Guest: Craig Crawford, Mark Silva, Josh White
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The truth about the battlefield death of Pat Tillman. His parents still getting new versions of it from the Army. They still aren‘t convinced they know the truth. And they are furious about it, his father accusing the Army of, quote, “outright lies.”
The president of Afghanistan on the rioting in Afghanistan after the Koran story. You will be told he blasted “Newsweek.” You may not have been told he also exonerated “Newsweek.”
And why the $158 million dollar party for the new “Star Wars” flick? It‘s the robots. Secretly, we all want our own robot. Preferably one that doesn‘t stagger.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
You had a sense that compromise might be possible when the majority leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, suddenly changed the name of the worst-case scenario from the nuclear option to the constitutional option.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, our long national nightmare is over. Just under 17 hours before there would have been a vote on cloture, a vote to end the debate over the nomination of Justice Priscilla Owen to the federal court of appeals, and thus probably just about 21 hours before there would have been a vote to end Senate filibusters on judicial nominations, compromise has been reached.
Senator Frist himself is expected to speak on the Senate floor at about 10 minutes past the hour. We will go to that if it happens as scheduled.
There, of course, was a great deal on the bargaining table here, allowing some of President Bush‘s nominees to be voted on, others not, preserving the filibuster, possibly even guaranteeing that the administration would not face a filibuster if and when a new Supreme Court justice needed to be nominated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: This came as a result of perspiration, not inspiration. As you know, we worked very, very hard to get here. It is in the finest traditions of the Senate. And this agreement is based on trust.
SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA: It‘s been a remarkable study of Senate history and the history of our country throughout this whole process. And the one unanswered question that guided me all the way through is, it was unanswered, what would happen to the Senate if the nuclear option were done? And no one was able to answer that to my satisfaction.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Senators Pryor and Warner speaking there. They had already rolled out the cots to keep the Senate up all night. Apparently that will not be necessary.
Interestingly, 19 years ago today, on May 23 of 1986, the actor Sterling Hayden died. If the name does not sound familiar nor relevant, perhaps his most famous movie role will for you. He was Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in the film “Dr. Strangelove,” whose sudden convictions that the Russians were out to poison his precious bodily fluids caused him to order his bomber wing to hit the Soviet Union with atomic weapons—the nuclear option.
Joining me now, Craig Crawford, White House columnist for “Congressional Quarterly,” MSNBC political analyst, and author, and we‘ll get to the author part later.
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, WHITE HOUSE COLUMNIST, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:
Yee-haw, as they said in “Strangelove.”
OLBERMANN: Exactly. All right, so who has blinked here? Did the Republicans not have enough votes to kill the filibuster? Or did the Democrats back down? Do we know?
CRAWFORD: Well, it seems on the Democrats‘ side, the first blinking to me. It sort of looks like a sharp stick in the eye version of blinking. The Democrats are letting these judges go through and committing to let the president‘s Supreme Court nominees go through. Except in extraordinary circumstances, they‘re prevented from filibuster. So that‘s quite a bit of wiggle room for Democrats.
OLBERMANN: Yes. There is no definition of “extraordinary circumstances” in this? There‘s nothing in writing?
CRAWFORD: (INAUDIBLE) -- I think it‘s like Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography, I‘ll know it when I see it.
OLBERMANN: So they are letting through three and canceling two. Is there a reason for—I mean, just it had to be a three and two compromise? Or is there a specific reason that Owen is going through and not one of the others?
CRAWFORD: I think it‘s a bit of horse trading, Keith. Everybody gets a little bragging rights out of this. I say the Democrats blinked, but on the other hand, the Republicans do not get the firm guarantee that there will be no filibuster when a Supreme Court nomination is made. And that‘s something the White House really wanted.
So also, it doesn‘t have the lasting effect of a vote actually banning the filibuster against judicial nominations would have had for future presidents. So in a way, I think both sides took a pass.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of it not being permanent, that terminology, those “extraordinary circumstances” language, the vagueness of that, vague even for American political language. (INAUDIBLE)...
CRAWFORD: And remember, these are a bunch of lawyers in the Senate.
So they‘re good at parsing sentences.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And it‘s—and anything done vaguely is done deliberately vaguely. Is this, literally, was this a stopgap measure? This is not some sort of a first step towards bipartisan accord on the subject of judicial nominees long term, is it?
CRAWFORD: I doubt it. I think a lot of senators, particularly some Republicans who are more senators than they are Republican, worried about the future impact on Senate tradition, particularly if the other party were to get in control of the White House.
