Friday, July 23, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 23

Guest: Alice Hoagland


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

The 9/11 report, the day after: It's conclusions about the heroes of flight 93 and how a mother responds? Its conclusions about the fiction of contact between Muhammad Atta and Iraq. Its conclusions that may make it the central theme of American politics between now and the election. John Dean joins us.

Send lawyers, guns, money, and a band: Why the military is recalling reserve musicians.

Democrats take over Boston: The preparations - just keep looking into the eye scanner until you can clearly see the image of John Kerry.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. While the country's cry to its leaders of "do something" has followed in the wake of the release of the 9/11 Commission report, it is the echo of another cry that still resonates from the pages of that report itself, "Let's roll."

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, the day after the release of the 9/11 Commission report and the details revealed only by cover to cover reading, that include an almost-overlooked criticism of the Bush administration concept of a war on terror. And they cause the Congress and the president to tonight decide to interrupt their vacations. But most compelling perhaps, the commission's conclusions about the United flight 93, whose passengers they lauded as probably the only people in this country who did everything they could have done that morning. But who they also concluded never breached the cockpit of the doomed airliner. That there was a passenger rebellion and that it caused the plane to crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and not into the Capitol or the White House. That, the commission found was true, but relying on the cockpit recorder and the flight data, the commission reconstructed a scenario in which many of the passengers indeed tried to take back the plane. The hijacker pilot then rocked the jet's wings violently and as sounds of a fight were heard in the cabin, the pilot asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" And another criminal replied, "No the not yet, when they all come we finish it off."

One passenger shouted, "In the cockpit. If we don't, we die." Sixteen seconds later, another yelled, "Roll it," presumably a reference to the food cart. With which the passengers tried to batter down the cockpit door. And at that point the pilot wad heard asking, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" Then another hijacker answers, "Yes, put it down - put it in, rather, and pull it down." The plane crashed 90 seconds later.

Mark Bingham was one the heroic passengers of flight 93. His mother, Alice Hoagland has been a tireless spokesperson for 9/11 families and on behalf of better airline security. She has, herself, resumed her work as a flight attendant for United Airlines; she joins us now from San Francisco.

And thank you so very much for your time again.

ALICE HOAGLAND, SON KILLED ON 9/11: Thank you. It's wonderful to be here.

OLBERMANN: First off...


OLBERMANN: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

HOAGLAND: I was going tell you I'm a retired flight attendant from United Airlines, now. Continuing to try to speak out about aviation security issues.

OLBERMANN: This first issue of whether or not the passengers got into the cockpit. Do you accept the 9/11 Commission's conclusions that they did not?

HOAGLAND: Well, I'm so pleased with the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission on every other point. I'm not going to dicker with them about that. I drew a different conclusion as did most of the folks who sat around me, the flight 93 families who listened to the cockpit voice recording when we were allowed to hear it back in 2002. It seems to me that any person who listened to the cockpit voice recording would draw the same conclusion that we have. That yes, indeed, there was a breach of the cockpit door, by native English-speakers. Very last words I heard on the cockpit voice recording were spoken at a low - at a low level. And they were spoken at close range, to the microphone inside the cockpit and they were spoken by a native speaker of English, and it wasn't "pull it down," the words I remember were, "pull it up" pull it up, spoken once.

OLBERMANN: Regardless of that part of the story, as you suggested, there's no question about the overall conclusion that your son, and the other passengers saved the lives of who knows how many people on the ground. What does it mean to you to have that fact verified, validated, on the record, if you will, for all time?

HOAGLAND: Well, I think all the flight 93 families are very pleased that the September 11 Commission has spoken specifically of the heroics of the passengers on flight 93. I miss my son, Mark, very much, as does every mother who lost a son or daughter on September 11th. It means a great deal to me, I was very pleased to, to read what they, what they wrote. It makes me realize that our loved ones did not die in vain. That because of their sacrifice, even though they weren't able to save their own lives, they did manage to save countless lives on the ground, very likely the lives of senators and U.S. reprehensive, and to also save the U.S. Capitol building.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, the commissioner's yesterday emphasized both that it was the victim's families who had forced the creation of the commission itself and that its essential that the government act on these recommendations with urgency. What are you and other family members going to do to try to force the government into action again?

HOAGLAND: Well, I think that the September 11th families, especially those on the East Coast, deserve a lot of credit. It was because of their untiring, unflinching efforts to bring about the investigation that the 9/11 Commission ever came into existence. I, speaking just for myself, I intend to continue to speak out to the end of my days, about what we need to do in this country, to end terrorism. We still are - we still are not safe. We still face the specter of terrorism, aviation security is not at all what it should be, despite what the airlines would attempt to have us believe. The government needs to do a great deal.

