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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 24

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

Guest: Richard Wolffe, Jim Kosek, Allan Havey

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  You can‘t get there from here.  The heaviest travel since 2000 and the weather is not cooperating.  And 14 percent of all travelers say they‘d like to be sitting next to Jay Leno.  Election crisis in the Ukraine.  The government certifies the Russian backed candidate.  Our government says the election results are not legitimate.  The man declared the loser calls for a national strike and says he has been poisoned twice during the campaign.  What does it profit a basketball man if he gains sales of his CD, but loseth his shoe contracts?  Ron Artest, hit not with a beer but in the wallet.  And time to count the blessings the show has received this year.  It‘s a nondenominational kind of thing.  And there‘s plenty of turkey.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  It the day you get to meet everybody who‘s  never been in an airport before.  It is the day you get to meet everybody who‘s never been on a highway before.  It is the day you get to meet everybody who‘s never been out of their own home before.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the busiest travel day of the year.  Thanksgiving eve, usually also the most mundane and tired television story of the year.  But this year, infused with real news, because the weather in much of this country is threatening to turn that holiday into thanks for nothing giving.

37,200,000 people expected to make trips of 50 miles or more by car.  In the 11 day season, around turkey day, another 16.3 million  will board flights.  This will not only be the busiest travel day of this year, but also at any time since 9/11.  But how many of these not so lonesome travelers will actually be traveling rather than just sitting around waiting?  The weather, to say the least, is not cooperating.  No one perhaps knows that better tonight than Accuweather meteorologist Jim Kosek.

Jim, good evening.  How bad is it?

JIM KOSEK, METEOROLOGIST:  Well, it is bad in some locations here.  But I got to tell you, instead of wanting to sit next to Jay Leno, how about your friendly neighborhood meteorologist if you‘re on a flight because it‘s bad out there.

Take a look at our latest doppler radar here.  Now there‘s two storms over the nation.  One northwest.  That one‘s a puppy dog.  We‘re going to say out of sight, out of mind to you, but this one along the eastern seaboard.  And it was a three-pronged attack today with severe thunderstorms, heavy rain, and yes, snow.  And it‘s because of that snow, even though it‘s winding down this hour in Chicago, delays upwards of four hours, believe it or not.  Three hours because of the rain if you‘re headed to Philadelphia.  A couple hours, Detroit, due to the snow, and the rain in Boston.  And then you got hour delays.  And this isn‘t because of the volume.  That‘s part of the problem, but the weather over in Newark, J.F.K., Laguardia, Cleveland, even down the road.

Because again, take a look at this scenario here on our map.  You still have the rain down over parts of the southeast.  Now the threat of severe weather is over.  That‘s the good news, but the rain left over from all this mess earlier on in the day is crunching down through Jacksonville and Orlando, as well as Charlotte, North  Carolina as I speak.

On the flip side of the storm, it‘s the snow.  This is much worse than any amount of rain, if you ask me.  So delays big time in through this corridor.  Although I‘m on record as saying it ends this hour in Chicago.  It‘s only ongoing for the next several hours in the motor city.  So watch out here.

Meanwhile, as we head on into Thanksgiving Day, even if you‘re going to be traveling during the morning hours, you‘re still going to have problems.  The rain won‘t be over New York City until 6:00, 7:00 in the morning.  Two, three hours after that in Boston.  So we still have the backlash.  And when you discuss winds, that‘ll be a bumpy ride as well.  30, 40 miles on the back side of this storm system.  That‘ll be brutal.

So what happens as we head on into black Friday?  Well, the east coast dries out.  It turns milder over the plains but another storm dropping away from the northwest.  Remember that puppy dog that I just mentioned?  It becomes a beast this weekend.  And sure enough, there‘s more rain and snow over the plains - Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  Accuweather Jim Kosek on the atmospheric component, the proverbial logistical nightmare.  Jim, happy  Thanksgiving. 

Now to the people component, one bit of good news for travelers.  Today, workers at Pennsylvania‘s toll booths went on strike.  Pennsylvania turnpikes free tonight only.  Meantime, our correspondent Don Teague is trying to assess just how much of a mess travel has become.  He has a good vantage point.  One of the air hubs, Atlanta - Don? 

DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.  I think you can see things have begun to clear out here in Atlanta somewhat, but travel troubles began early on many highways.  And it‘s some of the nation‘s biggest airports. 


TEAGUE (voice-over):  A miserable travel day for millions on the move.  Across much of the country, violent storms made driving dangerous and delayed or diverted flights.  At Chicago‘s O‘Hare, four-hour delays.  At Laguardia in New York, 90 minutes.  And in Atlanta, severe thunderstorms caused up to three hour delays at the nation‘s  busiest airport. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m here waiting for my sister for Thanksgiving.  And her first flight she was bumped.  The second flight was canceled.  And the third flight, we have no idea where she is. 

