'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball, Tea Time, Worst Persons
The toss: Vanilla Ice
Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, John Hofmeister, Chris Hayes, Jack Conway, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Day 35. The Minerals Management Service, 2005 to 2007: The federal regulators overseeing the drilling in the Gulf let industry officials write their own inspection reports in pencil. Then regulators would trace them over in ink - in pencil.
And Mr. Menendez of New Jersey pencils in his own kind of regulation the liability limit for B.P.? No limit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Boggles my mind, as one senator, that there are those who believe that holding B.P. accountable for the disaster they created in the Gulf is un-American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A deal on "don't ask, don't tell." Don't do it until December, but pass it now. And a separate deal with Republican senators, the president sends troops to, quote, "secure the borders"?
Rand Paul reemerges, speaks today a Lion's Club while wearing surgical scrubs. Our special guest: the Democratic nominee for the Senate from Kentucky, Jack Conway.
This is the tea party. He wants to dissolve 10 federal departments, thus the Visiting Nurse Association. And he says he found the Arc in Arizona and he's the messiah and a pyramid is going to dropout of the sky and that will be the new Jerusalem.
I know. I made that part up - about the Visiting Nurse Association.
The pyramid? That he believes.
And plagiarism - the great tradition of American politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand on the crossroads of history.
VAUGHN WARD, IDAHO GOP CANDIDATE: We stand on the crossroads of history.
OBAMA: We can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.
WARD: I know we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that lay before us.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: The news here? The other guy - that's a would-be Republican congressman from Idaho.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA & WARD: We can make the right choices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
A jaw-dropping report from the Department of the Interior stating today that big oil was not virtually writing its own safety inspection reports, it was literally writing its own safety inspection reports.
Our fifth story: as B.P. today prepared for tomorrow's attempt to cap its spill under tremendous pressure, we warned that B.P. and big oil have been under virtually no pressure from government regulatory agencies but those agencies were big oil.
Our fifth story tonight: "Obviously," Larry Williams the manager of the Minerals Management Service, MMS, Lake Charles District, "we're all oil industry."
The report is saying oil industry officials would fill out safety inspection reports themselves in pencil and MMS inspectors would trace over them in pen before signing them.
Then there was the inspector who showed up for work still high on crystal meth, and the other inspector who inspected four offshore rigs of a company he was at the time negotiating with for a job which he got. The rigs meanwhile got no violations.
And the other inspectors who got free lunches from big oils and other meals, too, and gifts and golfing and shooting and hunting trips and tickets to the 2005 Peach Bowl.
The bigger problem, perhaps not the gifts but the suggestion they were unnecessary at a revolving door agency filled with childhood friends of the employees of the oil industry.
A Conoco-Phillips employee e-mailing an MMS inspector, quote, "Ever get bribed?" "They'll try all the time." "Ever take 'em?" "I accept, quote, 'gifts' from certain people, but we have very strict ethics standards as you could imagine."
"Certain people," the Conoco-Phillips employee asked, "meaning women?" "No," the MMS writes, "Meaning good friends that I wouldn't write up anyway."
In October 2008, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington decided not to investigate the allegations that led to this report, a report of drug use and other criminal activity. Washington had previously served as chief counsel for Conoco-Phillips where he worked for 13 years. This year, he left the U.S. attorney's office for a law firm focused on regulatory compliance, Jones Walker, which defends oil companies and is a joint venture of Conoco-Phillips.
Despite the fact that investigation has been going on for years since an MMS official was fired for taking gifts, the secretary of the interior, Mr. Salazar, only today asked for the investigation to be broadened. Quote, "This deeply disturbing report is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of MMS and the oil and gas industry."
Salazar last year named former B.P. vice president, Sylvia Baca, as deputy assistant secretary of Land and Minerals Management. Only tonight did B.P. meanwhile agreeing not to cut off its live video feed during tomorrow's attempt to cap the spill. At the same time, it admitted that the attempt itself might even make the spill worse. The so-called "top kill" method dumping heavy mud over the disaster could become its won disaster where the mud further ruptures the pipeline.
We also learned today, the president will visit Louisiana on Friday to assess the spill containment efforts and that he reportedly had told his aides, quote, "Plug the damn hole." And that he had told them that during the first week of the month-old spill disaster.
Today, for the third time, a single Republican stood up to block unanimous consent on raising the cap for oil company liability from its present $75 million. This time, Democratic Senator Menendez wanted to eliminate the liability cap altogether.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: This is a chance to show if we stand with big oil companies or with small businesses, with fisheries, with coastal communities, with tourism, with hotels, with all of those individuals, fellow Americans who are being hurt by this disaster. It's an opportunity to say: do we stand up with the American taxpayer or with corporate shareholders? It seems to me the clear - the choice is pretty clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us now MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O'Donnell, former chief of staff, of course, to the Senate Finance Committee and now a contributor at "Huffington Post."
Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ken Salazar appointed to cleanup the Interior Department and he brings in more big oil people and breaks up MMS after this Deepwater Horizon disaster and he only orders new investigations after this one with this Frankensteinian details goes public with the same environmental groups that oppose his appointment today, calling for his firing.
How long does he have left on this job or is he doing just fine in the eyes of the administration?
O'DONNELL: Well, according to the Dennis Blair clock, Keith, he probably has 90 days unless this thing starts to turn in his favor. I think Salazar and his staff are looking at the Dennis Blair model and saying, OK, you know, there was the so-called Christmas bomber, attempted bomber, and then about three months later or four, Blair's out of there. That's - Salazar may have a shorter time frame than that for this.
On the other hand, if the intervention works tomorrow, then everybody who's in a Salazar kind of position here gets to breathe easy. But I think the administration is going to have to look at this. No matter what happens tomorrow, they're going to have to look at it going forward and has Salazar clamped down enough on the kinds of reports that we've seen today about how these agencies operate.
OLBERMANN: The administration keeps pointing to the law that dates post-Exxon Valdez. It says companies have to do the cleanup. But the law also lets the government ride herd. Does that mean that the president owns this now politically?
O'DONNELL: He does own it politically and since there isn't really something that a politician can do to solve a scientific problem that is stumping everyone else who's staring at it, what he has to own now is the outrage. He has to own the outrage over what happened here and h has to name what it is that happened here.
What we have - you know, we're well into it now, and we're concerned with the environmental cleanup. But what this begins as the night this event occurs is: this is a homicide. There are 11 people who are the victims of a corporate homicide in the Gulf of Mexico. And I don't hear the rage coming out of the White House over that incident. That's what this is.
This is the president who made American mining history by going to that funeral in West Virginia of the horrible incident that occurred at the mine in West Virginia. I don't get the same sense that the same level of outrage is present over the 11 deaths here, the 11 deaths that are so easy to forget when we deal with the day-to-day cleanup of what's happening here. And that is - that is a crime that is - that needs to be addressed with the full energy of the government.
OLBERMANN: And when we have the information that we have basically of the reports for MMS being filled out in pencil by the people who are being regulated and then literally traced in in ink by the regulators, combined with something that's just breaking as we speak here.
I read you the MSNBC account of this, the dotcom account of this. There's a B.P. memo that has been sent out to Congressman Waxman who's now released certain details.
Fifty-one minutes before the explosion, more fluid began flowing out of the well that was being pumped in. Forty-one minutes before the explosion, the pump was shut down for a sheen test. The well continued to flow instead of stopping, and drill pipe pressure unexpectedly increased. Eighteen minutes before the explosion, abnormal pressures and mud returns were observed and the pump was abruptly shut down.
I mean, we're not getting a clear picture of what happened in the hour before this thing unfolded and as it continues to unfold. Is that - is the essence of this now: there needs to be a ramping up of the political anger as you put it for each new detail? What is the ratio? What is the - what is the - is that a touch-and-feel thing? How does the president respond each time a new detail like this comes out?
O'DONNELL: Well, if they'd been approaching this from the outset as a homicide investigation with the kind of care that you approach that, then each of these new elements that show us what kind of negligence and willful wanton and reckless conduct was going on by B.P. in this case, they - that would make sense. It would flow into the government's approach to it already.
But because, in effect, the way the White House has looked at it from the start, was more of an industrial so-called accident, I don't think these things should be called accidents when we have the trail of information that we have about exactly how this occurred. This was corporate negligence in the extreme.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O'Donnell, also of "Huffington Post" - as always, thanks for your time tonight.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We'll turn now to John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, currently author of "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider."
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JOHN HOFMEISTER, FMR. PRES., SHELL OIL: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It couldn't be better timed. The success for this hoped for "top kill" attempt tomorrow, it might very well depend on the pressure and the volume of the spill itself. In other words, the rate at which the oil continues to spew out of this. It's not a spill, it's a rupture, it's a disaster.
Is that exactly why B.P. has been refusing to let anybody measure how much is spewing out now and is that one of the reasons we hate the oil companies?
HOFMEISTER: No. I think there is a different explanation for why we haven't been able to figure out how much oil is actually coming out. I don't think that has been on the top of the list in terms of B.P.'s priorities. And there are - any number of ways to measure these things.
So, setting that aside, I think the big risk for tomorrow is whether the integrity of the blowout preventer itself can handle that mud under such extraordinary pressure and whether the pipe connections and whatever connections are being made which have been tooled and threaded and so forth over the last several weeks, whether that will actually hold the kind of dramatic 35,000 horsepower pressure that's needed to stuff that mud into the well.
