'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 30
Guests: James Moore, Cenk Uygur, Yeardley Smith
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Gonzo-gate, the walls close in on the attorney general. By Friday, correct his testimony to the Senate or face a perjury inquiry. By midweek, figure out how to forestall the congressman who just moved his impeachment. And by yesterday, find a Republican, any Republican, who will go on FOX "Noise" just to defend him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": We invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales. We had no takers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There are takers in Iraq. The parliament takes the month vacation. The new British prime minister tries to tell the president how he will be taking his troops home. And seemingly everybody takes a percentage off the top. Fraud called the "second insurgency" there.
Speaking of frauds, at the witching hour for the Murdoch bid to engulf and devour The Wall Street Journal, what to do about a channel whose news seems to be 50 percent opinion and 50 percent sleaze?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Do you have clothes on? I mean, is it two women together? It's not a negligee situation or anything like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From one of our guests, a modest proposal on how to handle the most immodest of channels.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Ingmar Bergman is dead, and Tom Snyder, and football's Bill Walsh, and another man just as good as any of them who you probably don't know.
And the little yellow people meet the big screen. "The Simpsons Movie." Yeardley Smith, who plays Lisa, joins us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE SIMPSONS")
YEARDLEY SMITH, "LISA SIMPSON": Dad, do something!
DAN CASTELLANETA, "HOMER SIMPSON": This book doesn't have any answers!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except to this question, which a film made $72 million this weekend? All that and more now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. "I am a big fan of Al's," those are the words of Dick Cheney to CBS Radio this afternoon. Our fifth story on the Countdown. He was not talking about Gore or Franken. The vice president and the president, at this hour, anyway, the only people left in the White House, perhaps even in Washington who are willing to defend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in public.
And the president isn't even talking about it in public. Steadfastly ignoring the clamor for an investigation or even impeachment of the AG. In the House, Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee is sponsoring a resolution to the Judiciary Committee to commence impeachment proceedings posthaste.
Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut saying the attorney general would "do us all a favor if he stepped down."
And in the Senate, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee there, Arlen Specter, says he was waiting at least until he heard from the White House today to see if Mr. Gonzales lied to Congress. He says the White House will issue a letter by noon tomorrow addressing the discrepancies.
The chairman of that committee, Senator Leahy, giving Gonzales until Friday to clear up discrepancies, inconsistencies in his report, but stopping short of supporting a perjury investigation if he does not correct his testimony.
Four other Democrats on that committee, though, have already asked the solicitor general for such an inquiry into that testimony. A called echoed in and amplified by a New York Times editorial this weekend. Quoting:
"Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request. If that does happen," The Times writes, "Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales."
Any supporters of the attorney general, excluding his boss and his boss' boss, are apparently invisible. Even FOX "Noise" could not find anyone to say anything good about him this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: Both the president and the
country are better served if the attorney general is seen as a figure of
probity and a figure of integrity and a figure of competence. And sadly,
the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. And I
think that it is a liability for the president, but more importantly, it is
a liability for the United States of America
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: The attorney general, in my view, has at least lied to Congress and may have committed perjury.
WALLACE: We invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales. We had no takers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Did you call Brit Hume? Cue the crickets. I'm joined now by our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor for Newsweek magazine.
Great thanks for your time tonight, Jon.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: When even "FOX News Sunday" can't get someone to defend this man, even from the White House, is it not official that he is so many more times a liability than he is worth to this administration no matter how good a friend he has been to the president in their many incarnations together?
ALTER: Yes, Gonzo is gone-zo. It is just a matter of time. It could be this week. If it takes longer, it could go to impeachment. Because unlike impeaching the president or vice president, which is kind of a nonstarter on Capitol Hill, there is considerable support for impeaching Gonzales if there isn't a formal investigation by the Justice Department.
They only need a majority vote to impeach him on the House side. I do not think it will come to that. I think he will be forced to resign before that. You may recall that Dick Cheney's endorsement of Don Rumsfeld.
ALTER: . did not do Rumsfeld any good. And he was gone when it became enough of a liability. Although it took an awful long time. And the same will happen eventually for Gonzales.
OLBERMANN: Would this explain Senator Leahy's treading carefully around the question of the perjury investigation given that four of his fellow Democrats have already asked the solicitor general for that kind of investigation, given this introduction of a House resolution for impeachment if there is no revision or response by Gonzales by Friday?
Do You think Leahy has some sense that the goose is cooked here and why go after it with more weaponry than is needed?
