'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, June 2
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guests: Chuck Todd, Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, Chris Hayes, Christian Finnegan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Our long national nightmare may be at an end. Hillary Clinton apparently on the verge of suspending her campaign, reportedly urging her friends to attend her speech tomorrow, reportedly negotiating with Obama, clearing her schedule after Wednesday morning, and the biggest (ph) of all, reportedly telling her employees, get your expense reports in before the end of this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sort of a day at the time person and we'll see when Tuesday, the day after Tuesday comes.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hence, as well from the Obama end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She and I will be working together in November. I want to be able to say, eight years now, look back and said, you know what, this is the start of when we decided once again that we are all in it together as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Montana and South Dakota loom, Obama's superdelegates are lined up awaiting the starters going (ph), and the climb down begins.
And just the start for John McCain's Phil Gramm scandal. How his chief economic advisor, not only precipitated the mortgage meltdown and lobbied for the banks, against the victims, but how in the Senate he blocked legislation that would have enabled the Bush administration to force foreign banks into cooperating on anti-terror measures before and after 9/11.
How John McCain's top guy on the economy made it easier for bin Laden.
And yes, it's true. The inventor of the Pringles can is dead. And he has been buried in a Pringles can. No, he did not die of the fever for the flavor of the Pringles.
All of that and more: Now on Countdown.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, June 2nd, 155 days until the 2008 presidential election.
Only hours until the South Dakota and Montana primaries, the final two contests of the Democratic nomination process, Senator Hillary Clinton appears on the verge of suspending her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and of endorsing Senator Barack Obama. That, the widespread reading of the electoral tea leaves today after a tidal wave of separate reports that add up to the end in sight, probably, by tomorrow night.
In our fifth story of the Countdown: The components: She has reportedly personally urged her top backers and financial donors to attend her speech in New York City tomorrow night; she reportedly told Senator Obama last night that their staffs should begin to bargain over what to do after Tuesday; her official schedule after a morning speech in Washington on Wednesday is blank; and perhaps most revelatory (ph), her staff has reportedly been urged to turn in all of its expense reports and receipts before the end of this week.
Now the details of what is perceived as the "final countdown." That being only the short list of omens portending that Senator Clinton could be preparing to leave. The others emerging today as the New York Democrat campaign in South Dakota included, a memo obtained by ABC News, showing that members of her advance staff had been given a choice, either they fly home to await further instructions or they use that airline ticket to travel to New York for tomorrow night's party. But if they come to New York, they would be responsible for flying themselves home.
In Washington, at least 34 members of the House telling NBC News, they are planning to endorse Senator Obama by tomorrow. Party leaders, such as Governor Howard Dean, as well as many Clinton supporters in Congress, now are wanting it to be over.
Meantime in the Senate, the dozen and a half undecided superdelegates there, meeting this afternoon to discuss how to proceed on making their endorsement. Sources are telling Politico.com that they are likely to back Obama in the next few days.
Finally and perhaps most tellingly this morning, in Milbank, South Dakota which is near Fineman, North Dakota, her husband, President Clinton, signaling that the primary battle is all but over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: I want to say also that this may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind. I thought I was out of politics until Hillary decided to run. But it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to go around and campaign for her for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course, there is always the chance that somehow Senator Clinton herself hasn't gotten the memo. This afternoon at Rapid City, South Dakota, the senator telling voter that's she is still in it to win it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We had a great victory in Puerto Rico yesterday, another lopsided win. I am now over 300,000 votes ahead in the popular vote.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
CLINTON: And I am finally behind in delegates but we're going to make our case to all of delegates as to who would be the best president, number one. And number two, who would be the stronger candidate against John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The senator's math still as fuzzy as her path to the nomination would seem to be, Senator Clinton needing 198 delegates to secure the nomination, Senator Obama only 39.5. After Congressman Jim Clyburn gives his expected endorsement tomorrow that would be only 38.5 delegates to the nomination. That after Senator Obama picked up a sum total of four superdelegate endorsements today to two for Senator Clinton according to the NBC News hard count, and in delegates overall it is Senator Obama 2,078.5 and Senator Clinton 1,920. The new magic number, of course, after this weekend's DNC meeting is 2,118.
In Waterford, Michigan this afternoon - that's correct Michigan, not Montana - Senator Obama evidently feeling good about his chances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We feel good about the number of superdelegates that we've been accumulating and I - my sense is between Tuesday and Wednesday that we got a good chance of getting the number that we need to achieve the nomination. But obviously, there are two more contests remaining tomorrow and we want to stay focused on winning Montana and South Dakota.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Talk of delegates, the traditional cue now to bring in our political director for MSNBC and NBC News, Chuck Todd.
