'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 2
Guests: T.J. Quinn, Richard Wolffe, John Batiste
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The state of denial over the "State of Denial." Friday it was just cotton candy, now author Bob Woodward's claim of wholesale Bush administration incompetence about Iraq is attributed by the White House to sources on the outside of the loop, and of bias. Of course, they didn't think his first two books about them had any bias.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "STATE OF DENIAL": They cannot agree on the definition of a strategy. They cannot agree on the bumper sticker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And state of denial about 9/11, Woodward's chilling report that Condoleezza Rice was warned of Osama bin Laden's plans to attack here, warned by the head of Central Intelligence, warned by the State Department antiterrorism chief on July 10, 2001, and she brushed them off.
Rehab for Congressman Mark Foley, calls for all who knew about his sexually explicit e-mails to House pages to resign, a call for speaker Hastert to resign from leading conservatives.
Nightmare in Amish country. At least three girls dead, as another man seizes a school. The latest from Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
And the latest baseball drug scandal. In the crosshairs, the Rocket, Roger Clemens, reportedly accused by an ex-teammate who's at the center of the illegal human growth hormone scandal.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Good evening. This is Monday, October 2, 36 days until the 2006 midterm elections.
A film director once said the autobiography of the Italian adventurer Casanova was like opening a book and having all this ugly dust keep falling on you.
So it seems to be with Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial."
Our fifth story on the Countdown, there are new charges about then-national security adviser Rice brushing off in July 2001 warnings of an al Qaeda attack here, and an overall picture of the strategical failure of the Bush administration in Iraq wing to the administration's inability to even agree on a strategy in the first place.
Roger Cressey on the possible 9/11 warning presently, the military implications with retired major general John Batiste shortly.
First, the book so far, evidently reading among the president's inner circle over the weekend, mandatory reading of the four copies delivered to the White House Friday, one taken by Vice President Cheney, one more each by White House counselor Dan Bartlett and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and press secretary Tony Snow saying of the fourth copy only that he thinks, but is not certain, that it is in the possession of the president himself.
More details coming out over the weekend from within its pages, including this government graph, a classified secret, showing how attacks in Iraq have increased dramatically over the last three years, getting to the point where there are now more than 100 a day. The Bush administration only declassifying this document three weeks ago.
A question about how honest is the president's oft-repeated statement that when Iraqi forces step up, U.S. forces will step down, Mr. Woodward pointing out that some 300,000, repeating, 300,000, Iraqi forces now on the job there.
And the astonishing fact that two and a half years into the conflict, the Bush administration was not merely having problems executing its postwar strategy, it could not even agree what that strategy should be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS, "60 MINUTES," CBS)
WOODWARD: Secretary of State Rice will announce what the strategy is. This is October of last year.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build, to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable national Iraqi - thank you - Iraqi institutions.
WOODWARD: Rumsfeld sees this, and goes ballistic, and says, Now, wait a minute, that's not our strategy. We want to get the Iraqis to do these things.
Card says, It's the core of what we're doing. That's two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq. They cannot agree on the definition of the strategy. They cannot agree on the bumper sticker.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: One strategy the White House has agreed upon, attacking the messenger, top aides devoting much of their weekend to charging Mr. Woodward with bias, accusing the Watergate journalist of pursuing an agenda, never mind that his previous two books about President Bush and war were overwhelmingly positive towards the administration.
Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So Woodward's first two books were just fine by the administration, but this one is a partisan hack job? Is anybody going to buy that?
WOLFFE: Well, they shouldn't, because if you remember, the last book, they actually put up on the Bush-Cheney Web site in 2004.
And, look, he - Bob Woodward poses a particular problem for this White House. Yes, they've tried to portray him as being sort of illogical and having internal flaws in his own reasoning. But this is too big a deal. And it's a big deal not just because of him as a person, but he's quoting administration officials and former officials on the record, especially former chief of staff Andy Card. This is much bigger than just one man.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush looks bad in this book. I think it's fair to say Mr. Rumsfeld looks a lot worse. Is there any suggestion that the president might be nearing a throw-Rummy-under-the-bus point? He certainly would take the air out of not just Woodward's book, but "Hubris" and "Fiasco" and all the other books that are out there right now.
WOLFFE: Yes, well, you could see that. But in 2004, he was faced with the same question about pushing Rumsfeld overboard, and the president said, No. Remember, this is a president who likes to say that he is the decider, and he doesn't like getting pushed around in this kind of situation.
Having said all of that, I spoke to a senior White House official just the end of the last week, and asked about Rumsfeld's prospects. And I was told that the president is actually consulting outside advice on whether Rumsfeld should stay. And so far, I was told, so far, the balance is that Rumsfeld should stay.