Let‘s just say, for example, someone named Clinton were named president in the next administration, and Republicans suddenly found themselves without—able—building—to use the filibuster against the Clinton nomination to the Supreme Court. That had to be on their minds.
OLBERMANN: All right. We know that the first on-the-record statement breaking this, almost an hour ago, was from Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Are we presuming that it was Warner—we saw Warner and McCain at the news conference in Washington 35 minutes ago. Are we presuming they were the masters of it on the Republican side?
CRAWFORD: That seems to be the case, Keith. What‘s interesting is that the leadership of both parties, Democrat and Republican, did not take the lead in this compromise. This group in the middle put this together. But that‘s not terribly unusual for the Senate. It‘s not run like a storm trooper operation.
And so I think it was—stood to reason that maybe some moderates could get it together and pulled a few of the Republicans over who were concerned about the impact on Senate tradition down the road.
OLBERMANN: And obviously, it‘s no mistaking that it was a victory for the moderates, if they ran the Senate today and not Mr. Frist, and not Mr. Reid. But nothing happens in a vacuum. As traditional as that might be for the Senate, where they—where people do in fact occasionally rise above the partisan rancor, it still has an impact, both on majority leader Frist and minority leader Reid, and I would suspect upon Mr. Frist more so, because he really went out on a limb. Did he—is this also going to enable him to scurry back from the edge of that limb?
CRAWFORD: Anything short of actually banning the filibuster that the evangelical Christians and other social conservatives wanted in this is a loss for Frist for his presidential campaign, which he is—there‘s an open secret in Washington, he‘s running for president in 2008. This was a bid for the conservative chair in the Republican Party, which is wide open right now. Nobody‘s really in line to inherit that from George Bush, and he certainly hasn‘t suggested a successor.
So this was an opportunity for Frist to really appeal to them. He hasn‘t given them everything they want, and they tend to want everything they want.
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, what about Reid and the Democrats? One presumes, when there is a complete sweep by one party over the other in term of the various branches of government, that you get anything, no matter, as you suggested, that this was a stick in the eye for the Democrats to some degree, they still walked away with something. They got two scalps of those five nominees that were mentioned.
And I imagine this is a triumph with a small T for Senator Reid.
CRAWFORD: Sure. I mean, they avoid the filibuster ban, the complete ban, and preserve the option to revisit this if they find extraordinary circumstances to bring a filibuster to the table.
But on balance, I think, they are paving the way here for George Bush to get Antonin Scalia as chief justice, which is the big rumor, is who he would replace William Rehnquist with, and someone very conservative to replace Scalia. Two nominations, that‘s really the battle to come. And in some ways, they‘ve just postponed the big battle of this war.
OLBERMANN: Unless there are extraordinary circumstances. And if there...
CRAWFORD: Unless (INAUDIBLE).
OLBERMANN: ... if there aren‘t extraordinary circumstances, I‘ll buy 100,000 copies of your book. How‘s that? Is that a deal?
CRAWFORD: Yes, available now, at Amazon.com (INAUDIBLE).
OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) the filibuster, and again, as Senator Frist comes to the floor, we will go to that in a few minutes. He‘s expected at 10 past. We‘ll see whether or not that happens.
But it‘s just—the filibuster‘s just the start of the war news in politics tonight. There‘s also Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, Howard Dean, and the first one of these subjects, they—they‘re contentious times. They‘ve brought out the best in our elected officials. Senator Byrd made comparisons between Republicans seeking to end the filibuster and the Nazis. Senator Santorum slammed him, then last week Santorum described the Democrats trying to continue the filibuster, compared them to Hitler when he‘d ridden into Paris. He said, How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It‘s mine.
But it actually turns out that Santorum leads Byrd two to one in recent Nazi references, because a tape turned up of him comparing “The New York Times” to Nazis, and doing it at the Institute for Public Affairs, which is the public policy arm of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. And the speech was in November of 2003, and the organization put it up on its own Web site.
Let‘s take a look at this clip of this speech first, Craig, and then I want to get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA: If you look at the other alternatives to religious pluralism, and that is, radical secularism, there are many in our society—some of them happen to be at “The New York Times”—who believe in that.
