Wednesday, April 7, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
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Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment, Worst Persons
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Guests: Jack Rice, Ellen Smith, Julian Bond, David Weigel

HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Licensed to kill. He was linked to the Fort Hood shooter; he was linked to the Detroit underwear bomber - is that enough to justify the administration's decision to authorize the targeted killing of the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who was born in New Mexico? Is that enough to justify it in the wake of the revelation of the so-called videogame killings of 2007?

They were scared. The West Virginia congressman who says three workers from the Upper Big Branch mine had told him the miners had been worried about high levels of methane before the explosion. And the Blankenship memo, the CEO of Massey Energy sends stern instructions to his supervisors, seemingly stressing productivity over everything else, "We seem not to understand that coal pays the bills." And still, it is too dangerous to send in rescue teams.


KEVIN STRICKLIN, MINE SAFETY & HEALTH ADMINISTRATION: We've asked the families to be patient.


OLBERMANN: Good news, slavery was not among the most significant issues of the Civil War - so says Virginia's new Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, reinstituting Confederate History Month, celebrating treason and violence and not even mentioning slavery.

The awful truth, conservatives reveal Mitt Romney is a socialist. And Ronald Reagan as president was a leftist.

And this is a would-be tea party congressman talking about the Democratic incumbent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to make the fella scared to come out of his house.


OLBERMANN: And, Rupert Murdoch humiliated by his own employees. Last night -


RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP. CEO: I don't think we should be supporting the tea party or any other party. But I'd like to investigate what you're saying before I condemn anyone.


OLBERMANN: FOX's Sarah Palin with FOX's Sean Hannity covering the speech.

Today -


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Do we have some tea party Americans here today?



OLBERMANN: Maybe Rupert's not evil. Maybe Rupert's just stupid.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


MURDOCH: Let's be honest about it.




OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

President Obama has reportedly authorized the death penalty for an American citizen who has not been convicted of any crime - the evidence against whom has yet to see the light of day - who denies his guilt and who has not been given the due process, including trial guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. It is a power not even claimed by the Bush/Cheney administration, extending far beyond Bush/Cheney claims which even the most conservative Supreme Court justice rejected.

Our fifth story tonight: "The New York Times" and "Washington Post"confirming specifics of a story that's been simmering for months now - the White House has authorized U.S. counterterrorism operatives to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, Muslim cleric and American citizen born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1971 - even if he is found far away from any combat zone. Unnamed officials say U.S. intelligence shows that al-Awlaki, thought to be hiding in Yemen, has shifted from endorsing violence against the U.S. to actually participating in anti-American plots, as part of the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen recently freed al-Awlaki from prison for lack of evidence, but he's also been linked to the alleged Christmas Day would-be bomber, though the nature of their link remains unclear; and exchanged e-mails with accused Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, though their communicates are not believed to be about that attack itself; also linked to two 9/11 hijackers, though the 9/11 Commission said there was not evidence to prosecute him.

U.S. citizens have been killed in previous anti-terror strikes, but a former Bush top legal official told "The Times" he knew of no instance when Mr. Bush specifically approved a U.S. citizen targeted for killing. All this coming not only as the "Associated Press" reports that Obama will drop reference to specifically Islamic radicalism from his upcoming national security plan as part of an effort to avoid alienating Muslim countries, but also coming in the aftermath of leaked video - some viewers might find disturbing - of U.S. forces killing what they apparently thought were terrorists in 2007 in Iraq but were in fact journalists for the "Reuters" news service.

The spokesman for CENTCOM today telling "The Plum Line" blog, that it doesn't dispute the video's authenticity but may not be able to find the official copy with which to confirm.

Military officials tonight telling NBC News this case is closed. The other is not.

Let's bring in former CIA special agent, Jack Rice, on all of this.

Jack, thanks for your time tonight.

JACK RICE, FORMER CIA SPECIAL AGENT: Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We missed 9/11. We missed Iraq's lack of WMD. We missed the warning signs at Fort Hood. We missed Abdulmutallab.

In that last video, we couldn't tell the difference between reporters and insurgents and guns and cameras, but we're sure enough about Anwar al-Awlaki for the president to say, put a gun to his head and kill him?

RICE: Yes, that's pretty much it. We also missed the fall of the Berlin Wall. We missed the fall of the shah in Iran.

How is that your - that Vietnam thing going for you?

I mean, that's the big problem. What we get are a lot of people saying, oh, yes, we absolutely know. But if we look back over the last 20 or 30 years, we have heard that again and again and again, what we know and what we don't know. But the problem is, is we end up finding out later, it was nowhere near the truth.

