Monday, June 30, 2008

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, June 30
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Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Special Comment:
Obama's FISA opportunity
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Guest: Chris Cillizza, Jim Webb, Richard Wolffe

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Bill and Barack's excellent adventure. They speak. No one is injured.

The flap over General Clark's criticism, that being a POW does not mean that you are an expert on foreign policy.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign and that goes for supporters of both sides.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: If that's the kind of campaign that Senator Obama and his surrogates and his supporters want to gauge, I understand that. But it doesn't reduce the price of a gallon of gas by one penny.


OLBERMANN: Well, so, then you're even. But to answer Wes Clark, why did John McCain trout out one of the swift boaters? Why this blowback if Ann Coulter could infamously say this to a wheelchair bound Vietnam vet and still earn a living.


BOBBY MULLER, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA FOUNDATION: Ninety percent of the cases that U.S. soldiers got blown up, Ann, are you listening? They were our own mines. The problem is that around the world today.



OLBERMANN: The president flat-out lies in giving credit for Jim Webb's new G.I. Bill.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I want to thank members who worked hard for the G.I. Bill expansion - especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain.


OLBERMANN: McCain was opposed, fought it tooth and nail. Senator Jim Webb joins us to respond.

Senator McCain says the election is about trust and, "on several items, Senator Obama's word cannot be trusted." How long would McCain's list of such items be? Would you believe three pages?

And: Senator Obama and FISA. Would even the Republicans now acknowledging that the telecom immunity is civil only, not criminal. How he can have his cake and eat it, too, or why he must vote against the bill? A Special Comment.

All that and more: Now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, June 30th, 127 days until the 2008 presidential election.

In 35 days, it will have been four years since the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" launched their first ad against Senator John Kerry.

In our first story on the Countdown: The swift boaters making their first entry into the 2008 campaign, not as a 527 group but because Senator John McCain today used one of them as a surrogate. This, on a day, when his opponent, Senator Obama, not only praised the presumptive Republican nominee's patriotism, but declared all future attacks on that subject off limits.

In his about patriotism in Independence, Missouri, Senator Truman's town, President Truman's town, Senator Obama today flatly rejecting General Wesley Clark's comments in which he had questioned whether Senator McCain's military service means, he automatically has the qualifications to be president.

Yesterday on "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer is saying to General Clark about the candidate's executive or military decision-making resumes, "I have to say Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." The general replying, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

This morning, the McCain campaign is setting up a conference call, unveiling a new so-called "Truth Squad" to defend Senator McCain from attacks on his military record. On the call, the McCain campaign introducing a surrogate named Bud Day describing him nearly as a fellow POW. But the campaign did not describe, is that Mr. Day appeared in one of those Swift boat ads during the 2004 campaign. That is Mr. Day there.

Senator McCain having condemned the swift boat ads in 2004, saying they're reminiscent of the smear campaign launched against him during his initial run for the White House in 2000, quoting 2004 John McCain, "It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me." 2008 John McCain - not so much.

During his speech in Missouri today, Senator Obama is contradicting General Clark without naming him.


OBAMA: I also believe that patriotism must, if it is to mean anything, involve the willingness to sacrifice, to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause. Now, for those who fought under the flag of this nation, for the young veterans like Vince, the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed, for those like John McCain, who have endured physical torment in service to our country, no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary.

Let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign and that goes for supporters of both sides.


OBAMA: We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform, period, full stop.


OLBERMANN: And Senator Obama with the audacity to hope that no party should have a stranglehold on patriotism.


OBAMA: None of us expect that arguments about patriotism will or should vanish entirely. After all, when we argue about patriotism, we're arguing about who we are as a country, and more importantly, who we should be. But surely, we can agree, that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism.


OLBERMANN: At the start of his remarks, the senator having had his own patriotism under attack, making clear, he would not allow it to happen to him or others.


OBAMA: The question of who is or is not a patriot all too often poisons our political debates in ways that divide us rather than bring us together. I've come to know this from my own experience on the campaign trail. At certain times over the last 16 months, I found for the first time my patriotism challenged. At times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for.

So, let me say this at the outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.


OBAMA: And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.


OLBERMANN: Asked directly today at a news conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whether he questioned Senator Obama's patriotism, Senator McCain answering something else.