But the (INAUDIBLE) - the future was not clear. Now, that's a pretty lukewarm endorsement of the secretary of state, and I think if you hear that, you'd say, Well, I don't think he's going to last that much longer. He may get to the election, but not much beyond.
OLBERMANN: Lukewarm indeed. Let me ask you also about the apparent philosophical godfather of the Bush administration strategy about Iraq. We had learned last week, when the first excerpts of this came out, that Henry Kissinger had been a major adviser to the president on all this. Last night, we learned exactly what it's been that Mr. Kissinger has been advising the White House to do.
Let me play you this clip and then get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)
WOODWARD: Now, what's Kissinger's advice? In Iraq, he declared, very simply, victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.
This is so fascinating. Kissinger is fighting the Vietnam War again, because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam is, we lost our will, that we didn't stick to it.
MIKE WALLACE, CBS NEWS: So Henry Kissinger is telling George W. Bush, Stick to it, stay the course.
WOLFFE: That's right. It's right out of the Kissinger playbook.
OLBERMANN: So Richard, the entire war in Iraq can now be understood, is it fair to say that, in the context of Henry Kissinger and Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and all these other Nixon-Ford-era Republican leaders, or ascending leaders, getting a Vietnam do-over?
WOLFFE: Well, it's not just the Vietnam do-over, of course. You know, it's also the Gulf War I do-over, I mean, for Vice President Cheney and to some extent also for the president. I remember him talking in 2000 about why - how it peeved him that Saddam Hussein was still in power and his father wasn't.
So the do-overs are not just about Vietnam, but, of course, this is the consensus view in the White House. They just need to keep their will, and they can do this, they can win this in Iraq.
You know, it takes a lot more than political will to sort out the mess in Iraq right now.
OLBERMANN: We study history, and people get the wrong idea from it. You're not supposed to relive it, you're supposed to learn from it.
Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek," as always, sir, our great thanks for your time.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: For more on what all this means for the Americans in uniform still on the ground in Iraq, as promised, we're joined by retired Army Major General John Batiste, former commander of the 1st Infantry Division on the ground in Iraq.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: You bet, Keith, good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Has there ever been a point when you thought the mission in Iraq was clear and clearly spelled out by this administration?
BATISTE: You know, that's the problem, Keith. At every level of the chain of command, the uniformed commanders don't hesitate to ask for what they need. The problem is, the strategy from the very beginning never anticipated or resourced the transition from war fighting, to peace enforcement, to building the peace. So we lost a narrow window of opportunity. We never regained the initiative.
OLBERMANN: Do you believe, from your experience dealing with it, that this administration is capable of changing course in Iraq to manage a victory, even at this late date?
BATISTE: I think America's capable of anything. And we need to change course, we need to fall in on a new strategy to be successful with what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan.
OLBERMANN: General, Mr. Woodward describes in his book an interview he did with Secretary Rumsfeld earlier this year. He says the secretary said it was one of the great canards that he had decided or unduly influenced the decision to not bring an additional 90,000 troops into Iraq, Mr. Woodward adding that by this summer, Mr. Rumsfeld was saying that troop levels - let me quote it, "It's entirely possible there were too many at some point, and too few at some point, because nobody's perfect."
You are among those asking for more troops. What's your reaction to that statement?
BATISTE: Well, my reaction is, with all due respect for Donald - to Donald Rumsfeld, we went into this war with absolutely the wrong plan. We didn't plan for it, and we're suffering today.
What we do need to do now is to move forward. We need a new strategy. And it kind of goes like this. It's not, Cut and run, it's not, We'll stand down as they stand up, it's not, Stay the course, it's more like, Victory is the rule of law in Iraq.
And we do that by, one, designating the main effort. Is it Afghanistan, or is it Iraq? We rethink what we're doing with the Iraqi security forces. We are in no way putting the resources into that effort as we should and could. We need to mobilize this country in a serious way, put it on a war footing, mobilize the industrial base.
We need to get serious about discussions with our friends and enemies in the region. Why don't we have an ambassador in Syria? The questions go on and on. We need to think about the incentives for the Iraqis. And how do we conscript more of them into service for their own good?
On and on and on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One other question I have for you, sir. The - there is a transcript of the Rumsfeld-Woodward discussion in July that has been released by the White House, and there's something in there that just startled me, and it may be trivia. You tell me. Mr. Rumsfeld explains that he got an advance copy of the speech that the president gave on the first of May, 2003, the famous one on the aircraft carrier, or infamous one, with the "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him. And he said that in the speech, it said the president was going to say "Mission accomplished," and he managed to get that edited out of the speech, but not out of the sign.