OLBERMANN: What kind of intelligence would we have to have on al-Awlaki and how confident would we have to be in that intelligence?

RICE: In my mind, because this is an American citizen, we need to think of it like one of our family members. We need to think of it like one of our neighbors down the street. This is an American.

You don't allow the U.S. government to unilaterally say, no, we're not just going to kill somebody if they're an American who happens to be near it, that's one thing. This is literally targeting the American specifically and killing them. This cannot be done in this way.

This is truly an extraordinary shift. It really highlights, by the way, that this isn't just a left or right, Republican versus Democratic problem. This is something else altogether.

OLBERMANN: Now, it's different, is it not, to say this than to say, all right, we try - we try to capture him in some way and it doesn't go right and he resists, and trying to escape, he's shot. I mean, those things could be dicey circumstances, but those things have happened before. That's separate from this, correct?

RICE: Of course. Absolutely, because then what you're talking about is in the midst of the battle itself. And again, if there's an American who happens to be there, then, all of a sudden, you can say, well, it was either a mistake at the time but we didn't realize, or, of course, you're fighting them. This is something else.

What we understand now is this is the ability to target this man wherever he is, if he's sitting at dinner, all of a sudden, you can go and say, OK, that's the guy. Let's go whack him now.

Really? That's the standard we're setting for an American?

OLBERMANN: Let's push the precedent here that would be set to its extreme. What is to stop a future administration from using that magic word, "terrorism," to order that other American citizens should be killed for criticizing the government?

RICE: Well, I think that's the biggest question of all here, because what we have to do is think very big picture - whether you trust this government, this president, the last one or the next one. The problem is, is we have already seen from the Bush administration their willingness to use the term "terror" and "terrorism" to justify warrantless wiretaps, torture, Guantanamo, and so many other thing that's were unconstitutional. And now, you look at this and say, well, if we just slap terrorism on it we can ignore 200 years of jurisprudence.

OLBERMANN: And then there's the devil's advocate question: assuming al-Awlaki is guilty and is actively trying to kill Americans - not just advocating that, which is apparently what he started at, but actually involved - is this not exactly what the Obama administration should be doing?

RICE: Absolutely. Again, "assume" is really -


RICE: - the effective word here. We have to be able to make that call. We're not talking about wrapping him in a warm blanket and rocking him like a young child. We're talking about knowing what we're doing and ensuring that when we make a decision, it's the right one. And that's what you and I are discussing right now.

OLBERMANN: Jack Rice, former special agent with CIA - great thanks for your time tonight. All of it are very cogently put, sir. Thank you.

RICE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For the politics of this, let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also, of course, the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: A story broke last night, if you look at the news today, basically it seems nobody is sweating what should at least look like a tough ethical and legal and national call. Is that a correct assessment?

WOLFFE: Pretty much. In the traditional media, I think that's right.

Online, at least, we've seen commentary from the right broadly positive, maybe some criticism from libertarians on the left. You know those people who are quietly concerned with this thing called the Constitution seem to be sweating it.

But in terms of the newspapers, it is perplexing. And, you know, I come back to hearing criticism from the Bush officials, it may be weird for them to hear me citing it on this show, but they would say, well, look, if it is was warrantless wiretapping and that led to several pages of coverage day after day in "The New York Times," how come this kind of thing doesn't get the same kind of coverage?

There are two answers. One, maybe people thought that when Dennis Blair said something on Capitol Hill in January, that made it old news. But this is a much more specific report, and it's at least worthy of debate in the news pages.

OLBERMANN: Where was - where does this rank on that scale of events when we talk about illegally detaining and torturing people, as compared to simply announcing that we have the right - the president has the right - as was earlier stated, but now, here's an exact case of it, an example, that the president has the right to have somebody shot out of this world.

WOLFFE: Well, look, I think the administration - and they haven't made this argument explicitly - but they seem to have a carve-out for what goes on on foreign territory, now, it is not a legal argument. It may be a practical one. They may say this is broadly defined as the battlefield and the president has these executive powers. But that's, frankly, an argument the Bush administration would make.

It seems that the politics of this has moved to such a point that the administration has taken on a very aggressive, robust, capture, kill, what you and I would call assassination program, without a whole lot of public debate. They are - internally, inside the White House - very proud of this program. Not just in the Arabian Peninsula, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But again, this has happened without much debate.