Good evening, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: Good to see you in person. Clinton, two superdelegates today; Obama, four. Is that the flood?
TODD: That's not the flood.
OLBERMANN: A trickle before the flood?
TODD: Apparently, it will be the trickle before the flood. I mean, you know, they've been promising and promising and promising this flood of superdelegates. They do want to be able to declare victory tomorrow night. They are not renting out the Xcel Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to somehow say and wait for our press release tomorrow where we will officially cross the finish line.
So what happens tomorrow? I mean, I've heard all sorts of theories that there will be groups that get released tomorrow throughout the day, allow the momentum to build, four or five. You know, do it at a time, you talked about our report about the House members. I know, it's my understanding that at least 18 are ready to go tomorrow, the rest of the 34 would go by Wednesday.
The senators, you can sort of see how - and some of them would want to go in a clump. Actually wouldn't want their own releases in that way, it's almost an easier way to sort of hide a little bit. You don't want to necessarily overdo it. So, look for supposedly the clumps.
Now, the 2/3, do they do it by the evening newscast? Because she goes on and they want to have cross the finish line before she speaks tomorrow night, forcing an interesting congratulations, or do they wait and allow it at Montana to put him on top?
OLBERMANN: But in either events, it requires some combination of superdelegates in theory - well, I guess you're saying the opposite of this now, that it was superdelegates plus delegates so that they could not make any claim that - oh, just superdelegates put him over the top, it's suddenly superdelegates were an evil thing in the Clinton camp's mind, as oppose to their only salvation. But now, is that they're willing to go superdelegates tomorrow?
TODD: Well, that's just one theory about this idea of trying to go over the top before she speaks. But look, they are surely to get at least 15 delegates tomorrow night, possibly 16 - the more - likelihood, 16, 17, somewhere around there.
So, in order to do that, you do the quick math. That means they need about two dozens superdelegate endorsements tomorrow, minimum. Obviously, they want a little pad. So, we would assume that 25 to 30 get rolled out sometime before 9:00 p.m. when polls close in South Dakota.
OLBERMANN: And then we all go home.
TODD: Yes, and then we all go home. Well, we'll see. I mean, I think it depends on, you know, what kind of - it was interesting today, our folks pushed the Clinton campaign. Do you accept 2,118 as the magic number? Nobody has said that yet. It's sort of a "we'll see" and that will be one thing I think to look for tomorrow tonight in her speech.
OLBERMANN: The whole thing about superdelegates as we've heard throughout here, that there will be necessarily at some point, some poaching - let's put it nicely - some convincing, some changing of mind would be necessary and she said that as late as last night that that might happen.
TODD: Not only did she say that, she brought the poster child for doing this. There is this Virgin Island superdelegate who has switched twice. He started with Clinton, switched to Obama and switched to Clinton again. So, what did she do while she was in Puerto Rico, she invited him to come on over and hop on the plane.
So, she used him as the example - see, here's this superdelegate who has switched twice. So, look - she has a point. We have that guy. The Virgin Islands superdelegate who has done this twice. But it's unlikely that you're going to see that kind of flip-flopping.
OLBERMANN: And a very bitter irony that he's representing of all places, the Virgin Islands when he switch to her.
But in any event, if this is about getting superdelegates to substitute their judgment for the judgment of Democratic voters, from the Clinton - if that's the last gasp thing and we don't know - that might rear up again tomorrow tonight, there might be a change of mind in the campaign, why on Saturday did Harold Ickes in front of the rules committee meeting talked about: "I'm stunned, we have the gull and chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters in Michigan."?
Am I missing some or what seems to be a parallel construction there?
Is there something different about those two substitutes in judgments?
TODD: You know, it's interesting. I think, to sort of cut Harold Ickes some slack in this respect. He was speaking to the frustration that you have in the core Hillary supporters who were just angry and upset that they're going to lose. I mean, this is a very close race. Somebody was going to lose.
And so, when he did that - for instance, I got a whole bunch of e-mail from Clinton staffers that said, right on, you go. They were just - it was almost, I think I described it the other day sort of when somebody cuts you off on the road and you finally felt like you got them back because they stop at the red light, and you're like - aha, you got yours. So, I think that that was in the moment sentiment. It will be interesting to see how much that fades away.
OLBERMANN: Yes. We'll have to see what he's planning to do in August. Where is he? Where is he that week in Denver?
TODD: They'll come to Denver.
OLBERMANN: Is he in the Virgin Islands perhaps?
MSNBC and NBC News political director, Chuck Todd, great thanks.
