'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, June 3
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guest: Ryan Lizza, Chris Hayes
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
"Sotomayor is not a racist," Newt Gingrich recants. "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person even if her words themselves are unacceptable." Meaning: The GOP is now no longer big enough for Gingrich and Limbaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm not retracting it. Nobody's refuted it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Some of the mud flies backwards. Manuel Miranda, self-appointed high inquisitor of the push to filibuster the nomination, says, quote, "Hispanic polls, Hispanic surveys indicate that Hispanics think just like everyone else. We're not like African-Americans. We think just like everybody else." Oops!
The secret Obama plan to dismantle the GOP - well, dismantle it more. Republican Congressman McHugh is secretary of the Army, ex-Republican Congressman Leach to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, Republican Utah Governor Huntsman to ambassador to China. Coincidence? I think not.
Secret briefing: The former vice president personally oversaw at least four briefings with senior members of Congress to defend torture. But this was not until 2005, long after it was supposedly over.
Obama in Riyadh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty's counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The insights from Richard Wolffe, author of the new biography of a campaign, "Renegade."
And the insults from Limbaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Lets compare the number of Muslims who have been Nobel Prize winners to the number of Jews who have been Nobel Prize winners, and I don't think it's a contest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course, 20 months ago, somebody said the Nobel Prize Committee had lost all credibility long before they gave this award - and that somebody was: Mr. Bouncy Bouncy.
And the president has nearly finished reading a novel. He began in the middle of April. Well, OK, he's been busy. But how come his predecessor turns out to have read 186 books in his last two years in office? It's tonight's WTF Moment.
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Once I get going on this - on this book, I'll be able to get her done.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
When Barack Obama took the oath of office, he placed his hand on the same Bible used by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to swear in President Abraham Lincoln. Judge Taney was a devout supporter of slavery, author of the Dred Scott decision which decreed African-Americans an inferior race, a legal interpretation that just might have at least in part by the judge's life experience, as a white man.
In our fifth story tonight: Two of the white males who have called Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist, they're retracting some of their remarks about her, sort of. At first, it turns out that the elected Republicans, the ones who will vote on Sotomayor have already thrown in the towel. Senator John Cornyn of the judiciary committee telling "The New York Times," quote, "We don't have enough Republicans to filibuster even if we wanted to, which I don't think we do."
Former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, today, while so-calling Sotomayor a radical - the day after two of the most prominent conservative judges of the country upheld her ruling on gun control - acknowledging the impact of those fellow Republicans who criticized him for calling Sotomayor a racist in relation to her hope that a wise Latina judge would rule better than a white male judge might.
Gingrich today writing, quote, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable." Unacceptable despite the fact that almost identical words of hers were not only acceptable, but not even unworthy of comment during her lower court confirmation back in 1998.
"The Plum Line" blog reporting that a 1994 speech, with almost the same line, addressing gender alone not ethnicity, was given to the Republican senators as part of her questionnaire package in 1998. No indication that anybody raised the complaint then, including Republicans who voted for her then.
And then, of course, on the outline frontiers of humanity, we find - as always - Mr. Bouncy. Rush Limbaugh, like Mr. Gingrich, is issuing a retraction today. Unlike Mr. Gingrich, standing his claim that Sotomayor is a racist, now, Limbaugh now admitting to a flip-flop on his opposition to her nomination itself, claiming he might actually support Judge Sotomayor - which all sounds very moderate and normal and sane-like, until you hear the entertainer's latest attempted outrage, saying, not surprising for him, it's OK to have a racist on the high court and explaining why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Normally, liberals do have a record. I mean, when they're pro choice, man, they champion it, and they shout it from the mountaintops, they trumpet it. She hasn't. So, I can see a possibility of supporting this nomination, if I could be convinced that she does have a sensibility toward life, in a legal sense. I'm saying is if she's a pro-life racist, I may have to change my view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time to bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."
Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, this sounds like Roger Taney's second chance. I mean, in, you know, in Limbaugh-land, it's OK for a member of the Supreme Court to discriminate against blacks and Latinos as soon as they have left the womb, right?
ROBINSON: Right. Absolutely, you could - she could discriminate against even white males, I think, as long as they have left the womb. I mean, it is really - it's an extraordinary kind of formulation that Limbaugh has come up with, and I have to assume that this is his way of kind of climbing down from this ridiculous rickety perch that he put himself on.
