'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 19
Guests: Chris Cillizza, Jon Soltz, Richard Wolffe, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The fourth anniversary of the war. And remember, this administration never tried to connect Iraq with 9/11. But if we leave now, the president says today, terrorists could get a safe haven like the one in which...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They used to plan the attacks of September the 11th, 2001.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush commemorating another solemn day with another offensive and ridiculous evoking of 9/11.
The best week ever? Not for Alberto Gonzales. Another scandal breaks over FBI abuse of the PATRIOT Act. And the Senate may subpoena him and Karl Rove by Thursday. And he has to testify that day to the House Appropriations Committee. And, oh, by the way, Senator Schumer predicts he'll be gone by next week.
How long before this is gone?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL Candidate:... and really helped this conversation about our country get started.
(INAUDIBLE) this conversation (INAUDIBLE), November 2008.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Whose lawyers kill that ripoff of the 1984 Apple commercial first? Apple's, or Senator Clinton's?
And speaking of YouTube, it will have its own awards show. And if it can give out awards for what's weird on the Web, so can we.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts.
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR," FOX NEWS: Jack Mayhoffer (ph), Springfield, Massachusetts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight, the nominees for the 2007 Keithys.
And an early frontrunner for next year, the reaction to the Sean Bell indictments in New York. Serious topic, serious blooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON: Clearly, in our judgment, all five officers should have been shot - should have been charged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oops. Just say, Oops, and get out.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The fourth anniversary of George W. Bush's war in Iraq would hardly seem to be the appropriate time to resuscitate the administration's galling inference that Iraq has or had anything to do with 9/11.
But in our fifth story on the Countdown, then again, it's a little bit more than six months since the last 9/11 solemnities, and a little bit less than six months until the next ones. Maybe we all should have known that Mr. Bush would choose this moment to pull us back into his cesspool.
The president originally had no comment scheduled for today, someone in the West Wing finally grasping this morning that a complete brushoff of the fourth anniversary of a war that has claimed more than 3,200 American lives might make it look like Mr. Bush was more interested in greeting the University of Florida national championship football team this morning, to say nothing of being an opportunity missed to promise again that he just needs a little more time in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Want to stress that this operation is still in the early stages, it's still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad.
The new strategy will meet - need more time to take effect. And there will be good days and there will be bad days.
Members of Congress are now considering an emergency war spending bill. They have a responsibility to ensure that this bill provides the funds and the flexibility that our troops need to accomplish their mission. They have a responsibility to pass a clean bill that does not use funding for our troops as leverage to get special interest spending for their districts. And they have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk without strings and without delay.
If American forces were to step back from Baghdad before it is more secure, a contagion of violence could spill out throughout the entire country. In time, this violence could engulf the region. The terrorists could emerge from the chaos with a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they had in Afghanistan, which they used to plan the attacks of September the 11th, 2001.
For the safety of the American people, we cannot allow this to happen.
Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And the president saying just there that the war can still be won, was this speech about as far removed from the "Mission Accomplished" spectacle as possible? And might that have been why the White House had been originally planning not to make any kind of statement on the anniversary today?
WOLFFE: Well, he's tried this more somber, realistic tone before, a couple of times, and I guess it's become mostly ingrained in their rhetoric now about the war. But there are a couple of lines there that strike you very squarely.
And certainly high up, he said, for instance, that Operation Iraqi Freedom was designed to remove the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the Middle East and the region. I'm not sure what threat he was talking about, but there's no question this president will go into retirement believing that he removed some kind of threat.
OLBERMANN: And, of course, the 9/11 reference. A conclusion has been reached by his own intelligence agencies. Let me read something from "The Washington Post" over the weekend. "Unlike Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization in Pakistan, U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts believe the Iraqi branch" of al Qaeda "poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland."
If that's true, and if every time he exploits 9/11, at least a number of Americans, a large percentage of Americans, get as angry at him as they would at the terrorists, who does he think is still listening to him? Who is he still talking to by making an invocation like that?
WOLFFE: Well, he's trying to speak to his base, where he's lost sort of 20, 30 percent support over the last year or 18 months.
But look back at what he said just 48 hours before launching those air strikes in Iraq four years ago. He said the danger was clear, and that danger, he said, was that Iraq would hand over its chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons to terrorists.
