'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 6
Guests: Chuck Todd, Craig Crawford, Jonathan Alter, Wesley Clark, Richard Justice
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The first moment of truth for the Democrats who want to be president. A long weekend in Chicago. Tomorrow the AFL-CIO forum, over the weekend the yearly KOS Convention and some energetically honked off liberals.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea that somehow this is going to influence you - I just ask you to look at my record.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton defends taking donations from lobbyists.
Tomorrow, she and Obama and Edwards and Biden and Richardson and Dodd and Kucinich will need to defend how and why other Democrats caved in to the president on the expansion of his warrantless wiretapping program. They'll have that defending, if the schedule holds, on the 10-yard line at Soldier Field. Outdoors at sunset in steamy, sultry, sopping Chicago.
Forty-seven years ago, Nixon sweated away a lead here during a debate here, but at least he had a presence of mind to do it indoors.
Not that it's all ice cream and air conditioning for the Republicans.
MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, I don't like coming on the air and have you go after my church and me and my.
RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm not going after you. I agree with your church.
ROMNEY: I know. That's right. But I am not running as a Mormon. I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it be all about Mormons.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney - was it a meltdown or the equivalent of the day Ronald Reagan is shouted at, "I am paying for this microphone."
Fourteen thousand weapons we were supposed to give the Iraqis missing
no, sorry, that's now 190,000 weapons, mostly AK-47s and automatics - perfect. General Wesley Clark on how anybody could let that happen.
And a supreme weekend in baseball. His 755th home run, except that maybe he cheated. His 500th win, except for those photos and that T-shirt that his wife wore to the ball park with the bad word on it. And his 300th win, the 23rd ever to do so, except for the revived controversy over the 24th ever to do so who time and baseball forgot. All that and more on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening from Chicago, where I'll be moderating the AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum tomorrow night. The candidates already forced to answer tough questions from the liberal blogging community over the weekend. Their fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill now face tougher questions after caving to the president's demands for warrantless wiretapping over the weekend.
Our fifth story on the "Countdown," the battle for the White House. The president taking time out from his Sunday golf cart jaunt with the leader of Afghanistan to sign the Protect America Act of 2007, a bill that gives him pretty much everything he wanted to update the FISA laws, including an unprecedented ability to eavesdrop on any calls or e-mails into the United States, all without a warrant.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto admitting to the "New York Times" that the bill does allow the government to listen to Americans calling overseas while stressing that the target is foreigners.
The measure passed 60 to 28 in the Senate Friday night, 227-183 in the House after the president threatened to stop Congress from taking its month-long vacation.
While none of the 16 Senate of 41 House Democrats who voted in favor of measure is running for president, the inability of a Congress that was self admittedly elected to change the status quo in Washington, to stand up to the administration on this seems bound to have repercussions for the 2008 race.
As for the candidates, while the House was approving that FISA bill, all of them, except Senator Biden, were at the yearly KOS convention here for a debate.
Senator Clinton, who has been readily criticized by many in the liberal blog community, found herself both physically flanked by Senators Obama and Edwards and verbally flunked for her view on all lobbyist money.
CLINTON: I do not believe that after 35 years of fighting for what I believe in that anyone seriously believes that I'm going to be influences by a lobbyist or a particular interest group - now, you know, I have been waiting for this. This gives us a real sense of reality with my being here.
MODERATOR: Senator Edwards has really a straight-forward question here, which is will you continue to take money from lobbyists or will you take his position?
CLINTON: Yes, I will. I will, because a lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses, social workers. They represent - yes, they represent corporations that employ a lot of people. So the idea that somehow a contribution is going to influence you - I just ask you to look at my record.
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the drug companies spent $1 billion in lobbying over the last 10 years. Now, Hillary, you were talking earlier about the efforts you made back in 1993. You can't tell me that the money did not have a difference.
OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by our NBC News political director, Chuck Todd, who is here with us in Chicago.
Chuck, good evening.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: First they fought about international diplomacy. Now Senator Obama, Senator Clinton seem to be duking it out about lobbying. Tomorrow night with us on the air, more war or more peace?
TODD: I think you will see more war, but probably from a third candidate. John Edwards, who was the guy who instigated this lobbying attack on Senator Clinton and got her on the defensive - this is a labor crowd, the AFL-CIO. Edwards has been positioning himself as the candidate of labor. He is going to be the aggressive one tomorrow night. He is the one that's going to be doing actually what he's been doing the last couple of weeks. You're going to hear him, sort of the angry populist. He really seems to be really ticked off as a candidate now. And you will see a lot of that energy tomorrow night from him.
