'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball, Quick Comment, Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment
Guests: Robert Cavnar, Chris Hayes, Edward Peck, Melissa Harris-Lacewell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Day 44. The robots may have saved cut-and-cap. A stuck saw blade unstuck? Of course, it still isn't working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: The goal is later on today to finish that cut and then to be able to put a containment device over the top of the wellhead and start containing the oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oil shimmers off the Florida coast, and the president hits big oil. It is time to roll back "billions of dollars in tax breaks" and use the money for clean energy research and development. And he hits the Republicans who defend big oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face: more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But those behind that agenda in Congress hit back, claiming not enough big government takeovers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Where were the boat that's could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight's comment: Rewriting history. Did you know that when you heard her say this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: Drill, baby, drill -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She was actually saying this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Drill, baby, drill -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of known reserves and promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR?
Gaza unravels. Flotilla protestors deported by Israel, Britain's envoy Tony Blair tells Jerusalem the blockade must end. The Israelis concede nothing. Our guest, former ambassador, former Reagan administration terrorism task force member, Edward Peck, who was on one of the flotilla ships and who disputes Israel's version of events.
"Worsts": 16 separate references, equating the president to -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: The "Mein Kampf" with the showers and the incinerator. Germany. In Germany. Germany.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And Bush 43 on Facebook. How could this possibly go wrong? "Thank you for approving B.P.'s Deepwater Gulf of Mexico oil rig and gutting those regulatory commies at EPA, SEC, MMS, et cetera. Oh, that's how.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There's rumors on the Internets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Cut-and-cap in trouble, so top hat may replace top cap. What's next after cut-and-cap? Cap and crunch?
The story Day 44, part of what would be in another context a comedy modeled after the overly intricate contraptions of the cartoonist Rube Goldberg - engineers spent all day trying to use robots to free a saw that had became stuck in the damaged oil well pipe.
This morning on the floor of the Gulf, work on the so-called "cut-and-cap" and siphon operation, grinding to a halt because there was no grinding. Robots making the second cut on the type when the diamond wire could not move. About 7:00 p.m. Eastern, it finally un-wedged and crews are now hoping to finish the second cut tonight. A technician telling "The New York Times" tonight that instead of trying again with the saw, the plan now is to use a large shear to cut the pipe. And the next will be to cut the crap.
Admiral Thad Allen briefing today that if the second cut ends up being not as smooth as the engineers would like, they may have to fit the pipe with something called a top hat instead of a top cap. The top hat, the admiral explains, would have a wider fitting, meaning an increased chance that some oil would - yes, continue to leak out around the sides.
That same technician having told "The New York Times" that the shear would almost certainly mean modifications would need to be made to the cap. No mention being made of a top hat.
The most depressing forecast yet for just how long all this might take to contain the leak, try Christmas. An energy analyst in Houston is telling "Bloomberg News," quote, "The worst case scenario is Christmas time. This process is teaching us to be skeptical of deadlines."
The apparent good news? That is seven more months before B.P. CEO Tony Hayward has any hope of getting his life back. Mr. Hayward today is apologizing for his hand-fisted comment on of - all things - B.P. America's Facebook page.
His statement reading in part, "I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment. I apologize especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident. Those words don't represent how I feel about this tragedy and certainly don't represent the hearts of the people of B.P. My first priority is doing all we can to restore the lives of the people of the Gulf region and their families, to restore their lives, not mine."
The president today is saying it's time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies like B.P. and use the money for clean energy research and development. He also leveled the GOP for defending big oil in a speech that drew sharp contrast between Democratic and Republican views of government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A good deal of the other party's opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government. It's a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges. It's an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face: more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The same president whose administration today approved a new shallow water drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, denouncing deep water drilling is too risky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth. These are risks that are bound to increase the harder oil extraction becomes. We also have to acknowledge that America runs solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and our grandchildren.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president is also predicting that he would find a way to pass an energy bill that's gotten bogged down in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know: the votes may not be there now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Politics in a moment. First, let's call upon oil and gas industry expert, Bob Cavnar, who early in his career spent 10 years working on oil rigs, and more recently, has been an executive in the industry. He's also a contributor to "The Huffington Post," as well as founder and editor of "The Daily Hurricane" blog.
Bob, thanks again for your time tonight.