That was ludicrous then, and it's ludicrous now. I mean, when he talks about a safe haven, someone should point out that there is already a safe haven for al Qaeda. It's the tribal regions of Pakistan, just across the border from their own old safe haven.
OLBERMANN: Which he, by inference, at least, suggested had dried up, was no longer a safe haven, incidentally. Can't let that one go, either.
But about this, this, this prediction again about how many more months the conflict will take, he's been on the months thing for several years now. How many more years of a few more months does he get, does he think he should get?
WOLFFE: All the way till the end. I think the last six months starts somewhere around the political conventions of next year. He's always going to be asking for more time, pointing to some positive news - and there is some positive news coming out of Iraq - but ignoring also the very heavy weight of the negative news about the continued killings going on.
As long as there is a glimmer of good news, that's what he'll be trumpeting.
OLBERMANN: And, and the references to Congress and sending him a bill immediately, a clean bill. Has he - did anybody tell him how the election turned out last year, that the Democrats are now in charge of both houses? Is he mistaking this Congress for the ones that have been subservient to him since this war began?
WOLFFE: No, but they are playing veto politics. It was going to come sooner or later. It's happened right now. They'll veto the stuff from the House, they'll filibuster anything in the Senate.
And look, for the Democrats, I was speaking to some Democratic operatives, they want to show their base that they have at least tried. That's what they - all they want to do right now.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek" on this solemn commemoration. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: For all the Republican rhetoric about supporting our troops, four years in Iraq has left the U.S. military dangerously unprepared and unready, military officials telling "The Washington Post" that ground forces are now short on the training, equipment, and manpower necessary to fight any other potential conflict anywhere else in the world, that the military is so strained, even that maintaining that current troop increase past this August in Iraq will be very difficult.
The Marine Corps commandant could get close to breaking the minimum time at home requirement for his personnel in between combat tours. The Army is facing so many shortages in equipment that the majority of Army units in the U.S. are now rated not ready, as are 88 percent of National Guard units, officials adding it will take years to get our military back up to a state of readiness.
Joining us now, the chairman of VoteVets.org, Jon Soltz, who served in Iraq from May to September 2003.
Jon, thanks again for your time tonight.
JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG: Thank you for having me on, sir.
OLBERMANN: So, contrary to the president's position that the war in Iraq makes us safer, the four-year contract - conflict, the current surge, has it actually made us more vulnerable because the military is too hamstrung and strung out in Iraq and elsewhere to fight anywhere else?
SOLTZ: I think that's clear. We are totally less secure today than we were four years ago. Ninety percent of our Army's allocated to Iraq, and bin Laden's sitting in a cave in Afghanistan. This guy's, like, eating lamb chops. We got al Qaeda reconstituted in there.
We have a government today that seems to embolden the terrorists around the world by unilaterally invading Iraq, so Iran's closer to nuclear weapons. And we can't project force anywhere else. I think that's one of the big points here, from a ground conventional standpoint, we can't fight in the Korean peninsula right now.
So unfortunately, from that standpoint, we're overextended and spread too thin. But I think people should also be aware that this president's really playing games with Iran. And really, what he still can do is strike Iran with naval and air assets. We've seen the military hardware moving in that direction.
And I just encourage everyone to go to one of our Web sites, StopIranWar.com, because although we can't wage conventional war, and we haven't trained on high-intensity conflict, he can still wage naval and air warfare against Iran.
OLBERMANN: What's in the House right now, the military funding bill, includes about $25 billion for weapons and a requirement put in there from Congressman Murtha that the Pentagon has to certify that the units are fully (INAUDIBLE) mission capable before they're sent to Iraq. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wants to add 92,000 troops to the Army, to the Marine Corps, permanently.
Are those measures enough to stem the shortage that some officials privately characterized to "The Washington Post" as, and this is an extraordinary statement, "a spiral of death" for the military?
SOLTZ: But I'd first like to thank Jack Murtha for standing up for the troops. One of the things that we do at VoteVets is hold accountable politicians that vote against the troops. And Jack Murtha is the first politician to stand up and say, These guys aren't going to war without the right equipment.
But this administration over the last six years has been dedicated to missile systems in the sky and not conventional ground troops. They opposed increasing the size of the military after 9/11, they opposed increasing the size of the military after 20o4. So adding 96,000 troops now, sure, it's absolutely necessary. But I have to tell you, it's too little, too late.
