Guest: Paul Krugmam
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow:
One of the “Sift Boat Veterans for Truth” says what he said about John Kerry lying wasn‘t true. Then his wife says, “oh, yes, it was.” Stay tuned this story may change again before I say “good evening.”
The terror threats we have thwarted: Congresswoman Katherine Harris did not say there were 100 of them, actually she said it‘s been more than 100. Does she know what she‘s saying? Do we know what we‘re hearing?
The JFK Assassination: Hearing something new in a very old audiotape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless there‘s something previously unknown film or photograph, this recording, as far as I know, represents the last possible hard evidence about the Kennedy assassination.
OLBERMANN: Could new technology tell us how many shots were fired that awful day?
And a disaster of biblical proportions: Human sacrifice, dogs, and chipmonks living together, mass hysteria.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. First he said in a commercial that John Kerry was a liar about what happened in Vietnam. Then he told a newspaper that he made a quote, “terrible mistake” saying that. Now his wife says he supports the commercial after all. You might want to get a pencil and paper and write all this down.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Swifter and the swiftest of their Swift Boats, the story of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” has changed twice already today, and there‘s plenty of time for it to change yet again.
Lieutenant Commander George Elliott is one of 13 Vietnam veterans heard in the TV commercial which began running in three key states yesterday. None of the men actually served on either of Kerry‘s Swift Boats. Most of their comments were generally critical, but not Elliott‘s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ELLIOT, “SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH”: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And in a sworn affidavit accompanying the new book, “Unfit for Command,” Elliott went further saying Kerry lied about what occurred in Vietnam. For example, in connection with his Silver Star, “I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded fleeing Vietcong in the back.” In today‘s “Boston Globe” though, Elliott recanted.
“I still don‘t think he shot the guy in the back. It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those works: I‘m the one in trouble here.” Elliot told the newspaper he felt no political pressure to sign the affidavit, only time pressure. “I knew it was wrong. In a hurry, I signed and faxed it back. That was a mistake.”
But this afternoon, Elliott‘s wife told NBC News that her husband supports the commercial and that the “Boston Globe” had misquoted him. Lieutenant Commander Elliott has struggled with where he stands for years. In 1969 in Kerry‘s fitness report he wrote, “In a combat environment often requiring independent decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed.”
In 1996, supporting Kerry‘s bid for Senate re-election, Elliot said of the event that got Kerry the Silver Star, quote, “It was an act of courage. It was above and beyond anything that we had seen down there, in that case, at that time frame.”
NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, has been following this story the way a meteorologist might follow a hurricane, and I spoke with her earlier this evening.
OLBERMANN: Andrea, if you want an opinion about Lieutenant John Kerry, ask Lieutenant Commander George Elliott. He seems to have expressed all of them now.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Do we know what happening with this man or maybe what happened to him?
MITCHELL: Well, I talked to the family today and they say that he stands by his participation in the ad. So that he is not retracting it as was previously reported in an interview that he apparently did with the “Boston Globe.” So, he‘s had three different positions on this so far.
But right now he stands by being in the advertisement which is challenging the Vietnam War record of John Kerry. We should point out that none of these men served on the same Swift Boat with John Kerry.
OLBERMANN: The sophistication of the 527 ads, from the loopholes in the McCain-Feingold act, it seems comforting that one of them could so quickly become the center of a double recant. Is it surprising that supposedly crack advertising people playing at this level of politics would rely on the comments of a man who has switched positions on John Kerry at least twice and now maybe three times?
MITCHELL: Well, I think the bottom line may be that the real impact of this ad may still be felt and they have a book as well, which is doing very well in advance sales on Amazon.com. So, they think this they‘re going to be able to undercut a central theme of John Kerry‘s campaign.
This is the kind of negative advertising which comes without a label, no, you know, “I‘m John Kerry I paid for this ad,” or “I‘m George Bush and I paid for this ad,” which is the I.D. that was put into the McCain-Feingold law specifically so that campaigns would have to embrace attack ads if they wanted to take the risk of making them.
So they may get away with it. And, you know, Keith, this could have a big impact for people who are not closely following the campaign. What they may see is that, hey, John Kerry wasn‘t really a war hero after all, and that may be the lasting—the lasting impact.
OLBERMANN: The book you mentioned, and we mentioned it here before, it is, in essence, a booklike version of this commercial coming out next week and...
OLBERMANN: And just to ratchet up the stakes, it‘s from Regnery Press which is supported in some way by Richard Mellon Scathe of the Pittsburgh “Tribune Review,” and you‘re now bringing the whole mystical right-wing conspiracy jazz.
