'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 5
Guest: John Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
First, he threw out the jail time; now, maybe the probation. Mr. Bush rewrites the laws again.
The judge says the law is clear, you can't get probation until you've served your time in the clink, so he can't give Scooter Libby probation.
Mr. Bush's spokesman says, Law, shmaw. Heck, just do it anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT STANZEL, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's our view that the - in the reading of the law, and the order on the 22nd, that that is the way it should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wonder if Mr. Libby's lawyers might have a different viewpoint on that.
John Dean joins us on the legal morass the president has created.
And, no, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are not going to resign just because I asked them to. So instead, exactly what kind of gauntlet of investigations and legal challenges are they going to have to run over the last 565 days of their terms? How soon before they wish they had resigned?
And more evidence that White House ignorance is White House bliss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STANZEL: I guess I don't know what you mean by "equal justice under the law."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The former president explains to the current one why a controversial pardon at the very end of your term is a whole lot different from pardoning somebody who appears to have committed crimes for you during the middle of your term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRES. BILL CLINTON (on phone): I think that this is consistent with their philosophy. They believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and (INAUDIBLE) that the law is a minor obstacle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The first ominous note of the 2008 campaign. Amid fundraising and Fourth of July socials, a man arrested loitering outside Barack Obama's Iowa hotel, carrying an eight-inch knife.
Let the eagle soar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL (singing): Let the eagle soar...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I just said that. The American symbol is back, off the endangered list.
And how many dangers are you count in this annual protest against the Pamplona bull run? The running of the nudes. Oh, here we go.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
More proof today that President Bush believes he alone is judge, jury, and nonexecutioner in the case of the U.S. versus I. Lewis Libby, the actual judge in the case, Judge Reggie Walton, pointing out, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, that in commuting the sentence, the president might have made it legally impossible to impose a period of probation on Mr. Libby, the White House responding today that the judge does not know what the law should be, the farce becoming more absurd, except nobody is laughing, the brief July Fourth holiday doing nothing to quell the outrage over Mr. Bush's action, if anything, it is increasing, along with the confusion level, Judge Walton giving Mr. Libby's lawyers and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald until Monday to submit briefings on how they wish to proceed regarding this problem with probation, because supervised release, probation, normally comes only after someone serves a prison term, Judge Walton asking if the president's extraordinary action has now precluded any supervised release of Mr. Libby.
That would leave only the quarter-million-dollar fine. And if so, Mr. Libby's debt to society has already been paid, figuratively and quite literally, the U.S. District Court posting this canceled check on the docket this afternoon, about the probation dispute, White House press secretary Tony Snow saying in an off-camera briefing this morning that there is a gray area in the law, Mr. Snow then throwing the president's fourth-string yacker to the wolves at the actual on-camera news briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President clearly told the American people at Walter Reed...
STANZEL: He did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... this is going to be probation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The judge is saying, maybe not.
STANZEL: Well, we believe the attorneys and the judge and the probation office can work out those details.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But - can work out details, I mean, the president is making the case this is not a slap on the wrist because there's going to be probation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the judge is saying, No, if you look in the statute, that's not what's going to happen.
STANZEL: Well, it's our view that the - in the reading of the law and the order on the 22nd that that is the way it should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We're fortunate to be joined once again by Nixon White House counsel John Dean, now, of course, the author of "Worse Than Watergate" and "Conservatives Without Conscience," also a contributor to the Web site Findlaw.com.
John, good evening.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Might that last sound bite there from the spokesman, Mr. Stanzel, explained lot about this White House, that it tends to govern based on how it feels the law should be, not on how it actually is, the probation issue with Scooter Libby's commutation as just the most recent example?
DEAN: I think that's a fair assessment of what they're doing. Tony Snow did say that Fred Fielding had talked - checked with the Department of Justice. But if he had, Fred's a careful lawyer. I'm surprised he wouldn't have put something in the actual order that the president issued to commute the sentence that would have clarified all this for the judge. But he didn't do it, and he's left a lot of confusion out there as a result.
OLBERMANN: Apart from that oddity in Mr. Fielding's usual dotting of I's and crossing of T's, is there also irony here that any confusion, any question of the law regarding probation might have been avoided if Mr. Bush had just let Mr. Libby serve one single day, or portion thereof?
DEAN: I don't think there's any question that if he had gone to pick up his orange suit, or whatever they're wearing in federal prisons these days, it would have changed things a lot. It would have eliminated all these questions, eliminated a lot of other questions.
