Guest: Governor Gray Davis; Arianna Huffington
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: If they don‘t have the guts, I call them girlie-men.
OLBERMANN: If the questionable phrase was created as part of a spoof of the politician, can the politician himself use it without getting into trouble? Arnold Schwarzenegger will not apologize. His predecessor, Gray Davis, joins us. His critic, Arianna Huffington, joins us.
The 9/11 Commission report, in book stores Thursday, in large part, in every news outlet in this country already, and it suggests we might have been looking at the wrong nation in the gulf.
A nearly tragic version of like father, like son: now Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hurt on a racetrack.
And your tax dollars in action: the fighting men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever this world needs them. And they get a perk about which you may not have heard. Free cosmetic surgery.
Making the world safe for implants?
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening, it turns out that when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California used a borderline homophobic comedy catch phrase to describe his Democratic opponents on Saturday, it was not the first time he had made that indelicate comparison, nor the first time he‘d gotten into trouble for it.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Quote, “girlie-men” unquote. The governor‘s spokesmen says again, he will not apologize. Then again that was before anybody remembered; Schwarzenegger had made the exact same remark about Democrats in 1992, suggesting that its most recent invocation, over the weekend, was hardly a slip or a misjudgment. Governor Schwarzenegger‘s predecessor, Gray Davis, will join us in a moment.
First the remark, it dovetailed back to the two erstwhile characters from “Saturday Night Live,” Han and Frans who, themselves were largely spoofs of the then actor Schwarzenegger. The governor was speaking of Democratic state legislators he views as having obstructed the budget process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: If they don‘t have the guts to come out here in front of you and say, “I don‘t want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers, and I want them to make the millions of dollars. I don‘t want to represent you.” If they don‘t have the guts, I call them girlie-men. They should go back to the table and they should fix the budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The predictable flurry of protests saw the governor get hat trick, accused of being anti-gay, anti-straight, and anti-woman. His spokesman, Rob Stutsman, insists the phrase was not intended to question the sexual orientation nor the virility of any of the Democrats in the state legislature, quote, “it‘s his way of saying they‘re wimps,” he told the “New York Times.” But again, that was before a distant bell rang in anybody‘s mind. Schwarzenegger was campaigning for then President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire, in the late winter of 1992, addressing a group at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, on February 15 of that year, Mr. Schwarzenegger referred to a recent debate among the Democratic presidential candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: We don‘t to have talk about the democratic candidates, right? No! They all look like a bunch of girlie-men, huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The then President Bush was also at the event in Derry that day. Schwarzenegger‘s remarks drew the ire of the gay and lesbian communities, but few Democrats of the time responded. And now he said something like it just again. For a unique perspective on the remarks, I‘m joined by California‘s 37th governor, Gray Davis.
Governor Davis, thanks for your time tonight.
GRAY DAVIS (D), FMR. CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: You‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Given that Saturday was not the first time Mr. Schwarzenegger used this exact phrase, where in your opinion, does this fall on the political controversy scale?
DAVIS: Well, I never thought calling the legislator‘s names very helpful. It didn‘t fit my style, and I don‘t think it will help the governor solve this budget problems. But, do I think he caused himself irreputable damage? No, I don‘t. I if there‘s one person who can get away with that phrase, it‘s Governor Schwarzenegger, in part because of the “Saturday Night Live” spoof about it. I don‘t think any of us who know Governor Schwarzenegger think he has a prejudice bone in his body, in fact, not too long ago, he said if the public in this state, by initiative, voted for gay marriages that would be fine with him. So, should he have said it? No. Was it a good thing to say? No. But, can they pass the budget, notwithstanding that, yes.
OLBERMANN: Do you, from your own experience and from your own viewpoint, so you attribute Governor Schwarzenegger‘s use of the term, under these circumstances, to his inexperience in the office, to the pressures of being a governor in the middle of a first real crisis of an administration?
DAVIS: You know, I can‘t psychoanalyze it, Keith. I can tell that you getting a 2/3 vote is not easy. California‘s one of only three states that require it, and my first two budgets happily were on time, but my next three were late and trust me, every legislator lays in the weeds and comes one their particular pet project which may be brilliant, it may be terrible, but they try and leverage that pet project and get it in the budget. And the problem is, if you say yes to one legislator, you lose all the votes of the other people who don‘t like him, so it‘s a very complicated billiard shot, if you will, that takes a lot of finesse.
OLBERMANN: California politics, national politics have gotten really touchy in the last few years, like you need me to tell you that.
DAVIS: Yeah, right.
