'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, June 2
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guests: Howard Fineman, Susan Hill, Arianna Huffington
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Here comes the judge: The would-be justice seeks justice on Capitol Hill and addresses the Latina judge comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT LEAHY, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: What she said was, "Of course, one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely, as a judge, you follow the law."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This while conservative fatheads - sorry, leadership, demand Mitch McConnell filibuster the nomination.
The charging of Scott Roeder, while the far right now tries to smear the memory of the late Dr. George Tiller. Tonight, a friend, the president of the National Women's Health Foundation rises to his defense.
Dick Cheney's confession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9/11, there was never any evidence to prove that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wait a minute. That doesn't mean he didn't say it, that doesn't mean he didn't believe it, that doesn't mean he didn't take this country to war because of it.
Inside the Obama White House: The unprecedented access for an old White House intern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: So, in the portion of your day we were not able to see, what have you done so far?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Let's see, I got my workout in.
OBAMA: You weren't supposed to film (ph) that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. You guys can go now. I'm going to read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I said unprecedented not universal.
And Rush to more bad judgment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I quite. I resign as the titular head of the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That message did not get to Wisconsin, where the spokesman for a county Republican office is fired for disagreeing with Limbaugh. Purging the colony at the grassroots level - isn't this how the Whigs started to go out of business? It's tonight's WTF Moment!
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: This is - this is destructive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Before you shout "hypocrisy" at the fact that a Republican group now calling for the filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was, just a few years ago, known as the committee to end judicial filibusters, or at the fact that "The New York Times" reports 43 out of 145 Republicans signing today's filibuster demand, four years ago signed a similar letter demanding an end to filibusters. Know this: They opposed Democratic filibusters then because they went on forever. They support a Republican filibuster now because it would only be, quote, "appropriately long."
Our fifth story tonight: Yes, this is the best they've got.
In a whirlwind tour today, Judge Sotomayor met with Senate Democrats and Republicans, but in a development unlikely to please those Republicans urging filibuster, it was the judiciary committee's ranking Republican who said she, quote - or he was, quote, "very impressed by her knowledge, experience and energy level." Senator Sessions also distancing himself from right-wing venom, saying those people out there are not party officials. Sessions suggesting he did not grill Sotomayor on her comments about Latina judges versus white male judges.
Democrat Dianne Feinstein, however, did discuss the issue with the judge, later telling reporters that Sotomayor called it, quote, "A poor choice of words."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: She said, you know, obviously, it's a poor choice of words. She said, "If you went on and read the rest of my speech, you wouldn't be concerned about it. But it was just a poor choice of words."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy also raised the remarks to Sotomayor and got at the issue underlying criticism of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAHY: What she said was, "Of course, one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely," and she used those words, "ultimately and completely, as a judge, you follow the law."
"There's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich and a different one for poor. There's only one law."
And she said, "Ultimately and completely, a judge has to follow the law no matter what their upbringing has been."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Leahy and Sessions, Democrat and Republican, meet tomorrow to hammer out the schedule for Sotomayor's nomination. It matters because a longer schedule gives Republicans more time to see what they can make stick against Sotomayor, more time to raise money off her. Leahy now suggesting hearings will take place next month, July, before the Senate recess. Bad news for this man, Manuel Miranda, chairman of the pro-filibuster group we mentioned, but, oh, so very much more. Also, former aide to then-Republican leader, Bill Frist, until he was fired, fired and investigated, for having leaked Democratic staff e-mails hack from their accounts to right-wing media as part of his campaign to end judicial filibusters.
An unnamed senior Republican Senate aide is telling "Politico," quote, "It's unfortunate that one disgraced former employee of previous Senate leadership has decided to air out his grievances rather than join the conservative effort to examine Judge Sotomayor's record."
Joining our effort to examine the Republican record on Judge Sotomayor, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek."
Howard, thanks for your time, again, tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith. Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Deplorable Democratic filibusters of Bush nominees, of course, are still going on and they will last until the day the sun burns out. But these praise-worthy Republican filibusters of Democratic nominees will only last appropriately long. Is that the proverbial distinction without a difference?
FINEMAN: Well, the F-word is being used outside the Senate. Based on talking to people today in the Senate, I think the Republicans are going to be very careful about using that word or using that procedure.
