Tuesday, June 9, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, June 9
video podcast

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

Guests: Howard Fineman, Margaret Carlson, Chris Hayes, Steve Clemons, Mara Milito


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


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I felt looking at John McCain and Sarah Palin, this country would have been amazingly better off had they been in the White House.



OLBERMANN: No, I don't see any apparent holes in his head. Maybe they're above of hairline.

At a Republican congressional fundraiser, Newt offers his vision for the year 2010, "Relive the year 1890."


GINGRICH: Let me be clear: I am not a citizen of the world.


OLBERMANN: As opposed to that guy who said he was "a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States - and a fellow citizen of the world." No, not him. That was said by Ronald Reagan.

"The detainees are coming! The detainees are coming!" Right-wing panic as the courts that convicted and the jails held Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and the Blind Sheikh, now, have to somehow contain an al Qaeda courier.


DAVID RIVKIN (R), LAWYER: We're going to have hundreds of terrorists walking around this country.


OLBERMANN: Yes. But the FBI insists we can still protect the women's health clinics. Oh, you meant the alleged terrorists who we kept locked up without charge, without evidence, without convictions.

The Cairo effect: Did this already pay off practically?


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.


OLBERMANN: Three days later, voters in Lebanon elected an American-backed coalition instead of a Hezbollah-backed coalition.

Adam Lambert's big admission: He's gay. Nobody knew this? This is big news, why?

And Worsts: Wisconsin's Limbaugh purge part two.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is about that little schlub up in Wisconsin. Yes, I know all about it. I know all about it. Look, that's not even big enough for me to worry about.


OLBERMANN: Funny then that you're talking about it.

All of that and more - now on Countdown.


ADAM LAMBERT, "AMERICAN IDOL" RUNNER-UP: I really think people need to relax.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

When Newt Gingrich quit as speaker of the House 10 years ago, he said, quote, "I'm willing to leave but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals." Last night, Mr. Gingrich joined the party he once called "cannibals" for dinner.

And in our fifth story tonight: Befitting a party for cannibals, he helped raise money for the other party. It was a big annual fundraising dinner for the party's congressional campaigns, a major platform for party leaders; Mr. Bush having delivered previous keynote speeches, and Sarah Palin, previously having been announced, until it was decided Mr. Gingrich would read his own words that night.

Governor Palin showed up but did not speak. Actor Jon Voight did, telling Republicans that America is becoming a weak nation, remarks that were applauded by the country's top Republicans. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell later praising Mr. Voight's criticisms of America, as did Gingrich, who declared that after 4 ½ months in office, President Obama's multi-year economic recovery plan has failed.


GINGRICH: This is his plan and what happened? They promised we would peak at 8 percent unemployment. And on Friday, we were at 9.4 percent, which is not in their budget, which means their budget is already wrecked because we're going to have higher unemployment, greater government expenses and less revenue than they projected because their plan has already failed.


OLBERMANN: Failed, which explains why today, 10 of the bailed out banks repaid about a third of that bailout, and the president was able to announce the government actually made a profit off the bailout, $1.8 billion in interest. Mr. Gingrich, who called the charge that Ms. Palin had plagiarized him "silly," had no problem reciting talking points in turn authored by Republican consultant Fred Luntz, a veteran of Gingrich's 1990s revolution who helped turn normal, sane inheritance taxes into the spooky, evil, death tax.

Luntz, now turning his attention to health care, advising the GOP to use buzz words like rationing, politicians and Washington bureaucrats.


GINGRICH: No government bureaucrat has the right to take from you the rights that God gave you, and rationing under health care is inevitably limiting your life at the whim of a bureaucrat and at the manipulation of a politician.



OLBERMANN: And when you die, they'll get you with the death tax!

Mr. Gingrich's speech was still raising money today - for Democrats, who used in campaigns targeted at specific congressional seats. He raised $14.5 million for the GOP, the lowest amount of the money that dinner has raised in five years.

TheHill.com reporting - many of the tables were mostly empty by the end of Gingrich's 56-minute long speech. Republican officials blamed the low amount raised on the economy.

Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also a senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I want to be careful how I phrase this, but - Newt Gingrich, really?


FINEMAN: Why be careful?


FINEMAN: Why not just follow John McEnroe and say, "You cannot be serious."

But he is serious, and the fact is that even though he's got some squarely ideas sometimes, and he throws everything against the wall, I think in this 56-minute speech, one of the ideas he mentioned was turning over the tracking of legal immigrants to Visa and MasterCard.

