Thursday, January 20, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 20

Guest: John Harwood


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?


The survival of liberty.

There is no justice without freedom.

The meaning and promise of liberty.

This untamed fire of freedom.

OLBERMANN: There seems to have been a theme. The president's second inauguration, the chief justice is present. So, too, are the demonstrators. Tonight's celebrations, carrying on the traditions, including the not so magical ones. Full coverage ahead.

And of the supposed Boston terror threat. Genuine concern or unsubstantiated rumor, unconscionably reveal?

And holy crabby patties. Christian conservatives attacking SpongeBob SquarePants? All that and more now on count Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. As he became only the 16th man to be inaugurated for a second time as president of the United States, this morning George Walker Bush spoke 2,083 words, nearly all of them devoted to a pledge to bring liberty and this "untamed fire of freedom to the darkest corner of the world."

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the inaugural address. In fact, it was not just largely about liberty and freedom. The speech included almost nothing else. Mr. Bush used one of those two words every 30 seconds. Only one other human being was mentioned in the entire address. Abraham Lincoln and no other country was identified by name. But Mr. Bush said the word "freedom" 27 times. The word "liberty," 15 times, and added five "tyrannies," one "tyrant," two "unites" and two "unions." The ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was present to administer the oath - more on him presently - but references to political topics of the utmost urgency and moment were not present. There was a passage about the liberty of economic independence, a distant allusion to Social Security reform, presumably. But otherwise, according to the classical definitions of public speaking, this inaugural address would fall under the category of rhetorical.


BUSH: The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited. But fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable. And we will use it confidently in freedom's cause. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well, a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power. It burns those who fight its progress. And one day, this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.


OLBERMANN: Joining me now to analyze the leaves left in the tea cup and the news contained in the speech and around it are two men who were with us throughout the convention and the campaign of last year, Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly". Good evening, Craig.


OLBERMANN: And John Harwood, political editor of the "Wall Street Journal." Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN: John, I'll start with you. Craig follow up for me, if you will. In the politician's dream, the speech that contains nothing that anybody can object to, was this about as unobjectionable as any speechmaker could get?

HARWOOD: No. This was not unobjectionable. George W. Bush was very provocative in this speech in a way that we frankly didn't expect. The expansiveness of his vision, the potential costs it could impose on the United States are things that took everybody by surprise.

OLBERMANN: Craig, give me your take on that. Was that done by inference? Was there something more to the speech than the read might have intended?

CRAWFORD: I agree with John. I tell you, I hate to date myself. This is the ninth inaugural I've seen. And I don't remember an inaugural speech, I think, that will strike me as much as this one did as time goes by. This speech looked ahead in talking about America's role in the world in ways that I think was not just empty language. On one level, you can say the speech was a lot of empty language, as the linguists call it. But I think there's a lot of hardware behind this language that we have yet to hear about.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's get specific about this. Craig. Pick a section of the speech for me that resonated with you. Most meaningful, significant, inspirational, whatever. We'll play it and then you tell me what it meant. Give me a synopsis first.

CRAWFORD: Well, there were several passages but I was particularly struck how he was making the case that our own national security, our own security here at home depends on his view around the world of a role for America that they can only be described as aggressive expansionism, I think.

OLBERMANN: Let's listen to it.


BUSH: Survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expand of freedom in all the world.


OLBERMANN: Craig, parse that for me. What's the meaning behind the words?

CRAWFORD: What he's saying is that our own security is dependent upon spreading our vision of liberty and freedom around the world. That is one argument that became the main argument for the Iraq War after the war, and if I thought this was a backward looking speech trying to put a stamp on the war, that would be one thing. But this was a forward looking speech. And it told me president is looking at an expansion of what we've done in Iraq. Perhaps to Iran, for example, one of the countries we hear a lot about today.

OLBERMANN: John, your turn to pick the clip of the day. The most impactful part of the speech. One brief summation about it first.

HARWOOD: Keith, usually inaugural speeches are painted in broad brush strokes. But he made some policy having said that our survival depends on the advance that of liberty around the world. Here is the part of the speech what he said we're going to do about it.


