Guest: John Harwood, Elaine Shanon, Doris Kearns Goodwin
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
And down the stretch they come. The president in Florida and Ohio, the Senator in Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire. As the first polls come in reflecting Friday‘s bin Laden tape, the Republicans brazenly saying it helps the president‘s chances. The voter survey suggesting that may not be true.
And why did the British vote out Winston Churchill two months after he beat the Germans? Why were our ancestors ready to vote Lincoln out in 1864? Why did FDR get his most narrow victory in the middle of the Second World War? Voter war weariness? Does it exist? Could it hurt this incumbent?
What are we worrying about anyway? Sixty-eight years of history tells us the election was decided on a football field in Lanham, Maryland, just after 4 p.m. this afternoon. That means we get Tuesday night off, right? I didn‘t think so.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN TO THE ELECTION.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call it a fact.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. From Democracy Plaza in New York, this is Sunday, October 31, two days until the 2004 presidential election.
Democracy Plaza, of course, is nothing more or less than the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. And despite the imagery and no matter what the outcome Tuesday, it is evident that to this hour neither candidate is enjoying an election on ice.
Our fifth story on this special COUNTDOWN TO THE ELECTION, today President Bush and Senator Kerry fought it out in Ohio, and in Florida they fought it out over terror and over faith.
And their football proxies, in one of the most bizarre coincidences of history, the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins, fought it out on the playing field.
The president campaigning from one end of Florida to the other, beginning with his day with services at a Roman Catholic church in Miami. From there to a rally in Tampa, where General Norman Schwarzkopf was at his side. Another rally in Gainesville before a final trip aboard Air Force One, going to—say it with me now, no Republican can win without it—
That‘s where future hall of fame baseball catcher Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds is joining the president at a ballpark rally tonight in Cincinnati.
Earlier in Tampa, Mr. Bush still sounding the terror trumpet while making a last-minute appeal to moderate Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you believe America should fight the war on terror with all our might and lead with unwavering confidence in our ideals, I ask you to come stand with me.
If you are a Democrat who believes your party has turned too far to the left this year, I ask you to come stand with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: For everybody else, the Democratic challenger putting a similar focus on Florida and Ohio today, but definitely not putting down roots, throwing in a 1,900-mile side trip to New England.
Senator Kerry‘s frequent flier scorecard looking something like this:
beginning the day in Dayton, Ohio, with his fifth consecutive morning appearance at a primarily African-American church. From there to a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, his second trip to the Granite State this week, before he headed south to Florida and the late-evening rally in Tampa.
In Manchester, Senator Kerry invoking the bulk of his remarks to domestic issues. Also reprising one of the Bush campaign‘s main themes for the last presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need more than ever to unite this great country of ours. George Bush said he was a uniter, not a divider. It‘s the most divided nation we‘ve ever seen. I can‘t wait to sit down with folks on the other side, as I did with John McCain, with others so many times, and find the common ground for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The only common ground to be found in today‘s batch of polling results, that anything could happen on election day.
The final poll from NBC News and “The Wall Street Journal” released just this evening, making it a one-point race—Bush 48, Kerry 47 percent, Nader one.
Among voters surveyed in this poll after the bin Laden tape was released, one in four, 24 percent saying they are now more inclined to vote for Bush as a result. Half as many inclined to vote for Kerry as a result. The huge majority, 62 percent, saying it makes no difference.
When asked whether the Bush administration is at fault for those missing explosives in Iraq, nearly half believe no, the administration is not at fault compared with 38 percent who believe it is, 13 percent not sure.
Another national horse race poll, this one from Fox News, has the president up by two, 47-45.
A fascinating groundbreaking survey of young voters from Zogby for Rock the Vote, Kerry leading Bush 55-40 among likely voters under 30. That poll conducted exclusively on—what else? -- cell phones. Traditional polling excludes cell phone users, because the users would have to pay for the call and don‘t want to. Yet in this survey, more than 6,000 likely voters willing to respond by text messaging, such a large sample that the margin of error is only 1.2 percent.
And lastly, MSNBC‘s own polling of the big three battleground states tonight is Bush up by four in Florida, 49-45. A smaller lead for the president in Ohio, two, 48-46. The reverse in Pennsylvania, Kerry 48, Bush 46.
If the polls were not cheeky enough, we‘re now getting estimates of the state of the Electoral College 48 hours before the earliest vote counts come out. Fittingly, there are two published tallies of that today: one conservative, the other more liberal.
“The Washington Post” saying the president has 208 firm votes inside the college of presidential knowledge, 62 shy of re-election, with Senator Kerry at 179 and 151 still undecided.
