Tuesday, March 24, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, March 24
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Guest: David Axelrod, Chris Hayes, Amanda Terkel

High: President Obama holds prime-time news conference.

Spec: Politics; Government; Economy

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: And good evening from New York.Since his last primetime news conference six weeks ago, President Obama, among other things, having signed the stimulus plan into law, having announced the troop increase in Afghanistan, and having unveiled a plan to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq if not quite as quickly as some had hoped.Tonight, in our fifth story on this special post-press conference Countdown: News conference number two dominated by some of the most recent developments on the economic crisis. The outrage over those AIG bonuses, giving government the power to take on AIG and other financial institutions, and a $3.6 trillion budget that Obama had sent to Congress. Keep in mind, the president has only been in office for nine weeks.Mr. Obama is taking questions from reporters this evening in the East Room of the White House. Earlier today on Capitol Hill, the treasury secretary, Mr. Geithner, is testifying he believes the treasury should be granted the power to step in, to take control of any failing financial institution like AIG that is not a bank. The president emphasized the necessity of this several times during that news conference.Back at the White House, Geithner's boss explaining why he agrees and why that should have been an option with AIG.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I think a lot of people understandably say - well, if we're putting all of this money in there and if it's such a big systemic risk to allow AIG to liquidate, why isn't that we can't restructure some of these contracts? Why can't we do some of the things that need to be done in a more orderly way?

And the reason is - is because we have not obtained this authority. We should have obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that could bring down the financial system, we can handle and we can do it in an orderly fashion that quarantines it from other institutions. We don't have that power now. That's what Secretary Geithner was talking about.


OLBERMANN: And for the hilarity moment, inside the news industry anyway, President Obama is showing little patience for the follow-up question, a second version of the question he'd already been asked about why he waited a few days to address the outrage over the AIG bonuses.


ED HENRY, CNN: Why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage? It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the attorney general's office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, look, we're outraged. Why does it take so long?

OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.


OLBERMANN: President Obama is also taking on Republican critics of the $3.6 trillion budget he has proposed, critics who seemed not to have budget proposals of their own, he noted.


OBAMA: The critics tend to criticize but they don't offer an alternative budget. Because even if we were not doing health care, we were not doing energy, we were not doing education, they'd still have a whole bunch of problems in those out years, according to CBO projections. The only difference is that we will not have invested in what's necessary to make this economy grow.


OLBERMANN: In a moment, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, will join us.

Now, let me call on my colleague, Chris Matthews, the host of "Hardball," who's in our Washington office.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, "Hardball" HOST: Hi, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: Well, this was - this was interesting to sort of work in why the president has made himself so public and has, in some cases, been criticized for this, why he has been out there so much, "The Tonight Show," "60 Minutes," a column, an op-ed column in newspapers today. And he mentioned in this answer to Chuck Todd about what sort of sacrifices the American people might be made to expect.


OLBERMANN: He mentioned that he wants them paying attention to the debates in Washington. He said, "That's why I've been out front." There - it's as if he's putting himself out as a kind of alternative to the entertainment noise machine and saying, "Look, I need your attention here. We all need to be concentrating on this."

MATTHEWS: Well, I don't think he's running for prom king, OK?


MATTHEWS: This isn't for celebrity or popularity. He has a very coherent plan here. He is going to force the United States Senate, especially, to vote up or down on his budget. He's not going to let them walk away and do it piecemeal.

He is going to insist, it looks to me, that they take it up as a reconciliation matter where they only require 50 votes to do it. I think he's going to jam it.

I think what we're seeing here day after day is this push, "I want my budget approved. It's got education, health care and energy in it. It must be in it. I'm a transformative president.I'm not here just to get by. I'm not just here to get through the business cycle. I'm going to change the American economy to compete in the future. It needs reconstruction. I'm going to do it."

So, I think he's insisting, if you listen closely, "I'm going to go for big casino in a couple of months. I want an up-or-down vote and I'm not going to wait for 60 votes. I lost Specter maybe on card check. I'm not going to get 60 votes. I'm going to get 50 and the vice president. That's going to be enough, Harry Reid. We're going to jam this thing through."

That's what I see coming.

OLBERMANN: And it also .

MATTHEWS: Nobody asked him that tonight. A reporter should have asked him. Nobody did. Maybe you'll ask Axelrod: Are you going the reconciliation route or are you going to sit around and wait for 60 votes that are never going to come, or are you going to jam this through and use the budget process that Ronald Reagan used and get it done?

OLBERMANN: I'm writing it down. I'll ask him in a minute. Listen .


OLBERMANN: The other thing .

MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: The other thing I heard in this, though, was a preemptive criticism of what has been said about the president and this question of whether or not he's trying to do too much all at once.