BUSH: So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.


OLBERMANN: So John, if the previous clip that Craig selected might have referred to people in Iran, who did that one refer to?

HARWOOD: Well, it refers to a whole host of people. Some of whom are clearly our adversaries. Nations like Iran, Syria, North Korea that the president identified as part of the axis of evil. But it could embrace some of our friend as well. Think about Saudi Arabia, think about Russia whose leader, Vladimir Putin is somebody that George Bush bonded with at various points. This was a speech. It will be elastic in how he implements it. Is he talking about using the bully pulpit or talking about some more forceful intervention? But everybody in the world is on notice that this administration will be forward leaning in how it tries to advance the cause of democracy.

CRAWFORD: Keith, the reason I mentioned Iran is this morning on MSNBC with Don Imus when Vice President Cheney was there, Imus asked him a fairly general question about Iran. And the vice president went on for about five paragraphs describing the threat, how we should go to the U.N. to seek sanctions. And if they don't abide by sanctions, we would force them to meet their commitments. We've heard that kind of language before in the run up to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Craig, something a little off topic, moving away from the speech. With he have one of those 15 time I heard that word "liberty," I kept thinking, talk about dating yourself, President Gerald Ford's dog Liberty and how he would have been howling hearing that name called out 15 times in 21 minutes. But it touches on something important at an inaugural if in the background, all the living ex-presidents who are healthy enough to be there are usually there. Carter, Bush I Clinton were. Mr. Ford was not. I assume it's age and health. Do we know anything?

CRAWFORD: That is the assumption. He did not go to the Clinton library announcement or ceremony in Little Rock. At that time, it was said that he was not in good enough health to travel. So I assume that's what happened today.

OLBERMANN: And John, I have one news question for you here. There were several thousand protesters. A couple thousand along the motorcade route in mid-afternoon. It wasn't a massive demonstration. Clearly they were outnumbered monumentally by the supporters. But it was noteworthy, they all had signs and very few of the supporters seemed to. Is that bad planning or just a blase quality to the supporters?

HARWOOD: Well, I think, Keith, a lot of the people, Republicans coming into town for these inaugural celebrations, aren't the kind of people who like to walk around carrying sign of any kind. They tend to be affluent supporters in many cases, and the people who lost this election, and it was a very bitter defeat for them had a lot of motivation to try to come out in a city which is pretty locked down with a lot of security measures to try to make their voice heard. And in a few cases, they succeed.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood, the political editor of the "Wall Street Journal," sir, my great thanks for being with us. And Craig Crawford, columnist for "Congressional Quarterly," MSNBC analyst, as always, my thanks as well.

CRAWFORD: Hoping we have liberty on our streets tonight and traffic moves again.

OLBERMANN: Good luck on that. A little freedom for you in terms of motoring.

The four most vivid images of the day, certainly, the president at the podium speaking, the continual and somewhat unnerving flash of the alarm lights on every vehicle in the parade, that boxy new limousine in which the first family rode and those protesters put in a special area along the parade route. Several thousand jeered and held up signs as the motorcade started up. Some symbolically turns their backs as the limo passed by. Others were more active. The motorcade even had to speed up at one point to avoid incoming projectiles. It escaped unscathed. The vice president's car not so lucky. It got whacked by a snowball and the Secret Service vehicle was apparently hit by an orange.

Elsewhere along the parade route, protesters knocked down a barricade and were immediately hit with blasts of pepper spray from police in riot gear. The latest opinion polling revealing the dichotomy of the 21st century America pertaining to those protests. Americans seem to approve of the president but not of his policies. According to tonight's new NBC "Wall Street Journal" poll, 50 percent think President Bush is doing a good job and 44 percent do not. But those number are almost reversed when it come to the country's direction. Forty seven percent say we are off track. Forty percent believe things are headed in the right direction.

