Guests: Lou Dubose, Kendall Coffey, Robin Wright, Tony Bruno
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The docu-drama? Now it is a documents expert who says he can no longer verify the Killian memos, a first lady who says they are probably forgeries and a Republican spokesman who says they were produced by the Democrats.
Oh, yes, there‘s also a poll showing Mr. Bush has lost all the convention bounce and dubious documents date back to the election of 1844.
Hurricane Ivan and politics. How the storm may have just put Ralph Nader back on the ballot in Florida.
How the insurgents may have put Iraq back on the ballot across America. Another frightful car bombing in Baghdad. At least 47 dead.
And welcome to tonight‘s game. It‘s free souvenir chair night at the old ball yard. All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Tuesday, September 14. 49 days until the 2004 presidential election. If it‘s not self-evident that politics has not been so jumbled here since the days of the 2000 recount, now it is an expert who is recanting his support of the so-called Killian memos and a Florida election official unilaterally deciding to put Ralph Nader on the ballot there and a conservative business website putting out a presidential poll saying the bounce is gone and the tie is back. Kerry 47, Bush 47.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN. Seven weeks ago, and on this 190th anniversary of the day Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
O say can anybody see what‘s going to happen by the dawn‘s early light on November 2.
A poll of likely voters conducted for “Investor‘s Business Daily” taken last Tuesday through this past Sunday has it tied 47-all. Introduce Nader to the likely voters and it‘s tied 46-46. Cut from likely voters to registered voters and it‘s Kerry 45, Bush 43.
The “Investor‘s Business Daily” also contradicts others about Independent voters and swing states. Kerry, it says, leads the Independents 48-38, Kerry leads in purple land, 51-39, but in something the survey calls intensity of support, Mr. Bush‘s intense support is 60 percent. Senator Kerry‘s just 35 percent.
And yes, we have now brought you every survey except the “USA Today”/ College Football Coach‘s poll.
And, yes, in the middle of the controversy over documents that supposedly questioned his service in the Air National Guard, what looks surprisingly anachronistic, the president went to Las Vegas to address the convention of the National Guard Association of the United States, just as John Kerry will later in the week.
The president was met with a warmly receptive crowd but outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, some of today‘s National Guard family members gathered together by Democrats, held a news conference to protest that Mr. Bush rushed into war, and sent soldiers to Iraq under false pretenses and is sacrificing American men and women needlessly.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush did not address the documents but he did address their topic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s clear to me diplomacy wasn‘t working so I had a choice to make. Do I forget the lessons of September 11 and take the word of a mad man or take action necessary to defend America? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president did not talk about the memos. That was the wrong tape you heard just there. The first lady however, did unexpectedly. In an interview for Radio Iowa, Laura Bush commented on the Killian documents and none too favorably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: You know, they probably are altered and they probably are forgeries. And I think that‘s terrible, really. I think it‘s a terrible—I mean, that‘s actually one of the risks you take when you run for public office or when you‘re in the public eye for any reason. And that‘s—obviously a lot of things are said about you that aren‘t true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Republican National Committee went even further, responding to a Democratic video about Mr. Bush‘s service, or lack thereof. Spokesman Jim Dyke threw down the gauntlet this afternoon. “The video that Democrats released today is as creative and accurate as the memos they gave CBS.”
CBS News is still standing by its reporting and those documents even as those who represented themselves as experts and supporting sources continued to peel away.
First, it was a retired colonel who said what was written in the memos jibed with what the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian had told him about Lieutenant George W. Bush. Now it‘s a document‘s examiner who says he‘s backing away. Marcel Matley telling the “Washington Post” that, quote, “there‘s no way that I as a document expert can authenticate them.”
Matley says he only verified the signature of Jerry Killian. He told the “New York Times” he still thinks those signatures are legit but he has no way of knowing if they were perhaps clipped from another document and pasted on these papers because nobody has seen the originals.
“USA Today” which presented the story in almost identical fashion to that of CBS last Thursday has now quoted a series of experts who have deduced the documents were not legit. “We‘re just busy now trying to determine the authenticity or not,” the papers executive editor says.
Every news organization now has its own expert on this subject. An author of several books on the computer program Windows, telling the “Washington Post” he‘s 100 percent certain that the documents were created by using that program.
A former IBM technician told CBS and the “Chicago Tribune” that they could have absolutely been produced on one of his company‘s typewriters in the early seventies.
But it‘s the content issues that seem to be getting lost in the great typeface debate. A “Washington Post” examination of the documents says they cite an address for Lieutenant Bush that he never used between 1970 and 1973 and inconsistencies about how Lieutenant Colonel Killian signed his rank. He typically put the abbreviation Lt. Col. or Lt. Colonel, “Tex ANG” all of it on the same line as his signature.