OLBERMANN: And the argument address what you just referenced here, which is to jump-start the economy, you have to address everything all at once, particularly get health care going and restructure that because otherwise it doesn't matter what else you do in any other field if we do not restructure health.


OLBERMANN: So, there is - there was a - it's a multi-pronged attack here.

MATTHEWS: If you don't care - Keith, if you don't care if this guy succeeds, if you don't care if this country really reforms itself - sure, put it off. Do health care next year, five years from now. It will never get done. Harry Truman talked about doing it. It will never get done.If you don't care about this country getting more green and dealing with cap-and-trade - sure, put it off. If you want to lose, put it off. If you want to win, he's got one shot.Look at the numbers today, Keith. You look at them, too, 63 percent, 64 percent in the polls out today. He's not going to be there next September and October. He's going to be in the 50s or low or high 40s.He knows that. This guy knows history. If you want to get it done, he said tonight, a great quote, "We can't wait." I love that quote.

OLBERMANN: And the other acknowledgment in here, the idea that, again, the answer about the Andrew Cuomo question here, I like to know what I'm - what I'm talking about before I speak.


OLBERMANN: And the reference to this country as not being a speed boat but as a big ocean liner.


OLBERMANN: And twice saying, "Look, if this were easy, we would have done it already." In fact, the quote was, "We essentially would have gotten this done and everybody could have gone home already."


OLBERMANN: There's a certain acknowledgment that you can - you can tell the American people how bad it is without depressing them or without frightening them. He's trusting people to respond in some sort of adult way. Is that a - is that a new thing, an old thing or what?

MATTHEWS: Yes, look at - look at what we had - look at what we had in the '90s.


MATTHEWS: We had Dick Morris advising the president, telling him how not to do anything. Do school uniforms, do family home leave, do all of these little things and everybody else sort of like you and you will be popular and you will be prom king. And this guy says, "I don't want all of these little things. I came here to do big business. I want to be one of the great presidents."

OK. And he does know he's African-American. I thought it was a good question and good answer about the impact of race, because he has to be Jackie Robinson. He can't just be some average, mediocre president. He knows that.

He has to be transformative. He knows to be a president and he has to be a great one. And that means health care, education and energy because he knows if the people watching don't know, that those are the three things that have been holding us back.

It's not just the regular business cycle we're going through right now. We're going through a lagging economy because we lag in health care, we lag in energy, and increasingly, we're losing our edge in education. He knows those things have to be fixed for us to really get on a rebound.

I thought he was trying to teach us tonight. I thought the reporters were basically zombies out there tonight. They were not exactly exhilarating company tonight for him. The company, I don't think the ratings will be that great tonight, Keith, and you know it. This was not exciting.

But behind it's - behind it was a very intelligent mind working saying, "Don't you guys out there and women get it? I am not here to preside. I'm here to lead."

And I think he was saying that, if you listen closely, he kept going back, "We've got to do education, we have to do energy, we have to do health care, or we're not going really get this country back on the road again."

OLBERMANN: We will let the president worry about his ratings and you and I can concentrate on ours. Chris Matthews...


OLBERMANN: . is going to be back live at 11:00 with a special live "Hardball" edition.

MATTHEWS: No, he's our lead-in. What do you mean? You got to have him.


OLBERMANN: Chris will be back with "Hardball" at 11:00.

Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: All right. We're joined from the north lawn of the White House by President Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod.

David, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: All right. Chris submitted this question and demanded I ask it. So, let's go off the top.


OLBERMANN: When you take this budget into the Senate, are you going to go looking for that 60-vote total, or as he put it, is it going to be presented as a reconciliation bill?

AXELROD: Look, I'm not going to - I'm not going to deal with that right now. I don't - and I don't think the American people are particularly consumed by the procedural - of course, I know that's something in Washington people get consumed with.

But what people are worried about is: are we going to move this country forward? Are we going to deal with the things the president spoke about tonight? Are we going to finally do something about the punishing costs of health care, about our energy crisis, about our kids sliding behind other kids in competitive countries around the world? Are we going to put a budget together that helps advance our economic agenda and build a better future for this country?

And that's the question - believe me - as he travels around the country, not one person asks him about budget reconciliations.

OLBERMANN: Well, nevertheless, obviously, the practical question is how you get this done, and get it done with the other houses of - other branches of government are essential. But to your point, then this is a decided effort to view health care, to view the greening of the nation or re-greening of the nation, and the restructuring of our manufacturing industries - all as sort of feeder routes into an overall solution to the economic crisis.

AXELROD: Well, I think there's no question about it, Keith. As the president said tonight, we can't go back to the bust and boom economy, build a future on overheated housing markets and maxed-credit cards and high-flying schemes on Wall Street. That's not going to work for us. We need a sound foundation. And you get it by building the energy industry of the future.