OLBERMANN: Is this an example of that in either direction? Either
Mr. Schwarzenegger‘s remarks or the reaction to them? Is there an
inappropriate gradient either way?
DAVIS: I think this is a little over the top. I mean, it‘s not easy getting a budget passed, it‘s hard work. Now that it‘s late, the most important thing is to get a good budget passed. And I don‘t think name calling advances the cause on either side, so I‘d just like both sides, to kind of have a truce and get back to the job people elected them to do. And the most important part of that job is to pass the state budget that fairly distributes the money available to us to help the schools, to help the environment, the disadvantaged, and to do that as promptly as possible.
OLBERMANN: Last question, sir, does it still need an apology from him?
DAVIS: You know, that‘s a decision he has to make. He has to decide in his own heart whether he said it with any malice and for what purpose he said it. But, I do think this. I do think it‘s a very chancy strategy to kind of criticize the legislator one day publicly and negotiating with them the next day. I know that‘s part of his personality, I mean, that he is a larger than life persona, and it may work for him, it didn‘t work for me. At the end of the day, the people who voted on that budget are in the building and you have to have enough good will and enough trust with them that you can get 2/3 to sign on that document.
OLBERMANN: Gray Davis.
DAVIS: Let‘s hope...
DAVIS: Let‘s they can all work it out for all of our sakes.
OLBERMANN: Governor Davis, thank you kindly for your insight and for your time tonight, sir.
DAVIS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As you could expect, not every California politician is as understanding of Governor Schwarzenegger as Governor Davis just was. I‘m joined now by the author and activist, Arianna Huffington, who ran against the governor in last year‘s recall race.
Arianna, thank you for your time tonight.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, RAN AGAINST SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If comedians can use a phrase in connection to spoofing Arnold Schwarzenegger on national TV, why can‘t Arnold Schwarzenegger use the same phrase back, even if he‘s now used it twice 12 years apart?
HUFFINGTON: Well, as Keith, you said—you know, it is not the first time, this is the second time, so he knew that there was tremendous controversy last time he used it. This was deliberate, his own spokesperson said this was deliberate, it was not a joke. He did offend people, but more important, Keith, it‘s not true. You know, he has been outsmarted by the legislature and that‘s why he is so angry and frustrated. It turns out that the assembly speaker, Fabian Nunez, has actually been able to restore most of the important cuts that Schwarzenegger wanted—in higher education, in health and human services, in childcare. And so, he felt that he had to return to his “Terminator” image somehow to balance the fact that, in his own language, he was the girlie-man giving in.
OLBERMANN: In fact, he went back and used the “Terminator” language as well, imploring his supporters to become terminators and remove the Democratic legislators from office. But, let me ask you this—in the governor‘s refusal to apologize or to acknowledge that some people might have been offended by this remark, as a lot obviously were, do you sense—you suggested that this was intentional—is it something larger than that? Is it something that could be seen one of two ways? One as an attempt to desensitize a political world that is, probably a little too politically correct or two, basically, the statement, I operate on my own terms, live with me?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I think it is really more the fact that he believes that by apologizing, he would be conceding something and he does not want to concede anything. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bully and a seducer. He has these two personalities fighting in there, he is a very charming man. He seduced the legislature for a long time, but suddenly they found their spine and they are fighting back and he can‘t stand that.
And also, we see right now that he has not tackled any of the fundamental problems of the California economy. He‘s just borrowed money, basically, and postponed the solution of this problem. He‘s accusing the California legislature of kowtowing to special interests when he‘s the one who is a completely, wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate interest in California, which is why he has not agreed to close any corporate tax loopholes or put any kind of taxes on the top one percent of Californians.
OLBERMANN: Arianna, final question. What would happen if that remark had been made, not by the governor, but about him? What would happen if I went on KNBC or KTLA in Los Angeles or KNTV in San Francisco and I said, “Governor Schwarzenegger‘s policies indicate as he girlie-man,” what would happen to me?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I think it would have depended also—what else you had said. You could have said, he wears more make-up when he goes out in public than most women legislators, he has had plastic surgery, he dies his hair, which could all be taken examples of being a girlie-man. Or you could have used it, as you suggested, to indicate that he‘s actually given in. The budget that is going to pass, whenever it passes, it‘s going to be dramatically different than the budget he proposed and that‘s because in the end, the legislators he accuse us of being girlie-men were the strong ones and were the ones who had the spine to stand up to the “Terminator.”