MCCAIN: I think that Senator Obama is a great American success story and I think his family is. I think he is someone who is admired and respected throughout this country and the world. I think our difference is how we intend to move forward in conducting the affairs of this country. We have very different views and very different positions and I look forward to ventilating those.

But I think all Americans are proud of Senator Obama and what he's been able to accomplish, he and his entire family have been able to accomplish in this nation, and I think it's living proof of some of the greatness of America.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek," who joins us tonight from Chicago.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I heard Senator McCain describe by ABC News tonight as genuinely recoiling from personal attacks on his opponent. But what he did not say in response to that last question there, do you question at all Senator Obama's patriotism was, "Of course, I do not question Obama's patriotism, period, full stop." Why didn't he answer it that way?

WOLFFE: Well, the most immediate response is because he's behind in the polls and they want to keep this out there for immediate effect in terms of - especially, Obama's high approval ratings. Now too, be fair, McCain went out of his way to be very nice and very respectful about Senator Obama there, and that's important.

But you only have to look at how patriotism was used four years ago as a proxy for questions for, want of a better word about John Kerry's virility, and how it's being used this time around in the hands of McCain's surrogates and certain Republican operatives for something else - whether it's the most generous description about Obama's foreignness or his newness, and at its worst - as a proxy for talking about the color of his skin.

So, these are the things that are swirling around right now, but the most immediate dynamic is the poll numbers.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of four years ago, Bud Day has impeccable military credentials, Air Force Cross citation, won the Medal of Honor and then was in the swift boats. If you're Senator McCain, and assuming you really had been somehow unfairly treated by Wes Clark yesterday, why seed the high ground by turning first to somebody connected to this synonym for political sleaze in the 21st century?

WOLFFE: Bud Day is an interesting character and this whole debate is fascinating. For a start, John McCain has to figure out how to maintain the brand of 2000, the sort of principled straight-talking candidate at a time when he really needs to go negative on a candidate like Barack Obama. So, he's caught with the tension there, of that dynamic. But the whole so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" episode, it gets to something more personal.

John Kerry wasn't just any old candidate in 2004, he was a personal friends, someone who was close enough for Kerry to consider, strongly consider McCain as being his running mate. And in the middle of that, the reason they bounded was because they were both attacked by the same people, some of the same people behind the Swift Boat veterans" who went after John McCain in South Carolina and suggested that he had somehow abandoned Vietnam veterans because he was in the opposing side of the POW/MIA question.

So, McCain has got to be conflicted. He's got to feel conflicted when he sees some of these people coming out.

OLBERMANN: Lost in all these, I think, the basis of General Clark's statement yesterday. First off, he was asked to question that made it sound like that being shot down and held prisoner were in and of themselves qualifications for somebody to be president of United States. Second, McCain has been running as if that were on question to believe true, why is it not OK to question this certainly debatable proposition and why didn't Senator Obama defend him today?

WOLFFE: Well, first of all, I think, Wes Clark spoke in a very ham-handed way and he seemed to be impugning John McCain's military experience, his service in Vietnam. And that's the problem about talking about in disparaging terms, apparently, about being shot down. But, you're right, the actual essence of the sort of simplified debate about John McCain is worthy of scrutiny.

Just because McCain had military experience on the ground in Vietnam does not mean he has the policy, national security and foreign policy experience to be a great commander in chief. That's what is at issue right now. And it seems perfectly legitimate to discuss that, just as it's legitimate to discuss Senator Obama's experience.

Does John McCain's experience in Vietnam give him any reason to be a good national security foreign policy leader? That's worthy of any kind of debate.

OLBERMANN: Ideally, the patriotism or the sacrifice of the service of all vets, whether it's theoretically the best member of the military we ever had or the worst member of the military we ever had in terms of performance, whatever it is, whatever is in-between, it should be sacrosanct. But between the Ann Coulter 1997 remark that I've played in the opening and the abuse of John Kerry four years ago, it seems awfully like the Republicans are a little bit late to saying they should be sacrosanct. Did they arrive at this, this morning?

WOLFFE: No, they didn't. And it's interesting seeing how this has played out. Look, when Democrats look at the Vietnam experience, I think a lot of them say, "Well, we're on the right side of the war but politically, it was damaging." It's also the treatment of the veterans when they came home was something that this country should be ashamed of. And so, there's a lot of corrective action that's been happening since then.

