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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 26th

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Jim VandeHei, Maurice Hinchey

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The CIA leak investigation:  Is there blood in the water?  Is there even any water?  More headlines, not much news though the grand jury met today and the prosecutor met with the judge supervising the grand jury.  Whatever it is, congressional Democrats want more of it, 41 of them write to Patrick Fitzgerald asking him to expand his investigation to see if administration claims about Iraqi nuclear desires were themselves illegal. 

Stopped in time:  A San Diego 2-year-old wanders in front of trains, not once, but twice.  The trains literally stop in time.  What was the boy‘s mother doing? 

And all this damage caused by a six inch piece falling off a military jet, it is unbelievable!  Of course, it is unbelievable because we got it wrong.  Tonight the COUNTDOWN apology hall of fame inducts COUNTDOWN. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  It is not on the level of 43 years ago this week when the city and the country knew something was going on involving Cuba and great peril.  But until President Kennedy addressed the nation, no one could have known it was the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The country, especially its political centers, were rife with intense rumor, speculation and huge headlines made up almost exclusively of question marks. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: another day of huge headlines with almost no detail.  The impending denouement to the CIA leak investigation described in The Washington Post today as potentially a “political tsunami,” even though still nobody really knows if the water is 20 feet high or it‘s a puddle or if it is even headed this way. 

With just three days remaining before the grand jury‘s term is set to expire, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, meeting with members of the jury, and was prepared to outline possible charges, according to The Washington Post, in an update just before 6:00 Eastern this evening; having, according to a similarly timed New York Times update, postponed at least until Thursday any public announcement of a decision.

Once done with the jurors, Mr. Fitzgerald meeting also with Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, the second time in the last few weeks that the judge and Fitzgerald have met.  This procedural footnote:  It would be possible for this judge who is in charge of this grand jury to extend the life of the grand jury at Mr. Fitzgerald‘s request. 

Business as usual today for two of the reputed targets of the investigation.  Karl Rove and Lewis “Scooter” Libby joining other officials today at the daily White House senior staff meeting.  NBC News tonight confirming an earlier report from the political publication Roll Call that Mr. Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin, met briefly yesterday at his own law offices with Mr. Fitzgerald. 

And Mr. Libby walking into the White House today on crutches after having broken a bone in his foot.  For now, at least, the walking wounded at the White House, merely a literal term, not a figurative one. 

White House correspondent Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post knows just about all anybody outside the grand jury or the prosecutor‘s office can know.  And he joins us again tonight. 

Good evening, Jim.

JIM VANDEHEI, THE WASHINGTON POST:  It‘s good to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  The quotation I gave from your late afternoon update on The Post‘s Web site that Mr. Fitzgerald was prepared to outline possible charges, plus what our White House correspondent David Gregory reported tonight, that the lawyers involved in this case believe he has decided on some charges but not on others. 

Does all that mean there are indeed going to be charges and we just don‘t know how many or against whom? 

VANDEHEI:  Right.  It turns out the only person more secretive than President Bush and his administration are Fitzgerald and his investigative team.  We still do not know.  There are still folks telling us that Karl Rove does not know if he is going to be indicted.  And we all know that we will know the answer by Friday. 

All the lawyers we‘re talking to in the case fully anticipate charges, some indictments at least by Friday.  But it is not certain who it will be.  Obviously a lot of the attention has been focused on Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president; and Karl Rove, the top strategist to President Bush. 

OLBERMANN:  The two details that we have from today, Mr. Fitzgerald meeting at midday with the judge who is supervising the grand jury, and reportedly having met with Mr. Rove‘s attorney yesterday.  That seems to be a pretty reliable story.  Would either of those meetings be unusual or telling events? 

VANDEHEI:  No.  I think when you get down to crunch time in one of these investigations and you have a client who could be a target or may be a target in the investigation, you‘re going to be talking to the prosecutor and trying to figure out every way you can to keep your guy from getting indicted. 

I think there has been a lot of negotiations over the last couple of weeks with people that could be caught up in this probe making sure that they don‘t get caught up in it.  And I think that what we‘re seeing is a lot of loose ends being tied up. 

