'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 19
Guest: Michael Duffy, Robin Wright
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
It's a final. Rice 16, Boxer rebellion, 2. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves secretary of state designate Rice, sending her to the full Senate and whatever lumps it has in store for her.
Another nightmare in Iraq. As the election looms, five car bombs rack Baghdad. More than a dozen dead.
As the inaugural looms, the singer at the youth concert welcomes everybody to the greatest liking country in the world.
And believe it or not, inaugurations can get much worse. Like the time President Grant's fans froze their canaries off. Or the time President Harrison died.
And on a happier note...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Thanks to you, Ohio, and your brother Jebediah. We get four more years to rule in Washington.
OLBERMANN: At least cartoon singers never swear.
All that and more now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
No, no, no. During the inauguration, you're supposed to get sworn in, not sworn at.
In our fifth story in our Countdown, I guess they could have invited Kid Rock after all. The inaugural celebrations beginning with a moment that might have made Janet Jackson blush and the FCC revoke somebody's license, a moment that his supporters hope will not prove symbolic of Mr. Bush's second term.
It was in retrospect fortunate that the D.C. Armory was half empty for the youth concert America's Future Rocks today, planned as a tribute to youth volunteerism and starring the likes of Hillary Duff and Ruben Studdard and a band called Fuel.
Lead singer Brett Scallions had barely let the audience absorb the shock of his low rider American flag jeans when he etched in his moment into the wall of inauguration gala history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT SCALLIONS, MUSICIAN: Welcome to the greatest (expletive deleted) concert in the world. Excuse my language.
I wasn't supposed to use that word. I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Exit Mr. Scallions, stage left.
That brief apology, "excuse my language," sure to join "wardrobe malfunction" in the annals of the Moral Values Hall of Fame. Whether or not the episode proves a political auger, it does underscore a certain uneasiness in this country about the appropriateness of the celebrations in light of the war in Iraq and the still unfolding tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean.
The "Los Angeles Times" conducting a poll Saturday through Monday. One question asked, should the administration spend $40 million on the inaugural, because that's the way Americans celebrate a new presidential term, or should it all be scaled back because of the costs of the war and the tsunami relief? Seventy-five percent answered scale it back.
More impactful still, perhaps, 61 percent of Republicans said scale it back. Sixty-seven percent of conservatives said scale it back.
In another poll, the "Washington Post" asked the same question a different way. Sixty-six percent of its respondents said the inauguration festivities should be, quote, "smaller."
Perhaps someone can get a refund on the fee they paid to that guy Brett Scallions of Fuel.
And there are backlashes today, not to the inauguration but to something the president said in one of the 97 exclusive interviews he gave in the days before it. Namely that he would be shifting to a pragmatic view of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, which he had made such a big deal out of during the campaign.
Mr. Bush had told the "Washington Post" and NBC's David Gregory that an amendment requires 67 yes votes in the Senate, which would be tough to get, and that current state laws mean that no state has to recognize a marriage conducted in any other state anyway, so it's not that big a deal.
This was a surprise to conservative group. President Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told the "Post," quote, "It was not articulated that way in the campaign."
And Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family went a little further. "The president is willing to spend his political capital on Social Security reform, but the nation is greatly conflicted on that issue. The nation is unified on marriage. The president's leadership is desperately needed."
We don't know if it will make Mr. Minnery feel any better, but the Social Security reform opening up for people to invest some of those funds in the stock market. That may be off the political table, too.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee predicts that partisan bloodletting over the proposal will render the president's plan a, quote, "dead horse."
Republican Bill Thomas of California, whose committee writes the tax laws, told a forum in Washington that the Bush plan, quote, "cannot, given the politics of the House and the Senate, pass both houses. Every breath that's spent on discussing that plan is an attempt to lay a political ground war for the next election," Thomas continued. "Save those breaths."
Thomas suggested the Democrats and Republicans work on what sounds like compromise tweaking, finding additional ways to fund Social Security, examining whether benefits for men and women should differ, because women live longer, examining whether blue and white collar workers should draw different kind of benefits, because they tend to retire at different ages.
With friends like those, who needs political commercials from enemies?
The Democratic National Committee inaugurating an ad buy on the cable news networks, including this one today. A not so hardy inaugural happy second term for President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIR, DNC: Mr. President, congratulations. Democrats are eager to work with you. But make no mistake. We will not abandon our long health concerns. On Social Security, we will not let you undermine the fundamental guarantee. On taxes, we'll fight your efforts to shift the burden to working families and we'll demand an honest foreign policy.
