'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, March 19, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Time to get tough on bankers
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer
Guest: Eric Burns, Craig Ferguson, Howard Fineman, Lawrence O'Donnell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Latest bail-outrage: Citibank spending $10 million to remodel this clown's office, Vikram Pandit, the CEO, who just a month ago told Congress, "I get the new reality and I'll make sure Citi gets it as well." It sounds like what Mr. Pandit needs to get is his ass handed to him.
Tonight - a Special Comment: Enough!
Here's Barack. Jay's first guest is literally "the first guest." And the Republicans desperately try to criticize the president for filling out a March Madness bracket, and they try to play pin-the-AIG-bonuses-on-the-Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL, (R) SENATE MINORITY WHIP: He flies off to Los Angeles
tonight to be on the "Jay Leno Show." My suggestion is, that he come back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And I suggest you are not following Boss Limbaugh's instructions precisely enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Contractually obligated bonuses, Barney Frank, and the new McCarthyism. He will go the route of a subpoena to get the names of the recipients.
JAY LENO, TV TALK SHOW HOST: What is his logic? What is his reasoning?
OLBERMANN: Logic. Did you say logic? Reasoning?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As half the Republicans join the Democrats to push to revoke or tax the bonuses and the other half vows to fight the Obama recovery plan, one, Eric Cantor, asked what the Republican alternative plan is - admits there isn't an alternative plan.
The autobiography of George Bush: I am told he gets $7 million for the accomplishments of his life in book form. So the book is five pages long?
LaTourette's syndrome: Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio that is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE LATOURETTE, (R) OHIO: Today, there is another giant sucking sound going on in Washington, D.C. And that's the tightening of sphincters on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And, a president on a late night talk show - good? Bad? Who better to ask than a late night talk show host - my special guest, Craig Ferguson.
All that and a Special Comment on the corporate pirates - now on
(on camera): Good evening from Los Angeles.
Republicans on Capitol Hill who, last month, having firmly opposed limits of any kind on Wall Street salaries and bonuses, Republican lawmakers now are pretending to be shocked and outraged that the bonuses being awarded to executives at AIG.
In our fifth story on the Countdown: These same Republicans today - some are switching their votes to yes, to get some of that money back only at the last moment when it had become clear the measure was going to pass without them. These same Republicans today are trying to blame President Obama for bonuses that were negotiated with the approval of the previous Bush administration. They accused him of being distracted. Next, they'll be blaming Obama for Citigroup's plan to waste $10 million on new office suites for its CEO and company.
The president in California tonight, taping an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" just moments ago, about 100 yards from this desk. Republicans are using that to revive their charges that because the last president could not juggle more than one task at the time, if that many, and that their last presidential candidate faithfully bailed out on and lied to a prominent talk show host, then this president should not be attempting to do two things at once.
In a news conference on Capitol Hill, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, who's actually a grown-up adult male who apparently can find his office every day accusing the president of jetting off to appear on "Leno" when he really should be in Washington dealing with the AIG mess.
The Costello to his Abbott, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, then accusing the president of being distracted by his picks in the NCAA basketball tournament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE: The AIG bonuses make the president subject to the charge that he's living above the store but not minding it. He's even found time to fill out his NCAA basketball brackets, which is a healthy thing to do in my opinion. But he picked North Carolina and he caused the Duke coach, our Olympic coach, Coach K, to say, respectfully, you might be spending less time on the brackets, Mr. President, and more time on the economy. I think that's what we'd like to say, with respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, except Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski did not really say what Senator Alexander just said he just said. And what the right-wing blogosphere has been in turn falsely propagating and hiding ever since. One, Coach K was smiling, joking when he questioned President Obama having picked Pittsburgh to advance to the Final Four over Duke. Two, Krzyzewski, who is brighter than just anybody in the Senate, added that he loves the president and loves that so many Americans are taking their time to fill out brackets.
Roll the actual clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, DUKE BASKETBALL COACH: It doesn't matter at all what anyone predicts. It's what you do. You know, somebody said that, you know, we're not in President Obama's Final Four, you know.
And as much as I respect what he's doing, really, you know, the economy is something that he should focus on, you know, probably more than the brackets. And so, why would I care about that? I love the guy and I think he's going to be great, but it - I love the fact that so many people are filling them out because the game is growing so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He ripped who he picked not that he picked. Context is everything. As another example, without context, the final vote in today's vote in the House to slap a 90 percent tax on the AIG bonuses and other bonuses like them would be incredibly deceptive at first blush. The measure passed 328-to-93, 87 Republicans voting against it. Yet, the quote from the "Associated Press" who counted the vote, "Although a number of Republicans cast no votes against the measure at first, there was a heavy GOP migration to the 'yes' side in the closing moments."
