'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, July 9
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: Generosity
Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Rush Holt, Margaret Carlson, Chris Cillizza
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Pelosi vindicated: The CIA director, at best, admitted the agency didn't keep Congress fully informed over the last eight years. The CIA director, at worst, admitted the agency misled Congress over the last eight years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know what you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hang out to dry. The Republicans are now trying to split the split, under-informed, misleading hair into under-informed misleading lying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I do not believe that the CIA lied to Congress. I'm still waiting for Speaker Pelosi to either put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize.
PELOSI: And as I told you, our success is driving the Republicans to destruction. Any excuse will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But what Congress not informed of, misled over, lied to about? Not interrogation - something new?
Palin's "save the taxpayers' money" excuse, that leaving office meant hundreds of thousands of dollars less in legal fees that Alaskans would have to pay to defend her against ethics charges - not true. A Palin spokesperson admits nearly all the money was pre-budgeted. It was going to state lawyers before there were any ethics investigations, and it will still be going to state lawyers after she leaves. She lied again.
New kids on the block: As the GOP tries to stain Justice-to-be Sotomayor, the new report on her ruling shows her to be surprisingly - middle of the road.
Worsts: Packing the cell phones, reading the financial accounts of Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle Macpherson, Nigella Lawson, and - no, that's not Chris. That's the mayor of London, England. And who did it? Not the Bush administration, not even another government.
And the new phrase just added to the Urban Dictionary: "Pullin' a Palin."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I'm certainly not a quitter. I'm a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And we have a few more new phrases to add, like "Writing an Ensign" and "Hiking the Old Appalachian Trail."
All of that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I used to organize hiking trips.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The same Republicans who say we cannot trust the government insisted today that there is one agency above suspicion - one government agency which would never, ever lie: the CIA. This despite today's admission from the CIA that while it is not CIA policy to lie, it wants credit for the director telling Congress about times the CIA did lie anyway.
In our fifth story tonight: The CIA clearly confirming last night's blockbuster revelation that Director Leon Panetta told Congress itself last month that, yes, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, the CIA has misled Congress since 2001 - after House Democrats last night reveal the letter they had sent to Panetta on June 26th referring to secret testimony he gave them as recently as two days prior, saying, quote, "You testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week." Based on that, the Democrats asked Panetta to revise his previous claim that it was not CIA policy or practice to mislead Congress.
Today, the agency both stood by the Panetta statement that concealing things from Congress is not policy but also implicitly confirmed the letter's central claim that Panetta revealed times when it happened anyway, quote, "It was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees." Notify of what - a matter still classified, still unknown.
This admission, however, insufficient to derail Republican politics. Republican Pete Hoekstra who two years ago said CIA briefers were not being forthcoming to him and Congress, suggesting today that Democrats are revealing Panetta's admission only to support a new bill that would give Congress more control over the briefings it gets from the CIA and thereby vindicate Pelosi's claim of inadequate briefings.
House Republican Leader John Boehner today is explaining that government's spies are totally trustworthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I've worked closely with our intelligence professionals, and they are that - professionals. And I do not believe that the CIA lied to Congress. I'm still waiting for Speaker Pelosi to either put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Speaker Pelosi, as Mr. Boehner knows full well, prohibited by law from producing facts about her 2002 briefing when she said she was note told about contemporary U.S. waterboarding. Today, she not only not apologizing for calling out CIA deception, but hinting that Congress is not yet done dealing with Mr. Panetta's secret briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The fact is, is that there is a briefing that is of serious concern to members of the committee, and they have their course of action to deal with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us tonight, New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt - who not only sits on the House Intelligence Committee but was one of the signatories of that June letter to Director Panetta.
Great thanks for your time tonight, Congressman.
REP. RUSH HOLT (D-NJ), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Do we have the parsing correct here? Is the CIA sticking to its story that deceiving Congress is not its policy, nor its official practice, but neither will the CIA deny that sometimes it happened anyway? Is that consistent with Director Panetta's testimony to you?
HOLT: You know, I think that's what the CIA is saying, although part of the reason we released the letter was that we got no response from the director. No action on the letter. What we were saying was, his statement in May - knowing what he knows and we know now - clearly was false.
