'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons
Guests: Rick Steiner, Michio Kaku, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Ken Burns
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD/NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: For the first time in a couple of days, I have some good news. We have just cut the riser pipe off lower marine package.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That is good news. So, the oil-pocalypse will only be here for a very short time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, B.P. CEO: B.P. will be here for a very long time. We recognize that this is just the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Grave concerns: The governor of Louisiana writes the White House worried about those poor oil companies who might be damaged by a moratorium on deep water drilling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Governor Jindal has been very critical, rightly so, of B.P. I don't know if he's got more confidence in their drilling procedures than he does in their response efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The latest whacked out idea. Blow it up. Blow it up real good. Nuke the oil well.
Nuke the oil well?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL BROWNER, WHITE HOUSE ENERGY ADVISOR: It's not a great idea to put a lot of radiation out in our oceans. I also think you could also end up in an uncontrolled situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Professor Michio Kaku on nuking the oil well?
Rick Steiner on the cleanup and cover-up; Richard Wolffe on the politics of protecting big oil.
Excuse me maitre d' - oh, sorry, President Bush. "Yes, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'd do it again to save lives."
When's the perp walk?
And upon no further review, the perfect game baseball stole from Armando Galarraga. The batter says, "Yes, I was out." The umpire admits he blew the call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM JOYCE, BASEBALL UMPIRE: I missed it. I missed it. This isn't a big call, this isn't - this is - this is a history call. And I kicked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now, the commissioner also kicks the bleep out of it. My guests, Governor Granholm of Michigan, and baseball documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: He's out - no, he's safe!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Any hope of plugging the underwater gusher at B.P.'s oil well in the Gulf of Mexico remaining months away - but tonight, in our fifth story, a cap that would at least contain the spill appears to be moved - being moved closer to the damaged pipe. If it works, that cap, attached to a mile-long hose, would begin siphoning off much of the crude oil into a ship on the water's surface. What would be, on day 45, is the first true good news of the crisis.
Robots today using a giant pair of shears to cut that damaged riser pipe deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard Admiral Allen briefing this morning that the shears, making a more jagged cut than the saw would have, so placing a cap over it will now be more challenging, and the top hat cap will not fit as snugly as officials would like.
Of course, that did not stop the CEO, Mr. Hayward, from calling just the cut a milestone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYWARD: Over the last 36 hours, we have cleared the riser from the top of the wellhead, and the team is currently working to complete the cleanup operation before we put the cap on to the top of the well. And it's an important milestone, and in some senses, of course, it's just the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet in an interview with the "Financial Times," Mr. "I would like my life back" admitting that B.P. was not totally prepared for and lacked some of the essential equipment to deal with the massive oil disaster created in the Gulf. Quoting, "What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit."
He then patted his own company on the back for its containment measures on the surface, adding, "Considering how big this has been, very little has got away from us."
Here's something that has gotten away from B.P., its cover-up effort
on the shores of the Gulf. Journalists from multiple news organizations
are reporting that they have been blocked from taking photographers of dead
animals on the beaches of the Gulf. These devastating pictures are taken
by Charlie Riedel of "The Associated Press."
In some cases, cops and local contractors who are blocking access and leading them away, telling them that they are acting on the orders of B.P.
In fact, the contract local boat operators signed before being hired by B.P. expressly forbids them from talking to the media. One contractor telling "The New York Daily News," "They specifically informed us that they did not want these pictures of the dead animals they know the ocean will wipe away mostly of the evidence." If only the ocean really could do that.
Louisiana Governor Jindal seemingly less concerned with how his state has been despoiled and brought to economic ruin, and with returning immediately to "drill, baby, drill." In a letter to the president, the Louisiana Republican arguing that his state has already suffered crippling economic consequences, asking the White House to rethink its decision to issue a ban on deep water drilling in the Gulf, including 22 platforms currently in operation off the Louisiana coast.
Quoting again, "The last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more."
The White House replying in part that a repeat of the B.P. Deepwater Horizon spill would have grave economic consequences for regional commerce and do further damage to the environment. Apparently, Governor Jindal has to have that explained to him, which brings us to the president's attempts to address directly for the first time criticism that he has not responded to this crisis with perhaps enough emotion or anger.
In an interview, the president saying he is in fact, quote, "furious at this entire situation because somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions." The president adding, however, that being angry still does not mean he is going to yell. "I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people. But that's not the job I was hired to do," Mr. Obama said. "My job is to solve this problem and ultimately this isn't about me and how angry I am. My job is to make sure they - B.P. - are being held accountable."