What's your reaction when you hear about that? What was your reaction when you heard about that whole aircraft carrier business?
BATISTE: My reaction is that we have a dysfunctional interagency process in our government, totally dysfunctional. We need to do for the interagency process what Goldwater-Nichols did for the United States military. This is important. It's all about leadership that this country desperately needs at this juncture.
OLBERMANN: Retired major general John Batiste. Thank you for your time, sir, and, of course, thank you for your service.
BATISTE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Amid the "State of Denial" bombshells, there was one for Secretary of State Rice, a reported additional missed warning about the al Qaeda threat before September 11.
And later here, how many warnings did Republican leadership in the House get about Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior with congressional pages? Was Speaker Hastert one of those warned? We listen to demands that he resign, demands that come from a conservative group.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Last week, we distilled a raft of public information demonstrating that the Bush White House took no concrete steps to get al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden prior to September 11, 2001. There may be something in Bob Woodward's book to add to that ever-lengthening and ever-infuriating list.
Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, Woodward's revelations about just what kind of warnings the Bush administration had or did not have. Woodward's central thesis on this matter, in his words, that by July 10, 2001, CIA director George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black, had "communications excerpt and other top secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al Qaeda would soon attack the U.S. But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Rumsfeld had questioned all the NSA intercepts and other intelligence."
Tenet and Black met with Condoleezza Rice on July 10. Rice this weekend denied it, but according to Woodward, she was polite, but they felt the brushoff. There's also this part, not yet widely report. "Black calculated that if they had given him $500 million of covert action funds right then and reasonable authorizations from the president to go kill bin Laden, he would have been able to make great strides, if not do away with him. The CIA had about 100 sources and subsources operating throughout Afghanistan. Just give him the money and the authority, and he might be able to bring bin Laden's head back in a box."
At that time, MSNBC terror analyst Roger Cressey was director of trans-national threats on the National Security Council staff. He joins us now.
Roger, thanks for your time tonight.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: My first question, you're now consulting within a firm with Richard Clarke, who was at that meeting on July 10, on the central question of whether Rice was warned then of an attack on the U.S. Do we know who's right here, Woodward or Secretary Rice?
CRESSEY: Yes, she was warned. I mean, there was a meeting. It was George Tenet, Dick Clarke, another individual from the agency, Cofer Black, and Steve Hadley. And what it was, Keith, was a briefing for Dr. Rice that was similar to a briefing the CIA gave to us in the situation room about a week before, laying out the information, the intelligence, laying out the sense of urgency. And it was pretty much given to Dr. Rice and Steve Hadley in pretty stark terms.
OLBERMANN: The $500 million Cofer Black action plan against bin Laden, would have read like crazy talk if that had been presented to her as Woodward describes it?
CRESSEY: Not crazy talk, but because in some respects, that's what we did after 9/11, although, as much as I love and respect Cofer, I don't think we would have been able to bring his head back in a box then, because, frankly, all the CIA sources in Afghanistan stunk, and that was part of the problem.
But that type of aggressive, robust covert action is ultimately what was implemented after 9/11.
CRESSEY: There have been reports that neither Secretary Rice nor director Tenet nor Mr. Black had told the 9/11 commission about the meeting on July 10. NBC News learned that the 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste and Rice's friend Philip Zelikow (ph), who was the executive director on the panel, in fact did interview Tenet about the meeting. Can you reconcile those two accounts for us?
CRESSEY: Yes, actually Andrea Mitchell did some great reporting on this today. There was that meeting, it was January 28, 2004. George Tenet spoke about the July 10 meeting extensively. And as a matter of fact, it is in the notes, the transcripts of that meeting that are now contained in the National Archives.
You know, I think this is a case, Keith, where the 9/11 commission just missed it. I mean, it was there in black and white, and they failed to include it in their report.
Now, say, for the sake of argument, Phil Zelikow was trying to hide it and protect it. You know Richard Ben Veniste. There's no way he would have allowed that to happen. So I just think it was a basic oversight by the commission. Very unfortunate, but I think that's what it was.
OLBERMANN: Yes, Mr. Black seems to see it in a different way. There's another overlooked passage in this book, and Woodward writes, "Black felt there were things the 9/11 Commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about." Is the implication there that the desire, specifically on the 9/11 Commission for bipartisanship, might have led its members to turn some sort of blind eye to what would be politically volatile information, either then or now?
