'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 25
Guest: Craig Crawford, Robin Wright, Diane Dimond, Bert Ammerman, Bhagavan Antle
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The endless debate over endless debate, the filibuster showdown in the Senate, and the news that the senator and the religious group so opposed to filibusters now, completely supported them five and eight years ago.
At least 57 dead, more than 440 injured. Not just a train crashing outside Osaka, Japan, but a train crashing into an apartment complex.
Michael Jackson's ex-wife will testify. No, not the famous one. And the Michael Jackson Puppets will return. Yes, the famous ones.
Speaking of returns...
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
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OLBERMANN:... as the song goes, she's got a tiger by the tail. Actually, two of them, and not by the tail. We know we showed you this last week. Tonight, we're going to talk to experts about just how weird it is.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
When the word first appeared in the Congressional Record, it was "filibusterer." That was in 1853, when it meant simply prolonging debate. When it had first showed up in American English, it was "filibustier (ph)," and it meant someone from this country who aided uprisings in Latin America.
At one point, as the Dutch word, "rijbuyter (ph)," it referred to freelance boat captains. The English turned that into "flibitor (ph)," which meant pirate.
So when you hear about Senate majority leader Bill Frist appearing in a broadcast supposedly dedicated to stopping the filibuster against people of faith, now you are also stuck with images of pirates of the Caribbean with eye patches.
The setting for yesterday's gathering, this Louisville church. The event beamed to churches and Christian radio and TV stations nationwide and on the Internet. The task at hand, repainting Senate politics in black and white, no gray allowed. Any senator against the president's most conservative judicial nominees also being described as, quote, "against people of faith," Republicans included.
Any senator who hopes to block those nominees now or in the future, unequivocally wrong.
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SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Because even some conservatives don't think we should press the issue on requiring votes on judicial nominees. They're concerned that in the future, Republicans won't be able to use this same device to obstruct Democratic nominees.
Well, that may be true. But if what the Democrats are doing is wrong today, it won't be right for Republicans to do the same thing tomorrow.
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OLBERMANN: Ah, but what about yesterday? Of course, evidently it was still right when Frist filibustered Bill Clinton's nomination of a judge named Richard Paez to the Ninth Circuit in 2000, Republicans blocking more than 60 of President Clinton's judicial nominees, Democrats having blocked just 10 during President Bush's first term.
Members on both sides of the aisle taking offense to Senator Frist's threats and tactics.
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SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: There seems to be this new attitude that if you oppose any of President Bush's judges, then that means that as a senator, you are against people of faith. Now, as a person of faith, I really resent that.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would call on them not to go down the road of saying that the Democratic senators are not people of faith, or questioning their religious, that they're religious bigots. I don't think that helps the country, and I don't think that's fair.
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OLBERMANN: As mentioned, the filibuster stretches back not merely to Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," but to the presidential administration of Franklin Pierce 152 years ago. And, as a last measure of the defense of the minority, it has had many supporters over the years, like the very people of faith who sponsored yesterday's Justice Sunday, the group Family Research Council.
Yesterday it was opposed to filibusters. Seven years ago, it was in favor of them. That's when Clinton and a then-Democratic plurality in the Senate wanted a man named James Hormel to become the ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, of the Spam and other meats Hormels, was gay, as the Senate minority bottled up Hormel's nomination with filibusters and threats of filibusters, minority relative to cloture, to breaking up a filibuster.
They did that for a year and a half. The Family Research Council's senior writer, Steven Schwartz, appeared on National Public Radio at the time and explained the value, even the necessity, of the filibuster.
"The Senate," he said, "is not a majoritarian institution, like the House of Representatives is. It is a deliberative body, and it's got a number of checks and balances built into our government. The filibuster is one of those checks in which a majority cannot just sheerly force its will, even if they have a majority of votes in some cases. That's why there are things like filibusters, and other things that give minorities in the Senate some power to slow things up, to hold things up, and let things be aired properly."
It's been said many times, many ways, that was then, and this is now.
To get us up to speed on the state of play in the filibuster filbusterer and rijbuyter is "Congressional Quarterly" senior columnist and NBC analyst Craig Crawford.
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hey, Keith. I like your Dutch version, the freelance boat captains. That's what Democrats will be if they lose this vote.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but once again, though, somebody has stepped out in front of stampeding horses here. And at first glance, I can't tell if it's Bill Frist who are in front of the horses, or the people who oppose him. Is there any sense which way this is going yet?