There are a lot of Republicans who like the guy. They don't think he can necessarily be president. They don't think he should necessarily run for president. But they take him seriously as a - as a troublemaker in the best sense. To them, a guy like Joe McQuaid - the union leader in Manchester, New Hampshire, an important figure in conservative circles - says, "Yes, I take him seriously."

So, within the conservative movement, if not beyond, he is the man still.

OLBERMANN: There are - and I suppose this is true of anybody who speaks for 56 minutes in public - but there were a couple of inconsistencies in this speech. He started off talking about making the Republican Party inclusive and then he ripped Sonia Sotomayor, Joe Biden and President Obama and the people who voted for Obama and Biden.

Did the Republicans buy their own talking point last year that Americans were somehow tricked into voting for Obama rather than endorsed in that election his style and embraced in that election his policies?

FINEMAN: Well, Keith, I'm not sure that somebody like Newt Gingrich can understand, let alone encompass or embrace, what it is about Barack Obama that is appealing. It's not just his oratorical skill - which Newt does recognize and appreciate. It's that Barack Obama is talking about a sense of community.

Newt Gingrich tends to see things in sheer black and white terms. And he did it in that speech last night. He talked about capitalism versus government. He talks about the rule of law versus the rule of empathy.

The key to the United States, what makes us indeed unique, is our ability to balance those things, to find the aqua-poison (ph), the conflict among them. Newt doesn't see that, Barack Obama embraces them especially the idea of the community. And that's something that the Republicans at this dinner, I think, just completely don't get.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Gingrich in that black and white context, advanced this powerful argument for saving the economy by lowering taxes, but he did not - and again, this goes to the idea of some inconsistencies in the speech of this length, not once did he mention the stunning economic success of the Bush tax cuts. Do you have an idea, an explanation, for why he did not?

FINEMAN: Well, because they didn't work. And the other part of the economic policy of the Bush years was complete profligate spending by the Republican-controlled Congress. When Barack Obama says he's inherited a mess, he's right. And most of the mess from the 2000s is the result of George Bush and the Republicans in charge of the Congress.

The other thing with Newt Gingrich is the tone, Keith. You mentioned his attitude towards Sotomayor and so on. He doesn't quite get the welcoming thing. He doesn't quite get that. There's a hard edge to it, which is what makes him interesting in an abrasive way intellectually, but he doesn't - he doesn't get the bigger picture.

OLBERMANN: What is the bigger picture for this party at this point? I know we ask this question almost every night, but it's a fascinating and endlessly fascinating subject. Was that evening symbolic of the big picture for the GOP - you had the familiar face espousing ideas that are older even than their traditional old ideas for an hour while the sensation of the moment smiled and sat there and didn't say anything?

FINEMAN: Well, they've got a couple of problems. One of them is they've got a prominent figure with charm but not a lot of brains. And they've got another figure with a ton of brains and not a lot of charm. They got to find somebody with both.

There's nothing wrong with some of the ideas at the core of Newt's thinking if you're a conservative, if you're movement Republican in that sense. But whether Newt can be the person to do that, you have to tend to doubt, because his glory days were - as a revolutionary, if you will - in the early '90s. He was good at that. I don't know if he's good at this. He's had a lot of water under the bridge, both personally and politically.

The Republicans that I talked to who are looking forward to 2012, they say, "We like Newt for the ideas. We like the way he shakes things up. We don't see him as leader of the future. We need a new generation."

OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" magazine - as always, Howard, many thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: One of Mr. Gingrich's best applause lines was his appeal to American exceptionalism, the idea that this country is inherently, automatically better than other countries because the Declaration mentions a "Creator" which Mr. Gingrich takes to mean his God. Fueled by this religious right-eousness, Mr. Gingrich attacked the very concept of an American thinking of himself or herself as part of a world community.


GINGRICH: Let me be clear: I am not a citizen of the world.


GINGRICH: I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous.


OLBERMANN: It was clearly an attack on Mr. Obama for his remarks that you will recall from Berlin last year.


OBAMA: Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for president but as a citizen, a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.


OLBERMANN: And how do we know Mr. Gingrich and the wildly supportive audience were attacking Mr. Obama for his intellectual nonsense and his stunningly dangerous concept of his idea of world citizenship? Because, global citizenship is only acceptable for some people.


RONALD REAGAN, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world.


OLBERMANN: Who was that masked man?

Let's turn now to Margaret Carlson, political columnist with "Bloomberg News," Washington editor of "The Week" magazine, and citizen of the world.

Welcome, fellow citizen.


OLBERMANN: Let's assume we had Mr. Gingrich with us here tonight and showing that Reagan clip, he didn't retract his claim that world citizenship is somehow dangerous or misguided or intellectually meaningless. But he instead explained why it's OK for Reagan but not for Obama. Do you have any idea how he would explain that?