Right now, we're engaged in a competition with countries around the world, and we're not poised to win it but we can win it if we tend to it. We got to deal with health care. It's crushing families and businesses and the federal budget, and over time, it's just going to have a more and more corrosive effect as our population ages.

And we know that the country that - as he often says, the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. These are - you know, we spend so much time on the transient here in Washington. What we need to do is focus on what's going to present an opportunity for a long-lasting growth, and that's what we're focused on here.

OLBERMANN: All right. Well, to that point, something from his opening remarks, to quote about the budget, "It will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation so that we do not face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now."

Along with everything else and the restructuring of the economy, and green and everything that goes with it, and health care and everything that goes with that - will it not also take re-regulation, the rolling back of the deregulation of the '90s and early in this decade, to accomplish that? And when do we see motion being taken on that?

AXELROD: It surely will. And, in fact, I think Secretary Geithner appears before Congressman Frank's committee on Thursday to address this issue.

There's no question that we need enforceable rules of the road for our financial markets that are up to the challenges of the 21st century so we don't have the kind of problems that we've seen. And they need to be enforced; they need to be enforceable rules. And that is an integral part of an economic recovery, and it's something we're going to pursue vigorously and we're going to ask other countries around the world to join with us in this because, as you know, these markets are now linked. And we need everybody to be rowing in the same direction.

OLBERMANN: A question about the AIG bonuses, and obviously, the president got a laugh here when he was asked about why he didn't respond immediately with umbrage by saying it took us a couple days because I like to know what I talk about before I speak - which is a new thing for many of us who cover the White House. But .


OLBERMANN: Another thing about bonuses and AIG and otherwise, the "New York Times" reported tonight that those people who once worked for financial firms, who may be working now for the White House, some of them chose to give up their bonuses from those financial firms but the administration did not force anybody who was in that position to, in fact, give up those bonuses.Do you know of anybody in the White House know who kept their year-end bonus? And is the administration rethinking its policy on that point just because of the way it looks?

AXELROD: Keith, I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of people's finances, and I don't think we're going to start sorting through everyone who's worked here and examine that. Now, we're trying to deal with some larger issues, which is how to get this country moving again. We need the talent that we have.

Obviously, if there were some egregious examples, we would - we would deal with them. But we haven't. I know of none.And right now, our problem isn't that. Our problem is that we've got enormous challenges. We have to work on them all at once to get this economy moving again. And we need all hands on deck.

OLBERMANN: All right. And to that one, when Chuck Todd asked the president about special sacrifices, he said he didn't see that there is any need to have some huge call to, you know - I don't know what Chuck was thinking, the answer was going to be - but he did mention that he wanted people to be paying attention to the debate in Washington and he said, "That's why I've been out front."Did he give away a little bit .


OLBERMANN: . of the strategy about why we have in fact seem him on "The Tonight Show," on "60 Minutes," in the newspapers, another news conference, two in six weeks? Is that - is that - is he basically the - I don't know - traffic warden in this, trying to get everybody's attention, saying, look, we have to all deal with this, at least pay attention to it?

AXELROD: I think, whenever we've had great challenges in this country, it falls to the president of the United States to make the case for solutions and fight for those solutions and engage the American people. And that's what this president is doing. There's no secret to that.

But I was - I was interested in Chuck's question because I have been traveling with the president. And wherever we go, what I hear are stories of people who are having a tremendously difficult time and are struggling through this economy. And I think - I don't think that the problem is that they're no sacrificing enough. I think people are looking for a way through this.They love this country. They want to contribute to it. They want - they want to work. They want to do what Americans do best. And they are seeing their opportunities close down.We've got to turn that around. And that's really what our mission is now.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, what does that mean specifically? Because I don't know when the president developed his personal flow chart on this, the one in which you take grassroots desire for change, you turn that into political power, the voice of the people at the ballot box, and then you transform the political power back into a kind of grassroots action to make change happen. I mean, he said this essentially in a speech at my high school in 1991. It's been a concept in there for a long time.How does it apply now to the American public in a time of economic crisis? What is grassroots action during an economic crisis?

AXELROD: Well, I think the important thing is that you don't want the debate to be kind of contained within the echo chamber of Washington, where the priorities are sometimes skewed and the emphasis is in the wrong place. You want the voices of the American people to be heard, because when we travel around, what we hear from the American people is about the things that we're talking about. It's about the cost of health care; obviously, job insecurity; about the need to be able to send their kids to college so they can compete in the future. Those kinds of questions, and that's where the debate should be.

