'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 3
Guests: Trent Lott, Karen Tumulty, Jim Warren, Mike Raupp, Chris Marino
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
CIA, see you later: George Tenet resigns - a personal decision.
Well, what decision isn't? Senator Trent Lott joins us for reaction.
Enron gets worse: Hard to believe. Tapes of Enron officials delighted that forest fires would drive up energy prices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn, baby, burn! That's a beautiful thing.
Curb your indictment? A murder suspect's air tight alibi, he was in the crowd during the filming of a scene for "Curb Your Enthusiasm." We'll get the reaction of star Larry David.
And having a spell at the national spelling bee: Not only was he all right, but he answered right. These spelling bees get more and more brutal every year.
All that and more on the COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. It was a personal decision. Seven years after he became head of the Central Intelligence Agency, nearly three after the intelligence failures of 9/11, at least one since that sword of Damocles that was Iraq WMD Intel began to sway over his head, and what seemed like 100 of them since classified information leaked out of the CIA, first about the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson and more recently, too the Iraqi rogue politician, Ahmed Chalabi. George Tenet is out. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Does jumping off the titanic once the bow is out of the water count as a personal decision?
The director, first appointed by President Clinton in 1997, kept on by President Bush in 2001, told the president last night that he was resigning, though he will stay on until his exact seven-year anniversary on July 11. Tenet said his good-byes this afternoon at the agency's headquarters at Langley, Virginia. Among them were to the man who will, at least, temporarily succeed him, Deputy Director John McLaughlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: This is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision, it was a personal decision and had only one basis in fact, the well-being of my wonderful family - nothing more and nothing less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And CIA sources insist it was coincidental, but the
longest serving deputy director for operations in three decades also chose
today to announce his retirement, James Pavitt,
But, back to Tenet. Ranks seemed to close pretty nicely around the departing CIA chief. John Kerry said he's, quote, "worked extremely hard on behalf of our nation." The FBI Director Mr. Mueller said Tenet had "one goal in mind, the security of the American people." Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California said he had "restored morale and provided stability and continuity at a critical time." And earlier this evening, I got to speak with Senator Trent Lott from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
OLBERMANN: Senator Lott, thanks for your time. The reaction across the political spectrum today seems to have been that the CIA has not done well on a number of fronts, but that Mr. Tenet may have done the best that he could. Is that your assessment?
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: In Washington, we're always trying to point a finger of blame at one person or several people and - you know, tried to get some accountability in that way. I don't think that's the right way to approach it. George Tenet was under a lot of pressure for a long time did a - you know, a very important job at a very difficult time and I don't think should you take this moment to be that critical of him.
Having said that, there's no question that the intelligence community, over a number of years, has had some failures. We - they've not had the money they've needed, they've not had the human intelligence they needed. There have been problems and the intelligence committee is basically going to say something to that effect when we release our report next month. But, I do also want to say that I think George Tenet probably did the right thing on a personal basis, maybe even professionally, as an opportunity for new people to move into leadership. It's an opportunity maybe to look at some other reforms in or intelligence community, and I think we should take advantage of that chance.
OLBERMANN: Senator, a week ago on Monday, though, you had given a TV interview in Jackson about the prewar intelligence in Iraq and the operative quote was, if I can quote it exactly: "I believe George Tenet has to take a lot of the responsibility, final analysis, I think it's time for him to move on. If it were my call, I'd say 'thanks for your service, see you later.'" Is that the message that he got, if not from the president, then from somebody? Did somebody say to him "thanks for your service, see you later?"
Did somebody say to him, thanks for your service, see you later?
LOTT: I don't know. I'm going to take him at his word. He said it was for personal reason, family reason. I don't even know what - maybe there's a health consideration. But he's been under a lot of pressure for a long time in one of the toughest job in Washington. But, I've made it clear for quite some time that I did think there were problems with the intelligence community. I did think the information we were given in Congress and that the president was given, with regard to Iraq, was not accurate. And those assurances, while they may have been provided to the director by analysts, they were delivered, in many instances, by George Tenet to the Congress and to the president. And - you know, I think that there are problems there. And just - you know, having one person leaving at the top is not going to solve the problem, I think we have to take a whole look at our intelligence gathering capabilities.