ALTER: That may well be, and they are also waiting for this kind of last chance explanation. Gonzales's people leaked to The New York Times that he was talking about a different kind of surveillance program, a data mining program, and therefore, had not technically lied to the Congress, even though the head of the FBI, Bob Mueller, made it pretty clear that he had.
So he has got sort of one more chance to prove that he did not lie. The problem is they have got another star witness, a former Justice Department official now at Harvard named Jack Goldsmith who has been invited to testify. And he clearly believes that there was serious disagreement about the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
That is the perjury question, Keith. Attorney General Gonzales said there was no disagreement within the Justice Department and there are a lot of people who will tell you that there was much disagreement and that the attorney general was not being truthful before Congress. And I think eventually he will pay the consequences for that.
OLBERMANN: Do you think we are this point? I just implied this with my last question specifically regarding Leahy, but could there be one of the proverbial backroom deal going on here to make sure that there is no actual perjury investigation, that's there is none of this bizarre, almost dirty feel to an investigation by the Department of Justice of the guy running the Department of Justice just to get him out of the way?
And if there is anything like that going on, is the last line of defense here the president?
ALTER: Well, it is a pretty good bet if the White House did not send anybody out to defend him to FOX News over the weekend that, you know, he is down to his last few bullets. And I think the next 48 hours will tell.
But it may well be, as you say, that there has been some kind of deal cooked up. Although there are not a lot of relationships between the Democrats on the Hill and the White House now. They don't trust each other. So it may be that this plays out in public. And if his explanation is not good enough by the end of the week, then he will be gone.
OLBERMANN: But if you wait any longer than that, you have the recess coming up and the replacement, a new AG could come in at during the time that Congress is not in Washington, correct?
ALTER: That might be something that the White House favors. So you could see that play out that way. But if the recess comes and goes and there has not been a change and they play for more time with the recess, when they do come back, then you'll see a lot more talk about impeachment.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, as always, great thanks for your time.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The problem Gonzales faces is not isolated to any one statement. It is a growing pattern, a pattern that may have its roots in his resume in Texas. He served as a state supreme court judge, secretary of state, general counsel to the governor. Since then he has served as White House Counsel, now of course, U.S. attorney general.
In his five appointments to public positions, spanning over a decade, he has never been chosen by anyone other than George W. Bush. Pulling himself up by Mr. Bush's bootstraps, he has helped conceal Mr. Bush's illegal wiretapping, torture, abuses of the Patriot Act, U.S. attorney firings, and even his drunk driving conviction, which would have come out in 1996 had Mr. Gonzales not gotten Mr. Bush out of jury duty.
Let's turn now to Jim Moore, co-author of "Bush's Brain," contributor huffingtonpost.com, who has covered the Bush-Gonzales tandem acts since before they took it on the road.
Jim, great thanks for your time tonight.
JAMES MOORE, CO-AUTHOR, "BUSH'S BRAIN": Hi, Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: If we stipulate that Karl Rove is Mr. Bush's brain, can we assign a physical organ or mental faculty to Mr. Gonzales?
MOORE: I don't know. Maybe he is his bipolar buddy or his pathological pal, I'm not sure. He certainly exhibits a certain amount of pathology when interacting with reality. But you know, Keith, the perfect example of this relationship I think is the attorney purge scandal.
That was hatched by Rove, taken to the president, the president said, yes, let's do it. And Rove took it to the attorney general and the attorney general executed it. He did not ask questions. He would not have thought about the implications. He would have only thought about what the president wanted. And that is how he got into this mess.
OLBERMANN: The defense best offered of Mr. Gonzales seems to be that he simply lacks imagination. That is the polite way of putting it, or brain power, that's the impolite way of putting it. Is he capable about outwitting Congress, or has he met his match here?
MOORE: No. He can't outwit anybody. I think - it is amazing to me that people actually think that this man is smart. If the administration of George W. Bush has proved anything, it is that you can go to a top flight East Coast school and get an advanced degree and not be a very bright person.
And this is his case. He dissembles in a way that he hopes will cover up something that he said before. But he can't really remember what he said before. This is not the brightest guy.
OLBERMANN: What limits, if any, have we seen Mr. Gonzales put on his protection of Mr. Bush on this bipolar reference that you have made here? This - have we seen him say, this far and no further?
