'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 20
Guests: Andrew Rasiej, Jonathan Alter, Andrew Sullivan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The embattled president gives the embattled attorney general an embattled vote of confidence, which, everywhere else, usually means, Start packing your stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm sorry this frankly has bubbled to the surface the way it has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the president makes the Senate an offer about the U.S. attorney scandal which it probably can refuse. You can interview Karl Rove, you can interview Harriet Miers, but you can't record it, you can't transcribe it, and they will not swear under oath that they are not lying through their teeth.
Gee, thanks. Got any bridges in Brooklyn you can sell us? Or any new documents, like the one saying Patrick Fitzgerald was one of the U.S. attorneys who had "not distinguished" themselves?
And who's coming out as the Republicans' political wartime leader?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, what would you advise Mr. Gonzales to do if you still had a position?
TOM DELAY (R), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fight?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: David Shuster on the testimonial deal or no deal. Jonathan Alter on the political dominoes falling. Andrew Sullivan on what looks like the GOP in crisis.
And an Internet detective on whodunit, the first clue about the auteur of the "Hillary Big Sister" viral video.
Would you want to see live video of your own giant plane landing? Would you want to look down from 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon, standing on a glass observation deck?
Well, heck, you watch this show. You may not be afraid of anything.
And, oh, by the way, the president's personal nickname for Alberto Gonzales turns out to be Fredo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GODFATHER")
AL PACINO: I've always taken care of you, Fredo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Attorney General, do not let the president kiss you.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GODFATHER")
PACINO: I know it was you, Fredo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The president saying his staffers don't have to testify to Congress under oath because that would inhibit the free exchange of ideas inside the White House, an attorney general up the creek, getting an endorsement that sounded like what you would say to a sports coach you're about to fire, a party split between telling the president to cut his losses and compromise or go and hunker in the bunker.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, any resemblance between President Bush's decision tonight to confront the Senate over Alberto Gonzales and the firings of the U.S. attorneys, and President Nixon's decision to confront the Senate over Watergate, are purely - purely - Well, his White House counsel was the deputy White House counsel to Mr. Nixon, President Bush, just before dinnertime in Washington, reiterating his support for Mr. Gonzales, insisting his staff can talk to senators but that they will not testify under oath, and trying to blame the Democrats for the scandal at Justice, claiming some sort of partisan vendetta, in fact, the backlash against the administration firmly bipartisan, the U.S. Senate voting today 94 to 2 to kill that provision in the PATRIOT Act allowing the administration to bypass Congress in replacing federal prosecutors, meanwhile, whole new batch of e-mails, more than 3,000 pages of them, showing that Mr. Gonzales's Justice Department, in concert with the White House, mounted a calculated and often cold campaign to dismiss prosecutors with no explanation.
After a colleague said, on one July 8 e-mail message, that he was sad about something, a top - Bill Mercer, a top official at Justice, jokingly suggested reasons for his sadness related to the future dismissal of San Diego prosecutor Carol Lam.
Quote, "What, that Carol Lam can't meet a deadline, or that you'll need to interact with her in the coming weeks, or that she won't just say, OK, you got me, you're right, I've ignored national priorities and obvious local needs, shoot, my production is more hideous than I realized," after the firings, another prosecutor, Margaret Chiarra of Michigan, expressing her own sadness and fighting back against the lack of an explanation for her dismissal, quoting her, "Now that it has been widely reported that departing" U.S. attorneys "have either failed to meet department expectations or that they acted independently rather than follow Justice Department directives, the situation is so much worse. You know that I am in neither category. This makes me so sad. Why have I been asked to resign? The real reason, especially if true, would be a lot easier to live with," the White House finding it hard to live with the insistence of Congress that its officials testify about this scandal under oath, White House counsel Watergate veteran Fred fielding, after meeting with lawmakers, offering a deal that they had already said they would refuse, Karl Rove and Harriet Miers willing to testify, but only in private, not under oath, not even recorded, not even transcribed, lawmakers saying, Thanks for nothing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: There are many, many problems with this agreement, and any lawyer worth his or her salt will tell you that you're not going to really find out what went on if you stick to the bounds of this agreement.
With no transcript, with no oath, with private conversations that can be contradicted, recollections can fail, you're not going to get very far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the president, as we mentioned this evening, passing the blame on to those who are merely confused by the circumstances surrounding the firings by issuing veiled threats to the Democrats and by blaming them for acting politically when his administration, in removing the prosecutors without cause, most definitely did not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants. I proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.