Though the ad is officially not funded by the Republican Party, that would seem to be as much of a technicality as is the idea that the Moveon.org stuff isn‘t supported by or influenced by the Democrats. Is there any hint, in the light of the discovery of this loophole, of possibly tightening up McCain-Feingold to regulate these kinds of ads.
MITCHELL: Well, it‘s like all these laws, they always—it‘s like water, always finding a way out. There‘s always some unintended consequence. John McCain has talked about going to court to stop this from happening, but so far hasn‘t been able to. The FEC, according to McCain, is a toothless wonder, they have said that they were going to revisit this, but not until after the election is over.
Ironically, the Democrats have benefited most from this loophole, this year. They have raised about 15 times as much money as Republicans. And the Republicans were sort of caught with their guard down, they never expected this to happen and now they are trying to catch up, and doing it at a pivotal time.
But this month alone, the Democrats are really outspending, even in August two to one the Republicans, in a period where John Kerry himself and his campaign is dark because they‘re trying to save money for the fall.
OLBERMANN: So, we‘ll see what happens next week now when the book comes out. I‘m sure we‘ll go through this again. And we will be doubtless talking to the Lieutenant Commander and see how many opinions he has next week.
Andrea Mitchell in Washington, as always, great thanks.
MITCHELL: Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: There‘s a second who-said-what-when controversy in the campaign, tonight. The senator has criticized the president‘s action or inaction in the moments after 9/11, but that criticism coming just two weeks after Teresa Heinz Kerry defended the president on the same issue.
Taking questions at a journalist conference in Washington, the Democratic nominee made his first comments on how Mr. Bush continued to sit through a book reading session with Florida school children for seven minutes or more after being informed of the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, had I been reading to children and had my top aide whispered in my ear “America is under attack,” I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had something that he needed to attend to, and I would have attended to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No direct response from the president who has always said he stayed there so as not to alarm the children, but the campaign trotted out a quote from someone on who it rarely has called, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“John Kerry must be frustrated in his campaign if he is armchair quarterbacking based on cues from Michael Moore.”
OLBERMANN: The “Fahrenheit 9/11” reference is one thing. Kerry says he has not seen the movie, and it‘s not like Moore was the first person ever to notice, nor criticize, the president‘s stay in that classroom. But it‘s a comment on the same subject from his own wife that may have the campaign scrambling.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, asked by Chris Matthews in an interview for “Hardball” on July 25, about what Mr. Bush did that morning and what her husband might have done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY‘S WIFE: I think the president behaved correctly in terms of being quiet amidst stunning news like that. I mean, the classroom of kids. Well now, what can you do? It takes you a couple of minutes to digest what you just heard. And then he was not in his White House and in his office with all his people, he was in the school in Florida.
I know that there are all these people always available to the president, must have been terrible. I mean, I don‘t know that anybody would have done what they normally would do perfectly, under those circumstances. Now, you know, in hindsight, how can you tell? But, I don‘t blame the president for being stunned at all, as we all were—almost paralyzed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course you don‘t need to be a Vietnam vet, and ex-mayor nor a candidate‘s wife to comment on the campaign, you can just open your mouth at the right moment, as both the incumbent and the challenger have learned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We want Bush!
KERRY: You know...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Kerry in Missouri replying “let them chant because they have only three more months to chant.” Senator Edwards though, said “When they were booing ‘hope and optimism‘ I knew it was an interesting crowd.” He did however, reproach the hecklers. “I just want to say to those folks who don‘t hear from us, my children are on this train, show them some good Missouri manners.”
The president doesn‘t have to do his own heckler management, as evidence today in Washington when an unidentified man called him a liar from the back row of a convention, the man was escorted out by Secret Service and White House staff.
Perhaps it is time for both parties to reach out to a group of voters that tends to keep to itself. Not so much NASCAR dads as perhaps Amish aunties. Seriously. Of the nearly 200,000 members of the Christian sect, the vast majority live in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, and when they vote, apparently not too often, about 10 percent of the time, they tend to vote Republican.
Hence a private meeting between 30 members of the Amish community and the president during a campaign swing through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, last month. A quip about that from a Kerry spokesman, Mark Nevins, quote, “If I know Republicans and they‘re grassroots operations, they‘ll spend most of their time trying to phone-bank the Amish.”
And the continuing question of who-said-what-when, extending tonight to the local political level, commentator and former presidential hopeful, Alan Keyes said he will tell Republican leaders by Sunday whether or not he wants to run for the Senate in Illinois, even though he‘s a resident of Maryland right now.
Turns out he has already said something on this issue. When it was proposed that Keyes might run in New York as a Republican four years ago against another out of stater he said, quote, “I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton‘s willingness to go into a state she doesn‘t even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn‘t imitate it.” And he said that on “Fox News.”