CRAWFORD: I, one way to gauge that, Keith, is, when are they going to hold this vote? Mitch McConnell, the majority whip, yesterday on Sunday news shows, said they had the votes. Today, we're hearing they haven't scheduled it. Well, maybe this week, maybe next week.
You know, my rule of thumb is, we, you know, they'll schedule the vote when they have the votes. And if they're not scheduling it, they may not have the votes.
OLBERMANN: Are there Republicans today, on the record or off, worried about what Frist did yesterday? He did appear in the middle of a broadcast in which this infamous Dr. James Dobson announced, as if he had just discovered this, by the way, that the Supreme Court is unelected and unaccountable, and it's also arrogant and imperious and out of control, which is great rhetoric, unless you are a Republican, and you remember that seven out of the nine justices on the court were appointed by Republican presidents.
CRAWFORD: Yes, there's some concern among Republicans about such a high-profile leader of the party associating with those kinds of views. But, you know, we get that on the Democratic side. They like to deal with labor unions and some other groups in the shadows.
And at the same time, these are the voters who get them elected. And if you look at the numbers, Keith, on white evangelical conservatives, four out of five voted for President Bush. They made up a third of his total vote in the last election.
You throw in conservative Catholics and other conservative religious groups, and it's the single biggest constituency in the Republican Party.
So I think it is not so politically wrong for Frist to try to reach out to them.
OLBERMANN: But are they not now mad at Tom DeLay over how the whole Schiavo thing turned out? And could not Frist be going way out on a limb in case he doesn't get this the way he wants it and the way they want it?
CRAWFORD: Many conservative Christian leaders are beginning to feel they've just been part of a shell game, that these Republicans want them on election day, and then say, Gee, thanks, we'll call you again in four years.
And that's becoming the attitude. They don't really get that much in the way of legislation. Supreme Court nominations are key. They wanted more in the Schiavo case, and they got quite a lot. But at the end of the day, the politicians stepped aside and let the judicial decisions stand.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, the history part of our discussion. 1997, Family Research Council, pro filibuster. 2000, Senator Frist participates in a judicial filibuster. We have other examples in which Democrats, Senator Schumer, for instance, in 2000, blasted that particular filibuster, and said, let these votes come to the floor.
Does nobody in politics at all ever worry any longer about being called a flat-out hypocritical fraud?
CRAWFORD: Well, no, they're hypocrites. They just don't like to get caught. I mean, think about Washington. You know, if hypocrisy were a virus in Washington, we'd all be dead. The problem here is, you know, for Democrats, is, they railed against the filibuster in the past, and going back to the civil rights movement. It was used by segregationists against civil rights, and liberals were against the filibuster then.
But I think, you know, the idea of religion, of the filibuster being a religious ideal, is quite odd, and it sort of reminds me of, you know, you got to wonder whether God really cares that much about filibustering.
You've probably heard the old Bobby Knight story, when they asked he didn't lead his players in prayer before games, he says, "Because God doesn't give a damn about college basketball." That may be how God views filibusters.
OLBERMANN: Or at least politicians.
CRAWFORD: Maybe so.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of "Congressional Quarterly" and MSNBC, as always, sir, great thanks.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Political turmoil of a different sort in Iraq, but it nonetheless echoes here. Some three months after the election, the Iraqi government stuck in neutral amid a recent wave of insurgent violence, this day bringing roadside bombings on the heels of two devastating double car bomb strikes yesterday.
In each of those attacks, a second bomb exploding less than half an hour after the first, thus trapping and then killing or wounding the rescuers on the scene.
The Bush administration putting pressure on the Iraqi government to stop its bickering so it can address the violence. Lawmakers still deadlocked over its cabinet choices. Sunnis, Shi'as, and Kurds forever bickering over who should get which job.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among those personally telephoning the Iraqi lawmakers, Secretary Rice saying from the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, today, that compromise is needed to get the political process in Iraq moving forward again.
Can anybody get that done, though? We're joined now by "Washington Post" diplomatic correspondent Robin Wright.
Robin, good evening.
ROBIN WRIGHT, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: So you - OK, somebody looks at Iraq and says, They can't agree on a cabinet, they each have their own interests, these groups each have their own interests. We could say the same thing about the Republicans and the Democrats here. Doesn't mean the same thing.