There is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And while I strongly support the attorney general's decision, and I'm confident he acted appropriately, I regret that these resignations turned into such a public spectacle.
I am sorry this frankly has bubbled to the surface the way it has, for
the, for the U.S. attorneys involved, I really am. These are - I put them
in a - put them in there in the first place. They're decent people. Are
they - you know, they serve at our pleasure. And yet now, they're being
held up, and there's - into the - the scrutiny of all this, and it's just
it's, it's, it's - here - I - what I said in my comments, I meant about them. I appreciate their service, and I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to where it got. But that's Washington, D.C., for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That would be the royal "our."
The politics in a moment. First, for more on the day's nuts and bolts, let's call in our own correspondent, David Shuster, from Washington.
David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's talk about Carol Lam first. Based on the substance of the document dump today, and Mr. Rove's recent statements, does it seem that the only person claiming that Carol Lam was not prosecuting enough immigration cases was Mr. Rove?
SHUSTER: Yes, that's right. I mean, Karl Rove is the only person making these claims. And nobody, even at the Justice Department, is making the same claim. I mean, twice in the last two weeks, Karl Rove had said, quote, "Lam made a decision that immigration prosecutions would not be a priority of her office." Rove went on to say the U.S. Justice Department asked her to make it so, she did not.
One of the reasons Democrats may be so eager to get Karl Rove under oath is because Carol Lam has already testified under oath, saying that what Rove said is absolutely not true. She said the Justice Department never asked her to change her priorities. Why? Because immigration prosecution was already a priority.
In fact, the Justice Department, just three months before Lam was fired, sent a letter in response to a Senate inquiry, saying that half of Lam's staff is pursuing prosecution cases on immigration issues, and that the number of prosecutions are rising.
Some Democrats are charging tonight, Keith, that Rove's statements about Carol Lam are a deliberate lie intended to try and hide Rove's own role in her dismissal, and that of other U.S. attorneys.
OLBERMANN: Yes, the immigration issue was actually the migration of Duke Cunningham.
This batch of documents appears to be confined to the e-mail server from the Justice Department. Is the White House going to claim privilege? Is it already claiming privilege when it comes to certain of its documents as well?
SHUSTER: Well, they're simply not turning over documents that are essentially generated by the White House. What Congress has received so far is, they're getting e-mails that were sent from the Justice Department to the White House, e-mails that were reacting to things going on at the White House.
But as far as the actual e-mails, say, from the White House to the Justice Department, or e-mails, say, from Harriet Miers to Kyle Sampson, none of those have been turned over, and so you essentially have huge holes in the storyline, and a lot of congressional investigators suspect that one of the reasons that the White House is simply not turning over this information is that if they actually did get a look at what was going on in the White House, it would make this even more nefarious than it already seems.
OLBERMANN: The, the first part of this document dump last week, we've not seen this unredacted chart that ranked all the federal prosecutors in terms of their loyalty to the White House. We have not seen it ourselves. But "The Washington Post" seems to have gotten the entire document. Should we be surprised that it does not favorably describe the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Illinois?
SHUSTER: Well, what's so funny about that, Keith, is that the whole reason that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney out of Chicago, was named in charge of the CIA leak case was because of the praise from both Republicans and Democrats, who said he was one of the best prosecutors in the nation. And yet two years into his Scooter Libby investigation, which led, of course, to Libby's indictment and conviction, there was Kyle Sampson, saying that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was in a category of those who had not distinguished themselves, and that he was below, quote, "those who were strong U.S. attorneys who exhibited loyalty to the White House."
Two of the U.S. attorneys who had the same qualification as Fitzgerald were fired, and again, this was part of an e-mail that was sent by Kyle Sampson, who is at the Justice Department, the Gonzales chief of staff, to the White House, as far as his own ranking of these U.S. attorneys.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, David, what happens next? What happens after Thursday, when these subpoenas are likely going to come, whether the president wants them or not?
SHUSTER: Well, the next step is, once the subpoenas are issued, then, if Miers and Rove refuse to testify, the White House says they are simply not going to testify, then Congress, both the House and the Senate, can take a vote in which they will hold either Rove or Miers on contempt of Congress. And it only requires a majority.
At that point, once this passes, and again, Democrats say it would be a slam-dunk to pass this, then it would go to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, guy by the name of Jeffrey Taylor (ph), who was just appointed to that position by Alberto Gonzales last fall. He would then have the decision of going to a grand jury and seeking a criminal indictment and then trying the case. If he moved forward, and at that point, the White House could assert executive privilege, and then it goes to the appellate courts to see how that would be resolved.
