'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 13
Guest: Amity Pierce Buxton, P.J. Crowley, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
A category four hurricane on Friday 13: Two million Floridians ask to get out of the way. Perhaps six and a half million in the path as hurricane Charley makes landfall at Charlotte Harbor.
Twelve days after the financial center's orange alert, five days after it claimed to have disrupted a pre-election plug, an anonymous administration official says nothing indicates any imminent terror plan to attack those buildings. That would be different.
The day after in New Jersey: Republicans call for Governor McGreevey to resign now, not later. People call for explanations about his life and about his wife. We'll get one about the wife from the director of the Straight Spouse Network.
And forever Amber: More tapes of more conversations between Miss Frey and Mr. Peterson. Where do we begin?
SCOTT PETERSON, ACCUSED OF MURDERING HIS WIFE: I guess I, I, I don't know what to say.
AMBER FREY, PETERSON'S FORMER MISTRESS: I think an explanation would be a start.
OLBERMANN: All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. No hurricane of this strength had touched this continent since the infamous hurricane Andrew in 1992. Nothing had approached the Florida coast with the wind potential of 145 miles an hour. Nothing had made landfall with actual measured ground gusts of 107 miles an hour, and unconfirmed reports of 130. Nothing had precipitated the evacuation of two million more people. Nothing had threatened to direct the impact more than one-third of all the residents of that state.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, tonight: And then came Charley. Having found strength in the Gulf Coast, this storm leaped from category two status to category four, early today. There are only five categories. It crashed into Florida, 3:45 Eastern daylight time. The eye passing over the barrier islands between Fort Myers and Punta Gorda , about 110 miles southeast of the Tampa Bay area, setting on it a path inland that would largely skip Tampa and Saint Petersburg, but would pound Fort Myers and other cities like Orlando. Within an hour of that, President Bush had declared parts of the state a federal disaster area, and by that time, there were reports of 335,000 people without electricity. At least two people dead, killed while out driving when the storm hit. By that time, storm surge flooding. The early leader for the most devastating consequence of this disaster was prevalent, and measuring at 10 to 15, in some cases even 18 feet.
"This," said the director of the Hurricane Center in Miami "is the nightmare scenario we've been talking about for years."
As we said, the nightmare largely missed Tampa Saint Pete which had expected the worst. This time last night, the expectation was Saint Petersburg might be temporarily cut off from the mainland and made temporarily into an island. Just because they didn't get it doesn't mean no one did. Our correspondent Don Teague is just north of where the storm charged ashore at North Redington Beach, Florida.
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Already tonight, President Bush has declared storm affected counties in Florida, federal disaster areas. Here in the Tampa area, residents had expected a direct hit, instead they've only had relatively light wind and rain, so far, as hurricane Charley took an unexpected turn.
(voice-over): Charley made good on its threat to become a major hurricane, brushing past the Florida Keys this morning, then gaining strength throughout the day. By early afternoon, Charley was a category four storm, packing 145-mile-per-hour winds, and taking a surprise turn toward Fort Myers and Fort Charlotte.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about an 18-foot storm surge.
TEAGUE: NBC's affiliate, "WBBH," brought viewers the dramatic turn of events live.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our message to you now is urgency and safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Fort Myers police department has ordered its officers to seek safe shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People need to start moving up which is exactly what we're going to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only way off the island is if you swim off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is up, Sanibel and Captiva. Get into your safe room right now and hunker down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just to see the power of the wind that we are experiencing out here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandatory evacuation...
TEAGUE: For days, authorities had warned residents along Florida's west coast that Charley would be a dangerous storm. Boarding up their homes and businesses, and moving to higher ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can get off the island. Whether it be by boat or by car, we'll get off.
TEAGUE: In the Tampa area, which had expected a direct hit from the hurricane, 350,000 people fled low-lying coastal areas, but many, like the McKee family, decided to stay and ride out the storm.
JEFF MCKEE, REMINGTON BEACH, FL: They're staying worst thing we got to worry about, I guess, is the 10 to 13-foot storm surge and we - hopefully it's not going to get up high. If it does, there's really not much we can do, it's too late for us to get out of here.
TEAGUE: The McKee's and others along Tampa's coast were spared the major force of the storm, but there are reports of serious damage further south and east where Charley's turn across Florida took many by surprise.
TEAGUE (on camera): Charley's still a very dangerous storm as it races through central and eastern Florida, tonight. Here in the Tampa area, they are generally out of the woods. They've opened up most of the areas that were evacuated and expecting some rain and some strong winds tonight, but nothing like they expected at this time of day earlier today. Again, Charley took that surprising turn, letting Tampa off the hook, but then taking a lot of the state by surprise.
Now back to you.