And when it come to Iraq, that same number. Forty percent believing the cost of getting rid of Saddam Hussein was word it and 52 percent saying otherwise. A "New York Times" poll reflecting the same assessment. Job approval is positive. 49-46. But only 42 percent approve of Mr. Bush's handling of the economy. And, that number again, just 40 percent approving of his handling of Iraq.

And international opinion gauged in this inauguration week offering the president even less in the way of positive math. The British Broadcasting Corporation polled 22,000 in 21 different nations. 58 percent said his reelection made the world a more dangerous place. Only the Philippines, India and Poland saw his re-election as a positive.

Going into the inaugural, there was still some doubt about the other key player in the oath. Nine times, the oath of office has not been administered by the chief justice of the United States. Today was not the tenth. Justice Rehnquist, 80 years old, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for thyroid cancer, absent from the court proper for three months, made it anyway. His voice, despite a tracheotomy tube inserted last October was clear, albeit raspy. He walked stiffly with a cane but his bearing seemed pretty much unchanged from, say, the days he spent officiating the impeachment.

At the luncheon following the inauguration, the president said Rehnquist's presence was a, quote, "incredibly moving part of the day."

And an incredibly irritating part of the whole inaugural experience could happen tonight if some of the grand galas. The seldom heard of rebellions that have afflicted celebrations in the previous two centuries. Will there be another hat and coat riot tonight?

And a very real fear hitting residents of Boston. An uncorroborated terror threat taking on something of a life of its own. How did the story even get out in the first place? You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We might not have a ticket to tonight's inaugural balls, but that does not stop us here at Countdown from taking you behind their scenes and exposing one of the dirty secrets of galas past and present. Standby and bring your hat.


OLBERMANN: From the inauguration itself, we move to the inaugural galas. And after that, the souvenir merchandise. Our fourth story on the Countdown, a report on each of these topics coming up.

First, to check in on the presidential balls, already in progress. Two down and seven or eight, depending on your definition, to go. The president and the first lady already danced the early evening away at the Constitution Ball. They did not dance at the Veterans' Inaugural Ball. After that, the number three will be the Freedom Ball. Number four, the Texas Wyoming Ball, number five, the Liberty Ball, number six the Independence Ball, number seven, the Stars and Stripes Ball, number eight the Patriot Ball and number nine, the Democracy Ball. And coming up 10th, the Commander in Chief Ball. That's 10 parties in just over four hours.

At the balls and galas, so far so good, but throughout our history, they've often been tumultuous and even dangerous occasions. We start with the oblique reference that there's an old Monty Python gag about how people are not wearing enough hats. Actually they've worn too many to inaugural events.

The most enduring phrase echoing through inaugural history is not "Ask not what your country can do for you," but where is my hat?

At Grant's first inaugural ball in 1869, guests checked their coats, only to discover later that most of them had disappeared. Four years hear, the celebrants kept their coats and hats on. They said it was because it was 4 degrees out. Uh-huh.

120 years later, checking service for George H. W. Bush's inaugural ball was slow slow that guests eventually stormed the cloak room in what came to be known as the Bastille Day coat check affair. Proving the bipartisanship of disaster, Bill Clinton's second inaugural ball was similarly afflicted. Irate partygoers began chancing, "We want our coats now! We want our coats now!" Police had to be called to save the imperiled cloak room staff. To say nothing of saving the coats.

Generally, pomp and circumstance have waxed and waned over the decades. Tickets to James Madison's ball in 1809 cost $4 each. But by 1857, the government had to spend $15,000 on a new building at Judiciary Square to accommodate the 6,000 guests who wanted to welcome James Buchanan. Woodrow Wilson canceled the 1913 celebration, calling it too expensive and unnecessary. And after the partying, crept back in as charity event in the '20s, FDR refused to sanction them during the Depression and World War II.

By 1961, though, John F. Kennedy would move among five different galas. In 1967, Jimmy Carter went the other way. He decried the decadence, he renamed the balls parties and he cut ticket prices to $25. That had been long forgotten by 20 years later, when there were 14 inaugural balls for Bill Clinton. And lastly, if the merchandising of recent inaugural celebrations seems unseemly...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The t-shirts are $6 and the caps are $6 also.