In a moment, the latest on the containment effort with conservation consultant, Rick Steiner. First, let's turn to our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe, the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Governor Jindal arguing that his state has suffered crippling economic consequences. So, President Obama thus must resume - the governor is implying here, is he not - that the very thing that led to those crippling economic consequences?
WOLFFE: Yes, that would be about right. You know, there are a couple of ways to look at this. You can obviously look at the lack of logic that Bobby Jindal's expressing here. But there are two sort of political strands that are playing out here.
One on the national level - you have the perpetual Republican war on anything to do with the Obama administration. The underlying argument in his letter was that somehow this oil spill was the result of the failure of government. So, really, all that you need to do here is let business do its job, which it's done spectacularly well, in B.P.'s case.
There is a local strand of this as well. And this is something that I think folks on the left have to come to terms with. The local politics in many of these states is still supportive of offshore drilling because of the economic situation, because of the jobs.
So, what ought to be a teaching, learning experience about the true cost of this business is wrapped up in the local needs of these economies which clearly Jindal is sort of pandering too here, rather than taking a leadership position.
OLBERMANN: And the governor has been very vocal about how B.P. has been less than capable in managing the fallout of this disaster, something that the company's CEO also admitted to today. So, the idea is give them more chances to do this as soon as possible? Isn't the governor sort of working at cross purposes with himself? I mean, even in that local context of what this means just for the economy of Louisiana?
WOLFFE: Well, yes, to a degree he is. And actually, I think he's working at cross-purposes to the real political advances he has made in his own right. You know, here's a guy who needed salvation from his disastrous performance in response to the State of the Union, and here, he has actually just recently, in the last few hours, make significant advance in getting the administration's approval for these barrier islands.
So, he's staked out a very effective position. He's delivered for his state. It is illogical, again, that Republicans who have prided themselves on the economic rigors of their arguments can see a case for starting up drilling when the drilling clearly isn't safe. I mean, what kind of trust are they putting in the same companies that they're railing against? It really doesn't make much sense.
OLBERMANN: Does this make much sense - part of the White House response to Jindal was on to say, look, again, we're currently offering the economic injury loans to the impacted businesses on the Gulf Coast, presumably because this is the expenditure of money to individuals rather than to large corporations. Isn't the governor going to denounce this, and then, B, pose next to the checks like this was the publisher's clearinghouse giveaway?
WOLFFE: Well, there's also that dynamic with the stimulus. But I think he's got to support the fishermen. You know, they are the truest voices in all of this, the most immediate humanized impact of this whole thing. And those are the small businesses who would benefit from this kind of thing.
As for the tourism, which spreads throughout his state, you know, it's going to be harder to sort of pose with that for the cameras. But on an economic basis, he's got to take the A, and to argue that the oil companies themselves need to be in the job creation phase is so premature it's -
Jindal's a clever guy. I mean, why does he think this is good policy? He may think it's good short-term politics. But in terms of the policies, it's just not ready.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, the president and anger, although some of us who have been critical in his approach haven't been asking him to yell and shout or anything, they just - I believe we've just been asking for him to express the consequences that he has in mind for these people. He can be as calm about it as he wants to.
Is that message not getting across that it's - that it's what he's talking about that should contain or express our anger? He doesn't have to have his own anger involved?
WOLFFE: Well, the White House talked about putting a $69 million bill to B.P. today. So, I guess that's one way of expressing some anger.
WOLFFE: You know, they are moving on a number of different fronts. But I think the bigger thing for someone who likes to sort of be a professor in chief here is to start talking about the other hidden costs which are now all too obviously washing up on our shores of cheap oil, of oil exploration that isn't ready, that in a desperate rush for cheaper fuel and energy. We're incurring cost to other businesses that we have to factor in to future discussions.
That's the kind of discussion he can lead. Whether or not it's angry, it's up to him. But it's certainly a debate that needs to happen.
OLBERMANN: Our own Richard Wolffe - as always, great thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. To discuss today's effort to cap the gusher and the latest predictions on the vast environmental impact, let's turn now to marine conservationist, Rick Steiner.
Rick, good evening, again. Thanks for your time tonight.
RICK STEINER, MARINE CONSERVATIONIST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: My understanding is you've requested - you have requested to serve as an independent technical observer of this cut-and-cap project. Does that mean they don't have an independent technical observer of the cut-and-cap project?
STEINER: That's my understanding. And my understanding is that the only people in the room out there in their ROV operating room for this project are B.P., and their contractors and the federal agencies. And, honestly, we can't believe a thing B.P. says and a lot of people are starting to question what they're hearing out of the administration simply because both have their own vested interests here.
