Guests: Robin Wright, Gary Gerstenfield, Bernard Gordon, Stephen Friedman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
New photos: In these the detainee is dead.
New politics: He describes himself as America‘s best friend in Iraq. U.S. forces have paid a visit to our “friend‘s” house and left with his documents and computers.
Politics here: The gloves come off. The House minority leader says the president is no leader and incompetent. Who has the deaths of U.S. servicemen, quote, “on his shoulders.”
Would you hire George Bush? Would you hire John Kerry? What if you didn‘t have their names but only their resumes? The answers of experts may surprise you.
And what‘s wrong with this picture? Protests against Michael Moore‘s friend. Protests against a film protesting Michael Moore. Whatever happened to feeling good about the movies? You know, like those fun “Friday the 13th” flicks?
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Here we go again. It is the room with 12 exits. Behind one of them, it seems, is the lady, behind the other 11 are the tigers. The room is called Iraq.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: There are new photos tonight, possibly the worst yet, this time featuring some of the familiar American faces of Abu Ghraib smiling broadly smiling over the body of a dead Iraqi detainee. U.S. forces raided the home of the man the Pentagon once thought the best bet to lead the post-Saddam Iraq. And the region continues to howl over what it perceives, rightly or wrongly, as an air raid by the U.S. on a wedding.
First the new photos, they were obtained by “ABC News” the dead Iraqi is Manadel al-Jamadi. We have seen him before packed in ice, now we see him with Specialist Charles Graner and with Specialist Sabrina Harmon. They do not seem to be expressing the confusion that supposedly rained after al-Jamadi died of severe head trauma after he had been brought to Abu Ghraib in good health.
The bombing run and the house raid in detail, in a moment. First to Baghdad where our correspondent, Campbell Brown, has even more bad news—what appears to be the expansion of the abuse scandal to a second American prison facility in Iraq.
CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the attention focused on the seven soldiers charged with the abuse at the Abu Ghraib Prison, U.S. military and intelligence officials, familiar with the situation, tells NBC News, the Army‘s elite Delta Force is now the subject of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into abuse against detainees. The target, a top-secret site near Baghdad‘s airport, the BIF, is pictured in these satellite photos. According to two top U.S. government sources, it‘s the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq‘s prisons. A place where the normal rules of interrogation don‘t apply, Delta Force‘s BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists, but not the most wanted among Saddam‘s lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards.
(on camera): These sources say that the prisoners there are hooded from the moment they‘re captured, they‘re kept in tiny dark cells and in the BIF‘s six interrogation rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner under water until he thinks he‘s drowning, and smother prisoners almost to the point of suffocation.
(voice-over): All that would be violations of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions do not apply to stateless terrorists, so-called non-enemy comblants, like al-Qaeda suspects caught by the U.S. in Afghanistan, but as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has made clear, the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Iraq‘s a nation, the United States is a nation, the Iraq—the Geneva Conventions apply, they have applied every single day from the outset.
BROWN: So, does Secretary Rumsfeld know about the BIF and what goes on there? Several top U.S. military and intelligence sources say yes. And that he, through other top Pentagon officials, directed the U.S. head of intelligence in Iraq, General Barbara Fast an others to bring some of the methods used at the BIF to prisons like Abu Ghraib in the hopes of getting better intelligence from Iraqi detainees.
The Pentagon‘s top spokesman in Iraq says the military will not comment on the BIF or what goes on there. He was unwilling to even confirm or deny its existence. General Fast declined our request for an interview due to the ongoing prison abuse investigation, one that, so far, yielded charges against only the military‘s lowest ranks.
Campbell Brown, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: The military has now can changed that “no comment.” In Washington this evening, a senior Pentagon official denies allegation of prisoner abuse at the BIF, the Battlefield Interrogation Facilities, the ones operated by Delta Force in Iraq. And he says the tactics described in Campbell Brown report are not used in those facilities.
There are more images still tonight, the dispute over what they show so hotly contested and it‘s not even clear who the victims were. The facts that are agreed upon: At least 40 Iraqis were killed by U.S. warplanes near the Syrian border, there yesterday. And as this video from “Associate Press” television shows, some of the victims were children. Iraqi witnesses say this was a wedding party. As traditional in Arab culture, the celebrations included firing off guns. The local people say it was followed by an aerial attack by the U.S., but coalition military commanders are making no apologies for the strike, they describe the victims as foreign fighters trying to sneak across the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, DEPUTY DIR. COALITION OPERATIONS: Our ground elements, went through the location, there were many casualties. But, we picked up many weapons, we picked up over two million Iraqi dinar. We picked up satellite communications devices and we picked up foreign passports. So, we believe that the target location was that of a foreign fighter sanctuary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But for families burying their death today, there was little sanctuary for grief. A lieutenant police chief from western Iraq, says 15 children and 10 women were killed in the attack. U.S. military officials telling NBC News that those women and children were likely family members of insurgents.