ROBERT CAVNAR, OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY EXPERT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A saw getting stuck. Should we have predicted this and how concerned should we be that this now newly-freed saw might get stuck yet again?
CAVNAR: You know, Keith, when we talked last night, this was one of the concerns that I had, because, remember, we talked about the riser coming out of the top of the blowout preventer that's bent over. Inside of that riser pipe is a piece of 5 ½-inch drill pipe. And I was very concerned about the saw getting hung up on that loose piece of pipe on the inside. And that could be what happened today and caused the problem.
OLBERMANN: Admiral Allen said today, it's not a question of whether they'll be able to make a second cut. It's going to be a question of how clean the second cut will be.
Does that sound right to you? And how - how bad would the wider-fitting and the leakage problem likely be with the top hat as opposed to the top cap?
CAVNAR: The top hat is clearly the - the larger containment device is clearly the worst choice here. Clean cut is really something that they want to have here, to keep sea water from coming into the well stream.
Remember, the large containment vessel that they tried several weeks ago basically froze up with ice crystals formed between water and natural gas coming together. That's the same thing that will happen in the top hat unless they keep it really, really hot with hot water and keep methanol going in, or chemical to keep the ice from forming. The smaller top cap they were talking about would prevent seawater from coming in, is obviously much better.
OLBERMANN: This reference from the head of the research department at a Houston energy investment firm setting, as the worst-case scenario, Christmas. Is he just saying what the rest of us don't want to hear? Is it a reasonable estimate? Is it a conservative estimate?
CAVNAR: You know, I know him pretty well. He was handicapping for his investors, kind of a best, middle and worst case, and he described the worst case as end of the year. But I've got to tell you, if these relief wells don't hit the wellbore in the first three or four tries, it could easily go to the end of the year.
OLBERMANN: Do we have any idea on where we stand on the relief wells?
CAVNAR: The second well resumed drilling after the top kill failed. They had pulled that rig off to be able to use its blowout preventer on top of this blowout preventer, had the top kill worked. When the top kill didn't work, they re-engaged that well. So, it's back drilling, and then the first well is drilling ahead. But they're still saying it's going to be late July, early August.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea what the cost of the relief wells would be on a project like this? How much do they save by not having them?
CAVNAR: Well, if they - the rigs themselves are about a half a million bucks a day just to keep them on stand by. This particular well, the well that blew out, they had about $100 million, as I understand, in the well. But they had a lot of trouble with it.
So, I think you're kind of talking in the $75 million to $100 million range for these relief wells, if not more, if they have to drill two and three times to get to it.
OLBERMANN: What happens as we approach the predictions about a bad hurricane season? Even if the siphoning operation works well enough, whether it's cap or it's hat, is it in desperate danger of being not destroyed by some hurricane, but just loosened by bad weather?
CAVNAR: Well, even worse than that, Keith. When the storm comes into the Gulf, the industry essentially abandoned all those platforms and rigs. They shut the rigs down, put the platforms on automatic shutdown, and evacuate the crews. And it would be a very difficult situation for them to leave crews out there.
So, I'm afraid they would pull off of that well and it would just start flowing back into the Gulf again during the storm. That's what I'm worried about.
OLBERMANN: Bob Cavnar, oil and gas industry expert - once again, thanks for your time tonight.
CAVNAR: Happy to help, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now the politics, let's bring in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I get what the president tried to do today: punch B.P. hard, punch all of big oil hard, punch the Republicans for the, you know, huge corporate tax breaks/low corporate regulation hard. But how can you do all that the same day your administration approves admittedly lower risk, but still, in the - in the Gulf, offshore drilling?
FINEMAN: Well, Keith, first let's stipulate that the Bush administration wasn't in bed with big oil. It was big oil, you know, for eight years.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Agree.
FINEMAN: But the problem Barack Obama has is: number one, the company that he embraced and the staffers of that company that he embraced going into his administration were from B.P. Lots of people from that company in the administration, a lot of campaign contributions, et cetera, big announcement a couple of weeks before this disaster that the administration was committed to increasing offshore oil drilling, admittedly under closer supervision, but they wanted a lot of it; and all kinds of problems at the Interior Department and a lot of questions that were unasked before the president went ahead with this.
He thinks he's looking at a bigger strategic framework here, Keith, which involves energy sufficiency, which involves world politics and so forth. But it's very hard for this administration to argue that it carefully considered all of the risks of offshore oil drilling. We now know that they didn't because of what we're dealing with today.