There is so much that was not done in this, Keith, that that's the surprising thing. It was not well staffed. They did not - they held it very close to the vest, and they didn't get a lot of answers to a lot of questions they should have, because they're now in direct conflict with their own Department of Justice on their position on sentencing.
The criteria the president laid out for Scooter Libby is not the same criteria that they're pushing to try to change the sentencing law, which doesn't consider the very things that Bush said he considered in the Libby commutation. So they've got a real conflict, and they've got a mess they're creating. And at again, it goes maybe to chalk up one for incompetence.
OLBERMANN: But is it (INAUDIBLE), is there not also a certain prophylactic quality to that? I mean, (INAUDIBLE) has not this administration really been based on the premise, if you don't think you're going to like the answer, don't make the phone call?
DEAN: Well, that's true. They don't want to hear bad news. But there are consequences when you do that. When you run a secret White House, when you run everything close to the vest, it does have consequences. And this is a very good example.
U.S. attorneys throughout the country are now going to be confronted with what some criminal defense lawyers are calling "Libby motions," where the - in every sentencing, where they'll say, Listen, judge, the president considered these things, why won't you consider these factors about the man's reputation, his lifetime of work, the impact this has on his family? all the things the Justice Department doesn't want considered.
So while they don't want to hear those things at the White House when they're making a decision, they're going to hear from them later, and have to deal with them.
OLBERMANN: Plus, my client's prosecutor might be politically motivated. Don't forget that one as well.
But and turning on to what happens next, the Judiciary Committee in the House announcing it's going to hold hearings next Wednesday, the 11th, to examine the clemency power of the president, no witness list yet. Does that committee have any way to compel Scooter Libby to testify?
DEAN: Absolutely. Chairman John Conyers could very easily issue a subpoena which would force Libby to come in to the - to appear, and he - that isn't a subpoena he can easily pass over, nor does he have any excuse, even when - if he were in prison, he could have been subpoenaed.
Now, there are some questions, though, that (INAUDIBLE) legitimate questions this hearing obviously is seeking to answer to find out whether there's some quid pro quo involved, something more than pure compassion by Mr. Bush for Mr. Liddy, and it - Libby. And see - and it really seems obvious there must be.
I think that we all know that Libby is probably a ticking time bomb that they've been very gentle in handling, because Mr. Bush, in his history as governor, and in the first six years of his administration, hasn't found the same kind of compassion for the run-of-the-mill defendant that he found for Libby.
OLBERMANN: You had me going there for a second. I thought perhaps he'd also commuted the sentence of Mr. Liddy as well. We're going back through that again.
Is there any way short...
DEAN: Jimmy Carter got that one.
OLBERMANN: Yes, yes. Is there any way short, finally, John, of impeachment for Congress to get the truth of this, of the various questions, but particularly the one you just mentioned, the appearance of a quid pro quo?
DEAN: The impeachment, the grand inquest, as it's been called, is probably the most powerful investigation the House of Representatives can undertake. However, it doesn't necessarily give that - an impeachment hearing doesn't have any more muscle, necessarily, than does a normal congressional hearing. We saw Nixon, for example, defy Congress, and, in fact, he would be in a proposed article of impeachment, charged just for the fact that he refused to turn documents over to the House impeachment inquiry.
So presidents, if they're willing to defy Congress, can risk it even in an impeachment proceeding. It's just how great a risk they want to take. And it hasn't elevated to that level here. So I think he's got plenty - Conyers has plenty of power to make this investigation. It just always comes down to a question of how hard they want to leverage and push.
OLBERMANN: John Dean, of "Conservatives Without Conscience" and contributor to Findlaw. As always, John, great thanks.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the political fallout, let's turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent of "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Not many people would have $250,400 sitting around in their personal accounts. Does that check we saw before dispel any notion that the punishment would prove to be this extraordinary hardship for Mr. Libby, especially since it now looks likely that it might be the only part of the sentence that he ever has to comply with?
WOLFFE: Well, the short answer is yes. Remember, this was presented as a Solomonic decision by the president, somewhere - middle ground somewhere between a full pardon and the severe sentence they suggested of the sentence - of the prison term.
The problem with having a fine that anyone can pay within hours is that it's not a middle ground. And that leaves both sides dissatisfied. Either it's not a punishment at all, or, if you think the crime deserves such a low punishment, then why not move ahead with a full pardon? So unfortunately, Scooter Libby has undermined the entire premise of this apparently long-thought-out and deliberated position that the president came up with.