But also, this unexpected flurry of activity, and we reported this morning that Fitzgerald had FBI agents going through Joe Wilson‘s neighborhood as recently as Monday night, talking to neighbor to try to figure out if they knew that his wife actually worked for the CIA before she was publicly outed in Bob Novak‘s column in July of 2003. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll get back to the meeting with the judge in a moment.  But that—you raised the point that I also wanted to get to, the sort of sore thumb that sticks out of the theory that all of this has been wrapped up.  You addressed it, as you mentioned, in your piece today, that the FBI interviews of two of Valerie Plame Wilson‘s neighbors asking if they knew before they read it in the papers that she worked for the CIA, the replies, I gather, were no, we didn‘t.  But secondly, how could this all be wrapped up if the FBI was still doing field work as of 48 hours ago? 

VANDEHEI:  Right.  Well, you could still put together an indictment and just add different facts that you want to present to the grand jury.  That‘s certainly plausible.  I mean, what is surprising is, is we all knew that these neighbors existed for the last couple years, why didn‘t they deal with this earlier? 

I mean, there‘s been articles written about Wilson long ago that quoted some of these neighbors saying how shocked they were to learn that Valerie Plame was in the CIA.  They all thought she was an energy consultant or, as one neighbor told me, they thought that she was just another soccer mom with kids.  So this seems relevant to the investigation, but I think he had already built a good portion of that and was just compiling more information. 

The other thing we learned is that Tuesday night he was also reaching out to another mid level former associate of Karl Rove to ask another question about Rove and his activities before Plame‘s name became public.  So that does suggest that there is this last-minute flurry of activity that I think a lot of lawyers in the case did not expect because they thought that they knew that Fitzgerald knew what his charge would be and where he was going, and was just trying to talk to the grand jury before he made it public. 

OLBERMANN:  And then this tantalizing sort exclamation point on today‘s events, this lunchtime meeting with the judge.  Are there other explanations for it besides the ones that would jump to mind, that he might be discussing the prospect of an extension of the grand jury since this is the judge who would have that process, would be responsible for that process, or that who knows?  It‘s sealed indictments?  Are there any other explanations on the table regarding the meeting with the judge at this late hour? 

VANDEHEI:  We‘ll have some details of that in tomorrow‘s paper.  But there area a lot of explanations that you could have.  This is the judge in the case, so they have to deal with a lot procedural things.  But I do not think that you will see any extension of this grand jury.  We will know by Friday what is going to happen here. 

OLBERMANN:  And I already alluded to it, your terminology about the White House bracing for the kind of political tsunami that swamped Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan in their second terms, and could change this presidency‘s course.  Is that—either way, whether there are extensive indictments or not, I mean, is the White House getting out of this scot-free if there is only one indictment and everybody else is a witness?  Or are there degrees of tsunami here, I suppose, is what I‘m asking? 

VANDEHEI:  Right.  Well, you hit on a key word: witness.  I mean, if somebody is indicted, this doesn‘t end.  I mean, then we have a trial.  And if you‘re talking about a trial, a lot of those witnesses will be people from inside the White House.  And you would continue to have through this process a discussion about what happened with those weapons of mass destruction before the war and how the White House had justified going into Iraq. 

And that is going to continue to be a distraction because you have people in the White House that would be involved in that trial.  And you would have this constant distraction of talking about something that is obviously something the White House would not want to spend the next couple years talking about.  And that is this allegation that they‘ve hyped intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. 

OLBERMANN:  Anybody who is over the age of 25 years old has seen how one story can overcome a White House for two years.  Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post, for whom it has been busy season and for whom it may shortly get busier yet.  Thank you, again, Jim.

VANDEHEI:  Take care. 

OLBERMANN:  If Karl Rove winds up indicted or if he doesn‘t but somebody else does, and he becomes a key witness, we‘ll be hearing a lot more of one name: Robert Luskin.  The attentive viewer, the very attentive viewer, will recognize him as one of the many former federal prosecutors who served as guest analysts during my coverage on this network of the Clinton-Lewinsky investigations.  Seven times he was on.  There is now every chance that Mr. Luskin will become one of those people other former federal prosecutors analyze in the Rove-Libby investigations.  Washington is still a very big small town. 

And even apart from his MSNBC credentials, as our chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell reports, Luskin has an unlikely resume for an attorney for the president‘s brain. 



Karl Rove has been called the most powerful and most brilliant Republican strategist in history. 


N. O‘DONNELL:  He‘s a ruthless tactician, dedicated to crushing Democrats, which has left many wondering why he hired a liberal for a lawyer. 

In fact, Rove‘s counsel, Bob Luskin, sports a shaved head, a gold earring, and loves his motorcycle.  And that makes him an odd duck, say some, among Washington‘s A-list criminal attorneys. 

RYAN LIZZA, NEW REPUBLIC:  He is known as a colorful guy in Washington.  He is famously the first lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court wearing an earring, believe it or not. 

