'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment (Boortz), Quick Comment (King), Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Quick Comment (Boortz), Quick Comment (King)
The toss: Barker
Guests: Ed Schultz, Jack Rice, Derek Pitts
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
T-minus 300 and counting - 300 days to the midterms. And they will be held without two dramatically retiring Senate Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: After 35 years of representing the people of Connecticut in the United States Congress, I will not be a candidate for re-election this November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, back in Bismarck, the Democrats' first choice to succeed the retiring Byron Dorgan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our special guest, Ed Schultz.
Two Democrats leave the Senate, leaving one Senate Democrat seat vulnerable. Is that why leadership was so ready to strip down health care reform? For fear that if they waited, they might have topped out at 59 votes.
And where is the final bill? The speaker and the president meet again today, and after candidate Obama's wild campaign promise, will the resolution be televised?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Terrorism: Withholding intel? How would that actually work? We'll ask ex-CIA agent Jack Rice to walk us through it.
And the panacea of full body scans hits a huge speed bump. In England, their use may violate laws against child pornography.
And the Republicans again express the real solution today to fighting terror they think the president must turn to immediately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I think one main thing would be to, just himself, to use the word "terrorism" more often.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I will try it myself - talking terror about the exploitation of terrorism by terrorizing Republicans and terror their - terror, terror, terror, in tonight's terror comment, terror, terror.
And astronomers have found five new planets. One has the density of Styrofoam. Welcome to planet Styrofoam.
They've also found a cave on the moon suitable for human shelter. Is bin Laden hiding in it?
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moon!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
And good-bye from Connecticut and North Dakota - where two key Democrats announced they will not be running for re-election to the Senate this year. In one case, giving hope to Republicans and prompting fear among Democrats they might lose the 60 seats they control in the Senate required in these self-flagellating days to get anything done.
And just like that, the midterm elections are underway a mere 11 months away, 300 days. Already, many Democrats are writing off the North Dakota Senate seat that is now up for grabs, following Byron Dorgan's decision last night to not seek re-election. The incumbent governor, Republican John Hoeven, now seen as the front-runner to claim the seat in that largely Republican state, especially after popular Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy said he will not seek the Senate seat.
MSNBC's own Ed Schultz, a friend of Dorgan, who joins us presently, said he has been approached to run for the seat even though he no longer lives in the state. Appearing on Schultz' show today, Dorgan said, anger on the right did not bear on his decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I do know that in this country, there's a lot of unsettled folks that were in a deep recession. Coming out of it, I believe, but a lot of people are unemployed. They're concerned about the future. And so, I understand that.
And whenever this happens, and this is the deepest recession since the Great Depression, there's always going to be a lot of angst and a lot of people agitating for this and that. I understand that.
But, you know, what, I talked to the president this morning at some length. We're going to come out of this. We're going to set this country back on track and put people back to work. This is a great place.
We've got to work together. We've got to have hope and we've got to decide that it requires all of us to come together to fix what's wrong in this country. And I have great optimism that will happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The departure of Connecticut's Chris Dodd, on the other hand, has a far different impact on the party. Dodd has been an influential player in virtually every issue at the forefront of this Congress, from health care to financial regulation, from the bailout to the stimulus. But despite a clean can bill of health from the ethics committee, his ties to Countrywide Financial had hurt him in his own home state.
And in his announcement today, the senator suggested his decision was made to help Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DODD: None of us is irreplaceable. None of us are indispensable. And those who think otherwise are dangerous. And that is how I came to the conclusion that in the long sweep of American history, there are moments for each elected public official to step aside and let someone else step up. This is my moment to step aside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And, in fact, the man stepping in, the new Democratic frontrunner, Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal - so popular in that state that Republicans are now seen as having lost a very viable bid to claim territory in deeply Democratic New England.
On a more local level, a simple scenario and a similar one applies out west, where Democrats have recently made gains as part of an effort to capitalize in political and demographic shifts in western states and turn them blue. But recent polls showed that Democratic Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado was in trouble this year. Now he, too, has decided not to run again this year. But it may not do much to improve Democratic chances of holding on to that state.
But for those suggesting a Democratic flight from next November's fight, some numbers, yesterday's two Democratic departures from the Senate bring the total to two compared to six Republicans who are not running again in the House. While 10 Democrats have said they will not run, 14 Republicans have as well. Because there are fewer of them, that means the GOP attrition rate is proportionately even higher.
Let's turn first to MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, also, of course, a columnist for CQPolitics.com.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy new decade!
OLBERMANN: Yes. And to you, sir.
And Mr. Dorgan is clearly a loss for Democrats, even if they were possibly to regain that seat. Dodd, in theory, helps them out.
Is that mean - does that mean that the last 24 hours has essentially been a wash?
