Tuesday, February 10, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 10
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guest: Howard Fineman, Daniel Gross, Jonathan Turley, Julio Osegueda

High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Government; Policies

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

And now it belongs to the conference committee. The stimulus passes the Senate.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When the town is burning, you don't check party labels. Everybody needs to grab a hose.


OLBERMANN: And speaking of grabbing hose, the Republicans obstruct and attack again. This time, less against Obama and more against congressional Dems.

The Kanjorski tape: The Pennsylvania congressman recounting a kind of Cuban missile crisis of economics last September.


REP. PAUL KANJORSKI, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.


OLBERMANN: Two weeks after he said that, that tape is everywhere. Is it true? Is it over?

The truth and reconciliation commission: Pat Leahy's bid to put the misdeeds of the 43rd president on the record, if not on trial. Obama didn't really say yes or no - again.


OBAMA: If there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen.


OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley on truth squads versus prosecutions.

The kid: Me and Julio down at the town hall.


JULIO OSEGUEDA, COLLEGE STUDENT: Oh, it's such a blessing to see you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking time out of your day. Oh, gracious God, thank you so much!


OLBERMANN: Julio Osegueda, aspiring to be a reporter, supposed to be on with us this evening. Will he make it or will he miss his first deadline and was out of journalism tonight about 36 minutes from now?

The Countdown "Apology Hall of Fame": Our long-delayed return visit and our newest inductee.


ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: I did take a banned substance, and, you know, for that, I'm very sorry and deeply regretful.


OLBERMANN: And - Still Bushed. Ari Fleischer mocks Obama for calling on a guy from "Huffington Post" from the, quote, "dot-coms and other oddballs." Ari?


JEFF GANNON, FORMER "TALON NEWS" REPORTER: How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?


OLBERMANN: Oddballs you say.

All that and more - now on Countdown.

(on camera): Good evening, from New York.

A curious juxtaposition of presidents - the last one, if he was trying to sell us war, speaks in front of a handpicked crowd of military families or conservative veterans. This one, if he's trying to sell us economic stimulus, instead speaks in front of unscreened audiences in two cities that voted for his opponent that represent in order, the unemployment rate and foreclosure rate capitals of the country.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Yesterday, Elkhart, Indiana, and today, Fort Myers, Florida, where President Obama happened to be when the Senate passed the stim. Advised of this, that unscreened crowd gave the package a standing ovation. The president is touching down in Lee County, Florida, this afternoon where as in much of the Sunshine State, the downturn in construction has been extraordinary and devastating.

The Republican governor of this state, Charlie Crist, is introducing Mr. Obama before the president's second town hall style event in as many days. Lee County having voted for Senator McCain last November, 55 to 44 - - but since suffering is suffering, no matter which one party - which party one is affiliated with, check out the crowd's reaction today when the president announced word of his victory in the Senate.


OBAMA: By the way, I just want to announce that the Senate just passed our recovery and reinvestment plan. That's good.


OBAMA: So, that's good news.

And I want to thank all of the members of the Senate who moved the process forward. We still - we still got to get the House bill and the Senate bill to match up before it gets sent to my desk. So, we've got a little more work to do over the next couple of days. But it's a good start.


OLBERMANN: One woman in that audience is telling reporters she was not allowed to vote in November because she did not have an address. Her son had lost his job in computer programming and that meant they in turn lost their house. So, instead, she prayed that Obama would win. And today, she pleaded with the new president for direct help.


HENRIETTA HUGHES, HOMELESS WOMAN: I have an urgent need, unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in. We need urgent. The housing authority has two-year waiting list. We need something more than a vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help us.

OBAMA: Well, listen, what's your name? What's your name?

HUGHES: It's Henrietta Hughes.

OBAMA: OK, Ms. Hughes, we're going to do everything we can to help you. But there are a lot of people like you.


OBAMA: And we're going to do everything we can, all right? But I'll have my staff talk to you after this - after the town hall.


OLBERMANN: The Obama administration also announcing a revised plan today to help the nation's banks. The old bailout, known and widely detested as TARP; the bailout 2.0 is getting a new name and acronym, TALF.

Treasury Secretary Geithner is unveiling the plan today in the broadest of strokes with the thinnest of details, among other things, the plan is supposed to create a fund that's part public, part private - at least, the administration hopes for the private part to buy out bad assets from the bank. It also proposes regular stress tests to check on the health of financial institutions with the prescription of more taxpayer dollars for the sicker ones.