N. O‘DONNELL (on camera):  Bob Luskin is at first glance an unusual choice for Karl Rove‘s attorney.  But Luskin tells me that when he first met Rove, he told him, your politics are not my politics and if that‘s a problem, there are plenty of Republican attorneys in this town who will represent you.  But Rove told Luskin, what counts is relevant experience. 

(voice-over):  In fact, when Rove got into legal trouble, he called on his old friend, Republican super lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who said Luskin was the man for the job. 

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL:  Bob Luskin is a lawyer perfect for this situation that Karl Rove faces.  He understands politics.  He had a career in journalism.  And he is a great lawyer.  And there‘s simply nobody better. 

N. O‘DONNELL:  Luskin is what you might call super smart: Harvard University, Harvard Law School, and then a Rhodes scholar.  After working as a speechwriter for vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, he was a Justice Department prosecutor.  He then spent much of his career as a white collar defense lawyer. 

He was the go-to guy for those in the Clinton White House under investigation, and frequently appeared as a lawyer pundit on television. 

ROBERT LUSKIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Grand juries are not like cheese, they don‘t go bad. 

N. O‘DONNELL:  In a sign of just how much is at stake in the CIA leak investigation, Luskin is now called “Rove‘s brain,” a nod to Rove‘s title as “Bush‘s brain.” 

Legal sources say Luskin still has deep ties inside the Justice Department, and its special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.  That may be one of the main reasons Rove hired him and why Luskin, albeit liberal and flashy, may be just the lawyer to save Rove from legal jeopardy. 

For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Norah O‘Donnell. 


OLBERMANN:  Some on Capitol Hill want the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation to expand.  We‘ll talk to one representative who says the president‘s claims about Iraqi designs on nuclear materials should be examined to see if he or others in the administration broke the law by presenting them. 

And the battalion was the same, the sacrifice has been the same, but the reactions of their families to the deaths of two Ohio servicemen have been entirely different.  That may encapsulate the national divide and debate over the war in Iraq.  That story ahead.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  I would like to think we respect history here by noting so often the anniversaries of events that are of a particular date and the juxtapositions they create with current events.  Others think I am just obsessed with anniversaries. 

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, if there actually are going to be indictments in the CIA leak case revealed tomorrow or Friday, the relevant anniversaries will be doozies.  Tomorrow is the birthday of the late H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon‘s chief of staff.  And Friday is the 29th anniversary of the day the late John Ehrlichman, Haldeman‘s deputy, entered prison, after his conviction on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. 

How did we all get here?  The CIA leak story so far as recounted for us by White House correspondent Kelly O‘Donnell. 


KELLY O‘DONNELL, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The background, 2003.  President Bush makes a controversial claim in his case for war. 

BUSH:  The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. 

K. O‘DONNEL:  The president suggesting Saddam could become a nuclear threat.  But those 16 words were later retracted.  The White House admitted the statement was built on faulty intelligence.  That prompted a debate.  Should President Bush have made that claim at all? 

Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq and Africa had been sent by the CIA to Africa to check out clues about Saddam.  He went public in a New York Times op-ed, claiming the administration twisted the intelligence for war. 

And that‘s when the leak controversy began.  Commenting on the Wilson story, columnist Robert Novak wrote that two administration sources told him Wilson‘s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative who played a role in sending him overseas.  That publication exposed Plame‘s secret status.  And an investigation was launched into who revealed her CIA identity. 

Early suspicion focused on Bush political guru Karl Rove.  But the White House defended him fiercely. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I‘ve made it very clear, he was not involved.  That there‘s no truth to the suggestion that he was. 

K. O‘DONNELL:  But since then, two reporters say Rove was their source on Plame.  And Cheney‘s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was named by another reporter.  So what now? 

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be looking beyond the original issue:  Was the leak itself a crime?  Former federal prosecutor Randall Eleison (ph). 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You start looking at one possible violation and end up maybe not even charging that violation.  But you do end up with a perjury or obstruction of justice case. 

K. O‘DONNELL:  Kelly O‘Donnell, NBC News, the White House. 


OLBERMANN:  Another expansion of the charges is being championed by a group of congressional representatives.  They want to know whether the administration and the president in particular deliberately lied to them about the uranium claims, and in doing so, broke the law.  The effort is spear-headed by New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey who, along, with 40 other representatives, wrote a letter to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asking him to investigate the reason for the current probe. 

