'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 8
Guest: Steve Emerson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The day after in London. The death total will cross 50. The grieving is strong in the city's Muslim neighborhoods. The first missing posters are up. And the first theories seem correct. Those were time bombs in the subway, but somebody was carrying the one on the bus.
Here come the hurricanes. Dennis leaves Haiti and Jamaica and hits Havana. Where it will land here is still a guess.
No longer a guess, the Schiavo case. Florida's state attorney concludes, no facts, no evidence indicating any criminal acts by anybody. Governor Bush closes Florida's inquiry.
And a big day for the bulls in Pamplona. They knock down and send to the hospital a Canadian woman running in flipflops. Why do you think they call them flipflops?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
The numbers seemed too good to be true, and they were. Thirty-seven were confirmed dead in the London attacks yesterday. Today, the number increased officially to 49, 13 on the bus alone.
And it will get worse still. Police say the site of the second Underground attack, King's Cross Station, still contains unrecovered bodies, their retrieval hampered by fears that the tunnel is unsafe.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, a grievous, nervous day after in London. There are small glimmers of good news. Work went on. The number of seriously or critically injured is down to 22.
But the parallels to the impact of 9/11 continue to become visible. Today, it is posters of the missing. These are the Londoners who did not come home last night, did not call, did not turn up at area hospitals or morgues, their faces evoking the same visceral reaction on this day after as did the faces of those in New York on September the 12th and the months that followed that date.
More on this part of the story presently.
First, the police in London admitting they are having great difficulty figuring out how many fatalities there are, because of the extensive damage at two of the bomb sites. As mentioned, the tunnel from King's Cross Station to Russell Square, there may be 20 bodies in the first car of the train. They have not reached that first train yet, in part because it's one of London's so-called deep-level lines, 120 feet below ground.
Also, it's only the width of one train, with just inches of clearance around each car. There would have been nowhere to evacuate to. The official death toll there same as yesterday, 21 confirmed dead there.
Nine more bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of the double-decker bus that had its roof blown off in Bloomsbury's Tavistock Square. Officials say the recovery effort is complete there now, 13 confirmed dead, one of them evidently carrying the bomb.
And confusion now about the last subway attack. Another one of those cell-phone videos near the Edgware Road station. Police believed that bomb went off at 9:18 a.m. yesterday. But the man recorded this on an adjoining train shows his watch to the camera. It reads 8:53.
The other two attacks were at 8:51 and 8:56. If his watch was right, all three subway bombs in fact went off within five minutes, not 25.
Today, the head of London's police saying what is always said and meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN BLAIR, LONDON POLICE COMMISSIONER: The most important statement I can make, however, is the implacable resolve of the Metropolitan Police Service to track down those who are responsible for these terrible events. And that is something that we will bend every sinew of the Metropolitan Police and all our associated agencies and comrades to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As for what has been found so far, bomb composition, simple plastic explosives, less than 10 pounds per device. British officials will not confirm the American sources who told us last night that the three subway bombs had been set off by timers, not by bombers.
But the bus bombing was possibly the work of a suicide bomber, a passenger who got off the number 30 bus before the attack saying he saw an increasingly anxious man who, quote, "kept going down in his bag."
With a reported 1,800 security cameras pointing at the relevant subway stations and streets, we may eventually see images of who did this. But already in many quarters, experts are getting a broad picture of, if not who, then at least how.
We'll talk now with terrorism expert Steve Emerson.
Steve, good evening to you.
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I gather that the early inferences from last night are now being supported by the early forensics. Time bombs in the subways, but that one on the bus was being carried by someone, right?
EMERSON: Apparently carried. And whether it was deliberately set off or unwittingly set off, but apparently the person who was carrying it was obviously a member of the conspiracy. Now, that's going a little bit too far in terms of a judicial conclusion, but clearly, from the basis of the forensics, the explosion, the fact that the bomb pierced most of his body, and the fact that the upward explosion blew up the top of the bus, it appears as if he was carrying it on his lap or in his backpack.
OLBERMANN: We'll getting back to the subway in a minute. But to continue on the bus there, the bus driver, who, extraordinarily, only got scratches, was dealing with the police within an hour of the atrocities yesterday. He said he had told the passengers that the route was changing on the bus because of police activity.
So if it's a true suicide bomber, what happens then? He hears the word "police" and thinks he better act before they find him, and if it's not a true suicide bomber, he panics, and blows himself up?