OLBERMANN: A version for you of a question I asked Jack Rice. Where are the safeguards about only opening Pandora's Box under these specific circumstances? In other words, if you say, "All right, we're going to let this one go, because, obviously, we can assume all these other fatal word that's have led us down the primrose path before," what keep it's to even these circumstances in the future?

WOLFFE: We don't know what the procedures are. We don't know what the checks and balances are. And given rules of war that the administration and the last administration claim for themselves, they may not need to be.

The question is whether American citizens can claim something differently if they're on a foreign battlefield. But we don't know what the checks and balances may be. At least when it came to warrantless wiretapping, when candidate Obama shifted his positions, he said, there needed to be some minimal oversight of the courts. As far as we can tell, there is no minimal oversight from anyone when it comes to this program.

OLBERMANN: Well, that's another point. And the candidate said detaining U.S. citizens without due process was unconstitutional; the president says, under these specific circumstances or any circumstances I guess, that his thought process of which is OK and which is not OK is irrelevant. He says, under certain circumstances, it's OK. Were there nuances to his opinion, or is this a change?

WOLFFE: It's a change. It's a change, and I think he sees the weight, feels the weight of the national security concerns, the intelligence coming in. He trusts his national security officials, especially John Brennan, who is really leading this program inside the White House.

But, as a candidate, there were uncharacteristically no nuances there. It was just wrong, and he was speaking very much to someone who taught constitutional law.

OLBERMANN: Is this a tradeoff either politically or in any other capacity, any other way to the decision on nukes and the - going to the meeting with Medvedev tomorrow? Is there some attempt to balance the soft image and the tough image?

WOLFFE: You know, I don't think there's a tradeoff with a nuclear program, concessions, advances there. In fact, the tradeoffs are within those nuclear developments themselves. For instance, in cutting the number of nuclear missiles, there's actually significant investment in upgrading the nuclear stockpile.

So, the tradeoffs are all inside the nuclear deal. I don't think it's one or the other.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of "Renegade" - as always, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Back here, another arrest as a California man is picked up by the FBI for makes dozens of threatening phone calls to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; while a would-be tea party congressman tells supporters to make the incumbent, quote, "scared to come out of his house."

And from West Virginia, news that before the disaster at Montcoal, the miners were worried about high levels of methane gas and inspectors had found the fresh air systems blowing the wrong way. That's next.

This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Celebrating the Confederacy again in Virginia. How could Governor McDonnell leave out all mention of slavery? Because he said slavery was not a significant issue. The hasty apology came late this afternoon.

Mitt Romney a socialist? Ronald Reagan, a leftist dreamer? So say Beck and Giuliani.

Rupert Murdoch jumps the mental shark, claims bias everywhere except at FOX News. Arr!

And the West Virginia warnings, the miners say their congressman - the congressman says they say they were worried that methane levels were far too high before the explosion. And three months ago, inspectors found the fresh air relief systems were operating backwards, blowing out the breathable air from the mine.

The latest from Montcoal - next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Federal officials saying late this afternoon that it is still too dangerous to send rescue crews back into a West Virginia coal mine to search for four miners, missing more than 48 hours after an explosion killed 25 others who've already discovered. At least three workers at that mine having complained to their congressman that they were worried about unsafe working conditions before the explosion.

And three months ago, the mine that exploded was cited by inspectors for having had its fresh air systems flowing the wrong way near two escape routes. The problem was supposedly fixed the same day.

The families of the missing miners tonight are clinging to what the governor is now calling a sliver of hope that they are still alive. And Congressman Nick Rahall revealing this afternoon that three miners at Upper Big Branch have told them since the blast that they were worried about unsafe levels of methane at the mine.

Massey Energy, which owns the mine, has defended its safety record, despite being cited for hundreds of violations, millions in fines just in the past few years, including the wrong-way air flow issue which was three months ago.

The foreman admitting to investigators that at that point, he had known about the situation for three weeks before it was addressed. CEO Don Blankenship in a company memo once having appeared to instruct all of his deep mine superintendents to place production ahead of safety, quoting from the October 2005 memo, "If any of you have been asked to do anything other than run coal, i.e. build overcast, do construction jobs or whatever, you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo was necessary only because we seem to not understand that coal pays the bills."

What kind of construction jobs would need to be done deep within a coal mine? The kind that build the very structures that make it possible to funnel air directly to and from the parts currently being excavated, to circulate out the dangerous levels of methane and dust, where they point a giant fan into a massive hole indiscriminately without a vent, and what good is that likely to do?