Democratic Leader Reed is asking tonight that the bill vote be passed by unanimous consent, Senator Kyl objecting, thereby blocking it.
This afternoon, at a town hall here in Southern California, where he was introduced by the Republican governor of this state, Mr. Schwarzenegger, the president responding to Senator Kyl's criticism that he should not have gone on "Leno."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Somebody was saying the other - today, I think, that I shouldn't be on "Leno."
OBAMA: I can't - I can't handle that and the economy at the same time.
OBAMA: Listen, here's what I say. I say our challenges are too big to ignore. The cost of our health care is too high to ignore. Our dependence on foreign oil is too dangerous to ignore. Our education deficit is too wide to ignore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, the inspector general for TARP, Neil Barofsky, is testifying that the Bush administration approved those AIG bonuses, in its agreement last autumn to provide bailout funds to that insurance giant.
And on the floor of the House in advance on today's vote to the tax those AIG bonuses and the other bonuses at 90 percent rates, the debate is turning anatomical. Republican Boehner is describing the bill as a way for Democrats to cover their butts.
Republican Congressman LaTourette of Ohio is saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATOURETTE: Ross Perot, when he ran for president in 1992, he talked about the giant sucking sound. Well, today, there is another giant sucking sound going on in Washington, D.C. And that's the tightening of sphincters on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as people are having to explain who put into the stimulus bill this provision of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, his name really is LaTourette.
Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, are the Republicans actually back to the notion that the president can't or at least should not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time? And is that the best that they've got? I mean, should we be expecting them tomorrow to start calling him a celebrity again because he was on "Jay Leno"?
FINEMAN: Well, let's see - that would be yes, yes, and yes.
FINEMAN: It's - they're back to that. It's the best they can do.
And already today, they're accusing him of being an entertainer.
You will be shocked to know, Keith, that Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared on radio.
FINEMAN: I mention that because what Obama is doing - what the president is doing, I think this is fair - he is using the media that exists. He's trying to reach as many people as he can. He's not doing it because he wants the pub.
I mean, he's doing it because he wants to reach the people. And I think it's a very smart thing to do. And it just makes the Republicans look like ridiculous moss box to complain about it. Not at least of which because California is in terrible economic shape.
Here you have the president of the United States making common cause, not with Jay Leno, but with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a - hello, Republican governor. That should be enough to convince the congressional Republicans that they're barking up the wrong tree.
OLBERMANN: Yes, they may need to address that visit rather than the one in this building tonight.
OLBERMANN: Last month, the Republicans were against imposing any sorts of limits on executive pay or caps on them and the Republican leader in the Senate, Mr. McConnell actually said against - he was arguing against the temptation to basically dictate that his business is, how they should run these operations. The votes today, the migration of votes to support this bill when it already passed, is that just a naked attempt to hide how completely their previous argument blew up in their faces?
FINEMAN: Well, sure. Here's the thing. I mean, the Democrats are not covered in glory here. You know, they flip-flopped around on this in the conference committee and they haven't gotten their story straight. But at least the Democrats have tried to some degree to do the right thing on this or pay attention to it.
The Republicans' attitude, all along, has been - don't touch it. Don't deal ever with executive pay. It's a, you know, it's a socialist plot to question the compensation of corporate executives, even if the corporate executives are being paid with federal money, with hundreds of billions of federal money.
So, no, the Republicans, to have no philosophical leg to stand on and, of course, that's why they ran across the aisle to vote for the bill today.
OLBERMANN: And what about the impact of this little nugget that the TARP inspector mentioned, the inspector general who said that the Bush administration knew about the AIG bonuses, approved them. When do we start accepting as fact that part of it at least, if not President Bush's fault directly, happened during President Bush's watch?
FINEMAN: Well, I'm sure he will deal with that on the fifth page of his $7 million autobiography.
FINEMAN: Well, of course. It was September 2008, Keith, you know, George W. Bush was still president. The election hadn't happened yet. The world economy was melting down. They were having faithful meetings on the Hill about saving it. They doled out hundreds of billions to AIG and they didn't make any provisions at all for any clawbacks or takebacks or whatever of any bonuses that anybody was going to get. That all happened under the last administration.
OLBERMANN: Any chance that this 90 percent bill would survive a Supreme Court challenge - this idea of taxing these things retroactively? I believe the Constitution says something about ex post facto law.
FINEMAN: Well, I don't think, so I went back and read my Constitution. It's Article One Section Nine; you can't have ex post facto laws, that's after the fact. And you can't have bills of attainder which means you can't just focus on an individual group. So, this bill will strike out if it ever passes the Senate on both provisions of Article Nine. It's an ex post facto bill of attainder.