On these documents as you can see, his rank is on a different line than his signature and they omit the reference to “Tex. ANG” Texas Air National Guard.
Tonight though there‘s breaking news from the website of the “Dallas Morning News” newspaper. The woman who was the secretary to Lieutenant Colonel Killian in the 1970s says that she believes that the documents are, in fact, fraudulent but that the sentiments are, in fact, accurate.
The memo suggested, as you know, that Bush had tried to coat his own record there. Those are not real, said this woman, Marianne Carr Knox (ph). “They‘re not what I typed and I would have typed them for him.” But she says the information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones, Knox says as she looked at the memos. She said she remembered vividly when Bush was there and all the yak-yak that was going on about it.
So a breaking development that sends a question of authenticity through the roof in terms of the documents but also questions whether or not they‘re stating the truth even if the documents themselves are false.
Of course, the entire docu-drama has supplanted the actual issue if there is one about President Bush‘s service in that Guard. It was in the original version of the movie “The Manchurian Candidate”—not the remake, the good one—in which the Joe McCarthy-like character played by James Gregory complaining to his Lady MacBethish (ph) wife that she‘s confusing him. She tells him to shout that there are 207 card-carrying communists in the State Department. Then the next day she tells him to insist there are 56 card-carrying communists in the State Department.
She looks at him sympathetically and says, don‘t you understand? Is anybody asking are there any communists in the State Department? No, they‘re all asking how many communists are there in the State Department. Machiavellian but obviously the politics of today would so scare Machiavelli himself that he would probably rush off to a seminary.
Is this issue all about on focusing on the trees to obscure somebody‘s view of the forest? Lou Dubose has been a Texas journalist for 20 years, held editorial positions at the “Texas Observer” and the “Austin Chronicle” and was co-author of “Boy Genius: Karl Rove, The Brains Behind The Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush.”
Mr. Dubose, good evening.
LOU DUBOSE, TEXAS JOURNALIST: Good evening. Glad to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Let me work backwards on this. Who do you think wound up benefiting politically from this brouhaha and why?
DUBOSE: Well, clearly Bush and the Bush candidacy benefit from this. You know, 50 -- 60, 57 people died in Iraq today. The electricity grid is shut down. We‘re past the 1,000 point mark in deaths in Iraq. And here we have a debate about basically an insider story on whether CBS, which really has kind of—Dan Rather has established the industry standard as far as standards of proof, whether they got snookered. That‘s not the story. Where was George Bush when he supposed to be in the Guard? The other half of the story is the lieutenant governor at the time, and speaker—who was previously speaker of the House at the time broke his silence after 30 years and said he used his influence to get Bush into the Guard at the request of a family friend. All that‘s obscured by a question about the authenticity of documents.
OLBERMANN: I asked one of our regulars here, Craig Crawford about this last night, it‘s political science fiction. He loved the theory, as I do, but he doubted that anybody in either campaign who have the cojones (ph) to actually try something like this with the idea that those documents would turn out to have holes in them big enough to drive Dan Rather through and would create the kind of distraction that these obviously have. Would anybody in big league politics on Mr. Bush‘s side of the ball, because if you suggest this is to his benefit ultimately, could anybody get those documents out there themselves so they could be knocked down deliberately?
DUBOSE: Well, if you‘re going to think I‘m going to take that bait, you‘re correct. Clearly, the Bush administration benefits from that. And clearly, the person who is usually behind these machinations is Bush‘s senior and lifetime political adviser, Karl Rove. Funny things happen around Mr. Rove. If you remember the debate in 2000, the Gore-Bush debate. On the eve of the debates, there‘s—Bush‘s coaching tape is mailed by a Bush campaign employee to the Gore campaign. The discussion for the rest of the news cycle leading into the debate is who mailed those tapes?
Go back to 1986 and Karl Rove‘s candidate for governor is losing—is
about to lose the race for the governor of Texas, and suddenly on a Sunday
afternoon, Mr. Rove‘s office is bugged. It might have been bugged by him
or by a Republican operative. And for the following news cycle we‘re not
talking about the Bush—I‘m sorry, about the Clements‘ debate, Governor
Clements‘ debate with his challenger, we‘re talking about a nonissue, which
is what we‘re talking about today. Did Rove do it? Of course not. Is he
benefiting from it? He‘s sitting somewhere smiling this afternoon, I have
no doubt about that
OLBERMANN: Well, we‘ll see how it gets complicated now further with this—the comments of the “Dallas Morning” newsroom. Lieutenant Colonel Killian‘s secretary who basically says these are frauds but the information is accurate which splits the hair even further. We didn‘t know we could put it into 10 different pieces.
