'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 20
Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Goldfarb
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The death toll goes up in Iraq, and the president's poll numbers go up in Washington. Trying to explain the seemingly counterintuitive.
Five years to the day since columbine. We'll go live to the memorial and most importantly, we'll look at what lessons, if any, school officials have learned since.
Airport security: The process keeps getting tighter, right? Then why is Pittsburgh International pushing so hard to let people without tickets walk right up to the departure gate?
The brains of the political parties, not the leaders, literally the brains. New evidence that a democrat's brain and a republican's brain may be physically different, so you have plenty of time to work on your jokes.
And meet "Jetpack Boy," "Rocket Man," and "Bomber Granny."
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. By any measure, from corner via the prism of any political perspective, it has been a horrible month in Iraq. From casualties to desecrations, from controversies over how and why the war there began, to confusion over how and if our involvement there will end.
Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: Tonight, the president's poll numbers, particularly his poll numbers relating to Iraq and the war on terror have gone up. Were the store of the past three weeks to be told in pictures, they might look something like this: The streets of Fallujah, bearing a strong resemblance to those of Mogadishu. The Shia leader, who might have been one of the nation's closest allies quickly becoming one of its worst enemies. And, as thousands of his supporters raise their arms against the coalition, the simple task of delivering fuel is transformed into one of the most dangerous jobs in any hemisphere. Add to that a wave of hostage takings and new revelations that the president may have used funds from the Afghanistan war to pay for planning a war he repeatedly denied even planning, and you've got what seems to be a sure-fire formula for political fire. And yet two separate polls conducted as late as Sunday and released today in newspaper, the "Washington Post" and "USA Today" indicate continuing, in many cases, growing support for the president and his policies.
By the "Post's" numbers, Bush has gone by trailing from five points to leading John Kerry by the same margin. The president now polling at 47 to Kerry's 42 percent. Ralph Nader's numbers also edged up two percent points to seven. The "USA Today," meanwhile puts Bush in the lead meanwhile, this time by six points. By their survey, Nader's support unchanged at four.
And while the president's support appears to inch up, support for the war is also holding steady. Fifty-one percent say the war has been worth fighting and when asked whether U.S. forces should withdraw from Iraq, more than 2/3 are saying, we should keep troop in that country until civil order is restored.
On the surface, little of this would seem to add up. When we get into logical and/or political blind quarters like this, we like to turn to the senior political correspondent at "Newsweek," and NBC News analyst, Howard Fineman.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, this seems counterintuitive. Every bad indicator in Iraq goes up and so does Mr. Bush's poll numbers. Could we will looking at backlash - anti-media backlash after the president's news conference? Or anti-insurgency backlash after the kind of issues of last week in Iraq, kind of rally around the president thing?
FINEMAN: Yeah, there are several factors at work, Keith. Politics is a game of comparison. George Bush is order, strength, resolve, compared to the chaos that we're seeing overseas. There are a lot of bad guys running around, a lot of bad guys over there whose faces have been on television, whose actions have been dramatic and violent. There's a natural rallying around the president that goes on in a situation like that. His numbers have been good for leadership on the war, and that's his strong suit politically. I think also that the contrast with John Kerry is helpful to the president, right now. Because Senator Kerry, who's got the democratic nomination presumptively, can't really decide whether he agrees with George Bush on most issues, or really takes issue with him. And you can't beat something with nothing, and right now, the democrats don't have a clear identity with their candidate.
OLBERMANN: Can Kerry, at any point, beat Bush on those issues? Because that interpretation of this I find fascinating. If the issue of the moment is Iraq or it's terror, no matter whether Bush is perceived as acing the particular test or bungling it, the theory goes, those are George Bush's home fields and he still clearly is perceived as being clearer on either subject on either field than Kerry is.
FINEMAN: Right, actually on most tests, the American people still don't think the president bungled, here. They think that on balance the war was still worth fighting, as that poll showed. They don't think we're safer as a country, here in the United States, but they seem to have - the voters seem to have a sense that long-range, or have faith, perhaps, that long-range it will make us safer. And they don't disagree with the notion of pre-emptive war, I don't think. There's a lot of intellectual speculation and anger about it. But among the American people, they sort of like the idea of the best defense being a good offense. So the pres - they like - they haven't dismissed the president's ideas.
