'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guest: John Dean, Joe Lockhart, Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Dick Cheney admits he "sure as hell will" continue to attack the president on torture investigations because, "I went through the Iran-Contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry, and I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time."
Which little guys, Dick? Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? The CIA Ops Obama already said wouldn't be prosecuted? The grunts from Abu Ghraib who went to prison?
And if your administration isn't going to leave the little guys out to dry, don't you have to stand up and take the heat, Dick?
Boss Limbaugh says, "How can there be a recession when I've got a $400 million contract?" Colin Powell says Limbaugh diminishes the Republican Party. So, Limbaugh replies...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The only reason to endorse Obama is race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Sunday, Eric Cantor reveals the GOP listening tour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: We can get back to listening to the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then Limbaugh says Republicans don't listen, they give orders. It should be the teaching tour. So, today, Cantor - Limbaugh-whipped - conforms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: This is not a listening tour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hey, cut out the middleman. Make it a listening-only-to-Limbaugh tour.
Arlen Specter changes his tune on seating Norm Coleman. Karl Rove warns Obama that he can't afford a misstep on a Supreme Court nominee. Hey, Karl, Harriet Miers!
And the softball rules expert coach who cheated another team out of victory now says she doesn't have to know all the rules.
And, abstinence does not make the heart grow fonder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRISTOL PALIN, GOV. PALIN'S DAUGHTER: Regardless of what I did or anything like that, I think that abstinence is the only 100 percent foolproof way of preventing teen pregnancy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And who disagrees with Bristol Palin on this heated political issue? The father of her child.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVI JOHNSTON, BRISTOL PALIN'S EX-BOYFRIEND: Telling young kids you can't have sex is just - it's not going to work. It's not realistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hey, make them listen to Limbaugh. That will cool them all down.
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: I wish people like you would get smarter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Former Vice President Cheney finally out with an explanation tonight for his unprecedented attacks on the current administration.
Our fifth story on the Countdown: Mr. Cheney and the other fresh new face co-leading the GOP, Mr. Limbaugh, who's made an amazing triple header (ph) today we'll get to in a moment.
First, Dick Cheney, claiming to be looking out for the little guy, if by little guy you mean Dick Cheney. In a new interview with his biographer, Mr. Cheney pretending to be a great hero, shoveling high and deep his rationale for speaking out against President Obama - quoting him, "I went through the Iran-Contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time."
Except when it's in his self-interest to send the little guys to jail. Exhibit A: Abu Ghraib. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz infamously dismissing the torture that took place there as the work of, quote, "a few bad apples." Seven soldiers having been charged then convicted of dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Two of them, Specialist Lynndie England and Specialist Charles Graner are sentenced to three years and 10 years in prison respectively. Graner, little guy, is still in there.
But never mind those little guys. Mr. Cheney claiming to protect other little guys who wrote the legal memos justifying torture's use. You know, the grunts - like the poor laboring man barely eking out a living as a federal judge. Quote, "And this time around, I'll do my damndest to defend anybody out there - be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions." Those who were late will not get fruit cup.
Now, the former vice president is speaking out at all putting him at odds, even with former President Bush who has remained silent, saying that President Obama, quote, "deserves my silence." Dick Cheney also opening his mouth simply because he feels like it, quote, "I have strong feelings about what happened and what we did or didn't do and what's happening now. And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views."
Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, where was Vice President Cheney's concern for this theoretical little guy when the abuses of Abu Ghraib came to light? Why didn't he set Mr. Wolfowitz straight when he claimed it was the work of a few bad apples, in order words, a few bad little guys?
FINEMAN: Well, that's a good question. You talk about the bad apples; it was Dick Cheney who planted the tree, the entire tree. But the reason he didn't is the way he operated.
This was a guy who is basically taking over the White House, taking over many of the powers of the presidency. He didn't want that to be immediately obvious and he didn't want to be the front man for the policies that he himself was instilling in the administration that he was running from behind the curtain. So, he's operating in the shadows, he remained that way, and now, ironically, he's out from behind the curtain to try to justify what he was doing behind it all those years.
OLBERMANN: The lawyers who wrote the opinions, the Judge Jay Bybees and the John Yoos with the less if not unseen hand of David Addington - by what standard would anybody consider them little guys?
FINEMAN: Well, they aren't. They were key to the whole process, because during the Bush administration - in the early days and in the later days - there were attempts, however serious or half-hearted you want to call them, to write legal justifications and examinations of the torture policies and the harsh measures they were taking in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. These guys were indispensable. They were crucial to the whole thing.
