Monday, October 25, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 25
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Guest: Michael Musto, John Harwood, Howard Gardner, George Carlin


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Up in the air. The president's answer to the question, will we ever be fully safe from terrorism. Is it also a description of what he just did to national security as a campaign issue?

He's back and more bubba than ever. Bill Clinton out of his post-op recovery and bursting back into the campaign.

Undecided about the undecideds. The polls say they are at around 5 percent. What our guest says, it could be double or triple that.

And another one of our guests on the campaign, George Carlin.

Open mouth, insert lip sync. The Ashley Simpson "Saturday Night Live" fallout, including the advice she had gotten from dad and had ignored.

And O'Reilly gate. A bid to save the tapes. A $99,000 bid to Andrea Mackris from - well, from me. All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Monday, October 25. Eight days until the 2004 presidential election. Tight elections are often decided by who makes the last mistake, or at least the fourth time in the campaign, somebody has said something dumb about counterterrorism. No, not him. But we will get to him and the latest settlement rumors and our own modest proposal to preserve the Andrea Mackris taped election at the time indicated.

We begin however with our fifth story. On another day when the polls tightened and the victim of a tightened chest burst back into the campaign, the news is dominated by one quote. "Whether or not we can ever be fully safe is up, you know, is up in the air." Who said it? The president of the United States. Mr. Bush speaking Saturday. Transcripts released yesterday for an interview to be televised tonight. He also said that the government had no actionable intelligence pointing to any kind of attack here before the election, but that, quote, "they do think about whether or not they can try to disrupt them."

But the operative quotes sent his critics into paroxysms of anger, given how the Bush-Cheney campaign launched of some John Kerry's assessment about the war on terror. "Whether or not we can be ever fully safe is up, you know, is up in the air. I would hope we could make it a lot more safe by staying on the offensive." His campaign has not rushed to clarify that remark, unlike what it did in August when Mr. Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer that he did not think, quote, "you can win" unquote, the war on terrorism.

Given that when John Kerry said that counterterrorism needed to be handled with more sensitivity towards our allies, the re-election campaign tried to hand his head to him. Given that when Kerry said he hoped to reduce terrorism back to what it was four years ago, the level of a nuisance, that campaign again tried to hand his head to him. The senator, not surprisingly, picked up the president's fumble of phraseology and ran with it.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. You make me president of the United States, we're going to win the war on terror. It's not going to be up in the air whether or not we make America safe.


OLBERMANN: To try to assess the impact of Mr. Bush's choice of language a week and a day before the vote, I'm joined by John Harwood, national political editor of the "Wall Street Journal." John, thanks for your time.

Good evening.

Given that the Republicans have spent the last three weeks at least narrowing that platform down to Bush equals safe, Kerry equal not safe, I assume up in the air was the last thing they wanted the president to say on TV, no less.

JOHN HARWOOD, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": It is pretty clear that unscripted moments are not where George Bush shines in this campaign. He had difficulty in that interview. You mentioned earlier in the summer. He had difficulty in the debates and he clearly had difficulty with this remark. It is something that allows John Kerry to rebut the charges that George Bush has been making every day, that he, Kerry, is the one with the defeatist attitude in the war on terrorism. Bush has made a big deal about Kerry's quotes saying he wants to return to the days when terrorism could be viewed as a nuisance. So it is static in the way of Bush's message and it gives John Kerry a little bit of traction for his arguments.

OLBERMANN: And obviously the Senate rebutted this to some degree and to the atrocity in Iraq and to the missing explosives in Iraq that we will cover at length in a moment. But I thought that Kerry had refocused his campaign last week away from security, away from war and back towards, hey, everybody, I'm a good guy. Vote for me. How does he work both sides of the street the last eight days?

HARWOOD: Well, a lot of this is being done by the news broadcasts and the headlines in the newspapers. John Kerry doesn't have to say much of anything. When you saw those shocking pictures on the front pages of papers today, of those army recruits, gunned down in Iraq and the new story about the missing 380 tons of explosive material in Iraq, that stuff that adds to the disquieting of the American people with how things are going in Iraq and fuels John Kerry's arguments that things aren't going in the right direction. John Kerry for his part can go run his closing ads, looking into the camera and saying it is time for change and a fresh start and try to cash in on those big advantages he has on the economy and health care in the polls.

OLBERMANN: If a voter is sitting somewhere in the middle, and he's heard Senator Kerry use those terms like nuisance level and sensitivity to allies, and now he's heard President Bush use terms like not sure you can win the war on terror, and safety is up in the air, is that voter in the middle not going to say, wait a minute. These guys are saying the same thing. There's no tangible difference between them on the subject of terror.