Now, here I'm talking about the fair minded 15 to 20 percent in the middle, Keith. These numbers are going to keep swaying back and forth, I think, from now through November. But again, to mention John Kerry, he's got to decide which avenue to take here, because if he embraces the president's solution, if he says stay the course, if he says we've got to have a stable Iraq, if he tries to make consensus with the president, that's going to lead the backdoor open to Ralph Nader who, in some of these polls, as the peace candidate, is getting six percent or seven percent, that's not insignificant and could be a big factor.
OLBERMANN: You mention swaying back and forth - the numbers are swaying back and forth, right now, Howard, we've got two polls, "USA Today," "Washington post" have consistently been showing Bush ahead of Kerry by five or six. Two other polls, Zogby Research and the on in your own magazine, "Newsweek" that have been consistently showing Kerry ahead by three to six or seven. The election is 28 weeks from today, it's going to be like this straight through, isn't it?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think it is. And I think we're going to be watching every little jump of the needle on every poll. I think right now the president's probably slightly ahead, overall. But, the president's campaign has spent 40, $50 million already trying to terminally define John Kerry, they haven't quite done it, yet. But Kerry better get his act together pretty soon in terms of his advertising message. Because he sometimes seems to be running for secretary of state, not for president of the United States.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek," as always sir, great thanks for your time.
FINEMAN: Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Armed, in all likelihood, with the good news provided by those polls, administrative figures went to two key points on the public relations map today. The podium at the Pentagon and the witness table at the Senate to try to dispel perceptions that American policy in Iraq is skidding on some kind of icy road. Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski with the latest talk in the district and the latest casualties in Iraq.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One soldier was killed and four wounded today, by a roadside bomb outside Mosul, in northern Iraq. Later, a mortar attack on the Abu Gharib Prison, west of Baghdad, apparently aimed at U.S. forces, it instead killed 22 Iraqi prisoners and wounded 90 more.
U.S. Officials claim the attacks are aimed at preventing the planned transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30. Today, the U.N. envoy overseeing the transfer, warned again, the increased bloodshed could very well derail the entire process.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, SPECIAL U.N. ENVOY: The violence has to come down for this program to unfold in the best possible conditions.
MIKLASZEWSKI: At the Pentagon, Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged the handover of Power could ultimately fail, but it's a risk the U.S. and Iraq have to take.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think it's terribly important that those people step up and accept the fact that they're going to have to run that country.
MIKLASZEWSKI: On Capitol Hill, deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz came under fire from senate democrats who worry that the administration has no adequate backup play.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), SENATE ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: If the piece cannot be put together by June 30, does the administration have a plan for what it would then do? That's my only question. Either you have a plan or you don't.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Wolfowitz offered no details, but claimed:
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEP.DEFENSE SECRETARY: There's sternly ways to proceed if it can't be done by July 1.
MIKLASZEWSKI: One of the war's toughest critics, Senator Edward Kennedy, took a personal shot at Wolfowitz, and the motives for going to war in the first place.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I must say I found your presentation here this morning somewhat disingenuous. Aren't we paying a high price - isn't the world paying a high price because the administration's obsession with Iraq?
MIKLASZEWSKI: An obsession, Kennedy claims dates back to the first Gulf War.
WOLFOWITZ: The notion that a invasion of Iraq has been on my agenda since 1991 is simply wrong, sir.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): And a clear sign tonight, the Iraqis are at least trying to take charge, Iraqi leaders have set up a tribunal to put Saddam Hussein on trial.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: And the general director of that tribunal, incidentally, is to be Salaam Chalabi, the nephew of the head of the Iraqi National Congress.
Elsewhere on the ground in Iraq, 35 miles west of Baghdad, residents of that Fallujah began returning home today after negotiations between American forces and local leaders managed to quiet the volatile situation, there. Close to a third of Fallujah's inhabitants had fled during the fight fighting. Today, Secretary Rumsfeld wondered if they may not have to flee again. He called the negotiations in the Sunni stronghold, quote, "difficult."
On the southern front, U.S. forces appeared to back away from attempts to move in on Najaf, withdrawing from a base near the city, about 2,500 soldiers have encircled the holy community where Shia gorilla leader, Moqtada al-Sadr is believed to be hiding.
Meanwhile back in Baghdad, Iraqi journalists mourned the shooting death of two fellow compatriots who were working for a U.S.-backed TV station. A coalition spokesman confirmed the U.S. troops shot the two men yesterday. By his explanation, they were killed after they got too close to a military base.
