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'Countdown with Keith Olberman' for Oct. 11

Read the transcript to the 8 p.m. ET show

Guest: Susan Page, Brooks Jackson, Richard Belzer


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The nuisance complaint.  John Kerry‘s quote to reduce terrorism.  In response, the president goes wild. 

Got wood? 


OLBERMANN:  Actually, you do. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), SELost 1.6 million jobs. 

OLBERMANN:  Fuzzy math too.  We‘ll put the debate to the truth test with‘s Brooks Jackson. 

Who could possibly suggest the truth, that we shouldn‘t focus too much on catching bin Laden?  How about the second command of Polish forces in Afghanistan. 

Trapped in a crashed car for a week.  Save when her location came to rescuer in a dream. 

And the life and death of Christopher Reeve, from Superman to super man. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Monday, October 11, 22 days until the 2004 presidential election.  “We have to get back to the place we were,” John Kerry told “The New York Times” for publication in the newspaper‘s magazine yesterday, “where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they‘re a nuisance.” Not seemingly that incendiary comment upon which an opponent could lash out, especially when the opponent himself just noted, you can‘t really “win a war on terror”  But again this is decision 2004 where anybody can lash out about anything.

Our fifth story on COUNTDOWN, the nuisance complaint.  The first weekday after the second debate, and polls, polls and more polls.  The president, Hobbs New Mexico today while his campaign had already rushed out a nuisance commercial.  He managed to pull the quote totally out of context and hit Senator Kerry over the head with it. 


BUSH:  Just this weekend senator Kerry talked of reducing terrorism to “nuisance,” and compared it to prostitution and illegal gambling.  See I couldn‘t disagree more.  Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance, our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks and spreading freedom and liberty around the world!


OLBERMANN:  The senator also in New Mexico, in Santa Fe, basically skipping the subject and focusing instead on national energy policies, concluding that higher gas prices mean more money “for this president friends in the oil industry.” 

The nuisance response was left to a spokesman.  “Considering that George Bush doesn‘t think we can win the war on terror,” says Phil Singer, “let Osama bin Laden escape and rushed into Iraq with no plan to win the peace, it‘s no surprise that his campaign is distorting very word John Kerry has ever said.” 

Seems to be some small evidence that some small percentage of the electorate sees it Kerry‘s way.  Certainly, after the debate, Zogby out with the latest tracking poll.  Showing the senator 47 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters in polling conducted since Friday.  As they close the polling Saturday, that number had been Kerry 46, 45.  

The president gaining, though, in one interior number.  Mr. Bush, in the Zogby poll showing a lead among 18 to 29-year-olds for the first time.  Also a huge 9 percent undecided figure among those younger voter.  The daily “Washington Post” tracking poll is out.  The president is up, 51 percent to 45 percent.  A one point jump for Mr. Bush since just yesterday. 

And getting back directly to the debate, the ABC News poll show, Senator Kerry, judged the winner by 44 percent to 41 percent, a number that agrees with the “Usa Today”/Gallup poll, who‘s participants thought Kerry won, 47, 45. 

And lastly, in the MSNBC Hard Blogger, a live round by round report from the scorer‘s table.  The final adjusted score, Kerry 16, Bush six.  After the president lost a total of seven points in that I don‘t own a timber company stuff. 

More on the facts of that when we put the debate to the truth test in a moment with Brooks Jackson of 

Three weeks from tomorrow and it‘s a final.  To take the temperature of the campaign and that nuisance stuff, a pleasure as always to be joined by Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine and a MSNBC news analyst. 

Howard, good evening. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good evening, Keith.  I love the phrase one point jump.  That about says it all.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the nuisance quote, then go to the polls.  Clearly that was taken out of the long and contextually relevant quote, but already know what‘s fair this campaign, even if we have yet to see any evidence that anything isn‘t fair.  I thought the Kerry camp had vowed never to let another accusation go by unchallenged. 

Where was the senator on this today? 

FINEMAN:  Well, the Senator was concentrating, as you said, on energy and concentrating on domestic issues, which are going to be the only topics in the debate on Wednesday night.  So, trying to exercise what they would think of as message discipline.  I think they‘re convinced at this point that George Bush has pretty much shot whatever ammo he‘s got on the commander in chief question.  And they, the Kerry campaign, are going to try to move on.  Kerry‘s problem, on this kind of thing, is he said so much.  There‘s so many buts and qualifiers, it‘s so nuanced, that you take a big scissors and chop out a piece of it and try to make an ad of it.  I think the Kerry people have decided, that that—they‘re done fighting on that ground.  That‘s about all they can do.  And George Bush, for his part, is driving that issue because that‘s their strongest topic. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, in a 30-second world, he is a 60-second guy, there‘s question about it. 