Some people say because we wanted to follow the rule of law. Even in the Bush administration, other people would say it's because they wanted to pretend to do so. Either way, those two guys were as indispensable to the whole thing as indeed Dick Cheney himself.
OLBERMANN: So, who is Cheney talking about? Who does he mean by little guys, because it's - obviously, it's not the interrogators, because President Obama has said essentially that the "I was just following orders" defense will be valid for them. He's not - there's no consideration of prosecuting them. Who are the little guys in Cheney's opinion?
FINEMAN: Well, it might be those lawyers, it might be some other people who were being questioned in other places about their role in approving waterboarding, for example, which by general consensus is considered to be torture. I mean, no less in authority than Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a huge important part and leader of the Bush years, came out with a statement today saying that it was torture. So, that's probably who Cheney is talking about.
But interestingly enough, somebody like Scooter Libby, he's the
biggest of the little guys, and there's some people who think that even
though Dick Cheney made a show in the last day of arguing for full pardon
for Scooter, there's things he could have done early on - Cheney, that is
to have short circuited the whole thing if he really wanted to man up.
OLBERMANN: Last part, the political component here. You've got a Republican Party desperately trying to find something, anything to identify itself with. And Mr. Cheney is sucking the air out of their room, and I know you'll say he doesn't care. But is there no one in his party to say, "You damn well better care, it's our party now"?
FINEMAN: Apparently not. Maybe Rush Limbaugh.
FINEMAN: But Rush Limbaugh isn't going to do it. I think Cheney is trying to make up for what to some extent he really couldn't - given the way he was operating - do when he was in the White House. In other words, he's making retroactively the public justifications that he couldn't because of how he was trying to manipulate things from behind the scenes do when he was on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's fine for him. It's not necessarily good for the party. Because if we learned one thing about the last year, it's that the Bush/Cheney presidency was poison in the end for the Republican Party.
And whenever Barack Obama might be in trouble politically, or the Democrats in trouble politically, they can always raise the specter of Bush and Cheney. George Bush understands that, Dick Cheney doesn't seem to.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, Howard, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: While Mr. Cheney feels his time these days by fighting for Republican little guys, like Mr. Bush, his Republican leadership twin, Mr. Limbaugh, spending his time mocking actual little guys who are suffering from the actual recession. At a Heritage Foundation dinner, Monday this was, the talk show host bragging about his $400 million contract, expressing cynicism about an alleged recession because of it.
Quote, "During all this growth, I haven't lost any audience. I've never had financially a down year. There's supposedly a recession. But we've got - what is this, May? Back in February, we already had 102 percent of 2008 overbooked for 2009." Big applause from the audience there. "So, I always believe that if we're going to have a recession, just don't participate." Crowd laughs.
Twelve percent of the workforce at Limbaugh's employer, Clear Channel Communications, given no choice about whether or not to participate in that recession, the company having laid off some 3,000 employees already this year.
Despite that, the tone deaf still leading the tone deaf. Minority Whip Eric Cantor making clear this morning that Boss Limbaugh is still the de facto figure head of the Republican Party. Saturday, Cantor had pushed the idea of a Republican listening tour, but Limbaugh then insisted the GOP's objective should not be listening to the American people but rather educating them - or in Mr. Cantor's case, politically reeducating them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: This is not a listening tour. You know, think about what we saw a couple weeks ago on the tea parties. The American people are very frustrated that they really see a government in Washington that doesn't hear them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That's right. Congressman Cantor's new solution for voters increasingly frustrated by politicians who do not hear them is an anti-listening tour. Of course, there is already Limbaugh's purity purge tour.
Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, having stated the obvious Monday when he observed that, quote, "The Republican Party is in deep trouble," directly blamed Limbaugh for its demise, saying, he, quote, "diminishes the party with a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without."
On the one hand, Limbaugh attempting to claim this afternoon that he does not care what Colin Powell says, dismissing him as just another liberal, on the other hand, demanding that Colin Powell leave the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: He's just mad at me because I'm the one person in the country that had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama. It was purely and solely based on race. There can be no other explanation for it. And what Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat, instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party. He's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."
And I'm sorry that's the act you have to follow, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Keith, what can I say?
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Every Republican either agrees with Limbaugh or they have to get out. Is that the new litmus test? And am I missing something? Or will that necessarily reduce the number of votes Republicans get?
ROBINSON: You know, tomorrow, after this segment, there will be - I will have e-mails saying, you know, from Republicans saying, "Why do you always say that Rush Limbaugh is running the Republican Party?" Well, duh.
