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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov.5

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

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Alter, Jason Dearen


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Vice president in charge of defense and foreign policy?  Warnings to his own party‘s president.  Calling Democrats...


OLBERMANN:  Misquotes, misreporting, or I missed and stuck my foot in my mouth. 

Getting the thumb not out of the mouth but out of the—elsewhere. 

What do the Democrats do now?  And what did Hillary say about ‘08? 

The Peterson trial.  That thing is still going on?  What you missed while you were busy with the election. 

And what we will miss here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His name is Studley, and he no longer lives at the zoo. 

OLBERMANN:  Fred Francis and Robert Hager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you doing, Lassie?  

OLBERMANN:  Two of the giants of television reporting retire.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  They are all variations of one of politics‘s oldest jokes.  What the delegate from Mozambique meant to say.  What the representative from the Third District intended to communicate.  There‘s no evidence that the congressman knew the literal meaning of the Navajo phrase. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a rash of Republicans trying to clarify what they did not warn, what they were not offered, and who they did not mean to call losers. 

We start with Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania who has now offered a second day‘s worth of revisions of his original public comments to President Bush about controversial judicial nominations.  Those comments were characterized as warnings, that the president should not send Supreme Court nominees to the Senate who have vowed to overturn the Roe v Wade decision, reminding reporters of the filibusters that greeted those kinds of nominations early in Mr. Bush‘s first term.  The Pennsylvania senator said...


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose and overturn Roe versus Wade, I think that is unlikely. 


OLBERMANN:  Within a few hour, Specter, who needs Republican support to gain the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had issued a second statement.  “Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the president about anything,” Specter stated, adding, “I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue.”

With the prospect of losing the presidential seal of approval, rather, on his chairmanship staring him in the face, Specter later added by phone to “The Washington Post,” quote, “I expect to support his nominees.” 

And then there is Senator John McCain, who, if you go for those alternative history timeline so popular on the Web, might be vice president elect McCain right now, and reportedly a lot more than just that.  “Newsweek” reporting that when John Kerry pitched his friend on forming a bipartisan ticket, he offered to make a McCain vice-presidency almost a sub-presidency. 

On “The Today Show,” McCain dismissed everything, even the idea that Kerry actually offered him a spot on the ticket. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  There were discussions.  When I say discussions about that, he called me several times, and the issue was raised, but there was never a formal offer. 

MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW:  More importantly, the story goes on to say that after he locked up the nomination, he came to you and said, John, if you‘ll be my vice-presidential candidate, I‘ll expand the role of the vice-presidency to include the secretary of defense and say over all foreign policy.  Did he do that? 

MCCAIN:  No.  No.  No, Matt.  He did not.  Again, there were discussions, but no, that was not the case. 


OLBERMANN:  And the third political correction from the Governator.  A day after he urged bipartisan cooperation in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was scrambling to get out from under a soundbite that sure sounded like he was dismissing Democratic state legislators from the San Francisco Bay area. 


SCHWARZENEGGER:  Why would I listen to losers?  They have lost every single ballot in the Bay area.  Everything.  The big spenders wanted to go and increase taxes. 


OLBERMANN:  The creativity of Schwarzenegger‘s press secretary Margita Thompson was sorely tested.  She did come up with the argument that the “they” and the “losers” and the “big spenders” the governor was referring to there were not people like Democratic State Senate President Don Perata, but rather tax increase initiatives that had been on Tuesday‘s ballot, making his statement read, “why should I listen to tax increase initiatives?  Tax increase initiatives have lost every single ballot in the Bay area.  The tax increase initiatives wanted to go and increase taxes.”  Sure. 

National politics, three world news stories continuing to underscore the importance who is going to be the next secretary of state.  On that guy‘s dance card, the next major phase of the war in Iraq, the country that could become the next Iraq, and another day of confusion over the health status of Yasser Arafat. 

The Palestinian leader said to be hovering between life and death in a coma, according to French and Palestinian officials, no better nor worse than he was yesterday.  Arafat‘s supporters keeping vigil outside the Paris hospital where he is being treated.  Still no public diagnosis of what is actually wrong with him.  Arafat‘s condition remaining a mystery since he was airlifted to France last Friday.  The Palestinian foreign minister suggesting today the coma occurred after Arafat was put under anesthesia for additional medical tests. 

Yasser Arafat is still not dead. 

And another international element that is Colin Powell‘s problem but may soon be somebody else‘s.  Mr. Bush‘s critics in the military warned they have been told not to launch a major offensive until after Tuesday‘s election.  It is now after Tuesday‘s election, and they are now apparently launching. 

More than 10,000 American soldiers and Marines have surrounded the city of Fallujah, as U.S. jets have been bombing rebel targets all this day long, all of it softening up in advance of the expected assault.  The air strikes already provoking a deadly counterattack from rebel forces.  At least one American soldier dead, seven more wound in a rocket attack on a U.S. position outside the city. 

