'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, September 10th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Dan Choi
The toss: Electronic server
Fridays with Thurber: online-only this week
The Greatest Man In The World, part 3
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer
Guests: Richard Wolffe, Capt. Shahriar Chowdhury, Alex Wagner, Dan Choi
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Going out with a whimper, not a burn. The threat of the burning of the Koran desecration deflates but only domestically - one protestor dead in rioting in Afghanistan.
In a news conference of biblical length, the president hits several high notes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of my concern is to make sure that we don't start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country think this is the way to get attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Blowing the whistle on the GOP's perpetual stall on every remedy, on every reform, on every relief - retiring Republican Ohio Senator George Voinovich will back Obama's small business proposals. "We don't have time for messaging. We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What I've got is that Republicans holding middle class tax relief hostage because they're insisting we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "Don't ask, don't tell," unconstitutional because of a lawsuit filed by Republicans. The basic form of irony, but it's still a hoot. Our guest: Lieutenant Dan Choi.
"Worsts": Suspended from school because his eyes were bloodshot, obviously from smoking pot - except he wasn't smoking pot.
Perhaps the greatest image ever created by computer animating journalists from Hong Long. I knew it! I knew Murdoch could do that! Then he's starting "West Side Story."
And the worst political speech ever recorded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL DAVISON, GOP CANDIDATE: My name is Phil Davison. And I am seeking our party's nomination for the position of Stark County treasurer! Drastic times require what? Drastic measures, yes! Who said that? Thank you!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Enjoy the veal! Tip your waitresses!
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVISON: I will hit the ground running, come out swinging, and end up winning!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Tomorrow night on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a Florida pastor and his tiny church will not burn a pile of Korans to protest radical Islam and U.S. policies about radical Islam - unless, of course, he does.
Our fifth story tonight: what Pastor Terry Jones may have imploded on camera yesterday, he's already unleashed an explosion of violence around the world.
President Obama tried to quell it in a news conference today. In his first question on the topic of rampant American Islamophobia, the president reminded the nation that the previous president got this one right, especially when it mattered most, nine years ago, tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. We are at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. And I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion; we're not going to be divided by ethnicity. We are all Americans, we stand together against those who would try to do us harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At last word, Pastor Jones was not planning to burn Korans tomorrow, as long as he gets to meet with the leaders of the Islamic center planned for Lower Manhattan. But Jones' credibility endured a public and ranching ordeal that played out on camera yesterday as he first insisted the Islamic center was going to move, then claimed both that he had been lied to, and that he was choosing to believe he had not been lied to.
To make matters worse, in an earlier news conference this week, Jones attributed his plan to burn the Korans to his claim that U.S. soldiers had been ordered to stand down in Yugoslavia as Muslims there burned down a hospital filled with Christians. General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO, telling Countdown through a spokesman, quote, "Absolutely untrue."
Truth not required for religious zealotry in either direction. In Muslim countries around the world, protesters, some apparently believing the U.S. government condoned the Koran-burning, have taken to the streets, in Kabul, Farah province, Badakhshan and two others. In Bajis (ph), Gor (ph) and Herot (ph), in Faizabad, injuring three police officers, one protester reportedly shot dead. Tribal leaders in Nangarhar threatening to attack NATO bases and shut down supply routes.
In Pakistan, Peshawar and Karachi.
MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann reporting a statement from an al Qaeda Web site calling on American-Muslims, quote, "To do jihad and kill that man." That man, Terry Jones.
That threat underscoring a point made by President Obama today: that al Qaeda and its supporters, an infinitesimal portion of the world, stand as threat to all Americans. And as President Obama emphasized today, Muslim-Americans are not the enemy, some of them - one of whom joins us presently - have, in fact, fought al Qaeda around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: From a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It's a handful of tiny, minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts. And have killed Muslims more than anybody else.
The other reason it's important for us to remember that is because we got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our co-workers.