ROBINSON: You know, here, you've got Colin Powell, a lifetime of public service, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, secretary of state, we differed on the run-up to the Iraq war, but clearly, an honorable, decent man who was given everything for his country. On the other hand, you have Rush Limbaugh, and the Republican Party can't make that choice? This is - this is just incredible to me.
OLBERMANN: Twelve percent of the workforce, as we suggested, at the company that syndicates Limbaugh's show, had to be fired in order to maintain the economics that are impacted by his bloated contract. Does he really believe that just because he is a gazillionaire, every other American is doing just fine?
ROBINSON: You know, it is possible that in that sort of - that sort of dittohead bubble that he inhabits, he actually believes that it is possible to deny the existence of a recession and therefore, the recession does not, in fact, exist. I did not hear - actually, I'm certain that he is going to contribute, at least part of that $400 million, toward paying, you know, the mortgage payments of those 12,000 people who got laid off and then putting their kids through college. I didn't hear that from Limbaugh.
But I guess we'll hear that tomorrow, you think?
OLBERMANN: The Eric Cantor flip-flop after the public redirection here by Mr. Limbaugh, the Republican Party will attempt to woo Americans who are frustrated by politicians who do not hear them by establishing a tour on which they will not be listening to them.
Is this supposed to keep all Americans happy or is it designed to keep one American happy?
ROBINSON: I think, clearly, it's designed to keep Rush Limbaugh happy. I'm sorry, Keith, but I can't - I can't escape the image of the Republicans going around like this, you know, talking there (ph) - we can't listen, we can't listen.
It's - you know, think of it. They can't even do a listening tour, which is the standard kind of traditional way of trying to get back into the public's graces, as you go around and say, "I want to hear what you have to say." And so, they're supposed to go out there and say, "Well, we're not actually interested in what you have to say, but you ought to be heard. Except not by us, I guess."
It's just - the Republican Party, I kind of - you know, it's time to send some people over from the Democratic side to kind of help out in some sort of mercy rule, I think.
OLBERMANN: Arlen Specter, we - the premise here is: We know what's good for you, even if you don't. It's educating people against their will and that, of course, sounds remarkably like - and I know this is going to sound horrific to conservatives who read this somewhere - it sounds like political reeducation, does it not?
ROBINSON: Well, except, it doesn't work.
ROBINSON: You can't - you can't - Keith, you know, they tried educating us in the last election, and no one was buying it. And as the Republican Party identification numbers go steadily south, I think it's time to conclude that the reeducation campaign, or the education campaign or whatever it is, is not going well. And that maybe if you had something fresh to say, people would listen - maybe.
OLBERMANN: Maybe. Gene Robinson of "The Washington Post" and MSNBC -
as always, great thanks and good luck reading their e-mails.
ROBINSON: Thanks, Keith. Good night.
OLBERMANN: If Limbaugh and Cheney do not strike you nor Republicans, as the bright new leadership which will lead them where they want to go, unless where they want to go is off a cliff, how about never confirmed former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton? He spoke out against President Obama and made yet another "hip with it" reference - comparing Obama's stance relative to the Spanish investigation of the lawyers who rationalized torture to Nixon adviser, John Ehrlichman and his advice on never confirmed former FBI Director L. Patrick Gray in 1973, to let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind.
If these analogies get any deeper into history, we'll have to get a guy in here dressed up as Thomas Jefferson, or at least Senator Redfield Proctor giving his infamous 1898 speech demanding a Spanish-American war. But if you're going to screw up a Watergate analogy, Bolton, I'll see your John Ehrlichman, I'll raise you one John Dean. Next.
OLBERMANN: John Bolton's analogy in the face of Spanish investigations into American torture: President Obama sounds like Nixon's Watergate advisor, John Ehrlichman. John Dean knew John Ehrlichman, Mr. Bolton, and he will tell you, Barack Obama is not John Ehrlichman. Next.
And the media company that today announced startling year-to-year losses in total operating income, 47 percent company-wide, 97 percent in its newspapers, 99 percent in TV. Can its chairman survive or will stockholders make him walk the plank? His identity in Worst Persons - ahead on Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The new Justice Department report on how some of its top lawyers authorized torture during the Bush administration is not even out yet, but already, the next steps in the trail are beginning to reveal themselves.
Our fourth story tonight: Who told the lawyers to authorize torture?