HARWOOD: Well, it is certainly possible. And one of the questions is, of course, whether those undecided voters are going to be dissuaded from voting, thinking that both of them are lousy and there won't be much change. Or will they turn out and follow the traditional pattern of breaking toward the challenger. You know, I really think, Keith, that most of these swing voters, they're not high information voters. They're not following the campaign dialogue back and forth the way you and I are. And more likely, they're going to walk into that voting booth and be weighing two fundamental things in their mind. Is it worth the risk of making a change? And the balance of risk versus change is really what will determine their vote.

OLBERMANN: We're going to look at the undecideds in a moment. For now, John Harwood, the "Wall Street Journal's" national political editor. As always, John, great thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, Elvis is back in the building. That's the way the Democrats view it anyway. President Clinton, seven weeks after quadruple bypass surgery hit the campaign trail today. First off, Philadelphia. Clinton and Kerry walking on stage side by side. The former president telling an ecstatic lunch time crowd, if this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is. Looking thinner but speaking still in a strong voice, Mr. Clinton asking voters to remain strong in the face of scare tactics.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, one of Clinton's laws of politics is this: if one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to get you to think, if one candidate is appealing to your fears, and the other one is appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope. That's the best.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Clinton's impact on the polls, if any, will take a few days to show up, at least. On the other hand, he can do what the vice president has now done. Start his own. Mr. Cheney in an interview with Jamie Gangel which aired this morning on NBC's "Today Show."


JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Your prediction for November 2?


GANGEL: Give me a prediction for the World Series?

CHENEY: Boy. I'm going to stay out of that one. That could affect votes.


OLBERMANN: Bush up 52-47 in the Cheney poll with a margin of error of, I would not believe any number given out by any candidate in any election ever even if I was that candidate myself.

Other presumably more reliable data, this week's "Newsweek" poll is a dead heat in a three-way race. Among likely voters it is Bush 48, Kerry 46, Nader at 1 percent. The "Washington Post"/Sunset poll. Senator Kerry retaking the lead in the "Washington Post" tracking poll, 49-48. Yesterday it was 49-48 Bush. The latest tracking poll from Rasmussen Report. Kerry also in the lead. His first in that poll since August. It gets even tighter when the leaners are included. The president trailing in this poll by just one. And in the national daily numbers offered by pollster John Zogby, 48-45 Bush. The president still not breaking above the 48 percent that Zogby holds so important. Kerry losing a point in this poll yesterday. Zogby also beginning his daily tracking polls of 10 key battleground states. Michigan evidently not that much of a battle ground now. Kerry up by 10 there. Well beyond the margin of error while in the big three, Bush is up by 3 in Florida, up by 5 in Ohio, Kerry up by 2 in Pennsylvania, both campaigns operating under what we're hearing - hear calling the Russert theorem, the assumption that the candidate who takes at least two of those states will take the election.

You have already heard the theories explaining the undulating polls, each company has its own definition of who is a likely voter. Some pollsters include leaners in the percentage points they give each candidate. Some do not. And then there's perhaps the simplest most logical theory. The one you never hear. That the percentage of voters who are actually undecided is so high, that the polls are actually reflecting their changes of mind from week to week. That has been offered by our next guest, Howard Gardner of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, author of "Changing Minds, The Art & Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds." Professor Gardener, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The polls say that the undecideds range from 3 percent to 6 percent. Do you think it is actually higher than that?

GARDNER: I do because those were the figures we heard in the beginning of the summer. And yet there's been a swing of 10 to 15 percent in both directions which suggests that people don't even know whether they're undecided, and some people go to the polls thinking they're going to vote for one person and perhaps the last conversation they had, the last ad they saw, even the dream or nightmare they had, may end up making them pull the lever in the opposite direction.

OLBERMANN: So something between 3 percent or 5 percent of the people will make the decision literally after they close the whatever behind them? The booth behind them? These unknown undecideds, if you will, what will make their minds up for them?

GARDNER: I think that in the end, at this point in the election, it really is a question of which of the of the two candidates you trust the most over the next four years.

But if you haven't made a decision about that already, it is probably going to depend very much on the events of the previous days. Let's just take today. Today we had the information about the stolen nuclear materials. We had Justice Rehnquist having serious surgery in the hospital. We have Bill Clinton giving a big speech in Philadelphia. And the undecided voter is going to be affected, consciously or unconsciously, not just by those events, but how the voter interprets that.