CARLSON: You can get the best political strategists and try for Newt to get out of that, but I don't know how he will do it. Maybe in the coming days, someone will ask him, and he will try.

But, you know, he's against everything Obama's for - unthinkingly, in that he wouldn't have said this had he thought about it. You know, when Obama was first elected, Newt Gingrich was out there saying, "You know, we should try to get along with this guy." There's nothing that's happened that should have changed that. And yet Newt Gingrich has come out as a protagonist extraordinaire.

And it's fitting that the two of them, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, were at the dinner last night, she in a non-speaking role and he in very much a speaking one.

OLBERMANN: Why run the risk of being identified - if you're Newt Gingrich - as having just split from the sacred memory of Ronald Reagan, he who must not be criticized?

CARLSON: He didn't mean that. When he finds out, or now that he has found out, I'm sure he wishes he could take that back. He thought only Obama would be that, you know, mushy enough and left wing enough to have said that - to say that.

And, you know, Newt Gingrich says, "I don't want to be - I don't want to be a citizen of Venezuela or Zimbabwe or North Korea." You know, that's just a three of a long list of countries that would not necessarily be offering citizenship to Newt Gingrich.

Let's put on France and the "freedom fries" and all of the countries that were alienated during the Bush administration when the coalition of the willing was much smaller than the coalition of the unwilling, because we had a cowboy diplomacy that said, "We don't need you rest of the world. We are not citizens of the world."

OLBERMANN: So, so there's two headlines, of course, here. You can come back and say, "OK, Gingrich repudiates Reagan." But the second one is the substance of this. What if Reagan had never said that? What if the clip had not been dug up, the transcript had not been dug up, it wasn't in Media Matters and it wasn't in NBC's archive, how is the point refuted without saying, "Oh, you know, Reagan said it, too"?

CARLSON: Well, I don't know about your schooling, but at the School of the Good Shepherd, one of the first things I remember the nuns doing is giving us a project, "Christmas around the world." And we had lots of assignments like that, because, by the way, we were supposed to think of ourselves as one part of a larger - a larger world.

And remember when we all got to be U.N. delegates in high school?


CARLSON: It was always thought to be a good thing. Reagan wasn't going anywhere other people haven't gone. It is a wing of the Republican Party that thinks we should be going it alone.

And by the way, would we have had a victory in Lebanon, and would it be a tie race in Iran if Obama weren't president and if he hadn't reached out in the way he did? This certainly wasn't happening during the Bush administration.

OLBERMANN: Yes, two points we're going to expand on later on in the hour. Last point, though, why - is Gingrich misread current American political politics? Is he ignoring the ideas that Americans both love their country and want to think of themselves as citizens of the world? Or is this some sort of attempted wish fulfillment that it's 1939, and he's -

I don't know - he's either Senator William Borah or he's Charles Lindbergh.

CARLSON: You know, even the European countries with their flag-waving, anti-immigrant wings, these are - these are not politicians who are winning. The age of that is over, and Gingrich - the only - perhaps the only thing Gingrich can see for himself is to be the absolute opposite of President Obama, and that's why he's doing it.

OLBERMANN: Right. Out of office and unpopular.

Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and "The Week" magazine - as always, many thanks, Margaret.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The country, of course, is in desperate crisis tonight. The Republicans say hundreds of terrorists are now walking around it because of President Obama - even though they're in prison. The first one is already in New York City, where the ordinary American penal system cannot possibly handle him, even though he's already convicted and is currently holding on life sentences the four men who were convicted as this guy's co-defendants.


OLBERMANN: The detainees are here. The first one is in this city. What will we do, say panicky Republicans? I don't know, how about keeping them in the same prison which we keep the 33 international terrorists we already convicted of crimes.

On Thursday, President Obama reaches out to the Arabic and Muslim worlds. On Sunday, a pro-American coalition upsets a pro-Hezbollah coalition in the elections in Lebanon. Cause and effect or coincidence?

And, by the way, on Friday, a moderate challenges Ahmadinejad's presidency in Iran.

And a guy in a women's thong.

All ahead on Countdown. It's not Ahmadinejad.


OLBERMANN: The closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba began in a practical, literal sense today.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: For the first time, a Gitmo detainee has been transferred into the United States for trial. He is now in New York City. Yes, the city still seems to be standing.

This morning, U.S. Marshals took custody of Ahmed Ghailani, an alleged co-conspirator in al Qaeda's 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people. Ghailani has been moved into the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Let the hysteria begin.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: There are so many unanswered questions about bringing these detainees onto U.S. soil. We have no judicial precedence for the conviction of someone like this.