The “Chicago Tribune” reports Keyes acknowledged what is sometimes coarsely called “carpet bagging,” aimed at this race saying, “As a matter of principles, I don‘t think it‘s a good idea.”
COUNTDOWN opening tonight with who-said-what-when. Up next: One of the top issues this election, according to the polls, jobs. Like whatever happened to yours? Paul Krugman of the “New York Times” joins us next after some stunning statistical news tonight.
And later, stunning as well, apathy in Arizona: We join this robbery already in progress. Stand by, all the passers by did.
OLBERMANN: Ever after the phrase has lingered at the back of the American psyche, sometimes the front, its origins, although, are less well remembered. They consisted of a sign hung up in Bill Clinton‘s 1992 campaign office by aide James Carville with four words printed on it: “It‘s the economy, stupid.”
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight: After four years of terror in Iraq and partisanship, that sign may prove prophetic yet again. The nation‘s number crunches expected that the month of July would produce 200,000 new jobs. The actual number total revealed today, 32,000. As our correspondent, Anne Thompson, reports, oops.
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The anemic jobs report stunned the experts who saw improving factory orders and growing consumer confidence as reasons to expect a stronger labor market. But, today‘s report is now igniting fears that the slowdown, described as a soft patch in the economy, may be something more serious.
DR. MARK ZANDI, ECONOMY.COM: At a very minimum, we need to see consistent job growth of 150,000 per month, if we don‘t get that we‘re not getting the income gains that we need to sustain consumer spending and the economy going forward.
THOMPSON (on camera): Adding to the concerns, the sky-high price of oil, closing just under $44 a barrel, seeping into all aspects of the economy.
(voice-over): It threatens to dramatically push up home heating oil prices and trucking costs, putting the brakes on growth.
PHILIP VERLEGGER, OIL ANALYST: The rise in prices cuts the amount of money Americans in both business and the home have to spend on other goods, and that has a ripple effect that winds up cutting jobs.
THOMPSON: One of the jobs created last month belongs to Tina Tapera.
Once a mortgage underwriter, now a bartender taking home less.
TINA TAPERA, FORMER MORTGAGE UNDERWRITER: I was receiving medical benefits, dental benefits, 401(k), vacation, and then now in the bartending industry I‘m making $6.50 an hour plus tips and no benefits.
THOMPSON: Such jobs derided as part of a u-turn in the economy by Democratic presidential hopeful, John Kerry.
KERRY: The jobs that are being created pay $9,000 less on average than the jobs than the jobs we‘re losing overseas.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How are you?
THOMPSON: The president campaigning in New Hampshire stressed the economy is moving forward.
BUSH: In the last year we‘ve added about 1.5 million new jobs, the unemployment rate is down to 5.5 percent.
THOMPSON: A job market showing unexpected weakness with potential long-term impact on the recovery and the election.
Anne Thompson, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: To help assess those impacts, joining us now, Paul Krugman, op-ed columnist for the “New York Times,” also professor of economics at Princeton. And he is the author of “The Great Unraveling:
Losing Our Way in the New Century.” Joining us tonight from Washington.
Mr. Krugman, good evening, thanks for coming back on the show.
PAUL KRUGMAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Monthly fluctuations aside, what is the big picture here, and how did it just change with these numbers?
KRUGMAN: Well, the big picture is that over the past 11 months, when we‘ve had job growth, it‘s pretty—it‘s pretty disappointing. It‘s about 140,000 a month over the last 11 months which is not—basically just about enough to keep up with population growth. It‘s not enough to make real progress, so last summer we all agreed we had a really lousy job market and it really hasn‘t improved significantly since then.
We had a couple of really good months and people said, “Well, you know, we‘ve turned the corner, as the president keeps on saying” not apparently knowing the echo of Herbert Hoover, there. But now, it looks as if, well, maybe we haven‘t turned the corner and this is pretty depressing.
OLBERMANN: Obviously the fervent prayer of this administration has been, let‘s get back to at least break-even on jobs created before the election. Are these particular numbers, these statistics for July the end of that hope or can it somehow be even miraculously turned around before people cast their ballots on the 2nd of November?
KRUGMAN: It—he‘s got only got, I think, two more job reports. I think we‘re going to get August-September—no, I‘m sorry maybe three more, but it‘s, in any case, there are—I‘m sorry, well—anyway—I‘m going in circles. But anyway, there—no, basically it would take—it would really take a miracle. It would have to—you know, the pope would really have to step in here to get—to get him to positive numbers before the election.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, the October one will come out after the election.