For example, if you hated Clinton, you're going to have a different direction than if you really liked Clinton. If you think that these nuclear materials are going to make the country even less safe, maybe you think you're going to vote - you're going to support Bush, though I'm sure the Kerry people think that this shows very poor supervision on the part of the Bush administration.

So it is what I call the real world events coupled with the spin on the real world event, which in the end will be done by the voter himself, because you won't have the time to watch television or to talk to anybody else.

OLBERMANN: I made a joke when asked about the undecideds last week, that they are the ones who are having a hard time deciding what to wear to the polling place. But in fact, are they not doing to some degree what the founding fathers envisioned the voters would do in a democracy such as ours? That they would actually take up until the last minute to make up their minds? Or is this - in other words, are they to be praised, or do we roll our eyes back in our heads when we hear that they haven't made up their mind a week and a day before the election?

GARDNER: Well, as a "Wall Street Journal" reporter said, some of them are just uninformed, and I don't think that's what the founding fathers had in mind. But I think the uncommitted voters, that both sides are struggling for is somebody who has very strong pulls in two directions. Somebody, for example, who is a tremendous patriot but who hates deficits. And that's where the last remark of the last commercial becomes so important, because the last one reminds him of what a patriot Bush is. He's probably going to vote for him. If the last remark that he hears in the dream he has talks about a deficit which is going to hurt the country and make our grandchildren miserable, then he'll vote for Kerry.

And I think that's a good thing about a democracy. You don't have to indicate beforehand whom you're going to vote for, unless some pollster taps you on the shoulder.

OLBERMANN: And if you have a dream about Ralph Nader, that's something else altogether. Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, on the undecideds. Great, thanks for your time, sir.

Two more news developments that may affect the undecideds and others -

· one, the health of the chief justice, to which professor Gardner just referred. The other, the whereabouts of a huge cache of munitions suddenly missing from Iraq, 380 tons. That's correct, 380 tons of powerful, albeit conventional explosives that could be used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and to detonate nuclear weapons, although to clarify what professor Gardner alluded to, they are not themselves nuclear weapons. They are, however, now missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military sites.

Only three weeks into the war in Iraq, in early 2003, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they temporarily took over the al Qa Qaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But as seen in the video, and airing tonight in Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski's report on "NBC Nightly News," the troops never searched for the explosives at the site.

White House and Pentagon officials acknowledged the stockpile vanished, sometimes after the U.S. invasion. Vanished to theft and looting. Now being used by insurgents to wage the guerrilla war in Iraq. The U.N.'s nuclear agency publicly warned the Bush administration about the danger of these conventional explosives, stressing the need to secure them. But the administration would not allow the agency back into the country to check up on them.

U.S. officials have not been able to explain why the coalition did not secure the site, other than it was only at medium on the priority list.

Back here, the make-up of the Supreme Court seemed to be one of the tangential issues of the campaign when it was raised in the third Bush-Kerry debate. Tonight, it does not seem so abstract anymore. Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been hospitalized with cancer of the thyroid gland. He underwent a tracheotomy at Bethesda Naval Hospital over the weekend, the insertion of a tube into his throat, done either to relieve an obstruction in his breathing or to prepare him for surgery. Nobody is saying which.

At the age of 80, Rehnquist is the second oldest chief justice in American history. There's only one justice on the court younger than 65. There has not been a vacancy on the court in a decade.

The men who could get to fill the next vacancy are in the final, fevered march, but is everything that they're saying going in one ear and out the other of the weary voter? Comic and satiric legend - or satiric in English - legend, George Carlin, joins us after the break.

And my plea of pleas for posterity. Save the Bill O'Reilly tapes! I will put my money where my mouth is. This is Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: For 31 years now, one of the ligaments attached to my ribs has given me trouble. I know exactly the circumstances under which the chronic injury was sustained. I went to see a man named George Carlin perform at Carnegie Hall and I laughed so hard that I literally damaged my connective tissue.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, for a decade before that, George Carlin had been breaking new ground in societal and political observation. He is the author of a new book, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" With himself modestly replacing the Christ figure in the da Vinci "Last Supper" painting. And he joins us now from Los Angeles. Mr. George Carlin, a pleasure to have you on the program, sir.

GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN: How are you, Keith? And may I point out that you're in Secaucus, I'm in Culver City, and it couldn't be a more glamorous hook-up.

OLBERMANN: Both places better than our native Bronx right there and Manhattan.

CARLIN: Good to sort of see you.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, kind of.

This is not entirely a political book you've written, but it is largely about the meat that keeps politicians alive, the euphemism. We are up to our back sides in euphemisms in this campaign, are we not?