American commanders stay the imminent assault is part of a campaign to uproot insurgents before the Iraqi elections, scheduled to take place at the end of January.  U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warning tonight that the campaign could in fact have the opposite impact, increasing violence and thus jeopardizing further the election. 

What kind of jeopardy Iran is in or hopes here that when and if we start phasing out of Iraq, troops will be heading home and not next door.  Twenty-five years ago yesterday, 500 Iranians seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, unleashing the hostage crisis that consumed the presidency of Jimmy Carter.  Today State Department spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated the U.S. insistence that today‘s Iran must stop uranium enrichment efforts.  Failure to do so by the time of the meeting later this month of the International Atomic Energy Agency would lead to the matter being taken up by the U.N. Security Council. 

Also later this month, Secretary of State Powell is to meet with regional foreign ministers in Egypt, and he is hinting he would like to see Iranian representatives at the meeting to try to bolster relations between two countries. 

But will the Iranians have to meet with a lame duck?  We‘ve been talking about changes in the Bush cabinet for a week now, and tonight we begin a series of in-depth looks at specific changes that may be ahead.  The change at State has seemingly been ahead for a year. 

I am joined now by Dana Milbank, White House correspondent of “The Washington Post.”  Dana, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  So Mr. Powell met with political employees at State today and said nobody is asking for your resignations, but if you are going to resign, let somebody know and let them—now.  And then the report that Cofer Black had quit, the State counterterrorism chief.  Is this the kind of stuff that we see before a secretary of state exits? 

MILBANK:  Well, look.  One very important person has said that Colin Powell is leaving, and that‘s Colin Powell.  So he may be backtracking on that just a little bit now, and maybe he wants to stay on for a little while to get us through the elections in Iraq. 

But it‘s very clear that he is on his way out.  And people are already sort of lining up and putting out the help wanted ads. 

OLBERMANN:  It goes without saying that between Iraq and Iran and terror and the post-Arafat Palestine, whoever is running State the next four years is going to have to become a Middle East expert.  Is John Danforth already that kind of expert?  Is he still in the lead in this? 

MILBANK:  Well, he is, sort of, in a surprising way.  Now, he is the ambassador to the United Nations.  He served in the United Sates Senate.  So he is qualified, but there‘s a lot of suspicion that he‘s going to be wanted instead to replace John Ashcroft over at the Justice Department.  And we‘re not exactly clear who it would be. 

We wouldn‘t even be having this discussion.  It was going to be Jerry Bremer, but then he had that little misfortune of misspeaking and saying that he thought we should have some more troops in Iraq just before the election; the Bushes got very mad at him for that.  So he‘s off the list. 

There are other possibilities like Paul Wolfowitz or John Bolton, but that could really provoke outrage from our European allies, and who knows what from North Korea.  So Condi Rice would be an ideal candidate for the job, but now she‘s saying she doesn‘t want it. 

So—I don‘t know.  Maybe you might be available, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Might be an improvement, might not be.  You mentioned Wolfowitz.  The president has said he thinks the tension between his cabinet members can sometimes be useful, “creative,” he called it.  But ideally, would he want now a secretary of state who seemed to act more in coordination with the secretary of defense than Mr. Powell and Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to act? 

MILBANK:  Well, probably not.  And we certainly don‘t know for certain that Mr. Rumsfeld is staying on the job either.  But we are at the point, you know, there was that sort of mocking slogan from the Democrats that the second term would be four more wars.  The fact is the United States‘ military is stretched.  We‘re not interested in a lot more military adventures.  The president is interested right now in toning things down.  He doesn‘t really want a bunch of ideologues there thinking of new ways in which the United States can get involved.  So you could expect somebody more managerial, a bit less inflammatory. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” and if you can nominate me, I can nominate you. 

MILBANK:  I‘ll see what I can do.

OLBERMANN:  As always, many thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  That George Bush and not John Kerry earned the right to pick the next secretary of state got a little more certain today, but not certain enough to smother the remaining cries of fraud about Ohio and Florida. 

The Associated Press finished its tallying in Iowa.  That‘s permitting NBC News to call the last four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.  All but New Hampshire and Wisconsin went for Senator Kerry.  The others for Mr. Bush.  That gives the president a final electoral count of 286 to Kerry‘s 252.  The lowest for any other president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  A 34-vote margin.  Not enough to make the question of what really happened in Florida and Ohio moot.  Nor in North Carolina. 

In another state with a Bush victory, another glitch wiped out 4,500 votes.  Not significant in a state in which the president won by 425,000 unless of course there were 20 other instances. 

UniLect Corporation told the state election board in North Carolina that its electronic voting machines had a memory capacity large enough to store sentence 10,000 votes.  They were wrong.  After 3,000 votes, the machines in Carteret County simply stopped counting.  And then there is infamous multiplying machine of Cahana (ph), Ohio.  638 voters cast presidential ballots there.  Senator Kerry got 260 votes.  President Bush, 4,258.  Cahana is in Franklin County, suburban Columbus, the only county in Ohio to use machines made by the Danaher Corporation of Illinois. 

