Guests: Vivienne Walt; General Barry McCaffrey
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam Hussein, president of the Republic of Iraq.
OLBERMANN: The defiance of Saddam Hussein. The impact of Saddam Hussein. The defense of Saddam Hussein. The politics of Saddam Hussein. Even the makeover of Saddam Hussein. The arraignment of Saddam Hussein analyzed by General Barry McCaffrey, Raghida Dergham of al-Hayat, and Margaret Carlson and Vivienne Walt of “Time” magazine.
A vice-presidential candidate by Tuesday? So it is reportedly for John Kerry. And she is the wildest rumor atop the wild rumor list.
Wild excitement among archeologists: hundred of pristine native-American findings in Utah kept secret for half a century by the farmer on whose grounds they rest because:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just didn‘t want to see a bunch of damn hippies move down there and dig them out.
OLBERMANN: All that and the full coverage of the arraignment of Saddam Hussein, now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. The “Butcher of Baghdad,” the dictator, firing a rifle into the air with no idea of where the shot would land and caring even less. The day‘s fugitive escaping from the last region he still controlled, a hole in the ground. None of them was the individual the world saw in a Baghdad courtroom this morning. A self-described “old man” with a fresh dose of just for men, but without enough just for beards seated in a chair right out of the prop department and swatting away flies.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Next case, the people versus Saddam Hussein. He arrived in pinstripe and shackles. He arrived in pinstripes and shackles, he arrived in what used to be one of his presidential palaces. And for the length of the 26-minute hearing, he insisted he be addressed as the “president of Republic of Iraq.” With no lawyer present, Saddam provided his own defense, and after what witnesses and Arabic speakers say was a stumbling, even confused beginning, the rust of seven months in prison began to wear off his rhetoric. Calling the whole procedures, quote, “theater by Bush.” Saddam told the judge he would not sign a document acknowledging the broad charges against him without having a lawyer present. Incidentally, there are 20 such lawyers waiting in the wings in neighboring Jordan and seven such charges, all but one pertaining to events inside Iraq; that one, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait that precipitated the Gulf War.
The formal indictment with specific charges will come later, but already on the public table, Saddam Hussein, defendant, in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADDAM HUSSEIN, PRISONER OF WAR: My occupation of Kuwait—the seventh charge, unfortunately, it is coming from an Iraqi.
Is this just?
JUDGE: But this is law.
HUSSEIN: Law? What law? Law that puts Saddam to trial because the Kuwaitis said that we would make out of every Iraqi woman a prostitute for 10 dinars in the street? And I have defended the honor if Iraq and revived the historical rights of Iraqis against these dogs.
JUDGE: Do not insult anybody. This is a legal session.
HUSSEIN: Yes, this is a legal session, and I am taking responsibility for what I say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As it ended, and a guard reached down towards the prisoner, Hussein was hear to day, “give me a moment. I‘m an old man.” Twenty-six minutes in front of the world, but ironically, only 21 people were in that room with him. One of them was the intrepid reporter of the “New York Times,” John Burns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BURNS, “NEW YORK TIMES”: He seemed disoriented, confused, he seemed shrunken. I thought he looked like he had lost 15, 20 pound. He always had that, sort of, middle pitch voice which didn‘t sound like the voice of a brutal dictator to me ever. Today it sounded even less like that to begin with. He sounded husky, he had a slight Tikriti lisp. And he looked, initially, and sounded very much like a broken man. Eventually it seemed he kind of found himself again. He was 26 minutes in the courtroom, I would say it took about 20 of those minutes really, to find his pitch. And once he found his pitch, he was in full blown defiance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Outside that courtroom, it is a country where it‘s still too dangerous for a foreign reporter to travel the streets much past sunset. A few moments ago, I had the privilege of speaking to Vivienne Walt, the “Time” magazine correspondent who has been reporting from Iraq since well before the war began, and who spent much of this day gauging the reaction of that country‘s ordinary people.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for your time tonight. Let me start not with the what, but the how much. Do you have a sense of what percentage of Iraqis, at least there in Baghdad, saw this tape of Saddam in court today?
VIVIENNE WALT, “TIME” MAGAZINE: I would hate to say an exact figure, but I would say close to 100 percent.
OLBERMANN: Hmm. Give us the flavor of the reaction. It‘s a crowded restaurant or such place, the tape comes on a television, and what happens then?
WALT: Well, I actually was in a crowded restaurant, Keith. I was in a crowded restaurant in downtown Baghdad. And you just cannot imagine the moment when Saddam appeared on television. This is a man that appeared on television 20 times a day while he was in power. People just left the food on their tables and crowded around this tiny TV set in a corner of restaurant and stood astonished watching. It was only after a few minutes that the arguments began.