OLBERMANN: Is there - was that another attempt to compromise before the boundaries had been set? In other words, starting - in other words, going into some sort of bidding competition and bidding low in hopes that your opponent would also bid low, is that - are we seeing this again?
FINEMAN: Well, we could be. You know, in terms of Obama strategy politically, you mean with the opposition?
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, the thing about Barack Obama is he even had to say in that clip that you just showed from Pittsburgh, the reason - you know, the fact that his opponents believed in their point of view about limited government, Barack Obama is a judicious guy. He thinks judicially and he's a split the difference kind of guy. But it's not clear we're in a split the difference kind of situation here, given the enormous long-term costs of having relived one too many times on a deep offshore well.
OLBERMANN: The pledge that we heard, that he's going to find the votes for the energy bill, 44 days into this crisis - which would seem to be an advertisement for the energy bill. Where does it stand in the Senate?
FINEMAN: Well, I just checked around with some Democratic sources who are in the Senate, and they tell me this: that the cap and trade bill, the big global energy bill that John Kerry is pushing in the Senate, still will have a very hard time and frankly, because Republicans are going to sit on their hands, will not support it, some conservative Democrats from coal states won't support it.
But there's talk of another bill, a Jeff Bingaman bill out of the energy committee on renewable resources, on other kinds of alternatives.
In other words, leave the environmental part of it, the controversial
environmental part of the equation out and just focus on energy production
that's where I think the Democratic leadership wants to try to go. That will raise all kinds of storms on the - among the environmental groups, but that seems to be where Harry Reid and company want to head.
OLBERMANN: As we hear reports that the oil spill is now visible from
if not from the shoreline than an overhead picture that shows the shoreline and the oil itself -
OLBERMANN: - off the Florida beaches, reports that oil has been spotted off the coast of Pensacola. Once it hits Florida, regardless of how little responsibility he might bear for it, how much harder does it become for the president to contain just the political firestorm, the panic, the blame flying heavier than the oil is?
FINEMAN: Well, I think that's the big risk, because Florida is the state that makes or breaks presidents, as you know, Keith, in elections. It's not Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. This is Florida. It's the big enchilada.
I talked to people down there today. So far, Democrats and Republicans, including somebody like Marco Rubio, the conservative Senate candidate, are holding their fire, they're being supportive of the president. Charlie Crist is.
I talked to Representative Alan Grayson just a few minutes ago, and he said, look, the president is doing everything he can. But Grayson also end that there's no military solution. You know, there's nothing else, he says, Grayson says, the government can do. But he also said that there are billions of dollars of lost tourism dollars in Florida, that's just beginning.
If the oil hits the beaches, tourists from elsewhere in the country and around the world won't make a distinction between, you know, Pensacola and Orlando or Daytona or whatever. It's going to kill the tourism industry in Florida. And if that happens, all political bets are off.
And, sure, Obama will begin to be criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in Florida.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Republican response to this, of course, is figuratively turned conservative world upside down. Suddenly, the Democrats are not big government enough. Suddenly, Sarah Palin believes she only said drill, baby, drill about safe onshore places.
Chris Hayes and a quick comment - next.
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes on the other sludge washing metaphorically ashore. Small government Republicans are now claiming there was not enough big government commandeering and taking over and socialism-izing the Gulf disaster.
First, a quick comment on the politician whose career ended the moment B.P. ignored the warnings aboard the doomed Deepwater Horizon.
Thank goodness we still have Sarah Palin. We revert to Twitter, it may only be 140 characters per message, but the gifted queen of Sarah-noia can still rewrite history, even with such circumscription.
"Extreme greenies, see now why we push 'drill, baby, drill' of known reserves and promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?"
Yes, we get it. You're lying again.
The message of the farce that substituted for the 2008 Republican ticket said nothing about safe onshore places like ANWR. It was just "drill, baby, drill." Not only that, but when President Obama mistakenly increased offshore drilling two months ago, there were no qualifiers about safe onshore places from his critics. The half-governor attacked the president thusly.
"While Interior Department bureaucrats continue to hold up actually offshore drilling from taking place, Russia is moving full steam ahead on Arctic drilling and China, Russia and Venezuela are buying leases off the coast of Cuba."
That woman is an idiot.