Ohio officials say Mr. Bush actually received not 4,200 but 365 votes in that precinct.  The bonus 3,893 he got will be subtracted from the final state count.  Already subtracted, the records of the mistake which have today been excised from the Franklin County Web site.  Democrats and critics of our Rube Goldberg election processes say that it is an extraordinary coincidence that all the reports of voting machines going crazy turn out with the machines giving votes to Mr. Bush or subtracting them from Senator Kerry. 

The bulk of Democrats though appear to be looking not at last Tuesday‘s voting but that which will conclude four years from now.  Guess whose name has come up?  Asked by the “New York Daily News” if she was planning to seek the Democratic nomination in 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton responded, “I‘m having the best time being the senator from New York.” 

Since then a brief exchange with reporters, she neither announced her candidacy nor vowed she would not run.  The first sentence of the “Daily News” account read, Senator Hillary Clinton refused to squelch talk yesterday about whether she has her eyes on the White House. 

All Democrats do.  The way Napoleon had his eyes on Versailles during his banishment to Elba.

Kerry defeated, the party‘s top southern voice John Edwards without office, Tom Daschle voted out and the minority leadership left to Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the only man in that state who looks like he‘s never once been to Las Vegas.

To discuss what the Democrats do next, I‘m delighted to be joined by Jonathan Alter, senior editor and columnist at “Newsweek” and an MSNBC analyst.  John, good evening.  Good to see you.

Most of the Democratic self-criticism seems to have coalesced around this phrase, moral values.  Are we going to see them try to redefine themselves in such a way that the 2006 and 2008 campaigns literally turn out to be holier than thou? 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Absolutely.  You‘re going to see Hillary Clinton talking about what a strong Methodist she was when she was growing up.  And John Edwards will be talking about his Baptist roots and how much he likes going to church.  This is becoming just required in presidential politics.  You‘ll see the Republican candidates do it, too.  It is like having a wife, kids, and a dog.  It is part of what they need to be in these campaigns now.  To talk about their faith.  The Democrats have the stronger burden because Bush ran this guns, God and gays campaign that put a lot of pressure on the Democrats to show they have some concern about moral values. 

OLBERMANN:  You just mentioned, or I‘ve just mentioned, or Hillary Clinton in the 2008 mindset that has been active for a year, two years, 10 years.  It would seem to me that this week‘s election would almost be a warning to her and her party.  Liberal assertive female from the bluest of the blue states, run her at your risk.  Could she be repositioned enough to actually win four years from now?  Could the woman who stuck by her man be the main theme of a 2008 Hillary campaign? 

ALTER:  Right now you would think not.  It is so hazardous to be spouting conventional wisdom this point about an election four years from now.  I think if people had said, is Ronald Reagan moderate enough to win a general election, if that question was asked in the 1970s, people would say, no.  Hillary Clinton reeks of blue right now.  But it would be stupid to write her off.  She‘ll work hard to reposition herself.  And spend time in rural areas.  And John Edwards right now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) opponent, was not exactly scoring in rural areas for John Kerry.  So he can‘t argue at this point, that he would necessarily be that much better in the red states.  You could see other candidates like Mark Warner who is the governor of Virginia.  And obviously has shown that he can sell his message in a red state.  Or Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa.  Often the people we think are going to be the big candidates at this point end up fading and new names came up. 

OLBERMANN:  You just raised something that is my favorite comparison between sports and politics, that the experts, the pros in both fields have seemingly no long-term vision.  If you ask baseball writers to vote on next year‘s standing, they will always pick this year‘s winners to repeat.  The same thing in politics.  The Republicans were dead in 1964.  They were going out of business.  The Democrats were out of business already by 1988.  Is there anything really different about the position the Democratic party finds itself in today, compared to 16 years ago when they had lost three straight presidential elections? 

ALTER:  I don‘t think so.  Our long-term vision, our short-term vision, they stink in both cases.  I thought the morning of the election that John Kerry was going to win.  Obviously, we don‘t have good prognostication abilities.  You have do have to look at—I think the most interesting case is 1972 when George McGovern lost 49 states to Richard Nixon.  Four years later, Jimmy Carter comes along and wins the presidential election.  So Democrats do need to rethink.  They need to come up with a better vision.  They need to get much better at framing a message.  But they really shouldn‘t despair because the next election is winnable if they‘re willing to fight for it. 

OLBERMANN:  “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter.  A pleasure to have you with us tonight, sir.  Thanks for coming in.

While 110 million Americans voted, 12 men and women in California were preparing to vote on an entirely different matter.  Remember the Scott Peterson trial? 

And signing off.  Robert Hager and Fred Francis, two reporting giants at NBC News calling it quits after three decades each in front of our cameras and on your TVs. 