So, if there's nothing to hide, I've asked Admiral Allen and the EPA administrator to put me in the room.
OLBERMANN: This - the cap or the top hat, what is the best result we can hope for? When will we have any idea if this has done anything positively?
STEINER: Well, I think some time tonight or tomorrow morning, we're going to hear how it's working, if they actually get it fitted. The best outcome obviously is that 100 percent of the blowout oil is contained by this thing and siphoned up to the surface. The worst outcome is not just that it doesn't work. The worst outcome would be that it back pressures down into the blowout preventer and the resistance that's in there already is lost, and, thus, the increase in flow of the blowout could actually double.
OLBERMANN: To what's happening on the shore, it's obviously killing wildlife. Despite the best efforts by B.P. to cover this up, we're seeing the pictures now. Does anybody have the - an idea of the current extent of that? Or as this extraordinary combination of B.P. thugs and actually police and other authorities, has this essentially made it impossible to judge how bad the flora and fauna situation is?
STEINER: Yes, it's bad. There's a lot of oil starting to come ashore. Of course, a lot of the impact is still offshore and in the water so it's a little out of sight, out of mind to people. But the oil that's starting to come ashore is extensive. And, yes, we were run off beaches and away from oiled in shore areas weeks ago by B.P. thugs and saying that they're operating on the orders of the Coast Guard or B.P., and obviously, they don't want the images on the evening news.
So - but the wildlife impacts have been extensive. The number of dead carcasses that have been collected is just a minute fraction, perhaps 10 percent to 20 percent of the number of dead animals which generally almost always drift down into the water column and sink.
OLBERMANN: About drifting, the National Center for Atmospheric Research released a simulation of what it thinks could happen if the so-called "loop current," the thing in the Gulf of Mexico, picks up the oil that it could reach the Atlantic coastline of Florida, the other side of Florida within weeks. It could spread up as far as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and then moves out in the open ocean. It's not a solid prediction, according to the NCAR, but it's possible scenario.
Is it a probable scenario in your opinion?
STEINER: Oh, yes. I think it's probable - particularly if this containment cap doesn't work, and the blowout, which we know - the blowout will keep going for the next couple of months until the relief wells get down there and kill this thing. So, if the cap doesn't work, we're going to have three times the amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
But I think some of the oil has already entered the loop current, we've heard evidence of that. It will go around the southern tip of Florida, and you know, ironically some of these tar balls will go towards the U.K. in the north Atlantic drift. And so, some of the oil from B.P. will be returned to British Petroleum in the U.K.
OLBERMANN: Wonderful added touch of irony from Rick Steiner, conservation consultant, marine biologist.
Once again, thanks for the explanations and thanks for your time.
STEINER: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So when top cut, top cap, top hat, top cat, Cat Ballou, and get back honky cat have all failed, what do they do next? Well, sir, says one so-called energy expert, naturally you want to blow up the wellhead with a small tactical thermonuclear device.
Professor Michio Kaku - next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: The reaction of a scientific mind to the nuclear option - the proposed solution in the Gulf: melt the well shut with a small nuclear device because nothing could go wrong with that.
And a surprise during an evening with this man, and not just the tux -
he admitted we had waterboarded a prisoner and said he'd do it again.
Has he been arrested yet?
And the blot heard around the world. The umpire says he blew the call and the pitcher should have had a perfect game. The batter now says the umpire blew the call and the pitcher should have had a perfect game. The commissioner rules - no perfect game.
Ken Burns - ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Top hat, top kill, junk shot, cut-and-cap - in our fourth story on the Countdown: With so many botched attempts at plugging the damn hole, suggestions have turned from slightly eccentric to a nuclear option.
They're not talking about eliminating filibusters in the Gulf of Mexico, they mean literally nuking the oil well. The idea: to use some kind of nuclear explosive to seal off the well and stop the leak. One energy expert - I'd like to see his credentials - telling "Bloomberg News," "All the best scientists consider it plausible."
Advocates of nuking the well point - nuking the well, rather, point to reports of the Soviet Union having successfully used nukes to shut off gas wells on four separate occasions in the '60s and '70s.
Just two minor differences between the Soviet examples and the current example, all the Soviet blasts were done on land and they did not involve oil.
No matter, "The National Review" taking the prospect of nuclear experimentation in the Gulf seriously, citing, quote, "Russia's newspaper of record to back up the argument. If the Deepwater Horizon disaster has rendered the mantra of 'drill, baby, drill,' of limited rhetorical use, it may eventually come time for another plea: nuke, baby, nuke."