OLBERMANN: But an ex post facto bill of attainder .
FINEMAN: But a good one.
OLBERMANN: . that feels good.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, Howard, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Republican whip, Eric Cantor, voting yes on today's House bill to tax the bonus money back from those AIG executives nonetheless. No word on whether he was one of the lawmakers, the GOP members who tried to save face and switch the vote at the last minute when it became clear the measure would pass without their support. But it sure seemed as if the congressman had been leaning "no" this morning when our political analyst, Lawrence O'Donnell asked him what his vote would be and tried to corner him on what alternative solutions the Republicans might actually have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Are you going to vote for the tax seizure bill?
REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Listen, I am for whatever we can do right now to get that money back in the treasury.
O'DONNELL: You're going to vote for it today. There is a vote today.
Are you going to vote for it today?
CANTOR: And well, I am - I am going to - we've got two bills coming to the floor today. There's a sense in Congress which says that we ought to take a look at all of this. I mean, why are we here to begin with?
O'DONNELL: Do you not know how you are going to vote on Charlie Rangel's tax bill today?
CANTOR: It is terrible tax policy. But I'm telling you one thing, I want to get those bonus payments back.
O'DONNELL: I think I heard a "no." Was that a "no"?
CANTOR: I'm going to get - I'm going to get the bonus money back in because, you know .
O'DONNELL: How are you going to do it? How are you going to get that money back?
CANTOR: Well, first of all, we put in - we - there was an announcement of a bill yesterday which directs Treasury Secretary Geithner to come out with how he's going to get it back in. I mean, how in the world .
O'DONNELL: So, you are going to say, Tim, could you please get it back. I don't know how. Could you please do it?
CANTOR: I mean, we all know that he approved the second trance of the TARP money that went to pay these bonuses. We're .
O'DONNELL: So, you don't have an idea. What you're telling us today, we have no idea how to get the money back. We'd like to ask the treasury secretary to do it. We will not vote for Charlie Rangel's tax proposal to get the money back.
CANTOR: I'm not saying that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell joins us now from Washington, former chief-of-staff of the Senate Finance Committee.
Good evening, sir.
O'DONNELL: Good to be with you, Keith. Keith, that's my audition tape for the 10:00 p.m. slot to follow Rachel. Send it here to Phil.
OLBERMANN: All right. Phil's ears just flip up, you mention him on TV, that would be likely to get you the job.
Cantor certainly erased any illusions there, didn't he? And Republicans don't have a plan except bring down the president's plan.
O'DONNELL: Listen, I was surprised. I mean, you don't go on television if you don't know how you're going to vote on something that's pending that day, that morning. I really didn't expect it to be that easy, to take him apart on this. You know, this is - this was a brilliant trap. A tax trap set by Nancy Pelosi.
I agree with Howard Fineman that this is unconstitutional. Chris Matthews had said so. I started saying so yesterday morning on MSNBC.
But it was a brilliant trap and here is why. There are 172 House members who take two oaths. They take an oath of office and then they take an oath to Grover Norquist, who is a Washington, a well-heeled Washingtonian fetishist about tax cuts. And they promised to him that they will never ever vote to raise any taxes of any kind.
And half of them violated that promise, including Eric Cantor, who, it turns out, voted to do something today he said and promised his electorate he would never do, promised Grover Norquist he would never do, he voted for it - the biggest marginal tax rate increase in history to take the top tax rate, from 35 percent to 90 percent. We've never seen a vote like it. It will never be passed in the Senate; it will never come up in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi trapped all those Republicans into voting for a huge tax increase.
OLBERMANN: And the response from the right-wing media machine, going from Drudge to fixed news, many stops in between, is now reduced to quoting a very bright, very energetic basketball coach out of context, and hiding behind him as the front for their purported rage. Again, is this the best they can do?
O'DONNELL: I guess it is. Look, there was a good argument to make. Make Howard Fineman's argument against this and vote against it. Stick to your principle if you have one. I mean, what Eric Cantor revealed today is that he and half of his Republican delegation in the House have absolutely no principle on the matter of tax increases, none whatsoever.
Remember, these are the very same people who tell you the country will be destroyed if the top tax rate slips up another four points, like the way it was under Bill Clinton. If it goes from 35, where it is now, up to the high 30s, that would be a disaster. But today, they voted to take it from 35 to 90.
OLBERMANN: What about the fact that the Republican policies of deregulation precisely got this economy into this mess in the first place, and as we heard, the AIG bonuses in particular were approved under the Bush administration. They were in the documents that the last administration signed?