One week later, CEO Blankenship having issued a second memo, trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube, quoting, "I would question the membership of anyone who thought that I consider safety to be a secondary responsibility. If you have construction jobs at your mine that need to be done to keep it safe or productive, make every effort to do those jobs without taking members and equipment from the coal-producing sections that pay the bills."

Let's call in Ellen Smith who's been covering the mining industry since 1987, as owner and publisher of "Mine Safety and Health News."

Thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Those memos from the CEO, Mr. Blankenship, were introduced as the evidence in a wrongful death trial. Are they as damming as they appear to be? Or are they mitigating factors that aren't apparent at first glance?

SMITH: No, I don't think there's any mitigating factors. They were pretty damning. And, you know, that led to the settlement of the wrongful death suit. And I think that without that memo, the families probably would not have settled the case.

OLBERMANN: What are the implications based on your experience of that news this afternoon about the citation three months ago about the wrong-way air flow at the vents near the escape routes?

SMITH: Oh, that's incredibly serious. I mean, first of all, that there's going to be probably charges brought against that foreman or supervisor who claimed that he knew about that for three weeks. They can do that under Section 1 10(c) of the Mine Act. It's responsibility. There certainly could be criminal charges filed. It's a flagrant violation. It's high negligence. It's reckless disregard. They knew it. That air in that escape way should be fresh air, breathable, fresh air and not contaminated with coal dust or methane.

OLBERMANN: Is there any reason to believe that that problem may have recurred after three months ago?

SMITH: Look (AUDIO BREAK) having serious ventilation problems at that mine. Imminent danger orders were issued. You know, what we found is - and we don't know why, but an imminent danger order was issued on 12/14/09. It wasn't terminated until February 2nd.

We don't - you know, we can't get any details from them. I'm sure, right now, they're - I mean, you know, they're busy doing the rescue. The press people are overwhelmed.

But something was going terribly wrong with this mine. There were withdraw orders because of the ventilation problems. They had to take miners out of the mine or out of sections to fix the problems. There is no doubt that ventilation problems were plaguing this mine.

OLBERMANN: Then that raises the simple question: why wasn't it shut down, plain and simple?

SMITH: Well, and that's a good question. Under the 1977 Mine Act, MSHA has the power to withdraw miners from a section if it's dangerous in that section. They have the power to withdraw the miners from the entire mine if they feel that there's a problem in the entire mine, so after the miners leave, the operator has the chance to fix that problem. As soon as that problem is fixed, the minors can go back in the mine and start producing coal again.

Now, it's not the end of the citation line. That case is still going to have to go before an ALJ and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. But, you know, MSHA has to give a window of opportunity to correct that problem, and they correct it, and they can go back to work. Now, what people have started talking about was why was this mine not under what we call a pattern of violations, which actually does make it easier for MSHA to shut down production and say, correct these problems. And in fact, in December 2007, that mine had received what we call a potential pattern notice. So, it was given a warning that it was about to go under a pattern of violations, but not for ventilation, for something different, and it cleaned up its act.

And, you know, what happened last year, I don't know - I mean, the amount of citations and the amount of orders last year, the withdraw orders, is really unbelievable.

OLBERMANN: Ellen Smith, owner and publisher of "Mine Safety and Health News" I think we know much more about this than we did four minutes ago, and we thank you greatly for contributing to that.

SMITH: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Rupert Murdoch insists the other networks are all a Democratic or tend to be, and "The New York Times" carries Obama's water. But his news is fair. When pressed to identify one Democratic on FOX, it takes him a full minute just to suggest Greta Van Susteren might be close to the Democrats.

Murdoch's extraordinary meltdown - ahead.


OLBERMANN: Reinstituting Confederacy Month in Virginia without mentioning that sticky detail called "slavery" for a week.

First on this date in 1860, W.K. Kellogg was born. He and his brother John ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and believed in the value of vegetarianism, especially of fiber. They even developed the process for making flaked cereal. Dismissed by many as a crank, Mr. Kellogg made eleventy-billion dollars, and lived until he was 91 years old. So, he did something right.

Let's play "Oddball."


OLBERMANN: He had 44 billion box tops at the end.

We begin in Taiwan. The show is called "Superstar Avenue." That contestant's name is Lin Yu Chun and you'll never believe this. Because depending on which Internet report you read, he hasn't hit puberty yet or he's 24 years old - either way, he's about to go full Boyle on you and blow your freakin' mind.


OLBERMANN: Reached for comment, Whitney Houston herself released the following statement.