In an interview with Brian Williams, Mr. Geithner describing that as an "ounce of prevention" approach.


TIM GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The lesson of this crisis here in this country, and I think it's true, the lesson of financial crisis around the world, is that governments tend to underestimate the ultimate cost in damage, they tend to move too late to try to address the crisis, and that makes the crises worse, more expensive and more damaging. Our judgment is that it will be cheaper over the longer term, it will cost the taxpayer less over the longer term, and we'll see less damage to American business if we're more forceful up front in trying to put enough force behind this to help get it to work.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: What is behind Obama keeping this fight out of Washington geographically and instead in Elkhart and in Fort Myers? Is it - is there an attempt here to really pin the Republicans into a corner, being sort of figurative scrooges in this standoff?

FINEMAN: Well, not only scrooges but scrooges who have no concept of reality what's going on in the country. That's the aim.

Yesterday morning, Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, pointed out to me the latest Gallup Poll which showed of just how popular in the country this new president is and remains. People trust him to understand their problems and to try honestly to find a solution. That's Obama's strongest calling card in these negotiations.

So, they want him out in the country, highlighting reality versus spin in the beltway, inside the beltway, jobs versus jockeying on the Hill - the beltway world versus the real world. That's a tradition that the best American president maneuverers have used. Ronald Reagan was a master at talking to the country and getting the country on his side against a recalcitrant Washington establishment. Barack Obama is now trying to do the same thing.

OLBERMANN: But two very different bills now - between the one in the House and the one from the Senate passed today. How difficult will the reconciliation be?

FINEMAN: Well, it's going to be difficult. It's kind of like the Rubik's cube. They are up there, even as we speak, Keith. I was just talking to a Senate Democrat who said that right now there's a meeting going on to try to plan this conference that you mentioned.

Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is taking the unusual step of putting himself on the conference committee. That doesn't usually happen. Right now, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who knows a lot about the Hill, are sitting in the speaker's office trying to plan out this conference. But it's going to be very, very difficult to put all of the political and financial pieces together.

OLBERMANN: Something else about that conference committee. Is there a chance the administration is going to try to jam back in some things that were taken out to get those three Senate votes, Republican Senate votes?

FINEMAN: Sure, that's what I'm being told. The president is very interested in and insistent upon getting money back in there for the states and localities. That's in the House bill. That's not in the Senate bill. The Republican moderates who voted with the president said that wasn't stimulative.

Barack Obama's point is - these cities need to be safe from bankruptcy, same with the states. He promised this to a lot of political leaders, both Republican and Democrat, and he's going to push for that. The president also wants to try to get that school construction money back in there, which the Senate doesn't have.

My sense is that Rahm Emanuel and company are going to try to play hardball with some of the Republicans - the few Republicans who are supporting them by way of saying, "Look, if you don't give us some of that stuff back, then we may take out some of the tax measures that we put in, expecting to get more Republican support than we ended up getting." I think that's one of the things going on here, but it's a very delicate process to try to push the Republicans without losing them.

OLBERMANN: And the other part of today's news, the bailout. That had been President Bush's problem and the obvious and biggest piece of his legacy, at least in the rearview mirror. But with the overhaul today and the plan announced by Secretary Geithner, did Obama just assume the ownership of the entire banking mess today? Is it now his problem?

FINEMAN: Well, I think so. And I think, unfortunately, for him, he assumed ownership of it without having the ownership plan fully figured out. Tim Geithner is highly respected, I'm told, in the financial world and also around the world among diplomats and global economists, but he's not well-liked here in Washington yet because of the way he ended up getting his job. And I think he's got to satisfy some skeptics here, but Barack Obama by saying, "Judge me on the results" today down in Fort Myers, assumed ownership of the whole thing.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, collapse as in nothing was done to save that company. A very course of action so many Republicans are advocating now about the economy as a whole. But in the chaos of the 36 hours that followed the collapse of Lehman, it appears that much was done to prevent a complete collapse of the entire U.S. financial system if not the global financial system - or at least that's how it was recalled two weeks ago on CSPAN by Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski, citing the date as Thursday, September 15th - it was actually Thursday, September 18th.


KANJORSKI: Look, I was there when the secretary and the chairman of the Federal Reserve came those days and talked with members of Congress about what was going on. It was about September 15th.