OLBERMANN: Presumably, an argument needs a pro side and a con side. His supporters were out in the open. There was no attempt to make themselves into the proverbial anonymous quote, there was real support?
WALT: Well, surprisingly enough, there was real support for him. One man stood up and said, “Why is Saddam in the dark? Why is this trial happening? He‘s not guilty. He‘s our president. Bring him back.” On the other hand, several people stood up and said, “What are we spending all this time and money on a trial for? Why don‘t they just take him out and shoot him?” And actually, I think the second sentiment is felt by many, many Iraqis here who don‘t have much of an appetite for a long drawn out judicial process.
OLBERMANN: From what you saw today, from what you just described, can you extrapolate the likely reaction to the tribunal itself? Will it, in fact, hurt this nation as it tries to transition into a new former government? Could it help it?
WALT: I think generally, this tribunal could be fairly divisive. It is obviously going to settle for a lot of very emotional feelings around this country. It is very hard to imagine Iraqis every night sitting down to a televised proceeding going on inside the courtroom. There are still a lot of people in this country who have some kind of nostalgia from Saddam, especially after 15 months of violence, electricity blackouts, bombs going off every day. There really are a lot of people who might see him and start longing for some more peaceful time, or so they imagine now.
OLBERMANN: And when they saw him today, appearances are important everywhere. The last time they saw him, just as the last time we saw him, he looked like a man who had been lost in the jungle for three years. Today the suit, the defiance, the proclamation, “I am president of Iraq.” What were the reactions to the trappings of the man, to the symbolism of his appearance?
WALT: Well, actually, don‘t be too fooled by the suit. I mean, I think Iraqis looked at it and saw it for what it was, which was a cheap store bought item that he had put on for the first time today. This was a man who was extremely vain during his rule and always dressed impeccably. However, it did look obviously a lot better, and to my mind, he looked like he—a lot younger, actually, than the last time we saw him. However, he was very, very disoriented. Clearly, he didn‘t quite know what was going on around him and it took him quite a lot of time to kind of feel his way in this courtroom. Obviously, its a totally alien environment for him.
OLBERMANN: An extraordinary day, an extraordinary account from Vivienne Walt in Baghdad for “Time” magazine. Great thanks for joining us this evening.
WALT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And let‘s widen the reaction out from Iraq to the entirety of the Middle East. A range of opinions in the Arab world, and to try to help us sort it out, I‘m joined by Raghida Dergham, a senior diplomatic correspondent for “al-Hayat” newspaper and an MSNBC analyst.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, “AL-HAYAT” DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you Keith.
OLBERMANN: With or without good reason, almost everything that‘s happened in Iraq for the last 16 months, maybe longer, has wound up a as something of a black eye to the U.S. in many portions of the Middle East. Will today‘s event involving Saddam Hussein wind up being just another black eye?
DERGHAM: Wind up, maybe, because when the trial takes place, I believe Saddam Hussein will want this to be the trial of the American policies toward the Middle East, altogether. And I think this is how it will be watched by the rest of the Arab world, not only in Iraq. I think that what they saw today is something about Saddam Hussein coming back to haunt the Iraqis. He‘s still around. And I was in a gathering of some Arab diplomats and some suggested it may have not been a good idea to put him on display, because then he would have effectiveness. And finally, our own headlines in “al-Hayat” for tomorrow, they are—they say, “Saddam utilizes his experience to launch a counter-offensive,” so you can see how it‘s looked at by different points of views.
OLBERMANN: Expand a little on that idea. I remember vividly before this, the invasion last year, the stories that were viewed on with some surprise in the United States, that in Iraq, particularly, Saddam Hussein was viewed as literally immortal, that you could not kill him. That you just used the term “haunting” and “ghost.” Is that the sense that this man has almost come back, at least symbolically, from the dead?
DERGHAM: For Iraqis, they have lived under his reign of atrocities and for the tribal brutality exercise. It‘s hard to imagine how much he has instilled so much fear in them, so I think it was not a good idea, at any rate, to make him an idol, nor is it a good idea to take advantage of such arraignment to say, the interim government has great authority. It may be fine. It may not be very harmful, but I know that some are criticizing the possible negative outcome of that. At any rate, the trial itself will not take place until there is an elected government, therefore all this criticism in the Arab media about the interim government not being legitimate enough, I think that will go away if the trial is held after the election, I guess, by the end of 2005.
OLBERMANN: The Arab diplomats that you saw today, that you mentioned, what did they make of his appearance? Of his demeanor? Literally, just how he looked.
