Guest: Linda Deutsch, Gregg McCrary, Thomas Adams, Rachel Adams
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Nothing ticks off the average American faster than preempting his TV shows for a residential news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don‘t want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The fallout from what the president said and when he said it, on the next edition of “The Apprentice.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE APPRENTICE”)
DONALD TRUMP: You‘re fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The fallout from what his ex-wife said. Debbie Rowe—some prosecution witness—calls him a great parent, calls him “my Michael.”
Call them my Looney Tunes. Warner Brothers backs off. They will not morph into insect creatures from the 28th century, thanks to an 11-year-old boy from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And that great Massachusetts buried treasure story? Not exactly as it first seemed. The treasure finders are arrested. One of them was a counterfeiter who had two different names. Oops!
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
His critics and political rivals often insist that President Bush is out of touch with the average American, tone-deaf to the day-to-day lives they lead in the way Jimmy Carter would have been when he made the infamous so-called malaise speech.
It turns out that this kind of thing may only be provable outside the regular political process. Like, for instance, when a president calls a prime-time news conference on 25 hours‘ notice and expects universal television coverage of it, not realizing, or perhaps not caring, that it is the first night of the so-called May sweeps rating period.
And after first getting cold-shouldered by the networks, that president winds up honking off the viewers of such hit series as “The O.C.,” “Without a Trace,” and “Will and Grace,” all of which get preempted. And shows like “The Apprentice,” “Survivor,” and “CSI,” which got delayed in most parts of the country.
And, oh, by the way, that president holds his first prime-time conference in a year smack-dab in the middle of Turn Off Your Television Week.
The networks reversed plans. They covered the conference after all. But 75 percent bailed out early to make sure their 9:00 p.m. programs got to start on time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: They appreciate the fact that the system now shows deficiencies early, so they can correct those problems. And it is working. OK.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: So President Bush, he‘s been speaking for an hour.
“Survivor” is coming up right here next.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: The president isn‘t at his most exercised point of the evening, a solid defense of his No Child Left Behind education initiative...
BUSH: So final question, Hutch. I don‘t want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air.
It is—that‘s right. I mean, it, obviously it is means-based when you‘re talking about...
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: The president wrapping up his news conference in Washington.
“The Simple Life” is next.
BUSH: Listen, thank you all for your interests. God bless our country.
ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABC NEWS: And president George W. Bush wrapping up his fourth prime-time news conference, stepping away from the podium...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: ABC the only network not to cut out early from the conference. Then again, it had only a Reese Witherspoon movie rerun planned.
To turn the familiar TV phrase on its head, we interrupt this president to join “The Apprentice,” not yet in progress.
Joining me now, “Congressional Quarterly” White House columnist and MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford.
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hi.
I was more irritated he preempted this show last night.
OLBERMANN: I got to go to a Yankee game, so I am beholden...
CRAWFORD: Oh, OK.
OLBERMANN: ... to the president (INAUDIBLE)...
CRAWFORD: I feel, I feel better, I feel better.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to the substance of this news conference, and we want to go through it step by step, we can all look down our noses at the “The Apprentice” or the “O.C.” and say, Hey, this is serious stuff here, you‘re supposed to be watching the president.
But that doesn‘t reflect reality. I mean, half the country does not care about politics to start with, and the rest of them often don‘t care about politics, especially if the alternative is watching “The O.C.”
How could anybody in that White House have been unaware as to pick that of all nights to tick off those sort of, I‘m undecided about you or about your entire field of politics viewers?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, we were talking a couple weeks ago about it, you know, and I think it was Tom DeLay‘s sort of out-of-sync comments with the culture. And I was making the point, they don‘t watch prime-time television in Washington. They don‘t understand what the rest of the country is watching. And that is a problem. And I...
You know, Ronald Reagan, there was a great story about him. One of his close aides was asked once time, what did he do every night? He said he and Nancy liked to just sit up in the White House with TV tables and rays and watch prime-time television. Ronald Reagan‘s the only politician I‘ve ever heard of who regularly watched prime-time television. And I think maybe it was good idea.
OLBERMANN: Or get somebody to do it for you, so you know...
CRAWFORD: There you go.
OLBERMANN: ... not to do that on that of all nights. I mean, wait till next Tuesday or something.
All right, to the issues. Let‘s run the table. President going back to the magic wand analogy when he discussed gas prices. Here‘s the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The energy bill is certainly no quick fix. You can‘t wave a magic wand. I wish I could. It‘s like that soldier at Ford Hood that said, How come you‘re not lowering the price of gasoline? I was having lunch with the fellow. And he said, Go lower the price of gasoline, President. I said, I wish I could. It just doesn‘t work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A rich and compelling anecdote there.