FINEMAN:  You use the word “but” and the Bush people just either scissor the first or second part of it. 

OLBERMANN:  To the debate, by no stretch of the imagination, the victory by consensus, that Kerry had won in Miami.  But within 72 hours of the consideration and the polls to contemplate, is it safe to say that Kerry won the second one as well? 

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s sort of be safe to say.  I think Kerry won by being in the ring again, by looking presidential, by not making a mistake.  But I think also some Democrats also privately told me they felt the—that Kerry had a chance to really put the president out.  That the president had been down on canvas after the first round, the first event, and that—and that Kerry could have been more aggressive, especially, on economic policy, jobs.  That Kerry, wandered a little bit on abortion and stem cell research.  So no a real clear win.  And the president was clear and the president was speaking to his own base and he did that well. 

OLBERMANN:  What was—what is being made right now, and we saw it again in the sound bytes from New Mexico today, what is being made of the president‘s—and I use both word—both the words his supporters would use and detractors would use, his energy and/or anger.

What are people making of this?

FINEMAN:  Well, you either love it or can‘t stand it?  I mean, that

was George Bush.  He nearly charged Charlie Gibson, the moderator.  He was

speaking loudly the whole time.  And he was trying to be funny and off-

handed.  I mean, many presidents have given us great phrases that ring down

through the ages, like “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  You

know, Tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev,”

And George Bush has now given us “Need some wood.” 


FINEMAN:  That‘s George Bush.

OLBERMANN:   And a angry version of that or a energized version of that. 

FINEMAN:  An energized version.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman, of “Newsweek,” MSNBC, NBC, as always, great thanks, and happy Columbus Day. 

FINEMAN:  Thank you.  You, too. 

OLBERMANN:  It is to trot out the good old logical fallacy to assume that event A, the debate, caused a particular event, B.  But it‘s clear that after Hooey from St. Louie, the Kerry camp took over—took off whatever leach was on V.P. candidate John Edwards and set him up for the perfect talk show score, 5 for 5. 


TIM RUSSERT, HOST “MEET THE PRESS”:  Joining us on “Meet the Press” for the first time as a vice presidential candidate is Senator John Edwards.  Good morning, senator.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST “THIS WEEK”:  Vice presidential candidate, Senator John Edwards.  Good morning, Senator.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  And Senator, welcome, good to have you back with us. 

EDWARDS:  Thank, Chris, glad to be with you.

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST “FACE THE NATION”:  And with us now from Milwaukee, Senator John Edwards.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST “LATE EDITION”:  Senator, we‘re all out of time, thanks so much for joining us. 

EDWARDS:  Thanks, Wolf.  Thanks for having me. 


OLBERMANN:  No, thank you.  One more landmark from Friday‘s debate, it may have been one of the last times we‘ll hear George Bush call Kerry a flip-flopper. 

A top Republican source telling NBC News, that former speaker, Newt Gingrich, personally told a small group of the president‘s advisor to retool the terminology.  That flip-flop had outlasted it‘s shelf life.  That he doesn‘t like personality focused election.  And that it was time to drop the F-F word and go back to the L word. 


BUSH:  Most liberal in the United States Senate. 

That‘s what liberals do.    

My opponent is a tax and spend liberal

The most liberal member of the United States Senate. 

You can run, but you can‘t hide.

See, he can run, but he cannot hide. 


OLBERMANN:  To discuss the president‘s new campaign trail dictionary, I am joined now by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of “USA Today.”

Susan, good evening, welcome back. 

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”:  Keith, it‘s good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  let‘s start with the premise here that the flip-flop campaign was successful enough, that the first question in Friday‘s debate, from audience member was to John Kerry about his supposed, “wishy-washiness.”

Is the Bush campaign really going to soft pedal that premise and is that a good idea?

PAGE:  I don‘t know that it‘s going await they‘ve certainly made that label stick pretty well on Senator Kerry.  But this liberal label is one that can cause some damage as well.  Even liberals don‘t call themselves liberals these days, they call themselves progressives.  For a lot of Americans, the phrase liberal sounds like somebody who‘s soft on defense, somebody‘s going to spend a lot of tax dollars.  So, not really a label politicians want.  That‘s why you heard Bush say it over and over again Friday night. 

OLBERMANN:  As you suggest here by no stretch of the imagination, is that a new bludgeon in campaigns?  As an example to reemphasize that, let‘s listen to a sound bite.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am not going to be out hustled by the liberal governor of Massachusetts!


OLBERMANN:  Another George Bush.  It‘s a second-generation phrase.  I know it‘s a knee-jerk kind of word but who is it intended to convince at this point, the Bush base or the undecideds? 

