Friday, May 22, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, May 22th, 2009
video podcast
Special bonus podcast (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) and screencaps
Bonus: Keith's Internet Personality Test for Late Night

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: Nuppets

Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, Ryan Lizza, Janis Karpinski, Jonathan Turley


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

Case closed: The conservative radio morning shock-jock who went from waterboarding isn't torture to this - in 12 ounces, and six seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's it. That's it. All right.

ERIC "MANCOW" MULLER, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Oh, God. I don't want to say this. I do not want to say this. Absolutely torture. Absolutely. I mean, that's drowning.


OLBERMANN: Mancow who once called Howard Dean a traitor, FOX News regular, admits the truth.

The most infamous political commercial of all time - Lyndon Johnson's nuclear nightmare, "Daisy." The Republicans have just brought it back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it, to close it not.


OLBERMANN: "It" being Gitmo. Was this what the chairman meant when he said -


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: We're going to take this president on with class. We're going to take this president on with dignity.


OLBERMANN: Republicans flee that and they flee Dick Cheney. Senators Murkowski, Bennett, McCain - asked about Cheney's role in the party, McCain answers, "I don't have the time or energy to discuss that - or the inclination."

But this draws an answer. The torturers at Gitmo were acting honorably and lawfully, but -


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulation and simple decency.


OLBERMANN: Brigadier General Janis Karpinski righteously indignant at that double-standard - she joins us.

Extended detentions: Is President Obama doing the best he can with a mess inherited from Bush or is this just a new name for the old violation of civil rights?

Worsts: Governor "Secession" Perry of Texas, he might take some of the stimulus money after all - to fix up his mansion.

And, WTF round two. Limbaugh's plea to be left alone -


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I challenge you, MSNBC! Thirty days without mentioning anything of me. No video of me, no guests commenting on me. See if you can do it.



OLBERMANN: He has now issued a response and we have now created a Limbaugh logo.

All that and more - now on Countdown.


LIMBAUGH: I'll either act like I don't care about it, or I'll fake it.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

The torture debate ended today. It was at 8:40 a.m. Central Daylight Time, it was in the most unlikely of venues - the radio studio of a Chicago shock-jock named Eric "Mancow" Muller, folly of the right to the degree that he once claimed on-air that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, then called then-DNC chairman, Howard Dean, a, quote, "traitor" and once insisted, with no qualifications, that waterboarding was not torture.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: and then he had himself waterboarded today, to prove that it was not torture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long is the average person, can they take this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 14 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fourteen seconds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the average, 14 second, done properly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we've got to get your face covered here, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. We're going to get it nice and wet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's dunking the cloth in a bucket of water now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting ready to put it over your face, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. It's going over Mancow's face.

MULLER: Can you cover my mouth, too?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We want to see you scream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to see him scream. All right.

All right, we're coming up here. All right. EMT, are you standing by?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. All right. Good luck, my friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't move your head, OK? One -

MULLER: Can I hold my nose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm holding his nose as he speaks, OK?

MULLER: Move down a little. You're squeezing at the top of my nose. There you go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Here's the bucket of water in his hand. The sergeant is over Mancow's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to do it on five, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two - I lied.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's it. That's it. All right.

MULLER: Oh, God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mancow is soaked. Mancow is soaked. We all got a little water on him.

How are you doing, buddy? All right? You're soaked, man. How do you feel? Do you want the EMT?

MULLER: No, no, no.


MULLER: No, no. It's OK. It is -


MULLER: I'm fine. It is way worse than I thought it would be. And I - it is way worse than I thought it would be. That's no joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you consider that torture?

MULLER: Look. All that's been done to this country and I heard about water being dropped on someone's face, and I never considered it torture even when I was laying there, I thought this will be no big deal. I go swimming - it's going to be like being in the tub.

It is such an odd feeling having water being poured down your nose and your mouth with your head back. It was instantaneous. I thought I could hold out, 30 seconds, 60 seconds. It was instantaneous.

And I don't want to say. I do not want to say this. Absolutely torture. Absolutely. I mean, that's drowning.


OLBERMANN: "Absolutely torture," he says. "That's drowning," he says. If he were being interrogated in that way, he added later, "I would confess to anything."

