Guests: Ronald Peterson, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
At the catalpa, the wait reaches eight hours. The viewing time is extended. The degree of mourning for Ronald Reagan is not exaggerated, and among today‘s visitor, one unlikely guest.
As the mourning continues, so too, does the reminiscent, the political impact of Ronald Reagan‘s humor.
RONALD REAGAN, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I hope you get well quick, or you might have to make a speech in your pajamas.
OLBERMANN: No humor from the ever broadening torture investigation. Two year-old memo from Justice to the White House, a one-year-old memo from administration lawyers to the Pentagon, each says “torture may be legal.”
A fact that the singer Mark Anthony may already understanding after A. His wedding to Jennifer Lopez, and B. The 16 times Matt Lauer asked him about his wedding to Jennifer Lopez.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Just about this time of year in 1965, the amorphous interest in having actor Ronald Reagan run for governor of California coalesced into a serious campaign. But there was one major obstacle, Reagan was the host of a weekly television series “Death Valley Days” and what were then absolutely strict equal time regulations precluded anybody in TV for running for office. So with the episode, “The Wild West‘s Biggest Train Robbery,” Reagan turned the reins of “Death Valley Days” over to another actor named Robert Taylor.
It was 35 years ago today, June 8, 1969 that Robert Taylor died. Taylor was mourned deeply in Hollywood, but by then, it was already clear that one particular columnist had been seriously mistaken when he wrote “Some day Ronald Reagan will regret giving up ‘Death Valley Days‘ to Robert Taylor.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: And still they come. Past the catalpa, upon which Ronald Reagan lies in repose at his presidential library in Simi Valley, California. By 6:00 a.m. local time there had been 40,000 visitors. Hours have now been extended from the original time the doors were to close tonight at 6:00 p.m. Pacific, until 10:00 p.m. And despite those extended hours, officials have been turning people away since about 3:00 p.m. Pacific, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, although one high-profile and perhaps highly surprising guest made it in, in plenty of time. Our correspondent at the library is George Lewis.
George, good evening.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Keith. Actually, we have an update. The Reagan people tell us that now more than 70,000 people have filed past Mr. Reagan‘s casket in the library and they‘re expecting that to go on at the rate of about 3,000 an hour. They‘ve laid on extra municipal buses so they can increase the flow of people so they can get as many people into and out of the library by closing time as possible.
As you mentioned, there was one VIP guest, democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who dropped by this afternoon. He—his visit to the library was very brief. He walked up to the casket in silence. Some of the observer there is said he crossed himself, and then left without making any remarks. We have been seeing people walking in and out all day. And we were able to talk to a few of them after they viewed Mr. Reagan‘s casket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to really give, really respect to him, and because I am older, 98, and have lived through many of these governors and presidents, and I thought it was a respect to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of a history lesson in a way. And I think too, just being her is just living—being a part of history, too. Just a once in a lifetime opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: Mrs. Reagan will arrive at the library at 8:00 a.m. Pacific time, tomorrow morning, to accompany her husband‘s casket to a nearby Point Magoo naval air station where he will then be flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, there will be ceremonies both here, at the library, and at the naval air station as the casket is moved. Ruffles and Flourishes, the playing of “America the Beautiful” an honor guard and honoree pallbearers, all present with Mrs. Reagan and the Reagan family—Keith.
OLBERMANN: NBC‘s George Lewis at that overwhelmed Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Thanks George.
The extension of the visiting hours, although it will eventually lead to, perhaps, 85,000 people having seen the former president‘s body, will not impact the state ceremonies tomorrow, Thursday and Friday in Washington. After the departure ceremony in California at 11:15 a.m. Eastern, President Reagan‘s body arrives at Andrews tomorrow at 5:00 Eastern. The formal funeral at the Capitol at 7:00. Lying in state begins in the rotunda at 8:30 and continues throughout the day, Thursday.
Please join Chris Matthews, Lester Holt and me as we bring you MSNBC‘s live coverage of the state funeral, the national funeral service, and the internment of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
As we have mentioned several times, this is to be the first state funeral in this country since 1973. Unfortunately, we had been on quite a run of them, then. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson that one year alone;
Eisenhower in 1969; Herbert Hoover four years earlier; Kennedy, of course, indelibly burned in the memories of those old enough, in 1963. And as Andrea Mitchell reports, JFK‘s ceremony was truly the instigation for the formalized process we now call the state funeral.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not since the ceremony for Lyndon Baines Johnson, 31 years ago, has the Capitol had a state funeral. Officially the service that takes place in the rotunda of the capitol before a national service two days later at the National Cathedral.