_What is the issue within the issue in Iraq? Why can't they agree?_
WRIGHT: Well, there are a lot of different reason. One of them has to do just with personnel, how you divide up the cabinet posts, what Sunnis you bring in, should they be allowed to have any background in the Ba'ath party, which ruled under Saddam Hussein?
There also plays out on the much broader issue of, what are the big issues that are going to be defined during the constitutional process? And much of the negotiating that's going on over personnel actually reflects the issues that have to be decided over the next six months in the writing of a constitution.
OLBERMANN: The nudge from Cheney and Rice today, does this differ from any of the previous nudges from those two, or from anybody else in this country?
WRIGHT: Probably only in that it's is public. There have been a gentle pressure increasing over the last few weeks from several administration officials, including the deputy secretary of state, who was in Iraq. Other Iraqi officials have passed through Washington and have been told bluntly, Look, it's time to move on.
But I think there's the real fear is the momentum. You have the kind of loss of the kind of exuberation after the election on January 30 coinciding with the increase in the number of its, and deadliness of the attacks.
And there's a sense that the, everyone felt they'd turned the corner a few months ago, and now that that momentum may be lost.
OLBERMANN: Does anyone have a handle on the shelf life of the remaining momentum from the elections, and from the seeming triumph over the insurgency? Is there any idea how much of a window there is to get this entire act together?
WRIGHT: That's the $64,000 question. And I think that's why you see such high-profile statements about the need for compromise now, and that is, the fear that we are beginning to run out of it. Clearly there's a number of weeks. But remember, there is a timeline on this. And there Iraqis are supposed to have the constitution completed and ready for distribution and education throughout the public by mid-August. That's four months away. That's a lot, very little time to do a lot of business.
OLBERMANN: So if the whole thing crashes through that deadline or any of the other ones, what happens then? Is another upswing in violence the answer at that point, as to what's going to happen?
WRIGHT: I think there's a real fear that it'll be a very hot summer in Baghdad. But the bigger issue really is, will they have to delay the process six months, delay the constitutional writing and the, a referendum on whether it wins approval, and then elections for a permanent government.
Once there is that kind of slippage of six months, there is a general fear, I think, both in Iraq and in Washington, that the process may slip further.
OLBERMANN: And if you go back through everything that we have been through in Iraq, all of these deadlines have been so symbolically important, from the handover of authority to the elections themselves, and now this, it really can't be overstated, can it?
WRIGHT: No. In fact, despite all the obstacles they've faced over the past two years, most of the deadline have met, been met, plus or minus a few days, a couple of weeks. And so this really stands out. And the fact that they keep promising it will be tomorrow or later this week, and they can't come to agreement, is now become just short of a crisis.
OLBERMANN: Minus on the handover, as we recall. And we actually got out of there early, officially. The "Washington Post" expert on all things diplomatic, Robin Wright. As always, great thanks for your time tonight.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the Japanese commuter rail disaster. An inexperienced driver, perhaps rushing to get back on his schedule, pilots his train into the side of an apartment complex.
And you've seen this already, the handcuffing of a 5-year-old girl at her kindergarten. Turns out the mother had instructed the school never to touch her daughter. Then she was not around when the daughter acted up. Much more detail on this story tonight.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It has the classic earmarks of a train disaster. The missed stop, the young driver, the race to make up time.
In fact, it sounds almost exactly like the worst wreck in American subway history. In 1918, a New York ticket-taker pressed into service as a motorman during a strike missed a station, backed his train up, and then took it down an S-curve into a tunnel, not at the limit of six miles per hour, but at 30 miles an hour. Ninety-seven were killed then.
As Tuesday began in Japan, they were still digging out of another train disaster with all the same elements. And again, dozens killed. The count as of 9:00 a.m. local time, 71 dead, more than 440 injured. Only 70 people on the train not killed or injured.
The motorman in Brooklyn in 1918 was just 23 years old. As our correspondent from our affiliated British network, ITV, John Irvine, reports, that's the exact same age as the motorman outside Osaka.
JOHN IRVINE, ITV NEWS (voice-over): Rescue workers worked quickly at the crash site, and these professionals knew exactly what to do. Train crashes may be rare in Japan, but the threat of other disasters, like earthquakes, is a constant, and that's why the country has experts like these, emergency teams ready for the delicate task of extricating the trapped and injured.
Five of the train's seven carriages were derailed. The lead one plowed into a block of flats, two others overturned. Most of the passengers were schoolchildren or commuters.