OLBERMANN: Don Teague at North Redington Beach, Florida. Many thanks.
So Tampa and Saint Pete breathing a dry sigh of relief, but that's noting going to be the case in Orlando, Florida, that's probably next. And next we go to Orlando to Cape Canaveral, in fact, where Dan Billow of our NBC station "WESH" is standing by.
Dan, good evening.
DAN BILLOW, WESH: Good evening, Keith. Yeah, I'm on the east coast, Cape Canaveral, about 40 miles from Orlando and we're waiting for that storm, here. Now, you've got on - here in the Cape Canaveral area, about 150,000 people living on barrier islands, islands that are normally evacuated during a hurricane. Well, what happened to us today, is that, we here on the east coast and in the Orlando central Florida area, did not expect a direct hit, not a hard hit, from this hurricane, but first it became a category four, then it took a little bend to the east and north, heading right at Orlando, then upwards towards toward Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach is a little bit north of me.
What you normally do, you evacuate the barrier islands. Well, people got the word with about four hours to go that they should evacuate. You can't get 150,000 people off these islands in four hours and that - it didn't happen. People are riding it out. We're still hoping, and it looks like we will escape a serious hurricane force winds. Here on the east coast, in this spot, just within the past hour or so. The wind has really come up, some of the rain is hitting us really hard, so it's coming at us here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Dan Billow of "WESH" in Orlando, good luck and thanks for the report.
And let's go back across the straight - the state. Charley presented the most unwelcome surprise for the residents of Fort Myers; they received the brunt of the storm's initial force. Jonathan Carlson is with "WBBH," our affiliate there and he joins us now by phone.
Jonathan, good evening to you.
JONATHAN, CARLSON, "WBBH": Good evening, Keith.
Keith, a big mess here. Governor Jeb Bush predicted this could be the big one and he was right. It was bigger than many of us ever anticipated. This is the biggest storm southwest Florida has seen in years, it was definitely an experience for those who just went through it, and as you know, Charley changed his course many times and it caught many here by surprise when it was determined Charley would be headed straight for Lee and Charlotte counties, that's south of Tampa.
Now, the hurricane was so close for comfort, we had to evacuate our newsroom and find a safe location inside the station; however, we never stopped providing coverage for the community. I did have a chance to go out and tour the damages. Charley was still barreling down on Fort Myers. As you can see from the video you guys have been showing, roofs came flying off; gigantic trees were uprooted, many falling into people's swimming pools. There were a number of people who did decide to stay and weather the storm; however, after the brunt of it moved on and we went out to survey the damage, this place was a ghost town. No power. No people. We are still without power and could be for quite sometime. However, people are starting to come out, starting to venture out and assess the damage. Governor Jeb Bush will be in town tomorrow to do that, as well. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Carlson in Fort Myers, tonight. No power there.
Thank you much for that report.
OLBERMANN: Now, to try to predict what has so far eluded the forecaster's best guesses - what's next? Meteorologist, Sean McLaughlin has been tracking Charley for us all day and joins us now from the weather center, miles away, fortunately, from Charley's reach.
Sean, good evening.
SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, good evening to you, Keith. Here's the latest on hurricane Charley. You can see Orlando right in the bull's eye. We're expecting the eye wall, the north part of this eye wall, to be right on top of Orlando in the next hour and a half - 9:30 Eastern time. Remember, four and a half hours ago, it made landfall the Fort Myers-Sanibel Island area. And then at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight, we expect the eye of hurricane Charley to go off right through Daytona Beach and off into the Atlantic to make a second landfall tomorrow morning off the coast of the Carolinas. This is the predicted path, possibly 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Already mandatory evacuations are in place for the outer bank areas and the coastal inland areas of South Carolina and North Carolina. Hurricane warning in effect now as far north as Cape Lookout, North Carolina and it is not just Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, we're talking the eastern seaboard as far north, tomorrow now, as Washington, D.C.
And then Keith, when you add in Bonnie, the remnants of Bonnie, we're talking heavy rains, anywhere from four to eight inches of rain now, as far on Sunday as New York City. But once again, in less than an hour and a half, sustained winds right now, at about 115 miles an hour, so we're bringing it down to a category three, but this is still a very organized, major storm. We'll be here for the eye wall hitting Orlando in about the next hour and a half - Keith.
OLBERMANN: Sean, one question. Is there any minimum yet as to how long until this is going to - going to dissipate? How long we're going to have this thing intact at almost full force?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's just so impressive, right now. It's right in the middle of a landmass, the state of Florida, even though Florida's not that wide, but right in the middle of the landmass. We would expect this to become a little bit more disorganized, spread out a little bit. Look at this tight eye wall, that tight circulation. That's why we think as soon as 11:00 p.m. Eastern, it's going to cruise right through Daytona Beach out into the Atlantic, and then become a bigger problem for the Carolinas. We think this is going to remain an organized storm through tonight, through tomorrow morning, and then again, make landfall in the Carolinas and then just produce a whole bunch of rain for the eastern seaboard.