I think they are going to try to slow-walk this thing, Keith. As you
pointed out, they want time. They want to play for time. Judge Sotomayor
has thousands of cases she was involved in. The Republicans want to look
for a hole in there somewhere and they want to take their sweet time about
it. But they're being very cautious. Maybe, cleverly so or Machiavellian
in a Machiavellian way to keep their distance from the outside complainers and critics.
OLBERMANN: Does Sotomayor saying to Senator Feinstein, as essentially saying to Senator Leahy that the Latina judge thing was a poor choice of words. Does that change that issue for the right?
FINEMAN: Well, it doesn't change it for the right on the outside.
But my sense from talking to Republicans on the Hill today, Keith, is that
is that they are certainly not going to be seen as leaping to conclusions about any of this. Whether they are deeply reassured by the statements that she has been making behind closed doors by the explanation she has been given, I don't know. This is going to play itself out in the public hearings. Once again, they're not going to let go of that even if she apologizes now.
But my sense is that, first, Barack Obama publicly and then Judge Sotomayor privately, have walked back sufficiently from that one comment about Latino women being better judges that obviously couldn't stand. She's walked back from it and she will continue to do so, I think, in a pretty effective way.
OLBERMANN: Leahy seems to have tried at least to turn these attacks on the judge into an advantage, insisting she's got this right to respond as quickly as possible - which means, obviously, he wants to schedule the hearing as quickly as possible. Is there any reason that she couldn't just now go and give, like, a five-hour interview to conservative radio or is, you know, Leahy leveraging the attacks on the GOP based against the GOP politicians in some way?
FINEMAN: Well, I mentioned Machiavelli before and Pat Leahy is half Italian.
FINEMAN: But I don't think he's trying - I don't think he's trying to do that. I think he realizes what you said, Keith, is that rather than take a year doing this so they can pick apart every case she was ever involved in, the Democrats and her supporters, which after all, I think are already a majority on the Hill, you know, want to get this thing done.
Now, I don't think Leahy is going to be successful in scheduling all these hearings quickly. My sense is, this is going to go past the August recess. It's going to go into September. I think that's what's going to happen. The Republicans are going to play very, very - a very hard game behind the scenes to make sure that happens.
OLBERMANN: When President Bush sent Harriet Miers to Capitol Hill, that was her equivalent of this day for Judge Sotomayor.
OLBERMANN: The Democrats and Republicans alike came out of these meetings essentially in shock, and her chances were doomed, if not over, at that point.
OLBERMANN: John Roberts, on his equivalent of, you know, photo day, won over Pat Leahy. Do we have an overall story from Capitol Hill today about Sotomayor's day on the Hill?
FINEMAN: Well, let's see. If Harriet Miers was a zero on the scale and John Roberts was an 8 ½ out of 10, I'd say Sotomayor is an 8, 7 ½ to 8, based on talking to Republicans. That's what I focus my reporting on, Keith.
And I think they were impressed. They are trying to take her measure. So, on one level, they are personally impressed. On the other hand, they want to see what kind of a foe she might be, how tough she is. And I think both Jeff Sessions and, just as important, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, were pretty pressed. And they are going to be careful.
As one Republican staffer said to me not long ago, he said, you know, "We're really trying not to be A-holes about this." That's a technical - that's a technical term on the Hill.
OLBERMANN: That's a Navajo term as I recall, originally.
FINEMAN: Yes. A Navajo term, yes. And he said, "We're going to drive the Democrats nuts by trying to be decent." Whether they can actually achieve that level of decency, we'll see.
OLBERMANN: Subject completely not decent, the assassination of Dr. Tiller, which we're going to discuss in a moment, that somewhat underscored a comparative mystery surrounding Judge Sotomayor's view on the subject of abortion. Does that mystery get resolved before her confirmation vote or not?
FINEMAN: No. And I didn't answer your question about why she just can't go on TV for five hours. The reason is the prosecution, so to speak, has to make its case. She's got then present her defense. She wants to see what's out there first.
I don't think you're going to have her giving some long disposition on abortion rights or life and choice until the hearings. Until the hearings, I think it will wait until then. We'll have to - her supporters will have to be satisfied with the assurances of the president and her other supporters.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek" magazine - as always, Howard, great thanks. Have a good night.
FINEMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The issue of abortion, of course, might not be settled by the Supreme Court. It could instead be settled by the gun. The family of Dr. George Tiller is saying there are no plans to reopen his clinic, no decisions about their long-term intentions, quote, "No patients are being scheduled at this time."
The man who allegedly who took the right to choose away from those patients, Scott Roeder, was charged today with first-degree murder. The death penalty in Kansas is not applying in this case.
The judge is setting a preliminary hearing date of June 16th and ordering Roeder not to communicate in any way with the family of Dr. Tiller. That family today announced his funeral will be held on Saturday in Wichita. It will be open to the public.
And it says everything tonight (ph) that there are security concerns about the funeral such that our guest - Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Foundation, has yet to determine whether she can safely go and say farewell to a friend of 25 years.
Our thanks to you for joining us and our condolences on the loss of your friend.
SUSAN HILL, NATIONAL WOMEN'S HEALTH FOUNDATION: Thank you. And thank you for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: Why would you not go to his funeral on Saturday?
HILL: We're still in the process of deciding and assessing the security risk. And, unfortunately, I've been in this field for 35 years and I've been to several funerals of doctors who have been killed. And they always were concerned about whether there was going to be any other violence at funerals. And we're trying to decide whether it's safe to be there.
OLBERMANN: In most complicated ethical issues, there are at least the two competing interests. With abortion, you have the interest of the fetus; you also have the interest of the women. Can you give us some sense of Dr. Tiller's commitment to them?
HILL: Dr. Tiller, I knew him for 25 years and he was always a protector of women. And that was his utmost responsibility, he believed.
I asked him, I spoke to him two weeks ago, we were talking about various people that we were worried about outside our clinic. And I said, "Why are you still doing this?" And he said, "I have to. I can't leave them, these women. They need me and there's no one else to do this."
He didn't need to work. He didn't need to - he had a family he loved. But he was afraid that if he left, there would be no one left to take care of women in dire need.
OLBERMANN: What was his view, as best as you can recollect, of the moral issues that were related to these specific procedures that were controversial and that he performed.
HILL: Well, he knew they were controversial and he believed that it was his job as a gynecologist to take care of the needs of women. And that he believed that they were able to make a decision with ample consent - which they always got from Dr. Tiller - and that he believed women were smart enough and understood their lives enough to be able to make that decision. And he was there to serve them if so requested.
OLBERMANN: Many men faced with public criticism, with defamation in a public venue of any kind, can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen - let alone, don't put themselves in literally harm's way, never mind figuratively.
OLBERMANN: Why did he not get out of the - why didn't the figurative attacks on him get him out of the way, so to speak? What was - what was there about this man that kept him in that arena despite just the verbal attacks, never mind what ultimately happened?
HILL: It was the women who came to see him.
We, in our clinics, over the years, have referred 11-year-olds and 10-year-olds to him who were victims of incest or rape, didn't tell anyone until it was too late. No one else would see them or would help them. He actually flew patients out from our Mississippi clinic or our North Carolina clinic, and did the service for free for those types of cases because he believed that young women need a chance - and a chance at a good life and a normal life.
We sent women to him who were - had terminal cancer and didn't know that they had it until they were 27 or 28 weeks along. And he - I could give you a hundred different examples, but these women, I always say, they weren't walking by the sidewalk and decided they would just walk in and have an abortion.
These were women who generally - except for the younger ones - wanted to have a baby. They wanted to have a pregnancy. They had fetal demises which is the death of the fetus in the uterus. I had a doctor who told me that it didn't matter if she had a fetal demise, it was her job to carry the dead fetus for another 10 or 12 weeks.
Dr. Tiller did not believe that was his choice. He believed it was the woman's choice. And he lived by that belief and he died by it, unfortunately.
OLBERMANN: Ms. Hill, there were reports today that the day before the shooting, this man, Roeder, was spotted trying to vandalize a nearby clinic where abortions were performed. And his license .
OLBERMANN: . plate numbers was even reported but there was no follow-up. What is your experience with the law enforcement approach to this domestic approach?