DERGHAM: Funny, because some—one person observed that basically, all he needed to do is give Saddam Hussein his cigar and you will see the good old Saddam Hussein, because he was intimidating, he was challenging the authority of the judge. He wanted the platform to say that—that to the judge that you are illegitimate and unpatriotic. One observed that, maybe it‘s not only a mistake, that the interim government has put him up publicly on television, that it may have been a mistake for the Americas to capture him alive.
And finally, another observation was that, listen, Saddam Hussein will never get to go on trial. He has too many secrets, the secrets of his partnership with the United States. The secrets that would expose so many people and therefore the idea is that maybe Saddam Hussein will not remain alive, by accident or by national causes, he would disappear before we have historic testimony to the relationship with the United States.
OLBERMANN: An issue we‘ll be exploring later with Barry McCaffrey. Raghida Dergham of “Al-Hayat” and MSNBC. As always, great insight and our great thanks.
DERGHAM: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Thus far it has been the view of the Iraqi reaction from our perspective in America, now for the Iraqi reaction in America. Dearborn, Michigan, has about 29,000 Arab-Americans, at least 2,000 of whom are Iraqi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUHAMMED ELBOUKI, DEARBORN RESIDENT: I‘m so happy, man. He‘s going to get punish. That‘s why—I want him to get punished, this terrorist, man. I don‘t like him, because he killed so many people in Iraq, you know. I‘m Iraqi. I love the Iraqi people.
HUSS BAZZI, DEARBORN RESIDENT: He‘s going down. He got nothing to say, new. I think it‘s better for him to just be quiet and wait for his lawyers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Shortly, where we go from here, lawyers in tow, General Barry McCaffrey, as I mentioned, on a point that General Wayne Downing raised last night: what about keeping Saddam Hussein away from those who would try to free him or those who would try to kill him?
But first, this may seem irreverent but it is hardly irrelevant. Shakespeare told us that the apparel oft proclaims the man. He never wrote anything about makeovers. Saddam Hussein was talking to a judge in Arabic, but most of the people, who saw him today, around the world, know not a word of that language. Their impressions had to be visual, thus, what follows. With apologies to our corporate categories at “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Grooming: Last time we saw him, it was the bad Santa look. The wiry beard, the shaggy dog hair cut that could have double for a lice motel, he was just plain filthy. Since, he‘s taken at least one bath, and he started exfoliating. He‘s working out, or they‘ve worked him out. He‘s gotten rid of the baby fat. His hair is brushed and definitely dyed. Not enough on the whiskers, but that close to the face, salt and pepper beard says, “so what if I‘m getting old, I prefer it to the alternative.”
Design: Sayonara spider hole. Hello, highly polished defendant‘s chair. It‘s comfortable, you can move in it, good armrest for you when you‘re not flailing around. It‘s the perfect pedestal from which to get your point across.
Culture: He‘s dropped the sword, his pistol is now in the White House, so what to do? Grab a ballpoint. Now he who said the pen is mightier than the sword probably was not thinking about international war tribunals, but this was still a smart move. It is a defiant statement: “I‘m literate, I‘m in control, and at least I still own a pen.” Plus you can write down bullet points when the judge isn‘t looking. Stare-daggers-at-judge.
And that fly: Some might call this a nuisance. They‘re wrong. It amounts to an accessory, one that says, “I‘m important. I deserve the attention, even if it is from an insect.” Attracting a crowd is key.
And finally, fashion: The pinstripe suit says, “Yeah, I‘m in jail. So what?” No tie, collar unbuttoned, delivering the message, “I‘m not a saint, I‘m also not guilty, and I‘m not be able to hang myself.”
A Menendez sweater might have worked here too, or better yet, a bullet-proof vest in the design of a Menendez sweater. But, this is still a big step up. At least from the burlap sack he got busted in.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN opening tonight with and Continuing with him in a moment. The No. 4 story: The days ahead for Hussein and the world.
And later, the VP stakes: The other countdown is on, reporting as it, that the announcement it is coming on Tuesday. Rumor has it, John Kerry has one hell of a trick up his sleeve.
OLBERMANN: Our No. 4 story is up next on COUNTDOWN. It‘s a long time since Saddam Hussein had his Republican Guard. Who‘s guarding him now? And what happens to the U.S. if they fail and he gets killed or freed?
We‘ll as General Barry McCaffrey.