Of the 600 on board, well over half are dead or injured.
Survivors have told the authorities that the train overshot the last station before it crashed. It was apparently running more than a minute late, and it may have been traveling too fast, as the driver tried to make up the time. The pressure to be punctual could have compromised safety.
The driver is only 23 years old and has been in the job for less than a year. He is among the injured.
Other possible causes are a defective braking system or an impediment on the track. The train apparently struck a car close to a level crossing, although it's not clear whether that collision occurred before or after the derailment.
Whatever the truth, the crash will come as a massive shock in a country where the extensive rail network is a source of great pride. The vast proportion of Japanese, 60 million of them, rely on trains for their daily commute, and they take for granted an excellent safety record. They will want answers, and quickly.
John Irvine, ITV News.
OLBERMANN: From the serious to the seriously troubled. Consume mass quantities, eating contests, the sure sign of the summer ahead. But who eats (INAUDIBLE) bowls of asparagus?
And the Michael Jackson trial, Countdown-style. Defense attorney fired ex-wife to testify. New chairs with (INAUDIBLE). The puppets know all, tell all.
OLBERMANN: We have returned, and just in time, too, for our own mini-news filibuster, delaying our coverage of real news with a segment full of strange people and stupid video.
Let's play Oddball.
Stockton, California, hello. Home of the 20th annual Stockton Asparagus Festival. What food festival would be complete without a contest to see how much of said food product can be shoved into your enormous piehole? The competition fast and furious, and it had to enter a sudden-death overtime to determine the winner, not that you should ever use the term "sudden death" at an eating contest.
Festival is held each year to celebrate the California crop and to raise money for charity. But remember, when visiting an a asparagus-eating contest, you're going to want to steer clear of those porta-potties.
To Melbourne, where there's not necessarily anything newsworthy about a drunken Australian making a fool of himself. But when it's captured on video, sometimes it can be fun to watch. That guy got himself stuck headfirst in a public trashcan. Apparently, his pals thought it would be funny to grab his cell phone and throw it in the garbage can. Little did they know how funny it would be when he decided the to dumpster-dive and fish it out.
Firemen had to unscrew the lid of the can, then cut the guy out of it with a hacksaw. All in front of a cheering crowd of his fellow drunks. And what's really interesting is, this guy is the prime minister.
Finally, to Lewisburg (ph), North Carolina, which this weekend hosted the International Whistler's Convention. As you can see, dozens of them showed up from around the world to preserve the happy memories. Some apparently made bootleg tapes. This guy thinks he's an opera singer.
Thirty-second annual competition. Governor Mike Easley declared this Happy Whistler's Week in North Carolina to mark the occasion A woman from Colorado was the big winner. But in our opinion, nobody topped this guy.
That - thank - thank you - thank - thank you, Mr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is. Thank you.
He's one of the reasons they invented musical instruments. Make him stop already!
Sometimes an Oddball item is so odd that it comes to life like Pinocchio and becomes a real news story, like this one. And the abiding question, Whacha, whacha, hey, wha huh?
And someone with questionable mothering instincts, Michael Jackson's ex, who bore him two of those children, can take the stand against him.
Those stories ahead.
Now, though, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Vladimir Putin, Pooty-poot, America's friend, with the receding hairline. Looks kind of like the British actor Patrick Mallahay (ph). State of the Union address to his people in Russia yesterday, he said something kind of interesting. Didn't get a lot of play. He said the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. But he's our friend.
Number two, the exploding toads of Hamburg, Germany. Nobody is doing this to them. Nobody knows why it's happening. It is not animal abuse. But just after nightfall every night, all the toads near a lake in the city of Hamburg suddenly puff up to three times normal size, and then blow up, leaving a debris field of up to a yard in diameter.
Bring the kids.
And number one, the editors of "Newsday"'s free morning newspaper, "A.M. New York," who are apologizing for having run this Associated Press photo of the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI, or, as he's also known - Satan?
Yikes. What look like are just the collar of the man standing behind him. That man, of course - he is the devil.
OLBERMANN: Here's a little journalistic confession. There isn't always news at the Michael Jackson trial. No such troubles today. His ex-wife will testify. One of his attorneys suddenly is an ex. And there's new furniture. It's your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 525 of the Michael Jackson investigations.