And indeed, he's going to look awfully dumb, you know, when she gets confirmed and when her record is fully exposed as that of, guess what? A moderate experienced jurist who would be a dandy Supreme Court justice.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, he's gotten himself down to another rickety perch. But in the interim, Mr. Gingrich .
OLBERMANN: . he did not apologize, did not even use the active tenses, says the word "racist" should not have been used. And in the same essay, without a shred of irony or recognition, he says, "All men (and today we should say all men and women) are equated equal." Do you he does even see that even he is applying in that case gender sensitivity in order to more fully realize the intentions of the Founding Fathers?
ROBINSON: You know, I think he probably doesn't. And it's amazing. He apparently doesn't realize actually that he was the one who called her a racist, because he says, of course, the word 'racist' should not have been used, mistakes should not have been made, you know, whoever used that word shouldn't have done it.
It's - he may just have that blind spot and not be able to look at white men as the way he looks at, say, Latina women, and - you know, and apply the same sorts of rules.
OLBERMANN: But where does that notion in its larger form come from that when minorities apply their life experiences to the law, it's bias, it's racism, but that, you know, white male-influenced law is presumably the real objective law. Is this - what is this - reverse racism?
ROBINSON: Well, when that is a conscious pattern of thought and argument, then I think you would have to call it plain old racism and plain old sexism. I think, more often, it is an assumption, it's almost a kind of bedrock axiom of the world that some people just take as a given without even considering that it has to be acknowledged or that it's even there - that, of course, you know, my way of looking at the world is the correct way of looking at the world and everybody else is other.
And, you know, that assumption is - despite all the progress we have made on racism in this country and let me, you know, say flat out, of course, we've made enormous strides, first African-American president is certainly evidence of that. But that attitude, that white male equals normal and everything else equals exotic or other, has not diminished much, I think, in this society. And maybe this is a teachable moment.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And we still get those police suspect reports that it's a black male as opposed to just a male, which still exists in some parts of the country.
Senator Sessions - one political note on this - the ranking Republican ranking on the judiciary, he said, it's good that Gingrich pulled back; you mentioned the sort of bizarre fig leaf that Limbaugh has created for himself - are the remnants of the Republican Party trying to stitch themselves back together? What's going on there politically?
ROBINSON: I believe so. I believe - certainly, the smart people of the Republican Party and certainly the elected officials that have to stand up for election realize that they were attacking Sotomayor on grounds that could not be sustained because they bore no relation to the truth. They were trying to attack her as a racist, she's not a racist. They're trying to attack her as having some sort of bias toward minorities, she doesn't - it's not in the record. They're trying to attack her as a judicial activist, she's not - it's not in the record.
And as people examine her 17 years worth of decisions on the federal bench, I think they realize that this is just ridiculous allegation to apply to her, given what she has done in her career as a judge.
So, I do think it's a climb down and I think, in the end, the hearings and the confirmation might go much, much more smoothly than one would have imagined, say, a week ago.
OLBERMANN: Gene Robinson, our own political analyst, "The Washington Post" associate editor as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist - great thanks, as always, Gene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If the Sotomayor nomination enabled President Obama to sabotage Republican hopes for appealing to Latino voters, it also let him tossed a hand grenade into the rift between elected GOP officials and the unelected gas bags who empower them, it may not have been a unique instance.
Politico.com reporting on recent speculation and accusations that the president is executing a concerted strategy to cripple the Republican Party, apparently by cutting its legs out from under it while the party is distracted shooting itself in the foot.
The National Republican Congressional Committee responding to Mr. Obama's nomination of Republican Congressman John McHugh to serve as secretary of the Army buy saying thusly: "Rahm Emanuel was well aware of the political ramifications surrounding this selection when this plan was hatched."
What ramifications? The New York state is now down to two Republican members of Congress, the northeast having lost yet another prominent GOP moderate before the loss of Arlen Specter had even scabbed over and before Republican Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Obama's future ambassador to China, has packed his bags for Beijing.
And it's not as though Obama has not tried for others - Republican Senator Judd Gregg turning down the position of commerce secretary after initially going to take it (ph).
Let's turn to Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent of "The New Yorker" magazine.
Ryan, good evening.
RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The "Politico" piece says one part of this supposed plan is peel off, A, the moderates and, B, the non-southerners, thus you marginalize the Republicans ideologically and you marginalize them geographically. Is there - is there truth to this or are we taking the sort of the inadvertent side effect and making that into the cause?