And, you know, when we start acting as if it their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I've got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States Armed Services. They're out there, putting their lives on the line for us. And we've got to make sure that we are crystal-clear for our sakes and their sakes, they are Americans, and we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don't differentiate between them and us. It's just us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, we're joined now by U.S. Army Captain Shahriar Chowdhury who served as a field artillery officer.
Captain, thanks for your time tonight and thanks for your service.
CAPT. SHAHRIAR CHOWDHURY, U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Keith, for having me on the show.
OLBERMANN: In the context of the proposed Koran-burning and the controversy at the Park 51 center near Ground Zero, what was your reaction when you heard the president speak today about Muslim-Americans serving our country?
CHOWDHURY: Well, Keith, this is what we do. I was an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, but I'm also a Muslim-American, born and raised in New York. I was in 9/11 when, you know, I was in 9/11 when nobody in my family was happy about what happened.
And this is what we do. Thousands of Muslims serve in the armed forces, and my family, countless cousins in the military, as well, the police department, fire department, EMT. This is the great thing about America. We were just as American as everybody else.
OLBERMANN: The notion that an Islamic center is offensive if it's too close to Ground Zero stems, obviously, from confusing religion practice by those behind that center with religion practiced by those who attacked us on that day that you invoked 9/11. What goes on your mind when you go into a war zone in the service of Americans, some of whom think your religion is the enemy?
CHOWDHURY: Well, Keith, I know that majority of Americans don't believe that. And that's the beauty of when I took the oath as an Army officer, I swore to protect Americans. I know the majority of Americans don't believe that. And that's what drives me.
I'm going out there to protect my family, and my friends. And I just, again, going back to the fact that I know the majority of Americans don't believe that.
OLBERMANN: Captain, when you shipped out to Iraq, you knew that your job would involve engaging Muslims in battle. How did you decide to put patriotism for country over affinity or feelings for fellow Muslims? Or was that not even an equation for you?
CHOWDHURY: Well, it definitely wasn't, because my job, first and foremost, was to bring home my troops alive. Everything - when we went down there, political, religious, cultural, everything was out the window. It was making sure that my brothers in arms came home alive. That was main job.
That's all I cared about, was making sure that they were home alive, I was home safe. Everything else was out the window.
OLBERMANN: What do you say to the politicians who have said, even the ones who condemned what Pastor Jones was proposing in Florida, you know, support the troops and then they say that burning the holy book of Islam is no worse than building an Islamic center?
CHOWDHURY: Well, Keith, we know that al Qaeda's main recruiting tool is say, look, America, they're anti-Muslim. They're anti-Islam. When comments like that are put out, it just - it just aids their recruiting tool. It's just a lack of education, and not knowing Muslim-Americans. It's just that.
If it they actually go and talk to a Muslim, talk to somebody like me who served, I walk in the streets of Baghdad, they come and talk to us and realize we're just as American as they are. And that's just what it is, just a lack of education.
OLBERMANN: What if Jones or some copycat and we've heard of others in the south, particularly, does burn a Koran or Korans tomorrow or someday down the road? I mean, this is necessarily not going to go away just because this guy backed off tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: How would you, as a Muslim, address extremist Muslims that Islam does not automatically call for a violent response to what is - what is done to the Koran by extremists on this side of the equation?
CHOWDHURY: Well, all you have to do is just take a look at the news.
And there's been extraordinary amount of outpouring of support for this.
I mean, countless people have talked out on both sides of the aisle that this is wrong and we just need to realize that there is more of us - people who support Muslims and people who are against these type of acts - to let them know, look, this is not America. This is not what we're about. We're the greatest country on the planet. And most of Americans don't feel that way. So, that's pretty much it.
OLBERMANN: More of us, eloquently and simply said.
Captain Chowdhury, again, great thanks for your service to the country, and great time for your - thanks for your time tonight.
CHOWDHURY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Salon.com reported that the Koran-burning story was a big story overseas and the Muslim media in particular before it was any kind of story here in the U.S. How has the White House been navigating this weird kind of gap between, whatever credibility Mr. Jones had, pretty much ended yesterday here at home - but the seriousness with which he has been taken overseas, even before General Petraeus spoke out this week?