OLBERMANN: Remember this. Inaugural things date back to day one. Though the 1789 George Washington celebration in New York City was unofficial, and it took place a week after he had taken the oath, mementos already on sale at souvenir stands and in the Capitol lobby. A lady's fan imprinted with a profile of the first president which was kind of useful since Washington wasn't even there.

Can't find the current value of that but there are a couple of commemorative lapel button from the Washington unofficial 1789 inauguration on eBay currently. One has been bid up to $1478. With five days to go. Will the ticket stubs from tonight's Bush gala be wore that much one day? If so, the descendants of a man that Countdown's Monica Novotny met probably will be helping to set that price. Monica joining me with the story of the ultimate inauguration collector. Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. Barry Landau has attended he have inaugural since President Kennedy's in 1961. His is a self-taught historian, a collector, and, during inauguration season, a consultant of sorts. Landau knows all the details on how to hold a presidential inaugural because he's collected most of them.


BARRY LANDAU, AMATEUR HISTORIAN: I bought the suit that President Washington wore to his inaugural.

This was the belt buckle that the Indians presented to President Grant.

These the coats that him and her wore to the '65 inaugural.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Yes, even courts worn by the Johnson beagles. Life may be found in the details but collector Barry Landau is finding history there as well. His passion, the odds and ends of inaugural ceremony. From donkeys to elephants and everything in between.

LANDAU: These little things were not done with history. They were done on a whim. It tells you much more on the personality of the occupants of the Oval Office, of the White House. Much more so than a lot of history books do.

NOVOTNY: The result, an assortment now rivaling the Smithsonian's.

Whose is better?

LANDAU: Mine. Definitely.

NOVOTNY: Earning him the unofficial title of "inaugural expert." Last June when planning for today's ceremony began, Landau was consulted by Republicans and Democrats just in case.

LANDAU: They want to know what went on in the past. They like to visually see things.

NOVOTNY: The collection reaches all the way back to buttons on the suit George Washington wore in 1789. A train ticket to see Abraham Lincoln sworn in. The Reagan menu, china.

LANDAU: Those plates were used at the inauguration of Andrew Jackson.

NOVOTNY: Mugs, inaugural medals, Frank Sinatra's 1945 ticket. Even a missing piece of history's puzzle. A place card belonging to a guest at President Grant's inaugural dinner.

LANDAU: She drew the state dining stable. And just serendipitously she sketched a row of each guest that was there. So now we have all 36 names and an unfolded piece of history that nobody knew before.

NOVOTNY: And though he love them all.

LANDAU: That was one of my pieces. This is a very interesting piece.

These are very, very special.

NOVOTNY (on camera): What is your favorite thing on this table?

LANDAU: I guess, the obvious one, would be the key to the White House.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): In the end, the details paint the larger picture.

LANDAU: It is a reaffirmation of our country's heritage, of the process of democracy. He have four years, whatever the political party wins, we all unify together and that's very important.

NOVOTNY: Monica Novotny, MSNBC.


NOVOTNY: Now, of course, we can only just scratch the surface there. But if you have me doubts at this point as to the true extent of the collection, we can report several months ago when people at the Library of Congress were doing some historical inaugural research, they called the curator at the Smithsonian who promptly gave them Mr. Landau's phone number.

OLBERMANN: You're supposed to say at the end of that, thanks Monica, great report. But does Mr. Landau have any of this? Does he have any of this at all?

NOVOTNY: That looks leak a green laminated piece of paper.

OLBERMANN: It is a green laminated piece of paper. But on it, you can just barely make out.

NOVOTNY: An eyelash?

OLBERMANN: No it's not an - Close. It is just ordinary hair. It is Abraham Lincoln's hair.

NOVOTNY: That's a wee bit creepy, don't you think?

OLBERMANN: It is. Exceptionally creepy. But I thought when I bought it, first off, that it was underpriced.

NOVOTNY: You actually paid money for that.