An op-ed today, former ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, spends most of his energy rallying against the Spanish Inquisition by magistrate, Baltasar Garzon, for having the temerity to investigate Bush lawyers for their part in the torture of five Spanish citizens. He demands Mr. Obama put a stop to it, quote, "If Obama is attempting to end the Garzon investigation, it is one of our best-kept secrets in decades."
And then Bolton reveals his true priority: "Although the six lawyers in a precarious position, they are only intermediate targets. The real targets are President Bush and his most senior advisors." And that looks more appropriate today.
Last night, Marc Ambinder of "The Atlantic" reported that the DOJ's draft report, quote, "suggests that at the direction of the White House, the OLC - the department's Office of Legal Counsel - work to justify a policy that had already been determined and did not begin their inquiry from a neutral position. It is not clear - and sources would not say - who in the White House communicated with the two lawyers - John Yoo and Jay Bybee - about the memos."
Except, that the DOJ's report was finished before last month's Levin report on detainees came out and that report does say who communicated with Yoo and Bybee. Quote, "Before drafting the August 1st, 2002, opinions, deputy assistant attorney general for the OLC, John Yoo, had met with the counsel to the president, Alberto Gonzales, and counsel to the vice president, David Addington, to discuss the subjects that he intended to address."
With us tonight once again, John Dean, White House counsel during the Nixon administration and author of most recently "Worse than Watergate" and "Broken Government."
John, good evening. Welcome back.
JOHN DEAN, FMR. NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One reason we wanted to talk with you particularly tonight
about this is that Bolton accuses Mr. Obama of what he calls the John
Ehrlichman tactic of letting the six Bush lawyers in the Spanish
investigation twist slowly, slowly in the wind. Could you flesh out the
reference for us and explain how badly Bolton messed it up?
DEAN: He did mess it up badly. Indeed, if he finds an analogy between John Ehrlichman and Barack Obama, there's a direct analogy between himself and Gordon Liddy.
DEAN: What happened, though, is in, the context arose in, I was having a conversation with John Ehrlichman because we believed, the White House believed that Pat Gray who was up for confirmation was dissembling. Ehrlichman said to me, "Let him hang right there, let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind." A rather dramatic way to make a statement that if he was lying, let him get caught up in his own lie.
So, the analogy really doesn't work at all. It's a total breakdown.
OLBERMANN: To the merits of this - of this other argument here from Bolton that Spain has no legal standing here about an American internal investigation. Of course, a former acting ambassador from the United States to the United Nations would never have, in a million years, one earthly clue that the United States had ever signed international treaties that outlawed torture, correct?
DEAN: Well, we - we certainly hope that isn't the case. Indeed, there are two treaties the United States is a party to: The Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture - both of which give Spain universal jurisdiction over torture, particularly in any of their citizens. And they - we believe that they believe that at least two of their citizens or more indeed were tortured by the United States. So, I think maybe, to use Mr. Bolton's term of the analogy, maybe Mr. Obama will leave him twisting slowly on his position on this.
OLBERMANN: Well, he's done enough twisting over the years without anybody's help. We can probably let him do it by himself again this time.
What about this question of who at the White House discussed the torture memos before they were written? Why does this matter particularly in this case?
DEAN: It's only relevant in the sense that if, indeed, there was conspiracy, if there was collusion, it does change the dynamics of what happened, and this indeed could show a different type of wrongdoing. So, that's the only reason it's important. In fact, we believe - from at least the press reports - that the Office of Professional Responsibility knows the names of all those people because there were e-mails apparently back and forth from the White House to the Justice Department and back. And these are part of that 200-page-plus report that is now about to be released.
OLBERMANN: I ask this question nearly every day, but let me ask it again. What if - what if Bush and Cheney's lawyers did what their bosses wanted them, they got the Justice Department to rubber-stamp torture and say, "All right, we're redefining the law so that you're not - what you're doing is not against the law." So what, if no one pays for it, do these revelations do anything other than establish a kind of how-to manual for future presidents on how to get away with not just this crime but other crimes?
DEAN: Well, Keith, if there was indeed a conspiracy between Bush, Cheney, their lawyers to defeat the torture laws of the United States through some sort of collusive action with their lawyers, this is very troublesome. This would be - and if we let this go, it would show a country that does not follow the rule of law.
Now, in Watergate, when I found myself on the wrong side of the law, I quickly got myself on the other side and did the best I could to sort of get that unraveled. That doesn't seem to be the indication of the lawyers who are involved in this. So, we can only hope if, indeed, if it does get brushed under the rug, we're in big trouble. We should hope that doesn't happen, because then we're in big trouble.
This is, as you know, in my estimation, much more serious than Watergate.