So often what happens here is that it becomes a kind of game of who scored points this day? It's almost as if every day is an election day in Washington. We want to make sure that everybody in this town hears from the American people so that what we do reflects their priorities and not the kind of skewed priorities that sometimes come out of the discussion in the capital.

OLBERMANN: Yes, and you've only had 64 days of it.David Axelrod, White House senior adviser, spending the back end of that 64th day with us.Great thanks, sir.

AXELROD: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: My pleasure.

AXELROD: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

The war is coming up in tonight's news conference but only in the context of the economy. We'll talk about that with our own Howard Fineman. If there were about 13 questions, depending on your definition, only four did not pertain to the economy. More with Howard on that.

And the desire in D.C. for former Vice President Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location, at least symbolically. The surprise in that - the sentiment is coming from four Republican congressmen.


OLBERMANN: It wasn't all the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq get mentions in this news conference, not as questions of military strategy but the questions of spending. Also, some in the GOP questioning Dick Cheney and wishing he'd go quietly and stop damaging the party with continued defense of Bush/Cheney agenda items.There's no defending Billo however, talking assassinations of me and Sy Hersh, sending his stalker producer out to claim another victim, a young woman this time.

All that ahead - this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: In addition to a crippled economy, of course, the president inherited not only an abandoned war in Afghanistan and a botched one in Iraq, but neglected and belligerent diplomacy with nations including Iran and North Korea. But strikingly tonight, even when the questions turned on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the context was an economic one.

In our fourth story: We learn today that the White House is expected on Friday to release details of its new plan for Afghanistan, a plan expected to entail both 17,000 troops, troops freed up by the drawdown in Iraq, as well as a massive civilian surge. And yet, the question was not military nor strategic; the question was - how will he pay for it, as well as pay for the costs associated with supporting the troops.

Mr. Obama pledged to do that.


OBAMA: The budget that we've put forward reflects the largest increase in veterans' funding in 30 years. That's the right thing to do.

Chuck asked earlier about sacrifices, I don't think anybody doubts the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform have already made. And when they come home, then they have earned the benefits that they received, and unfortunately, over the last several years, all too often, the V.A. has been under-resourced when it comes to dealing with things like post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, dealing with some of the back logs.


OLBERMANN: Part of paying for that, the president explained, comes from reconsidering, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the military procurement system, a system that Pentagon uses to order and purchase military equipment and services, a system in which Mr. Obama says there are savings to be had.Watching the speech for us tonight, MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek" magazine.Good evening, Howard.


OLBERMANN: So, I gather there, after eight years in which the procurement system was perhaps the only thing that worked to plan for the Bush administration .


OLBERMANN: . that President Obama just declared war on it?

FINEMAN: Well, he did, and it's part of what he's got to do with the budget. Through the magic of cell phones and BlackBerrys from out here in California, I was able to get a sense from the senior administration officials what their goals were for the president tonight. They were to reassure people that progress is being made on the economy, thus the window manufacturer in Pittsburgh.

And also, to push the budget - because this is the big thing now for the president. That's what dominated the press conference, and defense spending is a part of it - because he's not going to be able to come across and complete his goal of cutting the deficit in half in five years without making real savings on defense spending. And as he pointed out, it's very difficult; decisions don't just get to his desk that aren't difficult. And changing the way we spend money for defense is a very, very difficult thing to do but he made it clear he's going to try.

OLBERMANN: Nevertheless, it is his second news conference. This is still in the meat of his first 100 days. There are two wars under way, and there was not a single question out of more than a dozen of them that focused on the military aspects of either of those wars. Measure the stunning level on that thermometer or barometer.

FINEMAN: Well, I think that was - that was stunning, Keith. But that wasn't the only thing that was stunning about the press conference. I think one of the heroes of tonight's press conference in which the president exuded a sense of confidence was that Tim Geithner's plan of yesterday for those toxic assets to the banks was generally well received.

So, the sense overall of crisis in the economy - yes, we're in a serious situation but I was struck tonight watching this on television from out here on the west coast - the sense that this was a normal press conference about normal things, about the federal budget. Yes, a lot of arguing to be done about that budget. But you didn't sense, at least on TV, in that room back in Washington, in the East Room, the sense of almost doom and crisis that we felt in the first weeks.And that has to be counted a tremendous success for this president, barely more than two months in office, to have conducted a relatively normal press conference that wasn't about two controversial and probably difficult wars, one unsuccessful and one very problematic, and a sense of crisis about the world economy collapsing in the morning. And that is - that's got to be considered a tremendous achievement by this president and his administration so far.

OLBERMANN: Well, we've already been figuring out, as we've all been forced to try to understand the economy to a greater degree that we did before, that in the last six weeks, there is a "Peter Pan" element to this, if you believe and clap loud enough, it will all fly.


