Friday, October 29, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 29

Guest: Raghida Dergham, Ben Wenzke, Howard Fineman, Wendy Murphy


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? A surprise, even for an October surprise, Osama bin Laden speaks but without the religious rhetoric. And with the claim, al Qaeda carried out 9/11 and the Madrid atrocities. And with this cryptic message to this country.


OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda, your security is in your hands.


OLBERMANN: More analysis of what seems less terror tape and more fireside chat.

Other shouts and murmurs: the campaign continues, as does the al Qa Qaa debate.

This does not continue, but how did Andrea Makris get as much as $10 million out of a harassment suit estimated to be worth barely $100,000.

And can't wait for the results until Tuesday? You don't have to. Meet the men who have correctly forecast the last 17 presidential elections. Hail to the Redskins. All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Friday, October 29, four days until the 2004 presidential election. The bad news is, there is tonight, a new Osama bin Laden videotape. The good news is, it seems less about murder and more about geopolitics. And in it, he does not apparently take sides in the presidential election, nor seem to threaten another unilateral attack.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, an October surprise indeed. Bin Laden, almost free of religious rhetoric, for the first time claiming responsibility for 9/11, rationalizing that and directly telling Americans, your security is not in the hand of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda, your security is in your own hands.

In a moment, we'll analyze the content with the journalist Raghida Dergham. The possible clues and cues with counterterrorism expert, Ben Wenzke. And the domestic political impact with Howard Fineman.

The mechanics and the politics: the on camera appearance of bin Laden are stories in and of themselves. But the headlines may, in fact, be that first direct confession that he and al Qaeda executed 9/11. And that in the tape he offered a kind of explanation of motive.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Also, we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11. Bush still practicing his ways of trying to prevent you from knowing the real reasons. The reasons are still there for repeating what had happened. I want to talk to you about the reasons behind these events and the attack.

I'll be honest with you, at the moment that we talked that decision, God only knows that we never thought about attacking the Towers. After we have had enough and we saw the American oppression and the coalition with the Israeli against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this idea came to our minds.


OLBERMANN; Sometime this morning, President Bush was advised that a bin Laden tape was to be released to the al-Jazeera networks. Some of his remarks early in the campaign day included, quote, "as we fight the terrorists, they will try to frighten us."

Later, before boarding Air Force One in Toledo, Mr. Bush spoke directly about the tape.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Senator Kerry agrees with this. I also want to say to the American people that we are at war with these terrorists. And I am confident that we will prevail.


OLBERMANN: Possibly the last moment of about bipartisanship you'll hear before the election. The Senator responded, by again, invoking what he called the outsourcing of the attempt to capture bin Laden in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan 2 years ago. He spoke to reporters upon his arrival in Florida.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. They are barbarians.


OLBERMANN: More on the impact on domestic politics coming up. First, more of what bin Laden said in the attempt to figure out what he meant. I'm joined from New York by Raghida Dergham, the senior diplomatic correspondent for the newspaper "Al Hayat", and an MSNBC analyst. And good evening.

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, MSNBC ANALYST: And good evening to you.

OLBERMANN: Before going statement by statement, I was struck by the overall tone here. The fifth word in the English translation was speech. Was this really meant to be less the typical blood curdling threat tape and more of an explanation, or a rationalization, maybe?

DERGHAM: Certainly it was to rationalize what happened. But it also had a lot of threats in it. Because the whole issue is to say if you do not take care of your policy and correct it, we are going to go on responding with the methods that we know better. Which is, of course the methods that we're familiar with September 11 and the likes.

So, I think the explanation was to say, you have a way, you have a way

· to the American people, you have a way to stop the administration or any administration from going on with the same policies that led us, we, the al Qaeda, to do what we had to do.

And of course, he spoke personally that he was inspired, that he

should bring down the Towers in New York, when he watched what was the

Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, doing to the very infrastructure of

the country. So, he is claiming that he was inspired by that to bring back

· to sort of do to the U.S. what the United States has been doing to the Arab world through its alliance with Israel.

OLBERMANN: Let's look at a couple of the elements of the statement. First, that headline - or one of those direct addresses to the American People.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda, your security is in your hands. Do not play with our security, and spontaneously, you will secure yourselves.


OLBERMANN: To what degree do you suppose he would be aware, or would be aware of the mechanics and the details of the presidential campaign? Because clearly, it has been part of Mr. Bush's attempt at re-election to portray John Kerry as less effective against terrorism, against people like bin Laden. Would this statement saying it doesn't make any difference who gets elected president, to some degree neutralize the impact of terror on this campaign? Neutralize al Qaeda's impact on the campaign?

DERGHAM: I do not see this as a vote for John Kerry or a vote for George W. Bush. I've heard many analysts say - or fight his or her own point to say there would help either the president or Kerry. I just think the message is that this is about policy beyond who is going to be in the White House. And I think the message is leave us alone. Or if you don't do something, you, the American people, we're going to have to do something about it. That is the message and it's really about foreign policy.

Whether bin Laden is watching the details of the elections is not, of course, for me to say. I don't know where he is. But probably the surprise is that he is telling us that he exists. After all, if you remember, Keith, a lot of people had this theory that maybe bin Laden has been caught and he is going to be sort of produced in the last minute. Maybe this is the sort of October surprise against the rumors of the October surprise.

But I believe that the whole idea of the tape was to coincide with the fourth anniversary of September 11. I think it was meant to coincide the anniversary of September 11. I don't know why it's coming out now. I don't know if it took so long to get to al-Jazeera, or whether whether - timing is a bit little more ill - I hope that it's not anyway.

OLBERMANN: Whether he is sincere in this next clip that I want your reaction to, or not, certainly it will not be treated sincerely here. It would not lead to negotiations, as has been universally stated. But in the tape, he seems as if he is looking for some kind of middle ground. Let's listen to this.


BIN LADEN (through translator): I would like to say that security is a pillar of life. And free people do not cast away their security. And again the claims of Bush, who claims that we hate freedom.


OLBERMANN: And the rough translations of the remarks that he made just after that, was he, meaning Bush, should tell us why we didn't hit Sweden, for instance. We fought you, because we are free people. We don't sleep on our oppression. We want to regain the freedom of our Muslim nation. As you spill our security, we spill your security.

Is that, in fact, some sort of not very logical attempt, but some sort of an attempt at offering coexistence? Or is there a threat in there? Or is it simply a misdirection by a terrorist who is trying to pose as a geopolitician?

DERGHAM: He certainly believes he is a geopolitician for sure. And actually, he made himself one, though with methods that are despicable as the methods of al Qaeda. But certainly, we pay attention, the world pays attention when there is a tape from bin Laden, for example.

I don't think that the very concept, the very theology, or ideology of

al Qaeda and bin Laden call for coexistence. But on the other hand, it is

· the message is, leave us alone and you'll be fine. Get out of our affairs and we're not going to hurt you.

And do not be wrong. This is not about your freedom. Your call for freedom, nor is it about our fight of your kind of freedom. So, he is trying to explain it's about policy. However, I don't think this is a call for coexistence. I think it's, you know, leave us alone is more like it.

OLBERMANN: Raghida Dergham, MSNBC analyst, senior diplomatic correspondent at Al Hayat. Great thanks, as always.

DERGHAM: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's the content geopolitically speaking. What about the content terroristically speaking? For that I'm joined by Ben Venzke, CEO of Intel Center and Tempest Publishing. Ben, good evening to you.

BEN VENZKE, TERRORISM EXPERT: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What are the watermarks on this tape, if you will? What are the ballistics matches? What did you see more than hear?

VENZKE: In terms of actual visuals and you have something that is very consistent with bin Laden speeches before although we haven't seen this exact kind of set up and backdrop. But he is traditionally either sitting on the ground or he's standing at a podium. The tone of the voice and other things, is what we've come to expect when we see a bin Laden tape, although there are some that are a bit more vocal or a bit more ominous. This was more of a subtle ominous tone to it as opposed to some of the earlier ones.

OLBERMANN: I want to play another segment of this tape for your reaction. Bin Laden not only claimed responsibility formally for 9/11 for the first time, but he went into detail about the planning. He said that he and Muhammad Atta had agreed that the attacks needed to be carried out in a 20-minute window so the U.S. could not intervene in time or would get a late start in intervening but that the president's response staying in the schoolhouse in Florida had changed the time line. Here's that tape.


OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): It never occurred to us that the commander-in-chief of the country would leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers facing these horrors alone. Because he thought listening to a child discussing her goats was more important.


OLBERMANN: Ben, does that hold up in the slightest against the actual story of how 9/11 unfolded?

VENZKE: I think the important point here is, this is obviously what we're seeing is al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden's media savvy. They've watched and paid attention to especially this, the controversy that came up from this after Michael Moore's film about the president continuing to sit there for a period of time. And clearly, they were able to see the reaction it got and how it sort of stuck and it had some legs to it. And what you're seeing is bin Laden, realizing what has worked with the American people and playing on that and taking it and incorporating in those messages on their own. I think it just shows they're really paying attention to what's going on in the political debate in the United States.

OLBERMANN: And raising the rhetorical question, did he see or did somebody tell about "Fahrenheit 9/11?" But maybe we can leave that for speculation. One last excerpt I want you to react to, an example of tone and terminology.


BIN LADEN: We want freedom for our nation also because you destabilize us, we will destabilize you, too.


OLBERMANN: Ben, there are no overt threats in the whole thing, there is no gun presence on him. The thing sounds utterly unlike the purported American al Qaeda video broadcast last night by ABC with blood running in the streets and such. From the beginning, we've worried about cues, hidden instructions to action in these tapes. Did you hear anything suspicious?

VENZKE: Well, there were threats there and the important thing to keep in mind is when al Qaeda makes these threats, not like the other video that we've heard about this week. But in bin Laden's and Zawahiri's, they really truly believe that they have a rational justification for their actions and that goes throughout their writings over the last 10 years. The other threat and it's consistent in terms of a cue to actually go forward for an attack, when we found patterns between the release of these tapes and actual attacks occurring, we are of the mind, that it is more likely to be part of their media strategy as opposed to some coded communication in the actual video because they have these things. They're able to communicate with each other. So this is a way to stay in the forefront of people's minds.

OLBERMANN: Ben Venzke with Intel Center, as always, thank you for your time tonight.

VENZKE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Bin Laden warns that neither Bush nor Kerry could keep America safe, and he charges the president with deceiving the American people. What effect could that message have on voters? What effect has it already had on the campaign? "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman join us next on Countdown. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It is perhaps a true measure of the signs of the political kaleidoscope through which we now view everything. That amid the claims of responsibility for 9/11 and the recitations of Middle East recent history, the most impactful statement here now may have been the one that began, your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush. Our number four story in the Countdown, bin Laden did not endorse presidential candidate. Like the "Los Angeles Times" or the "Wall Street Journal." This is all impacting the presidential campaign as we speak and to gauge the first Richter scale measurements, I'm joined by the chief political correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine and MSNBC New analyst Howard Fineman. Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: There's plenty insulting to the president in this tape. I was thinking as I heard that line, it's not in the hands of Kerry or Bush that to some degree that must have confounded both campaigns. Am I right?

FINEMAN: I think you're right. And I think Osama bin Laden in a way has been the centerpiece of this presidential campaign from the moment within a few days or so of 9/11 that intelligence analysts realized that he was behind it. He has been the symbol and the centerpiece of the campaign. And so what he says matters a great deal. There's a little bit for both sides in what he said and in his reappearance.

OLBERMANN: A little bit on both sides. Elucidate on that.

FINEMAN: On the Democrat side, on the Kerry side, Kerry's argument for months and months has been I would be a better, smarter commander-in-chief because I wouldn't have taken my eye off the ball. I would have surrounded Osama bin Laden and his fighters in Tora Bora and Afghanistan. I would have hunted them down the way I did in Vietnam when I was a Swift Boat commander myself. I wouldn't have gotten involved in the adventure in Iraq and I certainly wouldn't have done it the way George Bush did it.

So that's Kerry's argument and the fact that Osama bin Laden reappears a few days before the election apparently in good health, sort of sitting at a lectern like he is giving a political science lecture, has got to underscore Kerry's point.

On Bush's side, the president can argue the emotions of this. He can say as did he already today, we will not be intimidated by this barbarous enemy, that the American people will rally around the cause of fighting terrorism. That in fact, the reappearance of bin Laden shows the nature and the implacability of the enemy we're fighting, and only somebody willing to take the offensive, as I have, Bush will say, and is saying, only that kind of commander in chief can fight somebody like bin Laden.

And if you look at our poll and everybody's poll, on the question of who can better fight the war on terrorism, not Iraq, but the war on terrorism, Bush is ahead by 20 points. So anything that reminds people of the war on terrorism, and that's bin Laden, has to benefit the president.

OLBERMANN: Now, there was a moment as we showed earlier, of brief bipartisanship when Mr. Bush said "Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Senator Kerry agrees with this." Then Mr. Kerry made the remarks about outsourcing that you refer to, about not getting Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora two years ago.