OLBERMANN: David Shuster, back at the scandal desk, after, like, a day off. Many thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, as promised, for more on the politics involved here, let's turn to our own Jonathan Alter, of course, the senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine.
Jonathan, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: President Bush praising an official under fire. Is that not usually a kiss of death? Has Mr. Gonzales now become heck-of-a-job Alberto?
ALTER: Well, it certainly was with Don Rumsfeld. You remember, he was praised shortly before he was dumped. It kind of reminds me of when George McGovern said that he was behind Tom Eagleton 1,000 percent, just before he was dumped from the ticket.
The difference in this case, though, Keith, is that there is history between Bush and Gonzales. And remember that it was Gonzales who saved Bush's career when he was called for jury duty as governor of Texas. Gonzales used a technicality to avoid public disclosure of Bush's arrest for drunk driving.
If he had been disclosed as having been arrested for drunk driving when he was governor, you know, it would have given him a harder time. It came out shortly before the 2000 election, but if it had come out earlier, that would have been it for Bush's presidential hopes.
So there is a bond that goes back here, that I think will give Gonzales one more chance to prove himself before Congress. And Bush is kind of saying, Look, (INAUDIBLE) Fredo, as he calls him, you got one more shot here, see if you can absolve yourself of blame.
OLBERMANN: Yes, stay out of the boat.
(INAUDIBLE) this statement he made tonight upon returning to Washington, talking about free exchange of opinions being, being thwarted, being quashed inside a White House, he sounded really - the president sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate, and I can't be the only one to have made that comparison.
ALTER: Oh, I don't...
OLBERMANN: Is, is that really a comparison he wants to invoke if the subpoenas come? Would it not better to blink than look like you're covering up? And especially when it may be that covering up makes this look bigger, perhaps, than it really is?
ALTER: Well, I, it's a great point. You know, if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate. Look, this, this idea that somehow presidential aides don't have to go up and testify under oath on Capitol Hill, this is a very modern and, and, and really Nixonian notion. If you go back, say, to the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt's top aide Louis Howe (ph), there were some irregularities in the New Deal Congress wanted to know about, they hauled him up on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congress, interestingly, they grilled him. There wasn't even the slightest suggestion that somehow he shouldn't be required to testify.
So this is a new idea. And it, it, it'll be shades of Watergate if they want to go to court to test it.
OLBERMANN: And to what degree will it be bipartisan shades of Watergate, if that retraction of the part of the PATRIOT Act that allowed this, the appointment of the replacement attorney, U.S. attorneys, without any kind of Senate confirmation, if that retraction, that, that amendment to the PATRIOT Act, passed today, almost unanimously, why does the president want to get into a spitting contest with a Senate that is actually looking at itself as a bunch of senators rather than a bunch of Democrats and a bunch of Republicans?
ALTER: Because he's politically playing this kind of hide-the-ball trick that they tried to do in the run-up to the Iraq war. Remember when they tried to imply that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11? Remember that whole thing? (INAUDIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, he, he, he...
OLBERMANN:... referenced it yesterday, so it was hard to forget that one now.
ALTER: Yes, OK. So this time, he's trying, today he's trying to say, Look, this is a Democratic witch hunt. There's only one problem with that. This is an intramural Republican fight. These prosecutors are all Republicans, they, they, they were slimed by the White House, and they got mad about it, understandably, they objected, they went public, and you've got a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who are not sure that Alberto Gonzales should continue as attorney general.
So to say that this is, you know, some kind of a partisan witch hunt by Democrats, sure, the Democrats see blood in the water. They're piling on. But basically, this is a intrafamily feud within the Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of MSNBC, and, of course, senior editor at "Newsweek." As always, sir, great thanks for joining us tonight.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As if the burgeoning attorney general and U.S. attorneys scandal were not bad enough for President Bush, he now has Tom DeLay publicly saying he should fight the thing harder than he is.
And the Internet blurring the battle lines in 2008. Just who is behind the mystery Web viral video slamming Hillary Clinton, blaming Barack Obama for the slam? Is anybody's campaign ready for this kind of anonymous advertising?
And amid all those worries, the first comments tonight from Hillary Clinton, who dismisses this as being something of a positive because now people won't watch her YouTube version of the National Anthem, which she describes as "screeching."