OLBERMANN: To California, and while the Japanese may think they have the market cornered on robots performing menial tasks, clearly, they have not met this, the ancestor of Rosie Jetson. Researchers at U.C. Berkeley have created a robot that can fold laundry.

Before you get too excited about the end of household chores as you know them, this video you were saying here was sped up by a factor of 50. It takes this robot 25 minutes to fold a single towel - which is a slight improvement over the robot's previous achievement, which was two days to round up all the unmatched socks.

In the wake of the arrest of one man for threatening the life of Senator Murray and another for threatening Speaker Pelosi, you would think, even tea party candidates might a little be more circumspect with their hate speech just maybe for the week. You'd be wrong. One tells supporters to make their incumbent congressman, quote, "scared to come out of his house."

And Julian Bond of the new governor of Virginia's selective memory about the Civil War and his sudden correction today.

Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: One hundred forty eight years to the day the battle of Shilo ended in Tennessee, the battle of Confederate History Month lives on in Virginia. The govern of that state even implied that slavery was not a significant issue in the Civil War, nor its commemoration. But now, in our third story, the governor has apologized.

After an eight-year hiatus, the new Republican governor, Mr. McDonnell of Virginia, reinstituted Confederate History Month in a posting on the state website last week. Nowhere in the posting was slavery even mentioned. Earlier today, McDonnell said his proclamation, by which implication celebrates treasonous violence, was designed to promote tourism.

As for leaving slavery out of a seven-paragraph proclamation on a limitless website, he said, quote, "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery and other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."

The proclamation had been condemned by the NAACP and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, as well as the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Just hours ago, Governor McDonnell offered an apology, which reads, in part, "the proclamation issued by this office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake. And for that, I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed. The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God given, inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War."

The governor added similar language to his original proclamation, just as the last Republican Governor of Virginia James Gilmore had done. I'm honored to be joined now from Washington by chairman emeritus of the NAACP National Board of Directors, Julian Bond. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Does that apology suffice in your opinion?

BOND: Yes, but it reminds you that the fourth Republican governor in a row in Virginia - and they seem to have a canine like affection for the confederacy there. The fourth Republican governor in a row has issued a proclamation honoring treasonous insurrection against the government of the United States, actions which all over the world would be called treason. Yet somehow in the United States we value them as virtue, as honor, and celebrate them every year, build monuments to them, and seem to ignore that vast number of other Americans, both people of color and white people, who are offended by this, and who want it to stop, and who think it should have stopped a long, long time ago.

OLBERMANN: Is there a way to do it, to commemorate it in which it becomes of value nationally?

BOND: Of course.

OLBERMANN: What would that be, in your opinion?

BOND: Why not have a commemoration of Civil War Month, in which you talk about the valor, the honor of soldiers on both sides of the army? Surely, the Union Soldiers were just as courageous, just as valorous, just as honorable as those who fought for the other side. Surely, they loved their families and homes and defended with the same compassion and interest.

But somehow or another, this blind allegiance to one side - in fact, to the losing side - to the only side bearing a flag which fought the United States and was defeated, but which is regularly displayed all over the United States. We don't see Japanese flags, German flags or the other flags of nations we've fought and beat displayed around on the backs of trucks, on bumper stickers, but we see this flag, the battle flag of the Confederacy.

And, as I say, the NAACP, and I think many, many others, think it is time it stopped.

OLBERMANN: It was Shelby Foote who pointed out that in the movie "Patton," when George C. Scott portrays Patton and says, "Americans never lost a war," it was particularly bitterly ironic, because Patton's father - or grandfather - I can't remember which it is - served on the Confederate side in the Civil War. The whole thing seems to have been marketed. Is that a fair word to describe what happened? The Civil War and the idea of the Confederacy and even the idea of slavery has been marketed, in same way, by the south as positive?

BOND: Oh sure, there's been so much commentary about this today, I don't know if I'm quoting myself or somebody I've heard on TV today. But it's the "Gone With the Wind" effect. That movie, which is a great movie as movies go, but terrible, terrible history, just shows the south as the victims of the war, when, in fact, the south began the war. They started the war. It wasn't the Union. It was the south. And now, all these many years later, we're still celebrating the south, and praising them for losing this, what for them was a noble cause.

OLBERMANN: Governor McDonnell missed this originally, left it out of the original proclamation, then stuck his foot back in his mouth with the explanation that he had focused on the issues that he thought were most significant for Virginia, thus, by implication, saying slavery was not an important issue for Virginia. And now he corrects it a week into the equation. Do you think this has any context? Has this been effected by, in any way, the political state of our country at the moment?

