'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, March 23rd, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: New Special Prosecutor hints "Stand Your Ground" law may not serve George Zimmerman; POTUS, candidates, talk Trayvon Martin
#ShowPlug 2: Yet the inanity continues. @GeraldoRivera blames hoodies, victim, even as photos of him & O'Reilly surface - wearing hoodies
#ShowPlug 3: Santorum wigs out after Vote POTUS instead of Romney implication; NYPD spying revelations expand to Liberal groups incl. OWS
#ShowPlug Last: Gabby Giffords' staffer Ron Barber, seeking to succeed her, joins me + Thurber's "Look Homeward Jeannie."
#5 'Justice For Trayvon', Trymaine Lee
#5 'Justice For Trayvon', Rep. Frederica Wilson
#4 'Never Give Up, Never Surrender', Joe Williams
# Time Marches On!
#3 'NY-SPY-D', Matt Apuzzo
#2 'Running For Gabby', Ron Barber
#1 Fridays with Thurber: Look Homeward Jeannie, part 1
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Frederica Wilson, Trymaine Lee, Joe Williams, Matt Apuzzo
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
OLBERMANN: For the first time, the president addresses the killing of Trayvon Martin.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out - how does something like this happen?
OLBERMANN: To that end, the new special prosecutor already setting a tone unfavorable to the shooter, George Zimmerman.
(Excerpt from video clip) ANGELA COREY: I can just tell you that Florida's Justifiable Use of Deadly Force law, including the recent additions to the law that people commonly refer to as "Stand Your Ground," may or may not be the applicable law to this.
OLBERMANN: Trayvon Martin referenced in the House chamber.
(Excerpt from video clip) FREDERICA WILSON: Stand up for Trayvon Martin. Stand up for justice. Stand up for our children. I am tired, tired, tired of burying young black boys.
OLBERMANN: His congresswoman, Frederica Wilson - who joins us.
Even the Republican candidates have noticed:
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: "Stand Your Ground" is not doing what this man did. There is a difference between "Stand Your Ground" and doing what he did.
OLBERMANN: And Mitt Romney - what happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy, and yet the idiocy continues.
(Excerpt from video clip) SEAN HANNITY: Is it possible that it was just a horrible accident?
(Excerpt from video clip) GERALDO RIVERA: I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was. Leave the hoodie home.
OLBERMANN: One answer from LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Also, even a former contender recognizes GOP burnout when she sees it:
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: There's a lot of fatigue among our party. They are really kind of tired of this.
OLBERMANN: And one of the candidates touches the third rail - "You might as well re-elect the president," he says.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If they're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk on what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.
OLBERMANN: The New York police nightmare - they didn't just spy on Muslims, they spied on liberals. Fortunately, the commissioner knows who the real victims are here:
(Excerpt from video clip) RAY KELLY: We're sort of, you know, under attack. The AP has done over 30 stories. It's pretty tough to go up against a wire service.
OLBERMANN: That's the NYPD. As Alex Pareene writes, "A secretive and unaccountable international intelligence-gathering organization with a large minority-frisking division and the firepower of a mid-sized army."
Plus, the man who would succeed Gabby Giffords - her Chief of Staff Ron Barber joins us.
And the dog who couldn't tell one family from another - "Look Homeward, Jeannie" by James Thurber.
Now, on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Friday, March 23, 229 days until the 2012 presidential election. The president addressing the killing of Trayvon Martin - today, the GOP contenders also lining up to make their own tributes as the investigation moves forward.
Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - yet the remarks with the most direct relevance to this case may have come from the new special prosecutor, who today clearly implied that the now-infamous "Stand Your Ground" law may not offer any defense for shooter George Zimmerman.
First, the president:
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us, as Americans, are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
OLBERMANN: Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton responding with a statement that read, in part, "The president's personal comments touched us deeply and made us wonder, "If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious, too?"
Trayvon Martin's father also telling CBS news his young son was his hero:
(Excerpt from video clip) TRACY MARTIN: Trayvon saved my life. At the age of nine, he pulled me out of a fire, went back in the house, got the phone, came back out and called 911. He saved my life. At his time of need, I wasn't there to save his life, but I pledge my life to continue to push forward until we get justice for my son.