OLBERMANN: Author and commentator and we should add again, Governor Schwarzenegger‘s former election opponent, Arianna Huffington. Many thanks.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ve added “girlie-man” into the political discourse. From politics on television to politics in television, and three liberal groups have today filed petitions with the government seeking to cancel the “Fox News” channel‘s trademark of its catch phrase, “fair and balanced.” “move on.org,” Common Cause, and AlterNet filing complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trying to get two departments to revoke the channel‘s claim on those three words. While a spokesman for the channel dismissed the move as a “publicity stunt,” a posting on the AlterNet site showed—quoted Denny Chin, the U.S. district judge who dismissed Fox‘s suit against Al Franken for infringing on it‘s trademarks, who said nearly a year ago: “From a legal point of view, I think it is highly unlikely that the phrase “fair and balanced” is a valid trademark. I can‘t accept that phrase that can be plucked out of the marketplace of ideas and slogans.”
And speaking of politics and legalities, unless you were on the moon four years ago, you will not be able to forget the flying squads of lawyers and political operatives who descend on Florida during infamous presidential recount. One hundred and six days before this year‘s election, the flying squads are already ready to fly. The “New York Times” reporting that John Kerry‘s campaign has already set up a nationwide legal network under its own umbrella consisting of people recruited based on their skills as litigators and election lawyers who are already getting the lay of the land in the swing states in hopes of preserving voting rights for their supporters who might be challenged. And also be ready to respond in the event of more recounts this year.
It‘s hardly just a Democratic thing. The Bush-Cheney camp has its own flying squads. Enough, they say, to cover 30,000 precincts nationwide. The Republican National Lawyers Association just concluded a weekend training session in Milwaukee.
Senator Kerry may already want his first recount. Only in America could a presidential candidate from Boston with an Irish name spend a significant time denying he‘s actually Irish, but so John Kerry does. Noting that his grandfather Frederick Kerry was born Fritz Cohen and went by that name when he emigrated from Czechoslovakia. Now Mr. Kerry‘s denial of Irish heritage is being challenged by a New England historian who says that not only is he part Irish, but he‘s also related to Britney Spears. No, you‘re still awake, you‘re not hallucinating.
The town historian of Derry, New Hampshire—Derry in the news twice, tonight—said he has traced John Kerry‘s heritage, not just to any old Irish immigrant into the U.S., but in fact to the Irish immigrant who brought the potato to this country, the Reverend James MacGregor. Freedom fries, indeed.
If that weren‘t enough for the senator with which—for him to contend with, there‘s the assertion by historian, Holmes, that Kerry is distantly related to Britney Spears and also to the 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce. That would be Ms. Spears you‘re seeing now and not President Pierce.
Lastly, politics at the subatomic level: What is America about if it is not about stealing a candidate‘s campaign signs? And the candidate getting so ticked off that he dons camouflage clothing, goes undercover, and tapes the stealing of the signs, thus unmasking a terrible, terrible truth.
It‘s Steve Carter versus the incumbent Louis Warren. In next week‘s Democratic primary for county commissioner of district two, Sequoia County, Oklahoma. Those would be Steve Carter‘s signs being swiped from along U.S. Route 64, half a mile outside Vian, Oklahoma, as videotaped by Steve Carter. The sign on the white pickup truck that man has was no surprise, it read, “Reelect Louis Warren for county commissioner district two.” But, the identity of the guy ripping the signs down and then ultimately throwing them in a creek is a surprise. That is County Commissioner Louis Warren, himself. Steve Carter says he‘s not pressing charges against Commissioner Warren. Commissioner Warren has apologized. Punch line, just three other candidates and Warren are seeking that seat. All four of them are Democrats.
Bizarre politics opening COUNTDOWN, tonight, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inescapable on the national, state, and local level. And, up next, the number four story: Another terrifying moment for the Earnhardt family. Now Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a fiery car wreck.
Remember Joanne Webb, the Texas woman who got caught in a police sting selling sex toys to suburban housewives in their own homes? She now knows whether or not she‘ll face any time behind bars. An update on the crime of the century coming up.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s fourth story next, another NASCAR crash, another Earnhardt behind the wheel. Next, the latest on the condition of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
OLBERMANN: It invoked images of the star crossed Alison family, a race car driver‘s career ending on an accident in a track. One of his sons killed in a collision, another killed in a helicopter that crashed into a race track. Or perhaps more tragically to the deaths of the martial arts and film star Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: The good news is the son and name sake of legendary stockcar driver, the late Dale Earnhardt, has been released today from the burn center at Davis, California. The bad news, as our correspondent George Lewis reports tonight, at first this all brought back horrible memories of the death of that sports‘ greatest star more than three years ago.