We'll see you tomorrow night for the final show of the season.
TODD: Well, there are no primaries.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, you think so. There maybe some in the books, we don't know.
For more on what happens tomorrow, let's turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent at "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening to you.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MNSBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Anybody who had ventured to guess previously that Senator Clinton would be leaving the race, having done so at their peril, given there was a lot of push back against these reports today as well as Senator Clinton's own remarks. Is it possible that this is not the finale tomorrow night?
WOLFFE: Well, it is indeed perilous to make predictions about this race. We should have learn, at least that because of this long primary season. But you know, look at the tone of the campaign aides when they're not speaking on camera and it's not public. People are talking about what they're going to do next and it's not fighting the general election. It's about what jobs they are going to have, whether they're going to take a break.
And so, yes, there's this public show that's going on and it's understandable. And it may well be that tomorrow night what we don't have is a traditional concession speech. I would expect it actually something much more feisty about why Hillary Clinton has fought so hard and so long and how the fight would continue at some sort of principled level.
But, we all know where this is headed. It's obviously not the question about if but when. And it is possible that tomorrow isn't the night when it all winds down. Tomorrow could well be a celebration of the campaign that she ran.
OLBERMANN: What happens tomorrow night from Senator Obama regardless, what do we hear from him regardless of what Senator Clinton does or does not do? I mean, does he poise to declare this over tomorrow night regardless?
WOLFFE: Well, he's certainly poised to do what he's been doing for the last couple of weeks, which is to say - we're here in this general election, this is what the stakes are, and we're moving on. So, his speech isn't being prepared based on what the Clintons do.
There's a very full expectation in the Obama camp and among the candidate and his closest and tightest circle there that whether or not he reaches the magic number by the time he speaks, this is the moment to say, you know, gentlemen, our engines have already started and we're moving on.
OLBERMANN: Does it, in fact, matter who wins South Dakota or Montana tomorrow night? Obviously, from the perception point of view, is it important that Obama conclude with at least one or preferably two victories and does he have a chance of getting both, one or two?
WOLFFE: He does have a chance and yes, I think, it really is important. You know, it's one thing to be pushed hard in the homestretch, but it's another thing to limp over the finishing line. They want to have a good strong finish here.
Obviously, the last few races have not been good for them. And just over the weekend, with Puerto Rico and the rules committee, he's lost a significant chunk of his lead among the delegates. So, it is important for him to finish strongly, it's not critical but psychologically important for both of his supporters and the message to the party.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton was not the only one who is still insisting today that she should not be counted out. Senator McCain was effusive in his praise, declaring Senator Clinton is still in the race. Is it going to be the upshot here that the only people more upset than the Clintons that the Democratic nominating fight could be over tomorrow would be Senator McCain?
WOLFFE: Well, he would obviously love it to continue, but I know a lot of Republicans who think this has been a missed opportunity for McCain, maybe not all of his fault, but without the money to run an intensive campaign while the Democrats were still involved in the infighting, McCain missed that opportunity to define himself, define the race, define the other side.
And so, sure, he wants it to continue on because these several weeks, if not months when he's been out there on his own, he's been struggling to get heard. This was a chance that he may well look back and say - that was the time I could have pulled ahead.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and a lot of the stuff that he was heard saying didn't work out too much to his advantage which we'll get to in a moment.
Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, great thanks. We'll see at the final game of the season, maybe tomorrow.
WOLFFE: Hope so. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A programming note, those final primaries: Montana and South Dakota, more importantly, the Obama and Clinton speeches, one likely to proclaim victory, other possibly proclaiming it's time for a vacation. Our coverage from the best political team on air, even owning a television, starts at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
Of course, the Hillary stuff could be faint, why else would Harold Ickes have threatened a blood curdling fight before the credentials committee at the convention?
John McCain's Phil Gramm scandal explodes again.
And in Worst: A Miss America has threatened Scott McClellan.
OLBERMANN: It has all of the earmarks of a "going out of campaign" business sale, what if it's not? Why if a graceful farewell was under consideration, did the Clinton campaign threaten to take the fight over Michigan to the convention in Denver in August?
Bushed, you don't like the way the detainees trial is going, change the judge.
And in Worst: Former Miss America threatens a former press secretary at the White House.
Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Despite all of the indications that they are winding down; that they are getting their accounts in order, literally; that Senator Clinton has cleared her schedule after Wednesday morning, our fourth story in the Countdown: For the sake of four Michigan delegates, the Clinton campaign could still resume its fight at the Democratic convention in August. That the insinuation of top campaign adviser, Harold Ickes, even though some of Clinton's staunchest supporters are shying away from any notions of appealing to the rules and bylaws committee's decision to the credentials committee and on to the convention itself.
Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania pointing out, "What good does it do? What good does it do anybody? I think it's outrageous they took four delegates away from her, but I think with 170 delegates separating them, it's not worth making the case."
While Florida representative and Clinton superdelegate, Debbie Wasserman Schultz says, "It would be beneficial if we resolved this nomination sooner rather than later. The more time we have to get through a general election period, and the more time we have to prepare in advance of the convention, the better."
Even Clinton's own national campaign co-chair, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, is calling for an end to the contest, quote, "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."
We're joined now by our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the "Washington Post."
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MNSBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. We have to get you a hands-free device at some other point.
Obviously, her campaign expected to win Puerto Rico handily yesterday, the idea of wrapping things up tomorrow night could not have just hit them yesterday. So, why on Saturday was Ickes threatening a dreaded floor fight?
MILBANK: You know he was - Ickes over the weekend was reserving the right to have a floor fight. He wasn't saying he's going to have a floor fight. I reserve the right to run naked through this Hillary event which is about to occur over my shoulder but I'm really not going to do that. What he was doing was trying to suspend the race until the events play out over tomorrow and Wednesday. And he was just buying time, I believe.
OLBERMANN: But what is he actually buying by that because what's the dread on the part of anybody, considering the fact that the co-chairs of the rules committee which we saw on Saturday, Alexis Herman, James Roosevelt, the co-chair of the credentials committee to whom those decisions would be appealed are, Alexis Herman and James Roosevelt?
MILBANK: Well, I don't think they are really going to achieve anything in terms of actually winning the appeal. But the threat to the party is really that it could have more of the disruption that it has had.
You could see I was at the Marriott in Washington over the weekend, it was like a barn yard with all of the epithets being shouted, the groans and the jeering. They need - the party needs to avoid this thing sort of thing and the more Hillary Clinton is feeling humiliated, the more her supporters are going to get their backs up in that way.
So, that's the reason they really want to avoid this sort of appeal, not for the fear of actually losing it.
OLBERMANN: All right. You heard Chuck Todd just said that basically that event was the opportunity for the cutoff driver to watch the other driver stopped at the red light or stopped by the cop. It was just an "in the moment" moment. But what about - just feed for the sake of the conspiracy theorists or some of them that Senator Clinton is not on the verge of getting out because she's done, she's on the verge of getting out because she's done damaging Obama as much as she possibly could?
MILBANK: Well, Keith, I was earlier today in my euphonious town of Milbank, South Dakota, that you mentioned, and I heard Bill Clinton give that speech. And he was very clearly preparing, say, we all see what's going to happen here. I just don't wish to be blamed for it. I poured my heart out for it.
So, he was - he had no interest in sort of laying that predicate if this were not a serious business.
OLBERMANN: All right. Feed or starve that other conspiracy theory that she's going stuff is not reality for which cover was provided, to some degree, by Ickes and McAuliffe and even Senator Clinton today, but it's the other way around, she's really staying in and that she's going away stuff is the cover for that.
MILBANK: Well, there's a problem with that because once you say your company is about to go bankrupt, your stock really starts to tank. So, you wouldn't want start to float those rumors unless you are actually quite serious about it.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC who reserved but will not fulfill and take advantage of the right to run naked through that Clinton event behind him. Great thanks for that and great thanks for your time tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, call anytime.
OLBERMANN: Thanks very much.
Surviving the audio problems, obviously, there on the road.
The quote was, "I feel like a million bucks, I think I'll do that again tomorrow." The words from Senator Ted Kennedy to his wife, after doctors operated on his brain for 3 ½ hours while he was awake. The Duke University Medical Center calls the surgery a success, adding that Senator Kennedy should have no permanent neurological affects - that's why they keep you awake for something like that.
While doctors refuse to discuss the exact details of the surgery, it was believed to be an attempt to remove as much as of the Senator Kennedy's malignant glioma, the brain tumor, as possible without damaging his other faculties. After recuperating, the senator plans to undergo radiation and chemo at the Massachusetts General Hospital near his home.
If it ever feels like people are just taking your money and throwing it out the door of an airplane in flight. This Indonesian author who did is your kind of guy.
And Scott McClellan threatened on TV by a former Miss America: Worst Persons is ahead.
But first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandal - Bushed.
Number three: War profiteering-gate. Wondering why Senator McCain wants to stay in Iraq? It's all part of the contracts. The State Department revealing it is working up contracts with the Iraqi government deals between U.S. firms, even the Defense Department itself, to provide mentors to Iraqi defense officials, to establish a Marshals system for Iraqi courts, to provide translators and to build new prisons. They are multiyear contracts.