PAGE:  I think the Bush people have really gone to their base now in these last few weeks.  They have calculated that this is going to be a turnout election where whoever turns out their supporters does better.  Not so the Kerry campaign.  I think they still have the idea that they need to go after the swing vote.  So you hear very different tones from the two campaigns and I don‘t think we‘ll know which one is right until election night.  I mean we hope we know election night.  We hope we have a result election night this time. 

OLBERMANN:  The flip flop thing obviously is not as you suggested going to go away completely but now we also have the word “liberal” used ad infinitum, we have the “eke and run” thing, now we have this “nuisance” thing today.  It‘s a lot of catch phrases.  There was an interior number from your own papers polled that I thought raised this point to some degree asking the participants who expressed himself more clearly.  Mr. Bush only got 37 percent of that vote from Friday which wasn‘t much of a jump from the first debate when he was thought to have been pretty much unclear.  The question is is the president risking overloading whoever his audience is?  Is he overloading them with a variety of messages?

PAGE:  Well, if you‘re going to vote for the candidate who expresses himself better more clearly, I think you‘re going to a Kerry voter.  And I don‘t think Bush voters mind that.  They see President Bush as really plainspoken, as a guy who knows what he believes and is willing to say so.  But it is true that Senator Kerry was more fluid in both debates, I thought and seemed more informed.  Our poll also showed that people thought he was more intelligent than President Bush.  That doesn‘t guarantee victory at the polls, though. 

OLBERMANN:  One more question.  Is that anger or is that, as we‘re taking our survey, Mr. Bush, is that anger or energy? 

PAGE:  From President Bush? 


PAGE:  Well, it depends entirely on, what you see is from where you sit.  If you‘re a Bush supporter you like it, if you‘re a Kerry supporter it puts you off.  And we don‘t have very many voters in the middle any more. 

OLBERMANN:  Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of “USA Today.”  Great thanks for your time tonight.

And if that uncommitted viewer is watching.  Hi.

And now we switch gears and take you to headquarters USA, the apparent center of the campaign universe, Toledo, Ohio.  “Washington Post” reporting this morning that the city‘s top four television stations have, from last March to the end of last month, aired exactly 14,273 commercials about the presidential election.  As Toledo goes, so goes the nation?  Not exactly but as the newspaper points Toledo‘s geography makes it essential.  Twelve counties see its television broadcasts including ones along the Indiana border and the signals can be picked up in another swing state, Michigan.

The impact of this tidal wave of advertising?  A local health management company executive named James King tells the “Washington Post,” quote, “we‘re kind of sick of them.”  You‘re sick of them now?  They‘re not even finished making new ones yet.  At least three more just from the official campaigns just today.  So at least you can say you saw them here are first. 


AD ANNOUNCER:  There are many reasons to be hopeful about America‘s fundamental...

AD ANNOUNCER:  There are many reasons to be hopeful about America‘s future.

AD ANNOUNCER:  Nearly two million more people with wages. 

AD ANNOUNCER:  Wages down.

AD ANNOUNCER:  Nearly two million people able to provide for their families...

AD ANNOUNCER:  Middle class families are getting squeezed. 

AD ANNOUNCER:  Nearly two million new jobs in just over a year.

AD ANNOUNCER:  Only Herbert Hoover had a worse record on jobs. 

AD ANNOUNCER:  Now Kerry says we have to get back to the place where terrorists are a nuisance like gambling and prostitution.

AD ANNOUNCER:  And on the war on terror, Bush said, I don‘t think you

can win it in

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t think you can win it.

AD ANNOUNCER:  Not with his bad leadership. 

AD ANNOUNCER:  How can Kerry protect us when he doesn‘t understand the threat?

BUSH:  I‘m George W. Bush. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m John Kerry, and I approve this message.


OLBERMANN:  We play them all.  Let the voters sort them out.  Speaking of advertising don‘t forget our almost live round by round scoring of the third and final presidential debate.  I‘ll call them as I see them at Wednesday night.  The tempest in Tempe.  Be there.  Aloha.  1.6 million jobs lost.  Three-quarters of al Qaeda brought to justice.  Not to mention the question of who if anyone actually has would when we turn to the to sift the truth from the rhetoric. 

And the legacy of Christopher Reeve.  Actor Richard Belzer joins us in memory of his friend and colleague.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Friday night in St. Louis, President Bush sent the bloggers and emailers of this world into howls when he referred to the Internets, plural.  As one of them wrote later, “we know you have the choice of Internets, we appreciate your choosing this one.”

Our number four story in the COUNTDOWN.  Not everything said in the presidential debate is either relevant or true.  That‘s why we have  We‘ll check those facts in a moment.  First, the one that registered the highest on the scale of huh? 