OLBERMANN: Sean McLaughlin, keeping the eye on us - on it for us, thank you again.
Stay tuned to MSNBC for breaking developments on the hurricane, and at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, I'll be back with a full hour, assessing just the first part of what will be several days of damage along the Atlantic seaboard, as seen - as pointed out in Orlando and Daytona Beach, and then the Carolinas tomorrow, sitting in the path of Charley. "Hurricane Charley," a special report following COUNTDOWN here on MSNBC.
We started with the storm. Up next, the metaphorical storm: The fallout from the resignation of the New Jersey governor. The latest on the threatened lawsuit and we'll explore how straight spouses cope when it turns out their husband or wife is gay.
And later, an anonymous White House official tells a dozen news organizations: Gee, whiz. About those orange level terror threats to the five financial centers, well it turns out there's no evidence that any attack is or was imminent. Surprise!
OLBERMANN: Coming up: Some don't understand why he's resigning, some don't understand why he isn't resigning sooner, and one man says he's the victim here. The latest on the extraordinary situation in the governor's mansion in New Jersey, next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Even as New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey gave his singular resignation speech yesterday, it was evident that another shoe would drop somewhere, sometime soon. The only question was, how large?
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The aftermath of the McGreevey departure. Sociological, political, and legal. Political first:
Beginning late last night, New Jersey republicans blasted McGreevey's decision to make his departure effective November 15, not earlier, like now. If he were to leave office before September 15, there would be a special election for governor, this November 2. Now there will be no vote until next November. Republicans howled that when the incumbent Senator Robert Torricelli dropped out late in the 2002 campaign, democrats insisted they get right to substitute another candidate. They got that right; Frank Lautenberg got on the ballot and won the election.
As to the legal issue, the presumed sexual harassment lawsuit has yet to materialize. Golan Cipel, appointed by McGreevey as the state's Homeland Security director, was presumed to be the man with how McGreevey had what he described as a consensual affair. Cipel's lawyer did appear today, and said there was nothing consensual about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN LOWY, ATTORNEY FOR GOLAN CIPEL: I was the victim of repeated sexual advances by him. Such conduct, and Mr. McGreevey's behavior, caused me such emotional distress and turmoil. I was the victim whose oppressor was one of the most powerful politicians who made sure to let me know my future was in his hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Lowy reading the words of his client, Golan Cipel. For all the political and legal ramifications, the part of the dramatic events in New Jersey that seemed to resonate most, on a national basis, were McGreevey's own sexual identity and his wife's part in all this. This she stood by his side throughout that news conference, yesterday. Otherwise having experienced something like that, though not necessarily on television, one of them, Amity Pierce Buxton, wrote a book about it and became the executive director of a group dedicated to it - the Straight Spouse Network. She joins us tonight from Berkeley, California.
And thank you for your time this evening.
AMITY PIERCE BUXTON, AUTHOR "THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CLOSET": You're welcome, Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Before we talk about the governor, I want to talk about Mrs. McGreevey. Can you put yourself in her shoes, yesterday? Can you give as you sense of, not only what she felt, but also why she was there?
BUXTON: Well, I think there are several things going on. One is she wants to support her husband, because I'm sure like lots of us, we still love our husbands and want to support them in this struggle, but also she was there inside feeling torn, confused - you know, what role to take, but presenting the couple image.
OLBERMANN: What is the best personal result possible now for the two of them? As individuals, and as people who are married?
BUXTON: Well, each of them has to really search their souls for what they want and need and value most, and communicate that honestly to each other and then work out what is best.
OLBERMANN: Is there any idea, is there any statistical measure of how common a situation this is in the United States?
BUXTON: Well, the best figures we have is that there are at least two million couples who ever have faced this, in maybe in the past, maybe in the friend - in the present or the future.
OLBERMANN: The speech yesterday, produced a dozen headlines, a dozen different topics, but from your experience - experiences and based on the people with whom you work in these kinds of situations, what was most important about that speech yesterday and the events surrounding that speech?
BUXTON: I think what was most important was his admitting his error and his failing and asking for forgiveness. A lot of gay husbands and lesbian wives aren't that forthcoming in acknowledging their own accountability. And then seeing her by his side smiling, being there for him, despite the inner turmoil which she must have had, if for nothing else, the infidelity.
OLBERMANN: Is there a sense this might turn into a positive for people who are trapped in similar situations? Or is that too much to hope for?
