ANNOUNCER: He knows
everybody and he rips the big stories wide open and oh yes, heís more than
just another pretty face, heís Nachman, Jerry Nachman.
JERRY NACHMAN, HOST: Welcome to Volume One, Edition 86. On page one this
Wednesday, Saddam Hussein bows to the United Nations resolution demanding
that he disarm. The inspectors are preparing to head into Iraq .
Analysts say it sounds like it is Osama bin Laden on that new audiotape,
so heís still alive and threatening even more terror. President Bush takes
all of this in stride saying if Osama is still around, itís just a matter
My nameís Nachman and ladies and gentlemen of North America and all the
ships at sea, letís go to press.
Experts who analyzed an audiotape released yesterday say it certainly
sounds like the voice of the worldís most wanted man. Itís clear the tape
was recorded recently because bin Laden gloats over terrorist attacks made
in only the past couple of months.
The Arab satellite channel, Al Jazeera, obtained the tapes. Hereís a clip
from Al Jazeera with a voice of a translator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The killing of Australians and
Americans in Bali and the latest operation in Moscow , along with other
disperse operations here and there is just a reaction to jealous Muslims
different in their religion.
The whole world allying and combine against the Muslims under the pretext
of fighting terrorism. The gang in Washington, the tyrant of the age, as
you kill, you will be killed. As you attack, you will be attacked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: When questioned about the tape, President Bush seemed to take it
all in stride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whoever put this tape out
has put the world on notice yet again that weíre at war. And that we need
to take these messages very seriously and we will. Weíll chase these
people down one at a time. It doesnít matter how long it takes. Weíll find
them and bring them to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: Professor Walid Phares of Florida Atlantic University is an
expert on terrorism in the Middle East . We will be hearing shortly from
Steve Cain to explain how itís determined whether a tape is authentic.
Heís an expert in forensic audio and videotape. Heís analyzed tapes for
the Secret Service, the FBI and the DEA.
Letís start first with Professor Phares. Your reaction, sir, to what you
heard purportedly from bin Laden.
PROF. WALID PHARES, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well Jerry, first of all, Iím sure
that Steve will tell us more about the phonetics of the videotape. I will
tell you more about the linguistics. I have been reviewing the bin Laden
tape for over a year and a half, and the linguists of the videotape aired
yesterday on Al Jazeera are very similar to his linguist, meaning the
choice of words, the repetition of sentences.
This is only one brain that can do that and this is the brain of Osama bin
Laden unless someone else has provided a clone; I donít think so. It is
Osama bin Laden, probably in a different health condition. We donít know.
NACHMAN: Dr. Phares, I want to talk to you about the rhetoric in the tape
and the syntax of the tape. I find historically that most of bin Ladenís
statements are essentially general screeds, propounding on Arab themes and
anti-Western themes, but he seemed to be very specific in this one, unlike
him, and very geopolitical.
Letís look at what weíve labeled as number two, an Osama warning where he
says, ďWhat do your governments want by allying themselves with a criminal
gang in the White House against Muslims? Do your governments not know that
the White House gangsters are the biggest butchers of this age? Rumsfeld,
the butcher of Vietnam , killed more than two million people, not to
mention those he wounded. If you were distressed by the killing of your
nationals in Moscow , remember ours in Chechnya . Dick Cheney and U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell killed and destroyed in Baghdad more than
Hulegu of the Mongols.Ē
Very specific, talking about Russia . He also talks about Bali , East
Timor . What does this sound like to you? Does it sound different than
what weíve heard in years past?
PHARES: Different and non different. Different from the past videotapes
aired what ii called globally on Al Jazeera. This is a global message
basically to the Arab Muslim world, regardless of how it will be received
in the Western world and in America in particular. But not different
because he has been issuing such releases on Internet and on different
ways and means of newsletters and even printed material in the Middle East
for a long time.
To bring this up to the global messenger, which is Al Jazeera, means that
he has decided to move ahead strategically and what his message is all
about today through this audiotape is he that is posing himself as the new
killer. He is now the same Islamist jihadist leader who can reach Moscow ,
who can reach tankers in the Indian Ocean , who could reach Bali , and he
at the same time is posing himself as the ultimate negotiator on behalf of
all Islamist jihadist movements.