A raid of an entirely different kind in Baghdad, today. It is less than 15 months since the Bush administration suggested Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi national congress might have the first shot at running the country after Saddam Hussein exited stage left. It is less than three weeks since our correspondent, Lisa Myers, reported on a wide scale U.S. investigation of corruption within Chalabi‘s group, the INC. And as Ned Colt now reports, it‘s now less than 24 hours since U.S. soldiers went Chalabi‘s home and raided it.
NED COLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He‘s the man once touted by the Pentagon as the next leader of Iraq. Today, Ahmad Chalabi woke up to Iraqi police armed with warrants, backed up by U.S. troops, kicking in his door, waving guns. They ransacked three buildings, seizing computers, documents, and weapons. Still he says:
AHMED CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS LEADER: I am America‘s best friend in Iraq.
COLD: But, Washington increasingly sees him as a liability and there are growing questions about his motives. Today an Iraqi judge ordered arrest warrants for 16 of Chalabi‘s associates.
Sources in the Coalition Provisional Authority tell NBC New that members of Chalabi‘s Iraqi National Congress were involved in kidnapping and torture, in a currency exchange scheme and seizure of government property, such as buildings and 11 cars.
(on camera): This is the intelligence gathering headquarters for the INC. For the American-backed police to come here and make a raid underscores the abrupt reversal of fortune to Chalabi and his followers.
(voice-over): Though Chalabi, himself, was not the target today, the U.S. has been turning up the heat on him. This week the Pentagon cut off its funding of more than $300,000 a month for Chalabi and the INC. One reason why, senior U.S. officials tell NBC News that recent information confirms the INC was supplying intelligence about U.S. operations in Iraq to Iran and Chalabi had increasingly criticized American policy, here. But the U.S.-led coalition denies it had any agenda.
DAN SENOR, COALITION SPOKESMAN: It was an Iraq-led investigation, it was an Iraq-led raid, it was the result of Iraqi arrest warrants.
COLT: Today, Chalabi said he was betrayed.
CHALABI: I am now calling for policies which—to liberate the Iraqi people, to get full sovereignty, now. And I am putting the case in a way which they don‘t like.
A CPA source tells NBC News that Chalabi, himself, could be the next target of a warrant.
Ned Colt, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: Obviously it isn‘t quite the same thing, but it was Theodore Roosevelt who hand picked William Howard Taft to succeed him as president in 1909 and who, by 1911, was ferociously campaigning against him. Nothing, perhaps, looks worse than trying to shoot the horse you had just put the bet on.
I‘m joined by Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent of the “Washington Post” whose story, “The Rise and Fall of Ahmed Chalabi” will run in tomorrow‘s paper.
Robin, good evening.
ROBIN WRIGHT, “WASHINGTON POST” DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Give me the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) first. When did we pick him or when did he glom on to the U.S. and who constituted his support in this country?
WRIGHT: Well, Ahmed Chalabi has been a fixture of U.S. foreign policy for the last decade. He worked with the Clinton administration, even before the Bush administration, in setting up a system to try to oust Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration has become much closer with him, in part because the republicans were instrumental in providing almost $100 million for the—his Iraqi National Congress in the late 1990‘s. And set the ground for Chalabi‘s role during the Bush administration.
OLBERMANN: At what point did the Bush administration start to back away from him? Paul Wolfowitz was telling a bunch of us, last spring, that in no way had Chalabi been “anointed,” that he was one word he used, that he was not “the man.” Had they still continued to think that he might be, and until what point?
WRIGHT: Of all of the Iraqi exiles, Ahmed Chalabi had the closest relationship with the senior-most members of the Bush administration right up to the vice president‘s office, but particularly in the Pentagon. And there were many of those officials who had hoped that he would play a prominent role, if not take on a leadership role, in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein‘s demise. But, it is true that shortly after Saddam Hussein was ousted, Ahmed Chalabi began to exert a little bit more control than U.S. officials were comfortable with. His supporters and allies, for example, raided the intelligence ministry and absconded with the intelligence files, according to U.S. officials, before the U.S. troops could get in and take them themselves and still has not turned them over.