Mr. Muller lasted six seconds and he - unlike prisoners who were waterboarded - had a toy cow that he could throw when he'd had enough. And he - unlike prisoners who were waterboarded - obviously knew it would end, he knew it would not kill him. And he - unlike prisoners who were waterboarded - was not subject to any other potential element of being a prisoner, like confinement or sleep deprivation, or temperature extreme extremes or having it done to him another 182 times.

As a healthy 42-year-old man, Mr. Muller underwent what might be easily called the Rolls Royce version of waterboarding, six seconds, torture.

Let's turn to MSNBC political analyst, contributor to "The Huffington Post," Lawrence O'Donnell.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let's recall one of the lines from Mr. Cheney's speech yesterday. "To call this a program of torture is to libel dedicated professionals." Did this demonstration pretty much tell Mr. Cheney where he can put that sentiment?

O'DONELL: Finally, yes, Keith. And the fact that it comes from the conservative side of the radio world, I think gives it more credibility, even.

I spoke to a Navy SEAL - former Navy SEAL, last week, who went through this process and the training programs that we've all heard about. He said it was torture. He said there are - even though you know that they're going to stop, it feels like drowning. It is supposed to feel like drowning. That's what the radio guy just said, that it was drowning.

And so, waterboarding is an inadequate term for what the torture is. The torture is drowning. And if they continue it, you will drown. You can be drowned this way and you are meant to feel like you're drowning.

And that's exactly what he experienced. You feel like you're dying.

That is torture.

OLBERMANN: And this is - actually, this is the right guy to have done this. And I credit him for doing this because he didn't reveal this until afterwards. But as a child, he said, he had, in fact, had drowned and had to be revived. So, he knew what he was talking about when he said it's not just that it's torture, it is drowning.

Is the failure perhaps to get this point across the simple semantics of this, the terminology? Could it be that simply stupid that people actually believe, as he said, it was some water being poured on the face, that the point has not been made sufficiently? It is not artificial or simulated drowning, it's drowning and they stop it just before you die?

O'DONNELL: Well, this is a guy who's been listening to the debate, obviously, you know, for the better part of a year, and had an impression that you are on a board and someone pours water on your face and big deal. He has discovered what a big deal it is.

And, look, there's an account that I read on the air of MSNBC, of someone who was waterboarded in the training program that the military runs. And he said - he said that it - he experienced it as torture when he went through it. He gave a very detailed account of it. And the more of this that we can see and if Sean Hannity is ever going to step up to your challenge, it can only advance our knowledge about what this actually is.

I think the keyword is "drowning." That's what we should be shifting the semantics to.

OLBERMANN: A quick vision of the big picture, Lawrence. This will impact the debate how, do you suppose?

O'DONNELL: Well, I spent the morning on one of the network morning shows with Liz Cheney telling me that waterboarding is not torture - which is the family line. And so, it wastes a certain segment of the discussion that have you to go through that whole issue of - is it or is it not torture?

Of course, you know, Cheney dictated legal memos, you know, to the hacks - the lawyer hacks in the administration to say that this isn't torture, and that's what he's relying on when he and the Cheney family assert that it isn't. But the more of these experiments we do and the more videotape we have on them, the more that notion just disappears.

OLBERMANN: And the right answer, or the right's answer to this will be - what? A, he wasn't really a conservative, B, ignore it, C, we never did anything that bad?

O'DONNELL: Well, they will definitely try to ignore it. But if they are forced to address it, remember, Sean Hannity still tells his audience that we did indeed find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So, there is no such thing as winning with minds like that by using things like facts.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, contributor to "The Huffington Post," Lawrence O'Donnell - great thanks. Have a great weekend.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A conservative radio talk host, no longer able to defend waterboarding. The most eloquent testimony about it imaginable - it wasn't just torture, it was drowning. He knew, he had nearly drowned as a boy.

It is unlikely Vice President Cheney will ever face torture, making it that much easier for him to continue his campaign against people, like the Chicago radioman seeing the light. As he did yesterday in his speech, defending the Bush administration's torture program, the former vice president claiming that the rest of us have failed to understand exactly what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and more importantly, why it happened.


CHENEY: In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and some sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations.

At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulation and simple decency. For the harm they did to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice.


OLBERMANN: Former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, of course, ran the U.S. prisons in Iraq after the invasion and was demoted after Abu Ghraib. She is the author of "One Woman's Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story."

Thanks for coming in again.


Glad to be back with you.