EMERSON: Well, in fact, on the basis of what the Israelis experienced, when, in fact, bus drivers have sort of surrounded, or at least tried to encircle, would-be suicide bombers on the bus, they have detonated those bombs for fear that they would be disarmed. So clearly, that is a possibility, Keith.
We still don't know. One of the problems is, they have not ID'd the body of the person who allegedly was carrying the bomb itself, because it's been torn up in such fragmentation, they haven't been able to check the DNA.
OLBERMANN: Will we ever be able to tell which, which of these things might be, if it were a suicide bomber, or if it was somebody carrying a bomb who decided to detonate it at that point for some reason?
EMERSON: I think they will, because a suicide bomber generally will make some type of video last will and testament. The family will proclaim them to be a martyr. They have to get annuities to support themselves. Almost invariably, a suicide bomber will have made the evidence available before his death, so that others can celebrate his martyrdom after his death. So I think that is a very, very real possibility.
OLBERMANN: All right. To the subway bombs. What's the final verdict here on how big the bombs would have, would have to have been, and how much - how much lead time do the investigators think those who put them there had? And are there any indications that there were attempts to hide the bombs under seating, or in some other area that would not make them look like the proverbial unattended bag?
EMERSON: You know, I don't know, because the description that so far released by the Metropolitan Police has been that they have been relatively small bombs, no more than 10 pounds apiece, in small packages placed on the floor. And that was determined by the basis of the impact or the explosion.
On the other hand, no eyewitnesses have yet surfaced from - as the survivors to say they saw something or they witnessed something. Clearly, those cameras that you referenced, the - that are taking massive amount and continuous coverage, are going to be critical here, because they might, and I emphasize might, be able to point to somebody who was carrying a package in the early hours of July 7 onto the trains.
So there are obviously three packages. They'd have to be three separate people, because they were placed almost at the same time.
OLBERMANN: This idea of security cameras, it sounds great, and then you think, well, how do you actually go about trying to identify which of those 100,000 or however many bags that were carried onto the London Underground yesterday morning were really bombs, and who was carrying them? How is that actually of use?
EMERSON: Well, first of all, they're going to have to go through every single picture and determine whether in fact they were victims or whether in fact they were possibly collaborators or doing reconnaissance or actually carrying the package. They might be actually able to see whether someone is carrying a package. They're going to look at it frame by frame. It is tedious work, Keith. This will take hundred of thousands of man-hours, and similar to a lot of the audio, the videotapes that were retrieved after 9/11 throughout the United States from airports across the country, and people had to just, law enforcement had to pore over that frame by frame.
And they finally ID'd four of the hijackers in pictures from the airports.
OLBERMANN: Does the picture of this change at all if the - if that videotape that we saw tonight, out of the - one of the adjoining trains at the Edgware Road Station is correct? And that supposed last explosion, the 9:18 explosion, was, in fact, at 8:53, and all three of the subway things were within a five-minute span? Does that tell you something different than yesterday's conclusion that it was a 25-minute span?
EMERSON: It is a bit strange, in light of the fact that the fourth bombing, and we don't know whether it was witting at that point, deliberately set off, or accidentally set off, took place then an hour and a half later. Or at least an hour later. And that's a real perplexing question, because it doesn't fit the pattern that we seem to have seen in previous bombings, like in Madrid, or even the sequence in the United States on 9/11.
On the other hand, they really have not made that many strides so far. And my fear, having spoken to a senior U.S. official tonight in London, is that the longer they go without collaring somebody, the longer the trail becomes cold and impossible, possibly, to retrieve the actual evidence needed to make either identification or a prosecution.
OLBERMANN: How is this all fitting together as a big picture, Steve? I mean, if the British do wind up arresting anybody, will they turn out to be people who were not under surveillance, who were not linked to that Finsbury Park lunatic cleric, or who didn't have criminal records until this?
EMERSON: You know, it's a good question, Keith. One of the most striking numbers I recall reading about in the last three days, or two days, was a number in "The Wall Street Journal" that indicated that up to 15,000 supporters of bin Laden live in the United Kingdom. This is an extraordinary number. I can assure you, Keith, only a fraction of those would be under surveillance.
The amount of man-hours needed to put one person under surveillance and listen to his conversations 24 hours a day is extraordinary. Can you imagine putting 100 people, 200 people, 1,000 people? Impossible. There's no such law enforcement agency in the world that has that capability.