ANNOUNCER: Well, you‘ll see the car disappear as just for a moment here as he veers suddenly off the track...
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Earnhardt‘s car spun out of control as he was practicing for Sunday‘s Infineon Grand Prix race in Sonoma, California. Leaking fuel exploded into a huge wall of flame enveloping Earnhardt almost instantly. But thanks to his fire retardant suit, he was able to crawl out of his Corvette, assisted by a member of the safety crew. Amazingly, he sustained only moderate burns.
DAVID GREENHALL, UNIV. CALIFORNIA-DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: He‘s in good condition. He has sustained about six percent burns to the inner thighs and the old on his left neck and a little on his chin.
LEWIS: There have been enormous advances in race car safety since the death of Earnhardt‘s legendary father Dale, Sr. at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Now drivers are surrounded by improved safety belts, braces, and restraints, as well as fire extinguishing systems.
DAVID POOLE, THE “CHARLOTTE OBSERVER”: There is a trigger inside the car, a button that the driver can push to start to trigger the system, but it appeared that Dale, Jr. was stunned or startled or—you know, maybe knocked dizzy or whatever by the impact, and as he was trying to come to or get—you know, get his wits back about him, the fire started.
LEWIS: So, even with the advances in safety equipment, race car driving remain a hazardous occupation.
LEWIS FRANCK, AUTO RACING JOURNALIST: Drivers getting in race cars know that it is a dangerous sport. It is safer now than ever before, but they know that what—they know it‘s not entirely safe and I guess that‘s part of the attraction. Riding—driving at the edge.
LEWIS: And even after the death of Dale, Sr., that‘s what keeps Dale Jr. going.
POOLE: These drivers have a remarkable capacity for ignoring the dangers that they face every day. That‘s their mindset. Dale, Jr. is an Earnhardt and if you‘re an Earnhardt, you race.
LEWIS: In spite of Sunday‘s fiery crash, Dale, Jr. he told friends, he‘s eager to return to racing as soon as possible.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN past the No. 4 story. Up next, the weekend tributes to Bobo the tiger. Hundreds turn out to remember the slain creature and his owner vows he will win justice for Bobo.
And later, military benefits: You use to think of traveling the world, college tuition. Now you can think botox, lipo, implants. Uncle Sam wants you to look marvelous.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, to update on weird and bizarre news from weeks gone past and to introduce you to all new weird news, as well. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And this weekend, Bobo was laid to rest. More than 150 people gathering at the Loxahatchee, Florida compound of Steve Sipek to say their final goodbyes to Tarzan‘s tiger. Bobo went down in a hail of bullets last week at the hands of a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer after he escaped from a compound. Sipek said the shooting was unjustified. He spoke mourners in eulogy for the fallen tiger, saying he‘ll continue to fight for his old friend, quote, “It‘s never going to stop. We want justice for Bobo.” And he added, quote, “Now I have to feed my baby.”
In other spectacular wastes of time, meet Brian Bird (ph), perhaps the foremost stacker of trading cards. Bird, spending two-and-a-half days constructing this castle in an L.A. mall. He‘s hoping it will break the world record for card stacking, if he can just keep it standing long enough for the Guinness folks to get there. Maybe getting too close with the leaf blower might not be such a good idea. Twenty thousand cards, two days work, all of them coming down with the flick of a switch. Dozens of children on hand were allowed to take as many of then as they could carry. Unfortunately, the cards were all 1990 tops Frank Thomas, no name variations, valued at $900 a piece. I‘m sorry, I just made that last part up.
And lastly, a new species of rodent has been discovered in Southfield, Michigan. It has the body of a skunk and the head of a Yoplait brand strawberry yogurt container. It‘s the stink on the bottom kind. Wish it into the cornfield, son, wish it into the cornfield! Actually, poor Pepe here, got his stuck while rooting around in the garbage and spent several hours like this struggling to get free. Well, you know, we all spend several hours a day struggling to get free. Witnesses, understandably wary at helping out until that one good Samaritan, with the 12-foot wooden plank, risked weeks of stinkitude to free the little fellow. And so “Oddball” salutes you, Mr. Wooden Plank Skunk Rescuing Guy, Rob Boba (ph), today‘s real man of genius.
The COUNTDOWN will pick up with the story, your preview: The hijackers of 9/11, there‘s no connection to Iraq. But, is there a connection to Iran? Did we go to war against the wrong country?
And later, a celebrity voice‘s support for Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11”. She then promptly was escorted from the premises. We‘re living in America? America? Is that right? America?
