'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, April 30
Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons
Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Chris Kofinis, Jim Shank, Maria Milito
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Out of gas: The rational superdelegates have all decided and they've secretly told the campaigns and the Obama people are happy. Where does that leave Senator Clinton's bid to snatch the nomination?
Out of gas: Carpooling to work in the car of an Indiana sheet metal worker playing fill her up for him only it wasn't really his car and she spent most of the event on the phone and she's really hasn't bought gas in a while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When was last time you bought gas?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I haven't personally bought it for a long time because of Secret Service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Poll result show: Obama 46, Clinton, 43 in tonight's NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Survey.
"He's so full of it," Senator Jim Webb on McCain's foot dragging on the new G.I. Bill. McCain says Webb's staff has not been eager to negotiate. Webb says, "I have personally talked to John three times." Old man yells at cloud.
Fraud at Wal-Mart: The disabled woman who they were suing to get back the medical expenses they paid for her. The suit they dropped a month ago to end the nightmare of bad pub. Wal-Mart still hasn't given Debbie Shank back control of her money. Her husband, Jim, joins us here tonight.
And we join Paula Abdul's meltdown already in progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: Jason, first song I loved hearing your lower register - the second song, I felt like your usual charm, it was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty.
RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: It was just the first song.
ABDUL: Oh, my God, I thought you sang twice.
RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL" HOST: You're seeing the future, baby.
You're seeing the future. She's coming back.
ABDUL: You know what? This is hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, not really.
All that and more: Now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDUL: This is hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening, this is Wednesday, April 30th, 188 days until the 2008 presidential election.
And a campaign whose race for the superdelegates is reportedly secretly over and a campaign the subtext of which has been complaint and even metaphorically martyrdom, there are words that would have sent supporters Senator Clinton into a paroxysm of rage. That the nation needed a president, quote, "that has testicular fortitude."
Our fifth story on the Countdown: That there is no rage and there are no death threats tonight, explicable thusly - the gonadial (ph) reference was made by a labor leader as he endorsed Senator Clinton intending it as a compliment to her fortitude. This was Paul Gipson, president of an Indiana Steelworkers Local as Senator Clinton was described as smiling sheepishly behind him, insisting that to alter and improve NAFTA America needed, well, let's let him say it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL GIPSON, PRESIDENT, STEELWORKERS LOCAL 6786: I truly believe that that's going to take an individual that has testicular fortitude. You know, that's exactly right. That's what we got to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It is the second odd thing said on her behalf in 24 hours. In North Carolina, which had the words been directed against Senator Clinton rather than for her, might have provoked the campaign's well oiled umbrage machine. In the endorsing the senator yesterday, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley said, Clinton was so determined that she, quote, "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."
An odd photo-op highlighted today on the trail, Senator Clinton's typical morning commute with an average Indiana sheet metal worker, nothing typical nor average for either them. Jason Wilfing and his family driving 45 minutes from their home outside of South Bend this morning, to meet Senator Clinton at her hotel in Plymouth, Indiana, he was not even driving his own pickup truck which could not accommodate the Secret Service. This is a loaner from his boss. He normally does not commute to work in a motorcade that includes eight low gas SUVs either.
Senator Clinton having little time for small talk with her driver - I'm sorry, host, as she multitasked doing a radio interview by telephone. Eventually, time for the pit stop, the whole enterprise choreographed down to a specific gas station, a specific pump at that gas station so that cameras could be in position when the caravan arrived. Senator Clinton paid for the half tank, but Mr. Wilfing pumped the gas, the senator admitting she's out of practice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Oh, I haven't personally bought it for a long time because of Secret Service. So, you know, I have a unique situation, but I sure have heard a lot from so many people about what it cost them to buy gas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That stunt an opportunity for Senator Clinton to make a pitch again for her summer gas tax holiday which she said, "Would spare families like Jason Wilfing's, and our own correspondent Ron Allen pointed that Senator Obama and other critics called that proposal a gimmick that would save families like Mr. Wilfing's only $28 all summer, Senator Clinton suddenly had new beneficiaries for her plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: It is very helpful to a lot of people. You know, the people who drive long distances and there are folks who commute 60, 75 miles. So, it's going to be a lot more for them. It also is really important for our truckers, the American Truckers Association said that just in the summer months, trucking - truckers would save like $2 billion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, why didn't she spend the morning riding shotgun in the cab of a semi? Senator Clinton's day did not get better when she went inside to the convenience store and could not operate the coffee machine without assistance.
It also did not get better with this news today's superdelegate endorsements favoring Senator Obama three to two, Senator Clinton needing about 2/3 of remaining undecided superdelegates under the rosiest of projection.