KRUGMAN: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Because it‘s so early in the—on the 2nd.
But, what would John Kerry do with this mess, if the economy be one? I mean, if the economy beats George Bush is John Kerry suddenly like the Dustin Hoffman character at end of the movie “The Graduate” when he wins back the girl and gets on the bus and suddenly realizes he doesn‘t have a clue what to do next?
KRUGMAN: Well, there were a whole bunch of things that moderate to liberal economists were urging the Bush administration to do all along, saying—you know, instead of directing your tax cuts towards people with very high incomes who probably won‘t spend them, direct them towards people with lower-incomes so they probably will spend them. Give aid to state and local governments, which are—you know, have budget problems, will spend the money on building roads and repairing schools. And again, put the money in circulation.
The typical estimate, from people I talked to, is that this high-end tax cut-centered program, which is what Bush insistently pushed, got about half as much bang for the buck as a more conventional sort of typical things you do to fight a weak economy. So, I think Kerry wouldn‘t have a hard time coming up with a list of things that historically have worked better than what Bush has tried.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, perhaps not pursuant to these numbers today, but is there anything in the economic situation that suggests an upward trend, an upward health growth in this economy?
KRUGMAN: Business investment is slowly recovering, I mean, the numbers are pretty big, but it‘s from way down. Yes. But I have to say, there‘s nothing in there that makes me think that the second half of the year is going to be anything to celebrate.
OLBERMANN: Paul Krugmam, op-ed columnist, “New York Times,” professor of economics at Princeton. We thank you again for coming on the program this evening.
KRUGMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That wraps up the No. 4 story. Up next, we journey into the parallel universe where people go swimming wearing shackles. That‘s him right above the logo, there, and trust me, he‘s wearing shackles. “Oddball” ahoy.
And later on COUNTDOWN, a reunion in the works. Vili clears the last legal hurdle separating him from his teacher and the mother of his children and the—boy this—feel like jumping in the ocean after seeing this.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back and just in time, too, to wrap up the news of the kingdoms of both animal and man, or animal and other animals. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And we begin with a kind of heartening, kind of disgusting story from Salem, Oregon of a chipmunk without a home and a Chihuahua with sustenance and love to spare.
The owner of “Buffy” the Chihuahua found the orphaned chipmunk in the wild, no parents in sight, close to starving to death, so she brought the little fellow home to “Buffy,” a new mother herself who essentially to the chipmunk, “belly up to the bar, boys.”
Little “Alvin” is making great progress. He‘s putting on weight and should be back to singing annoying Christmas songs in no time.
OK. Thank you. You can take five, boys.
To San Francisco where this man has been spotted swimming frantically away from Alcatraz, his hands cuff, his legs shackled. He is guilty of no crime, unless you count idiocy. Idiocy is no longer a crime, it‘s a lifestyle.
This is Italian artist, Alberta Christini. He is attempting to swim one of the toughest channels of water in the world in cuffs and leg irons. Of course, he is.
For why does he do this? I don‘t know, perhaps he got bored with the Stairmaster.
Actually legendary fitness guru, Jack La Lanne has twice done this same swim. He reminded Reuters news service that on the second time it was on his 60th birthday and he pulled a boat across with him. So, you just keep paddling there, pal.
And this looks repetitive, a convenience store robbery in Phoenix, Arizona, caught on the in-store security camera. Pinch me. A man with a gun has jumped over the counter, demanded all the money from the registers.
What‘s odd about this? Nothing, apparently, not to the customers. This is so routine; the other folks in the store are walkering around, continuing shopping like nothing was going on.
One man casually waits at the counter for the robbery to be over so he can purchase a Slim Jim and a pack of smokes. Another employee is holding, or cleaning the front door and then holds it open while as the robber runs out.
Guy got away surprisingly enough. Police have no suspects. As a comedian once pointed out about his incredibly tough high school, “kids got thrown off the roof so often, it was weather.”
With “Oddball” complete, back to the COUNTDOWN with our third story tonight: The threads connecting terror suspects at home and abroad. The latest details on the al-Qaeda arrests, next.
Then later, she‘s back, and seemingly in possession of exclusive knowledge about the war on terror, so exclusive nobody else seems to know anything about it.
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: The post office of Switzerland, which has decided to commemorate the nation‘s forests, has made a stamp out of wood. Great. Really, really great.
No. 2: A company that claims it has perfected a new and safer method to clone cats. Fifty thousand dollars per cat. The cloning claim made by the offices of Genetic Savings & Clone.
And No. 1: Trey Wright, the eventual winner of the National Scrabble
Championship, asked by the cable network televising the contest to withdraw
the three-letter word he had created. Though it‘s in many dictionaries,
they thought the word was inappropriate. L-e-z, and the definition of that
· oh, oh.