BUXTON: Oh, you mean this event?
OLBERMANN: Um hmm.
BUXTON: Oh, I think this - they're the poster couple of what happens when society says that you really should get married with a man and a woman.
OLBERMANN: Amity Pierce Buxton, executive director of the Straight Spouse Network. Thank you for your perspective and thank you for your time, tonight.
BUXTON: You're welcome.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN now past the No. 4 story. Coming up: Is it live or is it Memorex? No testimony in the Scott Peterson case, but oh boy, more tapes. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Ahead here on COUNTDOWN, a late ruling in the Kobe Bryant case, and our No. 3 story, the new orange terror alert. An anonymous source inside the White House has told a dozen different reporters that there's no imminent threat. Is someone playing politics?
And later, a look back at the week that was. How much did you pay attention? How much did I pay attention? Why did we have to pay attention to that? News quiz time. All that ahead, but let's take one break from the grim news of the day. Here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.
No. 3: Richard Thompson, the CEO of Meow Mix cat food and the man behind the newest owner of a restaurant in Times Square, the Meow Mix Cafe. Patrons will be allowed to bring their kitties in to dine with them.
People food for people, cat food for cats - we hope.
No. 2: Sheriff John Price of Chestertown, Maryland. He says they finally solved the mystery of the ghost haunting the Kent County Courthouse, a white blob seen night after night on a security monitor, floating up and down the steps. It's a bug on the camera lens. Rocket scientists in that town.
No. 1: Twenty-two-year-old Joey Hopkins of London, according to the newspaper the "Sun," he awoke from a 41-day coma after a car accident. He looked up at his mother and spoke his first words. First one began with an "f," the second one was "off." Mom says she cried tears of joy because it was her sign that her little Joey is going to be all right! It's also an unofficial motto here on Fridays on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: A White House official admits the government has no evidence that al-Qaeda plans to attack the five financial buildings that were put on orange threat alerts two weeks ago this Sunday. This contradicts what the president's own Homeland Security advisor said five days ago and follows by barely 24 hour, a research study indicating that the voters who are most afraid of terrorist acts are the ones least likely to vote for reelecting Mr. Bush.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN: The asterisk on the terror warning:
"I have not seen an indication of an imminent operation," said Mr. or Ms. "X." We don't know who he or she is, and we don't know what he or she does, but he or she is a White House official who is authorized to speak for the Bush administration about terror to reporters from a dozen news organizations.
A second such official - also speaking off the record - told the Associated Press that the White House would have issued those alerts anyway, even if it had known at the time that the surveillance of the five buildings did not point to any imminent attack.
Just this past Sunday, the White House Homeland Security Adviser, Frances Townsend, told FOX NEWS SUNDAY that the reconnaissance at the five buildings was not only evidence of an ongoing operation, but part of the plot to attack this country before the elections.
"I think the good news to this terror threat alert is that we are in front of them," Townsend said on Sunday. "I certainly think that by our actions now that we have disrupted it."
To the layman, this sounds pretty different than what we were all told when individual zip codes in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia were placed on alert, and soldiers with machine guns were ringed around the Citigroup Center.
How about to the pros? P.J. Crowley is a national security expert with the Center for American Progress and was special assistant to President Clinton for national security affairs.
P.J., good evening. Welcome back.
_P.J. CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: _
OLBERMANN: Well, what happened here do we suppose?
CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it appears the administration may well know what to do about terrorism, but they certainly don't know what to say about it.
Once again, every time they open their mouth, they seem to damage their credibility. This time they've actually damaged national security in the process, because they know they had a credibility problem.
They decide to reveal where this information came from in Pakistan. But in doing so, they actually compromised a Pakistani intelligence operation where they had flipped this computer guru from al Qaeda, who was actually giving them a valuable window into that network.
OLBERMANN: When those alerts went into place two weeks ago Sunday, I asked a question that nobody had a very good answer to, and I still haven't heard it.
How would we know when the alert was no longer justified? Did we need to have people in custody with signed confessions?
Or do we, is it prove - proves just need some anonymous White House official saying, I have not seen an indication of an imminent operation?
CROWLEY: Well, I tell you, I think that probably having this kind of specific information, it was very logical for the administration to actually act on it.
But, obviously, when Governor Ridge came out and on a Sunday afternoon just spiked the attention of the nation on this thing, and then obviously failed to tell the American people the perspective about this being casing information from three or four years ago, they just further dug themselves a hole in terms of how to, in one sense or another, convey threat information without scaring or confusing the American people.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, you've worked in a White House. Its detractors might have disagreed with this, but history will probably view it as a very successful White House in terms of politics.
