Guests: Gerald Posner, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Ed Siegel
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
9/11: The commission learns that terrorists did not rush their nightmare from some later date. They may, in fact, have postpone it from May or June 2001. Gerald Posner will join us.
Which senator‘s family owns stock in Krispy Kreme? Which one earns 10 bucks a day renting out his parking space?
Which one earned 1.1 million last year, but owns a pickup truck worth 250 bucks?
It‘s senatorial financial disclosure statement time and it‘s funnier than hell.
Isn‘t she a little young? An ad campaign in Virginia to try to wipe out statutory rape. Dr. Drew Pinsky joins us to discuss how many things are wrong with this picture.
And oh, say can you sing? Never sounded good trying to belt out the “National Anthem?” We‘ll meet the San Diego psychiatrist who has a cure for the home of the brave. Change the key. He did not mean Francis Scott.
All that and more now, on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. After the bloodshed and the society changing pain and the 33 months and four days of collective regret, this news resembles the less funny version of that last round object rolling off the top shelf and then smacking us in the back of the head.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight: As the nation has plowed backwards through the intelligence failures about 9/11, before 9/11, it has now tripped across disturbing evidence that there have also been intelligence failures about 9/11 since 9/11. In particular, what was, until last week, the assumption of the FBI that had the terrorists sensing that their presence might have been in part detected and rushing their plan, moving the attacks up from some later date. It appears that assumption is entirely false and entirely backwards. They delayed until 9/11.
Osama bin Laden originally planned for the attacks to take place several months earlier in May or June of that year, thus has the 9/11 Commission concluded, according to sources, quoted in today‘s “Washington Post.” But, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind behind the Qaeda plot, reportedly persuaded bin Laden to postpone the hijackings because the lead hijacker Mohammed Atta was not fully prepared to carry them out. The new evidence expected to be presented during the commission‘s public hearing tomorrow, appears to have come straight from interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Since the attacks, law enforcement in this country has assumed that the terrorists had a narrow window around September 11 and were, if anything, intending to attack later and not earlier.
And as the 9/11 Commission prepares for its final two days of public hearings, questions about timing will drop from periods of months to matters of minutes. On Thursday, it is expected to focus on whether or not military jet fighters could have prevented some of the attacks on that awful day. According to NORAD, the command in charge of defending U.S. air space, the first fighters were scrambled at 8:52 Eastern that morning—seven minutes after the first plane crashed into the north tower. But, while those two jets may have been too late to save the World Trade Center, critics have raised questions about the response to the hijacking of another American airlines plane, Flight 77, the one that would eventually crash into the Pentagon.
At 8:55 a.m., the flight broke from its expected path, cutting off contact with air traffic control, but it took a full 30 minutes before NORAD scrambled its F-16‘s, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, 30 minutes that some family members say could have made a difference. Of course, still debated, whether military jets could have shot down planes filled with innocent civilians near the Pentagon or over Pennsylvania. Such a move would have required direct authorization from the president. Authorization that Mr. Bush said he did not grant until after the Pentagon was hit.
And then there‘s a man named William Rodriguez whose role in the attacks may turn out to be akin to those who saw John Wilkes Booth at Ford‘s Theater on the morning April 14, 1865.
Rodriguez was a maintenance and janitorial man at the Trade Center. He says he‘s 90 percent sure he saw one of the hijackers inside the building three months before the attacks. The man, he says, was Mohand Alshehri, one of the hijackers onboard United flight 175, the second of the Boston flights. Rodriguez says he was cleaning washrooms one weekend on the concourse level of the trade center in June 2001 when Alshehri approached him and said, “Excuse me. How many public bathrooms are in this area?” Rodriguez says that after the attacks, he recognized the man from newspaper photos. He told an FBI agent at the Family Center at Ground Zero, he never heard from the bureau. The bureau says it never got any report, nor has it heard of Rodriguez. He met with the 9/11 Commission for the first time last week.
Goodness knows how many days of revelations are still ahead of us about 9/11. How many grandchildren, of the nearest infants, will be investigating this? None of them know or likely to be find three developments like this one in one day.
To help assess them, we turn again to the investigative journalist and author Gerald Posner who has written what is, thus far, the textbook on this story, “Why America Slept.”
Mr. Posner, thanks again for your time, tonight.
GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR, “Why America Slept”: Keith, great to be with you, as always.
OLBERMANN: Does it trouble you, should it trouble us that the FBI‘s working theory since the attacks have been that if anything, they have been rushed when this information that the 9/11 Commission apparently has, suggests no, the attacks were in fact not rushed but delayed?