The shake-up for team Jackson, attorney Brian Oxman unceremoniously and quite publicly dismissed by lead attorney Tom Mesereau, although the late word from California is that he may stay on as Jackson's personal attorney, whatever that means. More on that in a moment from Court TV's Diane Dimond.
First, in a series of rulings this morning, Judge Rodney Melville essentially shaped what the remainder of the prosecution's case might bring. The prosecutors say they'll wrap it up next week - bless 'em! Two key witnesses admitted, Jackson's ex-wife, the mother of two of his children, Debbie Rowe. Prosecutors claim she was compelled to make a pro-Jackson video just about the same time the accuser's family was allegedly forced to do the same. And an immunity deal opens the door to the testimony of a travel agent named Cynthia Montgomery. She's expected to offer corroboration for the accuser's mother, who testified that Jackson's associates had a plan to move the family to Brazil.
Some testimony today, a former Jackson security guard, a sheriff's detective. Nothing big. Thus the rest of the events, some redecorating in the courtroom, easily covered by our reality-based nightly recreation of the trial testimony, "Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre."
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OLBERMAN: Debbie's going to testify. Uh-oh! I hope she still has that script I gave her. Wait! Something looks different in here. My new back rest! Thank goodness! That will support my story. I mean, support my lower back. And look, the new jury chairs, the ones with cup holder. Ooh! Cup holders. They bought them on e-Bay, you know. Took me two days to bid them up that high. Tom Sneddon paid twice what they're worth. Wow!
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OLBERMANN: So anyway, ex-wives, ex-lawyers, a current lawyer who doesn't know not to have an animated discussion with the ex-lawyer where cameras can see you. I'm joined now by Diane Dimond, the executive and investigative editor for Court TV, who is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the RKO radio network, where we used to work together. Good evening, Diane.
DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV: That seems like 100 years ago, doesn't it, Keith. Good morning - good afternoon. Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Yes, 25 to 100. I think that's a phrase you hear in a courtroom. Let me begin with this shake-up with the defense. What happened? I mean, earlier today, Mr. Oxman had responded to rumors that he'd been fired by saying that the team was in, quote, disarray. What happened?
DIMOND: Well, you know, this morning when he came in, Michael Jackson and his father, Joe Jackson, actually embraced him in the hallway. And not 10 minutes later, I watched in the courtroom as he was told he couldn't sit up at the defense table, he had to sit back in the audience. They moved his case back there. And then they served him with papers, these substitution of attorney papers. You know, I don't think there's a substitute attorney coming in, I just think he's going out.
It's been, you know, a pretty open secret that Mesereau and he don't really get along. He and Susan Yu do not get along, famously. We caught him in a parking lot recently, yelling into his cell phone about Susan Yu and about the way the place - it was just in disarray, nobody was paying the bills, and that Michael Jackson had asked him to fire Mesereau a week before the opening statement. Ironic. Today, he gets the boot.
OLBERMANN: Yes, everybody representing Michael Jackson, step forward.
Not so fast, you, Oxman.
DIMOND: Mr. Oxman.
OLBERMANN: So you were - you were, Diane, the first to report on this appearance of the ex, of Debbie Rowe. What - what - is she being brought forward on the idea of this forced videotape testimony or - how damaging, and in what area?
DIMOND: You know, when the mother testified here recently, she testified about trying to follow a script that she was given. And everybody thought it was so absurd. Well, now here comes Debbie Rowe probably as early as Wednesday. And she's going to testify to the same thing, that team Jackson, these co-conspirators, gave hear script and said, If you do it enthusiastically enough, we'll let you see the children. And she did it, and now she's coming here to testify that she did it.
You know, she could be a real loose cannon for Michael Jackson. I mean, she could talk about, you know, Michael Jackson's obsessive desire to have his own children, he wanted to adopt two kids from every continent, about how team Jackson operates in this, you know, cocoon of secrecy and mystery. She could, if she wanted to, get really teary-eyed, as she did in that interview there, and say, you know, I just don't think my kids are safe with him anymore.
You never know what Debbie Rowe is going to do. This is a woman who rides a Harley-Davidson and sort of lives her own life with her horses and her dogs. And she's pretty mad right now. I mean, she's embroiled in a custody battle with him down in Los Angeles. So no telling what she might say.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, speaking of teams, team prosecution. The end of their case is in sight. Have they - even without Debbie Rowe, have they made their case, in your estimation, sitting there day after day?