CRAWFORD: Well, at least that. But maybe even a better case scenario for Democrats, Keith. I mean, they got incumbents in trouble in so many races, maybe they need the new faces, because it looked like both these senators could lose re-election if they stayed in. So maybe the odds improve.
I think there's a bit of a contradiction, in fact, between the notion that this is an intense year of anti-incumbency and the assumption that incumbents have the advantage. So, I mean, maybe fewer incumbents in your party running is a better thing.
OLBERMANN: There was also this concern voiced in some places today that these Democrats leaving would give political cover to other Democrats and open some sort of floodgates and say, we're out of here. And I'm trying to find somewhere in this, a thread of logic, because lately, it is felt, as if not one single Democrat has done what any other single Democrat has done or certainly what one has wanted another one to do.
Why would this suddenly be seen as contagious, Craig?
CRAWFORD: Good point. I know there have been a lot of phone calls, a lot of double checking with those senators, particularly those in vulnerable races. And I know Blanche Lincoln has assured colleagues she's in it to stay. It's maybe a bad sign that even the majority leader of the Senate, of the party, has had to be asked if he was staying in, because he faces a tough race, Harry Reid.
But as far as I've heard so far, of those that you might expect to be nervous, they're reassuring everyone, although there could be some wild cards out there.
OLBERMANN: How does the vulnerability - I'm not going to call it the loss yet, it's 300 days until the election - how is the vulnerability of the 60-seat supermajority? Does this impact the politics of getting through the rest of the Obama agenda this year? Has it already, perhaps, impacted it?
CRAWFORD: Well, for this year, if Democrats want to really get some guts here, maybe the thing is to put the metal - the pedal to the metal and get some things passed now that they have the 60 votes in case they lose it. Of course, the fear there is - that would drive, perhaps, more voters away from the party in competitive states, or districts.
But, still, I do think - I really believe, Keith, the Democrats have got to give their base voters on the left something to get excited about in this midterm election, to show that having the 60 votes means something.
For starters, a look at one of Dorgan's pet causes, the importation of Canadian drugs, access to cheaper Canadian drugs. Something he's very passionate about. Maybe get that done. Some concession from the drug industry might help move things along.
But that's where having the 60 votes now that might be a useful way to make - to make it mean something to the voters on the left.
OLBERMANN: Is the wild card, as we look ahead, particularly in the Senate in 2010, this year's votes, anything that happens in terms of Democrats going out, or even Democrats in trouble, is the - is the, perhaps, decisive factor, what we saw last summer and fall, the teabag thing, where anytime there is an even moderate Republican, there is suddenly this splinter group that almost hands - as we saw in the New York 23rd congressional end of things - hands the vote to the Democrat because Republicans split from conservatives? Is that really going to be the story looking ahead 300 days?
CRAWFORD: I think we're going to see many ramifications of it. We saw in Florida with the state chair resigning and in other races to come, I believe. And that has another impact.
Not just the revolt - its impact within the Republican Party, and injuring moderates, but also inspiring that Democratic base I was talking about. In these midterm elections, that's so critical, because the turnout's so low, many times it's the partisan voters who really rule midterm elections, because they're the ones that tend to show up. And if one side's base is not excited, that's one way to excite them.
CRAWFORD: . perhaps, is the teabaggers out there making them mad. I mean, the key there is, if the teabaggers excite the left.
CRAWFORD: . and frighten the middle. So, that could be.
CRAWFORD: . a good scenario for Democrats.
OLBERMANN: As always in life, excited but not too excited.
MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, whose columns appear at CQPolitics.com - as always, Craig, thanks for your time.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: And happy decade.
And with me here tonight, as promised, Ed Schultz, whose program, "The Ed Show," appears every weekday night at 6:00 here on MSNBC, the next senator of North.
OLBERMANN: How are you?
SCHULTZ: Thanks for the phone call.
OLBERMANN: Give me one reason why you're not going to enjoy this unique position for a while, and then say, "You know, I'm going make my decision here on 'The Ed Show,'" say, the first day after the Olympics is over right here on MSNBC.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, that's an interesting question, Keith, because, you know, promotionally, I could game this as far as I want to. I have too much respect for the Democratic Party in North Dakota and the hard-working progressive movement there to turn this into some kind of promotion.
But I have to say that the phone call that I got this morning from
Merle Boucher, and I clarified with him, I said, "Now, point-blank here, is
this an official ask?" And he said, "Yes." Because this is serious stuff
I mean, where the country is right now, to have 60 votes, this is going to be a very important race and I want to know how serious they are.
You know, I've worked 30 years to get where I am, sitting next to you and working at the greatest place on the face of the earth doing a radio show. And 10 months after being here, I get a phone call, thanks a lot, you know? But it's intriguing, I'm honored, I'm flattered by it. I have business interests in the state, own some homes there.