WOLFFE: Well, it's a perilous position for the White House. It's perilous politics. It always has been.
I mean, remember, this is a president who as a candidate, found it exceptionally difficult to beat down the lies and the rumors, the scurrilous rumors, that attempted to smear him for being allegedly Muslim himself, when he's clearly not. He's found it difficult because of the politics of this has changed, even since the election when you had John McCain saying that Guantanamo should be closed and you can't find many Democrats now - never mind the Republicans who say Guantanamo should be closed.
So, we're in a weird situation where the politics around terrorism, around Muslim-Americans, has got worse the further we've got away from the terrible events of 9/11. And what they're trying to do, I think, is what a president should be doing, which is to say, there are American values at stake here, about tolerance and religious freedom, there are also important questions about national security. He is sounding like President Bush.
But the problem is, for a president - let's face it - whose middle name is Hussein, there is still a significant chunk of this country that does not want to hear what he is saying, as president, even though he is saying something that is just the same as President Bush.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans, on the other, are sounding like almost nothing. We reported Tuesday on the deafening silence of the leaders who previously told us, "Listen to General Petraeus," and this time they had nothing to say. And, obviously, some have broken their silence since, but even then, most of them have been tentative or brief or even offensive at the analysis that - or the analogy I made to Captain Chowdhury, equating the book-burning to building buildings.
What - do you have a perception of what Republicans are trying to do or not do about this issue?
WOLFFE: Well, Republicans are in a strange situation now, as well. The politics is weird for them. Remember, that for all the confidence about taking about Congress, there's a certain amount of fear in the Republican Party. They're worried about the challenge from the right, from the Tea Party, which in the first incident has been directed at fellow Republicans, not at Democrats.
But, you know, if you're going to equate something with Koran-burning
you know, I'm struck all the time with this story about the experience of those of us who worked at "Newsweek," not at least of whom is Mike Isikoff, now on NBC News, who wrote a story about the abuse of the Koran in Guantanamo Bay, and there were riots and people died. And the overwhelming torrent of abuse from conservative, the echo chamber, more than elected officials I think - certainly from conservative media - was that "Newsweek" headlined and people died. That's what they said.
And I don't hear similar things now about someone who's abusing or threatening to abuse the Koran and the kinds of impact that the generals, the commander in chief, is saying is going to happen.
So, if you're going to equate things, let's treat apples with apples.
OLBERMANN: To that point, politically, where do we go from here if either, "A," there is a Koran-burning, or even "B," without someone, somebody - American or otherwise - is hurt or worse than hurt, in terrorism that has been inspired by American Islamophobia?
WOLFFE: Well, you'd expect that to be some kind of soul-searching. I just don't see in this political environment that happening. It's certainty not going to happen from this pastor with this tiny church.
You know, the danger that the White House recognizes, and I think the president has spoken to, is that there may be copycats out there. This is an easy way for people to get attention. It's certainly getting attention around the world. And the sad thing is, that this has become in the international media somehow representative of what Americans think.
As you heard the captain say, this isn't representative of American opinion. And the tragedy is that this may be seen around the world as something that many regular Americans do or support tacitly or otherwise. And that's just not the case.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe - great thanks, have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: And you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you have ever discerned that the Republicans are deliberately working against economic recovery just so they can get their sorry backsides elected to office, this has now been confirmed by the Republican senator from Ohio. Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: A retiring Republican senator admits GOP opposition to the administration's plan to help small businesses is messaging and that we don't have anymore time for messaging.
Perhaps the best known victim of "don't ask, don't tell" on the unexpected news that a suit by Log Cabin Republicans has led to a ruling that the policy is unconstitutional.
What? What's so funny about that? Rupert Murdoch with a shark fin growing out his back. "Apple Daily News" strikes again.
"And my name is Bill Davison, and I'm seeking the nomination of our party!" If you haven't seen this tape, it's like getting to watch Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg address - if Lincoln had anger management issues, and was more stoned than Keith Richards.
OLBERMANN: For the third day this week, President Obama sharply described what Republicans would recycle, should the American people rehire them.