Here's the facts and we don't even talk about these things - on Thursday, at about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous drawdown of money market accounts in the United States to the tune of $550 billion - was being drawn out in a matter of an hour or two. The treasury opened up its window to help. They pumped $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks.

They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts, and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic out there. And that's what actually happened. If they had not done that, their estimation was, that by 2:00 o'clock that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States, would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States, and within 24 hours, the world economy would have collapsed.

Now, we talked at that time about what would happen if that happened. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it, and that's why when they made the point, we've got to act and do things quickly, we did.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to financial and economic writer, Daniel Gross, senior editor at "Newsweek" and author of the soon to be published book, "Dumb Money: How our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation."

Dan, thanks for your time tonight.

DANIEL GROSS, NEWSWEEK: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This is a little bit like listening to somebody saying, "Do you remember last September when the Earth almost collided with Mars?" Is the congressman's apocalyptic memory of those days accurate?

GROSS: Well, I don't know if his numbers are 100 percent correct, but

there was a huge seizure in the money market funds market, which is

basically where people park cash. There's about $3.5 trillion. It's where

it's the safest place for money this side of your mattress.

After Lehman Brothers went down and started defaulting on its debt, remember they let it fail on Monday, I believe it was September 15th - all these money market funds, they were supposed to have government bonds and things like that, but they also had a lot of Lehman Brothers debt. Now, Lehman Brothers was a Triple A-rated company, the safest type of company. So, it made sense that it was there.

But once Lehman Brothers failed, all of a sudden, everybody freaked out about the possibility of the money they felt they had in cash in these money market funds not really being there, started to yank it out. That system seized up and the Fed - the government did come in and start to guarantee those money market funds, halting the run.

OLBERMANN: Is the global meltdown risk that the congressman spoke of over, ameliorated? Should I not bother not to wait for your answer and just run out to an ATM?

GROSS: Well, I think your cash is safe.


GROSS: I mean, you may have more than the insured limit. The FDIC bumped up its limit to $250,000 per account. The money market funds are insured.

You know, when you have insurance of assets, you tend not to have bank runs, right? A bank can fail today and everybody else doesn't freak out because they know their deposits are insured. That's the way people now think about money market accounts. So, those are relatively safe.

You know, the challenge has been is that we continue to have these problems crop up in parts of the market that many of us, you know, perhaps didn't know existed - commercial paper, other types of markets. So, there's definitely this risk today, and the volatility you see in the markets, you know, down 4 percent, 5 percent today is a reflection of this continuing concern over credit issues.

OLBERMANN: And maybe making it a little bit worse because people are suspicious about things, because we live in this time when terms like essential, urgent, imminent and cataclysm have been based on bad intel or have been fudged to or used to manipulate the public and to acquiescing to, you know, draconian measures or war or both of these things.

Is there a chance that's the case here in terms of this apocalyptic vision what almost happened - what might yet happen?

GROSS: Well, look, I think there's a degree to which we're skeptical. You know, for Wall Street, a crisis is, you know, they can't buy a third or fourth home, or they have to ground the corporate jet. So, we have kind of become immune to them saying, "Oh, this is a big deal, we have to act now," because it started with Bear Stearns in March of '08 and has continued since then unabated. We were continually told there are these systemic problems, we have to act now or else something really bad will happen.

And, really, bad things actually do continue to happen. We are seeing the second piece - in your prior section - the second piece of the bailout. Bad things continue to happen in this world.

OLBERMANN: Would - there's sort of a back engineering on this. And I suppose there's a logical fallacy in here. Would all of this have been avoided if we had saved and propped up Lehman?

GROSS: Well, you have to remember, at the time, everybody was

applauding Henry Paulson for letting Lehman Brothers fail, because it was -

you know, finally, we are drawing a line in the sand. These Wall Street people have to account for themselves, we are not going to bail them out of their stupid decisions. That euphoria lasted for about 48 to 72 hours when all of this other stuff happened. You know, it may not have been Lehman Brothers causing money market funds to fail but it's possible that two weeks later, it could have been somebody else.

OLBERMANN: Dan Gross of "Newsweek" - great thanks, sir, for making this decipherable to most of us.

GROSS: Any time.