When Americans think of state funerals, they most likely think these images, the day the nation mourned John F. Kennedy. The poignant detail of the traditional procession include a horse-drawn caisson, followed by a riderless horse, boots in the stirrups turned backward, traditions that began with no preparation almost 141 years ago with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
GEN. JAMES JACKSON (RET.), WASHINGTON MILITARY DISTRICT: Following the Kennedy funeral, there was a big discussion after that that we needed to do standardized plans and procedures because we can‘t do these things on the fly, they‘re just too big and they‘re too difficult.
MITCHELL: All presidents are expected to make detailed plans for their funerals soon after they take office. But, given the way Richard Nixon left office, his family chose to hold his funeral at the Nixon Library in California, far from Washington. Still, all his successors came.
DONALD RITCHIE, ASSOCIATE SENATE HISTORIAN: It had all the trappings of a state funeral, but his family chose not to have a formal funeral here in the rotunda.
MITCHELL: When Ronald Reagan makes his last journey to the capital, his casket will rest on a funeral bier (ph) first built for Abraham Lincoln.
(on camera): And all this week, every half hour, a one-gun salutes will be fired at military bases across the nation in President Ronald Reagan‘s honor.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: But, while the ceremonies of tomorrow‘s funeral will hearken back to the days of Lincoln, the security is undergoing a thoroughly contemporary update. Today on Capitol Hill, as dozens of armed service members rehearse for the state funeral tomorrow behind the scenes, there were some high-tech preparation for the events of the next three days: Radiation detectors, helicopter surveillance, just some of the unseen security measures being put into place. But police say there have been no specific indications that the events might be targeted with hundreds of foreign dignitaries expected to be in attendance, concerns about safety are running high.
On Capitol Hill where Mr. Reagan‘s body will lie in state beginning tomorrow evening, metal detectors being installed there, to screen the tens of thousands of mourners expected to pour into the rotunda, perhaps 150,000 all total.
The Reagan memorials have been designated a national special security event. An assignment usually reserved for things like the State of the Union and the Super Bowl.
But it is not truly this week ahead that merits so much investigation and so many questions, as it is the last 10 years of the life of Ronald Reagan. After revealing by letter that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer‘s, Ronald Reagan withdrew from the public eye. One of the few people who had regular contact with the president in his last years was Dr. Ronald Peterson, the director of the Alzheimer‘s disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Peterson diagnosed President‘s Reagan‘s Alzheimer‘s and helped care for the president over the last decade.
Thank you sir, for joining us, tonight.
DR. RONALD PETERSON, DIAGNOSED REAGAN‘S ALZHEIMER‘S: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously out of courtesy and respect to the family, this shouldn‘t and it can‘t be an interview about Mr. Reagan condition during that time, but we can go back over the actual original diagnosis and how you recognized President Reagan‘s illness as not the ordinary forgetfulness of an 83-year-old man.
PETERSON: Well, back in 1994, we certainly did have the usual criteria for making the diagnosis of Alzheimer‘s disease, so after a thorough medical evaluation of the president, at the Mayo Clinic, his team of physicians and myself came to the conclusion that this was most likely the diagnosis and we presented it to the president and Mrs. Reagan at that time.
OLBERMANN: What can you tell us of the actual presentation of that awful diagnosis?
PETERSON: Well, you summarize the way in which you drew that conclusion, so you summarize the data that we had gathered, the tests we had done. And we summarized interviews with the president and Mrs. Reagan and gave them the word that we thought that this was our best clinical judgment, and what this means and then we discussed about the prognosis in general, and where we go from here.
OLBERMANN: And the president had a clear picture of what was ahead for him?
PETERSON: He certainly did. Both he and Mrs. Reagan, of course, this was a difficult time for them, but they took wit a great deal of courage at that time, and I think they felt that this was the next channel—challenge in their lives, and wanted to go forward in a positive manner.
OLBERMANN: That was, of course, almost a decade ago. There have been advances in the fight against Alzheimer‘s since, many of them. Two-part question, really: What are the advances and if those advances had been there 10 years earlier, do you think they could have helped Mr. Reagan?
PETERSON: Well, I think we‘ve learned a lot about the disease in the past 10 years and I must say it‘s in part due to the president and Mrs. Reagan coming forward with this announcement 10 years ago. Because it helped people realize that if the president of the United States can come down with the disease, so can we. Consequently we realized nobody was immune from it and I think the search that has followed has triggered been stimulated by that type of interest and certainly funding from the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer‘s Association has been very helpful in trying to define what is the disease process itself, what causes the disease, and I think we‘ve made good strides in that fashion. And of course, there are several drugs on the market now that we use for treating people with Alzheimer‘s disease that really were not available in 1994.