And number two: Still the campaign issue-gate. Senator Lindsey Graham addressing the last major campaign event before he faces a challenge in a primary in South Carolina on the 10th. At the state GOP convention, he invoked President Bush's visit to Spartanburg, pushed for the requisite applause and instead heard - crickets, silencio, nada - from the Republicans. At which point, Graham nodded indicating, you're supposed to applaud here which the Republicans then did.
And number one: You're out of order, they whole trial is out of order, they're out of order-gate. The judge at Gitmo, Army Colonel Peter Brownback had threatened to suspend the trial of detainee Omar Khadr, until prosecutors give the defense access to potential evidence.
So, on Friday, Colonel Brownback suddenly stopped being judge at the Khadr trial. Army Colonel Patrick Parrish is the new judge. Now, you know what they say about the trial - if you're losing, it's not like you can change all 25 witnesses, you have to change the judge.
No, sorry, that's about a baseball team going badly. Sorry.
OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment. And the late inventor's flavor will be sealed permanently in his Pringles can.
First, the odds against this coincidence are smaller than you think, but still, on this date in 1925, the New York Yankees inserted back up first baseman Lou Gehrig into their starting lineup, the unofficial start of his epic streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. Sixteen years later, on this date in 1941, Gehrig died of complications from the only reason the streak ended when it did, the advent of the fatal disease Amyotropical Lateral Sclerosis. On that point, let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin with Friday's Scripps National Spelling Bee. Fourteen-year-old Sameer Mishra outlasted the field to take home the big trophy, but not before things got a little personal with the judges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sameer Mishra returns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Numb nut?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Numb nut what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Numb nut?
OLBERMANN: Of course, the judge was not insulting the teenager. He was looking for the spelling of numnah, defined as a felt or sheep skin pad placed between a horse's back and a saddle to prevent chafing. Mishra remained cool and unchafed, even with the presence of ESPN sideline reporter Aaron Andrews (ph) explaining, perhaps, what he blurted out, and he spelled out the word on his way to victory.
Unfortunately, this kid from two years ago did not take the perceived slight on Mishra quite as well. Exit stage left.
To Jakarta, where author Tom Desengwheringham (ph) is chucking 100 million rupiah, or about 10,000 dollars, out of an airplane to promote his new book. The new book is called, how to blow 100 million Rupiah, or about 10,000 dollars, by chucking it out of an airplane. No, actually, the book is called "Market Revolution" and he thought the stunt would create bigger book buzz than traditional advertising.
People on the ground enjoyed it one way or another. When asked if they would use the dough to buy the book, they all said, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: John McCain's Phil Gramm scandal. It is far worse than we thought. His chief economic advisor might as well be throwing money out of planes. Not just on the side of the mortgage banks versus their victims, but he was also on the side of the terrorists' bankers before and after 9/11.
And sure, Hillary Clinton still has a job to fall back on. She works for the government. But what do her staffers do? Does Terry McAuliffe become a math teacher? Harold Ickes replace Mother Theresa? Resume advice, ahead. But first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best support of a crappy idea, K-Mart is now selling abstinence wearers for juniors, true love waste sweat pants, available in blue, yellow and gray. If you want to make sure true love waits, shouldn't you make the pants more difficult to take off.
Number two, best technology gone bad, Taylor Publishing, the high school yearbook people. Their computerized spell checker went crazy on the copy submitted by the students at Middletown High school in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Thus, under Max Zupanovich's picture is the name Max Super Nova. Kathy Carbaugh is lifted as Cathy Airbag. Alexandria Ipolito is identified Alexandria Impolite.
Number one, best last-minute plug, Dr. Frederick Bauer of Cincinnati, died a month ago at the age of 89. We learned today he was cremated and part of his remains were buried, at his requested, in a Pringles potato chip can. No, he wasn't cheap. He was the inventor of the Pringles potato chip can. Just remember, from now on, remember, when you open a can of Pringles, for gods sake, double-check in case there was a terrible mistake.
OLBERMANN: John McCain's Phil Gramm scandal broadened today. It proved his top economic advisor was not only on the wrong side of the mortgage meltdown, he was also on the wrong side of this nation's effort to choke off the funding for international terrorists. Our third story tonight, the timing could not have been worse for McCain. He was speaking to the powerful and sometimes controversial American Israel Public Affairs Committee, not merely the largest pro-Israeli lobbying group in the country, but it is also a significant bellwether of and mover of America's Jewish liberal voters, just as we were learning that Phil Gramm has a history of making life easier for Israel's enemies, and ours.