I think they've been making progress in the last year. I think George Tenet is making more money and putting more into human intelligence. But, there have been problems and not just running up in Iraq, over a period of years, partially again, because the laws that we passed in the Congress limiting their ability, for instance, to communicate with the FBI. What a ridiculous thing that was. We're finding where some of the problems were, we're trying to make corrections so that in the future, the CIA will have the tools they need to do a better job, and that's what we should be looking for.
OLBERMANN: From your vantage point about those issues, Senator, and from your vantage point on the Intelligence Committee, who does CIA need now? A veteran administrator from outside? A veteran CIA man from the inside? Porter Goss? Who? Who does it need?
LOTT: I think there are a number of people who that could do that job. I think the Deputy Director John McLaughlin is a really good guy. He's a careerist. In his appearances before the Intelligence Committee, he's very thoughtful, very studied, I think he does a good job. He's familiar with the operation of what needs to be done. So, he'd be fine as an acting director, in my opinion, even as a permanent one. Porter Goss, a congressman from Florida and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is highly respected, a former CIA employee. He'd be really good. And there are probably others. So, I don't want to start making a list, but there area a number of people who can do that job.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Senator, it seemed like, throughout Capitol Hill, throughout Washington, throughout the government, throughout the whole spectrum, that there was genuine surprise at this announcement. Was it in fact a shock to everybody? Was it in fact a surprise?
LOTT: I think it really was a surprise. The news media hadn't sniffed it out, there was no indication it was going to happen. But when you look at it, I mean it stands to reason this might occur. I mean - because of the time he's been in there over, I think, 10 years, and the pressure he's under and some of the critical analysis that will be coming out from the Intelligence Committee and the 9/11 Commission, maybe he just felt like it's time to move on and not become a source of some of the problems or the change the subject.
Some people said, well it's unusual because we're involved in a
conflict and because there's an election coming up. In the end, human
beings have personal lives. We're far enough away from the elections, it's
· he will be replaced by good qualified people. I don't think we ought to over psychoanalyze this. Let's just accept what he said. Let's move on. Let's try to make sure the Intelligence Committee gets what they need to do a better job.
OLBERMANN: Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in an interview we recorded earlier this evening.
Well, most American lawmakers may be sticking to that most diplomatic of terms today, at least one Iraqi would be kingpin was not hiding his glee. Ahmed Chalabi, the man who up until recently, was on the Defense Department payroll openly exultant at Tenet's resignation. And topping his laundry list complaints against the outgoing CIA director was the charge that Tenet was to blame for passing on faulty intelligence to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMED CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: He provided erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush, which caused his government massive embarrassment in the United Nations and in his own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But Chalabi may yet prove the biggest source of embarrassment to the White House. For more than a week, the man who attended this year's State of the Union has been accused of having passed CIA intelligence on to Iran. On Tuesday, Mr. Bush said in essence, "Chalabi, Chalabi who?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I've met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through rope line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush might need ask Mrs. Bush. The first lady was seated just in front and below Mr. Chalabi during the president's annual address this year when the Iraqi exile was a guest of honor.
Back to Mr. Tenet, his surprise announcement has eclipsed yesterday's surprise announcement that the president had put a private attorney on standby in case he's questioned in the CIA leak investigation. The president today, refusing to say whether or not he had been contacted by prosecutors, but he did shed a little light on why he sought counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This is a criminal matter, it's a serious matter. I met with a attorney to determine whether or not I need his advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That attorney is Jim Sharp, a former assistant attorney general. He is a successful Washington lawyer with his own firm. But, while he's known for specializing in white collar crime, he's known for one client he represented during Iran/Contra investigation, the retired Air Force General Richard Secord, the chief operative for Oliver North.
For the president, for weeks, for months, stuff has, to paraphrase William Hurt in the movie "Body Heat," been coming down so hard you have to wear a hat. CIA director quits or is pushed, intelligence issues, now has to get a private lawyer. Like his predecessor did. We're joined by Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "Time" magazine.
Karen, good evening. Thanks for being with us.
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Presumably, there are only two ways to read George Tenet's resignation. Either it really was a personal decision, which caught everybody by surprise, including the president, or it wasn't, in which case he was fired, presumably by the president, which would you get guess would leak out one way or the other. Is Tenet's means of departure thus kind of a no-win for Mr. Bush?