BOND: Well, you know, when Virginia voted for Obama in the last election we thought it had at last rejoined the Confederacy. I guess it's still in doubt. It's still an issue. The governor did the right thing in apologizing and saying what he should have said in the first place. But the real problem is he shouldn't have issued the proclamation in the first place.

If he wanted to honor the Confederate dead and their valor, he ought to have done the same for those on the Union side, because both of them were brave men who fought long and hard, who suffered and sacrificed. Make this a history lesson for everybody, not just praising one side.

OLBERMANN: Well said, Julian Bond of the NAACP, chairman emeritus, great thanks for your time.

BOND: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Twenty four hours after Rupert Murdoch says Fox News should not be supporting the Tea Party, two of employees, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity, are in public in Minnesota supporting the Tea Party. Did you know that from 1981 to 1989, Ronald Reagan was a leftist dreamer? So implies Rudy Giuliani in worst persons.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Senator Coburn wants to be the new guardian of fiscal discipline. This comes from the guy who negotiates money deals with other senator's mistresses. Nice work, senator.


OLBERMANN: Worst persons in a moment. Not only is Mitt Romney a socialist, but apparently, as president, Ronald Reagan was a leftist dreamer. The right wing eats its own.

First, tonight's quick comment.

The Hutaree have been arrested in Michigan. Yesterday, the authorities announced they'd taken into custody a man after he'd made countless threats against a U.S. senator. Today, the FBI arrested another man for making dozens of threatening phone calls to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

But last night, a candidate for the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Florida said this about the Democratic incumbent to the Tea Party crowd.


ALAN WEST, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you what you've got to do. You've got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That's the only way you're going to get these people to pay attention. You've got to put pressure on them.


OLBERMANN: That's Alan West talking about Congressman Ron Klein. We've met Mr. West before. He is the man who claimed that the al Jazeera, in offering to send a car to his home to pick him up for an interview, was actually trying to kidnap him. He is the man who left the U.S. military in shame after he supervised the torture of and fired a gun near the head of an Iraqi policeman in custody.

Obviously, at any time, from any point of the political spectrum, West's incitement to violence is unacceptable. And he has just underscored why he and people who have endorsed him, like Sarah Palin, have forfeited their rights to serve in government for the simple reason that they are not dedicated to democracy. They are believers in mob rule.

But the larger question is why are the bullies and the delusionals and the violent fanatics crawling out of the woodwork now? It is frequently posited that this is the residue of the first decade of this century, of the violence, of the paranoia, of the torture, of the phony war, of the simplistic mantra of you're with us or you're against us.

So, in some respects, this plague has descended upon us because we, as a nation, took no steps to say the answer, internationally or here at home, cannot just be the fundaments of torture, violence and fear of violence. We prosecuted no one in real authority. And so an Alan West was not held up of as an example of what this country stands against when he threatened to kill a policeman in Iraq. Instead, he is somehow encouraged to run for office and to threaten a congressman in Florida.


OLBERMANN: Rupert Murdoch, master puppeteer, manipulator of opinion, builder up of nations, or just laugh out loud funny? He says the people at MSNBC and CNN tend to be Democrats, but those at Fox Noise are not Republicans.

And as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin go to Minnesota to support and fund-raise Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party, Murdoch says Fox should not be supporting the Tea Party.

That's next, but first tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to David Fredoso, the online editor of the "Washington Examiner." This is embarrassing. He writes today, "where are the black Tea Partiers? They're here, hated and trashed by liberals. Keith Olbermann has famously asked where the black Tea Partiers are. The Associated Press writes that they are out, indeed, there. They are brave to participate, too, given the hateful, racist rhetoric they report from liberals who want them to shut up and go away."

Mr. Fredoso then links to a long Associated Press story on black Tea Party member, which identifies five of them - Five. And one of them is a former Fox News commentator. Mr. Fredoso, five? I'm embarrassed on your behalf now.

Speaking of which, the runner up, Lonesome Roads Beck, played the clip of the president noting to CBS that several parts of health care reform were almost plagiarized from the Massachusetts plan enacted by then- Governor Mitt Romney. Don't worry, Beck has used his superior mind to wriggle his way out of this one. That's "why I said when Mitt Romney was running for president, I don't want anyone who even flirts with socialism. It seems to me you can't disprove your socialism with someone else's socialism. Can you?"