OLBERMANN: You heard that account that has now been released of the three events in the hour before the actual explosion. What does that - does that suggest anything to you about what might happen tomorrow if it goes badly? If the top kill doesn't work, does that suggest not doing the top kill? Is it at all of any use as to what to do now?
HOFMEISTER: I think, there's no choice but to do the top kill. We got to get that flow shut. And whether it is the top kill or the junk shot, getting that flow stopped, at least on a temporary basis, is critically important not only for stopping the horrific pollution that's happening on the sea but for the credibility of what an industry can do when things go badly wrong.
When I - I think, since the 20th of April, I've been saying this needs a very careful investigation into what happened when, who was accountable for what. My op-ed in "The New York Times" several weeks ago said precisely, who was in charge? Who was in charge of what during each step along the way? Because in the outsourcing that has taken place in the industry, there is a chance to lose the command of control and that would be very dangerous on a rig like this.
OLBERMANN: To the title of your book, is it possible we hate the oil companies because we have now met Minerals Management Service, and MMS and big oil are virtually the same thing, and they take from the same talent pool and it is essentially which uniform the guy wants to wear for six months at a stretch?
HOFMEISTER: You know, I hear those stories and that's not my experience at all. I tried three summers in a row to get approvals, environmental permits for Shell for drilling off the coast of Alaska, and I was shut down every year for three years, wasted some $300 million because we're not going to make jokes with the MMS. The MMS is a serious player.
I actually went right into the department of the MMS itself at the invitation of the secretary at the time, and also Conrad Lautenbacher, who was the head of NOAA, to really understand what is the work process that takes place? How could we have a relationship where the regulators can do their job and my employees at Shell could do their job so that we work in the best interest of society? Not trying to push the MMS in a particular direction, but three years in a row, we didn't get the permit. We didn't meet the requirements of the MMS. It was a tough play by the MMS.
OLBERMANN: They apparently were not as tough when it came to B.P.
We can toss this back and forth endlessly about what to do about MMS, but most immediately, regarding this scenario we find ourselves in right now, what are we not trying? What happened to the idea that supposedly worked in the Gulf of Arabia, surround it with super tankers? What happened to that one?
HOFMEISTER: I'm still waiting. I haven't heard. I put it in to B.P. some weeks ago, still waiting to hear.
To me, it's just ultimate pragmatism. You have these big, huge super tankers that could suck up a million barrels a load with huge powerful valves and pumps that could pull in sea water and oil so it never comes to shore. In a formation, if these - if supertankers were going up and down, back and forth, managing their way around the rigs, managing other things that have to be looked out for, I think you could pick up a lot of that oil that's on the surface that would never hit the coast of Louisiana.
OLBERMANN: John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, author of "Why We Hate the Oil Companies" - thank you kindly for your insights tonight.
HOFMEISTER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The president may have gotten a win on "don't ask, don't tell." He certainly got a fight with Republican senators over troops to the border. And if that doesn't make an enough day for you, a Republican congressman eviscerates FOX News on the Florida House today.
And there is a House tea party candidate who claims he discovered the Arc of the Covenant in Arizona. Hope all the animals had their papers with them.
OLBERMANN: "Don't ask, don't tell" and a similar phrase applying to his debate with Republican senators today.
This gentleman speaks to a local Lion's Club while dressed in surgical scrubs. His opponent, Kentucky's Democratic Senate nominee, Jack Conway, joins us.
Behold, the greatest tea party candidate of all time. He found the ark.
And he stole from an Obama address which might make some sense if he was not a conservative candidate for the House in Idaho.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC. Idaho!
OLBERMANN: To say the least, an odd day for the president relative to the military.
In our fourth story, he apparently got a deal on repealing "don't ask, don't tell," that builds in a period of don't enforce and comes with the option of don't repeal.
And then there was the brawl reported with Republican senators who demanded he'd send troops to secure the border after which the president sent some troops to secure the border.
President Obama reportedly battling in a closed door lunch meeting described in multiple accounts as having gotten testy.
Bob Corker of Tennessee accusing the president of acting two faced for having asked for GOP support only to pass bills anyway when he did not get that support. Senator Corker telling Greg Sargent this afternoon, quote, "I felt there was a degree of audacity in him being there after passing his third large partisan bill. I told him I felt like a prop after the actions they had taken regarding bipartisanship. It hit a nerve."
But in the same meeting, Senator McCain apparently squaring off with the president over border security, telling "Politico" he told the president, quote, "We need to secure the border first. He didn't agree."
But after the meeting, the president announcing he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to support law enforcement officers working already there. The one does not appear to be related to the other. The request having come from a Democrat in the House.