Now, we're not just trying to catch him in a falsehood or ask for an apology or try to be let in on a secret here. The point we're trying to make is that there's a pattern of denial and deception - a pattern that ultimately affects the security of Americans, because unexamined behavior which is this pattern over not just months but the years into decades, the unexamined behavior can lead to dangerous damage.
OLBERMANN: And we're sorry for the technical glitch that interrupted the interview with Congressman Holt, which we hope to pick up again at some point in the future - Rush Holt of the intelligence committee.
Let's switch now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, a senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek" magazine.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm tempted to say that Leon Panetta works fast.
OLBERMANN: Or Boehner, it could have been either one of them.
You know, in hoping that we get to talk to the congressman again.
OLBERMANN: . in the interim, is there indication - all right, I'm going to hold off because Congressman Holt is back with us now.
OLBERMANN: So, we'll resume where we.
Congressman, when he a glitch in talking about the CIA openness. The picture and the sound suddenly went dead, which is kind of an irony by itself.
HOLT: Well, it's good to be back with you. It is ironic, isn't it?
I'm not sure where were you when you lost me but what we were saying in the letter was that the statement of May 4th was inaccurate. He knows it now, we know it, but we're not trying to catch him in that and ask for an apology or to be let in on that secret.
The point is we're trying to establish that there is a pattern of denial and deception, and ultimately that pattern hurts the national security, the safety of Americans. Because the point here is, this powerful organization, if it runs without oversight, if it is unexamined, if you don't know who's minding the store, real damage can be done - damage to people, here and abroad.
And - so, it's not about an internal beltway - inside the beltway tips. It's not about who knew what when and it's not to catch Mr. Panetta in, you know - a gotcha. It is to establish the fact that Congress must exert oversight for the sake of the safety of the American people.
And, you know, whether it's destroying tapes - as we know the CIA did. Or, you know, in a completely separate incident, the CIA inspector general said, quote, "The CIA did not fulfill its legal obligation to keep Congress and the National Security Council fully informed. The agency denied Congress the NSC and the Department of Justice access to the findings." Or whether it's as Mr. Hoekstra - you quoted him earlier - he said, you know, not so long ago, that we cannot have a community that operates outside the law, covers up what it does and lies to Congress.
I mean, there are plenty of examples of this. This letter that you're referring to that was released yesterday refers to only one, but an egregious example, a serious matter that went unexamined by Congress, because it was unknown to anyone in Congress for many years.
OLBERMANN: Well, and to that point, we're - secondarily, in terms of the importance in the overall structure of the relationship between the CIA and the country, never mine just the Congress, secondarily, there is this surprise that is referred to somewhat obliquely in here, Congresswoman Eshoo reported to "The Huffington Post" that Mr. Panetta stopped one program the day after he learned about it on June 23rd that your whole committee - she termed as - was stunned to learn what had been kept secret. Obviously, it's a secret.
Was this something we did not know about previously? Is there anything around the corners that you can tell us about it?
HOLT: We can't talk. I can't talk. None of us can talk about the contents of that - of that briefing. You'll note the tone of our letter is not accusatory of Mr. Panetta. It's true, he came to us voluntarily. It certainly raises questions why in May - after he'd been director for many months - he came to reveal this. He - I believe that it just came to his attention. You know, this culture of concealment - which is - can be really dangerous.
I mean, some of us in our generation remember Shamrock and COINTELPRO and some of these things from the '60s and the '70s that gave rise to the need for congressional oversight, the creation of the oversight committees in the first place. It is - you know, this is something that is not new.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans' suggestion here that this new intelligence bill with the tougher congressional oversight about CIA briefings is there to protect the speaker, to backfill her claims about the past. But the provisions actually pre-date what the speaker is about CIA's lack of full clarity. What is the impetus for trying to change the nature of the briefings?
HOLT: You know, I've been on the intelligence committee for a few years now, and anyone who has served on that committee for any length of time and is straight forward will tell you - yes, there's denial and deception by the intelligence committee and not all the time. You know, many of these people are conscientious, patriotic, well-intentioned and very able Americans. But, you know, we play 20 questions with them.
HOLT: They'll come to us. If we don't ask the right question, they won't tell us any answer. That's - I mean, that is - that is so often the case. Not all the time. Not everything is kept from Congress. Not by any means.
But the fact that these major, dangerous activities would be conducted without any oversight whatsoever - I mean, they shouldn't even want that risk.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Congressman Rush Holt of the intelligence committee - greater thanks than ever for your time tonight and bearing with us during the technical problems. A coincidence, no doubt.