O'DONNELL: Exactly. And there is, as you said, this amnesia or this pretending that it all started after January 20th. And, you know, this stuff that they're doing with Tim Geithner, where you have John Boehner saying, you know, he's on thin ice. We have other Republicans saying, you know, he should resign.
And Eric Cantor's idea for getting the AIG bonuses back is to ask Tim Geithner to figure out how to do it, because he believes Tim Geithner is the only person competent enough to figure out how to do that. I mean, the inconsistencies never end. If I had 10 more minutes with Eric, who knows what would have happened.
OLBERMANN: Yes, he might have - he might have resigned or something.
All right. Lawrence O'Donnell, contributor to the "Huffington Post," leave the tape and resume with the receptionist on the way out.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
The Republicans can try to blame the president. It is their job after all. And the Democrats can blame the previous president, it is partially his fault after all. But at heart, when a company that already committed $400 million to slapping its name on a baseball stadium, a company that has received $320 billion in bailout money, when a company whose CEO told Congress, "I get the new reality and I'll make sure Citi gets it as well," when that company now reveals it is spending $10 million more to remodel the I-get-it CEO's office, when that is the new reality, the politicians again become incidental to this problem. This problem is the corporations.
A Special Comment tonight: It has become time to neuter the corporations. Simply put: Enough!
OLBERMANN: No, your left-wing menace week continues on Countdown as we meet the medium who matters at Media Matters.
The premise of a president on a late-night talk show, thoughts of Craig Ferguson who happens to host a different late-night talk show, and yes, the president got himself in a little trouble tonight.
Worsts: Lou Dobbs wants to know why we have ethnic holidays like St.
Patrick's Day rather than a holiday celebrating how we're all the same.
Lou Dobbs said that.
And today's Special Comment, the latest bailout outrage from Citigroup is obvious. The corporations don't and won't get it. So, it is thus obvious we have to declaw these corporations.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: On this, Bill O'Reilly and I agree. The worst thing you can do to the man is quote him in his own words.
Our fourth story tonight: Left-wing smear merchants week continues, exploring the evils done by the liberal cabal members identified by Billo and Bernie Goldberg. Previously in the left-wing smear merchants week, we interviewed actress and activist Janeane Garofalo and Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos.com - two of our co-conspirators on the Billo and Bernie top five lists of left-wing smear merchants.
Tonight - the how 9,000 of it all, the web site MediaMatters.org whose "character assassins," in Billo's words, quote, "distribute out-of-context statements to a carefully selected group of corrupt media headed by MSNBC." So, why target Media Matters? Because it's - they print the full transcripts. Now, it would tick me off if I said the crap that Bill says. Or maybe it's because Media Matters points out when your clown car FOX News is driven instead by comedian Boss Limbaugh as with your latest attempt to protect Wall Street and AIG.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Barney Frank asking the CEOs to name names. Remember Joe McCarthy? He asked people to name names in that body, too, and nobody liked it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Actually, he was a senator. FOX apparently is not listening closely enough to Limbaugh to realize that even he had tongue-in-cheek with this attack on Barney Frank as you'll hear when he gets to Frank's hypothetical questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Barney Frank and the new McCarthyism, he will go the route of a subpoena to get the names of the recipients if the government installed CEO, Ed Liddy, does not provide the names.
The next question that will be asked once these names have been produced, and they will be, then these people will be called up to testify before Chairman Frank's committee and they will face other questions like: have you attended pro-capitalist meetings during the course of your tenure at AIG? How many of your friends are free market capitalists? And what are their names? And where can we find them?
And if you fail to answer, you will be cited as being in contempt of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, chief character assassin, Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America.
Great thanks for your time tonight, fellow brethren of Ben the sinister.
ERIC BURNS, MEDIAMATTERS.ORG: Thank you, Keith, for having me.
OLBERMANN: We will get to your foul practice of accurately quoting people, sir. But first, explain for any FOX folks who might be watching how asking for a list of names is in itself not sufficient to parallel McCarthyism.
BURNS: Well, Keith, for your FOX listeners, Senator Joe McCarthy abused his power and conducted one of the worst witch hunts in American history and ruined hundreds if not thousands of lives of very patriotic Americans - where, as what we have here, is a group of folks who have essentially wrecked our economy being held accountable by the United States Congress.
They ruined hundreds of thousands of lives and perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives and certainly the jobs of many and the Congress is asking to hold them accountable, and they want information about why these government-funded bonuses are being - are allowed to be given out by AIG for the folks that brought us here in the first place. So, it's really completely different and the comparisons - irresponsible and ridiculous.