Ms. Palin can try to back fill all she wants, but she will never retroactively attaching the caveat of safe onshore places. The phrase is hers, she owns it. It may well turn out to be her epitaph that mindless, double-entendred, three-word policy statement/bad porn movie title, "Drill, baby, drill."
OLBERMANN: You think the Deepwater Horizon spill disaster has made the waters of America's Gulf Coast murkier, you should see what it's done to the principles of American conservatives.
Our fourth story tonight: How the oil spill has turned hardcore right-wing Republicans into the socialist, soft on crime, anti-military, pro-environmentalist, pro-regulation, anti-small business, pro-big government, pro-big spending party. Go ahead. Keep score.
We already told you about Sarah Palin's tweet, rewriting tweet-story to suggest that she was against offshore drilling when she was for it. And she was not the first to claim environmental motives.
Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer writing last week that environmental chic has driven us into deep water, use of the word "us" making clear his real sympathies. Krauthammer, while blaming environmental chic, espouses environmental motives, drilling in ANWR, Alaska's Arctic national wildlife refuge, would be great because drilling on land is safe. Never mind B.P.'s 2005 pipeline spill in Alaska, on the ground and stuff.
And then there is Krauthammer's complaint about Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, quote, "whose department's laxity in environmental permitting and safety oversight," blah, blah, blah. That's right, big government too lax in environmental and safety regulations.
How about big spending by big government? Check. Alabama Republican State Senator Ben Brooks telling "The A.P.," "There's nothing inherently contradictory in saying we believe in small government and demanding that the government protect public safety."
True enough - if he were asking for help from the town sheriff. Or if Mississippi State Representative Steven Palazzo didn't say, quote, "We cannot spare any resource."
Anti-small business? The right-wing "Washington Times" editorial yesterday, "The oil company should pay in every way for this accident but only after the immediate task of ecological salvation." Sorry, Gulf Coast fishermen, you shouldn't be compensated for your business losses until you've lost your business.
Soft on crime? Mr. Krauthammer again, whining that prosecuting oil companies is declaring war on them. The opposite of the argument they made about the terrorist. The pro-greed, soft on crime, "Washington Times" chiming in that the criminals should be allowed to go about their business until the marshes can be saved. But still.
Anti-military? Socialist? Oh, my, yes. In a space of one minute,
just this Friday, tea party favorite, Republican Congresswoman Michele
Bachmann blasted the president for not literally - the word she used was -
commandeering privately owned boats to respond to this spill. Commandeer as in the government taking over private property. Much like the Washington socialist "Daily Times" yesterday which lamented, quote, "Yet this president has left B.P. in charge."
Bachmann kicking off her charge for forced socialism by slamming the U.S. military, claiming that the Coast Guard was not there on day one, despite that the rig blew up at 10:00 p.m. and the Coast Guard was on sight shortly after midnight.
This Coast Guard photo taken at 12:39, less than three hours after the blast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: On day one, where did - what did the Obama administration do about the Coast Guard? What did they ask the Coast Guard to do to intervene? On day one, they weren't there. Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region, to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up to the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands-off on this policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's bring in Chris Hayes, the editor - the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Commandeer? Holy crap! Why does the oil spill make conservatives hate America?
HAYES: No, it just makes them hate the free-market. I mean, you know, there's no atheist in a foxhole -
HAYES: - and there's no libertarians in a crisis. I mean, and we've seen this time and time again that, you know, when people find themselves on the receiving end of some disaster or crisis they look to the government. This is something that real extreme and sort of consistent libertarians lament all the time. They point to World War II as this horrible growth of statism and we saw in some ways the pernicious effect to national security crisis after the war on the terror.
But the fact of the matter is, you need a state to publicly manage these kind of situations. And all of a sudden, you look around after years of waging war on bureaucrats, right? Those are the kinds of people who work in the MMS, who do the things that manage environmental safety and things like that. All of a sudden, when your - it's your people that are in the front lines of this, then you want the government to intervene. And this is - this is very consistent, or it's inconsistent, but we've seen it time and time again.
OLBERMANN: Nine words. "I'm fine, screw you. I'm screwed, help me now."
HAYES: That's right. Exactly. That's exactly right.
OLBERMANN: The bigger point that Krauthammer made though, was that environmentalists who, as we know, controlled Congress during the Bush years, were in charge of - obviously, they weren't even in charge of the EPA during the Bush years, but environmentalists are to be blamed for pushing drilling so far out shore.