CRESSEY: No, I don't think so, Keith. I think the one criticism you can make of the commission's product is that in the spirit of bipartisanship, they were not as sharp with some of their analysis and conclusions as you would have liked. But the idea that they would have blindly and willfully ignored something like this, given some of the members of that commission, people I know, I guarantee that was not the case.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, Roger, about Secretary Rice's sharpness, she famously denied getting any warning before the August 6 PDB came to light. Last week she denied that Dick Clarke gave them a strategy to fight al Qaeda left over from the Clinton administration. Now she's denying what Tenet and Black say they, or apparently told Woodward. Where is Secretary Rice's credibility on this subject of pre-9/11 intelligence right now?
CRESSEY: I just don't understand why she keeps denying what has actually happened, because there's really - there's no good reason for it. The 9/11 Commission had it right about the summer of 2001, Keith, which was, there was an overwhelming body of evidence, but there was not that sense of urgency in the West Wing of the White House to be proactive and aggressive in going after al Qaeda and taking proactive steps, and directing the interagency to do so.
That's what was missing, and I think what you see in Bob Woodward's book is another recitation of that very sad fact.
OLBERMANN: Roger Cressey, MSNBC terrorism analyst, former director on the National Security Council staff. As always, Roger, great thanks for joining us tonight.
CRESSEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also here, the wake of the Mark Foley scandal. How long had House and party leaders known there was a problem? Why did they do nothing? And could Speaker Hastert actually heed demands from conservatives that he resign?
And a nightmare in Pennsylvania, the third school shooting in this country in a week. This time, the carnage in a one-room Amish school house.
The latest ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Where were you, and what were you doing on this date, October 2, 322 B.C.? How could you possibly forget your reaction to the news that day that the Greek philosopher Aristotle had died? All the gossip columns said he'd killed himself with hemlock. There was even a report that he'd thrown himself into the sea out of frustration that he couldn't explain the tides. That, of course, was posted on TMZ.com. The truth was a lot more arcane. Aristotle evidently had a bad stomach.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
Fittingly, we begin in Michigan for the big kickoff of the very first annual Grand Rapids Tomato Festival. What better way to celebrate the death of Aristotle than to hurl those bad boys at each other with the intent to do bodily harm to your opponent? Yes, they ripped off la Tomatina and turned it into some sort of tomato dodgeball thing.
Thirty-two teams with helmets and shields trying to knock over the opposing team's ketchup bottles to win the grand prize, all the gutter salsa they can eat.
To Sacramento. We normally avoid dopey radio stunts, but this one was harmless. The guy set a world record, so Matt McAlister (ph) of KTYD in Sacramento, you're a new "Guinness Book of Records" champions for most T-shirts worn at one time, 155 of them, one on top of the other, all documented here on this video we found on the Internets. By the end, Mr. McAlister was putting on size 10 XLs, wearing 100 pounds of shirt, and being checked on by firefighters to make sure he was still breathing properly.
The stunt took place September 15. Last we checked, he's still getting undressed.
How long had House speaker Dennis Hastert protected disgraced Congressman Mark Foley? Did Hastert and other Republicans put power ahead of protecting children? Some leading conservatives calling on Hastert tonight to resign.
And another deadly school shooting, this time in a one-room Amish schoolhouse. Police say it was a man who claimed he was exacting revenge for something in his past.
But first, time now for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, an unnamed 23-year-old women in Rock County, Wisconsin, arrested at the insistence of the Humane Society yesterday for hamster neglect. She had 39 of them. Six were dead, ill fed, 33 were really, really unhappy.
Number two, Neil Armstrong. Long have we been told that the first man on the moon said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"? But he was supposed to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Now an Australian audio analyst has cleaned up the tape of what Armstrong actually said, says Armstrong got it right, said., "That's one small step for a man." But the word was lost in the garbled transmission from the moon.
Number one, though, Barry Woods, owner of a new bar in Seapoint, South Africa. He has named it That F. King Place. Local residents are complaining, even though his bar is next to another place called Adult World. Well, there goes the F. King neighborhood.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: It is about more now, than the sexually predatory, the co-chair of the House Caucasus on protecting children it is about more now than personal hypocrisy. I it was Congressman Mark Foley who said of President Clinton in 1998, "...it's vile, it's more sad than anything else, to see somebody with such potential throw it down the drain because of a sexual adduction."
In our third story in the Countdown, it is now about accountability. How much in the Republican leadership in the House knew about Foley's issue with teenage congressional pages? And for how long?