OLBERMANN: Cheney claims that what happened in Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the Bush administration and its interrogation policy. You heard that again and as many times as it's played, it still is novel to say the least. What is your response to what he claims?

KARPINSKI: I mean, once again, he chooses the words and the expression that just flabbergasts me.

But then you are suggesting, Mr. Cheney, that your memorandums and all those lawyers that sat together countless times and developed those techniques to step outside of the law and redefine torture, they think the same way that these young soldiers think? Because it's got to be a tremendous coincidence that these soldiers did exactly what your memos said they could do.

Now, maybe they didn't have the privilege of seeing those memos. I'll feel pretty confident that they didn't. But there were people there who did, who had experience at Guantanamo Bay or Bagram in Afghanistan, and came to Iraq and gave them the instructions on what to do and how to do it. Because I don't believe it's an extraordinary coincidence.

OLBERMANN: Reasonable men and reasonable women could have a debate probably endlessly about the validity and to what degree and in what cases of the phrase, and the meaningfulness of the phrase: they were only following orders. But presumably, it's a fairly - if it's true at all, it's presumably a fairly consistent truth. There should be a series of recognizable circumstances in which it's always true or it's always false.

The CIA waterboarders get Cheney's praise, but the grunts at Abu Ghraib and their superior officers get punishment and jail. That does not seem to be a consistent approach when the explanation is identical.

KARPINSKI: Well, I think that the problem for Mr. Cheney is that if you hold those contractors, those CIA contractors, responsible and they need to answer to a Senate Armed Services Committee or some other committee, now, all of a sudden, they're under fire and they're going to tell the truth.


KARPINSKI: Right now, they've been excused. So the truth is not so significant to them. The soldiers on the other hand knew from the beginning that the truth was the only thing that they could tell that would serve them properly. Of course, it didn't work out that way in the end because the administration had different objectives in mind.

OLBERMANN: What do you think Mr. Cheney's objectives were yesterday? Is this about defending U.S. policy? Is it about defending the safety of people in this country? Or is it - is it a little narrower focus than that?

KARPINSKI: I think his statement and his policy is Mr. Cheney. The two are inseparable now. So, he is defending himself and his service during the eight years of the administration.

I don't think he wants to tell all of the story. He certainly doesn't want to bring up hunting or anything else again. But, the policies clearly define him. He is determined to make them the truth. As he used the lawyers to redefine torture, he himself now is the representative to define - this was the right thing to do.

OLBERMANN: You saw that waterboarding tape we just played. Rabid, conservative radio guy, with the experience of nearly drowning, nearly - well, drowning but nearly dying as a kid, and he knew this wasn't torture. He knew it wasn't.

Six seconds in, he is out there and he is as rabid as the rest of us are. It's torture. He said it's drowning. He said if they were using it on him he would confess to anything. Has there ever been any doubt in your mind that that's torture?

KARPINSKI: None, whatsoever. It is torture. It is torture.

It was painful to watch. And this is a tape. So I - imagine an Iraqi detainee or a person that's been policed up and held under U.S. confinement subjected to this. Not once but 85 times or over 100 times. They do not have the luxury of knowing they're going to survive. Yes, there were doctors available in case there was an emergency.


KARPINSKI: But those prisoners - those detainees did not know it.

This was authorized, that's what Mr. Cheney is defending.

OLBERMANN: Yes, and that's also, by the way, part one of the detainees day - the rest of it involves going back to cells and wondering when they're going to do it to you again.

Janis Karpinski, former brigadier general in charge of the prison system in Iraq - great thanks once again for coming in.

KARPINSKI: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Have a good weekend.

KARPINSKI: You do the same.

OLBERMANN: So, whatever there was to the torture debate, that's over now. And now, there is this small detail - we are holding prisoners whom we tortured or who the evidence against was obtained from torture so they cannot be put on trial, what do we do with them? What the president says, what law says, what Jonathan Turley says.

And then there's Mancow Muller and Hannity - more to say about them.


OLBERMANN: Preventive suspension: Are the president's new ideas for future threats and current detainees the best options in an inherited bad situation? Or just bad options in any situation? Jonathan Turley next.

Then how the Mancow Muller waterboarding changes the playing field for charity and for Hannity.

And in Worsts: He was the governor who wouldn't take any of the

stimulus money. Then he's going to take some of the stimulus. Now, it's -

he's going to take some of the stimulus money to rebuild his mansion.

