'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 17
Guest: Larry Johnson, Eric Schmitt, Bernadine Healy, Richard Wolffe, Amy Henry, Nick Warnock
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Help wanted. The president signs the intelligence reform bill. Now all he needs is for the Senate to OK a new director of national intelligence, deputy director, general counsel to the director, director of the national counterterrorism center, oh and a director of homeland security still.
Celebrex, the arthritis remedy may double the risk of heart attacks yet it's still on the market. What does the FDA do if not protect us from stuff like this?
The man they claim fixed the first Ukrainian election says he will not accept the outcome of the next Ukrainian election unless he wins. How he could damage relations between the U.S. and Russia.
And, yes, it's the ultimate home Christmas decoration, a live Santa on your roof. All that and more now on Countdown.
Good evening. The good news especially for the families of 9/11 victims who pushed so personally and so hard for it, is that President Bush this morning signed the legislation that will restructure this nation's unfocused intelligence community. The bad news in the wake of the Bernard Kerik debacle the White House now faces the challenge of filling four more intelligence positions that must be approved by the Senate.
Our fifth story on the Countdown challenge indeed. As the international news service Reuters points out, at yesterday's presidential conference on financial challenges for today and tomorrow, the word challenges on the front of the screen in front of the president was spelled wrong. Challenge is spelled with an E after those two L's. The word they have there may be challenge, which is what Inspector Clouseaux (ph) used to accept in those "Pink Panther" movies.
No matter how you spell it out, the key to the newly signed bill is the new position of director of national intelligence. Not only is he or she to act as the overseer of the 15 agencies which constitute the American intelligence community and as the president's personal counter terrorism advisor, but this morning, just before the president signed the legislation "The Washington Post" reported that the new cabinet-level appointee may take over the task of preparing what is called the president's daily brief, the PDB. It is the 20-page summary of intelligence items presented each morning to Mr. Bush. It has always been the CIA's job, what was in its PDB. From August 6, 2001, an item headlined "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." became one of the centerpieces of the 9/11 Commission whose work as a whole inspired the very intelligence reforms today signed into law.
But apart from getting the very territorial world of intelligence to accept another set of initials, the president's most immediate concern, filling the number of new job openings that need fannies in the seats almost immediately. In addition to that national director of intelligence, DNI, the DNI is going to need a principal deputy, a general counsel and someone to run the new national counterterrorism center. All of those improvements, appointments rather requiring Senate approval and oh, by the way there's still that opening at the Department of Homeland Security to fill, the one from which Mr. Kerik appeared to be a lock for all of two days.
Unfortunately, the administration is 1-2 on its recent intelligence nominations. Homeland security secretary designate Kerik did not make it. CIA Director Porter Goss did, but apparently is not winning friends nor influencing people at the agency. Joining me to discuss who could, should or will fill the four new positions and the still open one at homeland is Larry Johnson, the former CIA officer and former deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism. Larry, good evening.
LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Are there enough people to fill all these jobs and if so who might they be?
JOHNSON: This is a jobs program right now for senior Washington bureaucrats. This is going to lay a layer of bureaucracy on top of what is already an enormous bureaucracy. They're going to have to go - if you're going to find someone really competent to handle this, you're going to have to turn to someone along the lines of say Admiral Studeman (ph) who at one point ran the National Security Agency, maybe bring Bob Gates back from retirement out of Texas, someone who understands the intelligence community, because this makes Jabba the Hut look like a skinny person. This is a big, bloated organization, multiple organizations.
OLBERMANN: So the DNI and his staff if they are to have any credibility in intelligence or serve any purpose, they're going to have to be drawn for places like the CIA, the NSA, the various counterterrorism desks. Then what is the point of the DNI?
JOHNSON: That is an excellent question. Because the reality was, this is what the director of central intelligence was supposed to be and so now they're creating another organization. When you probe beneath this law, Keith, in one year according to the law, this director of national intelligence has to be housed at some place other than any of the existing 15 intelligence agencies. Well, guess what? One year from now we're going to have 16 intelligence agencies and you're going to see people moving up the slots. You now have, I counted at least 12 new senior level positions that have to be appointed by the president. Those are senior executive or senior intelligence service. We're talking the equivalent of a one-star, two-star in military terms. So these are going to be six-figure incomes, heavy competition but they're not eliminating the jobs at the CIA, or the defense intelligence agency or at the National Security Agency or at the FBI. So it is definitely adding personnel out there.
OLBERMANN: Can they all mix? I mean it's odd to be considering quoting Rodney King in this context but no matter who fills the job there, are they going to say at the end of it, can't we all get along and somehow reduce the bureaucracy instead of adding to it?