Well, Lou Dubose, the co-author of “Boy Genius” many thanks for your time tonight.
DUBOSE: Thank you. Glad to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Whoever supplied these documents, whether they were written in 2004 or 1856, and even if they were created in concert by Dan Rather and Karl Rove personally, the largest lie contained in the charges and countercharges in the Killian memos, the largest lie contained in the arms-length anti-Bush and anti-Kerry campaigns, with small Cs is that this is also how new to presidential politics as if the broad smear and distant past were not part and parcel of American history. The commentators who are bemoaning the corruption and debasement of the process are as disingenuous as some of the ads and as convincing as Claude Raines announcing he was shocked, shocked, to discover gambling going on in Casablanca.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): As Thomas Jefferson sought the presidency in 1800, the “Connecticut Current,” the proverbial house organ of the Federalist Party anticipated Dick Cheney by just 204 years when it wrote that Jefferson‘s election would doubtlessly foment civil war. Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest would be openly taught and practiced.
Two years later, mid-term, Jefferson got worse from a reporter in the “Richmond Recorder” that he had had an affair with one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings. Forget Monica Lewinsky. This was a story with staying power. Today, we still remember Sally, the story was true. But we forget Maria.
When his Democratic opponents charged that Grover Cleveland had fathered the illegitimate child of a clerk named Maria Halpin, Cleveland did something not seen in American politics before or since. He announced he probably wasn‘t the biological father, but since it was true he dated Halpin years before, he would assume financial responsibility for the little girl until she could be adopted. He won.
He also had his own version of Swift Boats or Texans for Truth to overcome. In 1884, when Cleveland first ran for the office, his military record of 20 years earlier was raised. He had not served in the civil war. In fact, his critics pointed out he had bought his way out of being drafted. That this was entirely legal at the time was entirely forgotten.
It is hardly forgotten that George Bush four years ago painted Al Gore as an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snob out of touch with the people or that a similar effort is underway now against John Kerry. New? Hardly. In 1840, the Whigs portrayed President Martin Van Buren as a silver spoon champagne drinker. And their own man, William Henry Harrison as a rough and tough backwards westerner, log cabins and hard cider. And it worked. But, in fact, Harrison owned a plantation and was so rough and tough that he died of pneumonia a month after his inaugural.
More to the point of the Killian memos and the Swift Boat affidavits, dubious documents are celebrating their 160th anniversary. The Whig party tried to trash James K. Polk in 1844 by printing a third-party account, a letter about how Polk had supposedly branded his slaves with his initials. Later in the same campaign, the Whigs also sent letters to Democratic leaders bearing the forged signatures of other Democratic leaders forecasting horrific defeat in November and urging them to stay home from the polls.
A damaging anti-labor forged letter was ascribed to James Garfield in 1880. He overcame it. Probably wished he hadn‘t. He was elected and then assassinated in office. And in 1888, President Cleveland, him again, was unseated largely because of a two-fer. Not just a fake letter that made him look bad to the nation‘s Irish voters, but also one which then encouraged the British ambassador to the U.S. to state which candidate his country wanted to see elected. Does that sound familiar at all from this campaign?
OLBERMANN (on camera): So as the commercials scream and the committees selling truth flourish, as which country supports which is candidate is bandied about, as forged documents are declared valid or valid ones declared forged, remember at least that none of this is new. You‘re watching standard American political tools fashioned by the great minds of the Federalist and Wig parties. The Federalists have not nominated a presidential candidate since 1816 nor the Wigs since 1852. Might be taken as a warning by the Republicans and Democrats of today, but it probably won‘t be.
COUNTDOWN opening up. With politics being dirty and historical, up next, tonight‘s number four story, the Florida ballot battle. Ralph Nader gets a spot after a judge says to hold off. The reason? Uncertainty over the hurricane.
Speaking of Hurricane Ivan, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) making a slow trek towards the Gulf coast. We‘ll have the latest forecast and show you what people are doing to try to get ready.
OLBERMANN: The National Hockey League which may take the first step towards going out of business tomorrow incidentally has a rule called third man in. If a fight breaks out between two players any other player who joins in is to be automatically expelled from the game. There‘s no truth to rumors that the hockey‘s Democrats want to rename this the Ralph Nader rule.
Our number four story on the COUNTDOWN, a group of his supporters formally flees Nader‘s side today. But conveniently, there‘s a hurricane that may force him back on the ballot in the state which he most influenced four years ago. Seventy members of the independence Nader 2000 Citizens Committee today formally issued a statement calling on other supporters to vote on the Kerry-Edwards ticket in the so-called swing states even though they disagree with the Democrats on Iraq and many issues.