OLBERMANN: This is the anniversary. President Bush was handed a memo, the importance of which was fully understood only in hindsight. But only 36 days later, the memo which arrived on his desk three years ago today was entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.”
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the state of the terror threats three years later. In a moment, we‘ll be joined by former White House counterterrorism official and former Gulf War General Wayne Downing.
First, as justice correspondent Pete Williams reports, this is a very different kind of August 6, one that sees U.S. officials optimistic they could find out now whether the plot behind the latest terror alert ever made it off the drawing board or may still be in the works.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. officials believe a man in custody in England was at the very heart of the apparent plot involving the five buildings. Eisa al-Hindi, they say, not only complied the extensive files in Pakistan, but also conducted much of the surveillance himself, sent to New York in early 2001 as a trusted aide to Osama bin Laden.
DAVID AARON, TERRORISM EXPERT: It‘s a caution to all the other plotters that he has contact with. Because they have to assume that everything he knows will sooner or later be known to the United States and Britain.
WILLIAMS: In a London court today, another man, a British citizen, Babar Ahmad, was accused of raising money for terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya, running these Web sites that sought help for enemies of the U.S.
KEVIN O‘CONNOR, U.S. ATTORNEY: They also instructed visitors in precise detail on how to get in to Afghanistan through Pakistan without being detected.
WILLIAMS: And investigators say British police discovered that Ahmad has classified U.S. Navy information about the movement of this destroyer in the Persian Gulf, an e-mail from a sailor on board now under investigation expressing support for the bombers who attacked the USS Cole.
Here at home, this week‘s developments have been focused new interest on this man, on Mohammed Babar (ph), who pleaded guilty two months ago to going to this remote area of Pakistan, where the hunt for bin Laden is centered, and delivering supplies to a high-ranking al Qaeda official. U.S. authorities say he helped point investigators to a terror cell in London that led to the recent‘s arrests there. Babar‘s help now is in strong contrast to the hatred he once expressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will kill every American I see in Afghanistan. And while I‘m in Pakistan, if I see in Pakistan, I‘ll kill every American soldier I can in Pakistan.
WILLIAMS (on camera): Those familiar with recent intelligence say al Qaeda‘s current leaders are not as adept as the group‘s founders, though they have the same intense desire to attack America.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now to assess the implications of the latest developments, the retired U.S. Army General Wayne Downing, commander of special operation forces during the first Gulf War and more recently director of the White House Office for Combating Terrorism, also now an MSNBC analyst.
General, good evening. Thanks for your time.
RET. GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Hi, Keith. Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Is there momentum building up here in terms of shutting these operational lines down? And if so, does momentum mean anything regarding an organization that could con conceivably give a man an instruction in 2004 to go carry out an atrocity in 2008?
DOWNING: Well, this thing tends to run in bursts and in spurts.
It looks like right now we‘re really on a roll. This probably just hasn‘t happened. I suspect that the Pakistanis have not released either to the—to the open press, perhaps even to us, the extent of what they‘ve uncovered. But basically what they‘re doing here is they‘re uncovering this Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of al Qaeda, the guy who planned 9/11 there, really uncovering his network.
They‘ve gotten into his family. They‘ve gotten into his clan and into his close friends. And I think what we‘re seeing is the power that this guy had, the extent of his operations is probably far greater than what it was, say, in March of ‘03 last year, when we captured this guy. I think we‘re finding out he was involved in much, much more than we originally thought, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Regarding the process, whether or not one views it questioningly or skeptically, “The New Republic” magazine had reported a month ago that the Pakistani intelligence people were feeling heat from the White House to deliver so-called high-quality terror suspects before the election and if possible during the Democratic Convention.
Whether or not that‘s true, relevant or not, something clearly has lit a fire under the Pakistanis. What‘s happening there? What‘s happening with our relationship with them? How has it changed?
DOWNING: Well, Keith, we‘ve always had almost a love-hate relationship with the Pakistanis. I mean, that goes back even way before 9/11.
Right after 9/11, Musharraf to make a choice. He elected to go with us. We‘re not sure his entire intelligence service, nor his armed forces went with us. He‘s got a very, very tough balance there. I don‘t think—
I don‘t see any plot by the administration to try to time this stuff. You just can‘t do that. You‘ve got to take it when you can get it.
I think they‘ve gotten lucky, that their hard work has paid off. And they‘ve got some very, very good targets for us. And they‘re turning some stuff over and it‘s leading to a lot of other things. But let‘s not forget, the other guys we want, Osama bin Laden and his No. 2, Zawahiri, are still down there most likely in that Afghan-Pakistan border.