TEAGUE:  From Texas to Alabama, tornados killed at least three people and destroyed scores of homes, including Chuck  Graham‘s.

CHUCK GRAHAM, RESIDENT:  We‘re just not going to have a house. 

TEAGUE:  In parts of the Midwest like Kansas, up to seven inches of snow brought travel to a crawl.  Chicago, so many drivers left early to beat the snow, some highways were packed by noon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just grin and bear it. 

TEAGUE:  All this on the busiest travel day so far this year. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Too many people travel.  Look at this place. 

TEAGUE:  A record 16.3 million passengers are expected to fly over the holiday.  Add to that an estimated 31 million people traveling by car and another two million on train and buses. 


We are beyond pre-9/11 levels. 

TEAGUE:  Even with today‘s weather, and the highest average gasoline prices ever over Thanksgiving, $1.94 a gallon compared to just $1.50 last year.  Valerie Keen is driving from Los Angeles to Louisiana and knows it‘ll cost her. 

VALERIE KEEN, DRIVING OVER THANKSGIVING :  $500 is what I‘m imagining. 

Yes, it‘s a lot of money. 

TEAGUE:  But despite the costs, the weather, and the wait, for  millions the spirit of Thanksgiving makes it all worthwhile.


TEAGUE:  And tens of millions will have to do this all over again when they return home on Sunday.  Traditionally, that‘s an even busier travel day - Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Don Teague in Atlanta.  Great thanks. 

Animated gas stations.  If holiday travel is no longer over the river and through the woods, neither apparently is the traditional home cooked Thanksgiving meal.  It‘s not take-out.  It‘s super duper holiday take-out.

A firm called Fresh Market says its 44 stores along the Atlantic seaboard sold a few hundred complete Thanksgiving dinners last year for $49.95 each.  This year it reports it has sold out, thousands of them.  The spokesman says you think about Thanksgiving being the home thing.  No more, baby!  He suspects many of his company‘s customers do not tell their guests they did not cook the turkey and fixings themselves.  As Porky Pig said to Daffy Duck, chestnut dressing, cranberry sauce, the mashed potatoes and green peas, and yes, candied yams.  The yams did it.

Whether that trend owes in any way to the incarceration of the high doyen of holiday hints is unclear.  What is clear is that the only beneficiaries of perfect turkey advice from Martha Stewart tomorrow will be her fellow inmates at Alderson Federal Prison.

Everyone else got treated to a holiday e-mail posted on her website.  In it, Ms. Stewart says she is feeling fit and healthy and is being treated well by inmates and wardens.  And as she prepares to spend her first holiday behind bars, she has even found something to be thankful for.

“Visits from my friends, family, and colleagues - together with your goodwill and best wishes will get me through this chapter in my life.  For this friendship and support, I am very grateful this Thanksgiving.  P.S., thanks for all the cigarettes.  I now own the cell block. 

Also presumably mourning the loss of Martha Stewart on an interim basis, that 12 percent of people who evidently want to sit next to her on a cross country plane flight.  That data courtesy of a truly strange poll conducted by the Chase Credit card company.  It asked 239 people about their hopes and dreams when they got on board a flight.  Asked who they‘d like to have sit in the next seat, 12 percent said Martha Stewart.  30 percent said Oprah Winfrey.  Better not be in coach.

More generally, 37 percent prefer to just read during the flight.  And 66 percent are out there looking for some kind of relationship.  28 percent hope to meet a new friend while traveling.  24 percent, a new lover.  What percentage of these also answered Oprah?

14 percent want to meet a business contact, all of which might be pretty hard, considering that 70 percent of those surveyed say  they deliberately try to avoid talking to other people on a plane.  Possibly because they‘ve just been padded down or felt up by security agents at the gate.

“The Boston Herald” reporting today that at Logan Airport there, and at many other airports, TSA screeners have increased the full body touching of male and female passengers alike.  No figures given, but as the paper reports, after two Russian airliners were blown up on the same September day, presumably by women who smuggled bombs on board under their clothing, transportation safety has determined “more intensive torso searches, and women‘s breasts and the genital and buttocks regions of both sexes are not off limits.”

The “Herald quotes the TSA‘s director of northeast security, George McKara, is using the unfortunate choice of terms.  “We really need our passengers to be our partners and to think about what they‘re wearing and what they‘re packing.”  Just another reason to stay put tonight, tomorrow and over the weekend.  But tens of millions of us will not.  Maybe even you.

So let‘s give you a last few minutes things to think about here.  And maybe a few last laughs.  I‘m delighted to be joined by one of my oldest friends in this business, comedian, actor, satirist and host of the old comedy channel classic show night after night, Allan Havey. 

Allan, happy Thanksgiving.  Good to talk to you, sir.