HOLT: A coincidence.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
HOLT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Time now to bring in, as promised, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist of "Newsweek" magazine.
All right. We'll try this again. Has - in this revelation here, no matter which definition, the Panetta definition as Panetta says or the definition as the six representatives say - has Speaker Pelosi been vindicated in the process?
FINEMAN: Yes. Because if you parse the statement of denial by the CIA last night, carefully, as you did at the top of the show, Keith, they say, "It is not our policy or our practice to mislead the Congress." Well, that's - you know, anybody who knows - bureaucratese here in Washington knows that's a full admission. They're saying there are many times when we did just that. And, sure, yes it is.
Now, Nancy Pelosi is a political person. You don't want to cross her. She and Leon Panetta have had had at it, politically - you know, this is showdown on Highway One in California, between Monterey and San Francisco.
FINEMAN: But, yes, she's been vindicated. No question about it.
OLBERMANN: What about the second point and Congressman Holt was - I think he was specifically being emphatic, that it's process and structure that concern him most. But between the Panetta testimony and what Congressman Holt said, about what Congressman Eshoo said and the idea of the brakes suddenly being jammed on some sort of secret program - does that suggest we have another unexploded scandal brewing, or, you know, is it undiscovered debris from a previous one coming? Or what is it?
FINEMAN: Well, the big speculative game on the Hill today.
FINEMAN: . when I was calling around. Nobody's sure. It sure sounds like, to staffers that I talked to, there is something else, that there is some program that Panetta found about that he put a halt to, that the members of Congress don't know about, or were just recently - very recently informed of. So there's that.
Panetta wants to protect himself saying, "Hey, I just learned about this myself." There may be an investigation now by the House committee or some House group or maybe a congressionally wide one because Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is concerned about this as well.
Then there's the matter of money. Don't forget, the CIA is in a bureaucratic war with other intelligence entities within the administration. This is also about money. This is about funding. This is about Leon Panetta, former member of the House, the former chief of staff and budge director, et cetera, et cetera, being a very wily Washington guy wanting to protect his own institutions by fessing up before it's too late.
OLBERMANN: The structure - the political structures in this are so unusual here. The White House is threatening to veto this new legislation that we're speaking to Congressman Holt about. Are they essentially asking Congress, you know, once again, just trust president fill in the blank? And is that going to fly this time?
FINEMAN: Well, I don't think it's going to fly entirely because it has for several years now, pre-dating Speaker Pelosi's recent fights with Panetta. A lot of people in Congress - Harry Reid, Pelosi, others, even their predecessor - are saying that you can't have this sort of Las Vegas magic act where, you know, the CIA briefers come in and they said, "Let me show you the card, we'll show it to you for a few seconds," and only show the top leaders of Congress and the ranking and chairs of the House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence committees. Those people aren't the ones down in the nitty-gritty who really know the right questions to ask the CIA briefers.
So, there is a pretty strong case for expanding the number of people who are briefed by at least a few. And it's hard to see why the Obama administration, other than their just sort of blind desire to protect all the prerogatives of the presidency, why they would object to that, especially since Barack Obama ran on a theme of transparency.
Now, nobody's stupid. We don't want to spread secrets all around the very porous Capitol Hill. But this isn't really, from what I can tell, the briefings that they gave are barely briefings at all. And as I say, sort of just like the cards for a half a second in a magic act.
OLBERMANN: Just thinking, remember the old TV game show, "Concentration" with Bill Cullen?
OLBERMANN: Where they'd show the board with the clue on it.
OLBERMANN: . and in about nine seconds, turn all the numbers over again and you were supposed to guess where the matches were and then guess the clue. It really is.
FINEMAN: Well, that's the way.
FINEMAN: That's the way it seems with these people, and I think they have a point.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek," bearing with us also with the technical problems in D.C. tonight - again, it's - CIA discussions, just a coincidence. Thank you, sir.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of concentration and the switch, the cornerstone of the cascade of the words expended by the lame duck governor of Alaska about her resignation turns out in terms of truth to be a dead fish. Sarah Palin's claim by that resigning she will save Alaska's taxpayers millions in legal fees is actually wildly untrue. The lawyers were going to get paid anyway and the lawyers are still getting paid anyway. The governor point guard runs into the basketball full-court press of truth.
