Guest: Dana Milbank
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The great Social Security reform debate: Republicans vs. Republicans?
Jeff Gannon vs. Tom Daschle, how the infamous nonreporter was used to legitimize dubious stories during that furious South Dakota Senate race. And his previous employer has been identified. Before Talon News, a division of GOPUSA, there was GOPUSA News.
The prisoner abuse photos, not these from Abu Ghraib, the ones from Afghanistan, the ones the Army allegedly destroyed.
Last month‘s California commuter train disaster, this was not a suicide attempt. What it was, was even more disturbing.
And attack of the killer turkeys?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s chasing me. I can‘t get out of the car without it following me.
OLBERMANN: Wild turkey, and not the good kind.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s a huge turkey.
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
Often, the loyal or not-so-loyal opposition does more damage in the long run. But two-term chiefs, from Thomas Jefferson to William Jefferson Clinton, could tell you that, in the first months after the reelection, the biggest pains in your presidential butt can be from your own party.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, add George W. Bush to list of those who could tell you that. Tonight, there are more ramifications from the Jeff Gannon story, one of them bouncing back at the Republicans because Gannon‘s connection to the successful unseating of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle.
And then there‘s a more conventional rift. The president‘s latest offer to compromise on Social Security has been blasted by the speaker of the House and the House majority leader. Mr. Bush proposed eliminating, or at least increasing, the ceiling on the Social Security tax. Right now, that 12.4 percent comes out of your first $90,000 of income.
If you‘re lucky enough to have a second $90,000 of income, or even $9 more of income, none of that is taxed. The president says he is open to changing that. The top two congressional Republicans, however, are not, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stated bluntly the proposal would be dead upon arrival on Capitol Hill because, he says, it is—quote—“a tax increase. That would not fly, not at all,” he says, with his caucus.
Speaker Hastert slightly more conciliatory, but not much, adding that a higher cap is not something he would have done himself, but he says the soup‘s not done yet. Good thing the president claims the Republican leadership is not his target audience anyway. According to the president, any strong-arming should be done by the American public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can‘t cram an issue down people‘s throats. As a matter of fact, the best way to get this issue addressed in the halls of Congress is for the American people to say, why don‘t we come together and do something? And so the first priority of mine is to convince the people we have a problem. And I‘m going to do that a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Sounds like a promising start for a compromise.
Joining me now to try to figure out this situation and that bigger second-term firing-squad-in-a-circle effect is MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, who, among his many other credits, is the author of “Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency.”
Good evening, Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: I‘m not bad, but I‘m a little confused by this. No, we are not going to do that, says Mr. Delay. This would be something of a nonstarter in terms of a compromise. Is it?
BUCHANAN: Oh, well, listen. If the president of the United States goes for a dramatic increase in the base of the Social Security tax, say, from $90,000 to $140,000, that‘s $6,200 for every upper middle-class employee in the United States. And the Republican Caucus, that‘s their base. They are not going to do it.
The president of the United States will not get. And the Democrats are not going to go for any benefit restriction or reduction or rearrangement. I think the president better—if he is looking at this kind of—which is a tax increase, I think he better look again.
OLBERMANN: Presumably, he understands the dynamic that you just explained.
OLBERMANN: A cynic might look at it and say, well, maybe there‘s premeditation here. Mr. Bush says, yes, this is how much I want to reform Social Security. I will compromise. I will raise the cap on this tax, whereupon his hard-liners in the House say, oh, no, you won‘t, and the cap does not get raised, but, at the end of it, Mr. Bush still gets brownie points for seeming to have been willing to compromise.
BUCHANAN: You know, I—you know, maybe, perhaps.
But I‘ll tell you, the president will not get a tax increase through the House of Representatives. When this gets over to the Senate, he may need something like that. This may be too clever by half. I was at the Conservative Political Action Committee today. They have 4,000 conservatives in town, Keith, and they were talking about a genetic disorder in the Bush family of, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” and then breaking the pledge.
BUCHANAN: And all I can hear was pitchforks sharpening upstairs. So, this one is—this may be too clever by half for our folks.
OLBERMANN: Well, as promised, that segues us perfectly into the bigger picture.
Pat, it doesn‘t matter the president, the party, liberal, conservative, decade, century. This is still now a perfect record. The start of every second term, the president has had the most trouble, at least in the first few months, maybe the first year, from people in his own party. It is so counterintuitive. Why is it a fact that spans generations?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know.
I was in the Nixon White House. And our second term did not work out well. And I was in Reagan‘s White House in his second term. And Iran-Contra hit him, whereas it was Nixon—it was Watergate for Nixon.