POSNER: Absolutely, it should trouble all of us. Why am I somehow not surprise that had the FBI could get it wrong one more time? What the FBI has done, in its attempt to cover its own behind since 9/11, is to say, “ah, there was a very small window of opportunity for the hijackers to operate, they had to rush everything. We were operating all around them. We were looking for a couple of these guys out in San Diego. They had the feeling we were getting close, if it had been a few more weeks, we might have gotten lucky and broken the whole thing up.” But guess what?
It could have taken place months earlier. This was in planning since Hamburg when originally people were talking about this, like Mohammed Atta and the others plotters, two-and-a-half years earlier. So, it could have happened months earlier. They weren‘t ready, the highjackers, to do it. The FBI‘s wrong on its thesis that it was rushed at the end. This was a slow methodical effort for 9/11 that could have taken place at any time before, it just happened to take place in September. The FBI, again, misses the ball on its analysis.
OLBERMANN: If this information, to the 9/11 Commission, comes directly out of interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad—what is his value, what is the integrity of him as a source for that kind of information?
POSNER: Well, you know, I hate to say that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad could be more credible here than an FBI Spokesperson, but there‘s a caveat on Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, as well. He is known, in the business, within the extremist circle, as having an enormous ego. He is a top player in al Qaeda, or was, before he was captured, no question about it, but thought of himself as the key player. And while he was important, it‘s not surprising to me at all that he would actually be able to say to interrogators, “by the way, I would like you to know that the success of 9/11 is because I, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, was able to personally convince Osama bin Laden, the big man, to delay this for a couple months because they weren‘t ready yet, and so I was really the reason this was successfully.” So, we have to take this worth a grain of salt, as well.
Let me tell you, Mohammed Atta was good operational terrorist on the ground. When they were ready to go, they would have gone on Friday if they were ready on Thursday night. They weren‘t going to wait one day extra. The risk that something could go wrong, one could get caught in a traffic arrest, one of them could be found out by INS, one of them could be killed in an accident, too many risks to make it wait, when they were ready to go, Atta was ready to pull the trigger whether Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or bin Laden wanted to give them the green light or not. This operation was taking place on its own, it had a force of its own by that time.
OLBERMANN: Turning to the 9/11 Commission hearing on Thursday, which is supposed to address the fighter jets. As you look long-term into the controversies and conspiracy theories that have already begun to evolve, that will no doubt in the next century, is this going to be the most fertile ground? Everything from NORAD and the NAADC were caught napping that morning, to, well, of course they could have shot down the jets, in fact, they may have shot down the one in Pennsylvania.
POSNER: That‘s right. I think—there are two levels of conspiracy theory, here. One is what I call, sort of, the fervent and fertile conspiracy ground of, they could have—the jets should have been able to shoot down these planes and they didn‘t respond, so something was wrong and they may have shot down, as you said, the plane in Pennsylvania. Then there‘s what I call the extremist conspiracy view, the Oliver Stone view of conspiracies, which is, the World Trade Center‘s were actually rigged with explosives and the planes were on remote control and hit them and we took them down somewhere from the Pentagon in order to go for war for oil. That‘s still held on to by a few extremists.
But, on the NORAD issue, there‘s a very interesting item, and you have it here in your introduction, tonight and that is, why did it take the FAA more than half an hour from the time that they found out that radio silence had taken place, on the flight that was going to hit the Pentagon, Flight 77, we already had two hijackings, we had two planes at the World Trade Center, the entire grid is on high alert, we lose radio contact with the plane -- why wasn‘t that transmitted to NORAD immediately?
If it had been, NORAD could have intercepted Flight 77. The key question though is, Keith, if they had reached the plane before it hit the Pentagon, would they have shot it down? The White House has officially said that Bush gave the order at 9:10, that‘s before it hit the Pentagon, to say “you could shoot down a commercial aircraft with passengers aboard for safety reasons.” NORAD says it didn‘t get it until after the plane had already crashed in Pennsylvania. There‘s an hour discrepancy, there. Hopefully the 9/11 Commission can make some sense of that.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll see who asks that question on Thursday and how many times it is asked. Gerald Posner, author of “Why America Slept.” As always sir, greatly insightful, greatly chilling. Many thanks.
POSNER: Many thanks to you.