I just want to remind people of the societies over the last couple Of centuries that have been secular in nature and see what the results of that, starting with the French Revolution. Moving on to the last century, to the fascists, and, yes, the Nazis. And then the communists, then the Ba‘athists. All of those, purely secularists, hated religions, tried to crush religion. That‘s the kind of peaceful public square that “The New York Times” would advocate for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So if the Soviets, the Ba‘athists, the French Revolution, presumably including Robespierre, the Nazis, and “The New York Times,” is Senator Santorum‘s threshold for comparing things to Nazis a little lower than we thought?
CRAWFORD: Apparently he‘s up for free tickets to South America, I think. The Santorum is using these Nazi references, he has, it has to be knowing in some way. I mean, it‘s going to be a problem. You almost have to wonder, after a while, if it‘s some sort of weird strategy on his part.
OLBERMANN: There‘s also a nice little pie fight shaping up between two of the more low-key politicians of our time, Howard Dean and Tom DeLay. Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and on “Meet the “Press yesterday, he basically said that DeLay‘s ethics problems are so vast that the man should not be in Congress, let alone be the majority leader.
All right, I‘m going to interrupt this so we can join Bill Frist on the floor of the Senate.
FRIST: ... the senator from Nebraska and 11 other senators, an agreement that I‘ve reviewed, but to which I am not a party.
Now, let me start by reminding the Senate of my principle, a simple principle that I‘ve come to this floor day after day stating, stressing. And it‘s really this, that I fundamentally believe that it is our constitutional responsibility to give judicial nominees the respect and the courtesy of an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.
Investigate them and question them and scrutinize them and debate them in the best spirit of this body, but then vote, up or down, yes or no, confirm or reject. But each deserves a vote.
Unlike bills, nominees can‘t be amended. They can‘t be spit apart, they can‘t be horse traded, they can‘t be log-rolled. Our Constitution does not allow for any of that. It simply requires up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.
So in that regard, this—the agreement announced tonight falls short of that principle. It falls short. It has some good news, and it has some disappointing news. And it will require careful monitoring.
Let me start with the good news. I‘m very pleased, very pleased that each and every one of the judges identified in the announcement will receive the opportunity of that fair up-or-down vote. Priscilla Owen. after four years, two weeks, and one day, she will have a fair and up-or-down vote. William Pryor, after two years and one month, he will have a fair up-or-down vote. Janice Rogers Brown, after 22 months, a fair up-or-down vote.
Three nominees will get up-or-down votes with certainty now, because of this agreement, whereas a couple of hours ago, maybe none would get up-or-down votes. And that would have been wrong. And with the confirmation of Tom Griffith to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which we‘ve been assured of, though it‘s not part of this particular agreement, there will be would be four who will receive up-or-down votes.
And based on past comments...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good news, that would be the good news from Senator Frist‘s point of view.
Craig Crawford is still with us. And Craig, the extraordinary scene that‘s being played out on the Senate floor right now is the leader of the majority explaining that a compromise that he is pointing out he is not a party to falls short of the tradition that he expects within the Senate. Have you ever heard anything like that before?
FRIST: It‘s very defensive on his part trying to explain, I think, why it‘s a good decision for his side. But being very up front, surprisingly, I think, acknowledging the downside. This is not heavy-duty spin here. He‘s being fairly up front about what he lost in this debate.
OLBERMANN: But now, is there a divide between Senator Frist, as we were just talking about, and his goals, and the people who were supporting him on the Christian right, regarding this, and the rest of the Republican Party? Is he stepping away from his own side in this negotiation?
FRIST: I think he has stumbled a bit here in appealing to them on the doctrinaire position they wanted, which was to ban filibuster completely, with the ultimate aim of preventing the Democrats from filibustering nominations to the Supreme Court.
And that is going to be the big battle. If everything goes as everyone says in Washington, there will be at least one, maybe two available this summer for President Bush to fill vacancies. And that will be the big, big battle. This doesn‘t end that. This just sort of puts it off.
OLBERMANN: We wanted to play a clip of the minority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, from the news conference that took place, now, began nearly 45 minutes ago, and was still going at the top of the hour, for his thoughts on that. I think we still have that ready to go. Let‘s play that, and I‘ll get your reaction, Craig.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message. Abuse of power will not be tolerated, not be tolerated by Democrats or Republicans. And your attempt, I say to the vice president and the president, to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That was Harry Reid, not at the compromise news conference, my apologies for the confusion, but at his own, which he conducted about five or 10 minutes ago.
Let me see, Craig, if I‘ve got this straight. The majority leader, Mr.—Dr. Frist, declared defeat. And from his point of view, and the minority leader, Senator Reid, declared victory over the radical arm of the Republican right. Did I hear that?