OLBERMANN: It is an excuse so central to her stated explanation that even the governor who will succeed her repeated it as recently as Sunday. But it's not true. How much Alaska's taxpayers have to pay for lawyers did not go up significantly once Sarah Palin started to rack up the ethics investigations and it's not going to go down significant just because she's quit.
Later: The governor's first tangible contribution to society. She's now part of the Urban Dictionary.
And just a couple of problems in Worst Persons: Kids kicked out of a swimming club in Philly allegedly because they were too black.
And stars and politicians, their cell phones hacked by a media empire.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: At the heart of the soon-to-be former Governor Palin's beef with everybody, her stated reason for resigning from office, the bit about saving the taxpayers legal funds - including in our fourth story on the Countdown - it's a lie. This might be the reason Palin says she can't get people to take her statements at face value because the statements have no value and she has multiple faces.
Since Friday, Governor Palin relentlessly repeating this talking point that she is quitting in order to save Alaskan taxpayers the cost of investigating what she calls frivolous ethics charges against her. Not nearly at one news conference, but at two of them, complete with a costume change in the interval.
Still bleeding about the millions she will save the state of Alaska by resigning, except, of course, when - as the governor office is now admitting - that money had already been budgeted in advance, meaning it would have gone to state lawyers anyway even if they had not been defending Palin against ethics complaints. That crucial bit of information is uncovered by Greg Sargent of "The Plum Line" blog. In an interview, he's losing (ph), however, not keeping team Palin from trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
A spokesperson for the governor telling the "Anchorage Daily News" that staffers from multiple state agencies - not just state lawyers - had to set aside their duties in order to respond to the complaints against Palin, quote, "Is it a check that wrote, no, but is it staff hours, yes."
Governor Palin's parallel claim that she has been victorious in every one of the 15 and counting ethics complaints against her is also not true. Just take trooper-gate. You will recall that Governor Palin, with the help of her husband Todd, had been accused of using her political office to carry out a personal vendetta - specifically that she had fired Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, because he had refused to fire the governor's former brother-in-law, trooper Michael Wooten.
In October, three weeks before the general election, the legislative council, the Alaska State Legislature having found that Governor Palin abused the power of her office according to the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.
Let's turn now to Margaret Carlson, Washington editor of "The Week" magazine, political columnist for "Bloomberg News."
Margaret, good evening.
MARGARET CARLSON, "THE WEEK" MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: She was for the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it. She lied to Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign manager in the e-mails. She denied her husband has ever been a member of the secessionist Alaska Independence Party. She lied when she said that her firing of the public safety commissioner hadn't got a thing to do with his refusal to fire her ex-brother-in-law.
Should we even be surprised at this point that this stated reason for quitting as governor has also proved to be a lie?
CARLSON: Well, in the statement, in her backyard, there - I'm surprised you found, know, the heart of it which was the legal fees, because there was the lame duck. She doesn't want to milk it. She doesn't want to go in junket. Everybody does it. Remember, there are countless others who've quit. And when there are only two governors who've ever quit under pressure, Eliot Spitzer and Jim McGreevey of New Jersey.
But you found this one, and this one then turns out not to be right. Compare it to a general counsel at a corporation. The general counsel is sitting there. He's waiting for incoming. He deals with it.
If outside counsel were hired or some such thing, then, you know, there would be a check written. But, in general, states deal with their own legal problems in-house, just the way corporations do when they turn to their own general counsel.
And on top of that, I spoke with John Cole (ph), who started - founded, the legal defense fund for Sarah Palin in Alaska. And he says that most of her private legal bills that arose as a result of the children's travel, the per diem, trooper-gate, were paid for out of those legal defense funds. So, she really doesn't have out of pocket legal defenses - I mean, legal expenses.
OLBERMANN: Thank you for the compliment on digging this out, but it did take six days - which tells us something else. That's another story.
Back to this, though - this attempt to spin the fact now that this lie has been uncovered. We're now supposed to believe that, you know, the other public servants of Alaska, presumably, the road crews and the public safety officers and the teachers and the people who do research with the fish - were all, you know, somehow diverted to help in the Palin investigation. I mean, what - I liked the first lie better than this one.
CARLSON: Well, you know, in the days since that statement, she's been trying - with help, you can tell there's been some professional help applied - to find something that actually works, and she's backing - she's filling in.