You know, I'm in a different place. I'm in a different place. Just because you have a cable show and because you've got a radio show doesn't mean that you're going to be a great senator.
I think they called me, personally, because I'm passionate, because I believe in change, I believe in health care, I believe in the middle-class, I believe in the working issues that are facing Americans to turn this economy around. And I think, Keith, that's what the Democrats are looking for right now. They're looking for a reenergized effort, because we've got to continue this force for change.
OLBERMANN: Some process questions here. You're not only Senator Dorgan's friend, but he discussed this vaguely with you and asked you how old you were and all these other little details. Did you see this coming?
SCHULTZ: I did not. I did not see it, because I've been down this road before. Years ago, they asked me to consider running for governor. I didn't do that, obviously.
This one comes at a position where, you know, would I consider it? I'm not considering it. Right now, we don't even know who the competitor would be.
SCHULTZ: I mean, we have an idea who it would be, but there's been no official announcement by either party. Like I said, I'm not considering it. I'm flattered by it, but this is going to be a huge race - a big loss for the Democrats to lose Byron Dorgan.
OLBERMANN: Absolutely. This is less true with Dodd and more so with Dorgan. That could easily be a Republican seat a year from now.
Do you think somebody had a sense in leadership in the Senate that it was a possibility that they might not be able to count on his vote if health care, particularly, stretched into 2011? And that's why we have seen so much watered down in the Senate hash job on this?
SCHULTZ: Well, Byron was a staunch supporter of the public option.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Yes.
SCHULTZ: He was very disappointed that 30 Democrats turned and went in a different direction on the drug re-importation off the prescription drug bill. That hurt him a lot.
But he's been thinking about this for a long time. This is at an intersection in life. After 40 years of public service, he's got a chance to go do something else.
I asked him tonight on the air, "Would you consider a cabinet position if it were to ever come up?" And we all know that cabinet positions come up through the life of a presidency.
He would be perfect. This man is a clean gene. This man has impeccable character. He's been a strong advocate for the middle class. It's a great loss for the Democrat.
And he's gone after the big boys on Wall Street.
SCHULTZ: He was one of a handful who said that we would regret the deregulation of Glass-Steagall and is now saying some very strong things about what we have to do to turn this around on Wall Street for some accountability.
OLBERMANN: What do the Democrats do between now and that election in terms of getting stuff passed? Do you - do you cram everything possible into this year, or do you change the rules so you remember you only need like 51 votes to pass stuff again?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think you've got to hit the Republicans on three fronts. I agree with Craig Crawford. President Obama has to accept the role - as he has done very well in the past - he's got a lot of political capital left. He could go out and he could sell hard and he could energize the base. It's going to be a heavy lift.
He's - they're also going to have to continually tell the American people that the "party of no" truly is that. They have been obstructionists throughout all of this.
And the next thing is: create jobs. A lot of sins are going to be forgiven, a lot of heads are going to turn if he can turn this economy around. The stimulus package money hasn't been fully implemented yet. There are some positive signs that are taking place right now. I think this move that Arianna's got going for the community banks is going to wake up a lot of people.
So there's still a political lifetime between now and the midterms. The last things the Democrats should do is lose their confidence, because Barack Obama is still very strong and a lot of good things can happen in 2010.
OLBERMANN: Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show" here on MSNBC, from the great state of North Dakota - great thanks. Good to see you, my friend.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Keith. Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Since last night's "Quick Comment" on a fringe radio shows comparison of health care reform to the Detroit would-be suicide hijacker, the host has demanded to debate me. And 123 more Americans have died for lack of insurance.
Tonight's first "Quick Comment," congratulations, Mr. Boortz, 123 more gravestones that are your fault.
OLBERMANN: Continuing our first week of our nightly pair of "Quick Comments."
Every time mainstream Republicans take the slightest step to separate whatever genuine opposition to health care reforms they might have, from the proxy it has become, from the lunatic fringe for racism and hatred, the lunatic fringe pulls them right back in.
As noted last night, first, it was one commentator tastefully tweeting, quote, "Obamacare will do more damage than a successful terrorist bombing of an airliner and kill more people as well," now it is a copy cat blogging, Dorgan and Dodd are health care suicide bombers.
Again, let us pass on the analysis of what kind of psychological damage the Neal Boortzes and Erick Ericksons of this world have suffered that they should have so happily joke about terrorists while pretending to care whether actual terrorists strike in this country.
Let us reemphasize reality here. Forty-five thousand Americans dying annually for want of insurance and a political party in its unthinking mouthpieces are applauding that fact, defending that system, mocking the attempts to save the dying. Instead of doing something about the 45,000, Mr. Boortz proposes to debate me over health care.