MOORE: No. I have never encountered that. I've never seen it here in Texas, the kinds of things that he was willing to do in the very notorious incident of going before a judge which he then claimed he didn't have the meeting, even though the judge and the lawyer present in the meeting here in Texas said that he came in and asked the governor be recused from jury duty because he might be asked to pardon that person.
And then Gonzales said it didn't happen. This is the kind of thing that happened here and is happening in Washington. It has been happening throughout the course of tenure with this administration.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let's spin it to today. Does their past shed any light on how this plays out from here? Would the president actually can him? Would he fall on his sword? How do they play this out? Is it one of those things where if Mr. Bush said to Mr. Gonzales, time for you to go, he would go - he would just snap a salute and get out?
MOORE: I'll tell you, Keith, it was interesting. I think it's a precarious business. I heard Jonathan Alter predicting the demise of Mr. Gonzales here in the next week or so. I don't really see that happening unless there is a calculus where Rove says to the president, we've got to cut him loose.
Remember that Donald Rumsfeld a lot longer than anybody thought he would be. And he did not have the history that Mr. Gonzales has with the president. And remember also there might not even be a Bush administration if Al Gonzales hadn't made that deal here to keep him off jury duty. It would have exposed a part of his past that would've been dissected by the media to damage the president before he got to be president.
OLBERMANN: Wow. How would you like to wake up every morning thinking of that? If it weren't for me, there would never have been a Bush administration. Jim Moore, the co-author of "Bush's Brain".
MOORE: I don't have that guilt.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And contributor to the Huffington Post. Great thanks, as always, Jim.
MOORE: You bet.
OLBERMANN: And more trouble for the Republican Party tonight. Veteran Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is being raided by the IRS and the FBI. Both organizations currently searching his home in Girdwood, Alaska. The Justice Department has already been investigating a construction project that more than doubled the size of that house seven years ago.
The investigation centers around Veco, an oil equipment and services outfit, and whether it may have improperly paid for those renovations. Two top executives at Veco just pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators.
Senator Stevens this evening resorting to the same tactic the administration used for Scooter Libby, saying in statement: "I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded."
Another story still developing tonight, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, spending the night in a hospital after suffering what a Supreme Court spokesman says was a benign seizure at his summer home in Maine.
Roberts, taken to the hospital conscious and alert and even talkative. He suffered minor scrapes falling as a result of what is called an idiopathic seizure, one with no known origin. A spokeswoman says a neurological scan turned up nothing of concern. The chief justice, now 52 years old, suffered a similar episode in 1993.
How could anything get worse in the continuing episode that is Iraq? How about if the last thing the politicians there did before taking a vacation was to criticize General Petraeus?
And Rupert Murdoch's bid to take over The Wall Street Journal, it may be on the skids, as might the name FOX News after an idea that is simple and simply genius.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It might be a good time to update the president's now famous remark that he won't withdraw from Iraq even if the first lady and his dog Barney are the only ones left supporting him. It may be getting closer.
The fourth story on the Countdown, the dog days of summer and no sign of relief for the president or his policies. A get-acquainted meeting at Camp with Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, failing to produce any commitment on the future of the remaining 5,500 British troops in Iraq, the last vestige of the president's coalition of the willing.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi parliament taking off for the summer recess after feuding among Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish factions failed to produce new laws that might have helped stabilize the country. A hasty retreat on a day when the U.S. military reported three more troop deaths.
The man now running the surge, General David Petraeus, denying reports of angry exchanges between himself and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki over the U.S. military having paid Sunni insurgents to attack al Qaeda militants.
And six weeks before General Petraeus is scheduled to brief Congress on the effectiveness of the surge, he said it again today, it could take two more years before the Iraqis can provide their own security.
We are joined now by Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The meeting with the new British prime minister, Mr. Brown, how did that go? And will Gordon Brown be, let's put it kindly, less predictable on Iraq and his predecessor, Mr. Blair?
WOLFFE: Well, it has been a strange couple of months for Gordon Brown. Everyone had predicted that he would actually be trying to break with President Bush, not least because of his own political problems back home.
In fact, what we have seen in the last couple of months is him performing very well with terrorist problems in Britain and also the flooding over there. And conservatives - the opposition conservatives are collapsing.
So I think the pressure was off Gordon Brown today and he delivered actually some pretty strong remarks aligning himself with President Bush. But I have to tell you, having talked recently to British officials, what they're really hoping for, the people around Gordon Brown - what they are dreaming of is Prime Minister Brown working closely with President Hillary Clinton. That is what they are really thinking about.