And in our fourth story: 53 days until the midterms, and in denouncing GOP obstructionism, the president now has a Republican whistleblower, Senator George Voinovich of Ohio.
The senator has decided to support a package of small business incentives that his fellow Republicans had blocked from getting a simple up-or-down vote. Voinovich said that the proposed amendments to the bill didn't have anything to do with it, but were instead partisan messaging.
Quoting, "We don't have time for messaging. We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting."
This will not be the first time that Senator Voinovich has voted with Democrats, but he has not previously offered that particular context. Of course, in case you do not recall, the senator is retiring.
Back to the president who spoke today at bills that Republicans blocked because of politics, not policy. He was thus able to point to Senator Voinovich as a recent exception.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now, I was pleased to see that yesterday, Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio said he would refuse to support this blockade any longer. Senator Voinovich said, "This country is really hurting," and, "We don't have time anymore to play games." I could not agree more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the president continued to offer a populist campaign-ready stance on tax cuts for the rich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And what I've got is the Republicans holding middle class tax relief hostage because they're insisting we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But hasn't anybody explained to you, Mr. President, those Bush era tax cuts don't cost a thing? It's almost magical.
At least Senator Lamar Alexander is the latest Republican to betray such thoughts when asked whether he favors President Obama's proposal to give a permanent research and development tax break to businesses.
Quoting, "The first thing we need to do is to make sure we don't raise taxes - by allowing the Bush tax credits to expire at the end of the year. That is going to take most of September. Then we can turn our attention to seeing if we have money to reduce taxes."
Of course, the Bush tax cuts were not paid for, nor did they pay for themselves.
The Obama R&D tax credit would be paid for in part by closing tax loopholes from multinational corporations.
But Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi thinks that's a bad idea, too, quoting, "Here's what the problem with what the president proposed. We do not know how he will pay for it. If he is planning on other tax increases, then he will wipe out the benefit and the positive effects of these proposals, replacing one tax cut with another tax increase. The devil is in the details."
That almost sounds like it makes sense, except that not all tax increases are created equal.
Meantime, we had another poll showing that Americans are against extending tax cuts for the wealthy. Fifty-nine percent favor ending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, or ending all Bush-era tax cuts, even also the middle class. While 37 percent think all Bush-era tax cuts should stay in place.
Let's turn to the White House correspondent for "Politics Daily," Alex Wagner.
Alex, good evening.
ALEX WAGNER, POLITICS DAILY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Since Barack Obama became president, no other sitting Republican senator nor congressman came close to saying what Senator Voinovich has said about messaging, about what Republicans are doing. But coming now instead of saying a year ago or a year-and-a-half ago, isn't it far less useful than it could have been then?
WAGNER: Keith, for a dying, starving man, an Oreo cookie is a feast -
WAGNER: - I think, you know?
The president will take it. It's before November 2nd, and it's a real live Republican saying what the White House has been saying for a while, which is this party is a "party of no." They're obstructionist. They're holding the American people hostage because they want to win in November.
OLBERMANN: Voinovich's support means that the small business bill may pass as early as next week. Is that - if that's true, how far can the White House run with the passage of those measures?
WAGNER: Well, I think, you know, not to denigrate the importance of the small business bill - look, it's $30 billion in community bank loans to small businesses, and $12 billion to $15 billion in incentives, but the president has ruled out a larger, broader package of economic incentives, which are probably going to get deadlocked before November. That said, you know, having victory on small business means a lot. And I think it does a lot to bring the party together.
You had moderate Democrats in the Senate who are beginning to break ranks with the Republican, like Evan Bayh - sorry, break ranks with the president like Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman and Kent Conrad. And this is a real incentive to bring them back under the same roof.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the White House wants to and from its per perspective needs to change the recent narrative, the one in which the Republicans would crush the Democrats in the midterm, for the simple reason that the economy is still weak and that the only thing voters are factoring into the decision is the economy. Are they getting anywhere with changing that narrative?