And Politico.com is reporting that Capitol Hill insiders are telling them that the battle for congressional superdelegates is over, one prominent Obama surrogate hinting that Senator Obama was the victor. Asked which way the committed but unannounced superdelegates are leading, Senator Claire McCaskill telling Politico, quote, "As James Brown would say, I feel good."
Senator Obama narrowly leading in the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll out this evening: 46 to 43. The Keith number of other plus not sure plus margin of error is 11.1. As for concerns that the Democratic primary fight could hurt the party's chances in November, putting aside for a moment who the actually nominee might be, when asked their preference for the outcome of the general election, more than half of those surveyed, choosing the generic Democrat, 51 to 33.
On that note, let's bring in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton's drive along this morning, I mean, this was obviously "kept the gas tax holiday" story alive for another day. And by no means was it John Kerry in a germ-free suit that looked like a giant condom or Mike Dukakis in the tank. But, did this go well?
FINEMAN: Well, you can't say it went very well. She - some of the staged theatrics of it got out of hand for her. But talking to the Clinton people tonight, they're happy about it because they're relentlessly focused on this issue. They're doubling down on advertising in Indiana and North Carolina to the extent they can with the gas tax holiday thing, plus the mention of the mortgage foreclosure freeze, they think it symbolizes the kind of campaign that she wants to run and they've taken on such a note of "us versus them," of "us versus the elites."
It sounded to me like when I talked to Clinton campaign headquarters that they're all sitting around in muscle t-shirts getting ready to drive off in their Harleys. They've got a real "us versus them" mentality that includes the media, that includes Barack Obama who they managed to convince themselves as the paragon of elitism.
OLBERMANN: But who's the "us"? We know who the "them" is, it's everybody. Who's the "us" because, the economists who - besides Senator Obama, economists are pointing out, the price of gas could go up, demand would go up, refineries wouldn't be able to meet the demand, gas companies might see an opportunity to, you know, scarf up more profit with the price being dropped by some percentage. Also, she's lined again with John McCain on this.
Am I missing something here? Is this - not in terms of the campaign, but in terms of the context of the actual issue, is this where she really wants to be?
FINEMAN: Yes, it's where she wants to be. It's very much where she wants to be. It really is shot and beer, a bowl off. I expect her to be driving the 18-wheeler herself down I-70. And they don't care about the theory. They don't care for once about what Paul Krugman says.
They used to like what Paul Krugman says and as for the relationship with McCain, they say that they would pay for the holiday with windfall profits taxes on the oil company, something McCain doesn't do. They just managed to convince themselves that they're going to go for every vote of every person who resents the system. The theory of it be damned and they'd taken lots of hits for their mortgage foreclosure freeze, they're taking similar hits on this.
They've made a virtue of necessity and they're trying to glory in it as they become the sort of working man's friend campaign as things play out here. That's the role that Hillary is finally come to in this campaign and the one that seems that she's going to play out from here until the end of the nomination process.
OLBERMANN: The remark about testicular fortitude about Senator Clinton by one of her supporters. If this had been said critically of her, obviously, the political world would be aflame tonight and dire consequences would be threatened as we speak. But just on the substance, with this man here, Paul Gipson said, is this a compliment? Does this help her campaign or her image?
FINEMAN: Well, the mind reels at the possible campaign trinkets we're going to see now, Keith. They love it. They absolutely love it. And they love the implication behind it, if you put this together with the "pansy" remark from North Carolina - they love the implication of it.
They're trying to paint Barack Obama as somehow an effete elitist, and Hillary who spent all of her time, you know, years ago with all the soft money crowd who had the fat cats with her as opposed to the Internet crowd at the beginning of the campaign, they're trying to paint her as the working girl. That's the role that she's got. They picked through the polls and looking for support among working people, white-collar Catholics, seniors, you know, those working women in Pittsburgh, and now, they are going for the same crowd in Indiana and North Carolina.
That's with a she's got left to play. That's what's on the table, Keith, and she's playing it for all its worth. And one thing about the Clintons, they're never embarrassed about where they end up in politics and this is where she's ended up.
OLBERMANN: Check your shame at the door, indeed. Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek." Not your shame, you know what I mean.
FINEMAN: Yes, I know what you mean.
OLBERMANN: As always, sir, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now, back to this issue of superdelegates. A closed issue if Politico.com is right, not if you witnessed though a small protest in Washington today. A group of 150 Floridians rallied on the streets outside Democratic National Committee headquarters in D.C. One of them, a superdelegate pledged to Senator Clinton named Corrine Brown, claiming, "We will shut down the convention if we are not seated, then nobody will be seated."