HILL: Terrible. It's been terrible. Like I said, we have a clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, the only clinic in the state. The women come from the delta, the poor section of this country. And when they get there, they are met with people who are jumping on them, screaming, threatening them, and the police do nothing. They will not enforce the laws that are in effect.
We have federal injunctions, as did Dr. Tiller. It's not enforced. And there's nothing - an injunction is worth nothing if it can't be enforced.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Foundation - again, our great thanks for your time tonight. And, once again, our condolences on the loss of your friend, Dr. Tiller.
HILL: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: How often we had to say something like that because of a war Dick Cheney lied us into?
Tonight, amid conclusions that he has now admitted that there was no link between Iraq and al Qaeda - the closer parsing of that and other comments shows no such thing. He's just saying it was never proved - just as he has slightly changed the claims about torture saving lives to the entire interrogation program saving lives. It's almost as if he were cleaning up a public record just before - I don't know - he went on trial?
OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney subtlety corrects the public record, there was no proof of a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq - even though he said there was and it wasn't enhanced interrogation that classify documents will prove saved lives, it was the interrogation program. Cheney is slouching toward the truth. Invest in whiteout.
Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Vice President Dick Cheney now admits that there was never a link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. But he insists that the war in Iraq saved lives and he begins to qualify previous claims that certain classified memos proved that waterboarding worked.
In our fourth story on the Countdown: Cheney's latest stop on his "rewriting history tour" otherwise known as "preparing for the possible future war crimes trial."
The former vice president whose office while he was in power engineered the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, after her husband, Joe Wilson alleged that the Bush administration had manipulated the pre-war intel, the same Cheney who, in September of 2003, on "Meet the Press" still described the possible Iraq-9/11 connection even though such a link had by then been widely discredited, that Cheney now blithely saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9/11, there was never any evidence to prove that. There was some reporting early on, for example, that Mohammed Atta had met with senior Iraqi intelligence official, but that was never borne out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Cheney even added a little fancy footwork regarding former CIA director, George Tenet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: He did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What have you done with Dick Cheney and who are you?
Meantime, on his favorite subject, waterboarding, Mr. Cheney appears to be re-characterizing the documents that he wants declassified.
Listen carefully to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Yes, but the way I would describe them is they have to do with the detainee program, the interrogation program. Not just waterboarding. It's the interrogation program that we used for high-value detainees. And there were two reports done that summarize what we learned from that program, and they are, I think, they provide a balanced view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As noted by Greg Sargent at ThePlumLine.com, Mr. Cheney seems to be carefully moving away from his previous claim that those documents will prove that torture worked. Now, Cheney is speaking of the interrogation program working. And it's a far more inclusive description, which would include results from non-torture techniques as well, you know, like the time we gave the diabetic from al Qaeda sugar-free cookies.
And there's more. At the National Press Club yesterday, on the war in Iraq, quoting Mr. Cheney, "I think it was a sound decision to make. I think it was an important part of our overall strategy in the global war on terror. I think it saved lives."
And after the Bush administration essentially ignored repeated warnings prior to 9/11 about al Qaeda determined to strike within the United States, Mr. Cheney says the former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, quote, "obviously missed it and that they," the intel community at large, quote, "missed 9/11."
Let's call in the co-founder and editor-in-chief of "The Huffington Post," Arianna Huffington, also cop-author of "The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging."
Arianna, good evening.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Starting at the end there, this remark about Richard Clarke and the community - the intel community missing 9/11. I don't think you have to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist or even have gone to a night class in psychology, to understand the concept of projecting. Dick Cheney is saying in a sense, "I missed 9/11, so let me figure out who I can blame it on," right?
HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. That was, not though the most stunning thing among all the things that you quoted him saying. I think, for me, the most stunning thing was the fact that he still is not willing to say what we all know, which is that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11. All he's willing to do is be Pontius Pilate, and basically wash his hands of the truth or even perhaps finding the truth.
And that is really, in a way, why he continues insinuating that there was a connection, even as recently as his latest speech in front of the AEI audience, when he talked about connections between Saddam Hussein and Middle Eastern terrorist. Which was all perhaps designed to make people feel or think, perhaps these Middle Eastern terrorists were al Qaeda.