The White House tonight disputing the notion that Senator Corker's conversation with the president was contentious. Spokesman Bill Burton emailing Mr. Sargent and say, "The exchange he had with the president was actually pretty civil." Adding, "The president wasn't going to run up the vote total at the expense of watering down the legislation," this will be on Wall Street reform.
Meanwhile, as we mentioned, in a compromise worked out between the White House and the Democrats, Congress to take up legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" almost immediately, but the Pentagon would not have to change its policies until the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs all agree the military is ready for that.
On that note, joining us here, Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.
Good to see you, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Disclaimer in advance, we should mention, your wife works in the White House Counsel's office.
HAYES: That's right. Although my views, as always and obviously are my own.
OLBERMANN: And they haven't been cribbed from anybody or plagiarized from anybody's speech.
HAYES: That's right.
OLBERMANN: We'll start with Corker's point. The president asked for bipartisanship. He doesn't get it. He manages to pass serious landmark legislative actions anyway. And for that, the Republicans resent him and accuse him of using them as props. Just sum it up, basically.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, it's a truly profoundly disingenuous statement, because it's been clear from the beginning, both in internal memos and things that have said to the press. I mean, it's not even a secret. It's an open secret that the strategy from the beginning has been "oppose, oppose, oppose."
And Corker himself was trying to bring Republicans along on Wall Street and was unable to. So, he knows firsthand exactly what he's up against in his own caucus.
OLBERMANN: All right. Senator Roberts of Kansas, describing Obama's reaction to Senator Corker like this: "The more he talked, the more he got upset." This is the president. "He needs to take a valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans and just calm down and don't take anything so seriously."
Given particularly the White House pushback on this - does that sound anything like the president? And does it also indicate why when the president meets Republicans, he likes to have reporters there with cameras and live feeds?
HAYES: That's exactly right. I think it's exactly that. I mean, first of all, it sounds nothing like the president. I mean, if there's one thing that everyone agrees on, it's his cool demeanor. In fact, people say he's too cool.
I found the most interesting part of that quote, don't take things so seriously. Like, it's serious stuff, dude.
HAYES: Like you are a U.S. senator, we're spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of - barrels of oil into the ocean, we have two wars going on, we have double-digit unemployment, like - yes, it's serious.
OLBERMANN: This is - yes, this sounds like the MMS talking to the oil executives, don't worry, don't worry about it.
HAYES: Calm down and chill, right?
OLBERMANN: What's the worst that can happen? It blows up.
This request to send the troops to the border, it's supposedly just a coincidence between the timing of McCain's "don't tread on me" statement this afternoon, and the request that comes from Congressman Giffords of Arizona. Is it coincidence? Do we know?
HAYES: We don't know. I mean, at this point, we don't know. You know, they say it's been in the works. I think, at the end of the day, the policy is bad. I mean, we sent, what, 6,000 troops during Bush. And apparently, that didn't help, right? Because there is still this issue.
So, I think militarizing the border doesn't solve anything.
OLBERMANN: And "don't ask, don't tell." This compromise has - this is a strange piece of legislation.
HAYES: It is very strange.
OLBERMANN: It is conditional upon a condition upon a promise upon a hope line. It's a Woody Allen line.
HAYES: It is. Although, you know, from their - from the White House perspective, it's pretty deft, right? They try to get the legislation in while they have these majorities, which are not going to survive the fall. Both of us know that.
And yet, at the same time, they don't have to hurry, the institution, the Pentagon, which from the beginning has been the constituency they were most worried about, right? So, they're trying to play this on both ends, which is to get the politics done while they have the majorities, while not creating this institutional backlash from DOD which from day one has always been the biggest fear, I think.
OLBERMANN: So in other words, he pays the parking fines now, and does 97 miles an hour later.
HAYES: Exactly right.
OLBERMANN: OK. We got it straight. Chris Hayes of "The Nation" - surviving tonight's lightning round.
HAYES: Yes, we got through it.
OLBERMANN: - after extra input (ph) from the Gulf. Great thanks for both, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: He says he hasn't eaten anything since 1940, not Hayes, this guy in India, next.
OLBERMANN: Jack Conway, the Kentucky Senate committee, who didn't today gratuitously dress up in surgical scrubs to a Lion's Club. Our guest next.
First, tweet of the day, Cbbeast, trying a little gotcha tweeting, including, "We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language."
And a several quotes from Teddy Roosevelt from 1907, as I noted one, we damn better get rid of the Latin money and the government buildings. And this other noted, we better give back the name San Francisco and Los Angeles, Des Moines for that matter. And as President Roosevelt himself probably would have noted, you people in 2010 are trying to decide your politics only things I said 103 years ago, you're in bigger trouble than you think.