We tend to see Iraq as somehow separate from the rest of the Middle East, but the interconnection is very real there. Just one week after Egypt's president visited Mr. Bush at his ranch in Texas, Hosny Mubarak today, made as discouraging an assessment of how America is viewed in his part of the globe as is imaginable. In an interview with the French daily, "Le Monde," President Mubarak said the war in Iraq has created unprecedented hatred for Americans in the Arab world, and in a daily double of bad P.R. he says Arabs also feel a sense of injustice over the Bush administration's robust support of Israel.
And it certainly looks like it's the same sense of injustice that's keeping Jordan's King Abdullah at a safe distance from Washington this week. The king abruptly canceled a meeting he had scheduled with the president, citing concerns about the American's position on a peace process. The move is seen as a rebuff to Mr. Bush who just last week announced a major change in U.S. policy towards Israel, endorsing a plan that Palestinian leaders had decried, "The end to the peace process." Jordan's king says he will reschedule.
And the last component to the fifth story tonight, the president may or may not be angry about the revolution by Bob Woodward of Colin Powell's so-called "pottery barn rule" regarding Iraq, "you break it, you own it." But, Pottery Barn sure is angry. Woodward claims the secretary of state warned Mr. Bush before the Iraqi war that, "If you break it, you own it. You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You'll own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." One small problem with this draconian image, Pottery Barn, the company, says it does not have a "Pottery Barn Rule." A spokesperson telling the "New York Daily News," that if "something breaks, that's the cost of doing business. The customer is not asked to pay for it." A State Department flak said no aspersions were meant against the housewares giant. No truth to rumors that henceforth that Secretary Powell will refer to his maxims as the "Hank's House of Faberge Eggs Rune"."
COUNTDOWN opening tonight with Iraq, to polls, to perception, to Pottery Barns.
Coming up, tonight's No. 4 story: Right now in Littleton, Colorado, a community gathering to remember its tragic place in history, Columbine, five years later.
Also ahead, a staple of childhood for more than six decades: "The Little Prince," the character vanishes from the earth in the story, his creator did the same thing in real life 60 years later. A break in the mystery of what happened to Saint Exup'ry.
OLBERMANN: Coming up, tonight's No. 4 story, one word that immediately conjures up images of tragedy and crisis forced into the lives of children way too soon - Columbine. To the memorial service and to the other schools hoping to prevent a repeat, next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Awful anniversaries are commemorated, it is theorized, because each time we can add a number between the present and the horror of the past, another week, another month, another year, it means just that more emotional space between the trauma and our present selves. And so the fourth story on COUNTDOWN this evening, this is the fifth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Not all commemorations, however are therapeutic nor cathartic. Today, Prince George's County in Maryland, just east of Washington, D.C. evacuated all of its public schools because of a nonspecific bomb threat phoned into police, there. So far, nothing has been found there and hundreds of students in Sioux City, Iowa, chose to stay home, today. Yesterday, a 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after he told a classmate he was planning a Columbine-style attack. The boy has been a target of ridicule in school because of his fascination with the Columbine killers. They were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They murdered 12 classmates and a teacher, they terrorized dozens and hundreds more, they killed themselves, sadly a little too late. The memorial service is in Littleton are just underway. MSNBC's Jennifer London is there.
Jennifer, good evening.
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. All afternoon, we have seen a slow but steady stream of people arrive here at Clemet Park, very near Columbine High. This being the site where many students, faculty members, and teachers fled after the first shots were fired at Columbine High School. Just a few moments ago, the remembrance ceremony getting underway here, at Clement Park. It began with four F-16's flying overhead, we heard a live tribute song and just moments ago, we heard from a surviving student, Annemarie, who was left paralyzed by the shootings. She spoke of hope, saying, "We can move forward and show we are strong."
Currently, the Columbine choir is singing at the pavilion just behind me. All of this, of course, is to remember and honor those 12 students and one teacher who were killed along with the 26 others who were physically wounded. And I think physically because the numbers of those who were wounded in many different ways, far much greater, from students to faculty members, teachers and of course, community members. Some here, very willing to share their stories, others, as we found out today, are not ready to talk. Which reminds us that people grieve and also find hope in many different ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTA FLANIGAN, CRISIS MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: Individuals respond to tragedy differently. They come with their own set of coping mechanisms, support systems, and everybody's had a different experience in the last five years. The theme for today is "A Time to Remember, and a Time to Hope," and I think a lot of people are trying to look towards the future, and be hopeful. But people are at very different places, five years later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LONDON: And something else to consider, unlike other tragedies, like the Oklahoma City bombing, these survivors here, they will never see justice. They will never get their day in court. As we know, the two gunmen, taking their own lives, leaving the question of why. But again, Keith, the theme of today is "A Time to Remember, and a Time to Hope," and that is what we are seeing here, a lot today. And in just about an hour a candlelight prayer vigil will get underway.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC's Jennifer London at Littleton, Colorado. Many thanks.