OLBERMANN: And from the investigation into what should have been done, to an investigation that, some say, should not be happening at all. You may recall the case of art professor Steven Kurtz. One hundred artists and academics turned out in Buffalo today, to protest the FBI investigation of him. He was slated to appear before the grand jury today, one investigating whether he violated laws against biological warfare. The artist first came under suspicion about two months ago. His wife had passed away in her sleep, Kurtz naturally called the police. Upon arrival, they stumbled upon a bevy of scientific equipment in his basement, materials Kurtz and his colleagues say he uses in performance art pieces. Those materials included live bacteria, but according to Kurtz‘s colleagues, it was all bacteria that is commonly used in schools.
And the terrorist danger to Americans internationally. Three days after he was kidnapped, there‘s new video and a new threat to the life of the New Jersey man held hostage in Saudi Arabia, tonight. A group calling it the “Fallujah Brigade” posted online this video of 49-year-old Paul Johnson.
Although the video is heavily edited, Johnson can be heard repeatedly his name, saying that he repairs Apache helicopters, an apparent reference to his job with the defense company, Lockheed Martin. The video also came with a message, an ultimatum to the Saudi government to release hundred of al Qaeda prisoners within 72 hour or, if the demand is not met, Johnson‘s abductor say they will kill him. U.S. officials telling NBC News, they believe this video is credible.
And we told you yesterday of the handover, not of a hostage, but a prisoner. Twenty-four hours after a storm in a tea pot over the Red Cross and Saddam Hussein, it still is not clear if the U.S. will turn him over to the Iraqi government by June 30. The Red Cross had pointed out that since he is a POW and the American occupation technically ends two weeks from tomorrow, he must either be charged criminally by then, or released.
While the Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi said that his government hopes to file charges before June 30 and try Saddam as soon as possible, President Bush today, would say today only that the U.S. would turn him over to the Iraqis only when, quote, “appropriate security was in place.”
Lastly, the two main topics tonight, merging: Saddam Hussein and faulty intelligence. In April, 1991, the man is quoted in the “New York Times” as saying, over moving Saddam: “Once you‘ve got Baghdad, it‘s not clear what you do with it. It‘s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that‘s currently there now, how much credibility is that government going to have if it is set up by the United States military when it‘s there, and what happens when we leave?” The speaker? The then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Who now says there is, quote, “no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism towards the war in Iraq.”
The vice president also told the conservative think tank, the “James Madison Institute Policy Forum” that Saddam Hussein was a patron of terrorism who had, quote, “long established ties with al Qaeda” unquote. So the vice president, who for some time, has apparently been alone in the administration in believing that, has affirmed that he still does believe that.
COUNTDOWN opening once again with the war on terror. Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story: A loud and clear attack in the battle to stop statutory rape and teenage pregnancy in Virginia.
And later, a new crime wave hitting the Internet: Got an online bank account? Did you know hackers stole nearly $2.5 billion cyber dollars last year alone? Did you know I was a victim of this?
OLBERMANN: This is COUNTDOWN, the big five stories of the day. Up next, No. 4, your preview: Putting a stop to teenage pregnancy in Virginia. Birth control distribution? Abstinence programs? Billboards. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: In a world flooded with statistics, this one hits you like a rock going through a window. When girl who are still in junior high school have children, the fathers are three times more likely to be men, aged 21 or older than they are to be boys who are also still in junior high school. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: One state resorting to an ad campaign to try to curb what is a dilemma, if not an epidemic of statutory rape and teenage pregnancy.
The message from the Department of Health of Virginia, “Isn‘t she a little young? Sex with a minor. Don‘t go there.” This will be on billboards and on more than a quarter million bar items, napkin, coasters, etcetera, distributed in nearly 150 million drinking establishments. And they‘re not out the hill country, either, we‘re talking the Richmond, Roanoke, and the Washington, D.C. area including Alexandria and Arlington. This news screams of a big under reported problem.
Joining me now, to help assess it, Dr. Drew Pinsky, physician and co-host of the syndicated radio program, “Love Line.”
Drew, thanks for your time tonight.
DR. DREW PINSKY, PHYSICIAN: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: How big is this problem? How likely are billboards to impact it?
PINSKY: Well, it‘s something I‘ve been hearing about on my radio program for many, many years. Young women, who have been, particularly those who have been victimize in the childhood, will often look to older men to try to act out that victimization. And God knows there are plenty of willing participants in the male population. It‘s as though we‘ve sort of loosened the grip on the basic covenantal agreement that is the foundation of our civilization, which is that between adults and children. It‘s really astounding that it‘s happening, but it is unfortunately rather common. I think this ad campaign is to be actually admired. It‘s an idea that‘s hopefully will sort of stem the tide, maybe turn the battleship around, so to speak. I don‘t think it‘s going to have much impact on the perpetrators, however, but it may change the environment in which the perpetrators operate.
