'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, April 14
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guest: Jonathan Alter, Gerald Posner
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Tonight in Philadelphia: One of Senator Clinton's most prominent supporters has just said that Senator Obama's "bitter" comments might cost him a few points in next week's primary, but contrary to his own candidate's position, they do not mean Obama is unelectable. Full coverage is next.
(voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
What if they gave a controversy and nobody showed up after guns and bitter? Obama, up in the Gallup Poll?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I know that many of you, like me, were disappointed by recent remarks that he made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, that didn't go as she planned it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton is out there, you know, like she's on a duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, Senator Clinton tries to regroup off the story and Senator McCain tries to fund-raise off the story. Is Senator Obama actually going to get a slight bump out of what turns out to be a slight gaffe?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When I hear my opponents, both of whom spent decades in Washington saying I'm out of touch, it is time to cut through the rhetoric and look at the reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Is the reality here that in the Ronald Reagan sense of the word, Senator Obama is a "teflon" candidate?
With Al Gore not yet backing anybody, Senator Clinton takes a shot at him? McCain shoots at Obama over public financing. The Democrats may take not a shot but a suit at McCain over public financing.
Worst Persons: Two weeks ago, she called his atheism dangerous. What he has now called her may be worse.
What he just called Tibet may call to question whether he knows enough geography to be the national security advisor.
And still classified secret by the FBI, poured over for weeks by J. Edgar Hoover hoping to prove the man was either John F. Kennedy or Robert Kennedy. The secret, classified, just sold for $1,500,000 Marilyn Monroe-FBI sex tapes. To twist the old phrase, if it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is.
All that and more: Now on Countdown.
(on camera): Good evening, this is Monday, April 14th, 204 days until the 2008 presidential election.
As even the network newscast for a third consecutive day embraced the supposed controversy over Senator Obama's "bitter" remarks, our fifth story on the Countdown: The bracing slap of a wet blanket felt all the way from the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Philadelphia tonight. "If Obama is the nominee," the politician was asked, "do you think he is now unelectable?" "No," he replied. "I believe he has a real good chance to carry Pennsylvania. I just believe that Senator Clinton would carry it far more easily are."
Are the bitter remarks going to decide the primary there? "I think it will cost a couple of points at the margin, but it's not a sea change," he says. "Who knows by the time November rolls around, I think this comment will be long forgotten."
All of that said tonight by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who, if not Clinton's strongest supporter this primary season is certainly been her loudest. His remarks tonight perhaps is signaling that even the Clinton campaign is giving up trying to turn the Obama comments into a forest fire. Seventy-two hours after the senator's comments about small town American values, an economics frustration were first revealed, it is unclear which candidate is being impacted by the fallout more, the Illinois Democrat or Senator Clinton.
The junior senator from New York having attacked her opponent for his remarks for four consecutive days, on Saturday, Senator Clinton is drawing a comparison by telling a crowd in Indiana that she is no stranger to guns and the hunters who love them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I was kind of taken aback by the remarks that Senator Obama made the other day, because they don't reflect my experience. You know, they seemed kind of elitist and out of touch and talking about people who live in small towns and rural areas throughout America. You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment as a constitutional right.
You know, my dad took me up behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl. You know, some people have continued to teach their children and their grandchildren. It's part of a culture. It's part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are, not because they are bitter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If Senator Clinton's talking points sounded to some voters as if they could just as easily have been said by the presumptive Republican nominee as by a Democrat in the race for president, that is definitely how they sounded to the other Democrat in the run for the White House, Senator Obama himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So, I expected this out of John McCain, but I've got to say, I'm a little disappointed when I start hearing the exact same talking points coming out of my Democratic colleague, Hillary Clinton. She knows better. She knows better. Shame on her.
OBAMA: Shame on her. She knows better. She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen. How she values the Second Amendment. She's talking like she's Annie Oakley.
OBAMA: Hillary Clinton is out there, you know, like she's on the duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better. That's some politics being played by Hillary Clinton. I want to see that picture of her out there in the duck blind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Perhaps not out in a duck blind, but there is plenty of footage as well as numerous pictures to choose from showing Hillary Clinton drinking a shot of Crown Royal whiskey, washing it down with the beer chaser in Hammond, Indiana over the weekend. Reminding some of Sargent Shriver's presidential run in 1972 ordering a round of beers for bar full of steel workers in Youngstown, Ohio and then telling the bartender, "Make mine a Courvoiseur."