But the Associated Press, adding in what it calls the leaner states, has a much closer count, Bush 222, Kerry 211, 105 unclear.
Once again, the science in political science continues to leave us absolutely clear minded about what‘s going to happen: nobody has a flipping clue. Maybe my guest here has better info.
John Harwood is the national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal.”
John, good evening.
JOHN HARWOOD, NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me start with something seemingly simple. Who‘s ahead?
HARWOOD: You know, Keith, what the polls are telling us both in the battleground states and nationally is that they can‘t tell us who is going to win. It‘s all going to be about turnout.
The—our “Journal”/NBC poll, 48-47. There—the margin of error is 3.1 percent. It just doesn‘t tell you anything.
It‘s going to depend on who gets their troops out, and Democrats have been arguing that if they can—if John Kerry can get them within field goal range, that their turnout operation can kick the field goal. But you know what? Republicans know what they‘re doing in turnout, to. They‘ve been working on this for four years since 2000. We‘re going to find out very, very soon.
OLBERMANN: Does anybody have any idea, John, at this point about the influence of first-time voters, voters returning to registration rolls with so-called new votes? Does anybody have any idea how that‘s going to turn out?
HARWOOD: Keith, the best sign for Democrats in—in the situation as we are now, 48 hours before election day, is that interest seems extremely high and turnout, the early voting number in some of these states suggests turnout is very high.
And the Kerry campaign argues that a lot of the people they‘re getting to turn out are first time voters, occasional voters. And that‘s a good group for John Kerry.
The Bush campaign‘s argued that the early vote totals the Democrats have been racking up are basically just front loading votes they would have gotten on election day anyway.
And so the question is, is that really the case or are they getting people who might not have otherwise shown up? You know, this is something when they count the votes we‘re going to find out. But the two sides have very different perspectives on it.
OLBERMANN: John, so we can pay along at home with you, what and where would you be looking at tomorrow to try to figure out in advance of the polls opening what is likely to happen on Tuesday? What do you want to have tomorrow?
HARWOOD: Well, I‘d watch any continuing trends in the—in the early vote. I believe tomorrow is the last day for early voting in Florida. You‘ve had very long lines all over the state with people wanting to vote.
Something on the order of nearly two million people have already voted in that state. And in our “Journal”/NBC poll, 20 percent of the people in the country have already voted.
So it‘s—the continuing turnout machinery, what‘s happening in those early voting states, and any late-breaking polls, but it‘s pretty clear from what we‘ve seen from the effect of the bin Laden tape and the missing explosives, none of this stuff is moving voters very much.
OLBERMANN: John Harwood, national political editor of “The Wall Street Journal,” always a bellwether of cogent analysis in a storm of partisanship. Thank you, as always, John.
HARWOOD: See you later.
OLBERMANN: There has yet to be a poll result fully informed by the mere fact of Friday‘s bin Laden tape, but what one writer cleverly referred to as the al Qaeda leader popping up like a malignant jack-in-the-box seems to be front and center in the minds of both campaigns.
Mr. Bush was hitting Senator Kerry with a roundhouse punch, claiming Monday morning quarterbacking and inappropriate politicizing of this tape. Kerry repeated his charge that the president outsourced the job of catching bin Laden to Afghan warlords in Tora Bora.
And the Republicans were busy making political hay of their own. Two anonymous campaign officials telling the “New York Daily News,” quote, “We want people to think terrorism for the last four days and anything that raises the issue in people‘s minds is good for us.”
A GOP strategist was quoted by the same paper as adding that the tape was, quote, “a little gift. Anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush.”
Before you howl in protest at such damaging, anonymous quotes, the newspaper that published them today endorsed Mr. Bush, as did an anything but anonymous Republican leader John McCain, on the record with similar remarks.
The Arizona senator was stumping for his 2000 primary rival and also for Republican congressman Chris Shays in Stanford, Connecticut, when he suggested that the undecideds would make up their minds Tuesday based on who they believe could protect them the best.
Senator McCain was even more blunt about the bin Laden tape itself. Quoting him, “I think it‘s very helpful to President Bush. It focuses America‘s attention on the war on terrorism. I‘m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it does have an effect.”
One assumes that by intentional, Senator McCain campaign meant intentional on the part of bin Laden.
Joining me now to assess the specific impact of the tape and the political white blood cells that have stuck to it is Elaine Shannon, the “TIME” correspondent whose beat is terrorism and politics.
Ms. Shannon, good evening.