TUMULTY: Well, I think in some ways, it helps in that it takes a little bit of the pressure off, because as the Senate Intelligence Committee issues its report, as the 9/11 Commission issues its report, that George Tenet was going to be a real focal point of the criticism, and - you know, certainly after the Bob Woodward book where he was assured the president that the intelligence was "slam dunk" that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I mean, there were a lot of people asking - you know, what does it take to get fired in this administration?
OLBERMANN: And better to have him quit or be fired long before the actual moment of crisis arrives, obviously. But, the loyalty factor regarding Mr. Bush has always been of major importance in both directions, to him and from him, and once again, regardless of whether Mr. Tenet jumped or was pushed, was the loyalty issue, one way or the other, breached?
TUMULTY: Well, I think because of the way it happened, I think that George Tenet, whether he was nudged out or whether he, in fact, did choose to leave, as he said. The way he left was very graceful. He did not leave any blood on the carpet and so I think that at this point - you know, the president stood by him to the end. There - you know, was continuing to compliment him, to the end, their relationship was close, it still seem to be close. So, I think that - you know, given a bad situation, this was about as well as it could possibly have been handled.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of another bad situation, the president and the attorney, Mr. Sharp, has it ever been a good thing when the president has had to bring in private council?
Have we ever had one turn out where it was just happened that was detrimental to the commander in chief?
TUMULTY: Well yeah, you've got to - you've got to figure there has got to be a reason for this and the most obvious one is that the president has some inkling, has some reason to believe that he is going to be questioned somewhere along the line on this whole Valerie Plame affair. We learned during the Clinton's administration that it's a dicey thing for the president to turn to the White House counsel, that sometimes he has not been afforded attorney-client privileged or that that could be questioned, so it is very clear by seeking an outside attorney, George Bush, somebody is giving him an indication that, in fact, he could at some point be questioned on this.
OLBERMANN: And we don't think link between the lawyer's arrival and the CIA director's departure. Right?
TUMULTY: Well, only in the grand scheme of the cosmos, somewhere.
OLBERMANN: Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "Time" magazine, good to talk to you again. Many thanks for your time.
TUMULTY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As to the president himself, amid the lawyer story and the Tenet resignation, Mr. Bush spent much of today in the air. He, in fact, landed just a few hours ago in Rome. There he will kick off a weekend of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day. But, while the weekend may be dedicated to history, it certainly will not be free of politics. Today, Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi warned that protests against the president's visit there could turn violent.
Italians opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq have already staged "die-ins" across some of the city's bridges. That, of course, meant figuratively. Ten thousand police will be on hand during Bush's 36-hour stay in Rome.
The anniversary of D-Day does loom. Join us here on MSNBC for weekend-long coverage. "D-Day at 60: A celebration of Heroes." Including a special edition of COUNTDOWN this Saturday starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We will talk to one of the Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy 60 years ago this weekend, who later became, perhaps, most quoted man in this country. If you can't wait for our show, you can visit MSNBC.com for comprehensive information about that pivotal day and time in history.
COUNTDOWN underway with the fifth story tonight: Resignation and repercussion.
Up next, while California burned, the leaders of Enron giggle and the evidence is caught on audiotape.
Then later, begging for bugs: The strange phenomenon - Cicada envy, still ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Next, newly revealed audiotape showing the true nature of the traders, with a "D," at Enron, like how they shut down power stations in California to drive up the price of energy during an energy crisis.
OLBERMANN: Just when you thought it was safe to stay word "Enron" again, our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The headline above the "Associated Press" story probably says it all: "Enron Traders Gleeful at Ripping off California Grandmothers." It is one thing to have read the malicious delight in the words of the Enron execs during the Golden State's energy crisis or 2000 and 2001, it's quite another to actually hear them on tape. But, as Robert Mak of our affiliate in Seattle, KING reports, they were indeed dumb enough to make them on tape.
ROBERT MAK, SEATTLE KING, REPORTER (voice-over): When forest fires raced thru California threatening power lines, Enron traders were caught on tape, excited that they might be able to raise energy prices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn, baby, burn! That's a beautiful thing.
MACK: With energy traders routinely making deals worth millions of dollars, it's common practice to record telephone conversations. But the tapes from the trading floor at Enron reveal some traders were blatantly driving up prices by ordering power plants be shuttle down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you took down the steamer, how long would it take to get it back up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's not something you want to just be turning on and off every hour. Let's put it that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, why don't you just go ahead and shut her down then if that's OK.