So as you swear to upheld to Constitution, we will be standing with you, making sure you keep that promise for all Americans.
The DNC is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Perfect. The first commercial of the 2008 presidential campaign.
It's not just today's developments but also the news from Iraq, the Bernard Kerik fiasco and all other manner of speed bumps that might have the president looking over his political shoulder as he's inaugurated tomorrow.
Joining me now to discuss what looks like a bumpy start for the second term is Michael Duffy, Washington bureau chief of "TIME" magazine.
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL DUFFY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Are these events, at least the political ones, Democrats bashing Dr. Rice, Republican bashing Social Security reform, conservatives bashing a reversal on gay marriage. Are these spontaneous, some kind of cluster, or do they constitute a reaction to something?
DUFFY: They're certainly not a grand conspiracy. They're pretty normal, kind of run-of-the-mill inaugural week activities. They just aren't the ones that you see on the schedule.
But typically when a president gets started on a second term, he runs into some second-guessing. And it didn't stop after the election. It's not going to stop, you know, for the inaugural festivities.
I think what's interesting - what's most interesting about it is that, you know, after an election, the really sort of controversial stuff that takes place isn't really between the parties anymore. We just had that war.
It's what's happening inside the parties. Republicans are fighting about whether to go modern or stick to the conservative line, and the Democrats are having their own sort of identity crisis. And all of these things are kind of part and parcel of those fights. It's more intramural at the moment.
OLBERMANN: And particularly in that, I'm fascinated by Chairman Thomas's comments about Social Security. He's essentially advising the president, and the Democrats, too, to think tweak instead of overhaul.
The president is still saying as early as earlier this week, presidents need to think big.
Is one side going to wear the other down? Or is this going to be like an episode of "Itchy and Scratchy" for the next four years?
DUFFY: Well, you know, in most - in most political environments, a gaffe is when you say something that's uncouth or unseemly or untrue. In Washington, a gaffe is when you actually speak the truth.
And Thomas gaffed by Washington standards, because he said something everyone has known for weeks, which is this is going to be hard if not impossible for Bush to pull off.
And then he added a couple of kicks to the can by saying, and he ought to be something doing that's bigger and harder anyway, which is to take a look at the whole tax code.
But it's really difficult to do Social Security if you just do it with one party. And Thomas, who usually doesn't say things that are this sort of politically adroit - he can go the other way a lot of times - actually has called a spade a spade.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, the inaugural itself. It is easy to say don't spend money when asked by a pollster should we spend money, but 75 percent of the people in the "L.A. Times" asked, said that. That is a lot. Is the hoopla going to represent a bad start of yet another - this isn't a partisan issue - just another bad second term?
DUFFY: I don't think so, although you have to remember. There haven't been many good second terms. Clinton's was not very good. Reagan's was not very good. A couple of guys in between didn't get one. Nixon's didn't even finish his term. So - and Johnson had the war and had to drop out.
So this is - there's not a good sort of notebook on the wall you can pull down at the White House and say how to run a good second term. Because it's been a long time since anyone had a successful one. You basically try to reclaim it or salvage it. You don't really actually - it's been a long time.
So they really have an uphill battle with trying to draft a blueprint for one that has it. We really don't have one. And that's really the challenge.
OLBERMANN: Yes, there's nobody left from the Eisenhower administration to consult with.
DUFFY: That's right. Exactly right.
OLBERMANN: Michael Duffy, Washington bureau chief, "TIME" magazine.
Great thanks for joining us, as always.
DUFFY: You bet you.
OLBERMANN: So other than winning a head butting contest or suddenly switching to compromise mode, what can Mr. Bush do about the apparent misdirected start, the typical one of his second term? Can he, for instance, inspire something in tomorrow's inaugural address?
Joining me now to discuss that is Jennifer Grossman, former speechwriter for the first President Bush.
Ms. Grossman, good evening.
JENNIFER GROSSMAN, FORMER SPEECHWRITER: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Can he? What would the president have to say tomorrow, to be blunt about it, to get his way, largely, or wholly over the next four years?
GROSSMAN: Well, I think he needs to shore up confidence in the war and in foreign policy, and to really remind Americans what's at stake, both here at home and around the world.