And then tonight already, we have seen this ping-pong game is now return service. Tonight in Columbus, Mr. Bush already had this response.


BUSH: It is the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. It is especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America's enemy.


OLBERMANN: Every time you think the thing has gone as far as it possibly could in term of partisanship, there's a new high and low. Are we seeing it on both sides? Is this suddenly the reaction to the bin Laden tape will be the decisive issue in the last few days of the campaign?

FINEMAN: I think it is the decisive issue in the last few days. It has been to me for the whole campaign. That's what this has been about. That's also what John Kerry chose to make it about by challenging Bush directly in his role as commander in chief.

So that's what it has been about. There are very few undecided voters left, Keith. In looking at recent polls, the latest polls, you know, in past years, in past presidential elections, maybe one or two out of 10 people would be undecided still at this point. Those people don't exist this time around. But for those who are undecided, the emotions of the moment, which are heightened by the reappearance of bin Laden, it makes it a higher stakes game for both. It makes the rhetoric nastier, because this is a life and death matter, Keith. This is all about life and death and security. Nothing goes more to the heart of the American people than that.

OLBERMANN: "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman. It has been an extraordinary political day, and I guess we got another four of them to go.

FINEMAN: That's right.

OLBERMANN: Many thanks for your perspective, and we'll see you on probably on each of those four.


OLBERMANN: This all ends Tuesday. Unless it ends earlier? If history holds, we can project a winner late Sunday afternoon.

They will campaign Monday anyway and they will still be talking also about Iraq and Halliburton. Our coverage of T-4 days and counting continues. This is Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: More confusion tonight in the hunt for the weapons at al Qa Qaa. The Army says they destroyed tons of explosives at the site; they just don't know what was destroyed and what might still be missing.

Predicting the presidency. If history holds, forget Tuesday. We should know who will win it by late Sunday afternoon.

And time for the final falafel. O'Reilly reported to have paid millions from his own pockets to end the loofa lawsuit. All that ahead.

Now, no matter the circumstances, there's always time for Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day. There's a theme. See if you notice it.

No. 3, an unidentified car thief in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After getting trapped in the rental car lot from which he had stolen the vehicle, he thought he could get over an electrified fence faster if he was not wearing any clothes. Police said he told the guards he was employed there but could not explain why he was naked.

No. 2, Dawna Lee Ellis of Billings, Montana, arrested for riding the streets at lunch time on a horse capping malt liquor from a can and bare-backed. Bare-bottomed, too. Partially naked, they say.

And No. 1, the actor Matthew McConaghey. He says there's a ghost, a woman living in his new home in Hollywood. When he first discovered her, he chased her with a baseball bat, but now they're friends, possibly, he says, because while he was chasing her, he was naked. Quote: "Maybe me being nude all the time is why we get along." Just a final tribute to Bill O'Reilly.


OLBERMANN: Only in America could an Osama bin Laden tape, a literally loose cannon in the old comedy troop SCTV all make appearances at the start of the final weekend before a presidential election.

Our third story on the Countdown, the characters Billy Sol Hurok and Big Jim McBob used to wax poetic about how they blowed them up real good, real good. They could have been of use in Manchester today, where the president encouraged a confetti cannon operator with a bad sense of timing or at the Pentagon, where the administration tried to defuse the still running al Qa Qaa munitions story with an Army major who said his team removed and destroyed 250 tons of weapons from that ammo dump, but could not say whether or not they were part of the 380 tons of stuff missing from the place.

Major Austin Pearson, with the Pentagon press secretary at his side, said his unit pulled out and then blew up ammunition from al Qa Qaa on April 13 of last year, 10 days after U.S. forces first reached the massive depot, said to be about the size of Manhattan. But the explosives found by Major Pearson apparently weren't under international seal.


MAJOR AUSTIN PEARSON, U.S. ARMY: I did not see any IAEA seals at the locations that we went into. I was not looking for that. My mission specifically was to go in there and to prevent the exposure of U.S. forces and to minimize that by taking out what was easily accessible.


OLBERMANN: Those international seals look like this one, significant because they and they alone indicate that any materials were under surveillance by the U.N. nuclear agency, as the missing material indeed was.

This video was taken by a photographer from the ABC station in Minneapolis, KSTP, embedded with the 101st Airborne. Its soldiers opened bunkers at al Qa Qaa on April 18 of last year, three days after Major Pearson says he was last there. It is thus still unclear if any of the explosives destroyed by Major Pearson's unit represented even a portion of the material that is missing. The Pentagon said as much during the Pearson briefing.

But Vice President Dick Cheney appeared to need no further proof speaking in Michigan this afternoon.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major Austin Pearson of the 24th Ordinance Company of the 24th Support Group reported at a news conference at the Pentagon that he was sent to the site with his crew on April 13, 2003. They seize and destroyed some 250 tons of ammunition, which included in that amount some significant portion of the explosives in question.


OLBERMANN: The Defense Intelligence Agency might disagree with the tone of the vice president's remarks. The magazine "U.S. News & World Report" says it has obtained secret DIA documents from a year ago which indicate just how widespread weapons looting all around Iraq was and where those weapons wound up.

The report dated November 9, 2003, says - quote - "The vast majority of the explosives and ordnance used in anti-coalition improvised devices, IEDs, have come from pilfered Iraqi ammunition stockpiles and prewar-established caches." The magazine notes the document does not specifically to items pilfered from al Qa Qaa.

And also still on the smorgasbord of Iraq-related controversies in the weekend before the election, not just how munitions disappeared, but how competitive bidding may have also disappeared to the vast financial benefit of the vice president's old company.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, now with the first and the exclusive interview with the Army whistle-blower, whose whistle seems to sound the word Halliburton.


LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the woman the FBI wants to question, Bunny Greenhouse, the top civilian procurement officer for the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with ensuring fair competition in Pentagon contracts.

In an exclusive interviews with NBC News, Greenhouse alleges that federal contracting officials repeatedly and improperly bent the rules to favor Halliburton.


It was the worst abuse of the procurement and contacting system that I have seen. It was misconduct. And part of that misconduct, I believe, was blatant.

MYERS: Example No. 1, Greenhouse says, the Pentagon's decision citing the emergency of the war to award Halliburton a no-bid contract to repair the Iraqi oil industry, not just for one year, but for five years. Contract cost? Up to $7 billion. Greenhouse wrote, the contract was too long.

GREENHOUSE: One year to me was reasonable.

MYERS (on camera): But not five years.

GREENHOUSE: But not five years.

MYERS (voice-over): She was overruled. But after controversy erupted, the Pentagon awarded part of the contract to another company.

Example No. 2, government auditors found Halliburton may have overcharged by $61 million for fuel. But waving government rules, the Pentagon did not force Halliburton to justify its prices. Greenhouse says she didn't learn the rules were being waived until later and would have objected. Some experts say all this appears legal, but highly unusual. The FBI is investigating the overcharging and now sees Greenhouse as a possible witness.

GREENHOUSE: It all favored Halliburton.

MYERS: Why the favoritism? Greenhouse claims co-workers told her it was for unspecified political reasons.

(on camera): Are you alleging any impropriety by President Bush or Vice President Cheney?

GREENHOUSE: None whatsoever.

MYERS (voice-over): After she raised her objections, Greenhouse says she was eventually cut out of key decisions. In July, in these documents, she objects to extending a Halliburton contract in the Balkans, writing:

"Incorrect. No. I cannot approve this." She refuses to sign.

Eventually, an assistant does.

(on camera): Retired military officials tell NBC News that it is unusual for a commander to repeatedly overrule the concerns of someone in Greenhouse's position. But they say there could be legitimate reasons.

(voice-over): The Pentagon won't comment on allegations of misconduct, citing ongoing investigations, but insists all Halliburton contracts were handled improperly.

A Halliburton spokesman says, "Old allegations have once again been recycled, this time, one week before the election."

_MYERS (on camera): Are you trying to influence this election? _


MYERS (voice-over): Greenhouse, a registered independent, insists the timing was triggered by this letter from the Pentagon this month demoting her. It says: "Your last two final performance ratings were less than fully successful."

So is Greenhouse just a poor performer trying to save her career? Some former co-workers say she has had problems on the job. But a former boss said Greenhouse has great integrity, but also had detractors because she was a stickler for the rules.

JOE BALLARD,U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: There were those that wanted to take shortcuts in the contracting process. She didn't allow shortcuts.

MYERS: Greenhouse says she tried to fix the problems internally and is speaking out publicly as a last resort.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: This is the last four days of the campaign, four days left, meaning only one thing is certain, only four days left of polls.

Tonight's menu, the president building his lead in "The Washington Post"/"Sunset Daily" tracking poll, yesterday up by one, today up by three. Not so, though, in the Zogby daily tracking poll from Reuters. Yesterday, it was Bush by two, 48-46. Today, the race is tied there, 47 all. A similar tightening in Zogby's tracking of the big three battleground states, Kerry pulling within one in Florida, Bush 48, Kerry 47, up by three in Ohio, Kerry 47, Bush 44. And they are tied in Pennsylvania, 47 all.

If you prefer omens to polls, what happened to President Bush in New Hampshire was the proverbial bad sign. The operator of the confetti cannon positioned to celebrate the end of the president's speech was supposed to let her rip on the cue "God bless America." He heard the first two words and experienced premature jocularity.





OLBERMANN: Campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel joked afterwards, "We're all really eager for the election to happen, including the confetti." It looked like the CNN Democratic convention coverage.

We were eager to finish our two-part series on the possible Cabinets for a Kerry administration or a second Bush one. But the press of breaking news has forced us to delay part two, the Kerry part, until our special Sunday edition of Countdown, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern, 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Pacific, live from Democracy Plaza.

There is other news tonight, 16 days of headlines, nearly $200,000 in your pledges and untold publicity for falafel salesmen. The case may be settled, but the questions linger on.

The election's outcome, oddly enough, does not linger, not if you listen to astrologers or National Football League oddsmakers. They suggest it is already decided. In whose favor? Well, you will have to wait a moment for that.


OLBERMANN: Ahead, how much did Bill O'Reilly pay to make sure that we will never hear the falafel vs. loofah foul-up? And the final Electoral College count, who needs to wait for that? Countdown brings you the one set of prognosticators who have been proven right in every election since 1936.


OLBERMANN: You can never get all of the toothpaste back into the tube, nor can you ever get all of the soap off the loofah.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, the Bill O'Reilly case is closed. Settlement and silence prevail, although we still have the quotes from the now withdrawn Andrea Mackris sexual harassment lawsuit. They can't take that away from us. It's your entertainment dollars in action, day 17 of the O'Reilly investigations.

And speaking of dollars, "The New York Daily News" has managed to wheedle from sources at least a range of what O'Reilly wound up paying his former producer, between $2 million and $10 million. That's a lot of falafels. Ms. Mackris' only comment, also to that newspaper - quote -

"All I can say to you is that it is over and I'm happy that it is."

Well, perhaps we'll see dramatic readings of the quotations in the Mackris suit off-Broadway, Tim Robinson, Susan Sarandon, at lecterns maybe.

In the intervening silence, the questions about this case echo more loudly than ever.

Joining me to hash out a couple of them is Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, now victims rights advocate and law college professor.

Wendy, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I guess the first question is that range of money. When you were last here, you estimated that, as a sexual harassment case, this one was worth maybe $100,000 in damages. How could she have gotten 20 to 100 times that?

MURPHY: Well, because the settlement amount has nothing to do with the value of the case. It has to do with extortion.

If you have something on somebody with a lot of money and a reason to clam you up, they'll pay for it. And it has nothing to do with justice. I think it is shameful, frankly. And I wish that the justice system actually had a better system for preventing this, some kind of meaningful sanction, for example. But, instead, it gets rewarded. She said she was happy, Keith. You read that as her statement. She's damn happy.

I have no doubt she got seven figures and maybe eight figures. That's just not right. And, you know, it makes the people who are harassment victims from poor defendants feel terrible.

OLBERMANN: What happens now if there is another claim against the same gentleman, Mr. O'Reilly? Did he just set a market price for himself?

MURPHY: Yes, I think it is a market price. But it's not really a market price for the case, per se. Keith, it is a market price for the tapes. And we don't know what is on them.

If there really were seven figures or eight figures in this settlement, I can tell you, the tapes were clear and they were very dirty, because that's a lot of zeros for a couple of tapes. And if it was Howard Stern on the tapes, they would be worth nothing. But it's Bill O'Reilly. And they're worth a ton because of extortion, not justice.

OLBERMANN: Howard Stern tapes like that, we call air checks.

Last question in about 30 seconds. What is the general impact of this case on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace?

MURPHY: Well, you know, I think it is going to teach some women who are victims the lesson that you've got to find some corroboration, whether it's the blue dress or the tapes.