ELAINE SHANNON, “TIME” CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The premise here is to make as much political hay out of the bin Laden tape yourself while accusing the other side of, heavens, making political hay out the bin Laden tape? Do I understand it correctly?
SHANNON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, and bin Laden was doing some spinning of his own. He‘s letting them know he‘s still here, and the gold and the white and all that kind of stuff, in very professional studio format, makes him look like he‘s very relaxed. He‘s not living in a cave. He‘s not sick, and he‘s not covered with rubble.
OLBERMANN: The question, I presume, then becomes what is the larger voter reaction, that the bin Laden tape reminds us of the threat or that the bin Laden tape reminds us that the president didn‘t catch bin Laden after he explicitly made such a big deal of his vow to do so?
SHANNON: Well, both. It just depends on where you sit.
A lot of people I talked to do believe that it helps the president because it remind us what we‘re all going to be thinking about November 3. The radical Jihaddist, the violent Jihaddists are still around. We don‘t know whether bin Laden was signaling people who already have a plot in place or trying to gin up some people to go make a plot, because al Qaeda does have more difficulty communicating.
But either way, as long as I‘m in this business and you‘re in this business, we‘re going to be talking about this a lot.
OLBERMANN: What would you think of this “Wall Street Journal”/NBC News poll that‘s out tonight that said that one in four voters are now more inclined to vote for Mr. Bush as a result of the bin Laden tape, but one in eight said they were more inclined to vote for Senator Kerry?
Is this the kind of thing—we saw this before with the capture of Saddam Hussein, that the president got an extraordinary bump literally for a couple of days in terms of his popularity and his approval numbers, and then they sank back to where they had been before the Saddam Hussein capture.
Is the timing of the bin Laden tape in this 24-hour news cycle in this resetting of the entire political picture every—it seems like 36 hours at the most, did the bin Laden tape literally come too late to have a serious impact on Tuesday‘s voting?
SHANNON: I don‘t know, because as John was talking about, these new voters, how are they going to break? I don‘t know. But the fact is that it did come when it came, and it does seem like it has helped Bush marginally more than Kerry, but we‘ll just see.
He also reminds us that he‘s pretty fat and happy up there in Waziristan or wherever he is.
OLBERMANN: And he has his own studio.
SHANNON: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Elaine Shannon of “TIME” magazine. Many thanks for your time, Elaine.
They have called this our first wartime election, in some estimates, in 60 years. They have said this gives the incumbent the edge. Then how come the British voted Winston Churchill out two months after they beat the Nazis? Why was FDR‘s margin in 1944 the smallest of his four elections? We‘ll ask Doris Kearns Goodwin.
And never mind the turnout or the swing states or waiting until Tuesday or Wednesday, or January. One heretofore infallible presidential prediction was made late this afternoon.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: On August 23, 1864, an exhausted Abraham Lincoln called his cabinet together and asked each member to sign the back of a sealed document. Inside the envelope, Lincoln had written, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected.”
Lincoln went on to pledge his cooperation with the man he expected would succeed him as president, General George McClellan, who was committed to make peace with the South and end the Civil War at any prices.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN this election, this country and war weariness and its psychological impact, if any, on Tuesday‘s voting.
If Lincoln was exhausted, the country was, in Horace Greeley‘s words, nearly dying of war weariness. McClellan and the peace Democrats seemed such a shoe-in that some of Lincoln‘s party leaders schemed to withdraw his renomination and run somebody else in his stead.
And then General Sherman took Atlanta. And the record books show only that Lincoln won with 55 percent of the vote to McClellan‘s 45.
Eighty years later, it is remarkable to reflect in the middle of a world war, the necessity and prosecution of which few had any criticisms, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his fourth term with just 53 percent of the popular vote over Thomas Dewey. Dewey got more votes in 1944 than he did against Harry Truman in 1948.
And then there was the Winston Churchill story. Within weeks of the allied victory in Europe, right after the death of Hitler, with a battle against the Nazis that he alone foresaw and he alone completed finally at an end, the British public were nice enough to vote Churchill out of office by a margin of nearly 2-1.
In this 2004 election, it has been assumed that for Mr. Bush, any
reference to terror is a good reference, but could there be a backlash in
the voting booth on Tuesday? Not against the man necessarily but against his time.
I‘m joined by MSNBC analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, presidential historian, and fan of the, God help me, world champion Boston Red Sox...
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yay!
OLBERMANN: ... Doris Kearns Goodwin. Doris, good evening.