OLBERMANN: And when he says "no," of course, he means a lot.

Congressman Cantor quite simply wrong factually on that point since all four of Ghailani's co-conspirators have already been tried and convicted in the United States. That would be this country. They are currently serving life sentences at the Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado, which is in this country. This place, which houses a total of 33 international terrorists - in this country!

There are, in fact, 216 inmates who have some connection to international terrorism currently housed in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Mr. Ghailani is merely the first one to get here by way of Gitmo.

But the GOP fear-mongering includes that of House Minority Leader John Boehner, issuing a statement which read, in part, "This is the first step in the Democrats' plan to import terrorists into America." Like cars.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is saying that the president was ignoring, quote, "the clear desire of Congress and the American people that these terrorists not be brought to the United States."

Meantime, the relatives of those killed in those embassy bombings have long supported the decision to bring Mr. Ghailani into the United States so we could try him here. And Attorney General Eric Holder says that Ghailani will be successfully prosecuted, just like past terror suspects. But there are no precedents.

Let's bring in the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes. Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Hey there, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Some Republican scare tactics have shreds of truth mixed in there among the otherwise whole cloth. This one just does not. How are they still getting away with this one?

HAYES: Well, I - I'm flummoxed.


HAYES: I mean, if the entire enterprise has undertaken in such a transparently bad faith, it's hard to even know what to do with it at any kind of substantive level. I mean, it's so clear that there is no actual argument about the safety or risk that this possibly poses. This is just a way to kind of demagogue this issue as transparently as they possibly can.

Now, the question of are they getting away with it, I think remains to be seen. I mean, they clearly won the first battle with the vote in the Senate, in which you had this rebellion and you had all of this defection from Democrats against the funding to close the Guantanamo and relocate some of the detainees.

But, you know, one of the things I think we can see is that if you start to just go ahead and do this and transfer the detainees, and as the National Security Network said in the press release today, "World does not end," then, you know, maybe they begin to lose the argument.

OLBERMANN: As for actual solutions to what to do about Gitmo, has the GOP, to your knowledge, advanced any alternative other than, you know, "OK, let's turn this around and leave Gitmo open and leave these guys here literally, indefinitely, literally until they drop dead"?

HAYES: Nothing. I mean, I really have not seen a single positive, affirmative proposal for some kind of framework. And the fact of the matter is, it is a mess. I mean, it is - those are the president's words, and I think they're accurate.

Now, that doesn't take him or his administration off the hook one iota for, you know, solving this mess in a humane and just fashion. But it is a mess. And I have not heard a single affirmative pronouncement from the Republicans about what to do about it.

What they see this as, first and foremost, is a political opportunity to kind of bludgeon the Democrats with this very blunt national security club that they've been using for decades.

OLBERMANN: Does the other part of the Obama plan here make any more sense? Rachel's going to go into depth about this at 9 o'clock, shuttles certain detainees to the Pacific island nation of Palau.

HAYES: No, no, no. This is bad, bad, bad. I mean - there seems to be this kind of creeping conception, I think, in some circles and we've seen some murmurs of it from the administration that somehow the problem is physically that Guantanamo isn't Guantanamo, and that if you essentially replicate the legal or extralegal structure of Guantanamo in, say, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or Palau or somewhere else - and that somehow problem solved. No.

The problem is indefinite detention. That's what we have to squarely look in the face. We cannot be a nation that indefinitely detains people without due process, without habeas. And wherever that's happening, anywhere in the world, is not acceptable.

OLBERMANN: And thus the problem that takes us back to Mr. Ghailani, the man who's in this city right now. That we captured him after 9/11, he may have been subjected to harsh treatment at Gitmo - we don't have any details on that. Evidence against him may have originated from torture.

Worst-case scenario - he's acquitted, either because of that or his jurors believe the story that he has, that he was an unwilling courier, not a knowledgeable one, or he happens to be innocent. What happens to him then and what happens to society and civilization as we know it?

HAYES: Well, I don't know what happens to him. I don't know if anyone knows what happens to him. I mean, we see how hard - what a hard time we have just repatriating some of the detainees who are universally acknowledged to be innocent of any crime, right? So, there's not even a taint of a formal indictment. I mean, there are detainees sitting on Guantanamo that no one will take, even though no one even alleges they did anything wrong.