OLBERMANN: He not only declared that sense that we're beginning to get a handle on this situation and the reaction from Wall Street to that Geithner plan seems to have indicated that, that was true, but he also basically declared that any controversy over Mr. Geithner had also been resolved. He got a twofer on this.

FINEMAN: Yes. He really did. And they wanted, as I said, their aim was to focus on the budget tonight. The press corps largely complied with that.

And so, we're back to arguing about how you control about health care costs? How you control carbon dioxide emissions? You know, what you do with the tax code and charitable deductions?In that sense, a welcome relief of normality for a president who came in at a time when it seemed that the whole world was falling apart. It may still be, but it didn't seem that way on television out of that newsroom tonight, and that's a big achievement for this president.

OLBERMANN: As David Axelrod also slipped in the news, that we will hear something from Mr. Geithner in front of Congress on Thursday about re-regulating all of those financial industries and other industries.


OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, helping us figure this out - thank you, sir.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Is it amazing that four sitting congressmen have now criticized Dick Cheney for questioning the Obama administration's commitment to counterterrorism? Not at first blush, not until you are told that all four congressmen are Republicans.

And as Rupert Murdoch's confidence in Billo begins to waver, so does Billo - between his published death fantasies about Sy Hersh and me and stalking another woman. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Glenn Beck mistakenly thinks his critics called his viewers crazy. No, no. We called you crazy. And it was Gov. Bobby Jindal who said the Democrats were wasting $140 million on, quote, "something called volcano monitoring." Tonight, after a sixth volcanic eruption at Mt. Redoubt in Alaska, one of the worst persons in the world may or may not have a better idea exactly what volcano monitoring is. The number for Dick Cheney now is four, four congressmen telling him to shut up already and all four are Republicans. And even for Bill-O, this is unbelievable. His death wish for Sy Hersh and me and everybody at MSNBC and his stalking of a woman for two hours for having had the nerve to criticize him for blaming a rape victim. O'Reilly's victim, Amanda Terkel, joins us. You're watching a special post-presidential news conference version of Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: A small group, a surprising group of Americans, came out today publicly saying that yes, they agree with President Obama that the policies of Dick Cheney have made them less safe. Our third story tonight, the Republicans who say Mr. Cheney's current policy of opening his mouth is making them less safe in their jobs. Dick Cheney's recent interviews, he said had the Obama rollback of Bush-Cheney policies like, you know, torture, kidnapping, scrapping due process they have made America less safe and more open to attack. Sunday night, Mr. Obama responded.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can't reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don't torture with our national security interests.


OLBERMANN: 24 hours after that interview aired, the newspaper "The Hill" posting an article quoting almost half a dozen Republicans not defending Cheney, but defending their careers. Tennessee Congressman John Duncan, Republican, quote, "He (Cheney), became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn't be so public." Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp, Republican, quote, "With all due respect to former Vice President Dick Cheney, he represents what's behind us, not what's ahead of us. We should focus on the people that will lead us tomorrow." Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk, Republican, quote, "I would just encourage everybody who has left office to follow the tradition of the founding fathers - " no, not, you know, pass away - "to write your memoirs. Tending a legacy is best done in a memoir." And Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, Republican, with perhaps the most damning assessment of Cheney's remarks of all, quote, "Politically, it's irrelevant." With us now, Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine. Chris, thanks for your time again tonight.


OLBERMANN: Are those cherry-picked quotes or do they represent some sort of broad consensus among Capitol Hill Republicans that Mr. Cheney should go back to the proverbial undisclosed location and undisclosed - or in this case, close his mouth?

HAYES: Well, I mean, you would have to be a total moron not to understand the politics of Dick Cheney. I mean, he's a toxic figure, politically. He was what - what Thad McCotter said was absolutely right. I mean, he left - I guess Mark Kirk said, he left office as probably one of the least popular figures, the most distrusted figures in American life. And I haven't seen any recent polling on him because he's no longer in office, but I assume that that continues to be the case. So he's totally toxic and they're absolutely right.

OLBERMANN: Yes. We will attribute that one to John Duncan from Tennessee who made that observation.

HAYES: Yes, that's right.

OLBERMANN: But basically, they are all saying the same thing, and that raises the question, why did they say anything at all? Why go public with this rather than go discreet? Is there an implication there that private hints had been made to Mr. Cheney and maybe failed to get him to close his big ba-zoo? And what does that tell us?

HAYES: Well, it's hard to speculate on that. I actually don't know the degree to which there's any back channel, you know, conversations or communications going on between the former vice president and congressional Republicans. I suspect there probably aren't a ton. I think this is actually more of the case that they don't have anything to fear from that guy anymore. And for a long time, I think they were probably terrified of him. And now that they don't, they could - you know, they feel perfectly liberated to repudiate him.

