Guest: Cindy Sheehan, Dana Milbank, Dennis Tito
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: There were more than five people in Crawford, Texas, today, but for our purposes, we will concentrate on five. Four of them you know—President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld.
And then there is Cindy Sheehan. She is what we used to call a Gold Star Mother, a mother who lost a son in military service. And she‘s camped out near the president‘s ranch, demanding a meeting with him to ask him to bring home those troops who did not meet her son‘s fate. Cindy Sheehan joins us tonight.
Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The vigil seems to have hit a media nerve. The president even talks about her, but evidently will not talk to her.
Another gee-whiz Internet thing, maps of any place in the world, like U.S. troop positions in Iraq.
I quit, day 14. Tonight‘s tips, nasal sprays, Nicorette inhalators, and ordinary drinking straws?
And as Ralph Cramden said, “To the moon, Alice! One of these days, you‘re going to the moon,” tonight your lunar trip finally has a price tag, $100 million.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Cindy Sheehan may or may not have had a bona fide complaint that President Bush was refusing to see her to talk about Iraq and the deaths of young men and women there like her son. He had, after all, met with her before. But then, somebody decided that Ms. Sheehan had had hit enough of a public nerve. Suddenly she had political enemies, and they were trying to discredit her.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN now, her story is about more than just her protests. It‘s about the role of dissent in a country founded on the right to dissent. It‘s a story now so big that even though Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld met with the president at his ranch today, the news from Crawford is mostly about Cindy Sheehan. She joins us in a moment.
First, our White House correspondent, David Gregory.
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since August 2, when the president left for a vacation on his Texas ranch, 38 American troops have died in Iraq. It is that grim reality of war that appeared to weigh on Mr. Bush today. Flanked by his national security team, he took pains to address the public‘s growing opposition to the conflict.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I grieve for every death. It breaks my heart to think about a family weeping over the loss of a loved one.
GREGORY: The president added, he has heard the call from war critics to pull out now.
BUSH: And I‘ve thought about their cry and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life by pulling our troops out. I just strongly disagree.
GREGORY: Such a move, he argued, would embolden terrorists also calling for a U.S. withdrawal. The message, the president fears.
BUSH: You know, the (INAUDIBLE), the, the, the United States is weak, and all we‘ve got to do is intimidate and they‘ll leave.
GREGORY: As for when troops would return, Mr. Bush dampened recent talk of an exit strategy today, saying that even when his top commanders talk about a substantial drawdown by next spring, they are merely speculating. Additional troops may be needed when Iraqis vote on a new constitution.
But one military expert says the unspoken reality is that our troops in Iraq, now 138,000 strong, are spread too thin.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: This level of deployment over this small an Army and Marine Corps is not sustainable beyond next summer.
GREGORY: Congressional war critics accuse Mr. Bush of failing to level with the public.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I don‘t think the president is making the point clear about the range of difficulty.
GREGORY (on camera): Today the president did highlight the progress, namely a political process moving forward, and the ultimate goal, a free Iraq to serve as a bulwark against terror.
The question is, how long will the American public wait for the strategy to pay off?
David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.
OLBERMANN: At about the same time the president spoke to the media today, the mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, who died at Sadr City, Iraq, in April 2004, held a news conference of her own, joined by other families. Cindy Sheehan pledged to stay camped outside that ranch for the duration of the president‘s August vacation, adding that if he does not talk with her there, she may to go Washington in September.
And while the president did not talk with her directly today, he did finally address her presence and her purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position. And I have—she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has the right to her position. And I‘ve thought long and hard about her position. I‘ve heard her position from others, which is, get out of Iraq now.
And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, joining us from her makeshift campsite in Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan.
Thank you for your time tonight.
CINDY SHEEHAN, LOST HER SON IN IRAQ: Hey, Keith, no problem.
OLBERMANN: You heard what the president said today at his news conference. You heard that clip of him just there. What‘s your response to that?
SHEEHAN: Right. I don‘t want the president‘s sympathy. You know, I want to talk to him, and I want answers to my questions. And I want him to tell me the noble cause that my son died for. And I want him to stop using my son‘s name and the name of the other lost loved ones and Gold Star Families for Peace. We want him to stop using our children‘s name to justify the continued killing.
OLBERMANN: As I mentioned earlier, as is well known here, you spoke with Mr. Bush last year, and your comments to your local newspaper in California about that meeting have made the rounds anew on the Internet this week, how you had said that you had felt he was sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis, that he had felt obviously some pain for your loss.
Two questions about those quotes, first being, your critics say they suggest that you have changed your stance on the war, on Mr. Bush, in the interim. Is that true, or is it false?