This message, basically this audiotape is addressed to the masses of the
Muslim world and the Arab world.
NACHMAN: And yet the specific target of his rage continues to be the
United States in particular and President Bush specifically. Read along
with me while we go through this other one.
ďWhat Bush, the pharaoh of this age was doing in terms of killing our sons
in Iraq and what Israel, the United States ally, was doing in terms of
bombing houses that shelter old people, women and children with U.S. made
aircraft in Palestine was sufficient to prompt the same among your rulers
to distance themselves from this criminal gang.Ē
Dr. Phares, this also seems to be a renewed link between him, bin Laden,
and Iraq on which he seemed to...
NACHMAN: ... to be most silent lately.
PHARES: Yes I come to the Iraq issue at the end. Let me just point out
that this is jihad international relations. He is first of all trying to
create a wedge between Europeans or undecided democracies, such as
Australia , France and Canada and the United States . He is sort of upset
because the current administration was able to back itself with a sort of
victory in the elections, that it got unanimous support from the Security
Council, United Nations, and itís heading toward Iraq .
The Arab League now through Syria and the Security Council seems to have
accepted the fact of the American position. He feels that he should do
something to blame the Americans for what will come soon. His link to Iraq
is very interesting. I mean, in the morning, the Iraqi Parliament,
Baathist-controlled Parliament rejected the U.N. resolution.
In the afternoon or late afternoon, Mr. Osama bin Laden comes and declares
jihad against various actors in international relations as far as Russia ,
as far as East Timor . He wants to pose himself as the man in control of
the destinies of Muslims, including in Iraq and Baghdad . Itís not about
Saddam Hussein. Itís about Baghdad , the capital of the embassies.
We need to read his mind as he flows through history of the seventh
century and 12th Century fighting against the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the
Persian empire, the Western Roman empire. Thatís where Osama bin Laden
NACHMAN: Dr. Phares, letís welcome Steve Cain, the voice identification
expert. Our technology is apparently not state of the art. Mr. Cain, are
you convinced of the bona fides of this tape? Can you hear me, sir? Mr.
STEVE CAIN, VOICE IDENTIFICATION EXPERT: I sure can.
NACHMAN: ...are you convinced of the bona fides of this tape? Do you think
CAIN: Well first of all, I have not been provided any excerpts from it and
without a known sample of Mr. bin Ladenís voice, I donít think itís
appropriate to make any comment about whether or not it may or may not be
his voice on the tape.
NACHMAN: You know, it seems like very sophisticated technology, but itís
been 25 years, 30 years since investigators were able to determine that
Richard Nixonís secretary erased a piece of White House recording tape, so
I guess the technology has been around for a while.
CAIN: Yes it has, but what youíre talking about is essentially tape
authentication or possible tape editing. That technology is still present
in many of the cases whether it be criminal or civil cases, still involve
questions about whether or not a tape has been tampered with or edited.
Your issue, I think, is more concerned with whose voice is on the tape and
that would be voice identification and that can be done as long as you
have a suitably long known sample of the suspectís voice, and then, of
course, you have a fairly decent question recording to comparing his.
NACHMAN: More questions up ahead. Steve Cain, Professor Phares, please
hold your thoughts. Weíll come right back on what this means for terror,
here, around the world, now that bin Laden apparently has spoken.
NACHMAN: Despite a $25-million dead or alive bounty, Osama bin Laden
apparently has survived. We donít know about the state of his health, but
he is well enough to continue making threats.
Steve Cain is with us. He analyzes audio and videotapes. He has degrees in
forensic scientist - in science I should say, and Professor Walid Phares
is an expert on terrorism and Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic
Mr. Cain, what is the technology simply put and how efficacious is it?
CAIN: Simply put, itís a matter of obtaining a suitable number of words,
which are fairly intelligible. In other words, not massed by a lot of
noise. Then getting a sample of any suspectís voices where in they repeat
the same words or phrases and you basically make a pattern match in a
computer, where then you look for frequency similarities as they vary over
NACHMAN: So we all speak...