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As impregnable as a dominant political party may look, as often as a Mark Hanna (ph) or a Karl Rove reaches the dawn of a permanent majority, remember that all political streaks have an end. The Whig Party won the elections in this country of 1840 and 1848 and couldn't even run their own candidate by 1856. Ask the Democrats of 1952, or the Republicans in 1996.
Or, in our fourth story, ask them now. If the president has a crisis, so does his party. And since, as the late sportswriter Wells Twombley (ph) observed, larceny abhors a vacuum, the slightest political wobble can lead anyone and everyone to try to claim the helm. Look who showed up this morning on the proverbial stricken field to try to pick up the Republican flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")
DELAY: This is just a taste of what it's going to be like for the next two years. And the Bush administration has sort of shown their weakness when they got rid of Don Rumsfeld as a result of politics. Here, and the Democrats are going to be coming back in all different ways. I mean, this is a made-up scandal itself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, what would you advise Mr. Gonzales to do, if you still had a position in Congress?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fight?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But while Tom DeLay appears to view matters of national defense and homeland security in openly political terms, other Republicans seem open to redefining their priorities based on the nation's needs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about your agenda a little bit, because you are pushing universal health care, initiatives for climate change, global warming. You've been way out in front on stem cell research.
Rush Limbaugh is just one of many Republicans out there who are saying that you're not really a Republican, you're a Democrat pretending to be a Republican.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: All irrelevant.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I'm not his servant.
I'm the people's servant of California. What they call me, if it's a Democrat or a Republican or in the center, or a change, or this or that, that's not my bottom line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Governor Schwarzenegger, chief executive of America's biggest state, in the space of 30 seconds rejecting not just the president's priorities, but also the party's self-professed water carrier, comedian Rush Limbaugh, the earth, nevertheless, continuing to spin on its axis, as of the top of this hour.
Let's turn now to Andrew Sullivan, author of "The Conservative Soul:
How We Lost It, How to Get It Back," senior editor at "The Atlantic."
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
ANDREW SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Is this liberal hyperbole, or are there major divisions in the Republican Party, a crisis, even? And if so, what are the divisions?
SULLIVAN: Well, conservatism, I think, as a governing philosophy is broken. And that's the underlying fact here. All the major tenets of conservatism have been busted by Bush. If you think of conservatives as limiting government, small government, he grew it, exploded the debt long term. If you think of conservatism as being strong defense, good on national security, he's losing a war.
I mean, conservatives can forgive some errors in national defense, in national security, but the way they have conducted this war is so dreadful that I think people who care about national defense are really in uproar about its. There on immigration, also, complete drift and chaos.
None of these issues are truly conservative. And so the field is truly open for somebody to come in and claim the mantle.
OLBERMANN: Now, you can have those set of circumstances, and it puts you out of business, like the old Whigs, or you have one that puts you out of office for a decade, like the conservatives in England. Or you can have one that revivifies you, like the Democrats around 1932, that winds up putting you back in office for 20 years. Is there any indication yet what kind of crisis this would be for the Republicans?
SULLIVAN: Well, I think if they're going the way they keep going - and remember that Bush has nobody to carry on his legacy - in fact, all these candidates are in some ways casting themselves as people who get a soul (ph) and fix the mess that Bush has created. So I think you could have a real dead end. Some of us, I think, who consider ourselves conservatives, kind of want a big loss, because we think that's the only way that we're going to recover what is left of conservative principles.
But you shouldn't underestimate the Republican Party. I mean, they love power, they want it. And I think they're adjusting. You see the social conservatives beginning to like Rudy Giuliani. You see all sorts of compromises that could take place in the next year and a half. So it's still very fluid, Keith, I think.
OLBERMANN: Is Giuliani, is McCain, is Romney, are any of the potential presidential candidates leading on the issue of what the Republican Party should be, what it should stand for? Or are they waiting for the party to kind of decide in some sort of mass plebiscite?
SULLIVAN: Well, Rudy's waiting for the others to fail so that he's the last person standing. McCain is really not a doctrinaire conservative on many different issues. Romney is campaigning to be the coalition, the Reagan coalition candidate. But, of course, Romney's been revealed as somebody who's completely opportunistic.
So I think the only person who really can save the Republican Party at this point is Hillary Clinton.
OLBERMANN: Factoring in everything that we have discussed, plus the fact that none of the early leading presidential candidates is an automatic sweetheart of the GOP base, as you suggested, a coalition is going to be necessary for almost any of them. Is Mr. Rove's idea of a permanent majority, is that an illusion?