JOHNSON: They can in theory. I've been working this, still, for the last 10 years. I left government but I've still been involved with interagency joint training and exercise operations. And with all good intentions on all parties, nonetheless we have to recognize that we're dealing with different species of beings. Having the FBI, CIA, and say the National Security Agency together is like having, or the Pentagon with them, is like having sharks, tigers and eagles. They're all predators. But they live in completely different environments. They do different things and you can't just all put them in one room and hope that they're going to get along because they invariably have different missions and tasks that are not compatible.
OLBERMANN: Well, we have. Larry Johnson, former deputy director of the State Department office of counterterrorism. As always, Larry, great, thanks for your time.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And then there is the matter of Mr. Kerik. Believe it or not, we are not trying to spin this story out to make it last. It just keeps happening. The city of New York has now launched an official investigation to explore any ethical lapses committed by the big apple's former top cop including why Mr. Kerik did not it appears file a background form when he was appointed police commissioner in August, 2000. Many have wondered whether the White House asked the New York City department of investigation about Mr. Kerik before President Bush nominated him.
City officials say the agency was not contacted by the White House either before or after Kerik's nomination and it beggars (ph) the imagination to realize that that nomination was withdrawn only one week ago tonight. But it is the disaster that keeps on giving and now many are wondering about its spillover onto others, specifically what about Rudy? Were it not for Rudolph Giuliani, chances are Bernie Kerik would still be an undercover narcotics cop somewhere and some now feel were it not for Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani might still be a contender for president.
Speculation in the New York tabloids has Giuliani setting his sights a little lower, now pondering a run for governor in 2006 instead of a White House bid two years later. Adding insult to mayoral injury, it looks like the top contender for homeland security is now LA police Chief William Bratton (ph). Just yesterday, Tom Ridge, the current homeland security secretary said Bratton could be a capable successor. Giuliani might disagree. Mr. Bratton was his first police commissioner in New York until Giuliani forced him to resign in 1996 when apparently upset that Bratton was getting a lot of the credit for fighting crime in the city.
And for those of you scoring at home or even if you're alone, the number of republican senators to step forward and flog Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld now stands at five. Add Norm Coleman to the list. The freshman from Minnesota telling the Associated Press he is deeply troubled by what is happening with the Defense Department, voicing, quote, concerns about Rumsfeld's leadership. Specifically because of how Secretary Rumsfeld has handled the lack of armored vehicles for troops in Iraq and questioning about that, but Coleman said he is not calling for Rumsfeld to resign at least not yet, quoting him, he is the secretary. He has to take responsibility, so I put this in his lap. I am not happy. I'm not at the stage where I think he should step down, but I have very strong reservations and Evan Bayh has even stronger ones. The senator from Indiana became the third Democrat to call for Rumsfeld's resignation.
All this did not start when specialist Wilson asked his question of Mr. Rumsfeld in Kuwait. But the check listing of republican Senators sure did. Eric Schmitt, military correspondent of the "New York Times" was at the Rumsfeld meet and greet in Kuwait where that question from specialist Wilson was asked and he joins us now. Mr. Schmitt, good evening.
ERICK SCHMITT, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: People keep insisting that Secretary Rumsfeld's job is not in danger but three days ago, the criticism was just Hagel and McCain, then it was Hagel, McCain, Collins and Lott. Now it's Hagel, McCain, Collins, Lott and Coleman. Is this a snowball now?
SCHMITT: The grumbling is clearly growing particularly from the Republican quarters. I would discount what Democrats say because many of them have always had criticism and sharp words for the secretary. But look at what the Republicans are saying here. As you pointed out, Senator Coleman is not calling for his resignation. Nobody has to this point, but what you're seeing here is disagreement not over policy, not over Iraq, per se, for instance, in many of these cases, but in the way the Defense Department and Secretary Rumsfeld as head of the department, is overseeing protection for the troops. And frankly his response to the soldier's question the other day, which was seen by many as calloused in addressing troops who were about to go into Iraq. So this has crossed a line I think for many members of Congress.
OLBERMANN: As you point out other than Trent Lott, the Republicans had all been quick to add in their criticisms we're not calling for anybody to get fired or to resign. Is the likeliest outcome here what Senator Lott suggested, a change he said in about a year within a year's time but not an immediate change?