CAIN: Thatís essentially...
NACHMAN: We all speak within...
NACHMAN: ... a certain harmonic and where the peaks and valleys are, are
CAIN: Thatís correct, except in voice printing, we normally concentrate
more on the vowel sounds or what we call the phonemes. Thatís what a
linguist would call it and thatís the basic sounds of the English
language. So, itís the vowel sounds that basically you key in on. They are
the ones that produce the patterns that the expert normally would look at
it when heís trying to make a match or to eliminate a suspect.
NACHMAN: Degree of probability from zero to 100 percent, how effective is
CAIN: Itís very effective. Iíve been doing this for about 20 years, 10
years of which was with the government before I went into private
practice, so Iíve worked for both sides, prosecutors and defense
NACHMAN: So throw out a number for me...
CAIN: To my - based on published studies even by the FBI who looked at it
over a 15-year period, thereís been as much as a 95 to 99-percent degree
of accuracy associated with the voice...
NACHMAN: So almost fingerprint, almost DNA level matching.
CAIN: I would like to say that, but Iím a proponent of it and I think that
we probably need to do a little more research before we come up with those
kind of database statistics or figures.
NACHMAN: Dr. Phares, you mentioned something that fascinates me and I got
questions on it. The timing, it came out when Saddam was under the gun. It
came out after the U.S. election. Obviously he knows whatís going on in
the world. Why didnít he do this before the election? Do you think it
might have made a difference? Would it have helped Bush? I know Iím asking
a lot of questions, but you know what Iím thinking.
PHARES: I do know what youíre thinking, and I think youíre thinking right
on target. See, Osama bin laden is not just someone who may be in some of
the caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan. He has a network around the world,
including people who have PhD. in political science, international
relations. He may also have advisers here in Washington, D.C.
I mean come on, we have to be realistic. Certainly when he sends a
videotape to Al Jazeera or when Al Jazeera airs the videotape it already
has, we donít know, there is a political analysis behind that. Things do
not happen just emotionally. And of course, he was weighing the situation
to see, or his advisers, if the elections that took place a few weeks ago
will lead to a division within the American political spectrum.
Will that lead to a weakening of the resolve of the United Nations? Will
that lead to a Arab League intervention in order to put an end to the
American initiative in the region? All of that was evaluated and
PHARES: ... with a series of strengths.
NACHMAN: There was an election. It appears, at least superficially, that
President Bush has even more consent in the American electoral and popular
vote. Did that tell bin laden, I better fight back now? Heís got more
bullets in his gun.
PHARES: Itís a three-dimensional struggle. You have Saddam Hussein in
Baghdad , while-or Osama bin Laden somewhere, we donít know where, and you
have Washington . Now, Saddam Hussein has three lines of defense. One,
within the United States , the internal situation. Two, the United
Nations, and three, the Arab League. These are his three shields.
Now, those three shields were about to collapse and thatís when Osama bin
Laden comes and say, if you get a U.N. resolution, if you send your
inspectors, if you flex muscles with Iraq, I will come with my troops on
another front, and I will deflect the attention into terrorism.
NACHMAN: I know weíre hypothesizing. What do you think his reaction was to
the decision by the Arab League to urge Iraq to honor the U.N. resolution?
PHARES: Well, the Arab League has a stake in this whole thing. Itís
another game player because most regimes in the Arab world would like to
see a new, more democratic regime taking place in Iraq . They dislike
So, when Osama bin Laden sees that the Arab shield around Saddam Hussein
now is turning against Saddam Hussein, this is the moment, this is the
time for him to make his followers create trouble in various spots. Look
at what happened in Jordan a few weeks ago, and we can see more in the
future happening. Itís a three-way struggle in the Middle East ...
NACHMAN: Professor Phares...
PHARES: ... and Osama bin Laden has taken the lead today.
NACHMAN: Thank you for being our Rosetta stone today. Steve Cain, many
thanks for your explanations.
Next, America ís other Mideast menace. Saddam Hussein says yes to the U.N.
resolution. Now comes the next phase of the cat-and-mouse war that youíve
been hearing about.
ANNOUNCER: NACHMAN on America ís News Channel, MSNBC.