I think Republicans, certainly, the more thoughtful Republicans in the White House would say, "The politicization of the war through this Iraq period, whether it was in the first resolution going to war or since then in 2004, that is not been helpful for the war and for Republicans in general. So, maybe that's what they're reexamining now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on what Senator Obama tried to position as the headline of the day, his speech on patriotism, let's turn to political reporter, Chris Cillizza.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Obama speech today, touched down on what patriotism means to him and how in a political context, nobody's patriotism should ever be questioned, was this a very well-articulated bit of wishful thinking or what was it?

CILLIZZA: I think it probably was a little bit of wishful thinking just, I hate to sound like the cynical Washington reporter but - look, the reality of this is, Keith, is that we come through this many times in the primary campaign even, these are surrogates that are saying these sorts of things. I don't think we will hear direct questioning of patriotism on either side, by Senator Obama or any one directly affiliated with his campaign; or Senator McCain or any one directly affiliated with his campaign.

That said, I think it is extremely likely that we will continue to hear questions about whether Barack Obama is actually patriotic enough, whether he wears a flag lapel pin - whether or not that comes to the McCain campaign is in some ways besides the point, because it will be part of a broader dialogue.

OLBERMANN: This speech, it looks like he's rephrasing something that worked for him fairly well late in the primaries, this is the first in the series that he's going to give this week; tomorrow's going to be about faith. Again, he did this during the primaries, about Iraq, about race; he rolled off three big speeches in a row one week. Is this sort of a stepping up to the plate kind of thing, that what he wants to show he does best that what might be seen as potential problems, he can take them in in one speech or a series, try to turn them around into assets?

CILLIZZA: You know, Keith, I think it is and the Obama campaign has the unique ability because of their candidate to put him out front and that really puts their best foot forward. This is a guy who is a uniquely gifted speaker, someone who can convey both an idealistic vision and a pragmatic vision in the space of one speech.

I think he did himself an enormous amount of good during the primaries, not just in the speeches as you mentioned, but every primary night when everyone was tuned in on MSNBC, certainly, they got to see him speak and he's a tremendous speaker. He connects well with people.

So, by putting him out there, by letting him share, and I think this is an important point, Keith, in both the race speech that he gave after the Jeremiah Wright incident and this speech, Obama talked about his personal experiences. He talked about his grandfather handing him the dog tags in Patton's army. He talked about growing up as a child of a mixed race, not feeling like he was part of anything except American.

I think that's important and powerful in telling the Barack Obama story.

OLBERMANN: While we have you, teased this basically at the beginning of the show, I had mentioned it since. Senator Obama and Bill Clinton talking today, by phone, for 20 minutes, was it d'tente, was it peace in our time, was it cuss words by the dozen? Was it, "I only got a minute, I'm getting into the subway, I'm going to lose you on the cell phone," what happened? Do we know anything about it?

CILLIZZA: Well, let me borrow another literary term, if I may - will be a separate piece that they have sort of agreed to disagree in some ways.

Look, Bill Clinton made very clear he preferred his wife; he thought she was more experienced. He thought she was the one who should be president. But at the same time, Bill Clinton knows he has some rebuilding to do of his reputation of both he and his wife's legacy in this party.

I would expect him to be active for Barack Obama because it's both in the party's interest and his best interest.

OLBERMANN: Can you hear me now?

Chris Cillizza of, thank you, Chris, have a good night.

CILIZZA: Thanks, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: President Bush thanks John McCain for his work on the new

G.I. Bill, even though Senator McCain tried to sink the new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb whose bill that was joins us.

And: Obama and FISA. There are two choices. Vote against it or what the Bush administration is now admitting, the bill creates no criminal immunity, he's got to declare that if elected, he will prosecute the telecoms and administration officials if there's evidence. A Special Comment ahead tonight.


OLBERMANN: Just because President Bush and Senator McCain said it would leave troops to leave the service, that's no reason for them not to take credit when the bill passed over their unyielding opposition. The real proponent of the new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb is next on Countdown.

Mr. McCain also wants a new campaign buzz, saying Obama's word can't be trusted. This while he was talking credit to the passage of a bill he tried to kill.