But the pitch, Craig, more refineries, more nukes to lower prices 10, 15 years from now. Is that going to that work?
CRAWFORD: Well, of course, it‘s very convenient to promise things that won‘t even come true, if they do come true, until long after you‘re gone, so you can‘t be held accountable.
And as far as a short-term fix, it is true. About all he can do is hold the crown prince of Saudi Arabia‘s hand and beg. Although Richard Nixon, in the inflation crisis during his presidency, he imposed wage-price controls, which was, I guess, heresy to talk about in these days.
OLBERMANN: Hold the prince‘s hand, by the way, and that‘s one less that he has to stab you in the back.
CRAWFORD: There you go, yes.
OLBERMANN: Or to use to increase gas prices.
The other big pitch last night, he changed Social Security. Here‘s the Social Security thing again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today, there are about 40 million retirees receiving benefits. There will be more than 72 million retirees drawing Social Security benefits. And Congress isn‘t sure that their benefits will rise faster than the rate of inflation.
So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The key word in that condensation was obviously “benefits.” Craig, the premise of this revised plan is what, and will it float?
CRAWFORD: Well, they‘ve added a new element, talking about lower benefits for higher-income recipients of Social Security, as a way of cutting costs. And so now he is really in a position of where the lower-income constituency the Democrats have stirred up against the president‘s plan, now the president is stirring up the higher-income constituents.
It‘s almost like he‘s, you know, just sawing a circle under his feet in the floorboard. I don‘t know if this is making sense politically, adding this new element for everyone to attack. And certainly Republicans and conservatives in the House not going to go along with cutting benefits for wealthier people.
OLBERMANN: Two political controversies, apart from the stuff that has sort of been created by the Social Securities, and, as you suggest, may now spring up within the Republican Party over the Social Security increased tax, or increased load, if you will, that—on the rich.
It sounded last night as if the president is at the party, and instead of dancing with Tom DeLay and Bill Frist or the evangelicals on the whole issues of the judges and everything else, that he went out for a smoke in the bathroom.
CRAWFORD: Yes, I mean...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I think people are opposing my nominees because they don‘t like the judicial philosophy of the people I‘ve nominated. I mean, some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That‘s not my view of the proper role of a judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But he‘s—but, you know, having said that, he did, however, step to the side on the issue of faith and whether or not that plays a role in these judge filibusters and all that. Did he to some degree cut off DeLay on the judges and Frist on the evangelicals?
CRAWFORD: To some degree. Keith, this president is very good at balancing one of the toughest balance beams in politics, which is to appeal to some of these evangelical Christian voters who are so critical to his political success, but keeping the tone fairly moderate, so that you don‘t frighten everyone else.
And that‘s what he was attempting to do. And, of course, this phrase, “legislating from the bench,” is (INAUDIBLE), it‘s really empty language, in a way. It either means nothing, or it means everything anybody wants it to mean. It‘s not really a legal term, but it is a code phrase to evangelical Christians that you‘re talking about liberal judges.
OLBERMANN: All right. Also last night—we touched on the John Bolton nomination, and the president was unyielding on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: If you‘re interested in reforming the U.N. like I‘m interested in reforming the U.N., it makes sense to put somebody who‘s skilled and who‘s not afraid to speak his mind at the United Nations.
Now, I asked John, during the interview process in the Oval Office, I said, Before I send you up there to the Senate, let me ask you something. Do you think the United Nations is important? See, I didn‘t want to send somebody up there who said, Well, that‘ not—it‘s not worth a darn. I don‘t think I even need to go.
He said, No, it‘s important. But it needs to be reformed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now, for whose benefit were those remarks made?
CRAWFORD: Well, it was something of a gauntlet thrown to the leadership of the U.N., for starters, if not the whole Security Council. I mean, this president clearly is disdainful of the United Nations. There‘s just no secret about that, going back to when he called it nothing but a debating society before the Iraq war.
And there is going to be an effort now. What I think‘s interesting down the road, Keith, is, I think Kofi Annan, the secretary general, eventually may go. I mean, the problems seem to be mounting for him. And I‘m sure this administration would like to have a hand in seeking (INAUDIBLE) or picking his replacement while they‘re still in power.
OLBERMANN: And it‘s not going to be Bill Clinton.
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, that could be. Who knows? They got to change the bylaws of the Security Council.
CRAWFORD: Turns out a Security Council member can‘t actually be secretary general. But, you know, old Clinton could probably get around that.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps—I don‘t know, I think the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might not go for that (INAUDIBLE)...
CRAWFORD: They might have a problem.
OLBERMANN: Just a small one.
MSNBC analyst, “Congressional Quarterly” White House columnist Craig Crawford, as always, sir, great thanks for joining us.