And on this one going forward, I think Sarah Palin is now going not to answer any questions. She's going to say, "I've answered your questions." And yesterday, the day before yesterday, in the Andrea Mitchell interview, when she accused Andrea of not listening to her answers when she wasn't giving an answer.
Sarah Palin is very good at stringing words together that don't have a subject, a verb and an object. They're just present participles and prepositions and "I love the people of Alaska" and "I'm quitting so I can serve them better." It makes no sense.
OLBERMANN: Yes. It's a line out of "Catch-22," it's when the guy said, "Italy will win by being defeated."
Last thing here.
OLBERMANN: Should we even trust right now the essence of this? Is Governor Palin going resign at the end of the month? I mean, didn't Larry Craig resign last year?
CARLSON: You know, I took away from this little speech in the backyard that she's just had it with Alaska. I mean, have you ever had a job when you wish you could just walk out and go spend the summer at the beach, like you did when you were.
OLBERMANN: Only 30 years, only for the last 30 years.
CARLSON: Yes, right. Listen, she got to do it. She says, "I'm out of here." And she came up way whole bunch of reasons. None of them really work, and - but she's out of here.
I would be shocked, Keith. I'll give you - I'll bet you dinner, you know, at some extravagant place that this governor is gone.
OLBERMANN: An all-expense shopping spree at Out of the Closet in, was it in Wasilla or in Juneau? I couldn't remember where that place was.
CARLSON: Oh, the secondhand clothing store.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly. Where you she bought all those.
CARLSON: Yes. I'll send you there.
CARLSON: That's my bet. You can just run wild at the secondhand closet.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I'm sure I've worn as much clothing from there as she has, or the other way around.
CARLSON: Yes. A pair of waders for you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. Margaret Carlson of "The Week" magazine, "Bloomberg News" and "fishing tackle" magazine - thank you, Margaret.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith. Good night.
OLBERMANN: Good night.
OLBERMANN: From the Sarah Palin kind of bull to the more literal kind, here running.
And Coultergeist decides it is fair to judge female political figures by their appearance and attractiveness. Look out for the rake handle you're about to step on, Annie.
Worst Persons is ahead.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the Bush administration figure who claims the Obama administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from.
First, 40 years ago tonight, future hall of famer Tom Seaver carried a perfect game through one out in the ninth inning. He'd already retired future Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Ernie Banks three times each, and should be Hall of Famer Ron Santo three more times, and then came center fielder Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs, who at that point had 11 career base hits. His 12th, a single to center field, busted up the perfect game. Qualls would get only 19 more hits in his career.
Let's play Oddball.
Also in sports, we begin in Pamplona, Spain with the epic struggle between biped and bovine. Guess who always comes out on top? Day three of the 2009 Running of the Bulls. If you're concerned about our lack of coverage of days one and two, don't worry. You really haven't missed much. Every year, we keep hoping that one of these bulls will get a little bit more brazen or maybe they'll get organized and take a couple of the jerks down. But they don't really know it's coming. Taking a look at the Oddball scoreboard. Five runners escape with minor trampling. No serious gorings. Everybody better dressed this year.
To Vildahousen (ph), in Germany, where we join the Oddball slow speed chase of the week, already in progress. Our friend behind the wheel got ditched by his girlfriend at the local beer garden. After getting plowed on one too many Pilsners, he steals a tractor. A six police car chase ensues at 12 miles an hour.
First the cops tried to nab the thief with pepper spray. Then they threw a few nail belts into the mix. Forty minutes later, they finally shot out the tractor tires. And our - heavy machinery operating days are over, and he's headed to the big house.
Did you know the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund is an extremist group? So says the Republican party. And if any group is expert in extremism, it's the Republican party.
Also - also, the soon to be ex-governor makes it into the dictionary. These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Dateline, Greenville, Pennsylvania, number three, best hide and seek player, Natalie Jasmer, age two. She hid so well in a game of hide-and-seek her folks called the cops. It took an hour and the family dog to fined her. Natalie had fallen asleep in a drawer underneath the washing machine. We'd like to wish the Jasmer family lots of luck for the next 16 years.