SCHMITT: That's been the speculation certainly among the Pentagon press corps although Secretary Rumsfeld has made it quite clear and he did on this last trip that he would very much like to serve out I think a full four-year term under the president. He and the president spoke. He told us that they agreed that he would stay on but they did not discuss how long he would say. But Secretary Rumsfeld clearly relishes his job and enjoys it and I think he would want to stay on as long as he can. Of course the ultimate call would be the White House's.
OLBERMANN: Is there the possibility that his tenure could end earlier even than Trent Lott suggests? Is this thing going to get to such a critical mass that the president has to cut losses?
SCHMITT: Well, it's tough to see that right now, Keith. I think what you've seen again is a lot of grumbling from Republicans and Democrats but the Congress is out right now. If anything that works in the secretary's favor. I think the Senate will be holding hearings next month but they're not in session now. That is something to give momentum to some of these doubts and perhaps increase the heat on Secretary Rumsfeld to leave. I think one thing to watch would be this weekend on Sunday, Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will be coming on one of the Sunday talk shows. He is just back from Iraq and it will be very interesting to see what he says about Secretary Rumsfeld.
OLBERMANN: So the - does the timing depend on how well, perhaps, the elections go on January 30? Is that a function, the Iraqi elections?
SCHMITT: I think that's part of it Keith. I think there is certainly no desire on the part of the administration to dump Secretary Rumsfeld before the elections. I don't think there is any desire to get rid of him any time soon after that. But I think assuming the elections go well, I think they'll be, you'll see, perhaps, and people are still upset with Secretary Rumsfeld, then you might see some additional calls for him to leave sooner than the end of the year.
OLBERMANN: Eric Schmitt, military correspondent of the "New York Times." We greatly appreciate your insight, sir.
SCHMITT: You're welcome.
OLBERMANN: Good night. One programming note here. "Hardball's" Chris Matthews paying tribute to American soldiers wounded in the line of duty, Iraq and elsewhere, the MSNBC holiday special, "A Soldier's Journey Home" airing tonight at 9:00 Eastern. If you'd like to make a contribution to the care of those soldiers, you can do so by contacting the people at the Walter Reed Medical Center at a phone as you see there 202 782-2071 or by logging onto the Fisher House website at fisherhouse, that's one word, dot org.
First Vioxx, now Celebrex. Pfizer announcing the popular pain killer may double the risk of heart problems. At least one test showed that. That followed up with news that they are not pulling the drug off the market.
And the crisis in Ukraine. The prime minister, the man accused of rigging the run-off, has a dire warning about what could happen and will happen if he does not win the second time around. It could have a huge impact on U.S.-Russian relations. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As James Thurber once remarked, periodically it seems as if parts of the government are being run by the least reliable members of your own family. Our number four story on the Countdown, who is running the ship at the FDA? First Vioxx is pulled off the shelves as a stroke and heart attack risk then scientists warn its medical cousin, Celebrex could be equally damaging. Then there is a sudden shortage of flu vaccine. Today, Celebrex's manufacturer says one test indicated it doubled the risk of heart attack, but it did not recall the drug and now word that so few people have gotten the flu shot that the current supply may go to waste. The FDA and the vaccine in a moment. First the Celebrex disaster as reported by our medical correspondent Bob Bazzel.
BOB BAZZEL, NBC NEWS NEW YORK: Helped by an enormous advertising campaign, Celebrex has become so popular that 20 million prescriptions have been written so far this year. This according to the research firm IMS Health. Based on today's announcement about heart attack risk, some experts are saying many people should stop taking it.
DR. WAYNE RAY, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: They should seek other alternatives for their aches and pains whenever possible.
BAZZELL: A study to see if the drug could reduce the risk for colon cancer found an increased risk for heart attack and stroke by 2.5 times in one dose and 3.4 times in a higher dose. A second similar study did not find the danger. The CEO of Pfizer, the manufacturer, says there are no plans to withdraw the drug.
HANK McKINNELL, PFIZER CHMN & CEO: What we have is a very surprising result from one of two studies, the relevance of which for the vast majority of patients benefiting from treatment with Celebrex we don't yet fully understand.
BAZZELL: But the results are very similar to the study that led Merck to withdraw Vioxx in September. A third drug in the same class, Bextra, also made by Pfizer, has also been linked to heart problems. Some scientists have been warning of the risk in this class of drugs called Cox II inhibitors.
DR. GARRETT FITZGERALD, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: This new information about Celebrex is not a surprise. We had predicted that this might happen more than five years ago.
