Guests: Kathleen Hall Jamison, Dana Cole, Joe Leydon
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Another day, another president: The U.S. Choice to run Iraq says, “no thanks.” His colleagues wanted somebody else. Now they‘ve got him.
The so-called “dirty bomber”: The case against Jose Padilla grows bigger. But for the second week in a row, the question—at the counterterrorism news conference, where was the head of counterterrorism?
She‘s back! The woman who dialed 911 with her tongue, challenged for her championship for the weirdest way to phone the cops during an emergency.
And I‘m dancing as fast as I can! The competition where being light on your feet is not just a skill, it could be a matter of life and death.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. It is an unexpected and inexplicable juxtaposition. In this country two men are in the middle of an eight-month long hammer and tongs battle for the presidency with 154 days still to go and one evidently still in need of a campaign slogan.
However, in Iraq two men it to be approached today alone, just to find one of them who is willing to accept the presidency, there.
Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: Here, two men clawing for the top spot, there two presidents, at least one of them exerting great energy to claw his way out of that job.
The Iraq story first. Early today the Governing Council there, offered the presidency to the man already serving in that post atop the interim government, Adnan Pachachi, 81-year-old elder statesman of Iraqi politics, the nation‘s foreign minister during the time of representative government in the 1960‘s, and personally endorsed by, not just the U.S., but also U.N. And Pachachi turned the presidency down. Evidently because his fellow members of that interim government favored Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar. The U.S. objected to him, the U.N. objected to him, the Iraqis chose him anyway. As one member of their counsel described him, “He‘s very cultured, has the respect of the cabinet, the Iraqi people. I think he‘s going be a very good president.” And oh by the way he‘s a powerful Sunni Muslim leader and critic of the continuing U.S. presence there.
That life here is better than life there is obvious. But sometimes specific reminders are useful. There, two presidential nominees in one day. Here, too many presidential slogans in one campaign. It‘s not exactly life or death here, is it? In most presidential elections June 1 would is not be considered very late for anything, least of all that catch phrase that ties together all of the candidate‘s advertising and even some of his speechifying. But considering that John Kerry has been the de facto nominee of his party since late March, it may be fair to question, as “the New York Times” did today, whether or not the Kerry campaign will ever be able to just pick a slogan that sticks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush won‘t do it.
I will. I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message.
I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message because it‘s time to put opportunity in the hands of all Americans.
A lifetime of service and strength. John Kerry for president.
America, stronger at home, respected in the world. John Kerry for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The most recent possibility, five more words that have become the rapper for Kerry‘s speeches these last few weeks. They constitute the title and opening line from a 1938 poem by a Langston Hughes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Kerry: It‘s time to let America be America, Again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not exactly “A Chicken in Every Pot” or Nixon‘s “The One” or “Tippy Canoe and Tyler, too.” But is it a problem for John Kerry or just an annoyance? I‘m joined now by Kathleen Hall Jamison, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and most recently co-author of “The 2000 Election Foundation of Party Politics.”
Kathleen, good evening.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMISON, DIRECTOR, ANNENBERG PUBLIC POLICY CTR.: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: How serious is this, 154 days to an election and a challenger doesn‘t have a catch-phrase to sell to a catch-phrase nation?
JAMISON: Well first, catch phrase demeans what the slogans actually do when they‘re effective. When a campaign finds its slogan, it‘s actually found its defining message. That‘s the message that telescopes the campaign, differentiates it from the opposing campaign and gives you the answer to the question for whom ought I to vote in this election.
OLBERMANN: Is Kerry going to come up with one in time? Or are we going to be still talking about this with 54 days left to go?
JAMISON: I think Kerry has come up with one in the ad that was released today. The tag line on that ad and theme throughout the ad is, “stronger in the U.S.” it says “stronger at home and respected in the world.” Throughout the last eight months, Kerry has been working through one theme after another that has the word “stronger” in it. It was “stronger, safer, more secure,” it was stronger—“building a stronger America.” One of the reasons that that strong notion is so important is that the person who, on Election Day, is perceived by the electorate as the strong leader, when you‘re comparing to the stronger leader, is most likely to be the person elected president.
OLBERMANN: “Stronger at home, respected in the world.” It sounds though, a little—off the tongue, a little stuff, not unlike the candidate himself. Wouldn‘t this “Let America be America, Again” be more evocative, as in the one Ronald Reagan found, “It‘s Morning in America,” that sort of stuff?