CARLIN: Well, I, you know, I've always had an interest in language, and there are about 60 pages on euphemisms here. But they don't bear too pointedly on the politicians. There's also a little section on political talk, which is more fun for me, the way they speak in Washington. They don't say things. They don't say things. They indicate them. Or they suggest them, or point them out. As the president indicated to me, and as I suggested to him, he pointed out, he outlined. You know. They're lawyers at heart, most of them are in fact, and they want things to sound more complicated and important than they really are. So their language is a kind of a branch of the euphemistic area.

OLBERMANN: But it does sort of tangentially get in here, because you have things like how they would and how business would dress up the term, "digging a hole in the ground to get some oil out of it."

CARLIN: Oh, yes. Yes. They're now calling it exploration. Not drilling. Exploration. They want us to think more of Lewis and Clark than of Exxon and Mobile.

OLBERMANN: Then there's the war on terror. Is that by itself a euphemism for something else? Is that a new campaign tactic? Or have all presidential campaigns basically been based on making people afraid of - fill in the blank?

CARLIN: Well, even television operates on fear. I mean, the nightly news, especially local newscasts, always open with, a deadly virus may be in your neighborhood. This next after the break.

There's a need to frighten people and keep them uncertain. But the politicians have a real stake in that. But the terror war, obviously someone else pointed this out. Terror is not a thing you can have a war on. It is a tactic. It's a tactic like ambush. So the war on ambush doesn't make sense. The war on terror makes no sense. And there are a lot of things in that lexicon of terror that kind of don't hold up.

OLBERMANN: You are noted through several presidential elections for standing the old bromide on its head, the one that says if you don't vote, you can't complain about who gets elected. You say it is really only those who don't vote who have the right to complain about who gets elected. But are you completely detached politically? Have you no side, no heart's home in the presidential race?

CARLIN: Well, I would put it this way. Generally speaking on politics, I fall to the left side of the center line, because I believe a little bit more in helping people than in enhancing property. I think the right wing historically is property-oriented and the left wing is more human- and people-oriented.

Now, they have become very confused because they both take a lot of money from big interests that are mostly involved with property. So it's not as clear a line anymore. But generally speaking, it's fair.

But I don't vote, for instance, because - not only for the reason you say, which is kind of a comic description of it, but because I don't really think it makes a big difference. I think the owners of the country do what they want to do anyway. No matter who is in office. They suffer some of the time, the people from the left wing a bit. They tolerate them, because they know they really own everything, they make the decisions, they control people's lives, and they're not going to change that. You try getting the power away from them now. I mean, you can never really do that.

OLBERMANN: Every once in a while, something slips, though, and to that, lastly, I would like to ask you what is essentially a political comedy business question. It's been 10 days now, yet this is still in the news. Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" going on CNN and blistering Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for contributing to the degradation of the public discourse. From your own experience, is it appropriate for a satirist to come down into the political fray and take a stance and deliberately choose not to try to be entertaining or humorous? Or is there some sort of minimum standard of humor required to fulfill that role?

CARLIN: No, he - as he explained, too, he didn't say it this way. He was on leave from being a humorist at that moment. He was trying to make a point. Maybe in behalf of a larger segment of the public that this, this, what is it, the pro wrestling approach to political discourse does us a disservice.

So I think he did the right thing. And he pointed out also that tomorrow, I'll go back to being funny. You will not go back to having a good show, because you don't have one.

OLBERMANN: Yes. A classic line. And restated by a classic gentleman of entertainment and satire. George Carlin. The new book is "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" A pleasure having had you on the show tonight, sir, from Culver City. Thank you kindly.

CARLIN: Bye-bye.

OLBERMANN: A pleasure also to have another dance between the police and those who run from them. Proof that the chase is no longer just a big city attraction. But it does remain the exclusive province of "Oddball."

And we couldn't stop the creation of the 18-minute gap on the Nixon tapes, but had we stopped the destruction of the falafel files? Save the O'Reilly tapes!


OLBERMANN: We're back, and we pause the Countdown now for the one segment a night where the news is dominated by farm animals and weirdos walking backwards. I mean, not counting the political stories.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Tampa, Kansas, with the Countdown car chase of the week. And checking the "Oddball" scoreboard for the year, we still see little change. It's cops 53, guys who think they can escape the cops? Bupkis. We only bring you chases where no one is seriously injured, and that goes for cows as well. Moo! Out of the way!

Yes, you saw it. The three men in this car suspected of stealing a chemical to make methamphetamines, but that was no hallucination right there. The high-speed chase went right through a group of cows on a dusty road at nighttime.