OLBERMANN: The troop escalation in Iraq, the current one, in trying to sell it, the secretary of state, Dr. Rice, acknowledged that the initial strategy in Iraq was flawed. On CBS, she said, (INAUDIBLE) quote this again, "I do believe that the kind of counterinsurgency strategy in which General Petraeus is now pursuing, in which we have enough forces to clear and area and hold it, so that building and governance can emerge, is the best strategy. And that probably was not pursued in the very beginning."
Jon, correct me if I'm wrong about this. But has not that strategy been tried at least three times before and failed three times?
SOLTZ: I think it's so funny when she talks about the military, because she's got a Ph.D. in Russian studies, and no credibility as the secretary of state.
When I was in Iraq in 2003, we were in Baghdad, in the streets, and we pulled out of the city. We surged several times as well. So 20,000 troops in Iraq right now is like spitting in the ocean. And Condoleezza Rice, who's our secretary of state, has no credibility to keep us out of a - you know, or to get us out of Iraq. I mean, the world looks at her like some kind of war princess, and someone who's totally incredible, or not credible in dealing with these issues.
So we have tried these things before. And she's a spinmeister, and that's what she's doing today.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I think the word "incredible" might have meant - had more meaning than you knew when you started in that direction.
But one last thing about the president's speech today. He reiterated the troop increase is working, the Iraqi government has deployed three army brigades to the capital. That was one of the benchmarks. He didn't mention something that "The Washington Post" again pointed out. Those brigades were supposed to be there a month ago. Have we all (INAUDIBLE) - are we already behind on the umpteenth set of benchmarks?
SOLTZ: Well, I'm not quite sure if the benchmarks were ever intended to be met. I think the benchmarks are a sort of political game here, where we know the Iraqis aren't going to meet them, but a way to create leverage with them.
But the president, you know, stay the course, all the rhetoric, I mean, this guy, what he's really trying to do is, he's trying to prove that his escalation's working. You can put troops in Baghdad, but if you don't deal with the Shia extremists and the Sunni extremists simultaneously, you're not defeating combat power.
It's really an attempt for him to sort of drum up support and use the sort of political leverage with Iran, who's - who now has a large influence in Iraq. And I think that's - basically, that's what he wants to do. And I wish that we had an administration that was going to find a way out of Iraq rather than playing war games with Iran, which we're doing every day in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: Jon Soltz, veteran of the war in Iraq, now chairman of VoteVets.org. Jon, thanks for being with us tonight.
SOLTZ: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: The growing cloud over the attorney general getting darker. Yet another scandal surfaces over the misuse of the PATRIOT Act, as does a report that the White House is now checking who key Republicans would support as his successor.
And the mystery viral video ad, Hillary Clinton as Big Sister, and Barack Obama's campaign identified as the creator, only that last part is utterly denied.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If Attorney General Albert Gonzales takes even a cursory glance at this week's congressional calendars, he might find himself waxing nostalgic for the halcyon days of last week.
In our fourth story tonight, congressional oversight is gathering a perfect storm over Gonzales, bringing together not two but three scandals this week. And in case the attorney general has any time left over, he can read a new online report suggesting the White House is floating the names of potential successors to see whom Republicans might support the most.
First, the politics and cover-ups over replacing eight U.S. attorneys last year. Tonight, the Department of Justice, DOJ, releasing 2,000 pages of internal e-mails about those firings. We'll get the highlights tomorrow, just about the time White House counsel Fred Fielding meets with Democrats, who are demanding that his predecessor, Harriet Miers, and Karl Rove both testify under oath about the scandal.
Without a deal for their testimony, the House Judiciary Committee may vote as soon as tomorrow on whether to subpoena Rove and Miers, the Senate following suit Thursday. Tomorrow, the Senate votes on that obscure provision of the PATRIOT Act, which Gonzales used to justify circumventing Senate confirmation of those new U.S. attorneys in the first place.
Looks like Mr. Gonzales picked the wrong week to (INAUDIBLE) stop drinking.
And also tomorrow, a deadline for a second scandal, Democratic senators demanding documents about an internal DOJ probe into alleged misconduct related to warrant-free wiretapping, a probe killed by the president after Gonzales reportedly learned that he himself was a target. Looks like Gonzales picked the wrong week to stop smoking.