I don't know, the character that he most resembles, for me, on all of literature is Iago. Because, remember, Iago was a master manipulator of words, to distort reality and create havoc. And that's the only thing, for me, that can begin to explain Dick Cheney, psychologically.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And he would then step away at the end and said, "Well, I didn't - I didn't strangle anybody. It was all your doing, fellow." It -
HUFFINGTON: It was George Tenet's doing.
OLBERMANN: It's become increasingly clear, I think, that the former vice president is on some sort of mission to rewrite each part of the recent history that makes him look bad, makes the Bush administration look bad, even if he's never called to account for the worst of it, even if the long gradient working against the idea of war crimes trials in this country or any other country is never overcome.
Doesn't it - doesn't it look like he's seeing wolves closing in, he is preparing himself in the event he's tried? Is that the vibe this gives off?
HUFFINGTON: Maybe. But I'm not sure, because he lives in such a permanent state of denial. And he clearly has a lot of people around him who are supporting that state of denial, including his own daughter. So - and maybe he's just doing it pure and simple because he does want to protect his legacy. After all, that is the essence of revisionism, as George Orwell said, "He who controls the past, controls the future." And maybe that's all he's doing, trying to control the past by rewriting history again and again.
OLBERMANN: Yes. There's not enough time in this millennium for him to fix the legacy at this point.
But this point that Greg Sargent noted, Senator Levin said that those intelligence documents that Cheney keeps pressing to have declassified, they don't do anything to connect the valuable intel to the use of torture. Mr. Cheney has just re-jiggered the claim, the terminology of it that we (ph) all already pretty much established. They declassified every other document that could be interpreted as backfilling for all the things and nefarious things that they did in the administration.
If there was anything in the files that said "torture worked," Cheney would have leaked it or declassified it already, wouldn't he?
HUFFINGTON: Oh, absolutely. And perhaps, he realized that he no longer has the power to keep something classified, and that the White House may decide to declassify the documents that he has been claiming would prove the success of waterboarding. And clearly, from everything he has said and others have said, that's not the case. So, now he is walking back what he had said about it and making it about the entire interrogation program.
OLBERMANN: What happens with these allegations again about the intel? About Richard Clarke and such, when Clarke is willing to come back and describe this as White House-9/11 trauma defense - how does this end for Mr. Cheney?
HUFFINGTON: Well, in a different time, it might have ended better. But right now, we live in the age of YouTube and Google and Lexus Nexus out there (ph). And it's very much harder to doing this revision of history.
And after all, there is a possibility that this huge pile of lies is going to get so big that he's going to tumble down. And my one immediate hope is that he will be treated like a pariah. After all, that should happen. There is no reason for him to be continued to be treated like a public figure with any kind of credibility left. And that will make a big difference in the way the rest of us respond to him.
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com - let's hope so.
As always, great thanks, Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: What's that on the television then? It looks like some penguins. I can see that. I meant what program is on the television then? We'll explain this and why they are following the poof.
And the Burger King franchise-holder in Memphis picked the wrong topic to spout off on, on signs outside his restaurants. It turns the chairman of the board doesn't exactly agree with the conclusion that global warming is baloney. Worst Persons is ahead.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the high roller lost two million because of the altered feng Shui at the casino.
First, on this date in 1955 was born the actor Dana Carvey, who, oddly enough, has just been eaten by wolves after jumping out of an office building senselessly, after an overdose of crack cocaine and landing on the propeller of a commuter plane. Check Youtube for an explanation. Taft was. Let's play oddball.
We begin at the Earth's white underbelly in Antarctica, where scientists have figured out a brand new stinking way of tracking emperor penguins from space, follow the stool. Researchers realize that in satellite images of the colorless, ice covered continent, you can see trails of stains from the birds reddish brown excrement from way on high. This method has helped located ten new colonies of Antarctic Emperor penguins. As for migration patterns, scientists have determined the birds are currently pooping their way over to the igloo in Pittsburgh, where they hope their team can avoid going down three nothing to the Detroit Red Wings.
Also in the world of wide sports, at a motorcycle race in Italy, this guy is the living embodiment of the old saying, if you fall off your bike, you have to pick yourself up and get right back up, even if you're going 100 miles an hour. He's Rafael De Rosa, getting a little wobbly coming around a turn, falling off the bike, but holding on to keep riding sort of side saddle. Wee.