That's a Democrat talking about other Democrats. Although another Clinton superdelegate also addressed the crowd, organizers going out of their way to remove any impression the group might be, well you know, biased towards Senator Clinton. Many in the crowd wearing t-shirts bearing the names of every Democratic candidate, Kucinich, Dodd, Biden, Obama, you get the picture.
At this point, let's turn to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, who served as communications director of the Edwards campaign. Thank you for your time, sir.
CHRIS KOFINIS, FMR. EDWARDS' SPOKESMAN: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: One member of that crowd outside the DNC headquarters who was asked if she was a Clinton supporter told NBC, quote, "We're not supposed to talk about that." Without - the implications of that by itself, what was that event today in Washington?
KOFINIS: It's one of those spontaneous manufactured events that is supposed to, I think, create this impression that there's a grassroots movement to push the seat in Florida. I mean, listen, I think, this is clearly something that the Clinton camp either, you know, knew about or clearly supported one way or the other. I mean, it's obvious that they want Florida and Michigan to be seated. It's something that I think they need in order to build up the popular vote count let alone their delegate vote count. I just don't see it's going to happen given everything we know.
OLBERMANN: And let's say it does happen both with Florida and Michigan, does it really help to the degree that it needs to be? I mean, this report from Politico.com today said that the congressional delegations have already made up their minds and just have not said anything publicly yet at a sense of staying out of this. Senator McCaskill made it seem as if certainly they had not fallen into that 66 percent to 33 percent breakdown that she would at best need. Is this - what is this about at this point?
KOFINIS: I mean, here's the problem, I think, for the Clinton
campaign. It's a math problem. And if you look at the key statistics, I
think, that the superdelegates are going to factor in and when they decide
when they finally decide - it's going to be who's ahead in the pledged votes. Senator Obama is. Who's ahead on the popular vote? Senator Obamas is. Who's won more states? Senator Obama has.
You know, who's - for example, you know, leading in the money race? Senator Obama is. I mean, those, I think, are really powerful factors and part of this gamesmanship back-and-forth is the Clinton campaign trying to at least steal one of those statistics away, specifically the popular vote one. I mean, I'd just don't know how you do that when in particular Senator Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan. I think it's a really hard sell.
OLBERMANN: Why haven't those congressional superdelegates, if Politico is right, announced their preferences? Why, in other words, are they putting us and their party through more of this if they don't have to?
KOFINIS: I'm not sure if there (inaudible) or Bacchus's (ph) or both. I mean, it's part the question I think a lot of people keep asking. I mean, the reality is here as long as Senator Clinton keeps winning, they're going to prolong this thing at least to the end. I think, if Senator Clinton loses both Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday, I think you're going to see an avalanche of superdelegates going Senator Obama's way.
If that doesn't happen, as I expect it will be a split, you're going to see a trickle, well, you know, kind of what you seen since, you know, Pennsylvania with Senator Obama leading and then them holding up to June 3rd. And then, I think, those statistics are going to play really heavily and I think already playing heavily, but it's going to keep the superdelegates on the sidelines for the time being.
OLBERMANN: On that narrow chance, the can opener option that in fact, this is decided not by delegate count or maybe not by vote count in the primaries or nothing that relates to the actual votes we've seen, but that somehow the Democratic Party leaders decide the Democratic nominee and as Senator Clinton hopes that is not Senator Obama. Is it - I talked about this 35 times today on the streets of New York, is this automatically somewhere written that if you don't pick the person who finished first in all of those categories, you have to pick the person who finished second?
In other words if there's a decision to overrule a vote, is it automatic that Senator Clinton is the beneficiary of that, or could there be a third candidate who winds up with this nomination? And again, just theoretically.
KOFINIS: I mean, only if it went to the convention, I think, is that a small possibility. I think what you've seem from the relationship of the party - in the party in particular, Governor Dean and others, saying that they want this thing decided in June. I mean, I would personally hope it was decided early but that's, you know, that's par for the course.
So, I don't think that's going to happen. I think those statistics end up weighing very heavily on the superdelegates, and I think, you know, wait and see what happens in Indiana and North Carolina and let's hope it's over sooner rather than later. But don't count on it.
OLBERMANN: Well, Chris Kofinis, former communications director of the Edwards campaign, as we celebrate one year plus since the first debate, here's hoping. Great thanks.
KOFINIS: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Michelle Obama with one of great answers ever in the political interview today.
Wal-Mart dragging its feet a month after it promised that Deborah Shank would get her money back. She doesn't have it. Her husband, Jim, joins us.
And exactly does this bill promise, assemblywoman, the one guaranteeing a woman's right to pursue sexual happiness?