MICHAEL GIANUNZIO, SNOHOMISH COUNTY PUD: These people had no morals. I mean, they're basically people who were doing whatever it took to make money for Enron.
MACK: Lawyers at the Snohomish County Public Utility District are the ones who obtained these tapes through the Justice Department. Many West Coast utilities feel they were gouged during the energy crisis a few years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is outrageous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that they actually say things like that, that's not the American way of life. Is it?
MACK: For utility customers, many still paying rates that are 50 percent higher than before the energy crunch, there's simply disbelief.
As utilities fight for their money back, Enron traders scoffed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. They're taking all the money back from you guys? All that money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (LAUGHING): Yeah, grandma Millie, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, now she her f - - - money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a - for f - - - $250 a megawatt hour.
OLBERMANN: Robert Mak of our Seattle affiliate, KING, reporting. Wrapping up the fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: More Enron exploitation.
Up next, serious drama at the national spelling bee in which the emphasis was on the word "spell," as in fainting spell. "Oddball" is next.
And later in the COUNTDOWN: Why, if he had not been so busy defending Saddam to the U.N., this guy could have been a movie star.
OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, for the news of the heteromorphy and the preternatural and if those sound like spelling bee words, it's only because they are. Let's play o-d-d-b-a-l-l.
And it might as well be billed as an annual "Oddball" training camp. Dozens of idiosyncratic little kids with enormous brains gather in our nation's capital to once again spell out crazy words that, given often how often we hear them in everyday conversation, the M.C. might as well have just made up two seconds earlier. It's the annual spelling be and our new champion is 14-year-old David Tidmarsh of South Bend, Indiana. David won by correctly spelling the word autochthonous, meaning of or relating to spelling bees. No, it means indigenous. But, David was upstaged by the national runner up, 13-year-old Akshay Buddiga who seemed to have a little trouble with his word, alopecoid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AKSHAY BUDDIGA, SPELLING BEE RUNNER UP: Alopecoid means like a fox vulpine alopecoid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop the clock. He's all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a break, take a break.
BUDDIGA: A-l-o-p-e-c-o-i-d. Alopecoid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He nailed it. Nice the way they didn't all rush at him when he fainted, gave him plenty of air, and they stopped the clock, too, which was very sporting of them. Akshay Buddiga was fine, now they have to make sure the word alopecoid was not written on the bottom of one of those chairs he fell into.
For the 77th consecutive year, the spellers were not given the word ecdysiast, it of course means stripper. And in Houston, if you are not a licensed ecdysiast, you can no longer take it off even if you can spell it correctly, and they mean licensed. The 5th Federal Court of Appeals ruling that the city is within its right to demand that adult entertainers in Houston quote, "wear and conspicuously display a city issued identification card while performing." The conspicuous display part doesn't seem to be a part for these ladies, but whatever else they take off, they have to keep their licenses on. Like bus drivers. Your stripper: Tempest, courteous, safe, professional.
Speaking of heavenly bodies flashing through major cities, we take to you Seattle. The parking lot security camera at 2:40 prevailing local time this morning, picking up these flashes from something in the sky, we hope. That's the assumption. The National Weather Service says it was not a big thunderstorm, no UFOs reported. People who were literally sleepless in Seattle at 2:40 this a.m. think the flashes came off a passing meteor. Or it just could have been someone standing outside of camera range there taking flash photos of the last known Fiat in America.
Back to the COUNTDOWN, our third story tonight: What do these two creatures have in common?
Then later, an innocent man stuck behind bars for a murder he did not commit. Stuck, that is, until humorist Larry David set him free.
These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:
No. 3: Mirko Miocic of Zadarhiem (ph), Croatia. He is so smart he has been paid to be the phone-a-friend life line on the Croatian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Nearly every week for the last two years, producers have now limited him to three appearances per season. And yes, by the way, the host of the Croatian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" is Regis Philbin.
No. 2: Linda Atkin of Brightside Sheffield in England, got 1,000 people to sign her petition protesting the closure of the local post office, mailed it registered to the post office headquarters. Guess what? The post office lost it.