BAZZELL: The FDA says it is studying the results for possible regulatory action. Drugs like Celebrex were designed to relieve pain without upsetting the stomach but experts say many people take them in response to ads and can still get adequate pain relief from other drugs that cost a fraction as much. Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: And then there is the treatment everybody wanted which we were all urged to skip and of which there is now something resembling a serpent. Two months after telling most of us to forego flu shots after contamination decimated the supply, U.S. health officials are worried now that tens of thousands of vaccine dosages could go to waste. The vaccine advisory committee today recommended easing restrictions to include adults as young as 50 and people in close contact with high risk groups, a brilliant idea already executed by many states after more than half of high-risk citizens the vaccine was being saved for did not show up to get it.
Apparently all that talk of a shortage, some of it from President Bush during the debates, worked too well and it produced a surplus. So who is minding the drug store? Joining us now to examine the big picture of drug regulation in this country and also particularly the Celebrex situation is the former head of the National Institutes of Health and former president of the American Red Cross, Dr. Bernadine Healy. Dr. Healy, thanks for your time tonight.
DR. BERNADINE HEALY, FMR DIR., NATL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Hi, Keith.
How are you?
OLBERMANN: About Celebrex and the entire class of Cox II inhibitor drugs, what advice do you have for the people who have prescriptions for them and what advice do you have for the doctors about prescribing it now?
HEALY: Well, first, no one should take any pill whether it's prescription or over-the-counter unless they really need it. With regard to the Cox II inhibitors, this class which now includes Celebrex, it is associated with a slight risk of heart problems and that means anyone who has heart disease and anyone who has ever had a heart attack, anyone who has risk factors for heart disease should just avoid taking Celebrex. Remember, it is on the market.
The second thing is, when is it - when is it that you should take it? It should not be a first line drug. If you're having aches and pains start with aspirin, start with ibuprofen. Start with naprosen (ph) These are drugs that are older drug. They're, more time tested. However, they can take - they can be pretty rough on your stomach. They can cause a lot of stomach upset and that is when you move to the higher technology, newer developed drugs like the Cox II. I think the important message here, too, Keith, is that these Cox II drugs are not demon drugs. They're not devil drugs. They're actually a very important class of drugs, but they have to be used cautiously and wisely, not as the first line. All drugs are dangerous. We have to be smart enough in knowing how to use them. Use them in the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
OLBERMANN: But so many people and for my own experiences with both of these medicines, with both of these prescriptions and a very reliable doctor, I tend to think some of the subtlety there gets lost. Vioxx, and we spend a lot of time depending on the FDA and the other health agencies and this sequence of events where Vioxx is recalled, Celebrex is not recalled. It's famine to feast on flu shots, people might look at this and say can we have confidence that the FDA and the NIH and CDC are looking out for people medically?
HEALY: Well, I mean it certainly does erode confidence and trust on the part of the public and that is a very important concern. I think the important thing to do, however, is to not blame the individual agencies but fix the problem. And in fixing the problem, you bring them along. You need their support. You need their confidence. They need to know that they can do a good job and a trust worthy job and they will be but listen, there are two things.
First of all, for drugs like Vioxx and for Celebrex, remember, Vioxx was taken off the market not by the FDA, but by Merck, by its manufacturer. Celebrex is still on the market. What we need is from the FDA, is better post market surveillance. When a drug gets on the market, we have to find a way of better monitoring those drugs for side effects that weren't obvious in the early phase of examination, particularly drugs that people take for a long period of time. That can be done. It needs to be done and I think the agency is aware of that.
With regard to the flu fiasco, that is a totally different problem. That is low technology, old fashioned technology, that cannot meet the demands of the times. We are using, Keith, 60-year-old technology to make vaccines. Hens eggs, incubate them in hens eggs and it takes six to eight months to make that, so if there is suddenly a shortfall or suddenly a vaccine gets wiped out as we saw happen this year, 48 million units got wiped out, we didn't have the technology to quickly turn around and deliver the full amount that we needed. So we went into this rationing mode, Americans aren't used to rationing. And I think the story we're seeing now which is ironic, now there is too much flu vaccine, that says that Americans are good citizens and they step back and they didn't take away vaccine from someone they thought need it more. So that is a good statement in the Christmas season about Americans' goodness.
OLBERMANN: That part of the health care system is working perfectly. There's no doubt about it. Dr. Bernadine Healy is now a columnist with "U.S. News & World Report," formerly head of the NIH and the American Red Cross. Great. Thanks for your time and insights tonight.
HEALY: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: From the health of humans to the health of a cow. Going above and beyond to save a bovine in distress. Hello. Yes, you're onto us. Oddballs around the corner. And the Donald could not make up his mind but the audience definitely had a favorite. Jen not only gets fired, but also gets a live public humiliation. Welcome to the club, sister.
OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause the Countdown for our nightly segment where sometimes art imitates life or life imitates art or sometimes we just make random connections on our own. Let's play "Oddball."
We begin in Albany, Georgia where a real-life version of the movie "Cast Away" is playing out in little Sumter County. Except that instead of Tom Hanks, that's a 250-pound cow marooned out there on the island and instead of sailing home on a home made raft she is just sitting there chewing on her own cud. What the cow did not know was that the lake waters were rising so quickly that they would soon cover the entire island which is why local authorities airlifted the cow to safety today. But just as in that movie it is a bittersweet ending. The cow returned to find her favorite farmer had moved on and was happily tugging on some other gal's udders.
Transitioning to this totally unrelated story in San Antonio, Texas, the city council has just ruled that strippers will have to wear permits, wear permits, while performing so they can be easily identified by law enforcement officials. The tags, about the size of a driver's license, will have to be attached to the dancer's G-string or worn on a bracelet around the ankle, or perhaps clipped to their ears, like they do with cattle. Inspected by No. 32.
An attorney for 12 of the area clubs believes the rules are unconstitutional and unsafe because the tags will reveal the dancers' real names. You mean, you're not really named Anastasia?
Finally to Lake Charles, Louisiana. And it's that time of year again.
Reggie Biladow (ph) is up on the roof again yelling at cars. Don't worry. He's not trouble. He's just full of holiday spirit. Every year, he dresses up as Santy, goes up on the roof of his decorated house to spread Christmas cheer to all the little boys and girls.
The neighborhood kids just love to see the show, especially during an electrical storm. But Mr. Biladow says this may have to be his last year on the roof. His wife says he's getting too old for this. And we all know that Mrs. Claus wears the pants in that family. Ho, ho, ho.
Trouble brewing in the Ukraine. Yushchenko supporters protested and won a new vote, but if their guy wins, the other candidate says he won't accept the outcome. The international implications could be staggering. And indecision 2004, the governor's race still undecided in Washington as the votes get recounted. A surprising idea today. Let's just start all over again.
Those stories ahead.
Now, though, here are the Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Keith Bukowski of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He's a high school junior from. He is suing to get a place on his school's gymnastics team, its girls gymnastics team. He says he is suing because of sexual discrimination. But think hard about this. I'm wondering if there isn't another reason. I mean, if I could relive my high school years, the first thing I'd do, join the girls gymnastics team.
No. 2, Henry Laskin of Wesley Chapel, Florida. He is in the hospital after lighting a cigarette, tried to light it on his stove of his house. For some reason, he did not think that the portable oxygen tank he wears would explode. It did. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
And, No. 1, Chen Ning Yang, the Nobel Prize Winner in physics from 1957. He went home from this country to teach in his native China. And, at the age of 82, he has announced he is marrying one of his grad students. She is 28. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
OLBERMANN: It has happened before, 1950, Korea, 1963 the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1983, Grenada, the politics of a small country becoming the symbol of a great divide between world powers.
Our third story on the Countdown, the still small, but growing concern that Ukraine could be added to that list. Prime Minister Yanukovych warning "The Washington Post" that he will not accept defeat in the December 26 election rerun there and he will not be able to stop his supporters from taking to the streets to block his opponent's election.
Quoting him - "If this legal nihilism continues, I will not be able to stop people. Today, in these regions, there are civil organizations that are being established that are making lists of volunteers and they will be making some decisions."
Supporters of his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, did take to the streets
after Yushchenko's victory in late November protesting widespread voter
fraud. The Supreme Court ruled they were correct. Yanukovych and
Yushchenko have made life interesting enough for Ukrainians. But for
weeks, the dispute has threatened to turn into a full-fledged diplomatic
fight between the country Yanukovych blames for interfering in the election
· that would be us - and the country we blame for interfering in the election. That would be the Russians.
Richard Wolffe is the diplomatic correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine and he joins us now from Washington.
Good evening to you, sir.
RICHARD WOLFFE, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As I said, this looks like it had been ready to tip into real trouble between Washington and Moscow for weeks. With these latest comments from Yanukovych, does that seem likelier now?
WOLFFE: Well, it's a volatile situation on the ground.
And Yanukovych is talking about supporters. The other side describes them as mobs and thugs. So, there is still the danger of violence there. Everyone had thought, oh, well, there's another election coming, so it is all going to be resolved. But, you know, it is a problem on the ground and it's also a problem because of these testy comments and exchange of words between Russian officials, saying the Americans are meddling in democracy, and Colin Powell, for instance, who is not known to take this stuff lying down, saying, of course, America isn't meddling in democracy.