GOODWIN: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For years I‘ve wondered if in England in 1945 people ought to have been saying, “Thank you, Winston Churchill, for saving us. But when we think of you, we think war and death and rationing and fear. And we don‘t want to think about those things any more, so you‘re out.”
Could George Bush possibly be facing some of that this Tuesday?
GOODWIN: Well, it certainly was astonishing for Churchill. I mean, here he really carried England on his back. And then when it came 10 weeks after the victory in Europe, they said, “What we care about is the peace, not so much the war that has now been fought victoriously.”
He said when he woke up that morning, he felt a physical pain. He wished that he had been killed in an airplane or died like FDR than to face that humiliation.
I think what‘s interesting here about George Bush is that his war weariness is somewhat different, however, from Churchill‘s or even from Lincoln‘s, in the sense that in Churchill‘s case, the war was won. In Lincoln‘s case, Sherman eventually, as you said, had won that battle. Here we still have Iraq going on.
If it were simply Iraq, I think the war weariness would absolutely be taking hold, but there‘s this larger war on terror that somehow the American people still feel he‘s better able to mobilize for. And if it weren‘t for the war on terror, I think definitely the war weariness would be taking hold.
OLBERMANN: Is there a way to measure whether or not it‘s going to have any impact at all? I mean, there has been some data on the Democratic soccer moms in New Jersey who may have put their state in play over their anxiety over their children‘s safety.
Has anybody actually looked at war weariness backlash in this or in other elections? Is it—is it a subject of political science or even of history?
GOODWIN: Well, certainly in history, when you look at what happened to Truman because of the war weariness over Korea, he couldn‘t run again in 1952.
You look at the war weariness over Vietnam, and Lyndon Johnson had to withdraw from the race in 1968.
Now granted, both of those wars were much larger than the war in Iraq. But I think the same phenomena was taking hold, especially in that there‘s a lot of bad news at the end, just as there was in Vietnam, just as it was in Korea that we‘ve been hearing about Iraq in these past months.
So as I say again, I think on its own—on its own war, if Iraq were the only thing at issue here, plus a difficult economy at home, it‘s hard to imagine that President Bush would win again, but somehow there‘s this mystique of the larger war on terror and the American people seem to feel that he ‘ better prepared to handle that because of September 11, which somehow undoes all these historical analogies.
OLBERMANN: Well, there has also been talk throughout this campaign, but in the last few days especially, about another piece of history that we‘re not seeing match up yet, that incumbents always win or lose big, that it can be a blowout like Clinton in ‘96 or it could be a late surge like Carter losing to Reagan in 1980 by 440 electoral votes when some polls had showed them tied the previous Friday.
Is this vote going to be, as we‘ve been saying, as tight as Britney Spears‘ pants, or is it going to thwart that historical model, too, and be decided on, you know, the intangible gut reaction when you get in the booth on Tuesday?
GOODWIN: Well, you know, you‘re right. If history is followed, then the incumbent generally either wins or loses by a large margin. The argument being that we know the guy who‘s been there. We either like the kind of leader he‘s been, or we like the condition of the country is in or we don‘t. And we‘re going to throw him out or we‘re going to bring him in big.
But the problem with those historical analogies is that each election is so unique. For example, when Taft was thrown out in 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was running against him on a third party. When Hoover was thrown out in 1932, you had the huge Great Depression.
Even when Carter lost in 1976, the economy was bad, but he had a Rose Garden strategy. He didn‘t leave like Bush is running around the country leaving, so that that could have done it.
So—and even when Perot was in there in 1992 when Bush lost, so this time there‘s a third party, but it might not hurt Bush.
This time Bush is out on the campaign trail. Not a Rose Garden strategy like Carter. Each election is so unique that I think history may be undone in this case, just as the Red Sox undid history.
OLBERMANN: It is comforting in a sense that history is just as unclear as the present is at the moment. That brings us a little solace, I suppose.
The historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, many thanks. And I have to say it again: congratulations on the Red Sox.
GOODWIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Doris. Thanks.
Incidentally, I‘ve gone into this topic in some length in the newest entry on Bloggermann, the official blog of COUNTDOWN at our web site at Countdown.MSNBC.com. Don‘t be scared by the eyebrows in the drawing; they‘re really not that big. And keep an eye on the blog for postings right through election night.
The Lincoln-Douglas debates they‘re not. Ralph Nader goes head-to-head against action figures. And that can only mean our revered segment, “Oddball.” Oh, man.
And reverence did not appear to be the primary goal in be a interview tonight between Tom Brokaw at “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” and the president. We‘ll bring you part of that interview.