OLBERMANN: If this morning was the arraignment of Saddam Hussein, then the indictment hearing will be in the immediate future and the trial will be next year.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: That is about all we know for sure of the supposed trial of the century. And there is a lot to get to before the Iraqi equivalent of “Court TV” signs it on next year. The early hints about the defense from lawyers in absentia focus on two points, that he was illegally overthrown by an illegal occupation and that at minimum, a change of venue would be necessary. What kind of Iraqi court, they ask, can fairly judge the man formerly viewed as immortal?
The trial will not happen until after Iraq‘s interim government is confirmed or ousted in the elections this winter. If ousted, anything could happen.
And as slowly as this seems to be going, the U.S. wanted it to go a little slower still. Our representatives there, wanted the new Iraqi government to set up a special court and extensively train a legal team. They fear another manipulated stretched out trial like that of the trial of the Yugoslav government, Slobodan Milosevic.
In fact, they fear a lot more than that. The trip from his undisclosed jail cell ended with a helicopter, an armored bus escorted by four Humvees, and eight guards—eight of them.
Joining me to discuss two problems that might make the political and legal ones irrelevant in a hurry is retired General Barry McCaffrey, currently a professor at West Point and an MSNBC and NBC News military analyst.
General, good evening.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET): Yes, hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you heard the “Time” reporter, Vivienne Walt from Baghdad, she heard many Iraqis just astounded at the concept of spending money on the hearing today. The quote she said was, “Why don‘t they just take him out to the street and shoot him?” How much real risk of that is there?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I‘m sure we‘re on very uncertain ground, here. If we turn this felon, mass murderer, and his senior officials over to the Iraqis right now, the chance of him being either murdered or escaping justice would be significant, so we‘re going to have to keep them under control for the time to come. I‘d be astonished that those Iraqi policemen we saw were even armed. We definitely want the Iraqi people to hear the evidence against this sociopath and so, we got to keep the guy alive as long as the trial goes.
OLBERMANN: You mention ad great point, the security arrangements that we saw today: U.S. helicopter, U.S. bus, U.S. Humvees, eight guards, Iraqis. Is there anyway to be sure that he would not wind up or could not wind up being shot or even freed by somebody on the inside?
MCCAFFREY: I don‘t see how. This guy probably, indirectly, murdered 1.5 million people. Gang raped hundred of thousand of women, conducted genocide against the Kurds, put down the Shia rebellion with mass murder, destroyed their cities. There‘s too many families that had somebody who suffered under this despot, so I don‘t think we could—I don‘t think they would want to see him murdered before the evidence is put out in front of the international community.
OLBERMANN: What do we suppose the impact would be on the entire U.S. effort in Iraq if something did go wrong while Saddam was in Iraq‘s legal custody, but it‘s still our physical custody?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I‘m sure it would be a black eye. You know, at the end of the day, some of this—or Keith, there are mounds of nonsense. The guy is—the important part is to roll out the evidence so the world and the Iraqi people, in particular, can see it happening. The upshot of this is going to be, I‘m confident that they will find him guilty, hopefully expeditiously, and that the sentence would be carried out by the Iraqis. There‘s a bit of me that‘s sorry this wasn‘t a military tribunal conducted with a 90-day time window, so the new Iraqi government can get on with it, minus the fear in the heart of many of these people that this guy might come back.
OLBERMANN: This was the first tangible moment. This was the first taste of this trial process. Iraq is filled with violence, there‘s an interim government, the elections are five months ahead, presumably. Should—do we now have a reason to suspect, in a tangible way, that this trial should have been held elsewhere in the world?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think there‘s a very good argument. They have either had a military tribunal, I‘m probably a minority in viewing that, with Iraqi prosecutors, Iraqi witnesses, an Iraqi defense counsel. I would have preferred to see that, or at perhaps slightly worse, an international accord. There‘s no process of justice in this country, there‘s no tradition of it. You know, I heard arguments in the 1920‘s that it was there, but for two generations now, this has been a place of mass murder, and so it‘s not clear to me the benefit of anything but having the evidence come out, and then in what‘s viewed as an impartial and fair minded manner.
OLBERMANN: And we will see. General Barry McCaffrey, as always, thank you for your time, sir.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: More later about Saddam and American politic, but for the moment, one last note about Saddam and American interrogation. The “Washington Post” quoting U.S. officials, late this afternoon, who say that while in captivity, the amount of meaningful information Saddam Hussein provided about his government, about his suspected links to terrorists, about his supposed weapons of mass destruction was—none.
The forth story‘s complete. Up next, from the war on terror to battle against the beaver. Thus we signal the daily pause that refreshes, “Oddball” is ahead.
And later, they are moms on a mission. Unlikely private eyes, using their mothers‘ intuition to catch—well to catch other kinds of mothers.