OLBERMANN:  Six men, six women contemplating the guilt of an alleged double murderer.  In theory, the question, what are they thinking?  In judicial practicality, the question, what are they wearing?  Our No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, divining the mind of a jury by any means necessary. 

As the jurors in the Scott Peterson case entered their third day of deliberations, there was open speculation that their casual attire today was an indication that they would not be reaching a verdict during the day.  On the theory that jurors who are intending to deliver a verdict dress up. 

Indeed, this Friday‘s deliberations have come and gone without any decision, despite the rigors of being sequestration.  What we do know is this, jurors asked to see some exhibits, including photos from the family‘s home taken on December 24, 2002 the day before Mrs. Laci Peterson disappeared, photos of her husband‘s fishing boat, which he admittedly used that same day and of the cement anchor the killer used, whoever that was, to weigh down bodies of Mrs. Peterson and that of her unborn child. 

To help us sift through what we have missed in this case over the past few days, I‘m joined by Jason Dearen, a court reporter for the San Mateo County Times.  He‘s been following the Peterson case since January.  And he‘s been with us several times in the past.  Jason, thanks for coming back on. 


OLBERMANN;  Every jury asks to see something a second time.  Everybody watching every jury thinks they know what those requests mean.  Do we know what this jury‘s requests mean? 

DEAREN:  Well, first of all, the requests themselves are difficult to even determine, because everything is sealed.  So all we‘re getting now are a lot of rumors, a lot of talk from bored reporters in the courtroom waiting for this verdict to come back. 

What we have heard is that they were looking at pictures of the clothes hamper yesterday.  We‘ve heard, like you reported, that there are pictures of the boat.  Again, if they wanted to see pictures of the boat, perhaps they‘re trying to see if he could indeed have used the small fishing boat to dump the body of his 150-pound wife out of it with anchors attached.  So that might be something they‘re looking at again.  Again, we‘re not sure. 

And if they were looking at the clothes hamper, they were probably—

Amy Rocha, Laci‘s sister, testified that on December 23, when she saw Laci, which was the time she was seen alive by anybody other than Scott Peterson, she was wearing a certain blouse.  That blouse was found in this hamper. 

So perhaps they‘re trying to piece together what happened on the morning of the 24th by seeing what clothes were in the hamper.  There were two or three really good photographs of the clothing. 

OLBERMANN:  The other big news, I suppose we had during this week, was Mark Geragos‘s closing statement to the jury that his client was a cad and a 14 karat blank-blank.  In saying those things, did he take a chunk out of the prosecution‘s theory of Scott Peterson‘s motive for murder?  Did it have an impact it seem? 

DEAREN:  Well, yes.  I think he‘s chipped away at their theory of the motive, if the motive was Amber, for the whole trial, showing as we talked about in a previous segment that he pointed to previous affairs that Peterson had, to show that hey, he wooed Amber Frey pretty heavily but he had done this in the past, this was something in his behavior already.  This woman wasn‘t necessarily that special. 

And also, in his closing argument, I think what he did effectively, he brought up these Internet records from the Peterson‘s home computer on the morning of the 24th where somebody at 8:48 a.m had looked at a shopping Web site.  And the items that they looked at were a Gap scarf and a sunflower motif umbrella stand.  And we know Laci had a tattoo of a sunflower on her ankle. 

So he was obviously getting at the fact that she was looking at the Internet that morning.  She was still alive.  Which the prosecutors say he killed her on December 23 or the 24th.  So that greatly reduced their time line.  And whether that‘s reasonable doubt, we don‘t know.  It was interesting. 

OLBERMANN:  Or it was a cover story.  That of course is now the jury‘s decision to make, not ours fortunately.  Jason Dearen, the court reporter for the San Mateo County Times.  I guess we‘ll check back in with you when we have a verdict.  And we thank you again for your time, sir. 

DEAREN:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  How will the jurors pass their weekend in sequestration? 

Maybe some good old fashioned pumpkin sliding?  “Oddball” is next.

And it‘s you‘re fired Friday.  The self-proclaimed ladies man not only gets the boot from “The Donald,” he can‘t even get secretary‘s number as a consolation prize.  See ya, instead of booya.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  And we pause the COUNTDOWN  to bring you our nightly selection of the strange, the scary, or the just plain stupid.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

Again, we are in Southern California, the birth place of the car chase, where Herby the Love Bug has escaped.  Checking the “Oddball” scoreboard for the year, we see it‘s cops 54, and guys who think they can outrun the cops: zippity do da. 

Maybe that should be out crawl the cops.  This guy had all the time in the world as he led the police on a slow and leisurely pursuit through beautiful downtown Long Beach, California.  Perhaps it was out of respect to that getaway car, the classic 1970‘s V.W.  Perhaps it was part of that new policy towards pursuits.  Whatever the reason, the cops followed him for over an hour with that hit maneuver.  Herby and his driver are left with just one place to go.  The big house!