Let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: We begin in Ahmadabad, India, where this 82-year-old hermit Prahlad Jani says he hasn't eaten in 70 years. Clearly, word has not gotten to India about the KFC double down. Jani, also known as Mataji, claims he was blessed by a Hindu goddess Amba when he was a lad and hasn't consumed anything since 1940. Naturally, medical professionals were intrigued by Mataji's claims. So, they brought him into the hospital for some tests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's already 108 hours since Mataji's admission into this hospital. And he has not eaten anything. He has not drunk a little drop of any kind of liquid. But more importantly, he has not passed a drop of urine or stool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: TMI, doc. Mataji was discharged after four days without eating anything. Well, you know what hospital food is like. There's now a Facebook page trying to get him to host "Saturday Night Live."
Beijing, China, Nihau (ph). Treasury Secretary Geithner is in town today for high-level talks with Chinese officials. Yesterday, the 5'8" Geithner swapped his loafers for sneakers and played a little round ball with students from a local U. And as you can see, he's pretty light on his feet, moving without the ball, dribble driving, and here we go, yes, and it counts. Later on, the secretary would get freed up for the base line three pointer. This one was to absolve our massive debt. Bang! There goes the debt to China. I don't think that deal was binding.
The attorney general of Kentucky, the man who would be its new senator, Jack Conway, our special guest, next.
OLBERMANN: Republican Senatorial candidate Rand Paul has officially resurfaced, making his first public appearance since his post-election streak of honesty, followed by retraction. He's quoting Charles Dickens in describing the last week, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Our third story tonight, Dr. Paul's Democratic opponent for that Senate seat, Kentucky's attorney general, Jack Conway, joins us next.
Dr. Paul chose a local Lions Club in Bolling Green, Kentucky for his return to the public stage, if you can call that public. He had just performed eye surgery. Not even a chance to change. After the past week, he'd probably prefer to focus on the present, telling the group that he does not want to repeal the Civil Rights Act.
The recurring problem is that Paul's current comments do not come off as slips of the tongue, but rather as the Real Paul. As bluntly expressed today by Eugene Robinson in the "Washington Post," "Rand Paul can't abruptly disavow the extremist views on civil rights that he's been espousing for years and expect us to all just move along. Was he lying then? Is he lying now? Was he being untruthful on the occasions when he said the federal government has no authority to outlaw racial discrimination in private businesses such as restaurants?"
Dr.Paul's own words created the issue. Recall, his online interview with the editorial board of Louisville's "Courier Journal." Dr. Paul said, quote, "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners - I abhor racism, I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership."
And later in the same interview, questioner, "but under your philosophy, it would be OK for Dr. King to not be served at the counter at Woolworth?" Answer, "I would not go to that Woolworth and I would stand up in my community and say it's abhorrent. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior. But if we're civilized people, we publicly criticize that and don't belong to those groups or associate with those people."
Let's bring, as promised, the attorney general of the state of Kentucky, and the Democratic nominee for the Senate from that state, Jack Conway. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JACK CONWAY, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM KENTUCKY: My pleasure, Keith.
It's good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Paul believes his stance on Civil Rights Act and what to do with it has been settled. Do you agree with that?
CONWAY: No. Absolutely not, Keith. Rand Paul wants to be a Washington outsider. But on this issue, he's pulled the good old Washington flip-flop. I mean, what it's clear that Rand Paul stands for is rejecting the fundamental provision of the Civil Rights Act that basically dealt with lunch counters and said, you can't put a whites only sign in your window. And then in 20 of the most painful minutes I've ever seen on cable TV, Rachel Maddow was just grilling him and grilling him and grilling him, and he said that had he been around in 1964 and in the United States Senate, he would have been trying to modify that provision that dealt with private accommodations.
It's clear to me that he rejects a fundamental provision of the Civil Rights Act, and that now some people are wanting to say, Jack, this is your problem. No, Rand, it's your problem. You started talking about this weeks away. You talked about it to NPR. You talked about it to Rachel Maddow. And he's on record with about 40 minutes of tape regarding where he stands on civil rights.
OLBERMANN: There was the letter to the editor in 2002. It's not like this just came up. It's not like Rachel or NPR picked a topic out of the hat and hoped to get him on something. And it's not just - they've tried to couch this in terms of philosophy. But if you're going to go and place property rights and the rights of an owner to do whatever he feels like ahead of civil rights and civic good, does that not necessarily lead to various positions that would directly affect public policy?
CONWAY: Oh, absolutely, Keith. You know, we have an old country saying in Kentucky that your rights end at the tip of my nose. And Rand Paul doesn't really seem to understand that. But it's not just civil rights, it's what he said about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Look what he said on "Good Morning America" about BP, that the administration needs to get its boot heel off the neck of BP. Good grief, BP needs to get its boot heel off the neck of fisherman along the Gulf Coast.