OLBERMANN: Alice Hoagland, again we owe you our greatest thanks for joining us on the newscast tonight.

HOAGLAND: It's my pleasure and honor. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: How the government itself answers that last question has changed tonight. Uniformly, the commissioners said that officials and politicians who ignored their recommendations did so at their own risk. They said this a day after Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert wearily dismissed the idea of any recommendations even being considered by Congress before the elections. And a day before the congressional summer recess began, tonight, that plan has already changed. Speaker Hastert doing a complete about-face calling on several House committees to begin hearings in August, come back with recommendations on specific legislation by September. This, after senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman today announced the urgency of the situation will necessitate Senate hearings next month during the vacation.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMM: Because of the urgency of this task, we will begin work right away. And we will hold our first governmental affairs hearing to evaluate these recommendations, the first week in August, so no longer is it going to be a sleepy, quiet August around here.


OLBERMANN: And there is late word also that the president plans to use some of his vacation to review the 9/11 report, although he is headed to Crawford for a long weekend. Tonight a White House official announced it will assemble a special task force to outline next steps as soon as possible and Mr. Bush will meet with National Security Adviser Rice on the subject on Monday, in Texas.

Meantime, as politicians and other readers of that report checklist the opportunities missed to stop or mitigate 9/11, they will find an almost-unbelievable one inside a footnote. Al-Qaeda, the commission concludes, might have called off the entire plan on August 17, 2001, if they had known one of their operatives had been arrested. Zacarias Moussaoui detained in Minnesota on that date, for having overstayed his visa. The report reveals that the plot organizer, Ramzi bin al-Shibh told interrogators that the news would have had a chilling impact on al-Qaeda operational chief, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Quote, "Had he known that Moussaoui had been arrested, he would have canceled the attacks."

The FBI knew of Moussaoui's flight training, his radical Islamist beliefs, and his unexplained supply of ready cash, but no one in authority connected him to al-Qaeda, nor publicized his arrest.

Another of the panel's conclusions will be anything but a footnote in the White House. It blasts one of the administration's most frequently expressed theories, that the hijacker, Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi agent in Prague in April of 2001.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Czechs alleged that Muhammad Atta, the lead attacker met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack. But we've never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming or discrediting it. We just don't know.


OLBERMANN: The commission discredited it. Not only does it report that Atta was in the U.S., not in Czechoslovakia at the time of the purported meeting, but now it also reveals that the Iraqi agent Atta supposedly met, was also not in Prague in April of 2001.

And lastly, an perhaps most importantly, the 9/11 Commission report argues the very concept of war on terror is not helping things. While lauding the Bush administration for its immediate effort to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan and military pursue al-Qaeda, the commission insists that the focus was too vague and diffuse to be effective. "The enemy is not just 'terrorism,' some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment is posed by Islamism terrorism, especially the al-Qaeda network, its affiliates and its ideology." American strategy, it argues, should be focused on dismantling al-Qaeda, prevailing against that which creates Islamist terrorism, and that every element of national power from diplomacy to foreign aid to homeland defense must be employed in that strategy, not just one of them.

The sudden flurry of activity in the legislative and executive branches suggests the initial analysis of the report is almost free of politics, would seem to have been hasty and wrong. John Dean has been a student of American politics since long before he was at the center of one of its most dramatic eras. Once Richard Nixon's White House council, is most recent work is his study of the Bush administration, "Worse than Watergate," and he joins us from New York.

John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Not bad, yourself.

Where did we get the idea that the 9/11 report was without serious political implication or serious implications about the current administration? And how wrong was that idea?

DEAN: Well I think we got the idea because Mr. Bush did everything in his power to try to stop any kind of 9/11 investigation at all. He started on Capitol Hill, and as you've mentioned in the top of your piece, the families when they were unhappy with that result, forced the formation of this commission. Try - he was trying to downgrade this investigation from day one. What we know is anybody who reads this report, knows this is deadly serious business.

OLBERMANN: Are those hidden conclusions in that report, hidden is my term, the ones dismissing the Atta-Iraq connection, the ones criticizing, not the conduct of the war on terror, to use a Civil War term, but the very concept of a war on terror. Are these things actually going to have impact the White House or what we've seen here today, these decisions by the president to have a meeting with Dr. Rice on Monday, is this - is this for public consumption? Or does it suggest there might be a policy change?