This morning, during a speech sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing in Pittsburgh, Senator Obama calling that a stunt and both of his opponents out of touch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It may be that I chose my words badly. It's not the first time, it won't be the last. But when I hear my opponents, both of whom spent decades in Washington saying I'm out of touch, it's time to cut through the rhetoric and look at the reality.
OBAMA: Around election time, candidates, they just can't do enough.
They will promise you anything. They'll give you a long list of proposals. They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer.
OBAMA: But those same candidates are taking millions of dollars in contributions from the PACs and the lobbyists. Ask yourselves, who are they going to be toasting once the election is over?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Senator Clinton addressed the same audience just two hours after that, began her remarks by bringing up the controversy. She provoked murmurs and some groans and some outright shouts of "No" from the same crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I understand my opponent came this morning and spent a lot of his time attacking me. Well - well, you know, I know that many of you, like me, were disappointed by recent remarks that he made, and I think it's important that, you know, we give people the chance to really compare and contrast us.
You know, I am well aware that at a fund-raiser in San Francisco, he said some things that many people in Pennsylvania and beyond Pennsylvania have found offensive. I don't think he really gets it that people are looking for a president who stands up for you and not looks down on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The disapproval drowned out only by the silence. Senator Clinton perhaps hoping that the new ad she's releasing in Pennsylvania tonight finds a more receptive audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.
ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama said that people in small towns "cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not clinging to my faith out of frustration and bitterness. I find my faith as very uplifting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good people of Pennsylvania deserve a lot better than what Barack Obama said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary does understand the citizens of Pennsylvania better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton has been fighting for people like us her whole life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Nationally, Senator Obama seems to be weathering the storm in the Gallup daily tracking poll, maintaining now a 10 percent point lead over Senator Clinton. The Keith number, voters with no opinion plus the margin of error built into the poll is more than that still at 12 percent.
Time to call in our own Richard Wolffe: senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Governor Rendell's comments tonight, did he not get a memo that everyone else on the campaign trail seem to have? Did he just, in effect, sound a retreat trumpet or what happened there?
WOLFFE: Well, I think Governor Rendell writes his own memos. And like the loose cannon that he is, he just blew a whole, in the main argument the Clinton campaign has about this issue, which is that it underscores, in their view, how Obama is going to be a blowout loser in November. If this really is a race that only hinges on two or three-point difference because of the slaps.
And, I think, Rendell is pointing to something actually bigger that's going on, which is that this is not 2004. This isn't John Kerry. Neither candidate is. And the issues and the candidates line up differently. In 2004, the war was still finally bounced, in terms of public opinion. So was the economy. This time around, it's very different.
OLBERMANN: These remarks from Rendell today in Philly, the Gallup Poll which shows him with a slight increase. We haven't seen the full effect of it, obviously, that could drop down tomorrow. It's a daily tracking poll. It could drop down to a much lower lead, or he might lose numbers just in Pennsylvania. We don't have a final on that.
But the reaction of the audience in Pittsburgh and the couple of no's that were shouted back at the candidate, it seemed very uncomfortable. Is there a chance that this is not resonating in exactly the way Senator Clinton thought it was going to?
WOLFFE: Well, it is too early to tell, frankly. I mean, the polls that we have right now are very limited. We have one pretty volatile poll out of Pennsylvania that shows a 20-point movement. And then, on the other hand, you've got the Gallup tracking poll that shows the race pretty much where it was nationally.
In truth, the Clintons hope that, especially with this ad, if they keep hammering away at this thing, then it will have an impact. So, I think, you know, there will be a few point that Obama will lose. He may be able to make them up but the momentum looks like it's shifted. Maybe it will shift again before we get to the actual voting in Pennsylvania.
OLBERMANN: I used that word "teflon" which used to be used as grudging praise by Democrats about Ronald Reagan, in particular, the "teflon" president. If Obama is not impacted by this, hamstrung by this and right now there seems to be a little genuine umbrage measurable, the attempts to manufacture the umbrage seemed to be running in some sort of a processing problem at that moment.