With his own party, I think the reason is—and a friend told me that he belongs to the bleeding lip club—he‘s a conservative Republican on the Hill—which meant that he had been biting his lip all during late through Bush‘s first term, voting for things he did not want to vote on, like Medicare, prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind.
But now that that is behind him and the president is reelected, they can be their true selves. And that Republican Caucus up there in the House, Keith, that is a conservative caucus.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan, as always, sir, thanks for enlightening us. And thanks for staying late with us.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Have a good weekend.
Meanwhile, the James Guckert-Jeff Gannon scandal mutated all over the place today. A Texas radio producer claims she heard the memorable phrase Shock and Awe to describe the dimension of the initial bombing campaign in Iraq from Gannon before it was ever used by Pentagon spokesmen and generals. The White House press office confirmed the original credentials it issued Guckert bore as his media affiliation GOPUSA.
And tonight, Guckert denied to a news magazine that he was going to do a television interview. And an hour later, he was recording the television interview.
As to Gannon‘s inside knowledge of the catchphrase from March 2003, the news industry magazine “Editor & Publisher” quotes producer Susan Farris of San Antonio radio station KTAS as saying she regularly got amazing tips for her conservative talk show from Gannon, including that Shock and Awe would be used to qualify and quantify the opening air raids on Baghdad even before the Pentagon used that phrase.
“I said, how do you have such great sources? And he just laughed it off,” Farris is quoted as saying. “Now we all know how.”
The current White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, also confirmed to “Editor & Publisher” that Guckert‘s first White House credentials were under the auspices of GOPUSA, the Web site co-owned with Talon News by Texas activist Bobby Eberle. McClellan says a White House press credential staffer thought that GOPUSA was a news organization.
Since the controversy of credentials and credibility enveloped him, Gannon‘s articles have been scrubbed from both Web sites, but they still exist in cyberspace, courtesy search engine snapshots, like this one from January 15, 2003, more than two months before owner Eberle created Talon News. It about a piece attributed to Gannon about a briefing from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. And Gannon is identified with the byline, “Jeff Gannon, GOPUSA N-E-W-S.”
Meantime, Guckert-Gannon was also today linked to the blog-for-pay element in the 2004 South Dakota senatorial election. Two in-state bloggers ceaselessly attacked incumbent Democrat Tom Daschle. They later proved to have been receiving cover payments from the campaign of Republican challenger John Thune.
A Joe Conason article on the Web site Salon points out that Guckert wrote literally dozens of pieces for Talon News about Daschle. One used quotes from unidentified sources to accuse Daschle‘s staff of—quote—
“Sopranos-style politics,” including threats against small business owners or employees.
Another challenged Daschle‘s legal residency in South Dakota. And
most of them attacked a Sioux Falls political reporter on the basis that he
· quote—“collaborated with Democrats.”
The Gannon articles were then echo-chambered on to the two anti-Daschle blogs that later turned out to have been partially funded by the Republican campaign. And a year ago this month, now Senator John Thune was an unlikely guest on Guckert‘s obscure Internet radio program.
Speaking of guesting, while Guckert was telling “Editor & Publisher” today that he wanted to tell his story, but would not yet, he was recording an interview that appeared on CNN in its 7:00 p.m. Eastern time hour tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF GANNON, FORMER TALON NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I can‘t speak to the
White House vetting process. All I can say is that they received all of
the information that was asked for, that they ask every journalist for who
applies for a daily pass into the White House. I suppose that they don‘t -
· they aren‘t interested in reporters‘ sexual history either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Guckert complained to “Editor & Publisher” that his side of the story had not been reported in the media. “One of the frustrating parts,” he said, “has been that everyone has been willing to say things and not make the effort to speak with me.”
Reminded by the magazine that, on Monday, he had said he would no longer talk to the media, Guckert replied, “Does that mean they don‘t try to talk to me?” Guckert did not explain why he turned down half-a-dozen invitations to appear on this program. And, in his interview, he again said that he used an alias only because the name James Guckert is so difficult to pronounce.
Hi. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Joining us now is Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” until recently, its White House correspondent and thus one of the eyewitnesses to Guckert.
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: He was just asked if he was a White House plant and he said, absolutely not. But this whole provenance of Talon News, the other Web site it GOPUSA. Then there was an intermediate entity, GOPUSA News. Which is more plausible, that some deputy, assistant deputy in the White House room says, oh, GOPUSA, I think that‘s a CBS television affiliate and issues him credentials, or that Talon News was created because somebody said to somebody, “Ixnay on the GOPUSA ewsnay.”