WAGNER: I think absolutely. I mean, again, the - Obama has been pushing this whole they are the "party of no," they have driven the country into a ditch, and we're the ones who are going to pull them out. And it's sort of - it's been met with deaf ears. Having an actual Republican echo the same thoughts does a lot to sort of further that message to the American public.
OLBERMANN: And what actual legislative action on the Bush tax cuts, with them probably delayed until the lame duck session, if there is one - can the president freely pound away at that as an example of the same old Republicans? Is that his biggest tool going into November?
WAGNER: I think absolutely. I mean, you know, I actually looked up the diagnosis of - for people who not understand mathematics, and it's dyscalculia. And I think, you know, the GOP on whole has been suffering from that for a while.
You have them saying they want to rein in spending and tackle the deficit. And then, on the other hand, they're pushing for $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy. That's basic mathematics and it's a great talking point for the White House.
OLBERMANN: Alex Wagner, who promises that we can cure dyscalculia in your lifetime, from "Politics Daily" -
WAGNER: God willing, thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: - have a good weekend. Thank you kindly.
WAGNER: You, too.
OLBERMANN: The president has gotten the unlikeliest help in his slow-motion repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" - a court ruling that it is unconstitutional, a court ruling based on a lawsuit filed by Republicans.
Oh, and Rupert Murdoch has a shark fin growing out of his back, at least according to "Apple Daily News" in Hong Kong. It's a metaphor. I suppose.
OLBERMANN: "Don't ask, don't tell." Don't meet minimums for constitutionality.
First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day from Schwarzenegger. That Schwarzenegger with a twit pic. And it reads, "Over Anchorage, Alaska, looking everywhere but can't see Russia from here. We'll keep you updated as search continues."
See what he was doing there?
Let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: We begin on the Internet with a baby monkey riding a pig. I don't know where this is or why the monkey is attached to the pig. That does not mean we can't sit back and enjoy it.
My Pig Latin is rusty, but I believe the squealing translates to "get your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty ape."
After chasing down the pig, the ride continues. The grant finale, the two complete an obstacle course.
No animals were harmed in the making of this video.
So, this monkey goes into a hospital and says, "Doctor, can you get this pig off my ass?"
Over to our friends at Next Media Animation, better known as the Apple Daily people. They have finally broken down the battle between the "New York Times" and the "Wall Street Journal" in a way that is easy to understand. It involves cannons and Rupert Murdoch as a shark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That last part made perfect sense to Phil Davison, who gave the worst political speech ever. Or the best.
First, what could be the beginning of the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with Dan Choi, next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: A landmark decision out of California; for the first time since the Clinton administration implemented it, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is declared unconstitutional by a federal court. And in our third story, the Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican all but promises to stall legislation overturning the policy. Ironic considering the case was brought on by a group of Republicans.
In a moment, Lieutenant Dan Choi joins us. Federal district court Judge Virginia Phillips ruling the policy of banning openly gay men and women from serving in the military has a, quote, "direct and deleterious effect on the armed services." Phillips declaring Don't Ask, Don't Tell is unconstitutional because it violates First and Fifth Amendment rights, adding the policy hurts recruitment efforts during wartime, and offers no military benefit.
"Among those discharged were many with critically needed skills," she writes. "According to the government's own data, many of those discharged pursuant to the act had training or education training or specialization in so-called critical skills, including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, or Korean language fluency, military intelligence, counter-terrorism, weapons development and medicine."
The suit was first filed in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. The decision will not affect policy immediately. The judge will first draft an injunction, with input from the plaintiffs, over the next week.
The Justice Department can appeal the decision. A spokesman telling the AP the ruling is currently being reviewed by attorneys. For his part, President Obama, who campaigned on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, has left it up to Congress to overturn the policy. The House passing a measure to repeal the policy back in May. That legislation currently stalled in the Senate. Spokesman for Senator Harry Reid telling the "Wall Street Journal" the majority leader would bring the bill to the floor before the midterm elections if he could get past objections from Senator John McCain.