And also tomorrow, also, scandal number three, as first the House and then Wednesday the Senate hold hearings on the FBI's recent admission that the bureau went beyond even the PATRIOT Act in collecting data on thousands of Americans from phone and Internet providers with no warrant, no subpoena, when there was no national security case involved, and sometime no case at all.
The FBI, of course, falls under the jurisdiction of Mr. Gonzales.
Bringing us to Thursday, when he appears before a House Appropriations Subcommittee that just might have some questions about matters other than his budget.
Looks like Mr. Gonzales picked the wrong week to quit the Constitution.
And as to the White House quitting him, the Web site Politico.com tonight saying the names being floated by Republican officials today include, as replacements for him, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, White House antiterrorism coordinator Townsend, former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson, and former solicitor general Ted Olsen.
Tracking all this is Craig Crawford, contributing editor to "Congressional Quarterly," as well, of course, as a veteran and stalwart news analyst for us.
Craig, thanks for your time tonight.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": (INAUDIBLE). Well, when it comes to being the fall guy for this White House, this is the Scooter Libby of Justice, I believe.
OLBERMANN: Let's, let's start off with this new Web report. Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House, have begun seeking a possible successor to Alberto Gonzales, off Politico.com. Is that true? And if so, does an administration ever take soundings like that if it is not seriously thinking it is going to need a replacement?
CRAWFORD: Pretty clear sign, if they start talking up your replacement. That's right up there with changing the name on your parking space, I suppose.
I have heard a lot of names being floated. And I don't have any sources in the White House that told me they were floating names, but I have heard it from other Republicans that they are looking for some replacements.
It's going be a tough bill, though, for the White House do that, Keith. If they put any names up there that are going to give them trouble in the confirmation process with Democrats who control the Senate, things shot down. But at the same time, they got to have somebody in there who's a friend (INAUDIBLE), it's like John Kennedy picking his brother. If you can't pick your brother to be attorney general, you want somebody in there who's close, because that's the one person in your cabinet who can prosecute your White House.
OLBERMANN: We're being advised that the - those e-mails, the latest document dump, that would be document dump number three, has just taken place in the Department of Justice to congressional recipients. So we're going to find out more about that, obviously, tomorrow. Nobody's going to be able to plow through that tonight.
But, but today, an odd statement from Mr. Snow, the White House press secretary. When asked if, if, if Gonzales would be staying, he said, "We hope." Did he give away more than he intended to? Is he hoping, or are they hoping, because without him, the questions no longer stop at Alberto Gonzales, the focus of the hurricane, but begin to become questions directed higher up in the White House chain of command?
CRAWFORD: Well, expressing only hope that he stays is in the (INAUDIBLE) tongues of Washington pretty much clear that he's not got that much support, I don't believe. And I do think, you know, the White House, as they start looking for a replacement, is going have a tough time here, Keith. This is, this is not a good decision, if they are going let him go, I don't think, politically, for the White House.
OLBERMANN: All right, now we're getting some guidance that we might be able to see some of these documents, these e-mails, 2,000 pages' worth now, within the hour. So for - nothing for you to worry about, but we may get it before we're off the air tonight.
CRAWFORD: Oh, be glad to hang around and read them.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE), hope you're, hope you've been through Evelyn Wood to get through that many.
But (INAUDIBLE) we got that scandal. We've got Gonzales and Mr. Bush supposedly killing the ethics probe that might have been targeting Mr. Gonzales. We now have the FBI abuse of the PATRIOT Act. Rank those in terms of which is the worst on a political scale. Not that any of them are any good.
CRAWFORD: I don't know that any of them have reached the boiling point at water coolers around the country yet, Keith. But I do think that's if the White - if the White House gets rid of this attorney general, I do think that will heat things up. And a lot of Americans who haven't been paying attention so much might sit up and take notice if an attorney general goes for that reason.
I do think that story has the potential to expand. Justice Department sources that I've talked to tell me it may go beyond political appointees, that there was meddling in the affairs of career prosecutors, particularly in the hiring of career prosecutors, who are nonpolitical appointees, using a litmus test, almost, for that process.
If those kind of things start coming out, the Democrats are certainly going to try to ferret it out.
It (INAUDIBLE) it starts to look more than a customary practice for presidents appointing and hiring and firing those who serve at their pleasure.