CRAWFORD: This is the hall of mirrors that we call the Senate. You never know exactly what the truth is based on how they spin things.
But I think Frist was being very up front about what he lost, but stressing what he did win, (INAUDIBLE), which is getting some of these nominees through they wanted, and keeping that option alive of stopping the filibuster later on, if the Democrats use the language, extraordinary circumstances.
On the Democratic side, we see they have actually let these nominations go through. And I think probably are the ones who blinked the most here, simply because, you know, this is still a battle that is coming on the Supreme Court. I think the Republicans have the upper hand on votes.
And ultimately, we‘re going to see conservative justices on the Supreme Court the Democrats don‘t like, despite this decision, this compromise.
OLBERMANN: Maybe part of the compromise. Maybe we‘ve just sort of mapped it out without knowing it, shown some truth here without realizing it. But the Democrats blinked more. But part of the deal was, the Republicans had to say they blinked more. That may have been it.
CRAWFORD: That could be it. You might have it, right there.
Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” with us here as the news developed on the Senate floor, and from the news conference of Harry Reid.
And this reminder, it‘s just four months and two days until the official release date of Craig‘s book, “Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media.”
So I get to say to you both thanks, and you‘re welcome.
CRAWFORD: All right. I‘ve got your generous blurb at attackthemessenger.com right now, they posted it.
OLBERMANN: That‘s excellent, thank you very much, Craig.
CRAWFORD: All right.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the first lady on an image-polishing mission in the Middle East, or image-polishing mission, if you prefer it in English. But just who is the P.R. campaign really meant to impress?
And over a year after he was killed by friendly fire, Pat Tillman‘s family still looking for answers from the military, his father calling what he‘s gotten so far deliberate lies.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Whether piloting a Segway or handling international relations, nothing is as simple as it seems.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, Mrs. Bush was not really heckled at Dome of the Rock or the Western Wall, video evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. As she enters the final stretch of her five-day goodwill tour of the Middle East, you can rest assured those protesters you saw were not really there.
And when you hear that President Karzai of Afghanistan blasted “Newsweek” at the White House, you can just ignore that part where he absolved the magazine of all blame for the rioting and deaths in his country.
During a visit to Israel‘s most holy sites, sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, Laura Bush was met with an unlikely consensus, protesters both Jewish and Muslim, heckling her at Jerusalem‘s Western Wall. White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the protest, quote, “a little commotion.” For her part, Mrs. Bush remained unfazed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH: I wouldn‘t say I was really surprised. These are places of very high emotion. But there was only one or two protesters, not a lot of protesters by any means. But I will say to you, nearly everyone of these countries that I‘ve visited are very dependent on the United States. They want the friendship of the United States. They want us to be involved in whatever way we can to help them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Back here, it‘s also true, nothing is as simple as it seem. The president of Afghanistan is here meeting with Mr. Bush to discuss mostly issues like why his military does not have more authority over the U.S. and NATO troops in his country.
But something else came up, the rioting two weeks ago that claimed 17 lives in Afghanistan, rioting the administration insists was set off by “Newsweek” magazine‘s story about the purported abuse of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. You can see clips and quotes of President Karzai on places like the 1984 Channel, saying, “Of course we are, as Muslims, very much unhappy with ‘Newsweek‘ bringing a matter so serious in the gossip column. It‘s really something that one shouldn‘t do, that responsible journalism shouldn‘t do.”
Fair enough. But you are less likely to here the president agree with the U.S. commanders in Afghanistan that the rioting and deaths were not the result of what “Newsweek” reported.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Those demonstrations were, in reality, not related to the “Newsweek” story. They were more against the elections in Afghanistan. They were more against the progress in Afghanistan. They were more against the strategic partnership with the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So two international stories that need some deconstruction. And to help on both, I‘m joined now by the White House correspondent of “The Chicago Tribune,” Mark Silva.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MARK SILVA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Karzai‘s visit first. The thrust of the White House argument for the last week has been “Newsweek”‘s reporting contributed, led to, set about the process of the deaths of 17 people in Afghanistan. Now the president of that country gets up at the White House and says, No, that‘s not the case.
Would that have been a surprise at the White House today?
SILVA: Well, sure. Sometimes world leaders say the darnedest things. And in this case, the world leader from Afghanistan has said that the events were unrelated, essentially saying what General Richard Myers had said a day after the event. The Joint Chief—chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said that his soldiers on the ground had said they were not related. And now the president of Afghanistan has confirmed that.