OLBERMANN: Even on the day Saddam Hussein is, in essence, arraigned, the rest of the world spins off and foolishly onwards. It knows it has a place for its daily lunacy to be chronicled. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
A single beaver can chew down hundreds of trees a year and construct dams like this one in Louisiana, completely blocking the stream and forming a small pond. This small pond happened to replace the ground on which a mobile home park stands. So Henry here, from Animal Control comes out, sets some charge and blows the thing to kingdom come. And the circle of life continue. No beavers were injured in the making of this mini action film.
Speaking of the circle of life, here is a rooster. Like any other chicken, except that he‘s adopted as his home, the drive-through lane of the Chick Fillet restaurant in Bluffton, South Carolina. That‘s right, a chicken place. No one knows what he‘s doing there. Maybe he has a death wish, maybe he is playing the Charlton Heston role in the chicken version of “Soylent Green.” Employees say he actually walked in through the front door first. They had fed him bread and biscuits. They have not fed him chicken. And they‘ve given him a cute nickname. The cute nickname is No. 3 Value Meal.
And a warning to men who wear those sandals popularly known as flip flops. No, not the usual one, you‘ll look like an idiot. The German Environmental Protection Association reports they may make men impotent. The agency says the problem is with the concentration of toxins used in the soft rubber flip flop material which can enter the body thought the soles of the fee, they‘re thalenes, derivatives of naphtha and they act like hormones, hormones that suppress the sex drive. Hence the pronunciation of the shoes will now be changed to, flip flops.
“Oddball” is in the record books now.
Coming up, Saddam Hussein‘s impact on decision 2004, and a looming vice presidential pick and his impact on John Kerry. One has just dropped out of the V.P. race. And, later, one of the biggest archaeological finds North America has ever seen. A Utah rancher had kept it secret for more than half a century.
These stories ahead. First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmaker of this day. Theme warning, dumb criminals, all.
No. 3, William Arksey of Danbury, Connecticut, so eager was he to avoid an arrest for drunk driving in 1997 that he faked his own death. After another DUI recently, fingerprints proved he was still alive. He had filed a death certificate on himself. He got better, apparently.
No. 2, Patrice Alston, he held up a bank in Philadelphia. A security guard and a cop approached him, whereupon he fainted. Mr. Alston, that is a weak M.O.
And, No. 1, Gordon A. Bryant. To get into the bank in Versailles, Illinois, you have to be buzzed in by the guard. Mr. Bryant wanted to hold the place up. He brought his stocking mask and everything. And he put the mask on and then pushed the buzzer. Oops.
OLBERMANN: At times, it seems like just about the only individual not proposed as John Kerry‘s running mate is Saddam Hussein.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Saddam will have his own role in the presidential election, in absentia, of course. But there is rather surprising news on the domestic political scene. A senior adviser to Senator Kerry reportedly and anonymously telling “The Boston Globe” that the senator may announce his vice presidential choice as early as Tuesday.
“The Globe” notes that Kerry‘s holiday bus tour through the Midwest, ending Monday, is the last part of his public schedule that has been announced. Its source says the staff has been given the presumptive nominee the contact numbers for all his potential V.P.s and told some of his closest supporters to reserve Tuesday and Wednesday to travel with Kerry. It concludes that means there could be a two-day barnstorming tour for the newly christened ticket, wrapping up with a big fund-raiser a week from tonight in New York. It does not name names.
We can unname one. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson tonight said he had written to Kerry today withdrawing his name from consideration for the ticket.
To gauge who‘s left and give a little on the impact on the race of the Saddam Hussein arraignment, we‘re joined now by Margaret Carlson, contributor editor of “TIME” magazine. She joins us from Washington.
Margaret, good evening.
MARGARET CARLSON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “TIME”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Before the names, the timing. Do you buy this idea of Tuesday? Like, it is the Fourth of July weekend. Almost nobody will be around to listen or watch people like us speculate over the choice.
CARLSON: Well, they‘re teeing it up for then. And the weekend is over. We might be ready to buckle down and figure out who this new person is.
OLBERMANN: There is—in trying to do that—and we can knock off Bill Richardson. But there is a wild rumor on a well known wild rumor Web site, otherwise supported by any reporting of any kind, that Senator Kerry has made a shocking choice, Hillary Clinton. Is this ridiculous or is it inspired rumoring?
CARLSON: Well, that‘s what makes Matt Drudge so interesting. He is not held down by the facts.
It‘s fun to think of for a few minutes. She would be an electrifying choice. Of course, electricity can kill you. I don‘t see that it helps either one of them that much. Kerry doesn‘t—has run a risk-free campaign. He doesn‘t want to take the risk of having somebody so provocative and polarizing on the ticket. And she‘s likely to be, at some point, a presidential candidate herself without going through the vice presidential thing. So I don‘t think it helps either one of them that much.
