'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 26

Guest: Charles Babington, Pat Buchanan

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening. 

They are the shorthand of American history.  Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.  I am not a crook.  Read my lips, no new taxes.  I did not have sex with that woman.  And now we add to the pantheon, the hall of fame of quotes of great political import and moment, shove it. 

Our abbreviated edition of COUNTDOWN starts with the fallout from Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s remark to a Pittsburgh newspaper man.  It came after remarks on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse last night, part of a reception for her fellow Pennsylvanians, remarks, ironically, that addressed decorum in the political discourse. 


TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY:    We need to turn back some of the creeping, un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming in to some of our politics.


OLBERMANN:  The speech caught the ear of Colin McNickle, the editorial page editor of the rabidly conservative “Pittsburgh Tribune Review,” widely viewed by Democrats as the nexus of the proverbial right-wing conspiracy, the house organ of Richard Mellon Scaife. 

He asked what she meant by un-American.


HEINZ KERRY:  I did not say activity or un-American.  Those are your words.  You can record it and listen to it.  You know what the question is?  Saying that I called this an un-American activity.  I did not. 

Are you from the “Tribune Review”?  Of course.  Understandable.  You said something I didn‘t say.  Now shove it. 


OLBERMANN:  There were no apologies forthcoming from the Kerry camp today, nor even acknowledgements that whatever else the editor McNickle did or didn‘t do, apparently, she was right.  She said un-American.  Senator Kerry said, “I think my wife speaks her mind appropriately.”

Senator Hillary Clinton said: “A lot of Americans are going to say, good for.  You, go girl.  

Well, that gets the convention off to a flying start.

I‘m joined now by two MSNBC political analysts and commentators, Bill Press.  And joining us first, Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, I‘ll say good evening to you first.  How are you? 


OLBERMANN:  Start me off on the tone of this campaign.  F-off from the vice president and now shove it.  It‘s not exactly the Lincoln-Douglas debates, is it? 


BUCHANAN:  No.  No, it‘s not. 

And the point is, this might be a forgettable incident.  But the problem is, Keith, this is the first day of the convention and Democrats don‘t want the national media discussing the potential first lady using language like that.  And, secondly, it could be a harbinger of things to come. 

This, quite frankly, is an explosive lady.  And something like this in the middle of a campaign coming from a lady who is also sort of under some sense of suspicion with all this money and wealth and what she is like, I think they‘re going to have to keep an eye on her. 

OLBERMANN:  Pat, it seems to me some of this is backwards, though.  I don‘t particularly care if this fellow McNickle works for the Beijing fascist times.  I don‘t care if Ms. Kerry said, cram it, clowny.

Is the issue here not that somebody asked a political figure why she used the term un-American in public and she denied using the term? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s exactly right.  She‘s used the term.  What is she talking about? 

And my understanding is that he asked her, what do you mean by it?  It‘s a perfectly legitimate question.  What was un-American?  Who‘s responsible.  She left, talked to Governor Rendell, then came back over and let him have it right in the chops, denying she said what she had said.  So I think it‘s a problem for the lady. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there more history here than I might be aware of?  Anybody at any spot on the political spectrum knows about “The Pittsburgh Tribune Review” and about Mr. Scaife.  And they may support that paper‘s point of view and Mr. Scaife or they may think that the paper and Mr.  Scaife are themselves un-American. 

What happened last night?  Was Teresa Heinz Kerry so intent on taking a swipe at somebody that she had forgotten what she just said?  Or is there some direct history because of her longstanding Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh connections?  What‘s behind what we saw last night? 

BUCHANAN:  My feeling on it is that, I don‘t think she knew initially that this fellow was the editorial editor of “The Pittsburgh Review” or Scaife‘s paper.  Editorial editors are usually—they are not up front like other reporters are.  And it is astonishing in a way that she would go and do that right after she comes out and says, you know, basically, the tone of the campaign has gotten rancid.