In fact, Mr. Boortz is one of the main connections between the supposed opposition to health care reform and the racist reality behind it. He began his career as a speech writer for the racist, fearmongering, segregationists governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox, a man who once said, "That's part of American greatness, is discrimination."
People who do not debate people who wrote speeches for men like Lester Maddox, people ask their Creator to forgive them.
OLBERMANN: With the health care reform bill in ultra hurry-up mode, and with the public option capital "D" dead, and with the president pressuring the House to accept the Senate version by amending it rather than by forging a true compromise through a normal conference committee. The main thrust today as Democratic leaders again met with the president was: what can the House salvage from its still-superior bill?
For two hours, they talked, and Speaker Pelosi, predicting reconciliation soon - to use a word - chose to focus on agreement and she gamely recited the goals of affordability, accountability, and access - what she terms the triple "A" rating.
But Pelosi is frustrated, according to aides, that the president expects the House to largely adopt the Senate version of the bill, which means not only the loss of any public option, but also the Senate bill's chief funding mechanism, a tax on so-called "Cadillac" insurance policies.
After yesterday's meeting with the president, when asked about the campaign promise he made to keep health care negotiations open and transparent and even televised, the speaker could not resist a dig.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Well, there are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail."
The president is playing a more direct role now that the bill is in its final stages and he has reportedly agreed to strengthen affordability measures. For example, the House bill offers insurance subsidies to a greater number of Americans than does the Senate version. And another critical point, House Democrats want the Senate to adopt a provision that would revoke the insurance industry's infamous antitrust exemption, since it allows insurers to legally fix prices and most other industries were denied that right before the year 1910.
Let's turn now to the Washington editor of "The Nation," Chris Hayes.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Stabbing McCarran-Ferguson, the giveaway in 1945 on the antitrust exemption. Is there any chance that it or anything else really game-changing survives from the House bill?
HAYES: Well, it all depends on a few factors. I mean, first of all, the investment of people like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson in killing good stuff. I mean, Joe Lieberman may be one of the most amazing moments of statesmanship basically said that one of the reasons he got rid of Medicare buy-in, and threw a tantrum over it, was that the liberals liked it, right?
HAYES: So, if that's his operating procedure, you kind of wonder whether anything that the House Progressive Caucus gets too excited about it, Lieberman or Nelson are necessarily going to throw a fit over. And if that's the case, it's going to be hard.
At the same time, it is a little bit of whack-a-mole. It's going to be hard for Lieberman or Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or others to kind of throw a fit over every individual item. And there's about five or six that are better in the House bill, and that gives me some hope that at least some of those are going to make it into the final bill.
OLBERMANN: The Dodd and Dorgan retirements, and I just saw the CNN headline on this was, "Dems Dropping Like Flies," which underscores how neutral and completely journalistic they're working it over there. Dropping like but there's two of them, only two flies.
HAYES: Are there any left? I mean.
OLBERMANN: It's a Republican sweep now. Everything is 100-nothing, isn't it? I don't know. Serious trouble. The president was just impeached and voted office in the last three minutes.
All right, back to the point. The retirements, particularly Dorgan, and I touched on this very briefly with Craig and with Ed Schultz. Could leadership not have known? I mean, Ed said this had been in the works in Mr. Dorgan's thinking for a while. Have they - could they not have had a hint unless they were blindsided? Did somebody say, "You know, as of January next year, we could stand a next long chance of having, you know, a maximum, even with Lieberman, of just 59 yeses and maybes on any health care reform and, you know, not 60"?
HAYES: Well, I think that's always been the fear. I mean, 60, by historical standards, a 60-vote majority is incredibly, incredibly rare. And I think from day one, the White House and the Democratic Party more broadly recognized that they had something extremely rare, they had to leverage it. I don't know if they've leveraged it as well as I would have hoped.
That said, I really don't think the White House knew about Dorgan. I mean, I don't have a lot of independent reporting to confirm this, but all the reports we've heard seem to indicate that this really did take them by surprise.
Dodd, on the other hand, they clearly were in conversations with and that was less of a surprise to them, and I think, actually, welcomed. But the Dorgan thing, I think, really did knock them back. And you know, there's a very good chance that come next year, the Democrats are not going to have 60 votes. And in fact, that's all the more reason why this system we've developed, where you have to get a supermajority and pass a filibuster threshold is totally dysfunctional.
OLBERMANN: In either case, it doesn't excuse the hash job that the Senate did, particularly with the Democratic leadership on it. But does it, in fact, explain it? And does that explanation of like, you know, realistically looking ahead, it's an excellent chance that number is 59 or lower next year - does that increase the chance that liberals will say, "Give me enough castor oil, we'll swallow this, let's take this and try to improve on it later"?