MILBANK: Well, we do sort of know how this happened.
Ari Fleischer is on record saying he had some doubts about Gannon‘s credibility and whether this was a genuine news outlet or an advocacy group. He went to Gannon‘s boss, Eberle, and decided it was OK. Sometime around this time, perhaps even exactly at this time, is when GOPUSA sprung off Talon News.
When I met Guckert-Gannon, his pass said GOPUSA. So, he has morphed into Talon News, but indeed that does sound a little bit better than GOPUSA.
OLBERMANN: Two quotes from this interview that I wanted to put together and then get your reaction to. And these are rough quotes from the interview this afternoon.
“I‘ve made mistakes in my past of a very personal and private nature. These were brought to the surface by people who disagreed with the question I asked at the White House press conference”—or the press conference with President Bush. So, he is insisting that he is a reporter who has been brought down for political reasons. And then when he was asked if—when Talon News published his first article, he said he didn‘t know when his first article was published.
That last fact there, does that sound anything like any reporter you‘ve ever met, that they didn‘t know when they were first published?
MILBANK: It‘s hard to forget.
No. I‘m he‘s—look, he‘s left and right all across the yard here. Gannon has been saying things that turn out later not to be true. So, he‘s misunderstood—sure, he‘s been abused terribly by the blogs and his HotMilitaryStuds.com. But the fact is, the central part of this is, he worked for a phony news organization and he was allowed into the White House. He was allowed to come to the White House Christmas party. He was embraced into the larger White House press corps family.
OLBERMANN: And, in a broader sense, one of the cardinal rules of society nowadays is, if you put naked pictures of yourself on the Internet, you really don‘t have much control of them after that happens.
All right, let me switch to one last thing, this business with the South Dakota race. A partisan Web site needs damaging articles about the opposition, so it links to somebody whose organization uses the word news and says, look, real news articles. Irrespective of which party or who is being attacked or what the context is, this is—is this not like the journalistic equivalent of money-laundering?
MILBANK: Well, sure it is.
But the only thing is, this happens in all other kinds of races and all kinds of places. And it is really destroying our business. I mean, in that same race out in South Dakota, Laura Ingraham, who does commentary on radio, was out there doing a campaign rally for him. We have Rush Limbaugh going on a U.S. government trip now to the Middle East. So, this stuff is happening all over the place. And it is terrible.
OLBERMANN: How do we fix this before we just dissolve into being another branch of the government?
MILBANK: I‘m now starting to write my articles for HotMilitaryStuds.com. And nobody can interfere with me at all.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank is previewing his stand-up act. And great thanks to him, of “The Washington Post,” on the continuing story of Gannon-Guckert and whoever else. Have a good weekend.
MILBANK: You, too.
OLBERMANN: And just when you thought it was safe to turn on the television again, news that same-sex marriage will be legalized in Springfield. Illinois? Massachusetts? No, whichever Springfield “The Simpsons” live in.
So reports “the Boston Herald,” which says Sunday‘s episode revolves around that plot line, with Homer Simpson becoming an Internet preacher to cash in and one of the other characters coming out, announcing their own sexual orientation. Perhaps it is a cameo by SpongeBob SquarePants.
What is scary enough to force a police patrolman right back into his cruiser? It‘s just some turkey, literally.
And disturbing news tonight from Southern California. When he caused a commuter train wreck that killed 11, it was not because he was trying to kill himself. His reason was actually far less, far less valid.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: First, it looked like a terrible accident, then a suicide attempt. Now the newest explanation of the deadly commuter crash in California is even more hard to believe.
OLBERMANN: It was bad enough. Eleven people were dead, another 180 injured, because a California man had parked his truck in the path of an oncoming commuter train last Monday in order to kill himself.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, it now looks like as if his motive was far worse. He was not seeking death. He wanted the attention of his estranged wife.
We begin in Glendale, California, Juan Alvarez charged with 11 counts of murder and now added to that arson. The initial police theory had Alvarez planning to kill himself, then losing his nerve at the last minute, causing this as a result. Forensics now show his truck was doused in gasoline, both inside and out. The cops now believe Alvarez may have contemplated suicide, but they are certain his intent was to cause a—quote—“horrific tragedy.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. JON PERKINS, GLENDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT: A lot of the evidence, I think, will relate to the fact that he had just—was in a bad relationship with his former wife. And he was trying to win her back through some bizarre way and—that we can‘t explain it. But, certainly, that‘s what was the foremost in his mind at the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To another train crash, also in California, the caught-on-tape—caught-on-two-tapes one we showed you last night.