And, quite frankly, Keith, it has.  But I will tell you what.  We know the vice president‘s comment, which is going to be brought up by Mr. Press.  But people will tolerate more and a couple of men in an argument than they will from a lady who is going to be the first lady.  And there is going to be a contrast made here with Laura Bush.  And I‘m not sure that Mrs. Kerry comes off well in that contrast if your objective is to get those folks in the middle who are probably Americans who don‘t go for that kind of language from their first lady. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, is this going to devolve, Pat, into picking out who said what first?  Obviously, we‘ve already heard it tonight that I believe it was Nancy Pelosi just a few moments ago in an interview with Chris Jansing saying, well, yes, that was kind of not ladylike language necessarily that Mrs. Kerry used, but, on the other hand, it didn‘t compare to what the vice president said. 

Are we going to soon see some answer back from the Republicans, saying, oh, you think the vice president was first?  Well, back in February, such and such a Democrat picked his nose in front of a camera in referring to a Republican.

BUCHANAN:  That doesn‘t work. 

Here is the problem.  I don‘t care who this fellow is.  Richard Nixon once told me when I suggested he come back and—because a congressman had called him a lot of names.  He said, Buchanan, you never shoot down in politics.  You never shoot at someone who is lower than you. 

And when the first—potential first lady calls—tells a fellow to go ahead and—quote—“shove it,” I don‘t care whose editorial editor he is.  It is what she said and what it says about her that is the news here.  And the very fact that Nancy Pelosi, the No. 1 Democrat in the House, is talking about it on TV, the famous Keith Olbermann is leading his show on it. 


BUCHANAN:  Everybody is talking about it.  Drudge—I got up early this morning, this huge headline.  And so that everybody is talking about it, that‘s not what you want to discuss on the first night of your convention. 

OLBERMANN:  And if you wind up getting unfavorably compared to Richard Nixon, Mr. Expletive Deleted himself, it does suggest it‘s a bad start. 

BUCHANAN:  He did it on the tapes in the Oval Office. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes.  The circumstances were a little bit different. 

For technical reasons, we were unable to get Bill Press from Boston, Pat.  So your dream just came through, an argument with Bill Press in which he had nothing to say. 

BUCHANAN:  Good for you.  You cut him off.  Excellent. 


OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Pat.


BUCHANAN:  You may have noticed behind me that the action on the floor is considerably less than you would expect to see from a political convention.  That‘s because we‘re not at the political convention. 

It‘s more than just that laughing, cavalier, outsider kind of thing to which COUNTDOWN strives.  As you‘ll notice now from our special convention correspondent, Brian Balthazar, we also couldn‘t get tickets. 


BRIAN BALTHAZAR, COUNTDOWN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s a beautiful day in Boston.  And outside the FleetCenter, there is excitement about the great things that will happen inside, that is, if you‘re one of the people who can actually get inside. 

(on camera):  I‘m what you might call a convention outsider.  I decided to come up here last week.  Since I‘m not a real journalist, I never told anybody I was coming. 

Can just the average person get in there?  You‘re being abundantly clear.  You‘re not even talking to me, are you?

If I had, say, like a former president with me? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you had a former president with you.

BALTHAZAR:  How about like, who knows, George Washington? 


BALTHAZAR (voice-over):  It turns out the average person isn‘t getting anywhere near the FleetCenter. 

It isn‘t long before I realize my dreams of getting in on the DNC action and meeting John Kerry are fading until moments later, when I meet the John Kerry impersonator.  Suddenly, here I am interviewing the John Kerry impersonator. 

(on camera):  First of all, what is your favorite album? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “The White Album.”

BALTHAZAR:  What branch of the military did you serve in? 



(voice-over):  OK, his name is Tom Deserey (ph).  And what he lacks in knowledge of Kerry trivia, he makes up for in looks.  And some of the passersby are falling for it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I am.  My family is No. 1. 

BALTHAZAR:  During his political jamming, I start to wander off.  And in those moments, I‘m in the inner circle, hobnobbing with John Kerry, spending time together, laughing, doing what good friends do.  Maybe I can fit in to this political scene. 

Determined to fit in, I decide to attend New York‘s delegation party. 

Held at the L Street Bathhouse, I have no problems getting in. 

(on camera):  Let‘s party!

(voice-over):  Unfortunately, not only am I inappropriately dressed. 

I‘m also three hours late. 

(on camera):  Do you need help cleaning up?