Mr. McCain's spokeswoman stating "this is another example of activist judges usurping the role of the people and their elected officials. This should be a decision for Congress and the president, not appointed, unelected judges, after Congress and the president received the Pentagon report on this issue."
Joining me now, as promised, Lieutenant Dan Choi, former Army officer and Iraq War combat veteran. who was discharged under DADT. He is currently on the advisory board - a member of that - of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and an outspoken critic of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LT. DAN CHOI, DISCHARGED FROM ARMY THROUGH DADT: Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First off, your reaction to this ruling is what?
CHOIC: This is a victory. This is a victory not only for those gay veterans and those soldiers who are gay or lesbian serving right now. But it's a victory for the entire U.S. military. It serves no purpose to kick out people who are valuable members of a team.
It's also a victory for the Bill of Rights and it's a victory for the Constitution. Whenever you have good Americans who stand up for our founding principles, we always win. And whenever you allow people to tell the truth, whenever you stop policies that force them to lie, a group, whether it's a military unit or a family, a church, an organization of any sort, always gets better.
OLBERMANN: Having watched the Obama administration in its first year-and-a-half on this subject, do you expect the Justice Department to fight this ruling and try to get - get the constitutionality of Don't Ask, Don't Tell reasserted?
CHOI: It just might be one of the stupidest things they could do. For this entire almost two years since this president has been elected, they have been claiming that there is so much on their plate, and we have been demanding that the president fulfill his promises, simply that. And for the administration to say that there's so much going on, and then put this on their plate I think is ridiculous.
We are asking the president now, don't do anything. Do not appeal. Don't lift a finger. Don't waste anymore energy, anymore statements or anymore money defending Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
OLBERMANN: You gave the majority leader, Mr. Reid, your West Point ring. And he said he would give it back once Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. How soon do you think you're going to get your ring back?
CHOI: Well, that's up to Senator Reid. And I know that the West Point ring and any of the academy rings have a very important significance for graduates and the cadets and midshipmen. It's a promise to serve. When I gave it to him, I promised him that I would hold him accountable.
And I intend fully to do that.
OLBERMANN: And to the other side of this equation; what do you say to Senator McCain and other critics who are clearly stalling on repealing the policy?
CHOI: Anybody who supports a policy of lying, particularly Senator McCain, who graduated from the Naval Academy - they have an honor code that simply says, you will not lie and you will not tolerate those who lie. For anybody to do our country such a disservice, that's an absolute disgrace and it's an insult to the academies.
I'm absolutely stunned that he would be doing this. But let me be really clear about this: it's not just Republicans. It's not just one party. The Democrats also have a responsibility to take action, and to take leadership. Sometimes, Keith, I feel like I'm an Iraqi civilian. You know, when we were there, I would tell them, and our forces would tell them, you know, yeah, it might not be so easy right now, but isn't this better than Saddam Hussein? Isn't this better - I mean, you don't have electricity; you don't have water. But it was better than back then, right?
And I'm being told a similar thing by my gay Democrat friends, who say why would you criticize Democrats? You know, what would you rather have, George Bush? And it's been two years now. And they're saying, yeah, you got fired. But, you know, he's better than Bush, isn't he? I think it's time for every single one of us, regardless of political party, to realize that if you want to defend the Constitution, if you want to do your duty as a citizen, you stand up and you do what's right.
OLBERMANN: Dan Choi, Iraq war veteran, great thanks for your service there, and on this case here.
CHOI: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care.
It is either the greatest political speech ever given, or the worst.
Plus, we have the results of the vote that followed it. To bring it to you, though, we are just for this week switching the conclusion of Thurber's "Greatest Man in the World" to our website. It is posted now at Countdown.MSNBC.com. That's a picture of me reading it without a tie.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a closer look at Newt Gingrich's war on Islam.
OLBERMANN: Four people are dead, more than 50 injured, and nearly 40 homes destroyed after a devastating gas line explosion last night in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, California. A 60-year-old natural gas pipe ruptured at 6:15 in the evening. It created a 30-foot wide crater. One witness thought, quote, a 747 had crashed. Another said it felt like it was the biggest earthquake ever.