CRAWFORD: All right. So long.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, how much did the millennium bomber warn this government about 9/11 and al Qaeda? There are new reports of new evidence.
And actual breaking news in the Michael Jackson case tonight, as his ex stunned onlookers by testifying in his defense. It turns out, reportedly at the same time, Jackson lawyers were in another courtroom filing paperwork that might have cut her off from their kids. That‘s an interesting coincidence.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: False alarm in the Middle East this morning. A series of weird postings on Islamist extremist Web sites today hinting at the possible death of Osama bin Laden. Supporters and opponents both rushed out denials.
Western intelligence still believes he is alive and holed up somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan‘s president has said he thinks he knows where bin Laden was about 10 months ago.
The real news is not about what bin Laden is doing now, but about what he might have been doing in the spring of 2001, which terrorist suspect knew about that, and how much that man may have warned our government about what became 9/11.
The man is Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian who pleaded guilty to being the would-be millennium bomber who planned to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999, arrested when he tried to smuggle a rental car packed with explosives across the Canadian border.
According to “Newsweek” magazine, once in custody, Ressam started providing American officials with very specific information about plans for a terrorist attack. This was three months before 9/11.
Among other things, Ressam telling authorities that al Qaeda commander Abu Zubaydah had been planning on his own attack on U.S. soil, big plans that included getting people hired at airports, blowing up airports, blowing up airplanes. Ressam also identifying Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty last week, for his role in the 9/11 conspiracy.
While there is no evidence that the Ressam had specific knowledge of the 9/11 attacks themselves, his intelligence was the basis for at least part of the president‘s daily briefing, the one that was entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” presented to President Bush by the CIA in August 2001, although that information was said to have been heavily watered down by the time it reached Mr. Bush.
All of it, and more, apparently adding up to another lost opportunities in the days, weeks, and, we now know, months before the 9/11 attacks.
Here to help us try to understand how it may have happened, Roger Cressey, who, as director of the National Security Council staff, used to be responsible for coordinating and implementing U.S. counterterrorism policy. And these days, of course, Roger is an MSNBC analyst.
Good evening to you, sir.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this as bad as it seems at first blush, or are we allowing hindsight to fill in some very big gaps in what Ressam would have known and would have been saying early in 2001?
CRESSEY: We‘re allowing hindsight to fill in some gaps. You have to remember, Ressam‘s operational knowledge ended in December of 1999.
The most interesting piece is the reference to Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah was one of the people behind the millennium attempt in 1999, potential attacks in Jordan. Had we known, in the summer of 2001, that Abu Zubaydah was interested in infiltrating people in the United States, that would have caused those of us who knew Zubaydah to be even further concerned.
That said, Ressam didn‘t provide anything specific about a timeline related to a given attack. And we now know he had no knowledge of 9/11.
OLBERMANN: A cynic might say that any briefing that‘s entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” is clearly going to be alarming no matter what, or should have been more alarming than it was, at least.
But there could be others who would be less cynical, who might now look at this and be inclined to say that precisely because Ressam‘s intelligence was watered down, even from what little he knew, no wonder President Bush told the 9/11 commission that he viewed that PDI as, quote, “historical in nature,” and didn‘t really follow up on it.
Does it, in fact—does this story, to some degree, absolve the president?
CRESSEY: No, not completely. What we were missing in the summer of 2001 was specific, credible, corroborated information about an attack inside the United States. What we did not have, we did not have a timeline. We knew there was going to be an attack. The intelligence led us overseas.
I think what the 9/11 commission concluded was that there was a lack of imagination, a lack of being proactive and acting upon the information we had at that time.
Those of us in the counterterrorism community, Keith, we were fully seized with the issue. But again, this type of data would have been very helpful for us to further impress upon our principals that we needed to do something quickly.
OLBERMANN: Why would it have been watered down? Would it have been watered down because somebody followed that same kind of thinking that you just mentioned, that, well, all the other intelligence says overseas, so when this man says something here, he must be missing a piece of the puzzle?
OLBERMANN: Well, we knew Zubaydah wanted to conduct attacks against the United States. That was no secret. What was interesting here is that he was interested in infiltrating individuals into the United States. You know, the PDB process is a very painful process. Sometimes good commentary and analysis is left out of the PDB because of space limitations. It sounds silly, but that‘s the way the process has worked in the past. So this could have been an editorial decision that obviously had some very important implications.
OLBERMANN: I think I called it a PDI before. I don‘t know what a PDI is. Obviously, as you said, it‘s a PDB.
Last question, part of this “Newsweek” story is that Ressam has stopped cooperating after basically brokering a deal so he wouldn‘t have to go to jail for 130 years. Apart from the legalities of it, what is the loss of him in term of information at this point? Is it potentially damaging?