So this is volatile. But we're not at the stage yet where you're going to see an exchange of blows, but it could happen.
OLBERMANN: Since the Supreme Court in Ukraine ruled that the election, technically the runoff, was invalid and scheduled this new runoff for a week from Sunday, despite the comments from the observers like Senator Lugar and Secretary Powell's remarks, officially, anyway, this country has been pretty quiet about things there.
Is the prospect now that that is going to change, as you said, meddling in democracy? Is the United States going to get involved verbally between now and the election?
WOLFFE: Well, the first sort of dispute to come up here involving the international community and, obviously, the United States is about observers, that the Russians and the Ukrainian powers have described observers as being the meddling force.
And that's going to be a problem. But, really, what is unresolved so far is the direct relationship between President Bush and President Putin. And that is the direct relationship between Russia and America. That is sort of bigger picture here. It's not just about how this election is conducted, but what it means between the two great powers.
OLBERMANN: And what does this mean? It seems like Putin is extraordinarily invested here.
WOLFFE: He is deeply invested and obviously troubled at the sight of his guy, his candidate, who he has been out there campaigning actively for and spending a lot of money supporting, actually going down.
So, there is a question mark over just how far Russia is extending its sphere of influence and defending its sphere of influence and also what the dividing line between Europe at the borders of NATO and the European Union are and the Russian empire, what used to be the Russian empire. I think boundaries, whether it's Yugoslavia or Poland or the Baltic states, this is a volatile situation.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe, the diplomatic correspondent from "Newsweek," great thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: They're busy enough in Kiev, but one wonders what Ukrainians would say about the Washington state governor's election.
In the middle of a re-recount, they first found 573 uncounted ballots, then today found 150 more uncounted ballots. Then today, the man who ran the elections in that state for 20 years suggested they should throw them all out and vote all over again. And he is a Republican. With 37 of 39 Washington counties reporting, Republican Dino Rossi leads the third count by a total of 43 votes.
But one of those uncounted counties is King, heavily Democratic Seattle. And they now have 723 uncounted ballots that they think are legitimate. Today, a county judge in Tacoma ruled in favor of Republicans who had sued to block those votes from being counted. The Democrats will now appeal.
But that's not good enough for Republican Ralph Munro, who was Washington secretary of state from 1980 through 2000. "Whoever eventually becomes governor," he told "The Seattle Times," "is going to have a very hard time governing." So he says hold another gubernatorial election in February.
And a quick note from Ohio. The legal bid to overturn that state's presidential vote is back before Ohio's Supreme Court. The suit had been thrown out yesterday because it requested that the results for two different races be thrown out, while Ohio law permits only one race per lawsuit.
No recount on "The Apprentice." Final tally, one vote for Kelly from the only man who counts in the Donald-ocracy. Our analysts Nick and Amy join us one last time.
And an unbelievable, unthinking crime - unthinkable crime out of Missouri that keeps getting worse as the details become apparent, a pregnant woman killed, her unborn baby stolen.
OLBERMANN: Not only was an eight-months pregnant woman killed; she was allegedly killed by another woman who wanted that baby, a woman who met the first one over the Internet.
The details next here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was unbelievable enough, the idea that someone would kill a pregnant woman, then take the fetus out of her dead body. But the incredible story from Missouri unfolding tonight proves to be worse still.
Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, one that seems to defy description and morality, a gruesome murder, the goal to, steal an unborn child; 23-year-old Bobbi Jo Stinnett, eight months pregnant, murdered in her home in Skidmore, Missouri yesterday. Her baby girl had been literally cut from her womb and was missing. Police issuing an Amber Alert, finding the child this afternoon alive and apparently well. And she has now been united with her father.
Then, late tonight, police charging 36-year-old Lisa Montgomery with kidnapping resulting in death. That charge, also known as the Lindbergh law, can itself carry the death penalty. Montgomery apparently met her victim over the Internet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD GRAVES, U.S. ATTORNEY: In the affidavit, you'll find that the relationship is that our victim was a breeder of a certain type - I believe it was rat terrier dogs. And they met through a message board. Much of this quick investigation was done through tracing back through that message board.
And our victim had pictures on the Internet of herself and so forth. And they hooked up through that message board. And you'll see in the affidavit that her screen name that she used in this was - I believe it Fisher4Kids@Hotmail.com [link] (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Segueing from the worst kind of reality to the unreality of reality television, it is finally over. Donald Trump chose an apprentice. In a moment, our regular Friday-night quarterbacks weighing in on his choice.