OLBERMANN: And for the statistically minded, Virginia is saying it had 219 babies born to 13 and 4-year-olds -- 14-year-olds in 1999 and 2000, 219 of them fathered by males over 18. Drew, give me the response to the rhetorical answer to this whole vexed issue, that a 19-year-old dating a 15-year-old is the same chronological gap as a 17-year-old dating a 13-year-old.
What‘s the real difference?
PINSKY: It‘s a huge developmental difference. Between 13 and—between 14 and 16, 16 and 18, those are only two years, but, those are profoundly different stages of development. Profoundly different. Listen, what I tell young kids when I speak to them on the radio, say a 16-year-old is contemplating dating a 25-year-old, or a 14-year-old, a 20-year-old. My basic argument is, “hey, when you are 20, I want to you look around you and you think of your male peers at 20 dating a junior high schooler. You will wretch. It is a completely inappropriate behavior.” And what‘s really unfortunate about it, it is the victims that are the most likely to try act these behaviors out. And the reality is what young people need, who have been victimized, who have mental health issue, is they need very firm boundaries to help them contain their behaviors.
OLBERMANN: Which direction is the fight against this going in? Because it‘s 25 years since Woody Allen made a film in which he was—portrayed himself dating, I guess, a 17-year-old girl, nobody blanched. Today, the age of consent for girls in Virginia is 18. Across the state line in Maryland, it‘s 16. Iowa and Missouri, it‘s still lower than that. Do we need a national age of consent? Is there—which way are we going in this fight?
PINSKY: It‘s actually a great question. I actually wish we had one. The fact that we look at these things, which have a clinical basis to them, as some sort of a subjective process that we can adjudicate across different states, I thin is a huge error. Some states, it is 14. And the reality is, anyone who works with adolescents will tell that you the developmental, the neurobiological development simply isn‘t in place until 16 to handle, effectively, an intimate emotional relationship, that includes a physical relationship. It‘s just—it‘s just overwhelming to that age group, and traumatizing. And at 16, it‘s not clear that‘s good either. Clearly 18, 17 to 19 is a window where it might be OK for many of them, but not necessarily for all.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Drew Pinsky, physician and co-host of the radio show, “Love Line.” As always sir, great thanks for your insights.
PINSKY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story of the night. Up next, the stories that do not make headlines, but make give us a much needed laugh. That could mean only one thing—“Oddball” is just around the corner. Have you figured out yet what‘s wrong with that picture?
Later, what is wrong with this picture? People straining to try to sing our national anthem. Is that the way it‘s supposed to be? We‘ll talk to the man who is trying to change this.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN, per se, to focus instead on the loud, the obnoxious, and the strange from this day‘s spin of the world. In short, the Ralph Cramdens of news stories, collected in a segment that always begins when I say “Let‘s play Oddball.”
And, we begin with another marvel of modern science. The future is here. Well, not here, actually it‘s in France. The technological breakthrough, so many feared, the driverless bus. Good lord! There‘s no one at the wheel! It is full of fancy gadgets, electromagnets to keep it on schedule and to avoid mowing down every pedestrian. The Cyber Move is being test in the southern France. Successfully completed today, a route of almost 1/3 of a mile. If all goes well, the driver-free bus could it lead to other great French inventions like snail-free escargot or the daily bath.
You want science? I‘ll give you science, air conditioned shirts! Where have these been all my life? Former Sony engineer, the brains behind this. Does the oppressive heat get you down? Then put this long-sleeved heavy jacket and turn on the central air within. Little fan sown into the lining keeping the wearer cool on the warmest days, as long as the batteries last, anyway. Two additional details that are both relevant and true. El Paso, Texas today, named America‘s sweatiest city and when you wear this shirt in El Paso, they will call you Michelin Man.
In their movie, “The Meaning of Life,” the Monty Python boys had a boardroom scene in which that question was debated. One executive reported, “I‘ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks and what we‘ve come up can be reduced to two fundamental concepts: One, people are not wearing enough hats. Two, matter is energy. In the universe, there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some have energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person‘s soul. However, this soul does not exist ab anicio (ph), as orthodox Christianity teaches, it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self observation. However, this is rarely achieved, owing to man‘s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by every day trivia.”