Without some meaning, without some change in the lives of the students in every other school in this country, the fifth anniversary of Columbine would be nothing more than an exercise in gratuitous emotionalism. But there has been such change. Our correspondent, Kevin Tibbles reports from a Chicago school which learned some of Columbine's lessons.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, nearly five years later, the horror of Columbine still reverberates in school corridors across America, with a heightened awareness of security, and hopes it never happens again. It has also turned many schools into fortresses.
(on camera): Did you ever say, you know, that could happen here, too?
DR. CONSTANTINE KIAMOS, STEINMETZ HIGH SCHOOL, CHICAGO: I said it as soon as it happened.
TIBBLES (voice-over): Chicago principal, Dr. Constantine Kiamos, knew he had to act. Students entering Steinmetz High School today, must swipe I.D. cards, past through metal detectors, and x-ray machine, all under the gaze of surveillance cameras.
(on camera): I'll play devil's advocate, it strikes me as if we're going into an armed camp or something here, do you disagree?
KIAMOS: Well, I think, the armed camp is outside, they're going into a safe haven in here, and this is their entry.
TIBBLES (voice-over): At Pennsylvania's Elizabethtown Middle School, kids and teachers are taught to recognize potential problems, so experts can intervene before they explode.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen fights go down 50 percent.
TIBBLES: Violence prevention programs worked in Largo, Florida. Two boys are accused of plotting to shoot a security guard and bomb the middle school. Thirteen-year-old Alexa (PH) Moore overheard their plan in class, her training told her she had to tell an adult.
ALEXA MOORE, STUDENT: Lots of people are thanking me and I feel kind of good. I feel good that I went and told.
TOM MAUSER, SON DIED AT COLUMBINE: We still miss him very much.
TIBBLES: Tom Mauser's son, Daniel, died that day at Columbine. He's since become an advocate for tougher gun laws. Mouser sees both positives and negatives in the aftermath.
MAUSER: I think schools have been a little bit more tuned in activities their students are doing that might show signs of violence. I think on the bad side, some of those zero tolerance policies and things like metal detectors, I think, are probably going too far.
TIBBLES: Still a sad necessity. It was a metal detector that one morning picked up a gun at Steinmetz High.
(on camera): That must break your heart.
KIAMOS: What would have happened if we had not picked it up?
TIBBLES (voice-over): Preventing school violence may not be a part of the curriculum, but it's become a required subject for students and educators alike.
Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now past our No. 4 story, tonight: The healing and lessons of Columbine.
Coming up later in the program, Mr. Science meets Mr. Spin Doctor:
Political ads and their effects on your brain.
But up next, those stories that get no COUNTDOWN number. "Oddball" is up next, the naked sushi might sell here, but it's causing problems overseas. Stand by for news.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you from New York for a COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it because the studio may change, but the tradition will not. This is the appointed hour at which I say, "Let's play Oddball."
You know sushi like I know sushi. If that is, you remember Monica Novotny's report on the Seattle restaurant which employed unusual dinnerware for its sushi servings - that's her, right there.
Somebody in China heard about the novel food presentation, evidently. The Yamoto Wind Village Restaurant in china was going to serve up the raw tuna atop scantily clad women, but the government stepped, claiming the women were not correctly dressed to be restaurant employees, the plan violated Chinese women rights, and it also broke laws involving sanitation and advertising.
And unless you're just coming out of a 10-year long coma, you know politics has become very ugly in this country. On the other hand, none of our leaders has had a curse put on him, not lately, although some of us still wonder if that's what happened to Howard Dean.
But in Australia, if something wicked this way comes into the life of Prime Minister John Howard, blame the indigenous population. An Aborigine woman identified only as "Moopor" pointed a small kangaroo bone is the prime minister as he left a public appearance this morning. Seems like no big deal, but experts say, a kangaroo bone is an ancient curse thought to bring bad luck or even death. Australia's natives are furious over the disbanding of an experimental Aboriginal governing body. Prime Minister Howard dismissed the curse, but was later heard mumbling to himself, "we're got to Attala, we're going to win there, and then New South Wales, and then Canberra, yeah!"