OLBERMANN: As the basketball player Charles Barkley once said, Do you think you can control me with money?
There are a lot of people who are going to find it very hard to believe the White House did not know about that loophole regarding probation, this problem that has been created now going into this. John Dean just mentioned this, is - a lawyer as skilled as Fred Fielding would not have realized that probation might no longer be a statutory option if the prison sentence were to be commuted without the gentleman in question ever having served a single day.
How is it, how is it possible that that mistake could be made, and that this could have - this, this mess could have been created, on top of the mess that the commutation created?
WOLFFE: How is it possible that the White House counsel's office that, oh, previously ruled that the eavesdropping program was fine, and even John Ashcroft's Justice Department thought it wasn't legal?
You know, they - there is a certain track record here. This doesn't come down to legal issues in the final analysis. What you have here was a group of aides who worked very closely with Scooter Libby, they sat in the same meetings as Scooter Libby. And then they sat around looking at Libby's punishment and deciding that it was too harsh.
It's impossible to say this was really a legal issue or a serious legal analysis. It was a personal one. They may have thought they were doing the right thing, but they really ought to have recused all of themselves from this.
OLBERMANN: Richard, on this newshour on Tuesday, I had a little thing at the end of the show where I asked the president and the vice president to resign. We're still waiting for anybody who was proved to have leaked information to be fired, or the attorney general to be shown the door. It's a safe assumption they're not going to resign.
What recourse does Congress have, what recourse does anybody have, regarding just this one specific issue, if they're - we're just going to go on like this, with the president ignoring what Congress, what the courts have wanted?
WOLFFE: Well, there isn't much resource. And in fact, as John dean mentioned, the idea of subpoenaing Libby, but the problem here is that the appeal is still, in theory, under review. And while that legal process is still going on, he can take - plead the Fifth, and say it's an ongoing legal matter.
In fact, the White House can even revert to its old (INAUDIBLE) talking point and say this is still under legal review. The problem here, if you think about Alberto Gonzales, is that there's something of a firewall. Again, the people who decided this position on the commutation themselves, some of them, sat through the grand jury. They felt that was a searing experience in its own right. And they're going to do everything to stop any further inquiry and anything Congress can do.
OLBERMANN: When the smoke on this finally clears, which I imagine will be over the weekend at some point, there's the little matter of Iraq still pending. One of the staunch defenders of Mr. Bush's policies there, Pete Domenici, the Republican, announced today he wants to start decreasing the size of the U.S. troop presence there. He didn't say he wants to join the Democrats' side on this and legislate it.
But could the White House have another escalation of this problem, bigger than even Democratic opposition to the war, if an average of once every two weeks, some major Republican supporter goes to the other side, at least symbolically?
WOLFFE: Well, it's a great piece of gratitude from Domenici.
Remember, he's the guy who triggered the whole U.S. attorneys fiasco.
But, look, the whole problem, the whole challenge here is whether these Republican senators actually don't just walk the walk, whether they actually change their votes and vote with the Democrats here. Or are they just positioning themselves and trying to have it both ways?
The test is still going to happen, but for the White House, listen, they think they can fight out this war all the way through to the end of their term and have something to hand over. Even if they survive through to September, it's not clear that they'll get through to the - till November, never mind January of 2009.
OLBERMANN: Our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, as always, great thanks for joining us tonight.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: Pardon me? No, no, pardon you. Mr. Clinton explains to Mr. Bush the difference between pardoning a criminal and commuting the sentence of the criminal whose crime was for your benefit. Remember this Marc Rich story? Wait till you see who Marc Rich's attorney was.
And the fundraising is so fast and furious in Iowa that Mitt Romney and Chris Dodd actually ran into each other.
Less entertaining, the arrest outside Barack Obama's hotel.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: When George W. Bush ran for president, he pledged to restore honor and integrity to the White House, implying moral superiority to President Clinton.
Tonight, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Bush and his Wizard of Oz-like winged monkeys have instead been reduced to arguing that he is no worse than his predecessor, and even in doing that, they are demonstrably wrong.
The context, of course, the commutation of former Bush and Cheney aide Scooter Libby's prison sentence.
On Tuesday, former president Clinton was asked about the comparisons made by Mr. Bush's defenders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had some controversial pardons during your presidency. What's your reaction to what President Bush did?