OLBERMANN: Three more notes touching on President Obama. At today's town hall, he had one very happy kid who serves happy meals but wants to go into a happy career called broadcasting.

At last night's news conference, he had one very good question about whether he supports prosecution of Bush administration officials or Senator Leahy's truth commission or both. And that question happened when he called on Sam Stein from "Huffington Post," earning the president today mockery from former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer for calling on "dot-coms and other oddballs" whom Bush never would.

Ari, Jeff Gannon?


OLBERMANN: The president's inscrutable answer on the prospect of the Leahy truth and reconciliation commission, or simply cutting to the chase in prosecuting. Jonathan Turley joins me. And later, in Bests, Laura Ingraham gets a putdown from a Republican senator. In Worsts, the doctor, who first said there might be a link between vaccines and autism, reportedly made his research up. And just as soon as Alex Rodriguez made the Countdown "Apology Hall of Fame," he does something new he needs to apologize for.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Lying about Iraq, spying on war protesters, hiring and firing Justice Department personnel in the pursuit of politics, wiretapping American citizens, torture - crimes committed by the Bush administration, all are still questions in the dark, still questions unanswered.

Our fourth story tonight: The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is suggesting a bipartisan panel to ferret out the truth on these matters and more - empowered to grant immunity to serve subpoenas. Senator Pat Leahy is saying he wants to gage support for the idea which he first discussed in a speech yesterday, now already talking about it with the White House, the Obama White House.

Last night, the president declined to weigh in on the plan but said he wants to leave no doubt that the U.S. now obeys the law.


OBAMA: My view is also that nobody's above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen. So, I will take a look at Senator Leahy's proposal. But my general orientation is to say - let's get it right moving forward.


OLBERMANN: In an interview today for tonight's "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," Senator Leahy discussed one model for his inquiry, the Church Commission of the '70s and just possibly acknowledged its shortcomings.


SEN. PAT LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: When I first came to the Senate, Frank Church had just had a commission like that, looked into the spying on anti-war protesters, some of the abuses of both the FBI and the CIA, and just bringing the matters to light brought about some much-needed reforms, changes that lasted for a couple decades. I think we have to do the same thing here.


OLBERMANN: The Church reforms not only failed to prevent future executive branch abuses, the very ones of which Mr. Leahy now prescribes a new commission, they also failed to stop the very people in the executive branch then from leading the way in doing it now, namely, Nixon White House veterans Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Leahy's other model for his commission, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, from which 7,112 sought amnesty for their crimes, 5,392 were denied amnesty. And, yes, the nation' former president, P.W. Botha, was found by the commission to be accountable for gross violations of human rights, but he was only convicted of refusing to cooperate with the commission and that conviction was overturned by a white court.

Let's turn to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. As ever, Jon, great thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Why model a commission for preventing future executive branch abuses on a commission that failed to prevent the very executive branch abuses you're looking to prevent again?

TURLEY: Well, you know, it's incredible, because truth commissions are generally have been used by emerging democracies, often, third world countries, countries that have nascent legal systems, countries that are trying to create new governments. They are not associated with a government that's supposedly the leader of the rule of law.

We don't have any question about the obligation to follow these treaties, there's no question that torture occurred here. There's no question it was a war crime. And so, the only reason to have a commission of this kind is to avoid doing what we're obligated to do under a treaty.

And the fact is that these members of Congress view this as a very inconvenient time to fight on principle. But they would do us all a favor if they just saved the money on another useless commission and just take the old 9/11 Commission report, rip off the cover and put a new cover on, and call it a day - because it is shameful that we would be calling for this type of commission.

Everyone knows what we're doing. We're in violation of our obligations now. We were supposed to investigate. It's not up to President Obama. It's not up to Senator Leahy.

We're obligated to investigate. This whole discussion in front of the whole world is basically saying that we are not going to comply with the promise we made not to ourselves but to the world.

OLBERMANN: Also, whether you're basing it on the Church model or the South African model, they elevated these crimes that they are selected to address above regular law and order, or certainly distinguished them from regular law and order. Regardless of what they might find and however valuable they might be for a historical record, does not using a special forum inherently validate the Bush claim that the regular rules did not apply to his presidency because of the exigent circumstances?

TURLEY: It absolutely does. I mean, we need to be honest. There's great love for President Obama and I have great respect for him.