And: Obama and FISA: A Special Comment is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The line is from the movie "Chinatown." The mortician chortles to Jack Nicholson, "middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns, only in L.A."

Our fourth story on the Countdown: From the day he introduced his new G.I. Bill, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia faced the utter opposition of President Bush and Senator McCain. Senator Webb joins us in a moment to react to today's "Chinatown-like" inside outing of this process in which at today's signing of the new G.I. Bill, President Bush congratulated himself and Senator McCain.


BUSH: The bill is a result of close collaboration between my administration and members of both parties on Capitol Hill. I am particularly grateful that Congressman Boehner, Hoyer, Obey, and Lewis. And I want to thank members who worked hard for the G.I. Bill expansion, especially senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr and McCain. This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to stand behind our troops and their families.


OLBERMANN: Last Friday, Mr. McCain had already congratulated himself for the passage of a bill he had tried to strangle.


MCCAIN: I'm happy to tell you that we probably agreed on an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain period of time, then they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and/or children.


OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb joins us tonight from Washington. Thank you, again, for your time tonight, sir.

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: Well, thank you for remembering this day; it's a very special day.

OLBERMANN: It is. And I know that the point of this is the bill and the point of this is the troops. But two questions about what we just heard there, the first one, I think, is pretty obvious, was that galling to hear that or what? Or the fact that it's known (ph).

WEBB: Well, I think it's safe to say that there was a good deal of cooperation among Republicans and Democrats that just didn't include the administration.


WEBB: You know, I had expected it. This president missed a real opportunity to show leadership and to show true respect for the people who served. He should have had the Republicans, such as Chuck Hagel who he didn't even mention, by the way; Democrats, members of the veteran groups around him.

This isn't an expansion of benefits which he just said in the tape you played, it is a new program. It's the first war-time G.I. Bill since Vietnam and I'm really proud that we were able to get it through and the rest of it is just kind of amusing.

OLBERMANN: Well, did either of them, did either the president or Senator McCain really get on board on this or were they obstacles and they just sort of the last ones out of the way?

WEBB: No, neither of them really did get on board. We accepted this transferability provision, which, by the way, had been in the law for six years, this isn't a new idea. But every single thing that we argued for and that they were against is included in this. You note that this had to come to the president on a supplemental appropriations bill rather than a clean bill, which you said he was going to veto.

But, you know, I don't care. We've got something out there that's going to give the people who served since 9/11 the same kind of benefits as those who served during World War II and they've got a chance at a first class future and I couldn't be happier.

OLBERMANN: Senator, not to turn this into what have you done for me them lately, but it's your G.I. Bill, you worked on this since day one after your election, after being sworn in, obviously, you have a list of things to do for the troops. What's the next thing on the list? What's the next most urgent thing to get done?

WEBB: Well, the first thing I would is that, I actually wrote this bill along with legislative counsel before I was sworn in and was able to usher it through. I also sponsored the dwell-time amendment last year which try to get some balance in the rotational cycles, which was opposed by Senator McCain and the administration and others.

I think what we really need to work on over the next four, five months, and it goes back to the speech that Senator Obama gave today and this little fight that I've been watching and that is, we need to make sure that we take politics out of service. People don't serve their country for political issues.

And John McCain's my long-time friend, if that is one area that I would ask him to calm down on, it's that, don't be standing up and uttering your political views and implying that all the people in the military support them because they don't, any more than when the Democrats have political issues during the Vietnam War.

Let's get the politics out of the military, take care of our military people, or have our political arguments in other areas.

OLBERMANN: Well, we can cross our fingers on that one. We'll see if it happens and I know you feel the same way. I think I also on the subject of political questions, I think I know the answer to this last one. Is there anything new since the last time I asked you about the chance you might be running for vice president?

WEBB: Not really.

OLBERMANN: That was it, huh?


OLBERMANN: Well then I have time for one more question.


OLBERMANN: A quote out of "Washington Post" from yesterday, "It is a testament to the tenacity of Senator James Webb and the justice of this cause that Congress has enacted a new G.I. Bill for war veterans. The freshman senator's ability to work across party lines means that the men and women who risk their lives for America's well-being will in return get expanded education benefits, along with opportunities for better futures."

Ultimately, how difficult was this and did it encourage you or discourage you about the process of getting things done for people like the troops?