ALLAN HAVEY, COMEDIAN/SATIRIST:  Same to you, Keith.  Good to hear you. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the supposed increase in the very personalized pat-down.  As I said, no statistics offered, but do you have any evidence to suggest this is true?

HAVEY:  I had a personal experience.  It was in Afghanistan there entertaining the troops recently.  Flew back through Frankfurt.  And a guy from Lufthansa, let‘s call him Hans, checked me for guns, knives, and testicular cancer.


HAVEY:  He - I - you know, I never had anything like this happen in the States.  This guy had his hands everywhere.  He had the deaf touch of a moil (ph). 

OLBERMANN:  Excellent. 

HAVEY:  All over me. 

OLBERMANN:  So it was not a total loss, the trip? 

HAVEY:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  This—the travel survey, I can‘t decide which is my favorite stat from it, that four percent of people pretend to be sick so they don‘t have to talk to anybody?  Or that 12 percent would like to be sitting next to Allan Greenspan?  What do you like out of this cockamamie report?

HAVEY:  Twenty-four percent say they hope to meet a significant other on an airplane.  I mean, romance in coach?  Listen, after the air and water quality we see, you know, in airplanes, the only thing you‘re going to pick up is a virus or a lesion.  I mean, to get on a flight and hope you‘ll fall in love is like joining the army for a free hair cut and a chance to hit on Christiane Amanpour.  It‘s just not going to happen. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The Martha Stewart Thanksgiving thing.  Everybody‘s real nice to her in jail.  Is this because she‘s already shown that she‘s real good at carving up turkeys?

HAVEY:  She‘s a big gal, Keith.  They‘re not going to mess with Martha.  Martha, for years, people don‘t realize this, she was chopping, mincing and mixing food in the pre-Cuisinart era.  So she has the upper body strength of Warren Sap (ph).  I don‘t think anybody‘s going to mess with her.  She has the forearms of - she makes Popeye look like Olive Oil.  No one‘s going to mess with Martha. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, ultimately, and as our last point here, everybody‘s got a Thanksgiving travel nightmare story.  If they don‘t, they‘re going to get one this weekend.  More people seem to have Thanksgiving family nightmare stories than even Christmas nightmare stories.  Yet we‘re like addicts.  We keep going back for more on Thanksgiving.  How come?

HAVEY:  People like the food.  They want to go back.  People—only your mom or your aunt can make that special stuffing.  You want to go back.  You whine and you bitch about the travels.  You‘re there for the holidays. 

Even you‘re going to make the trip, just enjoy it.  People want the food.

And a tip for plane travelers, when you see the college co-ed putting the luggage in the overhead rack because she‘s having trouble, let her go.  Don‘t help her.  It‘s better to watch than the in flight movie.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.  Allan Havey, soon to be appearing in the new film, “Wild Things, Part II,” lately of “Curb your Enthusiasm.”  And when he‘s not a guest on whatever show I‘m hosting, I‘m a guest on whatever show he‘s hosting.  Good to talk to you, my friend.  Happy holidays. 

HAVEY:  Same here.  Happy Thanksgiving, buddy. 

OLBERMANN:  Take care, Allan.

Ron Artest‘s holiday wish is for Americans to move on.  It seems some are listening.  Naming his sponsors.  And the election nightmare in the Ukraine.  The government certifies a winner.  And the United States says no, we think it was actually the other guy.  Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  In marketing, especially sports marketing, a high value is placed on street cred, slang for an athlete pitchman‘s perceived toughness, emphasis on perceived.  The real kind, the kind in which you go diving into the stands to beat up fans, that‘s not valued at all.

Tonight, nobody knows that better than Ron Artest.  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, legal matters of all sorts, starting with the guy already being sued by two of those fans and now being dropped by two sporting goods companies.  D Apparel, a smaller maker of headbands, says it was already thinking of ending its deal with the embattled Indiana Pacer player, when he asked for time off from this season to go promote his rhythm and blues CD.

Now says its marketing director, we‘re not using him anymore.  Meantime, the shoe company L.A. Gear has pulled images of Artest  from its website while it reportedly makes up its mind whether or not to cancel its deal with him.  Artest has also been dropped from a planned NBA promotional ad that was to be filmed by Spike Lee.  Not that somebody isn‘t going to make money off this as the late great sports writer Wells Trombley once put it, “in sports, larceny abhors a vacuum.”

What the seller claims is the cup that contained the beer hurled at Artest last Friday night in Detroit was briefly put up for bid on Ebay.  When somebody bid $99.9 million, the seller canceled the bidding.  He also answered a question with, no, the handwriting on the cup is not Ron Artest‘s.

Police say they don‘t have the actual cup in custody as some kind of piece of evidence.  One of them telling “The Detroit News” “being able to authenticate the cup as the one would be next to impossible.”