Removing George W. Bush from office this statement says, should be the top priority in this the 2004 presidential elections.
Among the signatories, Noam Chompsky, Studs Terkel, Cornel West, performers Peter Coyote, Phil Donahue, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Eddie Vedder and Theodore Lowi, whose government class I once took at Cornell, and who has been so antiestablishment so long, that he believes civil liberties in this country ended the day the constitution was approved. The 2004 Nader faithful say this is nothing new and that there aren‘t many battleground states left anyway. They‘ll always have Florida.
And evidently they will have it again. Thanks to Hurricane Ivan. Florida‘s top election officials announcing they will allow Nader on their ballot in November, a week before a judge kicked him off it on ground the Reform Party no longer qualified as a national political organization, largely because the party bank account now contains $18.18. What does that have to do with what you‘re seeing?
A hearing on that ruling was scheduled for tomorrow, but election officials say Hurricane Ivan raises the possibility of the hearing being canceled. So, they filed an appeal to the judges decision. Under Florida‘s law an appeal means Nader‘s removal is automatic reversed. Democratic officials say that Ivan is just a convenient excuse here for a political maneuvering job and a chance to carry out the dirty work of Governor Jeb Bush. Guess who will step in next, the Florida Supreme Court.
Here to help us sort this out, Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney who helped the Gore/Lieberman campaign during the 2000 recount litigation.
Mr. Coffey, good evening.
KENDALL COFFEY, FMR U.S. ATTORNEY: Hey thinks for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: Is this pure politics on both sides of the equation here. Did the Democrats try to keep Nader off Florida and the Republicans just come up with a better means of keeping him on it?
COFFEY: Both sides are taking a legal positions that not surprisingly to advance their cause politically. Nothing new. Certainly predictable. And whatever we can blame Hurricane Ivan for, with it‘s untold death and destruction, it‘s not going to be a factor in whether Ralph Nader goes on the ballot. Fortunately, while it looks sort of like it‘s bouncing around right now, is he on, is he off? Is Florida doing something doofy and goofy again, the state supreme court has really taken control of the case. They‘ve acquired that the briefings be done and submitted this Thursday.
And if they think that Saturday September 18 is the deadline for mailing out overseas absentee ballots they‘ll decide this case in warp speed. The first thing they‘re looking at is what is the real deadline for mailing out the absentee ballots. The next thing they‘re going to decide is whether Ralph Nader goes or whether he stays.
OLBERMANN: The hearing would be affected by the Hurricane by printing and mailing out the ballots would not be?
Is that the way this hair is being split?
COFFEY: Well, I think most supervisors of elections may be trying to print ballots out both ways. Because everything is up in the air. But what the state supreme court has dictated, lets have the hearing Wednesday, tomorrow, at that point, the trail court is going to enter a final order. Then it goes to state supreme court. So, when it‘s all said and done they‘re going to make this call and they‘re probably going to make it very, very fast.
OLBERMANN: You used the phrase goofy and doofy in Florida, are we going to see it again?
Is this the first sign there‘s going to be another trouble system year like 2000 or, in fact, 1876?
COFFEY: I love Florida, but everyone who calls keeps saying our elections bounce up and down like a ping-pong ball. I think what you‘re see, not just in Florida but around the country is, recognition that this is going to be microscopically close again. That‘s why the challenges to Nader have such important. He may be only 2 percent or 3 percent, but right now, it looks like the major candidates are almost dead even in Florida. So, right now, based on everything we saw 4 years ago, this could be a critical issue.
And what trial judge has found, is the Reform Party is not a legitimate national party, that Ralph Nader was not nominated through a legitimate national convention. And that, by the way, the Reform Party of Florida isn‘t even part of whatever the national party may or may not be. If those factual findings are sustained, Ralph Nader is going to start on the ballot.
OLBERMANN: If you want to start a national campaign, you‘ve got to have more than $18.
Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney, part of the legal team for the Gore Campaign in the 2000 Florida recount. Many thanks for your time, sir.
COFFEY: Hey, thanks for including me.
OLBERMANN: There are no wonderful ironies in the face of a hurricane, but it is striking that the latest on Ivan itself is a recommendation that New Orleans evacuate. Forecast predicting land fall somewhere between the Mississippi River and Panama City, Florida, late tomorrow night, early Thursday morning.
Our correspondent Robert Hager is in Mobile, Alabama.