You've seen this from the inside. Very bluntly, in your opinion, is this quiet kind of about-face on the orange alert evidence that this White House is playing politics with terror warnings?
CROWLEY: I think actually, in this particular case, they tried to do the right thing. Obviously, they executed it very badly.
I think this wasn't an announcement about specific threat information. I think they could have done it a lot more quietly. I think some of their prior announcements back in May and July were absolutely about politics.
OLBERMANN: P.J. Crowley, former national security affairs special assistant to the resident, now of the Center for American Progress. As always, sir, many thanks.
CROWLEY: Always a pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Meantime, there is another one of those coincidences that will have you shaking your head if you support the president about domestic security, and shaking all over if you do not.
If that statement flies in the face of logic, well, just yesterday came news of a study to be presented next month by two political science professors at Michigan State University.
It concludes that the terror/political calculus has changed, that the more voters fear another terrorist attack, the more likely they are to vote for John Kerry.
Details were released in advance to the "Chicago Sun Times." And the authors conclude that the connection between concern over terror and support for the current administration has been severed.
They sampled Michigan residents, statistically weighted, they say, to reflect the national population. It is tough to put it into hard numbers, but here we go.
Asked, who are you voting for in November, 51 percent said Mr. Bush.
They were then asked, how concerned are you about more terrorist attacks? Twenty-four percent said "very," 44 percent said "somewhat," 32 percent said "not at all concerned."
They then calculated support for the president in the groups at the two edges. Very concerned about terrorism - 38 percent said they'd vote for Bush. Not at all concerned about terrorism - 76 percent said they'd vote for Bush.
MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, has been good enough to join us tonight, as well. Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I want to talk about those Michigan results and whether or not they're valid in a moment. But first, valid or not.
During the "Chicago Sun Times" yesterday under a big headline -
"Terrorism fears no longer helping Bush."
And the next day - today - the headline is, "Official: No evidence attack is imminent."
The sequence of events here. Is this just a remarkable coincidence?
And do I have to be an unreconstructed paranoid to think otherwise?
CRAWFORD: Well, it does seem that when it turns out it's politically advantageous to them for us not to be scared, suddenly they don't want us to be scared anymore. It is an easy conclusion to draw, but a difficult one to prove.
In a lot of the polls I've seen, though, well over a third - 35 percent in one recent poll - said they do think there's politics behind the terror alert.
OLBERMANN: To the substance of the poll, one of the pollsters we talked to about this research, Lee Miringhoff, who runs the Marist College polls, said the results don't jibe with other polls that he sees, that that connection between fearing terrorism and supporting the incumbent is still there.
Apart from sounding counterintuitive, do the results also seem wrong to you?
CRAWFORD: Well, they do upset my applecart in a way, because I based my own sense of personal illusion of personal security living in a target city on the notion that perhaps al Qaeda was just sophisticated enough to think that the best way to hurt Bush was not to attack.
So, I always hope maybe that would mean they wouldn't attack, if they knew it would only strengthen politically - strengthen him politically - if it did. So now, this has just really turned my whole illusion on its head.
OLBERMANN: I'm sorry. What does...
CRAWFORD: Yes. Happy Friday the 13th.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, we're in the same boat.
What does it do back in this country, though, to the political calculus and the - I used that term twice, I'm sorry - but the whole presidential race, if, in fact, there is some other survey out there?
And, obviously, the two parties are constantly polling and asking questions just like this and trying to find these numbers, and not necessarily telling everybody.
If really it is true that the political beneficiary of fear of another attack is not George Bush but John Kerry, what the hell does that do to the rest of the campaign?
CRAWFORD: Well, I think it does challenge the notion that a lot of us did have, that an attack would strengthen President Bush.
And as I think about it, I can make it make sense in my mind, because what's happened since 9/11. A lot of us based that earlier opinion that an attack helps him on what happened after 9/11, when he went up to 90 percent.
What's happened since then, a couple of things. The September 11 Commission has called into question so much about the Bush administration's handling of terror threats before 9/11.
And then also, I think people are not tracking many of the warnings that are coming out of this administration. The whole notion that you could be attacked any time, anywhere, so go about your business as usual, is just not making sense to people.
And I think the color chart has really outlived its usefulness. It's become something of a joke. I mean, at this point, when it's orange alert, maybe we should just all wear orange. It might even be more effective than what we're doing.
OLBERMANN: Well, it's another bad outcome, certainly.
CRAWFORD: Yes. Well, the fashion industry, I think, is thinking orange is very hip now.
OLBERMANN: We'll bring you back some day when we want to talk some fashion, too.
Craig Crawford of MSNBC and Congressional Quarterly. As always, great thanks, and it's a nice time. Thanks, Craig.
OLBERMANN: There are other polls tonight with equally confusing, equally contradictory results.