OLBERMANN: But given how far they were willing to go on this issue—as they said, they had contradicted the general on the ground in Afghanistan, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs—how could that have slipped through the cracks, when it‘s a White House that prides itself on everybody, even visiting presidents, staying on message?
SILVA: Well, perhaps someone hews the line to some—to a certain extent, and Karzai was certainly hewing the Bush administration line today. He softened his criticism for the U.S. military for the allegations of misuse of detainees in Afghanistan, and he generally reined in a lot of the criticism he had been letting out over the weekend. So you have to allow him one. I mean, you have to let the man speak a little bit of truth.
OLBERMANN: About the first lady‘s trip to the Middle East, to the degree that this became crisis management, it wasn‘t expected to be when the trip was set, the first rule of crisis management is supposed to be, know your audience. What audience has she been playing to? Is it the Middle Eastern populations, or the American populations?
SILVA: A little bit of both. Laura Bush is playing to at least two audiences on this trip. One, she‘s playing to the Middle Eastern audience, with whom, of course, the American public has a big problem. Many of the images of abuse and photographs and other stories that have emerged recently as this weekend have been a real problem for the U.S.
On the other hand, she‘s playing to a domestic audience. The president is having trouble with his domestic audience, and he looks to her, who he has taken to calling his comedian-in-chief lately, since her night of one-liners at the Washington Press Corps Dinner. And she‘s more popular than he is at the moment. And he‘s not afraid of that. He‘s using her to the fullest.
OLBERMANN: The strategy, from all her appearances on the morning shows today, saying those protests were not as big as they seemed. They seemed to be bigger, at least, than the way she described them. Is there strategy behind that, or what?
SILVA: Well, there is certainly her own persona, which is to minimize turmoil and to accentuate the positive. But at the same time, you‘ll have to notice that she was extremely candid on the “Today” show this morning, in which she said that, you know, these images of photographs of abuses at the hands of U.S. soldiers have been particularly damaging to the United States. So these were strong words for her to say.
So she did direct some truth to the story today too.
OLBERMANN: Mark Silva, the White House correspondent of “The “Chicago Tribune,” great thanks for joining us tonight, sir.
SILVA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And far more serious stories ahead as well from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The death of a symbol of sacrifice, and how his parents say they were lied to.
OLBERMANN: Fourteen Senate moderates—seven Republican, seven Democrats—have compromised on the judicial filibuster issue. Three nominees of the president will get their votes and two will not. Also tonight here on COUNTDOWN, Where‘s my robot? We were promised a future full of them, and he‘s it? Our secret communal wish for robots, the reason the “Star Wars” film is doing so well. And the death of Pat Tillman, why the soldier‘s parents are furious with the Army and the administration. These stories ahead.
First, here are now COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Manfred Juraczka. He is the city councilman in Vienna, in Austria. Apparently, his issue is dog poop. He wants to fine people who let their dogs relieve themselves on Vienna‘s streets. How could you track them? Of course, you run a DNA test on every dog in Vienna, then collect all the dog poop and you test it for the DNA and you get matches, and you make the owner pay the $300 fine for that, plus the $87 million it would set to cost to set up the system.
Number two. Sarah D‘Souza of Sacramento. She and her family have wrapped their home in sheet metal. Since 9/11, she says, some of her neighbors have been firing radiation at them and giving them headaches and lupus. So the sheet metal just sends it right back at them.
And number one, the guy dressed head to toe as Darth Vader who walked into the Showplace Eight theater in Springfield, Illinois, and robbed the cash register of a small amount of money. I find your lack of 20s disturbing.
OLBERMANN: The quote is variously attributed, most recently to a 1930s radio commentator named Boke Carter (ph). “In time of war,”he wrote, “the first casualty is truth.” Carter got a lot of stuff wrong and made a lot of stuff up, which is why you‘re never heard of him, even though he was voted the most popular newscaster in American twice in five years.
As our third story on the COUNTDOWN proves, Carter got this part wrong, too. As the parents of the late football star Army Ranger and friendly fire victim Pat Tillman might conclude, in time of war, in fact, truth multiplies. Tillman died one year and one month ago yesterday on the hillsides of Afghanistan. For weeks, even after his nationally televised funeral, the military maintained that the man who had given up his professional sports career after 9/11 had been killed in heroic circumstances, searching for Osama bin Laden. It maintained that and kept telling Tillman‘s family that, even though it knew differently.