More on that in a moment. First the AIPAC battle; Senator McCain today described Iran as the foremost threat on his mind, bragged about his record on Iran, and ridiculed Senator Obama's call for a diplomatic approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We hear talk of a meeting with the Iranians leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody ever thought of before. Yet it's hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic and a world wide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Ahmadinejad playing along today; the celebration of the 19th anniversary of his nation's revolution, predicted the day when Israel would disappear from the map. While those two rattled their sabers, the Obama camp had its own blades out. Congressman Adam Schiff cutting through McCain's arguments with two simple questions for the Republican candidate about his Middle East policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALAN SCHIFF (D), OBAMA SUPPORTER: How would his policy be any different than the president's? And, second, if it's no different, and it appears from the substance of his remarks that it really isn't any different, why should anyone expect that he would have better results than this president has? Unfortunately, he continues to cling to a foreign policy that has failed to make the U.S. or Israel safer. Iran's nuclear program has continued during the course of the last several years without abatement. Hamas and Hezbollah have grown stronger, not weaker. This has not only threatened our security but Israel's as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Beyond the rhetoric, disturbing news emerging over the weekend about substance of McCain's approach to foreign policy and whether it might actually benefit those who wish harm to us and to Israel. At the heart of it, McCain's top economic adviser, former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. As we revealed here on Countdown last week, Gramm on the payroll of the giant Swiss bank UBS, helping to defeat US legislation that would give relief to Americans facing foreclosure and at the same time writing McCain's economic policies.
Now, "Newsweek Magazine" reporting that Gramm's bank is under investigation for alleged use of overseas tax havens to hide assets of the wealthy from U.S. authorities. On September 20th, 2001, the "New York Times" reported that a single senator had blocked legislation that would have helped the U.S. investigators track Osama bin Laden's financial network before 9/11. It was Phil Gramm, who still defended these tax havens after 9/11, whose bank was still lobbying Congress on behalf of tax havens as recently as last year, including lobbying done by this man, UBS senior lobbyist John Savercool, formerly a legislative assistant to Senator Phil Gramm.
Let's turn to Chris Hayes, Washington editor of the "Nation Magazine."
Chris, thanks again for your time tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION": Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Where does this end for McCain with Phil Gramm. He's wrong on the mortgages. He's obviously on the wrong side of terrorism financing. What's left? He helped Angelina Jolie take Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston?
HAYES: Yes. I mean, there's not a lot to run on, frankly. In some senses, it's an admirable display of self-confidence that John McCain continues to forge ahead with what Joe Scarborough called a program of more war and less jobs. But at a certain point, the broad Republican coalition, conservatives will pull him aside and they will understand that he can't win running on the issues that he espoused to believe, because they are a direction to contradiction to massive majorities of the American people.
Even diplomacy; we get a new poll yesterday saying the majority of the American people want the president to be willing to entertain talks with leaders of the countries that's we're currently isolating.
OLBERMANN: What we saw at AIPAC today, if Phil Gramm helped Israel's enemies, I would think indirectly is the correct term here, how does McCain run on being tough on Israel's enemies?
HAYES: That's a great question. And the fact of the matter is what this reveals is a really a profound contradiction at the heart of the Republican coalition, the conservative coalition and McCain's campaign. On the one hand, it's home to the most chest-beating, self-righteous moralists about foreign policy. We can't talk to Ahmadinejad because he's an anti-Semite. At the same time, it's a party whose agenda is run by global conglomerates that pursue dollar and profit with no regard for any kind of sense of morality. We see that in Phil Gramm's advising of UBS and tax havens. We see it with Charlie Black, McCain's senior adviser, who was at one point lobbying for a Chinese energy company that has interests in Iran. We saw it in Dick Cheney's Halliburton dealing with Iraq under the sanctions regime.
This contradiction, it blows apart this entire moralistic rational that McCain and the neo-cons have used to justify the Bush version of foreign policy.
OLBERMANN: And to that point about the Bush version of foreign policy, yesterday in that speech in front of the Corn Palace - in front of the Corn Palace, in South Dakota, when Senator Obama got up in there in front of this overwhelmingly prairie white crowd, this definitional middle to Midwestern crowd, he was obviously - he got a good hand and good respect from everybody there. The loudest responses were when he said we have to end the Iraq war and we can't let George Bush have a third time. The crowd went wild about that.
In that context, those questions raised by the Obama surrogate, Congressman Schiff of California today, is McCain in fact talking about doing anything different in terms of foreign policy in the Middle East than Bush has?