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: David Havennar from Port Orange, Florida, arrested on domestic abuse charges. No laughing matter, that. Although his choice of weapon seems to be atypical. He hit his girlfriend in the ribs with his pet three-foot alligator. So Havennar has the cops and animal welfare on his butt.
No. 2: Shaun Farrell of Darwin in Australia, the charge against him is assault with a fish filet. Mr. Farrell had some complaint with the batter covered fish, threw it at the proprietor. One commentator suggested that the real victim might have been the fish since it may have been a salted fish.
And No. 1: Why was Michael Monn from Maryville, Tennessee, caught by police running naked, carrying stolen snacks, and covered in nacho cheese? Well, of course, because it was his 23rd birthday. To his parents, we can only say Michael is nacho your little boy anymore.
OLBERMANN: We knew already of the awful series of miscommunications and delays, the second-by-second analysis the 9/11 Commission had chronicled, like some awful metronome counting down the moments until tragedy.
But in our third story tonight, still three days in advance of the publication of its final report, we know even more about what the commission has determined, not just the weekend‘s leaked headline that the commissioners believe a Cabinet level czar of intelligence, but also previously unrevealed evidence that the country most directly connected to the attacks was not Iraq, but Iran.
Details from Washington and our correspondent Lisa Myers.
LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Today, the president says he wants further investigation of Iran‘s links to al Qaeda and why Iran facilitated travel of eight of the 9/11 hijackers, allowing them to pass through Iran en route to the United States.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As to direct connections with September 11, we‘re digging into the facts to determine if there was one.
MYERS: The CIA says there‘s no evidence Iran was complicit in 9/11. But sources say the 9/11 Commission reports that Iran told border guards not to harass al Qaeda operatives as they crossed the border from Afghanistan and not to stamp their passports. The president was noncommittal about the 9/11 Commission‘s recommendation of sweeping intelligence reforms, including a new Cabinet level director of intelligence with authority over all 15 intelligence operations.
The CIA and Pentagon hate the idea. But many key Democrats think the intelligence community needs a single commander.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: It‘s a good idea if it is done right. If it is a new bureaucracy or if it‘s a czar, it is a bad idea.
MYERS: Sources say the report faults both Clinton and Bush administrations for failing to wage a real war on terror, President Clinton for failing to retaliate for the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, despite evidence al Qaeda was to blame, President Bush also for failing to retaliate for the Cole attack and for failing to galvanize the bureaucracy in the summer of 2001.
Commission leaders previously have suggested 9/11 could have been prevented. But NBC News has learned that the commission decided to remain silent on that ultimate judgment, leaving it to history.
STEVE EMERSON, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: If it could be prevented, that means somebody should be blamed. That‘s the bottom line. And they don‘t want to do that.
MYERS (on camera): The 9/11 Commission hopes that by refraining from further finger-pointing, it can rally bipartisan support for its reforms. It also plans to campaign for its plan, hoping to avoid the fate of other commissions whose recommendations were ignored.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: If the finding about Iran is as advertised, it won‘t be ignored.
“TIME” magazine broke that part of the story first. Elaine Shannon covers national security and intelligence and terrorism for the magazine and she joins us now.
Ms. Shannon, good evening.
ELAINE SHANNON, “TIME”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So the headline here is that between October 2000 and February 2001, between eight and 10 of the hijackers, the muscle men of the operation, were given safe passage through Iran.
But there‘s a second story, too, about Iran proposing essentially to go into the terrorism business with al Qaeda against the U.S.?
One of the detainees, and I believe it is one of the masterminds of the Cole attack, the guy who went by the name of Khaled, apparently told interrogators that Iran reached out to al Qaeda right after they pulled off the Cole bombing and said, can we collaborate? Can we help? And this message got to Osama bin Laden, who said thanks but no thanks, because he didn‘t want to alienate his Sunni extremist supporters in Saudi Arabia.
OLBERMANN: The implications of the two stories are staggering.
OLBERMANN: Is the suggestion here that the U.S. went to war with the wrong country in the wake of 9/11?
SHANNON: Well, some people will take it that way.
Saddam Hussein was a bad man. But—and one of the elements of proof against him was that there was al Qaeda activity in Baghdad, not very much, but some. That‘s what they told us at the time. Well, we‘re now being told a lot more about al Qaeda movement, transit through Iran, and with the Iranians so compliant as not to stamp their passports, so that when they came into this country under their own names, our border officers wouldn‘t see an Iran mark and also to keep Iran out of any trouble that happened.