DIMOND: Well, you know, I think it's been a pretty compelling case. I know it's a team sport to say that they haven't made the case, that it's weak, that the conspiracy hasn't been proven. Well, this week is the conspiracy, and into next week. They've had a lot of corroborating evidence about what this family has said - documents, audio, video, letters, forged signatures. I think, in all, it's been pretty compelling. I'd like to really hear this conspiracy evidence, though.
OLBERMANN: And I guess we will shortly. Court TV's Diane Dimond.
Great. Thanks for your time. And via satellite, this is the RKO...
DIMOND: Thank you (INAUDIBLE)
OLBERMANN:... radio network. Bye-bye.
Also tonight, it proved there was more to this story than merely the unbelievable video of a 5-year-old getting handcuffed. Today it proves there's even more, more to this story than just the unbelievable video. Speaking of unbelievable, did Martha Stewart oversell just how much business she would be conducting at this New York gala? Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We would not have seen the videotape of the 5-year-old out-of-control Tampa kindergartner being handcuffed by three policemen had it not been for John Trevena. He was the attorney for the girl's mother, Inga Akins. He was going to sue on their behalf until he found out she had fired him. He found this out from the producers of the syndicated sleaze show "A Current Affair," with whom, it turns out, the mother has an exclusive contract. Whether or not the show thought it had exclusive rights to the extraordinary video, we do not know. We do know much more, though, about this story, about the history between the mother, Ms. Akins, and the school. The update in a moment.
First, in case you somehow missed this, the pinch, collar, arrest and/or "Book 'em, Dano" moment.
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UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: You need to calm down, and you need to do it now, OK? Do you remember me? I'm the one who told your mom to put handcuffs on you.
_UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Mom! Mom!_
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The former attorney, Mr. Trevena, says that Ms. Akins had asked that her daughter be transferred to another school because she said the assistant principal was targeting her daughter. The school has another perspective, that Ms. Akins had warned them never to touch her daughter, and that on March 14, when the child would not calm down after this tantrum, the school called the mother first, but she could not leave her job as a nursing assistant.
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DR. CLAYTON WILCOX, PINELLAS SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: She was concerned that if she put her hands on the child - the parent had left strict instructions not to. So in essence, our hands were tied. I also know that when we called the mother to respond, the mother had either other obligations or couldn't get there, perhaps because of employment, and left the school really powerless. We can't touch the child. The mother won't come to intervene. So the assistant principal did what she thought was best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The attorney, the ex-attorney, Mr. Trevena, said the little girl has since been transferred to another school, and since then, quote, "everything has been fine," which is more than he can say for himself. The school's conduct, though, is still a topic for puzzled parents tonight. Joining me now for an educator's perspective is Bert Ammerman, principal at Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest, New Jersey. Mr. Ammerman, good evening.
BERT AMMERMAN, HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: There are a lot of children's advocates, some parents who say this is a black-and-white thing, that a 5-year-old child, unless they have gotten hold of a weapon, could never be enough of a risk to require calling in the police. What are your thoughts?
AMMERMAN: Well, I think that - in looking at it, I thought the assistant principal and the teacher did a wonderful job. Possibly, they could have intervened with child study team (ph) personnel or special education individuals. And if they had a guidance counselor in the elementary school, to try to get some assistance there. Law enforcement should be the last approach. But if they felt that the child was a danger to herself, that would be an appropriate recourse.
OLBERMANN: But how do you - how would you judge, even from this videotape, that she was a danger to herself? I mean, clearly, she's being a complete pain to everybody else, but where is the danger element?
AMMERMAN: As I watched the videotape, seeing her jump around, the assistant principal and the teacher trying to put her under control, could get concerned that while she was jumping up, trying the tear things down, would fall off the chair or fall off the desk, and that same parent would be suing if the professionals didn't take appropriate measures to protect her child and put her in a safe environment.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I just noticed there, and I hadn't seen it until that 55th time we've seen it, but the shoelaces are untied, too, as she's standing on top of the table. One question on the history thing. If there is a school-versus-parent or a history even with this child, why would she be in the general school population?
AMMERMAN: Oh, that's the big thing today, inclusion, get them into the environment. The parent, I think if you did a history on the parent, seems to have some issues herself. To make a statement that the school can never touch their child, it's against the - goes contrary to the law. If the school personnel believe that a child is a danger to themselves or others, you can use appropriate physical restraint to try to help the child become under control. You do not give up that right.