HAYES: The only thing that he's talking about doing differently is possibly ending the one place in which the Bush administration has gotten a little bit of religion about the need for diplomacy, that's North Korea. He's indicated that he actually wants to roll back the one sort of plank of sanity in the Bush administration so far, which was reopening talks in North Korea.
Aside from that, there's no difference and there's no daylight. Even for all of the talk of the speech today, the kind of central policy proposal was some international campaign towards divestment. Guess what? Senator Obama proposed divestment legislation in the Senate. Why was it blocked? It was blocked by a Republican senator because it would have required the government to report on what businesses had dealings with Iran.
Guess what, the business interest behind the Republican party are not so fond of that kind of legislation. Even when it was on the table to do the single policy he recommended today, he was unwilling to lift a finger to make it happen.
OLBERMANN: If there was no Phil Gramm, and if John McCain wasn't running, if the Republicans weren't running anybody, there would still probably be a perception that Senator Obama has a problem with groups like AIPAC: He speaks to them on Wednesday. What does he need to do to finish in their perception ahead of McCain in the eyes of the constituency?
HAYES: I think it's important that he provides a coherent story about how diplomacy, strategic, tough diplomacy, a just peace for Israel and America's security are all bound together. The fact of the matter is, in this case, the day before President Bush was giving his speech before the Knesset, and he was talking about not talking to appeasers, the Israeli government itself was opening talks with Syria, whose president has said some virulent anti-Semitic things in the past.
The point is, you cannot stop the conversation about what nonsense or what odious views are espoused by leaders in the Middle East, because you will not get anywhere. If Israel - if Israel can get somewhere - and understand it is in their self-interest, their security interest, to open up talks, I think Barack Obama can make the cases to the members of AIPAC that it's the same case in the United States.
OLBERMANN: We'll see if he can. Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation," once again on Mr. McCain's latest problems, thank you, sir.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Late word that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been hospitalized tonight. The 90-year-old Senate veteran was feeling lethargic and sluggish so his home caregiver took his temperature, discovered he had a fever. On the advice of Senator Byrd's doctor, his care giver called an ambulance just before 7:00 p.m. Eastern time to take him to the local hospital in Falls Church, Virginia, where he will stay apparently for observation overnight.
Again, Senator Byrd of West Virginia in the hospital. The only report we have is lethargic and sluggish and with a fever. Just for record keeping purposes, West Virginia's governor is a Democrat.
The latest on the last days of Hillary Clinton in the campaign. More to the point, the last days in the campaign of her staff. It's time to update that resume.
And last week, his multi-million dollar personal peak, tonight caught in a flat-footed lie on his own news network. Rupert Murdoch goes for a two-fer in worst persons.
OLBERMANN: As the Clinton campaign seems to be wrapping up in the next 24 to 36 hours, some resume tips for the staffers who may need them as early as Wednesday morning. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's worst person in the world, our number two story.
The bronze, Gretchen Carlson, former Miss America, now at Fixed News. Some on the far right are subtle, some are evil, but most like this one are dumb as a freaking post. Scott McClellan, she said, better not have any skeletons in his closet. Hope he doesn't do anything that he doesn't want the world to know about, because we all have. All of his secrets are going to be coming out.
You know, geez, you make the threat before the guy writes the book, not after he writes the book. Actually if Gretchen Carlson is in charge of the blowback, he's home free.
Or if it's the equally witless runner-up, Mike Gallagher. Gallagher, writes this; "I often wonder if people like Scott McClellan ever stop to think about the pain and grief their money grubbing antics cause the families of the brave men and women who are serving their country over seas. After all, if one accepts the premise that President Bush erred in going to war, then the mission of the United States military is absolutely in vain."
The mission in Iraq? Yes, that's the point! The mission in Iraq that the Gallaghers of this world and the McClellans jammed down the throats of this country and 4,100 dead American soldier whose blood is still on the hands of people like Gallagher, has been absolutely in vain. The soldiers are brave and patriotic and loyal. The Mike Gallaghers are the money-grubbing cowards.
But our winner, two in a row for K. Rupert Murdoch. The Australian Montgomery Burns explaining his ironically named News Corps' personal attacks and violation of all journalistic ethics on executives of GE and MSNBC, including making up stories about aspects of the company being sold. Quote, they started it. We've had bitter personal attacks on some of our people. They are trying to destroy our credibility as a network. Argh! But it is only natural that the people can send who are personally attack. Argh! And their children should personally fight back. And, argh, I support them. I support my people completely.