LIZZA: Yes, exactly. I mean, I think, sometimes, on the outside, what looks like a master plan is inside the administration sort of ad hoc, this decision-making that we connect the dots on the outside.
But, look, on the individual cases, there's no doubt that the White House - which is very politically sophisticated obviously - knew the ramifications, they know the ramifications of making McHugh a member of the administration, that's a seat that Obama carried with 52 percent, but a seat that's not competitive for Democrats because this Republican McHugh is personally popular there. Now - that seat is now rated by Charlie Cook as a toss up.
In the Huntsman example, a few days after sent Huntsman packing for China, David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager in '08, was quoted as saying that Huntsman was the only one that made them a little queasy for 2012.
So, I don't think we're being too cynical in connecting the dots here.
OLBERMANN: But the really good Machiavellian political plan, of course, is the one that seems indistinguishable from doing pure good. I mean, if Republicans make a big deal about by partisanship and say, oh, the party in power is not doing anything about it, one of the answers then becomes - well, look at all the Republicans, we're not only involving, we're appointing, this is bipartisanship.
LIZZA: Right. That's right. Look, if you're going to - and there was a pledge by Obama as well. So, he's making good on a campaign pledge. And if you're going to be forced to be bipartisan, and you have to be showy about it, you might as well do it in the most partisan way you can.
I think - I think we have to start worrying if, for instance, Sarah Palin becomes the ambassador to Russia based on her expertise, or Romney becomes the ambassador to France based on his Paris missionary work. Then, I would start to worry about this master plan.
OLBERMANN: I can see that the litigation from my house.
Even if the Republicans were right and Obama was siphoning off remaining Republican moderates, is there not a kind of period syncopation here between Obama and the right-wing of the GOP, which also does not think moderates belong in the Republican Party?
LIZZA: That's true, I mean, look, if you are - I mean, one of the - the serious point is what Obama is doing is he's trying his best to make the party of Obama for - you know, it's not the Democratic Party, so, you know, this Obama administration, it is very much about him personally - he's trying to make this party more hospitable for a certain brand of Republicans than, frankly, the current GOP is.
I mean, the turning point and the eye-opening moment was when Dick Cheney said that this party should be more about Rush Limbaugh than Colin Powell. If you are a Republican in a district like McHugh is in, or you're a Colin Powell Republican, that's a chilling statement to hear from your former vice president.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker" - as always, great thanks, Ryan.
LIZZA: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Bringing the other side into your confidence fulfills that old bromide about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. But it can also fulfill another old bromide about covering your fanny at all times. Revelations now that Dick Cheney personally oversaw four congressional briefings about so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. The briefings started and ended in 2005, the techniques supposedly ended in 2003.
Now, why would you brief Congress on techniques you weren't using anymore, unless you were still actually using them or unless you just wanted to be able to later claim that - sure, you briefed those Democrats?
OLBERMANN: See, the Bush White House did, too, give Congress secret, classified briefings about enhanced interrogation. Those were (ph) the briefings with Dick Cheney and the room and everything three years after the torture began.
Worsts: The same Rush Limbaugh who disparaged the Nobel Prize as tainted and meaningless now says the fact that Muslims have not won a lot of them an indicator of how bad they are.
And tonight's other WTF Moment: Your choice, a president who has enough spare time to read one novel or non-workbook a week, or a president who's been reading the same novel since the middle of April?
All ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Revelations today that former Vice President Cheney was personally involved in briefings with senior congressional leaders aimed at defending enhanced interrogation techniques.
Our fourth story on the Countdown: The curious sidebar here, the briefings were in 2005, three years after the techniques were introduced - kind of like telling Congress: we're going to use atomic bombs against the Japanese, telling them in 1948.
Mr. Cheney attended at least four classified CIA briefings with senior congressional leaders beginning in the winter of 2005, according to "The Washington Post." The Cheney meetings coincided with a key period during which Congress was considering the Detainee Treatment Act barring the use of cruel and inhuman interrogation methods, as if they hadn't already been barred, and congressional leaders were also threatening to investigate even scrapped techniques like waterboarding.
Cheney's name was left out of CIA documents sent to Capitol Hill last month, detailing 40 of those classified meetings. But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham describes the former vice president's involvement this way, quote, "His office was ground zero. It was his office you dealt with at the end of the day."
Cheney's attempts to sway Congress went even further. In July of 2005, he said his chief counsel, David Addington, to Guantanamo Bay with five senators, including four opposed to the interrogation methods. That would be the same David Addington, who, in 1987, along with Mr. Cheney, authored the House Intelligence minority report that said that the president could basically break the law when defending the nation.