Women are going to be out there trying to find crystal-clear proof to support and corroborate their claim. For the guys who are doing this, the lesson is clear. Don't call people on the phone, because you're going to be recorded.

OLBERMANN: Wendy Murphy, professor at the New England School of Law, founder of the Victim Advocacy and Research Group, as always, thanks for your time, Wendy.

MURPHY: You bet.

OLBERMANN: and I guess we should just be grateful the word loofah didn't turn up in the bin Laden tape.

Making the segue from Bill O'Reilly to other ghouls and goblins, it is Halloween this weekend everywhere but Puyallup, Washington, where school district officials had canceled all Halloween festivities to avoid offending members of the Wiccan religion. Today, some students there protested, arriving at school dressed in costumes anyway, chanting, no candy, no peace. All right, I made the chant up.

But many of the students are now facing disciplinary action for that protest. No word as to how much witches were offended by this demonstration.

And four days before a presidential election, one of the great presidential impressionists has died. Vaughn Meader, whose extraordinary career impersonating President Kennedy necessarily ended when Meader was just 27 years old, is dead tonight of emphysema. It was as a piano player and singer in 1961 that Meader began to do an impression of JFK, a dead-on impression, latching on to pronunciations like vigor and presenting an appearance not unlike Kennedy's.

A year later, his record album, "The First Family," sold 7.5 million copies, the fastest selling L.P. to that time. Kennedy himself bought 100 copies to give out as Christmas gifts. And Vaughn Meader was an overnight sensation, the first broadly popular political impressionist. Meader often said part of him died the day Kennedy was assassinated. His career instantly over, he fell into a life of alcohol and drug abuse. He later cleaned up and went back to music, performing country in bars in Maine. Vaughn Meader was 68 years old.

You might think the election is going to turn on the economy, maybe on this bin Laden tape from today. No, sir. Next, the group that has correctly predicted the last 17 presidential elections and why they're going to wait to make their forecast until Sunday at about 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Obviously, MSNBC will have full coverage on election night. I'll join Chris Matthews, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Brian Williams and a cast of thousands beginning here Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But if you can't wait that long or longer to find out who won, in our No. 1 story on the Countdown tonight, there are other ways of telling sooner. Two of India's leading astrologers say the polls are wrong. this is not going to be close - quote - "It is cosmic writ that George W. Bush cannot become president of the United States again." So says Lachhman Das Madan, the editor of an astrology magazine, the editor, no less.

See, Mr. Bush's Saturn been eclipsed by his sun, while Senator Kerry's planets are all ascendant. Gotcha.

Of course, you don't have to go to India for answers. It history holds here, we will know the outcome of the election about 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Sunday. There is one key indicator that has successfully predicted the last 17 presidential elections.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): You might think it will be terror or the economy or whoever says the last dumb thing before the election.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not have an all-volunteer Army. And yet this week - we will have an all-volunteer Army.

OLBERMANN: You might think it's about the stock market, the price of gas, the incumbent's last rating in the Gallup poll, the turnout, how Ohio votes, or whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last Groundhog's Day. Uh-uh. It's about the Washington Redskins.

The football team with the politically incorrect name has been anything but incorrect in predicting which party will win the White House. We go back to the days when the brand new Redskins franchise still played in Boston. On November 1, 1936, in their last home game before the presidential election, the Redskins beat the Chicago Cardinals 13-10. And on November 3, Franklin Roosevelt was reelected president.

Four years later, the team had moved to Washington. In its final home game before the election, the Skins beat Pittsburgh 37-10. Roosevelt is reelected again days later; 1944, November 5, last game before the election, Washington 14, Cleveland 10. Two days later, Roosevelt is re-re-reelected; 1948, Skins win the home game before the election. Harry Truman holds the White House for the Democrats in a upset. The Redskins are now 4-0 in their Election Day games, and so are the Democrats.

But on November 2, 1952, the Redskins in their last home game before the vote, lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-23. And the Democrats lose the presidency to the Republicans and Dwight Eisenhower; '56, the Skins win. So does Eisenhower; 1960, Cleveland beats Washington by 21 points, and nine days later, it's John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon by about 21 votes.

And the pattern emerges. If the Redskins win their final home game before the presidential election, the incumbent party keeps the White House. If the Redskins lose that game, so does the party in power. And it holds up over the generations; '64, Skins 27, Chicago Bears 20. Lyndon Johnson retains the presidency; '68, Washington loses to the New York Giants. The Democrats lose to Richard Nixon.


OLBERMANN: Seventy-two, Skins win. Nixon wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In you need a player, let me know.

OLBERMANN: Seventy-six, Skins lose. Gerald Ford loses; '80, Skins lose. Jimmy Carter loses; '84, Skins win, Reagan wins; '88, Skins win. George Bush wins; 1992, Washington loses to the Giants 24-7 and the incumbent party is bounced again. Bush is out. Clinton is in.


OLBERMANN: But Clinton's 1996 reelection is foretold when Washington beats Indianapolis days before that election.

Going into the Bush-Gore race of 2000, the outcome of Washington's final home game before the election has coincided perfectly for 16 consecutive games and 16 conservative elections, 10 Redskins, each of which is followed by the incumbent president and/or incumbent party retaining the office, six Redskins losses, each of which is followed by the incumbent president or the incumbent party losing the office.

On October 30, 2000, the Washington Redskins, with six victories and two losses thus far in that season, host the Tennessee Titans, who had six victories and one loss. The Redskins score first and lead 7-0, suggesting the Democrats will retain the White House. But Tennessee rallies to go in for a 20-7 and hold on for a 27-21 win, six-point victory and six weeks later, a five electoral vote victory for George W. Bush of the party that had been out of office, the Republicans - 17 elections up, 17 elections down.

Hail to the Redskins, indeed. It is an ironclad sports tradition. Skins win, incumbent stays in. Skins lose, incumbents are old news, an ironclad sports tradition, like the fact that no baseball team has ever come back from 3-0 to win a playoff series - oh, yes.


OLBERMANN: Now, it would be really spooky if those 17 games were all surprises, upsets, as they call them. In fact, all but three times, the Redskins were favored to win and did or they were expected to lose and did.

Still, it is some streak. And now for the $64 billion question. When is the Redskins' last game before this election, the one in which the prophecy says, if they win, George Bush is reelected, but if they lose, John Kerry takes office? It's Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, who have won two in a row and are favored by anywhere from two to 2.5 points, which, as any politician or football gambler can tell you, is well inside the margin of error.

That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it.

Join us again for a special pre-election hour of Countdown this Sunday at the usual hours.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 28

Guest: Matthew Cooper, Harvey Levin, Bill Lee,Robin Wright, Jerry Springer

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The al Qa Qaa caca (ph), the vice president says John Kerry doesn't have his facts straight. The ex-mayor of New York says it would have been the troops' responsibility anyway. And a local TV station may have the truth on tape. They think they were at that weapons dump before it was looted, but after American troops were in control of Iraq.

P-E-A-D, spell it, don't say it, pre-election anxiety disorder. If this picture looks funny to you, you may already be infected.

Speaking of infected, more settlement rumors. What about that day in court tomorrow?

And nevermind tomorrow, what about last night? The red hot Red Sox, have now won two of the last 86 world series. We will visit with their legendary space man, Bill Lee. And reveal the real cause of the curse they just broke.

All that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening. This is Thursday, October 28, 5 days until the 2004 presidential election. And no campaign on record has ever not talked about explosive issues, but who could have imagined that with the finish line in sight, the 2004 contest would literally have one. Not about him. We'll get to him at the time indicated.

Our 5th story in the Countdown, the missing munitions at the al Qa Qaa dump in Iraq. Al Qa Qaa, a fitting name in a story that has been spun and handled and shoveled so thoroughly, you might expect a new lawn to grow under it by Saturday morning. But tonight, what might be conclusive evidence from an unlikely source, the videotapes of a local Minnesota television station whose reporter was embedded near al Qa Qaa in the April 2003 time span critical to ascertaining the truth.

The basic elements are not in dispute: Before the American invasion a year ago March, there were 380 tons of explosive materials at al Qa Qaa. The U.N. knew about it. The International Atomic Energy Agency knew about it. The Bush administration knew about it. And then suddenly those 380 tons were not there anymore. Had they been removed by Saddam Hussein before the invasion? Or looted after it by the Iraqi insurgency, because the U.S. did not bother to lock down to cornucopia of ammo?

The ABC station in Minneapolis, St. Paul, KSTP, may have the answer. Its reporter and photographer, embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, were shown a huge weapons facility by the troops. Their GPS technology and those soldiers indicated they were on the southern edge of the al Qa Qaa base.

The station's videotape showed row after row of materials marked explosive. Many of them marked, al Qa Qaa. All of them in place, sealed with cables marked IAEA. That would be International Atomic Energy Agency. Cables that were easily broken into by the men of the 101st, and none of it, thereafter, secured.

The videotape was shot on April 18, 2003, 9 days after the fall of Baghdad. If it indeed shows al Qa Qaa, the question seems resolved. The weapons were not removed by Saddam. They were removed, because the United States did not stop anybody from removing them.

The New York Times today also quotes 3 former al Qa Qaa officials who say they witnessed looting on an enormous scale at the ammo facility in the days after the American troops had passed by al Qa Qaa. The looting started after the collapse of the regime, the paper quoted the region's security chief, Watigh al Dulami (ph).

The fundamental question, what kind of war over weapons of mass destruction is it if you leave 760,000 pounds of conventional weapons of mass destruction lying around for insurgents and others to carry off at their leisure extended as far as Russia? A spokesman for that nation's defense ministry dismissing as quote absurd and ridiculous. The claim of an anonymous Pentagon official to the newspaper, the Washington Times, that Russian special forces moved many of Saddam's weapons into Syria, in March 2003.

Back here, it continued to be as if the 380 tons of ammo had been dropped into the middle of the presidential campaign. Yesterday, the president responded by accusing Senator Kerry of jumping to conclusions without knowing the facts. Today in Toledo, Kerry used four very unusual words in response.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Mr. President, I agree with you.

George Bush jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction and he rush to war without a plan to win the peace. The bottom line about these weapons that have disappeared, here's the bottom line, they're not where they're supposed to be. You were warned to guard them. You didn't guard them.


OLBERMANN: The administration, today, defended itself from 2 different tacks from 2 different spokesmen. The vice president was in Schofield, Wisconsin.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is just plain wrong on the facts. And he has never let himself be burdened by the facts in terms the charges that he's made. But I think it is a kind of, well frankly, I think it's a cheap shot. And I personally believe that it says something about the character of the man who would make it.


OLBERMANN: And a most unexpected argument from former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on NBC "Today's Show." Maybe the weapons did fall off the back of the truck on the administration's watch, but the buck, he says, does not stop at the White House.


RUDY GIULIANI, FRM. NEW YORK MAYOR: No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?


OLBERMANN: Later in that interview, Mr. Giuliani insisted he was not blaming the troops.

To sort out the facts and the political implications, I'm delighted to be joined by Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent of the "Washington Post." Robin, thanks again for your time. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: Are the facts even close to being known yet? And what importance would you give to that April 18 videotape from the embedded Minnesota reporters?

WRIGHT: Well, I think the tape is probably very important. But the reality is that there are a lot of U.S. officials who are acknowledging in private that there was looting immediately after the U.S. troops went through. What we may not know is at what point, how much and where it went. That may be virtually impossible to ever fully reconstruct.

The irony is tragically, that conventional weapons have proven to be even deadlier for U.S. troops than unconventional weaponry, the weapons of mass destruction.

OLBERMANN: Clearly, the administration was caught off guard by this story. It broke on Monday. The president didn't respond personally until yesterday. Mayor Giuliani probably didn't help the cause at all this morning. Why does this appear to have been such a surprise?

WRIGHT: Well I think the administration is so focused, as has been the Kerry campaign, on what is transpired in Iraq since the invasion, the emergence of an insurgency that has killed more than 1,100 American troops now, the ongoing violence, the hostage taking, that there hasn't been a lot of focus until now on what happened during the war and the immediate aftermath.

Now we're beginning to look back. And I think we're discovering how many questions were not answered and still have to be addressed.

OLBERMANN: Which also begs the question of the timing of this story making its way out, events that may have taken place 18 months ago, 8 days before an election. One response to this, one widely held response, has been the story was time for maximum impact against the re-election campaign. What is the evidence that that claim is not true?

WRIGHT: Well, it's hard for me to tell. I wasn't involved in the story which was originally broken by the "New York Times" and CBS. But it looks like they were actually not going to run it until the, this coming Sunday, which would have only given the administration 2 days to respond. This way, the fact that it is now out several days, has given the administration a chance to respond. So, in fact, it plays to the administration's favor rather than against it.