Mitt Romney is a socialist. Here's the great comfort that Glenn Beck provides: he has so little idea what he's saying and he has no idea what he said previously that, given enough time, he will eventually denounce everybody, even the people who do not yet know he's full of it.

And speaking of that, our winner, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. To paraphrase Aristotle, Bull crap abhors a vacuum. It is Giuliani who has rushed in to lead the charge against Obama's plan to lead world efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war. Says Rudy, "a nuclear-free world has been a 60-year dream of the left, just like socialized health care."

Here's something that proves his point: nuclear weapons are, another politician said, quote, "totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on Earth and civilization. We must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth. For the eight years I was president, I never let my dream of a nuclear free world fade from my mind."

Those, of course, the words of Ronald Reagan. So Ronald Reagan was a liberal, Rudy? A dreamer? Leftist? It is fair to say, I think, that it is now impossible to remember a time when people took Rudolph Giuliani seriously. Rudy, President Reagan was a leftist dreamer, Giuliani, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Rupert Murdoch has been called many names in many countries over his five decades of prominence, and lord knows I've called him most of them. But until tonight, stupid was not one of them. Number one story this evening, in public, on videotape, he insists CNN and MSNBC tend to be Democrats, but Fox News was not all Republican. Then he couldn't think of one non-Republican on Fox News. Then he reassured a questioner that Fox News should not be supporting the Tea Party. Less than 24 hours later, not only was Fox News employee Sarah Palin participating in an event in Minnesota in which she openly supported the Tea Party, but Fox News employee Sean Hannity was quoted by Michele Bachmann during the event, and Hannity was also there covering it.

So here we go. Is Rupert Murdoch now, or has he ever been, stupid? Last night on the campus of George Washington University, Mr. Murdoch was the guest on "the Kalb Report," a public affairs program hosted by the former CBS and NBC News reporter Marvin Kalb. Please stand well back from the TV.


RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWSCORP CHAIRMAN: Our news shows on politics or whatever, we have, you know, Democrats and Republicans and libertarians, whatever.

MARVIN KALB, "THE KALB REPORT": But the other networks have -

RUPERT: Well, I think they have - they tend to be Democrats.

KALB: They tend to be Democrats?

RUPERT: Yeah, come on, let's be honest about it.

KALB: No, but I mean is that a bad thing to be a Democrat?

RUPERT: No, but we're not Republicans.

KALB: Oh, you're not a Republican?


KALB: You're a conservative?

RUPERT: No, I might be a radical.


OLBERMANN: He said radical there. Rupert Murdoch, radical. Don't tell Glenn Beck. According to Murdoch, Fox is not Republican. Surely, in that context, this question from the audience should be a can of corn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mention that there are Democrats as well as Republicans on Fox News. I was wondering if you meant Democrats employed by Fox News? And if so, who would that be?

MURDOCH: I wish I could tell you the couple of names, but they're certainly there. If Roger was here, he could certainly spin them out very quickly. The - I think probably every night Greta Van Susteren is certainly close to the Democratic party. She doesn't do many political stories. She's just a great journalist who goes after any story she can get.

But people who have been involved in Democratic politics and so on - yeah, we have people - I'm trying to think of the name of the lady in California who's been with us from day one, who we use a lot.


OLBERMANN: Um - Lindsay Lohan? No, he was going for Susan Estrich, you know, the Democrat? Finally, Smoking Gun evidence that this audience was not screened; a person from Media Matters asks him about support of the Tea Party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your business network hosted - asked and told viewers they needed to visit the Tea Party website to buy merchandise, and your network had graphics saying Fox Day Tea Parties. Is it appropriate for a news network to engage in that much politics?

RUPERT: No, I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party. But I'd like to investigate what you're saying before I condemn anyone.


OLBERMANN: Not going to be a long investigation, as we and Media Matters and others have chronicles throughout the past year, Fox News has been a corporate partner to the, quote, grassroots, unquote, Tea Party movement. If Mr. Murdoch needs further, more recent proof, how about this afternoon, in a rally in Minnesota, with Fox News analyst and special host Sarah Palin, stumping for Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann?


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Back stage, Michele and I were talking about the Tea Party movement. We were catching up a little bit. And I was wondering do we have some Tea Party Americans here today?


OLBERMANN: And after the big rally, both women sat down with Sean Hannity of - what was it again? Where does he work, Sean Hannity? ABC News? Sean Hannity, Telemundo? Al Jazeera? Oh, no, Fox News, what a coincidence. I'm sure he grilled them on a host of substantive issues.