CLINTON (on phone): Yes, but I think the facts were different. I think, you know, there are guidelines for what happens when, you know, somebody's convicted. And I think that, you know, you got to understand, I think that this is consistent with their philosophy. They believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Today, Bush spokesman Tony Snow responded off-camera, saying, quote, "I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," the implication, of course, that presidential clemency then and now is morally equivalent, Mr. Bush's defenders reminding critics of everyone from Marc Rich, to Roger Clinton, to Henry Cisneros, to Susan McDougal, all of them, like Libby, enjoying ties to the president of their time.
Unlike Mr. Bush, however, Mr. Clinton was consistently generous with clemency rather than reserving it exclusively for friends. He typically waited until also after sentences were served. His friend Susan McDougal did more than a year. He also did not use it to undermine prosecutorial leverage in ongoing investigations. And in the case of Marc Rich, some prominent Republicans argued he was innocent, most notably, Mr. Richer -
Rich's lawyer, one I. Lewis Libby, also known as Scooter.
We turn now to Dana Milbank, an analyst for us, and, of course, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."
Dana, great thanks for your time tonight.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
OLBERMANN: To begin with, when the administration put the Marc Rich talking point out, did anybody there remember that Marc Rich's attorney had been Scooter Libby? Because, on this kind of base, elemental gut level, it's almost too funny for words.
MILBANK: Well, it is interesting to see the president's spokesman now speaking Yiddish, and suggesting that chutzpah is involved, and for Tony Snow to declare that he is something of a maven on chutzpah gives ms a bit of tzuris, because clearly, in this case, he is acting like a schlemiel, if not an outright putz.
But, look, I - the only way we'll get closure here is, of course, if Marc Rich has used his freedom to donate some of that $5 million that Libby has amassed for his legal defense fund. So there's plenty of hypocrisy to go around.
Does the White House not see the perversity, though, in defending its actions by likening them to the actions of a predecessor they despise?
MILBANK: Well, I think they see the perversity, but they also see the beating they've been taking, and they realize that they've got to try something to change the subject. Now, Clinton, Bill Clinton, perhaps inadvertently, gave them an opening there, when David Yepsen asked him the question. I don't know if he really had the choice of punting on the question.
But the very fact that he weighed in and said it was different gave the White House the chance to try to change the subject here. And they're very delighted to do that, and, of course, Bill Clinton did had 140 of these things.
OLBERMANN: But when you go into this particular closet looking for skeletons that say, Pardon and Clemency and all that, what happens to the Republicans who applauded or even voted for Mr. Clinton's impeachment on perjury and blasted his pardons as criminal, and now the same guys turn around and are defending the commutation of Mr. Libby, when, you know, the paint wasn't even dry on the conviction?
MILBANK: Well, in politics, where you stand is where you sit. And, of course, we could argue it the other way too, and that a lot of the Democrats who were not greatly troubled by Clinton's behavior are now much more troubled by Scooter Libby's behavior.
So I don't expect there's really ever a punishment for hypocrisy. But Republicans are being punished generally with what's going on now, as we've seen in the fundraising, the Democratic candidates are outraising the Republicans by virtually a margin of two to one. So that's sort of a rough justice there. But there's no problem with a little hypocrisy in politics.
OLBERMANN: And we're, by the way, we're going to do a segment later on counting that gelt.
How close - some study of this, how close did any of the Clinton clemency actions, whether pardons or whatever, come to the Libby commutation in legal or ethical terms?
MILBANK: Well, let's establish that every one of Clinton's and every one of Bush's is perfectly legal. This is an unassailable right that the president has, cannot be reviewed by anybody. So legal is off the table here. Now, you can question moral and what people think is right.
Now, certainly the Marc Rich pardon, this being the fugitive financier, done in the last hours of the administration, was highly controversial. That said, he was not a member of the president's administration. So again, there's enough for partisans on either side to chew over here.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, is bringing everything back to Bill Clinton still a good play by the Republicans? Or does it also remind people of the state of economy, the state of national security, of just the state of well-being of the country, in that administration, as opposed to this one?
MILBANK: Well, it probably is a bit of a good play, but the reason is not to remind them of Bill Clinton, but to get people thinking about Hillary Clinton. Republicans very eager to run against her because this really galvanizes the Republican base, and they are quite listless right now. They need sort of a common foe to move them ahead, and this helps them do that.
OLBERMANN: Our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Great thanks for joining us, and for the translation.