And another one from Australia, a reminder: Don't run with scissors even if you're the surgeon. Meet Pat Skinner, who - um - uh oh, this Skinner is considering suing the Sidney's St. George Hospital over some surgery she underwent there in May 2001. Seems she had this nagging discomfort in her stomach over the next 18 months. They couldn't figure out what was wrong. Finally she demanded x-rays. Crickey, doctor - 6-½-inch long surgical scissors mistakenly left inside Miss Skinner's abdomen for a year-and-a-half. They have since been removed, the hospital has apologized, the patient is in good shape, although she had been finding herself compelled to walk up to strangers and say, for no reason at all, "Watch out, I swear I'll cut you."
Finally, we don't show you just any old car wreck here on "Oddball," it has to meet two strict criteria: No. 1: No one is seriously injured, No. 2: It has to look really weird - such as perhaps, a burning Dodge on the roof of Fishes, Bowls Bar and Grill (PH). Do y'all remember where we parked?
Police in Jefferson, West Virginia, say the driver of this truck fell asleep at the wheel, hit an embankment and went airborne. The truck caught fire, destroying much of the restaurant below it, but the man escaped with only minor injuries, and of course the mother of all parking tickets.
When COUNTDOWN returns, we'll pick right back up with the No. 3 story of tonight. Your preview: With heightened concerns of possible terrorist attacks before the next election, why is one major airport considering a major security overhaul to allow more people access to more airplanes?
And later, a man, a rocket pack and a dream, is this an aviation milestone or low-flight farce? Wee!
First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Ulysses S. Grant, makeover time for the 18th pres. A brand-spanking new $50 bill will be unveiled next week from the fine folks who brought you the new $20. This one won't be quite as orange, though. But the Treasury says the president, Mr. Grant, looks good in pastel.
No. 2, the Reverend Jim Keyser of Grand Island, Nebraska. At the big charity church auction Saturday, Reverend Jim is selling a eulogy to the highest bidder. Buy now and, when you pass away, Reverend Jim will say great things about you at your funeral - like you could check.
And, No. 1, the dumb criminal of the day, John Sarver of Kansas City, Kansas, who has pleaded guilty to robbing six banks in that area. Some of the evidence against him, a to-do list found at his home containing this reminder: "Rob a bank today."
OLBERMANN: As the Department of Homeland Security weighs its priority, it's being forced to consider which should come first, airport security or airport shopping.
The third story on the COUNTDOWN, it's all about the mall. With traffic down nearly 30 percent in the past four years, Pittsburgh International Airport has been seen sharp reductions in flights and in profits at the airport's 100-store shopping center. See, the air mall, as they call it, is stuck behind the security checkpoints at Pittsburgh International.
And since airport official cannot change that, they instead want the Transportation Security Administration to change the security rules to let people without tickets through those checkpoints. This has been forbidden everywhere in this country since 9/11. The TSA is considering a test program. And while it's meeting with airport officials during the day, a spokeswoman insists, "Security continues to be our No. 1 priority." And, remember, you can buy it at the gift shop inside the mall.
Meanwhile, an airport spokeswoman says, our information desk is getting flooded with calls, when is the air mall open? The Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, is dubious about the plan, which some security consultants have already dubbed a tragedy.
I'm joined now by Michael Goldfarb, a former chief of staff for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mr. Goldfarb, good evening to you.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA CHIEF OF STAFF: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I've seen a lot of misplaced priorities since 9/11, but, in my opinion, this takes the cake. Isn't the "no passengers beyond this point rule" the simplest, the most bang for almost no buck security measure we have?
GOLDFARB: Well, absolutely.
I can't imagine the TSA approving this rule. It just sends the wrong message to many, many airports around the country. It took us a long time after 9/11 to get our sea legs in aviation security. We finally have them, to some degree. And this would really set us backwards.
OLBERMANN: Now, I haven't seen the final proposal here, so I could easily be wrong about this. But nowhere in the coverage of what Pittsburgh wants to do has it been suggested that nonpassengers who wanted to go to the gate or go to the mall have to produce I.D. when they do that. They would have to be screened, but it didn't say whether or not they would have to produce I.D.
Is there a compromise here? If you said everybody identifies themselves, passenger or not, would that work?