OLBERMANN: Angry populists dating back to William Jennings Bryan has always relied on the union vote. In the wake of the Minnesota bridge disaster last week and the union sponsorship of this forum tomorrow night, is infrastructure going to be a bigger issue in 2008 that it has been in previous elections or are we going to fall toward that tendency toward short attention spans?
TODD: I think we do have short attention spans. You are going to hear them say all the right things tomorrow night. You'll hear some of them talk about it as a potential way to launch new jobs and to have new jobs in the country because it is not just bridges. Look at our air traffic system. There's a lot of infrastructure needs. But it is not what gets votes.
We have seen some evidence in state elections, in Virginia, for instance, transportation issues have been deadly to the Republican Party and the fact that they have been against building new roads and stuff in Northern Virginia have cost them local elections. But I do not see it happening on a presidential election. I think we will see a lot of lip service tomorrow night.
OLBERMANN: Chuck, besides the obvious one of jobs, you have 15,000 members of the AFL-CIO who want to come and watch the debate tomorrow night in Soldier Field. There's going to be tailgating outside the football stadium. What are they expecting to hear from these candidates? What is it that the audience wants?
TODD: I think they want two things. They want a little red meat, a lot of these Democratic crowds do, but they want some potatoes. This labor movement felt a little sold out by the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton came in and signed NAFTA and pushed NAFTA. Well, NAFTA, of course, while a five-letter acronym, is a four-letter word as far as labor is concerned.
I think these guys want to find out will the next Democratic president
will they be as much of a free trader as Bill Clinton was. Or will they be more protectionists. Will they start fighting this globalization and a lot of these free trade pacts that both Republican and Democratic administrations have been supporting. We will see. I think they feel very burned by the last Clinton administration. So they'll be very, very in tune on trade.
OLBERMANN: Last point, Chuck, the FISA vote. None of these Democrats who voted for it are running for president, but will there be blow back from that? Is it going to touch the campaign at all or just the forum tomorrow night?
TODD: We will hear some rhetoric about it and lecturing of Democrats that did not stand up to President Bush, but this is not the only place where you have seen Democrats back away when it comes to the war. We have a vote coming upon on the surge in September when the report comes from General Petraeus. There will be a lot of pressure on - you know, the presidential candidates are going to putting a lot of pressure on congressional Democrats because they will be much more anti-Bush and anti-Iraq that what is going on in Congress right now. We will see if these presidential candidates can have any influence on the debate on Capitol Hill.
OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd, our NBC News Political Director, who is bringing the Pabst Blue Ribbon to the forum tomorrow night. Great thanks, Chuck.
TODD: I promise.
OLBERMANN: Be sure to join us tomorrow night for the AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum moderated by that guy 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. eastern, 6:00 to 7:30 central on MSNBC and msnbc.com. And then our post-forum analysis, headed by Chris Matthews and myself throughout the evening here on MSNBC.
As for the Republican candidates, especially the second-tier group, all eyes, 300 miles west of here, on Iowa. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo all looking to score valuable extra points during the GOP debate moderated by "ABC News" in the Hawkeye State yesterday. Former Mayor Giuliani, Senator John McCain will not be participating in the upcoming straw poll Saturday in Iowa.
Former Governor Mitt Romney widely expected to win that, a position that's left him vulnerable to attacks on his conservative record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I was pro-choice. I am pro-life.
And I'm tired of a person who...
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every bit of that is truthful. Do go on YouTube and look for what the governor says himself.
MODERATOR: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: You can go back to YouTube and look at what I said in 1994.
I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I changed my position. I get tired of people who are holier than thou because they have been pro-life longer than I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The focus on his effectively pro-choice record not the only hot-button issue for Governor Romney. Speaking of holier than thou, in a break during an interview with WHO Radio in Des Moines, he also snapped back at a host who had kept asking him about religion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I do not like coming on the air and having you go after my church and me and my...
RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am not going after your church. I agree with your church.
ROMNEY: I know. That's right. But I am not running as a Mormon and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Joining us now, our own Craig Crawford, "Congressional Quarterly" columnist and MSNBC analyst.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY" COLUMNIST & MSNBC ANALYST:
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney is already fed up with questions...