CRESSEY: Well, the key loss is, his testimony is the grounds for us asking for the extradition of Abu Doha, who seems to be Ressam‘s control agent and a key facilitator in the al Qaeda network. If Ressam stops cooperating, we can‘t get Doha extradited from Great Britain to stand trial in the United States.
And that, frankly, is important. So I‘m hoping the Justice Department comes up with a creative way to get Ressam reengaged.
OLBERMANN: Two hundred and sixty years. Terrorism expert Roger Cressey. As always, sir, thanks for taking the time to join us, Roger.
CRESSEY: Pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, it is the underbelly of a seemingly harmless sport, an exclusive Oddball investigation tonight into fixed baby-racing. Yes, you heard me, fixed.
Now, their story kept changing every time they went on national TV, to say nothing of how one of the men kept changing how he spelled his own last name. Now police say they did not find treasure in the back yard. They stole and it put it in the back yard.
OLBERMANN: ... segment planned for this evening. Brush up on string theory with Keith Olbermann. Unfortunately, one of the producers hid my textbook. So we will now go to the backup plan, wacky video.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Arlington, Texas, for another one of those wild baby derbies. But what began as a cute trend—child expose—has now become a cesspool of anabolic steroids and degenerate gambling.
The winner of this race, moving on to the finals next week in Dallas, and that‘s where the big money -- Wait a minute. What‘s this? The little girl on the outside is throwing the race. She—little Mikey is the winner. She had the thing locked up. She just stopped.
Never in my 30 years of broadcasting have I seen a more disgusting display of the corruption at a sporting event. The whole thing makes me ashamed to call myself a follow-up of baby derbyism.
Worst Cosell impression I‘ve ever done.
To Seattle, where students at Eastern Washington University, showing off the latest marvel of engineering, a bicycle made out of cardboard. It is the world‘s first recyclable bike, also possibly the world‘s first dangerously flammable bike, or the first water-soluble bike.
The only part of it that is not made over—made up from leftover paper tubes is the chain drive, which makes you wonder just how many restroom trashcans they had to pilfer through to build the thing.
The bike should be the favorite to win the university‘s upcoming Human-Powered Paper Vehicle Competition, although I have heard rumors that a guy made a Segway out of nothing but empty boxes of Jimmy Dean sausage.
Finally, country music news. Let‘s check in with Doug Supernaw, once at the top of the country charts. The singer today found himself in a courtroom in Amarillo, Texas, facing charges of marijuana possession. Police say they found it in Supernaw‘s hotel room.
They also found Mr. Supernaw himself. The singer represented himself in court. He said those drugs belonged to somebody else. He was found guilty. Listening to his defense, you wonder how a jury could have come to that conclusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG SUPERNAW: It was a complete setup. I know exactly how much marijuana I had. And the marijuana that I had was gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But it was—you, you, you, you had...
Did it have anything to do with the minibar?
Back to the real news, well, the Michael Jackson news. The mother of two of his children proves a surprisingly friendly witness. And it is reported that as she spoke, Jackson‘s attorneys were in another court filing paperwork about ending her parental rights.
And the bride vanished three days ago. They don‘t know if she‘s been abducted or she ran away. But they are going to assemble for the Wilbanks-Mason wedding in Duluth, Georgia, tomorrow anyway.
These stories ahead.
But now, here are our COUNTDOWN top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, school officials at Marshall Junior High in Clovis, New Mexico, they locked the place down after somebody saw a boy carrying something long in a wrapper into the school. Police were called. There were snipers on the rooftops. Two hours later, they found it. It was eighth-grader Michael Morrisey‘s burrito. He had made a 30-inch-long burrito for a school project on advertising.
Number two, Chen Ming Wang, (INAUDIBLE) New York Yankees pitcher from Taiwan, who makes his major league baseball debut tomorrow, opposed by number one, David Bush, the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher. Yes, Wang versus Bush.
The eternal struggle continues.
OLBERMANN: If you hadn‘t heard, the presumed bombshell witness for the prosecution in the Michael Jackson case, his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, blew up in the DA‘s face yesterday. Turns out there might be more than met the eye, the syndicated TV series “Celebrity Justice” reporting that yesterday in another courtroom in California, Michael Jackson‘s divorce attorney refiled an old court order that would terminate all the parental rights of Debbie Rowe. Timing remains everything.