OLBERMANN: Even from your jaundiced point of view, why raise the McCarthyist parallel when it is so clearly off base, besides, a lot of the FOX/Limbaugh audience thinks Joe McCarthy was right anyway?
BURNS: Well, you know, I'll let - I'll let Bill O'Reilly defend why Joe McCarthy was right but, you know, there's no question that these guys engaged in this kind of fear-mongering all the time. We see it every day. Lately, we've seen, over the last couple of months, communism, Marxism, socialism, fascism. These are the words that are used to describe any attempt to clean up the mess that was left to us by conservatives after 20 years of deregulation.
Now they have added McCarthyism to the mix. My question is, how can someone be a McCarthyist and a communist? I don't know if they know the difference. But I am concerned, Keith, that they are running out of isms to use to attack folks that don't agree with them. And, Lord knows what's going to happen after that.
OLBERMANN: Well, then, they're going to get down to facts which leads to my question about you if we can talk to your job - about your job as the leader of league of assassins here.
OLBERMANN: I mean, where in the hell do you get off printing exact quotations of what people say on national TV? Isn't that privileged information?
BURNS: Well, yes, in this media environment, and certainly with FOX noise, it appears to do, I think that, you know, the one thing that these enemies, what it shows is that, you know, Bill O'Reilly's biggest fear and all the folks at FOX is accountability and fact-based journalism, which is why MSNBC, the "New York Times" got included on the list.
And, of course, as you know, they attack us regularly, and apparently, because we, you know, are interested in fact-based journalism. That makes us an assassin among other things. And I'll tell you, Keith, my mom was real upset when she heard that I was a character assassin.
OLBERMANN: Oh, I thought you're going to say she was upset when she heard you didn't finish ahead of me. But, you know, the O'Reilly motto is.
BURNS: That's it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, the O'Reilly motto is very simple. If he doesn't know what the hell he's saying, why should anybody else.
Eric Burns is the president of Media Matters, honorable mention in the list of worst left-wing smear merchants. Please try a little harder next year and thank you for your time.
BURNS: We'll do our best, Keith. Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Revenge of the animals in Alaska. After whole Palin-turkey incident, the bison are starting something.
And in Worst Persons: Lou Dobbs takes some time off from bashing immigrants and Hispanics to instead bash St. Patrick's Day and to ask, "What is with all these ethnic holidays? How about an American day? What about - we are all the same kind of day?" There's nobody like you, Lou, fortunately.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 2003 - well, you know. On this date in 1734 was born Thomas McKean, delegate from Delaware to the Continental congress, governor of Pennsylvania, president of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and ancestor of comedian and actor Michael McKean.
Michael based Lenny on him. Let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin in Portage, Alaska, where the friendly bison charge like a Mac Truck, only with bad breath and horns. Not to worry, the man was not seriously hurt. I know this looks like a bull fight. He was part of a group of wildlife biologists testing the bison's testing the bison's blood and fecal samples for various disease. The scientists suggested that perhaps it was the fecal part of the test that offended one of the 2000-pound guys.
Eighty bison herded for testing. Mostly of them were docile.
Probably just grateful for the free health care.
To Apex, North Carolina, continuing the theme of poo. Kelly Davis' dog Oggie may look like a normal pooch, but she is actually 400 dollars richer. Having found some cold hard cash and ate it. Mrs. Davis earned the money working overtime as a physical therapist. She said she realized that Oggie had consumed the money after a process of elimination. It was just a matter of checking Oggie's, quote, unquote, deposits.
KELLY DAVIS, DOG OWNER: We were so ecstatic every time he had to poop. So we went and cleaned it up. As of yesterday, we collected most of it.
OLBERMANN: Did better than if she invested in Citibank. Miss Davis says she also plans on taking those pieces of bills there to the Treasury Department for a swap, giving an all new meaning to the term dirty money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Last night on "The Tonight Show" it was me as the guest.
Tonight, Jay has to settle for the president, who said kind of an oopsie.
The analysis of Craig Ferguson of CBS' "Late Late Show" next.
Then as Citigroup spends 10 million dollars more to make its offices better for its CEO and other top honchos, the time has come to say enough. A Special Comment ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It will be the first time a sitting president graces the stage of a late-night talk show. While certain that TV history will be made tonight, how this will bode for presidential history is anybody's guess. Our third story, President Obama appearing on "The Tonight Show." What one of Jay Leno's rivals thinks of all this in a moment when we're joined by Craig Ferguson.
One day after AIG's CEO Edward Liddy came face to face with a House committee wanting some answers, the country's CEO comes face to face with a nation audience wanting some answers. Although the venue is unconventional, the topic is all too familiar. The president expected to pitch or defend his economic recovery plan, but will he pitch any jokes?