HAYES: You know, that's a really interesting question. I think that the base that's frustrated with parts of the bill is going to continue to be frustrated with parts of the bill and angry about it and feel that, at the end of the day, the president, primarily - not Harry Reid, not the Senate leadership - the president did not put his full muscle behind a core set of progressive objectives. And, you know, whether there's going to be 59 votes next year or 55 or whatever it's going to be, that frustration and anger is going to stay.
Ultimately, on the day that the president, I think, signs the health care bill, I think you will begin to see both Democrats and progressives in the base and in generally the country, you know, sort of swarm around a general feeling that, "Look, they actually got something done in Washington, whether we like it or not."
OLBERMANN: Yes. CNN has just reported that Mrs. Obama has applied to become a member of the Republican Party.
So, this whole - the whole thing's a - Chris Hayes of "The Nation," thanks for sitting there and not laughing at my sophomoric humor on this subject.
HAYES: I was laughing.
OLBERMANN: No, no. I mean, laughing like, what is this idiot doing now? Thanks for bearing with me. Let me put it that way.
HAYES: Always a pleasure, Keith. Happy New Year.
OLBERMANN: And to you.
As Democrats work to finalize the health care reform bill, we can announce the first free health care clinic of 2010, paid for you - or paid by you, our Countdown viewers. It will be held on the 3rd of next month, 3rd of February in Hartford at the convention center there. We'll try to undo some of the damage Mr. Lieberman did in his Connecticut backyard.
For information on how to schedule an appointment or how to learn how to volunteer, you can go to FreeClinics.us. You can also visit our Web site at Countdown.MSNBC.com.
The White House investigation into which dots were not connected and why is to be released tomorrow.
In advance of that - and this sounds like a bad joke - a guy walks into an American embassy and says, "My son has become dangerously radicalized and I think he may be a threat to your country," can intelligence gold like that really fall through a crack somewhere? Or does a crack have to be created for it and the intel stuffed into it and deliberately kept there? We will as a former CIA agent.
OLBERMANN: Scientists confirm what you've always suspected: one of the planets out there is made out of Styrofoam, sort of. First, on this date in 1941, President Roosevelt cited his four freedoms in his State of the Union Address, of speech, of religion, from want, from fear, which Howard Cosell later adjusted to the four freedoms of sports writers:
freedom of admission, freedom of transportation, freedom of food, and freedom of beverages.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia, for our battle of the network stars. Right here. American tennis player Andy Roddick and his wife, Brooklyn Decker, received the VIP tour yesterday. And that really was a VIP tour. In front of the gathered media, Roddick cuddled with some of the furry creatures, before turning his attention to the camera for an interview.
That's when the Lone Pine koalas behind him stopped being so lonely. Well, you can't say Andy Roddick without erotic. It appears that no one bothered to tell the tennis star what was happening behind him. And as you can tell from the up close camera work, the media and the pervert wallabies in the next enclosure seemed to enjoy the action.
Maybe that's what was going on in Palm Springs, where Mariah Carey accepted a film festival award for her role in the movie "Precious." The extremely long, bizarre acceptance speech is compressed here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIAH CAREY, SINGER AND ACTRESS: I don't think they understand the kitten and cotton thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we do.
CAREY: I have to say, this is - and please forgive me, because I'm a little bit - yeah.
I met Helen Mirren tonight. I was so excited. I couldn't believe it, the genius Helen Mirren.
So I'm very grateful. I thank you all for listening to my little schpiel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that's tonight's quick comment. Actually, we'll see her on "American Idol" as a judge, won't we?
In the real comment, it's terror time again, the kind spread by Republicans like Congressman Peter King, who insists the president should use the word more often, like, you know, instead of hello.
OLBERMANN: The "Los Angeles Times" has a cryptic headline on its website; no story, just a headline, reading, "US Learned About Alleged Extremist Links About Airline Bomber As He Was in the Air." Don't go there yet. There's no story. But it dovetails with an ABC News report tonight that one of the president's orders in the wake of Detroit will be a surge of US Marshals on board the international flights of American carriers, to switch by month's end most or all of the 3,200 members of the force on non-domestic flights, covering the responsibilities on the domestic flights with other federal law enforcement officials.
And juxtaposing those two stories is a fascinating exercise. A White House review pinpointing exactly where the intelligence community failed is due out tomorrow. Former CIA special agent Jack Rice joins me presently to discuss the actual mechanics of the possibility of agencies withholding intel.
The day after the president gave the intelligence community its public drubbing, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was indicted on six federal charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and the attempted murder of the 290 aboard Northwest Flight 253.
Today's indictment also says Abdulmutallab had another sensitive explosive on him, the same that convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid carried, known as TATP. Abdulmutallab is currently being held in a Michigan prison, with a hearing scheduled on Friday.