No big house for these kids.  Even though cops have been trying to shut this malarkey for over 40 years, the annual pumpkin slide in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  Every year, local teens steal leftover Halloween pumpkins from all over town.  They throw the gourds on the street and then race down the gooey hill. 

Sled rules, use anything you can fit your butt into.  This year‘s selection, included tobaggans cardboard boxes, even half a smashed pumpkin.  Of course there are inherent risks in flinging yourself down a concrete slope on a piece of thin plastic, no brakes and no rear view mirror. 

Oddly enough, that pumpkins gave over 11,000 discarded votes for John Kerry. 

Finally, another electronic glitch, the Mars rover just got an unexpected power boost and nobody can really figure out how.  NASA says the solar panels on the machine on Mars have been mysteriously cleaned 2 or 3 times recently, so the rover is actually getting more energy from the sun, and thus its shelf-life is being extended.  Scientists are speculating on how that happened, but they don‘t really have a clue.  But maybe now we know where all those squeegee guys moved after Rudy Giuliani threw them out of New York City. 

Mars just about the only place these two men did not go for us.  A combined 65 years of NBC News ending tonight for Fred Francis and Robert Hager. 

And if it is Friday, it is time for “What Have We Learned?” my weekly grilling on the events of this week.  Who won the election? 

That‘s ahead.  But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day. 

No. 3, Wally Backman, on Monday, hired as the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, today, fired as the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks team.  It turns out they didn‘t know about his bankruptcy, his drunk driving or his fight with his wife.  And he didn‘t tell them.  The team name is Diamondbacks.  His name is Backman.  How many more signs did they need before they ran a background check on him? 

No. 2, Maria Iadinardi, spokesperson for Canada‘s Immigration Ministry.  Since Tuesday, you have heard all the jokes about disgruntled Democrats moving north of the border.  Ahem.  Ms. Iadinardi says that, on the average day, Canada‘s immigration Web site gets about 20,000 visitors from the U.S.  Wednesday, it got 115,000.  Even yesterday, it got 66,000.  Let‘s get out. 

And, No. 1, Michael Marshall of Marietta, Georgia, our idiot criminal of the week, walked into the Bank of America, went to the teller‘s window, told them he had a gun, demanded $500.  That‘s when the teller asked him if he had noticed all the workmen and the building inside the bank, which had no money in it because it was still under construction, moron!


OLBERMANN:  When I first got to NBC and MSNBC in 1997, there were a lot of professional thrills that I enjoyed on behalf of the 8-year-old kid who had decided to go into TV three decades earlier.  Getting to work with Tom Brokaw and anchor the weekend version of his newscast were obvious ones.  Less obvious, but no less thrilling, was to simply say, our correspondent on that scene is Fred Francis, or, Robert Hager is there live.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, these two great stalwarts of NBC News are, like Tom Brokaw, retiring.  But unlike in Tom‘s case, those of us who are proud to associate with them do not get until December 2 to say goodbye.  We have to do it tonight. 

In a moment, the career of Bob Hager as reported by, who else, Bob Hager. 

First, the career of Fred Francis as reported by one of his proteges about whom you might have heard, Katie Couric. 


FRED FRANCIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In the cars 30 or 40 years ago, you could stretch out.  They were more comfortable.  And I seem to recall That the steering wheel was not as close to my stomach. 

STEVE PIETROPAOLI, RETIRED U.S. NAVY ADMIRAL:  The quality I like most about him, his sense of humor, was also a way of disarming those he was talking to.  He‘s a very personable guy.

FRANCIS:  The city council voted 6-1 against topless bathing. 

KATIE COURIC, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Fred first joined NBC in 1975, reporting from Miami. 

FRANCIS:  His name is Studley (ph) and he no longer lives at the zoo. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With us this evening is Fred Francis of NBC News, who is just back from a tour in Lebanon. 

COURIC:  He was assigned to the world‘s hot spots, in 1976, a civil war in Lebanon, in 1983, war in Nicaragua, in 1989, the invasion of Panama, 1999, the war in Kosovo, both wars against Iraq. 

FRANCIS:  More Arabs here are now saying the U.S. must quit Iraq. 

COURIC:  Fred was as comfortable interviewing world leaders...

FRANCIS:  And what will your people do if they withdraw? 

COURIC:  As he was interacting with regular people. 

FRANCIS:  You have no protection.  Troubling? 

COURIC:  In 1988, Fred won an Emmy Award for his reporting when the USS Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner in the Persian Gulf. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Fred Francis is someone who works his sources better than any reporter I know.  He has a wonderful phrase:  I got a good source, golden. 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Fred was one of those diggers who could get facts out of the pentagon.  Oftentimes, I would see things on NBC and I would say to myself, I didn‘t know that.  I have got to check into that. 

COURIC:  And when reporting from the Pentagon during the first Gulf War, there were, of course, the books. 