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Wal-Mart feared your anger, promised its former employee, Debbie Shank, would get her money back. It's been one month since the bad publicity ended the Shanks do not have the money back yet. Her husband joins us.
Back on the campaign trail: Michelle Obama's answer to Meredith Vieira about Reverend Wright is pretty much closed off that topic.
Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: In case there was any question and yes there was, whether the Obama campaign was intending to move on from the Reverend Wright following Senator Obama's a definitive renunciation yesterday, the senator's wife provided a definitive answer today.
That answer, our fourth story tonight: Next question, please.
Speaking with Meredith Vieira for an interview that will air on THE TODAY SHOW tomorrow and also on Countdown, Michelle Obama was asked for her personal feelings about Wright.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")
MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC HOST: Michelle, do you feel that the Reverend Wright betrayed your husband?
MICHELLE OBAMA, SENATOR OBAMA'S WIFE: You know, I think that Barack has spoken so clearly and eloquently about this.
VIEIRA: But do you personally feel that the reverend betrayed your husband?
M. OBAMA: I believe that we got - you know what I think, Meredith, we've got to move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids. You know, it doesn't help kids out there who were looking for us to make decisions and choices about how we're going to better fund education.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Check, please. That interview with both Michelle and Barack Obama tomorrow morning on TODAY, tomorrow night on Countdown. Meanwhile, today, the candidates backfill resumed after a year trying to disprove his rival's claims that he is not presidential enough, Senator Obama has apparently succeeded so well that he is now addressing his rival's claims that he's not average enough.
So today, the black son of a white single mother held a small town hall with his wife talking about their student loan debt and Michelle Obama struggled to be a mother to their kids while holding on to a job they needed the income for, and years ago, trying to keep her husband out of politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: I'm the cynic in the family. I am the one. Right? This is the hope guy.
M. OBAMA: I've seen it. I'm like - you really do believe this stuff, don't you?
M. OBAMA: And it's a good thing because he has always said, because I've spent my life trying to convince him not to be a politician, like teach, write, sing, dance. I don't care what you do, just don't do this. These people are mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's bring in a nice person, MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also a columnist and associate editor of the "Washington Post." Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If McCain and Clinton and the media keep chopping right in the forest but there's no news to hear, will it still make a sound?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, I think the media have developed kind of dog ears on this subject. So, I think if any sort of tiny sound or ultrahigh frequency peep, you know, a rustling of branches or anything, it seems that we - the story is irresistible to, you know, cable networks and newspapers and everybody basically in our business. So, it doesn't go away immediately. But, I think a lot of the wind is taken out of the sails of this alleged issue since Obama can reply to, you know, questions about Wright by saying - well, I've already said, the guy is nuts, so, let's move on.
OLBERMANN: And not perhaps in so many words but yes, that was obviously his intent yesterday. It is a fascinating reversal though. This man now having to prove he's average enough when the campaign against him, I mean, the 3:00 a.m. ad and such, were predicated on the idea that he wasn't presidential enough. Now, I mean, these are not opposite ends of the spectrum but presidential and average, you think if you're not one, you're going to be the other one, correct?
ROBINSON: Right. I mean, I am on record as not wanting an average president, especially this time. You know, we've tried this. It does not work. I don't want an average person as president. Indeed, I don't think we have average people in the race. Hillary Clinton is certainly not an average person.
You know, in a sense, I mean, if Obama has kind of - if perceptions of him or certain of his qualities are important, here's one that at least he can do something about. He can't do anything about the fact that he is black, nor would he want to. And if some people are not going to vote for him because of that, then, fine. But, you know, there's nothing he can do.
But if people perceive him to be kind of professorial and super intellectual and maybe just a little reserved and maybe just a little aloof, you know - and they don't like that, then maybe he can show people that that's not what he really is. You know, I mean, if indeed that is not what he really is, then, he can certainly make a show of being more of a normal person.
OLBERMANN: Is there something else to it though? John Boehner the House Republican said that the Republicans will win in November because Obama's appeal will be limited to arugala-eaters. We have the steelworkers union leader from Indiana, Mr. Gipson, the one who made the remark about Senator Clinton's testicular fortitude, again, those are his words. He also decried "the Gucci-wearing latte-drinking self-centered egotistical people that have damaged our lifestyle."
I don't know who the hell he's talking about. But I feel like I'm missing the subtext here that these are code words for something, not something racial, maybe it's something about Obama, what is the insecurity that he reminds people like John Boehner or Paul Gipson that they have?