GOLDFARB: Keith, why should we go there? Why should we make the job more difficult?
The problem with nonticketed passengers is that they're not part of any computerized or reservation system. So, officials - half of security is not simply screening at the gate or checked bags. Half of security is knowing where people are at what time. And this would introduce an unknown into the equation very close to where planes take off and land. So I just think we've had these pressures, the pressures of commerce and the pressures of economics on aviation safety and security. And we have to just say no on these things.
And I don't expect the Pittsburgh thing to be successful.
OLBERMANN: Is there, Mr. Goldfarb, a bigger picture here even than the one we're talking about? This one seems so obvious. But one day, we're hearing that, if you're going to find trans-Atlantic this summer, be prepared. The check-in can take six hours. The next day, we're hearing from Pittsburgh, as a spokeswoman put it with a wonderful quote, "This exciting new rewriting of the security directives."
It seems like the Transportation Security Administration is not all going in the same direction all the same time. At what point do we get our act together on this?
GOLDFARB: Well, I've never seen an agency that large ever move in the same direction. They're moving in many fronts simultaneously.
But on this one here, you know, we suffer in aviation short-term memory loss all the time. After an accident, after an incident, security or safety is often heightened.
And then people become complacent. It's very natural. And things seem to go back to normal. And complacency is the biggest villain of aviation security. And I think we have to guard against it. Pittsburgh should and probably won't be granted this special waiver.
OLBERMANN: We hope not. If it turns out the other way, we will no doubt have another conversation about this.
OLBERMANN: Michael Goldfarb, former FAA chief of staff, many thanks for your time tonight.
GOLDFARB: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: That wraps up No. 3 on the COUNTDOWN, the war on terror meaning the world of mall profit.
Coming up, putting the science into political science. You're a Republican. You're a Democrat. Mind if I probe your brain? Then later, the government's solution to the HIV outbreak in the adult film industry: send in health inspectors. The guy will not be looking for crumbs and cockroaches, so to speak.
That story coming up. First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Chairman Greenspan, you still feel optimistic about the economy and do you agree with most economists we will continue to add jobs in the next five, six, seven, eight months?
ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I do, Mr. Chairman.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I can't believe the decision had been made by the president during that period. If it had been, I didn't know it had been. Therefore, I would have never said what you said somebody said I said with respect to that aspect of it.
PETE AHEARN, FBI AGENT: So it was not just the cell right here -
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right. Some of the people in the cell here actually were traveling overseas, as I recall. We got a couple of them overseas, isn't that right?
AHEARN: Yes, sir. Yes, we did.
BUSH: Maybe I'm not supposed to say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Next here on COUNTDOWN, men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Republicans are from Jupiter. Democrats are from Neptune. Your politics may be foretold by the wiring in your brain. I mean, that would be it for Chris Matthews, wouldn't it?
OLBERMANN: If you're a Republican, have you ever looked at Al Franken and said, his mind must be powered by a little hamster in a wheel? If you're a Democrat, have you ever looked at Ann Coulter and said, how does she get her feet to move when clearly she has no brain at all? In either case, you may be smarter than you think.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, what might turn out to be clinical proof that the brain actually responds differently depending on whether you are on one end of the political spectrum or on the other.
As our chief science correspondent, Robert Bazell, politicians working to win the hearts and minds of the voters may be well advised to stick to the hearts. The minds may already be made up.
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC CHIEF SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A century ago, the political message could only be shouted. But now TV ads dominate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The one person in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
ANNOUNCER: President Bush, steady leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAZELL: Ever since scientists started developing images of the working brain, advertisers have wanted to use them for questions, like, are Republican brains different from Democratic brains?
Neurosurgeon like Dr. Alexandra Golby of Brigham and Women's Hospital.
DR. ALEXANDRA GOLBY, NEUROSURGEON: Certainly, we get calls every once in a while from those types of people wanting to know how good is this technology? Can we use it? We want to use it right now.
BAZELL (on camera): Perhaps it's inevitable that, with all the new technologies for studying the brain, politicians would want to take advantage and find out how their campaign messages are playing inside the mind.
(voice-over): Professor Marco Yacobone (ph) at UCLA showed ads to 11 volunteers, Republicans and Democrats, and scanned their brains.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some dynamic in terms of the mental processes of Democrats and Republican when they see the pictures of Kerry and Bush and Nader.