OLBERMANN: Turning to other political intrigues, there are reports that the Iraqi prime minister, Mr. Maliki, who is a Shiite, is demanding that President Bush replaced General Petraeus because he has been using Sunnis as mercenaries. The general's spokesman says Maliki has not complained directly to the president.
What are we hearing about Petraeus' policy and this reported feud?
WOLFFE: Well, it is very open. I mean, Maliki's aides are actually telling the Associated Press how much they hate Petraeus and his policy. And it does stem from these ethnic sectarian fault lines in Iraq. You know, Petraeus' strategy of arming the Sunni militia has worked against al Qaeda, but it is clearly alienating a prime minister who was put in place by Shia militia.
And this is the problem, no matter how much progress Petraeus makes, and there are signs of some progress out in western Iraq, the political will to overcome these divides is further away than ever. That is what this dispute really underscores.
OLBERMANN: There are too disturbing reports about the state of Iraq that do not really pertain directly to the violence. There is this from Oxfam that says that one-third of Iraqis, more than 8 million people are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food, shelter.
This other thing is from the Congressional study that says theft and fraud in Iraq is out of control and it has cost the U.S. billions of dollars. It describes corruption as a "second insurgency" in the war. As if we needed more problems to contemplate there.
WOLFFE: Right. Remember, that is a third, 8 million Iraqis lacking basic services after the United States has spent $20 billion on reconstruction there. And why hasn't it worked? Well, yes, there has been violence, but a lot of it has been because of corruption.
So these two things are linked here. And, to me, the - both reports really underscore that devastating report from Johns Hopkins just a year or two ago. More than 600,000 Iraqis have died since this conflict began. And these numbers, you are really looking at the destruction of a sort of nation state in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: I'll touch on this briefly later in the show, but in the context of what we are hearing from these two reports and everything that we are hearing about the military problems and everything we are hearing about the political problems, what happened at the Brookings Institution? Two analysts came back after a week there with glowing reviews of the impact of the surge?
WOLFFE: Well, it's curious. Michael O'Hanlon is a serious guy, a defense analyst. Ken Pollack has had a strange trajectory on this war. He authored a book, "The Gathering Storm" which the administration flacked around as a - in the run-up to the war, as their best case for war, and has since been something of a critic.
Look, these guys are focusing on the defense situation and a lot of the advances that we were talking about just a moment ago with Petraeus have really come from the ground up. They pre-date the surge, they're to do with different politics in the Sunni tribes that have nothing to do with American politics.
What matters here is whether the Iraqis will get their act together, and at the political level, it does not look like it.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of Newsweek and MSNBC. As always, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And a day of sad losses in four aspects of American culture, we will remember them all, especially the late Tom Snyder.
And our mad rush towards the cliff continues on unabated, led by tonight's "Worst Person" finalists, including comedian Rush Limbaugh, when Countdown continues.
OLBERMANN: If you think of terrorism or attacks here as recent inventions, 91 years ago tonight German saboteurs got to a storage facility in Black Tom Island, New Jersey, near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. They lit it ablaze. As much as 2 million pounds of ammunition awaiting shipment to the Allies in Europe for the First World War detonated.
The explosion blew out doorways in Times Square and broke windows within a 25-mile radius. It sent shrapnel flying for a mile and was felt as far away as Philadelphia. Immigrants being processed at Ellis Island had to be evacuated and as many as seven people were killed.
On that cautionary note let's play "Oddball." We begin in Hamburg, in Germany it is the Splash Diving World Cup, which is fancy talk for world cannonball championships. The idea is to place the largest amount of water with an intentionally bad dive. Most competitors chose the traditional 10-meter board, but the real ballers jumped from the 30-meter crane.
Je ne regrette rien!
This Australian guy survived the 90-foot plunge unharmed and afterward displayed true class by paying a compliment to his German hosts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pain tolerance of the Germans, they don't feel nothing in their asses, you know what I'm saying?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The prime minister, everybody. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.
Staying in Europe, to the Netherlands where they're really excited about balloons, really excited about balloons. This is the Hot Air Condom Balloon in this oversized - well, some say it's oversized, 127-foot tall model is the work of public health officials who are hoping to call attention to the country can's STD problem.
Organizers want to submit the big jimmy to the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest condom in the world after which it will donate it to Britain's pagan god of fertility, the Cerne Abbas Giant.
If it isn't news and it isn't going away, what to do with FOX "Noise," and the non-evil part of FOX, it makes money, too. Lisa, actress Yeardley Smith joins us after the big boffo opening of the weekend of "The Simpsons Movie."