This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: One thing President Obama no doubt wants to avoid is a Gitmo of the mind. The actual facility finally closed but what was and is wrong with it surviving, accompanying detainees wherever they are ultimately placed.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown: The president has set off a firestorm by warning a "prolonged, indefinite detention" for some of the Gitmo prisoners and maybe others. He described these people in his speech yesterday, a fifth category of Gitmo detainees, the ones who cannot be transferred to another country, cannot be tried in either a civilian court or by military commission, and cannot be released.

"Examples of that threat," he said, "include people who received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or command Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category."

But that new legal framework has yet to be devised, and human rights advocates wonder if it would dress up the problem without fixing it and if it's unconstitutional or constitutional. Although the president - in his speech - was clearly talking about detainees left over from the Bush administration, some of whom cannot be tried because they were tortured, "The New York Times" reports the president is also considering a framework for future, so-called "preventive detainees," persons who basically have not done enough to be tried in court but who supposedly pose a threat to the United States.

Let's call in professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, Jonathan Turley.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let's talk about them in groups. First, the unassigned detainees - we're going to call them that. Some tortured by the Bush administration, so you can't put them on trial. Some presumably are not going to be accepted by any country.

What do we do with them? What can we do with them legally? Can we leave them off in front of Mr. Bush's new place in Dallas or what?


TURLEY: Well, it is tempting to say, bring it on literally and just shift them in that direction. But, we can't do that. The one thing we can't do besides that is we can't treat justice like it's some dim sum menu, where you have the Obama administration saying, "We'll take a little military tribunal, we'll take some federal court, we'll take some with no trials at all."

And who is going to make those decisions? We are. We're going to decide - for one thing, we're willing to give trials to people, unless we think they're going to win. And if we think they're going to win, we're going to deny them trials and we're just going to hold them indefinitely.

Now, you can dress that up any way you want, but you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - and that's what it is. It is an unprincipled act. It is exactly what Bush is doing.

And what's strange about the Obama administration is, they think that if you act a little bit unprincipled, that must mean that you're a little principled, but that's not how it works. Being principled means you hold to your principles no matter how distasteful the consequences may be.

OLBERMANN: Yes, a little principled means you have little principles.

TURLEY: Right.


OLBERMANN: So - all right, give me the - give me the safest for both - for both considerations here. Obviously, you do not want, as has been - we wouldn't want these people dropped off, some of them certainly. Certainly the ones who have been detained all this time and may have a grudge against us for that reason alone, we don't want them dropped off in Dallas or New York or Wichita or for where else.

What, legally, can be done that minimizes the possibility of that being a bad result for this country if they are, in fact, not guilty or found not guilty?

TURLEY: Well, there's a lot that can be done. Many of these people are members of terrorist organizations that can be proven without use of torture or coercion. Many of these people, in fact, can be tried.

But there are going to be a small number of individuals who - we simply have nothing - we did not get through coercion or torture. And this is the test for our country. What the world sees the United States doing right now is having sort of buyer's remorse about our Constitution, to say, we don't want to give them these rights, if they're going to use it, to prove that they, you know, need to be acquitted or need to be released.

Well, you can't have that. You have to make a decision. And this is really the cost of the system that we have. If we cannot convict these people, in a real court - not in a military tribunal - a real court, a federal court, then we need to deport them.

Now, pending deportation, we can hold them. You don't have to release them into society. That's a bunch of just total nonsense. But eventually, you will have to deport them. Many of them would go to our allies, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But this is where you have to test the principle. And unfortunately, it's a test of the Obama administration is failing mightily.

OLBERMANN: Preventive detention. I'm suspecting this has trouble written all over it.

TURLEY: Well, preventive detention is just a fancy word of saying, no trial. It's just a way of saying, "We're not going to apply the rule of law." And it's perfectly ridiculous to try to dress it up as if it is some type of legal process. It's being created because you are afraid that these people could win in court. It's the most transparent effort to circumvent your own legal system.

But I have to tell you, the greatest danger, you know, Louis Brandeis once said that the greatest danger doesn't come from evil-minded rulers, but men of - who act without appreciating or understanding our system. There are men, actually, of goodwill but they are men of zeal.