There have been a number of incidents that have made U.S. officials uneasy:
Power grabs, a relationship with the Iranian government, and kind of clampdowns on opposition groups that—trying to squeeze out others in favor of those who were his allies within the governing council.
OLBERMANN: And you‘ve cite and remarkable statistic about his relative popularity in Iraq. Can you quote that from memory?
WRIGHT: Well yes. In fact, there have been polls by American and Western news organizations that show that he has .02 percent support among the Iraqi people compared with Saddam Hussein who had 3.3 percent. And of all of the various Iraqi opposition figures, he had—he was rated the most unpopular by far. So, this is a man who the United States had hoped would be able to be a kind of Spartacus or Charles de Gaulle of Iraq, mobilizing Iraqis behind him, creating a sense of unity in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war. He has failed to do that and, in fact, has significant opposition, arguably, even growing opposition to him, today.
OLBERMANN: Well, they may have gotten the gall part right, but certainly not the de Gaulle part right.
Robin Wright of the “Washington Post,” her most recent book is “Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam” and her most recent article, as in tomorrow, will be “The Rise and Fall of Ahmed Chalabi.”
Robin, many thanks.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Amid this grotesque parade of news from Iraq there is a reminder that the acts of humanity and the willingness to above and beyond the call have not only not been extinguished among Americans there, they may indeed be said to be flourishing.
Our correspondent, Kevin Tibbles, picks up the story of eight-month-old Fatima Hassan in an unlikely local—Columbus, Ohio.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For these soldiers a midnight mission of hope spiriting little Fatima Hassan out of war-torn Iraq for emergency medical care that might save her life, in Columbus, Ohio.
DR. GAYLE GORDILLO, COLUMBUS CHILDREN‘S HOSPITAL: Certainly this is a life threatening situation and they didn‘t feel like they could offer her the proper care in Iraq.
TIBBLES: Last month, the parents 8-month-old Fatima showed up at the gates of a U.S. military base in a desperate attempt to save their baby‘s life.
DR. TERRY DAVIS, CHMN. INTL. PATIENT CARE: We‘ve got all of the techniques and all the technologies and we pray and hope that it will be OK.
TIBBLES: Fatima has a massive tumor, the size of two softballs, that is pressing down on her airway making it difficult to breathe. The infant and her 21-year-old mother were airlifted out of Iraq, 6,000 miles later, they arrived overnight in Columbus.
GORDILLO: So many people moved mountains to make this happen.
TIBBLES: There were no guarantees that Fatima would even survive the trip, but she has and the soldiers battling to save her are not giving up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re doing good things over there and this is one of them.
TIBBLES: Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Columbus.
OLBERMANN: And in Washington, meanwhile, news of what appears to be the first use of the term “pullout” in the presidential race. Senator John Kerry insisting that Americans will have to stay in Iraq, did pledge that he would get them out of what he called “an active kind of death zone.” Sounding remarkably and presumably unintentionally like Richard Nixon in 1969. Kerry told “Associated Press” editors that he would get virtually all of the combat troop out of Iraq, if not out of the region, by the end of his first term. “It will not be like Vietnam,” said the Vietnam vet, “I will get our troops home from Iraq with honor, with the interests of our country properly protected.”
Kerry‘s caveat: “You may have some deployments of people for a long time in the Middle East, depending on what the overall approach to the Middle East is. We‘re not going to be engaged in an active kind of death zone, the way we are today.”
And if the contents of tonight‘s fifth story are not trouble enough for you, how about bombs? Two detonated, two defused in Istanbul, Rome and Athens. The hook here is that the ones in Istanbul and Rome are both outside McDonald‘s. This is the one in Turkey, in the parking lot, reportedly a percussion bomb that makes a lot of noise, but is not intended to harm. Four other such bombs went off in Istanbul in Ankara on Sunday night.
In Rome police got to a pair of small homemade explosives left in travel bag outside a Mickey D‘s, there. They described the devices as similar to Molotov cocktails. They also found a leaflet with five pointed stars of the guerrilla group the “Red Brigade.”
And less than three months before the Olympics start, another bomb, again, hooked up to an alarm clock in Athens, it was found and destroyed, but unlike similar devices that went off outside a suburban police station two weeks ago, this one was only a half mile from the seaside stadium at which Olympic basketball, baseball, and field hockey will be played.
COUNTDOWN underway tonight, with the war on terror, specifically the war against abuse. Straight ahead: Remember Courtney, three-years-old abandoned by her father, didn‘t know her last name. There‘s news about her tonight and it is good news indeed.