And No. 1: Kim Jung Il, owner and operator of North Korea. He has ordered that all cell phone usage there be banned and all cell phones recalled - the first sign of intelligent life from that country in decades.
OLBERMANN: He emerges from his slumber only after the longest of intervals. After having seemingly vanished from the radar, some signal deep inside says tells him this is his time to emerge.
Once that happens, he's everywhere, and inside and outside of interminable silence, after all that, suddenly you can't shut him up. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the startling realization that that particular introduction right now applies with equal felicity to both the cicada and Bill Clinton, both spotted in the news tonight.
Mr. Clinton first. The former president was this evening the keynote speaker at BookExpo America in Chicago, following in the footstep of Mark Twain, who gave an address at the publishing trade show last year? No, more than 100 years ago. It had a different title then. Mr. Clinton is there to promote his much anticipated and finally ready 957-page memoir, "My Life."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I found myself thinking about this book in like sections. I'm writing about these three or four years now and that three or four years then. And when I would get into any particular part of my life, after about an hour, I was there again. One day, I was writing about what Kenneth Starr did to Susan McDougal and I got so mad, I couldn't work for four hours.
There's a lot of policy in it, some will think too much. But I think it is important because the presidency is a deciding job. You hire presidents to make decisions. They not only decide which decisions to make, but which ones to consider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A book seller in Mr. Clinton's home state of Arkansas telling "USA Today" that the interest in this book, which hits shelves on the 22nd, is - quote - "as huge as for a John Grisham novel."
And that's the only reason Mr. Clinton has made as pronounced a reappearance as a cicada after the 17-year alarm clock has gone off?
I'm joined now by the deputy managing editor of "The Chicago Tribune," frequent guest of COUNTDOWN and old friend Jim Warren, and who was at the BookExpo and has just listened to Mr. Clinton in toto.
Jim, good evening.
JIM WARREN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Good evening.
Although, unlike the cicada, he was as usual late. And unlike the cicada, he doesn't mate and then die. Otherwise, he would never have been here.
OLBERMANN: Wouldn't have had any of those problems a few years ago.
Did he stick to one topic tonight? Was he germane to the audience or did he outline foreign policy of the 21st century to a bunch of publishers?
Well, having seen him all over the world, this was classic Clinton, typically, again, incorrigibly late, about a half-hour, then speaking with virtually no notes, went over about 50, 55 minutes, touching the broad swathes of his life, and then seemingly most of the last 250 years of United States history, which he says is included in his book, everything from Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln to the Civil War, World War I, taking it up right through the 1990s.
It was a little less political than one might have thought until the
very end, where he started getting in a few shots at the president, current
· the present president, President Bush, making quite clear that he has distinct views which will be articulated in the book about what he considers violations of threats to civil liberty and also what he considers to be the extremist turn that the Republican Party has taken, something which he did not necessarily envision, even midway through the 2000 Gore-Bush campaign, according to what he told this crowd, which was basically very sympathetic, very liberal.
These folks have a lot of economic self-interests in him succeeding.
And, undoubtedly, he will.
OLBERMANN: Jim, to your last point, let me play a specific clip and then get your reaction to your it. It dovetails correctly to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I am from, I think, a more traditional American position, going all the way back to the founders, which is that politics is not religion and we should govern on the basis of the evidence, not theology.
CLINTON: And that we - and that it's a great experiment. But what is going on today has happened before in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I gather that was what you were referring to and I would expect that there would be something from both the right wing and from the religious right in response, would there not?
WARREN: Yes. He underscored - if you had to write a lead, it would be a little tough. He talks not about sparing himself. But did he mention Monica Lewinsky? Will he mention her at great depth? One doesn't know.
But at the same time, he claimed he will not settle scores. He had very nice things, Republicans should know, to say about Newt Gingrich, the first President Bush and some other prominent Republican, notably Bob Dole. But then again, he did get in those jibes. And he puts it all in the context of a larger historical sweep, which he discerns.
And he said, don't worry, liberals, don't worry, that we've seen this before. We've come to a crucial turning point in the nation's history. That's why things are a little bit partisan. But don't worry. It won't last for long. My side will win out. So, ultimately, you did see a subtly polemical, even warm and gracious and thoughtful Bill Clinton at work, quite par for the course.
OLBERMANN: Quickly, Jim, and to wrap it up, was he just selling a book or is he selling something else? Is he running for something?