OLBERMANN: And doing so with 2,000 more pages of internal e-mails that we all get to sift through and find extraordinary things therein.
CRAWFORD: At least they didn't dump it on a Friday night. Then we got all week to read them now.
OLBERMANN: That's right. Just (INAUDIBLE) just divide them up, and each take - make, make a separate day's newscast out of each...
CRAWFORD: There you go.
OLBERMANN:... 400 of them.
Craig Crawford of MSNBC and, of course, "Congressional Quarterly."
CRAWFORD: Good to talk to you.
OLBERMANN: From scandal in D.C. to a different kind of scandal in New York. Al Sharpton with a doozy of a blooper today, in reacting to the announcement of police indictments for the shooting of an unarmed man after his bachelor party.
And new extreme sports. A parachute, some skis, and you better also have all the luck an ordinary man gets in, say, seven lifetimes.
That and more, ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1895 that the Los Angeles Consolidated Railway Company was formed. Between the streetcar lines it built and the ones to neighboring cities and towns built by the Pacific Electric Railway, within 15 years, southern California had one of the finest mass transit systems in the world, 1,150 miles of track covering four counties. And then came the automobile. General Motors bought up the trolley lines, replaced them with buses, and encouraged the construction of freeways, most of which now run exactly where the southern California trolleys used to. And that, boys and girls, is what causes smog.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Lesache (ph), France, with the next step forward in public transportation, speed flying. May not be the most convenient mode of travel, but it certainly makes for great Oddball video. Half-skiing, half-paragliding, and the participants are half-stupid, or maybe half-crazy. Helmetcam video. You've seen it taken from the world championships of this fledgling sport, which is growing in popularity in Europe. If you want to catch on here, gentlemen, we're going to need some more people getting hurt. Just saying.
Back to the Internets for another installment in our award-winning series, 575 Reasons Why Japanese Television Is Better Than Ours. Number 128, hello, that was a cucumber. We have Rachel Ray. They have butcher knives strapped to the fronts of speeding cars. And that right there is why salad is so expensive in Japan.
On a related subject, YouTube announcing its own awards ceremony, picking the best videos. So we've decided to name our best from the best from the Internets. You know, you just have to know who to steal from. Ask YouTube.
And when it's serious, turning a famous ad into an infamous ad hominem attack, and nobody's saying who did it. Details and the actual ad ahead.
But first, time for Countdown's latest list of our top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Christian comedian Keith Deltano, paid by Christian Pregnancy Counseling Center to speak about sex education at Dominion high school in Sterling, Virginia. He decided to discuss the effectiveness of condoms against HIV transmission by having a male student volunteer sit there as he dangled a cinder block over the boy's genitals.
Number two, one of the Anna Nicole Smith judges, who's been ticketed for smoking pot in public, and it wasn't Judge Larry Seidlin. This was the family court jurist in the paternity phase, Lawrence Korda.
Number one, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking down the road in Miami, who thought he was doing something to advocate a free Cuba by including in his speech there, quote, patria o moertez ven seremez (ph). That actually means, when said correctly in Spanish, fatherland or death, we shall overcome.
And it just happens to be the way one Cuban politician has ended all of his speeches nearly for the last 50 years or so - Fidel Castro. On the other hand, Governor Romney has now locked in that vast pro-Castro vote in South Florida.
OLBERMANN: Among all the TV commercials ever, it has probably gotten the second biggest bang for the buck. Number one would have to be the infamous Daisy nuclear explosion ad from Lyndon Johnson's presidential campaign, which ran only once.
Then there was the 1984 Apple Computer big brother commercial, which also ran only once, though that once was during the Super Bowl. It fixed for all time Apple's image as rebels against an establishment. And it has been replayed for free ever since.
Tonight, in our third story, it has now slipped into the 2008 presidential campaign via the Internet.
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: One month ago, I began a conversation with all of you, and so far we haven't talking and that is really good. I intend to keep telling you exactly where I stand on all of the issues.
I am proud to help you and other people who are hard working like you, and I really have been impressed by how serious people are, because we all need to be part of the discussion, if we are all going be part of the solution.
I don't want people who already agree with me. I want honest, experienced, hard working, patriotic people, who want to be part of a team, the American team. I hope you have learned a little bit more about what I am believing and trying to do. And really helped this conversation about our country get started.