OLBERMANN: So who is it going to be then?
CARLSON: I love the way Bill Richardson took himself out just as he‘s not about to get it.
CARLSON: It‘s like saying, I don‘t want to go to that party anyway.
I think Kerry would like to surprise us and that argues maybe for Governor Vilsack, because he is lesser known. And he may want somebody who is a governor who has some actually experience doing something, as opposed to members of Congress, who have experience—I don‘t want to say running their mouths, but running committees and running a small staff. So maybe he‘ll go that way.
I have a feeling he might go for the atmospherics of having John Edwards, because when you put John Edwards‘ face and John Kerry‘s face together, you have sort of one in between. He‘s cheerful. He‘s got that speech down about two Americas. It is very appealing to Democrats. And it is appealing to independents.
OLBERMANN: Well, we‘ll see how that actually turn out. And if it is Hillary Clinton, we‘re all going to look really kind of moronic.
CARLSON: Well, you didn‘t say anything, Keith. I‘m the one that‘s out there.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much.
Let‘s switch gears, as promised, the Saddam Hussein effect, two polls out this week suggesting the number is either 40 or 41 percent of the American public that still believes he had a direct hand, a direct hand in 9/11. How do those numbers impact this race at this stage? How will those images from today impact this race? Will they?
CARLSON: Well, the administration has been so effective, even in the face of the 9/11 Commission saying there‘s no relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 or al Qaeda, in keeping that out there.
Looking at Saddam Hussein in the docket is the best expression of any success. It‘s the only successful image we have so far of the invasion of Iraq. And I don‘t think it is going to challenge the Laci Peterson trial for ratings on cable. But it was interesting to see him. He is certainly the best kept prisoner out of Iraq that we know of.
Certainly, he wasn‘t abused. It looks like he‘s been working out. They dressed him well. And maybe they even keep his hair going. I don‘t know how that black hair is maintained inside prison. But, as I said, Bush good, Saddam bad, that‘s the image that this conveys.
OLBERMANN: Wasn‘t the wild man of Iraq, the guy in the hidey-hole, was he not more impressive from George Bush‘s point of view? Was that not more useful?
CARLSON: I guess you could have Saddam Hussein turning into Milosevic, giving speeches, getting back his sea legs and looking impressive, or at least impressive as a tyrant. And that‘s not good.
But having him in the docket, having him get his due, whenever I see a horror movie, I don‘t want the villain to be killed because I want the villain to suffer. And I think Americans and certainly the Iraqi people would like to see him suffer and to answer for what did he.
OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of “TIME” magazine—as always, Margaret, many thanks.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ll find out about Hillary.
Meanwhile, the proverbial good news and bad news for President Bush. The good news, a handful of political scientists, using precise mathematical formula, have declared that he will gain reelection handily. The bad news, it‘s the same political scientists who said the same thing four years ago to Al Gore.
Measuring thing like the nation‘s economic health and the political views of the American public, they have today deduced that Mr. Bush is on his way to winning between 53 and 58 percent of the two-way race with Kerry. Their mathematical model correctly predicted Mr. Bush‘s father‘s victory in 1988, even when he trailed Michael Dukakis by double-digits. And it picked Mr. Gore by as much as 60 percent in 2000. They say he didn‘t win because he campaigned wrong. His campaign would say—well, they say he did win.
If only we had a constitutional provision resolving a tie in the Electoral College with a poetry contest using only five, seven, and again five syllables per line. Sound familiar at all? If you‘re a Democrat, your party wants to you haiku. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has e-mailed its supporters, asking them to compose the traditional Japanese poems about President Bush.
They will be delivered to Mr. Bush next week on his 58th birthday. For guidance and inspiration, the e-mail‘s author, Steve Olson, offers a haiku of his own—quote—“President Dubya fed Halliburton too well. Now Crawford awaits.” Mr. Olson probably should not count on being the next poet laureate should Senator Kerry win the election.
Wrapping up the third story on COUNTDOWN tonight, politics, poetry and picking a running mate. Up next, a caveat to crooks and cheats in Boise, Idaho. Mom is on your trail. And later, a warning to all those who drink. Beware of what this man calls being overserved.
OLBERMANN: Remember how your mom always seemed to know exactly what you‘d been up to, no matter how much you tried to hide it? Meet two moms who turned their intuitive skills into investigative skills next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Word associate on the phrase private detective and the first image may be of Humphrey Bogart or somebody like him in a felt hat slouched stereotypically over one eye, a gumshoe, shamus, P.I., a serious mother—actually, two serious mothers.
Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, their names are Valerie and Molly and they‘re not soccer moms. They are detective moms.
COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny is just back from the mean, hard-boiled streets of Boise, Idaho, with their story.
Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
They will find your long-lost uncle or your spouse‘s secret friend. These private eyes have been known to pass out their business cards at church, soccer games, even bridal shower. They‘re not your typical investigators. But they are two moms who had a dream.
VALERIE AGOSTA, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I wanted to be Nancy Drew so bad, the car, the boyfriend, everything. And then I kind of moved on to maybe “Charlie‘s Angels.” And then we have kind of moved into the “Murder She Wrote” kind of category.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MURDER SHE WROTE”)
ANGELA LANSBURY, ACTRESS: Stops right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Goodbye, Angels. Adios, Angela. I spy moms, investigating moms.
MOLLY CARMAN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: You know, what we‘ll do is go ahead and find out where he‘s going.
NOVOTNY: Valerie Agosta and Molly Carman are best buddy detectives, mothers always undercover.
AGOSTA: You see a middle-aged mom anywhere and you are not going to look twice.
NOVOTNY: Together, they‘re head of the investigations, working from home with just a few tools, hidden camera, binoculars, cell phone, and just in case...
(on camera): A stun gun?
NOVOTNY (voice-over): They split spy duties.
CARMAN: I pretty much let her do all the lying.
AGOSTA: ... lying.
NOVOTNY: You might think they would have nothing to do in Boise, Idaho. You would be wrong.
AGOSTA: We have a lot of cheating husbands. Wives, too, yes. And we do adoption searches. And we‘ve done family reunions. We‘ve done insurance fraud investigations.
Molly, help me out.
CARMAN: Missing persons.
AGOSTA: Missing persons, Runaways.
NOVOTNY: It‘s a bond that goes beyond this 007 business. Struggles with serious health issues have brought them closer. For Valerie, the battle was breast cancer.
AGOSTA: It made me kind of look over what my life had been like, what I had missed out on, what I wanted to do. So I started the agency. And it‘s just been wonderful ever since.
NOVOTNY: For Molly, it is an autoimmune disease, something she deals with daily.
CARMAN: It‘s chronic pain, mobility issues, fatigue, many different things. Doing something like this, something that keep me active, keep me young, that‘s the best weapon I have against this insidious disease.
NOVOTNY: And so they take it day by day, using skills that come naturally to mothers.
CARMAN: I have this sixth sense that kind of scares my children.
NOVOTNY: They like to imagine the glamorous life.
AGOSTA: “Mission: Impossible,” the one where they come down, we‘ve done that so many times, yes.
NOVOTNY: But they spend much of their time talking trash.
(on camera): I guess you can learn a lot from the garbage.
CARMAN: You can learn—you can get cell phone numbers, for example.
You can find out where they have a gym membership.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): And when they blow their own cover?
AGOSTA: It generally changes very little. Most people are still willing to help us out because we‘re nice middle aged moms. And that‘s what we are.
NOVOTNY: Snoops on the streets who learned their best P.I. skills at home.
AGOSTA: They don‘t want to see some hard-boiled ex-cop sitting with his feet on the desk. They want somebody who will listen and empathize with what they have to say. That‘s what draws people to us. That feels good. That feels like a mom.
NOVOTNY: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of private investigators is expected to grow as much as 35 percent by the year 2012.
Now, Valerie and Molly charge $50 an hour per investigator. Cases can take anywhere from two hours to several months to solve. And they say the oddest experience they have ever encountered—of course, I had to ask—they had someone under surveillance. And they said that this person walked into the building—and I‘m using their words—as a very ugly man and came out a very ugly woman. And that‘s when I stopped asking questions.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I don‘t think we want to know anymore about that.
But I do have one question. It‘s Valerie Agosta and Molly Carman.
Where does Hannity Investigations (ph) come from?
NOVOTNY: You know, it‘s Valerie‘s favorite name. And that‘s all. There is no Hannity. She said she just liked the name and she thought it sounded friendly.
OLBERMANN: I‘ve always suspected there was no Hannity, but that‘s a story from another complete area of life.
COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, adding to the list of the legendary detectives, the Philip Marlowes and the Sam Spades, the Valerie Agostas and the Molly Carmans, many thanks.
From a detective kind of keeping Tabs to the celebrity kind of “Keeping Tabs.”