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe Dick Cheney will have an epiphany here. I'm not betting on it but you never know.
John Dean, author of "Worse than Watergate," "Broken Government," "Conservatives Without Conscience" - it's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you again.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For conspiracy theorists who believe Prince Charles of England is actually an enchanted toad, bad news, the two have been seen in the same place at the same time, and they're both moving.
And, "You can't afford a Supreme Court nominee screw up," Karl Rove warns President Obama, and then boasts of how thoroughly and flawlessly his Bush administration handled its Supreme Court nominee. There's a whole three weeks of Supreme Court nominee history that Karl evidently got erased from his brain. We will remind him of it in Worsts.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the rules expert softball coach now claims she didn't know the rule.
First, this is May 6th, thus 14 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for military families' charities; thus 13 days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second that he lasted; thus 11 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.
Related to this now - Milwaukee right-wing radio host Mark Belling vowed that if the horse Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby, quote, "I'll never bet on another race and will vote for Jim Doyle for reelection." Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby, and being a man of his word, Belling promptly said he would vote for Wisconsin's governor provided Mr. Doyle fulfilled 11 conditions Doyle would have to meet before he, Belling, would do what he had promised to do. More evidence that being a right-winger on the radio means you're a wheel chair.
Let's play Oddball.
We start in London, where Prince Charles has professed his love for yet another commoner - actually, an amphibian. Charles and other stars teaming with the animated amphibian as part of a public relations effort for conservation, his effort to save the planet long enough for however long it takes for him to get to rule part of it. Ribbit.
Chicago, Illinois - hello. ATM machine - goodbye. Forget the legal and moral reasons that this is wrong, but if you can afford the nice truck and the wherewithal to use it like this, isn't this a little like Lex Luthor building incredibly sophisticated giant nuclear robots that shoot cryptonite lasers so he can banks? Do you really need to rob the bank if you can build an incredibly sophisticated giant nuclear robot that shoots cryptonite lasers, or if you already own the truck?
Arlen Specter, Democrat. Yes, he says, Democrat, and reverses his opinion on who won in Minnesota.
And after briefly dabbling with reality on abstinence, Bristol Palin is back mesmerized, insisting it works. And the man who made her into an unwed teenage mother is back to disagree with her.
These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best continuing rationalization. We told you yesterday of Rochester Community and Technical College Softball coach Jean Musgjerd, who nullified the other team's winning run by telling the umps about an obscure rule that makes it illegal for the player to hit such a home run to high-five teammates before touching home plate. Coach Musgjerd's team eventually won the game in extra innings. The other team was eliminated from the tournament.
Only the rule she quoted also said that for first offense, umpires should only issue a warning. The rule and using it is un-sportsmanlike enough as it is. But the coach, and because of her, the umpires, got it all wrong. After the storm of protests, Coach Musgjerd now says it was not her fault. "The rule is plain and I just asked for the rule to be interpreted. The warning is down much farther and I wasn't aware of the warning until much later."
Of course after she helped her kids, she had boasted, "I always keep a rule book in my bag." It's one or the other, coach. In the interim, you used the rules to cheat.
Number two, best irony, Jackie Smith, home secretary of the British government. Her office has banned from entering England 16 people for fostering extremism or hatred. Among them, a former grand wizard of the Klan, some Muslim extremists, and American radio's single most disturbed individual, Michael Savage. Savage says he will sue for defamation of character, which is funny, because A, he doesn't have any character, and B, he spends 80 percent of his time insisting this country should be banning people.
And number one, best overreaction, an unnamed 82-year-old resident of Goflsar (ph) in central Germany. He grew gradually more and more infuriated as his neighbors there played the same song over and over and over again. So he called the police, who came to the man's house and quickly discovered the truth. As they told the gentleman, that song you keep hearing over and over and over again, it's not coming from your neighbor's house; it's coming from the singing greeting card you put up there on your own window sill, where the please keeps opening up the card just enough that it starts playing the damn song over and over and over again.
OLBERMANN: Number of days Senator Arlen Specter has been a Democrat, nearly eight. Number of those days Senator Specter has said or done something against the party line, about eight. In our third story on the Countdown, with the honey moon that barely began over, both Senator Specter and the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, may be straining to restart the relationship.
Under a Senate resolution passed last night and shepherded by Senator Reid, Mr. Specter was stripped of his seniority on every committee on which he sits, like Appropriations, Veterans Affairs and Judiciary. He is now the most junior Democratic senator and he will, for example, be the last Democrat to question President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, rather than the first Republican to do so.