And now Tillman‘s parents have spoken out in a series of interviews with “the Washington Post,” their dismay and anger channeled into an indictment of the Army that is at once poignant and searing. “Pat had high ideals about the country. That‘s why he did what he did,” his mother said. “The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect, the fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heart-breaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.”
The members of his unit who shot Pat Tillman by accident knew immediately what had happened. An investigation showed they had burned Tillman‘s uniform and body armor. It was not until a month after his death that any of this was revealed to the family, and his father says he will never get the entire truth. Patrick Tillman, Sr., told “The Post” that the Army‘s actions constituted a, quote, “botched homicide investigation,” with high-ranking officers foisting, quote, “outright lies on the family and the public.”
Quoting again, “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this,” he said. “They purposely interfered with the investigation. They covered it up. I think that they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.”
I‘m joined now by Josh White, who wrote the story of the Tillmans for “The Washington Post.” Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
JOSH WHITE, “WASHINGTON POST”: Oh, you‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Put the Tillmans into context for me. Did they originally support the positions of their two son to enlist?
WHITE: Well, we didn‘t talk a whole lot about that because they‘ve kept that very personal. Pat Tillman, when he enlisted, really didn‘t say much and wanted to be out of the spotlight. It‘s fair to say that they have definitely supported both of their sons in that effort and continue to support Pat‘s brother, who is still an Army Ranger.
OLBERMANN: Another quote from Mrs. Tillman that I wanted to ask you about particularly. “Every day is sort of emotional. It just keeps slapping me in the face.” The implication there is that they are still interacting with the military and still feel like they‘re only getting the truth parcelled out to them?
WHITE: They are. I mean, they‘ve been going back and forth with the Army about the details of Pat Tillman‘s death, really, since the beginning. It was the first investigation, the second investigation, and then a third investigation that have continued to raise questions. Mary Tillman really feels like each one of these investigative reports and each one of these briefings she gets just give her a list of new questions. It‘s really difficult to sit there and to talk to her about it because these different investigations and the different findings have given her reason to think all sorts of things all over the board, and she feels like they may never get to the bottom of it.
OLBERMANN: And one of the things she and her ex-husband are clearly thinking about, it‘s clear from what you wrote and from their quotations, that obviously, to them, this is not just about the lie after his death, but the Tillmans also think there should have been and should still be discipline, more discipline against the soldiers who were responsible for their son‘s death.
WHITE: Yes. And it stretches back to the initial investigations. It was clear from the very beginning that these soldiers knew what they had done. They fired really haphazardly at locations where they didn‘t know what they were shooting at, they didn‘t know who they were shooting. Since then, the initial investigation essentially said that they were grossly negligent, but the punishments, in the Tillman family‘s mind, didn‘t fit what they considered to be a crime. There were a couple of people who were administratively punished within the Army. A couple of people were removed from the Rangers but remained in the Army. They felt like much more should have been done.
OLBERMANN: Josh, his father believes also, obviously, that this was a deliberate attempt to keep the truth silent, that it was to countereffect the Abu Ghraib scandal, which was just breaking at the time, and then the start of the recruiting problems that we‘ve seen since. Is there any evidence to suggest that those comments are more than just a father‘s anger and grief? Is there anything to suggest—to support the idea that this was deliberately done by the military?
WHITE: Well, something was deliberately done at some level. It‘s clear from the evidence in the investigative reports that the truth was kept from people in the United States, specifically, the family, specifically, Pat‘s brother, and that as higher-ups found out, their suspicions—or at least that it was probably a friendly fire incident, that that information was not passed on.
Certainly, this was a very difficult time to lose someone like Pat Tillman, who had given up a multi-million-dollar contract in the NFL to go and serve his country in that capacity. To see him go down was very difficult. To see him go down at the hands of his own men would have been a much more difficult thing to deal with. This was right about the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal. It was something that was held up as, you know, here was this man‘s heroic sacrifice. And it took some time to find out that while his actions may have been heroic, what happened to him was a difficult thing for the Army to deal with.
OLBERMANN: Josh White, Pentagon reporter for “The Washington Post,” with an extraordinary piece in the issue today. If you‘ve not read the piece, I suggest you do so. Thank you kindly for your time, sir.