Namely, whether the president‘s references to uranium in his 2003 State of the Union Address and in other pre-war documents submitted to Congress violated two different statutes that the prohibit, quote, “knowingly and willfully making false and fraudulent statements to Congress in documents required by law,” and, “conspiring to defraud the United States.”

The scope of Representative Hinchey‘s request does not stop at the president.  He also wants Mr. Fitzgerald to investigate uranium comments made by the then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.  Representative Hinchey joins us now from Washington. 

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY (D), NEW YORK:  Well, thank you, Keith.  It‘s a pleasure to be here.

OLBERMANN:  The administration retracted those 16 words from the State of the Union, the CIA blamed itself for letting them go through the vetting process.  Would not some kind of deliberateness to a falsehood there be hard to prove, considering that someone has already said this was an error and accepted blame for it? 

HINCHEY:  Well, I don‘t think so.  I think that it is clear that what happened here was a falsification of information.  That falsification was done very purposefully in spite of the fact that all the information that we have indicates that the CIA was telling the White House that there was no firm or solid, let alone definitive evidence that there was a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq; and certainly no evidence that there was a nuclear weapons program. 

And based upon a number of sources, including that provided by Ambassador Wilson as a result of his investigation in Niger, no evidence of a nuclear program in Iraq.  Nevertheless, the White House went ahead and sent that information to the Congress.  The president delivered it in his State of the Union Address.

In a speech in Cincinnati in October earlier that year, he mentioned the mushroom cloud.  And that image was used over and over again by high ranking administration officials to strike fear in people in the Congress and I think across the country. 

OLBERMANN:  In your letter today, the examples that you cited from President Bush were indeed, as you point out, made to Congress.  But the one that is mentioned from Condoleezza Rice was made in a newspaper article.  Colin Powell‘s uranium reference was made in Switzerland.  Mr.  Rumsfeld‘s was made in a news conference.  How could those statements be considered as breaking laws governing falsehoods told to Congress when those statement were not made in Congress or to Congress directly? 

HINCHEY:  Well, we cite two different laws.  One has to do with statements made directly to Congress, or written information delivered to Congress.  And those are the first two examples that we cite in the letter.  There‘s a second law that provides information that may be indirectly delivered to Congress by high-ranking officials in the statements that they make with regard to very pertinent information which is currently before the Congress. 

There were attempts being made at that time by members of the Congress to hold back on any war efforts in Iraq, because of the fact that the information was distorted and not clear.  And because many of us believed and now are quite certain that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were telling the administration that there was no justification based upon so-called weapons of mass destruction, and certainly not on the basis of enriched yellowcake uranium coming from Niger into Iraq, no justification for going to war. 

And so those statements are very important, the ones that you just mentioned.  And they are, we believe, violations of federal law. 

OLBERMANN:  Your party was adamant in 1998 and 1999 that the entire independent counsel process regarding President Clinton had been to some degree corrupted and had become and attempt to hamstring an administration by keeping it in a constant state of being investigated, really for political reasons.  Why would what you‘re proposing to Mr. Fitzgerald not be deserving of the same kind of criticism from Republicans? 

HINCHEY:  Well, clearly, we‘re in a very, very different state.  We‘ve now just lost 2,000 American servicemen and -women killed, 17,000 more than that injured, many of them very, very seriously.  Some people estimate as high as 100,000 Iraqis, at least half of them, civilians, women and children, killed as a result of this action.  This is a very, very serious action. 

In addition to that, the security of this country has been compromised.  Our integrity around the world has been put into deep, deep question.  And as a result of all of that, we are now finding ourselves in very, very serious trouble.  If this kind of activity is allowed to go unquestioned, unexamined, as it is not being examined by the Congress, and the Congress should be examining it, if it continues to go unexamined, our whole democratic republic is put into jeopardy here and the future of this country is in serious trouble.  This need to be examined and that‘s why we‘re asking the special counsel for the attorney general to look into it. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly and briefly, have you heard back from him yet?  Do you expect to? 

HINCHEY:  No.  We don‘t expect to hear back from him.  His investigation is independent.  It was just our intention to bring to his attention very pertinent facts.  It is entirely likely that he was very much aware of those facts already and may have been going in that direction.  Of course, we don‘t know.  But we felt an obligation as members of the Congress, because the Congress had been deceived by this administration, and because the American people have been deceived with this whole question of so-called weapons of mass destruction, we felt an obligation to bring these matters to the attention of the investigator in this case, Mr. Fitzgerald. 