So, if you have someone who's actually acquitted, it's hard to see where they end up. And this is - again, this is disposing of these cases and figuring out a just resolution of this is very thorny. But, I will say, one of the things that we don't sort of encounter enough in the coverage of this is the subjective experience of the people who are rotting away inside Guantanamo. And if you were there or someone you loved was there, you would be pretty outraged about the situation.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Go online, look up the Boumediene interview with ABC with Jake Tapper the other day and you'll know exactly what we're talking about. I have a place to put these people where they can do no good, no harm, and we'll always know where they are, the Republican National Committee.


OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes, the Washington director of "The Nation" - as always, thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The early rounds of the 2010 Miss California pageant began with a shock today. I'm sorry, that must be the wrong tape.

And possibly because he did not hold a Koran in his hand in Cairo last week and say, "You know this is the work of fiction," about the president, this naive chowderhead writes, "There's moaning evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims but actually may still be one of them himself."

The Worst Persons in the World - ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And one politician lost his toupee, thus another loses his freedom.

First, 55 years ago today, in the nationally televised Armey-McCarthy hearings, Attorney Joseph Welch asked his epic question that, in effect, ended the career of Senator Joseph McCarthy: "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Senator McCarthy did not seem to understand what Welch was talking about.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin with the arrest of a man wearing a woman's bathing suit in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio. And oh, what a sugary creek it apparently is. Police say 41-year-old Kevin Miller has a fetish, and that for the past week, he has been verbally harassing local women while dressed in that green one piece. And that's either padding in his chestal region or Miller is injecting the steroid bully (ph).

Mr. Miller is charged with menacing and public indecency, and if he beats the wrap, the fashion police would then like to question him about those boots.

To Madeira Beach, Florida, where fisher Solomon Rodney had three options he hooked an eight-foot long air-to-air missile on the end of his line. He could A, alert the authorities, B, toss the missile back, or C, put it on his boat, cover it with ice, and keep fishing for the next eight days. Lock in your answers now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I put it on the roof of my boat. I continue fishing for like another eight days, I was fishing. I was concerned about it so I keep it cool. I keep it packed with ice so it keeps cool. I keep the cover on it because I want to keep it as a souvenir.


OLBERMANN: That way the ice cubes would go through your head first. Rodney alerted authorities when he got back to port. A bomb squad from MacDill Air Force base took possession of the missile, which was later determined to be a dud, even though Mr. Rodney couldn't know that. And this is not a joke. Rodney also told the Coast Guard that he also caught a second missile on his fishing trip but decided to toss it back because it wouldn't stop beeping. What, no ear muffs?

Finally, to the Internets, and what looks like a foreign version of one of those next top supermodel reality shows. If you think the producers were not hoping that what happens next would happen when they put a runway on top of a swimming pool, you're a moron.

Release, rotation, splash. Stay tuned for the next episode of super Modelo, where the creepy bathing suit guy from Sugar Creek struts his stuff poolside on the cat walk. On the cat walk.

Has Obama's speech Cairo paid already off with a new moderate government elected in Lebanon?

And the big cultural news from "American Idol." And that is the first time the phrase "American Idol" has been connected to the world cultural. "American Idol" princess Maria Milito rejoins us to talk about Adam Lambert. I don't know who that is.

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

Number three, best historical revisionist, former deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto, on cNBC and quoted in the "Wall Street Journal," critical of the Obama administration's goal of 600,000 jobs saved or created. In a blog, he called this a, quote, deception. "If I, or even my predecessors in the Clinton administration, tried to pull off this ridiculous gimmick," he writes, "we would have been run out of town."

Conversely, in 2004, Bush Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said, "we estimated our rural development programs have saved or created more than 500,000 jobs just since the Bush administration took office."

Then, in 2005, the next Bush agriculture secretary, Mike Johanns, announced 26 business loans that he said will, quote, help save or create more than 1,800 jobs.

Then in 2007, Bush agriculture undersecretary Thomas Dorr said he was spending nearly 20 million to, quote, save or create nearly 2,300 jobs.

That's, A, the Agriculture Department. I would go through them all alphabetically, but we can't do this all day. The other point, Tony, you were run out of town.

Number two, the best cutback, Japan Airlines. No, not you. If you had a meal recently on the cost conscience carrier, you will swear there is something different. There is. The spoon is slightly smaller; so too the knife and fork, a fraction of a September meter each. Over the course of the year, JAL said the smaller cutlery will save it thousands of gallons of fuel.

Number one, best creative court ruling, and a visual world's best; a judge in Taipei has sentenced Juan Yong Tien (ph), a political activist, for five months for having violated the freedom of Nationalist Party politician Shu Lee (ph). Here's the before picture of Mr. Shu, kind of a Taiwanese Jim Traficant. And here's the incident from last year. That's Lee covering his bald head after Juon Tien knocked off his wig. Police tackled Juan Tien and retrieved the hair piece.