OLBERMANN: Underpriced. The providence of these, who knows, his hair? But it might be. I was thinking, OK, one day I'll give it to the Lincoln Library or whatever. But if there's cloning. Seven Lincolns right here. I think this one is mine. That could be a horrible combination.

NOVOTNY: I think that mean one of the cameraman's, actually.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny who is priceless in her own right, many thanks.

From the spectacle that is the inauguration that continues now with the Texas Wyoming ball, you're seeing the president and the first lady and the family being greeted at the ball that shares his home state. And that of the vice president's, Mr. Cheney. From that spectacle to the spectacle that is this guy. The quest to make the record books meets the Great Wall of China. That's the way the ball bounces. And later, first, the poor guy getting stolen left and right. Now he is accused of trying to brainwash your kids. The new SpongeBob SquarePants controversy. Oh boy.


OLBERMANN: As the president and the first lady leave the dance floor of the Texas Wyoming Ball after a quick turn on the floor, we are back and we have reached that point where we leave the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural festivities and travel instead to the parallel universe where every day is like picking through trash left along the parade route. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin somewhere along the 4,000 miles of stone and mystery that is Great Wall of China where one American man has traveled to fulfill a lifelong dream to be the first man of any nationality to traverse the Great Wall on a big bouncy kangaroo ball. Ashrita Fuhrman (ph) is a health food store owner from New York City. And though he only hopped for a mile, his time of 15 minutes and three seconds was good enough to secure a place in the book of world records. It is the 20th record procurement. He own for most sits-ups in an hour, most beer glasses balanced on one's chin, and the world record for most records for world records. Next up, the record for the longest amount of time before he can sit again without pain.

Speaking of world records, Tia, the Neapolitan Mastiff must have looked like a kangaroo ball in the days before she gave birth to her litter, 24 puppies, born by caesarean section in Cambridgeshire, England. That was a record setter, too.

The owners will be selling these puppies for about $1,000 each. And if my math is correct, that's over $10,000. Serious bidders are welcome. Montgomery Burns need not apply.

Finally, if there's one group of people who really stepped up for the tsunami effort, it is elephant in Thailand. Pachyderms were actually used to help clear move debris.

And not to be out done, Bozie (ph), a Sri Lankan elephant living in Louisiana is pitching in by selling her artwork on eBay. The painting elephant has been making masterpieces at the Baton Rouge Zoo for the last 15 years, most of them have this Mardi Gras theme. This one is called Bourbon Street Gutter Wednesday Morning. Just kidding.

Bozie (ph) is clearly one of the most talented elephants we've ever featured this program. But the Thais, judging by this next photo from the Associated Press may have an up and coming star on their hands. Stay tuned for more on this developing story.

And on this one, are these people planning some sort of dirty nuke attack against Boston? Or are they just some guys who had been fingered by a rival gang? How did one uncorroborated tip mushroom into fear of mushroom clouds?

And speaking of out of control, Paris Hilton back in the news. Not one but two Paris Hilton headlines that will have you shaking your head and maybe your fist. That's all ahead.

Now here are Countdown's top "Three News Makers" of this day.

No. 3, Jorn Verbeeck, the spokesman for the city council for Antwerp in Belgium. He says the council will accede to the request of a local business group to dim the new very, very bright lights that have been installed along the waterfront there. The request was from the city's prostitutes. They say the lights were scaring away the customers. Yes. It was the lights scaring away the customers.

No. 2, an unidentified hold-up man in Milan, Italy who has a different idea. He got away that $78 from a downtown erotic equipment shop. And he also stole an inflatable rubber woman.

And No. 1, Andrew Fleischmann, Connecticut state representative from Manchester. He is proposing a state law that would force movie theaters to list the actual starting times in their newspaper ads. The time after the interminable previews are finally over. Amen! Mr. Fleischmann calls it being robbed of our freedom of choice. We call Mr. Fleischmann the next president of the United States!