In London today, the world‘s most expensive hat was displayed at Christy‘s Auction House, valued at $2,700,000, covered in diamonds, and modeled by the fetching and gifted actress, Alicia Witt, no relation to Alex. You‘re correct; it does look like an antelope. The hat will begin a world-wide tour which stops in New York, Tokyo, Melbourne, and beautiful Monaco.
With reference to your second point, when you say souls don‘t develop because people become distracted—COUNTDOWN will be back with our No. 3 story after the break. Your preview, power, politics and cold hard cash:
The almighty dollar in the presidential campaign, and in the lives all the men and women who make up the United States Senate.
And later, 11 years after charges of sexual abuse first leveled against Michael Jackson, new details about the terms of the settlement of that case.
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: Maude Celia—Maudie, excuse me, Celia Hopkins. Remember we told you two weeks ago that the last Civil War widow had died. Uh-uh, Ms. Hopkins 89 years old, from Lexa, Arkansas, has come forward to announce that in 1934, she was the child bride of Confederate veteran William Cantrell. He was 16 when he served, she was 19 when they married.
No. 2: Fidel Castro. A letter he wrote in 1940, as a 12-year-old, has just come to light. If it had been answered correctly, it might have changed the world. It was found in the national archives in Washington. It was to President Roosevelt. Fidel wanted FDR to send him $10.
No. 1: An unnamed employee of a furniture store in Grass Valley, California. His pants saturated with highly flammable chemicals, he decided to see what would happen if he lit them on fire. The results? Store on fire, pants on fire. He was uninjured but witnesses claim they saw him take advantage of the situation by running around lying.
OLBERMANN: In the good old days, when congressmen could still bust into the Senate chamber and beat Mr. Sumner of Massachusetts senseless with a cane, accusing senators of being loaded was rarely contested and rarely had anything to do with money.
But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, starting late in the 19th century, the top nickname for the Senate has been the millionaires club. And today, it is literally true. At least 42 of them are. The new Senate financial disclosure forms are out. And apart from assessing how the better half of the bicameral legislature lives, it provides us, as always, with some gut laughs that the senators would have preferred to keep quiet.
For instance, which of them owns a $766,000 house and a $1,000 car?
We pay their salary, $154,700 a piece. They have to take care of the rest.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. He struggled through on the $80 million in his blind trust funds. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina, she was declared to be worth somewhere between $10 million and $43 million.
Jon Corzine of New Jersey, reportedly between $50 and $100 million in assets. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, somewhere between $8 million and $40 million in family trust funds. But no Kennedy just sits back and live on inherited wealth. Oh, no, his disclosure includes a Boston parking space. He rents it out for $2,500 a year to some other guy. He makes money the old-fashioned way. He earns it.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois reported his income down to the penny, $1,138,366.09. Last year, he listed four cars, including a 1992 Ford pickup truck worth $250, also a 1990 Geo Prizm. We have an update. This year, his pickup is still running, but the Prizm has gone to charity.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, worth between $800,000 and $2 million in 2003, but his book and music royalties had slid from $43,000 in 2002 to $33,000 in 2003. But with music like this, there is hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Skating with my baby on a New York night.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Bill Frist, senator from Tennessee, he has got blind trusts ranging from $7 million to $35 million. And, irony warning, the former heart surgeon has three sons who have small interests in Wendy‘s restaurants and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Mmm, senatorial offspring doughnuts! Ahhh.
Ted Stevens of Alaska reported real estate worth up to $1.5 million. He also got a sled dog last year as a present. Then he bought the dog‘s twin, cost him $250. He should have bought Senator Durbin‘s 1992 Ford for $250. But that‘s besides the point. Charles Grassley of Iowa, he raked in between $1 million and $3 million last year, $45,000 of which came from his corn and grain farm, where the corn is as high as an elephant‘s eye.
And a tale of two senators and two lifestyles in New York. While Hillary Clinton and husband took in $6.6 million in speaking fees and the revenue from her book, Senior New York Senator Chuck Schumer had to sell off some of his holdings so that his kids could afford to go to college.
OLBERMANN: It sounds like Senator Schumer needs to write a book and do an audio version that stretches out over 41 C.D.s.
The answer to the earlier trivia quiz, he owns a home in northern Virginia worth $766,000 and a 1993 Ford Taurus worth $1,059.75? Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, come on down.
One more financial surprise. The four senators on John Kerry‘s supposed short list for the vice presidential slot on the ticket, why, they‘re all millionaires. The wealthiest possible V.P. contender, John Edwards of North Carolina, his mass tort law career giving him reported assets somewhere in the range of $14 million, maybe $44 million. They‘re a little imprecise.