OLBERMANN:  Representative Maurice Hinchey from the 22nd District of New York, thanks for talking with us tonight, sir. 

HINCHEY:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The lighter fare tonight, in case haven‘t noticed that fall has arrived, there is this unmistakable clue: the pumpkin catapult.  Clear! 

Did that pumpkin come smashing down on this house?  It‘s not pumpkins and it turned out it was also not a piece from an F-15, as we and others reported.  An apology COUNTDOWN-style, coming up. 


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause our COUNTDOWN because Halloween is right around the corner, which can mean one thing:  It is pumpkin-smashing time.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Beginning in Mercer County, Ohio, hello.  And that there is farmer Bob Scott (ph) with your standard pumpkin trebuchet.  We‘ve seen a lot of these things but rarely does anyone think to get a camera down to the point where the pumpkin actually lands.  Cool!  Farmer Bob says he only smashes the deformed pumpkins no one would buy.  I would hate to see what he does with the goats nobody wants.  And liftoff. 

Speaking of deformed vegetables, we take off to the Great White North for the story of a Canadian farmer whose carrots are purple.  It has got nothing to do with the tightness of his overalls.  They‘re purple on the outside.  Orange—thank you, they‘re purple on the outside, orange in the middle.  And they taste sweeter, too.  The farmer believes it is something to do with the soil.  But he is not taking any chances.  He is loading the whole crop up in a trebuchet and launching it into his neighbor‘s yard.

Finally, Halloween week just would not be complete without the obligatory costume fire safety demonstration for all the little kiddos.  Here a New York fire chief shows us why if you‘re going as a fairy or witch this year, it‘s particularly import to keep away from an open flame.  And never ever allow anybody with a blowtorch to approach and you attempt to set your costume on fire.  Remember, parents should also always keep safety in mind before allowing kids to dress up like firewood or oily rags and paint cans.  Only you can stop trick or treater fires.

Also tonight, a dress-up story of a much different variety.  Here‘s Camilla in public wearing the Queen‘s jewels.  Has global warming thawed the head of the House of Windsor.

And conflicting stories about a mother whose two-year-old son and the two trains the boy nearly wandered out in front of.  There are several explanations and none of them are very happy ones.

Those stories ahead.  First here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers.

In at three the First Lady Laura Bush telling the American Urban Radio Network that young people are more likely to get jobs if they don‘t first get tattoos.  Well, she said, if you‘re tattooed on your face or your arm where people can see it, most employers probably would not hire you.  Mrs.  Bush lauded the work of one program in Los Angeles which removes gang tattoos.  After which those young people, she said, can go out and find a job with a silk screening business, with a graphic business, with restaurants, with bakeries.  It is just a strange, strange story.

Number two, Monica Cirinna, member of the city council of Rome, Rome, Italy.  She‘s gotten a ban passed there on forcing goldfish to live in bowls.  Reportedly part of her argument, the bowls cause the goldfish to go blind.  Another strange story.

And number one, today‘s dumbest criminal.  The identified man walked up to a pharmacy counter at a supermarket in Lincoln, Nebraska, and announced it was a stick-up and he wanted the money.  One of the pharmacists recognized his voice and called him by his first name.  The guy immediately fled, suddenly remembering when you‘re trying to pull off a robbery, you do not want to go where everybody knows your name.


OLBERMANN:  The proof that the crossing of the plateau of 2,000 American dead in Iraq is not some arbitrary bit of math based on our fondness for round numbers is probably to be found in the adamancy of the arguments of the military establishment about its meaning.  It argued first that the count by news organizations was wrong and that the plateau had not yet been crossed.  Then it argued the plateau was meaningless and being used by some with a specific agenda.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, even as the arguments echoed, the total reached 2,001.  The announcement coming today, the soldier was killed last night in a vehicle accident near Camp Bukka, a U.S.  detention center in southern Iraq.  The soldier‘s identity being withheld until the family was identified.  But he was number 2,001.

The response to service deaths in Iraq is not unanimous.  It rarely is no matter venue, no matter the apparent inescapability of a cause of the war.  And you don‘t have to go to different ends of the country to see the divide.  You can find it from the families of two men, both in their 20s, both in the same Ohio reserve unit.  Both of them killed in Iraq.

There, as Jonathan Alter reports for us tonight, is where the similarities end.


JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A bittersweet family reunion this month in Ohio for the returning 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Reserves.  Not everyone came home.

The 325th, famous for its heroes in the World War II battle of Iwo Jima, lost 48 soldiers in Iraq.  More than its share of the 2,000 now dead since the war began.