OLBERMANN: Are they terror suspects revealed by a courageous tipster or are they merely the tipster's gang rivals and he, cleverly using homeland security to get them arrested and out of his way? Our third story on the Countdown, the Boston dirty bomb saga and other stories somebody want you to be afraid of.

A caller to the California highway patrol speaking from either San Diego or Mexico, depending on which report you believe, that happening several days ago, claiming he had brought four Chinese and two Iraqis into the U.S. They told him they were to be followed into the country by some kind of nuclear material. Nuclear oxide target is Boston, Massachusetts. Problems? That's it for the story.

It's not corroborated at all. The caller failed to show up for a face to face meeting with the police but did he send them photos of the four Chinese people. And, oh, by the way, there is no such thing as nuclear oxide. That led police and counter terrorism sources to an alternate theory, that a criminal was blowing a whistle on some rivals hoping to just get them arrest.

While the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts both insisted no one should panic, lots of people have. The governor even cut short his trip to the inauguration to fly back to Boston.


GOV. MITT ROMNEY, (R) MASSACHUSETTS: I'm not in a view that there's greater credibility or reliability to the source. It is still a very questionable source. There's some who would say that the information has a degree of unreliability to it. And yet something that is so specific, and relates to the protection of our citizens in homeland, obviously has to be taken very, very seriously.


OLBERMANN: But does it? I'm joined now by MSNBC terrorism analyst Juliette Kayyem, also of the Kennedy School at Harvard. Juliette, good evening.


OLBERMANN: You got one phone source who does not show up to meet with the cop but anonymously drops photos of four people who are not on any terror watch list. You have got this unlikely scenario that they told him that they were going to go into the U.S. and nuclear materials would follow them. And you've got no corroboration. I'm going to put you in charge of the decision. Based on all that, do you tell the public about this story?

KAYYEM: No. And let me be clear. The clip you just saw from our governor is a basically nice way of saying, big mistake. We shouldn't have done this. I think there's no other way to look at it 24 hours later.

A tipster calls with four names of Chinese people. Then sort of throws in two Iraqis for good measure, but notice that we don't know the Iraqis names, so they're sort of thrown in there that these are terrorists. And then this gets out of hand.

I mean, I live here. It was crazy yesterday. And I think no one could stop this story. This is not a good story. And I think everyone is stepping back from it and saying, this was a mistake. We'll try to find these people, figure out why someone was giving up their name. But the idea that this is nuclear oxide or a nuclear threat right now is on the back burner right now.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. It is closer to nitrous oxide than nuclear oxide.

But more seriously, no one in Homeland Security released this, no governmental official officially released this, but the summer before last, there was a similar uncorroborated threat against the malls in West L.A. in California. It turned out it was some guy trying to wreak revenge on an old girlfriend.

It can't be that there have only been these two uncorroborated threats like this since 9/11. Was there something that these two stories had in common that explained why of all these tips, these two would be publicly revealed officially or unofficially?

KAYYEM: Well, we don't know is where the leak came from. And if it came from California, or from the same offices in California there may be a suggestion there that the leaker, or at least the leader to the media may be from the same person or from the same offices. So, obviously, there should be an investigation about how the media found out and get all of us in Boston and everyone else so worried yesterday. And to basically stop that leak.

But otherwise, my guess is that we get, that the government gets a dozen of these a week at the very least. They are unsubstantiated. These phone ins, or what we might even call walk ins in the intelligence circles are notoriously unreliable. People tend to have vendettas, which is likely what happened in this case. And we have to a step back and see what they were.

What happened was, the leak itself became the story and no one could sort of step back and say, what in fact do we have here?

To me, yesterday when I was reading this and sort of deciding what was I going to say as everyone was calling, it was clear to me that the fact that we didn't have the Iraqis names suggested that someone - it may not be a hoax, but someone was trying to get everyone worried about terrorism with the inauguration today. And we're going to throw in the Iraqi guys, because we're not so worried about the Chinese.