But first, the president's warmup act. After discussing the AIG failure bonus mess, Mr. Leno asked me about perhaps the only man in America who supports those bonuses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I heard Rush Limbaugh said he feels these guys should get their bonuses.
LENO: Did he say that?
LENO: Why did he say that? What is his logic? What is his reasoning?
OLBERMANN: Logic? Did you say reasoning?
LENO: I don't know.
OLBERMANN: He makes 50 million dollars a year doing that. I think he feels that anybody who makes less than that is entitled to any money they can get. So he doesn't have it all at the end. He is trying to be fair. Seriously, you can look at some of the things that Rush says on the air and find some original point where it started logically, as you suggest.
That one doesn't make no sense whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We showed you that because we can't show you any of the Leno interview of Obama yet. Joining me now, somebody who knows a thing or two about late night talk shows, the host of "The Late, Late Show," Craig Ferguson, whose first stand up comedy special, "A Wee Bit of Revolution," premiers this Sunday on Comedy Central. The DVD is in stores on March 24th. Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG FERGUSON, "THE LATE LATE SHOW": Good evening, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: I'm fine. May I underscore your credentials on this subject by mentioning the title of your next book?
FERGUSON: My next book is entitled "American on Purpose," which I am.
I passed an exam to be an American. What did you do, buddy?
OLBERMANN: I just came out of the womb in the country. That's all that counted here.
FERGUSON: Hey, you know what. I have to pick you up on one inaccuracy in your introduction. I'm not a rival of Jay Leno. I don't think Jay Leno would consider me a rival, by any stretch of the imagination.
OLBERMANN: All right, your bona fides on this, as a talk show host and as an "American on Purpose," what do you think of a sitting president sitting on a talk show?
FERGUSON: I think it is OK. I much rather he had done Letterman than Leno. Dave is my leader. It's like this time, because we are preempted this week because of college basketball. I really think it is an error in judgment. Letterman would have been the way to go. McCain was on Letterman. That worked out pretty well.
It was basically when he lied to Dave - remember when he lied to Dave?
OLBERMANN: I kind of remember that.
FERGUSON: Oh, you were the stand-in guest.
FERGUSON: That was your big break.
OLBERMANN: It was Mr. Obama's big break.
FERGUSON: Probably was.
OLBERMANN: But it seems to me that the brilliance of this, Craig, and this is not to disparage Jay, who could easily host a political show every night, and who knows his stuff left and right - but for the president, this is a golden opportunity to cut out people like me and reporters.
FERGUSON: Yes, but I don't know that he should be doing that. He shouldn't be cutting out reporters. I think it's OK for Obama to do "The Tonight Show." I'll just be concerned if does a sketch. I think that would be going too far. Or if he does Barack Walking, the Jay Walking thing. That would be a mistake.
You can go too far. Sitting down with Jay and talking, there's nothing wrong with that. Didn't Bush do "Deal or No Deal?"
OLBERMANN: Yes, he did.
FERGUSON: I don't think we need worry about the dignity of the presidency.
OLBERMANN: He actually stood there with one of the briefcases. It was very embarrassing. But when a senator criticizes this, like Senator Kyl did this - oh, he should fly back. For crying out loud, he was out here doing town halls for two days. What is wrong with a president communicating with his people, especially if he gets to do so with people who might not typically be tuning into his message?
FERGUSON: Exactly. I don't think there's any problem with it. Who else was on? Do you know who else was on the show?
OLBERMANN: Garth Brooks.
OLBERMANN: Garth Brooks did a song at the end.
FERGUSON: I would have loved to be the '80s on a sitcom who was the second guest on "The Tonight Show." Now Corky Magugan (ph). That would be just fantastic. Corky Magugan is a fine actor, by the way.
OLBERMANN: I loved him in "Hamlet." Listen, there was - I'm cheating because the taping is over. It was done in the building.
FERGUSON: So you've seen it?
OLBERMANN: Yes. I've seen it. There was the one danger in this. It seemed to be a good repartee. There was a lot of fun back and forth and seriousness and the crowd was into it. He was forthright in his answers. There was one exchange which underscores the one danger in this thing. Jay Leno asked him about the bowling alley in the White House. The president said, no, he had not torn it out or burned it down. In fact, he said he has been practicing. He rolled a 129.
Jay Leno congratulated him sarcastically. Congratulations, Mr. President. Whereupon the president said - this is rough transcript. I don't have this in front of me. This is what we all heard. I know, it sounds like the Special Olympics. There is the only problem in that comfortable setting, you can -
OLBERMANN: What does he do about that?