Gaspar Medina says he was gathering evidence of how dangerous this particular Oxnard intersection was after he was in a car accident there last September. Consider the evidence gathered. Today, the police gathered evidence of their own, the tapes and a few answers from Mr. Medina. Just minutes after Medina set up the two cameras, one on either side of the train tracks, an Amtrak train carrying 80 people smashed into a truck carrying a lot more than 80 strawberries. The truck had not quite cleared the tracks.
The driver of the truck was not hurt. Two of the train passengers suffered minor injuries. Medina spoke to Matt Lauer this morning on “The Today Show” and responded to skepticism because the two camera setup made the whole thing look suspiciously like a setup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
GASPAR MEDINA, WITNESS: No, no. That‘s—that‘s ludicrous.
I could see that side, where somebody would actually—could think that it was a setup. But, no, that‘s ridiculous. No. Actually, I always felt that that intersection was actually pretty tricky. And I wanted to prove a point. So, what I did, on September 7, I would wake up early, set up one camera, cross the street, set up the other camera and videotape just the intersection and, at the same time, hopefully try to get the same scenario that my—that reflected the crash of my—that reflected my impact.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That Medina survived his car accident and was later able to record another traffic accident in which no one was badly hurt may have owed to a man whose death has just been announced, Samuel Alderson. He was the inventor of the crash test dummy.
After having helped develop missile guidance system during the Second World War, Alderson turned his attention to creating a human-sized figure with which NASA could test ejection seats and parachutes. By the 1960s, automakers were looking for a way to test new safety devices. So, in ‘68, Alderson produced the first dummy design specifically for auto safety checks. It was called the VIP. It had the dimensions of an average adult man.
The dummy would later get a family. The woman, child and infant dummies were to follow. Samuel Alderson was 90 years old.
Another invention designed to help humanity. Yes. Not sure exactly how, but we‘ll show you the tape anyway.
And no help of any kind on the horizon as I prepare to answer your nonsoftball questions. Yes, you, sir, with the chrome head. The weekly news quiz looms.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back.
And for the final time this week, we pause the COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for the stories that people really care about. Two words, robots and monkeys.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
Tonight, we begin with a message to robot makers around the world. Give it up, boys. The Japanese have won. ASIMO, the Honda robot we introduced you to months ago, has been walking and running and strutting and saluting in public since 2003, and calling for a fair catch and everything. But that hasn‘t stopped other countries from developing robots of their own.
This week, two countries introduced their robots which supposedly walk like humans. First, here at home, the United States. Look at him go. This little guy was introduced by scientists in Washington, who hope their walking robot could help in the development of new prosthetics for humans. Later, they were all thrown out when it revealed that all they had done was rip the fabric off a Furby.
And in the Netherlands this week, the latest innovation, Denise, the robot that can drunk walk.
OLBERMANN: What the hell?
Actually, she does OK, so long as that guy is there to catch her when she stumbles or starts scraping the wall. If this catches on, the Dutch are hoping that by the year 2027, every drunk in the country will have a scientist to follow them around and straighten them out.
Next, also from the “I swear that I‘m not making this up, I‘m not that good file,” Koko the gorilla with the 1,000-word vocabulary has been named in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Two women who helped care for the famous talking gorilla have sued the San Francisco foundation and its president, Francine Patterson, for $1 million in damages for wrongful termination.
Among other things, the suit claims that the gorilla, through sign language, would routinely—quote—“demand that the plaintiffs remove their clothing and show Koko their breasts.” The plaintiffs say Patterson pressured them to do as Koko asked. And they were then refused—or they refused and were then fired.
Patterson has unequivocally denied the charges. And Koko isn‘t talking. Damn, dirty ape.
Back with the serious news of the day and the alleged abuse pictures that you will never see because the Army apparently destroyed them after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. Then, later, the gung-ho gobbler who cornered not one, but two policemen and sell motorists in Ohio. Those stories ahead.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, the Vatican says it is going to train more exorcists. Another 100 began the eight-week study course yesterday. Possessions are apparently way up, especially here in the U.S. And, anyway, with amateur exorcists, the demon doesn‘t leave. He just agrees to sublet the victim.
No. 2, Cher. The Pima County attorney office in Ar—Arizona—
English—Arizona—arrested 13 people at her concert in Tucson last month, including a convicted kidnapper and a convicted murderer and accused them of selling counterfeit Cher T-shirts. Isn‘t the term counterfeit Cher redundant?
And, No. 1, Charles J. Henry of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He has been indicted for first-degree indecent exposure. He was driving around town exposing himself at least 13 times in one day, on January 31 of this year in Fairbanks, Alaska. The high temperature that day in Fairbanks, Alaska, was 20 degrees below zero.