DEAN: Well Keith, I think your choice - I think your choice of words is very good. They are, in a sense, hidden conclusions and they're very nicely laid out. I'm sure that's one of the ways they reached unanimous bipartisan judgment on this, by just sort of tucking them down, not making them black letter but yet laying out very clearly many of these items, that the facts they had just showed had to be said. And they did it and did it in a way that wasn't finger pointing, they're not looking to play the blame-game, and I must say the hats off, not only to the commissioners - the 10 commissioners, but to the staff that assembled this material, which is really quite remarkable. I, in fact, had my doubts about the staff because it's very close, some of the members, to the Bush White House. But they rose above that partisanship and actually did a hell of a job putting together this very, very important document.

OLBERMANN: Especially judging by what happened today, the swing by Dennis Hastert; the swing in the Senate to reconvene select committee meetings and hearings next month during the vacation. Could the report itself wind up becoming, not just an aspect of the presidential election, but "the" aspect of the presidential election?

DEAN: Well, I think it's started a populist movement, of sorts. I was, frankly, horrified when I heard Dennis Hastert first said, that well, this is something I think we can get to in Congress, it was really quite out of - inappropriate and really quite remarkable for as able a politician as he is, to come out and make that remark. Those are often very carefully considered remarks. It was the plan they had, but obviously, when people were going to Hastert's district with microphones and getting a very negative reaction to the speaker's comments, he quickly had an about-face. Plus when the Senate came out, when senators Lieberman and Collins came out and said they were commencing an investigation, they put the heat on, and they read the public right, I think on this, that the movement has started, that the public wants to see result. In fact, it's occurred to me this would make a wonderful COUNTDOWN, take all those recommendations, hard and soft and let's see how fast they can deal with them.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, the thing coming back from vacation is reminiscent, I guess, of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, who had, as I remember it, dissolved Parliament in the late '30s, just on the eve of the Hitler's deal with the Russians and then obviously suddenly everybody has to snap back into place. But, my last question John, ultimately, and to draw on your own White House experience and your work as a historian, you use the term "populist." Can a populist movement spring up out of a report like this? Can people, just ordinary citizens move so quickly that even politicians have to sit up and take notice?

DEAN: I think they can if particularly if they become aware of the contents. Taking sound bytes of the report, taking clips from radio or television or seeing summaries in the newspaper will obviously have an impact, but not nearly as great an impact as if people actually look at this report. It was a very delicate job to write it, they wrote it, it is not a James Patterson thriller, but it is thrilling to read it, because it is really quite emotional to read it. And when you get to the recommendation section and they start laying out those black letters, they make such eminent good sense that people are going to say, "Why not do that? Why shouldn't we implement these things?" And I think the Congress and the White House, whoever may be there over the next say, year to 18 months, they're going to have to answer to this if they don't deal with it because the commission has said clearly, terrorism hasn't gone away. In fact, I would recommend page 365 for one very nice tight summary of what a president can and can't do in this area.

OLBERMANN: Page 365. I'm writing it down, John. John Dean, the author of "Worse than Watergate" White House council to President Nixon. Thanks, as always, for your time tonight, my friend.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Late-breaking news here, as well. Just three days after the Sandy Berger document story broke, another prominent Washington figure is under investigation. According to law enforcement officials, republican Senator Richard Shelby, for eight years a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee is now a subject of a criminal investigation probing whether he was behind a leak to the media of what are called "classified intercepts." The intercepts in question included a message delivered the day before September 11 that said, quote, "Zero hour begins tomorrow." The leak of that information triggered a firestorm of criticism towards the White House. Senator Shelby was the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time. Law enforcement sources telling NBC News that his case has now been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, an indication that he is unlikely to face a criminal indictment.

COUNTDOWN opening tonight with the fallout from the September 11 report. Up next, the No. 4 story: Special delivery to Iraq. More money, more ammo, and more music? That's not a joke.

And later, the breaking Kobe Bryant news, plus the Hollywood effect in a tight election race. Well outspoken celebrities actually woo voters? Or are the voters saying, "Eh, we're not that interested in what you have to say?"


OLBERMANN: Next here on COUNTDOWN, supporting America's bravest, by bringing back into service all if its retired band members.