ROBINSON: SAT scores basically. I mean, it's kind of class with an intellectual component, you know, that this is one of those smarty pants guys and the implication, I guess, is that someone is sufficiently intelligent and has enough advanced degrees is not able to relate to or even comprehend the problems that people have who don't have those advantages, I guess.
OLBERMANN: All right. I go with the smart guy every time.
ROBINSON: I really want the smart guy. I really do.
OLBERMANN: I want the guy so much smarter than me that it hurts me - that it pains me that that there's that much smartness between us.
ROBINSON: If he or she is the smartest person in the room, and just got all time (ph), I'm happy.
OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC, and according to Britain's newspaper, "The Telegraph," the 37th most influential political pundit in our fair land. Great thanks, number 37.
ROBINSON: Thanks, 37 with a bullet, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yes, you bet.
A program note: More of Meredith Vieira's conversation with Barack and Michelle Obama tomorrow morning on THE TODAY SHOW and an exclusive tomorrow night here on Countdown, new portions of that interview are debuting right here on this news hour - Senator Obama on Countdown tomorrow night.
Here today, gone tomorrow: The roundup of the odd and the Wal-Mart story that outraged the nation. Wal-Mart said it was going to leave Debbie Shank alone. Why then has it not given her family control of her money? Her husband joins us here.
That's ahead but first: the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals - Bushed.
Number three: Brain damage-gate. Forget the moral imperative to give returning troops the best possible health dare, especially to those health problems incurred during their service, forget the damage done to recruiting efforts when we discard used soldiers like trash. The nation's top military think tank, the Rand Corporation is now offering a motive for helping the troops that even this administration might care about - money.
Rand officials are testifying this week that the Bush administration provided appropriate treatment to all the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering brain injuries. It would actually save money in the long run because things like lost productivity and suicide attempts are expensive. So, now will you take care of the wounded? There's profit in it.
Number two: Losing-gate. The State Department's annual report on global terrorism is out. No decline on the number of global terror attacks from 2006, and despite the Republican claim of monopoly on fighting terror, more than six years after 9/11, anti-America terrorists still maintain actual safe havens in Somalia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Yemen.
The report also says al Qaeda has improved operational planning for targeting the U.S., thanks to a Pakistani cease-fire that Mr. Bush defended in 2006 when he said, quote, "We'll let the tactics speak for themselves after it happened." Well, the tactics. So, what do you have to say for yourself?
And number one: Homeland Security-gate: The "Washington Times," the conservative paper, today reports that among the 9,000 false positive hits per day on the terrorist "no-fly list" are some Federal Air Marshals. An anonymous agent told the "Times" in some cases, planes have departed without any coverage, meaning no marshals because the airline employees were adamant they would not fly. Another agent said that he's been getting harassed for six years because his exact name is on the "no-fly list."
You heard me, because of this always growing, all consuming terrorist "no-fly list," some of the people who are supposed to be on the plane to stop the terrorists on the plane are getting mistaken for suspected terrorists and being kept from getting on the plane.
OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment and legislation that would ensure a woman's right to sexual happiness. Got to see that 527 ad. First, we're off by a day, but on April 29th, 1958, Gary Cohen was born, for 20 years now play by play man of the New York Mets and graduate of one of those other schools in the organization that Cornell runs, the Ivy League. I believe it's called Columbia. Also a Countdown viewer. Happy 50th, Gary. Let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Think those road trips are bad, try going to Silligori (ph), India, where this dude managed to pull an empty train and three cars for a record breaking 12 feet using only his pony tail. You think that's impressive? In Bashpour (ph), India, another hirsute Superman able to lift 22 pounds of weights using only his mustache and a grimace. Can't quite manage to lift the bike though. Pony tail, moustache, impressive; next year a guy tries all of this with his nose hair.
To the Internets and an interview gone horribly awry on ABC News Now. Greg Olgood (ph) of Proctor and Gambol demonstrating a device that transforms filthy worm filled water into drinkable water. The interview went swimmingly until Mr Olgood decided to prove how good the device worked at the end of the interview.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to leave it, thank you very much. That's great, thank you. And that is "Money Matters" for now.
OLBERMANN: Always look before you drink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wal-mart thought it had stopped the public anger when it dropped its lawsuit to recover the medical expense money it fronted from one of its employees. But a month later, Debbie and Jim Shank still don't have access to their money. Wal-Mart has now issued a statement and Jim Shank will join us. Paula Abdul finds a worm hole and travels through time. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best accidental psychedelic drug inventor, Albert Hofman, the Swiss synthetic chemist who inadvertently discovered LSD. He died at the age of 102, 65 years after he took the first acid trip and then had the first bad acid trip. Hofman also responsible for pioneering several medical useful drugs. He discovered Peyote mushrooms and through his invention of LSD, he was also responsible for the Sid and Marty Croff (ph) TV Show, "H.R. Puff and Stuff."