And later, politics in Tinsel Town: Michael Moore‘s documentary, just one of the list of projects drawing protests. Are we headed back to the good old days of the Hollywood blacklists?
OLBERMANN: Last night we told you about Courtney, a 3-year-old girl perfectly behaved, physically fine, and evidently abandoned by her father or a man claiming to be her father. She could only tell authorities in Baltimore only that she was from Brooklyn and that she was Puerto Rican and that she missed her mother.
Our No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: Apparently she will not have to miss her mother too much longer. Courtney‘s mother has come forward. Her mother‘s name is Patricia Henry. She has told a Baltimore television station she has satisfied the Maryland Department of Social Services that she is indeed the little girl‘s mother. She says she was given temporary custody of the girl in 2002 and then the father took the child and disappeared. She had seen neither since.
Joining us by phone is Mrs. Henry‘s attorney, Gary Gerstenfield.
Mr. Gerstenfield, good evening.
GARY GERSTENFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR PATRICIA HENRY: Well thank you. Thank you for asking me to speak out.
OLBERMANN: Who is—tell us who Courtney is.
GERSTENFIELD: Well, first of all, her name isn‘t Courtney, it‘s actually Akasha—Akasha Persons. And what happened is, two years ago, the had full custody—you know, she was the mom and she was raising the child and the father had some sort of informal visitation. There was nothing—they weren‘t married, they‘d never been married and they didn‘t have anything in writing, so this father just had visitation. The father on a visitation took the child and ran to a local court in Maryland, called a district court and he told a wild story about he and the child were both being abused by the mom. And the court give temporary custody of the child to—or rather, gave temporary custody of the child to the father, then order for a hearing within a week. And what happened was the court made a little error and awarded temporary custody of one year to the father.
Now, we didn‘t know anything about (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we knew the father had it—had her and what we did was we ran into court, because we know—eventually figured out it was a court action, we went into court and we corrected the court‘s mistake. The quickly saw they did make a mistake, awarded custody—legal custody now, back to—back to the mother and so from 2002, the mom had an order giving custody, full custody, to her, and ordering the father to return the child back, ordering the police to use any force necessary—or any means necessary to get the child back. And our local police departments were trying to find the child. Unfortunately the father took over for Baltimore City, told the little the child, who was young at the time, not quite two, that her name wasn‘t Akasha, that in fact, the name you all have been hearing, which isn‘t her name at all. Told the child she‘s Puerto Rican, she‘s African-American, and the poor little girl has been growing up thinking that her mother didn‘t love her and didn‘t want her, because that‘s what the father‘s been telling her.
OLBERMANN: How did the mother, Ms. Henry, find out?
GERSTENFIELD: Well, OK, her last name‘s actually—OK, to answer that question, she didn‘t find out right away. What happened was the grandfather, her father, was watching TV and the press did a wonderful thing about putting out that picture nationally, because this is a Baltimore story, the family live outside of Washington, D.C. and what happened is, the family—the grandfather would be watching local television, saw a picture of the girl. Wasn‘t sure if it was her or not, it was just a glimpse. Called the station back and asked them if they could reflash that picture. They agreed to do it, they reflashed the picture. Of course, then he realized it was his granddaughter and then immediately called his daughter, called the family, the family called me, we went down to the Department of Social Services, and the Baltimore City Department of Social Services just handled it like a champ, I mean they were very gracious, very sensitive. They just were wonderful people.
OLBERMANN: You go to the judge tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: How soon before a reuniting could occur?
GERSTENFIELD: Well, there has to be a process and some of it is—this is a girl who‘s in for a real ride. I mean, for her mom there‘s relief that her daughter is alive and well and been found and she‘ll be back with her daughter—you know, tomorrow. But, for the daughter, I don‘t know what‘s going to happen for her. I mean, she doesn‘t know that her mother loves her, she doesn‘t know that her mother and her family wants her, she doesn‘t know what her real name is, and she doesn‘t know that she has a baby sister. And so, it‘s going to be a very, very, very tough time for her and I don‘t think she‘s going to be seeing a lot of her father, at least not without having a lot of conditions. And for better or for worse, that‘s the only parent she knows for the last two years and so, while he may be a drug addict, which he is, he may be unemployed, which he is, he has no fixed address, no identification, no driver‘s license, the problem is, this is the one person that she knows. As unstable as he is, that‘s the only stability that she‘s has known. She‘s lived, from what we understand, in shelters, from one home to another. The fact that she‘s such a beautiful, well braved, attentive child, just tells you the strength of children.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Gerstenfield, we thank you for your time. We wish you the best of luck on this, in the recovery of, not of Courtney, but Akasha. Many thanks for your time.