But did you notice cows can move when they have to? None of them were hit. The cop then execute your typical pit maneuver and bring this chase to an end. So it's all over for these high-speed hazard (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But there will be plenty of time to run with the bulls where they're going.

The big house!

What you need to learn is how to love your inner cow. And if that doesn't work, go love a real cow. That is the therapy recommended by this Dutch farmer Marente Hapkin (ph) to relieve stress that you city folk might be suffering from the old daily grind. Dozens have made the trip to Hapkin's (ph) farm to cuddle with the cows. Supposedly benefiting both parties. Of course, the cows don't take kindly to humans just walking up and hugging them. So Hapkin (ph) has her clients creep up slowly to the cow and then just sort of kind of snuggle for a bit. Then, you know, you can assure her, she has a bright career ahead of her and that you'd keep the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) handy, and...

Finally to Philadelphia for a rare story that has nothing to do with cows. It is just another Guinness world record being shattered before our very eyes, this one for moonwalking; 25-year-old Michael Gauge (ph) did the backslide for two miles in less than an hour, breaking the old record by more than 30 minutes. Now all he has to do to get in the book is determine who invented the moonwalk, Michael Jackson or Jackson's "Soul Train" buddy Geoffrey.

Speaking of scary figures like Mr. Jackson, have no fear in suburban Seattle, literally. Halloween will not happen there next Sunday. You will not believe who complained.

My complaint. If Andrea Mackris settles with Bill O'Reilly, what happens to those priceless audio tape? I have a small offer to make to her. Those stories ahead.

Now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

And No. 3, Russell Rogers of Vancouver, Washington. The 64-year-old man walks into Elmer's (ph) Restaurant there, tries to hold it up, not knowing that one of the customers is Benji "The Razor" Radach, a professional extreme fight who is expert at kickboxing, judo wrestling and other martial arts. Mr. Russell was arrested in an unconscious condition.

No. 2, Kerry Edwards, 23-year-old native of Minneapolis, one of at least 50 people named Kerry Edwards in this country. As to the election, he swears he is undecided.

And No. 1, Chris Crammer is a seaman 1st Class in the British Navy. And he has just been granted the right to observe his religion aboard the frigate HMS Cumberland serving in the Persian Gulf. If you think Chris Crammer is an odd enough name for a sailor, try his religion, Satanism.

With apologies to Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan:

(singing): When I was a lad, I joined the list as a sailor man and a Satanist. I praised all evil and I swept the deck and I wished that all the captains would all go to heck. I wished them ill so carefully that now I am the ruler of the Queen's navy.


OLBERMANN: It was 123 years ago tomorrow in Tombstone, Arizona, that the Wild West morality play ever after known as the Gunfight at the OK Corral unfolded.

Our third story on the Countdown, the Bill O'Reilly story resembles Wyatt Earp and the Clantons only by proxy. It is the New York City newspaper tabloids doing the shooting, mostly at each other or at the reputations of Mr. O'Reilly and his harassment accuser, Andrea Mackris.

There is one development tonight, an alternative proposal to the reported settlement that would require Mackris to destroy any tape-recordings she might have of O'Reilly's phone-a-friend calls. Yes, it's your entertainment dollars in action, day 13 of the Bill O'Reilly investigations.

First, as to that proposed settlement, Mackris telling "The New York Daily News" that - quote - "I'm at home, so if any talks are going on, I'm not a part of them," negotiations reported by that paper and by the syndicated TV series "Celebrity Justice" last week to have been intense and perhaps fruitful as late as Friday. "I would not be pessimistic that a deal has not been made," "The Daily News' quotes an unnamed source supposedly close to the case. "I just don't think they've reached it yet."

Actually, the prospects of a deal should leave you pessimistic, especially if you consider yourself an historian. Since at least 640 A.D., when whatever was left of the legendary all-inclusive 1,000-year-old library at Alexandria in Egypt was burned as fuel for the city's bath houses, we human have merrily destroyed most of our historical records.

Jefferson's original notes on the Declaration of Independence are gone. The confessions in baseball's infamous Black Sox scandal vanished shortly before the trial began. And then there are those Air National Guard files of a certain modern American president. Now, probably the recorded musings of Mr. O'Reilly will join them, unless someone comes up with another plan. Hmm.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): When the first court orders began to arrive indicating he would have to surrender the secret tapes that would ultimately doom his presidency, Richard Nixon got conflicting advice.

Attorneys like Leonard Garment told him, turn those tapes over. His former treasury secretary, John Connally, told him, invite the press to the Rose Garden, put all the tapes in one stack, douse them with gasoline and light them on fire - the tapes, not the press.