FERGUSON: He begs NBC to cut it out of the interview is what he does. He tries to not let you see the feed the next time he is on "The Tonight Show."
That is probably a misstep. That wouldn't have happened if he had done Letterman. He had been talking about something else. He wouldn't have been talking about bowling if he was doing Dave. Why didn't he do Dave? I don't understand.
OLBERMANN: He could have scheduled Dave. I could have come in and filled in for him.
FERGUSON: The reason why Barack Obama became president is because when he scheduled something he actually does it.
OLBERMANN: A clip has been released. This is about traveling, Jay Leno asking about whether or not it is cool to travel on Air Force One. Listen to this and give me your thoughts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LENO: To fly on Air Force One.
OBAMA: Now, let me tell you, I personally think it is pretty cool, especially because they give you the jacket with the seal on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What did you think?
FERGUSON: Nice he gets a jacket. I don't know. I think there is nothing wrong with - Barack Obama is going to be president for at least four years. He - we know - we understand that power corrupts people. That's why we have the Constitution set up the way it is. So being on shows like this may extend his humanity a little longer. I'm OK with that. I'm all right with a president doing that and talking about the cool parts.
It makes him a little more human. I'm OK with that.
OLBERMANN: You'll accept him on the show even if you get him second?
FERGUSON: No. He has to do Dave before he does me. I absolutely insist.
FERGUSON: I really don't understand his choice.
OLBERMANN: Craig Ferguson of "The Late, Late Show" on CBS. An irony of biblical proportions, he is in New York, while I'm here in Los Angeles.
FERGUSON: I put it together that way, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, my friend.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, commemorating the anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. The one promise that was fulfilled, profiting of that nation's oil.
First, a bailed out bank with another jaw dropper. Today, Citigroup's plan to spend 10 million dollars on new offices for the boss and underlings. Tonight a special comment.
OLBERMANN: The latest bailout outrage; 10 million more to remodel the chief executive offices at Citigroup. Could do it for 50 bucks. If the corporations continue to insist upon their right to rip the rest of us, it is simply time to say enough.
That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Random House Publishing, which through it's Crown unit has bought George W. Bush's autobiography. I'm told the advance was seven million dollars. Here's the joke, he has written 30,000 words already, but none of them are verbs, because they require action.
The runner up, Lou Dobbs, railing now against St. Patrick's Day.
"What is it with all these ethnic holidays? How about an American Day.
How about a we're all the same kind of day?"
OK, Memorial Day, Independence Day, President's Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. A reminder, this complaint is from Lou Dobbs, who spends his weeks railing against Hispanics and illegal immigrants, even though his in-laws, his wife and his kids are Hispanics. And though he spends thousands of dollars a year on his kids' hobby, the horse show circuit, the nation's second largest employer of illegal immigrants.
But our winners, John McCain, Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham. Trying to veto the president's pick for ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill. The three Republicans say he lacks experience. Listen to this quote, "Generals Odierno and Petraeus have come out very publicly and very forcefully in support of Ambassador Hill's nomination. They like him. They believe he is well suited to the job and are anxiously awaiting his confirmation because they do need help, frankly."
That is from Geoff Morrell, chief spokesman for the US military, himself appointed by President Bush. So Senator Graham, Senator Brownback, Senator McCain, what was that about listening to the generals on the ground? Three short term memory senators, today's worst persons in the world!
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest atrocity from the banks. The vast, engorged, gluttonous multi-national corporations, whose sneezes can be fatal to our jobs, whose mistakes can turn us into the homeless, whose accounting errors can be so panoramic that they can make our economy tremble and force us to hand them billions after billions in a blackmail scheme that has come to be known as "bailout."
Five weeks ago, Vikram Pandit, the chief executive officer of Citigroup, went back to Congress, tail seemingly between his legs, and, with entreaty dripping from his voice, announced "I get the new reality and I'll make sure Citi gets it as well."
In point of fact, as Bloomberg News reports today, what Mr. Pandit "got" was a new 10 million dollar executive suite for himself and his key associates.
This is the same Mr. Pandit who said he would show his leadership by accepting compensation from Citigroup of one dollar a year. In fact, he then accepted a total compensation package for 2008 of 38 million dollars.
Mr. Pandit, you're probably just a good actor and a damned liar and a con man. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume instead, that you just can't tell the difference between one dollar and 38 million of them. That would certainly explain the maelstrom into which you, and your colleagues at Citi and your counterparts elsewhere, have gotten us, including the vast majority of us who are just innocent bystanders.