From Democracy Plaza in New York, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: If you‘re not familiar with the regular weeknight editions of COUNTDOWN, it is at this point in the proceedings that we always step away from the day‘s cares and actual valuable news to update you, instead, on all the goofy video that‘s come in over the transom.
For tonight, we‘ll keep the political theme going. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Not to imply that third party candidate Ralph Nader is necessarily odd, although he did join us on this program, which says something. But after being shut out of the debates and some state ballots, Mr. Nader has taken matters into his own hands, staging on his own campaign web site his own debate with President Bush and Senator Kerry—well, sort of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the people have to rescue our government from this incredible folly. Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry have an exit strategy. They‘re both on the record of pursuing an even more aggressive war.
GEORGE W. BUSH ®, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can run but you can‘t hide.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a plan for Iraq.
NADER: A vote for Bush and a vote for Kerry is a vote for war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I see he spent the remainder of the campaign budget.
As they said on “F Troop,” it is balloon. In this case it was balloon. New York police arresting the two pilots of a crumbled pile of nylon, which on Friday afternoon had been a fully inflated hot air balloon with the words “Go Kerry” on the side.
The two men say they were forced to make an emergency landing smack dab in the middle of Central Park in New York, but others are a little bit more suspicious. Perhaps this was a subtle political statement? No truth to rumors the balloon was wrestled to the ground by the vice president himself.
Back to the hard news, the candidates don‘t tell you who they‘d put in their cabinets if elected. That leaves us with informed speculation.
Tonight the possible Kerry cabinet. And is it all over, really, but the shouting? Why one pro football game this afternoon was of such interest to both campaigns.
Those stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN‘S top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, the late Trixie Porter of Raleigh, North Carolina, just one of an entirely new group of voters created by the early voting rules, people who voted and then before the election died. It‘s unclear, and it varies from county to county, whether or not that vote will actually count. She doesn‘t care.
No. 2, Maria Spero, a part time instructor at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, who has apologized. The school is investigating her off campus incident where she allegedly kicked a student in the shin for wearing a Republican T-shirt.
Spero says she‘s terribly sorry for the, quote, “knee-jerk political reaction.” That was a shin jerk.
And No. 1, John Hall of the ‘70s rock band Orleans, they‘re the writer of the song “Still the One.” A John Kerry supporter, Hall protested the Bush campaign‘s use of his song at the political rallies. The campaign has agreed to stop playing it.
They will, instead go with “It‘s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls.
Sorry. I made the last part up.
OLBERMANN, HOST: In the last days before an election, everything counts, even a candidate‘s choice of with whom to do a television interview. Today the president chose to sit down with NBC‘s Tom Brokaw, first aboard Air Force One, and then on the ground in Florida.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, what may go down in the annals of decision 2004 as the Brokaw-Bush interview.
TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Listen, I have a favorite theory in American politics that the unforeseen will occur, the UFO theory, I call it. Do you think there‘s any UFO between now and Tuesday morning?
BUSH: I do not. I think that the people understand the stakes of this election, that they win a war that the American president must lead in the war on terror, people are sorting through the best strategy to conduct it. Of course, I think in the case I do.
BROKAW (voice-over): Later, the president sat down with me for an extended interview.
(on camera) Mr. President, Osama bin Laden is back, on videotape, at least. You have been using his appearance as a demonstration that this war on terror is still underway.
Other people see it, however, as here he is, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, still taunting America, still making threats against this country. How can the fact that he is alive and at large be seen as anything other than a failure of your administration?
BUSH: Well, first he‘s not going to intimidate or decide this election.
And secondly, we are systematically destroying al Qaeda. They had a brought network. They have been training for years in Afghanistan. And because—because we‘ve taken decisive action, al Qaeda is being dismantled, and we‘ll eventually get Osama bin Laden. In the meantime, we‘re destroying his network, slowly but surely, systematically destroying him.
BROKAW: But he has lieutenants that we had not heard of three years ago. Zarqawi, for example, in Iraq, who‘s leading the insurgency there in what is a much too effective fashion for the safety of the United States troops.
BUSH: Well, Zarqawi was in Afghanistan. The history of Zarqawi is illustrative of this war on terror.
Zarqawi was running a training camp in Afghanistan until we arrived and destroyed the camp. Zarqawi is a bad guy. We‘ll get him eventually, as well. But Zarqawi was training before we took any action. I mean, I‘ve heard some say, “Well, the actions of the United States have created terrorists.” Zarqawi was a terrorist long before I lot elected.