The first fire engine could only get as close as 100 yards away from the blaze because the heat was so intense, it cracked the windshield. For weeks, some residents had complained of a gas smell in the neighborhood. They say a representative from the Pacific Gas and Electric company had come out last week to check it out. A news conference at 5:00 p.m. PDT today began with a spokesman saying we don't have much information yet.
So it is still largely a mystery about what happened, why, and why there was such extraordinary damage and the loss of life and injury, of course.
Worsts next. Suspend the kid first, ask questions never. That is the policy at one Texas high school.
OLBERMANN: The worst political speech ever recorded on videotape. Worst one ever. That's next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Partier trying to rest the Senate nomination in Delaware from moderate Republican Mike Castle. O'Donnell complaining about a Castle filing with the Federal Election Commission.
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CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR US SENATE: You know, these are the type of cheap, underhanded, unmanly tactics that we have come to expect from Obama's favorite Republican, Mike Castle. You know, I released a statement today saying, Mike, this is not a bake off, get your man pants on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: See what she did there? She made what she thinks is a sophisticated, subtle implication about Mr. Castle's sexuality. That would be the stuff about the man pants and the bake off and being unmanly. See? Actually, it came across as a socially maladjusted hate speech as secondary. O'Donnell has previously denied that she had anything to do with her campaign staffers pushing innuendo about Castle. That boat just sailed. And by the way, Sarah Palin and the NRA have endorsed this obvious homophobe.
Runner up, Christopher Williams Saunders of Viro Beach, Florida. Police there say he managed to knock over a book of old coins at a hobby store. And thoughtfully volunteering to help clean them up, he palmed one of them. He quickly took it to an antique store and sold it. He sold it for 167 dollars. The owner of the antique store decided to flip it as quickly as possible, so he took it to the experts, which turned out to be the store from which it had been stolen, where the owners said hey, that's my missing Spanish Coin from 1752. It's worth 9,000 dollars.
So Mr. Saunders stole a 9,000 dollar coin, sold it for 167 bucks, and is now out on 27,000 dollars bail.
But our winner is Linda Parker, the principal at Byron Nelson High School in the town of Trophy Club, Texas. A 16-year-old junior there named Kyler Robertson showed up to school Tuesday, his eyes bloodshot. An assistant principal phoned Kyler's mother to announce that the A and B student had been suspended for three days and transferred to an alternative school until January. Principal Parker's school had concluded his red eyes, increased blood pressure, and, quote, jittery state were proof that he had been smoking pot.
No smell of marijuana. Nobody some him doing it. No impairment. And no drug test; they just knew it. In fact, the drug test Kyler Robertson's mother had him take immediately after that came back utterly clean. His eyes were probably bloodshot on Tuesday, Principal Parker, because his father had been stabbed to death on Sunday and he had been crying a lot.
The school's response, he doesn't have to go to the other school now. But the suspension stays on his record. Principal Linda Parker, and Byron Nelson High School, Trophy Club, Texas, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: If you're waiting for our usual Friday night readings from James Thurber, the conclusion of "The Greatest Man in the World," don't worry, it's online right now, on our website, Countdown.MSNBC.com. We did this just this one time to make room for the equivalent of breaking news about a character even Mr. Thurber could not have drawn. Because in our number one story, there is a new rising star among the ranks of the Republican party. He is the would-be candidate for treasurer of Stark County, Ohio.
His name is Phil Davison and he is not apologizing for his tone tonight! First, the most acrobatic of the 2010 crop, Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Nevada, who on June 29th made it quite clear during an appearance on Jon Ralston's political talk show, "Face-To-Face" that she would like to debate Harry Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN NEVADA: What I would like to see is Harry Reid come into this studio with you and I, and have a true debate.
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OLBERMANN: Besides the on-air challenge, Angle's deputy campaign manager gave Ralston a firm yes, the candidate would debate Harry Reid on October 21st in Reno, Nevada, unless Harry Reid showed up. Yesterday, Reid confirmed he would be there. Hours later, Angle's camp pulled out.