JAMISON: Potentially, you said, “Let America be America, Again,” and what does that mean? Stronger at home, respected internationally—respected in the world. Part of the problem that Kerry has is that he wants to attack Bush on two fronts. He wants to argue that he‘ll do better internationally and he‘ll do better domestically. And they‘ve had real trouble finding a way to draw that into one phrase. Using two is a problem, it‘s better to have one. But let “America be America, Again” needs some elaboration. You need to fill a lot into that statement. “Stronger at Home,” stronger at home, and respected in the world, those two words, “stronger, respected,” carry a lot of meaning into “Let America be America, Again.”
OLBERMANN: Big deal made about Mr. Kerry having not decided on one, having not copyrighted it or put it on everything that his campaign puts out. But, does the president have one that he‘s decided on?
JAMISON: The theme the president is using, primarily, is one that says, “Steady Leadership in a Changing World,” and the adjectives that Bush wants you to hear are adjectives such as “resolute.” And he wants you to remember that moment in New York City where he basically uttered the decisive statement of his presidency saying “The world is going to hear from us soon.” And, so the contest here is essentially one in which Kerry wants you to see Bush as not steady but stubborn. Bush wants you to see Kerry not as stronger but a flip-flopper. And if on Election Day you say one of these persons is the stronger leader, more respected in the world, and that‘s what‘s important to you, you‘re going to vote for Kerry. If you say, what I want is someone who‘s steady in a changing world, and you hear that as steady, not stubborn, you are much more likely to vote for Bush. These slogans are digestive statements for the campaign and they really do matter. The campaign with the best digestive statement has, across the whole modern history of the presidency, been the campaign that won the election.
OLBERMANN: Ask William Henry Harrison in 1840, “Tipper Canoe and Tyler, too” got them, there. Kathleen Hall Jamison of the Annenberg Public Policy Center helping us analyze the race for slogan-in-chief.
As always, many thanks.
JAMISON: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: On the subject of turns of phrase, the ones out of the White House today, were traditional. The U.N. envoy was the quarterback of the new Iraqi government. Its ministers and president reflected great, quote, “talent.” Whether or not Mr. Bush is actually displeased the fact that Washington‘s preferred choice for the presidency of Iraq did not get the support prerequisite for the job. He did not show it, nor anything but, apparent satisfaction that the process had been completed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a major step toward a—toward the emergence of a free Iraq. This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people, and a hopeful day for the American people, because the American people want to see a free Iraq, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The names may or may not mean much to you, but the educational background of that Iraqi interim government could do the cabinet of any American president proud. As our correspondent, Richard Engel, reports from Iraq, among the top dozen, one neurologist, two civil engineers, an economist, the president of a local lawyer‘s union, and London-trained oil man with a bachelor‘s degree in geology and masters in petroleum reservoir engineering.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Applause, as much for the interim government, as for the end of days of political wrangling. Today Iraq‘s new prime minister, Iyad Allawi got right down to business. He said Iraq didn‘t want to live under foreign occupation, but for now acknowledged Iraq still needed outside help.
“We do not want occupation,” he said, “but we need to work with the Multinational Force to defeat the enemies of Iraq.” Allawi, who has a reputation as a pragmatist, outlined priorities: creating jobs and restoring basic services, like electricity.
Before the new leaders could be announced this morning, some last-minute drama. Adnan Pachachi , a former foreign minister, and the favorite of the U.S. and the U.N. to be president, turned down the job. Pachachi bowed out in favor of the Iraqi Governing Council‘s choice, Ghazi al-Yawar. Even though it is largely ceremonial, al-Yawer, a civil engineer and tribal leader has strong opinions. He has blamed the U.S. for provoking violence. Today he made clear he wants a U.N. Resolution that ensures full sovereignty, now.
In a surprise move the Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself, so the new prime minister and his cabinet don‘t have it wait until June 30 to begin work. Another surprise, so many new faces in the interim government, only six of them served on the Governing Council.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today the ceremony, everyone asking the person sitting beside him, who is that chap? And who is the minister of oil? Show me. And who is that minister—you know? Can you show me who is that minister and who is—you know? So, we don‘t know them.
ENGEL (on camera): And, one more surprise today—U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who played a critical role in setting up the interim government, said he‘d already established a seven-member committee to organize elections for a new Iraqi parliament in January. But their names are being kept secret, fearing they could be targets of assassination.
Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: And why is the name of former Pentagon pet Ahmad Chalabi not on the new government list? Possibly because, a senior U.S. official confirms to NBC News, that Chalabi told the government of Iran that the U.S. had cracked Iran‘s secret codes.
And one more presidential note today American style, let a smile be your umbrella and your walk from the helicopter to Air Force One will not unlike that of the president‘s, today.