SHEEHAN: No, it‘s false. If they had read the whole article, or talked about the whole article, they would have—it would have shown that I was already having serious misgivings about the mission that keeps on changing all the time.
And the other day, I wonder if they blogged about this. My hometown newspaper said Cindy Sheehan has not changed her position. It‘s just become clarified and it‘s become more focused, and her mission has become more important to her.
OLBERMANN: Second question about the meeting in June of last year. What could you say to President Bush now that you could not have said to him then? Or why didn‘t you say then what you want to say now?
SHEEHAN: Good question. June of 2004 is a lot different than August of 2005. For one thing, in June of 2004, I was—had buried my son nine weeks before the meeting. I was a woman in a deep state of shock, in a deep state of grief. And you know what? I am still in a deep state of grief. And thanks to George Bush, I will be in a deep state of grief for the rest of my life.
But I‘m not in shock anymore. The Duelfer weapons of mass destruction report came out, the 9/11 commission report came out, the Downing Street memos came out, the Senate Intelligence Committee report came out. These have all come out since my son was killed. They show categorically that my son was—his murder was premeditated, that there was no reason to invade Iraq.
And that‘s what I want the answers to today, in August of 2005.
OLBERMANN: Another part of this story that has developed in terms of the criticism and this political flashpoint that has developed around you, that seems so reminiscent of a lot of protests. I kept thinking about your camp there, and it sort of being a parallel world to that, the whole Terri Schiavo protest situation that just became a Mideast phenomenon.
There is an e-mail that purports to be from members of your family that denounces your presence there in Crawford. It was sent to a right-wing Web site. Is there any truth in it? Are there members of your family who are upset with what you‘re doing there?
SHEEHAN: There‘s members of my—they‘re my in-laws. And we have always been politically on the opposite sides of the fence. And we always kind of did it good-naturedly. You know, my father-in-law would call me Meathead and I would call him Archie, and we would just fight about politics all the time.
But you know what? When they supported George Bush in November, and when they voted for the man who I consider killed their grandson, that‘s when—that was it. That, to me, was a betrayal of Casey, and it hurt me so deeply. I haven‘t spoken to them since.
And our family, Casey‘s dad and my other three children, are 100 percent behind me and agree with me philosophically about what‘s going on. I just talked to my husband, and he said, he said, Cindy, you know I‘ve always supported you philosophically. I know George Bush did the wrong thing, and I had nothing to do with what my sister wrote.
OLBERMANN: Last question. It‘s pure politics. The nature of the media coverage you‘re getting now, the response from other families of soldiers killed in Iraq, all of that, from the perspective of your protest there, in a way, isn‘t it really better if President Bush doesn‘t meet with you?
SHEEHAN: I would think so, yes. I think it‘s great. And if he would come out right now, it would really defuse the momentum, and I don‘t want to give them any hints. And I think that‘s something they‘ve probably already thought about.
But, you know, but we‘re here. We‘re committed. We‘re staying the whole month of August, and then we‘re moving to Washington, D.C. And we‘re going to have a 24-hour vigil on his front lawn to keep the pressure on. The pressure is there. Sixty-two percent of Americans want our troops home. And this is giving them a voice to stand up and be counted and say, You know, we want our country back, and we want our troops home.
OLBERMANN: Cindy Sheehan, thanks much for taking time to join us tonight.
SHEEHAN: You‘re welcome. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: On the ground in Iraq, new concern tonight about a potential weapon in the hands of insurgents, from the least likely of sources. Not an ambush technique, not a bigger bomb, but a gee-whiz piece of technology from Google. It is an improved version of their satellite map program.
And as our correspondent Kerry Sanders reports, it is perhaps way too improved.
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Google Earth is a free, gee-whiz program. Most first-time users usually type in their home address. But when the soldiers based in Iraq typed in their location, they did not like what they saw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually take you right straight into the building that we‘re in.
SANDERS: These high-resolution satellite images of the Balad air base are more than a year old, but not much has changed since the images were taken. Housing is still pretty much the same. Aircraft on the satellite image are still in the same place today.
CAPT. JOSHUA THOMPSON, U.S. ARMY: Using this imagery, they can figure out where high-value targets are.
SANDERS: The program even has an easy-to-use measuring device. The problem with that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It tells them exactly how far it is. You can figure out, you know, what you need to figure out to do not-so-nice things.
SANDERS: On a regular basis, sometimes three times a day, insurgents fire mortar rounds into the base.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hit the ground in my tent, and it definitely scared the hell out of most of us.
SANDERS: Army Major Pete Laning (ph) and his unit luckily escaped injury when one of those incoming mortars landed only 30 yards away. Captain Anthony Garcia sees it as a simple safety issue.