But you cannot say that you believe that no one is above the law and block the investigation of the war crimes by your predecessor. It is a position without principle. It is because you believe it's politically inconvenient and by simply saying that you will do a special commission like saying you have special justice, but at the end of the day, no one believes that people will be prosecuted for a known war crime.

And when we do that - when we do that, then we will become accessories. Those crimes of President Bush will become our crimes. His shame will become our collective shame. That's what happens when you protect someone accused of war crimes from even an investigation.

OLBERMANN: Is fear of Republican blowback in the future a valid reason to refrain from prosecuting or do Democrats, to some degree, risk incentivizing Republicans to threaten that blowback or other kinds of it even more and more?

TURLEY: Well, the Democrats are going to have to decide whether they want to detach themselves from principle, start their control of this government with an act of the most unprincipled sort. One of the treaties that we signed and help write says there are no excuses and no defenses for ordering torture. We helped write those rules and we are about to break them.

So, yes, there might be a backlash. The Republican Party may want to be the party that embraces torture and fights from being held accountable under treaties that we signed and promised the world. The question for members of both parties: Whether this is the matter that they want to lose that degree of principle. And, you know, this is the time - and it comes in every career - when you have to decide whether you are a statesman or just one more politician looking for the next election.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley of George Washington University and speaking, I think, from the pages of our history books. Thank you, Jon.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Back to one of the original uses of fireworks - economic stimulus, well, chasing away the evil spirits who were causing recession. No, I'm not kidding.

And Billo the Clown is back, mocks Cher for not saying nice things about Republicans. It turns out he edited out the part of her remarks in which she said nice things about Republicans. Worst Persons is ahead tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment and Arlen Specter shuts up Laura Ingraham. First, it was on this day in 1920 that Major League Baseball banned all pitches that involved defacing the ball or putting stuff on it. So suddenly illegal were the Spit Ball, the Shine Ball, the Wax Ball, the Licorice Ball, the Mud Ball, the Emery Ball, the Cut Ball, the Sand Paper Ball, the Vaseline Ball and the Scuff Ball.

There was no steroid ball nor hormone ball. But let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin in Taiwan, where the market's downturn is really getting to some folks. While most people would consider being pelted by explosives a somewhat unlucky experience, these guys are hoping it will bring them good fortune. The ritual marks the end of the Chinese lunar new year and perhaps the ending of all feelings in one's face. While wearing relatively little clothing, besides a protective head towel, the theory goes the more fire crackers thrown at you, the more prosperous your business will be. The S&P Index closed down 300 points. That's the S&P, the Sparklers and Pound Rockets Index.

And to Ranchee (ph), India, where this gentleman is practicing the fine art of ticking off the misses. The married father of two has forgone more traditional irritants such as golfing and refusing to ask directions, in favor of repeatedly writing the name of the love of his life, who is not the woman he's married to. This daily routine began just 12 years ago and he says it's not going to end until he's written her name 10 million times, or until someone points out the first 9,999,000 attempts were misspelled or the misses kills him.


OLBERMANN: He wants to be in broadcasting. He has already asked a question of a president. He's joining us next. And he is a happy guy.

And so is he. You only get into the Countdown apology Hall of Fame if you get away with it. Alex Rodriguez has found out today he got away with it.

These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's best persons in the world.

Number three, best job applicant, unnamed 16-year-old student at Central Commerce Collegiate School in Toronto. Early in his interview for a spot at a veterinary clinic, employees noticed there was blood on his leg. He had been stabbed on his way to the interview, but he showed up any way, so as to not miss his chance. They liked that.

Number two, best nearly human animal, an unnamed deer in Toledo. As the doors opened at a local store, a doe jumped in. Then it laid down on the floor, revealing a severe leg injury. The store was the local Petsmart, the only one in the city who had its own veterinary clinic. The walk-in patient was treated and released.

And number one, best smack down, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. After voting for the stimulus, he went on the radio of Laura Ingraham, who sarcastically asked him, quote, "Is it nice to be wined and dined at the White House? You're treated pretty well when you're a Republican bucking other Republicans, right, senator?" The senator's response, "let's get off it, Laura. I'm not drinking any wine at the White House and I don't dine at the White House. If the president wants to talk to me, talk to him and make my own independent judgment. Don't give me the wine and dine baloney, young lady. I have a pretty good record, Laura, for making up my own mind."