From an adult‘s ridiculous brawl, to a student‘s mystifying attack, a 15-year-old boy attacked seven of his classmates at Indiana‘s Valparaiso high school with a machete and a serrated knife today.  One remains hospitalized for observation.  The others are already home.

Shortly before 8:00 a.m., the unidentified high school freshman, described as a very good A and B student asked his Spanish teacher to close the classroom door.  The boy then began his attack, only to be subdued in the hallway by four school administrators.  At a news conference this afternoon, the city‘s mayor focused on the end of the incident, and not its beginning. 


JOHN COSTAS, VALPARAISO MAYOR:  The four school administrators who risked injury to stop the aggressor are heroes.  We are especially grateful that a more egregious outcome was avoided. 


OLBERMANN:  It was the incomprehensible act of another young man that nearly changed the world in 1981.  Ronald Reagan‘s would-be assassin John Hinckley in court again, seeking unsupervised overnight stays with his parents.  A federal judge has today denied that motion, but Hinckley can have up to six overnight stays under very controlled circumstances in hotels, where they all stay in one suite.  And if he leaves that suite for any reason, one of his parents has to go with him.

If Hinckley‘s legal situation seem confusing, Florida has another case as complicated and as emotionally polarizing as the Terry Schiavo saga.

As our correspondent Mark Potter reports from Orlando, the question before a court is which has precedence?  A terminally ill man‘s statement that he didn‘t want to have his life prolonged by machine or his wife‘s plea that she cannot bear to see him die? 


MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Alice Penett (ph) came to court to argue that her terminally ill husband should be kept alive, despite doctors who say he should be taken off life support. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To me, that‘s killing a man.  And I cannot do that and live with me. 

POTTER:  For most of this year, 73-year-old Hank Penett (ph) has been hospitalized on life support after congestive heart failure.  In 1998 when he was healthy, Penett (ph) signed a living will, saying if he became terminally ill, that life prolonging procedures be withheld or withdrawn. 

(on camera):  Under Florida law and in other states, it‘s up to doctors to decide if the conditions of a living will have been met, that the patient is mentally incapacitated and terminally ill.

(voice-over):  In Hank Penett‘s (ph) case, the hospital says the time has come and that it has no choice but to honor his will. 

DAVID EVANS, ORLANDO REGIONAL HEALTHCARE ATTORNEY:  Mr. Penett (ph) is in a terminal condition.  He does not have the capacity to make his own decisions at this time. 

POTTER:  But complicating the matter is that Penett (ph) also gave his wife Alice the power of attorney over his healthcare.  And she says he is still mentally aware and can communicate by moving his lips and head. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He wants to live.  He wants to go home. 

POTTER:  Kenneth Goodman, a medical ethicist with the University of Miami, says it all boils down to one question. 

KENNETH GOODMAN, ETHICIST:  Is this patient incapacitated or not?  If he is not, then we ask him what he wants and what he doesn‘t want.  If he is, then we have to follow the living will. 

POTTER:  At the end of the hearing, Alice Penett (ph) got bad news.  A judge ruled the living will should be honored.  And life support for the man she married 52 years ago will be withdrawn. 

Mark Potter, NBC News, Orlando. 


OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the disparity between the presidential exit polls and the actual vote has the Ukraine on the brink of a general strike.  And it has Colin Powell announcing the U.S. thinks the exit polls were right.  And we‘ve already shown you the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese.  Now her son shows up in another culinary mystery.  Will the Vatican ever break its silence on this?  Oddball is next.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and just in time to pause the COUNTDOWN for a quick bit of holiday cheer.  A couple of weird stories you can use at the dinner table tomorrow to guide the conversation away from Uncle Leo‘s drinking problem.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”  We begin with an update on our old pal Red the Dog.  You may remember Old Red.  He was caught on British dog pound security cameras, breaking out of his own cage, then unlocking all the other dogs‘ cages and setting them free as well.  One little doggy anarchist looking for a home.

Well, he finally found one.  The now famous Red has been adopted by a loving British family, which marveled at his ability to let himself out.  Then irony overtook them.  There was no problem keeping Red in.  The problem was Red locked them out.  The family allowed cameras from a local tabloid to record this scene after they left the home recently.  Red made sure they‘re gone, then jumps to the door and locks it.

Later, citing an obscure British squatter‘s law that applies to dogs, Red claimed the home for himself.  And as the family huddled for safety in the yard, Red announced release the hounds.

And were you one of the losing bidders in the auction for that holy grilled cheese sandwich, the one with the image of the Virgin Mary on it that we told you about last night?  Well, after a run of imposters made its way onto Ebay, one has emerged from the pack from the holy Mary grilled cheese is born.  Jesus on a fish stick.  Wow!

Fred Juan of Kingston, Ontario in Canada says he‘s been holding on to baby for over a year since he first noticed that the face merged into the fish on the left in this picture and immediately identified it as the son of cod.  He says he‘s a true believe.  Well, we can see he is a lousy cook.