First, the three-hour marathon finale, Kelly and Jen both pulling off the polo match and the basketball game, respectively. Neither did an outstanding job. And by the time the live studio audience appeared an hour and a half into the show, Mr. Trump said he still had not made up his mind on a winner. It was soon clear that almost everyone else had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE APPRENTICE")
DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: This year, at this moment, I have absolutely - I just don't know. I want your opinion. What do you think right now?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly showed broad leadership.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's innovative. He's inspirational. And he has vision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would hire Kelly in a second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would be remiss not to hire him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald, you know I don't care for Jen very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like Jen. I feel like the lone crusader. .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is smart. She's tough. She's business savvy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am impressed that she didn't get up and walk off earlier, with kind of what was going on. She is a phenomenal girl. She is a personal friend of mine.
TRUMP: She's having a hard time. I agree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she's getting thrown into the bus here and she doesn't deserve it.
TRUMP: I'm not so sure that you can take that great military background and put it into business.
Jennifer, nevertheless, I have to say, you're fired.
Kelly, you're hired.
OLBERMANN: All this year, "Apprentice" I veterans Amy Henry and Nick Warnock have given us their take on the season's episodes. And they join us now for a final analysis.
Hi, Amy. Hi, Nick.
NICK WARNOCK, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Hi, Keith.
AMY HENRY, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: So, Nick, last week, you said Jen would win for sure. So either she got jobbed or you were wrong. Which was it?
WARNOCK: I put my foot in the mouth, Keith. I think she got ripped off, though. She is just as capable as Kelly. And I think an injustice was done last night.
OLBERMANN: The live studio audience factor prompted some television critics this morning to - for some reason to compare "The Apprentice" to, say, "American Idol," just a big popularity contest and everybody loving Kelly.
Amy, you were called on by Mr. Trump last night. Like so many others, you voted for him, too. Do you think that show of support made up Trump's mind? Or was it made up already?
HENRY: Well, you know, what's really interesting, I don't think that his mind was made up. And I think that that really clarified the decision.
It made it really to the point that, if he had selected Jen, that would have been unjust. Everyone watching the show knew that Kelly was the most qualified and he was the only option.
OLBERMANN: Nick, give me your thoughts, studio audience polling unfair to Jen?
WARNOCK: Well, I thought it would work in Jen's favor, because, think. Everybody is recommending Kelly and it would be so Trump-esque for him to go against the grain and hire this young lady. I think she is great and it is unfortunate that she didn't win.
OLBERMANN: We are now moving to the next season, which is only a short month away. And it is going to put the book smarts against the street smarts. Is this - Amy, is this a good matchup?
HENRY: I think it is a great matchup. I think that doing the men vs. the women after two seasons was going to get a little bit old. And I think that the whole dynamic of the entire show is going to change. I can't wait until next season.
OLBERMANN: And who would you bet on, Nick?
WARNOCK: Street smarts, definitely.
OLBERMANN: All right. Friday-night quarterbacks, that will do it for a while.
Nick Warnock, great thanks. All the best to you.
WARNOCK: Thank you, Keith.
HENRY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And, Amy Henry, same you to. Be well.
HENRY: Happy holidays.
WARNOCK: Happy holidays.
OLBERMANN: And a note from television news that will leave many of us viewers saddened and less well informed. CBS News has announced that Tom Fenton is retiring. He has been the network's distinguished foreign correspondent since 1970. Fenton began his CBS career with an exclusive interview of American hostages taken by the PLO in a hijacking 34 years ago.
He also got the first American television interview of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, also in 1979, and was variously posted to London, Moscow, Rome, throughout Europe. CBS says he is retiring effective immediately, but will continue his weekly current affairs column on its Web site and thus he will also continue a journalism career that began with "The Baltimore Sun" in 1961.
Speaking of journalists and retiring, I will next take your trivia questions in the weekly news quiz, thus proving that my best efforts to get management to retire this segment have failed utterly.
OLBERMANN: Well, here we go again. Because locking people like me in a public pillory and throwing rotten produce at us went out during colonial times, we instead have the weekly Countdown news quiz. It's just as humiliating and, sadly, it's just as entertaining. And it's still officially named:
ANNOUNCER: "What Have We Learned?"
OLBERMANN: Now, without further ado, here is the quiz mistress of "What Have We Learned?" Monica Novotny.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
While you whimper in your seat, I will guide viewers to the official MSNBC News quiz. That's on our Web site at Countdown.MSNBC.com.