That wasn‘t lewd conduct, Your Honor. I was trying to keep warm.
OLBERMANN: On Sunday morning our time, it will have been eight weeks since the tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean. There‘s breaking news tonight from Jakarta, Indonesia, that the region has been hit by another earthquake. This apparently under land, rather than under the ocean. And with a Richter scale measurement, at least an initial one, of 6.9, nowhere near that which precipitated the tsunami on December 26th.
This is in the region of Sulawesi. There‘s considerable coastline, however, and of course with the tsunami having been so recent in the history of the lives of the Indonesian people, it set off what is reported by Reuters as waves of panic. As to whether or not there were any damage or casualties or deaths, no immediate reports of same. Of course, there never are in earthquakes, but again, the details that we have so far—
6.9, the initial measurement on the Richter scale, of a major earthquake off the—or under and in the region of Sulawesi in Indonesia, which as we said, on December 26th, not even eight weeks ago, was one of the areas afflicted in the Indian Ocean tsunami, following the 8.0 earthquake off Sumatra. More details as they become available.
More bloodshed in Iraq and more rumblings over Iran. Our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, first, one of the worst byproducts of our engagement in that region is back in the news. Images of prisoner abuse and the photos of torture from Iraq‘s Abu Ghraib prison caused international outrage, investigations and convictions. To some soldiers in Afghanistan, the only lesson was this: Cover your tracks.
Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse at a small base in Afghanistan. Fire base Tich (ph) were destroyed when the Abu Ghraib images made headlines last year. That according to the military documents released because of a lawsuit by the ACLU.
But some of the pictures survived. They show soldiers posing for the camera while pointing M-4 rifles and 9 mm pistols at detainees, many of them bound and hooded. The photos were taken about the same time as those in Abu Ghraib, but the Associated Press reports no apparent resolution to the investigation spawned by this round of picture taking.
According to those documents, dozens of soldiers from the Army‘s 22nd Infantry Battalion 10th Mountain Division were interviewed. Eight were charged. Nothing more serious than dereliction of duty.
The chief investigator concluding that there was, quote, “no evidence to show the bound and hooded detainees were in fear for their life or even aware that weapons were being pointed at them.”
In the pages of the reports, many soldiers expressed remorse. But according to one specialist, quote, “it wasn‘t something we thought was wrong, only something cool to have as a memory of our time there.”
And in Iraq, the day after the certifying of the voting that elected an alliance backed by the most prominent Shiite clergy, four separate bomb attacks targeted their mosques and worshipers. Our correspondent in Baghdad is Peter Alexander.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of Shiite Islam‘s holiest day, Ashura, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims marched to their shrine in Karbala. But today, worshipers in and around Baghdad became targets. Five explosions in less than nine hours. At least 35 killed, dozens of others wounded.
In southwest Baghdad, a man strapped with explosives blew himself up outside a mosque during Friday prayers.
“We got rid of the vile Saddam Hussein. Now we have those imbeciles,” this survivor says.
Within the hour, a second suicide attack at a packed Shiite mosque in western Baghdad. Two bombers, one detonating himself as he was frisked by Iraqi guards.
Less than an hour later, another explosion. This time a rocket struck a Shiite religious procession.
Then at dusk, an Iraqi police checkpoint was hit in northern Baghdad. The day‘s final attack, a car bomb just south of the city, exploding outside another Shiite mosque.
Today‘s bombings serve as a reminder of the bloodshed a year ago.
During Ashura, a pair of explosions killed more than 170 devout Shiites.
Today‘s attacks occurred despite heightened security and new restrictions. A repeat of steps taken during last month‘s election. Once again, the borders are closed, and many roads sealed to traffic.
But in Mosul, part of the Sunni triangle, U.S. troops continue to clash with insurgents.
(on camera): More than 160 Iraqis have been killed since the election, bringing fears that tomorrow‘s holy day will be marred by more carnage.
Peter Alexander, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: The insurgency has not even slowed down the political battle going on in Iraq. Ahmed Chalabi says he has enough votes among the winning Shiite alliance to replace the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. The selection will be made by the new parliament, probably on Monday. Chalabi has had a tortuous relationship with the U.S. He was a near star and readily available news source in advance of the war. Last year, though, his Baghdad home was raided amid reports that he shared U.S. military information with contacts in Iran. He said that charge is false. He‘s focusing on his main campaign pledge: The speedy trial of a far more notorious Iraqi figure, Saddam Hussein.