CRAWFORD: Party time.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I'm thinking of JFK or even Al Smith. How was he going to make it through the primaries, let alone a general election, if he is tired of this? It's not going to go away, is it?
CRAWFORD: I am wondering with his earlier-than-ever campaign with the staffs and the candidates going at such a case so early and for so long if they will start wigging out early as well as everything else early. His demeanor is going to be a mixed bag. I think people who are not really following the issues will like the tough response and combative style that he showed in this.
It was a little unfair on his part to say that house was attacking his religion. I do not think that's what was happening. As we have seen before, politicians like to dodge questions by attacking the questioner and making that the issue. And I think that's what he's trying to do there.
OLBERMANN: It is always nice to know that the camera is still rolling even if the commercials are rolling at the same time.
CRAWFORD: Yes. I wonder.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I think. He is the only one of the top-tier Republicans who was in that straw poll on Saturday. Is it possible that some of the third and second-tier of guys are going out and who might that be?
CRAWFORD: Oftentimes these straw polls become good cover stories for candidates who are planning to get out anyway. Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin, has already indicated, if he doesn't do well enough, he's going to get out of the race. He might already be planning that. I don't know.
The second tier, the minor leaguers in the race - this is a chance for somebody to break out, too. If there is a Ron Paul surge for him or Tom Tancredo - those are two that I'm actually watching to produce numbers that might surprise us.
OLBERMANN: Fred Thompson providing no surprise. He is not in the debate, but he could have been on either side of it since he still works for ABC News. He could have been involved in the questioning or as a candidate. He's not in the straw poll. Are Republican primary voters in limbo until he announces, until he theoretically makes up his mind?
CRAWFORD: I noticed at that last debate, I did not hear something from commentators and other jockeys that we have heard at previous debates, which was that Fred Thompson is the winner because he wasn't there. I never hear that this time. I think that bubble has about burst on him if he doesn't get in the race and start showing something real son. I never did finish reading the play "Waiting for Godot". I don't know if Godot actually ever shows up. But that's what this Fred campaign sounds like, "Waiting for Godot."
OLBERMANN: Exactly. And he might be the first guy to drop out before officially entering, which would be a...
CRAWFORD: He's already had a staff shake-up and hasn't even gone in yet.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. But now this last thing here - talk about surprises waiting to happen, the Associate Press reporting today Rudy Giuliani's daughter, 17 years old, indicating she will vote for Barack Obama. She was a member of Obama's Face book group. So far, Giuliani has seemed extraordinarily Teflon-esque when it comes to issues about his family, or families. Is this going to damage him?
CRAWFORD: This is something many Republicans, even some who are leaning towards supporting him, do worry about come the fall when the white hot lights are on in the general election campaign and millions more Americans are paying attention. If there is an incident where this is spotlighted, how his own children are iffy about his presidential campaign and his previous wife - these are a concern to Republicans.
OLBERMANN: when you see a Giuliani ad for Obama, that's going to be a story one way or the other.
OLBERMANN: Our own Craig Crawford, columnist for "Congressional Quarterly." As always, Craig, thanks for being with us tonight.
CRAWFORD: Good luck tomorrow. I'll be watching from the beach.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. I'm going to need it. It may be very wet at this thing as well.
How damaging is it to the Democrats running for president that enough Democrats who are not acquiesced to the president's demand that warrantless wiretaps become the exclusive purview of Attorney General Gonzales? Mr. Bush has saber rattled about Iran because he claimed that country is supply weapons with which to kill American soldiers in Iraq. What does he do about a nation that has apparently given 190,000 automatic weapons to the Iraqi insurgency? That nation would be - the United States of America.
You are watching "Countdown" on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Many years ago this month, Olmstead v. U.S. went to the Supreme Court, the high court ruling warrantless wiretaps were admissible. Today, on our fourth story of the "Countdown" the U.S. Congress kicked off its recess with a similar decision, allowing the president, who signed the bill yesterday to have only his appointees, Alberto Gonzales among them, have who in this country will have their cell phone conversations listened to, their e-mails read, simply by saying one side of this communication might be outside this country. It is not even limited to possible terrorism.
All this thanks to Congress this weekend, updating the 1978 law specifically written to stop such abuses of power.
Most Democrats opposed it, but 57 agreed with Republicans that fears of terrorism justify rewriting the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, which brings us to Justice Brandeis's famous dissent in Olmstead writing, quote, "experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding."