Senator, you will have to explain that last word to her. You're a Republican and conservative commentators expect that if you really do have a mind, you're not supposed to use it, except as the Borg Collective tells you.


OLBERMANN: The last president tried to look at his ranch on the Google. The new guy is live blogging. If you were paying attention to the official White House live blog at President Obama's Ft. Myers town hall meeting at 1:10 this afternoon, you read the following entry, question from an enthusiastic young man named Julio, who says he has worked for McDonald's for four years, but has not seen his benefits improve. Answer, tax cuts will help you keep more money, and the ARRA will make health care coverage and college tuition more affordable.

In our number three story, that's not exactly what happened. We will talk to that enthusiastic young man in just a moment. First, an experience that no live blog could successfully capture, Obama and Julio down at the town hall.


OBAMA: Go ahead.

JULIO OSEGUEDA, ASKED QUESTION AT OBAMA TOWN HALL, : Oh, it's such a blessing to see you, Mr. President! Thank you for taking time out of your day. Oh, gracious god, thank you so much.

OBAMA: All right. What's the question?

OSEGUEDA: Mr. President - OK, I have been at the same job, which is McDonald's, for four and a half years because of the fact that I can't find another job. Do you have any plans or any idea of making one that has been there for a long time, receive any better benefits than what they already received?

OBAMA: You say you're going to school. What are you studying?

OSEGUEDA: I'm looking to study and major in communications.

Hopefully being a broadcaster or a disk jockey.

OBAMA: You sound like you have a good communication skill.

OSEGUEDA: Thank you so much.

OBAMA: Young people like Julio, who have that much enthusiasm and that much energy, we've got to make sure that we are giving them a pathway so that they can educate themselves and go as far as their dreams take them. Thank you very much, Ft. Myers. I appreciate you.


OLBERMANN: And from Ft. Myers, we're now joined by 19-year-old Julio Osegueda. Welcome to the show, Julio.

OSEGUEDA: Thank you so much. This is definitely a blessing and true honor to be part of your show.

OLBERMANN: Were you satisfied with the president's actual answer to your question about improving your benefits?

OSEGUEDA: Yes, I was. I was truly blessed. The answer that Mr. President Obama gave me was such a motivation that made me feel as if success is around the corner. Just keep trying hard and don't stop for anything.

OLBERMANN: In point of fact, there's some late-breaking news on that front, isn't there? You just picked up a broadcasting gig on the basis of this town hall today?

OSEGUEDA: Yes. I've actually gotten an internship offer and I've also got an offer for the local Ft. Myers Miracle Baseball Team, to be able to broadcast the first home opening game for the season on April 10th. And I was shocked to hear that. I just blew up.

OLBERMANN: So this is - obviously, the stimulus package has already worked pretty well for you. What do you think? Why do you think the president picked you out of that crowd?

OSEGUEDA: Because - well, I mean, I definitely feel bad. Other people tried to be picked as well. But I just like jumped. I got up on my chair. I jumped and I screamed, and I said, Mr. President, pick me, pick me, pick me. I like screamed.

OLBERMANN: Now, there was a report that said you were trying to sell a ticket to the town hall on your Facebook page before the town hall took place. Is that true?

OSEGUEDA: Well, at first I had the idea of doing so. But after watching the news and hearing people getting in trouble for it, I ended up changing my mind. And I wrote down - made a list of all of the people that I would be willing to give the ticket to. And I narrowed it down to one person, and that one person I gave them the ticket, and gladly, they were part of the event. And I'm glad I avoided doing the wrong thing.

OLBERMANN: If - to get into - this heavily into the media all of a sudden out of nowhere - none of this happened as of this morning. It's all in one giant fell swoop, as they say. Most guys your age would have to end up auditioning for "American Idol" to get this kind of instant fame. At any point did you see - obviously talking to this man, talking to the president of the United States, any president of the United States has to be a great thrill by itself. But when did it dawn on you that that was going to be on TV and everybody was going to want to ask you about it afterwards?

OSEGUEDA: Well, it was actually shocking. I mean, the minute I walked out the door, everybody started scrambling me and asking me questions, asking me my name and all kinds of things. It was just so like honored. I was so honored. I just loved it. It was truly amazing. And I really appreciate, you know, President Obama taking time out of his life to come down to near where I live and be able to answer my question.

OLBERMANN: Now it's on to the Ft. Myers Miracle. Do you know a lot about baseball?