As you can see, De Rosa eventually righted the ship, somehow popped back on. He was not hurt. Nor was the bike. The only thing he will need to replace are those scuffed up boots and possibly his shorts.
Also in sports, this oddball public service announcement for the pigeons in our viewing audience, stay away from these sporting events. This is at the cricket match. The batter slugs one into the field, The infielder picks up the ball and a swing and a miss. He hit the cutoff bird. Pigeon down. Pigeon down.
Play stopped. Of course, this is nothing compared to the Randy Johnson incident, self evocative of the Dave Winfield incident. That was Spring Training 2001, pulverization. The pitch was also called a ball. Please DVR this word of warning and show it to a pigeon you love.
The operative phrase here is unprecedented access. Inside the Obama White House with 12 camera crews.
And inside the Limbaugh party, there is a spokesman for a county Republican office near Wassau, Wisconsin who does not believe in Mr. Bouncy, bouncy. So destroy Wisconsin. Tonight's WTF moment ahead.
But first, time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world. Number three, best taste, the May ratings are out. Once again, ~Countdown is the number one rated show in cable news for viewers 18-34 at 8:00 in the evening Eastern time. And MSNBC is the number one rated network in cable news for viewers 18-34. Also, this show was number two among all viewers. We thank you kindly.
Number two, best excuse, Mr. Yuan, first name not revealed, a gambler from Taipei who was threatening to sue the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, demanding that the money he lost at its table be returned to him because the Venetian had screwed up the Feng Shui. It had drilled a 40 inch square hole in the wall of the presidential sweet in which he was staying, and covered it with a black cloth, and put two white towels in front of the sweet, and turned on two large fans. Which caused him to go from being up 400 grand to down two million. Black and white cloths are draped in China only when there is a death in the family, never while you're gambling.
Number one, best political admission, the office of North Carolina Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. She, of course, the one who called the story of the homophobic torture and murder of Matthew Shepard a, quote, hoax. Now her scheduler, Courtney Coble (ph), has revealed the innermost goings on in the congresswoman's office, posting online an invitation to other folks on the Hill to join her in Congresswoman Foxx's, quote, office beers on taxpayer time. You're welcome, fighting fifth district. That explains everything.
OLBERMANN: Jacqueline Kennedy's tour of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that iconic image of President Nixon mid-stride in the bowling alley he had installed in the White House basement - let us hope this will be the last time I ever utter these two words in succession on this news hour, Barney Cam. Our third story on the Countdown, having glimpsed behind the scenes of other White Houses, we have never peeked before inside the Obama White House, until tonight.
The new president granting former White House intern Brian Williams unprecedented access last week to his schedule and to his staff, admitting more than 12 crews to capture one day in the life of the executive branch. We have 12 crews?
When President Obama is asked to sign a basketball, there is an opportunity, not necessarily endorsed by the president, for informality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir. Heads up. Reggie's calling for you.
OBAMA: You weren't supposed to throw that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There were also times when the cameras catch the reality of a working government. A crew wandered into Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's office, only to be kicked off, one of eight times Mr. Emanuel did so. Meaning under won the over/under there by like 300.
The network shot more than 150 hours of tape for the special. You will see everything from the kitchen to a run-in with the Obama family dog Bo, making a play for the microphone. It looks exactly like him. A crew spent some time following the first lady, as well, as when she talked to a teacher before a presentation at her children's school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once you are seated, Ms. Thompson will go straight to the podium. She will give opening marks. The students will then present an order for presentations. Then you're up.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Are they nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit. I think they were OK until they saw the cameras.
M. OBAMA: Don't intimidate them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This exchange between Brian Williams and the president seems to underscore the personal frustrations associated with the office, and this president almost impossible attempt to try to lead as normal a life as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You've said before Mr. President, sometimes you want to pick out the shaving cream you want to pick out, and not have to describe it.
OBAMA: You don't want to have to have somebody else do it.
WILLIAMS: To a valet.
OBAMA: It gives you - there is a certain rhythm of life.
OBAMA: Of, OK, you know, it is Saturday morning, going to go walk my dog, run some errands, going do some things that will make my wife happy.
OBAMA: I'm going to take my kids to the museum.