NACHMAN: Diplomats say it was a foregone conclusion. Saddam Hussein was in
a corner, no allies, no wiggle room, leaving him no choice but to accept
the U.N. resolution demanding that he disarm. So this morning Iraq ís U.N.
ambassador delivered a letter saying his country disapproves, but will go
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMED AL-DOURI, IRAQI U.N. AMBASSADOR: Iraq will deal with the Security
Council Resolution 1441 despite its bad contents. We are prepared to
receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. We are eager to see
them perform their duties in accordance with international law as soon as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: So whatís next? An advance team of weapons inspectors should be
in Iraq by Monday. Then, according to the resolution, Iraq has until
December 8 to give the Security Council a complete list of all its
programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as
ballistics missiles and unmanned aircraft. After hearing Iraq ís response
today, the White House basically said weíll wait and see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: This was never a question of
accepting or rejecting the resolution. The U.N. resolution is binding on
Iraq and the Iraqi regime, Saddam Hussein had no choice but to accept the
resolution. I would also remind you that weíve heard this before from
Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime. Now, we need to see it by Saddam
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: Something has to give in the next few weeks because the
inspectors are going in and the Iraqis continue to insist they have no
weapons of mass destruction despite overwhelming intelligence evidence to
Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for the Arab newspaper,
Al-Hayat, broke the story of Iraq ís acceptance right here on MSNBC. Sheís
also an analyst of ours. David Kay was the chief U.N. weapons inspector in
Iraq after the Gulf War. Heís now with the Potomac Institute.
Thanks both for being here. Raghida, you scooped the
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, AL-HAYAT: Thank you
NACHMAN: You want to tell us how you found out?
DERGHAM: Not really, you know...
DERGHAM: ... you know better.
NACHMAN: ... I didnít say who. I just want to know how.
DERGHAM: Yes, actually I had been doing a show earlier for MSNBC earlier
on, on the tape of Osama bin Laden and while I was coming back to the
United Nations I started my phone calls in the car, then I found out that
the Iraqi ambassador was going to be at the United Nations and I figured
well, I better run and see. I smelled something, Jerry, you know that good
old thing. I smelled it and then I confirmed it.
NACHMAN: First rule in journalism, you donít ask, you donít get.
Ambassador Kay, your reaction sir.
DAVID KAY, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well I think there is no surprise.
This is absolutely consistent Iraqi behavior since the end of the Gulf
War. When faced with the United Security Council and the imminent threat
of real military force, they always adopt a policy of saying we will
welcome the inspectors, come back in.
It happened to me in July of 1991. Itís the behavior after youíre back in
that you ought to look for, not the acceptance of the resolution.
NACHMAN: I need a very brief answer Ambassador. I keep thinking of the
three-card money games they play in New York , except instead of find the
queen, find the missile. Is that whatís going to happen when the
inspectors go in?
KAY: Itíll be more complicated than that, but it is essentially the
principle of the game. Itís hide-and-seek, back, find evidence that
theyíre cheating. You canít disarm them, but you can find out whether
NACHMAN: OK, weíre going to ask you to hold it. Raghida and David Kay,
donít go anywhere.
Many more questions, much on Saddamís diplomatic maneuvering with the U.N.
after this break.
NACHMAN: In the next half-hour, what the weapons inspectors will expect to
find when they arrive in Iraq and are you getting more words per minute on
primetime TV whether you want them or not.
First the headlines.
NACHMAN: Saddam Hussein is complying, at least on paper, with U.N. demands
that he disarm at least for now. Raghida Dergham broke the story here on
MSNBC. David Kay was the U.N. chief weapons inspector in Iraq after the
Gulf War. Joining us now, Hume Horan, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi
Mr. Ambassador, any surprises? Any revelations here?
HUME HORAN, FMR. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA : With a person like Saddam,
one shouldnít talk about surprises. Thereís a long track record that this
man has got. And the comments that have been made I think are right smack
dead on. This guy is going to-I bet the atmosphere in his headquarters is
something like that of Hitler in, letís say, April 1945 in the last days
of the Reich.
NACHMAN: You really think heís in the bunker?