Would it be fair to say to those circumstances, perhaps Obama has the same sort of teflonesque quality that he might want to - be one of those rare politicians, who transcends, who does not have to, for some reason or another, survive crisis to crisis in the public's eye?
WOLFFE: Well, I'm not a great fan of the teflon theory of politics because the non-stick politicians are just that way right up until the moment that something sticks. What I do think people are looking at here is how he reacts to a crisis. How any of them react to unexpected events that happen all the time on the campaign trail.
And what we're seeing here is a pretty feisty, sometimes funny candidate who has apologized for what has obviously been a major screw up for him, but he's also holding his ground on some of the substance of these comments. Those are kinds of the things that voters are tuning in at this point to take their measure of this guy, who is still got lots of unanswered questions about him.
So, you know, this story is still unfolding. And I'm not sure it's about what sticks and what aren't, it's how they perform under pressure.
OLBERMANN: And what made that difference in this - I mean, in
previous head-to-head with Clinton on certain things, conflicts, he has, no
pun intended, held fire. But now, he went out with the Annie Oakley
reference, the duck blind stuff, was it wise? Was it necessary? Did he
have no other choice?
WOLFFE: Well, I think, they've understood the key lesson here out of 2004 in the sense of the swiftboating episode. John Kerry knew that he was going to get attacked on his Vietnam record. He had been attacked like that for 30 years. The question that people were looking at was how would he respond. In the end, Kerry didn't respond.
And throughout this campaign, and here we have a quite an extreme example of it, the Obama campaign has responded harshly and vigorously and robustly. This is what they're doing here to show that they have some mental and backbone and to show that he can react to pressure in this way. You know, again, we've got to see whether the tone is right in these numbers as they come out, but they are showing that this isn't John Kerry and it's not 2004.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, a story that at any other time of this campaign, or maybe any other campaign would probably be the headline, Jeff Davis, the Republican congressman from the fort in Kentucky, went through a national security simulation with Obama and said about it, quoting, "I'm going to tell you something. That boy's finger does not need to be on the button."
Davis has today sent Obama a letter today asking his forgiveness, but goodness, a congressman from Kentucky with the same name of the president of the confederacy calls the possible first black presidential nominee "Boy" and it barely gets mentioned.
WOLFFE: Yes, you know, it's sad. And Obama says that he doesn't believe in this whole idea of post-racial politics. He doesn't think that this country's sad history on racial issues is going to be a race because people vote for him, and because he's a prominent candidate. I'm afraid this kind of episode just proves his point.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always sir, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: More blowback on all this with Senator Clinton in the race to brand Senator Obama elitist. Will she regret using the same terminology to describe Al Gore for the simple reason that Al Gore has not endorsed anybody yet?
And: Suing John McCain for violating a campaign financing law. The McCain-Feingold financing law? How in the hell he not see that coming?
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Calling your primary opponent and someone who endorsed him elitist, makes some kind of political sense, using the same term to brand the Nobel Prize-winning politically-murdered ex-vice president who is yet to decide for or against you, how much sense does that make?
In Worst: We hired you because you had already prejudged that there was too much pro-left prejudging in the media.
And next in Bushed: He's a damn fine national security advisor even if he doesn't which country China is oppressing. That's next.
This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Senator Barack Obama is not going to endorse Senator Hillary Clinton at any point in the immediate future. Senator John Kerry isn't either. He long ago endorsed Obama, but former Vice President Al Gore has remained studiously neutral in this race.
Thus, in our fourth story tonight: Senator Clinton calling Senators Kerry and Obama elitist. Hardly seems open to much criticism, it's playing politics. But why throw Gore under the bus, too? And do so while admitting that she has realized elitism was also a, quote, "a legitimate issue when Karl Rove's campaign tactics convinced voters that George W. Bush understood them better than did Mr. Kerry or Mr. Gore."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We had two very good men, and men of faith ran for president in 2000 and 2004. But large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or, frankly, respect their ways of life. And I think that is an issue for voters as I've heard today from people who I've visited in Scranton and elsewhere. So, this is a legitimate political issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, at the same forum, responding in part, quote, "By the way, I have to say I think Al Gore won." Clinton's remarks an effort to remind superdelegates, Democrats have lost before when Republicans called them elitist without leading superdelegates to wonder whether she is legitimizing this tactic or whether Obama more than she cannot just answer the charge of elitism but debunk it.