True, President Obama did deploy a team of nuclear physicists to the Gulf to come up with alternative ideas to B.P.'s ideas. But as "The New York Times" reports, the administration is ruling out using a nuke to seal the well. One federal official called the idea crazy.
Admiral Thad Allen telling ABC News, "I think we'd have to run out of a lot of things before we'd consider something like that.
And the White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, explaining why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNER: It's not a great idea to put a lot of radiation out in our oceans. I also think you could end up in an uncontrolled situation rather than having just one point of leakage, which is this well, you could end up with lots of places leaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: An honor to once again be joined by the host of "Sci Fi Science" on the Science Channel, author of "Physics of the Impossible," and physics professor at city college here in New York, Michio Kaku.
Welcome back, sir.
MICHIO KAKU, "SCI FI SCIENCE": Glad to be on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Nuking an underwater oil well, what could possibly go wrong with that?
KAKU: What could go right?
KAKU: I mean, you're talking about radioactive cesium, iodine, strontium being injected into the food chain, and they last for not just decades, but centuries. And when hurricane season comes, all the tar balls could wind up radioactive and landing in people's swimming pools.
Could you imagine radioactive oil being spread all over the Gulf States by a hurricane? And it would last, again, for centuries, this radioactive material.
OLBERMANN: So, this would then - this has the potential of becoming a nuclear oil spill?
KAKU: Yes, this is a nuclear oil spill on top of everything else. When you detonate a hydrogen bomb underground, what happens is it creates a sphere. It vapor rises a sphere of dirt and then glassifies the surface of the sphere.
KAKU: That's what they want to do, use the glass to choke the well.
KAKU: OK? However, it's unstable. What happens is, after a day or so, the ground collapses on the glass and you have a gigantic hole. Now, this is great for gouging out canals, which is why the Soviets considered it back in the '60s.
KAKU: But an oil well, it would make it worse. It would widen the hole and the glassified seal would break as a consequence.
OLBERMANN: And, is there anything to the idea that that oil would still be leaking out because the process to tap it or to control it would have broken, this somehow, the oil would now provide fuel for whatever went wrong with the nuclear device? Could these two things now combine into something we don't even know about?
KAKU: Well, there's no such thing as a runaway chain reaction with oil. You need uranium for that.
KAKU: But the problem is, this could open up other fissures, other holes, other gaps, and that you have not just one leaking fire hydrants of oil, you have many leaking fire hydrants of oil - all of which have to be capped, all of which have to have a top kill, and we start all over again.
OLBERMANN: Are there geological implications, too, at that depth? I mean, we're talking a mile-plus down. Do we know - would - if you - if you detonated some, quote-unquote, "controlled nuclear device," like there was such a thing, at that depth under that water pressure, could there have be geological consequence?
KAKU: This is a huge science experiment.
KAKU: A colossal science experiment. We've never done that. We've detonated bombs underwater. We've detonated bombs under the land, but never under a mile under the surface of the ocean. We've never done that before. We're in totally uncharted territory.
OLBERMANN: So, this is now - we've moved from the analogy we used last time which is, this looked like a three stooges movie - this would be a three stooges movie where in the middle that, they suddenly threw out anything resembling a script and just made it up now with using real guns and hammers.
KAKU: Imagine the three stooges with nukes.
KAKU: That's what we're talking about, totally uncharted territory.
OLBERMANN: I think that might be the line of the thing so far, the three stooges with nukes. All right, take the nuke out of it. Is there something to the idea of blowing something up so it will seal off?
KAKU: Some people have talked about conventional explosives.
KAKU: But again, you don't have the glassification taking place with ordinary explosives. And, again, you could be rupturing other holes, other holes down there. So, all of a sudden, not just one leak, but many leaks. And come hurricane season, the solution to pollution is not going to be dilution.
OLBERMANN: That's right. We have a nuclear oil hurricane now. A combination of all three.
So, I'm thinking you're disagreeing with this supposed expert who said all the best scientists consider it plausible.
KAKU: I think this is fabricated out of thin air. I'd like to meet some of these people. My adviser, Edward Teller, was the one pushing this, but he pushed it for canal digging, never for sealing a well a mile under water where we don't know what the geography is like, we don't know the long-term implications. And, like I said, who needs radioactive tar balls in their swimming pool?
OLBERMANN: We could read at night.
Michio Kaku, professor of physics, host of "Sci Fi Science" in the Science Channel - once again, great thanks and great thanks for leaving us with the image of the three stooges with nukes. Appreciate it.