OLBERMANN: Right. Juliette Kayyem, MSNBC terrorism analyst, as always, great thanks.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Security concerns tonight also inside a small town outside Chicago. Security concerns over the Iraqi elections. The village manager of Niles, Illinois, Kay Marcy (ph), telling the group that is helping Iraqis register to vote in the Chicago area to move out of it's headquarters there. The town cannot adequately protect those offices. Besides which, the town claims, the group did not have the necessary zoning permit to operate there. Oddly enough though, they're not actually registering anybody in that town, Niles, Illinois. So the locations for the Iraqis to sign up will just change just to the office where the paperwork is done.

Also tonight, say is that a boy just six-months-old, what do you mean he's two days old? Oh, baby.

And is Sponge Bob Square Pants as a couple of conservative groups now allege part of a "pro-homosexual video," and is he dating Tinky Winky?

A Countdown investigation. Those stories ahead.

But now in case you missed the inaugural address, we think we've distilled the essence of it. Here are Countdown's top 30 sound bites of this day.


BUSH: That can break the reign of hatred and resentment and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant and that is the force of human freedom.

Freedom in all the world.



Freedom's cause.

Free descent.

Without freedom.

Human liberty.

Global appeal of liberty.

Call of freedom.


Your liberty.

Liberty in our land.

Liberty in other lands.

The meaning and promise of liberty.

And the liberty bell.

Freedom to others.

Freedom's to enemies.

Fire of freedom.

American freedom.

Greater freedom.

America's ideal of freedom.

And America's ideal of freedom.

The message of freedom.

The cause of freedom.

Liberty for all.

In the cause of freedom.

Freedom came under attack.

The eventual triumph of freedom.

Freedom is the permanent hope of mankind.

Freedom now.


OLBERMANN: A shot glass for grandma. That could be exactly what the doctor has ordered.

And killer bathtubs - weird health news, even weirder Paris Hilton news. Standby.


OLBERMANN: Medical science has offered us a lot of weird advice over the years from leeches to blood letting to keeping one arm raised to balance out the humors. But in our number two story, a new one that certainly ranks right up there. Try to get grandma to take a nip of Shari every day. The "New England Journal of Medicine" publishing a nurses' health study of more than 12,000 women between the ages of 70 and 81. Those who had one drink, about half a an ounce, a quick swig or maybe a shot-glass full of brandy, scored higher on cognitive tests than those ladies who choose to abstain.

Health conditions such as diabetes and depression were ruled out as factors and the marked difference in, well, just being aware, as was education. But the study's senior author acknowledges that smaller variations in lifestyle could not be ruled out entirely.

American Cancer Society noting concern that moderate drinking is also associated with an increase risk of breast cancer. A fact even more disconcerting still tonight in light of that organization's annual statistical report showing cancer having surpassed heart disease as the nation's number one killer of those under the age of 85. Cancer, 25,000 deaths ahead of heart disease. That is an all time first. The good news, deaths from both calamities are down but heart disease is down more, largely because there are fewer smokers now. And there are still more options for preventive care for heart disease than there are for cancer.

Rounding out the medical news, big bathtubs and big baby. First the big baby.

Meet Ademiton Dos Santos, he is 16 pounds, 11 ounces and he is two days old. He is fifth child of Francisca Ramos dos Santos of the city of Salvador in Brazil. The other four came in between 7-1/2 and 11 pounds. Ademilton already weighs what a six month is supposed to. And yes, ladies, he was delivered by C-section.

Which brings us to the bathtubs. You would assume you're relatively safe in one providing you keep a firm grip on something, unless you're Janet Lee in "Psycho." Actually You're more liable for fatal injury in the tub then you are in a storm. Your odds, reports the U.S. Safety Council, of meeting death in a severe storm are one in 68,388. Your odds of going down the permanent drain in the bathtub, one in 11,469. Those are national figures. The odds of being killed in a storm in states prone to tornadoes are actually much lower than the bath tub odds. And no the Safety Council did not release data about your odds of dying in a bathtub during a storm.

Now, what are your odds of dying on a day that Paris Hilton makes a fool of herself, in or out of your bathtub?

About 50, 50, right?