Now Andrea Mackris faces the same dilemma, preserve her tapes, the pop culture equivalent of the Nixon collection or succumb to the proviso in O'Reilly's settlement offer of up to $4 million. The tapes must be destroyed and if copies turn up at any point in the future, O'Reilly gets his hush money back.

The TIME LIFE record library has a similar money-back guarantee. But destroy the tapes? I've testified in many sexual harassment cases in my days at ESPN. And the process is still inevitably stacked against the accuser. So I understand if she has to do what she has to do. And when Fox took me off the air in 2001, it's executives paid me rest of my salary, $800,000, on the undertaking that I would not say anything about what idiots they were until after the contract expired eight months later.

Now, I think I've done another $800 worth of damage to them since, because nowhere did it say that, when the contract did expire, I couldn't start saying what idiots they were. And that proves that they are idiots, by the way. Hey, there's another $17 in damage right there.

Thus, I truly empathize with Ms. Mackris' position. I am speaking now on behalf of history. I am pleading for the C.D. listeners as yet unborn. I am thinking of the box DVD sets and the orders from Amazon and the dance mix versions of O'Reilly talking about loofahs and falafels counterpointed with radio statement from last week.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: And I just made a decision that I'm just going to ride it out. Shut Up. Ride it out. And I'm going to fight them. Shut up. I'm going to fight them. I'm going to fight them.

OLBERMANN: Fight them for four days. Yes, like the Yankees fought Red Sox.

But, as I said, I am not asking Andrea Mackris to do this alone. News Corp.'s own "New York Post" reports she is exactly $99,000 in debt due to credit card bills and student loans. And the claim is, she is selling the tapes and her case to Bill O'Reilly to avoid financial calamity.

Well, if she's going to get $4 million out of this, I can't match that. But if she really wants to fight this case and only needs seed money to keep the legal challenge going, I am willing to stand up and help her and to help history. I'll pay off her $99,000 in debt. All I ask is a copy of the tapes and her agreement tonight make any deal that requires their destruction. She can settle with O'Reilly. She can sue him with the tapes remaining in the public domain from now until the year 2027. She can date the guy.

Just save the tapes. That's all I ask. There are other options, too, eBay. Take the top O'Reilly offer, $4 million, whatever. Make it the minimum bid, literally. Let the market determine the price of the falafel factor. There's the stock market, too. Mackris could create an IPO for a private company and go public when the offering exceeds $4 million. Then she takes the company public, lets the stockholders decide what to do with the tapes. It is that entrepreneurial spirit Bill O'Reilly is always applauding.

There's also always K-Tel Records. Certainly, K-Tel Records could sell 400 copies of this at $19.95 a piece. And there's still me. I've got a check for $99,000 here and a plea from the future.

CROWD: Save the tapes! Save the tapes! Save the tapes! Save the tapes!


OLBERMANN: Yada-yada.

People have asked me, are you serious? Why would you spend this money? And I would say, you're damn right I'm serious. Would I have gotten this giant prop check made if I was not serious?

Look, two things about the check. One, these are very hard to just endorse and deposit at the ATM. So take the time and go to the teller. And, two, I'm going to draw that $99,000 from the account in which I put all the money that Fox paid me. In other words, the $99,000 I'm willing to give you, Andrea Mackris, that's Fox's money.


OLBERMANN: By the way, I presented this offer first on Countdown's official Web home, Bloggermann. Saturday afternoon, that was. So you could have been yucking it up then simply by checking in periodically with me at

And, by the way, maybe the most extraordinary element of the entire O'Reilly-gate saga occurred because of that blog. Readers have thus far pledged a total of $4,550.95 toward a fund to match any offer by Bill O'Reilly to Andrea Mackris for those tapes, which is especially amazing because there isn't any fund to match any offer by Bill O'Reilly to Andrea Mackris for those tapes. Now there might have to be. Check with us tomorrow here on Countdown.

From preserving history to destroying tradition. There will be no Halloween celebration for some kids in Washington state because the local witches find it offensive. No, I'm not kidding. And talk about offensive. A young pop star find out the hard way that there's a big danger if you try lip synch on live TV. What happens if they play the wrong song?


OLBERMANN: Why the only witches you'll find next Sunday in one Washington state school district will be real ones - the plot to cancel Halloween next here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It's one of those headlines you expect to see in "The Onion" or some other satirical Web site: "Halloween Banned at Request of Local Witches."

Now, we have gotten trick-or-treated on these too-weird-to-be-true stories before and we've learned to umptuple check. Our No. 2 on the Countdown, a school district in the state of Washington has actually canceled Halloween celebrations because of complaints from the local community of Wiccans.