WEBB: I think that it shows that if you define issues properly and find people to work with, you can get things done. And we had, as the principal co-sponsors on this bill, two Democrats, two Republicans, two Vietnam veterans, two World War II veterans, Senator Lautenberg and Senator Warner, being the World War II veterans, and we got 58 co-sponsors on a bill in the United States Senate, 302 sponsors in the House, despite the opposition of the administration.

I think George W. Bush made a real bad mistake today in terms of trying to, or trying to show full respect for military service. I think he blew it.

OLBERMANN: But he got a good sound byte out of it. So, I guess that's all that actually matters for him from that point of view.

Congratulations, senator, I know how hard a fight it was and how long a fight it was and it will be well-appreciated, I think, by people of all political parties and thanks also for the big laugh in the middle of the segment.


OLBERMANN: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, thank you, sir.

WEBB: Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: What Senator Obama has to do about FISA? He's already paid the political price, he might as well buy something with it. A Special Comment ahead.

And in Worst: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal claims that there were no major oil spills after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Well, if you don't know count the 113 offshore oil platforms that were totally destroyed, I guess he's right. Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Worst persons and the Republican who is blasting Democratic voters for being misogynistic and sexist towards Hillary Clinton four months after he was misogynistic and sexist towards Hillary Clinton. Senator McCain's claim that on several items you can't trust Senator Obama's word, probably a bad campaign topic given that the list of McCainian flip-flops is now three pages long.

And Obama's fluidity on FISA; there are two options here, vote for it but guaranteed criminal prosecution, or simply vote against it. My special comments ahead. But first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best escape, couple of llamas, couple of pot bellied pigs, two zebras and 15 camels broke out of a traveling circus in Amsterdam earlier this morning. Police suspect the giraffe, who not only kicked open the door to the holding pen, but may have also served as the lookout.

Number two, best rumor, "OK! Magazine" to publish innuendo tomorrow that baseball star Alex Rodriguez, who homered for the New York Yankees tonight, has, quote, been hanging out for months with Madonna. Spotted working out together, headline, "Madonna and A-Rod, sexy new friends." OK! never says there was an affair. Rodriguez is about to turn 33. Madonna, of course, is 206.

Number one, best self-outing, former Under Secretary of Defense Jed Babbin, writing a panicky screed at the blog today, demanding that the, quote, journalists who remain at NBC mutiny, form a small committee and demand a meeting with CEO Jeff Immelt, make him listen and promise to restore NBC's journalistic standards to what they should be. If he refuses, start circulating your resumes. There will be no future for you with the Olbermann network.

Yes, they will all be taking career advice from Jed Babbin. Going from under secretary of defense to online editor at He's really moving up in the world.


OLBERMANN: Over the weekend, Senator McCain said, quote, this election is about trust and trusting people's word and, unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama's word cannot be trusted. Our third story tonight, judging candidates based on their consistency. You see where I'm going with this?

The signing of the G.I. Bill not the only time Senator McCain was against something before he was for it, or vice versa or both. You may want to get pencil and paper and write these downs. On political reform, McCain last January opposed a grassroots lobbying bill he once supported. In 2006, the "New York Sun" reported that his presidential ambitions led McCain to reverse his support of a campaign financial bill called McCain/Feingold.

Last October he said he would vote against the development, relief and education for Alien Miners Act that he co-sponsored, and then said he would vote against an immigration bill that he introduced.

In 2006, he said on "Hardball," quote, I think that gay marriage should be allowed. Then after the commercial break he added, I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.

On abortion, 1999, publicly supporting Roe v. Wade, privately opposing it in a letter to the National Right to Life Committee. In the 2000 debates, he would change the GOP platform to permit exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. May 2007, no he won't, reported.

Storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, flipped. Military action against rogue states, flip. Negotiating with Kim Jong-il not acceptable until President Bush did it last week. With Fidel Castro acceptable in 2000, not 2008. With terrorists appropriate when Colin Powell went to Syria and in 2006 when McCain said sooner or later we'll talk to Hamas, but not appropriate now.

Unilateral action against suspected terrorists in Pakistan; confused leadership when Obama suggested it, not when Bush did it. Warrantless wire taps; six months ago, presidents had to obey the law, not anymore.