But Senator Reid's promise about Mr. Specter's future seniority appears to be intact. And today Reid said, quote, I hope he's going to be with us when we need him. I'm comfortable that's the case.
But Specter himself acknowledged some push back from the Democratic rank and file in a statement today which reads in part, quote, "some members of the caucus have raised concerns about my seniority. So the caucus will vote on my seniority at the same time subcommittee chairmanships are confirmed, after the 2010 election." Assuming, of course, Senator Specter can win a Democratic primary.
Thus one correction was put on the books today. You will recall that regarding the Minnesota Senate battle, Specter had said, quote, "there is still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."
This was within the last week. But today Specter told "Congressional Quarterly," quote, "in the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates. I'm ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I have made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke."
Let's call in former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, also president of the consulting firm Glover Park Group, Joe Lockhart. Good to talk to you, Joe.
JOE LOCKHART, GLOVER PARK GROUP: Good to talk to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this headline here Specter is no Democrat or that this sort of full apology apology kind of thing on Franken and Coleman suggests he's trying?
LOCKHART: I guess the headline is if he doesn't get his act together politically, he may not be a senator much longer. I appreciate his candor in his announcement. But it was somewhat startling when he was asked why he decided to switch, and he said he got a poll back and said he couldn't win as a Republican, so I'll run as a Democrat.
Good politicians understand that you have to make it about the people you're serving, not about your interests. If he gets it back to the people of Pennsylvania, he's an able politician. It's just been a bad week for him.
OLBERMANN: In that week-plus, he has also voted against the president's budget. He said he would oppose the health care bill if it includes a government-run insurance plan. He's refused to change his position on the Employee Free Choice Act. He chafed at reports he had told the president he would be a loyal Democrat. So is this really qualifying as getting used to his new teammates, to use his phrase? Or is he just still sticking his finger in the party's collective eye?
LOCKHART: I think he's sticking his finger in his own eye right now, not in the party's eye. The Democrats are doing fine. You know, 59, 60, I'm not sure that's really an issue right now. I think if he wants to go to Pennsylvania, no matter what he calls himself, and says he's not for reforming health care; he's not for the president's budget; he's not for turning this economy around in the way the president's articulated, he's going to find that Pennsylvania wants a different senator, not Senator Specter.
OLBERMANN: There continues to be the suggestion, just as Senator Reid said today, that Specter will stand with the Democrats on at least some key issues, no matter what he looks like, in terms of his bid for re-election. Do you think he will? And on which of those key issues will he in fact join them on? Would it be the Supreme Court nominee, or torture investigations, or health care, or energy reform, or something else?
LOCKHART: Well, listen. Maybe the Supreme Court will probably be a big issue. I think Senator Specter has a lot of standing on that, given his own personal history. But I think it's simpler than just saying will he prove he's a loyal Democrat. The country has moved. If you look at Pennsylvania in the last election, I think it's 500,000 to a million new voters came in, all Democrats. Republicans lost.
The country has shifted. They want leadership like the kind that President Obama has talked about. They want this change. They don't want more of the same. They don't want politicians that seem to care more about themselves and their own political future than their constituents.
So I think, you know, it's not so much whether he stands with this Democrat or that Democrat; it's whether he's for this kind of change that the president is trying to get done.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of the self interested politician, what are the odds, do you suppose, that he winds up as another Joe Lieberman? If they're measurable, is it not in the Democrats' interest, both nationally and locally, to really press hard to get somebody else nominated by the party in Pennsylvania next year?
LOCKHART: Listen, I think this is very early. I think if Senator Specter, as a Democrat, comes out and is a strong champion for health care reform, a champion for climate change legislation, cap and trade, that the president's talked about, if he's there for him on the budget, I think those are the issues that people care about, and Pennsylvanians will welcome that.
If he doesn't, if he represents what the Republicans have been talking about, the kind of Rush Limbaugh-ism that you talked about on the top of this show, I don't think it matters whether they say he's a Democrat or Republican. People are a lot smarter than I think the pollsters give them credit for. They will reject him based on what he runs as and what he does in the next year.
So there's a lot of time. If he runs as a Republican with a D in front of it, I expect he'll get stiff opposition and it will be very difficult for him to win in Pennsylvania.
OLBERMANN: Joe Lockhart, the former White House press secretary, thanks for your time tonight, Joe.
LOCKHART: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The fight over the uselessness of abstinence only in the bid to reduce teenage pregnancies. Bristol Palin is back reading the party line. Meanwhile, the teenager who got her pregnant is sticking to reality.