OLBERMANN: President Reagan was hardly the first prominent man to be inflicted with a comparatively rare disease. And as you said, in those circumstances, there‘s always the hope that a diagnosis, if it‘s publicly divulged, will lead to awareness and raising, also to preventive health maintenance. Have you seen evidence, 10 years out, that there has been an increase in the preventive measures that can be taken?
PETERSON: Well, that‘s an active area of research right now, Keith, and there‘s a good deal of work going on that indicates that in fact, maybe some of the lifestyle measures, that is how—what we do on a day-to-day basis, our diet, physical exercise, intellectual stimulation and intellectual exercise may be helpful, actually, in preventing or forestalling the onset of the disease.
OLBERMANN: And a lot of that awareness from Ronald Reagan.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Ronald Peterson, the man who diagnosed and treated President Reagan‘s Alzheimer‘s, thank you for your time tonight, sir.
PETERSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN opening again, this evening, with the respects still being paid, in California, for the former president.
Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story: A focus on one of Ronald Reagan‘s greatest political asset, his sense of humor about himself.
And later, the absolute opposite, torture tactics in the war on terror: New question surfacing about just how far our soldiers have been allowed to go and why some in the Justice Department thought it was not merely justifiable, but absolutely legal.
OLBERMANN: Straight ahead tonight‘s No. 4 story: Ronald Reagan and the power of the punch line, the ones he delivered and himself. Mr. Reagan‘s sense of humor helped him make it through and survive the Oval Office.
OLBERMANN: Talk to any of Ronald Reagan‘s family members, the literal ones of just unofficial ones, and within two or three topics, his sense of humor will come up. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Of course you‘d need one to survived appearing in motion pictures ranging from the chimpanzee farce “Bedtime for Bonzo” to a film about a physician who liked to study blood of criminals called “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse.” Many politicians have proved you do not need that sense of humor to survive the climb up the greasy pole, but Ronald Reagan proved it can be an invaluable skill.
REAGAN: True, when I saw the doctors around, I said I hope they‘re all republicans.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): His humor could range to the borders of bawdiness. Tip O‘Neill used to say that Reagan was the best teller of old Irish stories he‘d ever heard. But for public consumption, it was closer to a political kind of Bob Hope. Don‘t scoff; Bop Hope was the icon of American humor for seven decades.
MITCHELL: I remember once in 1984 he was in the rose garden, Keith, and I shouted out to him, as we tended to do because we didn‘t have that many news conferences, and I shouted out, “what about Mondale‘s charges?” and not missing a beat he said “well, tell him he should pay them.”
OLBERMANN: But the Reagan humor was at its most effective when the target was Ronald Reagan. Even the Ronald Reagan freshly recovered from an assassin‘s bullet.
REAGAN: A letter came from Peter Sweeney, he‘s in the second grade in the Riverside School in Rockville Center, and he said, “I hope you get well quick or you might have to make a speech in your pajamas.”
REAGAN: He added a postscript. “P.S., if you have to make a speech in your pajamas, I warned you.”
OLBERMANN: Who could successfully criticize Reagan‘s advanced years when he was already making fun of them?
REAGAN: You members of the graduating class of 18 -- or 1981.
REAGAN: I don‘t really go back that far.
REAGAN: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.
REAGAN: One of my favorite quotations about age comes from Thomas Jefferson. He said that we should never judge a president by his age, only by his work. And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.
REAGAN: To show you how youthful I am, I intend to campaign in all 13 states.
OLBERMANN: And reports of a president literally asleep on the job?
Reagan was already ahead of them.
REAGAN: As soon as I get back to California I plan to lean back, kick up my feet and take a long nap. Come to think of it, things won‘t be that different after all.
OLBERMANN: Long after he took office, he was still dismissed as the proverbial B-movie actor. But those dismissals rang hollow when Reagan had, once again, beaten his opponents to the topic.
REAGAN: For the first thrill tonight, was to find myself for the first time, in a long time, in a movie on primetime.
OLBERMANN: There is a stage craft to self-deprecation. But even if within it, there was contained a means of pre-empting criticism; it all still gave the impression of a public figure who seemingly did not hesitate at a joke at his own expense. It was either innate, or somewhere he had learned somewhere invaluable.
REAGAN: God lord, I co-starred with Errol Flynn once.
OLBERMANN: The No. 4 story behind us now on the COUNTDOWN. Coming up later: President Reagan‘s eight years in office helped pave the way for the first President Bush, now could his passing help boost Bush, the younger, to re-election?