Dateline, Washington, number two, best new form of racist, Congressman Steve King, Republican Moon. They wanted to put up a plaque at the new Capitol visitor's center to acknowledge that must of the magnificent sweep of the Capitol building was built by slaves. Not built by slaves, thus white people suck. Not built by slaves, and they're owed reparations. Just a plaque saying, think about this.
The House approved the plaque, 399 votes to one. The one, Steve King. He said it wasn't an accurate depiction of history. Great. We now have a slavery denier. He's in Congress.
And dateline New York, number one, best memory loss, Karl Rove. In another one of those ponderous op-eds for the "Wall Street Journal," Rove complains about the stimulus package, and writes, "this fits a pattern. The administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from."
Oh, in other words, Karl, you're saying, mission accomplished.
OLBERMANN: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. The original mantra of modern conservatives, pronounced in 1964 by Barry Goldwater to the Republicans who nominated, whose successors seem to have just repudiated him and that conviction. In our third story, denouncing the defense of liberty as extremism in the desperate effort to make something, anything stick against Supreme Court Nominee Sonya Sotomayor.
With confirmation hearings set to begin Monday, the newest Democratic Senator Al Franken meeting with the judge today. But Republicans are trying to hone their attack. The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, griping again about Sotomayor's former position on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, saying the organization is extreme because it filed some, wait for it, race discrimination lawsuits.
Senator Sessions might not want to acknowledge it, but race discrimination illegal. And even if Sessions were right, Senator Goldwater would have admonished him. Besides, the legal defense fund has written to Sessions explaining that, quote, "neither the board as a whole or any individual member selects litigation to be undertaken or controls ongoing litigation."
Another letter to Sessions from 25 Latino groups criticizing him for mischaracterizing such civil rights work, and trying to create ethnic animosity. Meantime, Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy released an analysis of just how moderate to conservative the judge is on criminal justice. She reversed only two percent of criminal case convictions. And in 400 criminal cases, she agreed with the Republican appointed jumps 97 percent of the time.
A new "Washington Post" analysis, meantime, looks only at the close cases, ones in which Sotomayor's second circuit issued a divided ruling, and her positions were mainstream in those, like other judges appointed by Democrats. And another study, this one from the Brennan center, concludes that Sotomayor is squarely within the mainstream of the second circuit. Her decisions joined by the full court 94 percent of the time.
Indeed, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, a self-avowed conservative, endorsed Sotomayor, will testify on her behalf next week, along with former New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Republicans will call to testify against the nomination Frank Ricci, the New Haven, Connecticut fire fighter at the center of a discrimination case, the one in which many legal scholars believe Sotomayor simply followed prevailing law, and then watched as the Supreme Court changed that law.
The American Bar Association has now given the judge its highest rating, well qualified. It had graded Clarence Thomas only qualified. And even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has now said, quote, "I honestly think I could vote for her."
Let's turn now to "Washington Post" reporter, author of the political blog "The Fix," Chris Cillizza. Chris, good evening.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: We might also note about Mr. Sessions, when he was then a US Attorney, he was considered for the federal bunch. This is 23 years ago, but we he was rejected by the Republican controlled Judiciary Committee because he had what they perceived as open hostility to civil rights issues. Even a senator from his home state voted against him. Is the Sessions stance on Sotomayor it about his own agenda more than it is about some chance of raising legitimate questions about her or derailing her nomination?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Let me say first, Keith, I have not talked to the senator about it. I am not going to get into divining his intentions. Here's what I will say though; I think Republican are in a tough place. Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, the leader of the party, John Cornyn, the head of the committee, for two basic reasons.
On the one hand, the base of the party wants a very strong case to be made against Sotomayor. They believe some of the statements she made in the past, about - from the legislating from the bench, the wise Latino remark that we've made so much of, that these are things that fundamentally disqualify her.
On the other hand, John Cornyn, especially, understands, being from Texas and being in charge of the Senate campaign committee, that it does not look good for someone who has, as you've listed, the ratings, very qualified ratings, a Hispanic woman, for the Republican party to be out attacking.
In the end, they're very likely not to win that argument - excuse me because you've got 60 Senate seats for Democrats, and it's going to alienate the Hispanic base further from the Republican party.
OLBERMANN: Even if they choose to polish up their own so-called ideology in the questioning, even if they go for the idea of getting the base worked up, is that going to be more difficult than they're imagining here regarding the nominee, because of those - the records that we just went through? And also is the Ricci case their main course? And - it's not like she was the judge who personally passed that thing along?