Our correspondent Eric Wilkinson of Seattle affiliate KING Television is a witness.



ERIC WILKINSON, KING REPORTER (voice-over): Six-year-old Molly Megan (ph) was looking forward to wearing her cheerleader costume and celebrating Halloween with her schoolmates until her mom got this letter saying there would be no observance of Halloween at Puyallup schools.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it is wrong and that it is not fair to the children.

WILKINSON: The school district said it got calls from witches, yes, actual witches, complaining about the continuation of ugly stereotypes.

KAREN HANSEN, PUYALLUP SCHOOL DISTRICT: Witches are portrayed with pointy noses and flying on broomsticks.


MARGARET HAMILTON, ACTRESS: I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!



WILKINSON: To be sure, witches have gotten a bad rap ever since monkeys could fly, but parents say this is the scariest example of political correctness they've ever seen.

KATIE MCCOY, PARENT: Next, it is going to be my birthday, which is Saint Patrick's Day, I won't be able to have my kid wear green. Or, their birthday, they won't be able to bring cupcakes because Jehovah Witnesses...

WILKINSON: She has a point. If witches are offended by witches, who is next? Geeks? Hippies? Republicans?

JULIET SYKES, WICCAN: I came out of the broom closet.

WILKINSON: Juliet Sykes, a practicing witch, or Wiccan, as they're properly called, says those who complain about Halloween should have a witch's brew and relax.

SYKES: I don't take offense to costumes, because that's not what I am. That's not what I am about. I mean, do I look like this? This is my little witch that I put out.


MARGARET HAMILTON, ACTRESS: How about a little fire, Scarecrow?


SYKES: It's not what the Wiccan religion is about.


MARGARET HAMILTON, ACTRESS: I'm melting, melting! Oh, what a world.

What a world."



OLBERMANN: Eric Wilkinson from KING TV in Washington state, where the Grinch did not steal Christmas, but the school board sure has swiped Halloween.

Thus, a comparatively easy segue tonight from tales of trick or treating down the tubes to celebrity toilets overflowing. We begin "Keeping Tabs" with singer Lenny Kravitz's tab, $300,000. That's how much the rocker is being sued for by an insurance company. It says, when the toilet in his New York condo backed up and overflowed on the 1st of August, it caused - quote - "catastrophic water damage" to the apartment below owned by a retired executive.

The suit claims negligence by Kravitz, namely - quote - allowing a commode to become blocked, clogged and congested with various materials, bringing a whole new meaning to the title of Kravitz's hit song "Are You Going to Go My Way?"

And both the right and the left have varying views on the relevance or the appropriateness of celebrities on the campaign trail, but each would probably agree that a celebrity who pretended to campaign to get out the vote, but did not vote themselves was a fraud, no matter what his or her political persuasion. Guess who? "The New York Post" reports that the one-and-only Paris Hilton, one of several celebs to pose in a Vote or Die T-shirt, has not registered to vote next week in either of the states in which she's eligible, California or New York.

Actually, maybe this is a good thing. Given the complexity of the voting booth, Ms. Hilton might have caused considerable delays at the polling place. She could have been in there trying to figure it out for months.

Speaking of trying to figure it out, it won't as band's fault. no, no, no, it was all because of acid reflux disease? Or maybe she just forgot dad's advice - Ashlee Simpson Saturday night almost live - explained next.


OLBERMANN: Though my masters work in offices in which the research data is often piled so high they must wade through it to get to the front door, we do not know the overlap there is between the Countdown audience and the viewership of the MTV reality program "The Ashlee Simpson Show."

Thus, as we reach the top of the Countdown tonight, I can't guess if there is even a chance that you saw the episode in which the singer's father/manager, Joe, warned her to stop relying on just lip synching one of her songs. You'll have to learn to sing it live, he said, in effect, or some day you'll regret it, some day, like today.

The thoughts of Michael Musto and the three or four explanations Ashlee and Joe Simpson has already burned through in a moment.

First, our correspondent George Lewis chronicles what happened when perhaps the biggest flaw inherent in the concept of the lip synch played out 48 hours ago on "Saturday Night Live." It's a tough thing to pretend to sing along when they play the wrong song.


GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Musical guest Ashlee Simpson performing her single "Pieces of Me" on "Saturday Night Live." But a strange thing happened when it came time for her second number.


JUDE LAW, ACTOR: One again, Ashlee Simpson.


LEWIS: After the introduction by host Jude Law, a major microphone malfunction. Simpson's prerecorded voice singing the very same tune all over again.