They‘re conducting operations down there. They‘re getting people, but they certainly haven‘t got those two key characters yet.
OLBERMANN: And that raises the question, General, about the finds in Pakistan. They‘ve all been pretty much in the cities. And, once again, you can view that two ways. It‘s easier to find specific people in a city than in a cave somewhere on the Afghan border, where there are no maps, let alone guidance.
OLBERMANN: But does that mean that the Pakistanis have been slow even going after the easiest or easier of the targets? Or does it mean they‘ve just succeeded in cutting off the communications coordinators in the cities and now perhaps they can go after the principal suspects, the Zawahiris and the bin Ladens, with some impunity because there‘s no sort of echo network for them to touch back into the cities with?
DOWNING: Oh, no, Keith. They‘ve really got to do both.
And this thing in the cities is actually going to continue. But to go to the cities, that‘s where they can communicate. That‘s where they can run their operations. In order to do that, they have to expose themselves. They have come up on their coms. And that makes it a little easier for us to get them.
This border region, this Waziristan region you hear about, Keith, no one has controlled that area for hundreds of years. The British did not control that. That‘s a very, very tough area. And of course we‘ve got to keep the pressure and the Pakistanis have to keep the pressure up there.
OLBERMANN: It‘s been happening lately. Let‘s see if it continues to do so.
General Wayne Downing...
DOWNING: I hope it does.
OLBERMANN: ... formerly of the White House Counterterrorism Office and MSNBC analyst, as always, sir, great thanks for your time.
DOWNING: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The general was in Peoria, Illinois; 220 miles east of there, in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, they‘re still trying to figure out how their little locality wound up in the middle of a bizarre terror controversy centering on the congresswoman who was also in the middle of the bizarre Florida voting controversy four years ago.
Representative Katherine Harris said she had been told that, among the more than 100 terror threats busted up since 9/11 was a plan by a man of Middle East heritage to blow up the Midwest power grid in Carmel. The list of people dumbfounded by her comments has now expanded today to include the governor of Indiana, the lieutenant governor, the mayor of Carmel, the mayor of Indianapolis, and the director of the Indiana Counterterrorism and Security Council, who says—quote—“We asked ourselves how this could have happened and no one here have been aware of it. The answer from law enforcement across the board, including the FBI, is that no such evidence exists. Trust me, if there was such a threat, we would know about it. It didn‘t happen.”
If you were expecting an apology, perhaps a retraction from the congresswoman, you‘ll have to make do with this. She stands by her statement, saying only that the terror situation of which she spoke had been defused, adding—quote—“I regret that I had no knowledge of the sensitive nature of this situation and any undue concern this may have caused.”
About those 100-plus thwarted terror threats, Harris said of her source of that information: “It‘s classified, obviously not classified to me.”
Lastly on terror, you may recall from the 9/11 Commission report that it was sharply critical of the very concept of the war on terror, that the terminology was too vague, that it evoked imagery of national conflict without saying which nation we were fighting. In an off-hand moment in front of a journalists convention today in Washington, President Bush seemed to agree with that and also immediately underscored why they went with war on terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s been misnamed, the war on terror. It ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world. And that‘s what they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The SAIEWDNBIFSWHTUTAAWTTTSTC of TFW.
Up next, terror of a different kind and a different time, the chance that we might still learn something decisive about the assassination of President Kennedy.
But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He wants to be an opponent to everybody, everything that‘s going on, the government, first the Iraqi Governing Council, now the interim Iraqi government, and then sometimes he makes—oh, my goodness, let‘s set that somewhere else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: What would you love to do on the first evening you two get to see each other?
VILI FUALAAU, 21 YEARS OLD: We want to go on a boat cruise, either the Bahamas or something, or Miami, somewhere tropical, really hot, or maybe somewhere really cold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century and how do we resolve conflicts between tribes and the federal and state governments?
BUSH: Tribal sovereignty means that; it‘s sovereign. I mean, you‘re a—you‘ve been given sovereignty, and you‘re viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.
OLBERMANN: Coming up on COUNTDOWN, the weekly revenge of the staff and viewers, or you could call it our news quiz, “What Have We Learned?” to say nothing of the possibility a sports stadium that could be called Virgin Park.
OLBERMANN: There is only one theory of the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy that can withstand all the known facts and also the cloudy suspicions, that there were multiple gunmen, but that they didn‘t know each other was there, like more than one robber trying to stick up the same bank at the same time, the rarely heard coincidence theory.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, a chance that technology might yet save us from the coincidence theory and turn a cloudy suspicion into a decisive fact.