The problem is Rand Paul has this world view. He has this world view that government should never interfere whatsoever with business. He's on record saying he wants to repeal OSHIA regulations. There seems to be no area where Rand Paul thinks the government should intrude. He wants to traipse around and talking about ending bailouts and taking your country back. You know what? We need more accountability on Wall Street with the banks that caused this problem in the first place. We need more accountability for energy giants like BP, not less of it.
So his rhetoric doesn't match what I think working families in Kentucky need. He seems to be want the prince of some of out of the mainstream movement. I just want to be the next senator of Kentucky.
OLBERMANN: To that point, do you worry - and I understand this is far more the responsibility of people like me - that this race will become all about Rand Paul and less about you, and really less about the issues that are supposedly at the heart of any senatorial race in any state?
CONWAY: I think there's such a sharp contrast here that I hope your viewers will go to our website, go to JackConway.org, check out my positions on a home town tax credit, what I would do to try to create jobs, because I really believe that's the number one issue in a state like Kentucky, with nearly 11 percent unemployment. Check out our plan to get small and community banks lending to small and medium-sized businesses again.
There's a real difference between us on the issues. And yes, it's obviously about Rand Paul. A lot of people are just referring to me as Rand Paul's opponent. I think I can stand on my own right now. Charlie Cook declared this race a toss-up today. We're going to beat him. We can't afford to have this guy in the United States Senate. Kentucky can't afford it. The nation can't afford it.
You know, I'm fiscally responsible in certain areas. I want a government we can afford, but this country cannot afford Rand Paul.
OLBERMANN: You have a story coming up about the Republican party in North Carolina describing one of the candidates seeking its own congressional nomination, republican nomination. The chairman of that party says he's unfit for public office at any level. Do you feel that strongly about Dr. Paul, in your opinion? Is he unqualified to be the senator from Kentucky?
CONWAY: Well, I'm going to let the voters of my beloved commonwealth of Kentucky judge that. I have some pretty strong feelings about that. Kentucky has come a long way as a state. We were the first state to establish - south of the Mason-Dixon Line, to establish a civil rights commission. Kentuckians are proud people and I think we're a little embarrassed by some of the things that he's said. He's going to have to answer for himself on that.
You have one of George Bush's policy advisers coming out today saying that Reverend Dobson and Sarah Palin need to distance themselves from Rand Paul. I'll leave others to address that issue. And I'm just going to run as best I can to try to be the next senator from Kentucky.
OLBERMANN: I think a lot of other people will, in fact, address this issue. Jack Conway, attorney general of Kentucky, and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, great thanks again for your time, sir.
CONWAY: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To the Idaho first Congressional district. When a prominent political website asks if you are, quote, "the worst candidate ever," when the Tea Party catches you plagiarizing from Obama's 2004 speech, you might be in trouble. We'll meet Vaughn Ward.
It's one thing when I call out Fox News. It's another when a congressman does on the floor of the House, a Republican congressman who invokes weenies and what are they smoking.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she will talk with Congressman Patrick Murphy, who today introduced the movement to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
OLBERMANN: A U.S. governor gives a monopoly for public school gun safety education to the NRA. Worst persons presently.
First, no, it's not your water coming to a boil, it's our nightly checkup on the something for nothing time. It's Tea Time. And at first blush, Tim D'Annunzio sounds like any other Tea Partier, seeking office. In his case, the House seat in the North Carolina 8th. He wants to abolish the Department of Education. He wants to abolish the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. He wants to abolish the Departments of Energy, Labor, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security. Mr. D'Annunzio wants to abolish Homeland Security. And he wants the states to take over Social Security and Medicare. He wants to eliminate the IRS. He wants to discontinue some appellate courts.
He told his ex-wife he was the Messiah and that he found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona. And he tried to raise his stepfather from the dead. And he and he alone knows that God was going to establish the new Jerusalem in Greenland by dropping a 1,000 mile high pyramid on it out of the sky.
I don't think the 1,000-mile high pyramid thing is standard Tea Party stuff, but who knows now? The weird stuff - OK, the weirder stuff - comes from the North Carolina Republican party chairman, who flat-out says that the Tea Partier, Tim, is, quote, unfit for public office at any level, and is distributing court documents from his divorce, in which that ex-wife is quoted about the ark and the messiah and the Greenland pyramid and the rising from the dead thing.