But it's a dilemma today, Keith, because we're in a litigation-driven society. That same attorney would take the other viewpoint, that if they didn't grab the child by the wrist or tried to help, why didn't you try to step in and try to help this child against herself? You just can't win today, with parents looking for an edge to sue, attorneys willing to grab the litigation to see what they can get out of it, and then, as you just said, here "Current Events" (SIC) jumping in now, thinking they got a great story.
OLBERMANN: Tying all of it together, we do not know the history between the school and the mother. We know that there obviously has been some kind of history. There's been interaction, and it hasn't, obviously, been cooperative or positive. But now we get to maybe what's the real problem here, in schools, that there are parents - and I assume every school has them and everybody watching has met a set of these - who believe that their child is the only child in the school.
Is it possible that the history here just got too much for the administrators, and somebody said, So we're not supposed to touch her. All right, we won't touch her. Instead, we will do - we will bring in the outside authorities. The only ones we can bring in are the cops.
AMMERMAN: Absolutely. If it was up in New Jersey, in Bergen County, we would have got 262 (ph) help, that they could have intervened through the police. The police would have directed us to either DYFS, Division of Youth and Family Services for assistance.
But you're dealing with passionate parents today that feel that they can run the schools and lose focus of us as administrators trying to run a school with anywheres from 300 to 1,500 students. And it becomes more and more difficult today for educators to try to do what is appropriate.
And unfortunately, not only in this incident, people today can't use common sense. That has gone out the window. Twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, simply grabbing the child by the wrist and sitting her down and trying to get individuals in most likely would have worked. But I would imagine if you checked with the Florida, police, they might have protocols where the police are told that in any incident like, this they have to use handcuffs. They didn't take into account the age of the child.
OLBERMANN: Bert Ammerman, the principal at Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest, New Jersey. Great. Thanks for coming in, and for your perspective, sir.
AMMERMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, we have a very easy segue tonight now into our update on celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." There's another sometimes pouty little girl who has been known to throw wild punches and never really cottoned to authority, little Martha Stewart. It's that ankle bracelet again, the one that rubs and chafes and doesn't go with anything.
She wore it to "Time" magazine's gala for the "100 Most Influential People," or gala, if you prefer. Turns out now her probation officers are investigating whether or not she misled them about going to the event. She had said it was necessary for her work and would count it towards the 48 hours a week she's allowed out of her home. But is this work, or is it a gala? No ruling yet from the New York Probation Department.
So can you guess how the ex-girlfriend of the guy Britney Spears married feels about the pregnancy of La Spears? If I told that you Shar Jackson has introduced a line of cosmetics, including a lip gloss called "He Cheated," would that give you a hint? Shar Jackson already has two of Mr. Britney's kids. He would be Kevin Federline. He's a singer or dancer or accordion player or something, a guy in a hat. Jackson told MTV that Federline and Spears should have let the marriage breathe a little bit before heading towards parenthood. A baby is not a dog, she notes. Thank you! You can't just put it away. I know she said she's had experience with kids, but let me say. You have not had experience until you have one of your own.
Yes, like, that's helped Mr. Fertility there on the right.
From a future mom to someone whose maternal instincts might need some adjustment. Do not adjust your set. Those are tiger cubs. We showed you this video on Friday. Only now have we gotten up the courage to ask, What the hell is this? Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Friday, it was, the woman spoke Burmese, the zoo director English, the reporter Japanese. But the imagery spoke the international language of "Oh!" So we just put it on raw, so to speak. Only now, like rubberneckers long past that freeway accident, are we beginning to ask important questions. You know, like "What the?" The tiger cubs at the Yangon zoo in Myanmar were said to be having trouble feeding from bottles, so to borrow Mel Brooks's joke, as the 2,000-year-old man, about how he was breast-fed until he was 300, I conned a lot of ladies.
The woman is just a housewife. She stops by the zoo three times a day, 45 minutes per, and does her part for the little Tonys. There were three of them originally, but the mother killed one and refused to nurse the others, which explains the problem. But who's going to explain the solution?