So, waterboarding was torture and torture was illegal, and the former president proudly and publicly says, quote, "Yes, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed." So, the former president broke the law, right?
Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: I've never really seen one, but that's got all the earmarks of being a confession to an international war crime. "Yes, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."
So, you're the commissioner of baseball and the pitcher says the batter was out, it was the perfect game. The batter says he was out, it was a perfect game. Even the umpire now says he was out and it was a perfect game - and you do nothing?
Somebody did something. The governor of Michigan joins us after she issued a proclamation about Armando Galarraga. The governor and Ken Burns - ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: The real news in our next story is that it's no longer news. It used to be news, but now even progressive blogs pay little attention as I utter a phrase that would have drawn a national gasp of shock and horror just ten years ago. In our third story today, former President Bush last night confessed to committing a war crime. Mr. Bush, speaking before a mostly friendly audience of 2,300 in Grand Rapids, no cameras, no recording devices, no record, just witness accounts, reportedly admitting not only, quote, "yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed," but also asserting, quote, "I'd do it again to save lives."
What makes this latest confession so interesting is Mr. Bush's subconscious hint that he knows it was useless the first time. "I'd do it again," he said, "to save lives." If saving lives were part of it the first time, why add that phrase, instead of just saying I'd do it again?
Despite the claims of torture instigator Dick Cheney, the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has not been demonstrated to have saved a single life, not in those two CIA memos that Cheney swore would prove him right, if only they were declassified, until the Obama administration called his bluff, and the memos, which identified not a single life saved, nor a single incident only waterboarding could reveal.
Waterboarding did not make Mohammed give up Jose Padilla. He was given up by Abu Zubaydah during traditional legal interrogation before waterboarding even began. And the Heathrow Airport plot, given up, along with details about a Southeast Asia terror group, the CIA inspector general believes because Khalid Shaikh Mohammed thought the CIA already knew about them, which is a classic legal interrogation trick.
The best claim, of course, that waterboarding Mohammed gave investigators key information to break up a plot to blow up the Library Tower in L.A., a plot that was broken up in 2002, a year before Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured.
What do we know that we got from waterboarding? Lies. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told the military that he lied to end the torture; 183 separate waterboardings. One lie he told was where to find Osama bin Laden. How do we know he was lying? No bin Laden. Remember?
The Bush administration actually got its waterboarding techniques from a study of techniques the Communist Chinese used during the Korean War to make prisoners lie for propaganda purposes. What lie did Bush and Cheney want to hear? Ibn Shaikh al Libi was captured in 2001, subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. He gave up the link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Well, made it up, actually. By the time we learned that, Mr. Bush had already used al Libi's tortured lie to justify invading Iraq.
Mr. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, only one of many ways in which his decisions to waterboard, to torture, has actually clearly cost more American lives than we can calculate, not just because if he had let experienced, professional interrogators do the work, they might have actually gotten some additional intelligence, but also because at least half of our casualties in Iraq were at the hands of foreigners motivated to fight by American torture. This the estimate of an actual U.S. interrogator in Iraq. This interrogator, who used real interrogation to help get al Zachari, objected to the torture methods.
But Mr. Bush should have already known waterboarding was wrong, wrong when Americans were court martialed for doing it during the Spanish American War, and during the Vietnam War, wrong when Americans prosecuted Japanese soldiers for doing it to Americans during World War II, wrong when the British and Americans refused to use any torture against the Germans in World War II, wrong when a sheriff and three deputies went to prison for it in the 1980s in Texas.
Mr. Bush last night had other things to say. His greatest disappointment, not relying on torture to send U.S. troops to die under false pretenses, not ignoring the threat of al Qaeda, not failing to prevent 9/11 or failing to fulfill his promise to avenge the dead of 9/11. No, he said the biggest disappointment of his presidency was failing to privatize Social Security.
It may yet rank among the biggest disappointments of the Obama presidency that in the 21st century, a man can confess in public, yeah, we waterboarded, I'd do it again, without fear of arrest, or prosecution, or justice.
The most discussed call by a baseball umpire in 27 years, perhaps ever. It is unanimous, he missed the call, and they're not going to change it. Thus there can only be one worst person tonight. Although, I'll be joined by both Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Ken Burns to discuss these event in baseball.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, again she's live from the Gulf Coast. Among her guests, the co-chairs of the president's Oil Spill Commission.
OLBERMANN: Governor and baseball fan Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, and Ken Burns on the Galarraga game. First, a very different kind of worst persons segment tonight.