But Chalabi is not the frontrunner. That would be Ibrahim Jaafari. As our correspondent Richard Engel reports from Baghdad, if you do not know who he is, you should.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ibrahim Al-Jaafari may soon be the man running Iraq. To some, he may seem like a surprising choice. But the soft-spoken family doctor is highly regarded for his political skills and the right mix of credentials.
He is an Islamic activist and a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. But one who prefers to wear a suit, rather than a black turban, a look that is less threatening to some Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis and Westerners.
To critics, he is a moderate mullah, in jacket and tie.
Forced into exile by Saddam Hussein, as leader of the Dawa Party, he backed a failed assassination plot against Saddam‘s son, Uday. He is known to be an honest broker, with a diplomatic touch to problems, an approach very different from interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi‘s tough, confrontational style.
GEOFFREY KEMP, THE NIXON CENTER: Now what we need is a leader who is acceptable to the majority of Iraqis, can work with the United States, and is not going to precipitate a crisis with Iraq‘s neighbors.
ENGEL: Today we asked Al-Jaafari about U.S. forces. He says they should stay until Iraqis can take over.
IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI, CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTERSHIP OF IRAQ: We are going to be in catastrophe if they are now were to leave Iraq.
ENGEL: On Islam, he opposes an Iranian-style theocracy, but does see a role for Islamic law, known as Sharia, to govern morals.
AL-JAAFARI: For example, the killing of human beings. It‘s not—it‘s very, very illegal. For example, homosexuality.
ENGEL (on camera): Homosexuality would be illegal under Sharia?
AL-JAAFARI: Yes, of course.
ENGEL (voice-over): On Iran, Al-Jaafari supports close ties. He lived in Iran for 10 years. But he says he won‘t accept domination.
U.S. officials have been signalling they can do business with Al-Jaafari, but they may have no other choice. He expects to be sworn in as prime minister within the month.
Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: And in Iran, with friends like these, who needs enemies? In the wake of U.S. warnings about Iran‘s nuclear potential, a leader from outside the region has come to that country‘s defense. Vladimir Putin. The Russian president saying he was certain that the Iranians were not trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran has claimed it is interested only in nuclear power plants, but it‘s currently in talks with the European Union about its nuclear program.
President Bush and Mr. Putin will meet for a summit next week. Coincidentally, that is the same time Russian nuclear officials will go to Iran to sign a deal to help stock a nuclear reactor in the city of Bushir.
Also tonight, the daily dance on America‘s highways taking a peculiar turn. The good guys verse the bad birds? Extreme turkeys go wild caught on tape!
And a funny thing happened on the way to Windsor Castle—talking about turkeys. Charles and Camilla‘s wedding hits a major snag. All that ahead.
Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top 3 sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s here. Where one man is on a mission to change the image of the jackalope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do make good stew. I‘ve not tried it, but there is a jackalope stew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe not exactly. But the Douglas resident is sponsoring a bill to make the jackalope Wyoming‘s official mythical creature.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is important that we get the word out.
DR. BHAGAVAN ANGLE: No, this big guy is a Liger, which means his father is a lion and his mother is a tiger. We expect he‘ll easily will get over 1000 pounds. He probably won‘t get a lot taller, but he‘ll continue to fill out.
DAVID LETTERMAN: The top 10 most common questions about the Gates. Here we go. No 10. Why? No. 4. This is a joke, right? No. 2, would you describe this more as a colossal waste of money or a colossal waste of time? And No. 1 most commonly asked question about the Gates, is it urine proof?
OLBERMANN: It is every motorists worst fear. You‘re driving alone in a remote area when circumstances force you to stop. Suddenly out of nowhere, a crazed wild animal leaps from hiding and your modern urban existence is wiped out in a second. Suddenly, you are back in the jungle fighting for your life.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN “When Turkeys Attack.”
Twice in three days, motorists and troopers in Hancock County, Ohio have been swooped on by what appears to be one very angry, very anti-driver gobbler.
OLBERMANN voice-over): Incident No. 1. routine traffic stop. First appearance of Deputy Drumstick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m sorry man, but that bird came out of nowhere.
It‘s chasing me. I can‘t get out of the car without it following me.
Where‘d the bird go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. It‘s probably—it‘s right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s right there. Do you hear it?
(MAN MAKING TURKEY SOUNDS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s my bird call. Look at him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you don‘t climb up on the car, man
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s coming over this way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a turkey?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it‘s a huge turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to say, was that one of those birds with the big feathers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peacock?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peacock, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it‘s a huge turkey. Well, at least it‘s pretty big in my opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s a big bird, man. I think he likes you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that‘s good.