Details ahead, but first, Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Mitt Romney. The Republican presidential hopeful has already tied the current commander-in-chief as an Internet Luddite, explaining: "YouTube is a Web site that allows kids to network with one another and make friends and exact each other. YouTube looked to see if they had any convicted sex offenders on their Web site. They had 29,000."
No, that would be MySpace. YouTube is where they have the collection of 29,000 gaffes by Mitt Romney.
Number two, Don Frick who has experienced anecdotally impossible number two. Mr. Frick of Hamlin, Pennsylvania, was hit by lightning on July 27th, 1980, and he was hit by lightning a second time, last Friday, July 27th, 2007. Not a problem this time. A burned zipper and hole in the back of his jeans.
And number one, Olive Beal in the town of Deal in Kent in England, she has been told she will have to wait 18 months to get a new improved digital hearing aid. The delay would be annoying for anybody, but for her it's a particular issue since Ms. Beal is 108 years old.
It's the thought that counts!
OLBERMANN: It was like most great revelations unintentional when Ann Coulter suggested that the Democrats' most recent debate should be bought and played relentlessly during the general election, since it was filled with quote, "liberal conspiracy theories that would frighten normal Americans," unquote. But Coultergeist said that "Fox News" should buy it, perhaps inadvertently underscoring the obvious that fixed noise is more akin to an arm of the Republican Party, turning out Republican talking points. Our third story in the Countdown, how to call an opinion network an opinion network. This as word comes that is the Monday 5:00 p.m. deadline for Dow Jones shareholders to indicate whether they wanted to sell to "Fox's" mandarin Rupert Murdoch, that would be "The Wall Street Journal." He is apparently not going to get it. Murdoch still getting only about 28 percent support from the current shareholders among the Bancroft family, that would not be enough support for him to take over the venerable business paper. So one nightmare averted but how to roll back the other. Joining me now the man who has the answer, Cenk Uygur, whose program on "Air America" is called "The Young Turks." Thanks for your time tonight sir?
CENK UYGUR, AIR AMERICA'S "YOUNG TURKS": Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: How do we recognize that it isn't "Fox News," it's "Fox Opinion." Go to it.
UYGUR: Well I think it's really simple. The whole country realizes it. If you ask anybody in the street is "Fox News Channel" conservative, they say, of course! Of course it's conservative. The only people who don't recognize it unfortunately is the mainstream media and they're making a big mistake by letting that Trojan horse roll in and pretend that they're a journalistic organization and that they do real reporting. Because then "Fox" turns around and says, hey, listen, see, you can't trust the news because there is a lot of fake stuff in the news, they stuff that they planted when they rolled the Trojan horse in.
OLBERMANN: What has it practically done, then? How do we label them "Fox Opinion?"
UYGUR: Well I think that one of the ways that we do it is by doing it at the convention level, whether it's the Democratic convention, even the Republican convention, but since they work together, that's not likely to happen. But actually more important, at media conventions and television conventions, etc. It's important for the industry, for journalism itself and for television news itself to say hey, whose opinion and who is doing actual objective news.
OLBERMANN: So what happened? Do you think "Fox" is going to endorse this idea or doesn't it matter? If it doesn't object it's essentially agreeing it's an opinion outfit and not a news outfit but if it resists, is that useful from your point of view as well?
UYGUR: Absolutely because you know what, Keith, what we need is a debate in this country and an understanding of what "Fox" is. Because here they are, they come in, in the 2000 election and they hired Bush's cousin to call the election for Bush, and the thing is they drive the rest of the media, unfortunately, "CNN" and sometimes even MSNBC and certainly all the networks treat them as if they're a real news organization. We should finally have a debate as to whether that's true or not true so that we at least know what we're getting here. I mean, we need a truth in advertising. If you're selling tuna and I want tuna, great. But if you say you're selling tuna and you sell me baloney, I might like baloney but that's not what I bought.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, even orange juice in this country has to have a certain percentage both of juice and orange in it. But what about blowback here? Does somebody then say, well, ok, let's make NBC opinion media, let's make "The New York Times" opinion media, let's make the "Associated Press" opinion media. Don't we have an opinion media war break out if we go ahead this way?