OLBERMANN: The U.S. Army has called for back-up from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines, not personnel, cash. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: The military has burned through most of the $65 billion Congress appropriated for Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army spending the most of it, and they're evidently also way low on musicians. The Army is in red by more than 10 billion, Air Force one billion, and Navy nearly that, the Marines looking like good managers at only half a billion, but Congress racing to find another 25 billion to get the military through the start of the recess. But, much of it will be immediately spent, and this all may recur before year's end. The budget problem has led to cuts in everything from night vision equipment to armor plating of vehicles, to say nothing of the manpower shortage. The Army has called Dr. John Wicks out of retirement, he is a psychiatrist. He's headed to Iraq, he is 68 years old. Fifty-six hundred other ex, or thought they were ex-military personnel will soon be notified they're being recalled as part of the individual ready reserve, including a lot of people with specific skills, like Dr. Wicks or the 627 supply specialists, the 361 mechanics, the one euphonium player. According to the IRR list, Uncle Sam also needs two trumpeters, a pair of French hornists, three saxophonists, four clarinet players, a percussionist, an electric bass player, and a guy with a trombone. We are blowing neither smoke nor trumpets at you, your country needs a new band. This is serious stuff and Tom Squitieri of "USA Today" broke the story this week, and joins us now having left his trombone at home.

Tom, good evening.

TOM SQUITIERI, "USA TODAY": Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: It sounds like there's a lounge act playing in some motel bar tonight that may find itself in Iraq by the fall. What the hell is this all about?

SQUITIERI: Well, the truth is, that they need a lot of bands people to play for funerals, as well as morale-boosting activities. And when these guys are not performing, they're doing guard duty.

I've heard, Keith, today at the Pentagon they were not very pleased to have this out, because they didn't want this, the depth and the width of the call-up being known. But, I've been told that by this weekend, they will have found volunteers for these 15 musical slots, and no one will be forced to pick up their trumpet and go to Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Just going to ask you to reaction to the - you know, the concept of forcibly reuping Clarence Clemmons. Is the - you know, the ludicrousness of this, does it extend to any other areas? Are there - you know, I don't know a lot of graphic artists that are forcibly being recalled?

SQUITIERI: No graphic arts, there's some morticians, there's some bug experts, a lot of truck drivers as you noted in sort of support positions. But what it underscores Keith, is that - is that the degree of difficulty the military is facing in these ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to experts.

The military is stretched and you've talked about this before, and a lot of these skilled positions - you know, you think of the military only as shooting, but there are all the other positions that are required to make the military work. And they don't have them any more. And the problem is, they have to plan for next year and the year after, now. And to take the troops from other reserve units means busting up those units and then they can't use them next year.

OLBERMANN: Is there anybody still saying in the Pentagon, no, we did not under budget in terms of personnel for Iraq? Or, are they suggesting that somehow their predictions were correct but then events changed?

SQUITIERI: It's more of the latter, that their predictions were correct. And we've always said we would have to have more troops or less troops depending on the circumstance. But in reality is, that canard isn't flying too much any more when you talk to people, especially on the record or in the hall - off the record or in the hallways. Even secretary Rumsfeld acknowledges that he'll put as many troops in there as is required. And the problem is, Keith, again, there - they've tapped Peter to pay Paul, much as you said in the introduction, taking money away from night vision to pay for the ongoing war today, means in the future they won't have them. One key thing, they're sending the elements that now train the soldiers in Forts Irwin and Fort Polk, they're sending these sophisticated people to fight in the war, which means troops that will be trained will not be trained as well as the ones in the past.

OLBERMANN: An adage of Benjamin Franklin suddenly comes to mind. Tom Squitieri of "USA Today" who in fact play the trombone.


OLBERMANN: Thanks for your time tonight, glad you're not going and take five.

SQUITIERI: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now passed our No. 4 story. Up next, from the hard news of war and terror to the hard to understand headlines that we love so well, "Oddball." Monkey gets sick, monkey gets better, monkey walks like human.

And nothing leaves us scratching our heads more than Michael Jackson. Will the latest M.J. news make it into our weekly news quiz, "What have we learned?" Learn later.


OLBERMANN: Time now to lay down the heavy mantle of serious news and pick up instead the paper crown of serious silliness. Let's play "Oddball."

Meet the Natasha the Mackambakay (SIC) monkey - Macaque. About two weeks ago she and several other fellow primates at the Safari Park in Tel Aviv came down with a near-fatal stomach flu. Vets were able to save her life, but she suffered a seriously strange side effect. Natasha started to do this. Those of you familiar with the threat of the damn dirty apes can appreciate just how rare this is. This is a monkey walking continuously upright. Just like us. Well, some of us. In fact, the zookeepers had never even heard of this happening before. What did it all mean? Is she the missing link? Does it prove that there's a Yeti or a Sasquatch or a Bigfoot or Natasha? Actually none of the above, Natasha only did this for two days, possibly because her body pain had subsided, possibly because she had temporarily brain-damaged herself, or she made have read her "Animal Farm" by George Orwell and agreed "two legs bad, four legs good."