OLBERMANN: Now, the president's response was maybe more interesting than anything else. The man who's always the calmest guy in the room. You can see the look in his eyes when this was raised. The president did not focus solely on the merits of his own policies in that answer. He called Mr. Cheney out...


OLBERMANN:... and in essence disparaged Cheney's understanding of American principles. Why mix it up with a former vice president in such a public venue?

HAYES: Well, two things. One, for the exact same reason that Republicans are distancing themselves from him, which is that he's a very unpopular figure and so attacking him is probably a political win. And two, because, you know, the vision that Dick Cheney oversaw of American security while he was in the vice president's office is truly corrosive to the very fabric of constitutional governance. And I think, you know, whatever shortcomings there have been in this president's handling of the war on terror and national security - and there have been significant shortcomings - that he fundamentally understands at a deep, deep level of principle that the course that we were on is unacceptable and he doesn't agree with continuing it.

OLBERMANN: And one gets the feeling also that Mr. Cheney doesn't get the real sense that the more he talks, the more he may be inviting further inquiry into what he did. In any event, Chris Hayes of "The Nation" staying late with us tonight. Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There is a new twist tonight in the continuing saga of Bill O'Reilly. As Rupert Murdoch's confidence in him as Fox's savior begins to drop, Bill-O breaks his own rules on who can and cannot be ambushed by his stalkers and gratuitously writes about the hypothetical assassinations of Seymour Hersh and everybody at MSNBC. His female victim there will join us. When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guests Matt Taibbi on how taxpayers are going to be left holding the bag for the financial crisis one way or another. And exactly a month after he makes fun of spending money on something calls volcano monitoring, one of tonight's worst persons finds out exactly what volcano monitoring means. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Called out for his hypocrisy about blaming rape victims, Bill-O has a camera crew follow a woman for two hours before ambushing her. He only writes about me and Sy Hersh being assassinated. What's happening? Rupert Murdoch's confidence O'Reilly is apparently fading fast. Also, tonight, Glenn Beck people should not call him and his viewers crazy. Who said anything about his viewers? Gary Bauer says Gitmo created more terrorists by giving people religious freedom while they were detained there without warrant or charge. And Governor Jindal finds out exactly what volcano monitors are. Worst persons next. This is Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Bill-O writing in a newspaper about my death and sending a stalker producer to chase a woman for two hours whose only crime was to point out the hypocrisy of having a man who is repeatedly blamed rape victims speak to a fundraiser for rape victims. That's next.

But first, on Countdown's number two story tonight, "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze to Fox's Glenn Beck. Last Friday night, Bill Maher and his panel, me included, briefly criticized Beck's rabid right-wing paranoia. He spent the first 15 minutes of his show yesterday defending himself, "The media seems to be portraying of anyone who worried enough to prepare for the future as crazy. Oh, they're crazy. I'm crazy. You're crazy. We're all crazy together." Glenn, hell no, just you. Not your viewers or listeners. You're crazy.

The runner-up, Gary Bauer, former presidential candidate, former Reagan domestic policy adviser and now president of American Values which, despite the name, is not a discount septic tank operation writing at "Politico" a mere two months after the last dozens of conflicting Pentagon reports suggested with almost no verification that 61 former Gitmo detainees had been identified as returning to terrorism. Some of the 61, by the way, were so identified because they appeared in a documentary. Seriously.

Surprisingly, Bauer agrees with me that Gitmo may have in fact created terrorists, turned innocent people unfairly detained into guys with understandable vendettas. But he writes, "While many liberal commentators behave inhumane treatment and religious persecution transformed detainees into suicide bombers and high-level terrorists, I believe the opposite is true, that the unprecedented and extreme religious accommodation granted to Gitmo prisoners has created a culture of Islamic radicalization." You heard it. We were too nice to them.

Here's the bigger picture Mr. Bauer has thoroughly missed. When he mentioned me by name as one of the commentators who believe Gitmo had created terrorist, he made up the rest. I never cited the inhumane treatment or any religious persecution. Those would be secondary. The primary reason you might be turned into a terrorist because you were detained by the U.S. without charge for years and kept in a military prison is because you were detained by the U.S. without charge for years and kept in a military prison. Nobody - nobody at Gitmo was convicted by us of anything beforehand and only a couple were convicted of anything afterwards. Statistics alone suggest we kept at least one innocent man in prison there for years. And guess what? That's bad enough.

But our winner, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. A month ago tonight it was, when he gave his wonderful response to President Obama's address to the Joint Session of Congress. That's when he criticized the stimulus plan, "While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It include $140 million for something called volcano monitoring. Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C."