About the ruling, a court spokesperson said, quote, "the judge thought the politician had the freedom to where what he wanted, and he felt the wig made him look prettier." The court standing up for the right to be pretty, trumping Mr. Juan's defense that he was merely trying to trap a skunk on his head.


OLBERMANN: A logical fallacy is an endlessly dangerous thing. A happens, then B happens; therefore, A caused B. But in our third story in the Countdown, is it actually possible that the first Arab-friendly speech by an American president in years could be given on a Thursday and positive, pro-American results show up in an election on the following Sunday?

The militant group Hezbollah expected to win a comfortable majority in Lebanon's parliamentary elections the day before yesterday; instead lost just three days after President Obama spoke directly to the Muslim world.


OBAMA: In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable.

The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.

The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.


OLBERMANN: Today, Hezbollah referred to the president's speech as recent U.S. statements when it denounced what it called U.S. interference in Lebanon. And Osama Safe, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Study said this, "Lebanon is a telling case. It is no longer relevant for the extremists to use the anti-American card."

The next step, an even bigger test for President Obama's call to reestablish good relations in the Middle East, comes on Friday of this week. That is when Iranians go to the polls to vote for extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the moderate candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Joining us now, Steve Clemons, senior publisher of the American foundation, publisher of the foreign policy blog TheWashingtonNote.com. Thank you for your time, Steve.


OLBERMANN: Can it be that easy? Is Lebanon evidence that sometimes the logical fallacy is not, in fact, a fallacy?

CLEMONS: There are a lot of reasons why the western affiliated coalition did rather well in Lebanon. But I do think that Barack Obama is capturing the imagination of people throughout the Middle East, and I do think he had a positive effect.

One of the things the Bush administration managed to do was to show the world a lot of limits, military limits, economic limits, moral limits. And that has cost us in the way people look at the power and influence of the United States.

Barack Obama is pushing beyond all of those limits and showing that - that we can kind of rewire and re-create what the United States means and is. It's fascinating to watch. He's like a surfer with this big wave, and I think it's having a tremendous effect.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, the wave now travels to Iran. Clearly, the belligerence during the Bush administration backfilled the lunacy of Ahmadinejad. This telephone poll you collaborated on just a month ago had most Iranians favoring the incumbent, Ahmadinejad. But today there's an unofficial poll that shows Mousavi with a 15-point lead. Is that, too, a function of the Obama speech? Is that possibly going to happen on Friday?

CLEMONS: Look, I think it's a combination of things. When the poll that was done by the New American Foundation and Terror-Free Tomorrow was done, it was very interesting because it was done from a nation we can't name that had phone access and did a phone poll with Iranians, whom I think spoke rather honestly.

I think, if I remember the numbers right, Ahmadinejad had about 30 percent. But in that poll, you had about 27 percent of the people didn't decide who they were going to vote for, and 15 percent refused to respond. But many of those people want reform and are angry at Ahmadinejad for the way in which he sort of brought dishonor to Iran for the Holocaust denial, for some of the positioning that has not improved Iran's strategic position, which has produced isolation.

And you see this amazing thing going on. Mousavi's people lined up and held hand in hand across the entire city of Tehran yesterday. And the government tried to block them from meeting, but they did it with cell phones.

So it's important to remember that Ahmadinejad is an incumbent president, and during the Islamic Republic, no incumbent president has ever lost an election. But it's also fair to say that no incumbent president has faced the kind of opposition, anger, frustration, and desire for an alternative course. with Obama and with the west, I think. It's their new tools. It's fascinating to watch it play out.

OLBERMANN: How does this finally play with Israel? They seem to be on the verge of being boxed into kind of a peace corner, which probably is not a good with a hard line government, the way they have with the coalition, which could break up with this issue. Has Obama built some sort of climb-down for the Israelis?

CLEMONS: The Israelis are scrambling right now. Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to give a speech on Sunday in which I think he's going to try to recalibrate some of his harsh positions on settlements and some of the real negative posture that he's had with the president. I think that's going to happen. I also think - I don't know if she'll go in - that there is behind the scenes right now a scramble to try to figure out some way to get Tzipi Livni in the government, as a way to sort of show - to create a narrative for why Israel is changing course.

And even Lieberman, the rather pugnacious and some would say racist foreign minister, has, behind the scenes, encouraged the United States to even reach out to Hamas and to basically - and he's more liberal on land deals with the Palestinians then Netanyahu. So there's a lot of scrambling going on right now, because it's very, very hard to withstand the pressure of the Obama smile and the positive message with so many.