ROBERT HAGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): From the Florida Panhandle all the way west to New Orleans and beyond, hundreds of thousands boarded and fled inland today, like Kyle Shell (ph) in Pensacola.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The storm surge, the winds, it‘s going to be way too dangerous to be out here.
HAGER: David Ebersol (ph) in Florida (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Beach, Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our lives are more important than any of the house stuff. We can replace all that but we can‘t replace ourselves.
HAGER: The mayor of low-lying New Orleans advised any of that cities million residents who could to leave. Traffic was jammed on Interstate 10.
In Cuba where the storm has now pass, evidence of its power. Trees down, homes flooded. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, 68 left dead in the hurricane‘s wake. And what‘s next for the U.S., NBC‘s Al Roker.
AL ROKER, MSNBC ANCHOR: It‘s going to come in with 140 mile-an-hour winds, 10 to 12 inches of rain and a storm surge of 10 to 16 feet.
The possibility for damage is incalculable.
HAGER: Military bases along the Gulf Coast were nearly deserted. Five hundred sailors from Pensacola Naval Air Station were assigned to help civilians at a shelter.
Fighter planes were flown inland for protection, as far as Oklahoma, where 60 F-15‘s filled the runways at Tinker Air Force Base. In Alabama, a 20-foot replica of a crab was removed from a restaurant so the wind wouldn‘t blow it down.
And at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Florida, even the dolphins, perhaps sensing the lower air pressure dove for cover. Trainer Cheryl Joiner (ph)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the middle of a storm, even a thunderstorm, we‘ll see them staying lower at the bottom, not surface as often.
HAGER: Tonight, as Ivan moves closer, everyone left here is bracing for its effects.
(on camera): Other news, workers from offshore rigs are being evacuated to shore by helicopter now. Shipping like this is coming to a halt very shortly here from Mobile Bay and on the Mississippi River. And Mississippi Gaming Commission has now closed its 12 casinos along the Gulf Coast—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Robert Hager, at Mobile. As always, great, thanks.
COUNTDOWN now past our number four story. Up next, from ferocious hurricanes to ferocious animals? How the little bear puts a whole town on edge, the “Oddball” story time book is next.
And later a police chase with a sick twist. The driver tosses a baby in its car seat out the door of the car. We‘ll tell you how this drama ended.
OLBERMANN: If, in our record-breaking 17 months here on the air here, COUNTDOWN has established one tradition, its stories about bears, falling bears, bouncing bears, bears with a song in their heart.
Another one for you as we begin our nightly roundup of the absurd.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Bolu, Turkey, whether they don‘t take kindly to cute little baby bears trespassing on their fruit farms. A farmer saw this little fellow sleeping off a sweet stolen meal in one of his trees and called the local fire department for help. And there they go. For four hours, the wily bear eluded capture. Local villagers joining the hunt, as a foot chase into the river ensured. To the lumber yard. He was finally caught using the wet blanket method, which may work on bear cubs.
But, you know, buddy, you‘re lucky that the mother was not around to see you try this. The bear was released unharmed back into the wild, where it ate more berries.
To Australia, where, if you want to tangle with wildlife, pick on someone your own size, mate. This Aussie moron, the furthest thing in the world from an oxymoron, decides that the view from the lion‘s den at the Melbourne Zoo just wasn‘t close enough. So he climbed over the fence and started to taunt the giant man-eating cats during feeding time. Holding a Bible, the 21-year-old man, apparently bent on creating the story of Daniel in the lion‘s den, actually seemed to scare off the lions, who probably were just wary of Australians.
The man was finally coaxed out of the pen by officials and then invited to visit a smaller cage downtown, one that had rubber walls.
Finally to Johannesburg, South Africa, where they say the hottest fast-food seller on the street, delicious hunks of dried clay. Yes, clay, the other red dirt. Street vendors say they can barely keep up with demand and find that some customers become agitated when they can‘t get their daily dirt fix. Some clay eaters say they do it to clean out the old intestinal tract. Some say it kills dangerous parasites. And still others do it just for the unique pottery they can produce later on.
“Oddball” is over now.
Up next, laying siege to Iraq‘s rebel cities, the U.S. saying it‘s trying to root out insurgency in Iraq before the election. But we have to ask, the election in which country? And later on COUNTDOWN, the new kind of baseball player, courteously offering a seat to a woman fan, the latest new high in low from sports.
These stories ahead. First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, base spokeswoman Cathy Gramling of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
With Secretary Rumsfeld coming for a visit, her office issued a statement
today, which it later corrected, reading, “The public event is closed to
the public.” This message has been brought to you by the Ministry of Lo
No. 2, Paul Goudy of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania. He did what many of us have dreamt of doing. Seeing a man in a restaurant hairpiece, he ran over and pulled the hairpiece off. Here‘s why you don‘t do that. Mr. Goudy has now been sentenced to 23 months probation. And, no, the victim was not Morris “Morrie” Kessler from “Goodfellas.”