WARREN: Oh, sure. As his whole life, he is running to uphold what he sees as his honor. Bill Clinton from the day he was born has seen himself as someone who was deeply, terribly misunderstood, all the more so since he has left the White House. This is going to be part of a lifelong campaign to explain himself and to get people to turn around on what - about what they think of him.
So, yes, it is very much part of the campaign for what he deems his personal honor and stake in U.S. history.
OLBERMANN: And only 957 pages worth. Deputy managing editor Jim Warren of "The Chicago Tribune," as always, my friend, many thanks for your time.
WARREN: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: And now from X-Rated Bill to Brood X.
Also out of hibernation, one of the 17-year variety, Brood X referring to one of a family of cicadas. I for one welcome our new insect overlords. And I would like to remind them that, as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.
They're now invading 15 states in the Northeast and Midwest, sparking a second round of odd phenomenon. It seems those areas without cicadas are not, as one might expect, relieved, but actually a tad envious. You heard right, cicada envy sweeping the nation. Look out.
Mike Raupp is a professor of entomology and an extension specialist at the University of Maryland, unsurprisingly one of the epicenters of the cicada emergence. Well, one of the epicenters appears to be his shirt.
Cicada envy. Mike, good evening.
MIKE RAUPP, ENTOMOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Hey, Keith. How you doing? Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: I'm fine. Yes, I think you got something on your shirt.
OLBERMANN: This is really cicada envy? I'm told you have the beat-all anecdote to prove it.
RAUPP: Well, this was amazingly funny, Keith.
We were on our way back from New York. I had my 16-year-old son with me. We were putting a cooler of cicadas, about 100 cicadas in an overhead compartment. These things spilled on to a very nice couple from Maryland. The woman sat up and said, oh, my God, it's the cicadas. I've been waiting to see these things. There was a couple behind us from Arkansas. They said, oh, those are the cicadas. And it turned into a cicada love fest. It was absolutely crazy.
OLBERMANN: Why are they not up in some places? The New York area, for instance, hasn't seen any of them closer than Princeton, New Jersey.
OLBERMANN: Are these like other creatures? Can they sense an earthquake coming? Are they just trying to avoid the Republican Convention in Manhattan? Is there a reason they've avoided New York?
RAUPP: No, no worries on that part.
This particular brood penalty just doesn't come out in that part of New York. There will be some cicadas emerging on the island this year. As you said, you can take a quick trip over to Jersey and you'll be right there or head south to Pennsylvania. Maryland, we're still rocking. So there will be places nearby you can see these, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, the entomology, meteorology, if you will, where is this all happening right now besides the points you mentioned? And how much longer will it all last?
RAUPP: Basically, there's a big blob, a big pocket of emergence up here in the Northeast, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, parts of New York, Maryland, down into Northern Virginia, a little bit of West Virginia, then another pocket further down in the lower Carolinas, Tennessee, south of Georgia, and then one out a little bit further, Ohio, Cincinnati, and drifting on down towards Illinois. So it will be in that particular area this time.
In a couple years, we'll have another emergence in a different place by Brood 14.
OLBERMANN: They don't bite. They're not dangerous to people, but they're loud. Can you get your friends to demonstrate that?
RAUPP: Yes, I have got a little cassini male here. We'll see if we can - he is getting a little face time now. We'll see if he can sing for us. Can you pick that one up? Let me hold him a little closer to the mike.
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes.
RAUPP: You got him?
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes.
RAUPP: This is the alarm call. This is what he would use, for example, if a squirrel were to grab him. Let's try this one out here. He's a little bit better.
RAUPP: Pretty loud.
Up in the treetops, these guys will get up to 90, maybe even 100 decibels. It is pretty incredible.
OLBERMANN: And that is in fact the signal for their human workers in the sugar caves to come out and do their obedience.
OLBERMANN: Entomologist Mike Raupp, thanks for sharing your time and for sharing your cicadas with us tonight.
RAUPP: My pleasure, Keith. Have a great evening.
OLBERMANN: You, too.
RAUPP: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And they just sort of fly him home. He grabs them and they all take off like a chariot.
Three stories down, two to go. Up next, bad hair celebrated on screen and on compact discs. Later on COUNTDOWN, why only brunettes and redheads can play before blondie does.