But with the Virgin Mary snatching more than $28 grand in casino money, it may be time for Juan to put Jesus for work for him and put it up for auction.  It hasn‘t been done yet.  I don‘t care if it rains or freezes, long as I‘ve got my fish stick Jesus, riding on the dashboard of my car.

Washington state has voted, counted, and now recounted.  After all that, after 2.8 million votes, the two candidates for governor are separated by 42 of them.

And huge election problems in the Ukraine, triggering a global political crisis hours after the winner is declared.  The U.S. says fix it however you like, but you have anointed the wrong president.  Those stories ahead.

Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers.  Number three, our old pal Michelle Malkin.  Her column has been dropped by the newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia, because in the words of one of the editors, readers often took issue with her seemingly mean-spirited rantings.  An editorial writer said she ads absolutely nothing to genuine political discourse.  Before you get all lefty, righty on me, the same newspaper last month dropped the column of the liberal writer Molly Ivans.

Number two, the bandaged bandit.  A woman in her mid 50‘s wearing a big band-aid as she robs banks in Portland, Oregon.  Police bandied about the theory that the bandaged bandit might have played a bandied like band leader in the movie “Bandelera.”

And number one, Sponge Bob Square Pants.  The giant blow-up version of the TV cartoon character stolen from the top of Burger King in Little Falls, Minnesota.  A ransom note has been found on the scene.  It reads, “We have Sponge Bob.  Give us 10 crabby patties, fries, and milk shakes.  Signed, Plankton.  P.S., Patrick is next.”  Hurray.


OLBERMANN:  Before decision 2004 is officially over, the number of recounts in the state of Washington might exceed the number of votes the eventual winner wins by. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, hope that maybe the third time will be the charm.  Maybe it will finally give that state a governor-elect, this after the recount completed today showed the Republican beating the Democrat by 42 votes, 42 votes out of 2.8 million.  Also, the inventor of exit polling defends his baby.  And the extraordinary story of the presidential election in the Ukraine gets more extraordinary still today. 

But we start with vote counting, now entering its fourth week in this country. 

Our correspondent is Chip Reid. 


CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In Ohio, they‘re still counting the votes.  And when they finish, officials say, they‘ll probably start recounting.  Why?  Because Ohio law allows any losing candidate to demand a recount. 

Senator John Kerry has not requested one, conceding that a recount won‘t change the fact that President Bush won.  But two other presidential candidates have asked for a recount.  They got less than 1 percent of the Ohio vote combined, but there‘s little anyone can do to stop them. 

MICHAEL BEDNARIK, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We want to do an investigation and determine whether or not there were things happening behind the scenes that shouldn‘t have been. 

REID:  Irate officials predict the recount could take until Christmas and cost the state $1.5 million. 

KEITH CUNNINGHAM, OHIO ASSOCIATION OF ELECTION OFFICIALS:  I am not disputing their right to a recount.  I am disputing their abuse of process in a situation where there is no compelling reason to recount these votes. 

REID:  In Washington state, another recount in the race for governor.  Today, officials declared Republican Dino Rossi the winner by a scant 42 votes after a recount by machine.  But Democrat Christine Gregoire is now expected to ask that the votes be recounted again, this time by hand, a process that could take weeks. 

In Indiana, it‘s a fight for a seat in Congress.  Republican challenger Mike Sodrel won in a squeaker.  But the incumbent, Democrat Baron Hill, protested that voting machines in three counties may have malfunctioned.  A recount is schedule to begin Monday. 

And, in Louisiana, two congressional seats are still up in the air with run-off elections set for December 4.  Deforest Soaries of the U.S.  Election Assistance Commission says the good news is that all of these late races are governed by clear laws and rules. 

DEFOREST SOARIES, CHAIRMAN, U.S. ELECTION ADVISORY COMMISSION:  The fact that there are still some elections to be determined does not represent a breakdown in the system.  It in fact represents the system working. 

REID (on camera):  Not perfectly, he concedes, but a far cry from the meltdown in Florida four years ago, when no one knew the rules. 

Chip Reid, NBC News, Washington. 


OLBERMANN:  But in Daytona Beach, Florida, it is either the mother of all nuisance suits or the tip of a voting iceberg, a lawsuit filed seeking to set aside the results of balloting in Volusia County on November 2 and possibly to vote all over again there. 

A private citizen named Susan Pinchon (ph) has sued over the race for supervisor of elections, claiming it was based on—quote—“inadequate and incomplete information regarding election results.”  Though focused on one obscure local balloting, the suit asks that all general election results in that county be overturned, senator, president, you name it.  Though Ms. Pinchon filed the suit, its basis is research done by Bev Harris, the founder of the watchdog group Black Box Voting. 