When Senator Graham, a military lawyer, questioned relying on executive orders and secret Justice Department rulings, Addington waved a copy of the Constitution at Graham and said, "I've got all the authority I need right here."
Let's bring in the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I think the question here isn't why Cheney, isn't it - why 2005?
HAYES: Yes. Well, I mean, the timing I think was motivated entirely by the wrestling match, frankly, that was going on on Capitol Hill. I mean, we had this strange thing happen - these policies were implemented kind of under cover of darkness. We don't know really the full amount of briefing that went on in the legislative branches in, say, 2003 and 2004.
In 2004, we had a campaign in which none of this was mentioned because John Kerry was terrified to make this a campaign issue, and then it exploded in 2005. And we finally - largely because you have John McCain and Lindsey Graham on the Republican side questioning the nature of the policy that had been put in place, you had a kind of rebellion on Capitol Hill. I think these briefings - they weren't informal briefings - they were essentially intergovernmental lobbying opportunities that Dick Cheney was taking on.
OLBERMANN: Underlying the point, they certainly weren't political - in any event, not directly so - they were not in the vein of a White House congressional liaison, they were classified.
OLBERMANN: The kind of thing that the director of the CIA, at that point, Mr. Hayden would lead sometimes. Were they done in part so they could also say later - oh, o, no, no, we briefed everybody?
HAYES: Well, I think there's part of that. I mean, I think that - the earlier briefings, I think that was largely the case. The one that, you know, we know on the warrantless wiretapping, the briefings they did where they read in, say, Senator Jay Rockefeller and he wrote, he had to write a letter saying, "I'm really not so cool with this," because it was classified, he couldn't say anything. So, part of the briefing was that.
But in this specific moment, I think this was a weird kind of conflation of some sort of official intelligence briefing in which, ostensibly, you're having sort of civil servants and government bureaucrats read in on members of Congress in the details and essentially, a kind of a political power play by Cheney to make sure that Congress didn't sort of cut off the authority that he thought that resided in the executive branch.
So, it's a weird kind of blurring of roles to have the CIA career officer sitting there in the room and, you know, lurking over your shoulder is Dick Cheney kind of nodding in the background.
OLBERMANN: Did we learn anything more today about exactly when some lawmakers would have known that waterboarding specifically had been used?
HAYES: Well, unfortunately, we didn't because the briefings that are sort of at issue are briefings that happened earlier. So, we know there were briefings earlier - as far as we know, Dick Cheney wasn't involved in those, although, you know, we're getting new revelations all the time. So, maybe he was there as well.
But, as far was we currently know, we know, A, they were briefings.
We know Dick Cheney or we think we know that Dick Cheney wasn't in there. They were given by the CIA and we just don't know the substance of what happened in that room. That's where the kind of, you know, conflicting accounts regarding Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had been.
But on this specific revelation of today's "Washington Post," it doesn't move the ball any further in terms of what actually was discussed in those meetings.
OLBERMANN: Does it move the ball further on trying to identify whether Cheney was, again, in these things, trying to operate on this line of, "as long as the president does it, that means it's legal"?
HAYES: Yes. And more than that, I mean, that clearly is what they thought and that's what Addington thought that they had this absolutely insane conception of executive authority. But even more than that, it shows just how - I mean, it's a really sort of bizarre kind of situation in which you have the vice president going over to kind of - to fight tooth and nail to keep what is essentially his kind of pet program. I mean, more and more we're seeing the continuity that this really was Dick Cheney's jihad.
OLBERMANN: Extraordinary. Chris Hayes of "The Nation" - great thanks, as always, Chris. Have a good night.
HAYES: Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: Here's a change. At a beauty pageant, it's not the contestants stumbling all over themselves but the emcee. Oh, boy.
And one day Mr. Bouncy Bouncy is disparaging the Nobel Prizes, the next day, he's declaring that the Muslims are terrible people because they haven't won enough Nobel Prizes.
Worst Persons is ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1789, explorer Andrew Mackenzie set forth from Saskatchewan in search a northwest passage to the Pacific - and roughly six weeks later, discovered the McKenzie River. How did it take him six weeks to find his own river?
Let's play Oddball.
It wasn't named that, but - and never mind.