Number two, best armed leg, Jerry Moody, a homeless man from Fort Pierce in Florida. Picked up at the truck stop by cops, taken to the E.R. for undisclosed injuries, where revealed he had a gun, 23 rounds of ammunition on his person, as well as four knives concealed in his prosthetic leg. Mr Moody was arrested for not having a permit for the weapons, but he was immediately cast in the next Quentin Tarantino flick.
Number one, best constitutional amendment; for women in her conservative nation, Ecuadorial assembly member Maria Soledad Vela (ph) has introduced a bill that would ensure the pursuit of sexual happiness. Miss Vela claims the write to enjoyment will ensure women can make free, responsible and informed decisions about sex lives. An opposition member accused Vela of trying to decree orgasm by law, saying it, quote, isn't possible.
Responds Assembly women Vela, "I never asked for the right to orgasm, only the right to enjoyment." Why in the hell hasn't this come up in one of our presidential debate?
OLBERMANN: For three days running, Wal-Mart made it into our nightly list of worst persons in the world, until finally, on April 1st, that company announced it was dropping its claim to the money its health care plan had paid to Wal Mart employee Debra Shank after she was left permanently brain damaged in a horrific truck accident. Tonight, our third story in the Countdown, it appears Wal-Mart has snatched evil from the jaws of goodness. Wal Mart is dragging its corporate feet.
Debbie Shanks husband, Jim, who took on two jobs to pay for her on-going health care and who was even forced to divorce her just so she could get a little more money from Medicaid will join us presently. First a reminder of just what happened to the Shank family. Debra Shank, a mother of three, working for a local Missouri Wal-Mart, when her mini van collided with a tractor trailer in 2000. She was so grievously injured, she not only cannot remember the accident, she cannot even remember that her son had been killed in Iraq.
To pay for her 24-hour care, her husband successfully won about 417,000 in a settlement put in a trust fund. Wal-Mart then successfully sued the Shanks for all of the money, citing small print in their health care plan. While Jim Shank asked for some compassion, the company insisted it was being compassionate by only taking what was left in her settlement trust, and not the full amount their health care plan paid out.
It was only after the national outrage that Wal-Mart agreed to drop its claim. And yet, nearly a month later, the trust is still in the company's name. The Shanks still can't touch the money. Wal-Mart has sent us a statement late today, reading, "our commitment to the Shank family has not changed. We want to see the trust within the Shank family control as soon as possible and in a manner that protects her from a tax stand point. To do that, we have to take several steps in the right order. We have been in on-going communication with the Shank's attorney and he is fully aware of our timetable. We should have the trust in Mrs. Shank's name soon."
As promised, Jim Shank joins us from St. Louis. Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
JIM SHANK, WIFE INJURED IN ACCIDENT: Keith, it's a pleasure.
OLBERMANN: What happened since April 1st, when Wal-Mart said they would give the money back, and what do they mean in that statement that this is about taxes and that your attorneys know all about it?
SHANK: I was just informed on the way up here that they were in contact with my attorney today, and we have to go to court and get all of the judgments in their favor, we have to get them all reversed, have a judge sign off on it. Then, supposedly, everything will be turned back over to us. The tax thing, you're guess is as good as mine.
OLBERMANN: Are you confident this is going to work out all right?
Did we hit some sort of hitch because the publicity push stopped.
SHANK: I'm trying to be confident that it will be worked out. My attorney tells me, it's going to happen, just be patient. But I've been patient. I'm try to be patient. I'm smiling and being patient. Where's my money?
OLBERMANN: Tell me why people would say, this is going to be resolved. They have conceded the point and they claim they are doing this now just to make sure you don't get messed up somehow with the taxes. That's understandable. Explain to me why it's important that you and Debra get that trust fund money back soon? What's the actual difference it will make, particularly, in her life and yours?
SHANK: Well, we've got her in a private room again, but there's a bill to be paid there. And I can't pick that off the trees. We have another lawsuit pending that we need to pay against one of the local hospitals. And same thing, I don't have the money to pay it. And it's - the lawsuit is coming up soon. So we need answers.
OLBERMANN: What have you heard as we await these answers? What have you heard about this kind of thing happening to families like yours? I mean, companies taking money away from victims after seemingly the accident has already devastated their lives, now coming back for some reason and saying that this small amount of cash is essential for the health of their health care plan?