Blustery at mid-afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base, blustery enough
to inside-out the president‘s umbrella at six seconds. Now come the
maintenance efforts. This is a hands-on president, it‘s a rancher, an oil
man, this is a man with an evil-doer of an umbrella. He tried to use harn
· harness gravity to his needs, the bumper chute (ph) is hearing nothing of it. By half a minute into this nightmare, the president appears to be trying to signal for a fair catch. He‘s trying to remember what he was taught in grammar school about British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his umbrella, and he say, “Won‘t somebody take this damn thing away from me?
Thus ends the fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Presidential politics at home and in Iraq—with umbrellas.
Still ahead, new charges against alleged terrorist Jose Padilla: More than just dirty bombs, more?
And later, a victimless crime in Eagle, Colorado, language wise, at least. Details ahead, coming up on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The alleged plans of Jose Padilla and another week‘s worth of the politics of protecting the homeland. The No. 4 story on our COUNTDOWN, next.
OLBERMANN: For the second time in four business days, a major counterterrorism announcement has been made by somebody other than the counterterrorism czar. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The case against Jose Padilla, alleged would-be dirty bomber and a litmus test for just who is American and who is an enemy combatant was spelled out in chilling detail this afternoon. Yet once again Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was not in the vicinity.
Pete Williams from Washington now, on the charges against the man accused of going from the gangs of Chicago to the arms of al-Qaeda.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government now claims that when Jose Padilla was arrested at the Chicago airport two years ago, he was on a terrorist mission to scout out high-rise apartment buildings in New York and possibly Washington, D.C. And Florida, pick out a few supplied with natural gas, and blow them up. The Justice Department says Padilla and an accomplice, also now under arrest, had specific al-Qaeda instructions.
JAMES COMEY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: That they rent two apartments in each building, seal those apartments, turn on the gas, and set timers to detonate and destroy the buildings simultaneously.
WILLIAMS: The government today says Padilla actually learned how to blow up buildings at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in early 2001. He studied there, investigators claimed, with another American, Adnan Shukrijumah, already the subject of an FBI manhunt, one renewed last week by the FBI director and attorney general. Shukrijumah is seen in this 1997 video from a Florida community college English Languish class.
ADNAN SHUKRIJUMAH, SUSPECTED TERRORIST: We have the good battery in your car, it is smiling here.
WILLIAMS: Much of the new information about that Padilla, in a document out, today appears to come from what he, himself, told interrogators, such as a statement that he met frequently with to al-Qaeda figures including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, even dining with him before going to the U.S.
COMEY: He was hosted at the farewell dinner by the mastermind of September the 11 and coordinator of those attacks.
WILLIAMS: Even so, investigators say Padilla claimed, in the interrogation, that he never intended to actually carry out any attacks in the U.S. And his lawyer says today that all of these accusations should be tested in court.
DONNA NEWMAN, LAWYER FOR JOSE PADILLA: If the government believes that somebody‘s committed a crime, if they believe somebody‘s dangerous, what they do is bring a charge and bring it to trial.
WILLIAMS: And his lawyers are urging the supreme court to rule this month that Padilla, who‘s been held two years now, should have the right to go to court and challenge his designation as an enemy combatant and not just take the government‘s word for it.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Prosecutors also say Padilla first proposed to his purported al-Qaeda contacts that he build a used—build and use, rather, a nuclear device with plans culled from the Internet. Sounds almost farcical, but the very same subject came up today on the presidential campaign trail in Florida. And as Carl Quintanilla reports, in a major attempt to mark territory to stake some policy territory, the remarks came not from the president, but from his challenger.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a Florida seaport today, the politics of the unthinkable. John Kerry flanked by shipping containers, symbols of what he called, “the world‘s greatest threat.”
KERRY: The possibility of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group getting their hands on a nuclear weapon.
QUINTANILLA: In a race where the candidate‘s differences over Iraq have become hard to discern, Kerry has decided to push national security as an issue. The kind we used to think about during the cold war.
KERRY: It is time again, that we have leadership at the highest levels that treats this threat with a sense of seriousness, urgency, and purpose than it demands.
QUINTANILLA: For their part, republicans were ready for the attack, today. Senator Saxby Chambliss, can criticizing Kerry‘s suggestion the U.S. open disarmament talks with North Korea said, quote, “I would be very concerned about someone running for commander in chief who would immediately jump into bed with North Koreans.”
(ON CAMERA): Republicans also criticize Kerry‘s stance on another issue, the very law that regulates how terrorists, once apprehended, are dealt with.