OLBERMANN: It presumably is a tough task to do something like that but obviously not impossible. The two from Lincoln, the two inaugural addresses, came on the eve of Civil War and the eve of its resolution. The great one attributed to John F. Kennedy was after one of the most divisive of elections ever.
Should he be really shooting for that level of tone, that "better angels of our nature" that "ask not what your country can do for you" tone? Should he shoot that high?
GROSSMAN: Well, I think that if you look back at the most important speeches of his presidency, the joint fashion (ph) speech in September of 2001, the West Point speech in June 2002, last year's speech at White Hall, he's really shown a remarkable consistency in striking the same kinds of themes.
And those really have been his core belief, that in order to have peace in the world, we need to advance - aggressively advance the institutions of freedom and democracy. And I think you probably are going to hear more of that again tonight.
One of the things that is different about this speech, it's going to be the first major speech with a new team of speechwriters. He's had the same troika (ph) in place since before his election. And this is a - this is a new team. He was very attached to the old team, but I think he's got some real pros in there.
So I think - I think you can expect that he will continue with the same level of eloquence that he has brought to other major occasions in the past.
OLBERMANN: And do we have a hint of that direction from some of his remarks at the Celebration of Freedom concert this afternoon at the Ellipse? One quote here: "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." Is that it in a nutshell tomorrow?
GROSSMAN: Well, I think that, you know, the president is he a man of faith. But if you look past all of the past inaugural statements since President Washington's brief 135-word statement, have all included references to God.
President Kennedy's, 1961, one of the most famous inaugural speeches, referred to the belief that the rights of man are not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
And Lincoln's famous 1865 speech, nearly half of that was devoted to references of God and tying in our current purpose and putting it into a larger context.
So I think you'll hear some of that, I think, to sort of place this in a historic stage and also, to say again, that these rights, that these sacrifices that Americans are making, have a higher purpose to them.
OLBERMANN: We will see you tomorrow. Jennifer Grossman, former speechwriter for the first President Bush. Great thanks for your time tonight.
OLBERMANN: Later in the news hour, we will look in depth at the hidden inaugural week. That sponsored by corporate America. And at the context of the inaugural speech and the festivities and why whatever he says, Mr. Bush should remember not to take 8,445 words or two hours to say it, either.
But for the moment, we give the final word to a new party in the nation's political texture this year and last, the online animated satirists. From the folks who brought you "This Land is my Land," with George Bush and John Kerry, it's "Second Term" by those wild and wacky kids at JibJab.com.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear to preserve, protect, defend the Constitution?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet you.
(singing) Yes, I'm coming back to serve a second term. This time I won the national election. Thanks to you, Ohio, and to your brother Jebediah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We get four more years to rule in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Good God, he's coming back to serve a second term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We were hoping in '04 we'd get a turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): But we lost the nation's battle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Now they're stuck without a paddle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Who will save us from conservatism?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I will stabilize Iraq in my second term.
And I will amend the Constitution. Then I'll eliminate the taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): That are breaking all our back-ses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): And push for more privatization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We cannot believe he won a secretary term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): He destroyed the transatlantic alliance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Heck, I'll extend a friendly offer, barbecue and beers in Crawford.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Any fence is broke by preemption (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We want peace on earth throughout his second term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We want Iraqis who have free elections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): There's a beef here, let's dispatch it and bury that old hatchet.
Yes we've been through stormy weather, now it's time to walk together.
Gather around the old chuck wagon, it's a grand time we'll be having in the four years I have left in Washington.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-five seconds too long?
From second terms to first time elections. Insurgents step up the violence in Iraq, a dry run perhaps for election day.
And another contentious day for Condoleezza Rice, because of it, did we all miss the coining of a new diplomatic catchphrase? Just which countries constitution the outposts of tyranny?
This is Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It is a battle without the possibility of compromise, one side believing that if anybody votes, it will be close to religious infidelity. The other side believing that if anybody votes, it will be close to a triumph for democracy. With the ends of the spectrum that far apart, the only possible result is bloodshed.
In our fourth story on the Countdown, that is exactly what is continuing tonight in Iraq. The grim recitation of details from our correspondent in Baghdad, Jim Maceda.
JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an explosive message: a highly coordinated series of car bombs in Baghdad.