HORAN: He is in the bunker. He has no friends. Even Syria voted against
him. Heís facing an American regime, which far from being weaker than he
had hoped, looks stronger than ever. And he must wonder, letís just play
for time, letís play for time, letís hope that something comes out of
somewhere in order to help get me out of the fork that Iím in.
NACHMAN: I want to go hard in reverse for a minute because Iíve got this
distinguished panel. Ambassador, I want to stay with you on an earlier
issue. What was your reaction to the apparent revelation that Osama bin
Laden is alive?
HORAN: You know, first, is he alive? Who knows. Iíd love to see his face
on tape, and I wonder why he was not prepared to reveal it. But secondly,
I think it was-it was an action that plays into the hands of the United
Nations, the hands of the administration.
It is something that should cause Saddam Hussein to grown, because here he
is thinking, letís hope that something happens that will cause the
Americans not to want to go after me. But now all of a sudden, if the
American public sees that the man who is responsible for 9-11 is
somewhere, alive and kicking in the Middle East , the feeling will be in
some parts, frankly, letís get two birds with one stone.
NACHMAN: Raghida, my next question was to you. Riding up and down those
escalators and elevators in the U.N., hanging out in the U.N.
correspondents lounge, very good food, very low prices, what did your Arab
envoys think of this? Was that a big buzz over there today as well?
DERGHAM: Well, indeed, because it is very good news if people donít mind
that Iraq said yes to the resolution.
NACHMAN: Iím talking about the revelation that bin Laden may be alive.
DERGHAM: Oh, OK. Well, no, thatís-I actually did not speak to the
diplomats about that, but I know one thing, that the fact that this tape
came out, whether bin Laden himself is alive or not, the issue remains
that al Qaeda is functioning and that they have a message to increase the
fears and to really blow up-blow out our serenity. And the issue is to say
that they are elusive.
They are still functioning. That we have not won the war against terrorism
or against bin Laden.
NACHMAN: But Raghida, Iíd like your response to what the ambassador said.
Mr. Ambassador Horan said that Saddam is kind of in the bunker. Heís now
been essentially ostracized by his fellow Arabs in the Middle East .
DERGHAM: The Arabs have been pressuring Saddam Hussein to deliver on the
resolution, to accept it and to comply with it. Theyíve been saying to
him, look, if you donít, youíre going to have to understand that youíll go
down all by yourself and itís going to be disaster for the Iraqi people
and for the region altogether. And donít forget, Jerry, there is something
called the survival of the regimes, which these countries want to make
sure they maintain.
So the pressure has been on the Iraqi government to comply. There has been
a consensus on this. As to whether this right now-I mean, the worry is
that war plans and the rhetoric of war goes on and the worry is that every
time the Iraqis comply we have people coming out from Washington and other
places. And I think the ambassador has sort of made that clear, to say,
look, weíre not going to believe you.
Itís not good enough. Get lost. I mean, why? Letís just take yes for an
answer, however, letís go and verify. Nobody is saying take Saddam...
NACHMAN: Dr. Kay, do you believe that this consensus of Arab opinion
against Saddam is going to make the work of your successors the next
phalanx of arms inspectors any easier?
KAY: I think itís largely immaterial to it. Saddam has not had any friends
in the region for well over a decade. After all, he invaded Kuwait and was
well on his way to the kingdom at that time.
He has no friends there and he knows that. Itís clear to him now, thatís
important, but it doesnít really affect-the life of the inspector is a
life driven by the horribly hard task they have before them. They have 60
days from the time they begin to unmask that program and find out and test
if he in fact this time is telling the truth.
NACHMAN: Dr. Kay, I not only agree with you, I want to recall that the
last time the inspectors went in there was an Arab coalition of active
combatants. And yet it didnít make the inspectorsí job any easier. It
wasnít just a diplomatic agreement, it was a military consensus. So what
do you think theyíll find when they go in there starting next week?