Much of the anger about this is coming not from not Democrats, but from Foley's fellow conservatives. Two of whom have called for the Speaker the House Dennis Hastert to resign. David Bosse (ph), himself, once a lead investigator in the Clinton saga, is now president of a concretive group called Citizens United.
"Speaker Hastert," he says, "had knowledge of Congressman Foley's inappropriate behavior and chose to protect a potential pedophile and powerful colleague over a over congressional page. If speaker was willing to sacrifice a child to protect Representative Foley's seat and his own leadership position, the he surly does not share our American and conservative values."
Conservative radio host Michael Reagan, chairman of that same group's Faith and Family Project, adding, "Any member of the Congress who was aware of the sexual e-mails, and protected the congressman should also resign effective immediately." And that's what some of the Republicans are saying. For the full picture from Washington, here's our Capitol Hill correspondent, Chip Reid.
Chip, good evening.
CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening. Both the FBI and Florida law enforcement are now looking into the Foley scandal. Here on Capitol Hill members of both parties are demanding a wide-ranging investigation.
(voice-over): On Capitol Hill, a frenzy of finger-pointing over who knew what when. Democrats accusing Republicans of a cover-up, Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert denying any prior knowledge of Mark Foley's sexually explicit messages.
DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages...
REID: The question, thought, was he aware of less explicit e-mails in which Foley asked a former page his age and requested a photo.
Last week Hastert said no, but other Republicans said Hastert was told about those e-mails months ago. At today news conference, Hastert refused to take questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, when was your staff aware?
REID: But later, sat down with NBC NEWS.
HASTERT: I don't recall anybody telling me about them.
REID: All of this follows Foley's decision to check into rehab this past weekend in a letter stating, "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and related behavioral problems."
Behavioral problems that allegedly include sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage boys, former congressional pages. This, from a man who made a career of protecting children from sexual exploitation.
MARK FOLEY, FMR. CONGRESSMAN: To anybody even contemplating a sexual offense against a child, understand your life will be ruined.
REID: He was a top supporter of the page program.
FOLEY: This has been a year you will remember for the rest of your lives.
REID: Four years ago congratulating a group of pages while recalling dinner with one page at an expensive Washington steak house.
FOLEY: And so we proceeded to cruise down in my BMW to Morton's...
REID: But today, one former pages told NBC NEWS that for pages, it's a purely positive experience.
JAMES KOTECKI, FMR. HOUSE PAGE: The entire time I was in the page program, I never felt threatened, I felt very safe.
REID (on camera): And Keith's history repeats itself, I'm sure you will recall. More than 20 years ago there was a sex scandal here involving teenage pages and members of Congress, they thought they fixed the program so that pages would be safe, now they say they'll have to revamp it again - Keith.
OLBERMANN: Chip Reid at Capitol Hill, great thanks, Chip.
Let's call on MSNBC analyst and "Congressional Quarterly" columnist, Craig Crawford, also author of "Attack the Messenger."
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hi.
OLBERMANN: To me, it's inappropriate to at least start this conversation about the politics because Michael Reagan is right about this and Bosse's (ph) right about this and (INAUDIBLE) Buchanan who said the same thing on CNN today, is right about this.
There are people missing the point here that could just as easily be Democrats missing the point here. This was a system - a political system closing ranks to protect one of its own and those that did that are nearly as much at fault as Foley himself. Is that being recognized in Washington right now?
CRAWFORD: I think it's being recognized by the Republicans in damage control, because they see how this could metastasize into a much bigger story than just Foley himself and what happens to him if this grows beyond that. Because it does seem that the Republican leaders handled this problem as an internal party matter, and not the more traditional and formal root of the House of Ethics Committee or the Page Committee itself, were never notified.
OLBERMANN: And as we live in the real word and there is politics, and tonight they involve the Speaker of the House, because of that, and particularly this call for Hastert's resignation from some people on the right, he's already acknowledged that his staff knew of over friendly e-mails the month before, isn't that the point at which somebody's supposed to step? Isn't that enough, before the child gets hurt? Is that not the definition of leadership?
CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, some of the things they're doing now to reform the page system, and provide more education, the pages, and a hotline for any potential abuse or harassment, all those are things they're saying now they want to do, they could have done then, but at that time they were sweeping it under the rug. And also, I think what we're going to see tomorrow is a lot more focus, Keith, on the $100,000 that Foley gave to the Republican Campaign Committee at the about the same time this was all happening. It gives the appearance that he was buying their silence.
OLBERMANN: The speaker as asked again today, if he recalled Congressman Tom Reynolds telling about the Foley issue in the Spring of this year, and the Mr. Hastert said, "I just don't recall him telling me that. If he would have told me that, he would have told me about in that context of a half a dozen or a dozen other things."