It‘s your entertainment tax dollars in action, day 529 of the Michael Jackson investigations. The second day of her testimony from the prosecution‘s closer looked more like she was pinch-hitting for the defense. Called to corroborate the testimony of the accuser‘s mother to say that she, too, had been coached and cajoled into doing a pro-Jackson video, Ms. Rowe instead saying, quote, “I was excited to do it. There were no scripts, no rehearsals, no threats,” she says. And it only got worse for the prosecution. She went on to describe Jackson as, quote, “generous to a fault, good father, great kids”—or “great with kids.” Oops!
Today there were books about kids, specifically, two picture books about boys in various stages of undress confiscated by authorities during the 1993 investigation, allowed into evidence in this case by Judge Rodney Melville today. Jackson, in fact, wrote an inscription in one of the books. Quoting it, “Look at the true spirit of happiness and joy in these boys‘ faces. This is the spirit of boyhood, a life I‘ve never had and will always dream of. This is the life I want for my children.”
The Rowe testimony continued to linger over the trial today like the smoke from yesterday‘s forest fire, especially in light of the curious filing against her parental rights by the Jackson divorce attorney. Only a cynic would suggest that the ex-Mrs. Jackson‘s testimony (SIC) had something to do with her surprisingly friendly testimony about her Michael. Well, then, we sure as hell got a lot of cynics working on “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
“MICHAEL JACKSON”: I hope she calls me a wonderful person, a great father, and generous and caring.
“DEBBIE ROWE”: He‘s a wonderful person, a great father, generous and caring.
“MICHAEL JACKSON”: That was lucky. I hope she calls my assistants opportunistic vultures.
“DEBBIE ROWE”: His assistants are opportunistic vultures.
“MICHAEL JACKSON”: What an amazing coincidence. I hope she calls me “My Michael.”
“DEBBIE ROWE”: There‘s different Michaels. There‘s, like, my Michael...
“MICHAEL JACKSON”: Whoa!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Back to the reality. I‘m joined by the able correspondent of The Associated Press, Linda Deutsch, who‘s outside the courthouse in Santa Maria. Linda, thank you for your time tonight.
LINDA DEUTSCH, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Nice to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: No trial in history has ever had a witness go that badly for the prosecution without somebody murmuring, Yes, somebody made a deal with somebody. Now we have this story, with paperwork attached, about a filing to terminate or try to terminate, if not actually terminate, Debbie Rowe‘s parental rights on the same day. Were they murmuring about the oddity of her testimony still in Santa Maria today?
DEUTSCH: Absolutely. I have not heard anything about this other report, so I can‘t comment on that. I do know that Debbie Rowe turned out to be an incredibly compelling witness for the defense, not for the prosecution. She was certainly very affecting in the courtroom. It was hard not to feel that this woman was being forthright and that she was talking from her heart.
OLBERMANN: Any sense that the prosecution would be trying to repair this by examining Rowe‘s testimony to see—I‘m just speculating here—if there was perjury or she‘d softened it in some hopes of getting more access to her kids, or are they letting it go?
DEUTSCH: I don‘t know what they‘re doing, but I think it‘s a little late now to try to do anything with her testimony. They had their chance, and it was—it was a very interesting piece of testimony. It had a lot to do with the conspiracy counts against Jackson. She obviously had some very strong feelings against his associates. She portrayed them as a kind of inside cabal that was plotting against him, rather than with him. And that is crucial, when you look at a conspiracy charge in which he is supposed to be the center of this conspiracy. She says no way, that they were plotting against him.
OLBERMANN: And obviously, the prosecution was, if not hearing that for the first time, they were hearing it as it was presented to the jury with probably just as much impact on them. Either yesterday or today, did Mr. Sneddon and his team show signs of having been thrown by what she said and trying to make some way back for themselves?
DEUTSCH: I think that prosecutors are masters of the poker face, and they never give up anything about how they feel about a witness. They did get her off the stand as quickly as they could, which was probably a good idea for the prosecution. The defense questioned her at great length. At first, they made an odd motion, which was to strike all of her first day‘s testimony. I think they didn‘t know what she was going to say on the second day. Once she gave her testimony the second day, Tom Mesereau said, We withdraw the motion. They were very happy with what she had to say.
OLBERMANN: I‘m sure if they had the chance, they would have carried her out of the courtroom on a feather bed.
OLBERMANN: Special correspondent Linda Deutsch of The Associated Press in Santa Maria, helping us with the Jackson trial coverage tonight. Great. Thanks for your time and your insight, Linda.
DEUTSCH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And a bizarre case in Duluth, Georgia, continuing to befuddle authorities there, to say nothing of the 600 people scheduled to attend the Wilbanks-Mason wedding tomorrow, even though nobody has seen Jennifer Wilbanks since Tuesday night. Today her family offered a $100,000 reward. Police insisted they want that man, John Mason, to take a second lie-detector test, this one in their presence. And then the cops called off their search.