At this point, let's bring in MSNBC Political Analyst Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political reporter of the "Washington Post."
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Am I overreacting to the implications of this? Or did she cross herself off the list of Democrats that Al Gore might endorse before the nomination last night?
MILBANK: Well, maybe but she'd probably picked up three Crown Royal drinkers having that shot in the bar over there in Indiana. So, you know, it is probably a wash. But, look, Al Gore was no fan of Hillary Clinton before this. This isn't going to make him any more so.
In a way, this is sort of larger than the sort of the superdelegate math here. And, I was at a forum this morning that Obama was at and McCain. McCain is just about the happiest man alive right now. And he's had such an easy time of it these days. In fact, he was pressed to say whether this was elitist. And even he wouldn't go as far as Senator Clinton has.
OLBERMANN: Well, how do you appeal to superdelegates in one party by validating a strategy that made people think that, you know, baseball versus wind surfing had any actual relevance to their policies that would affect their livelihoods and lives?
MILBANK: Well, I mean, the fact is, this sort of thing does work in the general election. Now, we have to question what exactly the Clinton strategy is here. Is it for her to win? Or is it to make him, at this point, intolerable? She seems to certainly be succeeding more on that point, but you can just sort of see them putting together all these lines here along with the Reverend Wright, along with Michelle Obama's quote about not being proud of her country. You can sort of see this all being put together now, and what's nice for the Republicans is it has been done without them lifting a finger.
OLBERMANN: Well, my point exactly though. If you put that altogether and hand it to the Republicans to use against you, you would seem to have a very short shelf life. It's like betting on your chances of winning five consecutive games of Russian roulette, isn't it? I mean, between this and the commander in chief threshold test and everything else?
MILBANK: Right. Well, they're looking at the same numbers, the same delegate and superdelegate math that everybody else is. The likelihood of Clinton pulling this off is extremely low, but as we've discussed before, the way you do this is you win ugly. Voters may have decided that Clinton can't win, but she has to make - convince them that Obama would be an even worse candidate. So, that's really the only hope here. It's not a very good one for her. It's not the position you want to be in, but if that's the card that you have, that's the one she's playing.
OLBERMANN: But how does this change now in the context of what we heard from Governor Rendell tonight at this - at the dinner in Philadelphia, which essentially undercut that entire argument. He doesn't even think it's going to have a significant impact on, in terms of, obviously, he thinks Clinton is going to win, but he's not talking about a six-point victory in Pennsylvania being a landslide and saying that Obama could carry Pennsylvania in November if he's the nominee anyway, and that people are going to forget these quotes. It would seem to make this whole elitism argument valid only against Senator Clinton.
MILBANK: Well, that is the point. Maybe Rendell has been talking with fellow governor Bill Richardson over at New Mexico lately. The elite argument is dangerous in all these cases. Of course, you wouldn't be in this position, any of these candidates, if you weren't in some very elite strata of society. We're talking in Hillary Clinton's phrase, a wealthy class of '69, Yale law, '73, $109 million on her tax returns recently.
So, you know, elitism is a very dangerous charge to bring in this case. It's rather wired in, but, you know, as we've seen, you know, George Bush, Andover, Yale, and the Texas Rangers, was able to do that quite effectively to an equally elite person of John Kerry.
OLBERMANN: Well, yes, in that sense, $109 million is - really does make you part of the hoy paloy, I guess.
Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC. Thank you, Dana.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And in sports: Wow, they really have changed rover derby since the day of Mike Gammon and the Bay Area Bombers. I hope that's supposed to be on fire.
And what's the one minimum standard for your national security advisor? That he can tell which country is which, right? This is one can't. Stephen Hadley in Nepal - or is it Tibet?
Ahead on "Bushed."
OLBERMANN: On this day in 1917, was born one of Britain's most underrated actresses, Valerie Hobson shines in "Great Expectations," "Kind Hearts and Coronets," and "The Card," but at age 35, she gave it all up to support her new husband as he started his political career. His name was John Profumo.