OLBERMANN: For a change, scrambling in the Middle East that is good to watch and hopeful. Steve Clemons of the New American Foundation and WashingtonNote.com, thanks, as always, for enlightening us, Steve.

CLEMONS: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The big admission from "American Idol's" Adam Lambert. He's gay, and that's it. What's the big admission then? That's like saying Rush Limbaugh is paranoid.

Just because a story of a Republican purge in his name is too unimportant for him to worry about, so he's talking about it on his show. Worst persons ahead.

And when Rachel joins us at the top of the hour, the Republicans make the unofficial stall an official bid to delay the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.


OLBERMANN: The "American Idol" cultural milestone. The runner-up says he's gay. That's the milestone? That's news? That's next.

First, time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to New York State Senators Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate, two Democrats who suddenly declared yesterday they would caucus with the Republicans. Republicans proudly claimed they were now the majority in the state Senate, and ran a coup in which they named a knew majority leader and new acting lieutenant governor, who happened to be Mr. Espada.

The two state senators can do whatever they want, but they still insist they are still Democrats. That's right, because Democrats would never remember Democrats who caucused with Republicans. Turns out two months ago, Senator Espada tried to get two million in state earmarks with groups linked to the health care foundation he founded. And Senator Monserrate is under indictment and faces seven years in prison for having slashed his girlfriend in the face with a broken glass, allegedly. Hope you're enjoying managing to pull of your coup, gentlemen. It looks like you also pulled the ends of your careers.

The runner-up, Frank Gaffney, nut job. Now celebrating 20 years of undeserved credibility after a brief tenure as an acting assistant secretary of defense. Kind of like winning an honorary Oscar. Writes today in the "Washington Times" that after his speech last week in Cairo, "there's mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one of them himself. Mr. Obama referred four times in his speech to the Holy Koran."

Holy Koran, Batman. The only evidence mounting here is that Mr. Gaffney may be paranoid. Also his beard, I think there's something living in it.

But our winner, Boss Limbaugh, reacting to the story we detailed here that the GOP purge to reinforce Limbaugh-ism has now reached such McCarthy-like levels that a local county Republican press spokesman named Kevin Stephenson was fired by a Republican County party in Wisconsin for having dared to criticize Limbaugh. Limbaugh's response is one of those classic, pay no attention to this. It doesn't matter. So let me go into agonizing specifics about it. But it's not important. It's not important.

Quote, "this is about that little schlub up in Wisconsin. Yes, I know all about it. I know all about it. Look, it's not even big enough for me to worry about. That guy's such a podunk, it's not even worth my time. I wish you wouldn't interrupt me with this stuff. If you're going to interrupt me every time I'm on that stupid government-run channel, then I'm going to be nothing but reacting to the government run channel. All they do is run videotape of me and people complaining about me. I'm talking about government-run MSNBC. Some little podunk Republican, moderate liberal Republican, thrown out of his leadership post in Wausau, Wisconsin, some county there because he dared criticize me. So this guy is now loved and adored by government-run media. Big whoop. This has been going on for three days. This is not even new news."

So I know why I mentioned it. Everybody knows why I mentioned it. The question is, if this Podunk and Schlubb is not big enough for you to worry about, why are you so worried about it? Boss Limbaugh, today's worst persons in the world!


OLBERMANN: Shocking news out of the closet of cultural juggernaut "American Idol," where that might have been out of the closet. And now the shocking news is not that I'm actually doing a story about "American Idol," but this, Adam Lambert is gay. Our number one story, this is news because? For why? The return of our idol princess in a moment. That's the real news.

But, first, straight out of the who cares department of celebre-tainment, season eight runner-up admitting he's gay to "Rolling Stone Magazine," gracing the new cover with a strategically placed snake.

Lambert says he had considered outing himself earlier, but thought it was best to wait. Quote, "right after the finale, I almost started talking about it to the reporters, but thought I'm going to wait for 'Rolling Stone.' That will be cooler."

While the singer concedes that his coming out should be a surprise to no one - no one - he admits that when it comes to total admiration, he encourages equal opportunity. "I loved it this season when the girls went crazy for me. As far as I'm concerned, it's all hot," unquote.

Though Mr. Lambert is comfortable with himself, he does not want his glam rock image to be mistaken for that of Gandhi. "I'm trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader."

Another revelation, Lambert also claims he had a crush on the winner of AI, Chris Allen. That would have a been a great story. "They put me on with the cute guy, distracting. He's the one guy I found attractive in the whole group on the show. Nice, nonchalant, pretty, and totally my type, except that he has a wife."