CAPT. ANTHONY GARCIA, U.S. ARMY: There need to be certain freedoms that people are allowed, but something like that needs to be, I think, you know, kept hush-hush from the rest of the world.
SANDERS: In a statement, a Google spokeswoman said of the images, “What you see on Google Earth, it‘s all publicly available. The images are from third-party providers.”
Little comfort for American soldiers, who say the enemy could have the blueprints at their fingertips for another attack.
(on camera): While there‘s no indication the insurgents have used this technology, some intelligence analysts say it‘s likely just a matter of time.
Kerry Sanders, NBC News, at the Balad Air Base, Iraq.
OLBERMANN: So this system can literally pick out anywhere on the planet, even MSNBC headquarters right here in Secaucus, New Jersey.
All right, I know this is going to look like a warehouse, but the zoom really does take you right into the heart of the operations down here, the belly of the beast, if you will. (INAUDIBLE), you‘re showing every little detail f the (INAUDIBLE) -- (INAUDIBLE) news organization. Look, any closer, you could see my fillings.
Also tonight, with the John Roberts Supreme Court nomination hearings looming, bizarre criticism from a stalwart of the far right, who says Roberts assisted the forces that would criminalize Christianity.
And in the so-called Bonnie and Clyde case in Tennessee, the cabbie who collected the fugitives‘ fare, then dropped a dime on them to the cops.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: To paraphrase and add to the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, just because justice cannot be for one side alone, it must be for both, that doesn‘t mean either side has to like it.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts catching flak from both sides of the political aisle. With just under a month to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee starts his confirmation hearings, attack dogs already straining at the leash.
The abortion rights organization NARAL releasing a gruesome TV ad criticizing Roberts for his position in a 1991 case, where he argued that anti-abortion activists were not antiwoman, and therefore could not be prosecuted under an antidiscrimination law.
Then yesterday, the right wing jumped in. The activist Eugene Delgaudio, more commonly seen protesting for conservative candidates, came out to protest against Judge Roberts, accusing him of having, quote, “assisted the forces that would criminalize Christianity,” and calling on the president to withdraw the nomination.
Joining me now to help sort through this one and other political stories tonight, “Washington Post” White House correspondent Dana Milbank.
Thanks for your time, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good
OLBERMANN: Several stories to run through with you, but let‘s start with the one that you wrote about in the paper today, about Mr. Delgaudio, where he was arguing that other conservatives share his viewpoint, his reservations about Roberts. You quoted him as saying, “I am not alone, but I am alone today.”
MILBANK: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: Which is it? Is he a loner, or is he a spokesman?
MILBANK: Well, that was yesterday. He‘s still alone today...
MILBANK: ... and seems to be for the foreseeable future.
You have to understand, Delgaudio is a fellow who, on the anniversary of Chappaquiddick, got people dressed up as the Ted Kennedy swim team. When there was a gay march in Washington, he declared a sodomy-free zone, and he had a man-donkey wedding ceremony at the Democratic Convention.
So this is- -- what we‘re talking about is a true fringe character. Conservatives have not gone along with him for most part. There‘s no sign that they will.
You also mentioned the NARAL ad. That‘s gotten a lot of criticism from the left as well.
So what you have is, most people, at least content to let Roberts through, or at the very least, willing to hold their fire for now. And you‘ve just really got these fringe characters out there.
OLBERMANN: Good-looking family there for Mr. Delgaudio, though.
Is there a—is there, indeed, the theme here? I mean, the criticism from the left is as far left as Delgaudio is far right. And you mentioned that abortion rights commercial. There really doesn‘t seem to be any of the barroom brawl that was expected for the president‘s first nominee.
MILBANK: Much to the dismay of all of us in the press corps.
But hold on. We still have time for this. Now, you have to remember, even during last big brouhaha, the Clarence Thomas fight, it took more than a month, some 40 days, until senators really began to express their opposition. A lot of these groups got on board. We‘re only three weeks into this.
A lot of what‘s happening is, people on the left will oppose Judge Roberts, but they just want to wait. They don‘t want to seem to be prejudging, although, of course, they‘ve prejudged him from day one. But the whole idea is, you want to have some public credibility.
OLBERMANN: I wanted to ask you also about another story in “The Post” today on the lost part of the Valerie Plame leak investigation, namely, who suggested that her husband, Joe Wilson, should go to Niger. The supposed smear of two years ago was, Oh, it was his wife. But the CIA had maintained, No, it was other CIA officials who suggested it.
Walter Pincus‘s piece today seemed to suggest that there was evidence supporting both of these explanations. Is there any idea which of the two is correct?