KERRY:  The president got $84 from a timber company that he owns and he‘s counted as a small business.  Dick Cheney‘s counted as a small business.  That‘s how they do things.  That‘s just not right. 

BUSH:  I own a timber company?  That‘s news to me.  Need some wood? 


OLBERMANN:  Ask not who needs wood, it may be thee.  Senator Kerry was right, Mr. Bush was not in essence.  And in that one exchange we began to understand the impact of a new organization we mentioned to you months ago.  It has now played a part in one of the two presidential debates plus the vice presidential collision.  It‘s, the Annenberg political fact check and its director is Brooks Jackson formerly of CNN, “The Wall Street Journal” and the “Associated Press.”  Brooks, good evening.  Thanks again for your time. 

BROOKS JACKSON, “ANNENBERG POLITICAL FACT CHECK”:  Good evening, Keith.  Boy. I feel kind of personally responsible for this one.  Can I sort it all out? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, please.  You can not only answer the president‘s rhetorical question but you probably were responsible for the senator bringing it up in the first place? 

JACKSON:  Well, it‘s absolutely true.  Let‘s start with Senator Kerry‘s basic point.  The president had said that raising taxes on people over $200,000 a year as Kerry proposes to do would effectively raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses.  Kerry was rebutting that.  That is an inflated number.  The real number is about half that according to a non-partisan estimate by the Tax Policy Center.  Kerry‘s point was that even George Bush himself would have been counted as a small business under the very expansive definition they have, which counts anyone with even one dollar of business income as a small business. 

He said correctly that the president got $84 in business income.  He was quoting us as saying it was from a timber company.  We went back and checked, and I was confused, in fact the timber company that the president does own 50 percent of is a subsidiary of the oil and gas company that paid the president the $84.  So it‘s the parent company that paid the $84.  But it wouldn‘t matter if it was from a lemonade stand, it was still business income, and Kerry‘s point was still valid. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, it turns out I‘m a small business, too.  I didn‘t realize that until just now.  

JACKSON:  That‘s right.  If you have got some speaking income, you‘re a small business. 

OLBERMANN:  Anything.  Your site found at least a dozen other inaccuracies, doubtful claims, opinions offered as facts by both candidates on Friday.  Nobody forced General Shinseki to retire after he said that we needed more troops in Iraq; he was retiring anyway.  We don‘t obviously have time to go through all of them, but let‘s devote some of that time to something that the president has now said in both debates.  Here is the tape first.


BUSH:  I vowed to our countrymen that I would do everything I could to protect the American people.  That‘s why we‘re bringing al Qaeda to justice; 75 percent of them have been brought to justice. 


OLBERMANN:  Brooks, is that literally true, 75 percent of al Qaeda has been brought to justice?  And if it isn‘t, why is it not literally true?

JACKSON:  Well, no, the president—what he meant to say and what he did was a little more careful to phrase it in the first debate, was 75 percent of al Qaeda‘s leadership has been brought to justice.  He is referring here to the leadership that was in place on September 11, 2001.  And ignoring, of course, that leadership posts get filled when they are vacant.  According to a London think tank, al Qaeda‘s recruiting has actually increased since September 11. 

Now, that‘s—how they know that I‘m not sure, but that is an estimate that‘s out there, and the fact is that they‘re operating in about 60 countries, according to current estimates. 

OLBERMANN:  So somebody‘s got to be managing those positions and filling those positions, as you suggested.  Lastly, of the ones we wanted to focus on here, we said that both debaters played a little loose with reality, and it was almost a 50/50 split, but one that might surprise a lot of people was Senator Kerry on job losses, and here is that tape. 


KERRY:  Now, the president has presided over an economy where we‘ve lost 1.6 million jobs, first president in 72 years to lose jobs. 


OLBERMANN:  That seemed to be a direct number quote from the jobs created numbers that had just been released on Friday morning, before the debate, but that 1.6 million is not mathematically correct? 

JACKSON:  No, it‘s not.  He‘s off by about a million, actually.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows—what he—what Kerry is referring to, and he‘s sometimes a little more careful to phrase this, is private sector jobs.  Ignoring that government has been hiring a lot of teachers, firemen and that sort of thing.  In fact, the total private sector employment—

I‘m sorry, total employment is down about 600,000 from where Bush took office, if you give Bush credit for an expected upward revision, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics just announced that it will make in February when it publishes these things.

So again, Kerry was off by about a million, and had he phrased it “private sector jobs,” he would have been technically accurate but still misleading. 

OLBERMANN:  Not to imply by any stretch of the imagination to those 600,000 people who don‘t have any jobs now that the net 600,000 loss, that that‘s a good thing, but we want to get it correct.

JACKSON:  No, no, absolutely, and of course, that—at the present rate, it‘s true the president is on track to be the first president in 72 years not to have any job gain, possibly a job loss by the end of his term. 