And I think that that was the worst paraphrasing of Brandeis in my life, but what he was saying is that we have to be most on guard when people that we respect come to us and try to create these things. If we allow the president to create this special category, we are inviting something that is nothing short of tyranny. That's the definition of tyranny, being able to hold someone without trial because you believe that they could do something dangerous in the future.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley of George Washington University - a grim reality, but there it is, nonetheless. And Justice Brandeis just asked for your e-mail. Have a good weekend.


TURLEY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Remember, the FedEx speed reader ad, Pittsburgh, perfect fit (ph)? This is the speed reader ad meets the U.S. House of Representatives.

And, can you hear me now? The phone company that tries to charge Ohio police 20 bucks to help them find a missing man by tracing him via his cell phone.

Worst Persons is ahead. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And the kid most likely to grow up to be the next Captain "Sully" Sullenberger.

This is where I normally remind Sean Hannity that it is so many days since I took him up on his offer to be waterboarded for charity, without any reply from him, but with today's development, the point is moot. Mancow Muller had the guts to put his mouth where his mouth was, and the guts to admit he was dead wrong, as you saw him not only said waterboarding is torture but that it is drowning and that he would have admitted to anything to make it stop.

So, the offer to the cowardish Hannity, $1,000 a second he lasted on the waterboard is withdrawn. And to Mr. Muller, whose station's publicity person had contacted us yesterday, saying she'd heard I offered $10,000 to anybody who would do what he did, you got it. $10,000 to the military families charity of the men who did the waterboarding, the group is called Veterans of Valor. Mr. Muller will join us on this newshour next week.

As to Mr. Hannity, you, sir, are now unnecessary.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin on Capitol Hill. Texas congressman, global warming-denier Joe Barton, has been threatening to stall debate on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill by having the clerk read all 937 pages of the legislation. So the Democrats, led by Committee Chair Waxman himself had something up their sleeve. Trying to thwart Mr. Barton's idea, they employed a rather quick-tongued fellow.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: Rather than ask unanimous consent to dispense with the reading, the rules require that the amendment be read. The clerk will read the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In lieu of the matter proposed to be inserted by the amendment by blank - (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I ask - I ask unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Barton was in on the joke, but lost his point. His amendment to the bill failed. Your tax dollars in action.

Two new inductees to the Bill O'Reilly hall of fame. He once read, as you may remember, a prank email from a viewer who identified himself as Jack Mayhoffer. The morning anchor team of WDIV in Detroit, going through a list of local birthdays and going way too fast to notice the one that was next-to-last.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nakia Johnson is 32. Wendy Miller 40, Tracy Abram is 41 and Joyce McDonald 43.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cynthia Moore turns the big five zero today.

Eddie McCray Sr. turns 61. Eaten beaver turns 69 and Ruth Bledsoe 90 years

old today.-


OLBERMANN: She didn't even flinch. No comment from station spokesman Dr. Joseph Mama and Mr. Haywood Hablowmay (ph). I think that's how that's pronounced.

Is Republican chaos actually just a sign of every Republican grabbing for power? And who thought it would be a good idea to resurrect the Daisy ad from LBJ? And Boss Limbaugh responds, while we unveil the new MSNBC, following the bouncing boss logo. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best outdated news, usually meticulous sports columnist Jeff Gordon of the "St. Louis Post Dispatch." He wrote a real head scratcher, at least to me, under the heading "Mysteries of the Universe." Amid references to this year's Cardinal's rookie Colby Rasmus (ph) and the Hall of Famer George Brett, he writes, "now that Keith Olbermann is returning to ESPN with a radio show, what's next, world peace?"

The quote has a link to it. The link is to an article is about my rejoining ESPN to do radio. The article is from June 13th, 2005.

So if we're all going back to June 13th, 2005, that would indeed be a mystery of the universe.

Number two, best taste, you, the viewer at home. The hitwise service measures traffic at TV show website. When children shows are excluded, four of the top ten most visited: seventh, Lou Dobbs; eighth, us, Countdown; ninth, Bill-O, tenth, Larry King. Hello. Bill-O nine. I thought they said children shows had been excluded.

And number one, best quick thinking, Tustin Mains of North Platte, Nebraska. His father, Phillip, was driving his sons home from a restaurant when he suddenly was overcome with low blood sugar and passed out. Tustin, thinking quickly, got from the back of the truck to the front, grabbed the wheel and managed to steered the truck, even his father was passed out, his foot on the accelerator for a time, blocking his son from sliding into the driver's seat.

