Guest: Christopher Byron, Eugene Sullivan, Michael Remaley
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Life on the outside. It can be devastating for ex-cons. Not this ex-con. She is richer, thinner, and now has more TV shows. Martha Stewart gets sprung from the big house.
Big house, big job. The new head of the CIA says, “I‘m a little amazed at the workload.” It‘s work. Hard work.
Ask Jeff Gannon. He is back at work, sort of.
Work is over for Steve Fossett. But which ended first? His around the world flight or his fuel?
And keeping the class out of the classroom. A New Jersey student refuses to stand for the anthem. The teacher goes ballistic. They arrest the student. You will never believe why.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were beaten in prison. They nearly killed the unjustly accused Captain Dreyfus in prison. Osceola, the chief of the Seminole tribe, died in prison. And Oscar Wilde might as well have.
But been our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, federal inmate No. 55170-054 gets sprung, and her punishment? Her stock price is up 170 percent, her personal net worth has risen $600 million, she lost 20 pounds and had an entirely new designer wardrobe brought in for her in her absence and she got two new TV shows.
Martha Stewart, prison. It was a good thing.
Nearly a year to the day after her conviction on charges of obstruction of justice, the high doyenne of household hints was to get her walking papers at midnight eastern.
She went into Camp Cupcake, officially Alderson Federal Prison in West Virginia, in the middle of the night to minimize media coverage. And while it was assumed for a time that the made over Martha would emerge during in the daytime with TV cameras present, fans cheering, dividends piling up and recipes fluttering in the air like confetti, maybe tomorrow, it looks like she cannot wait that long.
Estimated time of departure between 12:01 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. Eastern. Then it‘s to the airport and back to the wilds of upstate New York. Live coverage ahead.
And there is one small caveat. Whenever she goes, she is homeward bound in both senses of the word. Still facing five months of being bound to her home, house arrest.
Of course, house arrest is a little different if your house is on a 153-acre estate in Bedford, New York, from which you can easily host your new version of “The Apprentice” on NBC while your personal chef, your housekeeping staff and your horse groomers all do their stuff. This isn‘t some Jose Canseco kind of house arrest.
As we await Martha‘s emergence, like some sort of penal system equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil, our correspondent outside Camp Cupcake is Rehema Ellis.
Rehema, good evening.
REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
Martha Stewart‘s people are telling us that she will be leaving here and arriving, they say, expect to see her at the Greenbriar Valley Airport here in West Virginia between 12:30 and 1:30 in the morning on Friday.
That‘s about a 30-minute ride from here. So, that means she could be leaving this facility at about 12:01. That‘s the soonest that she is eligible to get out. Wasting no time, as you pointed out, to leave this facility where she spent the last five months.
What has life been like for her here? Some thought that she was going to get some kind of preferential treatment. It didn‘t exactly work out that way. She did not have to sleep in the big facility where so many of the other inmates were, but Martha was instead from the beginning allowed to be in one of the smaller cottages or the more dormitory-style and having a little more privacy.
But what were her duties? Well, she wanted to work in the kitchen, and it‘s no surprise that she would want to do that. But she was not allowed to. Instead, she was assigned to clean the administrative building, several hours during the day, and that even included cleaning the toilets. And it was all for just pennies. As you point out, she‘s going to be making and expected to make a lot more money than that once she leaves here.
And in addition to that, according to the “Wall Street Journal,” they had a party for her, and in the microwave oven, they baked pineapple cheesecake—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Rehema Ellis with the inside story outside Alderson federal prison in West Virginia tonight. Many thanks.
Richard Nixon once contemplated the prospect of doing time by noting that many men have done their best writing in jail. For Ms. Stewart, her time has turned out to be, most unexpectedly, righting of a different kind, as in righting her ship.
Five months ago her name had been sullied, her company expelled her, her newspaper column had been given over to somebody else. And the plug had been pulled on her television show. Now she is bigger than ever.
See, the prison system can rehabilitate the convict.
We are reminded of the only half kidding advice given a year ago to Martha Stewart by our special guest Harry Shearer in the guise of his infamous mega mogul from “The Simpsons,” C. Montgomery Burns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All right. Mr. Burns, what would your advice now be to your fellow entrepreneur, Martha Stewart?
HARRY SHEARER, COMEDIAN: Keith, I‘d advise Martha to do as I would. Go to prison, take your medicine, wait until they privatize the prison and then buy the dump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Monty, Harry, pretty much nailed that. Before her term expired, she was indeed counseling other inmates.