OLBERMANN: And here's news that will delight Dana. These four women will get to have sex again for money in a theatrical performance.
Not sure if the same is true for this guy, or if he can still hear us any more. Sir, sir? Sir? Our top story tonight - our top story tonight...
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1914, the Boston Braves were in last place in baseball's National League, having lost 40 of their first 66 games and resting 15 games out of first place. And they won the pennant. They won 68 of their last 87 games to earn the title The Miracle Braves.
Later, however, it was speculated that July 5, 1914, was actually the date when manager George Stallings of the Braves gave his top three pitchers the OK to start using an illegal pitch called the emery ball, in which the surface of the baseball was secretly defaced using sandpaper. This is suspected because, before July 5, those three pitchers had had one shutout victory among them. After July 5, they had 18.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
More sports. We begin in Tblisi, Georgia. That's just outside of Atlanta, where a man stands in a room with 100 pounds of dumbbells tied to his head. He is your new record holder in the sport of lifting weight with your ears and stuff. Police officer Tito Olamelashidli (ph) had one 34-pound weight tied to his ears, another in his mouth, and a third hanging from his hair. He lifted all three with standing ovation of his ears and admirers. Hey. Mighty roar went up from the crowd. Tito also came in fourth place in the cutest ears in the Tblisi police department contest. It was close, but he was edged out by a member of the canine unit named Axelrod. And if you get that joke, you're older than I am.
To Barcelona, Spain, for bubbles. Yay, bubbles! It's all part of the stage show by pianist Geordi Maso (ph), who's brought in a bubble specialist to accompany his performance of "Claire de Lune." Hepboo (ph) is the bubble man, who spent 75 minutes doing this. Then he goes out to dinner in a suit that smells like Palm Olive. You're soaking in it.
Finally, to Yeu Yow (ph), China, where - is your home infested with flies due to piles of rotting meat left lying around the house? Here's the man with the solution, Kung Fu master Hu Shu Lin (ph). They call Hu Shu Lin the fly man because he's so fast he can grab handfuls bugs right out of midair.
But you don't need years of training in a dojo to rid your home of disease carrying insects. The fly man has invented a trap to catch the bugs for you. It's called the highly effective fly-slaying machine. That's the actual title. It uses sugar water and a wheel of death to catch the flies.
So far, Shu Lin has sold more than 100,000 of them. And if you are not completely satisfied, he'll come to your house and go all Bruce Lee on them bugs. Just don't shake his hand when he's finished.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton trots out President Clinton for the annual holiday campaigning in Iowa. While the first really disturbing news from campaign echoes outwards from there.
And any similarity between the running of our candidates and this is purely coincidental. These stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN's top three news makers of this day.
Number three, President Bush; the big Fourth of July speech yesterday included ways people can say thanks to our troops and their families. You can send a care package, he said. You can reach out to a military family in your neighborhood with a mom or dad on the front lines. You can ask somebody what can I do to help you? What do you need? You can car pool.
I'm not following you. Car pooling for the troops? Here's a crazy idea for doing something for the troops. How about getting them home alive and with their limbs still attached.
Number two, an unidentified four-year-old girl form Carpentersville, Illinois. She was dialing 911 a little too often, like 15 or 20 times a day, 287 times in one month. Finally operators got her to answer their question. What do you want? She said Mcdonald's. They told her they would bring her some if only she would gave them her address. That is where police discovered she was using a deactivated cell phone, which by law still has to have access to 911.
Of course she kept calling the number. It was the only number that rang.
Number one, Janny Brown of Cambershire, England. The 62-year-old grand ma was pleased as punch to have won second prize in the Wilmington's sports committee's baking context. Her Victoria sponge was a favorite of all the judges. She didn't win first prize only because there were indentations on the cake from the oven rack. It was not until later that a friend finally revealed to Miss Brown that she had been the only person to enter the baking contest. And suddenly finishing second didn't seem like such a compliment anymore.
OLBERMANN: On Tuesday, the Giuliani campaign officially announced it has more money in the bank than any other Republican running for president. Today the Giuliani campaign held another news conference to say it again. So nice, they had to tell us twice. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, our countdown to 2008, money talks. But the dollars tell different stories at different audio volumes.