GERSTENFIELD: If I can just leave one passing thing, though. The family really wanted me to their appreciation to all who took this story seriously, that you all took it seriously, that you really went out of your way to put that picture out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this would not have happened. We would not have found her.
OLBERMANN: Well, to the degree that we can say this, you‘re welcome.
And we thank—our best wishes to the family, as well. Thank you, sir.
The last mystery of this, when the little girl said she was from Brooklyn she meant the Brooklyn part of Baltimore. Coming up, “Oddball,” including a high wire act like you‘ve never seen before. And later the president, the subject of heated attack from a democratic leader and of apparently, of a cool reception from several republican ones.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you and immediately put the COUNTDOWN on hold for a moment to bring you that part of news hour that is performed without the proverbial net. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Stuttgart in Germany high wire acrobat Johan Trabor (ph) is now 51-years-old and clearly feeling the tiredness that often accompanies middle age. Rather than balance on a tightrope and walk his lazy behind up the 712-foot Stuttgart TV tower, he‘s driving. Of course he had to build the whole contraption and pilot a specially designed smart roadster. No doubt to the horror of the remaining Flying Wallenda‘s, they were never caught sitting on rich Corinthian leather. Trabor reached the tower safely, honked his horn a few times in victory, then tried to pass on the right and fell 700 feet into a sausage wagon. All right, I made the last part up.
Finally, to a Cincinnati hospital where a security camera captured the amazing birth of a baby Maggie Yelton. Parents Chad and Shannon had rushed to the hospital, so that Shannon could give birth, but they only made it as far as the parking garage when Mag-pie decided she was ready. Doctors and nurses surrounded the vehicle to assist with the delivery, but you need to pay particular attention with that man, pizza guy, walking on the way out there. Apparnelty, he has seen this thing everyday of his life.
Back to the COUNTDOWN first thing, in a moment. Our No. 3 story: The battle over film rights, as in who has the right to make films? One of the screenwriters blacklisted 50 years ago, joins us next.
And later, an “Apprentice”-like test to the president and his opponent. Would either of them be hired in our modern world?
These stories ahead.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s the three top newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Meimuna Ahmed of Nigeria, who has been arrested in Cameroon, accused of smuggling rare bird feathers and carrying 266 dead parrots. They are not dead. They are resting. Remarkable bird, the Norwegian blue, isn‘t it? Eh? Beautiful plumage.
No. 2, Karen Abbott, principal of Danbury High School in Ohio. She agreed to a fund-raising contest at her school, the winner of which got to hit her in the face with a pie. And after the kid did show, she filed an assault charge against him. The boy has been suspended for 80 days. Ms. Abbott‘s complaint, he threw the pie too hard. This is the principal of the school.
No. 1, David Mitchell of Bountiful, Utah, about whom doctors say they are mystified. The last 10 years, his brain has been shrinking, but only the left side of his brain. Researchers are calling this Dennis Miller syndrome.
OLBERMANN: It is not surprisingly like a lame Eric Idle-Robbie Coltrane film from 1990 called “Nuns on the Run,” a thief breaking out of jail while dressed as a religious leader using his disguise to elude authorities. Believe it or not though, this one won top honors at an international film festival and was on its way to breaking local box office records. Now it has just been pulled from the theaters on the advice of the Ministry of Culture.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the film is called “The Lizard.” And the industry and the ministry that yanked it is in Iran. So of course nothing like that could happen here. Oh no? Ask the producers of “Fahrenheit 911” or the new anti-Michael Moore documentary or “The Reagans” miniseries or “The Passion of the Christ” or, as Robert Hager reports, the upcoming flick coming to a theater near you Memorial Day weekend.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the film called “The Day After Tomorrow,” global warming has started melting the Earth‘s polar caps, and, whoops, is that a problem. In a flash, it disrupts ocean currents. New York is hit by a tidal wave. Tornadoes rake California and the Ice Age returns, all this in spite of a warning from a climatologist played by Dennis Quaid to a vice president who looks something like Dick Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”)
DENNIS QUAID, ACTOR: If we don‘t act now, it is going to be too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAGER: A subtle message or what?
(on camera): That is why environmentalists, frustrated by what they consider their lack of progress fighting the pollutants they say cause climate change, have now seized on the film to win political points.
(voice-over): “Global warming isn‘t just a movie. It is your future,” screams a leaflet environmental activists plan to hand theatergoers. It accuses President Bush of blocking anti-pollution regs that would prevent global warming. And former presidential candidate Al Gore has chimed in, too.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a rare opportunity to have a national conversation about what truly should be seen as a global climate emergency.