KAY: I think the inspectors, who are better equipped this time, although
theyíre suffering severe resource constraints-most people donít realize
weíre talking about fielding 80 to 100 inspectors in a country the size of
France or the state of California. Itís a very tough job. I think they
will be able to find out and test whether Saddam this time has changed and
is cooperating or continues to cheat. Look for December 8, when you get
NACHMAN: Another question for you, Dr. Kay. The military keeps telling us
about the quantum leaps in improved technology on the battlefield. Have
the same tools that inspectors used grown significantly in their
effectiveness in the four years since inspectors have been there?
KAY: No, Iím afraid there are no J-dams out there or highly accurate
munitions for the inspectors. Sure, tools have gotten better, but thereís
not been a quantum leap, particularly when it comes to the very critical
task of talking to Iraqi scientists and finding out whether theyíre
telling the truth.
NACHMAN: Iím sorry. Go ahead, Raghida.
DERGHAM: Yes, I would like to say David Kay knows more than anybody else
that the inspectors throughout the years did a very good job. Itís not
that they failed. There are things that remain undone, but letís give
credit to these inspectors. They did a great job for a very long time.
And what weíre looking at right now is a country that basically the
declarations theyíre asked to give, itís the declarations about past
weapons of mass destruction as well. That means about programs, about
scientists, and itís rather peculiar here.
Weíre after scientists, not
only after Saddam Hussein.
NACHMAN: Mr. Ambassador, do you foresee anything but deja vu all over
HORAN: You know, this time it could read somewhat different. If we have
more aggressive inspectors probing more deeply, more as they will in that
country, could the very fact that in this dictatorship, all of a sudden
thereís a group of people who are above and untouched by his power, able
to move about at random, representing international reprobation of his
Would that very act of subversive defiance of his dictatorial government
give cause to some elements within, to think, well, Saddam isnít all
powerful? And there are people out there that disprove of him. And maybe
Iím on the wrong side and maybe we ought to do something about it.
NACHMAN: Were you surprised as an Arabist (ph) and a man of long
experience in the State Department of the state craft that was employed by
this administration, perceived as unilateralist, perceived as cowboys, was
able to get a unanimous declaration from the Security Council?
HORAN: Was it not Nixon who was able to make the oppotura (ph), the
opening to China ? Quite possibly it was the standup policy of George Bush
that made people a little more willing to accommodate to him, but above
all, I think it was the administrationís victory in the elections, winning
both houses of Congress. A lot of popular support. All of a sudden, George
Bush presented himself before the United Nations as a strong world leader,
not just as the flawed president who benefited by a funny vote in Florida
NACHMAN: Dr. Kay, do you think, given the perception that this Bush
administration has a stiffer spine than the former Bush administration,
that the job of your fellow inspectors will be made somewhat easier?
KAY: Any time the Iraqis believe that real American military force is
possibly going to be deployed against them, the job of the inspectors are
inherently easier. And I think the comparison here is not with the first
Bush administration, which was actually fairly strong in supporting
inspectors, itís with the Clinton administration that support eroded. At
best you got-even when an ex-president was threatened with assassination
is (ph) a few dozen cruise missiles. They now understand this
administration is different than the Bill Clinton administration.
NACHMAN: Raghida, is the United States perceived as a more formidable
player in the world over at the U.N. since the events of the last couple
of weeks, including the election?
DERGHAM: Certainly. That, and even before. But the point of the matter
right now is not only about what should the diplomatic front or the
military front how could they go together or against each other. What we
have right now is, like David Kay said, itís very good that we have
inspectors going back, backed by the will and the determination of the
international community and the military right (ph) of the United States .
But, having said that, itís also important to accept that if there are
ways to avoid that war, you know, thatís not a bad idea. After all, weíre
talking about probably half a million Iraqi civilians, innocent people
dying. If there is a way to avoid that through accepting compliance, well,
you know, why not?
NACHMAN: OK, Raghida.
DERGHAM: I donít understand why there are people who resist that.
Itís the fear of compliance.
NACHMAN: Thank you Raghida. Thank you Dr. David Kay. Thank you Ambassador
Hume Horan. Thank you all for being here.
HORAN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
NACHMAN: Up ahead, a break from talk of terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction to talk about talking-have you noticed how fast the actors on
prime time TV say their lines lately? Not the result of caffeine overdose.