Our correspondent is Fred Francis.
FRED FRANCIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty years gone since that day in Dealey Plaza and the conspiracy theories live on. Was it three shots or four in Dallas that day JFK was killed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the shooting scene, the confused moments.
FRANCIS: Oswald, did he act alone, firing three shots, or was there a second gunman on the infamous grassy knoll firing a fourth time? The only supposed evidence of sound, an open microphone from a motorcycle cop and the static recorded on a headquarters Dictaphone belt.
Gary Mack, the curator of the Museum Dealey Plaza, had urged a high-tech examination for years.
GARY MACK, CURATOR, SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA: Unless there‘s some previously unknown film or photograph, this recording, as far as I know, represents the last possible hard evidence about the Kennedy assassination.
FRANCIS: And though the Warren Commission wrote that Oswald was the lone assassin, in 1979, a House committee, after examining that sound recording, said it heard four shots, not three. The conspiracy buffs roared, Oswald did not act alone.
(on camera): But three years later, the National Academy of Science said its acoustical analysis of the static sounded, well, not like gunshots, but static.
(voice-over): Yet it may now be possible that the high science of today, with optical scanning, can read that old belt.
PAUL GINSBERG, PROFESSIONAL, AUDIO LAB: We‘ll be able to see more clearly now. It‘s like getting a better lens on a pair of glasses.
FRANCIS: The original dictabelt at the National Archives can not be listened to without the new technology, but others, historians, say, it‘s pointless.
MAX HOLLAND, JOHN F. KENNEDY AUTHOR: It‘s a tape of what happens miles away. It takes place minutes probably after the shots were fired in Dealey Plaza.
FRANCIS: It will be at least a year before the attempt is made to discern gunshots from that recording. When that happens, technology may finally put to rest one of the conspiracy issues surrounding JFK‘s death.
Fred Francis, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: And with that, we make the transition to the evening‘s entertainment news and the stories we call “Keeping Tabs” and, tonight, the report that Rick James is dead.
Police believe the 56-year-old funk legend died in his sleep of heart failure in his Los Angeles home. James‘ career skyrocketed with his 1981 hit “Super Freak,” but he later crashed back down to earth amid drug use and domestic violence. He eventually went to prison. Just this week, the comedian Dave Chappelle had signed to do a movie based on James‘ life.
And if you want to wait around for the next half-biography, half-train wreck film, it appears Mary Kay Letourneau will be reunited with the sixth grader with whom she dallied and for whom she wound up going to prison for seven years, a Seattle judge today agreeing to lift the restraining order barring her from visiting Vili Fualaau, now age 21. Fualaau has challenged the order, arguing that he could pick his own friends now, especially if one of them was the mother of his two children.
Letourneau was released from prison on Wednesday, her attorney explaining she was not a molester of children. She just fell in love with one of them. Uh-huh.
You will to figure this next story out for yourself, too. You may recall we told you that baseball pitching star Roger Clemens had been ejected from his son‘s youth baseball game last weekend for having spit sunflower seeds at an umpire. Now the president of the organization has apologized to Clemens, saying he was unjustly removed from the field and the victim of mistaken identity and confusion by an upset ump. Mistaken identity? Good grief. How many people out there were spitting seeds at the umpires?
And for 15 years, we have been letting the sports franchises that operate stadiums, usually built at public expense, make more money off them by letting some corporation merge its identity into the arena‘s name. Stand by for what we may have wrought, Virgin Park. It‘s Candlestick Park right now, home of the National Football League San Francisco 49ers, but the Parks Department there has now agreed to sell naming rights.
And the five finalists are, Monster Cable Park, Organic Inc. Park, Macromedia Park, Wells Fargo Bank Park, and for bidder Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Virgin Park.
Next up, time for my weekly equivalent of bleeding and purging. I will answer your news questions in our quiz, not called cupping, but called “What Have We Learned?” Please stop making that popping sound.
OLBERMANN: It is Friday. And the rule here on Fridays is that there is no No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, because it‘s Friday. So, instead, we indulge ourselves in that weekly bit of live human experimentation, where it‘s me on the table and you with the scalpel, the one we call:
ANNOUNCER: “What Have We Learned?”
OLBERMANN: Now as your representative in this public pig sticking, I give you genial emcee of “What Have We Learned?” quiz master Monica Novotny.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Oh, great.
NOVOTNY: You ready for this?
OLBERMANN: Yes, sure.
NOVOTNY: As always, we will start by reminding viewers that if you would like to test your knowledge of the events of this week, you will find the official news quiz on our Web site at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com. And while you‘re there, if you would like to take part in “What We Have Learned?” click on “E-mail the Show.” Type news quiz in the subject line and send us your question for Mr. Olbermann.