WILLIAMS: I get that.
OBAMA: And then I'm going to, on the spur of the moment, take them to have some ice cream, because they had a good game.
OBAMA: Those kinds of rhythms are thrown off in ways that are tough.
But, look, Michelle and I are pretty darn lucky, and we know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or taking your wife to a Broadway show because she agreed to forfeit any hint of privacy for the rest of her life. Inside the Obama White House, Brian Williams' reports, runs tonight and tomorrow night on your local NBC station.
It will all look different when President Limbaugh takes over. The amazing story of just how far down the chain of command has the order gone to purge all the non-Limbaughs - non-Russians from the Republican ranks. That's tonight's WTF moment.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, the ex-wife of alleged terrorist arrested for the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.
OLBERMANN: How deep does the Republican pledge of allegiance to Limbaugh go? Deep enough to cost a county spokesman his job. Tonight's WTF moment. That's next but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in world.
The bronze to George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Development Corporation, primary villain in the scuttling of a deal to preserve Tiger Stadium in Detroit, as much of an American landmark as is Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. The stadium would have been kept standing as a ballfield for inner city kids, with the stadium structure itself becoming an office. The 33 million dollar cost would have been almost entirely covered by tax credits and historical site credits. Destruction of the stadium, on a site where pro baseball was played from 1895 through 1999, will begin almost immediately. Nice work Mr. Jackson.
An hypocrisy award tonight, our runner up to Stewart Taylor of the "National Journal." Taylor says a complaint written by Sonia Sotomayor as a Princeton undergrad about the lack of opportunities for Hispanics at her school should be held against her nomination to the Supreme Court. Quote, "some may see Sotomayor's letter as evidence that she was predisposed to look for the worst not the best in the institution that afforded her such opportunities. She now sits on Princeton's Board of Trustees."
The blog "Lawyers, Guns and Money" notes that when nominee Samuel Alito was criticized for a series of legal memos about constitutional matters, Mr. Taylor had written, "Alito's critics have similarly ignored much evidence that his 15 years of steady, scholarly, precedent respecting work as a judge tells us more about him than a handful of widely and misleadingly publicized memos that he wrote more than 20 years ago."
So Alito's legal memos of two decades age were too distant and irrelevant to matter, but a milk toast, an accurate letter of complaint, while she was an undergrad at Princeton three decades ago, that is decisive for Sotomayor. Mr. Taylor is a fraud.
But our winner, the unidentified owners of as many as ten Burger King stores in the Memphis area. The local alternative newspaper captured images of Burger Kings signs outside each of the stores which read "global warming is baloney." The burger might be baloney. "Memphis Flyer" reporter Chris Davis called one of the restaurants and asked, it reflects the opinion of BK International. The answer came, yes. Would you like to talk to the home office? I can give you a number.
It turned out it was not reporter Davis who wound up having to talk to the home office. Within a day, the signs had been removed and a spokesman for the home office said they never should have been put up, were not authorized, and were not Burger King's corporate opinion, possibly because, as the environmental blog of the British newspaper "The Guardian" notes, John Chidsey, the company's CEO, believes that climate change is, quote, an overriding issue of importance to the global community, business community and people in general, unquote.
Presumably, this upstanding CEO, Mr. Chidsey, sent the Klingons to the offending Memphis Burger Kings to take their signs over. From those Memphis franchise owners, today's worst persons in the world!
OLBERMANN: No person alive has seen what happened, or seen happen what might be happening right now in American politics. I might be wrong about that. There might be some 167-year-old out there, who is lying about his age, who has a clear memory of this country's Whig Party disintegrating between 1852 and 1856, and who could tell us, yes, what the Republicans are doing right now, that is how it started for those poor Whigs.
It's our number one story, tonight's WTF moment.
This story takes us to Marathon County, Wisconsin, and a man named Kevin Stephenson. A little more than two months ago, the local newspaper, "The Wassau Daily Herald," printed his regular guest column in which he criticized Boss Limbaugh. "Sadly," he wrote, "today's politics is full of self-interest. Rush Limbaugh is not a politician. He does believe in conservatism and has a forum to express his views. You must admit that he has a large and loyal following, but so does Rachel Maddow as an extreme liberal. Both of these people need to shock to keep their ratings high. They are entertainers who earn their living by what they say, not what they accomplish.