If you think all this is strange, these are the result of the primary three weeks ago. D'Annunzio 37 percent, ex-Charlotte sportscaster Harold Johnson, very popular man, 33 percent, business man Hal Jordan 18, retired army officer Lou Huddleston eight. D'Annunzio and Johnson go to a runoff next month, with D'Annunzio the nominal leader. Presumably, the loser has to go to Greenland, and try to catch that 1,000 mile high pyramid when god drops it.
OLBERMANN: If you're running on a know-nothing Republican platform for Congress in Idaho, who better to plagiarize your speech from than Barack Obama? That's next, but first, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Eric Erickson of CNN, Tweeting, "Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The commander in chief has a job to do." This isn't the modern conservative in action, open mouth or open Twitter page, think later if ever. Mr. Erickson did not bother to check that what the president has chosen to do and the vice president represented at the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns has been done before on Memorial Day by President Bush in 1992, and by President Reagan in 1983. And Reagan was all the way away in Virginia, didn't even send the vice president. He sent a deputy secretary of Defense. Are you going to send Nancy an insulting note too, Eric Erickson?
Runner up, Governor Bob McDonnell, NJ, Virginia. The law was bad enough, gun safety courses in school K through five shall incorporate, among other principles of firearm safety, accident prevention, and the rules upon which the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program offered by the National Rifle Association or the program of the National Crime Prevention Center is based." McDonnell struck out the second part of that. The law now reads, "shall incorporate, among other principles of fire arm safety, accident prevention and the rules upon which the Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program offered by the National Rifle Association is based."
McDonnell gave a monopoly on publicly funded gun safety courses for kids to the NRA and a program Eddie Eagle, which has been described as Joe Camel with feather. But McDonnell, NJ, Virginia. The NJ is for nut job. Mr. McDonnell needs to be impeached.
But our winner, news actress Megyn Kelly of Fixed News, who did something so egregious, she got called out for it on the floor of the House by a Republican. Skillfully reading from the network's talking points issued early each morning, Kelly's show claimed nine GOP congressmen were supporting a, quote, 165 billion dollar bailout of union pensions, and questioned those nine members' sanity.
So who strides to the podium at the House minutes later? Congressman Steve LaTourette, the Republican of Ohio. Give him a pass on the hate comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to veer off message. We're supposed to be talking about where's the budget and I guess I wonder where the budget is. But I have to tell you, I think as a Republican, I'm supposed to love Fox News and hate MSNBC. Now, I'm going to tell you, I do hate MSNBC. But something just happened on Fox News that compelled me to come to the floor. They've run this diagram and it really is, I think, blaspheming my good friend Pat Tiberi from Ohio, and indicating that there are nine Republicans who are supporting a bill that will bailout unions. Well, that's nonsense and I don't know who the pinheaded weenie is at Fox News that decided to put that story together.
But the true facts of this legislation are as follows: this bill will save the taxpayers by saying to those corporations that have union pension plans, if you find yourselves in a bind, rather than thrusting that upon the taxpayer, it spreads out over five years the ability to bring those pension plans up to speed. That's good government. It's a good bill. It's a good Tiberi bill. And I don't know what they're doing at Fox News, but they should stop smoking it and get back to reporting the facts. Yield back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That pinhead weenie smoking something at Fox News would be Megyn Kelly, congressman, today's worst person - I told you it wasn't just me, it's them, not me - in the world.
OLBERMANN: A postscript to the oil news from the Gulf; "the Wall Street Journal" and Reuters reporting the day after tomorrow, the president will announce tougher safety requirements and more rigorous inspections of offshore drilling operations. That's supposedly Thursday, according to the "Wall Street Journal" and Reuters news service.
In the interim, it is primary day for Republicans in Idaho's First Congressional District. Number one story, things are going so well for GOP establishment candidate Vaughn Ward that is until he got caught lifting comments from other lawmakers' website, and he admitted to not knowing Puerto Rico was part of the U.S., and they found that video of Mr. Ward plagiarizing a really famous speech, plagiarizing a really famous speech first given at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by this Barack Obama guy.
Vaughn Ward, once leading by double digits, taking on Idaho state legislator, local Tea Party favorite, Raoul Labrador. The winner would face freshman congressman, the only Democrat to be endorsed by the National Tea Party Express last November. In the campaign's final hours, the Ward camp sending an e-mail to supporters listing endorsements, including a quote from Idaho's senator, Mike Crapo, except Mr. Crapo did not endorse Mr. Ward and has now asked him to correct the email's, quote, inaccurate impression.
That incident just the latest in a series. Earlier it was discovered that half of Mr. Ward's so-called position statements on his website were actually taken directly from the websites of other candidates and lawmakers, ranging from Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to a Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. And as we reported on this news hour previously, in a debate with Mr. Labrador, Mr. Ward revealing he believes the U.S. territory Puerto Rico is a separate country.