Torture detainees, no way, except for the CIA. Hold them indefinitely, wrong in 2003, the right move in 2008. The Iraq war, the right course 2004, stay the course 2005. Today, McCain has always been a Rumsfeld critic.

Tax cults for the rich. In 2001, he could not in good conscious support them. Now he can. The estate tax; 2006, I agree with President Roosevelt who created it and who had passed away. In 2008, most unfair.

This month not for privatizing Social Security, never has been. In 2004, he didn't see how benefits will last without it. In February, promised a balanced budget in four years by April, make that eight years. In May, glad to look at the windfall profits tax. By June, that was Jimmy Carter's big idea. In 2000, no new off shore drilling. Last month, it would take years to develop. This month, very helpful in the short term.

The Bush fund-raisers McCain called coyotes breaking the law in 2000. By 2006, they were co-chairing McCain fund-raisers. Buddy Jerry Falwell, an agent of intolerance in 2000. The Reverend Hague in, then out this year alone.

In 1983, opposed Martin Luther King Day. Today, not as much. 1986, opposed South African divestment. This month praised it. In 2000, defended South Carolina's confederate flag as a symbol of heritage. Two years later, McCain calling it, quote, an act of political cowardice not to say the flag should come down. Quote, "everybody said, look out. You can't win in South Carolina if you say that."

McCain's campaign says his positions evolve. Ironically, in 2005, McCain said alternatives to evolution should be taught in school. Evolving the opposite position he had taken in 2000.

Any smear in a storm; yes, we can, claims a conservative commentator was stolen from this guy. That this guy used it after the other guy is of no concern to the commentator.

Having your cake and eating it, too. Two routes for Senator Obama on FISA and telecom immunity, including a surprising admission about that immunity by the Bush administration. Special comment ahead tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Senator Obama and FISA, my special comment, next. But first, time for our number two story, Countdown's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Apparently he was out of town for that big hurricane. Asked by Fixed News about any oil spills to worry about, he kicked in in full Pavlovian mode; "you know, that's one of the great unwritten success stories after Katrina and Rita, these awful storms, no major spills."

Sadly, no. The Minerals Management Service reported 124 off-shore spills after Katrina and Rita, including 113 oil platforms totally destroyed, and the 44 on and off-shore spills in south east Louisiana which the EPA described as "worse than the worst-case scenario." Governor, quick quiz, can you spell Louisiana?

Our runner up, Monica Crowley, at least one of the spark plugs has blown on this engine. Talking about the Obama slogan, yes, we can. "Well, she said breathlessly, "it turns out that Barack Obama actually stole that campaign line. Obama lifted his campaign line, yes, we can, from the recent presidential campaign of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Monica's not very bright. Ahmadinejad did campaign using a line that translates as we can. That was in 2005. Obama used the phrase, yes, we can originally in his Senate campaign in 2004. That would be earlier. So Miss Crowley is rushing back to a microphone to apologize and then to accuse Obama of writing the line for Ahmadinejad.

But our winner, here we go again, another William Kristol Monday. The "New York Times" columnist, on the air, "I think Hillary Clinton was gracious, has put behind her the horrible sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated, which I'm appalled by, personally. Never would have happen in the Republican party."

Mr. Kristol is ignoring the public commentary by prominent Republican on Fixed News on February 3rd of this year, who said the only people supporting Senator Clinton's bid for the presidency were, quote, "the Democratic establishment and white women." Then this Republican added, quote, "white women are a problem. That's - you know, we all live with that." Which Republican's horrible sexism did Bill Kristol forget? His own. All that was said by William Kristol, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, a special comment on FISA and the junior senator from Illinois. The Democratic leadership in the Senate, Republican knuckle-dragging in the same chamber, and the mediocre skills of whoever wrote the final version of the FISA bill, have combined to give Sen. Barack Obama a second chance to make a first impression.

And he damned well better take it. The Senate vote on this tortured and reckless piece of legislation has now been postponed until after the 4th of July break. The Democrats, completing their FISA experience, a collective impression of Homer Simpson falling off a cliff and hitting every bramble and rock on the way down, didn't exactly plan this fortuitous delay.

Last week, the vote on their cave-in was imminent. But, while arguing over a piece of housing legislation about how many mortgage lenders can dance on the head of a pin, Republicans dithered so long about protecting their constituents, the banks, that the Senate calendar got backed up.