WHITE: Oh, you‘re welcome. Any time.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight here on COUNTDOWN, finally, one of the all too many stories of kidnapped kids has an almost unbelievably happy ending. Buried alive and found alive. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: As you see, Senator Charles Schumer of New York speaking, the senators continuing to congratulate or console themselves, as circumstances warrant, on the compromise tonight on the judicial filibuster story, under whose terms Democrats will allow final confirmation votes for the Bush nominees Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, but not the other two who were nominated. Chris Matthews will have a special hour-long report on this surprising development at 9:00 o‘clock Eastern here on MSNBC. Stay tuned for that.
Continuing with COUNTDOWN now. It has all the elements of an Edgar Allan Poe story of nightmare and death, except the most important one: The little girl lived. In fact, her physical injuries appear to be minor, and she says she slept between the time she was attacked and the time, seven hours later, as rescuers discovered her buried alive. Our number two story tonight, as reported by Kathleen Walter (ph) of our NBC station in West Palm Beach, Florida, WPTV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, bring me my baby!
KATHLEEN WALTER, WPTV (voice-over): Michelle Humos (ph) pleaded for the safe return of her 8-year-old daughter, abducted from a Lake Worth, Florida, home during a sleepover at her godmother‘s house. Humos got the call before dawn something was terribly wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody took her while she was sleeping!WALTER (on camera): When did you realize she was gone?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they called me at 4:00 o‘clock this morning.
WALTER (voice-over): Seventeen-year-old Milagro Cunningham, who also lives at the residence, told police a man broke into the home and snatched the girl. An Amber Alert was issued, and one of the largest searches in Palm Beach county history began.
LT. KEN WHITE, LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA, POLICE: We probably have 100 different police officers at this time from different agencies, and we‘re going to start actually a hand grid search of the area for any potential evidence.
WALTER: In the air and on the ground, police deputies and state agents scoured a square mile of terrain. Then a discovery inside a landfill dumpster only blocks away.
SGT. MIKE HALL, LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA, POLICE: And there was a yellow recycling bin. The lid was flipped closed. I flipped it open. There was a large pile of rocks, and through the rocks, you could see a hand and a foot.
WALTER: Crushed beneath the weight of the rocks, bruised and left to die, lay the 8-year-old, who, despite her injuries, was very much alive. She was pulled from the dumpster and taken to a nearby hospital.
CHIEF WILLIAM SMITH, LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA, POLICE: We all expected the worst all morning. And to find this child alive is just a miracle.
WALTER: At the police station, Milagro Cunningham‘s story of how the girl disappeared was beginning to unravel. Police say there was no intruder and that it was Cunningham who‘d kidnapped the girl. He was taken into custody.
SMITH: We early identified him as a person of interest. His story was a bit—we saw holes in it.
WALTER: Eight hours after Michelle Humos learned her daughter was missing, an officer gave her the news she‘d hoped for but never expected to hear. And finally, there was relief. Her little girl would indeed come home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, relieved. Thank God.
OLBERMANN: Kathleen Walter, WPTV in West Palm Beach. And police say that 17-year-old has confessed, and authorities plan to prosecute him as an adult on charges ranging from sexual battery to attempted murder.
Once again, the Michael Jackson trial becoming almost comic relief against that kind of background. Plus, it‘s our lead item in our nightly round-up of show biz and celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs.” Thus we remind you it‘s your tax and entertainment dollars in action, day 553 of the Michael Jackson investigations.
Tomorrow, perhaps, we‘ll see the defense close its case and bring as a final witness special guest witness Jay Leno. But today, it was Connie Keenan (ph) of “The Mid Valley News.” She is the editor of the paper from California‘s San Gabriel Valley. She testified that the accuser‘s mother ran a scam on her readers five years ago, seeking donations to cover her son‘s cancer expenses, even though her husband‘s insurance covered all medical costs.
The last new Harry Potter book was introduced—or produced, rather, under such, quote, “secrecy,” unquote, that a box of copies was found in a vacant lot days before it was to be released internationally. No such risks this time. J.K. Rowling has turned it all over to the Germans. The latest in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will be printed at the GGP Works near Jenna (ph) in Eastern Germany.
And among the security measures worthy of Hogwarts-style secrecy, video surveillance of the printing presses, guards standing between the press and the book binding departments, random searches of lockers, desks and other work areas, daily searches of lunch boxes and bags of all workers, the guy standing next to the machine that shreds all the misprinted pages, a ban on tape recorders, iPods and camera phones. Why IPods and camera phones? So none of the printers can take pictures of the manuscripts nor read them aloud. Of course, they have not counted on a printer‘s apprentice with a really good memory.