Apparently four short legs, better still. If you thought the running of the bulls in Pamplona was brutal, you obviously have not seen the carnage from Kansas. Humans line up waiting for the gates to open and they're running. It's the 11th annual running of the wiener dogs in Kansas City. Several pounds of dangerous animal chasing mere mortal men. Stop turning around, flee, please flee! At lest that guy in the orange had the right idea, just keep going. Whatever you do, do not look back at these fearsome creatures. Fortunately nobody got gored during the grisly spectacle, although some human socks were reportedly damaged.

Finally tonight, in honor of the man who first brought bull-running to our national attention. Dozens of white-hired full-bearded men gathering in Key West, Florida to compete for the title of Best Ernest Hemmingway Look-Alike. Look-alike, not drink alike. It's part of the 105th annual Hemmingway Days festival held at one of the authors favorite bar. Actually not 105th annual, it's his 105th birthday would have been today.

More than 150 fans competed this year, including a pensioner who came all the way from Kazakstan for the festival. And once again, none of men chose to enter the "Recreate How Ernest Hemingway Retired" Contest. Think about it.

"Oddball" in the record books now.

Up next, gearing up for Beantown, security measures tightened, local patience frayed as the Democrats prepare to descend on their convention. And later, "Fahrenheit 9/11" may be depicted as the opening salvo from Hollywood. Salvo of what? Is it having any impact? These stories ahead.

First, here are the COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, the unnamed driver on the Germany Autobahn highway. Almost any speed is OK on the Autobahn, but not any vehicle. The Swedish tourist was on his skateboard carrying a golf club. Police got him off the road.

No. 2, John Corson of Madison, Maine, hit by lightning earlier this week says he's not just fine. He's feeling more energy than he has in the last 10 years. You bet. In fact, he says he feels 100 years younger. Now, since Mr. Corson just passed his 56th birthday, his improvement would mean he's now minus-44 years old.

No. 1, Ziggy Zablotny, no, not just for his name. He was aboard a charter fishing boat off the Georgia coast. He got a bit of a surprise. Out of nowhere, a 30-pound barracuda leaped 30 feet out of the water into the boat's salon, where it then bit Mr. Zablotny. Man bites dog is news. Fish bites man, gets book contract, that's COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: More than 65 million people in this country voted on the last night of "American Idol"; 105 million Americans voted in the last election, making it not that implausible to state that more people will dial a phone for the next "American Idol" this fall than for the next American president this fall.

No. 3 on the COUNTDOWN tonight, politics somewhat in peril, from voter apathy to convention security to Hollywood liberals in the crosshairs.

First, the body politic, beginning with the latest numbers on where things supposedly stand; 49 percent of registered voters surveyed by "USA Today" and Gallup favoring Senator Kerry, 45 percent President Bush. Plus-or-minus, though, is three. The president faring slightly better among voters likely to vote, 47 percent to Mr. Kerry's 49, putting the president within the three-point margin of error. A two-point spread also evident in "The L.A. Times"' latest survey, Kerry 48-46, but, again, a three-point margin of error.

A large majority of votes already entrenched, according to "The Times" survey, 82 percent saying they are certain this is how they will actually vote in November, compared to 17 percent the says it might still change. That certainly not wavering along party lines either, 83 percent among Democrats and 85 percent among Republicans.

On the other hand, the "USA Today" pollsters asked how much thought voters had given to the upcoming election; 66 said quite a lot, 3 percent some, 28 percent only a little, 2 percent none at all. And the last group is the special people, 1 percent having no opinion about whether they even think about the election. No word on whether they know their own names.

Senator Kerry's coronation looms. So do fears of terrorism or nonterrorist trouble at the convention. It is thought-provoking though not necessarily useful to remember that 231 years ago in that same city, the government of the moment would have viewed things like the Boston Tea Party as terrorism or at least nonterrorist trouble.

The latest threat supposedly directed at us, an FBI warning that domestic radicals might attack the transmission trucks of television news operations. COUNTDOWN will emanate from here next week.

Our correspondent Bob Faw is already on security watch in the old town.


BOB FAW, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boston, for its first national political convention, is sprucing up and hunkering down, massive, unprecedented security, with riot gear, bomb-sniffing dogs, even robots to diffuse explosives.

None of that however will stop traffic, already choking, from snarling even more convention week when some major arteries are closed for security. The gridlock predicted as merchants steam. Here, where three generations have sold wine and liquor they expect sales to plunge 50 percent.

JEFFREY CIRACE, MERCHANT: My regular customers are leaving the neighborhood, the neighborhood customers that I have. And my out of town customers are certainly not going to attempt to come into the city.