UYGUR: Well I think it's positive for journalism and for reporting in general to figure out where the lines are, ok. Because right now in essence that's what FOX does to the rest of the media anyway. They say, hey, listen, you know what, oh see, we're opinionated, we're conservative and they're liberal, let's call it even. But they're not liberal. We're -
I'm at "Air America," we're liberal, ok. And we're opinion media and we're at least telling it like it is. We're not trying to deceive our audience like "Fox News Channel" is. And the rest of the objective journalism has to make that delineation and if they don't the Trojan horse campaign works, basically, "Fox" says, hey, you know, who brings you the facts, the news does, the media does, professors do, scientists do, don't believe any of the facts, instead believe our propaganda. And real journalists, it is their lifeline for that campaign to not work.
OLBERMANN: That's right, there's always two points of view. This guy over here believes in gravity and this other guy doesn't. We'll let you decide at home. Cenk Uygur of "Air America's The Young Turks," thanks for your time tonight Cenk.
UYGUR: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: Much to reflect upon tonight. Passings in sports and in movies. Very simply, probably the greatest filmmaker of all time has died. And maybe the most versatile newsman of all time as well. One final colortini raised to the memory of the chief when Countdown continues.
OLBERMANN: If you love movies, watch television news, like football or baseball, this has been a day of loss. We'll look back on the lives of four exceptional people. And Phil O. does not make the list, so it's up to Brit Hume to defend "Fox's" dishonor in the worst person finals against comedian Rush Limbaugh. That's next, this is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It's hard to recall a day when so many different and disparate aspects of American culture were simultaneously touched by sadness, from sports to television news to film. Our number two story on the Countdown, ask not for whom the bell tolls, the loss tonight of Tom Snyder, Bill Walsh, Bill Robinson and Ingmar Bergman. The image that first comes to us from his work is of a knight playing chess versus death. It was in the "Seventh Seal" in 1957, the film that launched Bergman to international fame and indelible places, a director who could somehow take subjects as serious as madness. The black plague, death, infidelity, and bring to them not just insight and original perspective, but even humor and entertainment and life. There were at least 62 Bergman films, tapestries of light and shadow, inexplicably only 1982's "Fanny and Alexander" was even nominated as best foreign film for the Oscars. Ingmar Bergman inspired filmmakers as diverse as Richard Attenborough and Woody Allen. He died at his home on an island off the Swedish coast at the age of 89. He had never fully recovered from hip surgery last fall.
Meanwhile, probably nobody ever enjoyed being on television more than did Tom Snyder. This was a newsman with more skills and more interests than his era probably permitted. By turns credible and serious and silly and self-deprecating, Snyder won journalistic acclimation, TV awards and ratings races as a local newscaster in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York in the 60's and 70's. He was never offered a national newscast except on the weekends. Largely because of his success with an experimental late night program on NBC called "Tomorrow." Tom Snyder was willing to interview not just politicians and stodgy public figures but conspiracy theorists and crackpots and Charles Manson and Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and the singer Meatloaf to whom to his eternal embarrassment and not so secret guilty pleasure, he once referred for 10 minutes as meatball. His trademarks, the smoking black eyebrows, the confidential lean-in towards the guest, the cigarette, the defying laugh were parodied by Dan Aykroyd on "Saturday Night Live" and that brought him more viewers still and fewer network news assignments.
"Tomorrow" was canceled in 1982 to make room for "David Letterman." Snyder continued to do local news in New York and L.A. and had a successful talk show on CNBC. And in an ironic twist returned to network TV in 1995 when "Letterman" selected him to host the show following his own on CBS. It was there that we found out we were fans of one another and then did a few of the goofiest interviews ever, some on his show, some on mine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Think of all the kids who watched the "Tomorrow" show when they were 14 like Brian Williams and myself and said maybe I can do this.
TOM SNYDER: Exactly right. And you know what's flattering to me is there are a lot of kids who watch now and like the other night we were talking - what the hell were we talking about the other night?
OLBERMANN: Skip it because I'm out of time.
SNYDER: I understand but as I said, half the crowd watching doesn't even know what that is but can I give you a fast story before I go?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, go ahead.
SNYDER: You're out of time.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming on the show, Tom.
SNYDER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Tom, and thank you not only for having me here but also for the inspiration you provided in my career.
SNYDER: Oh stop it.
OLBERMANN: I'm absolutely seriously. Because, bottom line, when I was growing up with these eyebrows I knew that there was a future for me in broadcasting. But seriously, thank you, Tom. It's been a pleasure watching you all these years.