SHANK: I've had people comment to me through letters and through the newspaper that the same thing has happened to them. Some of them are bitter, why are we getting all the publicity? Why are we getting the money back and they didn't. Others are understanding and they just hope the best for us. I don't understand. I'm glad this has all been brought to light so maybe it won't happen again and people will read the fine print in their contracts, and not be hit blind-side, wow.
OLBERMANN: If you want to, forward us any of those things. We won't turn this into, everybody has 20 minutes on TV. If we can do anything, obviously it worked to some degree. The most important point is last here, how are you and how is Debra doing?
SHANK: She's in a private room, like I said, and that's temporary happiness. She could be happy for an hour or she could be happy minute. You just never know with her. It's - it's a crap shoot every time you see her.
OLBERMANN: What about you, how are you?
SHANK: The drugs are working fine. I was going to go to Brazil and see if I could get happiness there and try to move on.
OLBERMANN: Jim Shank, thanks for your time tonight. We hope this gets resolved for you and the family soon. Until they make it right, Wal-Mart goes back on the list. Let us know what goes on.
SHANK: Thanks, Keith. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Take care. And no, I don't want to cover Paula Abdul's on air hallucination. However, no, I can't look the other way.
Did you know the U.S. never invaded Iraq? We're told so by Bill O'Reilly, who, of course, told us three months ago that the US did invade Iraq. Worst persons next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: I promise you no more "American Idol" stories. So this Paula Abdul thing is classified as a performer hallucinates on network TV story. That's next, but first for our number two story, Countdown's worst person in the world.
The bronze to reporter Jay Gormley (ph) and the CBS station in Dallas/Ft. Worth, breaking the news that in Monday's news conference, Reverend Jeremiah Wright had referred to Texas Christian University as a, quote, godless Christian college. He went to the campus in Ft. Worth and got suitably angry reaction from TCU student and folk. Only after Gormley's report aired did anybody at KTVT realize they had misheard what Jeremiah Wright had said. He didn't say Texas Christian University, a godless Christian college. He was reciting a short list of colleges and said Texas Christian University and Jarvis Christian College. Well, May sweeps started on Monday.
The runner up, Senator John McCain, who has refused to work with Senator Jim Webb on the new bipartisan GI Bill, and instead proposed his own legislation. McCain is now, of course, blaming Webb. Quoting McCain, I haven't been in Washington, but my staff there said that his has not been eager to negotiate. Senator Webb pulled no punches. In reply, he said, he pleaded with McCain's top aid months ago to get involved in the bill. And asked of McCain himself, says Webb, quote, he's so full of it. I have personally talked to John three times.
But our winner, Bill-O, presenting yet more evidence his Choo Choo no longer has even one wheel on the track. Announcing last night, we didn't invade Iraq. It was a vote in Congress. It was a declaration of war. It was a declaration to enforce the first Gulf War Treaty. When a politician two years ago described it as an invasion, he was wrong? When a commentator said three months ago yesterday, I'll submit that most folks still have no idea why the Bush administration invaded Iraq, he was wrong? When a commentator said in March of 2006, quote, Iraq was invaded to create a friendly country between Iran and Syria, he too was wrong?
The politician who insisted we invaded Iraq was President Bush. The first commentator that insisted we invaded Iraq was Bill O'Reilly. The second commentator who insisted we invaded Iraq was also Bill O'Reilly. Yes, Bill, we never invaded Iraq, and Americans were the war criminals at Malmedy. Bill, "never mind what I said earlier, I can't remember it, why should I," O'Reilly today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: We're back to this again, stories my producers are forcing me to cover. Our number one tonight, the latest cringe-worthy, Youtube Paula Abdul meltdown. You and I can claim we don't care, but it is like the late, great comic Bill Hicks used to admit about his inability to stop watching the TV show "Cops"; I'm like a guy with a sour tooth. I can't stop touching it with my tongue.
The set up, so to speak, simple enough; since the show was supposedly pressed for time, the host, Ryan Seacrest, had asked that the judges take notes and critique the five contestants after their second song. At the end of the first round, Seacrest brought out all the singers so the judges could critique their first song en masse. Randy Jackson complied efficiently and then it was Paula's turn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL": Oh, God, we've never had to write these things down fast enough. Jason, the first song I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. The second song, I felt like you're usual charm was missing for me. It kind of left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel like you're not fighting hard enough to get into the top four. David Cook -
RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL": Just on the first song now.
ABDUL: Oh, my god, I thought you sang twice?
RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL": Paula, you're seeing the future baby.
ABDUL: You know what, this is hard.
SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL": Paula, who is your favorite?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Over here, dear, I'm the one in the middle. Pay no attention to the other two of me. If that seemed to surpass her usual stammering on the show, it's also right up there with her other greatest hits, guest appearance on QVC, and more than a year ago, the bewildered yet joyful interview with the local Fox affiliates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDUL: Good morning, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you looking forward to this season?