OSEGUEDA: Honestly, I'm not a die-hard baseball fan. But I will tell you one thing, I am a Yankees fan, because I'm from Manhattan, New York. And I have a whole bunch of Yankee collector items and memorabilia. So I like it. but I'm not into it as much. I wouldn't watch, you know, a regular game. I would only watch the game if it was like Yankees versus Red Sox, a game worth watching.

OLBERMANN: Well, you got about two months to work on your Ft. Myers Miracle knowledge. I would say get to work on that. Julio Osegueda -

OSEGUEDA: I definitely will.

OLBERMANN: - of Edison State College and McDonald's and now the announcer for the Ft. Myers Miracle. Big day. I hope you have many more of them, my friend. Thank you.

OSEGUEDA: Thank you so much. It's a true blessing to be part of your show. May the lord bless you.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

The Countdown apology hall of fame. You get in when your apology gets you out of big trouble. Alex Rodriguez gets in and now there's more trouble tonight.

And this Fixed News meat puppet gets into worsts. this time literally reading a Republican party press release, complete with a typo, as if it were news.

But first, because they may be gone but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration's 50 running scandal, Still Bushed!

Number three, cronyism-gate. Mr. Bush is now gone for three long and happy weeks. But William Burke, Fred Fielding, Emett Flood and Daniel Price (ph) remain in Washington, Bush's senior aides. Fielding was his last White House counsel, in fact. They were appointed by the 43rd president to an obscure outlet of the World Bank called the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The jobs, and it's not a daily job - but the job can pay up to 3,000 dollars a day plus travel expenses. And the appointments last through the year 2014. Other Bush golden parachutes produced non-paying jobs, which is why if you look now at the council that oversees our Holocaust Museum, you will now find Josh Bolten, Michael Mukasey and Michael Chertoff.

Number two, torture-gate. More rebellion from the Bush ranks about what torture enabler John Yoo has called the Bush system, particularly Dick Cheney's embarrassing insistence last week that torture is the only way. Donald P. Gregg was Bush 41's national security adviser. He's out with an op-ed in the "Philadelphia Inquirer," speaking of his own experience in the CIA in Vietnam, when South Vietnamese torture produced incorrect intel on rocket aides, but CIA bargaining with North Vietnamese prisoners produced schedules of when the raids were planned. Craig acknowledges that his story is only anecdotal, but he adds the key to successful interrogation is for the interrogator, even as he controls the situation, to recognize a prisoner's humanity, to understand his culture, background and language. Torture makes this impossible. Cheney forgets that the Bush administration followed this approach with some success. A high value prisoner subjected to patient interrogation by an Arabic-speaking FBI Agent yielded highly useful information, including the final world on Iraq's weapons programs. His name was Saddam Hussein.

Number one, revisionism-gate. After Barack Obama's first presidential news conference, Bill-O the clown interviewed Bush's first press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who mocked the president calling on Sam Stein of "Huffington Post" for questions. Fleischer said, "you get a lot of other dot-coms and other oddballs who come in there. They're screened." O'Reilly interrupted, "like the 'Huffington Post.' Now it gets called on." Fleischer continued to dig himself in deeper. "I used to seat them all in one section. I would call it Siberia. And I told the president, don't call on Siberia."

That's Ari Fleischer, whose White House press office first issued press credential to Jeff Gannon, real name James Guckert. Job, correspondent for conservative website Talon News. Real job, well, there are kids watching. By the time of his news conference in January 2005, Mr. Bush actually called on Gannon/Guckert of Talon News for a question that ended with a reference to Democrats.


JAMES GUCKERT, "TALON NEWS": How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?


OLBERMANN: So, Bill-O, Ari, speaking of divorced from reality, who started giving news conference time and credibility to the dot coms and other oddballs? And do you really think that within six weeks of getting its reporter called on by the president, "Huffington Post" is going to go dark, the way Talon News did six weeks after Bush called on its ace reporter, Scoop Oddball Dot com?