OLBERMANN:  Brooks Jackson, the director of one of the true public service Web sites on the Internet,, or, if you‘re the vice president of the United States,  Brooks, many thanks.

JACKSON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And it is dot-org.

Speaking of deflation and hot air, this is not the best place to park your balloon, sir.  Up, up in the air with my beautiful “Oddball” segment.

And getting out the vote the hard way.  Afghanistan‘s first taste of democracy, a controversy dying down.  On the other hand, there were donkeys involved in the vote count.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  We pause THE COUNTDOWN now, because in this political busy season it becomes all the more important that we take this time each night and acknowledge the goofy stories and cool video, or we‘ll all lose our minds.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

And we begin in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the big annual International Balloon Fiesta.  More than 50 hot air balloons in flight in one area over an entire weekend.  What could possibly go wrong? 

Oh, no.  Smoky the Bear has gotten himself snagged on a radio tower.  Only you can prevent Hindenbergs.  Obviously, a genuinely dangerous situation for the pilot and two passengers, these two boys age 10 and 14.  Sudden wind change blew their balloon into the tower.  It became entangled.  The basket dangling 700 feet above the ground.  But rather than waiting for rescuers, pilot Bill Chappel (ph) and the boys decided to jump from the basket to the structure itself and then climb down the tower‘s narrow ladder to the ground.

All three made it down safely, with rescue crews and a bucket truck helping for the last 100 feet.  Moral, if you must get into a balloon crash, try to hit something with a ladder attached to it. 

This is not another transportation disaster, although service on the one, two, three and four subway lines may be interrupted due to go-carts.  We‘re in Berlin, Germany, where a special track was laid down in the tunnel of the subway between the parliament and chancellory building for this event, the country‘s first underground cart race.  The professional drivers said they enjoyed the tight turns, long straight-aways, and of course the oncoming trains.  They said this was drastically different from their usual course, in the driveways of their parents.

Finally, in Japan, for the annual world championships of monopoly, presided over by David Crosby?  No, it‘s a guy portraying the symbol of the game, a rich Uncle Pennybags.  $15,140 at stake—that, if you have never done it, is what all the play money in the bank totals to in monopoly—and your winner was Antonio Fernandez of Spain.  He gets the red sache of victory, and he gets to spend the next year saying, “Pardon me, miss, would you like to take a look at my community chest?” 

“Not necessarily the major player,” the latest assessment of Osama bin Laden from one of the top generals in charge of catching him.  And a new decision to scale back major military assault in Iraq until after the election.  That would be their election—rather, our election, not theirs.  Those stories ahead.  Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers of the Day.”

Number three, two unidentified visitors to Trenton, New Jersey, on their way to a poetry festival, they say.  The two men gave a lift to their guides, a man and a woman, who promptly held them up at gunpoint, stole their car and left them in an unsavory part of town.  While they were phoning the police from there to report the robbery, they were again held up by two neighborhood residents.  To reverse the city‘s slogan, “The World Makes, Trenton Takes.”

Number two, Matthew Hotard and Christine Nissel, teenage medics at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, arrested in San Antonio for having sex at the Alamo.  Last man standing, indeed.

And number one, the city museum of Washington, DC which has cancelled an exhibit called funky furniture.  They thought it was supposed to depict furniture.  In fact, it included a painting that was a takeoff on the masterpiece “Olympia” by the impressionist Manet that was a painting of President Bush naked.  Need some wood?


OLBERMANN:  John Kerry may not only be on to something with his characterization of containing terrorism to a point where it is a quote, “nuisance,” but he may not have been the first to use such minimizing language.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, terror and, would you believe, Osama bin Laden as a distraction?  This quote from the “Times of London,” “From the Afghan point of view we don‘t want to focus too much on bin Laden,” that would be Osama bin Laden. 

And who, in essence, declared his capture overrated?  No less than the Deputy Commander of the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, Major General John Cooper.  Major General Cooper is Britain‘s leading man in the region and he also told the “Times of London” that bin Laden, quote, “Is not necessarily the major player.  He will be caught one day but his whereabouts today won‘t have a huge effect.”  The newspaper also reports that coalition psy-ops teams are no longer distributing wanted posters of bin Laden and as to pursuit of bin Ladin‘s adjutant, Mullah Omar, Major General Cooper adds, quote, “we don‘t even know what country he‘s in.”

It appears that lots of terror-related news isn‘t what it seemed at first.  Last Friday it was reported that a CD found on a dead Baathist Party member in Baghdad contained the security arrangements for seven American school districts, from New Jersey to San Diego.  In those districts and in others, concern ran almost to panic but tonight, as our correspondent Kerry Sanders reports, the FBI Says Homeland Security got it wrong and that there is no evidence of any increased risk at those schools or any others.


KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today, beefed-up security at some public schools open this Columbus Day.  Around the country, anxiety after reports of Iraqi rebels downloading school data, including classroom floor plans.  But it turns out now the reaction was based on bad information. 

JAN CALDWELL, FBI:  It could have been somebody who was working to make the schools safer in Iraq.  It does not always mean because he had this it was something evil.

SANDERS:  Still, parents in the seven school districts where the information came from remain edgy.  In San Diego, Jesse Moreno with his 5-year-old son, Aiden is worried, memories of the terrorist attack at a school in Russia last month, still fresh.

JESSE MORENO, PARENT:  I just can‘t imagine that happening in a school in America, but anything‘s possible now.

SANDERS:  It‘s not just parents who are concerned.

HEATHER PITTMAN, STUDENT:  It‘s a scary thought thinking that they might come over here and do something.

SANDERS:  In fact, in a recent survey more than 75 percent of school resource officers said their districts were inadequately prepared to respond to a terrorist attack.  Meanwhile, nationwide, there are fears terrorists might try to disrupt elections here, as they did in Spain last March.  Reason enough for officials in Indiana to think about moving voting booths someplace else.

K.D. BENSON, SCHOOL OFFICIAL:  Why risk exposure to a bunch of elementary students, especially?

SANDERS:  Last week, the Department of Homeland Security urged school systems nationwide to increase their protective measures against terrorism.

(on camera)  And yet the same day the Bush administration sent out its warning to school systems it also announced a 25 percent cut in funding for school security.  Undersecretary of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson.

ASA HUTCHINSON, UNDERSECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  There is risk in our society but I certainly do not believe it‘s any greater in the school environment than it would be anywhere else.

SANDERS (voice-over):  In highly charged times like these, even bad information of a threat can create its own terror.  Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Miami.


OLBERMANN:  Thus we offer you this next terror update with grains of salt seasoned to taste.  The newspaper the “Seattle Times” reporting the FBI believes ferries in Washington State have been under surveillance.  The bureau reportedly classified 19 suspicious incidents since 9/11 has having very likely involved terrorist reconnaissance.  They include people asking questions about operations, taking photos, videotaping ferries, loading and unloading, according to a document, all this is, obtained by the newspaper.  Washington‘s ferry system carried 26 million passengers last year, making it the largest such system in the country and new security measures went into effect Saturday including tripling the number of cars screened for explosives.

As to the current battles in Iraq—what current battles in Iraq?  “The Los Angeles Times” today quoting unidentified senior administration officials who say that major assaults on Iraqi cities held by insurgents will be delayed until after the election here for domestic political reasons.  Quote “Once you‘re past the election,” said the individual, identified only as being involved in strategic planning, “it changes the political ramifications of hitting Fallujah or Ramadi.  We‘re not on hold right now, we‘re just not as aggresive.”  The same official telling the “Los Angeles Times,” “The administration is doing a balancing act.  There are those other elections to consider as well, the one in Iraq in January.

And after some initial protest from opposition leaders it appears that the first modern elections in Afghanistan went off almost without a hitch.  Ballot boxes, many of them carried to counting centers by donkeys, were being collected in Kabul today.  And at least two of the more than dozen presidential candidates backed out of a proposed boycott of the outcome after election organizers agreed to impanel three dozen international election experts to investigate whether or not balloting was on the level.  Afghanistan already has two sidebars of a democracy, ones that will be familiar to voters here at home.  Exit polling showing provisional President Karzai in the lead, and a delay of month before anybody knows who really was elected president.

Call it subconscious reasoning or a supernatural occurrence.  How a dream led rescuers to a teenage car crash victim eight days after she appeared.  That‘s ahead.  Now are COUNTDOWN‘s top three soundbites.


GEORGE BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  We will succeed in Iraq.  And when we do

·         and when we do the world will be better off.  Couple other points I want to make and then we‘ll liberate you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over):  Russ and Pam Lane(ph) and their son are from Washougal.  They‘re hoping to see some lava.

RUSS LANE, LAVA IS COOL:  That would be awesome, wouldn‘t it?  Just a little bit.  Nothing to cause any real problems.  Just a little bit coming out of there.

EMILY WEISS, KIDWITNESS NEWS:  One, two.  Hi, my name is Emily. 

What‘s yours?

JOHN KERRY:  My name is John.

WEISS:  I wanted to interview somebody else, but someone else already got that job so I decided to just interview Senator Edwards.


OLBERMANN:  Psychologists refer to it informally as the “crossword puzzle effect.”  You‘re trying to fill out a crossword puzzle but you‘re stumped but a couple of clues and you give up and move on to do something else.  Minutes, hours, even days later, the answer will suddenly come to you.  The point is your mind has kept working on the problem even if consciously you have not been.