ABDUL: How about a lot of you coming in? It is a wild party where you are.
You know what, listen, any publicity is good publicity. You got to learn to eat it up and embrace it and say Seattle has the best delusional people.
It's just a nice piece to wear. You can wear it with a shirt, a suit.
And you know, you can wear it around your jeans into the area of -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In your belt loop.
ABDUL: I'm creating my own - hi, everybody. It's my anniversary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's bring Countdown's "American Idol" princess, also the mid day host of New York's classic rock station Q-104.3, wearing a shirt and a scoot, Maria Milito. Hi.
MARIA MILITO, NEW YORK'S Q-104.3: Happy anniversary. That cracks me up still, I'm sorry.
OLBERMANN: There have been various explanations from Mrs. Abdul as to what the hell that was.
MILITO: She said she was talking about David Cook's performance, who was the second singer. What doesn't make sense is she said to Jason Castro that both the first and second that he sang weren't that good. And then when she said I was talking about David Cook. She said you were great. So she contradicted herself.
OLBERMANN: Maybe she experienced both of these things and we only saw part of it.
MILITO: It was, I don't know. Then, supposedly, she was in on the rehearsals in the daytime. That's why she was all confused. They did everything differently last night. Instead of judging and critiquing them after each person sang, they did - all of the five contestants did their first song and then the judges critiqued them. I think that threw her off. It really threw her off.
OLBERMANN: Like a horse seeing that stable for the 9,000th consecutive day, and on that day going - that kind of freak out thing.
MILITO: Maybe, a slight change.
OLBERMANN: Does this exclude the possibility that that was just another publicity driven or seeking setup.
MILITO: I think it could have been. They've said the show is down seven percent of the ratings, and not as many people are watching it and blah, blah, blah. It's kind of boring. Maybe they did it on purpose.
OLBERMANN: Down seven percent publicity, down 70 percent sanity. Or what about the possibility that she is seeing the future? What about the possibility that she's found the worm hole, that she has special powers and we should all be very respectful because she can go ahead an wreak havoc.
MILITO: If she can see the future, no offense - I know I'm the princess - she should tell us who wins and let's just call it a day. We have four more weeks of this. It is a little boring this year.
OLBERMANN: You know what the problem is? She can see the future, but when she comes back, she forgets.
MILITO: That could be. From the medication maybe?
OLBERMANN: She takes more of it in the future. That's the other problem.
MILITO: It could very well be.
OLBERMANN: Even time travel, would that be enough to save the show at this point or to goose the ratings?
MILITO: No, I don't think so. Stop it. It doesn't mean anything. It means they just have to revamp it for next year. I heard they are talking about not showing the auditions, which a lot of people watch just for the auditions. That's the best part.
OLBERMANN: I was going to say, that's where they lose me, when they auditions end and they actually start singing.
MILITO: I hear the producers are definitely trying to do something to rejuvenate the show, unless it jumped the shark, but I don't think so.
OLBERMANN: What would you introduce, a cooking segment or best designer?
MILITO: Maybe a circus act at the beginning.
OLBERMANN: But she's the circus act.
MILITO: Maybe animals on there, dogs throwing frisbee. I don't know.
That would work.
OLBERMANN: And she leaps up and catches them.
MILITO: I thought I was a dog.
OLBERMANN: - for that moment.
MILITO: Right, for the moment, the meds.
OLBERMANN: Is this the absolute measure of where it is right now, that when she did whatever it was she did last night, and got completely lost and heard a song that nobody else heard.
MILITO: Yes, and then they got all of this publicity. Everybody is talking about it today.
OLBERMANN: But Simon Cowell didn't -
MILITO: He actually, almost like a parent does to a child out of control - he cringed but he didn't make fun of her. He didn't criticize her. He just said, who is your favorite, Paula. He covered for her.
OLBERMANN: Maybe he's afraid when the inevitable pitch to one side or the other - talk about being a little pitchy - when she just passes out, one way or the other, he's just afraid she'll land on him.
MILITO: Maybe and suffocate him? Then what? He's the star of the show?
OLBERMANN: I know, and he needs all the extra hot air. Maria Milito of New York's Q-104.3, our very own "American Idol," and Paula Abdul gratuitous Countdown meltdown princess.
OLBERMANN: Nice hat.
MILITO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,826th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Programming reminder, our exclusive interview with the Obamas tomorrow starting on "The Today Show," plus exclusive excerpts tomorrow night right here on Countdown. In the interim, 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