Christopher Byron is no stranger to the miracle of Martha. He is the author of the best-selling “Martha Inc.” Mr. Byron joins us now.
Good evening to you, sir.
CHRISTOPHER BYRON, AUTHOR, “MARTHA INC.”: Keith, how are you?
OLBERMANN: How in the heck did she do this?
BYRON: I don‘t know. Well, maybe she had less to do with it than we think, and maybe we in the media had more to do with it. All the things you ticked off there, she was down to her last—she lost her TV shows, all of that. All of that‘s still true. Only now we‘ve made her bigger than ever, I think.
OLBERMANN: Is this not so much about her as about the time we are living in? I mean, 20, 30 years ago, she would have been probably a ruined ex-con, and no one would have trusted her and no one would have put her on television again. But today, publicity is publicity.
OLBERMANN: Would not a Donald Trump or a Paris Hilton also be able to come out of jail for a crime like that one, at least in no worse shape than when they went in?
BYRON: Yes. I mean, in the case of Paris Hilton, the only reason I ever heard of that girl was because of this Internet porno movie that she got herself involved in.
I think that, you know, your 15 minutes of fame can turn into a career if you do it just right in this particular time. If you‘re a sort of a B-list celebrity, you can move up fast in the age that we‘re in now. And that‘s certainly the case with Paris Hilton.
Martha Stewart, she was already on the a-list. But she‘s going to stay there now, huh?
OLBERMANN: And stay away from the violence would be the other caveat to that.
OLBERMANN: But there‘s a story in today‘s “Wall Street Journal” about her in jail having breakfast as two of her fellow inmates told her of the assets they had to forfeit before they serving time. And she supposedly got so exercised over this that she pounded her banana on the table...
OLBERMANN: ... which is something I‘d like to see anyway. But she pounded her banana on the table and said, “I just hate these sentencing guidelines.”
OLBERMANN: Is she going to add another dimension to her persona now? Is she going to come out here as a defender of women white- collar criminals, too?
BYRON: Well, I don‘t know. I mean, it‘s going—she‘s going to be out of that place with the wind at her back at 12:01. So, she doesn‘t seem like she‘s sticking around to sort of gather a lot of evidence for taking the issue of female inmates‘ rights before Congress.
No. I think that she‘s going to play that card for as long as—as long as the media keeps moving that story, she‘ll—she‘ll help us along. But I doubt that thing‘s got—I don‘t think she‘s going to become a career champion of inmates‘ rights.
OLBERMANN: So, those still at Camp Cupcake should not be expecting her to fulfill that promise that she‘s going to write soon. I guess that‘s the bottom line.
Christopher Byron, author of “Martha Inc.” and no doubt soon to be sought after for a revised edition thereof. Thank you kindly for your time, sir.
BYRON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A far more serious story of crime and punishment continuing to unfold in Chicago and there for the first time Judge Joan Lefkow publicly commented on the murders of her husband and mother on Monday.
Describing herself as furious, Lefkow told the “Chicago Sun-Times,” quote, “If someone was angry at me, they should go after me. It‘s not fair to go after my family.”
I don‘t know whether it has anything to do with Matt Hale,” she continued, referring to the white supremacist convicted of trying to get her murdered, “but I do believe it was a hit, not a random thing. I do because of circumstances I don‘t want to talk about.”
While insisting “nobody is going to intimidate me off of my duty,” Judge Lefkow also said of her position, “I enjoyed the work and I do enjoy what I do. But if I‘d known it would have caused this to happen, no, it wasn‘t worth it.”
She also told the “Chicago Tribune” that she planned to return to the bench despite the murders.
About Matthew Hale, he issued a statement today through his mother to “TIME” magazine. “There is simply no way that any supporter of mine would commit such a heinous crime,” he said. “I totally condemn it, and I want the perpetrator caught and prosecuted. Only an idiot would think that I would do this. My sentencing date is April 6.”
And one more comment from another federal judge in Illinois. “What happened was a September 11 for the judiciary, fortunately on a smaller scale. The fact that family members were attacked here creates a feeling with the people we live with that they are in jeopardy,” District Court Judge Wayne Anderson told “The New York Times.”
Our next guest has personal experience with this topic. Twice while on the bench his life was threatened, federal U.S. court of appeals Judge Eugene Sullivan, who in fact wrote a novel about a threatened judge called “The Majority Rules,” thank you for your time tonight, sir.