(on camera):  At this sad milestone, not all families of the 325th agree on the war.  We talked to two sets of parent with two very different perspectives on what their sons died for and why.

JODY DAVIDS, LOST SON/WAR SUPPORTER:  I will go out to Wesley‘s grave and find things that have been left there.

ALTER (voice-over):  Mike and Jody Davids‘ son Wesley was killed by an improvised explosive device in May, the day before he turned 20.

J. DAVIDS:  I can say that I‘m proud to be a citizen of a country that will stand up and go fight for the freedom of the Iraqi people.

ALTER:  Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer‘s son Augie was killed along with almost all the men shown here when their troop carrier was blown up in August.  He was 23.

PAUL SCHROEDER, LOST SON/WAR CRITIC:  Here‘s Augie.  This is really a band of brothers, if you will.

The last conversation I had with Augie two weeks before he died.  He said this is less and less worth it.

ALTER:  The Davids‘ son Wesley wrote a letter in the event of his death.

J. DAVIDS:  “I hope that you can find comfort in the fact that I died for you all, my family, and the country that I love.  Don‘t be angry.  I knew the risks and chose to accept them.  Nobody made me do it.”

We‘re extremely sad about Wesley‘s death.  But we‘re not angry.

ALTER:  The Schroders are.

SCHRODER:  I have come to the conclusion that my son‘s life was thrown away.  That his death was a waste.  The Marines and the army have been good at clearing out places.  But they can‘t hold them.  When you do something repeatedly, over and over again, expecting a different result, that is the definition of insanity.

ALTER:  The families differ on whether it is possible to support the troops and oppose the mission.

MIKE DAVIDS, LOST SON/WAR SUPPORTER:  If you‘re trashing the mission, it degrades their morale.  And impedes them from being able to do their job well.

ROSEMARY PALMER, LOST SON/WAR CRITIC:  I think it is more patriotic to speak up.  When the emperor has no clothes.  The president has no plan.  Then you have to speak out.

ALTER:  They may not agree but they‘re both in pain.

J. DAVIDS:  Hundreds of people showed up in the pouring rain on the day of his funeral to respect and honor Wes and his sacrifice.

SCHROEDER:  We anticipate difficulty at Christmastime.  And the other time will be his birthday, which also happens to be mine.  I don‘t think I‘ll celebrate my birthday anymore.

ALTER:  A growing family of grief as the war grinds on.  Jonathan Alter, NBC News, Cleveland.


OLBERMANN:  That grief perhaps most evident to those of us on the outside via the somber rituals of the military funeral.  Magnum photographer Paul Fusco set out to chronicle that beginning in November, 2003.  Since that time, he‘s traveled to funerals in 27 different cities and towns throughout the country.  Here now are some of the images he captured as described by Mr. Fusco in his own words.


PAUL FUSCO, PHOTOGRAPHER:  The soldiers, the deaths of the soldiers, the funerals of soldiers have not become a national event.  It was taking place in people‘s home towns in small sections of the Bronx.  But it was not a national story.

A lot of people came up at this church in Vermont.  A lot of veterans showed up.  And a lot of American Legion people showed up.  Women and men to show their love for the family.  And for the pain and sacrifice they went through.

A small town, Ellsworth, Minnesota.  The whole town showed up.  Kyra (ph) is holding a flag.  She‘s 20 years old.  Her husband was 20 years old.

It‘s the family saying goodbye.

This family showed up on a lonely road in Pennsylvania.  No houses around.  They knew about the boy from the town next door.  That had been killed in Iraq.

The local press and I were treated the same way.  We were shut out as much as they could by the military people overseeing the funerals because they always said, the family didn‘t want any press.  But you were never allowed to approach someone from the family to ask if that were true.

I saw different things, different themes in different funerals.  I did not realize it until I started looking at my photographs.  Each was a little different.

His mother leaving the church to follow her son to the huge cemetery in the Bronx.  They saw me.  They knew what I was doing.  I was not invisible.  But it wasn‘t my role to engage them.  It was just to watch and try to get something that was meaningful and insightful about the reality of this war.


OLBERMANN:  The work and the thoughts of the photographer, Paul Fusco.  Also tonight, another mother accused of endangering her two-year-old.  This time it involved trains.  This time tragedy was averted.

And another big change at CBS News.  A new president and it is a big surprise.

COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  A shocking crime probe in San Diego tonight.  A mother under investigation for trying to lure her son in front of oncoming trains.  Yes, plural.  Trains.