Firstly, your network has no credibility. Secondly, nobody here tacked anybody's children. Lastly, Murdoch, pressed by his flunky Neil Cavuto about the threatening conversations Murdoch and Roger Ales had with GE and NBC executives, did any of those involve conversations with Jeff Inmelt, Mr Murdoch? Murdoch answered, no. And that, Mr. Murdoch, as you know, is a bald-faced lie!
Rupert Murdoch, today's worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: If by some chance, dictated by facts or logic or reason, today was the last full day of Senator Clinton's campaign, what are the paid staffers to do? In our number one story, it's Countdown on your side, resume tips for the post-Clinton Clintonite. Here's tip number one, forget the resume; present yourself as the inevitable candidate for that new job. Simply walk into the interview with your potential new employer, thank them for hiring you and remind them to put you on the payroll before February 5th.
You will recall from previously in this news hour, Clinton advance team staffers have been told to stop planning events beyond tomorrow night. They have been offered one plane ticket with two options, fly to New York for Tuesday night's party and speech, or fly home and await further instructions. And, yes, that means that staffers that fly to the party have to pay their own way home. Clinton staffers have also reportedly been urged to turn in their outstanding expense reports, with the receipts, by the end of the week.
Let's turn to comedian Christian Finnegan, who is also a regular contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." Christian, good evening.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH-1: Good evening, sir.
OLBERMANN: One thing we know for certain, Clintonites will have the longest resumes ever.
FINNEGAN: Can you imagine the special skills session. Oh, let's see what we have here, denial, obfuscation, remedial race baiting, earth scorching, power point.
OLBERMANN: And I speak fluid French.
Should Clinton staffers, like the campaign itself, sort of forego the areas of weakness? Should they not apply for jobs in the caucus states or large metropolitan areas and avoid if the interviewer suggests that they meet in a bastion of the elite like Starbucks, just say no, I'm not interested?
FINNEGAN: Yes, that stuff's for eggheads, Keith. The Clinton campaign workers are going to go back to their peeps, the blue collar work force. You're going to see Terry McAuliffe out there working the docks. Half the time, he will operate a fork lift. The other half the time, he will run around avoiding his daily wedgie.
OLBERMANN: Now, for the staffers who may want to continue in politics, say moving over to the Obama campaign, as opposed to any job at the docks, what is the strongest selling point? Is it hard work? Is it perseverance? Is it sort of original, creative math skills?
FINNEGAN: I think the pitch is very simple. They have to say, look, Barack, if I have proven one thing during this campaign, it is that I can say anything with a straight face. You want to run as a liberal, no problem. You want to run as a member of Wig party? I got your back. You can tell the world you're a wizard and I'll go on "Meet the Press" and argue that. I have no deeply held beliefs to violate.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned McAuliffe, the campaign chair, as sort of a reputation of the big-name staffers here. You're suggesting avoiding the wedgie, working on docks, whatever. I was wondering if maybe he is more blessed for something else as soon as he gets rid of that shirt. Could there be a position for him? Is he bound to succeed David Blaine as the greatest magician and illusionist of our time?
FINNEGAN: Once he finishes his stint as a roadie for Jimmy Buffet, I imagine he's going to want a job that has the same sort of drama. He's going to want a boss who leaves a similar amount of wreckage in his or her wake. That leaves like, what, an Eliot Spitzer come back or the brief hope that Isaiah Thomas maybe runs for office.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, during that, as you were reciting that, Mr. McAuliffe stopped talking on the tape and seemed to be listening to you, which was a frightening prospect for us all. Harold Ickes not pleased with how the DNC rules committee seated the Michigan delegates on Saturday, said, and I'll read the quote again; "I'm stunned that we have to the gal and chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters, but his candidate's only chance to become the nominee obviously would be for the super delegates to have to have the gal and chutzpah the pledged delegates and the millions of votes that they represented.
So, as we wrap this up, should Mr. Ickes be looking for a very particular kind of new employment opportunity?
FINNEGAN: Whatever job Mr. Ickes take, I hope there's not a lot of walking involved. It is not healthy to tote around a pair as massive as the one he is brandishing these days.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, can we offer rock solid advice for Clinton staffers interviewing for new jobs; avoid any anecdotes that explain that you experienced sniper fire on the airport on the way to the tarmac on the way to the job?
FINNEGAN: One more update, based on today's news, at all costs, avoid the phrase inadequate black male. That is a resume killer.
OLBERMANN: Let's hope it is. Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever." As always, thanks for your time tonight. That's Countdown for this the 1,859th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.
A reminder, prime time coverage of the results of South Dakota and Montana, more importantly whatever Senator Clinton says to her supporters in her speech tomorrow night, begins tomorrow at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific. Until then, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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