EUGENE SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, “THE MAJORITY RULES”: Well, it‘s tragic that I have to be here, but I‘m glad to be here to give you some points.
OLBERMANN: Judge Anderson‘s remarks, they might seem a little strong to some people with a comparison to 9/11. But because this involves not judges, but their families, do you think in essence he is right?
SULLIVAN: Well, I think all judges, when they take the oath of office, must realize that any threat against a judge is a threat against your family. Certainly, when that happened to me, I took it as a threat against my family.
OLBERMANN: Is the line between a country like ours and one like one of the ones that are run by the drug cartels essentially in South America, where judges and prosecutors are almost routinely attacked or killed, is the line between these kind of civilizations thinner than we think? Is—do we run a risk of getting towards that point?
SULLIVAN: I think justice and the threat to justice is equally universal. And it may just be a matter of degree, but our federal judges and our state judges are subject to threats when they take that oath of office.
And one of the things we do is—I think a mistake we make is we build our courthouses nowadays into bunkers. And we protect the bunker, the courthouse. We should be functioning on the real threat, and that‘s a threat to the judge outside of the courthouse. And that‘s what‘s happened, unfortunately, in this case.
OLBERMANN: In your opinion, to any great degree, is what happened to Judge Lefkow‘s mother and father (sic) going to affect in any way how judges act, rule inside their courtrooms, or is that effect going to be transient?
SULLIVAN: I think it will have a lasting effect, an effect of intimidation. I think a thinking judge, when they get a very serious, dangerous criminal before them, this will cross their minds before they—they—in making up their decision on the sentence.
I recommend that we take this as a wake-up call for the protection of our federal and state judges. In the federal system, we had a court committee from ‘97 to ‘93. In 1993, inexplicably, that court committee was done away with and merged with the buildings and facility committee.
I think one of the things we should do now is immediately reinstate the court security committee. And first order of business we should do is to have them study how to protect judges outside the courthouse and the families of judges.
When I was threatened, my first thought was not myself but my family. I—I bought an expensive security system. And I bought a weapon, and I trained my family how to shoot.
OLBERMANN: Retired U.S. appeals court judge, Eugene Sullivan. Our great thanks for your perspective tonight under these unfortunate circumstances.
SULLIVAN: Yes, sir.
OLBERMANN: Still ahead tonight, too little fuel, virtually no sleep. Probably not the best way to fly nonstop around the world. But effective enough for Steve Fossett. Of course, he wound up in exactly the same small town in which he started.
A different kind of lesson for some New Jersey teens. You‘re going to try to humiliate your teacher on the Internet, do not also post your own vandalism tape on the same web site.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Flying into history in Salina, Kansas. Global Flyer‘s saga comes to an end, next.
OLBERMANN: No offense meant to the high school marching bands of Salina, Kansas, but one might have thought that the greeting who awaited a guy who flew around the world without stopping for gas might have been a big extravagant.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN. It wasn‘t. That might say more about the blase attitude towards stunt flying nowadays than what Steve Fossett himself did. Regardless, tonight Salina, Kansas, is the aeronautics capital of the world, and our correspondent Martin Savidge is there.
Martin, good evening.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. We‘re standing next to and up close and personal with the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. It is a combination of this unique aircraft, not to mention the unique pilot, Steve Fossett, that pulled off what is a historic aviation event.
But that is not to say for the crew of Steve Fossett that this solo event was more of a nail-biter than they would have liked.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Like a modern Magellan, Steve Fossett headed into Kansas and history, flying around the world alone on a single tank of gas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home.
SAVIDGE: His touchdown in Salina ended a 23,000-mile, 67-hour odyssey.
First to greet Fossett after he pried himself from the cramped cockpit was his wife, Peggy. Then fellow adventurer, Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire who bankrolled the mission.
STEVE FOSSETT, RECORD-SETTING AVIATOR: That was something I‘ve wanted to do for a long time. A major ambition.
SAVIDGE: The celebration of today was a far cry for the fears of yesterday, when Fossett‘s flight crew revealed a mysterious and serious fuel leak that they said jeopardized the entire effort. There was talk of Fossett landing in Asia or Hawaii.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations. Go on.
SAVIDGE: Instead, he just kept going, leading to speculation the fuel fears were overplayed to boost publicity. At the peak of the crisis, the mission web site received 75 million hits. But Branson said the threat was real.
RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN ATLANTIC: Fuel got lost. And we‘re not—still not sure, but it seems that most likely it vented out of four fuel tanks.
SAVIDGE: What saved Fossett, his crew says, was a stronger than expected tailwind, the courage of the pilot and the amazing plane he flew.
The Global Flyer, designed by a legendary aviation architect Burt Rutan, is the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world that could hold answers for commercial aviation.
But that was for the future. This was about history. As for what he might do next, Fossett‘s goals were more down-to-earth.
FOSSETT: I might take a shower.
SAVIDGE: After floating around it in a balloon, sailing around it in a boat and now flying around it nonstop, Steve Fossett is a man truly on top of the world.
SAVIDGE: As for the future of the aircraft, it is probably eventually going to end up in the Smithsonian. As for Steve Fossett, he says, no, he‘s not going to the Smithsonian. He doesn‘t want to give away what his next adventure will be—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Martin, I can‘t resist asking this question, because they must be asking it there, too. Why—no offense to the town—but why Salina, Kansas?
SAVIDGE: I asked the same thing. I mean, for a couple of obvious reasons. First of all, very big runway, over two and a half miles. They thought this aircraft full of fuel would need every foot of it. It turned out it used up about 8,000 feet to get airborne when the mission began.
The other thing is, located in the middle of the country. Well, that‘s good, especially if you plan to run out of fuel and fall short. For instance, say you‘re about 800 miles short. If you were in California, you would be in the ocean. Here, you land in California. So that‘s another reason for it.
And then, there is a very strong aviation history in this town. It goes all the way back prior to World War II. All those reasons coming together.
OLBERMANN: Excellent. Martin Savidge in Salina, Kansas. Great thanks.
From a race against time to a race against a nitwit. Another car chase for your dining and dancing pleasure.
And speaking of pleasuring, he‘s out of a job and out of the White House press briefings, but that has not stopped Jeff Gannon from asking his daily softball question of the administration. He‘s back, kind of.
ANNOUNCER: You‘re getting your news Olbermann style, COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, part of the best prime-time in cable news, MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back, and it‘s not that the rest of the day‘s news isn‘t strange, it‘s just that this stuff is more strange. And we also have this special song and everything. So, let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin in Fort Worth, Texas, with the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week and Ms. Lisa Dushane (ph) is wanted for felony, larceny and now felony evasion.
Checking the “Oddball” scoreboard for the year, we can see that the cops are undefeated in six and the folks that think they can escape the cops still have a goose egg.
Dushane (ph) led police on a high-speed chase through nine cities before making the unfortunate decision to exit the vehicle. And there she goes. She is past the Best Buy, hangs a right at the Applebee‘s. Look at her run. She could go all the way.
And she‘s in the clear...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh, oh!
OLBERMANN: Or thus ends another failed attempt to flee from the law. Ms. Dushane (ph) will now learn the meaning of Texas justice in the big house.
Las Vegas, Nevada, where one company is trying to get a leg up in the highly competitive construction market by having its workers wear kilts on the job. Leg up, kilts.
The manager of the company says the gimmick gives them an edge and that wearing kilts comes naturally for these men, because most of his employees are Scottish and Celtic ancestry.
If guys that big say they‘re Scots, they are Scots.
And sad news tonight from Pittsburgh. Bubba the lobster is dead. Just days after the 22-pound crustacean was caught in the waters off Nantucket, he reportedly died of being transferred to the Ripley‘s Believe It or Not Museum in Pennsylvania.
Some estimated Bubba may have lived 100 years in the Atlantic Ocean before he was caught this week. But as his celebrity grew, a custody battle raged between Ripley‘s, PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the other PETA, People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.
In the end, it was all too much strife for Bubba. He is dead now, and the rest of these people have blood on their hands. Or is that butter on their hands?
Bubba the lobster was 100 years old.
(MUSIC: “I WILL REMEMBER YOU”)
OLBERMANN: At least he saw the Red Sox win. How many directors of the CIA see? All 19 of them, including the one who had just said that the workload may be too much for him.
And a teacher—talk about workload—caught on camera yelling and screaming at the students. But in this case, turns out he is the victim, and the kids are now facing charges.
These stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, an unnamed patient in Escondido, California. Just back from his radiation treatment, he was walking past a fire truck when its special anti-terrorism nuclear alert detector went off. They held the man for about an hour. Then they released him after determining he was not, quote, “carrying a nuclear weapon.”
Well, at least the detector works.