(voice-over): The Patriot Act, defended today by Vice President Cheney, who accused Kerry of once supporting the law and its provisions to help terrorism investigators, only to turn on it.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT: I won‘t be saying this very often during the next few months, but Senator Kerry was right.
QUINTANILLA: Kerry insists he supports most parts of the Patriot Act, but wants it refined to protect civil liberties. But, it was nuclear proliferation that dominated Kerry‘s agenda, saying he‘d appoint a presidential coordinator of nuclear terrorism, a shrewd campaign focus, says foreign policy expert Michael O‘Hannan.
MICHAEL O‘HANNAN, FOREIGN POLICY EXPERT: A broad issue of nuclear safety is actually more important that Iraq for long-term American well being.
QUINTANILLA: Democrats see an opportunity to dilute the reception, still evident in polls, that the president is stronger on national security. So, they plan to emphasize the nuclear threat even more in the coming days.
Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, West Palm Beach, Florida.
OLBERMANN: Sixty years ago this minute, of course, it was not a war against terror, but one against tyranny. Our reminder to you to join us this weekend on MSNBC for “D-Day at 60: A Celebration of Heroes,” a special edition of COUNTDOWN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. Find out how the allies won with tactics that have largely been dismissed as antiquated and too costly in human life, dismissed during the Civil War.
Still ahead on this edition of COUNTDOWN: Those stories that do not merit numbers, like that of this lady. Um, madam, Kresges is offering some very nice dance slippers for $13.99. “Oddball” is next. Ow.
And later, why can‘t films just be films? “The Day After Tomorrow,” criticized by opponents of global warming and by their opponents, too and by a third group. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now and we pause the COUNTDOWN for that segment of weird news, more fun than going barefoot on a bed of rusty nails. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And we begin in Malaysia with the story of traditional Indian dancer Mathevi Suppayar. Like all Malaysian who appear on “Oddball,” Ms. Suppayar dreams of getting her name in the Malaysian Book of Records, which is why she performed this little jig for about a half an hour on a bed of 10,000 nails. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Very impressive indeed, especially when you consider she‘ll be needing 10,000 tetanus shots in the morning. “I‘m terribly sorry no record for you, too dangerous,” they say, “the Malaysian Book of Records is not in the business,” it says, “of promoting hazardous activities.” It is more interested in feats of strength and the freakishly deformed. Well, she may qualify for the latter now. Ms. Suppayar says she will send tapes of the event around to “Ripley‘s Believe it or not” and “Fear Factor.” Until then she goes home with nothing but two wounded tootsies and a dream. At least you made “Oddball,” dear.
To Brussels, Belgium, and another possible world record. It is the greatest opening—the grand opening of the world‘s deepest swimming pool. Marco—polo! Ninety-nine-feet deep. The “Nemo 33” was constructed to be a training ground for Belgian divers, scientific research, and possible underwater cinematography. Like if they ever made “Water World, the Sequel.” It‘s complete with dark passage ways leading to underwater grottos with fresh water. It took seven years to construct and the Belgians say they are confident the filter will be working in no time.
Turning now to “Oddball” bad pun traffic and weather together, we have an egg-xasperating situation on I610 outside of Houston Tegg-as near the Shell Station.
I used to work with a traffic guy who made puns like that at a rate of one every seven seconds.
Anyway, the tractor hauling 30,000 pounds of eggs overturned, spilling the eggs on the highway and over the edge of a bridge crushing a truck parked below. The driver suffered the only injury of the accident, a broken nose, and that may have worked in his favor since the smell was reported to be overpowering. Highway closed for more than 14 hours until authorities could round up a piece of toast big enough to soak up the mess.
And the weather part? It was raining hands over the weekend in New York. You heard me, hands. Like these hands only without the arms. Let‘s hear it for the boy, give the boy a hand. And there‘s no way that the old Denise Williams‘ lyrics could not have been going through the minds of boaters at Long Island‘s Lawrence Village Marina, Sunday night, when they heard a loud thump under their rear deck. Members of one boating crew did and discovered an unexplained severed human hand that appears to have dropped from the sky. No explanation. Bird, plane? You know, at times people ask for fate to lend a hand. There you go.
Back to the COUNTDOWN, per se, and our third story tonight is ahead. Almost a year and a half after his pregnant wife disappeared, Scott Peterson finally getting his first day, but not his last, in court.
And later, a new edition of COUNTDOWN‘s tally of innovative ways to telephone 911. This time, fancy footwork.
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: Jessica McClure, remember her? Baby Jessica, stuck down in the well in Midland, Texas. Better sit down. Last Friday she graduated from high school. High school!