OLBERMANN: If the Iran material is in the report as we understand it now, what happens in this country when the report is officially presented? Even “The Wall Street Journal” today had a headline reading “9/11 report On Tie to Iran May Raise Pressure on Bush.” How does that component affect this already delicate balancing act the government has been performing atop prewar intelligence and who had credible connections to 9/11 and who didn‘t?
SHANNON: I don‘t know exactly what this government is going to do. But this story has a lot of legs. People are revisiting things we already knew about Iran. They pulled off the Khobar Towers bombing with Saudi Hezbollah.
There‘s information that the FBI and CIA developed years ago that Hezbollah and al Qaeda people attended the same bomb-making school in Bekaa Valley at one point. There are senior al Qaeda people who are supposed to be there even today, Saad bin Laden, one of the sons of Osama bin Laden, the No. 3 man in al Qaeda and several others are reported to be there. Iran said at one point they would put him on trial, but we don‘t know what has happened.
OLBERMANN: Elaine Shannon of “TIME” magazine, great thanks for your information and for your time tonight.
SHANNON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: There‘s late word this evening of the first criminal probe tied to the September 11 Commission, the first we know of at any rate.
The Associated Press is reporting that Sandy Berger, the national security adviser to President Clinton, is being investigated for having taken highly classified terrorism documents from a—quote—“secure reading room.” Berger was using the documents he said to prepare for his testimony before the commission. Employees of the National Archives reported that they saw the former national security adviser stick documents in his jacket, his pants, and a leather portfolio that he was supposed to only look at—he was supposed to only look at them in the secure reading room.
The AP also reporting that Berger and his attorney admit he knowingly took handwritten notes and inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents. The FBI has been to Berger‘s home to search for those documents. Mr. Berger has issued a statement tonight, saying he—quote - - “deeply regrets the sloppiness involved,” but—quote—“I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission.”
Several copies of draft reports about the Clinton administration‘s handling of the millennium plot are still missing.
And as we glimpse a fuller picture of that Iranian connection to al Qaeda, we also have one more piece to the puzzling story tonight of the kidnapped Marine from Utah and Lebanon. After weeks of speculation, Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun emerged to tell his side of the story today at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
The 24-year-old who vanished from his base in Iraq almost exactly a month ago denies that he had any hand in his own disappearance. He maintains he was indeed captured and held against his will for 19 days. And while the Navy continues to investigate whether that is actually what happened, in a nod to the Marine vow of loyalty, Hassoun had this message for those still serving in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORPORAL WASSEF ALI HASSOUN, U.S. MARINES: I would like to tell all the Marines as well as those others who are serving in Iraq to keep their heads up and spirits high. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper fi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But many heads were lowered today in southwestern Baghdad after a suicide bomber crashed into a local police station there, the force of this morning‘s explosion apparently so intense, it completely obliterated much of the busy commercial hub, reducing shops to rubble and people to debris. At least nine were killed, another 60 injured.
And the bombing followed close on the heels of another assassination, Gunmen ambushing a top Iraqi defense official last night, killing him and his bodyguard. Earlier in the weekend, Iraq‘s interim justice minister narrowly escaping an attempt on his life. But five of his bodyguards were killed.
Closer to home, always keep your eyes on the road, solid advice if you want to stay clear of those wayward deer, giant potholes, and the ever dangerous discarded secret counterterrorism documents just lying in the public street. According to the London newspaper “The Sun,” one alert driver discovered a dossier of confidential anti-terrorism plans lying in a road near Heathrow Airport.
The documents reportedly included a list of 62 sites inside the airport that terrorists could target with missile strikes. Also on the list, evacuation plans, even police patrol schedules. The driver promptly took them to the police. As they investigate how they got on to the road, some in England are reminded of the time in July 1943 that the secret plans for Overlord, later known as D-Day, blew out the open window of a London office building. Another loyal subject returned those plans as well.
And something else to test your faith in our security and counterterrorism efforts courtesy of the fine folks at San Francisco International Airport, a 25-year veteran of the city police force facing suspension or firing, traffic patrol officer William Rossi accused of commandeering the closed-circuit video surveillance system at the No. 1 terminal there—quote—“to focus on women‘s breasts and buttocks.”
Rossi allegedly kept other officers from their ordinary sweeps of the hectic airport crowds to check out the women at least three separate times one day alone last February. Asked to stop by his co-workers, he is alleged to have said that he—quote—“did not care.” Your tax dollars in action.
COUNTDOWN now three-fifths complete. Up next, No. 2, one Texas woman arrested by undercover cops for selling sex aids at a private party, she finds out now whether or not she‘ll end in the big house. And Linda Ronstadt making waves in Vegas. What could she be doing to upset people in sin city? Details coming up.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
RICARDO LAGOS, CHILEAN PRESIDENT: I will translate.