So clearly (INAUDIBLE) they could have pulled out recruits from the Abu Hamza al-Masri Mosque, from other type of mosques that are in London that preach jihad. Or they could have imported them from other parts of Europe, because the borders are so porous in North Africa, and gangs have been known, as they did in Spain, to plan such attacks from country to country.
OLBERMANN: The terrorism expert Steve Emerson. Steve, as always, great thanks for your time.
EMERSON: Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Two more things about this tonight. Coming up, the heartrending part of this story, relatives searching for loved ones who are still missing.
First, something else that merits your attention. After 9/11, we may have seen those attacks as Muslims versus people of other faiths, or the Middle East versus the West, or any other combination of generalities you can come up with.
But intuitively, nearly everybody in this country knew it wasn't that way. These weren't Muslims nor Arabs. These were just, as the president called them, evildoers. That's probably why the amount of mindless violence against those of Arab descent in this country was so small.
This issue is being felt even more keenly in London right now. One of the missing is a 20-year-old woman named Shahara Aktar Islam (ph). And the last of the subway bombs, the one near the - that was near the station at the heart of the Muslim area of the city, the one that its residents consider their own.
Helen Callahan of our affiliated British network ITV takes us to the Edgware Road.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very (INAUDIBLE), so much happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not Muslim. The Muslim people not able to do that. (INAUDIBLE) to do that.
HELEN CALLAHAN, ITV NEWS, LONDON (voice-over): All the eateries are still open as before. But there's sadness and outrage in these communities. After all, many families have been directly affected by the extremists.
Iman Salam (ph) has been running his Egyptian restaurant for the past five years. Yet, like many others, now he fears there may a backlash against ordinary Muslims.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we feel very sad. We feel very sorry about that, because (INAUDIBLE) we don't know why this happened here in this country. We're living here for, now, for a long time. And we know (INAUDIBLE) in this area.
CALLAHAN: At the local mosque, police are standing guard, just as they did after 9/11. Islamic leaders have been quick to condemn the attacks and appeal for calm.
This area is multicultural, vibrant, and peaceful. Residents want to make sure misplaced fear and suspicion are rejected to keep it that way.
(on camera): Like everyone else, people living around here are shocked and angry. Now is the time, say the Muslim Council of Britain, for the U.K. to be truly united. After all, they say, these evil deeds make victims of us all.
Helen Callahan, ITV News, on the Edgware Road.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, an image all too familiar to those who lived in this country on September 11. The missing posters are up, the desperate search to find friends and family still unaccounted for after the attacks.
And later, lost in the news of the attacks, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida closing the final chapter of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, while the media's attention was focused on hurricanes and on London.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: In the months after 9/11, it did not fail, not for me, not for countless other New Yorkers. Whenever friends visited from out of town, they wanted, with the greatest possible respect, to see ground zero.
And as the time since the attacks grew, there was less and less to feel at the site of the World Trade Center. But the stop we always made on the way back never failed to reduce the visitors to tears, the collection of posters of the missing, saved from the lampposts and the building fronts of the city in the heartbreaking days after the attacks and preserved in a reverential display at Grand Central Station.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, the idea of the missing transcends, perhaps, even the sense of the attack or the outrage. And today, that idea permeated London.
You better sit down for this. On the trail of the missing, with Glen Goodman of ITV.
GLEN GOODMAN, ITV NEWS, LONDON (voice-over): For those whose relatives are still missing, there's the agony of not knowing. But where there's uncertainty, there's also hope that their loved ones will be found safe and sound.
These Londoners are among those still missing. Twenty-nine-year-old Laura Webb (ph) left her home in Islington yesterday morning and hasn't been seen since. She was due to take a train to work from King's Cross.
Her brother, David, has been visiting hospitals all around London. He'd just came out of University College Hospital. There was no sign of Laura.
(on camera): What hospitals have you tried so far, then, David?
DAVID WEBB: It's - I've got quite a list here. King's College, the Royal Free, Saint Thomas's, (INAUDIBLE), Thomanton (ph), Saint Mary's. We're going to try Great Ormond (ph) Street.
GOODMAN: So that's the one we're going to go and try now.
WEBB: That's right, yes. And we also telephoned some of the outreaching hospitals just in case. But so far, nothing has come up. And that's what really worries us. She's a missing person. She's probably involved with this terrible incident.
GOODMAN (voice-over): We went with David to Great Ormond Street. But on the way, he received a phone call with some hopeful news. So we headed to the Royal London in Whitechapel instead.