We begin in at Shirley Express convenience store in Shirley, New York, where a crook has brought a baseball bat to a rifle fight. Surely, you can't be serious. When the bat wielding thug entered his convenience store, owner Mohammad Sohail turned the table by grabbing the rifle he kept beneath his counter. With the man on his knees begging forgiveness, saying he just needed to feed his family, Sohail took pity on the man, he did not call police, he instead gave the guy 40 bucks and a loaf of bread.
He then said he converted the masked man to Islam. Give a penny, take a religion. The new convert then slink out the door and although Johnny Law would still like a word with him, Sohail says he will not press charges now.
To the Internets, where we catch up with the Czech Republic's Miss 2009 contest already in progress. Here now our master of ceremonies, Jan Crowson (ph). OK. Jan Crowson (ph) - that's Jan Crowson at the Miss 2009 contest, who almost missed the rest of 2009 because he forgot to look down.
Oh, and thanks for the help, ladies on these swings.
And into Palm Beach, and American automakers take note, you want to move products, how about kittens in the engine bloc. It could be cute. After sitting idle for weeks, the owner of this minivan tried turning the thing over, and it was not the engine that he heard purring. The hood was pooped, two kitties made a run for it, two more were yanked out of the works, startled by unharmed.
The fur balls were transported to an animal shelter where later their cousin Tootzie (ph) drove by and bail them out.
The president in Saudi Arabia today, another outreach to the Muslim world, so much of one that Osama bin Laden has apparently been forced to issue a rebuttal.
And the news that the former president used to have an annual book reading contest with Karl Rove. And for three weeks, he averaged better than one book per week. Maybe that's it. Maybe Mr. Bush thought it was a part-time job.
Tonight's WTF Moment - ahead.
OLBERMANN: Canadian explorer is Alexander McKenzie. Andrew McKenzie is a fashion designer.
"I thought it was very important," he said, "to come to the place where Islam began." Our third story in the Countdown, the new American president explaining why he felt it necessary to travel to Saudi Arabia today, not to impose democracy on an entire region, not to remake a Middle East in his own image, not to reinforce his family's personal relationship with that nation's oil barons.
Something new. President Obama today arriving in Riyadh, his first visit to Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers. The president seeking the counsel of King Abdullah as he puts the finishing touches on the speech he will give tomorrow in Cairo about the US relationship with followers of Islam.
Osama bin Laden responding by releasing what appears to be a new audio recording, in which he threatens America, accuses President Obama of being no different towards Muslims that was his predecessor, Mr. Bush. Quote, "Obama has followed the footsteps of his predecessor in increasing animosity towards Muslims and increasing enemy fighters, in establishing long term wars. The American people should get ready to reap the fruits of the leaders of the White House have planted throughout the coming years and decades."
White House Press Secretary Gibbs, briefing in Riyadh, dismissed the distraction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it's surprising that al Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president's historic efforts and continued efforts to reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own political analyst Richard Wolffe, the author of the new book, "Renegade, the Making of a President." Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, "RENEGADE": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Should anybody be surprised at this president's attempt to bridge this divide with the Muslim world by, of all things, you know, talking to them?
WOLFFE: Yes, if anybody's surprised, they were probably sleeping for the last two years. This is a candidate who said that he would talk to the North Koreans and the Iranians. Why wouldn't he talk to regular Muslim people around the world?
I have seen the criticism from the right. Apparently, the last eight years were really successful in terms of winning hearts and minds among Muslims. And there's no need to do anything but bomb the hell out of them. You know, if people don't want to win the battle for public opinion in the Muslim world, then they can retrench and retreat behind their borders, and I guess forget the pictures of President Bush holding hands with the Saudi king at his ranch, and pretend that there's another world.
OLBERMANN: To help him with his foreign policy goals, obviously the president had chosen Hillary Clinton, then Senator Clinton, to be secretary of state. And in your new book, you wrote that, remarkably, he made this choice before the heated fight for the Democratic nomination was even over. Let me quote it exactly, "the person most positive about Hillary Clinton was Barack, said one senior adviser aid. He always said she's smart. She's very talented, and obviously a woman with her own following. Obama was willing to leave the primaries behind, including his own strong feelings at the time."
Was there blow back from his staff about that? Did anybody say, yes, but what about political grudges?
WOLFFE: They did. And not just his staff, you know, the rancor and bitterness was there on both sides, as I report out in the book, even in the transition period. So this is a lot, lot later than he made his decision. People were saying, don't worry, Hillary Clinton is over the primaries. He said, believe me, she's not over it yet.