No. 2: Unidentified 54-year-old man from Lees Summit, Missouri, dropped his keys in the Long View Lake, decided to go after them. Tying rope and 20-pound anchor around his waist, taking one end of a garden hose down with him as a breathing tube. His first problem, the hose slipped out of his hand. Believe it or not he is OK, but doctors report he is suffering from acute stupidity.
No. 1: Residents of the Villages Adult Community in Howell, New Jersey. Veteran drivers have been seen as going at literally a snail‘s pace. People think they know what the cause here is. A new 15-mile-an-hour speed limit sign has been posted, but it has a big bolt in the center of the number 15, right between the one and five. Police think the elderly drivers are trying to drive 1.5.
OLBERMANN: Their case, his conflicting accounts of where he was when his pregnant wife disappeared, his extramarital affair, the $10,000 and the new hair color he had on the day they arrested him.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it all started today, that which was once and which may yet again be the talk of the nation, the State of California vs. Scott Peterson, opening arguments today, nearly a year and a half since the disappearance of victims, Laci and Conner Peterson, more than a year since his arrest.
Deputy district attorney Rick Distaso opened for the prosecution,
laying out the high points of what is obviously a circle case. He
questioned Peterson‘s ability to tell the truth ever, noting that months
before his wife‘s disappearance, Peterson had told his mistress, Amber Frey
· quote—“My wife‘s dead.” Defense attorney Mark Geragos is expected to make his opening statement tomorrow.
The defense claiming prosecutors intend to call as many as 500 witnesses. The evidence in the case may total 40,000 pages, hundreds of photos, plus videotapes and one at least tantalizing audiotape, a message from Mrs. Peterson‘s cell phone voice mail. It‘s part of an overview from the trial. MSNBC‘s Dan Abrams reports that the message is one of the classic either/or, either evidence of exculpating ignorance or the most cold-blooded kind of alibi creation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON, DEFENDANT: Hey, beautiful. I just left you a message at home. It‘s 2:15. I‘m leaving Berkeley.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s the last message Scott Peterson left on Laci on her cell phone the afternoon of December 24. It‘s never been heard publicly until now.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PETERSON: I won‘t be able to get to Vella Farms to get the basket for Papa. I was hoping you would get this message and go on out there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The question: Did he leave that message as a possible alibi, knowing his wife was already dead, or was Peterson just returning from a fishing trip, expecting to see his wife at home?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PETERSON: I‘ll see you in a bit, sweetie. Love you. Bye.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Prosecutors will likely argue Peterson killed Laci at their Modesto home and the next morning drove the body over 90 miles to Berkeley Marina, dumped it into the bay, possible with cement weights attached to her limbs, Laci‘s torso found only two miles from where Peterson said he went fishing, their baby boy a mile further down the beach.
JIM BRAZELTON, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: He puts himself at that location within a short distance of where the bodies were found. That seems to be a fairly significant piece of evidence.
ABRAMS: Prosecutors will also present a hair consistent with Laci‘s found on pliers in Peterson‘s boat, a boat prosecutors say no one else even knew he owned, and records from tracking devices that showed he returned to the marina at least five times before Laci‘s body was found. They say that helps prove he knew the body was there.
The defense says the hair proves nothing and that Peterson only went to the marina after hearing that searchers were there. And then there‘s his affair with massage therapist Amber Frey.
AMBER FREY, MASSAGE THERAPIST: Scott told me he was not married.
ABRAMS: Frey allowed authorities to tape hours of her conversations with Peterson. In those calls, he admitted saying his wife was dead before Laci went missing. But in the arrest warrant obtained exclusively by NBC News, Detective Craig Grogan writes that when Peterson was initially shown photos of the two of them together, Peterson said—quote—“Is that supposed to be me?”
But according to Grogan, that relationship may have only enhanced the real motive—quote—“Scott‘s failing business and financial situation, in addition to the emotional and financial pressure of becoming a parent, when he lacked any desires to have a child. The expensive desires of his wife likely compounded the situation.”
PETERSON: I had absolutely nothing to do with Laci‘s disappearance.
ABRAMS: The defense will likely argue that someone else abducted Laci from near their home, that the police may have lied, at the least ignored other leads, including a burglary across the street from the Peterson home. Numerous witnesses reported seeing a suspicious brown van in the neighborhood that morning.
But NBC News has learned the defense will also focus on at least three witnesses who reported seeing a white van with chipped paint, a wooden rack and tinted windows. One saw it near the Peterson driveway. Another claimed to have spotted it speeding less than a mile from the Peterson home, a woman‘s coat hanging from the door. And around that same time in that same area, another witness claims to have seen a pregnant woman walking her dog with two men, one of whom was yelling at her.