And, No. 1, former public defender Theresa Olson of Seattle now in a bar disciplinary hearing in that state on a charge she had sex with one of her clients in the jail. Ms. Olson‘s explanation, it was only—quote—
“a hug gone bad.”
America‘s sexiest newscaster hears you, Ms. In-Public Public Defender.
In fact, he‘s going to write that one down.
OLBERMANN: As suggested last night, September 2004 in Iraq is looking less like 17 months after U.S. terror arrived there and more like 17 days. One attack by the insurgency killed at least 47 people in a shopping district in Baghdad today. Another plunged the entire nation into a power blackout.
Our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN, foreign war and domestic politics converging again. The politics in a moment.
First, the war, as reported by our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today‘s attacks appeared well timed and highly coordinated, with deadly efficiency;
47 Iraqis, most police recruits, were killed, 114 injured when a car bomb exploded outside a police station on busy Haifa Street in west Baghdad, the second deadly bombing in this area this week.
North of Baghdad, a drive-by shooting killed 11 Iraqi police and one civilian in Baquba. Almost immediately, the terrorist group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for both attacks.
RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: The bad news is, the insurgency is growing in intensity and complexity and organizational skill. And so it may well be significantly worse in October than it is now in early September.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Further north, the target today was Iraq‘s precious oil. Bombs ruptured several pipelines. The intense fire melted overhead electrical lines, setting off a chain reaction that temporarily shut down power in the entire country. And it will be days before it‘s fully restored.
U.S. military officials say what‘s most disturbing is, the insurgents have again brought the war to the streets of Baghdad, where they can easily hide in the dense population and launch attacks with almost total impunity and where the high concentration of journalists almost guarantees intense media coverage.
(on camera): The increase in violence also comes at a time when the U.S. military is somewhat constrained, unable to aggressively attack insurgents in many areas in Iraq.
(voice-over): U.S. officials say in an effort to put an Iraqi face on the war, any major offensive on enemy strongholds will have to wait until Iraqi security forces are ready to join the fight. But some U.S. lawmakers say the U.S. must take the fight to the enemy now.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: There‘s nowhere in history of warfare that shows that if you allow the enemy to have sanctuary that you can win the battle. And we‘re not winning.
MIKLASZEWSKI: A battle that may have to be won before Iraq‘s elections in January.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: The goal is to stop or contain the insurgency before those elections in January. But that could mean stepping up American hands-on involvement there now, a political nightmare for the president and maybe a practical impossibility for his generals.
Joining us again tonight, “Washington Post” diplomatic correspondent Robin Wright.
Robin, good evening.
ROBIN WRIGHT, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Are we suddenly in our own Sunni Triangle, hemmed in by insurgents and by our personnel levels there and by our domestic politics?
WRIGHT: Well, we‘re facing conflicting pressures.
One is to try to sort out Iraq and not look weak in the run-up to our own election, but also to not do anything that would, at least the administration, make it look like it‘s unable to deal with this problem. And, of course, this is all happening with just four months left before Iraqis go to the poll. And you can‘t have an election in Iraq unless there‘s some degree of stability. And so this is going to complicate it for both the Iraqis and the United States.
OLBERMANN: Is it going to be inevitable, even if we‘re talking about November 3 of this year, that more Americans are going to have to go into the battles?
WRIGHT: Well, the issue is not whether more Americans are going to have to go into the battles, but just how the U.S. confronts this threat.
And there‘s no easy way out. The Iraqis are not capable of doing it themselves. The Americans have increasingly opted for airstrikes rather than ground attacks. But it‘s clear that we can‘t send in any kind of major ground offensive into Fallujah and other areas of the Sunni Triangle particularly in the run-up to our election, because it could end up being a quagmire that drags out and you see lots of Americans killed.
OLBERMANN: The political end of it in this campaign here. Can George Bush do what‘s needed in Iraq and prevent being sunk by having to take that action? And, conversely, can John Kerry criticize the situation in Iraq without looking shallow or opportunistic?
WRIGHT: Well, Bush has no easy options, frankly. This is a really tough time for the administration trying to sort out the realities vs. what they would like to see happen in their own public image.
But the Kerry campaign also has not provided any kind of tangible alternative, except to say that they‘re going to bring more allies into the Iraq equation. And the problem with the Kerry campaign is that there aren‘t many allies, even if he were elected and he made overtures to them, who are interested in going into Iraq because of their own domestic constituencies and their own elections.