If only the Nevada candidate had the moxy of Phil Davison. On Wednesday, the city councilman from Minerva, Ohio made an appeal to the Stark County Republican party to elect as its nominee for treasurer. Unfortunately for Mr. Davison, he lost. Fortunately for the rest of us, Stark County blogger Mark Olson posted video of Mr. Davison's address on "Huffington Post" and Youtube. Please sit well back from your television. Roll them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL DAVISON, CANDIDATE FOR STARK COUNTY, OHIO TREASURER: Ladies and gentlemen of the Stark County Republican Party executive committee, good evening. And thank you not only for your attendance, but for allowing me the opportunity to speak.
My name is Phil Davison, and I am seeking our party's nomination for the position of Stark County treasurer on November 10th. November of 2010. Excuse me.
In terms of my background, I am from the village of Minerva, where I am serving my 13th year as - elected service as a Minerva council member. In terms of education, I have a bachelor's degree in sociology, a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in public administration, and a master's degree in communication.
In terms of elections across Stark County, I have represented our party twice on the county ballot in both the primary and the general elections, when I ran for Stark County clerk of courts in 1996, and Stark County commissioner in 2000. And I will not apologize for my tone tonight.
I have been a Republican in times good, and I have been a Republican in times bad.
Albert Einstein issued one of my most favorite quotes in the history of the spoken word, and it is as follows: in the middle of opportunity - excuse me. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. I'm going repeat that so I have clarity tonight. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity!
This is the opportunity we have been waiting for! The Stark County treasurer's office is a mess! It is in dire need of structure and guidance. And now is the time to seize this opportunity with an aggressive campaign and an even more aggressive campaigner.
If nominated tonight, I promise each and every person in this room, I will hit the ground running, come out swinging, and end up winning! Let's send a message tonight to the people of Stark County and to the people of the Stark County Democratic party. We're tired of business as usual. Drastic times require what? Drastic measures! Yes! Who said that? Thank you! Drastic times require drastic measures.
We will not tolerate incompetence and irresponsibility any longer. Now is the time to snap the Democratic stranglehold on the treasurer's office in two. And I harken back to what my friend Alex just said. He ran against the treasurer in 1996. It was a problem then, it's a problem now. Infestation.
Politics is not touch football. Politics is winner take all. It always has been. And it always will be. If nominated tonight, I want to develop and expand my campaign for what I believe is the greatest strength of the Stark County Republican party, and that is its people. I believe in the axiom that all politics is local. And because of this belief, I want to harness the thoughts and ideas that individuals in our party have concerning Stark County and its political subdivisions. And use that to its fullest extent.
Knowledge is power. Let's tap into this knowledge and use it as a tool to win the treasurer's office. Let's use this knowledge not only as a tool, but as a weapon. We must win this election. If nominated tonight, I will win this election! And I'm going to say that again so there is no miscommunication tonight: if nominated tonight, I win!
Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell Randy Gonzalez! I'm coming, both barrels, guns loaded. I believe in the entity and the principles of the National Republican Party, the state of Ohio Republican Party, and the Stark County Republican Party. And if nominated, I will not hide those beliefs on my march to victory on election day! If nominated tonight, I can guarantee with 100 percent certainty that what you are seeing from me tonight is what everyone outside those doors is going to get over the next eight weeks.
I used to be an idealistic thinker. I am now a pragmatic thinker. Government may be about service; politics is about winning. Tonight as a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for the position of Stark County treasurer, I humbly ask for your vote as members of the star county republican party executive committee. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The County Republicans, those who were left alive to tell the tale, don't release their vote totals on nomination votes. We only know this: somehow he lost.
"Talking Points Memo" tracked him down yesterday. Mr. Davison told them that after the speech he went home, ate a ham sandwich and went to bed. Asked about his Internet stardom, he told them, quote, a friend called, and while I'm not very good with electronics, is there a Youtube? It was on some kind of electronic server."
And somehow he lost. That's September 10th. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss why Newt Gingrich is in his own personal battle with Islam, 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