Others reported seeing Laci or someone who looked like her walking in the neighborhood after 9:30 a.m., the time Scott Peterson said he left the home.
MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY FOR SCOTT PETERSON: It‘s our fervent hope, find the actual perpetrators.
ABRAMS: Maybe the strongest evidence for the defense, an autopsy photo of the baby, found with plastic tape knotted around his neck, as seen in this graphic recreation, the defense expected to suggest the baby was likely born alive and then killed, as opposed to dying inside Laci‘s body, as prosecutors will argue.
(on camera): Both sides expected to call dozens of witnesses. The trial could take as long as six months.
Dan Abrams, NBC News, Redwood City, California.
OLBERMANN: It‘s going to be a long five, six, 10 months.
I‘m joined by Dana Cole, former co-counsel to Robert Blake, partner in the firm of Cole & Loeterman.
Mr. Cole, good evening.
DANA COLE, ATTORNEY, COLE & LOETERMAN: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with that cell phone call. Is that, if it is a part of an alibi construction, is that not a very risky bit? Does it give a hint here about the strength or weakness of where the defense is coming from, that something could be presented that might also be so easily interpreted as damning?
I think that this piece of evidence is like virtually all of the evidence in this case. It can go one way or the other. It either supports the prosecution or it helps the defense, depending on what interpretation you want to place on it. So this is a very thin case. It‘s a razor-thin case, without an actual murder weapon, without knowing where the murder was committed, without any type of forensic corroborative testing such as blood splatter, things like that.
It becomes very difficult for the prosecution. But, on the other hand, it‘s difficult for the defense side to explain a lot of inconsistencies in the behavior of Scott Peterson.
OLBERMANN: Is the determination of what that recording meant going to be based entirely on how long how many members of that jury have been married and when was the last time they got a message that had sweetie and love you and all the rest of that in it?
COLE: You know, I think it again depends on what was his typical behavior. If either the prosecution or the defense can call witnesses to say either that‘s what he typically did or that‘s not what he typically did, then it becomes very probative.
So, again, there are a lot of gaps here that need to be filled in by other witness testimony, explaining what his typical conduct was, whether he left those types of messages before or whether he did not.
OLBERMANN: The prosecution‘s case, as it has been said over and over again, largely circumstantial. But today, this ADA, Distaso, showed photos of Scott Peterson‘s gun and promised that he would prove to the jury when it was last fired. That would be a pretty prominent display of a gun in a case where you forensically can‘t prove cause of death, isn‘t it?
COLE: Well, yes, but what does that mean? He says he can prove when it was last fired.
If it was fired into the body of Laci Peterson, then it‘s obviously extremely probative. But if it was fired at or near the time of her death, but cannot be connected to her death, then what does it mean? really It means nothing.
OLBERMANN: Dana Cole, defense attorney at the firm of Cole and Loeterman, many thanks again, sir.
COLE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: They are not coordinating it. It just happens that way. When there‘s news from the Peterson trial, there tends also to be news of the Kobe Bryant case.
And today‘s is a lulu. Judge Terry Ruckriegle actually has ruled against a word. At trial, no one is to call the woman allegedly raped by Bryant a—quote—“victim”—unquote. Ruckriegle agreed with Bryant‘s defense team which argued that term victim implies guilt and is thus unfair to Bryant. Her attorney said that blocking the term victim might have an impact outside the courtroom, that she might no longer be eligible for state-funded services guaranteed to victims of crime.
Nobody proposed a compromise of calling the woman a—quote—
“alleged victim.” And the judge‘s ruling applies only in court. He will not personally come to your house and try to stop from you calling her a victim if, that‘s what you think she is.
Three stories down. No. 2 next. It‘s the day after the premiere weekend of “”The Day After Tomorrow.” Will the controversy still be with us tomorrow? And whatever happened to just movie movies?
And later, China‘s invitation to Britney Spears: You can come out and visit here, but please leave your bustier at home.
Those stories ahead, but, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He did a lot of good work and came up with what looks like a very strong government.
Dean (ph), fine looking suit. The white is back. So are the bucks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: A few of the contestants have come down with something sort of likened to Montezuma‘s revenge, stomach aches and other gastrointestinal problems. Do you know anything about that?
DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: Why are you doing this to me, Katie? Why? This isn‘t like you, Katie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON MANDELA, AFRICAN LEADER: But henceforth, I want to be in the position of calling you to ask whether I will be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events. Don‘t call me. I‘ll call you.