FAW: Rich Faracano (ph) figures it will be so hard to get to his barber shop, he's closing up four hours early each convention day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to lose, yes, half a day's pay for three days this in a row.

FAW: One survey here says only 11 percent of local businesses expect the convention will benefit them. Reservations next week at this police north end restaurant, zero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am proud that the Democratic Convention is going to be here. But, on the same token, we're losing money.

FAW: Some of course like restauranteur Peno Arano (ph) counter, the sky is not falling, that 36,000 conventioneers won't be chained to their seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to be there to say, I was there for our half an hour. Then you go have some pasta for dinner.

FAW (on camera): That's what you're hoping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I'm hoping and that's what going to happen.

FAW (voice-over): Hoping for foolproof security, the posh Nine Zero Hotel is even scanning irises of some guests and all employees.

JIM HORSMAN, NINE ZERO HOTEL: And that if they're not authorized to be here, guess what, they don't get access.

FAW: Just the way some residents who live near the convention center have found their access restricted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a resident, I'm very miffed by it.

FAW: So pride here and exasperation. Or as one Boston cabbie put it, everyone should be happy, but no, everything is upside-down.

Bob Faw, NBC News, Boston.


OLBERMANN: Boston's own Ben Affleck not only expected to attend the convention, but also to speak. And even though Bennifer is now done-a-fer, it is perhaps surprising that Affleck's support of Senator Kerry has not been cause for controversy, at least not yet.

So far in this election cycle, it seems as if there's been little patience for or in fact influence by the proverbial Hollywood liberals intent on speaking their minds. Liberals in Hollywood, who knew? Somebody ought to look into that, like correspondent Tom Costello.


_UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how are you doing? _

TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Moore may have fired the opening salvo, but now the attacks are coming from all sides, celebrities taking aim at President Bush.




COSTELLO: Whoopi Goldberg, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Ozzy Osbourne, Linda Ron, Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, Martin Sheen just some of the entertainers who have made it clear they want to make President Bush a one-term president.

JESSICA LANGE, ACTRESS: yes, I'll do everything that I possibly can, short of selling my children.

COSTELLO: But can the rhetoric backfire? Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: They're using their views and their celebrityhood to push issues home. But I don't think you get a lot of people wanting to hear it.

COSTELLO: Jane Fonda was accused of crossing the line when she traveled to Hanoi to protest the Vietnam War. And Sean Penn traveled to Baghdad.

(on camera): But with Republicans winning the White House in six of the last nine elections, Hollywood's ability to influence those elections may be questionable. Many voters say the entertainers should stick to entertaining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any opinion any celebrity has towards politics, I don't really pay attention to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess my friends and family influence me more on politics than celebrities would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they can influence somebody who is not really thinking about what the issues are.

COSTELLO (voice-over): "Newsweek" magazine's Howard Fineman says it's the undecided voter who is being targeted.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I do think people get information and guidance from wherever in the atmosphere of American culture today. And popular culture does have an impact.

COSTELLO: No matter how it affects the vote, there can also be consequences for being outspoken. Linda Ronstadt was run out of a Vegas casino for promoting Michael Moore's movie.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, COMEDIAN: If I can do it, you can do it.


COSTELLO: And Slim-Fast dropped Whoopi for being obscene. And remember what happened to those Dixie Chicks C.D.s?

Tom Costello, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of great performances, lastly on the political front, if you were waiting for round two between Vice President Dick Cheney and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, keep waiting. The vice president passed the senator in the Cabinet room of the White House yesterday. Mr. Cheney nodded politely to Senator Leahy, but no words were exchanged, unlike June 22, when, during the annual senatorial team photo, the veep told the Vermonter to blank off.

So no rumble in the jungle, no thrilla among the vanilla, no rap at all in the Capitol.

COUNTDOWN now three-fifths complete. Up next, No. 2, the new ruling from the judge in the Kobe Bryant case against Colorado's rape shield law for the admission of a limited look at the accuser's sexual history. Is this case over? And from within the Martha Stewart camp, is she actually chomping on the bit to go to prison?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Next, ahead on COUNTDOWN, a victory for the defense tonight in the Kobe Bryant case and a defendant rushing to jail in the Martha Stewart case, perhaps.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It is a familiar defense strategy in a rape case, put the victim on trial to some degree or another. And it's common because it's proven to work. Kobe Bryant's attorneys now putting it to work for their client.

Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, a victory late this afternoon, evidence a major victory for the defense, Judge Terry Ruckriegle deciding to admit some of the physical evidence of sexual activity by the alleged victim in the two days before and the hours immediately after the claimed rape. The state's case against Bryant, what's left of it, will go on display when the trial begins a month from next Thursday.