CILLIZZA: I would say there's two thrusts that they're going to make. The Ricci case is going to be one and I would group the wise Latino remark in there. What does she think ethnicity and race plays a factor. The other is going to be the comments made on that panel that we've seen ad nauseum on Youtube, et cetera, et cetera. We've seen it since the day that she was nominated about the role that an appellate court plays in making a law.
Again, I keep coming back to this. We talk about it and talk about it. republicans talk about it, talk about it. At the end of the day, you're looking at 58 pretty solid - I haven't heard any Democrats or the people who caucus with Democrats - and I say they might vote against Sotomayor. I say 58 because we've got Bob Byrd and Ted Kennedy both ill and maybe not voting.
There's going to be a few. You've got Lindsey Graham. He's not exactly a moderate senator. We have Lindsey Graham out saying I think I could vote for her. There's going to be the Olympia Snowe, the Susan Collins of the world, the George Voinovich, for example, from Ohio.
She's going to get that number. Some of it - it is a mistake I think for Republicans to play this out too much, because it's to their detriment in the Hispanic community.
OLBERMANN: It might be a good idea to look at the very obvious. If your main case against her includes the word Ricci in it, it might, in fact, be a reach. Chris Cillizza of the "Washington Post." Thanks as always, Chris.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What does "pulling a Palin" mean? It has now been added to the Urban Dictionary. It's the TV edition of word wealth.
And spying on politicians and celebrities. Here's the big story. It was not done by a government. Worst persons next. Yes, she may have been a victim.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, in the wake of revelations that Senator John Ensign's parents paid his mistress 96,000 dollars in gifts, her special guest the reporter leading coverage of this increasingly relevant mess, John Ralston of the "Las Vegas Sun."
OLBERMANN: A new entry in the Urban Dictionary: Pulling a Palin. We'll help you define it and offer some other politically related new phrases like writing an Ensign. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Dr. John Doozler (ph), the president of the Valley Swim Club of Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania. It had charged a day camp for mostly minority kids 1,900 bucks to let the youngsters come over and swim once a week. Then the Valley Swim Club members saw them, and one woman there reportedly said, quote, "what are all these black kids doing here? I'm scared they might do something to my child."
The camp kids were then kicked out of the pool and the club. The next day, Valley Swim Club President Doozler said the deal was off, the money would be refunded. According to a local television report, he explained, quote, there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion and the atmosphere of the club.
Wait, it gets worst. This appears to be the same Dr. John G. Doozler Jr. Who is board chairman of the group Peace Action Philadelphia, which sponsored Martin Luther King Day events and is a leader of the O-Positive Blood Drive, part of President Obama's Organizing for America program. The club says this wasn't racism. It was that they, quote, underestimated the capacity of our facilities. Complexion.
The runner up, Britain's most widely read Sunday newspaper, "The News of The World." A rival newspaper has reported that its owners, News Corp, had to pay more than 1.5 million dollars in settlements of lawsuits claiming "News of The World" hacked into the mobile phones of hundreds of celebrities and politicians, listened to voicemails, read bank statements, got confidential data by deception, et cetera.
The list of alleged targets, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Michael, El McPherson, the head of the British Football Association, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, London Mayor and Chris Matthews look-alike Boris Johnson, and celebrity chef Nagella Lawson (ph). One "News of the World" correspondent went to prison several years ago for hacking into the cell phones of the British royal family. The prime minister said there were new questions about the paper's activity that needed answered. Police indicated they were not going to reopen the case.
Of the new allegation, the News Corp boss denied them, denied there had been any cash settlements anyway. "If that had happened," said Rupert Murdoch, "I would know about it." The real question is, if true, why did News Corp go to all that trouble, rather than just get the secret personal information from the Bush administration?
But our winner, Coulter-geist, with another fevered column appearing at several actual blog, but getting most of its distribution by being cut and pasted into the comments sections of real websites. "The peculiarly venomous hatred of Palin if driven by women of the left and their whipped consorts. All that needs to happen is for a feminist to overhear two "Nation" readers saying, I hate to admit it, but Palin is kind of hot. What? You call that hot? I'll have you know we got a mega super hotty in Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And need I remind you again of the raw sex appeal of Rachel Maddow?"