OLBERMANN: Like Grandpa Joe and the white meat at Thanksgiving, once he got a taste of Johnny law, our feathered friend could not be stopped.
Incident No. 2, days later, the bird runs afoul of the authorities once again. This time, trapping an innocent motorist in his innocent S.U.V.
This officer, trapped for 20 minutes before wildlife authorities came to remove the bird.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing there, buddy?
Well, he‘s now on my hood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got that video rolling?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes I do.
OLBERMANN: Police have issued an A.P.B. for a turkey that keeps repeating, Thanksgiving revenge is mine, Thanksgiving revenge is mine.
One other story of man versus beast. We already told you this one in brief. Guy in a park, approached by cops who smelled marijuana. They say he throws a package full of it into a nearby pond whereupon his dog runs in, retrieves the package and drops it at his stoner-owner‘s feet. This is J.D., a black Labrador retriever. And Lester, you know, they‘re known for retrieving things.
J.D. is the dog in Grapevine, Texas who was such a good dog. And this, this is Matt Porter, J.D‘s human, also known as the alleged perpetrator. In his version, as gathered for us by reporter Scott Gordon of KXAS in Dallas, a little different from the police.
He was smoking a joint, but the stuff in the bag, he had never met that before, man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT PORTER, BUSTED BY HIS DOG: I got really scared. Because here‘s a bag of pot, here‘s an officer. You don‘t just give your dog a treat. You know, this is a bad time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Porter says he was playing frisbee and that was what J.D. was supposed to be retrieving. Fortunately, Mr. Porter did not look at all suspicious.
An easy segue here tonight to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment matters “Keeping Tabs.” Although, just because our first story is about Prince Charles and his fiancee, that does not mean they were smoking pot in a public park while playing frisbee.
No, they had bigger problems tonight, because the heir to the British throne and Camilla Parker Bowles have to have a civil marriage ceremony, and divorces and all that. That means that can‘t have it as originally planned at Windsor Castle. One of his ancestral homes.
Why not? Only the British could make this this complicated. So listen carefully, to stage a civil wedding in a given place you have to get that place licensed by the government. And once licensed, it can be used by any British citizen for a wedding venue. Thus, if Charles and Camilla got married at Windsor, any other bride and groom could say, we want to get hitched there, too.
That‘s even more complicating than it sounds, because Windsor Castle would then be an authorized wedding locale under the 1994 Marriages Act and its owner, Queen Elizabeth would then have to install bigger bathrooms, plus elevators and wheelchair ramps for the physically disabled. So Chuck and Camilla are going to get hitched at the town hall in Windsor instead.
Speaking of troubled marriages, the other woman in the Scott Peterson story is getting her own made for TV movie. CBS has awarded the role of Amber Frey in “Witness: The Amber Frey Story,” to Janel Moloney, since day one a cast member on NBC‘s “The West Wing.” Evidently because they think Ms. Moloney looks something like Ms. Frey. Ms. Frey should be so lucky.
I should be so lucky as to dodge this weekly grilling, but sure as the Gates are ugly, yes, there they are. So, too, is it true that Friday brings the news quiz. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Like this wasn‘t already a long enough week for me, what with those Gates and that complimentary article in this Sunday‘s “New York Times” only running 14 paragraphs, my faith in steroid users being shaken by Jose Canseco‘s inability to name more than a dozen of them, now it‘s Friday, time for my weekly shellacking at the hands of you, the viewer.
Everybody has an alias this week, so we‘ll call the news quiz “The Spanish Inquisition,” or if you prefer...
ANNOUNCER: What have we learned?
OLBERMANN: My control of this situation is at an end. I give you now our genial emcee, the evil twin of COUNTDOWN‘s own Monica Novotny. Hi.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So, nice to be with you, as always.
I‘ll begin by reminding viewers, if you‘d like to take this quiz yourself or administrator it to a friend, you will find it on our Web site, at countdown.msnbc.com.
Before we begin, a refresher on the rules. We‘ll put two minutes on the clock. I‘ll ask many of your viewer questions as time allows. If our resident art critic answers at least half correctly, he wins a prize. For every incorrect answer, he‘ll protest to the judges, all of whom, I remind you, work for him, then donate $50 to charity.
And it has been brought to my attention that I‘ve not been very nice on recent Friday nights...
OLBERMANN: Damn straight.
NOVOTNY: So tonight, I bring you a kinder, gentler quiz.
Let‘s begin. Are you ready, sir?
NOVOTNY: Smashing tie, by the way.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. I bought it myself.
NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock, please.
And number one from Heather in California. Name the date that the Gates display will begin to be taken down.