This just in from anchorage, Alaska. Mt. Redoubt, the 10,000-foot volcano 100 miles southwest of Anchorage erupted for a sixth time this week, sending into the air volcanic ash as hard as rock fragments with jagged edges which can puncture skin and even vehicles like airplanes. The eruptions are expected to continue for weeks or even months and will be monitored - oh, no, they won't be monitored because Gov. Jindal didn't know what volcano monitoring was. And instead, he had that $140 million of funds for volcano monitoring redirected into a Republican think tank devoted to coming up with better jokes for his next speech.

Gov. Bobby "What's a Volcano" Jindal, today's "worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: With his ratings on the own network now being eclipsed by a guy who weeps and is showing the early signs of a psychological breakdown, we all knew Bill O'Reilly would do something to try to force the spotlight back on to him. But who could have guessed that his desperation to regain Rupert Murdoch's flagging affection could have reached these extremes, victimizing a woman who had written about his past attempts to blame a victimized woman. And writing a newspaper column in which he fantasizes about Sy Hersh and me and most of the staff at MSNBC being assassinated.

Our number one story in Countdown, Bill O'Reilly's call to violence. The woman he had stalked, Amanda Terkel, the managing editor of "ThinkProgress.com" joins us presently. First, what he wrote, inexplicably published over the weekend by the "Boston Herald" which usually does not print articles with two factual mistakes in the first sentence which then move on to murder fantasies.

"The other day left-wing muckraker Seymour Hersh went on MSNBC and said e had information provided by the usual anonymous sources that Dick Cheney was running an assassination squad out of the White House. I have but one simple observation: If Cheney really had such a crew, Hersh would have been dead a long time ago, and so would most everybody at MSNBC. Would they not?"

The factual problems Bill-O was too careless to note that Sy Hersh did not go on MSNBC to say that. In fact, he refused requests for an interview by virtually every show on this network. The remarks to which O'Reilly referred were made in Minnesota - Minnesota and MSNBC starts with the same letter. Such is the care with facts taken by Bill O'Reilly and, by extension, such is the care with facts taken by the "Boston Herald."

The other part about the reputed Cheney assassination squads, in the comments in Minnesota, Hersh was unmistakably clear. The squads about which he had only the most preliminary of information would have been run outside of this country, not inside. The factual sloppiness is O'Reilly's specialty.

But the sudden call to violence, this insanity of pimping himself for ratings even at the cost of throwing away any little remaining humanity, this is something new. When a blogger went to O'Reilly's home to confront him, I condemned the blogger. When I dared to catch O'Reilly in another lie, he wrote an op-ed for a newspaper pass only theorizing about the deaths of me and everybody who works with me. When a Web editor called him out for blaming a rape victim and speaking at a fundraiser for rape victims, he accused her of hurting rape victims and he stalked her.

Well, let's not ignore your dirty little secret, Bill. You're not man enough to have done that yourself. You leave the stalking to a kid named Jesse. Now, you write about which journalist Dick Cheney would have had killed. You are without conscience, without soul and your description of yourself as a Christian are laughable and demeaning to those of all faiths.

And yet, what O'Reilly did to Ms. Terkel was far worse. One of O'Reilly's producers Jesse Waters and camera man ambushed her right after she had checked into a hotel with a friend during a vacation in Winchester, Virginia. Ms. Terkel surmised that the two men must have staked out her apartment and followed her car for two hours to the vacation destination. They asked her about her then three-week old post. The ambush interview was the centerpiece of O'Reilly's rant last night.


JESSE WATERS, BILL O'REILLY'S PRODUCER: You wrote a blog about Bill O'Reilly going to speak for this rape function, this charity group. And you attacked him personally and you attacked the foundation and you brought a lot of pain and suffering to this group. What's your reaction?

AMANDA TERKEL, FAR-LEFT BLOGGER: What I remember writing was highlighting a comment that Bill O'Reilly had said. And that's what I remember doing. I don't remember attacking the foundation.

WATERS: What did Bill O'Reilly say?

TERKEL: I can't remember exactly what he had said because it was a while ago. But I remember it was something having to do with he had talked about a rape victim in a derogatory way that seemed to place the blame for the rape on the victim.


OLBERMANN: Among the truly stunning aspects of his one, O'Reilly called Ms. Terkel a villain. But her original post for which she was so victimized by O'Reilly was brief, unadorned and entirely factually accurate. In it, she noted as have I that O'Reilly was asked to speak at the fundraiser for the "It Happened to Alexa Foundation" which supports rape victims even though O'Reilly had said that teenage sexual assault victim, Shawn Hornbeck, had enjoyed parts of his life of slavery to a pervert and O'Reilly had blamed a dead rape victim calling her moronic.