But up next, those stories that get no number, “Oddball” is around the corner, and we‘ll tell you how police captured perhaps one of the dumbest criminals ever.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, as we always do at this hour because there is other news going on in the world including the weird, strange, and bizarre stories we bring you every night at this time. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And when you devote nearly 48 hours of coverage to an event, as MSNBC did over the 60th anniversary weekend of D-Day, featuring dozens of interviews with salty old war veteran, you‘re bound to have one or two of those famous live TV moments. We‘d like to present one of them to you, now. Not any way to in any way denigrate the job done by our reporter Preston Mendenhall nor his interview, or his interview subject, the former Corporal Harry Hudek, who parachuted into Normandy on that fateful day in 1944. Sorry, Preston, sorry Corporal Hudek, this just really made us laugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESTON MENDENHALL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Harry, can you tell us how old you are today?
CORPORAL HARRY HUDEK, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I‘m 82 years old.
MENDENHALL: Eight-two years young, might be a better way to put it.
HUDEK: Up your (EXPLICIT DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ah, what the hell captain, you guys saved the free world, you talk what ever way you want.
You may have to avoid New York City if you choose that language. It‘s possible that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has deafening profanity on his list of offenses in his new sweeping anti-noise plan for the city. He wants to revise the noise code for the first time in 32 years. Dogs will be permitted to bark only five minutes a day, 10 per minutes night. That would be a slight reduction from the current average of five hours a day! If the dog only wants to bark for eight minutes a night, is he permitted to yield his barking time to the dog from the hydrant across the street, like in the Senate?
Also, construction workers will have to cover jackhammers with blankets—yeah that‘ll happen. And that ice cream truck with that song can no longer play the repetitive jingle endlessly. And that‘s a big noise problem where they give sirens to the members of the Visiting Nurses Association.
Speaking of sirens or “sireens” as my late grandfather from the Bronx use to call them—they don‘t need them in Gresham, Oregon, not for the burglary suspect, Wade Silva. Mr. Silva asked the cops if he could go along on one of those ride-along jobs where you actually get in a police car with a policeman. As is both customary and logical, police ran a background check on him and discovered that Mr. Silva was wanted for having stolen and then tried to fence a DVD player and 100 CDs. He is now enjoying the sit and wait along job in the Multnomah County jail.
“Oddball” now on the record books. COUNTDOWN will be back with the No. 3 story after this break, your preview: That President Bush meets with world leader Georgia. Today he wins a rare international consensus on how to proceed in Iraq.
This, as new questions surface today about the Bush administration and the wider war on terrorism. New memos just out suggesting the Justice Department thought torture might be justifiable. Now the attorney general is refusing to release the remaining documents.
Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.
No. 3: Rosemary Goudreau, an editor at the “Tampa Tribune” newspaper. A hockey team from that city won the Stanley Championship late last night, and says it‘s a computer error that printed the editorial in the newspaper this morning consoling the team on losing. Second one of these in nine months. The “New York Post” reported last year that the Yankees had lost to the Red Sox.
No. 2: Ken Green, owner of the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel outside Las Vegas, Nevada. He decided he wants out of the prostitution business after 22 years, so the ranch is up for sale. Seven million dollars you get 40 acres, the bar, swimming pool, 150 really worn out box springs.
And No. 1: Chuck Marriott, president of the National Greyhound Association, when it was revealed this week that more than 100 racing dogs in Miami had tested positive for cocaine. Mr. Marriott said he didn‘t think anybody was trying to fix races. No, he says, it could be that one of the trainers had some cocaine on his hand when he accidentally entered the stables and accidentally touched the 100 dogs while they were being brushed. Who exactly is this trainer Chuck? Tony Montana?
OLBERMANN: President Bush‘s week will end with a eulogy for another American president whose style and agenda, it is said, he has tried to adopt as his own. But that is three days from now.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the business at hand for President Bush, beginning with his hosting duties welcoming world leaders to the Group of Eight Summit in Georgia, the G-8. Up first, the prime minister of Japan. The president also held private meetings with the leaders of Russia, Canada and Germany, hoping to smooth over differences regarding the war in Iraq.
And rare consensus on Iraq at the U.N. today, where a new resolution wins approval by the unanimous vote of 15-0. That resolution spells out the powers of the new Iraqi government and clears the way for the elections there.
More good news in Iraq itself. Last week, we showed you footage of three Italians being held in Baghdad. Today, we can bring you news of their rescue, a U.S.-led commando raid of their kidnappers‘ hideout. One Polish hostage has also been rescued. All four men are said to be in good health.
Now the bad news. Just hours after that successful raid, a group of Iraqi militants took seven Turkish citizens captive, demanding that all companies working with the U.S. leave Iraq.