And if you‘re really feeling creative, suggest a punishment for our esteemed anchorman. Should it turn out that he has failed to learn very much over the course of the week, we will take it from there.
And so we begin with tonight‘s viewer questions and two minutes on the clock. Now, you must get at least half right in order to avoid the punishment.
Are you ready, sir?
OLBERMANN: My collar has been a little tight all night. Other than that, I‘m fine.
NOVOTNY: Also, we noted the stalling that you worked on last time.
So we are going to make sure that doesn‘t happen this week.
OLBERMANN: Stall? I got six out of seven. What else do you want from me?
NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock, please. Let‘s begin.
From Susan (ph) in Michigan, there were three bank robberies in Davenport while the candidates were there. Davenport is one of the Quad Cities. Please name the other three.
NOVOTNY: We‘ve got that one.
OLBERMANN: Larry, Moe, Curly. Dubuque is not part of the Quad Cities.
NOVOTNY: Sorry. No, not at all. Let‘s move on. Moline and Rock Island.
NOVOTNY: How many buildings were involved in raising of the terror alert?
OLBERMANN: How many buildings, per se?
NOVOTNY: Yes. Yes.
OLBERMANN: All the Citibank buildings? All the Citibank facilities in New York?
NOVOTNY: There were five facilities in particular that were named.
Is that the answer? It‘s five?
NOVOTNY: I just gave you the answer.
OLBERMANN: You just gave me the answer.
NOVOTNY: Never mind.
OLBERMANN: The answer is five. That‘s mine. We are going to play these rules by the rules or not. If she hands me the ball, I can run with it. One for me.
NOVOTNY: Meg (ph) from Texas. Maybe now I will learn from this. What is the name of the reality game show that has illegal aliens competing for legal services that might help the winner obtain a green card?
OLBERMANN: “Gana La Verde.”
NOVOTNY: That‘s the one.
What is the former occupation of Nicolas Cage‘s new bride?
OLBERMANN: She‘s a former sushi waitress.
How many times has Nicolas Cage now been married?
OLBERMANN: This would be number tres, the three.
NOVOTNY: Yes. Yes. Yes.
From Dee (ph) in South Carolina. What was the name of the tiger that got loose in Queens?
OLBERMANN: The one in Queens was Apollo.
NOVOTNY: How much does Apollo weigh?
OLBERMANN: A lot. Apollo is 460 pounds.
NOVOTNY: Four-hundred fifty.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t I get a margin of at least 10-pounds?
NOVOTNY: Not at all. Not at all. I already gave you one. That should be enough.
From Rhonda (ph) in Massachusetts, how much is the bill that York,
Pennsylvania, sent to the Bush reelection committee for securing the
OLBERMANN: ... a number. I‘m not a child math prodigy.
NOVOTNY: It‘s math tonight.
OLBERMANN: Sixteen thousand, three hundred seventeen dollars.
NOVOTNY: Oh, so wrong -- $21,057. I would have taken 21,000.
OLBERMANN: Yes, go ahead.
NOVOTNY: What has Charles Ball of Worcester, Mass., proposed to—quote—“end road rage for all time”?
OLBERMANN: The smiley-face license plate.
From Karen (ph), how many years has the court jester position been vacant in England?
OLBERMANN: Since 1649, which would be a total of 355?
NOVOTNY: We have 350 years here.
OLBERMANN: Sixteen forty-nine. That‘s my answer.
NOVOTNY: I am going to let the judges do the math.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I think I got seven of them, is what I‘m being told.
NOVOTNY: You‘re right, sir.
OLBERMANN: So what‘s the total?
OLBERMANN: Six out of how many?
NOVOTNY: Out of how many?
OLBERMANN: How many questions?
OLBERMANN: Six out of eight.
NOVOTNY: Six out of eight
OLBERMANN: Well, or maybe seven out of eight. Whatever it was, more than half. So I do not get any punishment.
NOVOTNY: You‘re very lucky. There is no punishment. And it‘s a good particularly good prize this week, barbecue sauce.
OLBERMANN: Virginia Gentleman.
NOVOTNY: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Boy, I hope this is barbecue sauce.
Well, gee, thanks. I really appreciate it, Monica.
OLBERMANN: So another edition of “What Have We Learned?” belongs to the ages.
Until next time, if there is a next time—and I wouldn‘t bet the house on it—for your hostess with the mostest, Monica Novotny. thanks for watching:
ANNOUNCER: “What Have We Learned?”
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it.
I‘m Keith Olbermann. And I got more right than wrong. That‘s all that counts. Good night and good luck.
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