HAGER: But the Bush administration remains skeptical about the whole idea of global warming. And others see the film as dangerous intrusion into the debate about cracking down on greenhouse gases.
The conservative Cato Institute‘s Patrick Michaels:
PATRICK MICHAELS, CATO INSTITUTE: It is an attempt to stampede people into policies that will do absolutely nothing about global warming, but cost a fortune.
HAGER: Nearly all scientists agree there couldn‘t be such instant climate change as in the movie, nor a return of the Ice Age. So is this truth or fiction? A kernel of truth, says the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s Dan Lashof.
DAN LASHOF, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: And New York is not going to be facing a glacier problem any time soon. But it will be facing more severe heat waves, infectious diseases potentially, flooding from rising sea levels.
HAGER: But Michaels he says it is worse than fiction.
MICHAELS: “The Day After Tomorrow” is the irrational, reactive, juvenile approach to global warming.
HAGER: Differing opinions on whether the film is a snow job, but off screen it Clearly generating plenty of heat.
Robert Hager, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: If global warming is not enough to make you storm the projection room, how about a film described by its own producer as, “like those monster, vampire, high school kind of movies, where only the monsters are Jesus-freak teenagers”—unquote?
Scheduled for release a week from tomorrow is “Saved” starring Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin about students at a Christian school. One of the boys is gay. The other students try to cure him. He gets one of the girls pregnant. The other students turn on her. The Christian Film and TV Commissioner has already condemned the picture. Producer Michael Stipe, the singer from the band REM, “Saved, A Comedy With Passion.”
A novel, albeit seemingly obvious form of protest, if you don‘t like the movie, make your own make about the movie or about the artist that you don‘t like. There‘s no production company yet. The auteur is still soliciting funds online. But a 28-year-old man named Michael Wilson is trying to make a documentary in the Moore style called “Michael Moore Hates America.”
Conforming to the genre, Wilson says Moore won‘t sit down for an interview with him. Of course, Mr. Moore is still buys fighting on another front. Reports tonight that his controversial documentary about President Bush, “Fahrenheit 911,” is not yet on the path towards being released in this country. MSNBC.com‘s Jeannette Walls reporting that while the film continues to clean up with the critics at the film festival in Cannes, Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Films have not closed the film deal with Disney to buy the film back and distribute it themselves.
She quotes a source who says Disney Chairman Michael Eisner—quote -
· “keeps jacking up the price, changing the terms of the deal and making it more expensive.” The whole thing could fall apart. Gone are the days when you could just go out, make a film and have people see it and you could assume they would view it first as a film and as propaganda second or third or 30th. Or maybe those days never really existed.
My next guest earned his right to an opinion on that question the hard way. Bernard Gordon was a young screenwriter who got blacklisted during the McCarthy era. His credits, under aliases, include the scripts for “The Battle of the Bulge,” “55 Days at Peking,” and a truly underrated masterpiece called “The Day of the Triffids.”
Mr. Gordon, good evening to you.
BERNARD GORDON, FORMER BLACKLISTED SCREENWRITER: Good evening.
Let‘s talk about “Fahrenheit 911” or Michael Moore‘s other films. Is the backlash against him being done in an artist matter or a political matter or is the market just trying to pave over controversy for the sake of money?
GORDON: It‘s a question of everybody being wrapped in the American flag now, so anything that is controversial or anything that differs from what the administration wants is considered unpatriotic.
And I‘m sorry about that. Whether I agree with everything he says or not, I think he has a right to say them. And I think we have a right to have it distributed because the airwaves, believe it or not, belong to the people of America. They don‘t even belong to the networks. So, if they belong to the people, who can stop things from being put on the air because you don‘t agree with them. That what bothers me.
OLBERMANN: The global warming film, “The Day After Tomorrow,” it is 25 years now since “The China Syndrome” came out, which was an obviously anti-nuclear energy or at least anti-nuclear accident film. It hit screens just as Three Mile Island happened. And I cannot remember a serious protest of any kind about it. Why such different responses in such different eras?
GORDON: Well, I‘m obviously just as old as you are, so I should remember the same things.
As far as I‘m concerned, the social climate, the political climate in the country is what determines what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, which is really very regrettable. I think that it should—
I‘m an old dissenter, as anybody who knows anything about me knows. And even when people put things on the air that I don‘t like, I think they have a right to put them on and I have a right to say, I don‘t like them. That‘s what freedom of speech is.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t for a moment mean to sound like I‘m endorsing any part of the blacklist, but it seems that you can give those schmucks in the ‘50s a little credit because they were at least looking for hidden meanings in film, like “High Noon” was real about Carl Foreman‘s struggles with the witch-hunters and “The War of the Worlds” was really right-wing propaganda designed to keep people scared about the Russians.