I don't know how many different things are wrong with that. Just pick the one that's your favorite.
HAYES: Well, yes, I could - we could be here for an hour. I mean,
first of all, you know, oil drilling is dangerous and has a lot of huge
risk. As you pointed out, there's the pipeline gushed. I mean, there was
Barack Obama, when he was talking about how it's OK to drill offshore, was saying, you know, rigs are safer than tankers now, right? Because everybody knew about the Exxon Valdez.
So, the point is that, if you do this, there's going to be actions. It's A. B, they're not drilling there for their health and they're not drilling there because environmentalist told them to drill. They drill there because the oil is there.
And if you listen to the right, their ideology, their belief about how we're going to meet our energy needs is to extract every last droplet of oil from underneath the Earth's surface. That's what they want to do. And so, whether it was now or whether it was in 10 years, it's not like they're not going to drill there because they open up ANWR. They're going to get all the oil they can. It's going to end up in these situations.
It's only going to get worse, in fact, as we approach the situation which oil supply is more constrained.
OLBERMANN: Take every drop of oil and then the rest of the idea is coast.
OLBERMANN: Last point: The Palin disclaimer. So that's what "drill, baby, drill" meant? Is there also in there we didn't hear about, something about your mileage may vary and member FDIC and some other disclaimer that we didn't - she said it so fast we didn't hear it?
HAYES: Look, it's transparently ludicrous. I mean, remember - I was thinking today about this moment that has been lost I think to history. Remember when Barack Obama made - during the campaign, he said something about checking tire pressure.
HAYES: And - because you get better mileage on your car. And Republicans went crazy, like this was the dumbest thing they've ever heard. There's this tribal belief on the part of the right that anything having to do with conservation, clean energy, reducing oil demand is somehow like inimical to America, to what it is to be American, and "drill, baby, drill" represented that ethos and it's still completely, I think, undeterred by the ravages we're seeing in the Gulf.
OLBERMANN: You conserve, we have Xboxes to keep running 24 hours a day.
Chris Hayes of "The Nation" - as always, a pleasure, Chris. Thank you.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The retired career U.S. diplomat, former chief of mission in Baghdad who was on board one of the ships running the Gaza blockade. Ambassador Edward Peck's witness testimony - ahead here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Ambassador Edward Peck just back from Gaza, and the latest on a situation getting more complicated by the hour, next. First, the Tweet of the day, pertaining to day 44 of the Gulf, where we need a laugh. From SpacedHaitian, "I heard the government is consulting with the Sham Wow guy." Linguini, fettuccine, martini, submarini. Let's play Oddball.
We begin in the sky over Texas, where the Ft. Worth zoo just took delivery of its latest resident. It's Iggy, the flying, 2,600 pound, 40-foot long iguana. As little orphan Annie might say, it's a hard knock life. For 13 years, this statue - that's right, it's a statue - was fixed atop the Lone Star Cafe here in Bigtown. The Fort Worth Zoo salvaged the piece for a display outside their new Herpatorium (ph), which is a fancy word for reptile house, and which can also be cured with an ointment now available without a prescription.
Iggy was lowered into place by helicopter and stands guard over the Herpatorium where it will creep out visitors for years to come.
To Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The police have an Oddball lost and found report. This prosthetic leg was recently found in the Atlantic facing sands of Jacksonville Beach. The limb has a few distinguishing features. It's a left. Also, there's a large Willie Nelson Born for Trouble sticker on the upper calf. So it could belong to anybody. To claim it, somebody would need to describe to police what's on the other side. If you get that right, the leg is yours and you can get back on the road again, along with (INAUDIBLE).
Finally, some classic oddball. You may recall back in the Summer 2006, when Fritz Grog and Steven Voltz (ph) carbonated their way into Internet infamy with this synchronized Diet Coke and Mentos routine; 11 million Youtube views and four years later, the men are back with a new stunt. This time, it's a Mentos and Coke Zero powered rocket car. Coke Zero powered rocket car. The video, posted on EepyBird.com, and the men have rigged 180 bottles of soda and some PVC pipe to the bicycle and release the Mentos.
Boom goes the rocket car. Just look at it go kind of slowly out of the warehouse, almost faster than the guy running. Rocket car traveled 221 feet. That's about a liter of cola per foot, which is bad fuel economy, but great for Internet traffic.