The 32-year-old marathon runner went out, says the fiancee, for a run on Tuesday night. She took nothing with her—no ID, no credit cards, only her running suit and a radio. Police have found nothing except some cut hair. They don‘t know if it is hers, even. The fiance passed a privately administered lie-detector test. He wants any police test to be videotaped. In Duluth, Georgia, they say they will not agree to that. Investigators also say flatly they are stuck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF RANDY BELCHER, DULUTH POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have nothing at this point to show that there has been a crime committed. We‘ve turned over probably every leaf in this city, so I have suspended all future searches as of this moment, unless some other evidence is brought forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That chief, Mr. Belcher, saying that the case was at the time—this time being treated as a criminal investigation. But he further added, quote, “It‘s a very real possibility she did get cold feet.”
I‘m joined now by Greg McCrary, a former FBI profiler, now a consultant on criminal behavior. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
GREGG MCCRARY, FORMER FBI PROFILER: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t mean to judge a book by its cover, but those photos of this woman—I don‘t know how recent they are. There‘s just a feeling about those shots, with her eyes sort of bugging out, that you look at that and say, Is she going to run or do something? What is it, from what you know of this case, that moves it out of the unexpected, possibly aberrational behavior category into the possibility of foul play category?
MCCRARY: Well, you have to begin with victimology. And keep in mind, the first phase of a criminal investigation is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed, and we‘re sort of in that phase right now. Sometimes, in some cases, it‘s a no-brainer. We know there‘s a crime.
Other cases like this, we‘re still struggling to find out what happened.
The key here will be victimology. That‘s the only thing really to go on, at this point. In other words, this woman, was she a stable, responsible adult who didn‘t act impulsively. Or if there was a history of impulsive behavior and doing kind of loopy things and that sort of thing, then that might push it toward the idea that she may have either staged her own abduction or run away. If not, then we may be looking at a potential abduction.
OLBERMANN: Can you give us a handle, at this point, on the relevance of this hair that has been found, if it‘s even hers? Does the idea that it was cut, as opposed to pulled, really mean anything? Couldn‘t somebody have pulled the hair out and then it and leave it as a false clue?
MCCRARY: It‘s possible. Keep in mind, though, that—what I refer often to as the “CSI” effect—we got to be careful about that, that a lot of the stuff that you find, even at crime scenes when you know this is the site of a crime, is artifact, isn‘t related to the crime at all, and as opposed to “CSI,” where everything they find is related to the crime. Real life, it‘s much dicier, you‘re much less sure than in the program. So whether this hair has anything to do with—you know, with the crime or not—if it were staged or put there, I think it would be—you know, again, I don‘t know how it was found. I think it would be more prominent or something. It would definitely be—be sort of a clue that—if they want to stage it that way. So what this is about, you know, who knows, at this point.
OLBERMANN: Last question is about the lie-detector tests. The fiance‘s taken one in private, wants to take second one. First off, why wouldn‘t the police agree let him videotape it? It would seem like a small price to pay. But otherwise, besides that, has there ever been any real correlation shown between somebody‘s willingness to take a lie-detector test and the likelihood that they are criminally involved in a case? Is there any connection whatsoever between those two things?
MCCRARY: No, none at all, actually. I mean, you might be prone to think—we might be prone to think that someone who feels they‘re going to fail it wouldn‘t want to take it. I‘ve been involved in a lot of cases where guilty people have come forward and taken a lie-detector or the polygraph exam, not done well, have been asked to provide DNA, when, in fact, there‘s DNA evidence, they‘ve given it up freely. I don‘t know whether they think the lab is going to screw it up or people are going to misread the charts or what. But there‘s no correlation.
And again, I‘m with you. I‘m not sure why they‘re not willing to videotape the—videotape, you know, an exam. It doesn‘t—it shouldn‘t affect the exam at all. As long as there‘s a privacy and a confident examiner there, I don‘t think videotaping it would make any difference.
OLBERMANN: Greg McCrary, former FBI profiler, now a consultant on criminal behavior. Great. Thanks for your insight on this case tonight, sir.
MCCRARY: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: In importance, there‘s no comparison between that story and this next one, but crime marched on. Buried treasure in the back yard. Well, how did stolen treasure from somebody else‘s roof? Different kind of a story. And a legal loss for Rush Limbaugh could be charges against him in the “pile o‘ painkillers” case. Those stories ahoy.
Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top Three Sound Bites” for this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we‘re wise enough to create these accounts for people, there‘s going to be government oversight to make sure that people are treated fairly. And that‘s what you‘ve got to know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Index. Index funds.
BUSH: Yes, see? Index funds, whatever in the heck that means. Just kidding!