OLBERMANN: It gets more complicated by the day.
Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent of “The Washington Post,” as always, thank you for your insight. Thank you for your time.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: As we continue, terror of a different sort altogether, a baby pushed from a moving car in the middle of a police chase. This child is OK. Full details, our second story next.
Later on COUNTDOWN, what you might call the dubious honor for the University of Cal State Santa Cruz.
OLBERMANN: A police chase in progress. The fugitive opens the car door and dumps a baby out into the middle of the road—a happy, but still troubling ending next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: There‘s no easy way to watch the videotape that constitutes the No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight.
The lone mitigating circumstance is the belief of the police who were there that man who did this actually cared for the child in question and may have been trying to save her, even though his actions looked totally opposite to that goal. Following an argument with his girlfriend late last week, 23-year-old Dana Bettin took her car and her baby. He led Wisconsin police on a chase down State Highway 41. After several miles, he slowed down and while still moving at what police estimate was about 10 miles an hour, he dropped the baby in the baby car seat on the road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The baby was fine. She was crying. It was an 8-month-old girl. And she didn‘t have a scratch on her. She just spun around a little bit and I picked her up. And she was crying a little bit. And she quickly settled down after that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not such good luck for her mother‘s boyfriend. After getting the child out of the car, Bettin speeded up. He hit 100 miles an hour and faster and then he hit an unoccupied squad car and he, too, was thrown from his vehicle. The girl is fine. Bettin died of his injuries on Sunday.
We segue to that horror to what are, by contrast, the even more ridiculous than usual stories of fame and celebrity, the ones we call “Keeping Tabs.”
And we start with, you‘re sued. “The New York Daily New” reports that
Our NBC colleague, Donald Trump, has threatened legal action against ABC
television. Mr. Trump not happy with the word on the street that ABC‘s
profile of him Thursday night might scoff at his reputation for wealth and
business smarts. The lawyer letter, Trump tells the paper, is no big deal
· quote—“All it says is, they must speak the truth and they may not speak with forked tongue,” whatever that means.
Those who might be sued, ABC executives, ABC correspondent Chris Cuomo, Cuomo‘s father, ex-New York Governor Mario Cuomo, although just what he has to do with this is a mystery akin in complexity to the Donald‘s own hairdo.
What is the happiest place on Earth? Disneyland in Anaheim, California? No. Try 375 miles to the nor, the campus of Cal State Santa Cruz, selected by “Rolling Stone” magazine as—quote—“the most stoned campus on Earth, man.” We solicited on campus reaction at Santa Cruz, but since a special edition of the publication distributed there was printed on hemp, nobody had read it, nor could anyone locate a copy.
Still ahead, chair, ma‘am? You need a chair? A baseball pitcher arrested after this. A calm discussion of what this means my longtime co-conspirator Tony Bruno next.
First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: Thirty years ago this past June, at a baseball promotional event in Cleveland called 10-cent beer night, one of the imbibees was good enough to come out of the stands and hit Texas Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs over the head with a folding metal chair; 20 years ago next February during a college basketball game at Bloomington, Indiana University coach Bobby Knight threw a plastic chair across the gymnasium floor in protest of a referee‘s call.
But not for a much longer time than that have we seen what we saw from the wonderful world of sports last night. Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, and here come the flying chairs. As the Texas Rangers played the Oakland A‘s in Oakland, some of the hometown heckles and hecklers heckled the pitchers in the Texas bullpen down the right-field line.
This was rookie relief pitcher Frank Francisco‘s response. He threw a chair into the stands towards heckler Peter Bueno (ph), who ducked. The chair then hit Bueno‘s wife, breaking her nose. Thanks, hubby. She‘s thinking of suing the player, not the husband. Francisco has today been released on a felony charge of aggravated battery, released on bail of $15,000. He faces a sentence of anything from no time to four years if there was a serious injury, and a fine of no more than $10,000.
His manager, Buck Showalter, said the Oakland fans, notorious for taunting and throwing objects at players, crossed the line. But his boss, team owner Tom Hicks, disagreed, saying no matter what, the player‘s behavior was unacceptable.
Never try to kill a customer.
To join me in the kind of calm, reasoned analytical discourse for which sports is famous, I‘m joined now by my friend of a quarter-century, Mr. Tony Bruno of Fox Sports Radio.
T., good evening.
TONY BRUNO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And it‘s a pleasure being on with America‘s sexiest newscaster. Many of my dead relatives, I‘ll have you know, voted for you online in Chicago.
OLBERMANN: As usual.