It is the essence of human heartbreak for as long as there have been human hearts to make a mistake, important, and equally obvious, to yearn to go back in time and correct it, erase it from the pages of the past, to do anything to take it back, anything to make it not so. That essential angst of our existence played out on a baseball field in Detroit, Michigan last night and in a sports commissioner's officer in New York, New York this afternoon.
For the third time in just 25 days, a baseball pitcher had retired the first 26 batters he had faced. On Mother's Day, Dallas Braden of the Oakland A's retired the 27th and final hitter to record the 19th perfect game in the history of the sport, 27 up, 27 down.
Last Saturday, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies did the same thing, the first time in 130 years that two perfect games had been accomplished in the same season.
And last night, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was poised to make it three.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ground ball, right side. Cabrera will cut it off.
Galarraga covers - he's out! No, he's safe. He's safe!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is he safe! Oh, my goodness. Jim Joyce, no!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Despite the entreaties of Tigers' manager Jim Leyland, first base umpire Jim Joyce, a veteran of 22 years in the Major Leagues, remained adamant. Cleveland's Jason Donald had clearly beaten the throw to the bag and was safe, until, that is, Joyce saw the videotaped replay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM JOYCE, MLB UMPIRE: No, I did not get the call correct. I kicked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of it. I had a great angle on it. I had great positioning on it. I just missed the damn call. I missed it. I missed it from here to the wall.
This isn't a call. This isn't - this is - this is a history call. And I kicked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of it. And there's nobody that feels worse than I do. I take pride in this job, and I kicked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of that. I took a perfect game away from that kid who worked hard (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all night.
ARMANDO GALARRAGA, DETROIT TIGERS PITCHER: He really feels bad. He probably feels more bad than me. You know, you how I say before, nobody's perfect. He apologized, and he feels really bad. When you see him, you say, he feels really bad. He hasn't even showered. He's in the same clothes. A man, he just gives you a hug and, you know, let's go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This morning, the Indians batter, Jason Donald, said he too had looked at the replay. "Yeah," he said, "I was out." Countless times in baseball history, even in instances where championships rested on the outcome, the game's hierarchy has reviewed and even overruled the decisions of the umpires on the field. Most such decisions have also involved the interpretation of rules, not simple safes and outs, such as a controversial forced play ruling that decided the 1908 National League pennant race in the infamous Fred Merkel (ph) game.
More recently, a review overturned the outcome of one of the most controversial rulings of all time. In 1983, Kansas City's George Brett hit a two-run, two-out ninth inning home run to overcome a four to three deficit at Yankees Stadium in New York. But umpire Tim McClellan, one of the best of them, determined that Brett had applied the gripping substance pine tar too far up the handle of his bat. Not only did he void the home run, but he declared Brett out, the game over, and the Royals losers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might be going to call George Brett out. They have. He's out! Brett is out. Look at this. Brett is out. He is out and having to be forcibly restrained from hitting plate umpire Jim McClellan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Within days, American League President David McPhail (ph) had overruled McClellan. Brett's home run stood and McPhail ordered the game resumed from the moment after Brett scored the lead run. Three weeks, four days and two court hearings later, the Royals returned to New York and played the last four outs of the game and won.
The commissioner's office has also involved itself in the definition of what is and what isn't a perfect game. In 1991, a Statistical Accuracy Commission decided that the perfect game pitched by Ernie Shore in 1917 and the perfect game pitched by Harvey Haddox (ph) in 1959 were no longer perfect games. In the Shore game, the immortal Babe Ruth had been the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He walked the first batter he faced. He argued with the umpire and was injected.
As soon as the relief pitcher, Shore, entered the game, the runner was caught stealing. Shore then retired the only 26 batters he faced, and was, for the next 75 years, credited for a perfect game.
Haddox had had his for 32 years. He had thrown 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee, but he'd given up a hit in the 13th frame. The 1991 ruling said only games in which a pitcher had faced and retired at least 27 batters, and never surrendered a base runner would count. The ruling also erased a total of 48 games that had been considered no-hitters.
But ultimately this is not so much about precedent as opportunity. The Tigers knew the call was wrong. The Indians, they knew this call was wrong. The umpire certainly did. And the correction of the mistake would be considered in some fashion sportsmanship. And in other sports, sportsmanship has in fact taken precedence.
On November 16th, 1940, Cornell University, the second-ranked college football team in the nation, the winners then impossible, as it is to believe now, of 18 consecutive games, scored the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter of a snow-blinded Saturday afternoon at Dartmouth. But something about the winning drive felt wrong. Only when the school's films of the game were developed did the truth come out. The referees had accidentally given Cornell an extra play, a fifth down just before the winning score.