UNIDENTIFIED MICHAEL JACKSON FAN: Tabloid trash, kiss Michael‘s (DELETED)! Tabloid trash, kiss Michael‘s (DELETED)!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael! Michael!
JAY LENO, “TONIGHT” SHOW HOST: Boy, and I tell you something. They were working. They did as much as they could to get gas out of the—as much gas out of the prince as possible. Did you see it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
LENO: Did you see what—did you see how Bush distracted him? Now, see? Watch. Bush greets him here. Now, look—keeps him—now, keep your eye on Dick Cheney. Keep your eye—watch (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) Do you see that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You‘ve seen it in real life. You‘ve seen it on “Law and Order.” Detectives doubting a story told by a criminal, a witness or even a purported victim using impeccable logic and remorseless analysis, break them down slowly. And finally, they find that one almost imperceptible weak thread that will unravel the entire case. Or one of the detectives suddenly realizes that the guy they‘re talking to has given out two different spellings of his last name.
Last week, Barry Villcliff and a friend supposedly found $100,000 worth of vintage cash buried near a house in Methuen, Massachusetts. Then it turned out that Barry Villcliff—with a “V” as in Victor—was actually named Barry Billcliff, with a “B” as in burglar. Oh, and Mr. Billcliff had a federal counterfeiting conviction on his record.
He and Tim Crebase were arrested at Lawrence, Mass. Police say the money they found was, in fact, stolen, found in a house they were repairing in Newbury, Mass., and then put in a crate, with the whole buried treasure story manufactured. The story was a tip-off, too, because Billcliff and Crebase couldn‘t keep their sagas straight and kept embellishing on them in interview after interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY CREBASE, THEFT SUSPECT: I was just helping pulling up the tree, and all of a sudden, I uncovered this crate with all these tin cans of money, bills after bills after bills after bills.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unbelievable!
CREBASE: It was—it was unreal.
I started digging and digging, and all of a sudden, and I hit some—something, like a crate or something. So I cleared up all the dirt off of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big was the crate?
CREBASE: About this big. About this deep.
CREBASE: It was probably about yea big.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
CREBASE: About yea deep.
The box just disintegrated, just—it was wood. And just being in the ground, it just, like, fell apart.
After I pulled up the first tine, I—one of the ones I hit with the shovel, so I obviously saw there was money in it, I ran back to the truck to find everybody. And I‘m running around saying, Hey, guys, guys, where are you? I run back to the—where all the cans were. I rip off my sweatshirt, just start pulling out can after can after can.
Hey, guys! They looked at me, and I just dumped all the cans and...
BARRY BILLCLIFF, THEFT SUSPECT: He goes, Pretty cool?
CREBASE: ... just everywhere.
BILLCLIFF: Pretty cool! Throws down his sweatshirt, all the cans roll across.
BILLCLIFF: ... that there was at least money in one of them.
CHIEF JOSEPH SOLOMON, METHUEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Was at 5:00 AM or was it 5:15 AM? Was it cloudy and raining or cloudy and misting? But not that it was in a crate that fell apart, and then a crate that was completely intact, and then it wasn‘t in a crate, it was in a can. So the big inconsistencies do help prove our story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Police also point out that if the loot really had been stored a foot below the surface for 75 years, some of the bills probably would no longer be in near mint condition. And they‘ve also issued warrants for two other men in this case now. The newspaper “The Eagle Tribune” of Lawrence, Mass., says Crebase has confessed. He and Billcliff are now out on jail. (SIC) And oh, by the way, how likely was Billcliff‘s future as a counterfeiter and a finder of dubious cans of antique paper money made by the face that his name was Barry Billcliff!
From piles of money to pile of pills, it‘s our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And it begins with a legal setback for Rush Limbaugh. My friends, Florida supreme court declining by a vote of 4 to 3 to overturn or even review a lower court ruling that permits investigators to examine Limbaugh‘s medical records. The state seized those records in November, 2003, after it learned he had received about 2,000 painkiller pills in only six months, prescribed by four different doctors from just the one pharmacy near his home in Palm Beach. They have not been permitted to charge him, pending the resolution of his claim that seizing those records was a violation of his privacy. No charges still yet.
And you‘ve doubtless heard about the poll that once suggested Walter Cronkite was once the most trust man in America. It was conducted by a Florida newspaper in 1979. And one of the runners-up was a fictional character named Charlie Hume. He was the managing editor of the apocryphal newspaper, “The Los Angeles Tribune,” in the CBS television series “Lou Grant.” He was played by a great actor named Mason Adams. Mason Adams has died of natural causes. He got three Emmy nominations in the five years that “Lou Grant” ran. He was an actor for 60 years, from radio to Broadway stage to a million television commercials because even if you did not recognize Mason Adams‘s face or his name, you knew his singular voice for Smuckers jam and countless other products.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASON ADAMS: Now Smuckers celebrates 100 years of family-made goodness. With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mason Adams died in New York at the age of 86.