Giuliani's campaign saying the 18 million he's collected with no debt puts him ahead of his rivals and in good shape to compete in the early expensive primaries next February. Giuliani, the only top Republican who's fund raising is on the rise so far. As for his nearest rival, Mitt Romney's donations are in a slump, down seven million from the first quarters, despite a multi state TV ad blitz, and a 6.5 million dollar loan from himself to himself.
Romney now spending more than 20 million of his own cash to keep the campaign afloat.
When it comes to dollars and donors, the Democrats are getting the most by far. Senator Clinton, aided by appearances with her husband, raising 27 million dollars last quarter from 100,000 donors. Senator Barack Obama, also helped by deep dissatisfaction with Republicans and the war in Iraq, attracting an even more impressive 31 million for more than a quarter million contributors.
The top three Democrats thus amassing a 133 million dollar war chest to what the Republicans have so far this year, which is 92 million.
"Congressional Quarterly's" Craig Crawford joining us now to talk about money, politics and the 2008 campaign. His latest books, "the Politics of Life; 25 Rules for Survival in a Brutal and Manipulative World." Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: Democrats with more dollars, more donors than Republicans. At this point, is it a big deal? Is it a P.R. announcement? How big a turn about is it from past election cycles?
CRAWFORD: If this was the box office, the summer blockbusters, I'd say the Democrats look more like the new "Die Hard" movie and Republicans a bit like "Water World," one of the big flops of history. It does matter and it's a change from the past. Republicans always raise a lot.
There's an excitement gap between the Democrats and the Republicans. We see it in the polls. Not a whole lot of enthusiasm for the Republican candidates. A lot of dissatisfaction. You have a president whose political standing has collapsed. The party is split over immigration, Iraq. When you talk to Republicans, Keith, sometimes publicly, and quite a lot privately, they'll just tell you, we're depressed.
OLBERMANN: So it's "Die Hard's" John McLean versus John McCain. The other number that comes out here, the total number of donors, especially in the Obama number of 258,000. Is that really meaningful? Is that padded to some degree? What does it mean?
CRAWFORD: It represents a change in how Democrats are raising money. It's something they have needed to do for a long time. They were really addicted to the old soft money that's now banned, the big donations. Oddly, Republicans were always way ahead in numbers of small donors.
Democrats are finally catching up and figuring out.
You know, one thing in particular that Obama has done, that Edwards and Clinton are picking up on, is paid events, low dollar paid events. So you get 3,000 people to come to an event and pay 15 dollars, 25 a head, then you get a large list of donors there. That's a database that becomes very effective later in the campaign. And presumably Democrats will share these databases they are putting together for whoever is the eventual nominee. It shows Democrats can finally compete in the money race.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, the Obama camp is in the news for something else. Last night in Iowa, a 24-year-old man arrested by the Secret Service outside Obama's hotel. He had an illegal eight-inch knife in his car, no drivers license, from Cincinnati, whatever that means in this. It may not be his first run-in with the security for Senator Obama. We know about that early assignment of Secret Service to the senator. What do we hear about overall security in the Obama campaign?
CRAWFORD: If anything, this guy picked a bad day to engage the local constabulary. I learned from this. I didn't know you needed a license for a knife over eight inches. I'll remember that when I go to Iowa. I don't know if there was any real security threat. But it also shows the frenzy around Obama, the media focus. The only reason we know this is because the campaign bus, the press bus, a bunch of the reporters saw this guy being questioned, started asking about it.
But clearly, I think Obama is a security concern, as an African American and a charismatic candidate who stirs a lot of passions. That's one reason he got Secret Service protection early. You know, with the polarizing in our politics, Keith, I've worried a long time about a security threat. And we have been lucky for many years now that we haven't seen any kind of threats, or anyone actually taking a shot or something at a presidential candidate.
I'm so glad for that. But I worry about it. It's been a long time.
OLBERMANN: Indeed, we have been lucky. And indeed, we all need to remind everybody on every part of the political spectrum, that can't even be considered. Let me turn to excitement and a problem of a different kind. You wrote that the Democratic grassroots are obviously stirred up about the commutation of the Libby sentence. And that's a problem for Democratic leaders. Why is that the case?
CRAWFORD: I think it's sort of like the war. Condemning it with harsh language might not be enough to satisfy the base. These Democratic-base voters are looking for action. The House Judiciary Committee is going to hold a hearing next week. That might be enough. But Democratic leaders, Keith, worry about too many investigations of the administration, becoming a reminder of how that backfired against Republicans when Bill Clinton was in office.