How some Western hostages have been treated in Iraq is not merely beneath contempt. It‘s beneath description. Thus, it can look as if this country is the only one playing by the rules. What happens if we stop?
Jim Miklaszewski now reporting on government memoranda revealed today, suggesting ways the U.S. could have broken those rules or changed them in mid-game.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The series of secret government memos concludes that torture of al Qaeda prisoners in U.S. custody would be legal and, in fact, necessary to protect the U.S. against a terror attack.
A Pentagon memo from March 2003 obtained by NBC News essentially says the president has the authority to order torture of prisoners if it‘s done in self-defense, even if it appears to violate the Geneva Convention. In those cases, the memo states, the prohibition against torture does not apply to interrogations and any soldier who carries out torture could argue it‘s justified to protect the nation from attack.
The previously secret memos, including one from the Justice Department, sparked an explosive public debate today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted, despite the memos‘ findings, President Bush never ordered the torture of prisoners.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This administration rejects torture.
MIKLASZEWSKI: But the most dramatic exchange came between Ashcroft Democrat Senator Joe Biden, who both have sons in the service.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: There‘s a reason why we sign these treaties, to protect my son in the military. That‘s why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured, they are not tortured.
ASHCROFT: As a person whose son is in the military now on active duty and has been in the Gulf within the last several months, I‘m aware.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The military had sought permission to use more aggressive tactics in interrogations to pry intelligence about future terrorist attacks out of prisoners. But human rights activists say the memos clearly open the door for torture.
TOM MALINOWSKI, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Senior officials in the U.S. government were actually contemplating the use of torture as a matter of national policy.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Officials here still insist the aggressive interrogations don‘t come anywhere near torture. In fact, one senior official complains the tactics now being used aren‘t tough enough.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: To what degree all that leaked over into Iraq is unclear. To what degree the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is still affecting the presidential race is unclear, but evidently, it is declining.
A new Zogby poll suggesting that nearly three out of every five Americans disapprove of the current administration‘s handling of the war in Iraq, but that is up three points in a month. President Bush‘s overall approval rating is growing. It is up four points to 46 percent since he hit his all-time low of 42 percent in mid-May. Still, more than half of those disapprove.
John Kerry‘s lead hit another trough. Three weeks ago, it was 47-42 Kerry. Now it‘s 44-42. Undecided has jumped from 8 percent to 11, defying the theory that the undecideds do so late in the campaign in favor of the challenger, that theory most recently presented by John Zogby, who is in charge of that poll.
The next set of poll numbers may reflect a rather unexpected, even unseemly aspect to the campaign, the possibility that Ronald Reagan‘s death may influence it, the uncertainty, how it might do so.
I‘m joined now by MSNBC analyst, adviser to three presidents, Pat Buchanan.
Pat, good evening.
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I read Howard Fineman today on the Web site talking about how Mr. Reagan‘s passing can help the president because now his campaign can employ, if you will, the Reagan legacy without being accused of being ghouls. I read a couple of people say it will not help anybody because it would remind voters that George Bush is not Ronald Reagan. What do you think?
BUCHANAN: I think the first is right.
George Bush has had a tremendous week, in the sense that you had Memorial Day, where he‘s over at Arlington. He spoke at the World War II Memorial dedication, which was a very positive moment. He was at Normandy. He‘s now at the G-8 Summit with the leaders of the world. And he will be doing the eulogy on Friday to a beloved president.
And all of these raise George Bush to role of the chief magistrate, chief mourner, head of state. In that role, he‘s a unifying figure and it takes him up and above politics. So I think the president is going to get a tremendous boost from that, from the emotion surrounding President Reagan‘s death, from that sense of unity and grief and love and affection.
And you can see John Kerry himself was trying to get into that wave by going out to Simi Valley. So I think there‘s no question but that the president is going to be helped very much by this week.
OLBERMANN: Any practical impact on Kerry, other than him voluntarily losing a week of fund-raising?
BUCHANAN: Well, it breaks his momentum. Kerry was on the move, sort of. As you pointed out, he was five points ahead. He‘s got to stop campaigning completely.
You have the president in the center of the spotlight on very positive occasions. And then you‘ve got Bill Clinton‘s book coming out, I would think, in a week or two, which is going to be very dramatic and it‘s not going to be all positive for Kerry. And it‘s going to take the limelight from him. And then he has his convention and then he has a month in which he‘s got to spend his matching funds, if you will, when he‘s going to be hit very hard.
So I think the Kerry people are probably sitting down and reflecting now. And they can‘t be helped by this, because President Bush will now be invoking Ronald Reagan wherever he goes.