BUSH: That would be you.
TONY STEWART, RACE CAR DRIVER: I feel like I‘m in more danger driving down the interstate than I am running a race car anyway. So if people are that worried about us getting hurt driving anything but the cup cars, they need to lock us in rubber rooms and make sure that we‘re wrapped in bubble wrap all the way until we get in the race car and then put us in the cars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: We were talking casually. And I said, unlike you, Arnold, your Maria, your wife lets you smoke cigars in the house. And I said, my wife, Kathleen, will not let me smoke cigars. I have got to go out on the porch. And he said, you‘re what we call in Austria a girly man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Three down, two to go in the trek to today‘s No. 1 story.
The passion party meets the prosecutor. The soldier meets the surgeon. And Ronstadt is told to go meet the road. Which of those earns tonight‘s top spot? Find out in a moment or so.
OLBERMANN: The name Joanne Webb may ring a distant bell. She was in the unique and none too enviable position of facing jail on a charge of having sold sexual aids inside a private home in the same Texas city where selling them over-the-counter was perfectly legal.
Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, the resolution of the saga of the entrepreneur and what you might call hard time.
Ms. Webb, a house maker and former fifth grade teacher from Cleburne, Texas, was accused of selling violating obscenity statutes by selling sex toys to undercover police officers, the alleged rime taking place at a private home where the passion parties held what she called tupperware-type parties for suburban housewives, who are more comfortable buying the devices from her than from a shop or on the Internet.
The pair of narcotics officers who arrested Webb posed as a couple whose marriage was on the rocks. Had she been convicted, Ms. Webb could have spent up to a year in jail. Widen out. But a judge has now dismissed the case and the county attorney would only say it was a move designed to - - quote—“prevent wasting county resources.”
Joanne Webb‘s resources were used in part to hire herself an attorney. The two of them had joined us on our little COUNTDOWN party shortly after her arrest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ms. Webb, what has been the reaction to this both locally and nationally? Have you been getting a lot of support on that exact premise, that, goodness, actually, you are conducting this sort of in a discrete manner, as opposed to hanging out the proverbial shingle here?
JOANNE WEBB, ARRESTED FOR SELLING SEX TOY: Exactly. What do I is private. It is in people‘s homes. I am invited in. The people who come are invited. When we do the actual ordering, it is done in a private room where nobody else knows what they‘re ordering. It is. It is just incredible that what I do, helping women, helping couples stay together, has become such a horrible issue here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is important for you to know that it is presumed that you‘re selling them if you own more than six.
WEBB: Look out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a problem.
OLBERMANN: I‘ll tell all my friends before they go to Texas, I suppose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do inventory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Widen out.
From keeping Texas safe for those special kinds of tupperware parties to keeping Las Vegas safe from political agendas, we do the neat turn into our celebrity nightly roundup, “Keeping Tabs.”
And the bum‘s rush for one of Michael Moore‘s fans. “The Las Vegas Sun” reports that during her performance in front of 5,000 fans at the Aladdin Theater in that city Saturday night, singer Linda Ronstadt dedicated her rendition of the Eagles hit “Desperado” to the renegade filmmaker. Moore said she Ms. Ronstadt is someone who cares about this country deeply and is trying to help.
As hundreds of the spectators stormed out of the theater, the president of the Aladdin Company ordered that Ms. Ronstadt‘s room in the hotel be emptied, her belongings packed on to her tour us and guards sent backstage to escort her off the premises. “We hired Ms. Ronstadt as an entertainer,” Bill Timmons (ph) told the paper, not as a political activist. Timmons also permanently banned Ronstadt from the hotel, but she may have the last laugh. The Aladdin is bankrupt and it is about to be sold to the same people who own Planet Hollywood.
Some of you might remember this little incident at this year‘s Super Bowl halftime show. If not, we have not run it enough to have burned it into your retinas yet. We‘re sorry. Janet Jackson‘s right breast, the origin indecency, sparking the nationwide morality debate, sending the FCC on a fining spree. But CBS has yet to be fined for the boob seen around the world.
And this week, network co-president Les Moonves says it will fight the FCC in court if the network or its stations are fined at all—quote—
“We think the idea of a fine for that is patently ridiculous. And we are not going to stand for it.” “Hollywood Reporter” reporting, which is what they do, that the FCC is considering a fine of over half a million dollars spread among the 20 CBS-owned television stations.