Early this morning in the west, an insurgent parked a truck outside the Australian embassy. Moments later, a bomb blew shrapnel and glass over several city blocks, killing two Iraqis.
Minutes later in the east, another car bomb near a police station killed six.
And then a third car bomb, this one near the airport southwest, killing two guards.
By the mid morning, a fourth car bomb to the southeast blew up outside an Iraqi military barracks. At least two more soldiers dead.
And later, yet a fifth car bomb exploded near a bank and mosque, this time to the north.
In all, at least 14 Iraqis killed. The NBC News bureau damaged. And that's just inside Baghdad. The targets once again, mostly security personnel on hand to make the January 30 vote safe.
But from Beiji to Basra, insurgents also killed at least 10 police or election workers, including two Iraqi computer experts. Their execution shown on an Islamic web site, all with one purpose.
SAIJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: To prevent the elections from taking place effectively and also to intimidate Iraqis from partaking in them.
MACEDA: But today one of the first encouraging signs. Some 90,000 ballot boxes and 60 million ballots made in Canada and flown in under tight security. Despite the growing violence here, the vote remains a go.
FARID AVAR, IRAQI ELECTION COUNCIL: Who can ensure if we push the election to six months or seven months, there will be quietness here.
MACEDA (on camera): Already blast walls have gone up to better protect one of today's targets, the Australian embassy, from future car bomb attacks. But some would call this putting Band-aids on open lethal wounds.
Increasingly, insurgents, it would seem, are calling the shots.
(voice-over) Able to shut down much of the capital of five million today, and they warn on election day, too, only 11 days from now.
Jim Maceda, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: What's going to happen in Iraq after those elections? That's what Condoleezza Rice says she wants to focus on after making a surprising admission that mistakes have already been made there.
And our live kind of continuing coverage of the collision at the bottom of the earth, at a mile an hour, continues live in "Oddball." Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We continue, and we have now reached that point on our nightly journey where the S.S. Countdown slams full speed into the iceberg of strange news and goofy video.
Let's play "Oddball." Glub, glub.
It was more than a week ago we first introduced you to B-15, an Antarctic iceberg the size of Long Island, New York, which is on a collision course with the Drygalski Ice Tongue.
Tonight we have new video taken at the scene. No, it hasn't hit yet. But it's going to, probably. The 100-mile long hunk of ice still barreling towards the glacier at nearly a mile a day.
Some scientists have predicted the collision of the century. Which century? The 25th?
Scientists now backing off the prediction, still, area penguins have begun evacuations, which seem to be proceeding in an orderly fashion, a few minor beak injuries notwithstanding. There you go. He's a gamer.
Now to Jupiter. Jupiter, Florida, where it is now again legal to keep a pot bellied pig as a pet. Local resident Loretta Mayo fought city hall. She got the council to overturn a ban which would have forced her to get rid of Daisy, her pot-bellied best friend.
But the fight's not over yet for the little porker or Mayo. Mm, pork chops with mayo.
She's vowing to keep fighting until Daisy is afforded the same rights that cats and dogs receive, such as being allowed outside for more than eight hours a day and the right to vote in Palm Beach County.
And from penguins to pet pigs to Mr. Potato Head. The folks at Hasbro announcing a new potato action figure will be added to the line, coming next month, to coincide with the release the new "Star Wars" movie.
Ladies and gentlemen, Darth Tater. Oh, man. This is the spud who was lost to the dark side only to reveal later that he was actually the father of Luke Skywalker.
In addition to the regular pop in eyes and mouth, Darth Tater will come with that helmet, boots and light saber, which makes perfect julienne fries each time, every time.
Tomorrow we will not get a president installed, but we will not get, as he hoped, a new secretary of state installed. And what did she mean when she referred to the "outposts of tyranny"?
Just in case you were still wondering whether the right guy was being sworn in, tomorrow the autopsy is in on those exit polls.
Those stories ahead. Now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers on this day.
No. 3, Jerry Duran of Arvada, Colorado. He lost his high school class ring 25 years ago. Lost it in the flushing toilet bowl. Last week, last week, sewer workers cleaning out a pipe found it. He's not sure he wants it back.
No. 2, similarly, an unidentified man in Riyadh from whose stomach they removed a toothbrush which had just started to bother him the other day. He swallowed it in 1982.
And No. 1, Harry Kim, the mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii. He's got a small pest problem there. The big island is infested with thousands of tiny screaming frogs. Their shouts of "Cokie, Cokie," shattering the night.