WEBB: We just heard there are three people here who haven't been identified. So there's hope one of those might be Laura.
GOODMAN (on camera): Do we know what kind of condition these people are in?
WEBB: Probably a bit poor, but we don't really know for sure. But hopefully, it will be OK, so we can identify.
GOODMAN (voice-over): Two hours passed before David came out of (INAUDIBLE).
(on camera): OK, David, what happened?
WEBB: It turned out three people in there weren't Laura. But glad they're alive. That's great news. I've got my seat belt on, really, you know, I'm still hanging out hope. But, you know, it's a tough time, and we're trying to be optimistic about it all. So I was just pleased that they were alive themselves, really.
GOODMAN (voice-over): We left David to carry on his search for Laura.
Many other Londoners are doing the same thing.
Since Nnetu Jane (ph) went missing on her way to work yesterday morning, her boyfriend, Gouse, has been searching around the clock with no results.
GOUSE ALI, NNETU'S BOYFRIEND: I cannot bear to see their families suffering here, you know, our family, (INAUDIBLE) suffering, because I feel part of it. And I just feel awful that they're having to go through this at their age. They're in their 70s.
GOODMAN: Miriam Hyman (ph) lives with her parents in Finchley. She called them from King's Cross to tell them she'd narrowly survived the explosion there. They've heard nothing since.
Anthony Fatalli (ph) Williams is thought to have caught a bus to King's Cross. His friends and family say he never fails to ring them, but no one can get hold of him.
And 29-year-old Philip Russell phoned his office from Houston to say he was running late. He never arrived.
GRAHAME RUSSELL, PHILIP'S FATHER: Not knowing is the worst. You need to know, even if it's good news or bad news, you need to know. And if you don't know, it's desperate. You just can't, you know, handle it, really.
GOODMAN: It's now been more than 24 hours since these people disappeared. All were near areas that were targeted. All were the kind of people who would have been in touch by now if they were able.
Glen Goodman, "London Tonight."
OLBERMANN: It is not all false hope. One missing woman in her 20s name Martine Wright (ph), her best friend, Sarah Jones, had spent yesterday trying to reach her, spent today stopping people in the London street, asking if they'd seen her.
Tonight, they found Martine Wright. She is critically injured in a London hospital, but she is alive.
Also tonight, waiting for Dennis. Florida bracing for the first category three hurricane of the season.
But first, brace yourself. It's the annual battle, the bovines versus the bipeds. A good lesson for would-be idiots who want to run with the bulls in Pamplona.
Flipflops pretty much guarantee you're going to be injured.
OLBERMANN: We're back, and for the final time this week, we pause our Countdown of the day's real news with a segment that reminds us, even in the darkest of times, there are still weird people doing stupid things on video, all around the world.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin with special Oddball coverage of day two of the running of the bulls from Pamplona, Spain. Trust me, on day one, you didn't miss nothing. We keep score here, and as usual, it was a shut-out. All bulls were killed. No humans were even seriously injured.
Hello! This Canadian woman, Alexandra Popovska (ph), did her damndest to break the streak. She ran in flipflops. She was also hospitalized in flipflops. She's an artist, see?
And that new antisliding paint sure is working well. The problem, as ever, the bulls do not understand the rules. If these bulls could somehow get a message to tomorrow's bulls, maybe they would be a bit more assertive about taking a couple of the dopes down with them. Ah, well.
Today's final score, three mild tramplings, no gorings to speak of.
And another nine bulls going to meet their maker.
To Japan, where one hotel chain is hoping to boost business with this, a solid-gold bathtub. Well, don't laugh. It could have been something stupid. The chain is unveiling six of these tubs at a price of about $1.1 million each. Each will be used as communal baths in the spa. They will not be in individual rooms. So you'll to have either wait for this girl to stop hogging the damn thing, or else just use the shower in the gym that has the mildew flaking off the walls.
Also tonight, if you think weathering a dictatorship and now a hurricane is bad, there is even worse in store for some Cubans tonight. Think of the song, "I'm All Out of Love."
And speaking of things that scare all of us, thanks to Tom Cruise, an entire region in Russia panicked and fled.
First, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Brian Monford of Springfield, Ohio. Accused of child enticement, he's overweight. Police say he paid kids up to $40 to heckle him for being fat. He said it inspired him to stay on his diet.