I hope to keep this conversation until November 2008.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Although the Big Sister add ends with a BarackObama.com
reference, the Obama campaign says it is not their work. One more example
of how anonymous forces on the web may help to shape the 2008 campaign. Chris Cillizza joins us now. He writes "The Fix," the political blog for WashintonPost.com. We're fortunate enough to have him here tonight. Good evening Chris.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: 400,000 plays on YouTube. Just about as many on Fox Noise. Do we have any idea of its providence? Could it be Obama? Could it be somebody looking too drive a wedge between Obama and Clinton? Could it be a conservative outfit?
CILLIZZA: Well, it is someone pretty creative, we know that. I mean, this is really very innovative. We have not seen anything like this. And I think what we are see something is the viral growth of this. Someone called me this morning and told me that it had gotten about 60,000 or 70.000 visits. Now it's gotten, like you said, over 400,00.
It shows the viral nature of how these things work on the web in a way that it wouldn't work in a traditional campaign commercial on television. The growth can be exponential; people forwarding it around; people sending it around, and, you know, reinforcing that message, Hillary Clinton is the establishment and change is needed.
OLBERMANN: Plus, of course, on television, there are copy rights.
CILLIZZA: Right, several people who I talked to this afternoon, who work in the media consulting business, said, hey, it is a great ad. We could never do it, because we would immediately get sued by Apple.
OLBERMANN: Well yes, are the campaigns worried about this? Is anybody proactive about it? Did somebody at least call Ridley Scott, who was the director of the original Apple spot, and say, hey buddy, they ripped off your work. You should sue?
CILLIZZA: I have not heard that. I think they are worried about it in a more general sense, Keith, which is that they can't control the message anymore. Whether or not Barack Obama wanted this idea out there, it is now out there. Whether it's too negative or not negative enough, you know, that's up for debate. But the reality is that the candidate no longer has total control over what he or she is saying throughout a campaign, because you have so many people able to publish things on their own, and really draw a lot of attention to them, and distract from the message in one way or an other.
OLBERMANN: So, this was described, in one quarter, as a stunning, creative ad, that makes broadcasting incomplete. Is the ad important by itself, or is it, in fact, more important that we have crossed into this new territory here? Never mind Swift Boats and 527 groups, now we have got completely anonymous, maybe untraceable viral attack ads?
CILLIZZA: I think it is more important as a trend than it is in and of itself. I have been on this show before, talking about things like this. Mitt Romney had to defend against an anonymous YouTube ad that featured footage from his 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, in which he said he would be better on gay rights than Senator Kennedy.
Recent footage has popped up with Rudy Giuliani, saying that abortion should be publicly funded, again, anonymously on YouTube. I think this is something that is a trend, these anonymous negative attacks, less traceable, as you point out, than 527 groups. That's going to happen more and more. The web is cheap, and it's quick to get these things up there, and that's a real dangerous combination, when it comes to negative advertising.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and there's a certain irony too, it just dawned on me, that the anonymity of the Internet, and these commercials appearing out of no where, certainly hearkens directly to 1984 and Big Brother. It doesn't have anything to do with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or anybody else, in particular, but the premise is almost Orwellian.
CILLIZZA: I think that's right. I think that is why I think this message - people, I don't think, in campaigns are still up to speed on it. I think that campaigns were slow to react. I called the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign today, and said, do you have any comment on this. They were both staying very far from it, no comment.
The Obama said, look, there is a lot of energy on the Internet and in the grass roots for us, and it manifests itself in creative ways. But neither of them want to comment on this, because I think, frankly, they are not sure what to do about this. It is changing so rapidly that they don't have a plan. We've not seen this before.
OLBERMANN: There is going to be a bidding war for the next Internet copy right attorney, because that's probably the best way, if you want to stop one of these, to stop it. But one last thing, we've invoked two things in the last couple of minutes, Swift Boats and Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney just got into bed with the Swift Boats financial backer, Bob Perry, is that right?
CILLIZZA: Right, Bob Perry, who gave 4.5 million dollars to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. He has also funded a number of other conservative groups that in the 2006 election went after Democrats running in the House. He is from Texas. He's a home builder. He had given money to John McCain previously, which caused something of a stir, because obviously John McCain has sought to limit the influence of these 527 groups.