No. 2, another anonymous man, this one in Columbus, Ohio, chokes on a sandwich while driving to work, blacks out and crashes, crashes into the Mt. Carmel East Urgent Care Center, which was closed at the time. He is expected to recover anyway.
Urgent is a brand name.
No. 1, fans of the Welch soccer team Swansea City, the Swans. Like all good fans, they will be moving with the team from its old stadium to its new one. Unlike most fans, though, some of them won‘t let the team actually carry them to the new place. That‘s because these fans—I think they maybe 50 of them—are dead.
The ashes of many of Swansea‘s fans are buried under their field, many in urns. The problem is the club has no record of how many there where.
“Is that a fan?”
“No, that‘s just our championship trophy from 1962.”
OLBERMANN: It was perhaps the best piece of political satire in the 2004 campaign. Growing from a frustrated comment by the president in a debate about how hard the work was into a “Saturday Night Live” bit that extended the premise to having to work through nights and even Saturdays.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the premise returns though, from comic hyperbole to political reality today. The new director of Central Intelligence saying, I‘m a little amazed at the workloads, one that is, he added, too much for this mortal. More on Porter Goss in a moment. First a refresher course from Mr. Bush‘s remarks on September 30.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve done a lot of work. It‘s hard work. It‘s hard work to try to love her as best as I can. It‘s hard work. And it is hard work. It‘s hard work. And it‘s hard work. But, again, I want to tell the American people it‘s hard work. I understand how hard it is. Everybody knows it‘s hard work. No doubt about it, it‘s tough. It is hard work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Goss‘ remarks came in yesterday in Semi Valley, California. They also included a reference to the, quotes, “Five hats that I wear and the huge amount of ambiguity in the job,” because of the role of the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, who will take over the briefing of the president from Goss. The White House spoke supportively of Goss and the CIA early today. And then the president visited agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia this afternoon to rally the troops.
Presumably the hunt for Osama bin Laden equally hard, made harder still by the fact that few, it seems, may still be looking for him. Officially some 18,000 U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan, hunting down al Qaeda and Taliban hold outs. But a former U.S. intelligence official now telling the Associated Press, that American military and intelligence assets were moved from Afghanistan to Iraq for the elections on January 30, and it is not clear whether they ever went back.
The president first to say as little as possible about bin Laden, making the al Qaeda chief the equivalent of Harry Potter‘s, “He who shall not be named.” But should his name just happen to come up, say at the swearing in of the new homeland security secretary, it would be best to portray the fact that bin Laden is still in hiding, as an example of the administration‘s success, not failure, in tracking him down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We are on a constant hunt for bin Laden. We‘re keeping the pressure on him. Keeping him in hiding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Add it all up, and does the sum of those parts make it all difficult to place much confidence in the terror fighting abilities of U.S. intelligence.
Joining me now to help answer that question, Juliette Kayyem, MSNBC terrorism analyst and a professor at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government.
Juliette, good evening.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: About directory Goss, I‘m assuming here that hearing the head of Central Intelligence say, his job is full of ambiguity, and he‘s wearing five hats, and too much at this mortal, and he‘s a little amazed at the workloads, these are not remarks that are going to inspire many terrorists to just turn themselves in.
KAYYEM: Not really. And nor will it probably inspire the intelligence agencies. I think, it‘s no coincidence that Bush shows up at the CIA today to sort of buttress morale, and tell everyone everything—everything is OK. I mean, Goss‘ statement was really sort of, “Am I‘m not dead yet” kind of statement. He is likely very concerned about the role he‘s going to play with Negroponte coming on as sort of his chief, where his role is and what his priorities are going to be.
So, in some ways you‘re seeing a very internal battle about the bureaucracies, and where all the puzzle pieces fits together, being played out quite publicly in these speeches.
OLBERMANN: But the other danger in doing it that way, if indeed he did it that way, he raises the question, is a CIA director who would publicly describe himself as overwhelmed by the job, up for the job? Does somebody suddenly say, “Gee, maybe we need to get somebody else here?”
KAYYEM: Right, they might. I mean, Goss, actually, name was considered for Negroponte‘s job, and they didn‘t take it. Goss, also remember said, his role is ambiguous, the law is ambiguous. He‘s not quite sure what his role is going to be. Not so good coming from the administration. This should be a seamless transition with Goss to Negroponte to Bush, and it‘s not seeming that. Basically, Goss is playing on the team right now, and I‘m sure he‘s been talked to about that.