Ward spokesman Mike Tracy then telling Talking Points Memo in D.C., "he clearly knows Puerto Rico is an American territory. He served in Guantanamo for a while." It was pointed out to Mr. Tracy that Guantanamo is, in fact, located in Cuba. Mr. Tracy then responded, "I'm just saying he knows where and what Puerto Rico is."
And then there's this video, put together by a Tea Party activist and Idaho State Senate candidate Lucas Baumbach. Mr. Baumbach matching a Ward speech from January to a speech given by Senator Obama at the Democratic Convention in 2004. Vaughn's spokesman again dismissing the similarities. "If anyone thinks he's anything like Obama, they're dead wrong."
At the risk of being dead wrong, here's a few more lines that Mr. Ward ripped off from Mr. Obama that were not included in the Tea Party video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation.
VAUGHN WARD, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us. It is the bedrock in our nation.
OBAMA: A belief in things not seen.
WARD: A belief in the American dream.
OBAMA: A belief that there are better days ahead.
WARD: A belief that if we strive for excellence -
OBAMA: I believe that we can give our middle class relief, and provide working families with a road to opportunity.
WARD: I will fight to give our middle class relief and provide families with a road to opportunity.
OBAMA: As we stand on the cross roads of history -
WARD: As we stand on the cross roads of history -
OBAMA: We can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.
WARD: I know that we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that lay before us.
OBAMA: The you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do -
WARD: If you feel the same urgency and the same passion that I do -
OBAMA: - then I have no doubt -
WARD: I have no doubt -
OBAMA: - the people will rise up in November -
WARD: that our voices will be heard in November -
OBAMA: and this country will reclaim its promise.
WARD: - and our country will reclaim its promise.
OBAMA: And out of this long political darkness -
WARD: and out of this darkness -
OBAMA: - a better day is on the horizon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, the author of "Renegade, The Making of a President," Richard Wolffe, whose book is not based on the book, "Renegade, the Faking of a President." Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, "RENEGADE": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, plagiarizing is nothing new in politics in this country or anywhere. But if you're campaigning against Obama policies, why are you ripping off Barack Obama? And when you're kicking off your campaign, no less. How does this guy get passed that?
WOLFFE: It's a great question. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And in this case, it's just the sincerest form of stupidity. I mean, in Joe Biden's case, when he went after the words of a British politician, Neil Kinnock, at least it was someone on the same side of the political spectrum.
To be fair to Vaughn Ward, this is the same Idaho party, Republican party, and the same district that first gave us Larry Craig, who was himself a very naughty boy and had an unbeatably large stance.
So in terms of the plagiarism, in terms of the conduct, not the worst thing he's done. As an Iraq War veteran, he is even alleged to have plagiarized the positions on Iraq, on the war in Iraq from other candidates. Maybe they can get beyond Obama if they can get beyond Iraq.
OLBERMANN: My understanding is that Larry Craig plagiarized the stance from George Rekers. But the list, though, it's just not this. This is entertainment. But there's a whole series - something's happened in this district. Apparently Mr. Ward worked as the director for the McCain/Palin campaign in Nevada, but did not vote in the election this year. He has railed against federal spending in this campaign cycle, but his wife works for Fannie Mae, which has been the recipient of tens of billions of bailout dollars.
How did this man get into this position in the first place? Where he's the mainstream candidate?
WOLFFE: Picky, picky, picky, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I know.
WOLFFE: Here's the race that he's running against. There's a guy, one of the other Republican candidates, whose slogan, apparently, according to his website is nuclear ass, take their gas. So Vaughn Ward is actually the more respectable end of the spectrum in this field. You've got to say that, look, the people looked at his position in Nevada for the McCain campaign, but they obviously overlooked the fact that Nevada was one of the few states that Bush took handsomely in 2000, 2004, and apparently Mr. Vaughn ward lost for John McCain in 2008.
OLBERMANN: Last point, one of my theories is, with 538 seats, this country rarely finds 1,076 worthy candidates. Suddenly, you've got the Tea Party to produce 1,614 worthy candidates. Does Mr. Ward lend credence to my theory that we have a candidate gap in this country?
WOLFFE: Keith, I think if you asked your Twitter followers to name the correct status of Puerto Rico, we could find 1,600 of them. It's a country of 300 million people. Even the Idaho Republican party can do better than this.
OLBERMANN: I don't know. I think we're just losing good people to management at McDonald's or something. I just - never mind. MSNBC's Richard Wolffe, the author of "Renegade," which he did not crib, say, the autobiography of Vanilla Ice. Great thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I don't know where that reference came from. That's Countdown for this the 35th day since the Deepwater Horizon Oil disaster began. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss the move to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the odd circumstances surrounding it, with Congressman Patrick Murphy, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END