But Perry is now with Romney. The question is does he take his money, which he has a willingness to spend and fund a 527 group that maybe attacks a McCain or Giuliani down the road. We don't know the answer to it, but he's shown a willingness to do it before.
OLBERMANN: Well, if not, there is those free ads on YouTube. Chris Cillizza of WashingtonPost.com, great thanks for your time.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The world's newest super jumbo jet has arrived in the U.S.
Wingspan, size of a football, and only one bathroom. I made that part up.
Paris Hilton, meanwhile, taking her that's hot act to a camp for overweight kids. Fortunately, neither she nor Nicole Richie knows how to pronounce bulimia. That and more ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: A comedian once noted that planes called the Air Bus combine the worst of the two worst modes of human transportation, the airplane and the bus. In our number two story on the Countdown, and there is a new double decker Air Bus, and it has touched down in the U.S. for the first time today. Funny how we always get fooled by giant air planes. Have you seen Howard Hugh's Spruce Goose in the air lately, after it's first flight? When was the last time you flu in a 747?
Our correspondent is Michelle Franzen.
MICHELLE FRANZEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The world's largest commercial passenger aircraft, the A380 Air Bus, made its U.S. debut in bi-coastal test landings at New York's JFK and Los Angeles International, ushering in what aviation experts call the future of air travel.
ANTHONY COSCIA, PORT AUTHORITY OF NY: This is truly an opportunity to expand the growth of this region through air travel.
FRANZEN: The L.A. bound Quantus flight, with only the pilots and crew on board, had a shaky landing, but recovered. The Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to JFK touched down, carrying more than 500 passengers, 23 crew members and four pilots.
CAPTAIN WOLFGANG ABMEIER, ASSO. PILOT: It is a fantastic aircraft, extremely silent, inside, and obviously outside. We did not have any complaints so far.
FRANZEN: The Super Jumbo Jet has a wingspan as wide as a football field. The double decker aircraft can cruise at more than 550 miles per hour and accommodate 500 to more than 800 passengers, surpassing Boeing's largest 747.
With U.S. air travel expected to reach the one billion mark by 2015, Air Bus is hoping that U.S. airline companies will want to buy. For the public, these demonstrations are just a giant peak. The Air Bus is running behind schedule, and international airlines will likely not make regular flights to the U.S. until 2009.
Michelle Franzen, NBC NEWS, New York.
OLBERMANN: Air Bus. To an entirely different concept of what qualifies as jumbo, in our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. Self style waifs, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie will counsel overweight kids. Parents, lock your doors. It is the expected fifth season of that wacky non-realty show, "The Simple Life," and this time Miss Hilton and Miss Richie will be camp counselors with emphasis on the camp.
An E! network spokesman telling "US Weekly" that the camp in the mountains of Southern California has five different themes, only one of which is weight loss. But, quote, it is not a fat camp, end quote. That is OK. "The Simple Life" is not entertaining, end quote.
And from camp to Campbell, Naomi Campbell, the supermodel has begun garbage detail. She entered a sanitation garage in New York City today wearing black stilettos, but she had work boots at the ready for her five day community service stint. The model had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for hitting a maid with a cell phone over a missing pair of jeans. Now it's Campbell with the chores, including sweeping and mopping. She was issued protective gloves, a dust mask, and a reflective orange vest, reportedly.
They were also going to issue her a work helmet. I don't know if that was serious, or just someone's ironic comment on how cell phones tend to fly whenever she's around.
From punishments to rewards; YouTube deciding to celebrate the best contributions to its website. So Countdown will immediately glom onto the idea and establish awards for the best of all the Internets. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's other awards, tonight's nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze goes to the Reverend Al Sharpton, reacting today to the official news that only three of the five officers involved in the shooting of the civilian Sean Bell last November in New York were indicted, with a Freudian slip so incendiary that it really required a better clarification and apology than this.
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REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Clearly, in our judgment, all five officers should have been shot - should have been charged. Let me be clear, all five officers shot - all five officers shot. We do not endorse their being shot.
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OLBERMANN: Oh, and that went on for another 30 seconds. The silver to senator and presidential candidate John McCain, asked aboard the Straight Talk Express whether he supports sex education in schools, mentioning contraception or merely abstinence, as President Bush supports, he replied, I think I support the president's present policy. Asked if condoms stop sexually transmitted diseases, he paused and said, I have never got into these issues, or thought much about them. You know, I am sure I have take a position on it in the past. I will have to find out what my position was.