OLBERMANN: Juliette, lastly, about Mr. Bush‘s comment, about the challenge of finding bin Laden. You‘re making it sounds more like it‘s a really difficult jigsaw puzzle, but lots of fun for the whole family. Does that tone help or hurt the pursuit or does the tone not make any difference?
KAYYEM: I think it makes no difference at this stage. I mean, bin Laden, we all heard about bin Laden last week with—with his trying to touch base with Zarqawi, and what was going to happen in Iraq or elsewhere. I think Bush was, likely, just mentioning bin Laden because he was there at the Department of Homeland Security. I think the more important part is where, in fact, is our focus in terms of the hunt for bin Laden. Both the Pakistan Government, and our number two guy in Afghanistan said, that it seems like the trail has gone cold. And a little bit concerned about what kind of heat we‘re putting on this search. My personal feeling is, the capture of bin Laden probably will not affect the al Qaeda movement anymore. It is well beyond where we were on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, it would be a major symbolic victory for us to capture him dead or alive, as they say.
OLBERMANN: Juliette Kayyem of Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government, as always Juliette, great thanks.
KAYYEM: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Meantime in Iraq, a grim milestone reached today, as significant as it is sad. The number of U.S. troops killed on the ground there, now topping 1,500. That includes combat fatalities and all accidents and illnesses. The exact official number now 1,502, 1364 of those deaths having come since May 1, 2003, when the president declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over.
Other numbers bedeviling the president domestically tonight. First the Republican leader of the Senate Bill Frist said, that a vote to restructure Social Security could be delayed until 2006, that‘s changed. Now a “New York Times” poll producing no evidence that Mr. Bush is succeeding at convincing the public about this. The simple yes-no, 51 percent say it is a bad idea to try to reform Social Security with privatized accounts. But when told that private accounts would result in a reduction of guaranteed benefits, the bad idea number zooms to 69 percent.
This may be turning into Mr. Bush‘s version of Woodrow Wilson‘s League of Nations. But the president is not a man who gives up easily. As our White House correspondent David Gregory points out, he‘s kind of responding to this the same way Wilson did to opposition to the league. Get out into the country, talk more often, and more loudly—David.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Keith, aides say the president will use these next two months to battle back. Attempt to explain to a skeptical public, that his plan is not just private accounts, but a larger effort to strengthen a retirement program incapable of fulfilling it‘s promises.
GREGORY (voice-over): The president admitted today he‘s got more work to do if his Social Security fix is ever going to get off the ground. But he also pointedly warned Democrats lined up against him.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think politicians need to be worried about not being a part of the solution.
GREGORY: The White House hopes some nervous Republicans were listening, too. Like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who felt the administration‘s sting this week after hinting the president‘s ideas may not pass this year.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: We need to do it, and we will do it this year, this year and not next year.
GREGORY: For the next 60 days and 60 American cities, Mr. Bush and others within the administration will hit the road, escalating the reform push. Congressional allies are urging the White House to take the focus off personal savings accounts, which alone won‘t save the program‘s finances, and talk about other potential fixes, including benefit cuts or raising the retirement age.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: I want to get Democrats to the table to talk about the problems, even if we don‘t talk immediately about personal accounts.
GREGORY: Again today, administration officials took the significant step of saying the president may not insist on private accounts being part of the final overhaul. Accounts outside Social Security might be an option.
JOHN SNOW, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: The president has said he is open to all ideas, and everything is on the table. But we clearly have our preferred ideas.
GREGORY: Democrats, however, are in no mood to deal and are planning their own road tour and ad blitz.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do not want your benefits cut.
GREGORY: Designed to undermine the president‘s plan.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The American people now understand that these private accounts have nothing to do with the solvency of Social Security. In fact, the president‘s plan makes the problem worse.
GREGORY: And tonight, a Republican close to the White House predicts that Social Security reform will not pass this year. And not until the president is able to convince the public that it was the Democrats who stood in the way of a good idea—Keith.
OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House. Great thanks.
Of course, not everything in Washington, D.C. is hard work. Some of it you can phone in, or in these Internet days, post in. Turns out the infamous Jim Guckert, Jeff Gannon, back on the White House beat—sort of. “Editor and Publisher” magazine reporting that three weeks after exiting stage right after the credentials scandal and the demise of Talon News, Gannon is back with his own Web site, complete not with a feature called “today‘s photo,” but rather one called “today‘s briefing question.” What he would be asking if they still let him.