OLBERMANN: Coming up on COUNTDOWN, a disaster on screen and possibly off screen as well. Plus, what do you mean Donald Trump is firing somebody for waving at beautiful women?
OLBERMANN: In a time when everything political is wound way too tight for its own or the public‘s good, there is refreshing news from Tinseltown.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, while the latest debate over a movie continues to rage, the global warming apocalypse flick “The Day After Tomorrow,” the scoreboard for the unofficial start of the summer movie season has spoken unequivocally. “Shrek 2” beats “The Day After,” $92 million to $86 million. It sounds close, but that was “Shrek”‘s second weekend, “The Day After”‘s first.
Still, the controversy roils like—well, like a 100-foot wave hitting New York City. There are at least three sides to this debate, those who think the film is a ham-handed attempt to influence the public unfairly on the side of those decrying global warming and against corporations and government, those who think the film is an over-the-top wakeup call about the dangers of global warming, and those who are afraid that the film is so ridiculous as to make everybody dismiss the dangers of global warming.
Joe Leydon would probably belong to none of the above, film critic of “Variety,” author, “Joe Leydon‘s Guide to Essential Movies You Must See.”
Mr. Leydon, good evening.
JOE LEYDON, FILM CRITIC, “VARIETY”: Good evening, Keith.
And it‘s funny. The great French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said that every film is a political act, that you would look at even something like “Pillow Talk.” “Pillow Talk” can be interpreted as a political station of the role of women in the ‘50s. So it‘s by no means incredible that even something that‘s really lightweight entertainment, basically, like “The Day After Tomorrow,” would be parsed for hidden meaning.
OLBERMANN: Most articles I have seen attacking this film have used as the example this supposed direct connection between three events, premiere of the movie “China Syndrome” March 6, 1979, the minor nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania March 28, 1979, and this country‘s failure to approve a single new nuclear plant since then. Does that logical fallacy leave out, say, that gigantic nuclear disaster Chernobyl in 1986? Something missing there?
LEYDON: Well, but you have hit the nail on the head yourself, when you say that Chernobyl did not happen until about 10 years later.
I think you could make the argument that a lot of people saw “The China Syndrome” and maybe they didn‘t like Jane Fonda, but they certainly were upset that Jack Lemmon nearly got wasted in a nuclear meltdown. So this may have turned them off to the whole idea of nuclear power.
But there‘s is a long history of Hollywood making movies that actually do influence political debates of the time. You go back to the ‘30s. You have got “I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.” And this movie came out describing the horrendous conditions on chain gangs in the deep South and there were actually state legislatures that went ahead and passed new legislation regulating these sorts of things.
OLBERMANN: Last point. One of my favorite canards I think about this supposed anti-whatever film, it was produced by 20th Century Fox, which is owned by News Corp, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. And Rupert Murdoch has to be one of the two or three most pro-business mammals on this planet. How could Rupert Murdoch and his flying monkeys have approved a flick that was designed to hurt governments or bash the establishment?
LEYDON: But, you see, you have missed the real political point of this movie. It is the revenge of the red states.
LEYDON: I mean, what happens in this movie? Los Angeles is wiped out by tornadoes. New York is hit by a tidal wave and then frosts over. And, meanwhile, the good righteous folks in the red states look at this movie and go, ah, Los Angeles, New York, Sodom, Gomorrah. The lord works in mysterious ways.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but there will always be a East Coast and a West Coast, even if it‘s Chillicothe, Ohio, and Arbuckle, California.
Joe Leydon, the film historian, film critic of the authoritative trade publication “Variety,” many thanks for your time, sir.
LEYDON: Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Never has the segue been easier from our No. 2 story about movies to our segment “Keeping Tabs,” which begins with movie stars, particularly Julia Roberts and her two children—well, if all goes well.
Her spokeswoman tells people that, at 36, Roberts is finally to become a mother of twins, one of each. She and her husband, Danny Moder, reportedly underwent in vitro fertilization. “Star” magazine reporting the jig was up after Roberts started to tell relatives—quote—“I‘m pregnant,” a creative and original way of getting that point across.
It‘s an austere style that Britney Spears will have to adopt, so says no less an authority than the Culture Ministry of the People‘s Republic of the China. Spears is to make her first tour of the mainland later this year. She better wear a tuxedo or something. China‘s official news service reports that—quote—“Relevant departments will carry out strict reviews of Britney Spears‘ performance clothing.” Say, Mao, is that while it‘s in the box or while she‘s wearing it?