Your bank says your new 10 million dollar office is part of a global strategy of space reduction that will ultimately save billions, consolidating two floors of offices into one, they say. You know this does not need to cost more that about 50 bucks in boxes.
It seems entirely appropriate to remind everyone, sir, that this promise could be fulfilled by Citi saving two dollars a year for a billion years.
God knows you guys have pulled off every other accounting trick ever dreamt up by immoral man. You, Sir, and the other corporate pirates like you, those who are saved from your obsessive spending and your greed and your self-aggrandizement by the taxpayer, who then pretend to atone, who then publicly promise good behavior, and who then revert immediately to the rapaciousness that is your only skill; you, sir, all of you, need to be fired.
And Mr. Pandit's corporation should be cut up into little pieces. And when he and the other ultra-millionaires wonder what hit them, we should make sure they are easily reminded. Our representatives should entitle the legislation that ends their moral ponzi schemes, "The Punish Vikram Pandit Act of 2009."
The far right in this country, without the slightest provocation or justification, screams "socialism," and the sheep who follow that far right, and who do not know what the word means and do not know it is only being used because "communism" now rings laughably hollow - in this cry of fire in a crowded unemployment line, there is outrage, to be sure.
But there is also license. They think this is socialism? There is a million miles of reform left to go before we actually hit actual socialism. But if they're going to call us names, whether they apply or not, let's give them real reform.
Break up the banks. Regulate the financial industries, to within an inch of their existences. Roll back corporate legal protections. Make liable the officers of corporations for their debts and for their deeds. Resurrect the rallying cry of a hundred years past: bust the trusts!
AIG gives "failure bonuses" to those cretins whose dalliances in derivatives brought the company and part of the nation to her knees? Well, spin off the division those traders are owed the 165 million in bonuses from, under fund it, and cause it to go bankrupt.
Let those with bonuses owed stand in line before a bankruptcy referee or judge, and wind up, just as you and I would, with half a cent on the dollar. Northern Trust fires 450 employees in December, then takes a billion six in bailout money. Then sponsors a golf tournament. Then flies hundreds of clients to Southern California for private Oscar Parties, including the renting of an airplane hangar and the hiring of the group "Earth, Wind & Fire?"
Fire those executives. And fire up the Justice Department to figure out just how much fraud was involved in asking for a billion-six in bailout money when Northern Trust said nothing as the checks were being written, even though it knew in advance that millions could be saved by simply cutting the fluff and the trumpery.
Thirteen more companies that took bailouts signed the mandatory documents that said they owed no back taxes, lied. Turned out, per Congressman John Lewis of Ways and Means today, lied. they owe, just among those thirteen firms, 220 million in back taxes?
Have the IRS take these companies, immediately, to the tax courts to which the rest of us are liable. And strip those ancient, outdated laws of Corporation, so that the officers of the corporation are personally liable for their companies' debts, just as you or I would be. And if the monopolies of radio or television rear up to support the corporate structure, to say a contract is a contract, even though that isn't true for a union these days, only for an AIG trader, take the invisible, unused Sword of Damocles they still fatuously insist is hanging over their heads, and make it real.
Make sure both sides are heard. Re-regulate the radio and television industries to limit station ownership and demand diversity of management and product. Re-instate the old rules that denied one man all the voices in a public square. End all waivers of multiple ownership of television stations and networks and newspapers in the same market.
And, yes, if a voice of the privileged classes unfairly uses his cable platform to call our neighbors, who are the victims of this, "losers" to insist he alone speaks for the real people, or if another indicts without equal time for defense a particular elected official, and then offers himself as a candidate for that very official's seat, in violation of all canons of good or even fair broadcasting, then tell the cable industry that the free ride is over and it is time that it too be regulated by the FCC.
To all of you in the Corporate boardrooms, stop viewing the public's reaction to this naked, unhindered robbery of the public coffers, and your audacious, immeasurable sense of proprietorship and entitlement, stop viewing our anger as some kind of brief impediment, some traffic delay that keeps you from your God-given corporate ballpark sponsorships, and perpetually remodeled offices, and the divine right of 38 million dollar "compensation packages."
You, gentlemen and ladies, and not the good and long-suffering average people of this country, you are fomenting rage in this nation. You are the losers in this equation, and the people are the generous ones; they have not assembled in the streets with pitch-forks and flaming torches. You are the ones perceived - understood in a visceral and even transcendent way - as the committers of what is becoming class economic rape.
And heed this one word before these people grow weary of forgiving you, and instead decide to bring the "good life," which you have built on their backs, crashing down on top of your heads: when the next boardroom needs re-modeling, or the next bonus paid, or the next jet purchased, remember that one word:
Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END