Up next, our No. 1. story, soldiers and surgery, under the knife not for life-threatening war rooms, but for implants? Your tax dollars in action. That‘s ahead.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: Whether you support President Bush, Senator Kerry, or none of the above, whether you agree with the war in Iraq or have opposed it since day minus one, whether you swear by Donald Rumsfeld or swear at him, you‘ll agree with the immutable facts that the military is short of weaponry. There is a developing bullet crisis. The military is short on soldiers, 5,600 Individual Ready Reserves being brought back in, in what even the Pentagon describes as an involuntary recall.
Thus, our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN may have your jaw dropping whether you can barely see me for the anti-war placard in your living room or because your Saddam Hussein dart board is still too big. Uncle Sam wants you to be pretty. Liposuction, breast enlargement, cosmetic dentristy, and dozens of other perks are now available to the fighting men and women of America at no cost.
Yes, too soon perhaps may the C cup of our military rank and file be overflowing, or, as an article in this week‘s “New Yorker” magazine uncovers, all four branches of our armed services are providing cosmetic surgery to the enlisted and their immediate families for free.
Karen Schaler wrote the story for the magazine and she joins us now.
Good evening. Thank you for your time.
KAREN SCHALER, “THE NEW YORKER”: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Big picture. Is this just me or is this the damndest thing you‘ve ever heard of?
SCHALER: Well, I‘ll tell you what. I was reporting for a local CBS affiliate here in Phoenix, KPHO, and I was doing a story on recruiting. And that‘s how I found out about this story. And when the recruiter—we were talking about new incentives, things that were being offered up. He mentioned breast implants and that a lot of these soldier women were waiting in line to get them done.
I was stunned. And that‘s why I started digging and digging deeper. And, unfortunately, the television station that I was at didn‘t have the venue to tell the story I really needed to. And that‘s why I sent it to “The New Yorker.”
OLBERMANN: According to your article, it‘s not an official recruitment perk, but the statistics are 496 breast enlargements, 1,361 liposuction surgeries between 2000 and 2003 just for the Army.
This could not obviously be held completely undercover for anybody in the military. Is anyone in recruiting or anyone that you were in contact with wondering if this is exactly the right public relations move when soldiers are at risk in Iraq because their vehicles are insufficiently armored?
SCHALER: Well, it‘s funny you say that. Of course, officially, the Army is very adamant and says this is not a recruiting tool.
However, when we talked to dozens of soldier women, they told us they knew about this. It was on the table and it‘s one of the reasons that they were thinking about joining. In fact, one woman reenlisted because she was on the waiting list to get her breast implants. She hadn‘t received them yet. Her time was up. She reenlisted. Now she is fighting in Iraq without the implants.
OLBERMANN: Anybody give you an idea of what the net cost might be in a year‘s time?
SCHALER: We talked a lot trying to get numbers and the Army did not want this story to come forward. They‘ve been very outspoken about that. They don‘t believe it‘s worthy of being told.
And so it was very difficult to even get the number of procedures. And the numbers that we report in “The New Yorker” are given to us by the Army. And that‘s just the Army. In this year alone, they‘ve already done 60 breast implants and more than 200 liposuctions. The Army will say they only do a few of these, but these numbers do show some different things.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned what some of the recruits had said and about the woman who reenlisted so she could keep her place on the waiting list. But what are any of the soldiers that you spoke with saying about the relative appropriateness of money being spent on this when, in fact, they‘re going to have to go out and buy bullets somewhere because we‘re going to be a little short over the next few years?
SCHALER: Well, that‘s a perfect question, Keith, because some of the soldiers we talked to said, we deserve this. We fight for our country. This is a benefit we should have, although one soldier I found who was willing to go on record, because, obviously, very difficult to speak out about your Army that you‘re fighting for, he‘s commander of the Arizona National Guard and has about 200 people under him right now in southern Iraq.
And he spoke out and it‘s written in “The New Yorker” that he finds it appalling. He said that they do not have the proper equipment they need. They‘re scrambling for bullets, scrambling for the right Kevlar. And yet they question this use of Army money to do these cosmetic procedures.
Karen Schaler, writing for “The New Yorker,” thank you for the story and thank you greatly for your time tonight.
SCHALER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s briefly recap tonight‘s breaking news before we leave you.
It turns out that when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called his Democratic opponents girly men in a budgetary fight on Saturday, it was not the first time he had described Democrats in that way. While campaigning in 1992 for the first President Bush, Schwarzenegger dismissed a debate by telling an audience in Derry, New Hampshire—quote—“We won‘t talk about those Democrats. I watched that debate and they all looked like a bunch of girly men”—unquote.
That story may continue tomorrow.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being a part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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