And he was talking about himself too. To set this aside as early as he did, he told me in the Oval Office, it was before the primaries ended. It is an extraordinary way of him doing that forward thinking, that strategic thinking that really separates him from the rest of the crowd. And it's not like their personal rivalries are not there. They are, by all accounts, working exceptionally well together.
But among those staffers around them and supporters and friends, those memories have not gone away.
OLBERMANN: There's a lot of great substance in the book, and there's also little pin-points of less deep but certainly no less well known events that were critical in this campaign. That catch phrase, that signature of the 2008 campaign, the phrase, "yes, we can," almost never happened? The chief speechwriter didn't like it?
WOLFFE: That's right. You know, they were toying around with ideas, phrases in the couple of days before New Hampshire, that big New Hampshire speech. And the speechwriter, the young guy, Jon Favreaux, tremendously talented - someone said to him, you know, yes, we can, that's a great phrase. The candidate, then Senator Obama, had used it in a debate. So why don't we use that. Favreaux said, because I don't want people to go chant, yes, we can, which is exactly what they did. In fact, Will.I.Am did it.
It was a pick me up. I think now, looking back, Favreaux might say it was a good speech. In fact, people around him said it was his best speech. But he didn't want to do it.
OLBERMANN: Another great moment in this, the then Senator Obama response to the selection of Governor Palin as McCain's running mate. Again to quote your book, "it was basically sort of a Hail Mary pass, Obama told me on his campaign plane, as the polls turned back in his favor. They were just flailing. It was sort of like you've got to do something."
It's about a year ago now a Republican said to me, look, if at convention time McCain sees he's down, likely to lose one, two, three points, he'll go safe. It will Tim Pawlenty. Maybe on a whim it would be Tom Ridge. But if it's four, five, six, he's going to use - and the exact phrase the guy used was throw a Hail Mary, Sarah Palin. You have written about how Obama reacted. But did he see it coming? Was it a complete surprise to him?
WOLFFE: They were surprised. They didn't know how to react on the day. There was disdain. They had to recalibrate that. It was too rude in public and they had to be a bit more respectful. The interesting thing, as I point out in the book, was that Sarah Palin was a huge help to the Obama campaign because people got so panicked and so terrified that the campaign raised 25 million dollars on the back of her that paid for a ton of ads, positive ads, negative ads, paid for that 30-minute prime time show. She was a big help to Obama in the end.
OLBERMANN: I can see your show from my house. Finally, we have already talked this week about the fact that it was Mr. Obama's idea that you should write this book. Has he read it yet?
WOLFFE: I don't know that he has. I'm told they have a very long flight to the Middle East, and they need something to kill the time with. Ask me in a few days.
OLBERMANN: Well, to that point in a moment. Richard Wolffe, the new book is "Renegade, The Making of a President." Great thanks, as always, for your time, my friend. Great luck with this book.
WOLFFE: Many thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of books, the president tells the BBC he's reading a novel called "Netherland," just as we were told a month ago that he was reading a novel called "Netherland." And as we learned in April, he had started to read a novel called "Netherland." So how did the previous president read 186 books in his last three years on the job? Tonight's WTF moment.
And in worsts, nothing like the self-appointed leader of the push to filibuster Judge Sotomayor saying he and his fellow Hispanics, quote, "we're not like African-Americans. We think just like everybody else."
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, more on the assassination of Dr. George Tiller and the clues connecting murder suspect Scott Roeder to Operation Rescue.
But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration's 50 running scandals, still Bushed.
Number three, stall-gate. Overlooked in the Dick Cheney tries to white wash Dick Cheney interview was this tidbit. He said President Bush deliberately avoided making a decision about the future of General Motors so that President Obama would have to. "I thought that eventually the right outcome was going to be bankruptcy. It had to go through such a dramatic restructuring to have any chance of survival, that they had to be able to renegotiate the labor contracts and so forth. And the president decided that he didn't want to be the one to pull the plug just before he left office."
Cheney went on to explain how magnanimous a gesture this was for Mr. Bush, that putting a band aid on GM would permit the Obama administration to decide what it wanted to do with the company, instead of being left with an instant crisis by its predecessor. Of course, because Bush and Cheney didn't leave any instant crises for Obama, like the economy or Iraq or GM and the auto industry.
Number two, he kept us safe-gate. BS says a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, the former head of its Soviet division, Milton Bearden. In an interview, of any terror plot stopped by enhanced interrogation, Bearden says, quote, "I cannot imagine that the system would not have leaked such a story. It would have been leaked in a New York minute."
