispers in Cheney‘s ear like Paul Sorvino in “Goodfellas.”
OLBERMANN: Now, this—speaking of the vice president, he snubbed the office Christmas party at the White House. Is that more because he loves hunting, or that he hates Christmas, or that they won‘t let him bring his gun into the White House?
FINNEGAN: I think it was actually quite festive. Somebody like Vice President Cheney, by his mere absence, tends to spread peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. He did everybody a solid and he skipped the party, and went off into the woods to unload a few rounds into Blitzen.
OLBERMANN: Lastly—he did everybody a solid. Theorize this for me; in the bush White House, who would be the best Santa, the best Scrooge and the best ghost of Christmas past?
FINNEGAN: All right, well, I think Bush is Santa, mostly because he gets to wear the hat. Everybody at the extended family Christmas, where you let one of the kids wear the halt, get the presents, make him act like he‘s in charge. Seems like Cheney‘s got a pit bull‘s lock on Scrooge. As far as Christmas past, I don‘t know, the president‘s mom has always given me the spooks.
OLBERMANN: Christian Finnegan, regular contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.” As always, great thanks.
FINNEGAN: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,670th days since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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