And collapse of News Corp; the old pirate is going to need to find some money somewhere. Total TV operating income for the first quarter down from last year by 99 percent. Abash ye matees, worst persons be around the bend.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest Naomi Klein, on how her theory of the shock doctrine applies to how the president is handling the bank crisis and the banking lobby.
OLBERMANN: Bristol Palin is back on the abstinence horse. Suddenly, Levi Johnston is the voice of reason on this, or at least the voice of protection. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Karl Rove. Reality's one fellow that Karl never had the pleasure of meeting. Warning the president that he better not screw up on the vetting of his nominee to succeed Justice David Souter. "I was part of a five party committee that spent years at the White House under President Bush preparing for the moment of a Supreme Court vacancy. We had thick note books on all prospects. We had everything from all their writings and opinions to college transcripts, to tax returns, to, you know, charity dinner speeches. You know it, we had it. We studied those. It was why it was possible, after three months after a vacancy occurred, to have Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed to the Supreme Court.
"Obama can't offer up somebody they've not fully and completely vetted, and that takes time."
Karl, two months after you guys nominated Roberts, you nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Harriet Miers. You had to withdraw her nomination after just three weeks. Only the seventh outright DOA nomination in court history. So what happened to that big golden book of Supreme Court nominees, Karl? Did you eat it?
The runner up, Bill-O, trashing Bruce Springsteen for celebrating Pete Seger on his 90th birthday, by noting how Pete has always sung all the verses, even the one this country would like to forget, our false allusions about ourselves.
"That's right, Bruce. We all have false illusions and America is a noble nation, a country that has freed billions of people all over the world at great cost. Now, Bruce Springsteen is not exactly a PHD in political science, obviously. But his snide reference to America defines how the far left sees this country. You know what, most liberal and conservative Americans disagree with him."
No statistics or polls to back that up. Bill just knows because he's Bill O'Reilly, supper genius. The same Bill-O, speaking of illusions, said the other night that "Jack Bauer reminds me of me." Yes, you're both one dimensional fictional characters. And by the way, the far left believes we are indeed a noble nation, but we would be nobler still if we stopped pretending, as Bill-O does, that we are perfect, or that our stink doesn't stink, or that if we don't like what another country has done we should bomb it or let Bill boycott it.
Nice implication by Bill-O there that he has a political science PHD, which he does not, nor a Peabody Award.
But the winner, Rupert Murdoch. His profit reports for News Corp are out today. For the first quarter of 2009, the cable outlet's did very well, but the rest of it disaster. I didn't get where I am today without recognizing a disaster for Rupert Murdoch. Total operating income down 47 percent. Total newspaper operating income down 97 percent. Total television operating income down 99 percent.
So News Corps boss Rupert Murdoch and his henchman Fox Station chairman Roger Ailes have encouraged personal attacks and hate speech on the air for years, trying to boost sagging ratings at Fox. But that strategy has been an enormous failure. Today, News Corp announced another dismal quarter, with Fox reporting a 99 percent drop in profits. Murdoch even lost money on "American Idol."
In other words, he will not be turning things around anytime soon. If our capitalistic system were not so corrupted, Murdoch and Ailes would have been fired a long time ago. But the fix is in, ladies and gentlemen.
Rupert, arise News Corp stockholders and reclaim the investments, Murdoch, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder, or so says the movement's new spokesperson. And the guy who turned her into an unwed teenage mother, he is not buying the soft soap any more. Our number one story, introducing Ambassador Bristol Palin. Ms. Palin making the rounds of the morning talk shows, discussing her new role as spokesperson for the Candie's Foundation, an organization committed to preventing teen pregnancy through abstinence, maintaining if she had to do it all over again, she would not do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF SARAH PALIN: Regardless of what I did personally, I just - I just think that abstinence is the only way that you can effectively, 100 percent full proof way to prevent pregnancy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how do you bridge the two for kids? You say don't do it. Don't have the sex. But you did. So how do you put those two together?
PALIN: I'm not quite sure. I just want to go out there and just promote abstinence and just say this is the safest choice. This is the choice that's going to prevent teen pregnancy and prevent a lot of heartache.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: With son Tripp and father Todd in tow, Miss Palin called her baby the love of my life and a blessing, but also stressed that teen motherhood is hard work. As for mentioning that abstinence was not realistic during a previous interview with Fixed News, Ms. Palin said that comment was taken out of context. Someone should have forwarded those talking points to Tripp's father, Levi Johnston, who also appeared on the TV this morning, perhaps positioning himself and his ex to become the Carville and Matalin of the teen abstinence movement, only without the married part.