(voice-over):  I‘m beginning to realize that the Democratic Convention is pretty much a five-day private party and I‘m not invited.  But there are stories out there and I‘m going to find them, even if it is from the outside. 

For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Brian Balthazar.


OLBERMANN:  Brian, thanks.  Nice slippers. 

Still ahead of us on this speech-separating edition of COUNTDOWN, the rest of the world spins onwards, more discouraging news about a missing Utah woman and what she found out about her husband three days before her disappearance. 

And later, writing poems about President Bush and eating muffins, how Saddam Hussein spends his time in stir.  Mmm, solitary confinement muffins. 

But, first, convention or no convention, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.  They move ever onwards. 


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But I didn‘t come here tonight to talk about the past.  After all, I don‘t want you to think that I lie awake away at night counting and recounting sheep. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Elect John Kerry president of the United States because we‘ll have a secretary.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS (singing):  And when we are married, how happy I‘ll be oh.  Oh, I love sweet Rosie O‘Grady and Rosie O‘Grady loves me.

All right, everyone on their feet.



OLBERMANN:  You are looking live at the FleetCenter in Boston, Massachusetts.  With former President Jimmy Carter‘s address to the Democratic National Convention now about seven minutes hence, we continue our abridged edition—I‘m sorry—I don‘t know who she is—of COUNTDOWN with tonight‘s other news. 

The hundreds of volunteers who continue to search for a missing Utah woman hope the rest of us are just jumping to an understandable, but incorrect conclusion.  The Associated Press reporting today that, on the 16th, three days before she disappeared, Lori Hacking got a phone call from the University of North Carolina informing her that it could not provide on-campus housing to her and her med student husband because he was not registered there. 

Co-workers say that, after the call, Ms. Hacking was sobbing and left work early.  Also, tonight, police have refused to confirm reports of a bloody knife having been found in the Hacking home, nor of a clump of hair in a trash bin one block from where her husband had been shopping just before he reported his wife missing one week ago today.  Her husband‘s family announced earlier this evening it has retained a criminal defense attorney to represent Mark Hacking, even though he has not been charged with any crime. 

And from the case of a missing woman to the saga of the suddenly reappearing government.  Less than a week after the speaker of the House said it was too late to do anything about the 9/11 Commission‘s recommendations this year, the legislative and executive branches seem to be racing to see who can enact them first. 

As the president laid low at the Crawford ranch, an unnamed White House official told “The Los Angeles Times”—quote—“The president could act within days on some recommendations”—unquote—by executive order, this after Senator Kerry‘s advisers announced yesterday that 25 of the 41 proposals did not require congressional action, not that that is stopping them.

Committees in the House and Senate could be back in action next week, with the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Roberts of Kansas, suggesting some legislation could be approved by the first week of October.  Aircraft carriers are not supposed to pirouette like ballet dancers, yet two of them, the Congress and White House, appear to be doing just that. 

Joining us from Boston, the congressional correspondent of “The Washington Post,” Charles Babington. 

Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.


My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  What happened here?  Obviously, we know the big answer.  The 9/11 Commission report came out and it said, act urgently.  But we knew Congress and Congress knew that it was going to come out.  Congress knew it was going to speak to urgency.  Yet, all the signs beforehand had been similar to the Speaker Hastert‘s remarks, forget it for this year.  Was there something more specific that occurred that led up to this kind of whirlwind of activity? 

BABINGTON:  I think the Democrats here in Boston, Keith, feel that the Republicans have sort of dropped the ball on this and didn‘t have a sense of urgency. 

And I think maybe they were a little surprised by the forcefulness of the commission report and the fact that the commission members said that they weren‘t just going to drop the report and go home, but lobby very hard to get it enacted. 

And so the Democrats really jumped on this and said, we need to act now.  The Republicans, somewhat belatedly, said, you‘re right.  We need to jump on it, too.  And so that‘s why you saw the quick turnaround by, for example, the speaker that you mentioned. 

OLBERMANN:  Have, though, the Congress and the White House kind of walked into something of a time trial here.

The White House source who says we can do a lot of this with executive orders, and people like Senator Roberts saying we can pass legislation by October, have they painted themselves in effect into a corner, legislate or lose? 

BABINGTON:  Well, probably not. 