History vindicated Judge Brandeis. Olmstead was overturned 40 years ago.
Let's turn to our political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine.
John, great thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST & "NEWSWEEK" SENIOR EDITOR:
OLBERMANN: To what extent does Congress need to see Justice Brandeis articulated to defend the nation's liberties against, say, beneficent, well-meaning encouragement?
ALTER: This is insidious encroachment. While we were all at the beach munching hot dogs and sunning ourselves, the Congress of the United States sold out our freedoms. You could say that is an exaggeration, but we have a history in this country, Keith, of probable cause. Under the system that we have just changed, you have to go to what is called a FISA Court, a secret court, with some evidence that there was some terrorist or criminal connection before you can get a warrantless wiretapping approval. Now all you need is an indication that an American is talking to a foreigner, any foreigner, and you can go ahead, if you're the attorney general, and eavesdrop. That is a big change. Frankly, it's a scary change in the kind of rules that we have abided by.
Abraham Lincoln is often referred to because he suspended the right to habeas corpus during the civil war, but before the assassination, while the war was still going on, he said that was a temporary remedy. We do not want to trash the Constitution. He and the Congress, I believe in 1864, restored our freedoms. In this case, they've made a bad situation worse by codifying in law those insidious encroachments that you mentioned.
OLBERMANN: Why didn't the Democratic leadership simply use the procedural powers that it has to block this? Did they do it out of the sake of being blamed if there is another terrorist attempt or attack or did they do it just to protect their own vacation?
ALTER: I do not think it was a vacation. I think it the spinelessness, if you will, exhibited in this case - grows out of the most destructive force in politics, which is fear. There is some political fear that if there is another attack, they would blame. And there is real fear that if we do not have a lot of these tools, we would miss real terrorists who could do less damage.
Since so much of this is in secret, Keith, that members of Congress were shown some intelligence that indicated an imminent attack. There has been some talk of that that you have heard in recent weeks, that there's chatter this summer about a possible attack. Nobody wants to be blamed for that and nobody wants to see people die.
But they could have made the necessary adjustments. Let's all agree that there are some wiretaps that need to be undertaken. Those adjustments could have been made. The transition from eavesdropping on satellite communications to fiber optic networks, which is an important technical consideration - all of that could have been accommodated without corruption of the Constitution.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Bush failed to ask for any of this, let along get any of this or provide these provisions that he supposedly needs until almost six years after 9/11 - there is a pattern here, whether it applies in this case, I'm not sure. But you reveal alleged security needs only at the last minute and then insist on rushing the job. Why is it that Democrats still act as if he has any credibility fighting terror and being proactive about it?
ALTER: I am not sure that they feel he has the credibility anymore. But they also are not willing to second-guess him on things they do not have all the information on. This whole area of eavesdropping is complicated, technical, as various secrecy classifications. They are essentially flying blind. I think, in that case, they do the cautious, conservative thing.
In six months, this is going to be revisited, Keith. That's how the statute reads. So in the middle of the presidential campaign, all these candidates are going to have to stand up and be counted on this again.
OLBERMANN: And there will be surprisingly large amounts of chatter at that point too. Jonathan Alter, at "Newsweek" and MSNBC. As always, John, great thanks for your time.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It was so powerful they initially thought it was an earthquake. It was not. It was a mine collapse. The desperate struggle to rescue six miners who may have survived it.
And if you think TV coverage of police chases has gotten dangerously out of hand, neither I nor this dog will argue with you. Ahead, on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1964, we lost the brilliant British actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke. He could play a pharaoh of Egypt and King Arthur in a comedy. He even portrayed Albert Dreyfus. But one of his earliest roles was in an adaptation of the H.G. Wells' "Things to Come" in which he played Theotocopulos, an artist from the year 2036, who becomes the unintended leader of an anti-establishment movement, whose blistering monologues, just him ranting and raving on minutes on end, where shown on a giant visual screen that appeared in the public square and - oh, yeah, never mind. Let's play "Oddball."
We begin in El Paso, Texas. This was the scene on Interstate 10. A dog leading cops on a slow-speed chase. No white bronco, instead it was a black Chow Chow. NBC News did not break into the NBC finals to cover it. And the dog was not threatening to end it all. Eventually, cops coaxed the pooch onto a side street where animal control nabbed him. Somebody has already come forward to adopt him and the dog is now writing his tell-all memoir "If I did it on the Rug."