And thank you for also bringing so much to that job while you held it yourself, that title, in the late 1860s.
So here we have it. That Frankie Francisco is still throwing strikes up in that Texas bullpen. Who are you going to be the shameless apologist for, him or for the fans?
BRUNO: I‘m not a shameless apologist for anybody. I‘m here to set the record straight and tell you who‘s wrong. Can we call him Frank Frank, because isn‘t Frank Francisco in essence Frank Frank? He‘s wrong.
OLBERMANN: Franklin Francisco. He‘s wrong.
BRUNO: Yes. Tom Hicks is the owner. He said it right. You can‘t try to kill the customers. And the good thing about Frank Francisco—and, fortunately, the woman wasn‘t seriously injured, but she‘s going to own either the Texas Rangers or the Oakland-Alameda County coliseum when all is said and done.
But you can‘t have a guy throwing a chair. When the fans come out onto the field, they‘re fair game. The players can tune them like a cheap piano.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
BRUNO: But when somebody goes and throws something at the fans, they‘re wrong, too. So there‘s no right and wrong here. I‘m not a player apologist. I‘m not a fan apologist. I‘m a guy who sees things the way they‘re supposed to be seen, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Are you going to try to be a husband apologist here and say he was noble in ducking out of the way so his wife could get hit by that thing? Why isn‘t she suing him?
BRUNO: Maybe she will later. Who knows. But she‘s going to get more than a nice complimentary beer for going to an Oakland A‘s game on a Monday night. That‘s for sure.
OLBERMANN: What I like about this situation is summed up in one sentence at the end of the Associated Press account of all of it. In response to fan violence,” this reads, “the stadium increased security and no longer serves drinks after the seventh inning,” meaning that with those unbearable, unmatchable, four-hour-long games in baseball‘s American League, it means that spectators only get three hours to get themselves completely tanked up with beer. That‘s a good thing, isn‘t it?
BRUNO: Oh, yes, absolutely.
The best part is, though, unlike professional wrestling, they don‘t have the folding table under there. They still just have the chair. I guess the guy who watches the bullpen and gets the foul balls, the elderly person who has to run out and try to get the ball, that was his chair. They didn‘t have the folding table. I would prefer a folding table if you‘re going to throw something into the stands from now on.
OLBERMANN: Seriously, isn‘t all this ultimately about the fact that the sports business has always been in bed with the alcohol business and always will be, and that sporting events are one of the few remaining places in the world where public drunkenness is tolerated and it‘s enabled? And if you‘re going to go to a ballpark, you run a risk of sitting next to the drunken fan who yells something and the next thing you know here come the folding chairs.
BRUNO: No, you‘re right.
And the fans around them have to tell security to get that drunk out of here because they‘re bothering the rest of the fans. Apparently, that didn‘t happen, although security was called.
The bottom line, though, Keith, you can‘t have—players have to have rabbit ears. You know, professional athletes hear this every night in every city. Some are worse than others, but you can‘t have players going after fans. And you can‘t have fans going on the field. Bottom line, Frank Francisco, he‘s lucky he‘s not going to be thrown—I don‘t know why Bud Selig hasn‘t thrown this guy out for the rest of the year. This guy shouldn‘t be allowed to pitch again.
I‘m sure Ranger fans have been saying that all season, but he should not be allowed to pitch again this season.
OLBERMANN: In referring to the commissioner of baseball and wondering where he is, we‘ve been pulling out an all-points bulletin for him since the late ‘80s, so that‘s not the issue here.
But I‘m wondering, what do you think they said to Frank Francisco? Do you think they just said, hey, Frank, nice same first and last name?
BRUNO: I don‘t know what they said. They took him to jail. I know that and booked him. And then he was released on the battery charges.
OLBERMANN: But what started it? What could you have said to Frank Francisco that‘s funnier than saying, hi, Frank Francisco?
BRUNO: I don‘t know. But Doug Brocail, the relief pitcher, he was the first guy on the scene.
BRUNO: You see him on the video. He‘s trying to whack the guy.
OLBERMANN: But, notice, in the great now—the tradition of baseball today, the relief pitcher cannot finish his own job. And some other relief pitcher has to do it for him.
OLBERMANN: And on that note, the one and only Tony Bruno is now available in the new court-size chug-a-mug and of course original Tony Bruno draft.
Thanks, my friends.
BRUNO: Thank you for being the sports violence expert on your program, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. Yes, you did a good job. And keep ducking the ball boy‘s chairs that life throws at you.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night. I should really—I should throw a chair, shouldn‘t I? All right, fine. Oh, we‘re out of time. Sorry.
Good night. Good luck.
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