It was just two months ago, of course, that we were told of the sexual harassment lawsuit against a gorilla. Well, against the foundation that takes care of the gorilla. Two fired handlers claimed they were asked to bare their breasts by Koko the sign-language-speaking female gorilla. Wildlife expert Jack Hannah theorized on this program that this might have been an attempt to teach Koko how to breast feed. And he even shared something that maybe he shouldn't a oughta oughted (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - FEBRUARY 21, 2005)
JACK HANNA, WILDLIFE EXPERT: I remember one time, I was asking - we were breast-feeding - or we - my wife was breast-feeding our daughter, and I had chimpanzees back in 1971. And one chimpanzee of mine wasn't eating, and my wife was nursing our one daughter. And all I did was just look up, because I just thought of it real quickly, and that was my wife. And she said, no way, Jack. You might tell everybody. So to make a long story short, she didn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So back to the Myanmar zoo and that lady, whose name is Hla Htay. Unless the "h" is silent, in which case, she's "Latte." And she stops by three times a day to bring a new meaning to the name of the nutrition bar Tiger Milk.
I am joined by Bhagavan Antle (ph), an animal trainer and tiger expert from Parrot Jungle Island in Miami. Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: So the zoo's explanation, the mother killed one of the cubs, so she was out. The other cubs couldn't handle a bottle, so that was out. But why go to somebody in the neighborhood instead of, say, you know, just an idea at random, another mother tiger?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, in general, tigers won't let any other tiger nurse on them. To even have a tiger that was lactating would be very difficult to find. But to try and take a random cub and have that cub go up to another tiger would be very dangerous. And it'd be more likely that they would just kill those baby tigers.
OLBERMANN: Of course, that was what we understand happened with one of the three cubs in this litter. Explain that. What went wrong with the original mother tiger here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of tigers, when they have their first and second litters, especially, are very much not mothers. They don't learn this, except by experience. So first-time moms, the babies will die off in the wild and in zoos. So those babies end up being pulled and have to be animals that you've got to teach to be able to drink from a bottle.
Now, we do it a lot of times by doing what I'm doing now, letting him nurse on a fingertip. They'll get used to sucking on a fingertip, and then you can switch the fingertip out for a bottle, just like that. And you can switch fingertip to bottle, and they'll be doing just fine. Now, this is a real common occurrence all over the world, where you're trying to raise tigers as little tiny cubs. The mom can't take care of them until they get a lot of experience.
OLBERMANN: But the experience that we're seeing from Myanmar, is that more common than we'd think, regarding humans intervening on behalf of rare or exotic or just endangered animals in a zoo setting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've certainly heard of it taking place on a number of occasions. I heard of it taking place a number of times in Africa, where chimpanzee babies were being nursed by moms, you know, so that can take place.
OLBERMANN: But specifically to this situation, you think that there might be something about where this occurred and that it was a tiger, as opposed to some other kind of animal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the tiger's, you know, a very revered animal in that country and that they're looking out for it. And I think that they don't have necessarily the people with the experience to know how to really take care of that tiger, and that they were afraid that something would go wrong, you know, with the mother tiger, and if there wouldn't be the opportunity for those tigers to survive. And they may be very valuable animals to those guys.
OLBERMANN: So what we're seeing here is not - this isn't a sudden change in the size of the tiger you were feeding before. This is a different tiger. I just want to clarify that, in case anybody's just stepping in or waking up from an illness or something. You've not had some sort of spatial problem with your brain.
What is it about the tigers and the feeding process that is so delicate? Why can things go so desperately wrong between the mother and the child? It's not a natural, automatic process?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mother tigers have to be able to use the incredible equipment that they have, these enormous teeth. Let me give you a look at these. You're a good boy! Those big teeth - you're a good boy - of those tigers are so lethal and have such potential to do harm, even if the mother tiger is trying to be careful when she's picking up babies with a set of teeth like that, they have the potential to kill the baby very easily. So the mother tigers, you know, have a very difficult task that they've got to learn very carefully. And you know, this situation is a time-consuming thing for them.
OLBERMANN: So what happens with those cubs, do you suppose, in Myanmar? Do they get - do they need to be weaned at some point? What do you do? This can't go on - this can't go on until they're that size, can it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those big teeth, I think, would be very painful on delicate areas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to be - it's something that's got to be switched over, you know? We even are trying to get the finger to be done or we're giving them a formula and trying to get them to nurse on a bottle, we are doing it over a few days' time. I would think those babies would be switched onto a formula quickly.
OLBERMANN: Let's hope so, for the sake of Ms. Hate. Animal trainer Bhagavan Antle, thanks for helping us try to make some sense out of the new breakfast of champions, and thank your friends for us, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. Hla Htay. Thanks for being a 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