OLBERMANN: Ahead on the COUNTDOWN, heads with hair, with no hair, with some scraps of hair, with fake hair, the wonderful world of bald and balding men coming to the big screen and the record store next.
OLBERMANN: Movies in which barbers and stylists have played a key role are nothing new, "Hair," "Hairspray," "Shampoo," the upcoming "Sweeney Todd." Those tended to be about big hair, or at least big stylists.
Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, thanks to the miracle of independent film called "Combover the Movie." The producers crisscrossed the nation, interviewing physicians, hair practitioners, even a Florida man who patented the do. In fact, they combed the country.
Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "COMBOVER THE MOVIE")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I had been thinking about it for a long time. And then I saw an older gentleman with a comb-over and he was smoking a pipe. And he looked really dignified. I thought it was just really cool. I like the scraggly hair that goes way over. When you can see the lines in between the hair, there's something about it. I don't know what it is. But there's some sort of a beauty to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now is Chris Marino, producer and director of "Combover the Movie," never, obviously, had deal with this himself.
You have kind of a full head of hair, to say the least. What would have driven a man like you to make a movie about this particular topic?
CHRIS MARINO, FILMMAKER: Well, you know, I've been fascinated with them for a long time. And I'm going to echo sort of what Dr. Blanco (ph) said. There's sort of a beauty to them.
That's what I've learned over the last 16 months. I started out just with a curiosity of comb-overs, sort of obsessed with them. And now, in the last 16 months of shooting, I've really learned to appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: So I know from family experience, an individual who will not be named who has hair on his head, some of which dates to the Eisenhower administration, that if anybody takes their hair more seriously than anybody who wears toupees, it is the man who has a comb-over. Do the men in your film feel as if you have been treating them with respect or that you've been mocking them? How do they react to being singled out because of their hair?
MARINO: No, definitely I've treated the people that we've interviewed with respect.
And most people have really - you know, they had a great sense of humor about it. Some of the folks obviously didn't want to be filmed. And we couldn't use them in the film because of course we need releases. But most of the people were really great, cooperative and had a lot of fun with it.
OLBERMANN: Which would be your favorite famous comb-overs, names that we would recognize?
MARINO: Well, obviously, Donald Trump is the enigma that everybody talks about. Does he have a comb-over or doesn't he have a comb-over. We kind of feel that he does because he sort of has this golf visor thing hanging out over his head.
MARINO: But another one we really enjoyed was - he used to be the permanent representative to the United Nations, Mohammed al-Douri.
OLBERMANN: Yes, the Iraq...
MARINO: Of Iraq, yes.
You could look up his picture on the U.N. site. It is really one of the best comb-overs out there, really a fascinating comb-over.
OLBERMANN: And sticking to this country, is there any regionality to this? Is there one part of the U.S. where you would find more than any others in terms of comb-overs?
MARINO: Absolutely. New York City.
It was the last place we shot. We shot all over the country. We found some beautiful one in Texas and in Florida. And then we went to New York and it was like hands down the best. Everywhere we went, we saw fascinating comb-overs.
OLBERMANN: Every one of them, I guess, is fascinating.
OLBERMANN: Chris Marino, producer and director of "Combover the Movie," many thanks. And if you're looking to make a sequel, keep listening to the second half of the No. 2 story tonight, but we may have it for you. Thank you, sir.
MARINO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And it's called "Black Wig." That is the title of a 10-track C.D. being recorded by Filipino businessman Eddie Gill. This would be Eddie. We have to see Eddie. There he is. Atop of his head, that's either a big toupee or a small ocelot. He became internationally known when he ran for the presidency of the Philippines, promising to pay off the country's national debt out of his own pocket.
With the Philippines rocking to a new album called "Bikining Itim," translating as "Black Bikini," Mr. Gil has already released the first single from his album, "Pelukang Itim," "Black Wig." He has performed on TV in the Philippines. Radio stations are already playing the song. Presumably, he has to split any proceeds evenly with rugs.
From what happens when there's too little hair much to what happens when there's too much of it all in the same color. We again make the seamless segue from our No. 2 story to our news of celebrities and what not, which we call "Keeping Tabs."