In Annapolis, Maryland, somebody's been poking around Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen. This is after hours surveillance tape, showing a woman rummaging through the fudge counter in a store called Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen. The woman stuffed her pockets full of sweet stuff and made off, only to be nabbed a few hours later. Annapolis P.D. explained how it found this degenerate shopaholic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: The officers just happened to notice that she had some large pieces of chocolate fudge in her pockets. She had so much it was actually spelling out of her pockets. When she moved, some of it would fall out. Her shirt was stained with fresh fudge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That's nice police work boys. Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen.
Cops, however, are still on the lookout for the fudge bandits accomplice.
If you have seen this man, do not approach him. He is armed and dangerous.
Alert the authorities.
Another high note out of Iraq; some of our weapons are missing.
Nothing much, just 190,000 rifles and pistols.
And the record is tied, but is the record just going to be ignored? Baseball's landmark setting, but ultimately unsatisfying weekend. These stories ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three news makers of this day.
Number three, Pongpat Chayaphan, a police colonel in Bangkok, Thailand. It seems simple warnings no longer work. He's announcing a new disciplinary measure to punish his officers if they are caught littering, parking in the wrong spot or showing up late for their shift. They'll be forced to wear arm bands, bright pink arm bands with the smiling face of a Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts. This is a punishment? Some would call this flair.
Number two, Margaret Wegner from Germany. Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer had this crayon that had been stuck in his brain since childhood, had it removed and temporarily became a genius? In Miss Wegner's case it's a pencil. When she was four, she fell while carrying the pencil. It jammed into her head and had caused her pain, plus nosebleeds, ever since. It was too close to her brain to operate, but new technology has finally permitted doctors to remove.
She sustained the injury in 1952. Miss Wegner is now 59. She says she feels much better.
Number one, Matthew Harju of Sheboygan Wisconsin. Mention my name in Sheboygan. Accused by police there of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years from his boss, a local landlord who liked to keep the money in cash in boxes around her office. Police say Mr. Harju bought things like vintage cars and an endless supply of boxers and briefs. Quoting a detective, he never had to use underwear twice. He would just buy new underwear and never wash or change them.
Do you suppose police noticed him from the smell?
OLBERMANN: If today's report from the Government Accountability Office was merely that about 190,000 weapons provided by the U.S. to Iraq were missing, that would be good news. In our third story tonight, the bad news is who has found them, specifically, who did the U.S. military wind up giving them too? A report last year put the estimate at a mere 14,000 missing weapons.
The GAO found today that the Pentagon can't account for more than 30 percent of the weapons supplied to Iraq after 2003. Included, 110,000 AK- 47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets. They were distributed by the man in charge of training at the time, General David Petraeus. The GAO concluding weapons distribution was rushed, haphazard and not by military procedure.
In previous conflicts, the State Department handled such functions. A similar GAO report finding no problems with distributing weapons in the Bosnian conflict. An unnamed Pentagon official today told the "Washington Post" some of the missing weapons are probably now being used against U.S. troops, putting Washington, D.C. perhaps alongside Tehran as, intentionally or otherwise, suspected suppliers of Iraqi insurgents.
Let's turn now to General Wesley Clark, analyst for MSNBC and, of course, former presidential candidate, and before that former supreme allied commander for NATO. Great thanks for joining us again, General Clark.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), MSNBC ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How serious is this report? Or will it all under the fog of war catch-all?
CLARK: I think it is serious. I think it is one more source of supply for the insurgents. And it indicates that we did not have the right procedures in place for training, to account for the weapons. We probably did not have the right procedures in place to account for the people we trained, either.
OLBERMANN: You commanded the operation allied force in Bosnia. You were responsible for peacekeeping operations there. why would the current administration veer from a previous, time tested procedure for training and supply distribution?
CLARK: Because this administration did everything in haste and it learned no lessons - virtually no lessons from the Clinton administration or anything that was done during that period. We went in to Haiti. We trained police in Haiti. We were in Bosnia. We have been in Kosovo. It does not seem to matter. When we went into Iraq, they started all over. They did not consult or listen - they didn't even listen to their own officers who had the experience.
OLBERMANN: The Bush administration claimed that Iranian weapons there in Iraq prove Tehran's intent to kill American soldiers. Does that ring a little hollow now, when apparently nobody in this administration provided for the possibility that the weapons we supplied to the Iraqi forces on our side of the equation would wind up - or could wind up being used to kill American soldiers?