PIETROPAOLI:  We all tried after a while to either decipher what message Fred was exactly sending with the prominence of the books behind his head in the booth or we would try to get our books, our particular books, down there. 

WILLIAMS:  A lot of people know the right restaurants in Paris.  Fred knew the right ones in Tehran.  Fred knew who to call, where to go everywhere in the world.  It was stunning. 

FRANCIS:  Did I really say that?  I like a good sound man. 


FRANCIS:  Fred Francis, NBC News, Atlanta. 


Rio de Janeiro.


Jonestown, Guyana.

In Northern Iraq. 


OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Fred. 

And then there is Mr. Hager, aviation expert, bad weather expert, television expert, and the most imitated reporter in the business.  Al Roker does a mean Bob Hager.  So, too, Brian Williams.  And mine was just getting into shape. 

One last report from Robert Hager on, what else?  Reporting. 


ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty-five years ago, when NBC first sent me to Vietnam, there were no satellites to transmit news, not from Vietnam, anyway, and no videotape.  We used film. 

From here, it looks a long way from a cease-fire. 

Robert Hager, NBC News, with the 199th Infantry. 

So we could only do stories that would remain newsworthy for days to allow time to ship them off by plane and then for the film to be developed. 

Nowadays, it is much different.  Covering a hurricane, for instance, it doesn‘t matter how remote the location.  A satellite truck comes right to you and videotape allows for instant playback.  Or you can broadcast live. 

The wind and the rain were still coming. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just saw a live picture of what seemed to be a portion of the building falling away. 

HAGER:  The events of one of the most momentous days in history, 9/11, mostly unfolded live on TV. 

Is it an experienced pilot, the hijacker himself, who gets the pilot out of the seat and takes over the controls to guide it in at the last minute?  We don‘t know, of course. 

(on camera):  Sometimes, TV journalists who have been around for a while lament that the news just isn‘t like it used to be.  But, in reality, the reporting skills are timeless.  It‘s who you know, what they tell you, how you write it, and how you explain it.  Meantime, the tools available today to help are light years better. 

(voice-over):  For background basics, minutes on the computer can fill you in better than what used to take days for librarians, wading through stacks of news clips or documents.  And, nowadays, if the best expert to put on camera is in Seattle but you‘re in Washington, no problem.  Interview by satellite. 

And what‘s coming is mind-boggling, tiny, unobtrusive digital cameras and wireless laptops that can quickly piece TV stories together and send them off without a satellite transmitter.  Years ago, back in Vietnam, when the plane took off with your yet-to-be-aired story still in a film can in the cargo hold, that was it.  If there were new developments, there just wasn‘t much you could do about it.  Today, that‘s all changed. 

And, as some say, the news isn‘t like it used to be.  Often, that‘s not all bad. 

Robert Hager, NBC News, Washington. 


OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Bob. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous, retirement not after 65 years in television, but 65 days, “The Apprentice” postgame show.  And it isn‘t supposed to be a reality show, but can Elton John really create a program about an aging rock star, an aging rock start, and make us believe it is make-believe?  That‘s next.

Now are here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I heard a boom which shook my bed.  And I got out of bed and ran into the living room.  And I‘ll tell you, it scared the bejeebers out of my cats, because they both went jumping off the bed. 


CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST:  Twice.  Twice as many people watched Tom Brokaw‘s coverage of the election on NBC than watched the coverage on Fox News.  That‘s true.  Apparently, the ratings for Fox News would have been higher, but Bill O‘Reilly kept asking women if he could poll them. 





OLBERMANN:  Friday on COUNTDOWN means two things, the public humiliation of “The Apprentice” and my public humiliation in the news quiz.  How could you even think of missing all that?


OLBERMANN:  Now that the presidential election is finally over, we can get back to the other candidates competing for the other top job, working for Donald Trump. 

In a moment, our regular Friday night quarterbacks, Nick and Amy, join to us to analyze tonight‘s No. 2 story. 

First, a quick recap of the latest edition of “The Apprentice.”  Both teams had to renovate homes in Long Island and turn the most profit.  We got a hint at the outcome when the Apex project manager, Raj, who is an actual real estate developer in real life, noted this was a must-win task.  He ended up getting the must see you later.  But that didn‘t stop him from trying to pick up a consolation prize on the way out, emphasis on the phrase pick up. 


DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  I think you made a lot of mistakes. 

RAJ BHAKTA, CONTESTANT:  I accept that I made mistakes. 

TRUMP:  Raj, you‘re fired.  Too many mistakes.  Go. 

BHAKTA:  So, Robin, what is your number, now that I can talk to you?

Pony up.  Come on.  Pony up.  Do you have a boyfriend? 

You know what?  I think Robin was a little intimidated and didn‘t give me her number, ultimately.  But I‘ll get it at some point. 


OLBERMANN:  My guess is, the number he eventually gets will turn out to be that of Donald Trump‘s first wife. 