And if that rings a bell, it's because his sex and spy scandal as minister of Defense brought down the British government in 1963. But Valerie Hobson Profumo stayed with him for the remaining 35 years of her life, during which working in charities, even cleaning up the toilets. He restored much of his reputation. On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin at the Sydney Music Festival in Sydney, Australia, and this car orchestra. Now, I don't want to say they're good because, well, they're not.
It sounds like 3rd Avenue any time of the day or night. The project is the work of a Sydney professor who says the music is supposed to connect with the working class. So, in the next concert, you can expect to see local politicians in the crowd doing shots.
Let's head over to India. This is the Gualior (ph) roller skating camp, where they are lighting things on fire, so you know it will be good. Fifteen burning bars set eight inches off the ground. These are the camps finest, kids between the ages of five and seven skating under the flames flawlessly.
The organizers said precautions were taken in case something went wrong, which thankfully never happened. Sixth most powerful man in TV news and I'm reading the highlights of this.
So, in case your five to seven-year-old has to make summer plans yet, that's the Gualior roller skating camp. Please don't forget the certificate of insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: McCain blasts Obama on public campaign financing. The Democrats move towards suing McCain on the same topic.
And a sex film of Marilyn Monroe hidden for 50 years by the FBI. Does this sound a little far-fetched to you? Details ahead. But first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed.
Number three, war profiteer-gate, Mr. Bush's Defense and State Departments scrambling to explain Efraim Deboroli (ph). He is a 22-year-old arms dealer who has gotten 49 government contracts to sell material to Afghanistan and the like. Forty nine contracts awarding processes, in which he has been given special designation as a small disadvantaged business.
Forty nine contracts worth more than 204 million dollars. We should all have such disadvantages.
Number two, politics first, qualifications second-gate; National Security Advisor Steven Hadley on ABC yesterday talking about a possible Olympic boycott protest Chinese treatment of a nation it has subsumed. Among his quotes, "the president thinks that the way to deal with the issue of Nepal is check the Nepal box. What he is doing on Nepal is - concerning what's happening in Nepal - urging the Chinese government to understand that it is their interests to reach out to representatives of the Dalai Lama.
Tibet. He meant Tibet, not Nepal. The Dalai Lama was thrown out of Tibet by the Chinese, not Nepal. Mr. Hadley said Nepal eight times. The national security advisor can't tell Tibet from Nepal.
Number one, politics first, qualifications second-gate continued; the "Washington Post" has published a litany of quotes from memos and speeches given by Housing Secretary Alfonso Jackson, the clown, who once revoked a contract after the bitter revealed he was not an ardent admirer of Mr. Bush. Jackson is under criminal investigation as he prepares to leave office on Friday.
As the lending industry continues its meltdown, they should have been investigating him for this. Late 2006, after the first signs of heavy mortgage failures, Jackson said they were a short-term correction, as he continued to push for legislation to make loans for risky borrowers easier. He said in June of last year, "this spring we'll see the market begin to soar again."
He explained that there was not use trying to tighten lending laws because, in Congress, quote, you have 534 massive egos up there. He, of course, built himself a seven million dollar auditorium and cafeteria in his office building and also had a personal tax-payer funded chef hired. There's no ego involved in that.
Alfonso Jackson's qualifications, as he played Nero to the burning economy, he used to be George Bush's neighbor in Dallas.
OLBERMANN: The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit to force Senator John McCain to obey the law, specifically the laws of campaign financing, specifically the law known by a remarkable coincidence as the McCain/Feingold Act. In our third story tonight, McCain and Obama battling over which of them will and won't, is and isn't participating in the public funding of their campaigns and the rules that come with that.
As the "Washington Post" reports, Obama is not merely raising millions from many small contributions. He's also raising large amounts from so-called bundlers. The law prevents donors from giving more than 2,300 each, so big money supporters instead line up other big money friends, associates, et cetera, compiling big fat bundles of contributions.