They don't want to go back to that. They worry about main stream voters getting disgusted by Washington just getting shut down with investigations. But, at the same time, their base voters want to see some of that.
OLBERMANN: Our own Craig Crawford, also columnist, of course, for "Congressional Quarterly," great thanks, as ever, for being with us.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, the first actual video of the president commuting Scooter Libby sentence. Sorry. As the eagle becomes unendangered, how the turkey almost became our official bird.
And a "Sex and The City" movie. That's striking when the iron is hot. So to quote "Family Guy," it's about three hookers and their mom. Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Ironic isn't it that the Secret Service code name for Vice-President Cheney is angler? There will soon be hearings into whether or not Cheney's behind the scenes manipulations triggered a major environmental disaster in the north west five years ago, the largest fish kill ever, costing taxpayers 60 million. And according to today's "Los Angeles Times," the Bush administration has added fewer species to the endangered list than any presidents.
But the number two story on the COUNTDOWN, let's look at the environmental bright side, thanks to the renewed health of the Bald Eagle population, George W. Bush will forever be known as the president who gave us the bird.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): As you stuff yourself to the point of nearly getting sick and illegally use fireworks to blow up mannequins of children, remember for a moment our friend, the Bald Eagle. Four decades after it was declared endangered -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eagle has returned.
OLBERMANN: You are correct, sir. In honor of Independence Day, the Bald Eagle has taken itself off the endangered species list. It was the Continental Congress which appointed the bird our official symbol in 1782, the centerpiece of the great seal of the United States. With outstretched wings, its talons balance the powers of war and peace.
Not all welcomed the beak. The dissent, from Ben Franklin, writing in a letter to his daughter, I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen representative of our country. He's a bird of bad moral character.
That's right, buddy, bad moral character. Franklin's choice? The wild turkey. The turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird, Mr. Franklin continued, though a little vane and silly, a bird of courage.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press would be having a field day with that to the present day, wouldn't they?
OLBERMANN: Yes, we would be. And thus began the wild turkey's dramatic tale spin into a life of alcoholism and embarrassment.
BUSH: See, the turkey was already nervous to begin with. Nobody told him yet about the pardoned I'm about to give him?
OLBERMANN: Oh, he meant the bird. If the turkey was impressed, the eagle found itself imperiled. Decades of rapid expansion and poaching threatened its population and habitat. Ultimately, it was exposure to the pesticide DDT that led to the bird's dramatic decline. By 1967, the Bald Eagle was heading the way of the Do Do Bird, and pronounced endangered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man has become the Bald Eagle's worst enemy.
OLBERMANN: But this cultural icon remained resolute, finding itself on the sidelines and on spacecraft.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Eagle has landed.
OLBERMANN: Finding itself fodder for satire, for material for the Muppets.
Shifting from endangered to de-listed, providing inspiration to the United States Postal Service, and the Steve Miller Band.
And the eagle is back from the brink.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if the bird went down or didn't.
OLBERMANN: Just keep your eagle away from that guy.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our national symbol isn't the ostrich. It's the eagle. That's the way it should be.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of stuff that seems to date to the founding of the nation, news finally of a "Sex in The City" movie leading off our entertainment department, Keeping Tabs, tonight. Just three years and five months after the last new television episode. Nevertheless, the TV Guide people reporting that the whole team of happy warriors has swallowed the bait.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Catrall, Cynthia Nixon and Christine Davis agreeing with Newline Cinema to start filming in September. Last TV episode February 22nd, 2004. There have been changes since the show went off the air. Miss Nixon declared her romantic orientation as being somewhat different from that her character, Miranda. And, of course, Miss Katrall is now 206 years old.
Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have developed a sudden penchant for letter writing. For Miss Spears, it is by way of explanation. You may recall that earlier this year, she attacked a photographer's car with an umbrella. She was apparently angry because Kevin Federline would not let her see her kids before she left for rehab. But now, in a handwritten letter to "X-17 Online," she apologize, explaining that, quote, I was preparing for a character for a possibly movie role where the husband does not play his part, so they swap places." It involved umbrella attacks?
"Unfortunately, I didn't get the part."
Meantime, Miss Hilton has written to a letter to fans on her MySpace page in which she looks forward to some exciting new projects and reminds everyone to have a designated driver. Here's the first advanced clip from that "Sex in The City" movie. No, it's the annual protest prior to the annual running of the bulls. Thus, for all of us, it become the time of festival.