MILBANK: Well, I have no idea. It—hopefully the—Mr. Fitzgerald, as he goes through investigation of this whole episode, will eventually be able to explain all of this to us. A Senate committee decided that it wasn‘t—that it was Valerie Plame who sent her husband on this trip. The CIA continues to suggest otherwise. Democrats on that committee suggest otherwise.
This whole thing is rather peripheral to the story. But it may get at the heart of the issue, because there was a State Department report back in 2003 that implied that it was Valerie Plame who sent her husband there. And if that was indeed the source of what Karl Rove and what others were telling these reporters, that‘s a classified document. So it would suggest, in contrast to what Rove and some others have said, that they didn‘t get this information from reporters, that they may have, in fact, gotten it from classified documents.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” as always, sir, on a variety of topics, thanks for your insights.
MILBANK: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, you‘ve got to see this. I can‘t say it till you show the tape. So, this kangaroo walks into a bar, see? That was the news. The kangaroo is an Australian. Why shouldn‘t he have a beer?
Or how about this one? Priest walks into a hotel in the Hamptons with the church secretary. Holy smokes, Batman!
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Back now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN, because sometimes you just have to sit down and figure out the day‘s big news stories over a beer at the corner bar, even if the guy sitting next to you is a kangaroo.
Let‘s play Oddball.
First, San Luis Obispo, California, hello. On tonight‘s episode of “Animal 911,” Woodsy the Owl gets corrective Lasik eye surgery. Actually, it‘s a cataract that‘s bothering this great horned owl. It‘s affecting his ability to hunt and survive. no, we‘re not going to show you the surgery. Who wants to see that?
But there are other elements here, like the surgeon making sure to tape the owl‘s talons down so he can‘t gore him, and giving him lots of gas.
Much to the chagrin of area titmice and garter snakes alike, it looks like this little guy is going to make it. Once he gets the bandage off, it‘s back to the woods.
And, as always, let‘s not forget the moral of this story, Give a hoot, read a book.
To Inner Mongolia, China, (INAUDIBLE), run for your lives, it‘s the world‘s tallest man. Actually, he means no harm to you. This is Bao Shishuntu (ph). How tall is Bao, you say? Officially, he‘s seven feet, nine inches tall. The people at Guinness recently did some serious measuring to make sure he wasn‘t standing on phone books or something, and gave him a certificate last month.
Bao is 54. He played basketball for a few years in his youth, lives with his parents, herding animals in the Mongolian grassland. And ladies, he‘s unattached.
In case you can‘t tell from the video exactly how tall he is, we put together an expensive, artistic comparison chart to help you out. Again, Bao stands at seven-foot-nine. If you stacked three cute old-school Gary Colemans, he‘d still be taller. If you piled up seven 12-inch rulers, one atop the other, Bao wins again. And if I gave Mini Me a piggyback ride, Bao he would still be taller.
I see we‘ve been pumping some of that presurgical gas into the graphics department again.
Finally tonight, Boomer the kangaroo. He likes his brew. Mount Victoria, Australia, at the Comet Inn, one day this kangaroo hops in through the door, matey. Local rummies watched as the joey tipped over a can of beer. And, like Barney in “The Simpsons” before him, the transformation into lush began.
Boomer now pounds brews by nights, sleeps off his hangovers in front of a fire by day. The innkeeper said locals and vacationers enjoy seeing the marsupial down at the end of the bar. However, like Norm from the bar Cheers, Boomer never settles his tab, always claiming he left his money in his other pocket.
Heh heh heh. Thank you.
Also tonight, the race to find the fugitive couple after the courthouse shooting ends at a hotel in Ohio. And a cab driver who got a small tip but gave a big one is being hailed as the hero.
And got $100 million burning a hole in your pocket? Want to sing the lyrics to “Fly Me to the Moon” and mean them literally? You can, baby.
Those stories ahead.
But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Charlie the goat. He is the new king of Ireland, crowned as part of an ancient ceremony in Kalorglin (ph), a ceremony so ancient that nobody still really remembers why a goat is crowned king of Ireland for three days every year.
Old tires and tin cans for all of my people!
Number two, Stephen Snitsky, a Cleveland tax preparer, giving us an explanation as to what folks in his line of work during this dull season. They sleep. He‘s volunteering to stay in bed for 12 weeks to see if zero gravity causes bone loss and muscle weakening. You can‘t check that stuff in space, apparently, with, like, astronauts. You need accountants from Cleveland.
And number one, David Owen Rye of Simi Valley, California. He did what all of us have dreamt of but have had the good sense not to really do. The car alarm in the Toyota Camry went off in front of his house in the middle of the night. Well, he pumped three bullets into it.