What about a building—or building a robot that looks like you, who can just go in there and simply scan the book? Hopefully, one you don‘t have to prop up like a drunken prom date. A salute to robots everywhere, in terms of “Star Wars,” next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: So if the number 10 film in the weekend‘s top 10 box office results earned just $999,000, you know that number one film had to have done real well. Either that or there had been a nationwide blackout nobody told you about. If the number one film in the weekend‘s top 10 box office results earned 2-and-one-third times as much money as the other 9 films in the top 10, you know that it had to have done real well. Either that or there‘d been an unexpected Super Bowl game played yesterday.
Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN: Trot out all the J.Los, Jane Fondas and Will Ferrells you like, nothing beats them robots. “Star Wars Episode III,” version 2, volume, 1, “Revenge of the Plotline” grossing $108.5 million over the weekend, about $5 million shy of the record set by “Spider-Man,” but that was only because this film opened on Thursday and $50 million spent by people who couldn‘t wait until the weekend to see it. The data is scarier than the smell in Darth Vader‘s helmet. “Star Wars” $108.5 million, the other 10 a total of $46.5 million. “Monster-in-Law,” $14.4 million.
Which begs the question, why? “Star Wars” has been rationalized as the era‘s substitute for Westerns, its substitute for religion, its substitute for good film. No way. It‘s all about the robots, R2D2 and C3P0 in particular because, frankly, for half a century or more, we have been promised that we would have them—robots in our homes, robots doing our laundry, robots running out to the store to rent movies about robots.
So we ask the question tonight: Where‘s my robot?
(voice-over): The future, what wonders will it bring? Well, it certainly is a mystery, but one thing is for sure. The future will be filled with robots. Robots will do anything humans can do, only better. Need some help with the housework, Mom? Dad not around to chip in? Relax. Take a load off. Get your hair done. How about a robotini? In the future, you‘ll never do chores again. What‘s the matter, young Suzie, you haven‘t got any friends? In the future, robots may be your friend. Our scientists of today are busy building the world of tomorrow, where menial tasks and dangerous duties are done for you, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the finer things, all thanks to the magic of the robot.
Hasn‘t really turned out that way, has it? Sure, there‘s a robot to detonate bombs here and there, maybe explore some distant planet. Like I needed that. Where‘s my robot? I saw “The Jetsons.” I should have a robot maid, a robot car, a robot golf caddy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come and get it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “Star Wars” is loaded with robots. That‘s why everybody‘s going to see it. Sure, the robots can be annoying, but they follow orders, they help fight to save the galaxy, and that was a long time ago. It says right there, long time ago.
It‘s 2005 over here. What do I have? And don‘t tell me Roomba (ph). I‘m not saying it‘s lack of effort on the part of scientists these days, but how hard are they really trying to get me my robot? We‘ve got a handful of robots that do some cool stuff, like they can fight each other, but who‘s cleaning my kitchen? I am! Well, I am paying somebody else to clean my kitchen, but you know what I mean.
There should be a robot for all that, and all I see are these robo-jokes. An arm-wrestling robot. What is that good for? Robot mice. We don‘t have enough real mice? A walking robot that can‘t walk straight. Have another drink, Rummy! Where‘s my robot car ? Where‘s my Optimus Prime? The only ones even half-way serious about making robots are the Japanese. Our robots, they waddle around on a tabletop. Optimo over there is at least playing the trumpet. Another one plays the trumpet on wheels. Sure, rub it in, guys! Have one conduct the whole orchestra, why don‘t you!
They‘ve even got flying Mr. Soccer Ball robots! At least they are trying. We are over here messing around with Clockky (ph) while they are getting robot massages, watching robo-dogs play robo-soccer. It is embarrassing us to as a nation! If we aspire to be truly lazy as Americans, then we need to get off our butts and build some better robots, and then get back down on our butts and say, Coolio, bring me a beer!
Before we go, to recap the hour‘s top story, the Senate compromised to preserve and protect the filibuster on judiciary issues, at least for now. Centrist members of both parties reaching across party lines tonight, reaching the agreement that clears the way for confirmation of three of the president‘s controversial judicial nominees, Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor, but leaves William Myers and Henry Saad hanging. And as for the filibuster, it is safe for now. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said tonight, though, he was not a party to that compromise.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Chris Matthews hosts a special hour-long on the Senate filibuster compromise next here on MSNBC.
Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
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