Better try what number two, Steve Vaught of San Diego, is doing. He weighed 400 pounds. So he took the advice of doctors who say walking will often prove surprisingly effective for weight loss. He's walking to New York, 500 miles and three months in, he's down to 350 pounds. His nationwide trek is also called Hands Across America.
And number one, Vasili Basargin, of Anchorage, Alaska, says he drove his pickup the wrong way down a one-way street while high on coke and meth, because he was being chased by an evil cloud. Now, if you look at that picture of him carefully from the courtroom, evidently it caught him.
OLBERMANN: The season itself is actually six months long, June 1 through November 30, plenty of time to accrue $42 billion in damage, not nearly enough to shake the chills that still run down the spine when the names Charlie, Frances, Ivan or Jeanne fall on the ears of Floridians.
Our third story on the Countdown tonight: Dennis is almost here, with winds reaching a high of 150 miles per hour, but now down again to a category three. It skirted two islands devastated by last year's storms, Jamaica and Haiti - five reported deaths there - then moved past the southeastern portion of Cuba, ripping down a guard tower at Guantanamo Bay before making landfall at the city of Cienfuegos this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Florida governor, Jeb Bush, cutting short a vacation to declare a state of emergency. Mandatory evacuations to Florida's lower Keys had been ordered yesterday. Those evacuations have just been discontinued, reduced now to hurricane warnings and watches. Forecasters expect, though, at the very least, that Dennis will brush past the island chain on its way to the Gulf coast.
And according to those people who know these things, there could be up to 15 tropical storms this year, 9 of them becoming hurricanes, and 5 of those expected to be, in the words of the National Weather Service, major. The residents of Cuba now able to define that term, already 10 confirmed fatalities on the island. Our correspondent in Jaguey Grande is Mark Potter.
MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricane Dennis tore into Cuba's south central coast, damaging or destroying thousands of homes, flooding roads, and knocking out power across the island. As the storm heads northwest toward Havana, it's expected to strike the heart of Cuban agriculture and may threaten buildings in Havana's historic district.
With the storm bearing down, the Cuban government says it evacuated 1.5 million residents. In Jaguey Grande, buses lined up in the town square as people from outlying villages also crowded aboard with whatever they could carry, many headed to shelters like this boarding school, where they grabbed cots, leaned up for meals and waited. Back in the neighborhoods, people did what they could to protect their homes.
(on camera): This town had just rebuilt after being ravaged by Hurricane Michelle four years ago. Now it faces a much more powerful storm. Mark Potter, NBC News, Jaguey Grande, Cuba.
OLBERMANN: If you watched any of our coverage of last year's hurricane swarm, this will sound like a highlight clipped from a recording. It is too soon to tell where Dennis will make its North American landfall, though the guess is somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and southeastern Louisiana sometime Sunday, maybe Monday. Three storms have already affected oil production of the rigs in the Gulf. This will make four. That means you do not have to live anywhere near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to be affected by what should be happening there within 48 hours. Fort Walton Beach is where we find our correspondent Ron Mott. Ron, good evening.
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening to you. It is really business as usual here on Fort Walton Beach tonight, a beautiful Friday night here in Florida's Panhandle. You can see some folks enjoying the calm before the storm here. This is all going to change beginning at 6:00 AM in the morning because beginning at the beachfront and going points north, they are evacuating people. They are all expected to be out of this area by 1:00 o'clock on Sunday morning.
Now, we spent most of the day about 45 miles to the west, over in Pensacola, which, of course, was heavily damaged nine-and-a-half months ago by Hurricane Ivan. And there is still a very palpable sense of exasperation there when you talk to some of the locals, enough to scream, Here we go again.
(voice-over): In Pensacola Beach, Florida, the weather is perfect - for now. But ugly reminders of what nature can do are everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had paradise, and now we've got the devil's triangle. We can't believe what's happening to our world. No one should be this unlucky.
MOTT: This is, after all, shaping up to be a painful sequel to last September, when Hurricane Ivan stormed ashore here, causing nearly $2.5 billion in property damage in this county alone. More than half the structures were affected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather get it on than let all these shingles fall off on the ground somewhere, you know?
MOTT: Just today, Scotty Grant's (ph) crew began nailing down a replacement roof for the one Ivan ripped off, while nearby, 79-year-old Ernie Crates (ph) lives a down-sized retirement in a trailer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not (INAUDIBLE) living in 200 square foot.
MOTT: Thanks to Ivan, Ernie's house is completely gone. His SUV sits in a seaside graveyard. So what will Hurricane Dennis bring?