OLBERMANN: One thing about influencing the polls this year and ultimately the vote, every couple of weeks, we‘ve had something else new to talk about, Abu Ghraib, the president hiring a lawyer, Clinton‘s book overshadowing John Kerry or possibly being dropped by voters and voters injure themselves because the thing is so heavy.
Now it‘s the passing of President Reagan. Has everybody missed a sea change in politics, that the events and the trends that used to erase leads or kick-start comebacks or what have you now have incredibly shorter shelf lives, that none of these things seem to be sticking very profoundly very long?
BUCHANAN: I think you‘re dead right, Keith. With cable TV, we‘re 24 hours. We take a subject, we gnaw on it, we overwhelmingly cover it. And then suddenly we move on to something else.
And the attention span of the American people is not what it was when we relied on newspapers or even one evening, each evening, you know, Walter Cronkite for 30 minutes. And so things move on much more rapidly than they did. That‘s a very good point. And I think things are going to change an awful lot between now and the fall.
But as soon as brought back that Abu Ghraib and the torture and things like that, it‘s a real downer for all of us. And at the same time this week has been so positive. But I think that all that bad news is going to come washing back on Monday.
OLBERMANN: And we will see it then.
Pat Buchanan, as always, we appreciate your time, your perspective.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hope to see you in Washington the next couple of days.
BUCHANAN: All right.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Pat.
COUNTDOWN now three-fifths complete, D-Day plus 60. America‘s secret weapon in World War II is ahead, the women who helped free up so many male soldiers to go to the front lines. And later, the latest fight in America‘s decency wars. It all started with Janet Jackson‘s chest. It could now end with Eminem‘s butt.
OLBERMANN: Two more to go in our trek to tonight‘s No. 1 story. Coming up, the women, the women of D-Day. And the power of love times three, J.Lo, first the heave-ho, now the afterglow. What do we know about her super-secret weekend wedding?
OLBERMANN: In the last 14 months, our reactions to the death of Lori Piestewa, the capture of Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, and the images of Lynndie England have reconfigured, for good or for ill, our concept of women in war.
But in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, as we continue to celebrate the week of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, history tells us that the change in perception of a woman‘s place in conflict really began during World War II. There‘s the almost cliched memory of Rosie the Riveter, symbolic of the women who filled thousands of the jobs reserved for men in wartime industry as late as the First World War. But there were women at war.
COUNTDOWN‘s correspondent Monica Novotny has spent much of the past week gathering the details of their tales of heroism in uniform.
Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
World War II was the first time women actually served in uniform as official members of the military. More than 350,000 females joined the ranks when their country called. And General Eisenhower later said their contributions to D-Day were an indispensable part of the invasion effort.
HELEN “GIG” SMITH, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Everyone was working for a common goal. And if they hadn‘t, if they hadn‘t, we would be speaking German today.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): You could not see them on the beaches 60 years ago, but, in a sense, they were there. Behind every great man that day, there were women.
NARRATOR: This is your war, too, Ms. and Mrs. America.
NOVOTNY: Females for the fist time needed inside the military ranks, freeing the men to fight.
JIM ROBERTS, PRESIDENT, WORLD WAR II VETERANS COMMITTEE: Women played a very important role in the D-Day operation. Prior to the actual landings, several tens of thousands of American women were actually sent to Great Britain for support purposes. There, they served as clerical personnel, as the shipping instructors, as drivers, all that sort of thing, supporting the millions of troops who were getting ready for the operations.
NOVOTNY: Their efforts began officially in May 1942, after Congress passed legislation creating the Women‘s Army Auxiliary Corps. Soon after, the other military branches followed suit, opening doors for women, allowing more men to make it into Normandy.
SMITH: This is the first time that women were allowed to do the men‘s jobs. They took the jobs that the men would normally take, so that they could be sent to the front.
NOVOTNY: Helen “Gig” Smith was a member of the Women‘s Army Corps, the WACs, assigned to the Pentagon with other women to do top-secret intelligence work. There were the WACs, for the Navy, the WAVs, for the Coast Guard, the SPARs. There were nurses, female Marines, even pilots, called the WASPs.
And though women were not allowed on the front lines, Army nurses arrived in Normandy on D-Day plus four.
ROBERTS: After the landings, the main contribution made on Europe itself was made by the nurses, who were there several thousand strong. And they were really just behind the front lines or actually came under fire in some cases and working in very difficult conditions to save many thousands of live.
NOVOTNY: In spite of these contributions, there was a backlash.
SMITH: There were people that wanted to destroy the Women‘s Corps. And they put in all types of rumors. They said, oh, they were nothing but prostitutes.
NOVOTNY: So the military sold straight to the ladies.