BROKAW: The other issue that has developed quite dramatically in the last week or so is the disappearance of hundreds of tons of explosives from an ammunition depot in Iraq.
Rudy Giuliani, who has been one of your strongest advocates, said on “The Today Show” the other day, it was not your fault; it was the fault of the troops who failed to secure that site. Is that fair to those troops?
BUSH: Well, first of all, there‘s a lot of data, a lot of conflicting information about the ammunition sites.
What is a fact is that we have secured or destroyed 400,000 tons of ammunition. What is a fact is that this is a place that, when Saddam Hussein was in power that had a lot of dumps. And it was a dangerous place. And we—our troops are doing their job.
BROKAW: But was Rudy Giuliani right to blame the troops?
BUSH: I never blame our troops. I‘d be glad to blame myself. I‘m the person that has committed our troops into combat. I stand with our troops.
BROKAW: So he‘s wrong?
BUSH: I stand with our troops as commander in chief. And I stand with our troops when it comes to funding our troops in harm‘s way.
BROKAW: Mr. President, in the opening of his debate, Dick Cheney, your vice president, said, “If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action for Iraq.”
Even if you knew that there was no storage of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even if you knew that the Republican Guard could fade into the north and the west with their weapons and mount a very effective insurgency against us, even if you knew that we didn‘t have enough troops to secure al the sites in Iraq necessary to be secured at the time, you would recommend exactly the same course of action?
BUSH: Well, Tom, the bigger question is should we have removed Saddam Hussein in the first place?
BROKAW: The answer is what happens afterwards as well.
BUSH: But that‘s easy to second-guess. I‘ve never known you to be a Monday morning quarterback like this. I mean, of course, we can look back and history will judge whether we could have done something differently.
But you‘ve asked me the question in the context of, really, should we have removed Saddam Hussein in the first place? And the answer is, yes, sir, we should have.
A leader must be steadfast and strong. A leader must make decisions on principle. Tactics strange, strategies change, but principles should never change.
And I think the American people are going to decide which person, which human being has got the capability of leading this nation forward into—into what I believe is going to be a hopeful 21st Century.
OLBERMANN: Neither Mr. Bush nor Senator Kerry will tell you their cabinets in advance, so we‘ll have to do it for you. Who is John Kerry‘s secretary of state?
And speaking of quarterbacks, Monday or otherwise, if you subscribe to a certain election indicator, there are no longer any if‘s, no longer chads to worry about, nor election returns to count. We already know who will win next Tuesday.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites for this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I give up. Bring it on. Come on.
LESTER HOLT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let‘s part the TV screen here and take a look and see if you can figure out what I am. I am political spin. You cannot escape me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it, I love it.
HOLT: Things are getting better, things are getting worse.
KERRY: Who does that look like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karl Rove.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voting is a private matter and one which I take very seriously. For a time, I feared that I would not be eligible to vote in this election, but recently praise Allah, I was tracked down by two volunteers from the Kerry campaign. They signed me up, and apparently I am now registered in Cincinnati.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Is the senior senator from Delaware singing the old song, “I‘m Biden my time because that‘s the kind of guy I am”?
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, last week we got some suggestions about what a possible second Bush administration cabinet might look like. We‘ll review those projections in a moment.
First the prospective Kerry cabinet and a report from London that he‘s already picked his secretary of state.
The “Times” of London, quoting unidentified aides, saying Kerry has asked Joe Biden to take over for Colin Powell in the event that Senator Kerry is elected. Kerry today told the Associated Press he would name his cabinet, particularly the cabinet security positions, quote, “as fast as I can.”
Back in May, Biden told the National Association of Police Organizations that state was, quote, “something I would consider doing.”
But is Kerry really considering Biden? To help us get an advanced look at a Kerry cabinet, I‘m joined here by Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.”
Good to see you.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hi. Is this what we call measuring the drapes?
OLBERMANN: Something along those lines. They‘re not going to provide us with the numbers in advance.
Let‘s get through as many of these as we can. Let‘s start at secretary of state. Is it, in fact, Joe Biden?
CRAWFORD: Joe Biden is absolutely the buzz on that. He has spoken very confidently about what he says that a President Kerry would do in Iraq, for example, and around the world, in such terms that it really sounds like they are on some sort of sympatico there. And that is the name you hear the most.
OLBERMANN: And the other one is Richard Holbrooke, right?
CRAWFORD: Richard Holbrooke is reportedly more interested in national security adviser. And a little internal White House politics. Generally when you have an activist president on foreign affairs, you want to be national security adviser, because you‘re in the White House. You‘re close to the president.