NACHMAN: Well, thereís an old saying that America and England are two
allies separated by a common language. Weíve got slang, weíve got jive, we
trash talk and we say ďainít.Ē And lately we do all of the above at warp
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at whatís happening. Theyíre getting you to pull
us back by continuing this preposterous life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But weíre not the ones playing skeet shoot with their
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Ben (ph), I think weíre in this one together.
NACHMAN: Well, they were supposed to be talking fast. They werenít. But
they do. The actors on Aaron Sorkinís NBC (ph) at ďThe West WingĒ even use
dialogue coaches to teach them how to speed up. Here to talk about this,
like a well-trained Eliza Doolittle is Emily Nelson, who covers network
television for the ďWall Street Journal.Ē
Emily, page one story in the ďWall Street Journal.Ē Nice going.
EMILY NELSON, ďWALL STREET JOURNALĒ: Oh, hey, Jerry.
NACHMAN: Whatís the point? Is this being done for aesthetic reasons,
artistic reasons or to deal with a new multitasking generation?
NELSON: Well, there are a bunch of things at play here. A couple of
different theories. Some people say people appear smarter if theyíre
talking faster, so thatís something you see play out on ďThe West Wing,Ē
where the actors are playing
presidential staffers, and so they have to be talking so fast. So
instantly the audience knows, even if they donít understand every word,
wow, these people are really smart.
It was also jokingly referred to me as a humor insurance policy, so if the
audience is watching and they donít find one joke funny, another is coming
right at them.
NACHMAN: Again, is this just because of younger writers, younger
producers, who reproduce how they live their lives and extrapolate that as
what the audience is going to want?
NELSON: No. I donít know if you can kind of pin it on one generation.
Sure, you know, some of the people involved here are young, but I found so
many people I spoke with quoting ďHis Girl FridayĒ to me, and thatís the
1940ís. So they definitely-theyíre aware of a sense of history here.
NACHMAN: OK. Stop right there. You hit a button. One of my favorite movies
of all time, newspaper movie, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, and according
to several surveys, the quickest talking movie in the history, and that
was done in 1940. Watch this movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARY GRANT, ACTOR: This will bring us back together again, just the way we
used to be.
ROSALIND RUSSELL, ACTRESS: Thatís what Iím afraid of any time, anyplace,
GRANT: Oh, donít mock me. This is bigger than anything that ever happened
to us. Donít do it for me, do it for the paper.
RUSSELL: Scram, Svengali.
GRANT: Now look, if you wonít do it for love, how about money?
Forget the other offer. Iíll raise you $25 a week.
RUSSELL: Listen to me, you great big bubble-headed (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
GRANT: Iíll make it 35 bucks, and not another cent more.
RUSSELL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are you going to listen?
GRANT: Well, good grief, how much is that other paper going to pay you?
RUSSELL: There isnít any other paper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: You were going to say, Emily, how much Cary Grant, the editor,
reminds you of me, right?
NACHMAN: Thatís what many people have said.
NELSON: And I was going to say it very quickly.
NACHMAN: So do people understand-this always amazed me, because I come out
of all-news radio and local television-that people really want us to slow
down? I get more e-mail about the fact that I talk slower and my guests
answer slower and theyíre all positive e-mails than for any other
NELSON: No, thatís interesting. I mean, growing up, I remember every night
at the dinner table my parents told me to speak more slowly. You know,
itís a style, and thatís what theyíre going for. It also, it divides the
audience in a way, so that youíve got viewers who arenít getting a lot of
the lines. You know theyíre flying right past them, but they can still
understand the plot of a show.
But then youíve got your core group of viewers who are complete addicts to
the show, and they get the inside jokes. So that way you cultivate this
group of loyal, loyal viewers and they feel like theyíre in on the inside
NACHMAN: Well, my sense is one of the things it does is it leaves out a
lot of stuff. So when I see a rerun of a show like ďWest Wing,Ē I catch a
lot of stuff I didnít catch the first time, because it went by too fast.