He is under arrest now, and, like the car now, he is apparently remaining silent.
OLBERMANN: It would have lent a special element of levity to the grim story of the Tennessee escaped convict and his wife, accused of killing a guard in order to free him, if they really had been turned in by their cab driver because they only tipped him $15 on a $185 getaway ride.
But the explanation for the end of our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight has a touch of the bizarre to it. The cabby became suspicious of his late-night fares, George and Jennifer Hyatte, not because they were cheap, but because, to him, they didn‘t much look like what they said they were, regional reps headed to an Amway convention.
Captured in Ohio a little more than 24 hours after Jennifer Hyatte allegedly gunned down a guard and escaped with her convict husband from outside that Tennessee courthouse, tomorrow an extradition hearing.
Tonight, our correspondent Ron Blome is outside the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, with the latest.
Good evening, Ron.
RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
All of this had some strange twists and turn since Tuesday‘s deadly shooting outside that Tennessee courthouse. This couple fled three states in 300 miles. They spent two months in budget hotels. But, tonight, they are staying in public accommodations, because they were captured last night by the U.S. Marshals.
Let me share with you some changes in their appearance, though. We got the mug shots from the sheriff‘s office here that were taken last night after their arrest. We have the pictures from before, the pictures after. George has more hair. Jennifer has less. Obviously, when they were on the run, she did some chopping on her hair and she dyed it black. But that wasn‘t enough to fool everyone out there who were on the lookout for them because of the massive media coverage in this part of the country.
For instance, they were almost captured yesterday, just outside Cincinnati, in a northern Kentucky motel area. A tip was called in to the police. But by the time police moved in, they had fled. They abandoned their second getaway car and hired a cab. The cab took them to Columbus, where, last night, on the tip from the cab driver, U.S. Marshals moved in.
Now, the cab driver who had this fare said, at first, he was excited. It was a long run, 100 miles, 184 dollars. He stopped and filled up with gas and got the cab cleaned up. He was ready to go. But he said, as they were coming to Columbus, through a little bit of discussion, he began to become suspicious. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE WAGERS, CAB DRIVER: When I asked them why they wound up taking a cab, they said they were involved in the accident that happened there underneath the 275 overpass the day before that had traffic all screwed up for so long and they were with Amway, and they were doing some things up in Columbus with a conference. And I honestly can say, I didn‘t really believe that. But I had been paid for the trip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLOME: Not only did they not solicit him to buy anything or join the sales team. They also had him go in and rent the room here in Columbus.
So, by the time he got back to the Cincinnati area, his suspicion was aroused and he called police with his tip. That led to the arrest. Now, what‘s next? Tomorrow morning, an extradition hearing here at the Franklin County court complex. That‘s at 10:00 a.m. Even if they object and they don‘t waive extradition, it will probably be waived for them by the judge here and the governor will sign off on it.
Officials are expecting they will be back in Tennessee by the weekend. And let‘s not forget all of this began with the murder of a correctional officer, 56-year-old Wayne Morgan, whose job it was to keep George Hyatte behind bars. Now Tennessee is anxiously awaiting the return of both of them—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ron Blome at the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, great thanks.
Immediately following this news hour, by the way, Rita Cosby interviews that cab-driver-turned-unwitting-hero in the case, Mike Wagers.
The mood is not as jubilant this evening in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It is difficult to know if a community can ever fully heal, can ever find a sense of closure after something as tragic and as shocking as children taking the lives of their classmates and others. Tonight, in Jonesboro, it is even more difficult, if that‘s possible to believe.
Seven years after five people were killed at the West Side Middle School there, one of the two boys responsible for the horrific attack has been released from prison.
And, as our chief justice correspondent Pete Williams reports, incredibly, the now 21-year-old shooter will be eligible to buy firearms.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was surprisingly cold-blooded. Two boys from the West Side Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, set off the fire alarm, then hid outside with guns ready as their classmates streamed out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a bunch of shots. And people were falling. I ran into the gym.
WILLIAMS: Those shots killed four students and a teacher and wounded 10 others. Seven years later, Mitchell Johnson, who police say fired some of the fatal shots, today finished serving his sentence.
WHITNEY IRVING, WOUNDED IN ATTACK: It was kind of a shock, even though I knew it was going to happen.
WILLIAMS: And Whitney Irving, wounded as a sixth grader in the shooting, says he is out much too soon.
IRVING: It‘s like hurt and anger, probably the most angry I have ever been.
WILLIAMS: Because Johnson was 13 at the time, he could be tried only as a juvenile, ordered held until his 21st birthday. That came today.