He's getting his cake and eating it too, here. Essentially characterizing a conversation that he does not recall having it happening. Never mind what the Democrat's say, if you've got conservatives who are furious at Hastert, and this is the kind of disaster that does not need one party painting the other, this is self-painting - will the Republicans need to throw Hastert under the bus to save their chances in the election?
CRAWFORD: Well, if he fits - if the bus has a lot of clearance. I do think that movement is beginning, Keith. I see that happening, because Republicans know better than anyone how these issues can take over. They won control of Congress in 1994, largely, because of accusationsed against Democrats for abusive power, Dan Rostenkowski, the chairman Ways and Means and the check hiding scandal and stealing stamps. I mean, it's these weird kind of things that make people talk, get people focused around the water cooler, and that's where it could be damaging. So, I could imagine them making a move on Hastert just to show the voters that the party is reforming itself.
OLBERMANN: Midterm elections, five weeks from tomorrow. Is the major concern in the Republican Party that the religious right will stay home in outrage over this?
CRAWFORD: That's one of their concerns, I think they do have a problem with the conservatives. You know, conservatives remember, going back to '94, when they ran against Democratic abusive of power, they remember that well. This was supposed to be a reform party that came into Congress, and now they look what the Democrats looked like back then.
Of course, even the Democrats now have their problems, but if they can connect this story, the Democrats challengers out there in these races, if they can connect it to the overall "culture of corruption," as they like to call it, I mean, my gosh, you've got Republicans with one that's in jail for bribery, and one resigned for it, and now this problem, and Tom DeLay facing a trial for what amounts to criminal conspiracy. So, you know, there are a lot of things to connect together, if Democrats can bundle those and make it sing, I could see this being an issue as we look back on it that turn the election.
OLBERMANN: And maybe if it's not bundled, this thing on it's resonates with people, and it's not difficult to explain.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly." As always Craig, great thanks for your time.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Another disaster involving children, this time in the Amish country in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. A man storms into a one-room schoolhouse and begins to execute female students.
And later, the eighth winningest pitcher in baseball history is suddenly just the latest baseball player accused in a performance enhancing drug scandal. That and more ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: A deadly rampage as an Amish school tonight, though it followed last week's siege in Colorado, it was apparently in the planning stages for an awfully long time.
And move over Barry Bonds, the latest baseball doping scandal includes accusations against Roger Clemens. That's next, this is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: For the second time in less than a week, an adult gunman has apparently deliberately targeted female students with horrible results. This time in was in the heart of Amish country. Our second story on the Countdown, at least three young girls are dead after a suicidal truck driver stormed a one-house schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He ordered the boys and teachers out, then bound the girls and when the police showed up he started shooting the girls execution style. Our correspondent on the scene is Rehema Ellis.
Rehema, good evening.
REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith, people here are coming to grips with the tragedy that happened in the tiny schoolhouse down the street behind me. Here is what we know: A total of four people dead. Two of them children, one a teacher's aide, herself a teenager, and the gunman, police, who say kills himself. Authorities say eight children were taken to nearby hospitals, and police say it will be a mayor all if they all survive.
(voice-over): In the peaceful Amish community of horse drawn carriages and farmland, crime is rare, this crime unimaginable. There was no place to hide for the 26 children in this one-room schoolhouse.
JEFFREY MILLER, COMMISSIONER PENN. STATE POLICE: It's a horrendous crime scene.
ELLIS: Police say shortly before 10:00 this morning a man armed with a handgun and a shot gun walked into the Nickel Mines Amish School for six to 13-year-olds.
MILLER: He told the kids to line up in front of the blackboard. At that moment, he began to tie the females, the children's feet together.
ELLIS: Police say he let the 15 boys and some of the women leave. A teacher was able to get out and call 911.
But when the police arrived, nine minutes later, they had no time to negotiate, the gunman, who barricaded himself in, started shooting killing three, wounding several before turning the gun on himself.
MILLER: It appears that when he began shooting the victims, these victims were shot execution style in the head.
ELLIS: The gunman is identified as 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts, IV, a married father of three, a milk truck drivers who lived nearby. He is not believed to be Amish. Police say he left suicide notes for his family, and called his wife once he took the school children hostage. A family spokesperson read a statement from Robert's wife.
DWIGHT LEFEVER, ROBERT'S FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Our lives are shattered and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today.
ELLIS: Hours after the shooting, police walked to the nearby fields in a line searching for children who might have escaped the violence, to hid in the familiar fields.