And defeat snatched from the Trumpian jaws of victory by Kwame Jackson. The guy who finished second on “The Apprentice” was to be one of the judges at Donald Trump‘s Miss Universe pageant in Ecuador, but he‘s been disqualified because he waved at a couple of the contestants after he ran into them in the lobby of their official hotel. “I was meeting with some friends.” Jackson explained, “When I was recognized by some of the delegates, as a natural human response, I extended my hand to greet them.”
Yes, that quote was provided by the Society for Convoluted Sentence Construction. The pageant has a rule forbidding fraternizing between judges and judged. Thus, Trump said to Mr. Jackson yet again, you‘re fired.
And tonight‘s top story, from top to bottom, clever ways to call for help. She‘s back.
OLBERMANN: Once, it was one of the most annoyingly familiar advertising jingles in the world.
To sell shoppers, used to looking for themselves for what they needed in the stores great and small and the concept of phoning first, they were bombarded with commercial after commercial with the payoff line, let your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, close. Tanai Rose (ph) was just
opening up the America‘s Cash Express cash checking store in
Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, when an armed gunman forced her inside. After opening the safe, Ms. Rose was taken to a back room, where she was bound with cords and other items and gagged with a scarf, immobilized as the thief made his escape.
Well, not completely immobilized. She managed to break one foot loose and, as you see in this television recreation, used that foot to drag a telephone towards her, whereupon she dialed 911 with her big toe, her big toe. Ms. Rose was not injured and obviously her toe was not either.
The greatest example of calling 911 without letting your fingers do the walking, well, no, not really, not Ms. Rose. She comes awfully close, but does not surpass the saga of Bene Lance. Ms. Lance is in the COUNTDOWN Hall of Fame because she‘s the rural Georgia real estate agent who discovered that the man to whom she was showing a house out in the middle of nowhere was not a would-be home buyer, but merely a thief.
As our correspondent Jim Piggott of our Jacksonville affiliate WJXT tells Ms. Lance‘s story, please remember at all times that not only she did this only during her actual ordeal, but she was also inexplicably willing to recreate it for a guy with a TV camera.
BENE LANCE, ROBBERY VICTIM: I could not think of how to use the telephone. And then it dawned on me, there was only one thing I had that I could use, my tongue.
JIM PIGGOTT, WJXT REPORTER (voice-over): And as odd as this looks, with her hands and legs tied, Bene Lance called her office, not police for help.
LANCE: Lamar (ph). This is Bene. I‘ve been tied up and I‘ve been robbed. Send the police and send somebody to untie me, please. And he said, you‘re joking. And I used a few of those words that you cannot repeat on TV. And he realized I was telling the truth and then the cops showed up.
PIGGOTT: Bene had no idea this was happening. She was only showing the house to a prospective client.
LANCE: This is a robbery. I‘m not here to buy this house. And I said, you‘re kidding. I couldn‘t believe this was happening to me.
PIGGOTT: He bound her arms and legs and took her wedding rings and the little bit of cash that she had in her purse.
LANCE: Then he said that he would call my office in about 30 minutes and tell them that I needed help. And I knew he wasn‘t going to make no phone call.
PIGGOTT: And that‘s when she decided she would have to make the call and scooted herself outside on the porch.
LANCE: I stood on the front porch screaming, help me, help me, help me. I thought about jumping off the porch, but then I thought, I could bust my head open.
OLBERMANN: Lord knows what damage Ms. Lance could have done to her tongue if she had done that.
Correspondent Jim PIGGOTT of our Jacksonville station WJXT.
Before our recap, late news from entertainment, the trade publication “Variety” reporting that Michael Moore has reached a deal tonight to distribute his controversial documentary film “Fahrenheit 9/11” in this country. It will be in theaters June 25 as a joint venture of IFC Films, Gate Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group.
Now our COUNTDOWN recap before we sign it off.
No. 5, picking presidents. Iraq has one, Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, the second of two men to be offered that job today. And here, Mr. Kerry seeks a campaign catchphrase. It appears he has picked, stronger at arm, respected in the world. Four, Jose Padilla, the government today alleging that the dirty bomb suspect had also planned to rent apartments in major American cities and use natural gas and explosives to blow up the apartment buildings.
Three, day one, not day last of the Scott Peterson trial, the prosecution opening by cataloging his lies. Tomorrow, the defense expected to argue that the evidence is largely circumstantial. Two, remember when a movie was just a movie? “The Day After Tomorrow” opens to great box office numbers and at least three different political responses. And, No. 1, toe-tapping, the bound and gagged victim of a cash checking store robbery uses her foot to dial for help.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.
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