London's "Daily Mirror" reporting that Debbie Harry, the blondie of Blondie, had a clause in her contract, her performance contract with an Amsterdam club, that said no other blonde women could appear on stage at one of her gigs before she did. This would have thwarted the aspirations of M.A.S.S - M-A-S-S - supposed to be the opening act one night for her, but fronted by Justine Berry, who is blonde. That's who the story comes from.
Blondie's British tour began tonight in Brighton. The newspaper reports they solved the blonde-nonblonde thing by having with them only a D.J.
And there are three things certain in life besides the maxim hair today, gone tomorrow. They are, in ascending order, death, taxes, and, sooner or later, all child stars from sitcoms will end up in trouble with the law. Tonight, we can usher in a new generation of what could be called the Corey Feldman Hall of Fame.
Brian Bonsall, Michael J. Fox's kid brother on "Family Ties," picked up in Boulder, Colorado, DUI. Asked by cops if he had been drinking, Bonsall reportedly told them half a pint of Jim Beam.
Over in the Todd Bridges wing, it is Zachery Ty Bryan, who was Tim Allen's oldest son on "Home Improvement." Now 22, he was pulled over reportedly having done 100 on the Glendale Freeway. But he swore he hadn't had more than one vodka tonic and four beers.
Tonight's top story on the COUNTDOWN, the happy side of the sitcom, how Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" saved an innocent man from a possible death sentence.
OLBERMANN: It sounds like a rejected script from "MacGyver" or maybe even "Josie and the Pussycats." A sitcom has saved an innocent man from the shadow of the gallows, not just any sitcom either.
Our top story on the COUNTDOWN, it's the nearly freeform mind-bending HBO hit "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which wound up doing just that to prosecutors in California. They'd put a man behind bars for five and a half months.
A plot not even the star and creator Larry David could dream up told for us now by George Lewis tonight in Los Angeles.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Juan Catalan says he's trying to get his life back to normal now after facing the possibility of the death penalty for a murder he did not commit.
JUAN CATALAN, FALSELY ACCUSED OF MURDER: My heart dropped when they told me what I was being charged with. I just couldn't believe it. It was a dream, a really bad dream.
LEWIS: The murder victim, a 16-year-old girl Martha Puebla, had testified against Catalan's brother in another case. A witness placed Catalan at the scene of the fatal shooting.
(on camera): And neither police, nor prosecutors would believe Catalan's alibi, that he took his daughter to a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game at the time of the murder. The fact he had his ticket stubs from the game didn't matter. Catalan was arrested last August.
His lawyers subpoenaed videotapes of the ball game, but couldn't make out Catalan the crowd. But then the lawyer learned that the cable network HBO was at the stadium taping an episode of the comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" starring "Seinfeld" creator Larry David.
And there, in footage that had been cut out of the show, was Juan Catalan in the stands.
TODD MELNIK, ATTORNEY FOR CATALAN: Frankly, it's got to be one of the all-time greatest alibis in the history of criminal law.
LEWIS: Catalan is pondering whether to sue the authorities for false arrest.
CATALAN: Very happy that I'm back with my family, where I should be.
LEWIS: He had a hard time curbing his enthusiasm for being a free man.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Only one thing could top that story. And that would be Larry David's own reaction to it. He told the magazine "The New Yorker" that when Catalan's lawyer asked to look at his unused film from Dodger Stadium that it seemed like a kind of lame story.
But David not only agreed to the viewing. He also watched. And there for five minutes, he says, and the lawyer screams out, there he is. It was totally a eureka moment. Wait, there's more, Mr. David telling COUNTDOWN tonight - quote - "I'm quitting the show to devote the rest of my life to freeing those unjustly incarcerated."
Let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.
No. 5, George Tenet - talk about quitting - has left the CIA, citing personal reasons. No idea if the Iraq WMD intel or the Valerie Plame disclosure or the 9/11 intelligence failures qualify as personal reasons. Four, another Enron outrage, traders for the now bankrupt energy company caught on tape in 2000 laughing about how the company would profit from California's wildfires, plotting to shut down power stations to capitalize on brown outs.
Three, a rare double sighting. Bill Clinton emerges from his literary chrysalis in Chicago just as the Brood X cicada emerges for the first time in 17 years. Coincidence? We think not. Two, "Combover the Movie," a real film dedicated to the attempts of bald men to cover that fact up. And, No. 1, an innocent man in jail for murder gets released when it is discovered that his alibi was actually caught on tape during the filming of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.