OLBERMANN: Activists marching and demanding justice for Trayvon Martin in the streets of St. Louis. And in Miami, Florida, students at South Ridge High School leaving class to form a giant T.M. in the young man's honor.
The change in prosecutors, lauded last night here by a Florida state senator, seeming to have had immediate effect - Seminole County State Attorney Norman Wolfinger stepping down, in his words, "to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," Special Prosecutor Angela Corey stepping in and saying the law cited by police for not having charged Zimmerman may not cover his case.
(Excerpt from video clip) COREY: I can just tell you that Florida's Justifiable Use of Deadly Force law, including the recent additions to the law that people commonly refer to as "Stand Your Ground" may or may not be the applicable law to this.
OLBERMANN: And with Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee now on temporary paid administrative leave, reporters asking Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte just what temporary, in his case, means.
(Excerpt from video clip) NORTON BONAPARTE: Once I have a report that demonstrates to me - that shows me the actions of the police department and how they performed in this instance, that is what temporary means. Once I have it, then I can make a determination regarding Chief Lee.
OLBERMANN: George Zimmerman's father Robert defending his son and blasting the media in a letter to The Orlando Sentinel newspaper: "The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth. At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin."
Even the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination lining up to express their condolences. Newt Gingrich, in an interview last night:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Americans can recognize that while this is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy, that we're going to relentlessly seek justice.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney adding, in a statement this morning, "What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is being carried out."
And Rick Santorum chiming in, after squeezing off a few rounds at a Louisiana shooting range:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: The fact that law enforcement didn't immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of, you know, obviously horrible decisions made by people in this process.
OLBERMANN: On Capitol Hill - Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a friend of the Martin family, making another eloquent plea:
(Excerpt from video clip) WILSON: We demand justice for Trayvon. We demand justice for all murdered children. Stay strong, Sabrina and Tracy, stay strong.
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Wilson, our guest on this news hour shortly.
Even Fox News hosts now feeling obliged to comment on the case. In some cases, unfortunately.
Sean Hannity, figuratively scratching his head:
(Excerpt from video clip) HANNITY: Is it possible that this was just a horrible accident?
OLBERMANN: And Geraldo Rivera, with his usual eloquence, blaming - not the victim for the shooting, but his clothes:
(Excerpt from video clip) RIVERA: I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.
OLBERMANN: River adding, "Leave the hoodies home," and later tweeting, "My own son just wrote to say he's ashamed of my position wearing hoodies. It's not blaming the victim. It's common sense."
Perhaps Rivera's son also saw this picture of his father wearing a hoodie, alongside Bill O'Reilly wearing a hoodie, at a Mets-Yankees game in 2007 in New York.
Fox, meanwhile, removing its logo-ed gangsta wear - to use the phrase Mr. Rivera used - from its website store.
With an answer to the blame-the-hoodie nonsense coming from the Miami Heat basketball team - in a hoodie-up tribute to Trayvon Martin.
Trymaine Lee - he's a senior editor for The Huffington Post, he's been out covering this story almost since it began and joins us once again. Thanks for your time again tonight, sir.
TRYMAINE LEE: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: You agree with me on this positioning that in an extraordinary day of comment about this nightmare that maybe the most actionable words relevant to this case were actually from that new special prosecutor? And what are the implications of what she said, and maybe the fact of why she decided to say it?
LEE: I think right now - the political pressure, the social pressure, it's so thick you could almost cut it. If, at any point in this case, there was a tipping point, this might be it. Socially, you have thousands of people massing all over the country. You have the governor now saying he's going to convene a task force on this very law. You have state legislators, you have, as you said, LeBron James is even chiming in. I think the implications might be great. A report came out this evening from one of our local affiliates - I believe ABC - saying that, early in the case, the police actually wanted to press manslaughter charges, but that Norm Wolfinger, the state's attorney declined.
LEE: There was some concern about a speedy trial and that they didn't have the goods. But this is still breaking. My sources haven't been able to confirm or deny any of this, but those are some of the reports coming out from the local media. I believe Darlene Jones of the ABC affiliate.