After agonized discussion, the university's president, athletic director and football coach agreed Cornell had not earned the victory. They declined it, and the record books still show the final score as Dartmouth three, Cornell nothing. A mistake on the field overruled not because it had to be, but because it should have been.
Today, the pitcher and the umpire met again in the pregame ritual of the exchange of the lineup cards, as emotions ran high, along with forgiveness, for now. It was after several hours of meetings in his offices today, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig did not take any steps to correct the umpire's mistake in the Galarraga game, promising only to examine the possible expansion of videotape reply in the future.
Thus a big hearted umpire's honest mistake is not corrected, and he is left for eternity to be known as the man who blew the call in the perfect game. Thus, Bud Selig, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today telling the White House press corps, "I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher." In our number one story, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, in a statement, today declined to correct last night's bad call and award Armando Galarraga of the Tigers a perfect game. So the governor of Michigan is trying to correct the commissioner's mistake. Ken Burns on the Galarraga game also, in just a moment.
First, Governor Jennifer Granholm announcing this right after the game last night, and today issuing the proclamation, reading in part, "whereas Armando Galarraga retired all 27 players in order, a feat no Tiger's pitcher has ever accomplished, and whereas an umpire's missed call resulted in Armando Galarraga being charged a hit that clearly should have been an out, and whereas the umpire graciously admitted his mistake after the game ended, now, therefore, be it resolved that I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby declare Armando Galarraga to have pitched a perfect game."
Joining us via Skype, the author of that proclamation, the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. Thanks for your time tonight.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), MICHIGAN: Keith, thank you so much for at least giving me the opportunity to try to correct. But of course it's only a proclamation. And what we really want is for the record books to reflect it. So you are the baseball aficionado. Tell me and tell folks in Michigan why is it that Bud Selig, or that replays are not allowed in baseball when they're allowed in football and they're allowed in hockey, allowed in basketball? Why can't we, under limited circumstances, correct this terrible injustice?
OLBERMANN: I think we can. They just haven't really moved in baseball past the deposition and affidavit stage. They're also writing with quill pens and doing most of it by candlelight. You were so quick on the draw with this last night. Were you watching the game? Did you see it in real time?
GRANHOLM: Yes, I was watching. I watched the ninth inning. I heard my team - I was at an event. Somebody pulled me aside and said, you cannot believe it. For the first time in Tiger history, we are about to witness a perfect game. So I said, I'm leaving; I'm going to watch the ninth inning. And, of course, what happened, but this terrible injustice.
And God bless - let me just say, God bless Jim Joyce, the umpire, for doing the right thing, which is to recognize almost - not immediately, but at least after the game, that the call was a bad call, and to go and apologize. I really think that's a great class act. The question is, can Bud Selig now, on behalf of both the umpire and the player, correct this injustice?
What is it that the commissioner of baseball is trying to protect? Is it the rules of baseball? Or is it the integrity of the game itself? Because the game would suggest - not just suggest, mandate that this was a perfect game. And he should get the credit for it.
OLBERMANN: You make a great point about this. If you were ruling on this with authority, would you be able to make a statement that said, this is not necessarily a precedent, except for this exact situation, where you can use replay if you want to, when the umpire wants to, when it's the ninth inning of a perfect game? Could you specify it that exactly to make sure it wasn't overused in the future?
GRANHOLM: You are the baseball guru, Keith. Don't you think that it is just for this purpose that the appeal to the commissioner of baseball is allowed? He has the opportunity to do this. In fact, we were - you know this better than I do. I'm just a layperson. We were Googling last night as this was happening the Baseball Almanac. And Rule 9(2B), or something like that, suggests if there is a problem, that there can be an appeal. Now, you know that that is not necessarily applied in the case of a judgment call.
But here, this is the exact kind of case to remedy an injustice. This great young man - I mean, Galarraga has acted with such great - you know, greatness, really sportsmanship afterward. It's not just about that. It's really about, what are we trying to protect by preserving these old rules when it's very clear he pitched a perfect game.
OLBERMANN: Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, via the miracle of Skype, who state has recognized Armando Galarraga's perfect game, even though baseball has not yet. One down, 49 to go, governor. Well done. Thanks for your time.
GRANHOLM: Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: For more on this decision, I'm joined now by Ken Burns, the award winning documentary film maker, whose update to h is series "Baseball," called "Baseball, The Tenth Inning," will be on PBS this September, once he edits an extraneous interview out of the middle of it. Good to see you, my friend.
KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILM MAKER: Nice to see you, too.
OLBERMANN: Basically, wrong or right from Bud Selig. Not from Jim Joyce, but from Bud Selig.