OLBERMANN: The key to an apology is sincerity. The key to a Countdown hall of fame apology, getting away with it. Alex Rodriguez just got away with it, and now has something new to deal with. That's next. First, time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to John Scott of Fixed News. This is one of the real talking points readers, who may or may not recognize the individual words he's saying, never mind their meaning. But today, accompanied by a series of graphics, he read a story claiming to show how the stimulus package, quote, "was born and how it grew and grew and grew," quoting seven different dates and seven different total amounts, ranging from 56 billion to 775 billion. It was taken word for word, figure for figure and date for date from a press release issued this morning by the Senate Republicans Communications center, right down to a typo contained in the press release, referring to an article published December 2009, a month that hasn't happened yet. The actual definition right there of reading the talking points.

The runner-up is Bill-O. New lighting and a new set imitating ours, but the same old clown. Rips the singer Cher and plays a tape of her saying, quote, I just don't understand how anyone would want to be a Republican. I just can't figure out. I don't understand. If you're poor, if you're any kind of minority, gay, black, Latino, anything - if you're not a rich - I don't know. If you're not a rich, born-again Christian, I don't get it."

Bill-O said he would have to break it to her gently that, quote, "there are good people in both parties who love their country like you do. Don't be a pinhead. Be independent like me." Yes, he's as independent as a pack mule. But more importantly, he edited something out of the tape of Cher's comments, the part in which she said, there are some really good Republicans. As Rupert Murdoch says of his own shop, "we have never been a company that tolerates facts," aargh.

But our winner is Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He is the doctor almost single handily responsible for the paranoia in some parents world wide for a decade now about letting their kids get the MMR vaccination, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. His research published in February 1998 in the British medical journal the "Lancet" suggested that the MMR triple vaccine was a likely cause of autism via some new kind of inflammatory bowl disease that the vaccinations induced with symptoms appearing within days.

He apparently made it up. The "Times of London" has obtained the actual hospital medical records of the vaccinated kids on which Wakefield based his conclusions. There were 12 kids in the study. And their ailments, as described in the article, were different than the ones in their hospital records. Worst, still, Wakefield left out the fact that in several of the 12 cases, there had been concerns before the vaccinations that the kids were not healthy enough to be vaccinated. And the hospital records show nearly all of the kids had no bowel troubles at all, while Wakefield's article said they all did.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who may have put millions of kids at unnecessary risk for Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and who knows what else, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The House committee investigating steroids in baseball that made sure Mark McGwire would only get into the baseball Hall of Fame if he bought a ticket, the same committee that turned Roger Clemens into a kind of 21st century Oscar Wilde, suing for slander over something he had actually done, that committee's chairman today announced he will not subpoena Alex Rodriguez. Thus our number one story in the Countdown, A-Rod will be inducted into another shrine of immortality, the Countdown apology hall of fame.

First, let's watch Mr. Rodriguez's fulsome confession.


ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: I did take a banned substance, and for that I'm very sorry. I'm just - I just feel that - you know, I'm just sorry.


OLBERMANN: Remember, it's only a Countdown hall of fame apology if it let's you get away with it.


JASON GIAMBI, NEW YORK YANKEES: And I want to say that I'm sorry. I feel like I've let down the media. I feel like I've let down the fans.

ANDY PETTITTE, NEW YORK YANKEES: I also want to tell anyone that is an Andy Pettitte fan, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A fist bump, a pound, a terrorist fist jab?

I regret that. It was not my intention. I certainly did not mean to associate the word terrorist in any way with Senator Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. Again, I offer my deepest apology, and I challenge you to read his book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you agree with this, just look at me and say yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry it offended people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personally, I didn't think it would have offended anyone.

If it did, we apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, so, so sorry.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to anybody who's been brought into this unnecessarily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so bad my dancers sang the wrong song. I know what to do. I thought I would do a hoe-down. I'm sorry.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER: Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife.

KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: I'm so sorry. I love my wife so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior. I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe any man or any woman is superior -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you always hold that view?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel really bad for Nancy. I feel really lucky that it wasn't me.

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": What the hell were you thinking?

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what's a good thing to do and what's a bad thing. And I did a bad thing. There you have it.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. To those people I have offended, I want to say to them, I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize.

RICHARD NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please forgive me. I have sinned against you, my lord! I would ask that you -


OLBERMANN: Countdown apology hall of fame. But now Alex Rodriguez might have to apologize anew. The website Dead Spin reports that after this photo of him being coached, evidently, for his confession interview appeared in today's "New York Daily News," Rodriguez demanded it be removed from the newspaper's website. He said it was an invasion of privacy. If so, his privacy must be astoundingly boring.

That's Countdown for this the 2,103rd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.