The poorest millionaire in the bunch—and, yes, we‘re calling a millionaire poor—Bill Nelson of Florida, $1.8 million to $7 million. We‘ll wait while you get a tissue. Senator Bob Graham, also of Florida, bringing home bacon to the tune of $7 million to $30 million. And last, but certainly not least, at least not in this crowd, Evan Bayh of Indiana, a reported $3 to $5 million. Then, again, he‘s fairly young.
Those bank accounts positively puny in comparison the substantial disposable income of Kerry‘s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose husband, John Heinz, a senator himself, was heir to the half billion-dollar ketchup fortune that bore his name.But politics can be a cool business. Nearly all of that money is off limits to the Kerry campaign. Ketchup money, no. Big hair band idles of the 1980, yes.
Jon Bon Jovi to the rescue, raising $1 million last night singing and shilling for the Kerry campaign. Because of events like that one, Kerry is now outpacing Bush 2-1 on the fund-raising circuit, with a haul of $30 million in April alone. But that feat sounds perhaps more impressive than it actually is.
Bush has earned the right to coast with a huge advantage over Kerry in cash on hand, as of the end of April, $71 million to $28 million. Also working in the president‘s favor, the home-field advantage and a taxpayer-funded jetliner called Air Force One that happens to come with his job. Mr. Bush has already logged 68,000 frequent flyer miles this year, most of the trips to one of the dozen or so battleground swing states that will decide this election.
No surprise, then, that government watchdog groups are crying foul, accusing the Bush campaign of abusing the privilege. Mr. Kerry, meanwhile, digging into his war chest to pay for his own charter plane. His only perk? He can already anoint himself president with a snazzy, yet sneaky paint job on the side. Think of the money they saved leaving off the letters F-O-R.
Money and the campaign. Joining us to do some of the calculus, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, also a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly.”
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
As rich as these senators are, they could afford one of those antelope hats you talked about in the “Oddball” segment.
OLBERMANN: Yes, or one of these networks.
OLBERMANN: So, I‘m confused, as I often am by math. Who is ahead in the Bush-Kerry race financially?
CRAWFORD: I look at cash on hand. That‘s what matters to me, because that‘s how much money they have got to go from here forward. And Bush has twice as much, around $70 million. And Kerry has got around $35 million.
That also is about the difference in how much Bush has raised overall and Kerry has raised overall. But Kerry has raised enough to be competitive.
OLBERMANN: I am assuming that spending in presidential campaigns is exactly the same as spending in shopping and spending in signing up a ball club, that it is all about the same quality and not quantity. Has Mr. Bush gotten his $130 million worth so far?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t think so.
He‘s raised enough to pay the salaries of the Yankees, I suppose. That might be a better investment. What he has spent his money on, primarily, is television ads primarily attacking John Kerry. Their hope was to have a 15-, 20-point lead perhaps by this point. That hasn‘t happened. I don‘t think the money the president has spent against John Kerry has shown much traction.
OLBERMANN: Can‘t let you or this topic go without reflecting on the senatorial financial disclosure forms, also known as, who wants to know if I‘m a millionaire? I realize they‘re not total disclosures. But if they‘re not total disclosures, why on earth would Richard Lugar want anybody to know that he owns a car worth $1,000 or why would Ted Kennedy want anybody to know that he earns $10 a day renting out an extra parking space in Boston?
Back when they passed these disclosure laws, that‘s why they built some things in there to make it not really disclosure. It‘s really disclosure in name only because of those big ranges that you just had to read. Somebody doesn‘t know whether they‘re worth $10 million or $70 million? No wonder we have got a $350 million deficit.
CRAWFORD: These guys can‘t count.
But, no, actually, that law—that is in the law for a reason. They want it to be confusing. They don‘t want to have to give us a specific number, as Durbin volunteered to do. So it keeps us guessing. Are they worth $10 million or $50 million?
OLBERMANN: But we know about the parking spot.
Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC—as always, Craig, thanks for your insight.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: And to conclude our third story, politics and money, in this case, not how much they make, nor how much they spend on—in the campaign trail, but how much of it gets earmarked for stem cell research.
You‘ll recall that, only weeks before her husband‘s death, former first lady Nancy Reagan spoke out publicly in support of stem cell research, asking President Bush to lift the restrictions on it that he had himself imposed. Only, last Friday, during his father‘s burial in California, our MSNBC colleague Ron Reagan appeared to be criticizing President Bush for—quote—“wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.”