(on camera): Police say no children were found in the field. As for motive, authorities are still trying to determine that, what they know so far is apparently this was the result of a grudge Roberts held for twenty years, but not against the Amish, so far police are calling this a crime of convenience, saying it was close to home and the school was not secured. In addition, police are saying that Roberts had an arsenal of weapons and he appeared to be ready to hold this school for a long time.
Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Rehema Ellis, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, thanks.
There is no possible segue into our nightly segment of celebrity and tabloid news, "Keeping Tabs," so we'll simply begin with the continuing legal problems of the singer George Michael. For the second time this year, he was found passed out with marijuana in his car, let off first time with a caution, but now he has to show up in court in November. Michael's partner, Kenny Goss, writing off suggestions that a drug habit might be fueling erratic behavior, instead suggesting that, as in the case of Paris Hilton's alleged craving for an In-N-Out burger, Mr. Michael just wanted some fast food, telling reporters, "he's fine and I've got him a McDonald's."
And it's official, after 26 years on network television, David Letterman has finally run out of guests. I'm scheduled to join him tomorrow night on the "Late Show," that's 11:30 - I'm telling you what time "Letterman" is on - tomorrow night, unless I get preempted by monkeys.
Or can they - if they book this guy, how could a baseball pitcher still be getting better at age 44? How indeed? The baseball doping scandal has now toughed the "Rocket," Roger Clemens.
That's ahead, but first time for Countdown latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World.".
Eleventh. Eleventh on the "New York Times" list of political best sellers and in the top 10, near as I can tell, not a single laugh, except for that picture Coultergeist chose for herself.
The Bronze tonight, to chiropractor, Alex Pitro (ph) of St. Petersburg, Florida. He operatd something called Doctor's Urgent Care Walk-in Clinic. He advertised that he did not ask a lot of questions of patients who wanted prescriptions for things like valium, vicodin, and oxycontin. He's under arrest now, and I'll resist the 437 different Rush Limbaugh jokes submitted by the staff.
Our co-champs tonight, Bill-O, who explained the Mark Foley scandal to his room full of idiots, thusly, "There have been rumors about Foley's homosexuality for years, it wasn't an issue at all until now."
And Matt Drudge, who described the victims in this case as "these 16 and 17-year-old beasts" and sarcastically called them "innocent" at least three times. "The kids," he added, "Are trying to get this out of him. We haven't got the whole story on this."
No actually, you pinheads, we have. This isn't about Foley being gay. It's not about what the kids did. It's about an adult, male or female straight or gay taking sexual advantage of children, and other adults protecting that adult. And now, in you two imbeciles, it's two other adults trying to protect the political agenda at the expense of the child.
Bill O'Reilly and Matt Drudge, today's "Worst Persons in the World."
OLBERMANN: He has been whispered about in press boxes and in hallways outside baseball clubhouses for literally years. How, at an age where nearly every other ball player in history has started to get older and worse, has he seemed to have gotten younger and better? Now those whispers may have turned into shouts.
Our No. 1 story on the Countdown: Barry Bonds? No, no. We're now talking about Roger Clemens, the "Rocket," who just two weeks ago, won the 348th game of his career. He's among six players reportedly linked to performance enhancing drugs by their former teammate Jason Grimsley.
Federal agents listed the names in an affidavit filed last May 31, as they sought a search warrant for Grimsley's home. They found several shipments to Grimsley of human growth hormone. The affidavit was released right then, so too was Grimsley, from his contract as a pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the player names were blacked out, redacted. Now the "Los Angeles Times" says it has seen the altered affidavit and reports that in it agents claim Grimsley told them his former teammate, Clemens, used performance enhancing drugs.
That the other names, including Andy Pettitte, another teammate of Grimsley's in New York; and three current Baltimore Oriels players, each reportedly identified by Grimsley as users of anabolic steroids.
Former American League, most valuable player, Miguel Tejada; the young outfielder Jay Gibbons; second baseman, Brian Roberts. Roberts called the accusations ridiculous. Gibbons said he was innocent. Tejada said he'd only spent one morning with Grimsley a season ago.
Clemens said he had passed every drug test he's ever taken, only Pettitte categorically and absolutely denied having every used any performance enhancing drugs. The U.S. Attorney General's Office, in San Francisco, meanwhile, told the "New York Daily News," that the "L.A. Times" versions of all this "contains significant inaccuracies."
On the other hand, my radio partner, Dan Patrick, said he saw a copy of the unredacted affidavit in June and those names were there.
Reporter T.J. Quinn of the "New York Daily News" was one of the two reporters who first broke word of Grimsley's drug conviction back in June and he joins us now to discuss these latest developments.