OLBERMANN: Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent of the Washington Post, always a great help to have you on the program. Thank you again.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The administration, meanwhile, has just gotten another bit of non-help from what is theoretically its own side. The FBI reveals it is investigating whether the Pentagon illegally awarded no bid contracts to Halliburton. The chief contracting officer of the Army Corps of Engineers announced over the weekend that her agency, in her opinion, unfairly awarded such contracts for work in Iraq worth billions to a Halliburton subsidiary. The bureau says it wants to interview her, Bunnatine Greenhouse. Her attorneys say fine, but give her whistleblower protection first.

The FBI has already begun seizing documents from Army offices in Texas. The corps says it is cooperating with the investigation, so does Halliburton, although the company dismisses all of this as election year politicking.

Like anything else in this campaign, the impact of an FBI investigation into Halliburton will not be validated until it shows up in the opinion polls. If there are any polls left. The Washington Post reporting today that the validity of polling itself is being questioned because the number of citizens cooperating with pollsters has dropped to perilously low levels.

In the 1960's, about two third of phone calls resulted in what pollster called completed interviews, reports the Post. Today, the Post reports cooperation is down to about 38 percent for the big national media surveys conducted over several days. And it is down to less than 20 percent in the so-called one day polls.

With that ringing endorsement of the science, let's do the nightly roll through polls. Senator Kerry losing ground in the Zogby daily tracking poll for Reuters. Yesterday it was Bush 48-47. Today it is Bush 48-46. The president also gaining in the Washington Post/Sunset daily tracking poll. Yesterday, Kerry 49-48, today those numbers are flipped, Bush 49, Kerry 48.

To the battleground states, where it appears New Jersey is once again back in play. In the Quinnipiac University/Garden State poll, Mr. Kerry was up by 4 last week, today he is tied with the president at 46. Los Angeles Times poll, the big 3 battleground states, Bush up by 8 in Florida, Bush down by 6 in Ohio, Bush and Kerry tied in Pennsylvania. Those results, somewhat different than the other recent polling in those key states.

And from the polls to the charts. Never before has entertainment played such an pivotal role in a campaign. And if you think of that abstractly, look at this. Bruce Springsteen, not just merely performing at John Kerry events but also speaking at them in Madison, Wisconsin, and Columbus, Ohio. The part stump speech, part impromptu concert drew an estimated 80,000 people on the streets of the Wisconsin capital.

Springsteen's non-musical message. "John Kerry stand for sane and responsible policy, civil rights and safeguarding our precious democracy here at home." You can argue that his musical fan base is not what the entertainment industry considers the young demographic, but in politics as in TV, 50 and under are the babes in swaddling clothes. And getting them to vote, especially those who are still in college, has become the focus this month of an old friend of this program, television host and the former mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer.

Jerry, good evening. How are you?

JERRY SPRINGER, FMR. CINCINNATI MAYOR: Hey, Keith, fine. Nice talking to you.

OLBERMANN: Your project in Ohio has been given a subtle title, No excuse, get off your blank and go vote. What is the premise to this.

SPRINGER: Well, that was the title given by the students at the university. I go around to various college campuses and travel around the state basically trying to get young people originally to register and now that they are registered, to make sure they do in fact come out and vote. This is, you know, they are the one that are going to bear the brunt of the policies of whatever administration is next. It is their brothers and sisters that are going to be fighting the war, and if we have another war in the next four years. You know, they're the ones that are now looking for job as they graduate. So I tell them, it doesn't much matter whether or not you like politics, whether you think the whole thing is boring. The fact is, politicians are running their lives. They've got to vote. They're going to pay the price for this.

OLBERMANN: Are the Democrats in your opinion doing more to get the younger voters and what is the hook, because obviously, to presume sympathy of college age kids has swayed back and forth a few times from left to right and back again over the last 40 years.

SPRINGER: Yes, I can speak mainly about Ohio because that's where I've been concentrating on. I can tell that you yes, the new registrants, particularly the new young registrants, tend to be Democrats. And I say that because they've been register by Democrat organizations. "The New York Times," several weeks ago, ran a story that said, that there has been an increase of registrants among Democratic group. That's like the Democratic Party,, that kind of thing. Those groups have increased registration 250 percent since the year 2000 in terms of new registrants. Republican organizations have increased their base 25 percent, compared to 2000.

So clearly, most of the new registrants tend to be Democrats. What we don't know, what we don't know is how many of these people are going to come out and vote. How many are going to be intimidated by all the stuff that's going on here in Ohio, the challenges being made. Clearly if anyone who is registered vote, I clearly believe that John Kerry will win Ohio. But we don't yet know whether they'll all come out.

OLBERMANN: You just referred to it, there's early evidence that Ohio might be the 2004 version of Florida, both in terms of decisiveness and dubiousness.

Do you have a read yet on how, not necessarily the result is going to be, but when we're going to get the result and how clean it's going to be?

SPRINGER: I'm thinking before 2006. No, I suspect that - don't know how clean it's going to be. Here's what's happening. I know for a fact, for example, that in many, many precincts, there are - the Republican Party for example is sending lawyers to the precincts to actually challenge people when they show up to vote. In other words, they will be able under the law to stand there. Someone will come in and say I'm a new registered voter, I'd like to register. And the lawyer can say, I challenge you. That person then has to sign an affidavit, show proof, and that can be pretty intimidating.

It can also slow down the whole process. So you're going to have people standing in line. Every voter who goes there gets challenged. They're going to lose interest. Perhaps go home or not want to face signing affidavits, questioning and all this. You know, maybe they think had some outstanding traffic tickets. They'll think, if I show up and vote, I'm going to be on a jury next week.

I mean, all this kind of stuff, it scares people away. They even sent

letters out, 35,000 letters have been written to new registrants by the

Republican Party. It was sent out by the party telling these new

registrants that they are going to be challenged. That if they think they

should be entitled to vote, they have to go to a hearing. They can bring

someone along to represent them. Now a judge - yes, a judge just decided

that's not legal. But in the meantime these people got the and now their -

· you know they may decide not to show up.

OLBERMANN: Two words, provisional ballots. Jerry Springer of the "Jerry Springer Show," friend of Countdown on the road in Ohio. Many thanks again.

SPRINGER: Yes. You're the best. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: But as the election approaches, do you fine yourself irritable, nervous, indecisive?

I mean more than unusual? Then you may have P-E-A-D, pre-election anxiety disorder. PEAD.

We'll be examining that phenomenon in a moment. First one of the symptoms. When every campaign ad begins to look like a page out of "Where's Waldo," well, more evidence that it is no longer possible to slip anything past the vast nets of the blogsphere.

Yesterday the Bush/Cheney ad, whatever it takes. The visuals, the presidents acceptance speech, the convention, various patriotic images, culminating with a shot of hundreds of troops apparently listening to him speak.

Within hour, the many different Internets began pointing out irregularities in this final shot, namely that these guys and then these guys, look a lot like those guys. The campaign says an editor was told to crop a picture, and went kind of wild on his own. No intent to deceive. Whatever it takes indeed. But initially the campaign denied any doctoring which left only two other explanations, one there was a military unit comprised largely of identical twin. Or two, the armed forces are now using highly advanced cloning techniques.

Speaking of doctoring, there is a new disease spreading among voters, Republican and Democrats alike. We referred to it. We will go into detail.

And counting down to the O'Reilly case, while counting up the pledges that have poured in for a copy of those historical tapes.


OLBERMANN: New York is so not a swing state that a recent poll indicated that remarkably few voters could identify Howard Mills. He is the Republican running against Senator Charles Schumer. When that poll came out, it got Mills' first name wrong. Yet in New York City, every man and woman of voting age is stopped by a well meaning, get-out-the-vote activists.

Our fourth story in the Countdown tonight, the pressure is on, and it is not just on the candidates who are sweating it out. Voters are being ported, cajoled, bribed, even bullied into exercising their civil rights. And anxiety about the coming election is so high, it has even spawned its own kind of unofficial emotional illness. More on that in a moment. First, the latest appeal to voters from the contenders.

This weekend, both candidates appeared in interviews in the program "Sabado Gigante," with the famous Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, by the way. That's Univision's self-titled weekly entertainment variety program. It is on for like 19 hours on Saturday. And they'll be interviewed separately on a noted but faded sports news broadcast facing tough questions on the price of going to ballgames and how much they love baseball.

Of course, the interviews were recorded before a starting pitcher for John Kerry's beloved Boston Red Sox went on the morning show circuit this morning. Kurt Schilling's message for America, quote: "Tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week."

Schilling will join the president on the stump tomorrow, ailing ankle and all, no doubt with blood still seeping through his sock. Unless it's ketchup.

Anyway, so basically, you're surrounded. The news, the sports channels, Spanish language Saturday night 19-hour long variety shows. Maybe the candidates' faces will soon appear on overnight TV test patterns. And if you're already seeing them in your dreams, you may have PEAD - pre-election anxiety disorder, the term coined by "The Washington Post" to describe that general feeling of anger, concern, and unease this political season. Milder symptoms can include arguments over the dinner table and sleepless nights. But perhaps the most extreme example manifested itself in what is being described as a political attack in Florida.

Police say that after his girlfriend said she was leaving him and going to vote for John Kerry, 18-year-old Steven Soper threatened to kill her. Soper, who wants to join the Marines, is a stout Bush supporter. According to police, he became enraged and held a screwdriver to his girlfriend's neck, telling her, quote, "you'll never live to see the election." Officers tasered Mr. Soper before he could hurt her or anyone else. He is currently in jail. She remains free to cast her vote however she chooses next Tuesday. No guarantee, of course, that it will be counted, because this is Florida we're talking about.

But the unfortunate young lady might get a reward just for going to the ballot box. Not from the Kerry campaign, but from dozens of different businesses and groups around the country. Free rides, free passes, even free snacks. All available to anyone who votes.

Countdown's Monica Novotny is here with a look inside the voters' gift bag. Like we were at the Oscars or something. Monica, good evening.


It is, of course, illegal to coerce or buy a vote in this country. But what about a little sweet talking? A subtle incentive to push people to the polls? Well, enticements aimed at increased voter turnout now and in the future are everywhere, ranging from small tokens to cold hard cash.


MARK OSTERLOH, CHAIRMAN, ARIZONANS FOR VOTER REWARDS: Who do you know that doesn't want to be a millionaire?

NOVOTNY (voice-over): From lotteries to cookies, the freebies are on.

Across the country, they're getting out the vote at all costs.

OSTERLOH: What we're proposing is that if you vote in an election here in Arizona, you will automatically be entered into a drawing and one voter will be picked every two years. And they will win a million-dollar prize.

NOVOTNY: Mark Osterloh heads the Arizonans for Voter Rewards, a group attempting to get an initiative on the state's ballot in 2006 to establish an election lottery.

OSTERLOH: The money is going to come out of the unclaimed prize fund of the Arizona lottery. So it's not going to create any new bureaucracy. It is not going to create any new taxes. And we will probably bump voter participation up into the 95 percent plus range.

NOVOTNY: If you can't wait two years, go online. At, they say if you registered to vote here, you could win big after Election Day.

JAMES HONG, VOTEORNOT.COM: After the election, we're going to pick a winner, and that person will win $100,000. After you register, you can also pass the sweepstakes onto your friends. If you refer the winner, then you also win $100,000.

NOVOTNY: If cash can't tempt the voter, how about cookies? One national hotel chain is giving them out free on November 2nd.

In Miami, it is perks on parade for early voters. Free tickets for the local ice skating rink, swimming pool, bus system and parking lot. In Cincinnati, voters can catch free bus rides through the battleground all Election Day long. And in Madison, New Jersey, at a Drew University literature class where voting is mandatory, a few moments in the polling booth earns young voters a seat for the rest of the semester.

MERRILL SKAGGS, DREW UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: What I want them to do is vote. And whatever that takes, I'm willing at this point to do.

OSTERLOH: If you get your incentives right, you'll usually get the action out of people that you want.

HONG: What better incentive for a lot of people than $100,000, right?


NOVOTNY: Now, as enticing as some of these options are, the real answer to voter turnout might not be the cash or the cookies. It could be as simple as same-day registration. The state that led the nation in voter turnout in 2000 is Minnesota. It is one of a handful of states in which you can register and vote at the same time. Four years ago, in addition to pre-registered voters, almost half a million people registered and voted on Election Day in Minnesota. So maybe just making it really easy would help.

OLBERMANN: Or a game show called "Who do you know who doesn't want to be a millionaire?" I like that.

NOVOTNY: That's the one.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny. In other countries with mandatory voting, you get fined if you don't vote. Here, we have to give people cookies as an incentive to go vote.

NOVOTNY: Chocolate clip cookies.

OLBERMANN: Chocolate chip cookies. Many thanks.

How many helicopters does it take to rescue one dog in about four inches of water? Only in "Oddball" could we pose or answer that question.

And is that your final answer? Trying to put the loofa back in the loofa tube. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now.

And with politics in back of us and politics in front of us, we stop the Countdown for a moment to give you the pause that refreshes. Let's play "Oddball."