For those still reeling from the outing of the previous runner-up, Clay Aiken, Mr. Lambert musing about his days as an Idol contestant, offers us this, quote, "I'm going to glue rhinestones on my eyelids, bitch," unquote.

On that note, here is Countdown's own "American Idol" princess and the mid-day host of New York's classic rock station Q-104.3, Maria Milito. Welcome back.

MARIA MILITO, NEW YORK'S Q-104.3: For the record, we did not have a falling out. I had to talk about this on the air.


MILITO: Listeners were e-mailing me, why weren't you on Idol? And I was like Idol jumped the shark for you. They were more important things going on.

OLBERMANN: Possibly.

MILITO: But we didn't have a fight or anything. We didn't break up.


MILITO: That's what my listeners think.

OLBERMANN: This is probably more interesting than most of this "American Idol."

MILITO: This is very interesting.

OLBERMANN: The news about this is the picture - because he's about to be bitten by a trouser snake?

MILITO: Actually in that "Rolling Stone" cover, he looks like 1980s Prince, doesn't he? You have to look at it. He's kind of like a David Bowie glam, rock artist from the '70s.

OLBERMANN: I'm just - I'm sorry. Guys and women - I don't think gay, straight has anything to do with it. Put it up again. Guys react to this one way, I think. All gender, there's a snake aiming at your - buddy.

MILITO: I was thinking that, too.

OLBERMANN: Also, the snake appears to be connected to the "Rolling Stone" logo.

MILITO: That's true. It's also very phallic. Guys should like that, obviously. I know.

OLBERMANN: Wait, wait. That is actually phallic. There's some sort of world record involved in this. Obviously, it's point -

MILITO: Yes, quickly.


MILITO: Here's the deal, he didn't come out the whole season because the Tweens couldn't deal with the fact that, A, he had black nail polish, right. He wore guy liner, and makeup and everything else. I guess coming out, he figured the Tweens aren't going to vote for him. But it wound up hurting him anyway. I don't know if it hurt him, whatever.

You know what, America couldn't handle it.

OLBERMANN: The culture thing was that this was the vote for the Christian guy versus the vote for the gay guy thing, is that it?

MILITO: It sort of came out that way towards the end. Chris Allen was kind of like the sleeper. He should have been eliminated, because I did watch -

OLBERMANN: Of course, you did.

MILITO: Of course. I had to.

OLBERMANN: Because you had nothing to do because you weren't on this show.

MILITO: Exactly. I had a lot of free time this season. Touche. But he should have been eliminated the third week before the ending.

OLBERMANN: Oh, all right.

MILITO: And instead the other guy was, Danny Gokey. It was between the married Christian guy, who sang in his choir, and Adam Lambert, who is like, I'm gorgeous! I have a snake on my leg.

OLBERMANN: He has a snake on his pants.

MILITO: Yes, on his pants.

OLBERMANN: Did they bury the lead on this, though? He says in the article he had a psychedelic experience at the Burning Man festival that inspired him to audition for the show. Isn't that really the news here?

MILITO: I guess when he says that he's into pot and he's into ecstasy, but not cocaine. So he won't John Belushi on us, which is good.

OLBERMANN: He also has announced -

MILITO: I thought that was good.

OLBERMANN: He has a record deal. Is that good?

MILITO: He has a record deal.

OLBERMANN: Is it good?

MILITO: It's good. Actually, when he performed with Queen, Iron Maiden was really interested. I think he would be a perfect front guy for Queen. You know, I wanted George Michaels to front Queen. But Adam Lambert has a voice like Freddy Mercury.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, Freddy Mercury has a good excuse for not being the singer.

MILITO: A slightly good excuse.

OLBERMANN: They seem to change rather frequently.

MILITO: Paul Rogers, he went back to Bad Company. They didn't break up either.


OLBERMANN: That sounds like "Bohemian Rhapsody." It didn't sound the same in concert.

MILITO: They let the audience sing the lyrics. No, they are not touring now. But maybe once the Idol tour, because he is part of the top ten. The "American Idol" tour happens this summer. He has an album coming out in the Fall.

I think he would be a great front guy for Queen. When he did "Whole Lotta Love," I actually put it on my blog at the radio station, Q-104.3.com. A plug there. I thought he did a great version. It gave me chills. What gives me chills of an Idol person? OK. That was a snake on his leg, hello.

OLBERMANN: Our "American Idol" princess, the mid-day host of New York's Q-104.3, Maria Milito, also known as Brigadoon, because she appears once a century.

MILITO: That's not nice.

OLBERMANN: Just having fun. Glad the feud is over.

MILITO: Thank you, thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,231st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.