BAZELL: When the volunteers saw the candidate of their party, they responded in an area of the brain associated with pure emotion. When they saw the other candidate, the part related to rational thought lit up. So, Yacobone thinks attraction is emotional, but people think about the candidates they don't like.
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Let's hear from the American people.
BAZELL: What does this all mean? Political consultants now test their ads on small gatherings of people called focus groups.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Academic pep talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was comprehensive and on target.
BAZELL: Could the brain scan replace them?
GOLBY: Well, it's the ultimate focus group. It's unedited impression of what people may be thinking.
BAZELL: This latest study is the first tenuous step perhaps of the beginning of political messages direct to the brain.
Robert Bazell, NBC News, Boston.
OLBERMANN: And now to our stories of celebrity and gossip. We call them "Keeping Tabs." And the first of them can test the political predisposition of your brain, as well as any MRI. One word, "Doonesbury."
The decreasingly influential but still highly topical comic strip will show U.S. art imitating life or life imitating art or something. Later this week, the patriotic, often jingoistic character B.D., who's fighting in Iraq, will have his left leg amputated. The strip's creator, Garry Trudeau, says he wants to illustrate sacrifices made by American service personnel. B.D. was based on a Yale football quarterback of the late '60s named Brian Dowling.
More of the language wars tonight. The FCC gets a complaint about a muttered oath on "60 Minutes," the complaint alleging that the singer Mary J. Blige said the good old S-word under her breath during an interview that ran Sunday on the CBS program. The twist here is that the segment was a repeat and that nobody had complained when the interview first ran last October. A statute of limitations would seem necessary here.
In 1980, Paul Schaefer accidentally substituted a popular Anglo-Saxon expletive for the euphemism "flogging" while appearing on "Saturday Night Live." The mistake not only rang live. It was also replayed without being bleeped or corrected for more than a decade during the syndicated versions of the show.
And, depending on your point of view, this is either enlightened government or the world going to hell in a handbasket. The same California politicians who 20 years ago were trying top prosecute makers of pornographic films are now saying they will try to use the laws to force performers in those films to wear condoms. Talk about flogging.
An HIV outbreak last week caused the industry, which employs 6,000 people in the L.A. area, to shut down production. Now, says a county health services director, you couldn't imagine a construction company sending a person to a work site without a hard hat. Oh, you've seen that film.
Meanwhile, the state's Division of Occupational Health and Safety plans to try to enforce a condom usage requirement by sending inspectors onto movie sets. Pardon, me, Miss, just doing my job. Miss, pardon me, just want to make sure your friend there is up to code.
From the hard-core realities of the porn industry to the mystical land of make-believe in a bizarre story, again, of art imitating life; 60 years ago, France's most famed aviator, perhaps its most famed author, the creator of the much-loved children's tell "The Little Prince," disappeared during a World War II mission, vanished, much like his title character in that book.
For nearly 60 years, a nation and generations of readers worldwide have wondered what happened.
Dawna Friesen reports tonight, there may finally be an answer.
DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an enduring aviation mystery. In 1944, on one of the last reconnaissance missions of World War II, the dashing French aviator and author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, disappeared without a trace, an eerie parallel to the character in his book, "The Little Prince," the mystical story about a wise interstellar traveler who vanishes into thin air.
STACY SCHIFF, AUTHOR, "SAINT-EXUPERY: A BIOGRAPHY": There's been this beautiful coincidence between the author's fate and the subject's fate.
FRIESEN: Now, off the coast of Marseilles, at least part of that mystery has been solved by divers who found remnants of Saint-Exupery's plane.
(on camera): Many believe in "The Little Prince" he was foretelling his own death and his disappearance only added to the mystique. The book captivated millions. It has been translated into 100 languages and remains one of the best-loved children's books of all time.
(voice-over): Children's bookseller Tony West (ph) can still quote from the book he first read as a teenager.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is essential is invisible to the eye. It's only with the heart that one can see things clearly.
FRIESEN: Profound truths revealed in a simple plot, that is the universal appeal "The Little Prince," a meditation on the solitude of humanity, the value of friendship and the great riddles of life.
SCHIFF: It asks the big questions, you know, what are we doing here, why are we racing around recklessly the way we are, why do we misunderstand each other, why is love so difficult, without really answering them.
FRIESEN: We now know Saint-Exupery crashed into a Mediterranean, a death his widow called a meteoric at the end of a star-chasing life. And yet his "Little Prince" lives on, still captivating readers, a reminder of the enduring and mysterious questions facing us all.
Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN's top story up next. And judging by this, we are still at least 50 years away from living like "The Jetsons." Oh, look, I'm flying at over five miles an hour.
First, are COUNTDOWN's top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: That we are now more than a century removed from the first manned flight in a heavier-than-air craft seems to have not diminished one whit the ineffable desire inside the soul of most humans dating back to the time of the cavemen, the wish to fly, not on the shuttle to Washington, not even on a good hang glider, but using your arms, or maybe just your arms and some kind of easy-to-carry device that you would slip on like a backpack.
At the top of the COUNTDOWN tonight, proof again today from three different corners of the world that 747s may come and go, but this dream of personal flight is still unquenched.
We begin in London, where stuntmen, or in this case Rocketman Eric Scott, donned a hydrogen-propelled pack and shot himself 150 or so feet in the air, landing on one of the many castle-esque buildings that they have in that country. It apparently is three times higher than anyone has ever been in such a device. Scott is an American. And afterwards he said - quote - "That was great. It was great. It feels really good, so it feels great."
Wonder how Brian Feeney feels. Feeney and his colleagues are one of 27 teams from around the world competing for the $10 million X prize. This is a contest begun in 1996. The deadline is next January 1. The goal, create a reusable suborbital spacecraft. Sure, got it.
Feeney's entry is known as the da Vinci Project. It will use the world's largest helium balloon to carry the Wildfire capsule to a distance of 15 miles above the Earth. Then he will fire up the rockets and go up another 74 miles. If all goes well, Mr. Feeney and his capsule will drift safely back to terra firma via parachute. If not, he'll be visible just to the left of Neptune.
And then lastly, there is the 79-year-old former World War II pilot who came from a family that did not have a car in the '30s and '40s, but who was nonetheless inspired by hours spent watching the birds soar and glide. "I fell in love with that sense of freedom they had up there."
This was a fully trained aviator who, by quirks of fate, was permitted to fly not the bombing runs so desperately needed at the time, but only to ferry aircraft from base to base or to deliver the mail. Now, nearly 60 years later, that pilot finally gets the chance to wrangle one of those bombers.
Our correspondent George Lewis tonight introduces us to her.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy-year-old Flora Bell Reese (ph) had the time of her life today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very excited, just very excited. I just cannot believe this is happening.
LEWIS: In World War II, Flora was one of about 1,000 female pilots who served in the military.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a WASP, Women Air Corps Service pilot. We ferried planes from the factory to the bases where they were needed.
LEWIS: The one plane she always wanted to fly was the P-38, a major player in the air war over the Pacific. But in the '40s, flying fighters was not considered women's work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fighter fell victim to the guns of a P-38.
(on camera): In the latter part of World War II, when Flora first saw the P-38, there were almost 10,000 of them in the air. Today, there are fewer than six still flying and a dwindling number of female pilots like Flora.
(voice-over): She says the closest she ever got to flying a P-38 was sitting in one on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I would go out and get in the cockpit and I've been waiting 60 years to be able to be in that cockpit when the airplane took off.
LEWIS: So she was thrilled when she was invited to ride in the back seat of a P-38 for a Lockheed celebration today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just really is a big, big surprise and a wonderful dream come true.
LEWIS: But she got a bigger thrill than she bargained for when the landing gear on the old plane refused to work. The airport scrambled emergency crews, but the pilot was able to crank down the gear for a safe landing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was great. It was fantastic.
LEWIS: And for Flora Bell Reese, unfazed by the danger, a happy ending to her dream come true.
George Lewis, NBC News, Burbank, California.
OLBERMANN: So, before we go, let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.
No. 5, the president and the polls. Despite the recent setbacks in Iraq, two new polls today showing support for the president and his policies is strong and even rising. Four, remembering Columbine five years after the worst school shooting in American history, hundreds gathering in Littleton, Colorado, tonight to remember the teacher and the 12 students who lost their lives.
Three, protection vs. profit. Pittsburgh International Airport could soon become the first major air facility since 9/11 to let nonticketed passengers go straight to the gate. A move to increase passenger convenience or to reverse the 12 percent drop-off in business at the airport mall? Two, political mind map, scientists at the University of California using MRIs to see if Republican and Democratic voters react differently to political ads. And, No. 1, flights of fancy, from strapping on a jetpack, to climbing in a rocket, to finally getting to fly in your fighter jet.
From New York, that's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.