And hear, when life hands you lemons, we here on COUNTDOWN make something sort of resembling lemonade.  Tonight we induct ourselves to the Apology Hall of Fame.


OLBERMANN:  Mothers killing their own children.  We seem to get at least one horrifying, unimaginable story about it every month.  Just a week now since a San Francisco woman threw three of her infants off Fisherman‘s Wharf in San Francisco.  Tonight in our number two story, another similar nightmare apparently averted just in time along the railroad tracks and then the trolley tracks of San Diego.

Details now from COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny.


CAPT. GUY SWANGER, SAN DIEGO POLICE:  We‘ve not determined the cause of why she acted in this way.  There doesn‘t seem to be a pattern of any previous mental issues with this woman.  But that‘s the stuff that we‘re looking at in the investigation right now.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tonight, 22-year-old Rachel Garta remains in custody.  Though exactly what happened on the trolley track last night in San Diego remain unclear.  Garta, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and felony child endangerment, her 2-year-old son taken into protective custody after bystanders told police an almost unbelievable story.

LT. SHELLEY ZIMMERMAN, SAN DIEGO POLICE:  Witnesses reported that the woman had walked the 2-year-old out on to the tracks when a train was approaching.  The train engineer actually had to make an emergency stop in order not to hit the child.  And when another trolley came, they did the same thing, is that they walked on to the tracks again and actually another witness reported that they saw her push the child onto the tracks.

NOVOTNY:  But now, a different story surfacing.  Investigators saying a disoriented woman may have attempted to board the freight train, thinking it was a trolley.  Then crossed the tracks for an approaching trolley, only to turn back, leaving her son in the tracks.  The trolley operator saw the child and managed to stop in time.

SWANGER:  We had no information, no evidence that the child was shoved out on to the tracks.

NOVOTNY:  Garta, evaluated at a local mental health facility but not hospitalized.  Tonight she remains in jail, awaiting her Friday arraignment.  The little boy waiting for what happens next.


NOVOTNY (on camera):  Police tonight are telling us, the felony child endangerment charge will stick but the attempted murder charge could be dropped because so far, there are no witnesses saying this woman deliberately pushed her child with the intent to kill him.  Of course, we‘ll know more after Friday‘s arraignment.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny.  Great thanks.

No segue possible tonight into our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  We‘ll just note that a tiara is an unusual piece of headgear to wear to a party unless everybody else there is also wearing a tiara.

Bingo.  Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, wearing it for the first time.  There is nothing like a girl‘s first tiara.  All other women at the clambake were wearing them.  Queen Elizabeth loaned that one to her new 58-year-old daughter-in-law and even seated her next to the gala‘s guest of honor, King Harold of Norway.

Royal watchers citing the diamond encrusted tiara as further evidence of Camilla‘s acceptance into the royal family by the queen herself but she still doesn‘t ever get to be queen herself.  Ever, no way, forget about it, sister.

A long rumored change of management at CBS News.  President Andrew Hayward will step down in 12 days and apparently leave the company at year‘s end.  That‘s the time his contract expires.  He‘s been at the post for 10 years.  None more fateful than 2004 when a fumbled investigation into President Bush‘s National Guard service record, so called Killian memos may have hastened both Hayward‘s exit and the retirement of CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather.

Hayward‘s exit may not have been a surprise.  The name of his successor certainly is.  It is Sean McManus.  Since 1996, the head of CBS Sports.  McManus is the son of the legendary ABC sportscaster Jim McKay who himself was originally a newscaster.  Like McKay‘s mentor, Roone Arledge did at ABC, McManus will head both the news and sport divisions at CBS.

And that requires an editorial comment here.  The world of electronic journalism has change since Roone Arledge‘s time.  It a 24-hour media now, demanding 24 hours of concentration.  You can‘t live in this world and also in another one like sports.  It just can‘t be done.

This reminder, please join me Friday for my weekly appearance at my old “SportsCenter” tag team partner Dan Patrick on his show on ESPN Radio as we talk about that World Series and other big sports stories.  2:00 p.m.  Eastern.  11:00 a.m. Pacific—Oh.  Yeah.  You‘re right.  The news and sports thing.

Well, about Mr. McManus at CBS, never mind.

Sometimes when we juggle too much at once, mistakes can happen.  Remember this house from “Oddball”?  Well, we reported what caused the remodeling.  That wasn‘t exactly true.  And that means we have a new inductee into the Apology Hall of Fame.  That‘s ahead.