Have filmmakers lost the art of subtlety in the last 50 years, that these things now come out and just hit people over the heads with the political message?
GORDON: Well, I‘m a member of the academy. And if they will forgive me, I do believe that motion pictures have fallen into the hands of lawyers and agents and bankers, who are only interested in the big bottom line and blockbuster films, whereas in the old days, even people like Darryl Zanuck and Sam Goldwyn and the Warners or the other filmmakers, they were the kind of people who were interested in making films that they liked.
I didn‘t always like the same films that they did, but I thought they were filmmakers. And I don‘t feel that films are now in the hand of filmmakers. They are in the hands of money men, bottom line.
OLBERMANN: Gee whiz, whatever happened to the I disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?
Bernard Gordon, screenwriter and author, survivor of the blacklist, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
GORDON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And “The Day of the Triffids,” if you haven‘t see it, go rent it right now. Shut the show off and go rent it now.
Coming up, President Bush goes to Capitol Hill to rally the faithful, but the headlines afterwards from each side of the aisle were anything but encouraging for the White House. Story No. 2 on the COUNTDOWN next. Then, later, the animated film that is making grown men cry in a way you probably would rather not have heard about.
OLBERMANN: Coming up, which story will be tonight‘s No. 1? Well, if you were a subscriber to our daily newsletter, you would have a leg up on the competition. Go to COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com to sign up.
Yes, like there‘s betting on this.
OLBERMANN: First, the House minority leader said the president‘s incompetence has led to the death of our troops and costs to our taxpayers. Then the chairman of the president‘s reelection campaign said her remarks were reprehensible and amounted to blaming America for the actions of terrorists.
Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, if the gloves were not off already, they have been removed, used by each side to slap the other today, then burned just to make sure nobody can go back. Asked today to clarify her comments to “The San Francisco Chronicle” that President Bush—quote—
“has on his soldiers the death of many more troops because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1,” House Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California turned out to have barely gotten started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I believe that the president‘s leadership and the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment, and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Other than that, Mr. Bush how did you enjoy this beautiful spring day?
Our White House correspondent David Gregory reports on what appears to have been a surprisingly unsuccessful afternoon spent preaching to the choir, Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today‘s pilgrimage to the Capitol was damage control by a president well aware that many Republicans are unhappy with how things are going in Iraq. But during a packed closed-door meeting, sources said the president gave little more than a standard stump speech and left.
Many who were expecting a question-and-answer session were disappointed. Others in the room suggested the president tried to lower expectations about the June 30 handover in Iraq.
SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA: Things, as I think he commented, are very likely to get worse before they get better.
GREGORY: But how much worse, many Republicans are starting to wonder. Mounting U.S. casualties and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal are taking a toll and Republicans are hearing from anxious constituents back home.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think it is important that we as a party and the president acknowledge that there are some things that have gone awry and show a commitment to fix them.
GREGORY: Privately, nervous Republicans have been complaining directly to the White House. Last Thursday, House Speaker Hastert brought 10 fellow members to see the president and Vice President Cheney, who later described the meeting as a venting session. A chief complaint from conservatives, that the U.S. strategy in Iraq is unrealistic.
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hostility to our presence is growing. That is the real world. The president is going to have to downsize his ultimate goals, if we can even achieve those.
GREGORY (on camera): White House officials are now cranking up their P.R. offensive. Starting Monday, the president will gave a major address on Iraq‘s future every week until the June 30 handover.
(voice-over): But Republican frustrations spilling into the headlines extends beyond Iraq to the deficit, stalled energy policy, even good economic news that is overshadowed by the war. And politically the costs are rising. Four recent polls show the president‘s approval rating dangerously low, a range from 46 to as low as 42 percent.
Bush campaign advisers insist this is just a temporary slump during difficult times, but add they are relieved it is only May and not October.
David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.
OLBERMANN: As ever at this hour, time to drift over the double-yellow line from news itself to the oncoming rush of blurred self-promotion and self-remorse. It‘s our celebrity and gossip news segment, “Keeping Tabs.”