SNYDER: All right, thanks Keith. Have a great weekend and thanks again for joining us.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tom Snyder retired from television when the CBS program was canceled in 1998 and he stayed that way, maybe the only broadcaster of his stature to stick to such an exit. Two years ago he revealed he had what was believed to be a treatable form of leukemia. He succumbed to it yesterday at the age of 71. Nobody enjoyed television more than Tom Snyder except perhaps those of us who were fortunate enough to get to watch him do it.
One of the great innovators of football has also succumbed after a long struggle with leukemia. Bill Walsh, winner of three super bowls in just 10 years as coach of the San Francisco 49ers. His was the west coast offense, a short intricately timed passing game which he perfected at Stanford and which he used to transform a 49ers team that had lost 14-16 games the year before he joined them. A rookie coach at the age of 47. He turned them into the champions just three years later behind the quarterbacking of Joe Montana. His insight into offense was such that he could literally script the first four or 15 or 25 plays of a game, write them out beforehand. Eight of his former assistant coaches became NFL head coaches, already eight of their assistants have also become NFL head coaches. And Bill Walsh went to the pro football hall of fame. He was 75 years old.
And as Shakespeare wrote, when sorrows come, they come not as single spies but in battalions. Baseball is mourning one of its beloved individuals aptly described today as a friend to everyone he met. Bill Robinson who was the minor league hitting coordinator of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been found dead in his hotel room in Las Vegas where he was to coach Dodger prospects. No cause of death has yet been revealed. 40 years ago Bill Robinson himself had been one of the minor league's top hitting prospects. Dealt to the Yankees he was merely asked to replace Roger Maris who had only broken Babe Ruth's home run record. Robinson hit 196 and went back to the minor leagues. There he taught himself how to hit again and resurfaced for 13 more seasons during which he twice hit better than .300 and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to the 1979 world championship. He got two more rings as a batting coach with the 1986 New York Mets and the 2003 Florida Marlins. In between he was an analyst at ESPN and a minor league manager who once invited a friend, me, to sit alongside him as a coach during a minor league game. He then got his entire team and the home plate umpire to pull a classic practical joke by getting me ejected by that ump from my only game in uniform. Bill Robinson saw me off that night with a big hug goodbye just as he did every time he saw me again later. He was just 64 years old.
And we move on with some much-needed comic relief and our congratulations to our guest upcoming, Yardley Smith, the voice of Lisa as "The Simpson's" masters of TV now conquer the big screen. That's ahead but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for worst person in the world. The bronze tonight, to analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, he's back from his tour of Iraq, telling anyone who will listen that the war "is going brilliantly at this point." Fair enough his viewpoint, his analysis. But he's being billed as he does this as a constant and consistent critic of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, which is odd considering that on October 5, 2003 O'Hanlon wrote a piece for "The San Diego Union Tribune" in which he claimed the U.S. led mission in Iraq is still quite likely to succeed over a time period of roughly three to five years. The lack of any unifying ideology for the resistance there makes it unlikely we will face a snowballing mass insurgency.
Who do you like for the super bowl this year, the Boston yanks or the Cleveland rams? Runner-up, comedian Rush Limbaugh. The guy spends a large percentage of his humorous monologue radio show every day dismissing the concept of global warming and mocking Al Gore and pounding anybody who says we need to take steps to reduce carbon emissions. So what commercial does he not only run but read himself on the radio? The personalized Limbaugh testimonial in which General Motors tries to convince us that their SUVs are not killing us all. The comedian actually says, gee, I'm as committed to helping the environment and they're committed to advancing alternative fuels including one whose, quote, only emission is water vapor. So you don't believe in global warming and anybody who does is a fool but you'll read a commercial using global warming as a marketing tool? That would make you a - what's the word? Prostitute.
But our winner, Brit Hume, of fixed noise, drinking the Bush-Giuliani Kool-aid again, claiming yesterday that Democrats quote, think the war on terror is some kind of political scam which the administration is using to underline civil liberties and expand the power of the executive branch of the government. They do not treat it particularly seriously. No, Democrats take the terror threat particularly seriously, far more seriously in fact than the Republicans do which is why Democrats are furious that the White House has turned its war on terror into some kind of a political scam which the administration is using to undermine civil liberties and expand the power of the executive branch and to rationalize this self-defeating war in Iraq and to make themselves money and to get themselves and other Republicans elected by unnecessarily terrifying the public through the amoral and corrupt water carrying of acts like Brit Hume. Today's "worst person in the world."