Colby Brooks led his classmates outside when that fire alarm sounded and today says Johnson‘s release is not fair.
COLBY BROOKS, WITNESS: Because he killed five people, injured 15, basically, emotionally scarred and wounded 300 kids and the whole community.
WILLIAMS: Now, in the eyes of the law, Mitchell Johnson has no criminal record. He could even legally, if he chose to, buy a gun.
PETER HAMM, GUN CONTROL ADVOCATE: If you‘re a juvenile who commits a serious violent crime, you should lose your right to be able to purchase a weapon.
WILLIAMS: Arkansas has since changed its law, allowing young offenders to be punished first as juveniles, then transferred to adult prison once they turn 18. But an advocate for the juvenile system says Mitchell Johnson has served long enough in a system designed to rehabilitate.
JASON ZIEDENBERG, JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE: That‘s a far better impact on public safety than having him come out of prison 10 years, 15 years from now without any chance of reintegrating in the way that we would want.
WILLIAMS (on camera): Johnson‘s parents are not saying where he‘ll go now that he‘s out. But his mother says it won‘t be Jonesboro.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the monsignor and the Mrs., another Catholic sex scandal grabbing headlines. But it‘s nothing like the charges we‘ve been reading about for years. There‘s adult woman in this one and some of it is on tape.
Speaking of, will Colin Farrell‘s romp with a playmate ever hit the DVD market? A judge gets to romp with the legalities.
Those stories ahead. First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush 41 doing the catching for Barbara Bush, celebrating her 80th birthday and throwing out the first pitch. And she hit 41 right on the shin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s probably got that baby iced down right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST: Look at him. He is the only president in history who looks better the longer he stays in office.
STEWART: Look at him when he started. He looked like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when he started.
STEWART: Look at him now. He is so much hotter. Look at me from 2000. Look at me.
STEWART: Look what‘s happened to me? Look what‘s happened to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGERS: I mean, I got kind of a heavy foot in the car, so I was trying to keep my speed under control, because I can‘t handle any more speeding tickets. Just maybe before you start each day, watch the news, so you can get a grip on what‘s going on around you. Being a cab driver at the time, now I got all this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: More things you should not do, one, smoking—we will have our nightly tips on quitting—and, two, having a fling with the church secretary, especially if you‘re the church priest.
That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is not in the mission statement of any newscast to deconstruct old bad jokes. But, tonight, that old favorite, “Do you smoke after sex? I don‘t know. I never checked” actually falls out when you hold up the day‘s news and shake it just a little bit.
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, things you should never do, the smoking part in a moment, our nightly hints on how to quit.
First, a sex scandal in the Catholic Church touching on Saint Patrick‘s Cathedral in New York, no less, yet it does not involve children, molestation, nor stunts inspired by degenerate disk jockeys. No.
As our correspondent Dawn Fratangelo reports, from a train wreck point of view, it is far better.
DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The right-hand man at New York‘s Saint Patrick‘s Cathedral stepped down today, amid allegations he had an affair with his married secretary.
In a statement, the New York archdiocese said: “Although Monsignor continues to deny the allegations against him, he offered his resignation for the good of Saint Patrick‘s and the archdiocese,” this after the story landed where many sensational headlines do in New York.
DEAN CHANG, METRO EDITOR, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: An obvious front-page story for us.
FRATANGELO: “New York Daily News” metro editor Dean Chang.
CHANG: I would think for many newspapers, if they had what we had.
FRATANGELO: What “The Daily News” has is videotape and documents. Its story? The 79-year-old right-hand man at Saint Patrick‘s Cathedral, Monsignor Eugene Clark had an alleged affair with a 46-year-old married mother. The paper says the video it acquired from the woman‘s husband shows the monsignor checking into a motel with Laura DeFilippo last month in the tony Hamptons.
CHANG: They entered about 1:31 p.m. and they‘re not seen again until 7:00 that evening, emerging, both of them wearing different clothes than they had, than they had when they arrived.
FRATANGELO: Lawyers for the monsignor and the secretary deny anything improper. His attorney says, he is saddened that innocent events have been distorted and sensationalized.
And on the church‘s cable television network, the monsignor‘s latest topic is about relationships.
MONSIGNOR EUGENE CLARK, SAINT PATRICK‘S CATHEDRAL: You must examine your conscience. I‘m not sure where conscience is in the late 20th century.
CHANG: For him to be possibly involved in something like this and possibly breaking up a marriage with his secretary, I mean, that would be the height of hypocrisy, if true.
FRATANGELO: After announcing the monsignor‘s resignation, the archdiocese said it will continue to follow developments in order to resolve the matter, as the allegations dominate front-page news.
Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: The monsignor himself issuing a statement moments ago, denying the allegations, thanking those who continue to support and pray for him.
Since the odds again all that happening to you are pretty big, here‘s something else that you shouldn‘t do, smoke. Our nightly quite hints on how to stop, “I Quit.” And, again, this is after your gratifying response to my graphic story Monday of why, even if you are not somehow destined for cancer, you should stop smoking anyway.
We got hundreds of e-mails, many of which ask for our help in smoking, the ending of smoking. So, every night, another suggestion. One of those is bound to help you in some way.
Tonight, from the cutting edge of cessation devices to the first of our suggestions from our viewers, nicotine nasal spray. Snort your way to being an ex-smoker, clinical trials thus far suggesting this is the most effective from the point of view of physical addiction, anyway. This is prescription only. Pluses? It immediately relieves symptom of withdrawal.
Minuses? You can get addicted to this, too, while you‘re breaking your addiction to cigarettes. This is one of the ask-your-doctor things. Then there is the nicotine inhalant. It‘s a plastic tube with a nicotine cartridge inside. You puff on it and you get nicotine vapor, cigarette without the smoke or the heat or the tar. Basically, it is a bong.
It‘s also available only by prescription. Pluses? Obviously, it is simulated smoking. So, if you‘re more hooked psychologically than physically, this could be ideal. Minuses? Somebody who uses who is on our staff notes that the effect is very intense, kind of like swallowing black pepper.
And, lastly, this device, the drinking straw, now available without a prescription. What on earth does a straw have to do with quitting smoking? Asked Linda Forst of Omaha, Nebraska, who e-mailed into our Web site thusly: “As odd as this may sound, I used drinking straws when I quit smoking two years ago. I found that puffing on a straw helped satisfy cravings by duplicating the actions of smoking. So, as not to look like a complete idiot,” she adds, “I suggest cutting the straw to your usual cigarette length.”
Obviously, Linda‘s sense of humor wasn‘t cut in half, which underscores two points. You have to keep laughing at this as you go ahead, and you also have to try psychological tricks on yourself to replace the various ways tobacco is a part of your life, toothpicks, chewing gum, sunflower seeds or a straw cut in half. Every little bit helps. More tomorrow.
And now back to the sex, our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”
A Los Angeles judge has extended a temporary restraining order barring the marketing of a 15-minute videotape showing actor Colin Farrell cavorting with an ex-girlfriend. That ex-girlfriend and the subject of the restraining order is Playboy playmate Nicole Narain. The judge‘s original order blocked her from selling, distributing or displaying the video. Narain‘s lawyer says she is not interested in profiting from the tape, but want to keep her half on the rights.
And, no, Superior Court Judge David Yaffe did not burst out laughing when he heard that one.
Continuing our celebrity courtroom tour of L.A., just the other day, singer, actress and animal sounds impersonator Courtney Love claimed she had gained weight recently because she had been clean and sober for a year. Superior Court Judge Rand Rubin today issuing a bench warrant for her arrest, claiming she has subsequently failed a drug test and thus may be in violation of the terms of her probation. Oops.
There will be a further hearing on this a week from tomorrow, at which another date for another hearing will be set to determine whether or not Love needs further penalization. She should just go halfies with the judges and sell an annual Courtney Love court date photo calendar.
Fly me to the moon, seriously, the plan to set up civil—or civilian trips there. Hopefully, they would be civil, at this price. The problem now is, the supersaver fare is $100 million. Details ahead.
But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world.
There‘s Jason Brahim of Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He is charged with disorderly conduct after police claim he got angry on the golf course and beat a goose to death with his club. And he lied about how many strokes it took him.
The silver nominee, Professor Mark Bellis of John Moores University in Liverpool in England. He is one of the researchers behind the new study that could scare the Shinola out of you if you‘re a parent of either gender. It suggests one out of every 25 fathers in the world is raising another‘s man child, unknowingly. Professor Bellis has also deduced that the principal cause of this might just be marital infidelity.
But the winner tonight, Counselor Lam Kitzin (ph) Hong Kong, noting that, in the last eight years, 20 people have killed themselves in one hotel on Cheung Chau Island there. He suggested that when Hong Kong‘s new Disneyland opens in September, Cheung Chau Island should convert that island into a suicide themed amusement park. He did not say which one you were supposed to go to first.
Counselor Lam Kitzin (ph) of Hong Kong, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Before we go to our number one story tonight, a late development in number four, the Associated Press reporting now that NARAL, the pro-choice abortion-rights group, has just pulled its grisly TV commercial criticizing the Supreme Court nominee, Judge John Roberts.