As to the whole point, "they drudge up the slapstick plot of the Liberty Seven or the strange Iyman Faris plot, which included a blow torch. When asked for something more substantive, the Bush administration retreated behind the screen of protecting sources and methods. We are told to trust them."
Iyman Faris was the alleged terrorist, and/or FBI double agent, who said he was plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting the suspension cables with a blow torch. It would have been really entertaining. It would have only taken him five or six hours. And it would not have caused the bridge to collapse.
Number one, Chutzpah-gate. The Halliburton spinoff KBR, whose shoddy electrical wiring in Iraq killed at least four, and maybe as many as 18 American soldiers - Now William Body, KBR's interim president of Government and Infrastructure, has issued a statement which identifies the real culprits in the death of American service personnel, the media. He called coverage of the blood on KBR's hands a, quote, "politically driven campaign consisting of false reports and innuendo."
Specifically, in the case of electrocuted Green Beret Ryan Massa (ph), Body said KBR had only been hired by the U.S. military to perform limited maintenance on the building, and the real culprits were the Iraqi contractors. Body said KBR was committed to, quote, fact based dialogue about the electrocutions. To which the late Ryan Massa's mother said it all, "if Mr. Body wants a fact based dialogue on this issue, he should tell KBR's lawyers to stop trying to prevent him from testifying in this case.
OLBERMANN: This president appears to have been reading a new novel, one he really likes, for nearly two months. The last president proves to have enough time off to read a new novel or a non-fiction book every week. Tonight's WTF moment next. But first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Manuel Miranda, the ex-Bill Frist aide and noted computer hacker, now leading the conservative push to force a filibuster on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sotomayor. He told the Heritage Foundation - I know, that's the opening line of every joke you've ever heard. He told the Heritage Foundation, quote, "Hispanic polls, Hispanic surveys indicate that Hispanics think just like everyone else. We're not like African-Americans. We think just like everybody else."
Oh dear. Do you guys still want this chowder head out in front of your filibuster fight now that he's been identified as an email thief and a racist?
The runner up, Congressman Jim Jordan, Republican Congressman from the fourth district of Ohio. As part of its bankruptcy, GM just closed its plant in his district. Nobody's rooting for that, obviously, but Jordan has now demanded that it be reopened by President Obama. Quote, "President Obama took the unprecedented step of intervening in private business by replacing the former CEO of General Motors. He can certainly take the honorable step in reversing his decision to close down our good General Motors facility."
He took the opportunity to accuse Obama of micromanaging the automobile industry without the thought even apparently floating across his brain that what he is doing is insisting that Obama must micromanage the automobile industry, but only for the GM plant in Ontario, Ohio. The rest of the industry can go to hell.
But our winner, Boss Limbaugh. Even for him this hypocrisy is gigantic. To rip Obama's visit to the Middle East, he needed to rip the Muslim faith and thus he says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Folks, the current Islamist identity of Islam, the terrorist wing of Islam, which is what it is most known for today, is trying to take us back to the Seventh Century. I know this is going to defend some people. But we're going to have to look at the Nobel Prize winners and we're going to see how many Muslims are there. And I can really anger some people if I said, let's compare the number of Muslims that have been Nobel Prize winners to the number of Jews who have been Nobel Prize Winners. And I don't think it's a contest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You anger anybody with a brain. So don't worry about it now. But when you completely contradict yourself, worry about it. Suddenly, the Nobel Prize is an indicator to you of intelligence or goodness or the pursuit of peace or something? So where you having an out of body experience on October 12, 2007, when you said, quote, "the Nobel Committee here has officially rendered themselves a pure 100 percent joke. Nothing says I'm smart quite like an award from a bunch of socialist Swedes, much the same way as the Nobel Prize gave credence to Jimmy Carter's anti-Semitism, and Yasser Arafat's peace campaign. The Nobel Committee has lost all credibility long before they gave this award. The Nobel has dishonored itself here, and their prize. So they've dishonored the award, actually long before Jimmy Carter or Yasser Arafat."