Back to real life's nightmares; both the current and former prime ministers of England call for the end of the Gaza blockade, as does Congressman Barney Frank. Our guest just back from the events there, former Ambassador Edward Peck, next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Even if it were possible to extract the ugly politics from it, the latest flash point in the Middle East has succeeded in making all parties furious and defensive. In our third story, the Israeli raid, with Israel threatening action against another pending sea ship into Gaza, and President Obama's critics trying to use the U.S. reaction against him. Edward Peck, the former U.S. diplomat who was aboard one of those ships, will join me in a moment.
Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again defended Saturday's raid, which carried humanitarian aid, the ships did, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, to Gaza. The prime minister saying, quote, "it is our duty and responsibility, according to international law and common sense, to prevent by air, sea and land the smuggling of weapons into Gaza."
But whether there was anything carried aboard those ships other than aid to Gaza is in dispute. Today, the U.N. Human Rights Council, by a vote of 32 to three, authorized an international probe into the incident. Saturday's raid killed nine activists. Hundreds more taken into Israeli custody, though today Israel deported at least a large number of those activists without pursuing prosecution.
The Israeli government maintains that its troops acted in self-defense after being attacked by passengers with knives and clubs. But witnesses from the ships claim otherwise, like Shane Dylan, an Irish citizen aboard one of them, who said that Israeli forces launched an assault. Quoting, "they attacked us in international waters." Another passenger saying, quote, "we were not armed. We did not go there to fight."
Today, Israel began transferring the cargo in unloaded from the ships to Gaza and its government maintains that humanitarian aid reaches Gaza on a regular basis by land. Meantime, the deliberately measured reaction from the Obama administration might be pleasing nobody. But it is probably a stretch to say that the incident itself was, in any way, the president's fault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is another step in a chain of unfortunate events beginning with President Obama's insistence that there be a freeze as a precondition for peace talks, a freeze on settlements in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, not a settlement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You want a stretch, that is the man to go to. Meanwhile, from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, "we have to ask if the Obama administration remains committed to the state of Israel, and the right of Israel to exist and defend herself. The signals of weakness in coming to Israel's defense will only lead to further aggression."
As promised, let's turn now to the former United States chief of mission in Baghdad, and former deputy director of President Reagan's White House Task Force on Terrorism, Edward Peck. Ambassador Peck, thanks for your time tonight.
EDWARD PECK, FMR. AMBASSADOR: I'm honored.
OLBERMANN: You were on one of those six ships. Describe what you saw, please.
PECK: We were on a small ship, 54 people, 30 meters long. And the Israelis boarded us by stepping off the deck of their boat on to the deck of our boat. We looked up and there they were. They were in the room with us, if you will, armed. They had the balaclava masks on, which they kept on the whole time. The struggle where I was over when it started.
Our instructions were to provide passive resistance by getting in the way or blocking access. But it was too late. The people on the upper deck went into occupy the wheelhouse, so that the Israeli soldiers could not get in there, and were forcibly removed. Several people had wrenched arms and twisted necks and some scars and bruises and arms in slings afterwards and everything. There was no killing. And there was no - one stun grenade was set off, stunning one of our people. But the struggle was brief, and it was over rather quickly, with no critical injuries.
OLBERMANN: The points of contention here, whether there were passengers armed on your ship or other ones, and what kind of weapons the Israelis had as they boarded. Can you speak to either of those questions?
PECK: Well, I can speak to it as far as my ship was concerned. And nobody had any arms of any kind whatsoever that I ever saw, and never displayed any. The Israelis came in in helmets and their combat suits. They carried machine guns, you know, and pistols, and stun grenades and things like that.
And a couple of them had paintball guns. Two of the paint balls hit one of the members of our party, a gentleman named Joe Medors (ph), who was a wounded veteran on the USS Liberty when the Israelis attacked that in the '67 war, if you remember, killing and wounding over 200 American servicemen on a U.S. Navy ship.
So on the other ships, I don't know what they had. What I have found interesting, however, is how words get twisted. Here was the big ship that we're looking at now on your screen, which was in international waters with 600 passengers on board, men and women, and Israeli commandos come to attack the ship, take the ship over, take command of the ship, and bring it into Israel. Now, the people on board didn't want to have the ship taken over, and they certainly did not want to go to Israel, so they resisted.