One option being considered? Bringing ABC's Cokie Roberts to Honolulu so she can respond, "What?"
(MUSIC: "Sing with the Frogs")
OLBERMANN: We're going to straighten out that last mayor of Hawaii from "Newsmakers." Right now we have him as the mayor of Kona, Hilo and of Honolulu. We'll get it straightened out.
The great boxer Muhammad Ali, whether winning or losing, was known to back away from a clinch with his opponent by dropping a stinging punch to the body and saying, pleasantly, take that one with you.
Our third story on the Countdown, football is Condoleezza Rice's sport, not pugilism, but she probably gets that analogy anyway. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsing her candidacy but the whole Senate not going to vote on it until next Tuesday or Wednesday. A delay that that is infuriating the white house. The Democrats saying, take that one with you. It's a victory but one that, as we'll discuss in a moment, may have signaled the replacement of the axis of evil with something called the six outposts of tyranny. And it was one that as our correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports, included Senator Joe Biden's shrieking like the soothsayer in "Julius Caesar."
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Condoleezza Rice was the first nominee for secretary of state to receive any no votes in 24 years, since Alexander Haig. Her critics were galvanized by Iraq.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I choose to vote my concerns.
MITCHELL: The question now, how will the Iraq policy change if at all once she is secretary of state?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: Do me a favor, as my mother would say, G-d love you, please do me a favor. Start to tell the whole deal. After 11 hours of sometimes scathing questioning over two days, today Rice acknowledged mistakes.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: We've had to do a lot of decisions, some of them good, some of them bad. But I would hope that what we will do now is to focus on where we go from here.
MITCHELL: In her new role, she promises to repair damaged relations with allies.
BRENT SCOWCROFT, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Up to now, she has been a policy maker. Now she is still a policy maker but she has to explain that policy to a world that is sometime skeptical.
MITCHELL: So she plans to travel more than Powell, one of the least traveled secretary of state. James Steinberg, from the Clinton national security council.
JAMES STEINBERG, FORMER CLINTON SECURITY OFFICIAL: At the end of the day, when allies will be looking for is, is the United States prepared to act differently, to take into account their views?
MITCHELL: The administration hopes next week's election will help create a credible Iraqi government and lead to more international support. The White House says that would make it easier to train Iraqi troops.
Critics say that is overly optimistic.
BIDEN: For G-d's sake, don't listen to Rumsfeld. He doesn't know what he is talking about on this.
MITCHELL (on camera): Rice's confirmation is assured but Democrats now say, they'll delay the vote to debate the war. The White House called that playing politics with national security. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, at the State Department.
OLBERMANN: Meantime, Iraq may have overshadowed something big, or at least something new in Dr. Rice's testimony. Most of the coverage of the three-word phrase she used yesterday has been in the international media, not in the domestic. There's an excellent chance that unless you saw it live, this there be first time you hear Dr. Rice enumerate the "outposts of tyranny."
RICE: To be sure in our world, there remain outposts of tyranny. And America stands with oppressed people on every could not in any event, in Cuba, in Burma and North Korea and Iran and Belarus and Zimbabwe.
OLBERMANN: "Outposts of tyranny." Somebody's trademark on axis of evil expired? Did secretary designate Rice mark a shift in policy or was she just kind of adlibbing? Joining me again is the diplomatic correspondent of the "Washington Post," Robin Wright. Robin, good evening.
ROBIN WRIGHT, "WASHINGTON POST": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Was that a policy launch by Dr. Rice or was it just a throw-ay line in her introductory remarks?
WRIGHT: Not at all a throw-away line. I think we have got a real foreshadowing of the emphasis the administration is going to place on specific places. The theme of the president's inaugural address tomorrow will be liberty, democracy, the spread of freedoms around the world. And these are six places that the administration is particularly going to target.
OLBERMANN: And one of them is very close to the continental United States. That seems to me to be extraordinary, the mention of Cuba.
WRIGHT: Well, Cuba is probably the least controversial. It is one that all administrations have shared. But the fact that they've moved beyond just North Korea, Iraq, and Iran is quite interesting.
OLBERMANN: Almost every other word in the Rice hearings both days was about Iraq and exit strategy, training, it sounded almost like it was deposition. Like a bid to get her on the record about everything anybody could think of and then read it back to her at some future date. Did she leave herself vulnerable in any significant way on this subject?