Henry Kissinger taught us that rule. He chose that over secretary of state with Richard Nixon, because Nixon was such an activist foreign policy president, as I think Kerry would be.
OLBERMANN: And then became secretary of state anyway.
Defense, Kerry has mentioned four names: William Perry who led it under Clinton, and three Senators, Carl Levin, John McCain, and John Warner. Is there a favorite? Would the temptation to appoint a Republican be inescapable for John Kerry?
CRAWFORD: I think there will be, because if this is as close as it looks and Kerry ekes out some victory, there will be a real call for coalition building, which President Bush didn‘t do. And I think that may be one reason the president is having some problems.
But if he were to go with a coalition type cabinet, a Republican as secretary of defense would be a good choice. John McCain, though, was already offered running mate, vice president, presumably, so I don‘t know if he‘d want secretary of defense.
OLBERMANN: Attorney general. Do we know?
CRAWFORD: I do want to mention Sam Nunn of Georgia for secretary of defense.
OLBERMANN: Secretary of defense?
CRAWFORD: That‘s a name that I actually—when I asked, I finally got a question to Kerry and I asked about names. And that was one name that he brought up as who he would put in charge of security in Iraq, and George Mitchell, too.
OLBERMANN: What about the attorney general?
CRAWFORD: Attorney general, Eliot Spitzer is much often mentioned. But I don‘t know how close they are. One rule about attorney general is you want someone very close, because that‘s the only person on your cabinet who can indict you. That‘s why John Kennedy picked his brother. And if you have a qualified brother, that‘s the best way to go.
OLBERMANN: All right. Now, reversing the process, let me throw out a name and ask you if he‘d have any role in the administration: Howard Dean.
CRAWFORD: Howard Dean, obviously secretary of HHS, health and human services would be maybe the only one he‘s really qualified for in terms of his resume. But that is one we‘ve heard. And I think Howard Dean has been a good team player since losing the nomination to Kerry.
OLBERMANN: All right, Craig. We appreciate the insights. Craig Crawford, senior columnist for “Congressional Quarterly,” MSNBC analyst, and thanks for joining us at Democracy tonight.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here. You‘ve got a great crowd out here. A very smart crowd. Loyal fans.
OLBERMANN: Play to the crowd.
As promised, Matthew Cooper of “TIME” magazine gave us his list of the possible members of a second Bush administration. That was Thursday. We‘re not expecting you to remember them. So here they are in brief.
Donald Rumsfeld, he said, likely to stay on as secretary of defense. He, according to Mr. Cooper, not eager to go and maintaining the firm backing of the vice president.
Former Missouri Senator John Danforth a prospect to succeed Powell as secretary of state. Former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson to move up to replace John Ashcroft. National security adviser Rice possibly staying on, or perhaps moving into the cabinet, maybe even at state.
And Mr. Bush‘s first choice for a Supreme Court vacancy possibly to be his White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez.
Soon, of course, this will all be over. Actually, if 68 years of football history is any measure, it already is over. We‘re ready to predict the winner of the 2004 presidential election. Well, the Washington Redskins are ready to predict.
COUNTDOWN continues from Democracy Plaza. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: So what if you‘ve got other plans on Tuesday? Or what if you‘re just impatient? What if you want to know the winner of the election, and you want to know it now?
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN of the election, there is one group of prognosticators who have correctly forecast each election since 1946. They made their prediction at about 4 p.m. Eastern Time this afternoon.
Now, one caveat, what is called the logical fallacy is easily explained. If event a happens, then event B happens, therefore event a caused event b. That, of course, doesn‘t happen to be true. So this prediction is a logical fallacy, but as logical fallacies go, this is a lulu.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): You might think it will be terror or the economy or whoever says the last dumb thing before the election.
BUSH: We will not have an all-volunteer army—and yet this week.
We will have an all-volunteer army.
OLBERMANN: You might think it‘s about the stock market, the price of gas, the incumbent‘s last rating in the Gallup poll, the turnout, how Ohio votes, or whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last Groundhog‘s Day.
No, it‘s about the Washington Redskins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hail to the Redskins. Hail to the Redskins.
OLBERMANN: The football team with the politically incorrect name has been anything but incorrect in predicting which party will win the White House.
We go back to the days when the brand-new Redskins‘ franchise still played in Boston. On November 1, 1936, in their last home game before the presidential election, the Redskins beat the Chicago Cardinals, 13-10. And on November 3, Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected president.
Four years later, the team had moved to Washington. In its final home
game before the election, the Skins beat Pittsburgh, 37-10. Roosevelt is
re-elected again days later.