T.J., good evening, thanks for your time.
T.J. QUINN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Is the operative fact here, I mean, Pettitte came out immediately with this blanket denial, but to some degree, every one of the other comments, is nuance. It refers to "I haven't failed tests," baseball doesn't test for human growth hormone. It has long since replaced steroids as supplement drug of choice in baseball. Is this - were those answers just too nuanced for the sake of the players involved?
QUINN: Well, those statements look like a lawyer may have taken a peek at them at some point. You know, it reminds you of the congressional testimony when Mark Mcguire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Conseco, all the guys showed up and some of those statements were like that. The only guy who didn't have a nuanced statement that leave himself some room to fudge was Raphael Palmeiro who shook his finger. And came back to bite him hard.
I think when people saw what happened to Palmeiro, when he tested positive after categorically saying he never took anything, I think some guys learned maybe I should be careful what I say. The crazy thing today is the U.S. Attorney's Office, as you mentioned before, has put out a statement, which is very significant, it's very rare for a U.S. Attorney's Office to do that. About a sealed document saying, yes, there were significant inaccuracies in the story, they won't say what those inaccuracies are. "L.A. Times" says it's standing by its initial report, but they finally - the attorneys office said tonight, actually, just as I was headed here that they're now saying it's the names are wrong, but they won't say which names.
OLBERMANN: I had suggested on the radio this aven that for Clemens that perhaps someone was just ripping the load off Pandora's box . That this is a man, who from his 31st birthday thought his 34th, never won more than 11 games in a season, a lot of people thought he was finished, but he's won 156 games since that time. Ad there have been nearly that many stories. I don't think any of them or many of them have been for public consumption about how a pitcher could bigger and faster and stronger and better at a time when his body should be deteriorating. Is it now going to be open season on Roger Clemons?
QUINN: I think it is. I think, as you said, they're always kind of whispering - Roger Clemens has always credited his workout regime. He does workout like crazy. That does not mean, necessarily, that somebody has not been using performance enhancing drugs. Performance enhancers make you want to work out, they make it easier for you work out harder and longer than ever. Now that his name has been out there, whether or not his name is actually in the affidavit, I think there's a freedom, some people are going to feel now, to just openly speculate about it, just what you said before, the whole idea, when you're 40, you shouldn't be throwing harder than you were when you were 34.
OLBERMANN: Is it, to go - take it even one step further about speculation, is the timing of this coincidental. I mean, the season ends, baseball would have no means of throwing somebody out who used Human Growth Hormones, because there's not test for it. Could the unredacted Grimsley affidavit have reveled to the "L.A. Times" as a message to Roger Clemens, go home and stay home, this is your way out without getting everything that you've done throughout out the window as it seems to have for Mark McGuire?
QUINN: The only answer, the only way to really answer that is if you know whether or not Clemens name is actually in the affidavit. We've had people to say yes, but no one to confirm it, short of Dan Patrick. I'm curious why he didn't say it in June, because if that was the end of the story, we could go home.
But of Roger is one of those six names, you know this is going to be a terrible stain on the end of his career. Even if they don't prove it, from now on, anytime somebody, you know, on the same sense, is going to talk about Roger Clemens, you'll see seven Si Young's (ph) and you'll see doping accusations. I think that'll always be there
OLBERMANN: And the other caveat to this, besides what the Attorney General's office has said in California, the "L.A. Times" is quoting a friend of Grimsley's who said, the never mentioned any names, the investigators did, they put down what they wanted to in the affidavit in order to get the search warrant. Is that plausible?
QUINN: I don't know how plausible it is, it is not impossible. The fact is there are plenty of stories over the yeas of abused my law enforcement, in any kind of case, I don't know if they recorded this interview or not, but Jay Noveniski (ph), the IRS Agent who interview Grimsley, and is the one who signed the affidavit, he was also the guy who the raid into the BALCO lab in the firsr place. He's also the guy who questioned Dr. Conte (ph), and said that at the time Victor started naming names like crazy including Barry Bonds, and Conte, since then, has steadfastly said I never said those things. He put those words n my mouth. Maybe they just found a great little riff to repeat to give some ins and outs and Plausible Deniability, because neither guy wants to go back into his little world and be called a rat.
OLBERMANN: Not that they're going to let Jason Grimsley back in, in any event. I'm out of time, T.J., T.J. Quinn, sports writher of "New York Daly News" covering this latest twist on this story.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
QUINN: Thanks Keith.
That is Countdown for this, the 1,248th day since the decelerations of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
Joe, good evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END