On one level, it is satisfying to see Ann Coulter admit that the Republican view of women in politics, good or bad, is based entirely on how they look. Judging by the pervasive immorality and holier than though hypocrisy of Ensign and Sanford and Vitter and Gingrich and their ilk, the right wing thinks that the only thing that might ever interest a male voter about a woman is sex. God knows that must be Ann Coulter's life story. It also certainly would explain why the GOP nominated Sarah Palin for the vice presidency when she had not a single qualification for the job, besides the ability to wink.
But even upon the wreaking pile of manure that is the right wing media and right wing commentary, Coulter is something worse: putrid, evil and, worst of all, considering herself as kinds of a reincarnated Dorothy Parker, repeatedly, incisively, and irretrievably not funny. One more thing; the shot at Rachel there is not merely stupid, and, given viewer reaction to her, not only hilariously wrong. But it's also disturbingly revelatory about Ann Coulter and disturbingly sad.
Ann, you started this beauty pageant thing. These are your rules. This is what you think is fair. So you have asked for this. If I were you, I would not start commenting about the value of attractiveness in women in politics. Ann Coulter, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: You ditch a job before you finished it, and if your rationale for ditching said job can be defined as bizarre, if such bizarre actions impede all future hopes of a better job, you might be pulling a Palin. Our number one story, Governor Palin's latest approach to not governing finds its way into the annals of the Urban Dictionary. The ramblings of the almost ex-governor of Alaska now part of the cultural Zeitgeist.
One of Urban Dictionary's latest entries is, indeed, pulling a Palin. Defined as: "one, quitting when the going gets tough, abandoning the responsibility entrusted to you by your neighbors for book advances and to make money on the lecture circuit. Two, bizarre move that will damn ambitions for higher office."
We would be remiss to think that Ms. Palin is the only Republican to contribute to our cultural vocabulary. A salute now to the GOP, which continues to define itself and to alter and illuminate its time with embarrassing political catch phrases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Serious sin.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Louisiana Senator David Vitter, in his explanation of his involvement in the DC Madam scandal, admitted only to, quote, serious sin, which is now defined as having sex with hookers while wearing a diaper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wide Stance.
OLBERMANN: Part of former Idaho Senator Larry Craig's explanation to the police after being arrested for lewd conduct.
LARRY CRAIG, FORMER SENATOR: I'm a fairly wide guy. I tend to spread my legs when I lower my pants.
OLBERMANN: Wide stance now defined as the pose struck during the solicitation of sexual favors in the toilet of a major metropolitan airport.
CRAIG: I am not gay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Falling short of the standards.
JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: I asked you if rumors were true that you were in an affair.
OLBERMANN: The admission of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: The honest answer is yes.
OLBERMANN: The new definition, doggedly attacking president while cheating on one's own wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Writing an Ensign.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Last year I had an affair.
OLBERMANN: A new phrase describing a letter written by presidential hopeful in third grade chicken scratch used to tell your mistress that you, quote, used her for your own pleasure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hiking the old Appalachian Trail.
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I told her about my love of the Appalachian Trail.
OLBERMANN: Not only a walk through the wilderness, now also South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's code for ditching your duties as governor without telling anybody, hopping a plane to Argentina, and getting it on with a lady who is not your wife.
SANFORD: I've seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sparking.
OLBERMANN: The beginning of a sexy time with the lady who is not your time, for which there will be consequences at least one of which will be a really uncomfortable news conferences. As for that soon to be ex-governor from Alaska -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quitter.
PALIN: I'm certainly not a quitter. I'm a fighter.
OLBERMANN: Alternate definition, fighter.
PALIN: I think of the scene on my parents' refrigerator, a little magnet that says, "don't explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Refrigerator madness.
OLBERMANN: The new top campaign adviser for the great Republican hope of 2012.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A postscript on Senator Ensign. It turns out Nevada's junior senator called on mom and dad not to write an Ensign, but simply to write a check to the lady with whom he cheated on his wife. Today, the senator's attorney admitting that Ensign's parents gave the family of mistress Cindy Hampton 96,000 dollars, 12 grand at a time. Gifts. Yes, that's the ticket, gifts. Cash is always nice.
"After the senator told his parents about the affair, his parents decided to make the gift out of concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others." Senator Ensign of Nevada himself kind of gift, one that keeps on giving.
And there's another new term, pattern of generosity, which means payoffs.
That's Countdown for this the 2,261st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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