CLARK: It is a terrible irony. It is just awful. But I do think that the Iranians are providing weapons. I think those weapons are used for a lot of purposes, consolidating power for the Iranian groups that are inside Iraq, but also for use against the Americans. And, of course, where we are headed now is we are giving a lot of weapons out now to the Sunni tribesmen and working with them, who are supporting us in Anbar and many other provinces.
Again, when you arm people, especially in an unstable situation, you are betting on the future politically. But there is no future politically, at least not that the administration has been able to establish yet in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: And to that point general, weapons are not the only thing missing there at the moment. The secular coalition, the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians today announcing it's going to boycott cabinet meetings. The largest Sunni block pulled out of the government last week. Are these political disappearances in many ways more troubling than the story of some ammo?
CLARK: Absolutely, much more troubling. This is the critical path for success, is to pull together a legitimate government of Iraq that has authority over the disparate factions and elements that are inside Iraq. Instead, the government of Iraq seems to be disintegrating. What it is going to take to bring it back together, well, that is the big question. It seems to me - as I have said for the last three years - it cannot be done without serious talk with Iraq's neighbors, as well as a beefed up political process on the ground inside Iraq.
OLBERMANN: General Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, and now MSNBC analyst, as always, sir, great things.
CLARK: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: The heart stopping news from Utah; a mine collapse intense enough to have been mistaken for seismic activity. The latest form the Crandall Canyon mine. That is next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Yet another stark reminder that concern about the nation's vital infrastructure should include what coal miner's face every day. Our number two story on the Countdown, this time it is six miners trapped in the Genwal mine in Huntington, Utah. Once again, if they are to be rescued, time is of the essence. Breaking news this hour, word of a setback; a parallel entrance has not provided hope for quick access to those trapped miners. Our correspondent is Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has been a day long, frantic rescue effort for the six miners believed trapped deep underground at the Crandall Canyon Mine. The collapse happened just before 3:00 a.m. Witnesses first reported being rocked by what they thought was an earthquake, registering 4.0 on seismographic instruments.
But experts soon concluded the tremors may not have been an earthquake, but rather the mine collapse itself.
GOV JIM HUNTSMAN (R), UTAH: We are going to expend any resource we have and go to any effort to make sure that lives are put first and foremost.
COSTELLO: The men are believed trapped some 1,500 feet below ground and four miles from the mine's entrance. If they survived, mine executives say they should have enough water and oxygen to last for several days.
ROBERT MURRAY, MINE COMPANY EXECUTIVE: It could take as much as 48 hours, but if there is an open area in there, there is water and air for far beyond that.
COSTELLO: Since the Sago mine disaster 18 months ago claimed the lives of 12 miners in West Virginia, Congress has passed new tougher mine safety laws, mandating more mine inspectors, rescue teams, and additional air packs for miners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We require now each individual miner to have a self-contained self-rescue on them, plus an additional self-rescuer, and a cachet of self rescuers to provide them with a number of hours of breathability to be able to escape in the event of an accident or a fire.
COSTELLO (on camera): Mining experts say the men were engaged in a dangerous technique known as retreat mining, in which the ceiling is meant to collapse behind the men as they work to clear coal.
(voice-over): The Crandall Canyon mine is owned by Genwal Resources. The federal government recently cited the mine 11 times for various violations. Over the past seven years, the mine has reported 35 injuries, but no fatalities. Tonight an all out rescue effort to keep the fatality rate at zero.
Tom Costello, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: Barry Bonds; Barry Bonds meet Matt Kilroy. He holds an all-time baseball record as well and nobody knows who he has. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.
The bronze to the Florida State Representative Bob Allen, a creative if somewhat racist explanation for his arrest by an undercover police officer, who claims Mr. Allen offered him oral sex and $20 in a public men's bathroom. He was buying not sex, but time; time to make an escape. From his taped statement to police, the undercover officer, Representative Allen said, was, quote, a "pretty stocky black guy" and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park, and that he, quoting again, "was afraid he was about to be a statistic."
Our runner-up, conservative water carrier Laura Ingraham, who just flat out lied about the "New York Times." She told Fox Noise that a Times editorial about the FISA law had included that, quote, "we should not update the surveillance law to meet current advances in technology. We are now in a blackout with some of this intelligence because of what the "New York Times" and what the Democrats have done."