It has rained like hell off and on for two weeks in Los Angeles. Rain is no friend there. Rivers rise. Floods spread. Labrador retrievers named Bruno get caught. He and his owner were caught in that tunnel near Toluca Lake, California. The human got out, though other humans came back for Bruno. Despite the rescue of two choppers, it proved much more difficult than first thought.

Even getting properly lowered into position was tough, as rescuer Alan Nail (ph) dangled a few feet above the water signaling, down, down, or he might have been trying to tap dance on the water. Who can tell?

Finally on the scene, Nail retrieved the retriever from the tunnel, hooked him up and lifted him to safety. We are led believe to Mr. Nail called a meeting after the rescue to talk about stuff.

And so Bruno lives another day to chase the dream of every L.A. dog, to become a super doggy fashion model in fabulous England. Sure, it looks glamorous here at the second annual Harrods Dog Fashion Show. All the latest designers on display. One pup even wearing a $22,000 diamond-encrusted doggy tag, but put the pressure on these dogs to keep in catwalk shape, not to mention the backbiting and of course rear-end sniffing has sent more than one hound to a desperate end, bitter, broken, and living in a van down by the river.

If there is a second Bush administration, will any members of the first one wind up living down by the river? We start a two-part series on the possible Cabinets of the candidates, and the possible end of 16 days of fun. We may have rubbed this loofah for the last time.

These stories ahead.

No. 3, Fabiola Armitage of Fruit Cove, Florida. Despite having the same last name as the secretary of state, she is a supporter of Mr. Kerry and she's under arrest for stealing 78 campaign signs that supported Mr. Bush. In fact, she's charged with grand theft lawn signs.

No. 2, Martin Burn of Dublin and little dog Brock. A Jack Russell terrier ran away from home last week. Mr. Burn was trying to forget Brock by watching a telecast of a local football match when suddenly he saw something run on to the field and chase the soccer ball for five minutes. It was Brock, his dog. The stadium was about eight miles away. Dog and owner have now been reunited, although the dog now does suddenly have a penchant for starting soccer riots.

And, No. 1, Oprah. It was inevitable. Remember the cars she gave away to every member of her audience, the ones that would have cost the winners thousands of dollars in taxes? The first of them has now been offered for auction on eBay.


OLBERMANN: In Great Britain, the party out of office maintain what's called a shadow Cabinet. There's a real minister for defense. Then there's opposition's shadow minister for defense. When the power shifts, the shadow ministers often take over the job they were shadowing. Not here. You have to take whoever the president springs on you after you vote him in.

So our third story on the Countdown, exactly who would we be likely to see in the next Cabinet? We'll do this in two parts, for a John Kerry administration tomorrow night, and for a second George Bush administration tonight.

This was all freshened this morning up during the already controversial appearance of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on "The Today Show." Mentioned as a prospective Republican presidential nominee in '08, now he's been mentioned as a potential secretary in '05.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I want to see us successfully finish what the terrorists started here in the city. And I think George Bush can accomplish that. And I don't believe John Kerry can.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": Would you accept the role of secretary of homeland security?

GIULIANI: I'm not in this for any kind of job. I'm not looking for a job.

LAUER: Would you accept the role of attorney general?

GIULIANI: You didn't mention manager of the Yankees. That's the one.


LAUER: Let me try one more.

GIULIANI: That's the one that I've always dreamed of and thought of all my life.


OLBERMANN: To help us try to get a handle on at least the possibilities, if not the nominees, in a second Bush Cabinet, I'm joined by Matthew Cooper, a White House correspondent for "TIME" magazine.

Mr. Cooper, good evening.

MATTHEW COOPER, "TIME": Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: With the hope of moving through as many of these positions as possible, I guess the easiest starting point is, who stays? Particularly, does Donald Rumsfeld stay?

COOPER: Well, I think the smart betting - and it is only betting - is that he probably would.

He wants to get back to reforming the Pentagon, which is what he started to do before 9/11. And I think there's a feeling that Bush is basically happy with him - Cheney certainly is - and that he's not eager to go. So if I had to bet money, I would say he stays.

OLBERMANN: What about State? It's been assumed Colin Powell is gone.

Who would replace him?

COOPER: Yes, I think he has all but said he is going to go. And it's a very demanding job.

Well, one bet is a former U.S. Senator John Danforth, who is now our ambassador to the United States. He would get through Senate confirmation easily. He is not associated with the Iraq war in any way. He would be a fresh face. He might be a good choice.

OLBERMANN: And the attorney general's position, that might change?

COOPER: Well, it is possible. I don't think there is a great love lost between the White House and the attorney general. And I think it is telling that whenever Bush visits Pennsylvania, he always mentions Tom Ridge and how you raised him right here.

When he goes to Missouri, I haven't heard the Ashcroft mentions as often. I think one possibility is Ashcroft's former deputy, Larry Thompson, who is African-American. He would be the first African-American attorney general. And he would be a fresh face.

OLBERMANN: Rudy Giuliani, he has been mainstream during the campaign, if not before it. Could he have a shot at the Cabinet or anything else working for the Bush administration in the next four years?

COOPER: I'm sure he could get it. I don't think - I don't get the vibe that he wants it. I think when you've been mayor of New York and you've been on such a national stage after 9/11, I find it hard to believe anything short of the big job would really make him happy.

OLBERMANN: This is not about a Cabinet-level position, but what about the national security adviser, Dr. Rice?

COOPER: Well, a lot of friend of Condi Rice have told me, she's very tired. She's very eager to go. And it is an enormously demanding job.

I mean, that said, I think if Bush really implores her to stay in some capacity, she'll either stay in the position she's in now as the national security adviser, maybe move to that State Department job when Powell leaves.

OLBERMANN: And, lastly, it is almost impossible to believe that Mr. Bush would not get to appoint a Supreme Court justice, maybe a chief justice. Does he have a first choice already in mind?

COOPER: If he does, we don't know it yet.

There's been speculation about the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, would be kind of exciting if he put the first Hispanic justice on the court. But that said, some people on the right have trouble with him, think he may be too soft on abortions rights. So he might have to look elsewhere.

OLBERMANN: Matthew Cooper, the White House correspondent for "TIME" magazine, an excellent checklist on a possible second Bush administration Cabinet, many thanks for your time, sir.

COOPER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As mentioned, tomorrow here, who might be in a John Kerry Cabinet? That and a time-tested way to find out who will win this election more than 36 hours before the polls open, a simple event that has forecast correctly the last 17 presidential votes. We'll tell you about it tomorrow on Countdown, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern, 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 Pacific. Be there. Aloha.

Now something we have not seen since we reelected Woodrow Wilson.

Their team was dead as Jacob Marley's ghost. Now they are world champions. And while you at home keep digging through the couch cushions to add to the save-the-tapes fun, an awful word is murmured, settlement.


OLBERMANN: Ahead, the man the Fenway faithful called Spaceman back in the old says, before the Boston Red Sox were world champions. And the latest from the court of falafel opinion next on Countdown.



BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again.


OLBERMANN: Don't you tell me it is over. I'll tell you if it is over. Brutal ordeal. Show is still on the air, isn't it?

Well, the long struggle is apparently over for the forces of posterity and their battle with the forces of posterior, as it is were. Well, maybe we're still in the ball game. I don't know.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, all cases and claims have been withdrawn and all parties have agreed that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Mackris or Ms. Mackris' counsel. And with those cold 27 words, it all belongs to the ages.

On the eve of a court hearing tomorrow, the cases of Mackris v. O'Reilly and O'Reilly v. Mackris have been settled and withdrawn, peace over war, a sad, sad moment for our nation. It is your entertainment dollars in action, day 16 of the Bill O'Reilly investigations.

You will recall my offer to pay off Ms. Mackris's reported $99,000 debt so she could continue her sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly and not destroy any tapes she may have made of his I-want-to-collect calls. Your pledges to add to that offer continued to pour in all day unsolicited to an incredible total of $173,000, and more, $211.73. I thank you. The kids thank you. The falafels thank you. You will not be held to your pledges, probably.

News of the settlement was broken by Harvey Levin, the creator and executive producer of television's "Celebrity Justice" and a former colleague of mine in the exciting world of local news in Los Angeles.

Harvey, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Did Bill O'Reilly manage to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube?

LEVIN: You know, I kind of think he did. The best thing I can point to is, who would have thought back in the Monica Lewinsky days, Keith, that John Kerry would view Bill Clinton as the prize person to stump for him in the last week?

People forget this stuff. They put in it context. They laugh. I think he is moving on.

OLBERMANN: I know everything is confidential in this settlement. There's been no figure released as to how much money she's getting. But you're a lawyer. Maybe we can figure this out by reading the statement piece by piece and assigning value to each part.

Let me just read some of this. The parties regret this matter has caused tremendous pain and they have agreed to settlement.

What is that costing him, about half a million right there?


LEVIN: That seems fair.

OLBERMANN: All cases and claims have been withdrawn and all parties have agreed that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever by Mr. O'Reilly, by Ms. Mackris, or Ms. Mackris' counsel, Benedict P. Morelli and associates.

Now, how much for that or did Mackris and Morelli wind up paying for that part?

LEVIN: OK, you know what? You're baiting me here. I know where you're going here.

Look, we know that there was an offer between Fox and O'Reilly of millions of dollars even before the lawsuits were filed. So it's a safe bet this woman is an instant millionaire. She hit the jackpot with there one.

OLBERMANN: Nobody has said this...


OLBERMANN: Yes, sir? Go ahead.

LEVIN: When you take it all together, look, this is - Bill O'Reilly is a big guy for Fox. Fox wants this to go away.

The more it lingers, the more it really starts to hurt. And I told you a couple days ago, I really thought it was going to settle today because of this hearing tomorrow, Keith. Tomorrow, the toothpaste would have never gone back in the tube, because if O'Reilly forced her to reveal tapes, at that point, the damage would have been done and he would have gone before a jury for possible vindication.

So I think today was the deadline. I had a feeling it was going to happen. These cases usually work that way and it did here.

OLBERMANN: I've got time literally for yes or no on this. Are we assuming the tapes are going to be destroyed or permanently locked away?


OLBERMANN: Are we assuming that O'Reilly has his money-back guarantee if they turn up somewhere?

LEVIN: His money back, plus a lot more in damages. This woman would have a lot to lose if this ever gets released. That's clearly part of the settlement.

OLBERMANN: And the last one. There was a presumption that he was going to be told that he had to pay for this himself, not Fox. Do we know anything about that?

LEVIN: Well, I can just tell you that what I'm told was that, early on, this was a combo of Fox and O'Reilly anteing up and it would seem that's the case here.

OLBERMANN: Harvey Levin, creator, executive producer and host of the syndicated TV series "Celebrity Justice," as always, Harvey, and even despite the sad news tonight, great thanks for your time, sir.


LEVIN: There will be another case, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Not like this.


OLBERMANN: An easy glide over to a world of mixture of celebrity, of delusions of grandeur, of fame, of infamy, our roundup of the entertainment and gossip news in "Keeping Tabs."

And add another one to the list. Sinclair Broadcast Group's swipe at the Kerry campaign, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" running on the Independent Film Channel on election eve. Now the Sundance Channel will run the movie "Bush's Brain" also on Monday night. The movie is a profile of President Bush's political majordomo, Karl Rove.

And happy days are here again, the actor Rip Torn acquitted this afternoon of drunk driving charges. The jury only took two hours to send him home, the acquittal coming despite this post-arrest video from last January. Police said Elmore Rip Torn of the "Men in Black" movies, "The Larry Sanders Show," and dozens of other electric performances, had caused an auto accident with a cab, then gotten drunkenly belligerent with officers.

He said he wasn't drunk, just angry. Jurors agreed, whereupon Torn said, this is one of the great events of my life, to be in the hands of this wonderful jury. I love New York. Salty dogs for everyone, damn it. Sorry. I made up the part after "I love New York."

A few libations have been downed in the old town these last 24 hours,

Red Sox fans trying to figure out how to celebrate a world championship,

considering their previous one came two months before the end of World War


One of the great figures in team history, the Spaceman himself, joins us next here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It happened last night, which is a good thing, because until it happened last night, the youngest person in the country with a clear memory of it happening last time was about 90 years old.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, just 31,458 days after Carl Mays finished off the Chicago Cubs to clinch the 1918 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, the old town team has done it again, Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree and Keith Foulke shutting out the hapless Saint Louis Cardinals last night 3-0, the Red Sox sweeping World Series in four games for their first championship since the invention of radio.

Celebration calm, only 21 arrests. That of course assumes there will not continue to be celebrations tonight or maybe through New Year's Day. The victory also eliminates the so-called curse of the Bambino, a marketing scheme based loosely on the fact that the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees 84 winters ago.

And it puts Red Sox nation in charge of the rest of the nation for at least the year ahead, sweet vindication for every Boston fan and every Boston player past or present.

One of the favorites in the latter category joins me now, Bill Lee, the gifted and unique left-handed pitcher of stockings' teams from 1969 through 1978. He's in Mesa, Arizona, tonight.