All that from Mr. Bouncy Bouncy was, of course, the day the Nobel Prize was given to Al Gore. So unless you're an utter hypocrite, what you're saying now is the fewer Nobel Prizes people get, like Muslims, the better they are. Rush Limbaugh, outsmarting himself yet again, and today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Until Dick Cheney eclipsed it with his own tour of the CYA variety, the most prominent public effort by the Republicans this year had been the George W. Bush presidential legacy tour. Even if under-publicized at the moment, it is still continuing. But now, it has hit a huge land mine, a fact about George Bush's presidency that may overwhelm every other symbol of it.
It is, with great irony, about reading. It is that the previous president had enough time to read one or two books per week. It is our number one story, tonight's WTF moment.
Apparently, this is the current occupant's president, as an ordinary guy, behind the scenes interview week. He did one of those unprecedented access performances with Britain's BBC. So this quote comes from yesterday.
Justin Webb, "reading anything at the moment?"
President Obama, "you know, I'm reading a book called 'Netherland,' by Joseph O'Neill, almost finished, excellent novel."
Justin Webb, "we'll let you get back to it. I'm sure you have other things to do."
Before you wonder just how stoked Mr. O'Neill is at the presidential plug, consider this from our friend Howard Fineman, who published it online for MSNBC on May 6th: "here's a small but revealing sliver of news concerning our cool, hard to fathom president: according to his closest adviser David Axelrod, Barack Obama really likes the novel he's reading right now. In fact, he like is a lot. It is the first non-business reading he's allowed himself since Inauguration Day. The first novel by the First Reader, revealed by David Leonhardt in the "New York Times" is 'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill."
Revealed by David Leonhardt of the "New York Times," you say. That would have been on April 28, but it referred to an interview he had with Mr. Obama two weeks earlier on the 14th. "At the end our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings, 'Netherland,' by Joseph O'Neill."
Oh, begun reading it on April 14 and he's nearly finished, you say?
One suspects this is no indictment of the quality of the pros or the plot. He is the president of the United States. He's busy. He can't spend all his time reading books or watching, say, cable chatter on television. Frankly, I don't want the president to have more time to read books than I do. This is where we double back to Mr. Bush.
I don't read a lot of Karl Roves columns in the 'wall Street Journal,' but frankly, even if I did, I don't think I know of anything I would like to read less than a Karl Rove column at Christmas time. Yet here, helpfully resurrected, is part of his Yuletide offering from last December 26th. "With only five days left, my lead is insurmountable. The competition can't catch up. And for the third year in a row, I'll triumph. In second place will be the president of the United States. Our contest is not about sport or politics. It's about books. It all started on New Year's Eve in 2005. President Bush asked what my New Year's resolutions were. I told him that as a regular reader who had gotten out of the habit, by goal was to read a book a week in 2006. Three days later, we were in the Oval Office when he fixed me in his sights and said, I'm on my second, where are you? Mr. Bush had turned my resolution into a contest," et cetera, et cetera.
Rove revealed that in 2006 he had read 110 books to Mr. Bush's 95. In 2007, it was 76 books to Bush's 51. And as of that last week of last year, 2008 was Rove 64, Bush 40.
Rove tells us that during the three years of the contest, Bush read a lot of history and biography - of course biography is merely history made specific - about Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Genghis Khan and LBJ, Huey Long, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, King Leopold, the English speaking peoples, the manhunt for Lincoln's assassin, Khrushchev, Andrew Mellon, Dean Acheson, Vienna in 1814, FDR, the Spanish Civil War and Babe Ruth.
The mind reels. For eight years, history ran hot and cold through every minute of George Bush's life. He was knee deep in it, carried by it, reckless with it, desperate to influence it. Instead of staying focused on it, he preferred to read about it.
Unless he took Evelyn Woods' speed reading course in his '20s, Mr. Bush clearly made some terrible choices during his presidency, reading about King Leopold instead of reading about the economy. Reading about Genghis Khan instead of reading about A.Q. Khan. Reading about the Spanish Civil War instead of reading about the Iraq civil war. Reading, reading, reading; at a pace that never got significantly below a book a week, and often approached two of them.
What anyone with, say, a full-time job could only dream of doing. So here is the true Bushian legacy finally evident: the man who read too much. Ironic, that, considering the infamy of him reading "My Pet Goat" on that Tuesday morning, so many Septembers ago. Ironic that, considering that a month earlier, in the most prime of reading venues, at the ranch, after a hard six months plus of not really doing anything yet as president, it was what he didn't read that made all the difference in the world. That day that they brought him the broad strokes of 9/11 in booklet form.
Too bad, Mr. Bush. Next time less Babe Ruth, more bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.
That's Countdown for this the 2,225th 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