SULLIVAN: It's not only an illusion, it's been a disaster. What he's done, I mean, I think people have overestimated Rove. What he did was take a president in wartime, after the worst attack on American soil, divided the country in two, and won narrow reelection with 51 percent of the vote. That is a terrible legacy as a political strategist.
What he's done is identified the Republican Party with some of the worst aspects of social intolerance. I mean, I was in the room when Ann Coulter called me a faggot, you know? That's not easy to get over in being part of the conservative movement.
I think Rove's legacy is disaster. He will not see a permanent majority. He's creating a permanent minority, based in the South, which the Republican Party's going to take a generation to recover from.
OLBERMANN: Andrew Sullivan, senior editor of "The Atlantic," author of "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back." It has been a fascinating and all too brief conversation. Great thanks for it, sir.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Coming up, no, this is not a visual representation of the Republican Party right now. It is the danger of improving something like the escalator.
And barely a month after having shaved her head and finally submitting to rehab, Britney Spears, all better, fastest recovery ever.
That's ahead - no pun intended - on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Pretty good day for birthdays of the creative, March 20 is, from the playwright Henrik Ibsen to Spike Lee, from Ray Goulding of Bob and Ray to Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, from violinist Sviatoslav Richter to Countdown viewer and guest Carl Reiner, and also among humorists, of course, John Ehrlichman from Watergate.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin on the Internets, the best place to learn about other countries without actually having to travel there. For instance, did you know that in Madrid they have smooth escalators, like, with no steps? It's a great idea until some lady behind you loses her grip on her shopping cart. There's a cart coming. There's a cart coming behind you. Oh! Everybody appears to be in this - OK in the surveillance camera video making the rounds on the Interwebs.
We've got the action from a second angle. This is a verse angle shot here. Security workers could be heard giggling in the background of this on the Net. Clearly, they're the ones who uploaded it. Gentlemen, you should be ashamed of yourselves. And thank you.
Charleston, South Carolina, where I bet you're wondering how this kid got all these scratches on his back. Skateboarding, dude, in a public park. Let's check out the home video, dude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, holy crap. What was that. Oh my god, you just assaulted - what was that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just assaulted someone.
OLBERMANN: I think both parties are asking themselves, was that wrong what I did. You damn kids are going to skate on the marble, then you're going to get some Charleston justice.
To Takayama (ph), Japan, hello, where the Ohashi (ph) Museum gives us this recipe for stupidity. Take one 1.7 million dollar gold block that visitors can freely touch, add no sensors and no burglar alarms, throw in entry to the museum possible through a natural cave. All that adds up to, yes, it is gone. Of course it is gone. It was only a matter of time until somebody stole it. Yes, they got themselves some criminal masterminds in Japan.
OLBERMANN: Anonymous attacks and anonymous endorsements; how anyone with a computer can now seriously influence the presidential race. And that senators reaction to the headline story there.
And you think the giant AirBus is scary from this angle, watch it landing in bad weather, steady.
Those stories ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Dan Gannon, Milwaukee, Oregon. He lost $400,000 in his 401k retirement plan when Enron collapsed. Yesterday, he won the lottery, $182 million. Dan, don't invest it all in one place.
Number two, Pete Bo Sizelove of Sacramento, California. He wanted a Lincoln Mercury dealer to give him a $20,000 2004 Chrysler in exchange for his 1990 Honda with the bumpers hanging off, plus an IOU for 13 grand. When for some reason the dealer refused, Mr. Sizelove reportedly got into his 1990 Honda and pulled out a crowbar, a sledgehammer and a samurai sword and attacked the car.
Man, if you had been willing to throw in the samurai sword, the guy might have made the deal.
Number one, Bill-O, in news makers. Two former on-air personalities at the station that carries his radio show in Los Angeles now report that in one of his recent visits there to KABC, Mr. O'Reilly was unhappy that the station had not provided him with a helicopter to get him appearance, instead of a limo.
But moreover, he was dissatisfied with the croissants the station provided for him while he was there. He insisted that a baker from Beverly Hills bring in fresh made croissants to the KABC studios. Croissants? Wait, aren't they French? And what is on Bill-O's website right now? You boycott the French while he eats their pastries. And as to everybody else, well, presumably, let them eat cake, or falafel.
OLBERMANN: The people who run political campaigns have spent decades learning how to control their messages to voters. But 2008 may go down as the year the Internet ate the political consultant. Our third story in the Countdown, the ad itself may or may not have an impact, but the idea of the viral anonymous attack video could threaten everybody, from Mitt Romney to Dennis Kucinich.