Now, if you want to call them attacking these peace loving soldiers, that seems to be a twisting of the language beyond belief. They were defending the ship. They didn't come after the Israelis. The Israelis came after them. So it's upside down. It's backwards, if you will, because they were in a defense mode, not an attacking mode.
OLBERMANN: To some degree, has the political equation here also been a question of words being turned on their head? Because it seems as if there's only - there are only two positions being offered now. Either you support the Israeli government in all things, uniformly, they can do whatever they want, they could do whatever they wanted to in this situation, or somehow you don't support the state of Israel's existence. This has been drawn that dramatically. What's your reaction to that reality of American politics?
PECK: Well, if you want to look at reality, and you're asking me for my view, let's - I'll say this again, because I've said it before, no one in his or her right mind - and I recognize that not everybody qualifies - wants a bad thing to happen to one Israeli or one Palestinian or one American. But the sad truth of the matter is that bad things have happened, are happening, and will happen to all three groups because of what is going on in Palestine and Gaza, and what isn't going on in Palestine and Gaza.
And backing Israel is one thing. Backing Israel in everything she does is not only very bad for us, it's very bad for Israel.
OLBERMANN: Edward Peck, former United States chief of mission in Baghdad, just back from Gaza and the events on the ships. Great thanks for your time and your insights, sir.
PECK: I'm honored. Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: We're honored.
So, a Facebook account for George W. Bush. That won't produce any controversy, will it?
More good news for Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona SB 1070. The economic cost to the state estimated at - no, it can't be that high.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her firsthand look at the Gulf disaster, as she reports live from New Orleans, a city that will be far more affected by it than most people yet realize.
OLBERMANN: So did you get the e-mail yet? George W. Bush has invited you to be his friend on Facebook? Huh? Huh? That's next, but first, get out your pitch forks and torches, time for tonight's Worst Persons in the World, once I get my teeth back in.
The Bronze to the unidentified suspects still at large after an armed robbery at a Quick Shop on South Topeka Boulevard, Topeka, Kansas. Police don't have much of a description of the alleged perpetrator, who alighted from the store locale. He was a white male with a knife. They do have a good description of the getaway vehicle, a Hummer, a white stretch Hummer limousine. Home, sire, or are there any more holdups scheduled for the evening?
The runner up, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona. The size of the hole she has dug for her state, America's hate land, is just beginning to come into focus. The "Arizona Republic" has now consulted top economists to determine what would happen to Arizona's economy if all of Arizona's undocumented immigrants suddenly, quote, disappeared. Jobs lost by those people who sell things to or otherwise service those immigrants, 140,324 -
140,324 Arizona jobs gone. Net affect on Arizona's Gross State Product, a loss of a 11.7 billion dollars. Net effect on Arizona's total state economy activity, a loss of 26.4 billion dollars.
Congratulations, governor, you showed them illegals. They can't hide in Arizona anymore because you've killed Arizona's economy.
But our winner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck, a two-fer. After denying he had
ever mentioned President Obama's family before last Friday - evidently he
doesn't know his show is taped and transcribed. He has attacked them all,
individually and collectively. After that, Beck used the secretary of
state's comments on the Gaza incident to compare to - these are all quotes
Germany, Germany, Germany, Germans, Mein Kampf, "your country is in the hands of a monster," "round people up and execute them," "put people in ovens," crematoriums, showers, 1931, Hitler, kill the Jews, propaganda, showers and incinerators, "it is beginning again."
An hour later, he said "anybody who thinks that they're mimicking Nazi Germany, they think that's what I'm saying, that's not what I'm saying at all. I think you need to look at Venezuela." I think you need to look at rehab. Glenn Beck - used to think it was O'Reilly would go all Boke Carter (ph) on us. No it's Beck, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The man who once wondered out loud, will the highways on the Internet become more few has apparently used the Google and found out about this new excited web-based application called Facebook. Our number one story, George W. Bush practicing his love with the Internets by joining the latest in social networking technology. Section of the Bush Facebook page - it's written in the third person. His inaugural post explaining his whereabouts over the past 71 weeks. "Since leaving office, President Bush has remained active. He's visited 20 states and eight countries, given over 65 speeches, launched the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Participated in four policy conferences through the Bush Instituted, finished the first draft of his memoir 'Decision Points' and partnered with President Clinton to establish the Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund." And almost pitched a perfect game.