Meanwhile, the White House will release its review of what went wrong tomorrow, alongside more specific recommendations for improving the current system. We mentioned what one of them is apparently going to be, according to ABC. The president will speak about the problems uncovered in the report. Press secretary Gibbs giving a grim preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is a failure that touches across the full waterfront of our intelligence agencies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Complicating security matters, technology intended to catch terrorists when intelligence fails. In England, debate over full body scanners at airports. It turns out the machines violate, perhaps, child pornography laws. Lawmakers there would have to exempt minors from the scanners or introduce new legislation.
Joining me now, as promised, former CIA special agent Jack Rice, now the host of "Live in Washington" on Air America radio. Jack, good evening.
JACK RICE, FMR. CIA AGENT: Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We'll put together the details of this, what's leaked out about the air marshals in a moment and the idea that something was found as the flight was in the air on Christmas. But, first, about Richard Wolffe's suggestion last night that the White House is still examining this prospect that an agency or agencies kept intel out of a system because they had no confidence in the system. What do you think that means, practically? You don't file reports or you're afraid the agency is going to rat out your sources? Walk us through that.
RICE: That's the real problem. If we don't actually connect all of the - and I hate to come back to this, but connecting all of these dots. If I have an individual dot, and I'm concerned that somebody else isn't going to protect my asset, I've just risked my life to get that information, my asset is risking their life, and I simply toss it out there to everybody else, and I doubt that they're actually going to hold on to it and protect it, then I may actually hold back.
I mean, this is a perfect example of a system that is fundamentally broken and still broken. We can go back to the beginning of 9/11. We spent a trillion dollars. We've invaded multiple countries. We've killed tens of thousands of people. And the same problem we had then is the same problem we have today. It's a disaster.
OLBERMANN: All right, but particularly on this, a guy's father walks in and says, my son's been radicalized. He may be a risk to you. How do you keep that quiet? That is, to use the John Le Carre term, that's gold. How could it possibly be an error of omission. Wouldn't you have to suppress that rather than lose it somewhere?
RICE: I think you're right. That's really the difficulty here. How do you deal with something like this? And this is part of the problem. President Obama said two things. He said that there's a human problem here and there's a systemic problem here. The human problem is not understanding what's going on.
But the systemic one, I think, is equally important. It's not just about the inability to distribute it, information, so everybody else can get it. It's also confidence in the individual officer that if it gets out there, it's also going to be protected. We still haven't dealt with that issue. And it's one of the other multiple problems that we have. And this continues again and again.
OLBERMANN: All right. Now we're getting a little clearer picture. The "Los Angeles Times" report is now up to match its headline, and what it is reporting is that they had just clicked in everything about Abdulmutallab, and that he was to be questioned upon landing in Detroit, that that's how close a thing this was.
There's an anonymous quote from an enforcement official, law enforcement official; "the people in Detroit were prepared to look at him in secondary inspection. The decision had been made. The database had picked up the State Department concern about this guy, that this guy may have been involved with extremist elements in Yemen. They could have made a decision of whether or not to stop him from getting on the plane."
Is it, as Wellington said of Waterloo, that near run a thing? Did we miss this by a matter of six hours?
RICE: Yeah, that really is the concern with everything on this issue. We now know, as we look back, all of the issues we should have grabbed. I mean, if we want to go down the list, the fact that he was paying in cash, the fact that he started from a third country, he was going one way, only carry-on luggage. All of these issues should have been enough in itself.
But then you find out, of course, about the father, who addresses a CIA officer, not once, but twice, and then multiple phone calls. You add all of this up, something should have triggered it, but nothing did. And again, part of the systemic problem. To be honest, one of the other issues I'm amazed about, however, is that we seem to have over-reacted about so many things we were going to do, despite looking at the problem that still exists.
OLBERMANN: So is there, perhaps, in this - could this ultimately turn out to be the cheapest test of our system and what needs to be amped up and what can be motored down, if we were off by six hours? Is this a question of, you know, lifting up a few levels and lowering other ones? Is it tweaking at that point?
RICE: Well, I'm pleased that if we can at least address it like that. But we have to narrowly address it. Part of what happens right now in Washington, especially during an election year, is the GOP will continue to bang on President Obama and say that he's weak on terrorism and ultimately he hates America. And instead, he may overreact. I hope he doesn't. Let's narrowly address the problem and then deal with it.
OLBERMANN: Jack Rice, formerly of the CIA, now with the Air America radio network, and joining us on this breaking story out of the "L.A. Times." Thank you, Jack.