To assess last night‘s show, I‘m joined once again by season one veteran Amy Henry. 

Hello, Amy.


OLBERMANN:  And Nick Warnock. 

Nick, good evening.



OLBERMANN:  All right, Nick, I‘ll start with you.  Raj was your favorite guy.  Did he kind of make a, what‘s the word I‘m looking for, an idiot out of himself last night? 

WARNOCK:  Not at all, Keith.  A great injustice was done last night.  He is one of the greatest reality TV characters of all time.  And I am thoroughly, thoroughly upset. 

OLBERMANN:  Amy, it is easy to dismiss a guy after you see an exit like that, where he is hitting on the office manager as he‘s waiting for the elevator.  But, in the context of the game, did he deserve the axe or not? 

HENRY:  Well, I believe he probably did deserve the axe in this task. 

WARNOCK:  Oh, my gosh.

HENRY:  He is a real estate developer by trade.  And he just didn‘t do a good job. 

That being said, it is really sad to see him go, because I liked the guy as well. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s move on to Ivana, who all of us expected would get canned pretty quickly, just based on her name.  Mr. Trump said she should not have been in the boardroom last night.

Amy, do you agree with him on that point? 

HENRY:  Actually, I disagree.  I think that at this stage in the game, you can‘t look at individual performances based on each task.  You have to look at the task throughout the entire job interview process.  And I think that she‘s not been a valuable contributor and, overall, should have been brought in the boardroom.  He just didn‘t articulate it well. 

OLBERMANN:  I want to play a bit more drama from the boardroom last night and see if it is predictive and get your take on it afterwards.  Here‘s the tape first. 


CHRIS RUSSO, CONTESTANT:  At the end of the day, the chemistry on this team is horrible.  It was horrible on the last three tasks.  And I‘m just telling you right now, if this team stays the same, no matter who stays or goes, we will be defeated again next week. 


OLBERMANN:  That‘s Chris. 

And do we think, Nick, that Chris might as well have just painted a big target on his back and not showed up next time? 

WARNOCK:  Well, a nice big bullseye I think would go well with a statement like that.  Who does that?  Politically, he‘s going back upstairs.  Why do you make a comment like that?  I hope this kid is gone soon, because he is not going to win this contest.  I would never hire him. 

OLBERMANN:  And, Amy, we got a hint about the gender of the firee next week in the promo.  Carolyn said, send him home.  Now, if it is a him, are you going to take a wild guess that the him is Chris? 

HENRY:  Bye-bye, Chris.  I can‘t wait.  Absolutely. 

WARNOCK:  I hope so.  I hope so.

OLBERMANN:  So we‘re unanimous on the predictions once again. 

Nick Warnock, thanks once again for your weekly illumination.  Good to talk to you. 

And, Amy Henry, great thanks to you as well.  And we‘ll see you next week.

HENRY:  Thanks.  Have a great weekend. 

WARNOCK:  Bye, Keith.  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  Never was a smoother segue to our nightly excursion into the bizarre realm of pseudocelebrity angst and antics we call “Keeping Tabs” provided. 

Not to be trumped, the flamboyant pop icon Elton John officially confirming his new television though.  Well, not really his.  He won‘t be in it, nor actually is it about him, he says.  The show is a sitcom being produced by Sir Elton for ABC about an aging rock star and the entourage paid to put up with his backstage rock-starriness. 

“It is not about me,” he told the entertainment publication “Daily Variety,” but about everybody we‘ve encountered over the past 30 years.  So you would say it was kind of like a creative lip synch, Elton.  “It is an up-market ‘Spinal Tap,‘” he added. 

You wish. 

Speaking of you wish, how often have men and women alike wished that those flimsy dresses warn by Hollywood celebrities would simply obey the rules of gravity and collapse, to the humiliation of the women who are almost wearing them?  Actress Tara Reid, unaware of the wardrobe malfunction at hand, oblivious to the numerous catcalls and whistles as the cameras snapped away, as the fabric fell away.

Her publicist finally jumping in to stave off further embarrassment.  She was among a long list of celebrity guests at the 35th birthday party for Sean “P. Diddy” Combs in Manhattan last night.  And we saw what she brought as his present.  Other luminaries in attendance, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stevie Wonder, and Janet Jackson.  That‘s a coincidence. 

Speaking of people being exposed for who they really are, yet again, my fraudulence may be revealed on national television.  We will play our news quiz “What Have We Learned?” next.  No stopping it.  It‘s too late now.


OLBERMANN:  Who won the election?  A, Ralph Nader, B, George Bush, C, Chris Matthews? 

Well, there was more to the week‘s news than just that question, although, exactly what, I‘m not sure.  But I better get bright fast.  It‘s time for the weekly humiliation at the top of the Friday COUNTDOWN, the televised pig-sticking we call:

ANNOUNCER:  “What Have We Learned?”  

OLBERMANN:  And, as always, time to concede to the genial emcee of “What Have We Learned?” the genial Monica Novotny. 