Today, asked about that remark, Mr. Bush fired back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘ve always said I think it‘s very important for someone not to try to take the speck out of somebody‘s else‘s eye when they may have a log in their own. In other words, I‘m very mindful about saying, you know, oh, vote for me, I‘m more religious than my neighbor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Earlier, Mr. Bush‘s spokesman had said no change to the limitations on stem cell research were planned.
That concludes the third story tonight, money, money, money, with just a dash of politics.
Up next, convenience for customers and for the crooks, the millions of Americans robbed of billions of dollars online. And later, more millions, not stolen, but paid out a decade after a sealed and settled lawsuit. The Jackson details from the first case.
OLBERMANN: Ah, the ease of banking online, not only does it save you the time and effort of visiting the bank. Apparently, it saves the bank robber the time and effort, too. Our second story on the COUNTDOWN is next.
OLBERMANN: The e-mail came in late on the afternoon of Memorial Day. The wire transfer out of my checking account was being processed and would be completed within a few hours. What wire transfer? Instinctively sensing that my bank‘s computer had been somehow hacked, I followed the link to my bank‘s Web site, filled in the appropriate information.
And our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, it was at that exact moment that I joined the club. I had gotten phished. Nobody had hacked my account. I had just done it for them by supplying my account data after a false alarm designed to get me to panic. And I don‘t even bank online.
Robert Hager tonight with what may be the fastest growing, slickest scam in the country.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pat Bidelman (ph) was an early convert to banking online for convenience. But last month, she was shocked to find $5,000 missing, withdrawn by an unknown someone without authorization.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt very personally violated that someone could go into my account and know, you know, bills I paid, know how I spend my money.
HAGER: She complained to her bank, which, by law, must cover losses promptly reported. But so far, she‘s still waiting.
(on camera): It is the newest, fastest growing financial consumer fraud. And its scope is startling, says a survey by Gartner market research.
(voice-over): It estimates that among Americans using the Internet, 4.5 million have had money stolen from their bank accounts, two million of those within the last year.
Lead researcher Aviva Litan:
AVIVA LITAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, GARTNER GROUP: I definitely think it has reached crisis proportions.
HAGER: Average loss last year, over $1,000 an incident, or a total of $2.4 billion.
LITAN: The bad guys are really out there and they‘re out trying to get naive, innocent, trusting U.S. consumers.
HAGER: How? Well, one way is through fake e-mails looking like they‘re from your bank or Web provider, claiming there‘s a problem or that, for security, they need you to verify your account number and pin, all the crooks need to make a payment to themselves. It‘s a fraud called phishing, spelled with a “ph” in hacker speech. And it, too, is growing, says David Jemens (ph), who tracks it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re seeing every month between a 50 percent and sometimes 150 percent increase in the number of online scams and the number of e-mails that are being sent out to try and trick consumers.
HAGER: Experts warn consumers never to give up account details in response to e-mail. And others say banks will have to devise better protection, beyond simple passwords, to keep old-fashioned thieves from ravaging new age bank accounts.
Robert Hager, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: From $2.4 million to $18.3 billion, the segue from our No. 2 story to our celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs,” beginning with everybody‘s favorite, your celebrity dollars in action, day 211 of the Michael Jackson investigations.
And, for a change, information not about the current allegations, but the previous ones. Court TV says it has gotten a copy of the settlement Jackson made with the family of the boy who accused him of molestation in 1993. The terms, a trust fund for the now 24-year-old man which began at $15,331,250. The parents got a million and a half each.
It was a case of extreme drunk driving. He has pronounced himself and behaved extremely sorry. He will not, however, get a truly extreme penalty, singer Glen Campbell sentenced today to 10 days in jail with 12 hours off per day for a work furlough for the drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident charges from last November. By the time he had gotten to Phoenix, his blood alcohol content was rising to .20.
The judge evidently thought this mug shot—come on, let‘s see your angry Glen face—was punishment enough.
And what are the odds of this? Fidel Castro makes it into the big show twice in one night, once as a newsmaker, a second time in “Keeping Tabs,” and connected to Bill O‘Reilly, of all people. The Fox News host—the news—that guy who decided last week that his show was more important than Ronald Reagan lying in the state Capitol Rotunda, so he had the president preempted, that guy, he is being threatened with a lawsuit by liberal author Eric Alterman.
Last month, on air, O‘Reilly called Alterman—quote—“another Fidel Castro confidante.” Careful, Billy. You may want to pull back a little bit. This is how Joe McCarthy‘s trolley started to come off the tracks.