The page also providing fans with helpful linkage from the Bush/Cheney alumni association to Amazon.com, where you can pre-order the memoir for 18.90, 40 percent off, meaning it was originally overpriced by 40 percent.
That leaves Mr. Bush's wall. Those opting to like George W. Bush posting a mixed bag of commentary, from revisionist, "thank you for keeping us safe for eight years, Mr. President" - well, not in a row - to more ripped from the headlines fair, "thank you for approving BP's deep water Gulf of Mexico oil rig and gutting those regulatory commies at EPA, SEC, MMS, et cetera."
Next in, "I'm proposing that we secede and form our own country and you are our president. Nolan Ryan can be vice." "Just ordered my husband a miss me yet t-shirt. You will be well represented at the gym." And "we really miss you. The new guy is not funny at all and he's always speaking in complete sentences."
Joining me now is associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, columnist for "The Nation" magazine, MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Professor, good evening.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: In using your expertise on these electronic things - you know Twitter, Facebook and that. George Bush on Facebook, did his advisers think this through?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: It's harder to say what's sadder about the state of American politics that our immediate past president is now going to communicate with us via Facebook, or that we need a Princeton professor to talk about it on the news. It's distressing. But who knows exactly what this means? It's a little surprising.
I mean, starting a Facebook page in 2010 is not the timeliest activity. I mean, the social networking game has moved on pretty dramatically. The timing is almost as bizarre as dropping water at the Superdome, say, five days after Hurricane Katrina hits. It's just a little slow on the uptick, I've got to say.
OLBERMANN: And what would you think of people who say, just joined Twitter in 2010?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Twitter is still newer.
OLBERMANN: Oh, OK.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: We all welcome and embrace you on Twitter. We're happy to have you there. It is interesting, this distinction between Facebook and Twitter. There's something to be said for the fact that he's started a Facebook page, but not a Twitter account. Part of what Twitter does is require people who are on it to really be in conversation, that folks won't follow you or won't really engage with you unless it is truly you, the authentic person engaging. It's the thing that people like.
Facebook accounts, on the other hand, are sort of this space where everybody who share ideas just sort of show up and post together. Or they might even have countering ideas, but they're all passionate about, either from the left or the right, a certain topic. It does make sense to me that George W. Bush would be on Facebook and not on Twitter.
OLBERMANN: Kick save and a beauty on the Twitter one, by the way. What is the - I'm the model, I guess, the word - I'm searching for it, that Mr. Bush is going to use. Is it kind of like the Bill Clinton Facebook page, where he gives updates on the Haiti and charity organizations? Or is it going to be the Sarah Palin Facebook page, which I think is almost indescribable.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: It's interesting, because the thing that is, of course, similar about both Clinton and Palin is that both of them are at their core kind of folksy politicians. They engage with people. They make people feel as if they've touched them in a very personal way. Although George W. Bush began as the presidential candidate with whom most people would like to have a beer, he ended as the second term president who seemed totally out of touch with the American public.
So the notion he will now appear on social media, the space where kind of a more folksy, hands-on approach with ordinary people is precisely what drives it - I'm wondering whether or not in fact this is a good medium for former President Bush.
OLBERMANN: And we mentioned Twitter. ABC News reports that there's a Bush Twitter account, but it's being maintained by the presidential center. Would that be the real news here if he actually went - former President Bush goes and Tweets himself?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I would undoubtedly follow a Bush Twitter account if it was authentically him. Can you imagine, 140 characters full of bad spelling. I actually think it probably really would be his forte and it would be fascinating. The other thing that is great about Twitter, of course, people can yell at you.
OLBERMANN: No kidding?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Of course you know.
OLBERMANN: I didn't know that.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Oh gosh, I welcome former President Bush to Twitter.
OLBERMANN: Do you want the first Tweet? The first Tweet would be biking. The second Tweet would be, just crashed into tree. Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton and MSNBC, great thanks as always. Give Pierre our regards.
OLBERMANN: Pierre made it on television. That's a Princeton professor right there for you. That's the state of television. Thanks, professor. That's Countdown for this, the 44th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. She doesn't think I knew that was coming, but I saw it on Twitter. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now for the very latest from the Gulf Coast, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow, live from New Orleans. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END