Remember that the president has of course the bulliest pulpit of all.  So he can kind of turn things around quickly if he shows that he‘s interested.  And I think so what they‘re going to do is have some hearings in August, when Congress is normally out, and then try to get the legislation done in September. 

They were planning to be in session for the month of September and then be out by October.  They still may be able to meet that deadline. 

OLBERMANN:  What can Congress do materially in that short a period of time? 

BABINGTON:  Well, Congress can do a lot.  And the big items in this report have to be done by Congress.  And that is the two main recommendations.  That is to have a national director of intelligence that would be over all the agencies and to have a counterterrorism organization set up.  And so Congress would have to do that. 

You mentioned that the president can do some things on his own.  They tend to be more minor things around the edges, such as maybe changing the way that ports are handled or airports, that sort of thing. 

OLBERMANN:  The “Washington Post” congressional correspondent, Charles Babington, many thanks for your time tonight.

BABINGTON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Internationally tonight, Iraq is pretty quiet.  The Reuters News Service reporting that the Egyptian diplomat kidnapped last week is free.  Their source appears to be a pretty good one, the diplomat himself. 

And there‘s a Saddam Hussein update tonight.  Saddam likes muffins.  The British newspaper “The Guardian” quotes Iraq‘s human rights minister just back from visiting the ex-dictator on Saturday.  Bakhtiar Amin says Saddam is spending his time in solitary confinement gardening, reading the Koran and writing poetry, some of which is about President Bush.

And the trim, fat-free Saddam we saw at his hearing nearly a month ago is apparently a thing of the past.  Mr. Amin says Saddam has developed quite a taste for cookies and for American muffins, making the world safe for baked goods. 

Too much food brings us back to the Democratic Convention.  There are 1,200 print reporters at the FleetCenter in Boston.  And they have been supplied with Porta Pottis, 20 of them, inconvenience and irony, irony because while the Fleet in FleetCenter is a bank, the leading manufacturer of gastrointestinal relief products in this country is also named Fleet. 

And it‘s irony, too, because of the COUNTDOWN local news story of the week from our affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC.

As Jeff Maynor reports, someone is stealing the municipal toilet paper of Ashtabula, Ohio. 


JEFF MAYNOR, WKYC REPORTER (voice-over):  Mr. Whipple retired a long time ago.  But talk about a jumbo roll.  His commercials go on forever.  If he had been anywhere near the Ashtabula County Justice Center, he could have a suspect in a rash of thefts here.

Somebody has been squeezing the Charmin from the men‘s rooms. 

DON ROSETTI, COURT BAILIFF:  Hundred rolls of toilet paper.

MAYNOR:  Who wanted all that toilet paper?  Police say it‘s 67-year-old Elmer Bonds, already on probation for shoplifting.  Now, you might think of this as a victimless crime, but, hey, not if you‘re the next guy in the stall after the T.P. bandit had been here. 

ROSETTI:  They would complain to the city manager that the super here wasn‘t doing his job, that he wasn‘t filling the restrooms with the tissue paper. 

MAYNOR (on camera):  Now, you can‘t very well assign detectives to the men‘s room around the clock, unless you have got a couple of guys that are really on your hit list.  And installing surveillance cameras in here is probably out of the question.  But people here at the justice center were determined to flush this guy out. 

(voice-over):  Rosetti set up surveillance outside the men‘s room and says he caught Elmer in the act. 

But Elmer says it‘s all a misunderstanding. 

ELMER BONDS, SUSPECT:  I wasn‘t taking it. 

MAYNOR (on camera):  No?

BONDS:  It looked like I was.  The officer thought I was taking it, but I was picking it up off the floor and putting it back on the roll. 

MAYNOR (voice-over):  Does this look like the face of a guy who would hoard toilet paper?  And if Elmer needs himself a lawyer, he might want to give Mr. Whipple a call. 


OLBERMANN:  Jeff Maynor with the breaking T.P. case in Ashtabula, Ohio.  Ask not for whom the toilet rolls.  It rolls for thee. 

And just imagine a political convention without enough toilet paper. 

As we await Jimmy Carter‘s speech to the delegates, that is our abbreviated COUNTDOWN for Monday.

Let‘s throw it back to Chris Matthews in Boston—Chris. 


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