She says the copies of the voting machine audit tapes the county provided tape to her are incomplete for 59 of the county‘s precincts.  “We‘re not accusing anyone of fraud,” says the plaintiff, Pinchon.  “At the very least, I would say there‘s been gross negligence and ineptitude.”  The county‘s elections supervisor says she has volunteered to do a recount. 

Meantime, one of the men who ran the national exit polling for the networks and wire services on election night has stridently defended his group‘s efforts.  In an unsolicited e-mail to this program, Warren Mitofsky of Mitofsky International, who virtually invented the process, objected to what he described as the misinformation presented about the exit polls last night on COUNTDOWN.

“The exit polls have been better in the past,” he wrote.  “They were far from perfect, but nowhere near as bad as your broadcast made them sound.”

I had referred to the now infamous or famous variance among the early exit polls, the final exit polls, and the actual voting.  Mr. Mitofsky said there were no early exit polls, only early leaks.  “The early release came from unauthorized leaks to bloggers, who posted misinformation,”  he wrote.

Mitofsky did not refer to our guest last night, pollster John Zogby.  But it was he did not share Mr. Zogby‘s perception of the status of the exit polls. 


JOHN ZOGBY, PRESIDENT & CEO, ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL   I don‘t think that exit polls can be used as a barometer for the accuracy of an election itself, at least until we find out if there‘s something broken with this round of election polls. 

I think that the gentleman who are responsible for the exit polls should be fully transparent, release their data, discuss their methodology.  Let us see exactly what it is that happened and why it happened. 


OLBERMANN:  But in his e-mail, Mitofsky indicated he didn‘t think anything that happened.  “The leakers did not understand what they were reading.  And the bloggers did not know they were getting misinformation.  All the professionals correctly interpreted the numbers.”

While Zogby spoke of a blue-ribbon panel to investigate both the voting irregularities and the exit polling, Mitofsky asked rhetorically:

“Did anyone really think that 51 percent in an exit poll two hours before the voting was finished in the Western states gave Kerry a lock on the presidency”?  Only the unauthorized leakers and bloggers were misled, a fate they richly deserved,” he writes.

We‘ll continue to follow the exit polls, the voting irregularities, the recounts and everything else as developments warrant on our Web site, Bloggermann, at

Incredibly, an extreme variation between exit polls and official voting results is one reason Secretary of State Colin Powell today described the presidential election in the Ukraine as a—quote—

“fraud.”  The most authoritative exit poll in Kiev have put the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko‘s margin of victory at 54 percent to 43 percent.  But, instead, today, the current prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, was certified the winner with 49.46 percent of the vote to Yushchenko‘s 46.61.  That‘s a 14-point swing from the exit polling. 

For the third straight day, hundreds of thousands are protesting in the streets.  A general strike might be imminent, a coup d‘etat, perhaps, break-off with relations with the West, and an investigation into claims that Yushchenko was poisoned twice. 

Our report is from Penny Marshall of our affiliated British network



PENNY MARSHALL, ITV REPORTER (voice-over):  Poised for revolution, the streets of Kiev are frozen in a tense and dangerous standoff. 

Thousands are still surrounding the presidential palace.  They will still not accept this afternoon‘s confirmation of the election results.  The official winner is this man, Viktor Yanukovych, already Ukraine‘s prime minister.  But Western observers agreed the poll was rigged to make him president. 

This afternoon, the official loser, Viktor Yushchenko, told his supporters he wanted a rerun election.  To so many on the streets, it is a dangerous end to a dirty campaign.  Yushchenko allege that twice his political enemies tried to kill him, poisoning him in September.  This is him before it happened.  Now his face is hideously scarred. 

Politically, Ukraine is split down the middle between those looking to east to Russia and those who look to Europe.  Yanukovych derives his support from the East.  Yushchenko‘s support is in the more prosperous West.  On the streets of Kiev, there‘s talk of revolution and echoes of the Cold War.  Ukraine has oil reserves, so Moscow and Washington care about what happens there.  Tonight, Washington has intervened. 

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse. 

MARSHALL:  This afternoon, the politicians in Kiev have been seeking a compromise.  But, with so much at stake, any power-sharing deal may not satisfy the tens of thousands on the streets of the Ukrainian capital tonight. 

Penny Marshall, ITV News.


OLBERMANN:  To assess the situation there and our response here, I‘m joined by Richard Wolffe, the diplomatic correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.

Mr. Wolffe, good evening.  Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN:  Does anybody know how this is going to play out? 

WOLFFE:  I don‘t think so. 

It‘s everything from civil war and the breakup Ukraine to essentially the status quo.  Remember, it‘s very cold there out there.  There are only an estimated 200,000 protesters.  And clearly, the man who claims to be president-elect thinks he can sit it out. 

OLBERMANN:  Secretary Powell‘s statement today, firstly, how unusual is it for a U.S. government to say anything like what he said today? 