Now, the rules for tonight, as always, two minutes on the clock. We will ask the boss man your quiz questions. If he answers at least half correctly, he wins a prize. If not, we'll find some way to embarrass him, because, quite frankly, nothing brings us greater pleasure.
NOVOTNY: Sir, are you ready?
OLBERMANN: It's not like I can't do it myself. You remember, I lost last week. And I've never lost two in a row.
NOVOTNY: That's right.
OLBERMANN: So we'll find out, huh?
NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock. I think we're ready to go.
No. 1, from Teresa (ph), the question, Daniel Kilberg and Thomas Wall of New York were arrested this week for doing what?
OLBERMANN: I don't remember their names at all. Sorry.
NOVOTNY: Attempting to steal SpongeBob SquarePants from a Burger King..
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes, in broad daylight, yes.
NOVOTNY: Bryant Mondell (ph) of South Glens Falls, New York, was arrested for stealing what from the muffler shop where he works?
OLBERMANN: The Coke machine.
NOVOTNY: That's right.
OLBERMANN: All right, I got one...
NOVOTNY: According to researchers at U.C. San Diego and Tufts University, on what day of the year do most deaths occur?
OLBERMANN: December 25.
NOVOTNY: That's correct.
OLBERMANN: Enjoy, everybody. Merry Christmas.
NOVOTNY: From Annette (ph), up to how many calories in an hour can one burn doing a hula-hoop?
OLBERMANN: That's right. You told - you had that - it's always in your stories.
NOVOTNY: That's right and you never remember.
OLBERMANN: Six hundred? Six hundred?
NOVOTNY: No, 660.
OLBERMANN: Six hundred sixty. I didn't get a margin on that.
From Jan (ph), a Chihuahua in Texas has a new job as a therapy dog.
What is dog's name and what is different about this puppy?
OLBERMANN: Nubby. Nubby has - depending on your point of view has no arms or no front legs or no front legs, depending on whether you want to be accurate or just goofy.
NOVOTNY: That is correct. OK.
NOVOTNY: Officials in Denver offering a $2,500 reward for the return of what?
OLBERMANN: It's a piece of construction equipment that has a small little plaque of radium at the end of it, a radiation kind of thing.
NOVOTNY: A radioactive rod.
NOVOTNY: We'll give you that because it's the holidays.
OLBERMANN: It's a rod. Oh, come on. That's not a hoop.
NOVOTNY: In a recent Quinnipiac poll, what percentage of people surveyed supporting the idea that steroid users should see their statistics removed from the record books, plus or minus 5 percent?
OLBERMANN: Thirty-six percent.
NOVOTNY: Yes, exactly.
NOVOTNY: Oh, yes. Go run with that.
OLBERMANN: I can coast from here.
NOVOTNY: In Thailand, a truck driver left his truck to get help because of a flat tire. What was in that truck?
OLBERMANN: Where was it?
NOVOTNY: In Thailand.
OLBERMANN: Thailand. What did he leave in the truck? He left something in the truck. He left beer in the truck.
OLBERMANN: No. I forget.
NOVOTNY: No, actually tapioca.
OLBERMANN: That's right. And then the elephants came out.
NOVOTNY: Yes. You familiar with the show? You watching at all?
NOVOTNY: All right. Time us up.
OLBERMANN: And because you were snotty, I won.
NOVOTNY: Five for eight. You did win.
OLBERMANN: Instead of being snotty...
NOVOTNY: I may not give you the prize.
OLBERMANN: Well, you can always get a new host just to give me that, give me the prize.
NOVOTNY: No one would do this.
OLBERMANN: See, what happened was, was our director gave out a bunch of cherries - or, no, strawberries in chocolate. And we think there was some sort of alcohol involved.
NOVOTNY: But we're not sure.
OLBERMANN: And Monica and the body weight and the chocolate and everything else. Forget it.
What's the prize?
NOVOTNY: It's your new Countdown hat.
OLBERMANN: Oh. It's a lovely Countdown hat. One of these, I will be autographing and will be auctioned off for charity in the immediate future, by coincidence.
NOVOTNY: That would be great.
OLBERMANN: Isn't that nice? And it has - it has the MSNBC logo.
NOVOTNY: And it has your name. I think - did we get - did we spell it right? Oh, maybe.
OLBERMANN: It looks like it.
Well, OK, this has ground to a dead halt, hasn't it?
OLBERMANN: Remember, win or lose, I always feel like I lost something. My dignity.
Thank you, Monica.
NOVOTNY: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Thank you who sent in the questions.
Tune in next time, when again play:
ANNOUNCER: "What Have We Learned?"
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END