MAX MAYFIELD, DIR., NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: This is a very dangerous hurricane, and it's capable of causing extensive damage and loss of life if we're not very well prepared.
MOTT: Another group of oil platforms shut down in the gulf today in advance of this storm, raising concerns about what impact Hurricane Dennis might have on record-setting gasoline prices - Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ron Mott, making the circuit, first Pensacola, now Fort Walton Beach in Florida. Great. Thanks, Ron, and good luck.
It is difficult to find humor in a hurricane. Then again, it's sometimes essential. With Dennis, we may have found it back in Havana. Cuba may have been getting the worst of it, so bad that even the towns around the infamous Bay of Pigs were evacuated.
But sorrows, as Shakespeare wrote, come not in as single spies but in battalions. Cuba also getting this week Air Supply. The '80s soft rock group, if you can remember the song, "All Out of Love," played a government-authorized concert in Havana last night in open-air setting. Tonight, they were due to play again indoors at the beautiful Karl Marx Theater, which no doubt had to suspend its usual schedules, concerts by Richard Marx (ph) and, of course, Marky Mark.
Also tonight, in Washington, they call it "take out the trash day." Did we see it yesterday in Florida? The end of the Terri Schiavo story proclaimed by the governor while the state prepared for the hurricane and the world reacted to London.
Neither rain nor sleet nor hurricane shall stop the Discovery space shuttle from completing its planned mission, nor prevent us from shamelessly promoting our coverage of it.
Those stories ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS RODMAN, PRO BASKETBALL PLAYER: We don't do this in basketball.
JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT" SHOW: A Massachusetts woman who stuffed $47,000 in cash into her bra before boarding a plane to Texas to get plastic surgery. In fact, the male agent - this seems real inappropriate. The guy said to her, You know, you have a good body. You don't need to get a boob job. Let me tell you something. If you can put $47,000 in your bra, you need the boob job, all right?
DAVID KURBY, INVENTOR: I have invented an odorless toilet system. I'll demonstrate. If you've ever been in this situation before, you're not going to be able to do anything about it. Now you can. I've been trying to think of a few names for this invention. I'm thinking maybe the Crapper Zapper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You can't miss the irony, even if you don't see the intent. The government's involvement in the Terri Schiavo case was consistently played out on the biggest stage its adherents could find, and almost always televised live. All that is over, and the declaration that it is over was made by the governor of Florida yesterday while his state focused on the hurricane and the rest of the world focused on the bombings in London.
Our number two story on the Countdown tonight: Terri Schiavo, case closed, says Jeb Bush. But he said it real quiet, the governor declaring an end to the state's inquiry into Ms. Schiavo's death based on the fact that Florida's state prosecutor found no evidence of criminal activity. State attorney Bernie McCabe, asked by the government to investigate the Schiavo case after her autopsy was released last month, looked at the purported gap between the time that - Mrs. Schiavo's collapse and the time that her husband called 911.
After his two top prosecutors had reviewed all the information related to the case, McCabe concluded that Michael Schiavo's statements on the night his wife became incapacitated had been consistent, which, quoting the state attorney, "lead me to the conclusion that such discrepancies are not indicative of criminal activity." McCabe also said that the most likely cause of Mrs. Schiavo's collapse was an eating disorder. McCabe's report was completed June 30.
The governor said nothing until yesterday, and when he spoke, he made perhaps the shortest statement ever made by any politician or protester about this case. The first sentence was a thank you. The second reads, "Based on your conclusions, I will follow your recommendation that the inquiry by the state be closed." In 2003, Governor Bush led the state legislature to pass a law allowing him to order Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. That law was later declared unconstitutional.
Joining me now, "Congressional Quarterly" senior columnist, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford. Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hi, there. You know, if you got to eat a full plate of crow, you might as well do it when nobody's watching.
OLBERMANN: Yes. But with the hurricane coming in and the cable networks and everybody else focused on London, was it - could it have been a coincidence that the governor chose yesterday to reveal what the state attorney had found?
CRAWFORD: Well, we can't prove intent, but the circumstantial evidence is certainly strong. I mean, they had this report for a week. It only took the governor two days after the autopsy report that came out, that did not confirm his view of the facts of this case - it only took him two days to call for - essentially, what he called for was a murder investigation.