Here to weigh in on the significance of the ruling today, the former district attorney of Denver, Colorado, Norm Early, now an MSNBC analyst.

And good evening to you, sir.

_NORM EARLY, MSNBC ANALYST: Hi. How are you, Keith?_

OLBERMANN: Point blank, did the prosecution probably just lose this case?

EARLY: I don't think so, Keith.

This isn't the first time that the Colorado rape shield law has been pierced. And it won't be the last. This is exactly the kind of situation that the Colorado legislators anticipated when they passed this law. She's claiming injury at the hands of Kobe Bryant. The defense has probably introduced an expert who says that this injury could have been caused by consensual sex with someone else. Given that, it's up to the jury to determine how it actually occurred.

OLBERMANN: There's a reference in the judge's ruling to the credibility of the accuser being a factor. Does it mean just that, literally, or a factor, or is this judicial code for, right now in my eyes this accuser doesn't have a lot of credibility?

EARLY: I don't think it's the latter.

I think what we're talking about is that the jury should decide whether or not this woman is credible in terms of her prior sexual history. You will recall that they paraded a slew of individuals into that courtroom to testify about things that happened months, weeks and years ago.

The judge has said, hey, it's limited to 72 hours and 72 hours only, because it is within that 72 hours that it's possible that she could have sustained that tear to her vagina. But, Keith, even did she did sustain that tear to her vagina a few hours before the sex with Kobe Bryant, you've got to ask yourself, why would somebody with that kind of tear have consensual sex with Kobe Bryant or anybody else if they're suffering in that way?

OLBERMANN: Well, just because you're nuts doesn't mean you weren't attacked.

EARLY: That's right.

OLBERMANN: But let me ask you to summarize this. Did you expect this would be the ruling or is this a surprise, given the fact that, although it may be flexible, that rape shield law in Colorado is still a fairly strong and potent thing?

EARLY: I think both sides have been given to hyperbole in terms of the importance of decisions that go their way in the case. I predicted that it would be allowed in a limited way. And I predicted that it would be probably 72 hours of the alleged rape. What the judge has done is narrowed it even more, 72 hours of the rape examination.

OLBERMANN: Norm Early, the former district attorney of Denver on the ruling in the Bryant case, admitting the alleged victim's sexual history for the three days prior and several hours after the reported rape, as he said, as he predicted. Thank you for your insight, sir.

EARLY: Thanks a lot, Keith. Take care of yourself.

OLBERMANN: As we go from the No. 2 story to our nightly celebrity roundup, "Keeping Tabs," we go from one high-profile court case to another. When asked directly about the topic last week, Martha Stewart seemed to pooh-pooh the idea, but the high doyen of household hints may have had an epiphany, sources close to the case telling our correspondent Anne Thompson that Ms. Stewart is now seriously considering serving her five-month prison term sooner rather than later.

Premise, it would make Wall Street, stockholders and magazine advertisers happy. And we know that they mean enough to her that she did everything but sell subscriptions on the steps of the courthouse after sentencing last week.

The remaining detail of the case was cleared up today, too. The former brokerage assistant who became the top witness against Stewart, Douglas Faneuil, was sentenced, no time, just a fine of $2,000.

And another regular contributor to "Keeping Tabs" has finally surrendered to police two weeks after a judge issued a warrant for her arrest when she failed to show up for arraignment on an assault charge. Courtney Love, oh my gosh, posting $150,000 bail at an L.A. police station this afternoon, currently roaming free. Stay indoors, please. Stay indoors in greater Los Angeles County. Just joking.

That's until her next precourt date, a pretrial hearing on a different charge next week. That one deals with her felony counts of drug possession. She'll be back in court for the other charge, the one for assault - you following this? - next month. That is, if she can keep track of which charge, which court, which city, which coast, which time zone, and which time.

Still ahead of us here on COUNTDOWN, it was the political ad of the week. It had the whole country pointing and clicking and laughing and singing along and unified in its disunity. But will the details of this cartoon stump even me in our weekly news quiz, "What Have We Learned?"

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It's Friday.

And the rules here say that, on Friday, there is no No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, just a review of the week's other 24 numbered stories and the hundreds of others we just kind of slipped in. We've turned this review into a chance for you and the staff to torture me. It may look like a news quiz. It is in fact, a communal pig-sticking that we call:

_ANNOUNCER: "What Have We Learned?" _

OLBERMANN: Here to explain the rules, how you affected them and how I get punished is the lovely and talented emcee of "What Have We Learned?" Monica Novotny.

Monica, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Yes, I'll bet.