"Republicans do not agree with all of the president's policies, but no one wants him to fail as president. That's because when leaders fail, so do their followers. No good citizen wants the United States to fail. Some may think that he will fail, but this is far different from wanting him to fail."
Last week, because of that article, Mr. Stephenson lost his job. This is not some instance of external revenge by Limbaugh, or Rachel, some back channel retribution from Limbaugh's corporate masters, Clear Channel Communications. This isn't a freedom of the press issue. You can put down your calendar. You do not have to meet at the barricades. This has nothing with violations of Mr. Stephenson's First Amendment rights to free speech.
That is all true, because the job from which Mr. Stephenson was fired was that of spokesman for the Marathon County, Wisconsin Republican Party. Last Thursday, when that county party met, it, to quote Mr. Stephenson, got hostile and it got personal.
"They felt I was too moderate in what I was speaking and printing." The Marathon county Republicans, for reasons known only to themselves, dismissed their spokesman on a technicality about where he lived. And then the former county president, and still local Republican treasurer, blew the lid off that excuse.
"If the leadership had wanted a more moderate position, we would have let him continue," said Kevin Hermening to the local paper.
"This is just part of what you are seeing nationwide," the fired Mr. Stephenson concluded. "Party members know that I don't agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is hurting more than helping us."
The more you hear from Mr. Stephenson, the more apparent it becomes that he is exactly the kind of guy whom 20 years ago the Republicans would have embraced. Upon his firing, he issued a statement: "the most imminent danger facing the Republican party comes from within. A growing party embraces its differences and uses the strength of its differences in a positive manner. Differences should not be feared but embraced, as we as Americans are a mixture of diverse cultures with a rich history. The Republican party is at a crossroads. Purging people who have differences from its ranks will ensure it remains a minority party well into the future. The direction the Republican party chooses, not the Democratic party, will determine its fate."
Purging; an ugly word but the correct one. If you don't agree with the extremism of Limbaugh, you are out. Ask Arlen Specter, Michael Steele, Congressman Gingrey, John McCain, Roberta McCain, Meghan McCain. And if you point out that it is extremism, one of the guys escorting you out the door will shout, extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. The odds are pretty good that the screamer will know that is Barry Goldwater he is quoting. The odds are also pretty good that the screamer will never have made that great intellectual leap to the realization that 110 days after Barry Goldwater uttered that immortal manifesto, he lost the election by 16 million votes, and 434 of them in the electoral college.
The problem is, then and now, if you keep showing people the door, sooner or later, there will be more people outside the door than inside it with you.
This brings us back to the hypothetical 167 year old viewer who is saying, I warned Daniel Webster about this in 1852, and he didn't listen to me either. The Whig Party was half of the American two-party system. It rose to prominence by being the party of no, in fierce opposition to the then dominant Democrats. The Whigs managed to elect William Henry Harrison president, and then Zachary Taylor. The party included them and Daniel Webster, and the famous Senator Henry Clay, and former and future presidents like John Quincy Adams, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore.
As the 1850's began, the Whigs had an incredible advantage as well. The Democrats were descending into a pro-slavery position. Whereupon the pro-slavery faction in the Whig party started to expel the anti-slavery Whigs. Then they put the squeeze on the Whigs who were merely neutral or moderate about slavery. It was a purge, a cleansing of those who were not conservative enough to be Whigs.
So the local Whig party leader in Illinois quit the party. In fact, he quit politics. He went back to being a lawyer. His name was Abraham Lincoln. But the Whigs kept their party pure. Extremism in the defense of what they believed was liberty was no vice. And by 1860, the Whigs had no candidates. They didn't even hold a convention.
Kevin Stephenson is not Abraham Lincoln. And ultra-conservative rage of today is not the issue of slavery. And the Republicans are not the Whigs, not yet anyway. But no organization, political or otherwise, collapses only from the top. Just as you have to screw it up nationally, so to do you have to unravel down to the grass roots. As the firing of Mr. Stephenson by the Marathon County GOP suggests, the one area in which Republicans are firing on all cylinders is firing moderate Republicans.
That's Countdown for this the 2,224th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END