Today‘s—Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told members of Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. economy is growing at a reasonably good pace and recommended that budget deficits be fixed through spending cuts instead of tax increases. Does the White House consider this an endorsement of its fiscal policies, as opposed to Democrats who still want to roll back the Bush tax cuts?
Gannon-Guckert still as uninformed as ever. What Greenspan actually told Congress on Wednesday, was, quote, “addressing the government‘s own imbalances will require scrutiny of both spending and taxes.” Today in fact, he suggested replacing income taxes with consumer taxes.
Also tonight, getting more beau for your dough. The new incentives offered by plastic surgeons, in English, looking for repeat users.
And teen testimony against Michael Jackson. His accuser‘s sister taking the stand. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: In Beverly Hills or, as California real estate people say, Beverly Hills adjoining for nearly six years, and so our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN is absolutely no surprise to me. You, you may flinch like someone getting hit with 100 volts. Cosmetic surgeons in that singular community are adopting the age-old marketing ploy—buy nine sandwiches and the 10th one is free. They are adopting it to Botox treatments. No, I‘m not kidding. Our correspondent is Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it the no-wrinkle reward program. A way to smooth away the years and save a few bucks. In Beverly Hills...
DR. PAUL NASSIF, COSMETIC SURGEON: They come here, we give them a card, and they get a $20 discount off their second visit, which might be three or four months later, and then the next visit after that, which is visit three, they get a $40 discount.
COSTELLO: Dr. Paul Nassif treats 50 to 60 Botox patients every week.
The discounts, he says, work.
NASSIF: It does help patients keep coming back to our door every three to four months.
COSTELLO: And it is not just Botox offering the no-wrinkle rebates. Arizona-based Medicis Pharmaceutical makes Restylane, another injectable anti-wrinkle agent that wears off after six to nine months.
JONAH SHACKNAI, MEDICIS PHARMACEUTICALS: The typical price for treatment is anywhere from $450 to $600 per syringe.
COSTELLO: Expensive. So, to keep patients coming back for an elective procedure, there is Restylane rewards. Gift certificates for Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom‘s, even a Restylane visa. Up to $375 in incentives to keep customers spending.
But it‘s not just Botox and Restylane. There is also the Viagra value card. The FDA says the promotions aren‘t illegal, but patient advocate Dr. Sid Wolff (ph) says he thinks they may be unethical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this case, the doctor is essentially bribing the patient to do something that they may not have done, but for the extra money or the extra gift of whatever kind.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Not so, says CEO Jonah Shacknai.
SHACKNAI: It‘s their decision. What we‘re trying to do is help them to be more comfortable financially with the decision.
COSTELLO: Cosmetic marketing with a new wrinkle
NASSIF: If you look at the entire year, you are saving about $100 off of Botox.
COSTELLO: Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Good grief. Somebody in Southern California is offering volume discounts on cosmetic surgery, and Michael Jackson is too busy to take advantage of it? An easy segue into tonight‘s roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And it is your tax and entertainment dollars in action, day 472 of the Michael Jackson investigation. Today, the now 18-year-old sister of Jackson‘s accuser testified. She told of the trip Jackson sent her family on to Miami in February 2003 in hopes of keeping them from seeing the broadcast of the Martin Bashir documentary, how Jackson personally instructed them not to watch the program, how an aid demanded they take part in a rebuttal to the Bashir show and handed them a script to read on camera.
She also swore she witnessed Jackson drinking alcohol along with her brother and another young boy in a wine cellar beneath the arcade at the Neverland Ranch. Jackson describes seeing her as, quote, interesting, frustrating.
And there is that oldest of Hollywood cliches, the supposed deadly combination of fast cars and loose women. And now they have reportedly been combined into one megadisaster called Paris Hilton.
London‘s Daily Mirror reporting the little rich girl with the half stoned expression has been taking car racing lessons to, it says, escape the paparazzi. “I‘ve driven down the street at 140 miles an hour when no one is around,” she‘s quoted as saying, “I‘ve never had a accident. I took racing lessons in Monaco with racing cars. I love fast cars.” Hilton adding she intends to place her new Ferrari with rhinestones.
Why not do what they did for Madeleine Kahn‘s character in the movie “High Anxiety?” Paint the Ferrari to match one of Paris‘s way too cool threads.
Up next, the Internet video that shocked some parents until the students and not the teacher got arrested.