Bill, thanks for your time. Congratulations.

BILL LEE, FORMER RED SOX PLAYER: Thank you very much. We needed it;

86 years is a long time.

OLBERMANN: Is it like that? Is it like you and the Red Sox of your era also won last night along with the current team?

LEE: Oh, yes, lift the burden off Buckner's shoulders, you know, Bob Stanley was it a wild pitch, was a passed ball, Gedman should have caught it. I hang the curve ball to Perez. We don't turn the double play. I get a blister. They all say it was a curse, but it was just bad luck and bad timing, bad management.

And it's all behind us. And we can go on and dominate like we did in the early part of the last century, when we won all those World Series, until the Yankees got I think it was every pitcher from the Boston Red Sox. When they won the world championship, 81 of the victories were ex-Red Sox pitchers that went for New York.

OLBERMANN: And, obviously, there's a reason people forget this, but the Red Sox won five of the first 15 modern World Series, and then it kind of went downhill from there.

A question about the meaning of this. Roger Angell once wrote - and he was talking about the Carlton Fisk game in your World Series in 1976 - that the fate of the Red Sox mattered because it gave people something to really care about. Do you agree with that? Is that why this really matters?

LEE: Well, every Red Sox fan wants to win, and we care.

When Fisk had that home run, that should have been the clincher. We should have won game two. I had a 2-1 lead going into the 9th inning and we had 90 minutes of rain. I went back out to start the 9th after a 90-minute delay and gave up a base hit to Bench down in the right field corner. I should never have faced Bench. If this home run wins it, those church bells were ringing out in Charlestown at about 1:15 in the morning, and the guy rang them until he was exhausted. And that was basically the year we should have won it.

OLBERMANN: You always have a theory about just about anything, but why cosmically do you suppose this finally happened now, as opposed to for your team or the '86 team?

LEE: Actually, it's because we had live owners.

You know, Tom Yawkey was dead. The trust fund was running the club. It was running it into the ground. We got John Henry. We got Warner. We got guys with deep pockets and willing to spend. And we went out and made a trade. We got rid of Garciaparra and brought in Cabrera with soft hands, made all our first baseman look good.

And, all of a sudden, Mientkiewicz at first caught everything in the dirt. We had Roberts to pitch run. We had a deep team and it was a great team, and they sucked it up. And it's amazing. As bad as they played in the first three games against the Yankees, no one really gave up on that ball club.

OLBERMANN: Bigger event, winning the World Series or coming back from 3-0, when no team had done that in 120 years of postseason baseball history, against the Yankees?

LEE: Oh, the World Series was anticlimactic. It was amazing.

I went to Maui. I watched all three games on Maui. And there were so many Red Sox fans there. And we were so excited. And we were so hammered that the whole island ran out of Patron tequila.


OLBERMANN: Last question, Bill.

Friend of mine, a great Boston sportscaster named Clark Booth always said that when the Red Sox finally won, there would be great confusion in New England because the question would then be what do we all bitch about now? What is left for Red Sox fans now?

LEE: Well, we have got three months of no hockey and three months of bad ice. And don't worry, we will figure out something to bitch about.

OLBERMANN: So it's over, and yet there will be still some sort of retention that the Red Sox are still underdogs?

LEE: No, no. We are redeemed. There's going to be a statue out there to Schilling out there. And he is going to stand up there with his finger pointed up. He can just retire right now and run for mayor whenever he wants to.

OLBERMANN: And when something good happens to the Red Sox, blood will actually seep from the sock on the statue. That will be the monument to the whole thing.



LEE: That's exactly right. It will be beatification comes in three days.


OLBERMANN: The Spaceman, Bill Lee, congrats again on the world championship.

LEE: Thank you very much.


OLBERMANN: The only sad note, I guess, to ring in Boston, as everywhere else, the season is over.

Happy winter. Thanks, Bill.

LEE: OK. That's what happens when the leaves fall off the tree.


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

Congratulations, Red Sox.

Good night and good luck.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 27

Guest: Craig Crawford, Kay Maxwell, Susana Meadows, Jenny Eliscu, John Higgins

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? New battleground states, Arkansas, Hawaii, West Virginia, in play. Old battleground themes, where did the Iraqi munitions go? The president finally answers Senator Kerry. And returning battleground veterans. When he tried to run Katherine Harris down with his car, he says, he was only exercising his political opinions. Their political opinions. Why Howard stern and Eminem could have much bigger impacts Tuesday, than say, this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of my face.

Looking into assisted living for the retired? Two geriatric specialists suggest try humming anchors away.

From the Bill O'Reilly tape as read by Michael Moore. All that and more on Countdown.

OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Wednesday, October 27. Six days until the 2004 presidential election. Undeniably, it was an example of one man doing what critics had accused his opponent of doing so often and to such great harm. Remaining silent when the situation called for a response. No. Not him. If he had remained silent, we wouldn't have to have this silly clock.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, inside the one-week poll. The president pulls a John Kerry making no comment on a hugely controversial issue for nearly 36 hours, leaving the field wide open for Senator Kerry to continue to pound the administration on the disappearance from an Iraqi ammo dump of 380 tons of explosives, many of them usable as detonators for nuclear devices. Mr. Bush finally spoke up this afternoon. In Iowa this morning, the senator, hitting the Iraq munitions story hard for the third straight day, accusing the Bush campaign of quote, "dodging and bobbing and weaving" on explanations of how exactly we lost track or simply lost such a cache when the International Atomic Energy Agency had warned the administration before it invaded Iraq that the 760,000 pounds of explosives were being kept at the al Qaqaa stockpile. The president finally came to his own defense while simultaneously taking aim at Kerry at a rally in Pennsylvania.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser misquote, "we do not know the facts." Think about that. The senator is denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander-in-chief.


OLBERMANN: How long before that phrase turns up in an ad for Senator Kerry? The president may have furthered the controversy in saying we do not know the facts the president was evidently trying to quote. Remarks made yesterday by Kerry's top foreign policy adviser Richard Holbrooke. But what Ambassador Holbrooke actually said on Fox News was this. "You and I don't know what happened. We do know one thing. The U.N. inspectors and the IAEA inspectors had told the American military this was a major depot, everyone knew it was and it wasn't clarified. Now the thing has been looted. I don't know what happened. I do know one thing, in most administrations the buck stops in the Oval Office."

The confusion and apparent lack of context unfortunately does not stop there. If the polls were a compass, anywhere you point them would read north. But there is one potentially significant result today. Pew Research's poll showing that many undecided voters have yet to choose a candidate but those who have chosen are leaning towards Kerry. Last month it was the other way around. Bush 34-28 among undecideds. Since then Kerry making substantial gains now at 40 percent compared with 38 for the president.

Nearly half of all undecided voters still on the fence. Hence the name undecided. In the "Washington Post"/Sunset daily tracking poll, Senator Kerry losing one point of his lead since yesterday. 49-48. But closing the gap in the Zogby daily tracking poll done for Reuters now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there by just one.

On Zogby's tracking of the three biggest battleground states, the president strengthening his position in must-win Ohio. And in Florida, the senator pulling ahead in Pennsylvania. Then there's the big poll, the one next Tuesday. The electoral college calculus. Spitting out 33 different ways this race could end in a tie.

"Washington Post" White House correspondent and frequent Countdown guest Dana Milbank, crunching the numbers in a computer model and coming up with nearly three dozen potential scenarios in which the electoral college vote would look like this.

Kerry, 269. Bush, 269. That would put the election in the lap of the House for the first time since 1824. Says Milbank, none of these scenarios is likely to occur next week but neither is any of them farfetched. Milbank also quotes a Democratic voting organizer as saying the odds are one in three that Mr. Bush will win the popular vote but lose in the electoral college.

And imagine this election night scenario. Bush and Kerry locked at 267 apiece waiting for the vote count from Hawaii to come in. Its four electoral votes deciding the election. The Aloha State, now one of the unanticipated battlegrounds. The Democratic Party suddenly playing defense there, buying local ad time. The independent liberal groups and Media Fund also opening their wallets.

But wait, there's more swing out there. A flurry of interest in two other states. First Arkansas. Two recent polls there showing the state a statistical dead heat. The "Washington Post" reporting that for weeks, former president Clinton has been telling the Kerry campaign not to give up there. In West Virginia, another unexpectedly tight race. A state that Kerry's campaign had indeed given up on. Organized labor it's thought keeping it close for the senator there.

To take temperatures of the ever changing political climate of this day, I'm joined by MSNBC political analyst, senior columnist for "Congressional Quarterly" Craig Crawford. Good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hi, Keith. Sometimes you look at all these states. I know it is a big country. But there are just too many states. If some of the smaller ones could double up on electoral votes.

OLBERMANN: You're sounding like Abe Simpson from "The Simpsons." Mr. President, there are too many states remove seven of them. Now we have new battleground states. How many are we going to have by Monday?

CRAWFORD: A lot of these other states want to get in the act. And maybe they're getting jealous, all the attention the other states. But yes, we've seen also New Jersey is now a tight race in at least one poll. Kerry is looking at a couple of southern inroads. Arkansas and West Virginia. I even heard today they've made a media buy in southwest Virginia, state of Virginia which nobody thought they would make a pitch for. I think a lot of it, is they've just got so much money on either side. Both campaigns. They have a lot of mad money they can spend and run some gambles in some of these states.

OLBERMANN: Goody for us!

Dana Milbank's electoral tie numbers in the "Washington Post," clearly the most frightening of this day. But are the ones in the Pew Research about the undecideds, the most important, that the lean has gone from heavily towards Bush to slightly towards Kerry?

CRAWFORD: That's what we've been waiting for is to see where these undecideds go. And this poll is fairly clear that those that are breaking are breaking toward Kerry, confirming the old conventional wisdom that undecideds tend not to break for the incumbent. If you get inside these numbers in this poll, Keith, it is very interesting. It is the war in Iraq that moved a lot of these people who did move to the decided column and also among the hard decided voters in this poll, people who are not soft, who are definitely planning to vote for Kerry or Bush, Kerry leads comfortably.

OLBERMANN: You were also all over the numbers that we have not heard lately. Not states but demographics. Nascar dads, Catholics, left-handers. Which of the numbers do you think are interesting and really matter?

CRAWFORD: I've been interested in looking at the rural vote and how Bush is doing so well, up to 66 percent favorability among rural voters. And that is really why states like Wisconsin and Iowa, traditionally Democratic states are in play for President Bush because he's doing so well among those rural voters. Basically he and Kerry are mere opposites. Kerry is about 60-40 in the cities. Bush, 60-40 in the rural. And they're fighting to the death in the suburbs.

OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly."

Great thanks and we'll see you when it's time to count the votes.

CRAWFORD: I hope it is not a tie.

OLBERMANN: I have a bad feeling about this.

CRAWFORD: But I'll go to Hawaii and wait for the vote.

OLBERMANN: You wait for the vote for Hawaii. Excellent.

There has never been any doubt that Florida - is not a bad place to be either during the vote count - would once again play a key role in this election. You saw John Dean here last night, you know that both sides are already gearing up for a legal battle over votes, voting and voters. One that may make 2000 look like an argument over a parking spot. It is starting already in Florida. Major newspapers across the state reporting that tens of thousands of absentee columns are missing in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Anybody said Miami-Dade?

By missing, of course, we mean voters who requested absentee ballots and have not seen them in their own mailboxes yet, never mind actually voting, filling them out, and sending them back. 58,000 in Broward so far. Thousands more in Palm Beach. Early voting looking better and better. State election officials blaming the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service saying, no, what we've received, we've delivered. Voters, no surprise, frustrated and angry. The advice offered to all of them by Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood - start remembering that name. Glenda Hood. You may hear it a lot - keep checking your mailboxes.

But wait, there's more. A secret document apparently obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggesting a plan to disrupt voting in predominantly African-American districts. How might a liberal website have gotten such a document? It claims the Bush campaign accidentally sent it to them.

Here's how. The Web site seen here is called Those last 3 letters making all the difference. It is a parody site, not to be confused with George W. That Web site belonging to the Bush re-election campaign.

The folks at the parody site, apparently not aware that their e-mail server even had a dead letter file. The happened to look in it recently, discovering months of communications, much of which was either from or intended for Bush campaign staffers.

One such document seen here listing the names of more than 1,800 voters in the prodominately black, and yes, traditionally Democratic areas of Jacksonville. A state election supervisor in Florida who has seen the list telling the BBC, the only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voteers on election day. Once challenged, one can only vote provisionly and only after presumably having made a fuss.

The Republican state campaign spokeswoman, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, telling the BBC the list was not put together in order to create a challenge list. But refusing to say that it would not be used in such a manner.

It is impossible to calculate exactly what the odds are that your right to vote would be challenged next Tuesday. But the odds are probably a lot better or worse than you think. What are you supposed to do if somebody tries to stop you?

For some practical advice, I'm joined now by Kay Maxwell, the national president of the League of Women Voters.