Nineteen-forty-four, November 5, last game before the election, Washington 14, Cleveland 10. Two days later, Roosevelt is re-re-re-elected.
Nineteen-forty-eight, Skins win the home game before the election. Harry Truman holds the White House for the Democrats, an upset. The Redskins are now 4-0 in their election day games, and so are the Democrats.
But on November 2, 1952, the Redskins, in their last home game before the vote, lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-23. And the Democrats lose the presidency to the Republicans and Dwight Eisenhower.
Fifty-six, the Skins win; so does Eisenhower.
Nineteen-sixty, Cleveland beats Washington by 21 points, and nine days later it‘s John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon by about 21 votes.
And the pattern emerges. If the Skins win their final home game before the presidential election, the incumbent party keeps the White House. If the Skins lose that game, so does the party in power.
And it holds up over the generations. Sixty-four, Skins 27, Chicago Bears 20. Lyndon Johnson retains the presidency. Sixty-eight, Washington loses to the New York Giants. The Democrats lose to Richard Nixon.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Giants are better.
OLBERMANN: Seventy-two, Skins win, Nixon wins.
NIXON: If you need a player, let me know.
OLBERMANN: Seventy-six, Skins lose, Gerald Ford loses. Eighty, Skins lose, Jimmy Carter loses. Eighty-four, Skins win, Reagan wins. Eighty-eight, Skins win, George Bush wins.
Nineteen-ninety-two, Washington loses to the Giants 24-7, and the incumbent party is bounced again. Bush is out, Clinton is in.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips.
OLBERMANN: But Clinton‘s 1996 re-election is foretold when Washington beats Indianapolis days before that election.
Going into the Bush-Gore race of 2000, the outcome of Washington‘s final home game before the election has coincided perfectly for 16 consecutive games and 16 consecutive elections. Ten Redskins‘ wins, each of which is followed by the incumbent president and/or incumbent party retaining the office, six Redskins‘ losses, each of which is followed by the incumbent president or the incumbent party losing the office.
On October 30, 2000, the Washington Redskins, with six victories and two losses thus far in that season, host the Tennessee Titans, who had six victories and one loss. The Redskins score first and lead 7-0, suggesting the Democrats will retain the White House.
But Tennessee rallies to go in front, 20-7 and hold on for a 27-21 win. Six-point victory, and six weeks later, a five electoral vote victory for George W. Bush of the party that had been out of office, the Republicans.
Seventeen elections up, 17 elections down, hail to the Redskins indeed. It is an iron clad sports tradition: Skins win, incumbents stay in. Skins lose, incumbents are old news. An ironclad sports tradition, like the fact that no baseball team has ever come back from down 3-0 to win a playoff series—oh, yes.
OLBERMANN: So the Skins‘ last home game before this election was this afternoon against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were favored by 1.5 points. Let‘s go to the videotape.
Packers at the Skins‘ home, crassly named FedEx Field in crassly renamed Raljon, Maryland. The chiefs already up 10 zip in the second, and it‘s Brett Favre, up top for Jevon Walker. And they‘re not going to get them. It‘s been a long time since I‘ve done football highlights.
Green Bay and thus John Kerry 17, Washington and George Bush just watching.
But hail to the Redskins. Mark Brunell hooking up once again with Rob Gardner. Nice defense. Get a row of stamps and mail it in. Skins cut the Packer margin to 20-14.
And then with two and a half left, Brunell deep to Clinton Portis, touchdown Redskins. Oh, wait! There‘s a flag on the play. A flag on the play. Justice Antonin Scalia. The touchdown is called back. They‘ll be recounting that moment—poor choice of words.
Next play, Brunell throws up a hanging chad intercepted by Al Harris of the Packers, and the Redskins‘ rally is thwarted. Green Bay tacks on a touchdown. It‘s a final. The Packs 28, the Redskins 14.
And John Kerry, who earlier called Green Bay‘s home Lambeau Field Lambert Field also got the details wrong. Said afterwards he was thrilled, but added that this streak started with Herbert Hoover. No, if you watched the piece just now, that was 1932. The streak started in 1936 with Alf Landon.
And no, the game result has never correlated to the margin of presidential victory. Nonetheless, according to the Redskin rule, the next president of the United States will be John Kerry or—or the country‘s longest running presidential predictor will go down the crapper.
The other team‘s quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard.
From Democracy Plaza in New York, that‘s this special edition of COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. We hope to see you tomorrow night, same time. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House, Inc, eMediaMillWorks, Inc.) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.