LEWIS: The band picked up the tune, but the recorded track was quickly cut off and Simpson, not singing now, went into an awkward little jig and finally slinked off stage. "SNL" broke to a commercial.

DAVID WILD, "ROLLING STONE": This was an example breaking the show business rule of the show must go on. The show didn't go on because someone pushed the wrong button, apparently.

LEWIS: At the end of the show, Simpson apologized, sort of.


ASHLEE SIMPSON, SINGER: I feel so bad. My band started playing the wrong song. I didn't know what to do, so I thought I would do a hoedown. I'm sorry.


LEWIS: A publicist for "Saturday Night Live" echoed that comment, saying her band cued the wrong backup track and she, in a pure live TV moment, began to hoedown. It's unfortunate timing for Ashlee, who is trying to come out from her big sister Jessica's shadow. Some call it a Milli Vanilli moment, lip-synching a song on Saturday night live.

WILD: If you look at that clip, it's sort of like the Zapruder film with lip-synching. You can't believe what you're seeing.

LEWIS: Angry fans posted thousands of notes on her Web site, some calling Simpson a fraud. A few came to her defense. She is scheduled to appear tonight on NBC on the Radio Music Awards, and, yes, once again, live, so to speak.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: Who are you calling a hoedown? That was a little harsh, kind of like referring to that as the Zapruder film of lip-synching.

Whenever the pop culture train derails, we turn to the singular columnist of "The Village Voice," friend of Countdown, Michael Musto.

Michael, good evening.



OLBERMANN: I am assuming, despite that and with that, that you are appearing entirely live and not prerecorded tonight.

MUSTO: My drummer pressed the wrong button, but I am just going to keep going with this routine here.

OLBERMANN: So, first, she blamed the band. Then said she had only lip-synched because her throat was rough from so much work, and then her father blamed it on is acid reflux disease. And then she apologized for blaming the band. That's all today.

What the hell actually happened here?

MUSTO: Well, first of all, why is her father giving interviews about her acid reflux situation? Can't she talk either? We know she can't dance because of that jig. And we know she can't act, because we've seen her on TV. What can she do?

Acid reflux is what I get when I hear her singing live, which is very rare, by the way. But this kind of shifting of blame from the band to her health problems is very like the Twinkie defense in the Harvey Milk case or the wardrobe malfunction thing with Janet Jackson. It's like O.J. changing his alibi every second. It is criminal. She should arrested.

And I think "Saturday Night Live," which, by the way, has live in the title, has to be also held responsible for deluding the public. And now I am looking back through years of telecast and wondering, was Sinead O'Connor lip synching when she ripped the picture of the pope? Was Tracy Chapman lip synching "Fast Car"? I can't live with that.

OLBERMANN: Oh, goodness. No, you would have to like resign from your column if that were the case.

When you think about it, by the way, live. It's not live on the West Coast. It's not been live on the West Coast for the entire history of the show. That doesn't bother anybody.

But that tape, why was there a tape? Was it a backup or is just this a straight con job? Is everybody lip synching from start to finish?

MUSTO: I believe it's a total con job. I believe she lip synchs to a tape. Look at the first song she did. She was barely moving her mouth.


MUSTO: But they say her voice was a little rough and ragged. She had this chronic condition that she has never mentioned before. And so she had to go along with the backup tape. I'll take the girl's word for it.

Apparently, she won't be hurt by this because we live in a time when you can get away with anything. Look at Paris Hilton.


MUSTO: She says the N-word and she gets endorsements. People thinks she's a classy lady.

OLBERMANN: One last thing in 30 seconds. You have some evidence that she tried to use that microphone that was only a prop that didn't work?

MUSTO: Well, during the dress rehearsal, she tried to talk to the audience. By the way, Jessica is supposed to be the dumb one in the audience. She forgot that her mike wasn't on. So the audience was looking at each other like, what is she trying to say? They couldn't hear her.

Obviously, this was planned as a lip synch moment. And, by the way, the director of that "Saturday Night Live" was the same director of the Super Bowl halftime with Janet Jackson's malfunction. This is a gifted person who should really direct the election results next week.


MUSTO: Because she tends to reveal interesting things, this director.

OLBERMANN: Yes. And this will be a lifetime achievement award for six months worth of work after that span.

The one-and-only Michael Musto of "The Village Voice."


MUSTO: I am going to do a jig out of here.


MUSTO: Oh, my God.

OLBERMANN: Thanks for your time.

MUSTO: Oh, my God.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. He's still doing that.

Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck. This is live.