WRIGHT: Absolutely. As secretary of state, she will be the top diplomat and the one held accountable in the same way that Colin Powell was during his term. The way, for example, when he went to the United Nations to sell the weapons of mass destruction argument to the rest of the world. Those words came back to haunt him. Condoleezza Rice's words over the last two days will be the barometer for the administration's success over the next four years. At the end of the day, however, it is the president's policy and it is his legacy that will be most impacted.
OLBERMANN: Robin, there was a story in yesterday's "LA Times" that quoted U.S. military commanders as saying, they're coming to believe that U.S. troops will literally never defeat entirely the insurgency in Iraq and it is time to switch the entire focus from Americans fighting to Americans training Iraqis. It sounds like that old term, Vietnamization. Is this really going on in this sort of definite way?
WRIGHT: I think so. I think one of the things we've seen over the last month is this real transition from the original goal of two things. To stabilize Iraq and create a military that could take over responsibility for security. Increasingly, you're seeing the shift toward training the Iraqis so they can take over the stabilization process. And that marks a critical transition.
OLBERMANN: And obviously, speaking of critical, there's been such a focus on the election a week from Sunday. What is the best guess, not about the elections, but what happens immediately after them? Is there some sort of formalized request from the government at that point in Iraq for the U.S. to state the timetable for getting out? Is that the first big political event post election Iraq?
WRIGHT: I doubt it. It is on the agenda and the platform of several of the parties contesting this election. But they have so much to do in the way of forming a government and getting down to the constitutional process. It will be decided most of all, probably, by the - who wins the election in the turnout. Which party dominates it. There's one party that gets majority. An absolute majority. Such as the United Iraqi Alliance, a predominatly Shiite group. And that is a platform in this campaign. Then you might have that a much sooner issue than somewhere next summer.
OLBERMANN: Robin Wright, diplomatic corn for the "Washington Post."
As always, we appreciate your insight.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Good night.
Back to secretaries of state and the current one, though he will stay on the job until the full Senate confirms Dr. Rice, today Colin Powell said his formal goodbye. A man who spent nearly 35 of his nearly 40 years of government service in the military saluted his staff at the State Department. He called them his troops. And the first line of offense of American's foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have much to be proud of, but you are the ones who should be proud of what we have done. It has been my privilege to serve you, but you are the foot soldiers of the battalion. I'm so proud that I have had this chance to serve my nation once again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Earlier in the day, Powell was presented with his Cabinet chair by Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage. He, too, will be leaving the State Department.
And for those who believe this night, January 19, was to be the eve of every secretary and deputy leaving his department, an autopsy on the election exit polls which at least 20 percent of the country will never believe, not for a moment. The exit pollers, Edison Media Research and Metosky (ph) International reporting to their clients, news organizations and TV networks like NBC that there were mistakes in the polling this November 2nd not in the voting. That early raw data about who voted for whom and why overstated John Kerry's share of the vote nationally and in 26 different states.
That this is a largely due to many of the pollsters making procedural mistakes, especially younger pollsters who constituted about half the field force. And with whom older voters were less likely to cooperate. That Kerry supporter were more likely to participate in exit polls than were Bush supporters. That because in many precincts interviewers were kept 50 feet from voting places, this favored voters who were willing to go out of their way to proclaim their ardent support for their candidate, and that Occam's Razor, the scientific and philosophical theory that the simplest of the possible options is most likely never applies to exit polls. Right.
Also tonight, more bad news out of Southern Asia. The death toll taking another dramatic jump in the tsunami today. We all know about OJ Simpson's arrest record. Now his daughter has one.
Now here are Countdown's top three soundbites of the day.
JEFF TWEITAN, STAR WARS FAN: I do leave to go to the bathroom and take a shower and stuff like that. For the most part, I am out here 100 percent.
BLAAAAAUUUAAARRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!! There you have it. I was completely disabled. But as soon as the charge is over, I'm fine.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank all the entertainers who were here today. How about Hillary Duff? She was fantastic. Jo-Jo was here. Rubin Studdard. You talk about a success story. How about Three Doors Down? Pretty cool guys, right? Seemed cool to me.