WOLFFE:  Exceptionally unusual.  And it puts the United States and the Bush administration in a very awkward position, because if Yanukovych stays as president, then how will the Bush administration deal with a leader that we‘ve already said is illegitimate and a fraud?  Very, very awkward. 

And more awkward still is the relationship with Russia, which is really why we care about Ukraine.  As important as the Ukraine people are, really, it is the relationship with Russia and its backing of the man who claims to be president-elect.  That throws open the whole relationship between Moscow and Washington. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I was going to ask if this is not, in some degree, an international proxy fight, that it‘s not about the U.S. and a Ukrainian president, but since he is backed by the Russians, if it is not really the U.S. and the Russian president, really. 

WOLFFE:  Well, it is and it isn‘t. 

Clearly, there is that tension there.  But this isn‘t the Cold War.  In a way—Condi Rice, the new secretary of state, likes to say that the post-Cold War era ended with 9/11.  Well, it looks pretty much from what‘s happening in the Ukraine like we‘re still in the post-Cold War era.  We don‘t know what the shape of the old Soviet Union is going to be, whether these countries hold together, and what shape Russia and what influence Russia will have. 

That‘s what we‘re talking about here, whether Russia maintains its influence over these states on its borders and even republics at its periphery, like Chechnya. 

OLBERMANN:  One small-picture question.  And I guess anybody who saw this for the first time, these pictures of Mr. Yushchenko, must just be resonating the before and after.  Is there credibility to his claim that he was poisoned?  Has this actually happened?  Or is this some sort of a stunt? 

WOLFFE:  Well, he‘s claimed it.  And, you know, the reports of fraud at least have been taken very seriously, not just in this round of the presidential election, but also a few weeks ago, in the first round. 

I don‘t know whether the poisoning is accurate or not.  But you‘ve got to be suspicious about an election where you have immense interference by foreign power, which is Russia, spending hundreds of millions in this election.  There are too many things that just don‘t pass the smell test. 

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek”‘s diplomatic correspondent, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

WOLFFE:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Insurgents strike back in Iraq, a roadside bomb in Mosul and a State Department worker gunned down in Baghdad. 

And they were the mainstays of must-see TV.  Now a second member of “Friends” has a new show in the works.  Do you even remember the first one? 


OLBERMANN:  The latest headlines from Iraq, including what is called Operation Plymouth Rock.  And later, COUNTDOWN counts its blessings, our favorite stories of this year. 


OLBERMANN:  Operation Plymouth Rock, the new official name of the push to root out insurgents in the Sunni triangle, thus called in honor of Thanksgiving.

Our No. 2 story tonight, on the ground in Iraq, in Baghdad, a U.S.  civilian official working for the State Department assassinated inside the Green Zone.  Outside the Green Zone, gunmen attacked an Iraqi military truck, set it ablaze.  A roadside bomb damaged a U.S. convoy in a canal.  But no one was injured.  Not the case in Mosul, where a roadside bomb attack caught on tape wounded one U.S. soldier. 

Elsewhere in that city, the body count adding up.  Now five more discovered in the Western part of Mosul.  Troops had already found the bodies of 10 Iraqi soldiers, nine of whom had been shot execution style.  Five others, four of whom had been beheaded, still have not been identified. 

And a strange case of possible plagiarism meeting terrorism.  Someone took an old audiotape of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi criticizing Saudi clerics, edited the thing so it sounds like he is criticizing Iraqi clerics, and posted in on an Islamic Web site.  No word yet on who made that tape, or reedited tape, nor any possible motive. 

From the all-too-real headlines of war to the all-too-unreal headlines of Hollywood, it is our nightly celebrity round-up, “Keeping Tabs.”

And it begin with art imitating life.  Just like all the other stars of all the other ensemble sitcoms, Lisa Kudrow has found professional life after “Friends” unfriendly.  So she has now signed to star in and be the executive producer of a new 14-episode HBO series called “The Comeback.”  In it, she plays a former sitcom star trying to revive her career.  This is not a documentary.  Repeat, this is an documentary. 

The next Britney Spears documentary could feature three stars, the singer, her husband and their child.‘s Jeannette Walls reporting that Spears has posted a message on her subscription-only Web site in which she extols the virtues of having children while you‘re young.  Actually, she rambles on so much that a lot of Britney watchers conclude she must be pregnant. 

Spears writes, it is important to be a youthful mom, like her own, who

·         quote—“looked sexy in her black sex when she went to church and would come home and put on her size two shorts and a bikini top to wash the car and get a tan at the same time”—unquote.  These things, I believe. 

I believe, too, it is time for the COUNTDOWN to count its blessings, from goofy campaigns to the falafel of confessionals—next. 


ANNOUNCER:  The following COUNTDOWN stories contain graphic material of a revealing nature about a jolly old fat man in a red suit from the North Pole.  Small children and elves should leave the room immediately.