Except that is not what the Times editorial said. It said, in fact, the exact opposite. It insisted on updating the law to meet current advances in technology. The Times wrote, quote, "instead of asking Congress to address this anachronism, as it should, the White House sought to use it to destroy the 1978 spying law." This just in, conservatives do not know how to read. They merely skim.
To that point tonight, our winner, Bill-O. In an interview, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut reminded Mr. O'Reilly that he had once talked about how this country should let al Qaeda attack San Francisco. Bill did not deny it. He just demanded Dodd present a quote and a date. Senator Dodd who, having a life, does not keep handy a list of Bill O'Reilly's top 3,000 inhuman and inaccurate statements, could not produce either.
Bill-O barked, "no, you are wrong, I did not say it here. You do not know what the hell I said, with all due respect." Bill, Bill, it is you who have never known what the hell you have said. November 10th, 2005, the "O'Reilly Factor," after the city had passed a non-binding resolution encouraging public schools from permitting on campus military recruiting; saying, he were president - O'Reilly - we would tell San Franciscans, quote, if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we are not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the tower? Go ahead.
Bill-O, as ever in his most towering rage when somebody quotes one of his own block headed remarks back to him, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: As three baseball milestones were achieved over the weekend, including Barry Bonds' record tying 715th homerun, the name Matt Kilroy came up again. Our number one story on the Countdown, why Barry Bonds may be the Matt Kilroy of the 21st century. Go look up the record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in a single season. The answer is Matt Kilroy of the 1886 Baltimore Orioles with 513.
If you know anything about baseball, you are probably saying, huh? Nolan Ryan of the Angels struck out 383 men in 1973. That's the all time record. Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers struck out 382 men in 1965. That's the National League record. Yes, but Matt Kilroy struck out 130 men, more than either of them.
In fact, six other pitchers from the 19th century struck out more than Ryan or Koufax did. But they and our friend Kilroy are long since forgotten, because in the 1880s pitchers still stood just 50 feet away from the batters, not the current 60 feet six inches, giving them a decided advantage. The year Matt Kilroy struck out 513 men there were so many strikeouts that for the next season the owners actually increased the number of strikes in a strikeout to four.
So the history books say Matt Kilroy holds the record. But history itself says Matt Kilroy had an unfair advantage. Matt Kilroy, please introduce yourself to Barry Bonds. His 755th homerun came Saturday against San Diego, tying the record set by Hank Aaron in 1976. Some cheers, some boos, some observers holding up asterisk. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig stood for the moment, but did not applaud.
Bonds now back in his home turf in San Francisco, trying to break Aaron's record. Of course, baseball's steroid investigation, led by former Senator George Mitchell, continues apace with Bonds' former teammate, catcher Brian Johnson telling ESPN what he had already related to Mitchell's staff, that Bonds' use of performance enhancing drugs was, quote, hard to dispute based on what had been documented.
Earlier on Saturday, Alex Rodriguez had set his own record, becoming the youngest hitter to reach 500 homeruns. The 32 year old 330 days younger than Jimmy Fox was when hitting that mark. Had it not been for a nine day homerun drought, A-Rod would have broken the record by a full calendar year. His record is presumed to be authentic.
And though there was nothing unauthentic about the true personal milestone set by the New York Mets' Tom Glavine last night here in Chicago, it doesn't reflect another pitcher who may have done the very same thing, though almost nobody seems to remember. Glavine became the 23rd pitcher to reach 300 wins, only the fifth left hander.
Or is it 24? Another forgotten 19th century pitcher, Bobby Matthews, won between 290 and 300 games, but at least 237 of those came in two leagues, the National Association and the American Association, which were considered major leagues at the time, but about which historians now have their doubts. Thus, as always, the record is in the eyes of the beholder.
Please behold now the great sports columnist of the "Houston Chronicle," Richard Justice. Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
RICHARD JUSTICE, "HOUSTON CHRONICLE": Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is it in a nutshell, isn't it? About Bonds, that the homerun record can be in the books and we can argue about it forever. But if fans or history don't collectively believe it is authentic, it is as if it never happened. It's as if Bonds is Matt Kilroy.
JUSTICE: That is absolutely right. When you look at the top 10 on the career home run list now, don't you kind of differentiate Raffy Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry? Have all been tainted one way or another by steroids. So I think in the end, 10 years from now or 20 years from now, you're going to look back and we'll all know - somebody said, you know, Bud Selig might put an asterisk by those names.