The ad had attacked his 1991 argument as a lawyer that anti-abortion activists were not anti-women, therefore couldn‘t be prosecuted under anti-discrimination laws. The spot had only premiered yesterday. The organization yanked it off the air barely 24 hours later, following heavy criticism.
Tuesday, just as the shuttle Discovery landed, we noted a bittersweet anniversary. It was 29 years to the day since we—and by we, I mean humans—had sent our last spacecraft to the moon, an unmanned Russian rocket that blasted off on August 9, 1976.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, that anniversary might be rendered meaningless, because you could soon be going to moon for the low, low price of $100 million. They accept cash, Amex and gold bullion.
Space Adventures, the company that put the first tourist into space, has announced plans to send private citizens to the moon, Alice, to the moon, or at least around it, a voyage lasting 10 to 21 days, depending on whether the craft docked with the International Space Station or not. It would use a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Russian pilot. It that would have room for two passengers if they can cough up the fare for the round-trip ticket, which is $100 million each.
The spacecraft will dock with a booster in space to make the trip then to the moon. And the mission, set for 2008 or ‘9, promising views of the moon‘s far side, the dark side of the moon, from just 62 miles away, not to mention the Earth rising at the end of your lunar orbit. But the pilot and two passengers will have to settle for a spacecraft with about as much room in it as a sport utility vehicle. Don‘t forget to tip the pilot.
It was that same kind of partnering with Russian officials which produced the first tourist trip into space in 2001, including a stop at the International Space Station.
Who better to discuss the prospect of civilians then taking a trip to the moon on gossamer wings than that first space tourist himself, California financier Dennis Tito, who joins us now.
Mr. Tito, good evening. Thanks for your time.
DENNIS TITO, CEO, WILSHIRE ASSOCIATES: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: What do you think? I mean, would you be game for a trip to the moon, all things considered?
TITO: Well, if I was a little younger and I had more cash, yes.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of the cash, $100 million a pop. Do you think they‘d have trouble finding two takers?
TITO: I think it will be very difficult, because you have to put the money up in advance. And you‘re depending on the other person to go through and both of you to pass the medical exams two or three years hence. So, I think it‘s a very difficult proposition, but I hope they can put it together.
OLBERMANN: Now, your trip reportedly cost what is in contrast here a comparatively cheap $20 million. Whatever the actual price was...
OLBERMANN: ... do you think it was money well spent?
TITO: It was the best money spent in my life, although I never spent that much money before. It was really a great experience.
OLBERMANN: Give me one particular to try sell that trip to the moon to somebody who might be sitting in there watching $100 -- with $100 million burning a hole in their pocket.
TITO: Well, when you leave the Earth, looking back at it is just an unbelievable experience. And I can imagine what it might be like looking at the Earth from the distance of the moon. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you have the money, why not?
OLBERMANN: How many people can say, “when you leave the Earth”? I‘m thinking that was a wonderful sentence. That‘s worth the money right there, to be able to go around anywhere you want and just say, by the way, sir, just walk up to a stranger on the street and say, when you leave the Earth.
OLBERMANN: Explain the fascination, though, for me. I mean, I bought NASA stuff at auctions. I have a pen that Jim Lovell used aboard one of his flights. I don‘t want to think about how much it costs. But I love the thing because it has been in space.
Do you have a distillation as to why this fascinates all of us so much?
TITO: Well, for me, it went back to when I was a teenager, when the space program first started, and I became a space advocate then, in fact, enrolled in aerospace engineering in college and then went on to work in the space engineering program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
So, I have been wanting to fly since 1961, when the first people flew in space.
OLBERMANN: We were all told years ago, that time, earlier, eventually, there‘d be commuter and vacation space travel. It‘s in the movie 2001. There‘s a Hilton Hotel in space. Do you think it will ever actually happen and be within the financial reaches of average people?
TITO: Absolutely. It may take many, many decades. It may take 100 years. But the fascination is so great and the demand is so great, eventually, the private sector will come up with the vehicle and there will be a regular access at a very low cost.
OLBERMANN: But, for now, Dennis Tito, one of the few people who can say “when you leave the Earth.” We will see if the other people pony up $100 million for the privilege in the next couple of years.
Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, on the opportunity to vacation around the moon at the end of this decade, great thanks, once again, for your time tonight.
TITO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And that‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
We will be back tomorrow with some more tips on how to stop smoking. Please continue to send in e-mails to our Web site, “I Quit.” You‘ll see it on the COUNTDOWN Web site at MSNBC.com.
Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
Rita Cosby is up next with “LIVE & DIRECT.”
Good evening, Rita.
RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”: Good evening, Keith.
Thanks a lot.
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