JOHNSTON: Abstinence is a great idea, but I also think that you need
to enforce condoms and birth control and other things like that to have
safe sex. I don't think just telling young kids you can't have sex is just
it's not going to work. It's not realistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, the man announced today as the host of his own program from 9:00 to 11:00 Eastern each morning here on MSNBC, Dylan Ratigan. Welcome.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good afternoon and good evening to you, sir.
OLBERMANN: It's going to be a long day already, I can tell. I want to talk about your show and what you're going to do with it in a moment. Let's talk about this bizarre mix. I don't doubt Bristol Palin's sincerity here. But doesn't the do as I - don't do as I say - or do as I say, don't do as I do thing, does that not work only if there's some significant coverage of it with a pound of contrition? It doesn't sound like she's -
RATIGAN: There's no question about it. The thing that really stands out to me with this - because the hypocrisy is obvious. It's as obvious as a closeted gay senator voting against gay marriage. There's a prevalence in politics of this type of behavior, unfortunately. That's why conversations like the one we're now having exist.
More troubling to me than everything that you've already pointed out, or additionally troubling to me, is this an indication of the agenda inside the Republican party right now, at a time when we're suffering such a systemic breakdown in health care, in our energy. You know those things. And everybody in America knows these things.
What's lost on me is why the Republicans, who own the platform for wasteful spending in America, instead hearken back three, four, five years ago for some polarizing social issue that they think they can create some sort of momentum around, when it is clear to the folks in Kansas who want to be with the Republicans, that the Republicans beyond perhaps gay marriage or an advocacy against teen pregnancy, which, last I checked, is a 90-10 issue -
They have yet to step up to the obvious, which is, our systems in America are failing. Let us address the issue of the wasteful trillions that are pumping through the U.S. government.
OLBERMANN: So what do you think this is, then? Do you think this is.
RATIGAN: A bad strategy.
OLBERMANN: Is it a bad strategy that's designed to appeal to somebody they're over-estimating in terms of how big the crowd is? Or is it a diversion to say, pay attention to this nonsense, because we don't have any clue what to do?
RATIGAN: I think it's more the last than anything else. I think ultimately what it is is a fear. You have a party that aligned itself with a very powerful community in the business community. Many of those constituents unfortunately were advocates of a system that has brought this country to a very difficult conversation. By the way, that's a two-party issue. That doesn't lay squarely at the hands of the Republicans.
But the Republicans, remember, began the process of trying to deal with the crisis in America, in general, cars, banks, health care, and, at the same time, now have no concept how to proceed. So they continue to refer to their 2005 playbook and say, OK, we win on social issues. So they keep trying to play a social issues card, when wasteful spending is wide open to them. And I don't know why they don't take this.
OLBERMANN: Would this stuff with Bristol Palin have worked if, when asked how does this exactly work, how does abstinence impact -
RATIGAN: How does abstinence work?
OLBERMANN: How does it impact this? If she had said something other than, I don't know?
RATIGAN: You would think that before you do the roll Out on "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America," that when you do your talking points. But honestly, in fairness to Bristol Palin, I did a lot of stupid things when I was 17 or 18 years old. I don't think it's fair for you, me or anybody else to say what's Bristol Palin doing out there advocating this. That's not the question.
The question is what is the Republican party thinking presenting this young woman, who has enough to deal with, with her obvious structure of her life - and to me it's an indication they don't know what to do.
OLBERMANN: Things went so well with her mother, so they're lining up the next one now. Bristol Palin is not going to be your topic every morning.
RATIGAN: I do have two hour.
OLBERMANN: You're going beyond your previous comfort zone. This is not a money show. Tell me about it.
RATIGAN: Think about the principals that drive the type of journalism that I was just doing, which is interrogating private enterprise as to how they're managing private enterprises to be the most efficient and supportive and customer driven; basically take care of the people they try to make money off of.
I'd like to apply effectively that same line of questioning to the policy universe. I feel like we're at a point in time in America where we've got a lot of back and forth, and who is blaming who. But we don't have a lot of conversation, or enough conversation about how it is that we get back to the business of arguing about gay marriage and teen pregnancy, but we can't do that until we deal with health care, energy, defense.
And those are not political issues. Those are systemic issues that everybody in America needs and wants to deal with. I'm going to invite folks like you to come over and help us do that.
OLBERMANN: Two hours every morning with Dylan Ratigan. Welcome to the family.
RATIGAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We are delighted.
That's Countdown for this the 2,197th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good might and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END