Coming up, tonight‘s top story, one man‘s bid to put an end to centuries of tuneless renditions of the national anthem.
OLBERMANN: Ever since Francis Scott Key set his vision of the Battle of Fort McHenry to the music of an old British drinking tune, Americans have wondered if he had really done us much of a favor, not the words to the national anthem, mind you, certainly not the patriotism, the—how can I put this gently? -- the fact that only one in 75,000 of us can sing it without making a screeching sound at some point.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, in a moment, you‘ll meet a man who has a solution, a solution to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): O, say, can you see by the dawn‘s early night?
ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS (singing): What so proudly we hail at the twilight‘s last gleaming, whose bright stars (INAUDIBLE) through the...
LESLIE NIELSEN, ACTOR (singing): ... the Ramparts as the da, da, da, da, da.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): And the rocket‘s red glare...
Uh-oh. I‘ll make up for it now.
NIELSEN: (singing): Bombs in the air.
BARR (singing): Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): For the land of the free.
BARR (singing): And the home...
OLBERMANN: And a million dogs howl in the moonlight.
Dr. Ed Siegel, a psychiatrist and resident of Solana Beach, California, has a way to fix this. He joins me now.
Dr. Siegel, thanks for your time tonight.
DR. ED SIEGEL, NATIONAL ANTHEM ALTERATION ADVOCATE: Well, thank you so much for having me. Delighted that you‘re here.
OLBERMANN: First off, what is your solution?
SIEGEL: It‘s a very simple solution, just lower the high notes.
Lower the whole song.
It was—it‘s been played now in the key of B-flat now since the armed forces started playing it in 1916. And I would like to lower it to G-major. So, instead of la, da, da, da, da, it will be, and the rockets red glare. Most people can sing that, the vast majority.
OLBERMANN: Now, we should explain where you are at the moment. You‘re standing outside the town council there. In about five minutes, you‘re going to go in and plead your case for them to change the key in which the national anthem is played, as you say, going from B-flat to G-major.
Why your town council? Are they in charge of the national anthem and we just didn‘t know?
SIEGEL: Well, about four years ago, I thought I was making progress. My congressman, Duke Cunningham, felt very strongly, along with me, that it should be lowered. And he took it to the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, asking me to play it at the opening of the second session of the 106th Congress.
I thought it was a go. And two months later, we got a letter saying that it just wasn‘t customary to accept such requests. So it‘s back to the drawing board.
OLBERMANN: Why is it important that the drawing board is an official one? Why do you have to have a key change for a song, even the national anthem, on the books? Can‘t people just sing it in the lower key without having some sort of legislative mandate?
SIEGEL: Well, ever since the armed forces adopted it in B-flat major, all the bands now play it in that key.
And I think that, when an audience is asked to sing our national anthem, it ought to be singable. We‘re probably the only nation in the world that can‘t sing its own national anthem. So I‘m hoping that, by my city council, which is very forward-thinking, I‘m hoping that, by them accepting my resolution, that other communities across the land will pick up on it and maybe then Congress will hear us.
OLBERMANN: Do you have critics? Are there people saying you‘re toying with history here? Are there people actually opposed to this?
SIEGEL: Very, very few. As with most things, there are always a few naysayers. But the vast majority of the people have been very, very supportive.
OLBERMANN: If you shift this thing down into a lower key, will there not still be some people who have the same problem at the other end of the spectrum, singing like this?
SIEGEL: Well, that‘s true.
But the low notes are not the notes that we feel the most. When we sing, in the land of the free”—in the home of the brave and the free, the free and the brave—I can only do it when I‘m singing it. I can‘t recite it.
OLBERMANN: You can‘t pick it up in progress, yes.
SIEGEL: When we hit those high notes, that is the passionate time. That‘s when people want to feel the stirring aspect of that song and feel the patriotism involved. It is thrilling. My dream is to lead it at a baseball game and have thousands of people singing in pride our national anthem.
OLBERMANN: Just give me G-major version of and the rockets‘ red glare. Just sing that for me right now right now as we leave.
SIEGEL (singing): And the rockets‘ red glare, the bomb bursting in air.
OLBERMANN: I can do it. I can do it.
SIEGEL: Instead of, and the rockets—there you go. All right.
Dr. Ed Siegel, psychiatrist, resident of Solana Beach, California, continued success. I think you‘d better get into that meeting. I hear them singing the anthem.
Thank you, sir.
SIEGEL: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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