NOVOTNY: As always, we will begin by reminding viewers that you can take MSNBC's weekly news quiz on our Web site at

As for our news quiz rules, when we say, what have we learned, we really mean, what has he learned, if anything. So, consider this your chance to stump Mr. Olbermann. You choose the questions and just in case our esteemed host cannot come up with the answers, a punishment. Again, go to our Web site. Click on e-mail the show, type in news quiz in the subject line and send us your question and punishment. We will do the rest.

And now, with our thanks to those of you who took part this week, sir, the viewers have spoken. Are you ready?


NOVOTNY: There will be punishment, by the way, if you don't get at least half of these right.

OLBERMANN: Half. All right.

NOVOTNY: That's right.

OLBERMANN: And what's the punishment?

NOVOTNY: We'll determine that at the time.

OLBERMANN: But a viewer has suggested it?

NOVOTNY: Absolutely.


NOVOTNY: These are all viewer punishments.

OLBERMANN: Terrific.

NOVOTNY: All right, two minutes on the clock, please. And please don't be difficult.

Rhonda (ph) from Massachusetts asks, what celebrity is reportedly a distant relative to Senator John Kerry?

OLBERMANN: Britney Spears.


From J.C., more than five million people have downloaded a political parody featuring the president and Senator Kerry from which Web site?

_NOVOTNY: Indeed _

When did the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger first use the term girly men in a political context?

OLBERMANN: It was February of 1992. He was stumping for the first President Bush in Derry, New Hampshire.


From Kato (ph), what's the name of the rabbit claiming to be the world's largest and how much does the rabbit weigh?

_OLBERMANN: Which Kato? Is it Kato Kaelin? Kato?_

NOVOTNY: I don't know. Kato, our viewer.

OLBERMANN: Wow. I remember it's not - it should be Harvey, but it's not. It's Roberto.


OLBERMANN: And, what, it's how much he weighs?


OLBERMANN: Twenty-seven pounds, 26 pounds?

NOVOTNY: Twenty-seven pounds.

OLBERMANN: Twenty-seven pounds. I was right.

NOVOTNY: You were right.


NOVOTNY: This is so painful this week. Michael Jackson is rumored to be expecting how many children next year?

_OLBERMANN: What do you mean by expecting children? __NOVOTNY: How many children? _

OLBERMANN: What do you mean by expecting children? I'm burning a little time here?


_NOVOTNY: I mean, what's the rumor? _

OLBERMANN: Oh, all right. I was just - it's supposedly quadruplets that he's the nominal father of. Four.

NOVOTNY: And question, bonus question, who's the daddy?

OLBERMANN: Who's the daddy? Mr. Anonymous.

NOVOTNY: Exactly. Anyone not Michael.

OLBERMANN: Anyone not - all right. Fine.

NOVOTNY: Steve from Indiana, a poll of Hispanic American voters puts what presidential candidate ahead and by how much? And Steve actually requested that you answer this in Espanol.

OLBERMANN: Well, I don't speak Spanish, sadly. But I can say - no, I can't anything at all. I can only then tell you it's 60 percent for Mr. Kerry and 30 percent for Mr. Bush.

NOVOTNY: Moving on.

Jenny (ph) from Florida writes, Brian Berg (ph) has built a house of cards, hoping to break the world record for card stacking. How many cards did he use?

OLBERMANN: Seven. No, that one, I remember we did this story, and I have no bloody idea how many there were. But there were a lot.


NOVOTNY: That's wrong; 20,000.

OLBERMANN: But I said - you're so proud of yourself. That's wrong.


NOVOTNY: I am proud of myself. This will be a miserable week.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it will. No punishment coming up.

NOVOTNY: This is the best that you've done.

OLBERMANN: Is that it?

NOVOTNY: That's it.

OLBERMANN: We're out of time and we're out of questions? How did I do, tell me, pray tell? What's that?

NOVOTNY: You got six for seven, so that's your...

OLBERMANN: What's this?

NOVOTNY: That's your reward.

OLBERMANN: What is it?

NOVOTNY: It's an eight-ball.

OLBERMANN: It's an eight-ball? Like I didn't have one of these already that I'm always behind?

NOVOTNY: If you don't know the answers next week, you can just ask.

OLBERMANN: Yes, well, OK. Now, how many cards did that guy put up there?

All right, be sure to keep those questions coming, because, really, nothing is more fun than this.

NOVOTNY: Oh, yes.


OLBERMANN: Possibly root canal.

Thank you, Monica.

Thank you, questioners.

No punishment. I guess we'll find that out next week.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night. I got six of seven. And good luck.