OLBERMANN: The latest from the countries devastated by the Christmas tsunami. And later, inaugural missteps from years gone by, everything from bad floats to what were literally killer speeches. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: It was a few days after the tsunami enveloped the shores of 11 nations on the Indian Ocean, an obscure diplomat said he thought the casualty totals from his nation would be far higher than any official estimate, well past 100,000, perhaps as many as 400,000.
Our number two story on the Countdown, dismissed as an exaggeration then, his dire prediction may yet prove true. Indonesia added 50,000 deaths to its total today. The health ministry there saying this is not a write-off of those still missing and presumed dead. This is 50,000 corpses strewn over Aceh province, which felt the results not just of the tsunami but also the actual earthquake in the ocean off Sumatra.
There are still statistical variances with other counts from Indonesia, but if the Health Ministry number is correct, 166,320 Indonesians are still dead, meaning the international toll is now 221,100.
It was suggested yesterday that half a million in Indonesia have lost not their lives but their livelihoods. And that economic recovery might be fueled to some degree by the restarting of the coffee growing industry. Indonesia is the world's fourth largest grower.
In the interim, another industry has arisen there. The looting business. The "New York Times" reporting that on Monday, in what is left of Banda Aceh, 43 people were arrested for looting. Which in times of war or natural disaster there, can be punished by a jail sentence seven times longer than usual. The paper reports a virtual looter's market. Market stalls filled with pots and pans, salvaged or stolen from destroyed homes. The nightmare scenario made all the worse that the Banda Aceh police department reports that of its 780 officers, 300 died in the tsunami.
From the awful to the ridiculous. A triple header in tonight's celebrity and entertainment round-up, "Keeping Tabs." Martha Stewart, O.J. Simpson, and Michael Jackson. Your entertainment dollars in action. Day 429 of the Jackson investigations. And a weird ruling from the judge in his case saying that an ABC News report on the grand jury testimony by his accuser was accurate or not, so weighted against Jackson that Jackson deserved an opportunity to respond. The judge has thus temporarily lifted the gag order in the case to permit Jackson to do a television interview responding to the ABC report. That will be with Geraldo Rivera which is kind of like maintaining the gag order.
For those who wondered how OJ Simpson's children would grow up. The eldest has been arrested. Sydney Simpson, now 19 years old, arrested outside her old high school in Miami following a basketball game there Saturday night. This was, two teenage girls told police, she hit them in the face. Cops say she then yelled at them, would not stop, and as officers tried to lead her away, she slapped the hand with one of them. Charged with resisting arrest without violence. That carries a jail sentence of a year and disorderly conduct which carries a jail sentence of 60 days.
And news of someone already behind bars, posed this question. How
would Martha Stewart sound saying you're fired? The magazine "Broadcasting
and Cable" reporting the latest mutation in the post slammer Stewart
reality show for NBC. It is part of a plan to broadcast two editions of
the "Apprentice" each week. The first starring Donald Trump and the other
starring Ms. Stewart. As the magazine's wag wrote, "We're dying to hear
Stewart utter the phrase, 'you're fired, and it is a good thing.'"
A lot of cooking going on in DC this week. The inaugural parties you never see. The corporate, private ones. And moments frozen in time from inaugurals gone by. I mean that literally. One year, the food froze. Our number one story next.
ANNOUNCER: This is an MSNBC Inaugural Minute with Brian Williams.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: America in 1997 was a than of peace, prosperity, and partisanship. Bill Clinton claimed the middle ground.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT Government is not the problem. And government is not the solution. We the American people, we are the solution.
WILLIAMS: Clinton had won re-election but Congress remained solidly Republican. The president still secret relationship with Monica Lewinsky had been going on for months. Its disclosure would poison American politics and nearly destroy the Clinton presidency.
CLINTON: The American people return to office a president of one party and a Congress of another. Surely they did not do this to advance the politics of petty bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore.
OLBERMANN: We have all grown up thinking the inauguration outdoors and amid the people is a timeless component of American history, a continuum in history and democracy both. Actually it started because the members of the Congress and Senate were arguing on who got sit where in the hall for the inauguration of James Monroe and Monroe's first doctrine became, let's do this outside. There's room for everyone out there. Thus expedience became a tradition. Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, our inauguration. In a moment, the less frequently told stories of inaugurals past and why they deserve dishonor. First, our chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers on the parties and galas you will not see. The private corporate shindigs and the private business conducted therein.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blues legend B.B. King, a private affair closed to the public. But NBC News managed to get a camera in to capture politicians partying, courtesy of some of the biggest companies in America. Here is Congressman Roger Wicker with a lobbyist for telephone company MCI.