That's ahead. First time for COUNTDOWN's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to the Ikea company, building another one in China, in Nanjing. Construction workers had to clear out the building that was there before. It consisted of 10 tombs dating back to China's six dynasties period, about 1,800 years ago, tombs built from green bricks, embroidered with ornate lotus patterns. Destroyed. Don't worry, they're going to put all the coffins back and surround them with Lerbergs (ph) Vibbins (ph) and Eciscogs (ph).
The runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh. He took a call from a 13-year-old kid named Patrick on his radio program. Patrick complained he was forced to read liberal magazine like "Time" and "Newsweek" in school, which explained that the globe was getting warming. But he doubted that because his parents doubted it. So comedian replied, there are liberals everywhere. You may think that just because your town is conservative, there are liberals. They're hiding in the shadows and they're lurking there. And they're around. And the odds are that many are in the school system.
Yes, they're lurking, those people with actual educations and brains. Why didn't you tell Patrick to ignore those liberal scientists who tell him not to use mom and dad's prescription drugs for recreation. Here's some advice for you, Patrick, why don't you make your own mind up, so you don't wind up like comedian Rush Limbaugh.
But our winner, right wing water carrier Neil Bortz, now reduced to telling flat out lies. Quote, "Scooter Libby and Bill Clinton got sentenced and convicted for exactly the same crime." Clinton was never even indicted. And when he was impeached, he was acquitted. Caller actually got through to say he didn't remember Clinton being convicted of perjury.
Bortz responded, I'm sorry he was. The caller insisted and so did Bortz. We're talking about a criminal trial, sir. The verdict was guilty. So, Neil, either that happened in that alternative universe you live in or you dreamed it. Either way, probably time for you to shut up now. Neil Bortz, literally making up history as he goes along, today's Worst Person in the World!
OLBERMANN: Summertime makes people do things they normally would not. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, when you get a bunch of those people together in one place, it's a festival. Exhibit A, getting naked, You known, for the animals. Today, the sixth annual running of nudes in Pamplona, Spain, two days before the start of the running of the bulls.
The event, organized by the animal rights group PETA; its mission to show people - no, show that you can have a great time running through the streets of Pamplona without hurting any male cows and without hurting yourself, except maybe your ego. On Saturday, that other run begins. We at COUNTDOWN always root for the species that never stands a chance here, the bulls.
As for rights of stupidity worldwide, there is no limit. And the COUNTDOWN hall of fame offers its tent.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): It is open year-round, but you want to check your calendar before visiting this exhibit, since you may need a helmet to enter the wing of stupid traditions. Here, we celebrate the strange and dangerous things people do year after year all around the world just because; annual events that keep our newscasts filled with interesting video, but also make one wonder what's going on in the empty heads of the participants.
Why, for instance, each year in August do the people of Bunyo (ph), Spain engage in Tomatina (ph), a giant, messy, tomato food fight. Some sort of ketchup shortage? They do the same thing with Oranges in Italy. It signifies an ancient town folk revolt that had nothing to do with oranges, but hey, orange you glad they didn't choose coconuts?
In Galatziti (ph), Greece it's flour. They throw flour at each other. Then the spring rains come and the streets run brown with gravy. The grand daddy of them all, of course, is the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Why for nine days in July each year do man and male cow risk life and limb alike in this bizarre spectical? No one there really knows for sure, especially the bulls.
Trust me if they knew what was waiting for them in the stadium at the end of each day's run, we'd see a lot more bulls offense on the cobble stones. But traditions don't have to involve the slaughter of animals, nor the waste of food to be stupid. In fact, our favorites usually involve people hurting themselves.
Take, for example, the cheese roll in Gloucestershire, England. Only one hunk of cheese is wasted. Of course, all of the participants are wasted. Roll the cheese down the hill, break an ankle, drink some more. It's a formula that has endured for hundreds of years for some reason. They have a hill in Japan too, but they raise the stakes a bit. They added a big log to the mix. No, it's not very safe, but safety doesn't get you into the COUNTDOWN hall of fame, does it?
It does not. Here we only honor the upper echelon of hazardous tradition, the once a year fire walking, belly flopping, bed racing, wife carrying, unsafe boating, bun snatching, dangerous to themselves and other. Why do they do it? One reason and one reason alone beats in their breast, because they did it last year, and the year before that and the year before that.
That's not just stupid, that's hall of fame stupid.
OLBERMANN: And that's COUNTDOWN for this the 1,527th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.