OLBERMANN: At first it seemed to have the makings of a Supreme Court separation of church and state case. Then it looked like teachers gone wild. For a moment it even evoked Watergate, because there was a tape involved and ten minutes on it was missing. But ultimately our No. 1 story on tonight‘s COUNTDOWN appears to be the saga of 3 high school kids who are simply morons with cameras who work in Bricktownship, Missouri. An appropriately named place as in thick as a brick.
First the tape. You may have already seen it on the Internet. We‘ll explain it in a moment. First, the Web instant classic, kid won‘t stand for national anthem. Teacher goes bonkers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t want to hear a sound! Not a sound! You will stand quietly! You will pay attention! Any questions?
Do I have to stand up? no I don‘t. Are you kidding me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to stand-up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to stand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am damn well serious!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Pulled the chair out from under him. Electronics teacher Stewart Mantel (ph) got all kinds of grief from that. But it turns out there was 10 minutes missing from the original tape and that concluded or included students provoking him while recording on what was not, as first reported, a camera inside a cellphone, but actually a hidden video recorder.
And it turns out the teacher was only the latest victim of a group of Bricktownship high school students who regularly staged film and post images of their merry adventures which police have not discovered included the destruction of using baseball bats of Christmas displays of homes in neighborhood, drinking, profanity, simulated violence.
These are the images you‘re seeing for the first time. They actually made them into a music video.
And in Mr. Mantel‘s classroom the day before the anthem incident by the way, some of the same students had Saran wrapped a younger kid to a desk.
And that Anthem tape, it was a setup. School senior Corey Zapo told local reporters we knew just Mr. Mantel would flip out, because he frequently did. And my friends and I thought it would be funny catch it. Catch it on tape, that is.
Well guess what? Bricktownship Police have now caught Mr. Zapo. They arrested him and 2 other kids who were under the age of 18. So they are not being identified. The student who would stand up in that tape not one of them. Four counts each of criminal mischief.
Joining me now is Michael Remaley, communications director of Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization that has issued a survey called “Teaching Interrupted” about discipline in public schools. Mr, Remaley, good evening.
MICHAEL REMALEY, PUBLIC AGENDA: Hi, how are you?
OLBERMANN: Well, will a lot of teachers be gratified tonight that this has turned out the way it did with the teacher, essentially being exonerated and the kids being arrested?
REMALEY: Well, I don‘t know if teachers will be thrilled, but I think that they will indeed, feel that they have some sort of vindication because it‘s a problem that they‘ve been talking about for years and years and that we talked about in our research.
OLBERMANN: The story seems to extraordinary with secret videotaping and setting the teacher up. But is this kind of stuff more common than we would like to think?
REMALEY: Well, this is probably an extreme version with the set up and all that, but classroom discipline is a huge problem nationwide. And the fact 4 in 10 teachers tell us they spend more time trying to keep order in the classroom than they do actually teaching. And 3 in 4 teachers, teachers told us that they, in fact, could be much more effective teachers if they didn‘t have to spend so much time keeping order in the classroom. That translates to thousands of hours of lost teaching time. So it‘s a major, major problem.
OLBERMANN: There‘s always been teacher baiting. I mean, I used to proudly note that every one of my homeroom teachers from the 4th grade to the 8th grade quit the business or at least changed which grades they taught. But, do you think the mean spiritedness among the kids has actually increased over the years?
REMALEY: Well, it‘s hard to say really. And one of my high school teachers will find some irony for the fact that I refused to stand up for the school anthem when I was in high school and I‘m talking here to you today.
But I think the real difference is that there is—that teachers aren‘t being allowed to discipline students in the way that they used to. And it‘s a problem, because teachers can‘t—are afraid lawsuits if they discipline students. Students who are persistent troublemakers can‘t be not be put in separate classrooms.
And that‘s one of the solutions that we heard in our study is that both parents and teachers believe that one of the solutions is to more readily get students who are persistent troublemakers who may not be violent but who are persistent troublemakers, get them into more appropriate classrooms for them.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Who teaches those classes though?
REMALEY: Well, it does require shifting personnel, I suppose, and making those kinds of arrangements. But, you know, that—but you cannot have persistent troublemakers taking away from the educational experience of students who are there to learn. And it really is a minority of students who are causing problems.
OLBERMANN: All you need is a chair and whip. Michael Remaley of Public Agenda and the education survey “Teaching Interrupted.” Great thanks for your perspective tonight.
REMALEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it.
I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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