A couple of blocks later, police were finally able to catch up with the truck, which was still, by inertia, going ten or 15 miles an hour and bring it to a stop. Why did they have to do that? Because the emergency driver, who thought so quickly, who steered it anyway, Tustin Mains is six years old.


OLBERMANN: It was the most reviled political commercial in American history, maybe in the English language. And 45 years later, as they search for a new idea, the Republicans have just stolen that one. In our third story in the Countdown, the mushroom cloud imagery of the infamous Daisy ad might better describe GOP infighting than it serves GOP image making.

In the Rose Garden this morning, some Republican law makers supporting the president's efforts to protect the nation, at least as long as the photo op lasted. The commander in chief signing legislation to cut wasteful defense spending, promising to do whatever it takes to defend the American people.

Meanwhile, the geniuses who run the Republican party, or at least pretend to at the RNC, decided it would be a good idea to splice footage of the little girl in the 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign ad with footage misrepresenting the president's position on closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it. To close it not.

OBAMA: Guantanamo, that's easy. Close down Guantanamo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it. To close it not.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantanamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions.


OBAMA: Guantanamo, that's easy. Close down Guantanamo.


OLBERMANN: White House press secretary Gibbs, as you may have guessed, had been talking about the Bush administration's hasty decision to open Gitmo, not about his boss, President Obama, and his decisions. Not that you would know that from that ad.

Is that what RNC chairman Michael Steele meant when he claimed earlier this week, quote, we are going to take this president on with class, we're going to take this president on with dignity.

Republicans who have actually the elections now chafing at the dignity of the former vice president's less than true confessions tour, in the wake of yesterday's tell it like it wasn't installment before an audience of neo-cons. Senator John McCain concluding of Mr. Cheney's speech, quote, "I don't have the time or energy to discuss that, or the inclination."

Time now to call in the Washington correspondent of the "New Yorker," Ryan Lizza. Ryan, good evening.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER: Hey, Keith. How are you doing?

OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney at the forefront and McCain and others running for cover. They trot out the Daisy ad. Externally, this looks like chaos. Is this, in fact, various would-be leaders of the Republican party fighting to gain control of it?

LIZZA: Well, this is what happens when a party is out of power, when you don't have the White House, when you don't have any way - you don't control the House or the Senate. And it's just, you know, 1,000 flowers are blooming. There's no -

The leadership of the Republican party will emerge around the next presidential election. That's the next time they'll actually have a real leader. Until then, they're stuck with Dick Cheney, who is the sort of loudest and he's taking on the administration the most directly. And that's their guy for the moment.

OLBERMANN: By the way, not to make an editorial comment, but I don't know that those are necessarily flowers. But any way, in addition to Senator McCain declaring -

LIZZA: Good point.

OLBERMANN: It's something else, similarly in structure, but nothing else. McCain declared he didn't have the time, energy or inclination to discuss what Mr. Cheney said yesterday. Senator Murkowski, the Republican of Alaska, who had Cheney campaign for her in 2004, she's told "Politico" that she hasn't thought that far about whether she wants his help next year, in her Senate race again.

Is this Republican lawmakers equivalent of telling the former vice president to, you know, get lost, to put it politely?

LIZZA: Yes. Look. And I think these guys are a little ambivalent about this. On the one hand, they read the same polls everyone else does. They know that Dick Cheney is personally a - their own toxic asset. On the other hand, they've adopted his strategy on - as far as how to confront the administration on national security. And you see guys like Boehner and other Republican leaders on the Hill saying things that - saying the same thing that Cheney are saying.

So they've adopted the Cheney message, although I doubt - they don't want Cheney the messenger out there campaigning for them. So that's the sort of box they're in right now.

OLBERMANN: Here's another one. Michael Steele said two things this week; one, the GOP would treat President Obama with class and dignity. And, two, that the party would take this aggressive new approach in confronting him. The new daisy ad remix is number two at the expense of number one or is it - I mean, it doesn't seem to fulfill both of those requirements.

LIZZA: No, it doesn't. This ad, to me, it strikes me as something that an intern, you know, made up at a morning meeting. And normally at the RNC, there would be some adults in the room to say, yes, lets move on to the next idea here. But things are a little bit chaotic at the RNC under Steele. And you don't necessarily have that adult super vision to filter out things like this.