OLBERMANN: The studio expected it to make $45 million over opening weekend, instead it made nearly $72 million in North America alone, $168 million worldwide. Our number one story on the Countdown, "The Simpson's The Movie." A warning if you have not yet seen the movie, there are a few light spoilers ahead. It is in essence a story of Homer Simpson's redemption after he nearly destroys his friends and family and his hometown of Springfield. Eventually he finds himself and his family in Alaska, where he alienates them by refusing to help save the town. Homer eventually saves the day and fortunately for fans, there are plenty of quality Simpson gags along the way.
OLBERMANN: It's a pleasure now to be joined by the woman behind Lisa Simpson or at least behind her voice, Yeardley Smith. Great, thanks for your time tonight.
YEARDLEY SMITH, VOICE OF LISA SIMPSON: Thanks Keith, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: As somebody with a vested interest in this, what do you think of the film, what do you think of that measure of popularity, the worldwide earnings figure of $168 million?
SMITH: You know, it has so exceeded all of our expectations. I think when you have been on the air for 20 years, at least I can speak for myself, I wondered a little bit if perhaps we had stayed a little too long at the party and maybe people would be just going oh god, you know the movie should have come out 10 years ago. But it's enormously gratifying that people are enjoying it as much as we hoped they would.
OLBERMANN: You guys have a high standard on this. I have this tremendous honor and thrill and just joy of getting to attend week before last, one of your table reads where all the actors read the script aloud together for the first time. First of all, thanks for your hospitality. Thanks for not shooting me when my cell phone went off and I couldn't figure out how to make it stop. But secondly, I saw something I think a fan would be delighted to know. An average fan would just love to know this, that you and Dan Castalaneda and Julie Kavner and our friend Harry Shear and everybody else, were all laughing at each other's lines and jokes. Isn't it amazing that as an example Dan could be on what, his 20 thousandth duh and it still breaks up the room when he does it?
SMITH: Yes, yes, you know that stuff, it never gets old. We did a record today of the episode that you came to a reading of and there is a lot of stuff between Krusty and Lisa and there were a lot of retakes because there was so much laughter in the room. And it's interesting and we don't socialize together as a cast outside of work but there is so much respect for what each person brings their characters, that it's a great joy. What a fantastic job.
OLBERMANN: I also saw in there this enormous amount of pride by everybody involved, not just the performers, regarding the continuing quality of what you're all doing. You talk about the length of the film, the timing of the film. Were you concerned that the film would live up to your expectations for what you were doing in the series?
SMITH: Yes of course. I think that there was so much expectation put on this film that in a way I wondered if we could live up to even half of it. And I - I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. I mean it's very hard to tell when you're on the inside of something whether or not it's what people who watch it at like the - like the average fan if it fulfills their expectations as well because we come to it from such a different angle. I really loved it and I didn't know whether or not that was just because I love my character, I love Springfield, the job has given me so much opportunity or whether or not that would actually translate in the wide world. And it seems to have.
OLBERMANN: Where does the film translate do you think? I mean in this film, The Simpson's are basically asked to breathe new life into Springfield. Is it possible that the movie could have the same affect on the series, could you guys get more popular some how?
SMITH: You know I think it means that the series will continue at least one more year. It's always a toss up. Like if the actor's contract is up in November and we haven't been picked up for a season 20, but now I think that's probably pretty likely. In a way I feel as though this is perhaps the second volume of The Simpson's, if the first 18 years were everything that's come before, now it's a movie, yes, I do think it's injected the series with new life and perhaps will go on a bit longer than any one thought we might. Although people keep asking me how long do you think it will go and I've answered that question wrong so many times and I'm done answering.
OLBERMANN: By the way, has somebody over there ever said no we're not picking it up and you guys want to continue it. I can give you like a whole list of people to call at NBC who'll get right back to you on that point.
SMITH: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: I'm happy to do it, no charge as a fan. Last question, one movie after 18 years. Is there going to be another one?
SMITH: Yes there will and hopefully it won't take 18 years. In fact I can pretty much guarantee it won't take 18 years.
OLBERMANN: Do you know more than you're letting on here?
SMITH: No I don't. No, really, I know nothing. I know absolutely nothing. Common sense dictates that it won't take 18 years.
OLBERMANN: Anything that made $168 million in the first weekend, it doesn't take 18 years. Yeardley Smith.
SMITH: Yes, hello.
OLBERMANN: The voice of Lisa Simpson. Congrats on the movie, thanks for joining us tonight.
SMITH: Thank you so much for having me.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1552 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