The legendary 1984 Apple Computer ad, inserting Hillary Clinton's face as the big brother figure of the Democratic party, posted by somebody calling themselves Park Ridge 47. It has been viewed more than half a million times and counting. This is the only time we will be showing any of it again tonight. The Obama campaign, credited, or blamed for, at its end, denies having anything to do with it.
Tonight, Senator Clinton has made her first comments about the video:
"I haven't seen it," she told the local cable service, New York One. "But I am pleased that it seems to be taking attention away from what used to be on YouTube, and getting a lot of hits, namely me singing the 'Star Spangled Banner.' Everybody in the world now knows I can't carry a tune. I think that anything that drives interest in these campaigns, and gets people who otherwise are not at all interested in politics, I think that's pretty good. I might quibble a little bit about the content, but if we get more people, especially more young people, thinking about politics, I'm happy about that."
Our next guest thinks we may never find out who is responsible for the video. He also thinks this marks the beginning of political campaigns losing their ultimate control. Andrew Rasiej is the founder of TechPresident.com, a website that tracks the effect of the web on politics. Thank you for your time tonight sir.
ANDREW RASIEJ, TECHPRESIDENT.COM: Great to be here.
OLBERMANN: This Hillary Clinton, 1984 ad, can you tell, is it the work of a pro. Could he or she be tracked?
RASIEJ: They cannot be tracked, but it is very clear that it's very professionally done. But the tools that are available to people, whether its their laptops or their video cameras, or access to massive troves of video content, really gives anybody the ability to create voter generated content that will effect the 2008 election.
CARLSON: There was one, among the fascinating technical aspects to this, the t-shirted woman, who throws the hammer has now an Obama actual campaign logo on that shirt. The scene matches the original commercial perfectly. How technically sophisticated does that suggest this is?
RASIEJ: Well, you know, digital manipulation on computers is a sophisticated professional task, but it is getting easier and easier to do. So, whether it is done by a political professional, or done by somebody who is an amateur, it's going to be very, very hard to tell. And there's no obligation by the person who posted this on YouTube to identify themselves personally.
OLBERMANN: We've already seen the pro Hillary Clinton spinoff, with Barack Obama as big brother, getting the hammer. How should a professional campaign respond to all of this? Is there any legal way to squelch any of it?
RASIEJ: The best way that a political campaign can respond is to have a very savvy media operation themselves, that can incorporate user or voter generated video, that's produced by supporters, and then quickly respond to voter generated video that might be attacking them. This opens up an entirely new battlefield in the political landscape, where the Internet is no longer just an adjunct to the traditional campaign, but is an entirely separate landscape, and a place to exchange barbs, with now the voter being a wild card in the mix.
OLBERMANN: If we wait for the politicians to get up to speed on that, in the interim, even if the interim is just the end of the week, is the response that I read from Senator Clinton the best bet, to try to spin it in some way that's slightly positive, or I'm not really worried about it?
RASIEJ: I actually think that she did a very good job of sort of putting it into context. And I think that here campaign and her advisors recognized that this is going to continue throughout the campaign. She is right to point out that a conversation is happening on the Internet, and that if more people are drawn into it - And I think that anybody who sees this, even though it is clearly an attack, will recognize that attacks are part of politics, and it may not actually effect their vote.
Obviously, if there's only an attack ad video, and nothing positive on behalf of the senator, that might have a precipitous effect down the road, but I think you're going to start seeing the pro Hillary videos coming. Maybe they won't get the same amount of traffic, but they are going to be distributed virally by individual voters, on their own.
OLBERMANN: As always, it will depend on how clever they are. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of TechPresident.com, great thanks for you your perspective.
RASIEJ: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: After three days of alone in the wilderness, searchers have found a boy scout, one who by training and by reading indeed lived up to the motto. He was prepared.
And a miraculous recovery of a different ilk, Britney Spears apparently getting out of rehab, not even a month after going in. That's going in and staying in. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
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STEVEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Apparently, Emanuel, who's got a reputation as a bit of a tough guy, thinks my Better Know a District series could threaten the Democratic stranglehold. Well, I would like to make peace offering to the congressman right now. Everyone knows that he lost a part of a finger in a meat slicing accident at Arby's when he was a teenager. Well, I have a present for you. And I hope you will accept this in the spirit it is given.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do believe in wind power. That makes sense. All we got to do is put a couple of turbines in Washington, D.C. and we'll be energy free. A lot of hot air there, you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've heard of bird watchers. Well, the birds watch and listen to her. Pat loves it because her audience loves it.