Ms. Maxwell, thanks for you time tonight.

KAY MAXWELL, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: My pleasure. Nice to be here.

OLBERMANN: You obviously prepare voters for these things, and have great experience with them. Tell me first, what a vote challenge would look like. Guy walks up to you, you're in line, you're sign in, where is this happening? And what does he say to you?

MAXWELL: Well it would depend, probably, on the particular individual, but likely you would be challenged and in front of the election officials. But I think the advice to people is don't panic, stay calm. If you're challenged, all you have to do then is sign an affidavit that indicates that you are in fact an eligible voter. You'll be given a provisional ballot and it will all be sorted out later. So, stay calm.

OLBERMANN: So you have 3 essential pieces of advice when and if this happens. And you've mentioned the first, don't panic. But your second piece of advice consists of 2 little letters, I.D.

MAXWELL: Well, I.D. is important. But before we leave the provisional ballot, I would just like to say that we want people to know they can get the provisional ballots. If they get to the polls, there names aren't on the voter registration list, and we think this may happen a lot this time, because we've had such an increase in voter registration.

So know that you're entitled to a provisional ballot. And this is first time that this will be the case in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But if you have to vote a provisional ballot, do it.

But also, be sure that you bring identification with you to the poll. They're going to be different requirements and different states. But play it safe, bring a driver's license, bring a tax bill, bring a lease or something that shows your name and current address. So, come with that I.D. just in case.

The last item on our checklist is kind of an amalgum. Three words, read, ask, wait.

MAXWELL: You got it. First of all, read the instructions that are available at the polling place. They'll tell you how to use the machines that are there, provide voters' rights, answer your questions that you may have.

But if you still have questions after reading that, then don't hesitate to ask the poll workers. If you have any questions at all, they're there to help you. Don't let any question go unanswered.

And finally, so that you can stay there, hopefully where you won't to have wait in line for a long time, but that may happen, but if it does, come prepared with a book, stand in line, don't leave. It's too important that you get out and vote on November 2.

OLBERMANN: Indeed it is. And a good recommended reading line is the one about 1876 election. That was a lot of fun.

An honor to be joined by the National President of the League of Women Voters, Kay Maxwell, great thanks for your time and for your advice.

MAXWELL: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And lastly, this has been a tough week to be Katherine Harris. First, C-Span video from earlier this month was posted on the Web, in which Florida's former Secretary of State, now Congresswoman was shown caucusing from with a colleague from Arizona. And the lighting in the Congress was so bad, you could not tell if she was whispering into his ear or kissing it.

Now from Sarasota, news that the driver of a silver Cadillac sped through an intersection last night in Sarasota, then hurtled onto the sidewalk, where Ms. Harris and some supporters were standing.

The driver later identified as Barry M. Seltzer swerved away at the last moment and drove off, but not before witnesses wrote down his license number.

Upon his arrest, Mr. Seltzer told police, I intimidated them with my car. I was exercising my political expression.

Not exactly Zell Miller's dream of dueling, but close. Mad as hell Zell, on the stump with the president today. What powers do swing state sidekicks like Zell actually hold? More or less campaign power than is held that Eminem or Howard Stern? Their impact ahead. Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It was just before Labor Day when we last saw him, smoke coming out of his nose, dark promises and mumbled threats of vengeance coming out of his mouth. And that was just on Hardball. Our No. 4 story on the Countdown, tonight's campaign guest stars include Senator Zell Miller, also known as the key note speaker at the Republican National Convention and would be duelist.

In Ohio, he said of John Kerry today, he's out there in the land of Oz. The biggest star in the Republican Party will not come out till the weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down most opportunities to campaign for President Bush outside California, but he has conceded one joint appearence in Columbus, Ohio the day after tomorrow.

Stumping for the Democrats meanwhile, Kerry's theme song performer Bruce Springsteen, who will actually speak at rallies in Wisconsin and Ohio tomorrow.

Recording that event for posterity, "Newsweek" editor Susana Meadows, who was in Columbus. Thanks for your time tonight.

SUSANA MEADOWS, NEWSWEEK: Oh, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Are the celebrity endorsements of real value at this stage? And if so, is that why the Republicans were so strident about entertainers expressing political views because they might drag people in who would ordinarily be staying home on Tuesday?

MEADOWS: I think that - I don't think they're going to persuade anybody, but I think absolutely they can get people excited about voting. When was the last time Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up in your backyard? I mean, if you're an 18-year-old girl and you're lazy and maybe not inclined to vote and Ashton Kutcher tells you it's the most important thing in the world, you might actually go vote.

OLBERMANN: Yea, but you don't know about my backyard, it is a fairly interesting backyard.

Regarding Schwarzenegger, he is difficult to define at this point, because he is half celebrity, half politician. And he is also kind of a half-hearted in his support, I would think, regarding Mr. Bush because not only has he seemed to have been distant in this campaign but last week, he endorsed the proposition, 71 in California, which would restart stem cell research there.

Was he staying away from the president or was the president staying away from him?

MEADOWS: It seems the president was perhaps staying away from him, although, I don't know about the negotiation. We've seen from Bush only the last week or two this reaching out to the more moderate voter when he talked about, he believes in civil unions for gay people, and then we have Zell Miller who's a Democrat who's out there talking about Bush. And I -

So I think Schwarzenegger is part of that where we saw in those polls you were talking about. If the undecideds are breaking in Kerry's direction, Bush has got to staunch that flow.

OLBERMANN: Is that who Zell Miller is being sold to in Ohio Today? Or what - what is the - I mean, obviously - OK, Zeller Miller, he spoke as the key note speaker for the Republican while a Democrat. We get that part. But what does he do on a campaign on a Wednesday before an election?

MEADOWS: It is hard to say what is up with him. I think he does two things. I think that he is a strong - I think he makes a strong point when he says I'm a Democrat and I'm voting for Bush. I think that appeals to moderate voters. But I also think he appeals to the base. As you were saying, he's the fire and brimstone, red meat, get angry guy. And that's what the base likes to hear. So, he is pretty all-purpose, I think.

OLBERMANN: And I'm sure he would agree with you on that. Susannah Meadows, of "Newsweek" checking from Columbus, Ohio, as the celebrity get out there with the candidates and by themselves. Many thanks for your time.

MEADOWS: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Play the tape.

Holy baby Bilbo bones, Batman. See, I couldn't have said that if you didn't see this shot. Did JRR Tolkien's hobbits actually exist? That will be making headlines in "Oddball."

And later, you heard for a cruise for a week, for two weeks, for three weeks. How does cruising for years and years and years sound to you?


OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause our Countdown of today's political news to allow your boiling blood to briefly simmer down with a relaxing tonic of weird news and strange video, until we go back to the politics.

But just for this one shining moment, let's play "Oddball."

We begin on the island of Flores, Indonesia where researcher have apparently discovered the skeleton of Bilbo Baggins. Actually, scientist say they found the bodies of seven dwarf-like creatures closely related to humans. Homo Floresiensis or Flores man stood upright, but he was just three feet tall. He worked with stone tools and fire before the entire species was wiped out by a volcano, not a very big one, though, more than 12,000 years ago. Kind of a low volcano. Not before one of them though cast a ring of power into the molten lava of Mount Doom, there by saving Middle Earth and the Shire. Oh, wait. This is Flores man, not the fictional hobbit, right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's one of the arm bones of a hobbit. It's half the size of my arm. And everything else was half size in the hobbit. Half our height. And until this discovery last year, no one had imagined that humans could be that small in the recent past.


OLBERMANN: Exney (ph) on the Obbithey (ph).

Meanwhile, a new warning tonight to those of you planning to decorate your front porch with a plump and juicy pumpkin this Halloween, you may be attracting unwanted elephants. And once they've made a home in your yard it's extremely difficult to get rid of them. Most pest control companies will not even take your phone call. Elephant like these at the Baltimore Zoo love a good pumpkin and often take them down in one big dangerous bite.

And this footage from a German zoo proves that even baby elephants, which can easily be mistaken for trick or treaters, will stop at nothing to smash open the giant gourds to get at the pumpkiny goodness inside. Experts say if you must have a jack-o-lantern this weekend, you should first carve it 25 feet below the ocean's surface, somewhere in the Florida Keys. These divers off Key Largo are competing in the First Annual Amoray Dive Resort Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest. More than 30 of them competed and were judged on speed, design, their ability to keep a candle flame going down there. The divers were not bothered by the local yellow tail snapper population, but three elephants required mouth to mouth resuscitation after trying to reach the delicious underwater pumpkin booty.

Speaking of booty, here's Howard Stern and his loyal audience, to say nothing of Eminem's audience. Will these two men inspire thousands of fan to hate the candidate they hate?

And speaking of thousand, our telethon that really is not a telethon, to raise money to by the Andrea Mackris tapes. You at home keep sweetening this pots.

Those stories ahead.

Now, though here are Countdown's top three news makers of this day.

No. 3, Dan Schenkein, is the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Forks, North Dakota. And he's happy to report that the Grand Fork has now been recovered. The six foot tall grand fork, one of 50 scattered around the city, was stolen over the weekend. But it has now been located. Police say that the suspects in the crime are considered armed and extremely hungry.

And no. 2, Erin Kappen, of Essexville, Michigan, she works for the 7-Eleven there. She gave birth earlier this month to a boy who weighed, that's right, seven pounds, 11 ounces. Her employers have rewarded her with a check for $711, which as she may soon learn is also the exact price of the diapers at 7-Eleven.

And No. 1, Marshmallow the parrot, of Memphis, Tennessee. Two unnamed burglars broke into the house in which Marshmallow lived. They stole DVD players, computers, radios and then sped away. Then one of them says to the other one, you used my name in front of that parrot. So, the burglars went into the house and they stuffed Marshmallow into their getaway car. And that's when police happened on the scene and that's when the high speed chase began. The burglars crashed, Marshmallow escaped, not only unharmed, but able to proudly say, I'm a parrot not a stool pigeon.


OLBERMANN: You may think of fans of radio's Howard Stern or rap's Eminem as inexplicable and as perhaps even mesmerized, you know, like those groups of flies you see in the summer, all buzzing about in the same confined two or three foot square and then suddenly they all move simultaneously, exactly one foot to the right. Why did they do that? Why did they do that then? Did somebody tell them to do that?

Our third story on the Countdown, those Stern and Eminem fans may wind up deciding next Tuesday's election. For good or for ill, they do what their idols tell them to do, or at least it seems that way. And they are telling them, go out and defeat George Bush.

Eminem's message in a moment. First, the latest salvo in the Stern war against the president's chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

As our correspondent James Hattori reports from San Francisco, Stern and the chairman are now battling on the air.


JAMES HATTORI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From host to irate caller, Howard Stern phoning into a San Francisco radio station, confronting FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell.


HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You honestly are an enigma to me. I really don't even think you're qualified to be the head of the commission. Do you deny that your father got you this job?

MICHAEL POWELL, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: Oh, I would deny. I have the same credentials that virtually anyone who sits in my position does.


HATTORI: Stern and Powell go way back. According to one study, Stern's show racked up $2.5 million in fines, nearly half of all fines for broadcast indecency since 1990. Stern says Powell and the FCC are singling him out.


POWELL: I don't think that we have made any particular crusade of "The Howard Stern Show" or you.

STERN: Yes, OK, Michael. That's why I've received the largest fines in history and I've said the exact identical thing that Oprah Winfrey said and you says she's beloved and I'm not.


HATTORI: Powell says the FCC is investigating recent comments on Winfrey's show and that his agency is only responding to the public's complaints about all shows, including Stern's.

POWELL: I think his general view is that there are no limits, there should be no limits. And I think the American people think differently.

HATTORI (on camera): Stewart and Powell won't have each other to kick around much longer. In 2006, Stern is taking his show to subscription satellite radio, which is currently not subject to FCC regulations.

James Hattori, NBC News, San Francisco.


OLBERMANN: Then there is another icon of the same demographic, one registering to vote for the first time this year under his real name, Marshall Mathers. His latest video, which appears under his stage name, Eminem, encourages his peeps to do the same.

That message, however, makes Howard Stern look nuanced. The video for "Mosh," premiering just one week before the election, invoking images of the horror of showing September 11 with an animated version of the rapper reading "My Pet Goat" to a classroom full of kids. And those are the subtle parts.


EMINEM, RAPPER: Someone is trying to tell us something. Maybe this is God just saying we are responsible for this monster, this coward that we have empowered. This in bin Laden. Look at his head nodding. How could we allow something like this without pumping our fists now? This is our final hour.


OLBERMANN: The menacing imagery culminates in a call to register to vote. Eminem has stopped short of endorsing any one candidate, but he told the magazine "Rolling Stone" - quote - "Whatever my decision is, I would like to see Bush out of office. Every mother 'blanking' vote counts." Same registration catchphrase of the League of Women Voters, I believe.