And Glen Campbell started serving his sentence of 10 nights in jail tonight for the extreme drunk driving case last November in Phoenix. After profuse apologies for the incident, Campbell has, for the first time, offered a bit of self-defense to the folks at “Access Hollywood.” I wasn‘t really that drunk,” he says. “I was just overserved.” Overserved!
Mr. Campbell admits he really can‘t remember much of that night because he was in—quote—“blackout mode,” but he knows he was overserved.
As to this mug shot, he opines, “Everybody says it‘s the devil, but it isn‘t. It God‘s way of telling you to slow down”—and comb your hair.
Five months after the game was played, a second Super Bowl controversy has reportedly been resolved, delivery malfunction, in this case. Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was voted the most valuable player of the game, earning him a new car, a Cadillac, in fact, to have been delivered within three weeks of the team‘s triumph.
But as of this week, it had not shown up. “The Boston Herald” now reports it will be delivered to Brady tomorrow. “It‘s the damndest thing I‘ve ever heard,” Brady was earlier quoted as saying of the delay. “I‘m not driving this damn car. That‘s for sure.” His concerns are well-founded. Brady will only be about the eighth-highest paid quarterback in football next season at just $3.125 million a year. He had previously won one other Cadillac for being Super Bowl MVP in 2002. So, obviously, he damn well couldn‘t afford to go out and buy his own damn Cadillac, now, could he? Damn.
Coming up, physical travel through space, figurative travel through time. Tonight‘s No. 1 story is next.
But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: On nights like this, when the evil that can be done by men is on display for the world to watch, it is sometimes of great use to remember just how briefly any one of us is here and how tiny is this marble on which we all live.
The No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, not Saddam Hussein, but travel in time and in space.
First, our relative insignificance. Late last night, after a seven-year journey, the Cassini spacecraft safely passed through the rings of the sixth planet from the sun, Saturn, and entered into its orbit, meaning that, five months from now, it will send a probe into the largest of the Saturn‘s 19 moons, Titan, which has its own atmosphere and may have lakes or even oceans that are filled with hydrocarbons.
Even if it doesn‘t, NASA is already sold on this trip. Early in the morning, from 900 million miles away, Cassini sent back pictures of the rings of Saturn that had researchers literally in tears, probably 616,400 civilians in tears, too. That‘s how many signatures of people were copied onto a DVD that went up with the spacecraft, 616,400 of us symbolically orbiting Saturn just at this moment.
Maybe somebody or something will find the C.D. somewhere, probably on the extraterrestrial equivalent of the Waldo Wilcox farm; 74-year-old Mr. Wilcox has suddenly turned out to be one of the most important people in the history of American archaeology. His farm in Range Creek, Utah, it turns out, is filled with prehistoric artifacts, 1,000-year-old Fremont tribe villages nearly intact.
And, as Mark Mullen reports, until a few months ago, Mr. Wilcox was keeping this a secret.
MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For archaeologists, it is an extraordinary find.
KEVIN JONES, UTAH STATE ARCHAEOLOGIST: It‘s the kind of thing that we don‘t expect to find. It‘s like finding a van Gogh in grandma‘s chest.
MULLEN: Hidden deep in Utah‘s Book Cliffs region are 12 miles of prehistoric villages and their ancient remnants, virtually undisturbed.
RUDY GUTIERREZ, ARCHAEOLOGY STUDENT: To find something in such a good condition is very rare now in the United States.
MULLEN: None of the sites has truly been excavated, but some are so rich in artifacts that beneath flags left by scientists, you can see pottery and ax heads and tools, on nearby walls, etchings and stone paintings.
DUNCAN METCALFE, ARCHAEOLOGIST: Well, maybe there are some symbols that are associated with a spring located nearby or with access to the top part of the canyon.
MULLEN: Two hundred different sites have been discovered, but there may be more than 1,000. How did all of this remain a secret? Credit rancher Waldo Wilcox, whose family owned the 4,200-acre property for more than 50 years.
Waldo protected the sites and the human remains he found, never removing one artifact. What he did keep was the secret out of respect.
WALDO WILCOX, RANCHER: Them Indians, they was there for a reason. And I just didn‘t want to see a bunch of damn hippies go down there and dig them out.
MULLEN: In his ‘70s, Waldo sold the ranch to the state of Utah through a nature conservancy. Waldo believes the sites need to be studied and shared, but fears the intention will bring looters.
WILCOX: If they just turn the public in there and let them loot it, I‘ll die being sorry.
OLBERMANN: Mark Mullen at Range Creek, Utah.
The ultimate answers to the question, where are the remnants of the Fremont tribe, and, of course, where is Waldo Wilcox?
If you‘re watching us here just before 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, please stay tuned for a two-hour MSNBC special, “Saddam in Court.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.
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