Seventy nine so called bundlers having tapped their personal networks thusly for Obama, each raising at least 200,000 dollars for the campaign, about 16 million in total. The average donation is just 109 dollars, but with more than a million contributors, Obama now refers to what he calls a parallel public financing system, a system of his own creation, which last week he suggested might free him from having to use the real public financing system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Through the Internet and the enthusiasm of this campaign, we've created a model for being able to compete at the highest levels of politics without being dependent on big moneyed interests. I think that's a real positive. My position on public finding continues to be the same as the one that I talked about a month and a half ago or two months ago when this first came up, which is that I would like to see a system preserved. And I intend, if I'm the nominee, to have conferences with Senator McCain about how to move forward in a way that doesn't allow third parties to overwhelm the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain ripped Obama for those remarks, despite the fact that last year McCain joined the public financing system, then borrowed money for his campaign, using that public financing as, in effect, collateral, then this year exceeded the McCain/Feingold limits on his spending, and then in response claimed the McCain/Feingold limit didn't apply to him because he wasn't in the system anymore because he now had enough money on his open, some of which he got because he used the fact that he was in the system as collateral.
Got it? McCain also apparently missing the nuance of Obama's past promise, which was not to accept public financing, but to promise to hold discussions with the Republican nominee on some form of it. McCain now accusing Senator Obama of flip-flopping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I'm entertained by it, because he didn't talk about those kinds of discussions when he committed, when he committed in writing to taking public financing in the general election if I would. I committed to it. Now, all of these discussions might be the interesting and, I hope over time valuable. The fact is that he's saying one thing and doing another. That's indisputable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But, clearly, he's got it backwards, exactly. Obama did not commit in writing to taking public financing in the general election. He clearly did talk about those kinds of discussions. That presidential questionnaire from the Midwest Democracy Network is available at no cost online and it does quote Obama in depth about his novel way to adapt public financing.
It reads, in conclusion, "if I'm the Democratic nominee, I'll aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."
Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst, senior editor at "Newsweek," Jonathan Alter. John, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, "NEWSWEEK": Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That last part, at some point, doesn't somebody hold up the questionnaire, like Joe McCarthy - I have it in my hands. I'm holding this questionnaire - and read that entire Obama answer to Senator McCain and say, senator, this is not even close. You are wrong on this and Obama is right. Here's what he said.
ALTER: The problem, Keith, is that both of these guys are associated with campaign finance. McCain with McCain/Feingold and Barack Obama with quite a good piece of legislation he got through, limiting the role of lobbyists, a good piece of ethics legislation. And they are going to spend the next several months accusing each of other being hypocrites.
I don't think the voters care a hell of a lot. This is in some ways going to be a diversion from the issues that are really on the minds of voters. Whatever you think about Obama, what he has done by assembling close to a million contributors, dwarfing anything that's ever been done before. The average donation, as you indicated, is 109 dollars. Whatever you think of him and his politics, this is fantastic news for our democracy, because it basically means that however many bundlers he has, he is not owned by big money. He's the first candidate in many year who is can claim that.
OLBERMANN: The lawsuit that would be filed against McCain here by the Democratic Committee, does it go anywhere? I mean, is it for show? Is it for self-defense? Or can Democrats really force McCain to keep his spending within those campaign finance limits while the sky is the limit for Obama?
ALTER: They can't. The laws are pretty teeth-less. We found there are sometimes some relatively small fines imposed by the Federal Election Commission. Usually, they are imposed after the election, but what it does do for the Democrats is lays down a marker. They are not going to let McCain attack Obama on this subject without firing back at McCain's own hypocrisy on it.
I do think Obama did indicate early on that he would opt for public financing in the fall. In several interviews he indicated that. But that was before interviews he created what he rightly calls a parallel public financing system. There's no law that requires you to take part in public financing. It's optional. And if you have raised all this money from small donors, it is perfectly fine to say you are not going to take part in the system.
All the goo-goos, the people who push for campaign finance reform, who will be attacking Obama for opting out, should remember what the point of this is. The point is not some complex system of checking off on your taxes so everybody gives a dollar and we have public financing. The point of it is to reduce the influence of big money in politics.
OLBERMANN: It is not the fairness doctrine. But what - to that last point, what political purpose does it serve for Senator Obama to delay simply saying, you know what, I'm not going to take public financing. Deal with it.
ALTER: Well, I don't think he wants to do that right now, because there are - you know, there are some people in the Democratic party who are still voting in the Democratic primaries who take all this rather - maybe more seriously than they should. And, also, he would be going back on something that he had indicated. He is probably going to do it as some point, but I don't think he wants to before he wraps up the Democratic nomination.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thanks for helping us sort this stuff out.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: John McCain can get 54 million dollars to run for president, but a supposedly hidden, classified X-rated FBI contained film of Marilyn Monroe only sells for a million and a half? That's a bargain.