RICE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, in outer space, there's a newly discovered planet out there tonight, and it's made of Styrofoam. No jokes about Peter King being made of Styrofoam, but judging by his remarks this morning, he either didn't get the memo that the president has too called the Detroit plane plot terrorism 26 times so far, or it just hasn't gotten through his head. My second comment of the night.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, TV's Bob Barker, who will defend his involvement with an anti-whaling group that crashed one of their ships into a Japanese whaling boat today, and they'll play Plinko.
OLBERMANN: Worsts in a moment, first the second of our nightly quick comments. a question for Mr. Stephanopoulos about the unconnected dots in the Detroit plane plot. Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this. The answer from Mr. Peter King, congressman representing the bullies, the gangs and the ogres who live under the bridges of Long Island, New York, quote, "I think one main thing would be to just himself use the word "terrorism" more often."
Yeah, the 26 times he's used the word or a variant in his five statements on the terrorism just have not been sufficient. They have not been sufficient if, like Congressman King, you are trying to induce terror in the American public, if you are trying to make sure that we fear fear itself.
But let instead me answer Mr. King on his own terms. Twenty six uses are not enough? Let me employ 27, but do so honestly. You and your terror-obsessed political party, Congressman King, use terrorism and the terrified fear of terrorism to try to terrorize Americans into the terror that there is a terrorist attack on this terror-threatened country every terrorized day. You terrify the easily terrified into a false terror over whether our terrorized counter-terrorism effort is terrifyingly inadequate, and how only terror-conscious Republicans can save a terrified nation from the terrorizing Democrats, who should be terrified that you call them terror-less, and who should become terror-full with terrifying speed.
That in using terrorism as a terrifying political brand name you are doing the terror work of the terrorists holds no terrors for you.
Twenty seven. You do know what the dictionary cites as the antonym for the word terror, don't you, Congressman King? Calm. Try it some time. You'll see like more of a grown-up.
OLBERMANN: We have discovered a new planet, a planet with the density of Styrofoam. Planet Styrofoam. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story - live from Planet Styrofoam, it's tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Chris Myers of Fox Sports, not having a good week. Sunday, he's doing the play by play when the Detroit Lions shove aside the Chicago Bears offensive line and sack quarterback Jay Cutler, and Dent says, "they broke through like they were at the airport security in Amsterdam." What, what, too soon? I know you will.
Then last night, Iowa wins the Orange Bowl and Myers is the interviewer who asks Iowa's Ricky Stanzy (ph), quote, "I know you're from middle America. You feel like sometimes you're representing more than just a school or a conference? Maybe an entire group of American citizens out there?"
For crying out loud, Myers, they beat Georgia Tech, not the Taliban!
The runner-up, Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon-Mobil. Over the last seven years, his company has contributed at least 100,000 dollars to a little outfit called NCPPR, the National Center for Public Policy Research. And NCPPR recently put out a press release about this revolting development, "as terrorists continue to infiltrate America, the Obama administration is tasking some of our nation's most elite intelligence gathering agencies to divert their resources to environmental scientists researching global warming."
Well, the lunatic fringe, always happy to rely on press releases rather than doing any reporting or thinking, exploded. FoxNews.com screamed, "CIA resources diverted to climate change."
Hannity quoted Senator Barrasso of Wyoming saying the CIA shouldn't be spying on sea lions. A blogger wrote, "they're going from spying on terrorists to spying on polar bears."
Another blogger named Hoft said "the CIA will be spying on icebergs instead of terrorists."
I know, they have one idea. They steal it from each other. They change one word in it and then think they had 97 ideas. Besides which, I would like to remind the GOP that an iceberg sank the Titanic and it was never proved that al Qaeda wasn't involved.
More importantly, the whole thing is crap. The CIA is giving scientists access to stuff it already has spy satellite photos, sensor equipment around the globe, stuff that's up and running, whether they let the scientists look into it or not. No resources diverted, none.
But for some reason, an Exxon-Mobil funded phony think tank put out a press release saying the CIA was now studying climate change instead of spies. Golly, I wonder why they did that?
But our winner, Bill-O the Clown. And this is clown college time. I mentioned this last night, but it deserves the full read: "simply put, al Qaeda thugs have no rights, none. They should be killed on the spot. And they are being killed by the drones. So if they're captured, they should undergo harsh interrogation and be placed in military prisons."
OK, were you planning to still put them in the military prisons after you killed them on the spot? Or do you need to rephrase your plan? Seriously, Bill, we need to walk you through the idea of why we have trials? Ultimately, why we ask questions first and shoot later? That's not about rights. It's not about who's a thug. It's not about how much sadistic joy and the sickos like you get from the thought of harsh interrogation.
It's so we get the right guy. Mankind figured this out thousands of years ago and we replaced them that old method of kill them, then ask them if they're guilty because the dead men proved to be mediocre at answering questions. And then it often turned out that we were killing the wrong guys, which was inconvenient, especially for them.