A Gallup poll taken Monday through Wednesday of this week showing the president leading Kerry 50 to 47 percent, reflecting only the slightest change. Bush down by one percentage point since late last month.
His lead now exactly matching the margin of error. But as every Republican and every Democrat relearned four years ago, it ain't volume. It's location.
And a Quinnipiac College poll in the critical swing state of Florida shows Kerry leading the president 47-41. As of last month, that was a tie at 43 percent each.
And among Latino voters in Florida, with a remarkable 97 percent saying they are already decided, it's Kerry by 10 points.
Caveat on Florida. Volume there may not decide the state. It may come down to county by county.
If 81 days is plenty long enough for the polls to stand on their heads and sing "Sweet Sue," then it's also plenty long enough for the first wave of attack ads to seem mild in comparison to their successors.
New ones now. John Kerry is called, quote, another wishy-washy, rich, white politician, in radio spots running on urban stations in about a dozen swing states, and funded largely by a top Republican contributor.
The radio ads are produced by "People of Color United," with the substantial financial backing, according to the "Washington Post," of this gentleman - J. Patrick Rooney - the medical and health savings accounts impresario, who happens not to be of color.
One of the spots concludes, boy, does Kerry come across as rich, white and wishy-washy.
Here's another in its entirety.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Kerry's record on helping blacks and hiring blacks is pretty weak.
So, what's he saying to prove he isn't taking us for granted? He told MTV he likes rap music. He told the American Urban Radio Network that he'd like to be the next black president.
His wife says she's African-American. While technically true, I don't believe a white woman raised in Africa, surrounded by servants, qualifies.
I think he is taking us for granted. Stay tuned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paid for by People of Color United.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now, there has been another girlie-man sound bite. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lived up to his assertion that he would not apologize for having used the term to describe his opponents in the state legislature.
He said it again. Just as the first time he used it in 1992, it was on the stump for George Bush. George W. Bush, this time, obviously.
And this time at a dinner in Santa Monica, California. The governor making the remark slightly self-deprecating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: I've been organizing Republicans for Bush-Cheney. I've been organizing Austrian-born bodybuilders for Bush-Cheney.
I have been organizing girlie-men for Bush-Cheney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What about cat men? Would you appear in public with a black cat on Friday the 13th?
Secretary of State Colin Powell did, because this Bombay cat, voted the best cat in the country by the Cat Fanciers Association, happens also to be named Colin Powell.
They met today in the State Department's treaty room. But afterwards, the secretary did not sing, and the cat did not meow, because, as the departmental spokesman had noted, the media opportunity was, quote, for pictures, not dialogue.
COUNTDOWN past the third story. Up next, the audio saga that is the relationship of Scott Peterson and Amber Frey.
Tonight, you at home get to hear the conversation where Frey confronts Peterson about his missing wife for the first time.
Also, remembering Julia Child. An extraordinary woman in the kitchen, with an extraordinary outlook on life.
Stories ahead. First, your COUNTDOWN (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sound bites in a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you. I love you.
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: A month ago, the governor of Connecticut resigned due to corruption. Today, the governor of New Jersey resigns due to gayness, or whatever it was.
I say this now to Governor George Pataki of New York. Corrupt or gay, sir?
DAN AKROYD, ACTOR, AS JULIA CHILD: I'm Julia Child. And today we're going to make a holiday - oh, oh. Now I've done it. I've slit the dickens out of my finger. Well, I'm glad in a way this happened. You know, I've (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: The court was dark, as they say in Redwood City, California. The case of the State of California v. Scott Peterson resumes Monday. More Amber Frey, more new tapes.
But thanks to the miracle of surreptitiously recorded conversations, the bizarre, twisted, soap opera-like subplot advances, nonetheless.
Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN. The case is literally deadly serious. But the cheesy line captured on those tapes swerves over into the oncoming lane of dark humor.
There may have been some uneasiness here last night, when I said that one of the Amber and Scott tapes was a funnier version of Stan Freberg's classic sketch, John and Marsha. And I understand that. Upon reflection, it wasn't funnier. Stan Freberg is still the king.
It's January 6, 2003. Amber Frey is on to Scott Peterson, yet Peterson is still trying to wriggle off the hook.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FREY: Are you listening?
PETERSON: I am.
FREY: You came to me early in December and told me that you had lost your wife. What was that about?
PETERSON: She - I mean, she's alive.
PETERSON: She's alive.
FREY: Where? She's alive? Where?
PETERSON: In Modesto.
You deserve so much better. There is no question, you deserve so much better.
FREY: Yes. And I deserve to understand, an explanation of why you told me you'd lost your wife, and this was the first holidays you'd spend without her. That was December 9th that you told me this. And now, all of a sudden, your wife's missing? Are you kidding?