This, in turn, gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid some time to think.

There was one among his group, chosen to run for President, who had loudly assailed the idea of handing a get-out-of-jail-free card to corporations who had approached definitional fascism by breaking the law in concert with the Bush Administration.

But this Senator had suddenly realized that to the large group of voters who operate with an information base that would make Cliffs Notes look like the Encyclopedia, if, in the final vote, he stood against FISA, he would hand them a rock with which they could hit him over the head, a rock wrapped up in a piece of paper reading: "Obama voted uh-uh, thing terror stop." Thus, Sen. Obama, was born your first second chance.

Sen. Reid was kind enough to help you out by composing an amendment that would keep FISA, which you rightly endorse, but strips out the telecom immunity, which you rightly oppose.

It's a protest, a decidedly lame one, but in our daily world of political transactions, voting for the amendment when it has no chance of passing and has been in essence constructed as pure Obama CYA, that is a petty crime.

Whether it will do more harm to your premise of "new politics" than to your credibility as an immunity-opponent is for you, Senator, to assess and live with.

It would be sweet to have a pure, politics-free president, but the last of those retired from office in 1797. And while we've all quoted the farewell address of "The Father Of Our Nation" for 211 years now, nobody seems to want to remember that its point was to urge his children that whatever you do, for God's sake, don't form political parties, some day they will kill you.

Anyway, Senator, your problem here isn't the backlash about telecom immunity, and it isn't really about your political fluidity on the FISA bill.

Your problem is what happens even if this plays out according to plan next week: One, you vote for the anti-immunity amendment. Two, the anti-immunity amendment fails. Three, you vote for the FISA legislation. And four, the FISA legislation passes. And five, senator: the Republicans still run against you with the 'elections-for-dummies' message: "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop."

Because inside that obscenity that was Charlie Black's comment about how a terrorist attack in this country would be good for his boy McCain's chances for election, inside the inhuman calculation that Benazir Bhutto did not die in vain, she helped McCain in the New Hampshire primary, inside all that, there is a sad and cynical reality; the Republicans can scare some of the people all of the time, and they can scare all of the people some of the time. This is all they are right now.

Nobody ever said it better than did Aaron Sorkin in his script for the movie "The American President": "Whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson" - and for Bob Rumson, read John McCain - Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it."

Republicans, with almost no exceptions, have no true credibility on counter-terrorism, no track record of prevention or amelioration, and their president can't even remember the name of the skyscraper he claims to have saved in Los Angeles.

And yet, somehow, the Republicans have managed to convince the public that it doesn't matter that Mr. Bush had already completed 22 percent of his first term when he, his administration, and his party, failed so catastrophically on 9/11.

The President and party who were at fault were magically transformed into the president and party who would never let it happen again. An unjust, repellant, nefarious, trick. But, politically, rather a neat trick.

Senator, the Republicans are going to paint you as soft on terror no matter how you vote on FISA or how you vote on the Telecom Immunity Amendment or on the next farm bill.

Last week it was Grover Norquist calling you "John Kerry with a tan." By November 1st, it'll be Dick Cheney calling you "Osama Bin Laden with a tan." When you announced your support of this latest FISA bill, with or without the telecom immunity, the Republicans actually raced to get out a press release accusing you of flip-flopping. You shared the exact same position on which they are running their entire campaign and they criticized you anyway!

So, Senator, from their point of view, they think they've got you boxed in. Vote for FISA and you've contradicted yourself. Vote against FISA and it's "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop." Vote for FISA and against immunity, and it's political expediency, and Democrats soft on terror, and "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop."

This is a problem, Senator, because, flatly, of all the measures that can be taken to aid our damaged nation, and our de-valued constitution, the first, if not the foremost, is not blocking telecom immunity, but rather making sure no Republican is in the White House past noon next January 20th. Of all the remedial efforts against the Bush Administration's high crimes and misdemeanors, and of all the prophylactic steps against further inroads against the freedoms of the citizens of this nation and the rights of everyone else in the world, the primary step must still come to us through the prism of politics.

Would that it were otherwise. But it ain't. Frankly, Senator, this political tight-rope act you've tried on FISA the last two weeks, which from the outside seems to have been intended to increase the chances of your election, probably hasn't helped that chance in the slightest.