Well, that's not going to be needed. We're all going go know. And, in fact, what it's almost done is bring Henry Aaron greater appreciation for what he did. Dusty Baker once said to me, you know, the worst thing Henry Aaron ever did the was hit 715 homeruns, because it made people overlook the fact that he was a great base runner, a great fielder, all those things he did well.
So, in that way, it has brought attention to the right places in some ways.
OLBERMANN: Given the potential of Alex Rodriguez to eventually be the all time homerun king - and obviously we once said this about Ken Griffey, but that did not pan out the same way. There's always the chance he could be hurt. He could retire. He could go to Japan. And given the cloud over Bonds, given the relative rarity of 300 pitching wins, as Glavine achieved last night, which milestone over this weekend do you think was the most significant? Which was the best received?
JUSTICE: Bonds cast a shadow, for better or worse, over the game that is hard to overlook. You saw what Glavine means to baseball. That was true affection his teammates had for him. You know, a night game at Wrigley Field; the fans can get pretty ugly there. They gave him a very nice ovation. Tom Glavine is - in Spring Training one year, I am standing there, and - it's the first day, pitchers throw batting practice. And in walks, one at a time, Glavine, Smoltz and Greg Maddux. And Bobby Cox, the manager, looks at me and says, hey, that's why I'm so smart.
He has held - we may not have another 300 game winner. You think Pedro Martinez is going to do it? Randy Johnson is probably not going to do it; Mike Mussina. So that is a real amazing milestone. I just think it's the regard in which Tom Glavine is held.
But watch A-Rod. I mean, before it's over, we are going to probably be talking a lot about A-Rod.
OLBERMANN: Assess - before we talk about A-Rod or put the Bonds record away for a century - assess Bud Selig's behavior during the whole Bonds thing. He did not decide until the last minute whether or not to attend. He stood up when it was hit, but he put his hands in his pockets. He issued a very tepid statement. Was this the plan all along? Do the minimum possible, damn Barry Bonds with faint praise.
JUSTICE: Yes, if you caught the cameras really closely, he was told to stand up. It looks like someone was prompting him to stand up. You and I know Bud Selig pretty well. We both know there wasn't a lot of ambivalence about how he feels about Barry Bonds. I think this whole thing, this indecision about whether to go or not, I do not think there was ever any indecision. I think he was going to be there because he sees himself as a representative of the game.
But there was not going to be any photo ops. There was not going to be any ceremonies at home plate, as there would be if Griffey had done it, or someone like that. That body language - Keith, he knew every camera in the world was going to show that pose of him sticking his hand in his pocket and looking around like, did I come for my laundry or something? It tells you - It speaks volumes.
As you know, he has told you many times, he and Hank Aaron have been friends for 50 years, and this was a very trying thing. He told an owner recently this thing is killing me. That was one of the concerns Henry Aaron had to him. He called him about two weeks ago and said, look, I saw you on TV, and you did not look good. I do not want to have what happened to you what happened to Bart Giamatti, who died after the stress of the Pete Rose thing.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of not wanting people to turn into others, is there a chance, not in terms of controversy, but in terms of lack of popularity, that Alex Rodriguez might not just supplant Barry Bonds in terms of homeruns, but also in terms of not being a liked hero?
JUSTICE: Yes, he's a cold fish and he is going to have to succeed in the playoffs to win the fans there at Yankee Stadium. But he is a distant guy. Pete Rose was a guy who was in the middle of everything in the club house. I would walk into the Baltimore clubhouse and Cal Ripken might be wrestling on the floor with a bat boy.
Some guys are more reserved. Some guys are not like that. It makes them a little harder to be loved. Mark McGwire was a very emotional guy, beloved in the clubhouse, but fans didn't see it. A-Rod is just a little bit more distant. It's going to take some time for people to warm up to him as he gets older. As with Griffey - you know Griffey was not a great guy early. But Griffey is very popular in the clubhouse now. So maybe A-Rod will change as he gets older.
OLBERMANN: Alex Rodriguez, of your 2008 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Richard Justice of the "Houston Chronicle," as always, a pleasure sir.
JUSTICE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,559th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A final reminder, please join us tomorrow night, weather permitting, from Soldier Field here in Chicago, as I moderate the AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum, beginning at 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 Central. I am Keith Olbermann, good night and, from Chicago, good luck.
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