Did you hear me?
PETERSON: I did. I - I - I don't know what to say to you. I...
FREY: I think an explanation would be a start. You sat there in front of me and cried, and broke down.
I sat there and held your hand, Scott, and comforted you. And you're
FREY:... lying to me. Again. You're lying to me about lying.
PETERSON: I lied to you about traveling, yeah.
FREY: But I'm saying, now, was Laci aware of the situation about me?
FREY: She was?
FREY: Really? How did she respond about it?
FREY: An eight month woman, fine? About another woman...
PETERSON: You don't know all the facts. Amber, you don't know all the facts.
FREY: Oh! She was OK with it, but you continued to lie to me and couldn't be with me at the holidays. But she was OK? She was fine with knowing about me?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Le mot juste.
In other legal news tonight, the Kobe Bryant trial will go on as scheduled. The trial slated to begin on the 29th of this month. The judge ruling late this evening against the prosecution and its request to delay that trial indefinitely.
The district attorney had argued that the inadvertent release of some of the details of the accuser's sexual history could only taint the potential jury pool.
But in a victory for the prosecution, the judge also ruling tonight that Bryant's defense attorneys will not be allowed to talk about the accuser's past suicide attempts or any information about any medications she had been prescribed or past alcohol use or past drug use.
To the news now on intentional entertainment. We call it keeping tabs. And for the first time since ABC premiered Jimmy Kimmel's show, there will be a change in the late night talk lineup on the broadcast networks.
Craig Kilborn, who rose from sharing a computer with me at ESPN to following David Letterman on CBS, will leave his show within a month. He has hosted "The Late Late Show" for five years, says it's great.
But, quote, I simply want to try something new. I can now focus on writing and producing different television projects I haven't had time for.
All the best, Craigers. But, honestly, eight years ago he still referred to writing the script as "typing" it.
The TV gossip mill suggests that this sets up or was set up by a possible move of Conan O'Brien from NBC to CBS, with O'Brien getting some kind of designation as Letterman's eventual successor.
Kilborn insists this is not a salary dispute. Wait. He got paid to do that?
To conclude our back-to-school week, reminiscing about the top moments of the newscast's first 16 months, who better to recall than the star we helped launch by repeatedly having him on to sing?
William Hung, the American Idol reject, told us to say "hi" to all the viewers. "Thank you to all the fans," he said, "who have been supporting me. I'm having fun in China filming this movie. I'll have more performances in the U.S., as soon as I finish this project."
Movie? He's making a film with the Chinese movie star, Nancy Sit, called "My Crazy Mother."
One report said the publicity he's gotten in Asia dwarfs what he had received here. But he still hopes to return to his studies at Cal-Berkeley. Perhaps by then, he'll own the school.
And an era has closed in cooking and in television. She was a chef who made it to the cover of "Time" magazine and into a musical revue based on her life and on to "Saturday Night Live" and a priceless routine by Dan Akroyd.
Julia Child has died at the age of 91. Her size - 6'2" - and her dialect - a product of Pasadena, California, Smith College, Sri Lanka and the Cordon Bleu in Paris - seem distant. But she was extraordinarily accessible. And she tried to make cooking that way.
Her specialty was French cuisine. She wrote about it in the phenomenally successful 1961 book, "The French Chef Cookbook."
Two years later, at the age of 51, she made her television debut as the French chef. Two hundred and six episodes followed, and many specials and series thereafter - the last just eight years ago.
Julia Child died early this morning in her home in an assisted living center outside Los Angeles. The cause was kidney failure. On Sunday, she would have been 92 years old.
OLBERMANN: Let's take a timeout from the many woes of the day - terrorist threats and resigning governors and hurricanes included - to instead give you your weekly opportunity to inflict as many woes on me as possible.
It's your questions and our weekly edition of pin the tail on the newscaster, or as it is officially and euphemistically known...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Have We Learned?
OLBERMANN: And here again is the M.C. of What Have We Learned, the one and only Monica Novotny.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Are you ready?
NOVOTNY: First we'll start with the viewers, as always. We begin by reminding you that, if you would like to test yourself on the news stories of the week, go to our Web site. That's countdown.msnbc.com for the official news quiz.
And while you're there, if you would like to take part in What Have We Learned, click on e-mail the show. Type news quiz in the subject line and send us your questions for Keith.
Now, if you're so inspired, throw in a punishment, in case the host ever loses.
Before we begin, a quick reminder of the rules. We'll put two minutes on the clock and offer up as many of the questions as time allows. All in an attempt to chump - to stump...
NOVOTNY:... our charming host.
NOVOTNY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the answers.