PAT SONET, THE WHISTLE LADY: Yes, especially the men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't whistle at men?
SONET: No, not anymore.
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OLBERMANN: For Michael Auberry, a 12-year-old boy who survived three cold nights in the North Carolina mountains, after being separated from his boy scout troop, training must have helped. So too a novel he had recently read about a boy who was stranded after a plane crash. In our number two story on the Countdown, what the young man also had in his favor, rescue workers and volunteers working day and night to find him.
Our correspondent, Ron Mott, is at McGrady, North Carolina. Ron, good evening.
RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And good evening to you Keith. The father of 12-year-old Michael Auberry says tonight that his son was home sick and that he simply wanted to hitch a ride, a ride that he never found.
MOTT (voice-over): Thanks to this dog, Gandalf, who picked up his sent, Michael will finally get that ride home. He was brought back to safety today under white sheets, after spending four long days and nights lost and all alone.
Michael's ordeal began Saturday afternoon, when one of his pack leaders said the child simply vanished. He endured 20 degree temperatures, potentially dangerous creaks, and steep, rocky terrain.
MISHA MARSHALL, RESCUER: He just said, I'm hungry. Give me some water, you know, stuff like that.
MOTT: News that he was found spread quickly across the nearly 6,000 acre park. Now come the lessons.
KENT ALBERRY, BOY SCOUT LEADER: We're going to have our lectures about hitch hiking again. We've had them in the past. But with a special vigor, we will go over that.
MOTT: And before he set out on this unfortunate adventure, Michael cut a deal with his father to get five dollars from him if he did not enjoy the outing. And tonight, Keith, the father says the money will be paid.
OLBERMANN: Ron Mott for us at McGrady, North Carolina. We begin tonight's edition of Keeping Tabs, our roundup of celebrity and tabloid news, the way it was intended to start, with the words Britney and rehab. TMZ.com reporting Britney Spears is ready to leave rehab, after apparently turning her life around. Not surprising to hear she has been turned around, having spent the last month going back and forth and in and out of rehab.
The good news is she is reportedly back on good terms with her future ex-husband, Kevin Federline, such good terms they had a great discussion about custody of their two children. Britney's favorite aunt, meanwhile, telling the "Daily Star" that back home in Louisiana is where Britney needs to be right now, glued to the TV, watching highlights of the endless legal saga of the late Anna Nicole Smith.
The long awaited court date in the Bahamas arrived today. The major contenders arrived themselves to argue before a judge that they should have sole custody of Smith's daughter, and if they have to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars she may inherit, well, that is a price they are willing to pay, to pay out of the hundreds of millions dollars she may inherit.
The judge ordering DNA testing on Danielynn. Smith's estate still battling for the inheritance, as laid out in the will of Smith's dead husband, J. Howard Marshall, who, as anyone who knew him will tell you, wanted to make sure that his riches would go to whichever man happened to be the father of the daughter that the women he married had long after he died.
And a little biblical prophesy fulfilled last night. Where else? On national network television. We all know the number of the beast is 666, but who knew the name of the beast was Heather Mills. All right, maybe that was Paul McCartney's guess, but 666 was also the score from the judges on last night's episode "Dancing With The Stars." Prophesies, meantime, that Mills might lose her artificial leg during the dance contest proving misguided however, at least for now. Shwing, that would have been the sound if it happened.
Mills is competing against other alleged stars, including Billy Ray Cyrus and Joey Fatone (ph), both of whom can also be found in the Book or Revelation. Keep looking.
Also tonight, whatever you do, don't look down. I'm sorry, apparently that is the whole point of the thing. The scariest sky walk in the world now open.
That's next, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to John Gibson of Fox Noise. Complaining that on his network Neal Gabler had the temerity to criticize the honesty of Fox Noise, he said Gabler should quit, and added, I hate to see a guy prostituting himself. Had the mirrors taken out, did you Gibby?
Our runner up tonight, German animal rights activist Frank Albrecht (ph), complaining that the Berlin City Zoo chose to hand feed a polar bear cub, which had been abandoned by its mother. The zoo intervened to save Knut, all 19 pounds of him. Handlers even gave him his own Teddy Bear. Mr. Albrecht says this is a gross violation of animal protection laws, since Knut now will never be able to easily interact with others of his species.
So quoting Mr. Albrecht, the zoo must kill the bear. Thinking here that maybe it is Mr. Albrecht who can't easily interact with others of his own species.