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, that‘s how psychologists would explain how a woman‘s life was saved in Washington State over the weekend.  Her family have a different conclusion—divine intervention in the form of a dream given to her rescuer.  You pick your preferred explanation.  Correspondent Jim Forman of our Seattle affiliate KING will explain the extraordinary facts.


JEAN HATCH, MOTHER:  We had already given her up at some point and let her be dead.

JIM FORMAN, KING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After eight days of not knowing what happened to her, today Laura Hatch‘s family is celebrating that she has been found alive.

AMY HATCH, SISTER:  We were afraid that we weren‘t going to find her. 

We weren‘t going to get her back.

FORMAN:  Hatch vanished on October 2 while driving home from a party.  Dozens of volunteers and hundreds of hours turned up nothing in the search for the 17-year-old high school junior.

SHA NOHR, RESCUER:  I kept having this dream that said “Don‘t give up, keep going, keep going.”

FORMAN:  Hope was fading, that was, until Sha Nohr says a dream led her to the wooded ravine and this crumpled car where Laura Hatch had been waiting more than a week could be rescued.

NOHR:  I was praying to God, if you‘ve ever given me a vision, please give me strength to make this a real one as we were driving.

FORMAN:  Driving directly to Hatch.  Laura‘s mother believes it was divine intervention.

JEAN HATCH:  If it wasn‘t for her, I know my daughter would not be here now.

FORMAN (on camera):  Laura hatch is in the intensive care unit where she‘s expected to spend the next few days but doctors say her prognosis is upbeat.  Jim Forman, NBC News, Seattle.


OLBERMANN:  Often the segue from the number two story to our celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs” because the story is sad and the Tabs are too upbeat but not tonight.  There are a whole lot of scared baseball players this evening.  Ken Caminiti, the most valuable player in the National League just eight seasons ago, is dead at the age of 41 after a heart attack.  Caminiti had admitted using both cocaine and steroids.  Just last week showed up in a Houston court confessing he had violated probation for having tested positive for cocaine use.

Two years ago he said he had used the performance enhancing steroids during his MVP season.  He guessed half of all ball players did.  An autopsy was conducted today, results not expected for tend days.

Before football player Lyle Alzado died in 1992, he insisted steroid use contributed to his terminal brain cancer.

Synonymous with the strength on the screen and strength through his own suffering in real life.  The life and legacy of Christopher Reeve.  Our guest is his friend Richard Belzer, next.


OLBERMANN:  That Christopher Reeve overcame the odds, you already know.  Given seven years to live at most after a fearful horse riding accident, he made it through nine before passing away yesterday.  But you may not know that overcoming was a part of his story long before his paralysis, long even before Superman.  But trainers at the Cornell University student radio studio kicked him out in the early 70s.  They had told him he would never make it as an amateur speaker, let alone as a professional one.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the death of actor turned activist Christopher Reeve and the implications of his passing on the debate over stem cell research and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.  In a moment, I‘ll be joined by his friend and colleague in the Christopher Reed Paralysis Foundation, the actor and comedian, Richard Belzer.  First, our correspondent Bob Faw on the life of Chris Reeve.


BOB FAW, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As Superman, he could bend steel with his bare hands, as Christopher Reeve he died age 52 from a heart attack during treatment for an infection related to his paralysis.

26 years ago, he dazzled movie goers as mild mannered Clark Kent, transformed, who fights the never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.  When he wasn‘t busy, that is, rescuing Lois Lane.  17 years later, May, 1995, at an equestrian show in Virginia, he broke America‘s heart when his horse balked, throwing Reeve and breaking his neck.  The man with everything, the avid skier, diver and pilot, left quadriplegic, able to move only his head.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE:  Some people say that the longer you go, the better it gets, the more you get used to it.  I‘m actually finding the opposite is true.

FAW:  He was overwhelmed, admitted in his unflinching memoir, contemplating suicide.  Instead, Christopher Reeve decided, quote, “I‘ve got to be a person, not a patient.”

REEVE:  Giving up is unacceptable.

FAW:  Slowing, the comic book hero became a super crusader, a one man and publicity and lobbying machine for spinal cord research.

REEVE:  Who are we if we don‘t use our best efforts and best available technology to do something.

FAW:  For him, that meant directing and acting again.  At the 1996 Oscars he wowed onlookers, just as he did at that year‘s Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

REEVE:  America does not let its needy citizens fend for themselves.

FAW:  Christopher Reeve transformed again, action hero into inspiration.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Chris, what do you say, let‘s make a date, we‘ll do this interview again in 10 years, only then we‘ll walk down the beach together.

REEVE:  That‘s absolutely doable, I‘ll see you there.