There is, fortunately, a possible, a most unexpected, solution, your second second chance.

Since the final version of the FISA bill was passed down from on high, John Dean has been reading it, and re-reading it, and cross-referencing it with other relevant law, and thinking. Something bothered him about it. Or, more correctly, something didn't bother him about it. Turns out lawyers at the ACLU have been doing the same thing for the last ten days. John compared notes with them, and will be devoting his column at "Find Law" this week, to this unlikely conclusion: The Republicans, who wrote most of this bill at Mr. Bush's urging, managed to immunize the telecoms from civil suits, but not from criminal prosecution.

Senator, here is John Dean's summary of his findings, which he sent me this morning: "It is clear not only from the language of the bill, which must be read in the context of other related statutes to be clearly understood, but also from the legislative history, that there is absolutely no criminal immunity for anyone in these FISA amendments."

More over, Senator, it seems as if a lot of people have known this for a long time. "During the January 24th, 2008 debate in the Senate, Sen. Brownback noted, "The immunity provisions would not apply to the Government or Government officials. Cases against the Government regarding the alleged programs would continue. And the provisions would apply only to civil and not criminal cases."

In fact, Senator, just last week, Attorney General Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence McConnell sent a letter, for the record, to House Speaker Pelosi emphasizing that the liability protection, quote, "does not immunize any criminal conduct."

And if you ask, Senator, about the President responding to all this by belching out a series of pardons or a blanket pardon to those who broke the law on his behalf, Dean has you covered here, too: it "would require acceptance by them of the fact that they had broken the law, and thus be an admission of guilt."

"And a blanket pardon would be an admission by Bush that his war on terror has been a lawless undertaking, operating beyond the bounds of the Constitution and statutes that check the powers of the president and the executive branch."

"It would be an admission by Bush, too, of his own criminal culpability, which is why Nixon refused to grant his aides a pardon."

Senator, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Keep your eye on the wording of the legislation to make sure the Republicans don't realize its flaws. Then vote for the amendment to strip telecom immunity out of the FISA bill. Then after that fails, vote for the FISA bill, if that's your final answer. Then the minute the president has signed the FISA bill, you announce that you voted for it because it renews FISA and because it permits a bigger prize than just civil suits, that it allows for criminal prosecution of past illegal eavesdropping.

Say, loudly, that your understanding of this bill is such that if you are elected, your Attorney General will begin a full-scale criminal investigation of the Telecom Companies who collaborated with President Bush in eavesdropping on Americans. And mention that your attorney general will subpoena such records, notes, e-mail, data, and testimony from any and all Bush Administration officials, FBI or CIA personnel, or any members of the Executive Branch who may have as much as breathed in the general direction of these nefarious acts of domestic spying at Mr. Bush's behest.

Wait, you say there's a political hit waiting for you there too? Another "Obama voted uh-uh thing terror-stop." Actually, Senator, you've already gone down this road when you spoke to my colleague, Will Bunch, of the "Philadelphia Daily News" on April 14th of this year. He asked about the possibility of criminal investigations of the 43rd President and his henchmen.

"What I would want to do," you told him, "is have my Justice Department and my attorney general immediately review the information that's already there and to find out, are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now."

"You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve."

"Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is: nobody above the law. And I think that's roughly how I would look at it."

Make this clear, Senator. You've already taken the political hit from the right for saying you'd seek to strip out or rescind immunity. You've already taken the political hit from the left for saying you'd vote for the FISA bill even with the immunity. You've paid the political price in advance. Now buy yourself and those who have most ardently supported you something worth more than just class action suits against Verizon.

Explain that you are standing aside on civil immunity, not just for political expediency, but for a greater and more tangible good, the holding to account of the most-corrupt, the most dangerous, and the most anti-democracy presidential administration in our long history.

Of course, if you disagree with this interpretation, if you think the FISA bill doesn't have the giant loophole, or if you don't think you, as president, would be ready to support criminal prosecution of, well, criminals then your duty is clear. Vote against the FISA bill, if it still carries that immunity.

The Republicans are going to call you the names any which way, Senator. They're going to cry regardless, Senator. And as the old line goes: give them something to cry about.

Good night and good luck.