OLBERMANN: I do the chumping around here, honey.
NOVOTNY: If he answers at least half correctly - and I think we're being rather generous there - Mr. Countdown wins a prize. But if the boss fails to come up with the answers to half of the questions, he loses. And punishments will be doled out accordingly.
Are you ready?
OLBERMANN: I feel sufficiently chumpish, yes. Thank you for the break, though, that this represents in this awful news day. Go ahead.
NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock, please. Here we go.
Number one from Susan in Illinois. What did Koko the gorilla do this week?
OLBERMANN: Koko the gorilla got a tooth fixed after signing that she had a toothache.
NOVOTNY: That's the one.
How old is Koko?
OLBERMANN: Koko is 33?
From Carol. What is Scott Peterson's favorite movie?
OLBERMANN: It's "The Shining."
NOVOTNY: That's the one.
OLBERMANN: Which is a bad thing to say when you're on trial for murder.
NOVOTNY: From Beth in Mississippi. The 2004 world sauna champion spent 12 minutes in the box at what temperature? Plus or minus 10 degrees.
OLBERMANN: Three thousand degrees. I have no idea.
NOVOTNY: Two hundred thirty. I'm sorry.
OLBERMANN: OK. Move on.
NOVOTNY: From Sharon in Texas. A cat got into a cockpit causing the pilot to turn around. You remember that story?
OLBERMANN: You bet I did.
NOVOTNY: Where did the plane originate, and where was it headed?
OLBERMANN: It was from Brussels, Brussels in Belgium. I know they were going to - do I get half if I just say Brussels and quit? Well, just give me half if I say Brussels and quit.
NOVOTNY: Judges? The judges will have to decide.
OLBERMANN: Ah, come on!
NOVOTNY: We're moving on.
OLBERMANN: It's Oslo.
NOVOTNY: To Vienna.
OLBERMANN: Vienna, all right.
NOVOTNY: From Sean and Janice. What is the breed of the dog that Homeland Security hopes will help take a bite out of terrorism?
OLBERMANN: It is an American shepherd, even though there is no such thing.
OLBERMANN: That's four out of six.
NOVOTNY: Bonus question here. Who was the first American to fly into space?
OLBERMANN: The first American to fly into space was Alan Shepard.
NOVOTNY: That's the one.
Number six from Lisa in Ohio.
OLBERMANN: Thank God, I'm not a chump.
NOVOTNY: What do the initials in the acronym NAAFA stand for?
NOVOTNY: You will recall that little story I did?
OLBERMANN: Oh. North American Assertive Fat Association.
NOVOTNY: Oh, you're so wrong.
OLBERMANN: I know.
NOVOTNY: National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.
OLBERMANN: All right.
NOVOTNY: Thanks for trying.
OLBERMANN: It's assertive, acceptance, what do you want from me...
NOVOTNY: Number seven, from Rhonda in Massachusetts.
Which city has a problem with amorous crabs?
OLBERMANN: The amorous crab, coming across - there are several, actually. But I'm remembering it now as someplace in Florida, but I don't remember where.
NOVOTNY: Oh, yes, OK. That's going to be wrong.
Number eight, a...
OLBERMANN: Where was it?
NOVOTNY: Coral Gables.
OLBERMANN: All right.
NOVOTNY: What did Barney, the president's dog, do to the fish that was caught on that fishing show?
OLBERMANN: He was supposed to be chewing on it, eating it.
NOVOTNY: He actually just licked it.
OLBERMANN: Just licked it.
NOVOTNY: That's it.
Number nine. How much will a jacket from - oh, time's up.
All right. And where are we, judges?
OLBERMANN: I see five out of nine.
NOVOTNY: Five correct...
OLBERMANN: Five out of nine.
NOVOTNY:... out of nine.
OLBERMANN: Out of nine.
NOVOTNY: You are a winner.
OLBERMANN: You betcha.
NOVOTNY: Would you like to see your prize?
NOVOTNY: Given that you've won. We've kept it hidden here. In honor of Friday the 13th.
OLBERMANN: And then we'll get back to the - oh, very...
NOVOTNY: Your very own, lovely Jason mask.
OLBERMANN: A suitable remembrance of several bosses in my career.
But we don't need to go any further than that.
NOVOTNY: I don't know what that - oh, they want you to put it on.
OLBERMANN: Now, well, they want a lot of things around here.
Monica, thanks so much.
NOVOTNY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: There is another temporary edition of our temporary breather, the weekly excitement that we weekly that's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Have We Learned?
OLBERMANN: Learn to roll that tape on cue.
Now, back to business. We will sign this program off and rejoin you immediately for an MSNBC special report, "Hurricane Charley."
That's COUNTDOWN. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.