Because under your system all that has to happen is that someone says, hey, that Bill O'Reilly, he's an al Qaeda thug, and then, under your system, the government would have the right to kill you on the spot.
Bill, if this still isn't clear, I'll draw you a picture in crayon and messenger it over. Bill-O the Thug, today's worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: We found a planet made out of smoking hot packing peanuts. NASA has discovered several new planets outside our solar system, this thing here, one of which is made out of a kind of molten Styrofoam. And never mind North Waziristan. There's also a cave on the moon where Osama bin Laden could be - look out - hiding.
NASA's Kepler Telescope was launched in March. Its goal, to identify Earth-like planets outside our solar system that could potentially sustain life. This week it was announced that Kepler has came up with its first five planets, named Kepler 4-B through 8-B. Spent a lot of money on that part of the budget, I see.
None of them are Earth-like. All of them are larger than Jupiter. One of them is hotter than a molten iron, with a density like that of Styrofoam. So you could pass it back and forth like a big whiffle ball.
Back in this solar system, a journal called "The Geophysical Research Letters" has identified a hole on the Moon, called a lava tube, that could serve as a moon colony for Earthlings, left by an old volcano. The giant cave has a thin lava shield that would protect anyone inside from the Moon's extreme environment and meteor strikes. At 55,000 square feet, space is limited. So you better buy now. And get some gold while you're at it.
Although, you may want to get it inspected before moving in, as Hans Solo and Chewbacca will tell you. Nobody wants a lava tube with a giant space worm in it.
Joining me now to gently suffer all the puns and dumb questions a laymen can think of, here's the chief astronomer for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Derek Pitts. Derek, welcome back.
DEREK PITTS, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE: Thank you very much, Keith. It's great to be here. I'm all set for the puns.
OLBERMANN: So five planets that Kepler has come up with. None of them are really able to support life as we know it. But NASA is still happy with this discovery. Why?
PITTS: Well, the basic reason why they're happy with the discovery is it's proof that the telescope that they put up just back in March is working well. And this instrument that they are using, as you said, is the one they're going to try to use to find Earth-like planets. And this is a really tough job to do, because these objects are very far away. They're very small. You have to be able to pull the image of the planet out away from the glare of its parent star.
And so an instrument like this is a very sensitive instrument. They want to make sure it's calibrated properly and hopefully it's working right. After having hunted through some 400 other exo-planets, as they're called, they're really hoping that Kepler can pull out something really, really, really promising.
OLBERMANN: So far it's pulled out one that's made out of Styrofoam. What is the use of this to mankind? Could Fed-Ex or UPS do some mining on this planet or what?
PITTS: I think that's a perfect way to preserve resources here on our own planet, by using these outer space resources. I think that's the next mission that NASA has planned for men to go out and mine that.
OLBERMANN: Ninety six million light years to get Styrofoam. How is it possible the thing holds together if the density is like that?
PITTS: This is one of the great mysteries about planets like this, is that we really don't understand everything there is to know about what it is that makes planets planets. And you know, Keith, this goes back to that great argument there is these days about whether or not Pluto was a planet. Because that whole argument is predicated on some understanding that we thought of what a planet really is.
But as we start to look at these other planets orbiting other stars, we begin to discover that our definition really isn't very good. And now we're beginning to push the envelope on this, and we find planets like this one that seem to be made of these kinds of materials. The question remains, well, what is it - what other kind of exotic things are we going to find as we continue to look at these other planets.
OLBERMANN: A giant nerf football.
PITTS: I think that's a good one.
OLBERMANN: Now, the Moon hole. Why is this better than any other hole on the Moon?
PITTS: Because this is a tube that has this surface covering than can provide protection against the extreme temperature changes on the surface of the Mood from 250 degrees plus during the day to 250 degrees below at night. And it also provides protection against radiation.
So if we could line this tube with some sort of an inflatable membrane, this is a perfect place we could hide in, you know, to protect ourselves if we actually send people to live and work on the Moon.
OLBERMANN: Are we going to do that? And how can you and I capitalize on it?
PITTS: You know, I think we can buy a ticket. You can buy a ticket to go to International Space Station for 20 million. I think 40 or 50 million will get us to the Moon. And we all have that kind of money just laying around every place, don't we? It's going to be a long time before any regular people get there.
Colonization on the Moon is, I think, at least 50 years off. It's going to take us 20 just to get there.
OLBERMANN: All right. That crosses you and me off the list. We're out of it. Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute, as always, great thanks. We actually learned stuff.
PITTS: My pleasure. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,442nd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now to discuss the whamming of a whaling boat with a man who defends the group who did it, TV's Bob Barker, Rachel Maddow. Come on down. Sorry, had to.
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