Pressed for the position, he said he wanted to consult a briefing paper, written for him by Dr. Tom Coburn, the senator from Oklahoma. He could not find it. Time to put the old Straight Talk Express back on the blocks in the garage.
But the gold tonight shared by Brit Hume and Chris Wallace of Fox Noise, who accused Valerie Plame Wilson of perjuring herself when she testified she did not recommend her husband for the CIA trip to Niger. Hume said that contradicted a bipartisan finding by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Only it wasn't a bipartisan finding. It was a note, written by three Republican senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and it was a note about the testimony of a CIA employee, who later recanted his testimony. Yet Wallace asked, so she was lying under oath? And Hume replied, I think that there is reason to question her credibility on that point.
Wallace and Hume, remember when they used to work in news? Brit Hume and Chris Wallace of Fox Noise, today's Worst Persons in the World.
OLBERMANN: Is unclear who started this whole awards jazz. It goes back at least as far as to the ancient Olympics, 2,800 years ago. By 1901, they were handing out Nobel Prizes. By 1929 Oscars. By 1973, awards for the best award shows awards, courtesy of "Monty Python's Flying Circus." And in our number one story, here in the new millennium, inevitably, here come the YouTube video awards, leading us at Countdown, inevitably, to immediate stake our share of the same turf, and establish the best stuff we found on the we awards, the Keithys.
More on them in a moment, maybe, first the YouTube version. Ironically enough, they will not simply be uploaded VHS tapes of the 1985 Los Angeles local Emmy Awards. These will be given out to the best user created videos of 2006 in a series of categories, from bloggers to comedy clips, from music to, well actually, that's about it, isn't it?
With a tip of the hat to the immediacy of the YouTube community, the awards are announced March 19th, and will be awarded after user voting March 25th. Some of the nominees:
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OLBERMANN: YouTube was founded in February, 2005. Well, you know, we have been making money off other people's work on the Internet, since we were founded in March, 2003, so I would have to say our little Keithy awards carry a lot more weight. I would have to say that, it's my show. Let's announce the field of 2007 entries right now.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The worst Freudian slip by a news caster.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the break, we are going to interview Eric Wyhenmayer (ph), who climbed the highest mountain in the world, but he's gay - excuse me, he's bland. So, we'll hear about that coming up.
OLBERMANN: The most creative way to end up in a negligent homicide trial.
The best foreign short.
The worst ability to spot a Howard Stern e-mail.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Jack Mayahoffer (ph), Springfield, Massachusetts, says, "O'Reilly, I see the new Fox definition of fair and balanced means interviewing DNC chief Terry McAuliffe at both conventions." Well, right you are, Mr. Mayahoffer.
OLBERMANN: The best use of a genie's lamp to clear out your sinuses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keeping your mouth open, raise the handle of the Netty Pot (ph), so the solution enters the upper nostril and flows out through the lower nostril.
OLBERMANN: Best evidence in a DUI trial.
Kid most likely to wind up with a limp award.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Geronimo.
OLBERMANN: The best use of a disembodied deer head by a drunken frat boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, god.
OLBERMANN: For achievement in scaring your co-workers to death.
Outstanding use of a taser by a news guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it. Ow, it hurts.
OLBERMANN: The inter-web's best acting award.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
OLBERMANN: Outstanding use of a half keg of beer and a Santa suit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want Santa. We want Santa. We want Santa.
OLBERMANN: Best impaired home shopping sales pitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember the picture of the horse I showed you earlier, well here it is blown up. This is a big horse. Order now and you get the camera, you get the printer, 4x optical zoom, Schneider lens, photo printer, SD card, look at that horse, the bushy tail, the big teeth, the hooves. OK, my producer, Terry Capes (ph), just told me this isn't a horse. It's a butterfly. Actually, it may, in fact, be a moth.
OLBERMANN: And the award for the dumbest human being on the Internets.
OLBERMANN: The Countdown nominees, we wish they could all be winners, but frankly, most of them are losers. Tune in next week for the official contest, your chance to vote, and the awards ceremony. That is Countdown for this the 1,436th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END