And a Fixed Business News reporter aghast at a possible business partnership. Why, that would be like the "New York Times" and the "Boston Globe" working together. Don't anybody tell her, the "New York Times" bought the "Boston Globe" 15 years ago. Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Personally, as sad a story I have reported here. It's our number two, keeping tabs. Will Spence is dead. As a radio news-caster, he was a genius, a virtual child prodigy, on the air while still in high school, a radio news director at 18, in New York City at 19, working on Don Imus' show at 24.
He was equally gifted at television news reporting, working for network stations in New York in the '70s and the '80s and in Los Angeles in the '90s. But for every skill, Will Spence had a demon, substance abuse, the inability to work with anybody else for any length of time, and steadily deepening separation from reality.
He died earlier this month in a one-car accident in southern California. Since his last television job a decade ago, he had been living in a residential hotel in Santa Barbara. The Ventura County coroner's office says it took several days to find anyone related or connected to him. Will Spence was 57 years old.
The FBI is investigating tonight after four million news organizations reported this story about it owning a Marilyn Monroe sex film. Seem a little too bizarre to be true? That's ahead but first time for Countdown's worst person in the world.
The bronze to Alexis Glick of Fox Business Network, talking about the startling unlikelihood of a potential business partnership between Baseball's Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees; "that would be like watching the 'New York Times' and the 'Boston Globe' get together," Glick gushed. Yes, the Times bought the Globe in 1993. Also, the Times owns a minority share in the Boston Red Sox. Miss Glick, you could keep on top of this stuff if you watched cNBC for like half an hour or so a day.
The silver to Brit Hume of Fixed News, explaining why he hired one of the channels, quote, reporters, unquote; "This woman who was strikingly attractive, but has tremendous air presence, a very strong voice. She seemed to get what had been talking about, fair and balanced news. She came in believing there was a left bias in the news."
Wait. So you are saying you hired somebody based on their pre-existing belief that there was a bias in the news? Isn't that in and of itself biased? Then you put her on the news, creating right-wing bias in the news?
But our winner, Rob Sherman, the atheist activist who was shouted at by Illinois State Representative Monique Davis, the guy whose philosophy of atheism Davis thought was too dangerous for kids to even know about. That put Representative Davis on this list. Sherman said she later apologized. It turns out that in the interim Mr. Sherman criticized Miss Davis on his website, using a term he somehow thought described the history of African-Americans equal rights protest.
Mr. Sherman wrote, quote, "now that Negroes like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn't them that are being discriminated against." He tells the "Chicago Tribune," that's what the group was called when they were being discriminated against.
Same interaction, apologies required on both ends. Representative Davis has made hers. It is time for you, Mr. Sherman. Rob Sherman, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Fifty five years ago, Marilyn Monroe starred with Lauren Bacall and Bettie Grable in the movie "How to Marry a Millionaire." Today, a man claims he has brokered the sale of another film of Marilyn Monroe of an X-rated nature, hidden for half a century by the FBI for a million and a half dollars. Our number one story, man, this inflation is just relentless.
Now, whether the film exists or this is a publicity stunt or public exposure of somebody's private desires is another issue. The Reuters News Service however reporting that the son of a deceased FBI informant sold the film to an unnamed New York business man for one and a half mil. Memorabilia collector Kia Morgan claims he facilitated the purchase to an unidentified collector who intends to make sure the film is never scene.
Morgan claims the film is fifteen minutes long, shows Monroe engage in a sex act with an unidentifiable man. And it was once the subject of intense FBI scrutiny because director J Edgar Hoover was hoping against hope that the co-stars was one of the Kennedys.
The story is everywhere tonight. It does seem to lack one element, besides that large number of anonymous men in which it includes. That one element might be plausibility. For that issue, let's turn to Gerald Posner, the investigative journalist who has written books on the Kennedy assassination, organized crime, terrorism and 9/11. A pleasure once again, sir. Thanks fur your time tonight.
GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Good to see you, Keith. Plausibility and this story may not go hand-in-hand, but it is such a great story. I hate to ruin it.