NARRATOR: Fit to do a man‘s job in the United States Navy.
NOVOTNY: The result, enlistment, but not equality, not yet.
ROBERTS: They were not treated as equals in many respects of the males in the services. That went to the matter of pay and certainly the kinds of responsibilities that they were allowed to perform.
NOVOTNY (on camera): Today, they are honored here as a part of the Military Women‘s Memorial for their service in World War II. But what these servicewomen may not have realized then, they were also laying the groundwork for yet another battle, a fight for the rights of future generations of American women.
SMITH: And they‘ll come up and say, thank you so much for opening the doors for us, also.
ROBERTS: They were pioneers. Without the support of women in the military and on the home front, World War II would not have been won. And the military commanders are frank to say that.
SMITH: It really makes me feel good because you don‘t know at the time. You just do it because it‘s there. It has to be done.
NOVOTNY: Four women are buried at Normandy. They were killed in a car accident about a month after D-Day. Three were WACs, members of the Women‘s Army Corps. And they were African-Americans from the Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only unit of black women sent overseas at the time. The fourth woman was there with the American Red Cross—Keith.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, many thanks.
And we segue out of the second World War into language that was best forgotten when that conflict ended. Leading tonight‘s edition of “Keeping Tabs,” another sports moron.
Coach Bill Parcells of the Dallas Cowboys has issued a statement of
apology after having suggested that one of his assistant coaches was trying
to one-up another assistant coach by instituting some trick strategies, or,
as Parcells quaintly called them—quote—“Jap plays.” “No disrespect
for the Orientals he said, but what we call Jap plays, OK, surprise things”
· surprise things, like going six months without somebody in sports saying something demeaning to a minority group.
Meanwhile, if you were planning to tune into the MTV Music Awards this Thursday to get a glimpse of Eminem‘s white buttocks, you‘re out of luck. I guess we all are, because ever since MTV produced the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show, it now does these shows on a slight broadcast delay. The MTV Awards are on a five-day delay, which means they‘ll have time to—quote—“edit around” the big event of the evening.
Rapper Eminem on stage performing with his band, D12, decided it was time to be shocking, because he‘s so counterculture and all. So he turned around, dropped his pants, and mooned the audience. Oh, that‘s original and new. The stars of stage, screen and microphone sitting in the Santa Monica theater collectively yawned in complete boredom.
Finally, a strange, small piece of sad news or a sad piece of small, strange news. I‘m not sure which. You may remember that last year we reported on the engagement of a model Genevieve Gallen to Verne Troyer, AKA Mini Me from the “Austin Powers” movie. I know I remember. You just don‘t remember a thing like that, which is why it is especially sad and strange to report tonight that Mini Me has gone to court seeking an annulment against Gallen.
Not so strange that it didn‘t work out. Probably about 100 reasons why it was bound to happen. It‘s that no one ever remembers the two actually getting married, including Verne Troyer. He says Gallen‘s claims that the two were wed are—quote—“fabricated and financially motivated,” that they were never actually married. Like I said, you wouldn‘t forget something like that.
From one Hollywood union falling apart to another Hollywood union falling under the microscope, straight ahead, our No. 1, the J.Lo marriage. Day No. 3 for marriage No. 3. Wait until you see the pressure Marc Anthony is under to spill the beans.
But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of the day.
OLBERMANN: To the top of the COUNTDOWN.
And it‘s hard to say who is more persistent, Jennifer Lopez or our colleague Matt Lauer. Despite two previous martial disasters, plus an engagement to Ben Affleck that made their movies look like winners, Ms. Lopez has gotten married again to singer Marc Anthony.
In a moment, the thoughts of columnist Michael Musto, thought only Michael can have.
First, the marriage makes her Jennifer Lopez Noa-Lopez Judd-Lopez almost-Affleck Anthony. And if you think that‘s perseverance, count how many times Mr. Lauer tried to get the new Mr. J.Lo to talk about the wedding this morning on “The Today Show.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: So how are you?
MARC ANTHONY, SINGER: I am really good.
ANTHONY: Yes. Thanks for asking. How was your weekend?
ANTHONY: I had a good weekend.
LAUER: You had a nice time?
ANTHONY: Yes. Did you?
LAUER: I had a good time. I spent it with my family. How did you spend yours?
LAUER: With your family? Anything happen Saturday?
ANTHONY: No, nothing that was eventful.
LAUER: No, nothing that was eventful?
LAUER: You better be careful, young man.
ANTHONY: A nice, beautiful day with my family.
LAUER: You did?
All right, will you confirm for me?