OLBERMANN: The RNC did not use the mushroom cloud portion of the original Johnson ad from '64. In a weird way, it's a pulled punch, but is it admitting that the whole premise of the thing is - and using it again is pretty tasteless?

LIZZA: Yes, it's like - it's like they want to have a little bit of plausible deniability here. They want to say, well, we didn't show the mushroom cloud going off, when they know of course what it suggests and obviously when people talk about it they'll reference that. So I think that's right. I think they thought maybe it would be going one step too far with the mushroom cloud, but the effect would be out there and everyone would discuss it any way.

OLBERMANN: Ryan Lizza of the "New Yorker," great thanks.

LIZZA: Thanks, Keith. You too.

OLBERMANN: Rush Limbaugh pleads that we stop talking about him for 30 days. I respond that I will it if he does, if he stops the constant references he makes to himself and accomplishments, his this, his that. And he says he doesn't understand what I'm saying.

And you'll understand the word hypocrisy better than ever when you hear how Governor Rick no stimulus Perry plans to spend some of the stimulus after all. Worst persons ahead, the remodeling section, on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Wow, did we hit pay dirt on Limbaugh? After the man begged us to stop criticizing him for 30 days, he's now issued a response to my challenge, we'll stop talking about him if he'll stop talking about him. The new MSNBC Rush logo is ready for its bouncing debut.

That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

Number three, the bronze, as we call it in this segment, to Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs at Liberty University. That's Jerry Falwell's place. He has just banned from campus a small student group that he had personally authorized last fall, and has now threatened to expel anyone who remains in it: the Liberty University Democratic Club. "You can't be a Democrat and be a Christian and be university representative," he told students in the club. Mr. Hine, squelch free speech if you think that gets you closer to Christ and not farther away. At least have the decency to change the name of the school to Theocracy U. The head of the Democratic X club will join Rachel at the top of the hour.

Our runners up, the Verizon people supervising Carlton, Ohio. And a 62-year-old man disappeared and police tried to locate through his cell phone. But he was behind on his payments so Verizon had shut it off. Fair enough. Sheriff Dale Williams asked them to switch it back on for five minutes or so, so they could locate the guy, rather than send up a rescue team and searchers and dogs. Sure, said the Verizon rep. Just as soon as you pay 20 dollars on his overdue bill.

They found the man. He's OK. They also found out about Verizon and it's not OK.

But our winner, good old Governor Rick, I'm not saying we should secede, but what if it comes to that, Perry of Texas. The latest goofball stunt by this flaming fraud, the man who was so offended by the stimulus package, the audacity of sending 700 million dollars in emergency spending to Texas, that he was talked about refusing all or most of it? He wants to keep 11 million of it now, so it can be used on a building project. How does that create jobs? Oh, I see, the building project is to repair the badly burned Texas Governors Mansion.

Maybe you could spend another million or so to repair the badly burned Texas governor's credibility. That's Governor Rick Perry, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: After Rush Limbaugh begged this network to stop criticizing him, after he challenged MSNBC to not mention his name for 30 days, I offered to stop constantly referencing him if he would stop constantly referencing himself.

He has now responded. TV writer David Bauder asking Limbaugh for comment. The answer, quote, "Limbaugh responded in an e-mail to the Associated Press on Thursday, quote, that's incoherent."

You spend more time talking about yourself than anybody else in broadcasting. You stop that, I'll stop it too. To help you find coherence in that, making its world debut on this very program, behold, our new and improved Limbaugh logo.

And now, a second challenge to him, since this was too complicated for you the first time, Sonny, we'll give you a second chance. It's tonight's WTF moment.


Rush Limbaugh's startling admission that he cannot take it any more, that this network's coverage of him has not only gotten to him, but gotten him to a point perhaps never reached before by any other megalomaniac. He's suddenly gone all Greta Garbo (ph) on us. He wants to be left alone.

He has surrendered. He cannot say it that way, of course. Were he to, the entire edifice that is Rush Limbaugh would come crashing down and then we'd have to get one of those rescue squads from ski resorts to go and look for survivors. No, suddenly the impact of being accurately called out day after day, hour after hour as a faux populist, press release regurgitating lacky of repressive and regressive political flunky, that has hit bone, finally. Took a while.