Speaking of "Rolling Stone," I'm joined now by a contributing editor to that publication and the co-host of its show on Sirius Satellite Radio, Jenny Eliscu.

Thank you for your time tonight.

JENNY ELISCU, "ROLLING STONE": You're welcome. How you doing?

OLBERMANN: What is the impact, do you think, of this Eminem video likely to be? Is it thousands of his fans rushing to the polls knowing only to who to vote against, not knowing the name of the opposing candidate? Or are we not giving them or him enough credit?

ELISCU: Well, I don't think we're giving them enough credit.

I think that Eminem's fans, by and large, are young people. Unfortunately, they may be too young to vote, some of them. And that could be the biggest problem that the message he's trying to send comes up against. But Eminem has so many millions of fans that you really can't paint them all with the same brush strokes.

Whether or not Eminem saying go out and vote at all or saying go out and vote against Bush convinces anyone is sort of like the big question that we won't know the answer to until next week.

OLBERMANN: The Stern situation is obviously a lot different. He started this a long time ago. And within his world, he has spent a lot time explaining in great detail, sometimes at the expense of the entertainment quality of his show on occasion, that position of his.

Could he have some kind of an influence? Is there a way to measure that?

ELISCU: Well, I think Stern's influence is different, because he is just there every morning delivering his message. He talks about whatever is important to him.

And, obviously, his listeners are very easily influenced by what he says. But I think people take it with a grain of salt, whereas Eminem, his song borders more on social commentary. It is social commentary. Stern, he is complaining about a problem that he has been sort of - you know, he is beleaguered. Michael Powell is out to get him. The FCC is out to get him.

And I don't know if his listeners will take it that seriously or try and apply it to their own concerns. What Stern fan has to worry about the FCC?

OLBERMANN: Not that he's going to be under the control of the FCC anymore. Now it is no going to be longer be an issue, obviously.

ELISCU: Right.

OLBERMANN: But that's two years from now.

ELISCU: Right.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, we're also not just talking about Stern or Eminem. P. Diddy has this whole Vote or Die campaign.

Most of the coverage of this I've seen has suggested this is something new in political activism directed at the youngest part of the voting demographic. Is that really true? Or is it just the modern version of Mort Saul's fans supporting Kennedy in 1960 or the Woodstock voters a decade after that?

ELISCU: Well, it is not that this is anything new. But it has been a while. I think we can agree it's been a while since there's been this level of effort among celebrities and musicians to try and mobilize the youth vote.

And maybe it's because we're in war times for the first time in a long time now, thankfully. But P. Diddy, this interesting thing about this whole P. Diddy Vote or Die campaign, which the entire campaign is basically people wearing T-shirts that say Vote or Die, is that really, you know, it doesn't really do anything. It's really just a T-shirt-wearing campaign. And are your two choices really either vote or die? Can I have a third choice there? Maybe if I come down with a case of the flu?



And when you get Paris Hilton turning out to not have registered in either California or New York, that sort of takes part of the carpet out from under the whole routine, doesn't it?


And, well, hopefully, though, it is a subliminal message that will creep in there. Obviously, young people can be very lazy and apathetic about voting. But if you see these posters up in enough place and you have enough artists that you admire or just celebrities that are in your world constantly hammering home that message that you should vote or else you might die, it might sink in there and be just enough to get kids who would have normally have just stayed sort of home eating Cheetos on November 2 to actually go and pull a lever.

OLBERMANN: But you can have the Cheetos and also vote. We should make that...

ELISCU: It only takes a few minutes to vote. There's Cheetos later.

OLBERMANN: Right. Or you could bring them with you.


OLBERMANN: Jenny Eliscu, the contributing editor to "Rolling Stone," co-host of the "Rolling Stone" show on Sirius Radio, many thanks for your time tonight.

ELISCU: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Day 15 of you-know-who gate. Settlement rumors abounding.

So does pledge money to save the tapes abound, indeed.

And speaking of tapes, this, unfortunately, is not an outtake from "The Larry Sanders Show," but it might be why his character Artie could not go back to New York - the Rip Torn ahead.


OLBERMANN: The countdown within the Countdown is nearly complete. Your Bill O'Reilly news up next and how your grassroots pledge effort to save the tapes is going. And it's a sea cruise and a retirement home.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Reminiscent of the coverage of Punxsutawney Phil emerging from his borough and determining how much winter there will be beyond February 2, sources at Fox News Channel are reporting the reappearance of Bill O'Reilly in their hallways, something they have not seen of yet, adding fuel to the expectation that he has settled or is about to settle the sexual harassment case that has simultaneously horrified and entertained the nation lo these two weeks.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, it's your entertainment dollars in action, day 15 of the O'Reilly investigations. The future of the tapes of O'Reilly's conversations with his ex-producer Andrea Mackris hanging in the balance. Whether or not O'Reilly's success also is hanging in the balance we will discuss in a moment. And we will not use the term hanging again in relation to these tapes.

The show-cause hearing about - which is still scheduled for Friday, at which point O'Reilly and his attorneys will presumably find out what Ms. Mackris said on the tapes, the point, as you may have heard Harvey Levin of TV's "Celebrity Justice" note here yesterday, that's the point at which she could conceivably lose her leverage in this case, just in case she talked about loofahs and falafels as well.

Ms. Mackris' reputation has been under intermittent assault since the story broke. But, today the newspaper "The New York Observer" quoted another female Fox News employee, a producer, anonymously defending Ms. Mackris.

"She didn't seem like a really inappropriate, flirtatious, overly sexual person. You know, there are a lot of people who are here who wear little skirts and heels. She wasn't that kind of person. She was down-to-earth and wore jeans and didn't have the best body. She wasn't one of those people where it's like, oh, my God, she's hot. And there are so many of them here. That wasn't her vibe."

How would you like to read that about yourself in the paper?

The vibe around these parts continue to be my standing offer to Ms. Mackris, providing an alternative to settling with O'Reilly and as part of the settlement, destroying the tape because of her current debts. I have offered to cover them in their reported amount of $99,000, provided she does not destroy the tapes, and, oh, by the way, gives us a copy.

Once this was mentioned in our blog Bloggermann, the idea caught on like wildfire. Though we solicited no pledges, viewers and readers offered contributions anyway to the save-the-tapes fund. The latest figured by the figure filberts at MSNBC Web control and displayed for you on the Jumbotron in Times Square, $46,372.67.

Never mind the tape. Let's just keep the money ourselves. At this rate, we might be able to outbid Fox News on a full settlement package.

There is one other O'Reilly development tonight, a virtual crash of the titans at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. There, as part of his "Slacker Uprising" tour, none other than Michael Moore addressed 1,200 students at the Pittsburgh school and regaled them by reading excerpts of O'Reilly's comments to Mackris, as quoted in Mackris' suit against O'Reilly. Now, for tapes of those reading, I'll pay $1.75.

Despite this major grassroots, unsolicited groundswell, there seems every reason to suspect that O'Reilly and Mackris will settle and the tapes, loofahs, little brown women, endowments and all, will be destroyed, vanished to some cultural black hole. And then what happens? What kinds of careers await both protagonists?

Joining me to help polish the crystal ball is John Huggins - John Higgins, excuse me - business editor of the trade publication "Broadcasting and Cable."

Mr. Higgins, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let me start with Ms. Mackris.

I've seen a lot of women in broadcasting who won sexual harassment complaints inside offices without publicity and afterwards their odds of being able to still function in those offices is probably about 50/50. Andrea Mackris is already out at Fox. Do you think she is also out of TV news?

HIGGINS: She is going to have a very tough time.

Any employer is going to look at a woman who sued her previous employer for any reason and hesitate when they're interviewing them. It is a reflexive action. If you have got three different candidates for the same gig, if you're the boss, which avenue are you going to take?

OLBERMANN: As to Mr. O'Reilly, let's say they settle. Let's say the tapes go away, there's no more story. That would seem to be a complete win for him.

But is it? Because there's no resolution to this, would he get stuck in a kind of perpetual punchline stone? You think Rush Limbaugh, you think 30,000 painkillers. You think Bill Bennett, you think gambling. You think Bill O'Reilly, now you think phone sex?

HIGGINS: Yes. But it's been six months. If you make Rush drug jokes, nobody is laughing. So you can make them all you want.

The danger for O'Reilly professionally is if he loses his base audience. I have seen no evidence of that in the last 10 days since we've known about this, as I look at the Nielsens every day. And it might happen if it continued to escalate. And if they settle, you are not going to get the audio. You are not going to be able to play it. Howard Stern is not going to be able to play it over and over. And it will probably stall out, unless more cases come out, more women emerge making the same kinds of allegations.

That could be a damaging escalation, but we don't see it so far.

OLBERMANN: Yes. We would have to just go to, as they say, tone and bars for about 10 minutes every night, we think, if this thing actually goes away.

So, the opposite, obviously, was true of Bill O'Reilly's ratings. They didn't go down after the scandal broke. They weren't eroded. They spiked. Was some of that scandal-related or is it election-related? Or where did that all come from and is it going away?

HIGGINS: I think the initial spike from about three million to 3.4 million for the first couple of days was train-wreck related. People wanted to see what the damage was.

He didn't talk about it, so that drifted off. But his viewership still seems to be holding in there fine. That is largely election-related. All of Fox News, O'Reilly in particular, is up this fall because, you know, they're hot, hot on the election.

OLBERMANN: John Higgins, the business editor at "Broadcasting and Cable," great thanks for your time and your insight tonight, sir.

HIGGINS: Have a good night.

OLBERMANN: Thus, tonight, another seamless, albeit perhaps seamy segue from the No. 2 story to our celebrity and gossip segment, "Keeping Tabs."

And I will confess up front to being absolutely prejudiced and biased on this next story, so I am taking his version of events. I love the work of the actor Rip Torn. A drunk driving trial under way in New York over this, the former star of "The Larry Sanders Show" ripping police after they arrested him last January in the wake of an automobile accident. They say he was drunk and this was a drunken tirade.

His attorney says Torn not only was not at fault in the accident, but he also was not wearing his hearing aids after it happened and thus was not responding drunkenly to the officers. He just could not hear what they were saying. Outraged at his wrongful arrest and frustrated by his inability to hear the police, this, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, ensued.

It could be worse. It could be R. Kelly. The infamous R&B singer and alleged amateur video star, reportedly has another new hobby, volunteer at the McDonald's drive-through window. "The New York Post" reports that Saturday in Saint Louis, Kelly was so frustrated by technical problems in his live show - now, who would ever get frustrated by something like that?

· that he stormed off the stage, screamed at the sound guy for - quote -

"screwing things up" as did he so.

He then naturally went to McDonald's, where he hung out with the manager and wound up working the drive-through window for three hours. And he kept asking all the younger women customer to show proof of age, I understand.

Date of birth also important in tonight's No. 1 story on the Countdown, the damndest suggestion for replacing retirement homes you will have ever heard next here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, to the top of the Countdown.

And, mom and dad, this is not about you.

But two doctors at Northwestern University are suggesting that the price of assisted care facilities in this country, what we used to call retirement homes, has gotten so out of hand and so disproportionate to the meager care those facilities provide, that an unexpected and in fact delightful alternative has arisen.

Our No. 1 story tonight, it's arisen, provided you don't get seasick. Seniors who enjoy travel, have good or excellent cognitive function, and require some assistance with activities of daily living are ideal candidates for cruise ship care. So write Drs. Lee A. Lindquist and Robert M. Golub in the latest issue of "The Journal of the American Geriatric Society."

Drs. Lindquist and Golub note that cruise ships and retirement homes essentially offer the same services, food, 24-hour access to nurses and doctors, housekeeping and laundry, and, best of all, meal escorts. And to their surprise and probably yours as well, the costs are roughly the same. Huh? The Royal Caribbean cruise line ship Majesty of the Seas costs the same as the Springfield Retirement Castle? Actually, the boat is a little cheeper.

The doctors find the average assisted living facility cost $28,689 a year per person. That's two Abe Simpson references in one show. The high-end facilities charge $40,000 per person per year or higher. But you could just keep sailing board Majesty of the Seas for about $33,000 a year.

Drs. Lindquist and Golub do note a few downsides. "Dining room staff," they write, "routinely memorize which patrons consume which drinks, so that they will be available immediately when the guest is seated." The staff, the doctors suggest, would need to be retrained slightly to memorize not which passenger had the vodka-Collins and which the gin topic, but which one takes Lipitor and which one takes the Celebrex.

Lastly, the doctors close the deal on their idea in a very unexpected matter. Although, intuitively, we would think of people who would retire to live on a cruise ship as being - having boarded in the doctors' term on the ship of the damned, in fact, the doctors observe, relatives and friends would probably go see grandma more often - quote - "if she was living on a cruise ship."

So there it is. Eliminate your guilt about the nightmare of assisted living for the elderly. Put the parents on the Love Boat. Let Gopher, Julie and Captain Stubing worry about them.

That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. Time for me to ship the hell out of here.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.