Also tonight: They were, quite frankly, terrifying looking. But now, thanks to an 11-year-old boy, this will not be the face of the next generation of Bugs Bunny and company. He joins us next. The kid, not Bugs Bunny.
OLBERMANN: Call it drawing a line in the sand or redrawing the map of cartoonland, or in the words of Yosemite Sam himself, “Draw, you long-eared critter!” You can fight meaningless progress. And in a moment, we‘ll meet the 11-year-old who saved, in part, at least, one of America‘s most revered institutions.
You may remember seeing it here on COUNTDOWN. In February, Warner Bros. announced “The Loonatics,” revised, ultra-sleek, sharp-edged, flatly frightening mutations of Bugs Bunny and company. They were now superheroes from the year 2772, with names like Buzz Bunny. Quite a shock for old-timers like me and my guest that night, Harry Shearer, himself no stranger to animated entertainment. And as it turned out, quite a shock for some of the “Loony Tunes” younger fans, too. One of them, Thomas Adams, got a petition drive going to ask Warner Bros. to make their new characters entirely different for the “Loonatics” series, leave the old ones alone.
The company has listened, to some degree, Warner Bros. announcing that the “Loonatics” will consist not of completely new characters, but at least ones that don‘t look like somebody‘s nightmares.
Thomas Adams and his mother, Rachel, joining us now from their hometown of Tulsa. And I guess congratulations are in order here. Thomas, how‘d you do this? I‘m assuming it had something to do with the Internet.
THOMAS ADAMS, SAVEOURLOONEYTUNES.COM: Yes.
OLBERMANN: What‘d do you?
THOMAS ADAMS: Well, I—at first, when I first saw them, I didn‘t really like them. So when I went to school the next day, my friend, Ashton Hubbard (ph), had seen them and hadn‘t liked them, either. So we thought something needed to be done, and we started a paper petition. But it only got about 15 signatures. So I—we—I—my parents suggested that I should put it on the Internet, and they called Rod Copeland (ph), and I got the Web site started.
OLBERMANN: How many signatures have you gotten on the Web site?
THOMAS ADAMS: Well over 120,000.
OLBERMANN: That‘s a little bigger than 15 or 20 in person! Are you satisfied with what Warner Bros. says it‘s going to do about these “Loonatics”? Is this enough, or you still want them to get rid of this altogether?
THOMAS ADAMS: Well, I‘m not really fully satisfied right now. Depending on what they look like, or what—yes, what they look like, then I don‘t like it or I do or...
OLBERMANN: All right, now, tell me one thing, though. This I don‘t get necessarily. A lot of guys your age like the characters who have swords for ears or they have electronic noses or whatever they‘ve got. Why do you prefer the same Bugs Bunny that I loved when I was your age?
THOMAS ADAMS: Well, it‘s—he‘s not evil or dark or mean-looking, and neither are the other “Loony Tunes.” But Warner Bros. is trying to turn them into that.
OLBERMANN: So Mrs. Adams, as a parent, have you always thought that the original “Loony Tunes” and Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam were good entertainment for kids? There was a controversy about that when I was a kid, but did you think this was good stuff and should be left alone?
RACHEL ADAMS, MOTHER OF THOMAS ADAMS: I think they‘re great fun. I love them for kids.
OLBERMANN: Did you think your son‘s effort here was going pay off?
RACHEL ADAMS: Well, after he went on line instead of just using a paper petition, I could see success.
OLBERMANN: So let me ask you another one here, Thomas. You have changed the world, at least to some degree here, in defense of Bugs Bunny. We don‘t know how it‘s going to turn out. We‘re probably going to find out next week what these new characters are going to look like. The petition process has worked. You‘ve gotten on the Internet. You going to go after anything else? Is there anything else you don‘t like in your life that you want to get rid of?
THOMAS ADAMS: Well, homework, but I don‘t really think I can do anything about that right now.
OLBERMANN: Yes, you‘ll be...
THOMAS ADAMS: So depending on what happens in the future...
OLBERMANN: Well, yes, good luck working on that homework thing. We were working on that about 1964, and I never got anywhere on it. So more power to you, if you can. Thomas Adams, his mother, Rachel, who have helped make the world partially safe for Bugs Bunny. Great. Thanks for joining us tonight.
RACHEL ADAMS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Oh, very nice. Excellent. That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. And there‘ll be soon an evil version drawn of me, no doubt. Let‘s see if I can get this right. Good night, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No licenseis granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.