FAW:  Christopher Reeve, who became a real Superman when he could no longer fly.  Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN:  That life is brief can be underscored by just this past weekend.  During Friday‘s presidential debate, Senator John Kerry mentioned his friendship with Christopher Reeve and cited him as one of the reasons that embryonic stem cell research should be resumed.  On Saturday Kerry says today, reeve left him a long voice mail thanking him for mentioning, not him but the issue.  On Saturday night, fighting off a systemic infection from a pressure wound, he went into cardiac arrest and then a coma. 

On Sunday, Christopher Reeve was dead at the age of 52.  Most of those who performed with him were too distraught today to do more than issue statements.  Gene Hackman, who was his “Superman” co-star called him a remarkable hero.  Jane Seymour, with whom he starred in “Somewhere in Time” said she and her husband had named one of their twins Chris and named Reeve his godfather and his role model for inspiration and courage.  Despite the sadness of this day, the actor and comedian Richard Belzer has been good enough to join us.  Thank you for doing so, sir.

RICHARD BELZER, FRIEND OF CHRISTOPHER REEVE:  Thank you.  It‘s so great to see his smile.

OLBERMANN:  We who did not know him personally are obviously shocked. 

I can only imagine what it‘s like for you.  Are there words for it?

BELZER:  This is nonverbal.  I‘m even kind of amazed that I‘m here, but my wife and other people said it would be a good idea to go and talk about Chris, because he‘s going to be, believe it or not, even a greater inspiration now than before, if that‘s a imaginable.  I think people were just devastated by the loss, but galvanized in what he stood for and who he was and how much hope he gave to so many people.  It‘s just—he‘s an astounding—I‘m not usually a victim of hyperbole, by this is one of the great human beings and I really don‘t mean that in any trivial, vapid way.

OLBERMANN:  Where—How did he translate that crisis of his life as we heard in Bob Faw‘s piece, a man who understandably went from contemplating suicide right after the accident to the kind of activism that had him leaving a message for the presidential candidate in the race, it must have been hours before he lapsed in to a coma?  Do you know how that happened?

BELZER:  Well, Chris was an activist before the accident and he had great passion for the underdog, for children, for physical fitness, for literacy, for the arts, and was a compelling presence, obviously, before the accident.  You know, he came into a room and people were galvanized by his charisma and by his dedication to whatever thing he was advocating. 

The accident—I think there‘s a quote that he didn‘t say to me directly, but I heard that he was kind of staying with it for his family, and anyone who knows him, knows the family, Dana and the kids, whoever seen his family with him at a lot of these events that we did, it was just incredible to see, for other families who have someone who is injured or has some disease, how the family acted around him.  It wasn‘t like “Oh, I have this person in a wheelchair,” it was just the most natural, loving, supportive, effusive kind of presence that everybody had around him and that to me was really incredibly inspiring, so I think his fortitude about not ending his own life had a lot to do with his family and that‘s a testament to all of us.

OLBERMANN:  I think it‘s probably fair to say this, that after his injury and his insistence that he was going to pursue avenues to somehow repair what was presumed to be the irreparable damage to the spinal cord, “forget it, people feeling that way are fooling themselves,” it is fair to say that in a period of eight or nine years, he convinced a huge percentage of science to throw away its disbelief and say, “you know, maybe we can do something about serious spinal cord injuries.”

BELZER:  I remember talking to Chris a couple times about the science

of it, and his articulateness about the physiology of the body, the way the

brain and the rest of the body are connected.  We were talking about once

there was this new device that you implanted and it would tell the muscle

to move, bypassing the spine and he was just so articulate about it.  And -

·         one thing I want to say, Chris was very funny, had a great sense of humor and was a great audience and one time we were at this benefit that David Copperfield was performing at and Chris said to me that when he is finally able to walk, he‘s not going to tell anybody, he‘s going to be in the audience at a David Copperfield show and David Copperfield is going to do this trick and Chris is going to get up and walk.

That‘s where he was at.  You know, the humanity and the humor and—another time I was with him and we were at this party, this was after “Superman,” he was getting ready to play a priest and Robert de Niro had already played a priest in a movie and they bumped into each other in the middle of a crowded party and de Niro said to Chris, “I‘ll teach you how to be a priest if you teach me how to fly.”

OLBERMANN:  Beautiful.  Richard Belzer of NBC‘s “Law and Order Special Victims Unit” and friend and colleague to the late Christopher Reeve.  You have our thanks and our great condolences, sir.

BELZER:  Thank you.  I hope this will be something that will keep stem cell research in the foremost of our minds.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s ironic, he may have done that in a way that even his activism could not have by the timing and all of that.  Thank you, sir.  Good night.

BELZER:  OK.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.



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