NELSON: No, that makes perfect sense. Since my article ran, I received
e-mails from some readers who say that they tape the show and then watch
it again in order to get all the jokes. Itís also-I mean, think of how
many times youíve got the TV on but youíre not really paying attention,
youíre getting up, youíre walking around the house, doing something else,
and this is a way to force viewers to sit in their couch and really watch
NACHMAN: All right, Emily. Take a breath, pause. We only have a few
minutes remaining. So Iím going to have to speed it up in our next
Youíre watching NACHMAN on MSNBC. Well you better listen close so you
donít miss a word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA MESSING, ACTRESS: Iím talking to Will. Iíll meet you there.
Just order me what youíre having.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tofu scramble on a bed of spinach.
MESSING: Yes. But instead of the spinach, Iíll have chocolate chip
pancakes. Oh, and 86 the tofu scramble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN: All right. Fast talking. Thatís Debra Messing, who plays Grace on
ďWill and Grace.Ē Weíre discussing the trendy trend of prime time actors
speaking faster by design. Iím joined by Emily Nelson, who wrote all about
that in the ďWall Street Journal,Ē where she covers network television.
Emily, you said they have to shoot these shows differently now. They have
to get people from x to y quicker. They have to edit differently.
NACHMAN: They have to write more.
NELSON: No, itís amazing. It sets off this chain of events. You know,
shows arenít changing their length, so if people are speaking faster,
youíve got to write more lines to fit it in a one-hour show.
NACHMAN: So thereís many more pages of script.
NELSON: Oh, many more. When ďE.R.Ē started eight seasons ago, it was
considered fast. And its scripts were about 60 pages then. Nowadays
theyíre up to 80 pages. With ďGilmore GirlsĒ (ph), they recently shot an
episode that was a 77-page script, and they had to go back and add in
another scene because they came up short.
NACHMAN: And you mentioned that thereís an actor who can watch morning
news and verbatim quote the talking head because sheís so used to
memorizing lots of lines on her sitcom.
NELSON: Right. Thatís Alexis Lidell (ph), who is one of the stars of the
ďGilmore GirlsĒ (ph).
NACHMAN: You know, you mentioned MTV. And I remember back when it started
when Bob Pittman (ph), who along with John Lack (ph) created it, said that
kids were nonlinear, whatever that meant. He said that they could
multi-task, whatever that meant. And when I asked him what that meant, he
said it means they will watch TV, talk on the phone, play a record, and-a
record-sorry-do their homework.
NACHMAN: Yeah. And do their homework at the same time.
NACHMAN: Is this what weíre now seeing as a result of all of that?
NELSON: I think maybe thatís some of it. But you know you can look at ďHis
Girl Friday,Ē and that still looks fast even after decades of MTV. So I
think itís just whatís trendy.
NACHMAN: People who buy commercials on prime time, do they have a position
on this as in, we donít like it?
NELSON: My sense is that they kind of donít have as much a say in it. I
think their concerns are more about the content of a show and the language
NACHMAN: You know...
NELSON: ... rather than the style.
NACHMAN: ... thereís a machine called the time machine, which speeds up
these shows imperceptibly and allows local stations to add a 30-second
additional spot. And these stations are getting into enormous trouble with
the syndicators and the networks who are saying donít do that to our
NACHMAN: So what do you think will be the next wave? Do you think weíll
ever slow down and go back to quiet dialogue?
NELSON: You could. I mean, one thing about this trend is, that when they
do pause on the shows, itís really noticeable. Some of the writers are
ending their shows with a photo montage or with just a music-sort of like
a music video stretch, because they feel like audiences are so wound up.
NACHMAN: OK. We have to stop talking right here. That will do it for our
Wednesday edition of NACHMAN. We thank you for joining us.
A reminder: Iím here every Friday-every weekday at 5:00 Eastern Time. Look
how fast I can talk. Comments: NACHMAN@MSNBC.com. Stay tuned for Dan
Abrams and ďTHE ABRAMS REPORTĒ followed by ďCOUNTDOWN: IRAQ Ē with Lester
Holt. Lester is going to have reaction from all over the globe to Saddamís
latest chess move.
And donít miss the ďHARDBALLĒ college tour tonight from the Air Force
Academy in Colorado .
Iím Jerry Nachman. Iím back
here tomorrow at 5:00.