“Madam Novotini,” hello.


MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello to you and welcome to our election edition of the news quiz. 

Let‘s start by reminding viewers to head to our Web site at, where you can take the official news quiz, sign up four newsletter and even send us an e-mail with your quiz questions for next week‘s installment.

As always, we‘ll put two minutes on the clock.  If the king of Democracy Plaza answers at least half of the questions correctly, he wins a prize.  If not, there will be consequences. 

Are you ready, sir?

OLBERMANN:  The king of Democracy Plaza? 


OLBERMANN:  Joe Scarborough is here? 


NOVOTNY:  Are you ready? 



NOVOTNY:  Two minutes on the lock. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s get...


OLBERMANN:  ... here.  OK.

NOVOTNY:  Here we go. 

How much did the campaigns and their various ally groups spend on campaign advertising this season, plus or minus $20 million? 

OLBERMANN:  A dollar ninety-five.  It was 380. 

NOVOTNY:  You‘re wrong there, $600 million. 


OLBERMANN:  And I froze.

NOVOTNY:  Of that total, what percent was spent in the final week of the campaign? 

OLBERMANN:  I have no idea. 

NOVOTNY:  Also in my report. 

OLBERMANN:  No idea.  Sorry. 

NOVOTNY:  About 10 percent, $60 million.

OLBERMANN:  Zero for two.  George Bush. 

NOVOTNY:  This one comes from Teresa (ph).  How many days remaining until election 2008?

OLBERMANN:  As of right now, 1,460. 

NOVOTNY:  Yes.  One right. 

NOVOTNY:  From Janice (ph).

OLBERMANN:  That was a tough one.  That counts as more than one. 


NOVOTNY:  It does not tonight. 

South Carolina overturned the long-standing law of serving alcohol from nips.  What is the serving size in one nip bottle in ounces? 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s been described as two ounces.  Actually, it‘s 1.7 ounces. 

NOVOTNY:  You are correct. 

Who won the mayoral race in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky? 

OLBERMANN:  The—Johnny the mule. 


OLBERMANN:  Johnny the mule?

NOVOTNY:  No.  Junior, the Labrador retriever. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I was close. 

NOVOTNY:  Bonus question, how many votes did Junior get, plus or minus 100?

OLBERMANN:  Thirty-six hundred. 

NOVOTNY:  Junior took 5,000 out of 8,000. 

OLBERMANN:  I was close. 

NOVOTNY:  You‘re going down. 


NOVOTNY:  The president presented first lady Laura Bush an early birthday gift. 

OLBERMANN:  George Bush.

NOVOTNY:  What was it? 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s another one of those little Scotch annoying terriers. 

NOVOTNY:  Scotch?

OLBERMANN:  Well, it was a little terrier.

NOVOTNY:  We‘re not talking about the alcohol bottles anymore. 

OLBERMANN:  No, I know, but I‘d like to.  Do you have any of them on you?

NOVOTNY:  A Scottish terrier.  I think you might have had one already. 



NOVOTNY:  What is the puppy‘s name? 

OLBERMANN:  Miss Beazley.  Miss Beazley. 

NOVOTNY:  Give you that one.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You‘ll give me that one?  Once again, she‘s going to give me that one.


NOVOTNY:  Because I‘m feeling generous.

President Bush is the first two-term president since 1920 not to have what? 

OLBERMANN:  Since 1920?  He‘s the first two-term president who is not going to have a vice president run to succeed him, to have a line of succession. 

NOVOTNY:  An official—exactly.  Yes. 


NOVOTNY:  The immigration minister of Canadian has officially informed disgruntled American Democrats that a move north would take how long? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, it‘s time up.  I‘m not going to risk winning by giving you the answer here. 


NOVOTNY:  You‘re right.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s like a year or something like that. 


NOVOTNY:  All right, judges?  Is that a win? 

OLBERMANN:  I think I got five right. 

NOVOTNY:  Five of seven.  You seemed like you were getting so many wrong there, I thought that you might lose. 

OLBERMANN:  George Bush.

NOVOTNY:  We have the winning...


OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.

NOVOTNY:  For the winner from the winner, here we go. 

OLBERMANN:  And you know where was this is from?  Where was this from? 

Where did you find this? 

NOVOTNY:  The Republican National Convention. 

OLBERMANN:  No.  It was stolen out of my office. 

NOVOTNY:  Well, but first we found it at the Republican National Convention. 

OLBERMANN:  But then it was stolen out of my office, Monica.

NOVOTNY:  Well, there you go.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m getting gifts of things I already own.  And that‘s the entire experience of working here. 

NOVOTNY:  We‘re on a budget. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Monica. 


OLBERMANN:  Another week, another drop in my I.Q. for participating in this. 

Tune in to this next week, next time, if there is a next time or a next week, when we play: 

ANNOUNCER:  “What Have We Learned?”

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



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