But first the COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees of the coveted title of the worst person in the world.  Bronze winner.  The Pentagon‘s Multinational Security Transition Command of Iraq.  It brought armored Mercedes Benz cars for senior Iraqi policemen.  Seven of them for $1 million.  Caveat emptor.  Not only was the armor inadequate, but Pentagon mechanics found inadequate suspensions, low quality brakes and low quality tires.  Kick the tires.

Runner up, an unnamed former student at the University of Washington who has been back visiting the campus, going into the women‘s dormitory, knocking on doors, and telling residents, A, he could tell their fortunes by examining their feet, or B, he was a psych student analyzing women‘s feet.  He was in fact a foot fetishist.  He has been caught.

But the winners, the editors of  The Associated Press story about Secretary of State Rice was illustrated with this picture.  But they thought the photo was not bright enough.  It needed to be adjusted so could you see her face better.  They have gone back to the original and apologized to Secretary Rice and the readers because the brightened photo looked like this.  Zzzzzzzttt!  The secretary of state with the x-ray eyes!  The editors of  Today‘s worst persons in the world!


OLBERMANN:  Last night, we brought you a story in our world famous and award-winning “Oddball” segment about a small chunk of an airplane that fell off and wrecked a house in South Carolina.  This six inch pylon ejector foot from an f-15 Strike Eagle, we reported, fell off the plane it caused this damage to a house near the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.  We thought there was something odd about a six inch piece of metal doing that much devastation, that‘s why we featured it on “Oddball.”  As I was reading it, I thought, that looks like the hurricane damage from Florida.

It was, as the say,  too odd to be true.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, if you‘d told me we had to issue a correction to this story today, I would have guessed it had to do with Seymour Johnson.  That part is true.  It was the video of the house that we had wrong.

This is the actual home of Miss Cindy Williams house was struck by the falling pylon foot.  But the damage while certainly extensive was nothing compared to what we showed you last night.  That‘s because this house was in Florida and wrecked by Hurricane Wilma.

We had the wrong video.  It was a mistake.  The palm trees and extensive flooding should have been hint to somebody or even to me as I saw it just as you did on the air.  It‘s gaffs like that that is appalling in the fine reporting we do in the “Oddball” segment each night.  We have no excuse.  And so for the air force, and the Pentagon, for Cindy Williams and for Seymour Johnson, wherever you are, we humbly enter ourselves in our own Apology Hall of Fame.

I have sinned against you.  Sorry.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) IL:  If I read this to and you didn‘t tell you it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis.

Some may believe my remarks crossed the line.  To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s get crazy, get some—hire a hooker.  If you agree with this, just look at me and say, “yes.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry I did it.  I‘m sorry it offended people. 

I apologize to people this has offended.

DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS ANCHOR:  It was a mistake.  CBS News deeply regrets it.  Also, I want to say personally and directly, I‘m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Personally, I didn‘t think it would have offended anyone—


If it did, we apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry, so, so sorry that ...

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  To the Iraqis mistreated by the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I apologize to anyone who was brought into this unnecessarily.

ASHLEE SIMPSON, SINGER:  I feel so bad my dancers played the wrong song.  I have no excuse.  That‘s why I did a hoedown.  I‘m sorry.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER:  Unfortunately the whole thing went wrong in the end.  I‘m really sorry.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  I know my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression.  I misled people including even my wife.

KOBE BRYANT, BASKETBALL PLAYER:  I‘m so sorry.  I love my wife so much.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, ® MS:  In order to be a racist but you have to feel superior.  I don‘t feel superior to you at all.  I don‘t believe any man or woman is superior to anyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But did you always hold that view?

LOTT:  I think I did.

TONYA HARDING, ICE SKATER:  I feel badly for Nancy.  I feel really lucky it wasn‘t me.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST:  What the hell were you thinking?

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR:  I think you know in life pretty much what is a good thing to do and what is a bad thing and I did a bad thing.  There you have it.

STEVE IRWIN, TELEVISION PERSONALITY:  Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just like my daddy.

IRWIN:  Poor little thing.  I‘m sorry, Matt.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:  Yes, I‘ve behaved badly sometimes.  For those people I‘ve offended, I want to say I‘m deeply sorry about that and I apologize.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong.  They were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest in the nation.

JIMMY BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST:  Please forgive me, I have sinned against you, my Lord.  And I will ask that your precious blood ...


OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Someday I‘ll learn how to do the crying thing.  Keep your knees loose, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY, LIVE AND DIRECT. 

Good evening, Rita.


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