In sum, Rush Limbaugh, who told me in person years ago that his dream of dreams was to be on television, to be on ESPN, perhaps to sit next to me on "Sports Center," an utter television failure who yearns to somehow undo that permanent label, Rush Limbaugh does not want to be on TV anymore.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW: It seems that the liberalism that is

MSNBC isn't selling as well as they would like, because they cannot, from

the Scarborough show in the morning all the way into the night, they cannot

they cannot go any appreciable length of time without showing video of me, the CPAC speech or excerpts from this radio show, or having a bunch of hack guests on to discuss me.

So my challenge is this. To MSNBC, let's see if you can run your little TV network for 30 days. Let's see if you can do Rush withdrawal. Let's see if you can run your little TV network for 30 days without doing a single story on me. And then let's take a look at your ratings during those 30 days. And see what happens.


OLBERMANN: F you. You're in charge of this? You're not in charge of this. You put your bile out into the public airwaves for three hours a day and you get to decide how people react to it? The hell you do.

There are rules about who we can and cannot react to the peril to this nation you successfully strive become? There are no rules. You built this little world. Either man up and live through the bad press or get out.


LIMBAUGH: Obviously MSNBC thinks they cannot get numbers without focusing on me.


OLBERMANN: To the degree that the numbers we are getting have anything to do with Rush Limbaugh, it's like the numbers we got after Hurricane Katrina. There was a blight upon the land. There was a huge campaign to BS the American public that the problems were actually the solutions. We told the truth about it and people watched.

Rush, you are the radio equivalent of heck of a job, Brownie, and the Bush flyover, and the refugees in the Superdome. You are a human federal disaster area.


LIMBAUGH: It is clear to me that MSNBC is hoping to build its ratings on my back.


OLBERMANN: This is where he would say, of somebody else, but there's so much room back there. Instead I will go here. This man, this publicity addict, this fame junkie, this victim of the unquenchable thirst for attention, all of a sudden he's afraid of being criticized on a television network which he believes has no viewers, no reach and no impact.


LIMBAUGH: See if can you do it. You know, stand on your own two feet. Stand on liberalism. Stand on what you believe.


OLBERMANN: Rush, this is in part what we believe. This isn't a bid for ratings. We believe you suck. We believe you have contributed to the coarsening and deadening of the political dialogue in this nation. And I'm saying that as a guy who just said, F you.

We believe your fixation on Bill Clinton's sex life lessened the chances that everybody in this country could have begun a serious discussed of terrorism before terrorism hit.

We believe that you used chicanery, trickery and outright lies to influence gullible people, whose entire understanding of complex issues vital to their own happiness and survival is then reduced to a bunch of your catch phrases, and they don't even understand the catch phrases.

We believe that the day you stop doing your show, even if you're replaced by one of those buffoons who fill in for you, that the collective intelligence of this nation will jump by at least one IQ point simply because you shut up.

We believe that as you boast that you are listened to by 14 million Americans a week, you cannot see the forest for the ratings trees. All the rest of us, the crushing majority of the other 292 million Americans, we divide into three groups: those who are hating you, those who are laughing at you, and those who will go blissfully through their lives not having any earthly clue who the hell you are. Or were.


LIMBAUGH: So I challenge you, MSNBC, 30 days without anything mentioning me. No video of me, no guests commenting on me.


OLBERMANN: No video, you say? You mentioned the CPAC video, where you forgot the first rule that guys like you and me, the hefty of this world are supposed to remember. Never undulate late. You don't like us showing it. I can understand that.

You got it. How is this? You know, if you look at this long enough, it's got a strange, soothing effect. Kind of a lava lamp of hate speech and condescension and subconscious reminder to everybody to check your support columns under your front porch. Do it today.

The video, let's just make that permanent. All right? Dear viewer, this is our new logo.

So, Mr. Limbaugh, your challenge, with all this yet, am I still up for negotiation? It's one of the problems with having a liberal heart. When the wounded animal, no matter how venomous, no matter how much at fault, begs to be left alone, I still listen. I will go 30 days on this program without referencing what has been done or said or boasted about by Rush Limbaugh, provided you go 30 days on your program without mentioning what has been done or said or boasted about by Rush Limbaugh.

Hannity would last longer on the water board. WTF.

That's Countdown for this the 2,211th days since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Follow the bouncing Rush. Good night and good luck.