OLBERMANN: All right, but do so, if you can. Do you buy this? Why or why not?
POSNER: I'm skeptical about the story, just because of the fact that it is brokered by somebody who is profiting from it. He has it advertised. He said he sold it for a million and a half on a secret deal. He didn't even put it up on e-bay. It is sold to somebody who wants to protect Monroe's legacy.
I must tell you, what makes any reporter suspicious that it could be real is that you were dealing with an FBI director who probably was - J. Edgar Hoover fans don't send me e-mail on this, but it is historically - he was probably our only closeted homosexual FBI director. He was obsessed with sex. He gathered information on all his political enemies. He easily could have had sex tapes of Marilyn Monroe.
Look at it again, Paris Hilton can't even do anything original. Monroe did it decades beforehand. Is this the real McCoy or not, who knows? Could there be a real Monroe sex tape inside the FBI headquarters? Absolutely, they might not even know they have one.
OLBERMANN: Everybody keeps quiet for half a century? Isn't that the biggest hole in the story?
POSNER: Well, the reason is - you would think so, but I must tell you, one of the things I found on the Kennedy assassination and the King assassination when I did this is they pick up information along the way that is not viewed as key to the investigation itself and sort of gets put aside in a box. They all talk about it. All the agents know about it. All the detectives, all the local Dallas police know about it. It never makes it way into the public.
For instance, we know there are sex tapes, recordings and videos, of Martin Luther King that J. Edgar Hoover illegally obtained in the 1960s. It's sitting somewhere in the FBI files. They never released. That material is there. IT has not been sold. So the scuttlebutt is around this material. I'm not surprised - you could get a real tape. It could come out. I don't know if this is a real McCoy.
OLBERMANN: It is a good point. Obviously, we had some rumors about Mark Felt and Deep Throat, in a totally unrelated, coincidental term there. It was never conclusive evidence that the lead operational guy of the FBI was involved in this. Obviously, lots of people in the FBI 35 years ago knew about it.
On this particular one, let's ratchet this up a bit. The Clifford Irving (ph) quality here; all of this information is coming from the supposed deal maker, who just happens to also be making a documentary about Marilyn Monroe. Does that tip it one way or the other?
POSNER: Yes, it tips it towards the does it pass the smell taste, as far as I'm concerned. Look, one of the problems today is technology is super and it gives the ability to people who want to fake material a much better ability to do it. The "Los Angeles Times" just got duped on documents they thought were FBI documents when they accused P. Diddy of being part of the attempt on Tupac Shakur that ended up killing him years ago. They had to apologize on the first page.
So there's sophisticated hoaxsters out there. Here's a guy who says he is doing a documentary that is going to prove that Marilyn Monroe was killed. If that's the case, he really believes that, then hold this supposed sex tape until you produce your documentary showing she was killed. And your sex tape is not a million and a half. It is worth 15 million. I'm not sure why he is selling it now. It doesn't sound right.
OLBERMANN: That's the last thing on here. Her late ex-husband is alleged by this guy to have allegedly tried to buy the original years ago for 25,000. His price is a million and a half. Not to get grotesque about the profit possibilities, for each of these eras, don't those prices seem a little low for what the product was.
POSNER: Yes, I agree, the million and a half does seem a little bit low, even with inflation. I just read the other day that the wealthiest man in India is building himself a seventeen story skyscraper as a personal home that will run over a billion dollars. So there's certainly some obsessive Marilyn collector out there with silly money who would pay much, much more for this.
I also love the Joe Dimaggio part of the story. Her devoted husband, who really was crazy about her, bid 25,000 dollars to take the tape off the market. And then said, you know what? One dollar more than that is too much. I won't spend 25,001. I won't throw in a baseball bat or a couple signed gloves for you. He just walked away from it. Doesn't sound real.
OLBERMANN: That's the only part, knowing my background in sports, knowing what I have heard about Dimaggio, that's the only part I buy, that he actually had a top price past which he would not go.
OLBERMANN: I'm just surprised he wouldn't throw in any memorabilia in with that.
OLBERMANN: Right, 25,000 and a glove. OK, you got it. The investigative journalist Gerald Posner tonight, on a lighter note, great thanks, have a great night.
POSNER: Thank you, too.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,810th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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