OLBERMANN: How does the end result here treat the governor? I mean, is he protected on one side by having stepped aside before Mrs. Schiavo's death, but protected on the other side because he ordered the inquiry? Or is he going to get smacked by one side?
CRAWFORD: Oh, he'll get smacked by those who opposed - or supported Michael Schiavo and opposed the family, that side of the partisans on the case. But most importantly, this is a wedge issue. This is a classic wedge issue in politics, where you take an issue, you drive a stake into the public, you split away a certain group of voters, even if they're not the majority, who are passionate about that issue and will vote on it. And you don't worry about the majority of the public that may not agree with you, but it's not an important enough issue to them they're going to vote against you for it.
OLBERMANN: Is somebody - is some politician going to issue an apology to Michael Schiavo after, as you said, basically saying, Well, maybe we should have a murder investigation here?
CRAWFORD: You'd think that a man, a private citizen who's basically been accused of murder, or at the very least, the governor has ordered a murder investigation, was owed an apology. Anybody with class might apologize to the guy. But yes, I think that Jeb Bush is probably a lot like his brother. They believe that old John Wayne line from one of John Ford movies, you know, Never say you're sorry, they'll just think you're weak.
OLBERMANN: Have, in fact, the politicians completely cleared out of this saga now, or is there something yet to come?
CRAWFORD: Oh, I think there's plenty to come. The battle for the control of Congress has begun. The voters get to vote a little over a year from now. But I think we'll hear a lot of politicians rattling the evangelical conservatives, the pro-life movement throughout the country on this issue. And that's one reason. I think it may a political plus for Jeb Bush in some way if he does run for president. That's a very important group in Republican primaries.
OLBERMANN: And the facts will not pertain whatsoever to it.
CRAWFORD: No, probably not. You know, I've followed Jeb Bush since my Florida reporting days, and I've tried to understand. It seems strange to me because he's a very logical man, really a policy wonk, compared to his brother. And this seem a departure. But I remember even from the episode in "Star Trek," when the ever-logical Mr. Spock went stark raving mad, so I guess it could happen to anybody.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford, pulling a Mr. Spock reference into the middle of the Terri Schiavo story, the one and only Craig Crawford. How soon until the book is out?
CRAWFORD: All right. Oh, it's coming out in just a couple of months.
Available now on Amazon, so...
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC, "Congressional Quarterly." As ever, sir, great. Thanks. Have a good weekend.
CRAWFORD: Have a good weekend.
OLBERMANN: OK, let's get away from that story as quickly as possible. And now we will turn instead to the permanently unreal world of celebrity and entertainment news, our nightly segment "Keeping Tabs." First it was Brooke Shields, then Matt Lauer, now it's the residents of a Siberian region. Tom Cruise's flick,"War of the Worlds," premiered in Kabarovsk this past week - at a theater near you, of course. So far, so good. But when a freak storm gathered suddenly out of a clear blue Kabarovsk sky and a tornado touched down in the region of nearly two million people, there was mass panic reported. Officials in Kabarovsk blame on it edgy moviegoers who'd seen the film and just kind of assumed it was coming true. Tom won't be attending any gas station openings in Kabarovsk any time soon.
More bad entertainment news. Oh, God! Not only have they mated, they're expecting twins. "The New York Daily News" cites unidentified sources who say Britney Spears has just learned she's carrying two children. No confirmation nor denial from her spokeswoman. That would be four kids for husband Kevin Federline in about three years, proving that even if you're shooting blanks upstairs, that doesn't mean you're shooting blanks downstairs.
And a person for whom celebrity was often a way of life is hospitalized tonight, recovering from a stroke. Zsa-Zsa Gabor has undergone surgery at a Los Angeles area hospital to remove a blockage to an artery, according to her latest husband, Frederic von Anhalt.
In 1989, after she slapped a policeman in Beverly Hills, California, an LA television news reporter and commentator named Bill Stout (ph) criticized her for having done so. Ms. Gabor was sentenced to 72 hours in jail. Shortly thereafter, Stout became fatally ill. Ms. Gabor made a public statement saying she was glad he was dying. Bill Stout, my old friend, would be angry with me if I followed her example.
What better way to celebrate America's independence than by stuffing your piehole, or maybe doghole? Countdown's top five stories of the week ahead, but first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World."
Number three, Drew Sanders (ph), a community center teen boys basketball coach in Staten Island, New York, who allegedly has an unusual way of teaching at least one of his players how to shoot. When they missed, or when he missed, police say, he'd throw the 15-year-old boy over his knees and then spank him with a paddle.