Let's turn now to David Weigel, "Washington Post" political reporter, also has a blog at the Post website called "Right Now," which covers the conservative movement and the Republican party. Thanks for you time, David.

DAVID WEIGEL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Rupert Murdoch thinks that Fox News should not be supporting the Tea Parties or any party. It's too bad he doesn't have any say in that. I worked for this man. I was fired by this man. But never until today did I consider the possibility that I own furniture that was smarter than this man. What happened there?

WEIGEL: You're in the TV business more than I am. This seems like what would be called an off night. It struck me as one of those interviews you used to see Marlon Brando give on Merv Griffin, where he didn't care. He didn't need to be there. Rupert Murdoch's laughing all the way to the bank. He's got the biggest Republicans on his network's pay roll. What does he mind if someone shoots a video of him unable to discuss how partisan his network is?

OLBERMANN: But ultimately, this is the driving factor in his life. There is obviously influences important. But when he has been made to look foolish, other people get fired. Who does he fire in this circumstance?

WEIGEL: I don't think he fires anybody. It's a good thing he doesn't actually have a Democratic on staff to get rid of, because they might be in trouble.

No, I mean, this is the kind of thing - when Fox gets a little bit of negative coverage like this, if they respond to reporters, they usually respond in those mocking tones. You remember, last week, Sarah Palin was criticized - the network was for saying LL Cool J was interviewed on Sarah Palin's show, and the network responded by saying, we hope that LL Cool J succeeds in his fledgling acting career. LL Cool J's been acting longer than Sarah Palin's been in politics. They don't mind this kind of flak.

OLBERMANN: As a recipient of one of those we wish them well, anonymous messages from a Fox News spokesperson, who is not even quoted in their own name. I suppose they could respond by busting Alan Colmes down another notch to voice over announcer or something.

WEIGEL: He's been doing well.

OLBERMANN: You've been doing a lot of these Tea Party rallies as a reporter. What is the Tea Party view of the Fox News Channel? Is it, in fact, sort of like a televised version of the revealed word?

WEIGEL: That's not unfair. Fox News is the only media network outlet that everyone trusts. Some people will tell you they read "National Review." Some people say they'll read World Net Daily. But Fox News is the one that gets signs waved across any rally. Any rally with more than 100 people will have at least one sign saying "thank you, Fox News" or Glenn Beck.

I mean, that was a pretty good question. He dodged it, slept through it or whatever Rupert Murdoch did. It was a good question. What responsibility does Fox News have for promoting the Tea Parties? But if they never promoted the Tea Parties, this is where that conservative activist who shows up at that event gets his information in the first place.

OLBERMANN: And in that context, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann would be, I guess, the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of Tea Party headliners. I don't know, the Thelma and Louise of Tea Party headliners maybe. Rank the rally today in terms of - first of, disproving that they were the same person, one would wear the glasses, then take the glasses off and be Michele Bachmann. Obviously, we disproved that theory. Where does this rank in Tea Party history, the coming together of the greats?

WEIGEL: This feels like the movie "Heat," where De Niro and Pacino were on the screen at the same time. You're like, they didn't know each other already? You're right, these guys - these politicians are mirror images of each other, who complement each other. They back slap each other on the Internets quite frequently.

I thought the more interesting thing about the rally, Palin, now that she's back giving political speeches, sort of says the same thing every time. Tim Pawlenty was there. That was not a huge surprise because he is trying to find space in the Republican race, if Sarah Palin doesn't enter it, as the conservative you can trust. But this is a guy who's thrived pretty well as a moderate Republican, and he links arm in arm with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

I mean, this is another - this is - now that Palin is back in politics, now that Bachmann is on TV every five or six minutes, there wasn't a whole lot no surprising about this. It's just more surprising when you see a Republican willing to jump on board this train.

OLBERMANN: Pawlenty has rubbed the skin off his hands pulling that steering wheel over as far right as he can.

WEIGEL: It's been amazing, yes.

OLBERMANN: Some people have done that to their regret. We'll see how that plays out for him. David Weigel of the "Washington Post," great thanks.

WEIGEL: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. This programming note for tomorrow, John Hodgeman will be joining me here for a very special announcement in which I kind of concede defeat. We'll leave the details until tomorrow. In the interim, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. And now with the latest on the threats against Speaker Pelosi and new roles for Tom Coburn in fiscal sanity, and as Mr. Weigel just mentioned, Tim Pawlenty in Tea Party insanity, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.