BURNS: I'm trying to channel him. This was a perfect game. We was robbed. I grew up in Michigan. I'm an old Tiger fan from way back. I watched it live as it happened. I was stunned I think with everyone else. And I wanted that catharsis to take place at the end, when Joyce realized he made a mistake.
But I also understand - I want to say also that this is an amazing story, and that's what I'm interested in. The magnanimity of Galarraga, the sort of honesty and courage of Joyce. Everybody sort of coming together makes it one of those classic human baseball story.
Now, what Bud I think is afraid of is the unraveling of the sweater. Do I, then, as a now adopted Red Sox fan of the last 40 years, get Bucky Dent's home run back, because apparently he was using a cork bat by Mickey Rivers? Do we take away all of Mark McGwire's home runs because we now know they're challenged.
Do the 1919 Cincinnati Red Stockings, who are listed as the winners of the World Series that we know was thrown by the infamous Black Sox - do we suddenly change that? I think there's that terror in baseball that if we pull on this thing, what will happen? Why don't we go forward? So my prediction is that this will eventually become a perfect game.
BURNS: I really do. And I think it will become a perfect game. But baseball, as you know, works in glacial ways. Eventually all this stuff will get together. As you said, we're just taking depositions right now.
OLBERMANN: He's going to tell his great grandson, actually, he did pitch a perfect game, we're giving it to you? Here's my point about why it seems to me that this is unique in baseball history, even for controversies among umpires and overturning calls, and why perhaps the commissioner should act where he has not acted. This is the first one I can remember in which the umpire has said, immediately upon presentation of evidence - it's not like the various times that Bruce Fremming in the Milt Papas (ph) perfect game, where he still won't admit that that was a strike, if it was. He would never admit that. Don Denkinger was years in admitting the 1985 World Series call was not correct.
Here it was immediate. It was - the piece of history has been purchased by adhering to rules that protect a mistake, and do not reward an umpire who has admitted his mistake, who's been perfect, as the pitcher was perfect, as the game was perfect. The thing that's wrong is the rule.
BURNS: We're living and dying by what makes this the greatest game ever invented, which is it has this human element to it, as people want to say. That Denkinger call - there's no statute of limitation on justice.
BURNS: Let's reverse that. Maybe the Cardinals don't fall apart. What do we do? And I think this is the problem that baseball - they now have to address the question of instant replay. And they now have to address it very seriously. And we know that things will change if that's involved. But we also know that something will be lost in the game. We was robbed. I was robbed. You was robbed. Bud was robbed. Galarraga was robbed. And now Joyce was robbed in a way.
OLBERMANN: In some respect, every time somebody's robbed, somebody's been the beneficiary of the robbing. I was the Yankee fan in the crowd for the Bucky Dent game, and saw the other 30 Yankee fans there rise and go, holy crap. But nobody won here. This is the thing, all this has done is taken joy away and history, in a sense, because we would have had three perfect games in less than a month, and three perfect games in 130-some-odd games of the calendar from one season to the next.
OLBERMANN: And Bobby Thompson and the rest of the Giants were stealing signs. We know that. What happened to that one game, that one pitch, do we take that away retroactively. I don't think we do. It is one of those tragedies of baseball. But baseball is about those things, that stuff happens. I walk out, I get hit by a base. You fail seven times out of ten, you're a 300 hitter. If you do that for 20 years in a row, you're in Cooperstown.
This is part of the joy of the game to me. So I'm going back and I'm reliving the story. And I believe that this will have a happy ending. Because as you point out, I think the real problem will be, as the euphoria of the - how, you know, what a teachable moment it was wears off, Joyce is going to be living with this monkey on his back for the rest of his life.
OLBERMANN: That's the other thing. I don't understand why they're not really going to protect him long-term. It's wonderful now. In the history books, it will be, oh, he's the umpire who blew the call.
BURNS: You're absolutely right. That's what it will be.
BURNS: I actually think this is a slow moving operation.
OLBERMANN: Commissioner, don't take too much time on this. Ken's got a lot of time here. I don't know that the rest of us have a lot of time here. Ken Burns, "Baseball, The Tenth Inning" on PBS in September. Can I say I've sort of seen it?
BURNS: Not only have you seen it, you open it. So I think this is an important thing people should understand.
OLBERMANN: We'll watch anyway. Thanks, Ken.
That's Countdown for this, the 45th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. I'M Keith Olbermann. Got to throw a baseball at Ken Burns here. Good night and good luck.
Now with the latest from the Gulf Coast, including an interview with the co-chairs of the Oil Spill Commission, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END