ANTHONY: I see where you are going with this, and I am just going to preface it with just saying, I don‘t—you all know, I don‘t talk about my personal life. So...
LAUER: Do I need to congratulate you?
ANTHONY: Yes, I have two albums coming out, man. Absolutely. I would appreciate it.
LAUER: And is there anything else you would like me to congratulate you on?
ANTHONY: All I‘m going to—yes, just I am healthy and I‘m happy.
LAUER: Yes. Did you marry Jennifer over the weekend?
ANTHONY: And everything is going—that would fall into the category of personal.
LAUER: What is this?
ANTHONY: And that‘s how I‘m going to leave it.
LAUER: Hey, listen, just answer me one question. If it did happen this weekend, and we all think it did.
LAUER: You are with me on your honeymoon.
LAUER: So how does that happen? When are you going to get some time to spend together?
ANTHONY: Well, after this, I personally am going to take some personal time off.
ANTHONY: Yes, me.
LAUER: And might you be able to spend that with a significant other?
ANTHONY: That would fall under the category, right?
LAUER: All right. I understand where this is going. And you know what? I respect your privacy.
ANTHONY: Thank you. I truly appreciate it.
LAUER: So who was at the wedding?
OLBERMANN: Sixteen questions, 16 evasions, three weddings, and the one and only Michael Musto, columnist of “The Village Voice.”
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So this is an unusual question to hear asked on a network newscast, but did he knock her up?
MUSTO: Well, first of all, I think a better question from Matt Lauer would be, show of hands, who here has not married Jennifer?
MUSTO: Look, people were throwing minute rice at this wedding. The gown was detachable. The ring was out of a Cracker Jacks box.
Yes, he knocked her up, to answer your question. The baby is going to be named Coolo. He already has a book deal. And I actually think that Marc is very smart to learn from Bennifer, with imploded as a result of too much media whoring and attention, to evade all questions, deny that J.Lo even exists.
OLBERMANN: And also you left out the velcro veil.
She has received the well-wishes of both Mr. Combs and Mr. Affleck, two of her executive who she did not marry, but the oddsmaker are quoting 3-1 against the marriage lasting until year‘s end. Now, Michael I want to wager the rent on this issue. How should I bet?
MUSTO: Well, first of all, Ben gave it two thumbs up, which is two more thumbs than “Gigli got.” And who is he to talk? I am optimistic. I give it two weeks.
MUSTO: The reasoning is, she‘s a nice old-fashioned Catholic girl, so you get pregnant, you get married, and married, and married. That‘s really old-fashioned and nice.
OLBERMANN: Now, they could very well stay married for 55 years, and God bless them if they do. But are the majority of the show business weddings designed to play out and ultimately self-destruct for publicity‘s sake, or is that just a happy coincidence? Does it just happen that way?
MUSTO: I think, in this case, it‘s only happening that way. I think she has had the publicity type of relationship that imploded before. Now she‘s looking for happiness, but it‘s a desperation.
No matter how big her Coolo gets, figuratively speaking, no matter how big she gets as a celebrity, there‘s this aching need in her to always be with a man, and usually with somebody that she is working with. It turns out she‘s producing a movie for Marc Anthony. It‘s kind of his “Selena,” where he‘s going to play a Latin pop star. And, you remember J.Lo, I‘m working with backup dancer, why don‘t I marry him?
And that‘s how she thinks.
OLBERMANN: You know where they are at all times.
Ultimate over-under on this. Does this marriage outlast the one between Britney Spears and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel?
MUSTO: Well, this has already surpassed that. That only lasted a weekend. And Marc was very nice to wait a whole mourning period after his divorce, four days, before he married J.Lo. So I give this one 40 days and 40 nights.
OLBERMANN: Well, third marriage, wait four days. I believe that‘s in the Bible, in fact.
Michael Musto, auteur of the column in “The Village Voice” “La Dolce Musto,” great thanks, as always, Michael.
MUSTO: These people don‘t read the Bible or anything.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you will talking about tomorrow.
No. 5, the continuing parade of mourners past the casket of Ronald Reagan in California. New estimates tonight that, when this is over at the Reagan Library, 85,000 people will have paid their respects. Four, President Reagan and his self-deprecating humor, likely one of the pillars of his political popularity. Three, decision 2004 and effects of President Reagan‘s passing, John Kerry visiting the presidential library today, President Bush to deliver the eulogy, one of them on Friday. Will there be Reagan bump in the polls for either candidate?
Two, the women of D-Day, their contributions allowing more men to head to the front lines. And some say that was the difference in the winning of the war. And, No. 1, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, first, the super secret wedding, then the all-too public grilling. Nice try, Matt.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck. That was a tough one.
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