But our winner, Mr. Tumble. A BBC kids' show host, who even greets his young users using sign language. He's using this gesture in Macaton (ph) language, for the hearing impaired, where it is the word happy, as in the phrase, I am happy to see you. Unfortunately, in British sign language, for those who have no hearing, that rubbing symbol of the hands does not mean happy, it means a popular Anglo-Saxon swear word that is a synonym for the physical act of love.
So Mr. Tumble is telling the kids that he is happy to something else them. Chris Hansen, paging Chris Hansen. Mr. Tumble, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: It's like an episode of "Fear Factor." We're giving you a choice here, would you rather stand on an observation platform 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon and look down, and oh, by the way, it is an observation platform with a clear glass bottom to it. Or would you rather watch a live video feed from a camera on the tail of the world's largest passenger aircraft, 35,000 feet up. And oh, by the way, you happen to be riding in that world's largest passenger aircraft as you watch the video feed.
Our number one story in the Countdown, we will give you a sample and then you can make your choice in the privacy and comparative safety of your own home. To that Grand Canyon looky looky first. The Sky Walk, a glass and steel horseshoe platform, jutting 70 feet past the canyon's edge, providing views of the canyon floor, which is a mere 4,000 feet below you. That distance, by the way, more than three times the height of the Empire State Building.
Former Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and John Harrington were hired for today's unveiling. The cost of the Sky Walk, somewhere between 30 and 40 million dollars. But the Hualapai Indian tribe, which commissioned this, hopes that this tourist trap - attraction will become a cash cow. For 25 bucks each, visitors will don special slippers and then get the bejesus scared out of them.
Even though no more than 120 people at a time will be allowed on the Sky Walk, architects boast that this engineering marvel could support the weight of 70 Boeing 727s. Please, let's not try that.
In any even, they would have to recalculate for the AirBus 380, since that aircraft weighs 50 percent more than a 747, and has both aviation enthusiasts and phobics marveling anew at how the thing gets off the ground. It is about 130 times heavier than an SUV, which somehow does not sound as bad as saying it weighs 610,000 pounds.
Here it is in a flight with no passengers, bouncing to a landing at LAX yesterday. I am looking forward to that. The roll out of the AirBus 380 followed test flights that included this cross wind landing and air shows in countries that have long enough runways. One hundred sixty six of the behemoths have been ordered by 15 airlines worldwide, but the sales team is still working hard, which is why yesterday's maiden voyage to New York was full of VIP passengers and reporters, with meal service, in flight entertainment, and this extra day two coverage hook, real time footage of the flight from the vantage point of someone hanging on to the tail of the plane.
Our correspondent, literally up in the air, is Peter Greenberg.
PETER GREENBERG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The start of the trip was uneventful, other than going through two checkpoints and being frisked. With almost 500 passengers, boarding still went smoothly, but that's probably because they used three jet ways, and worked out the kinks with mock boardings before the flight.
When it was time to push back from the gate, the runways were cleared for the special flight, and we took off almost immediately.
JOE SHARKEY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": A remarkably quiet take off, something I had not expected.
GREENBERG: The flight, made up mostly of Lufthansa and AirBus employees, and assorted VIPs, was not your normal operation. Technicians from AirBus were on board, monitoring a range of systems.
For the flight attendants, it was time to practice serving drinks and a meal to so many passengers at once.
JOE BRANCATELLI, AVIATION JOURNALIST: You have to be impressed by the simple fact that it's a leviathan. I mean, it's huge. But literally the seats we are sitting in, no customers will see them. So, it is a big, sort of, fantasy, happy news.
GREENBERG: By the time this double decked giant reached a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet, hardly anyone was in their seat. And what about the seats?
(on camera): This is a typical first class seat on the A380, comfortable, wide, lots of space. And this is the business class section, comfortable. And this is coach. You having fun?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
GREENBERG: I think I'll stretch. I'm sorry.
(voice-over): This flight had 12 first class seats, 64 in business and 443 in coach. But each airline can change that configuration once the planes are delivered, beginning this fall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately somebody is going buy this airplane, or use some of these airplanes with almost 900 passengers, all coach.
GREENBERG: As for the entertainment, you don't need a movie. I quickly became addicted to the tail camera, a live, continuous wide angle shot of the plane in flight. And before we knew it, we began our decent, landing at JFK 15 minutes early.
OLBERMANN: Peter Greenberg reporting. My boarding pass says I am in seat 442-K. You can call it leviathan. Just do not call it Titanic. That is Countdown for this 1,437th 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