Also nominated, a number of London hotels reported by the BBC and other news organizations there to have raised room rates last night after the attacks, one man saying he was charged $435 for what is usually an $80 room.
So they constitute the world's worst industry, but the worst person today? Our old friend, Brit Hume of Fox, who actually said on the air at 1:25 yesterday afternoon, after the bombings in London, quote, "My first thought when I heard, just on a personal basis - when I heard there had been this attack, and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank" - he's referring to the futures options on the stock market -
"I thought, Hmm, time to buy"
Brit Hume, a great humanitarian and today's "Worst Person in the World"!
OLBERMANN:... subtle promotion, product placement is an insult to our intelligence, like we can't tell we're being sold something. Give me that old-time advertising any day. Which brings us to our number one story on the Countdown: naked, unabashed, beat-you-over-the-head self-promotion. Contained in what we're about to show you is some appreciation for the art and salesmanship, and just a little kind of campy. I thought "The Revenge of the Sith" was the last of the "Star Wars" movies until I saw this promo bit of undertone (ph). But mostly, we're just hitting you over the head with it. Accordingly, please put on your Buck Rogers helmets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God speed, John Glenn.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a critical test of the system of space travel which will revolutionize manned flight in the next decade.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: It was an extraordinary lift-off here, the first flight of the Columbia space shuttle orbiter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... ignition...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... the journey continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift-off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years after the loss of space shuttle Columbia...
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's space program will go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... the world will once again say God speed to heroes in the sky, and you will join America's quest for the heavens like never before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The massive (ph) journey is just beginning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... a journey to honor all those who've gone before.
BUSH: To leave behind earth and air and gravity is an ancient dream of humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing new images, true stories from those who dared, unprecedented live coverage from Florida and around the globe of a moment the whole world will stop and watch as one. "Discovery STS-114: A Return to Flight" Wednesday on MSNBC.
BUSH: We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this, human beings are headed into the cosmos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special coverage from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida begins at 9:00 AM right here MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday! Live, live, live!
Shuttle, shuttle, shuttle! Rain date, August 4.
By the way, when you heard the president at the end there talking about not knowing where the journey would end, he meant space exploration. He wasn't talking about MSNBC. Just so we're clear.
But we do know where Friday's Countdown always ends, with things like hot dogs, robot suits, wooden cars and bowls and pandas, oh my. It's the best of the week, Countdown's top five.
(voice-over): Number five: Number 49. That's how many hot dogs Mr. Chakira Kobayashi (ph) crammed into his piehole in 12 minutes on the 4th of July.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy Legs Coffey's (ph) hands are already shaking! That's a sign of the meat sweats!
OLBERMANN: Kobayashi retained the title as Nathan's hot dog eating champion for one more year, which at his rate of wiener consumption is probably just about all the time he's got left.
Number four: The latest wicked cool robot thing from Japan, the robot strength suit. They say it's made for the elderly. Grandpa just straps himself into this bad boy, and all of a sudden, he can carry a piano up the stairs. But there are other uses we can think of. Hey, baseball players, I got a replacement for steroids!
Number three: What will you do when you retire? Mr. Momir Bojic (ph) of Bosnia chooses to spend his golden years building a Volkswagen made out of wood. To each his own. It took more than a year, but he finally did it. He glued 20,000 slabs of oak to the outside of a 1975 VW Beetle and then took the thing for a spin.
Here he is at the filling station for the first time. Just kidding.
That was another story.
Number two: To the Woo Long (ph) research center in China, where we finally may have figured out why it's so hard to get pandas to reproduce. Because their kids are creepy-looking! Twin panda cubs born to momma panda Ying-Ying this week after more than 13 hours in labor. Thirteen hours, and that's all you've got to show for it?
And number one: It's that time of the year in Spain, July's nine-day festival of boozing and animal cruelty known as the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Each day, nine bulls, who have no idea they're headed for execution in the ring, charge through the cobblestone streets being taunted by drunken morons who actually think they are the ones cheating death. So far, there have been no major injuries among the drunken morons, but the same cannot be said for the four-legged runners.
It is for this reason we always say root for the bulls, the only participants who did not volunteer for this.
Flip-flops. The woman who got hurt, from Canada, was wearing flip-flops during the running in Spain - of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
That's Countdown. Tucker Carlson is next with "THE SITUATION." He will be reporting from London tonight. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END