OLBERMANN: It runs through the 27th, so the date would be the 28th of February.
NOVOTNY: That‘s right. From Becky...
OLBERMANN: Not soon enough, damn it!
NOVOTNY: From Becky in Ohio...
OLBERMANN: Sorry, sorry, I went Lewis Black there. Sorry, go ahead.
NOVOTNY: Who is Abilass?
OLBERMANN: Abilass is the real name of baby 81 in Sri Lanka.
NOVOTNY: From Cheryl, what two animals are stand-ins for America and North Korea in a story extolling North Korea‘s might against America?
OLBERMANN: The tiger and the porcupine.
NOVOTNY: Yes. You‘re on a hot streak!
OLBERMANN: That‘s not what you were trying to say, was it?
NOVOTNY: From Gina in Texas—from Gina in Texas, name three commentators who‘ve falsely implied that FDR would have supported Mr. Bush‘s plan to privatize Social Security, by quoting one of FDR‘s speeches out of context.
OLBERMANN: Three commentators, Brit Hume, Bill Bennett and the lovely and talented John Fund.
NOVOTNY: That‘s correct. From Chris in New York, according to a new study of all the years that flu shots have been given out to the elderly, how many lives were saved?
OLBERMANN: Zippity-doo-dah. None.
NOVOTNY: That is right. From Dean in Illinois, name the six Loony Tunes cartoon characters that have been reimagined.
OLBERMANN: All right. Bugs, I‘m going to go with Bugs, Daffy, the Roadrunner, the Tasmanian devil. Wile E. Coyote, and the bunny, Laura is her name, right? Lana?
NOVOTNY: But you got five out of six.
OLBERMANN: I got five out of six.
NOVOTNY: So we‘re just going to give that to you.
OLBERMANN: Oh, she was right, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
NOVOTNY: Clearly, your intelligence is only exceeded by your memory this week. So from Rosemary, New Jersey, in what year will the new kids series “Loonatics” on the WB network take place?
NOVOTNY: That is correct. From Sharon in Texas, when was Jeff Gannon/Guckert‘s online publication Talon first created?
OLBERMANN: When was Talon first put on the...
OLBERMANN: March 28th, 2004, or March 29th. There is some uncertainty about that.
NOVOTNY: March, yes. Indeed.
OLBERMANN: So yeah—there was a wrong eh.
NOVOTNY: I‘m sorry, it was 2003.
NOVOTNY: You said 2004.
OLBERMANN: Oh, so it was wrong. OK.
NOVOTNY: I‘m only hearing right answers from you this evening.
OLBERMANN: I meant 2004, but it wasn‘t relevant to my personal life.
NOVOTNY: I‘m sure you did.
OLBERMANN: And of course...
NOVOTNY: And if it‘s not relevant to your personal life, it‘s not relevant here.
OLBERMANN: Right, and my employers didn‘t need to know whether it‘s 2004 or 2003, and it‘s too difficult to pronounce 2003, so I said 2004 instead.
NOVOTNY: I‘ll take it.
NOVOTNY: The kinder, gentler news quiz. Seven of eight...
OLBERMANN: Doing a Jeff Guckert impression.
NOVOTNY: Only $50, only $50 to charity.
OLBERMANN: Newswoman here with me here. Only $50, but we‘re up to $800 now.
NOVOTNY: That was your impression of Jeff Guckert?
OLBERMANN: That was my personification there, because I was—what have you got for me? Oh!
NOVOTNY: It is...
OLBERMANN: It‘s a picture of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and what looks to be some hair from her.
NOVOTNY: No, that is actually...
OLBERMANN: That‘s not her hair?
NOVOTNY: That is an actual swatch...
OLBERMANN: I guess.
NOVOTNY: ... of the nylon fabric.
OLBERMANN: You know what? Up close, you know what? It still stinks!
But thank you. That‘s lovely.
NOVOTNY: It‘s glass.
OLBERMANN: I use it—can I can to, you know, clean my glasses? Do you think that‘ll work?
NOVOTNY: I don‘t think that was the intention. They‘re selling those on Ebay.
OLBERMANN: They are? OK. I‘m sure there‘s a glut by now.
Anyway, maybe I‘ll donate this to charity. How about that?
So last week we upped the charity pool to $750, so now we‘re at $800, because I had a good—actually should be like $810, because I got one-sixth of that question wrong. It‘s blood money, by the way.
And that is another edition of my weekly humiliation, not so much this time. Tune in next time if there is a next time when again we play...
ANNOUNCER: What have we learned?
OLBERMANN: And that‘s COUNTDOWN, orange you glad you watched it?
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.
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