OLBERMANN:  You were warned, parents. 

We think of Thanksgiving as having originated with Pilgrims and Native Americans.  We‘re off by a couple centuries in one direction and a couple of millennia in the other. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, harvest time feasts of thanks go back to the ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, ancient Chinese.  But our national Thanksgiving only dates to 1863, when it was proclaimed by President Lincoln. 

That history out of the way, a few things for which the staff and management of this program are grateful. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We are grateful we do not all have children attending Saint Pius X School in Santa Fe Springs, California.  That‘s where, during a mass for kids in the kindergarten, first, second and third grades, the Reverend Rubin Rocha (ph) repeatedly told them there is no Santa Claus. 

Asked by one girl, well, then who eats the milk and cookies I leave out for Santa, the helpful reverend replied, your parents.  No, no lawsuits, not yet. 

And we‘re grateful that we‘re not signed up for the latest scheme from the Target chain store.  To remind you to get to its post-Thanksgiving sale, it is offering special wakeup phone calls featuring the recorded voices of celebrities or funny characters like Ice T, Cheech Marin, Heidi Klum, or a crying baby, a mini-diva, or a woman with a cat.  How about Heidi Klum with a cat? 


OLBERMANN:  And, of course, we‘re grateful to the gods of news who give us all this weird stuff we get to share with you each night.  And, shortly as we pay tribute to those strange stories and the beings that bring them to us, you‘ll be grateful, too, grateful that I do not do segments in rhyme every night.


DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  I don‘t know when the countdown started, but I‘ve been watching.   

Hurricane Ivan, you‘re fired. 

Is that OK? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The death tax will eventually come back to life. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Perry (ph), can you tell us how old you are today? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m 82 years old. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Eighty-two years young might be a better way to put it. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Particularly were we blessed.  In this election year, the well never ran dry as the big day grew near.  On one side, the senator, flip-floppy, aloof, on the other, the president, the cowboy, maybe goof. 


DR. PHIL, HOST:  Were you all spankers.  Did you spank them? 

G. BUSH:  Not really.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  Not very often.


OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Mr. Kerry.  You took dorkitude to new heights. 

Thank you, Mr. President, for those first-rate sound bites. 

BUSH:  You need some wood? 

OLBERMANN:  And let us give thanks for the primary circus and the 10 little Democrats in each of their quirkus.  Yes, I said quirkus.  Thanks, John, John.  Thanks, Dennis.  Thanks, Joe, Bob and Carol, Mr. Gephardt, the good reverend and the Democrat general.  You all gave so much to the political machine, but one man gave more still. 

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  All right.  Which has more bacteria in it, dog pee or water from the river? 

OLBERMANN:  Ladies and gentlemen, Howard Dean!

We give thanks for our lifeblood, a steady diet of absurd, the strange news, celebrities, a Barbie leg on a bird, the oddballs, the goofballs, the weirdos, the strange, the guy with the stomach full up with loose change.



OLBERMANN:  Break-dancing with the pope, a horse drinking beer, and oh, yes, Ralph Nader.  Was he in it this year?

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Neither George W. Bush, nor John Kerry have an exit strategy. 

OLBERMANN:  To the masters of science and brand-new technologies, strange animals of all kinds and freaks of biology, the toilet of the future. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The wash lid provides gentle aerated warm water cleansing.  

OLBERMANN:  A machine that kicks butts, monks and in the state Capitol kicking heaven knows what.  Pinky (ph) the cat and the poor schmoe in flannel and the guy who sells swords on the Home Shopping Channel. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the nice thing about these practice katanas—

Ow!  Oh!  That hurt. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Michael and Courtney and Britney and Martha and all our dumb criminals, who just ain‘t that smart-ha. 

DONNELL WINSTON, CHARGED IN BANK ROBBERY:  I‘m a drug dealer, not a bank robber.  I‘m the one with the drugs.  I‘m the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) drug dealer.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for that wonderful song that Robert Blake sung and the man, the myth, the legend that is William Hung. 

WILLIAM HUNG, SINGER:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks to our good friends at Fark and the folks SmokingGun.commed, without whom there would be no photos when Macaulay Culkin got bombed.  Worse yet, we might have missed this year‘s creepiest story of that guy over on Fox in of all his glory. 

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Obviously, they have major problems over there.

OLBERMANN:  One day, we may lose that awful image and subsequent waffle of Bill O‘Reilly in the shower holding his falafel. 

And to my wonderful staff, who share in the successes and the blame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We just love him.

OLBERMANN:  I would thank you each personally, if I could remember your names. 

But on this Thanksgiving in this time of plenty, we‘re thankful most to you, our viewers, all 20. 


OLBERMANN:  So, happy Thanksgiving to you, feasting on turkey or roast duck, from the show with stories so odd, it‘s making you say, good night and good luck. 



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