On August 2nd, 2006, on his radio show, his words, no context clips no attenuating words missing, quote, "So anyway, these two girls come in from the suburbs and they get bombed and their car is towed because they are moronic girls and, you know, they don't have a car. Now, Jennifer Moore, 18, on her way to college. She was 5'2", 105 pounds, wearing a mini skirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is going to pick that up at 2:00 in the morning."

Joining me now as promised, the managing editor of "ThinkProgress.org," Amanda Terkel. Thank you for your time tonight.

TERKEL: Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN: What we saw there was just one part of that clip that O'Reilly played last night which was itself pretty thoroughly edited. Describe the experience firsthand.

TERKEL: Well, of course, what O'Reilly left out last night is how he got that clip. He never contacted me for a statement. He never asked me to do an interview. He never even came to my office. Instead, from what I can infer because they refuse to respond to our request for comment, is that he had Jesse Waters find my home address, stay at my apartment, stake it out until I left, follow me across state lines and then accost me on the streets of the Virginia while I'm on vacation.

And you know, during that interview, I said if anyone from the Alexa Foundation is truly upset at what we wrote, I'm happy to speak with them one-on-one if they call me. But I'm not relaying messages through Fox News. Of course, they did not put that. But it was incredibly disturbing to be somewhere where you thought no one was there and then you have these two people come up to you shouting your name saying you're hurting rape victims.

OLBERMANN: And it should be noted here and you mentioned this, but he has stated in the past that the only time he would use this ambush interview approach is for those who have refused to come in and do interviews and also people who are public figures. So I gather he's 0 for 2 on that. And there's another critical part of this. Did you ever actually criticize this foundation on anything that you wrote on the Web?

TERKEL: I never criticized the Alexa Foundation. I didn't know much about them. But from what I heard, they did good work and they're free to choose whichever speaker they want. We wanted to show what O'Reilly had said and show him for who he really was. And that's why he hates them most. He hates when liberal blogs or other organizations simply listen to his show, tell people what he said and post the audio or the video. That's what he hates the most.

OLBERMANN: Have you had the opportunity to step back from this experience and contemplate that Bill O'Reilly had you stalked to make himself look better for comments that he had made about a woman who was preyed upon, raped and murdered?

TERKEL: Well, I find that one of the most disturbing part of this. Bill O'Reilly was trying to show that he cares about women who have been victims of crimes. So to make that point, he sends two men to find my home address and follow me on vacation? I mean, it was incredibly disturbing. The rest of the weekend, I was constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering how long they had been following me, if they're still following me. And tonight, I heard on his show, he said he's going to do another segment about me claiming that Jesse Waters was completely polite to me the entire time.

OLBERMANN: And there's something else in here, and there is a self-serving quality to this, but it's also about the truth. O'Reilly suggested on the air that you were somehow in cahoots with NBC. He dragged Jeff Zucker who is the chairman of NBC. He dragged this into this. You were quote, "obviously used by NBC News." Welcome to the staff. I didn't know you worked here.

TERKEL: Neither did I. I'm not getting a paycheck. I mean, that was one of the most ludicrous parts of the entire interview. It was completely made up. I mean, all we did was find a story that had been on another blog, called News Hounds, see what "Media Matters" had written, highlighting O'Reilly's old comments. And so all we're really guilty of is reading what's on the Internet.

OLBERMANN: And another odd thing you did as we always try to do here, you pointed to O'Reilly's own words and his producer was pressing you to consider a full context, this Mel Gibson aspect of what O'Reilly had said. But I don't see how that was exculpatory because, if anything, the Mel Gibson aspect of this would just make O'Reilly's comments about that rape victim worse, not better, wouldn't they?

TERKEL: Well, Jesse Waters was trying to make it seem that. Because while I was on vacation, I couldn't remember the context of the remarks. That means I took them out of context, which of course, you know, O'Reilly may be surprised I don't sit around on vacation thinking about him. But the Mel Gibson comments were actually - I thought made it worse. Because he compared Mel Gibson getting drunk and going on a drunken anti-Semitic rant with a girl who happened to be drunk when she was raped. You know, Mel Gibson was responsible for his actions and this girl clearly wasn't.

OLBERMANN: Well, in that larger context there and this is also true with Rush Limbaugh, if you did not - that their defense always is if you did not see the whole show and you're not a regular viewer, you don't have a right to criticize it or quote it, which is extraordinary in any event. Amanda Terkel, the managing editor, "ThinkProgress.org," on behalf of television, my apologies for him and thanks for your time tonight.

TERKEL: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this 2,145th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.

And now, with Matt Taibbi, her special guest, to talk about how you - any way you slice it, you, the taxpayer, will be holding the bag for the financial crisis.

Ladies and gentlemen, here's Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.