Something to ponder as we move to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." This time she could get into direct trouble with the Federal Communications Commission. She swore over an Atlantic City fire station dispatch radio while filming that nitwitted series she does for Fox. That is considered a code violation by the FCC, which regulates even private radio.





OLBERMANN: Mr. Dictionary evidently failed Ms. Hilton yet again. The district attorney of Beverly Hills is deciding whether or not to prosecute her for theft and vandalism after a purported obscenity filled tirade at a news stand there. Hilton was reportedly posing for a photograph with an employee of the news stand last month when she noticed that one of the items on sale there was a copy of her notorious sex video. The syndicated TV series, "Celebrity Justice" reports that surveillance cameras pick up Hilton ripping up a poster advertising that video and then grabbing what appears to be a DVD. The employee in question a Mr. Jerry Castro (ph), telling the show, she threw her 80 cents change at me and took the video and said, "I'm taking this and I'm not buying." "The New York Daily News" suggests Hilton actually gets a cut of the sales of the pornographic tape. Anyway, Castro (ph) continued: "She points to the poster and says, look at what the expletive they're doing to me here. Don't you know my young fans come here all the time?"

In addition to the possible misdemeanor charges, the DA's office is also investigating that contention that she has fans.

Also tonight, here we go again. The homosexual agenda pushed yet again by another cartoon character. At least that's what a couple of conservative Christian groups are warning the world. More bad press for SpongeBob, straight ahead.


OLBERMANN: First it was the spate of SpongeBob thefts, the SpongeBob rob jobs. Now the little yellow guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea is at the center of a far grimmer controversy, again not of his own making. Our number one story in the Countdown, two conservative Christian groups attacking the cartoon character for allegedly being part of, as one of them put it, a, quote, "pro-homosexual video." It was Tinky Winky who said, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

A man named Dr. James Dobson, founder of a conservative Christian group called Focus on the Family addressed members of Congress at a black tie dinner in Washington celebrating the president's election victory this week. He advised the group that SpongeBob had been included in a pro-homosexual video which was to be mailed to thousands of elementary schools to push a tolerance pledge by kids, including tolerance of differences of what Dr. Dobson called, quote, "sexual identity." Dr. Dobson said most of the favorite cartoons of America's kids were in on the plot, Barney and Jimmy Neutron included.

There is a video. It was broadcast in 2002 and has been revised for distribution to schools in March. It does promote tolerance of diversity, but contains no reference to sex, sexual lifestyle, sexual identity or Paris Hilton.

The eight-page long teacher's guide that accompanies that DVD makes three passing references to same-sex parents. Generic advice about what to do, the teachers anyway should do, if kids ask them or ask about other atypical homes, like ones with adoptive parents, step-siblings, grandparents et cetera. Teachers are advised to remind kids that everybody's family is different, but they're all based on love.

Dr. Dobson's press spokesman says he's not sure whether or not Dr. Dobson has seen the SpongeBob video, but he has been briefed on it. And an assistant says the group stands by its claim, and quote, "we see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It's a classic bait and switch."

Bait and switch, a fish reference for an underwater cartoon. Clever.

Though the revised "SpongeBob and "Friends tape, which is to be distributed to the schools, is not supposed to be released until March, we've gotten ahold of the advanced copy from the We Are Family Foundation, which produced it. It is a foundation created by the man who wrote the disco hit of 1979, "We Are Family." In the true spirit of we report, you decide, we're going to show you the whole thing, with the caveat that if the folks from Focus on the Family are right, it could make you, your children or maybe your furniture gay. Or tolerant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family, people, monsters, lions, bears, dinosaurs, mice, chickens, aardvarks all coming together. Let's sing together.



OLBERMANN: What? By the way, not only did I not see any sexual identity in that, I didn't even see very much of SpongeBob either. Although Winnie the Pooh wasn't wearing pants.

Mark Barondess, the lawyer for the We Are Family Foundation told "The New York Times" that any critics of the video, quote, "need medication." We here found it hard to argue with him.

That's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.