When things go wrong. First Martha Stewart is convicted of insider trading. Now Kmart says that the matches that bear her name may ignite upon impact. I thought they were supposed to ignite upon impact. Apparently, these do so dangerously, thus 588 boxes of Kmart 11-inch-long Martha Stewart Everyday matches have been voluntarily recalled. Still available, though, Martha Stewart Everyday metal files which come with free cake baking powder.
Another bullet from MSNBC.com. Actor Antonio Banderas provides the voice for Puss-in-Boots in the film “Shrek 2.” When he saw the finished version of the movie, he was so overwhelmed, the BBC reports, that Banderas ended up crying and holding hands with Justin Timberlake. And then a part of Banderas‘s shirt malfunctioned, revealing the flimsy bustier that he wears underneath.
Up next, forget presidential credentials. Which of these men would be hired for a top job outside Washington, or maybe the question is, would either of them be?
OLBERMANN: A new television network MTV has geared to college students which is available on 720 campuses presented a unique spin on the miracle that is first job-getting.
Our first No. 1 story tonight, the larger implications of the results of the innovative approach of the mtvU. It decided to take the pre-graduation lives of President Bush and John Kerry, change the dates, but not the facts and present them as resumes. Five different industry professionals got to compare the freshly graduated James Kenny (ph), class of ‘04, and Jerald Bath (ph), class of ‘04, against the other newcomers to the job market. Upshot, Kerry and Bush are lucky they were born into money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I had three job openings, they are not going to be at the top of my pile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘ve seen better than these, than both of these.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These resumes fall almost in the second or third tier of resumes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of our resumes are better than these.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jennifer, this resume is actually John Kerry‘s resume. And he graduated...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is George Bush‘s resume when he graduated from Yale.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness.
OLBERMANN: The general manager of mtvU, one of the men who dreamt this up, is Stephen Friedman.
Mr. Friedman, good evening.
STEPHEN FRIEDMAN, WWW.MTVU.COM: Keith, appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: So they didn‘t do well. Why didn‘t they do well?
FRIEDMAN: I think students now from their freshman year on are planning their career. These guys didn‘t have a clear trajectory and it showed. They just didn‘t stack up compared to the other candidates that are out there looking for jobs.
OLBERMANN: Internships, is that it?
FRIEDMAN: It‘s the key; 70 percent of college kids have them. These guys didn‘t and it was hard to compete with that.
OLBERMANN: Is the problem with this, that, as of the last day of college, those guys were qualified for the work force in the ‘60s, or is it that the criteria for job givers have changed, or is it that the job-getting saying these days just isn‘t imaginative enough to find the quality in somebody?
FRIEDMAN: You know, it‘s the latter two.
I think times have changed so much, so the expectations are different. And I think someone with a broad liberal arts degree has to get the internships to compensate, because you heard from every one of these counselors that they wanted to know why that person wanted their job. And if you don‘t have it, it‘s going to be hard to get your foot in the door.
OLBERMANN: The counselors, the people you brought these to, did you go to companies, head-hunters? Who saw those resumes?
FRIEDMAN: We went to companies. And we picked ones where the jobs were and also where students are most likely to go, retail, business, those kinds of industries.
OLBERMANN: Telling remarks that we haven‘t seen? Like, what did they make of the disputed fact that John Kerry was supposedly in both the Young Republicans and the Young Democrats?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, that did throw some people. When we talked to the Kerry campaign and found out that it was not the case, we kind of steered them away from it.
But it did surprise them. There are some interesting points where they weren‘t sure where Bush was focused. They had a sense of Kerry. They both saw leadership, but they really were not sure where the guys would end up, interestingly.
OLBERMANN: Who had—is there a way of telling from these people that you brought these resumes to which one of them had the better resume as of day last in college?
FRIEDMAN: The funny thing is, the one guy who would have picked them over—and we didn‘t show this in the piece—was David Barton. So we know that Kerry has got a job with David Barton if things don‘t go well. That‘s at the gym.
OLBERMANN: And dare we say, was there any sort of reaction to Mr.
Bush in case he is looking for work?
FRIEDMAN: You know what? They would all consider him, in part because he went to Yale. But you know what? Every one of them thought they don‘t really compete against the resumes. Of course, it‘s not a perfectly fair comparison, because people use their networking and their connections, which these guys would have done as well.
OLBERMANN: Right. Yes. Plus, those Ivy League losers always get an extra advantage.
OLBERMANN: Oh, no, that‘s right. I‘m one of them, too.
OLBERMANN: Stephen Friedman, general manager of mtvU, thanks for sharing the dismal job prospects of whichever of these men loses on November 2.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much.
FRIEDMAN: Take care.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. My resume is now posted online at MSNBC.com.
I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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