No influence pedaling going on tonight?
REP. ROGER WICKER, (R) MS: Not anymore any other time.
MYERS: The parties all legal. Dozens of companies do it, including NBC and its parent company General Electric. Here is the General Motors party. And there's the secretary of transportation.
NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: It's a time of festivities. It's inauguration.
MYERS: Look who we found in a brunch hosted by gambling casinos, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
ANTONIN SCALIA, S.C. JUSTICE: I have no idea who's paying for the lunch. Thank you.
MYERS (on camera): This year, limos had to be brought in from New York just to meet the demand. Caterers called the parties more numerous and more grand than ever. Lobbyists call the expense both an investment and the cost of doing business. Critics call it buying access.
LARRY NOBLE, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The inauguration for lobbyists is a feeding ground.
MYERS (voice-over): Even the official inaugural ceremonies are brought to you by a who's who of corporate America. The top givers, Ameriquest and Marriott, $750,000 each. Almost 100 companies gave $100,000 or more. What do big donors get? Inaugural chairman Jean Phillips claims not much more than good tickets and briefly rubbing shoulders with the president. And she says without big contributions...
JEAN PHILLIPS, INAUGURAL CHAIRMAN: We would not have a free parade, we would not have a free fireworks celebration for families, we would not be able to entertain the soldiers who are coming this week.
MYERS: Still, the most exclusive events are not free. This morning, the president attended a brunch limited to those who gave a quarter of a million dollars. Tonight, it's three candlelight dinners. Cost $2,500 per plate. But one Congressman has no use for complaints about corporate funded celebrations.
REP. JAMES GIBBONS, (R) NV: Anyone who's against that obviously must be a communist.
MYERS: Inaugural week, a celebration of democracy and deep corporate pockets. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: It could be worse. All those people could be in the White House tomorrow. There had been a lot of bumps just like that in the history of inaugurations beginning with the crowd control issues of 1829.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Andrew Jackson had to flee. The first inaugural parade turned into the first mass decision to let's go congratulate the president when 20,000 people descended on the White House, Jackson removed himself to a hotel and aides placed wash tubs filled with orange juice and whiskey on the lawn to stop the hoards from muddying up the White House carpets and threatening the bric-a-brac.
Rutherford B. Hayes not only cancelled his 1877 inaugural ceremony but also the formal ball. And he actually took the oath in private in the White House two days before he repeated it in public. This may have had something to do with the fact his election victory over Samuel Tilden had only been decided by a special electoral commission.
Ulysses S. Grant had no luck at all. His first inaugural ball was held in the treasury building. There wasn't enough room for dancing. Four years later, Grant thought he had it beat for his second inaugural ball. A huge room was reserved and a gluttonous menu laid out. Roast boar's head, lobster, turkey, capons filled with truffles, mutton, roast beef, ham and salmon with canaries in cages to sing the president's praises. But that night it was four degrees. The celebrants wound up dancing in their coats and everything else froze. The food and the canaries.
In 1909, the weather should have told new president William Howard Taft what was ahead in his administration, a blizzard forced his inauguration indoors into the Senate chamber as would temperatures of 7 degrees later force Ronald Reagan's second inauguration into the Capitol Rotunda.
Of all the inauguration, Abraham Lincoln's first was probably the most controversial with the southern states already seceeding, he had had to sneak into Washington overnight in a disguise. Then some rocket scientist decided his inaugural parade should feature a float carrying 34 girls, each representing one of the 34 states, each of whom Lincoln felt obliged to kiss.
But hands down, the worst inauguration experience belonged to William Henry Harrison. Already 68 years old and a little under the weather on his day in 1841, he not only rode a horse through a snowstorm to the ceremony, but he then proceeded to give the longest inaugural address before or since. 8,445 words, which it took him two hours and five minutes to deliver, and he wasn't wearing a hat. That night, he went to four different inaugural galas. Shortly thereafter, Harrison was diagnosed with pneumonia and he died. Exactly a month later.
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OLBERMANN (on camera): One other bit of history which we can guarantee will not be repeated tomorrow, for Washington's second inaugural, he made his address kind of brief, 135 words. Oh, we can always dream. That's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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