OLBERMANN: Is there any indication that there is motion towards an arrest of Zimmerman or an indictment? I mean, obviously, special prosecutor just got to work this morning. It's not like there's likely to be something resolved before the weekend is over. But is there - I mean, if she's willing to come out and say this law may not apply at all to this case, that would seemingly be indicative of where she's going.
LEE: It's my indication that they're going to be very careful with this. And I wouldn't expect any rush, one way or the other. So, it's still pretty early. Again, she's just, you know, stepped foot in Sanford today. So, I think in the next coming days and weeks, we'll probably have some motion, but I don't think they're going to be rushing anytime soon.
OLBERMANN: I read part of the parent's response to the president's remarks today regarding this case. What, to your knowledge, has been the community reaction both to what President Obama said and how Trayvon Martin's parents responded to it?
LEE: Well, I spoke to one young man who said that he had a 17-year-old brother on his way to college, and he said he wanted to be a doctor. And so he said that this case resonates with him because of his own family. This young man actually resembles Trayvon Martin. So, I think in the community, the president echoed their feelings all along - that their sons look just like Trayvon Martin. They look just like Trayvon Martin. So, in the community, the president's comments today kind of just echoed what they've been saying all along and why this stings so badly.
OLBERMANN: Last night, the protest in Sanford drew - according to your report and a couple of other estimates - about 30,000 people. Do we have an idea of what's going to continue in the way of assemblages over the weekend and into next week?
LEE: I believe there is - and I'm not sure of the exact location - I believe there is supposed to be a vigil tonight in Sanford. But Monday, speaking with lawyers, speaking with people in the community, Monday there is supposed to be the big one, they say, even bigger than the rally we had yesterday. I'm not sure how you top 30,000 people, especially in a town that only has 50,000. But as we see, there is no slowing down here.
You have Philadelphia next week, D.C., Detroit, Miami - students are walking out. I think, especially after what we we've seen happen with Occupy Wall Street and how now it's so easily to mobilize - this is a movement. This is the Trayvon Martin for Justice movement. I don't see it slowing down any time soon.
OLBERMANN: It is kind of remarkable to consider how little attention this initially got and now there seems to be, almost within grasp, something achievable that's positive. Obviously, that could not compensate for the young man's death and what's happened to a community, but what is - is there a sense of what people expect is possible as a result of the protests and the nearly unanimity - or near unanimity - about this?
LEE: I think the one thing that reassures some folks in the community - that as the voices got louder, you actually started to see some action. You have the police chief stepping down, after so many said there was a botched investigation. You have Norm Wolfinger stepping aside, after so many said that the state attorney's office was in cahoots with the police. You have the governor stepping up and saying that, "We're going to review these laws, where is that task force?"
So, I think the people are reassured that there actually is action happening.
But, for so many, nothing short of an arrest and then a prosecution - I mean, so I think that's going to be the next stage of the game. If there is an indictment, you know, that's one thing, but I think the people want a prosecution, or at least some semblance of a fair course of action.
OLBERMANN: Trymaine Lee, Huffington Post senior reporter, who's done excellent work on this story. And thank you, kindly, again for some of your time tonight, sir.
LEE: It's a pleasure. Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: And as promised, we're joined now by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, the Democrat representing Florida's 17th, including the Miami Gardens area where Trayvon Martin lived with his mother and attended high school.
Congresswoman Wilson knows the Martin family and it is our privilege to welcome you to the program. Thanks for coming on.
WILSON: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: Well, you're welcome. You've repeatedly stood up on the floor of the House and demanded justice for Trayvon Martin. Do you think it's within grasp now?
WILSON: I would hope so. I think the voices are getting louder. People are distressed. Everyone is suffering, especially his parents. And it's a situation where we have to try to keep a lid on the schools here in the community here. So we're having prayer services to try to say to the people, "We're doing all that we can."
And hopefully, with all of these law enforcement authorities involved in the case now, hopefully someone will say that he has to be indicted. Until that happens, it's going to continue, and it's going to snowball and get larger and larger.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned the parents. I know that you are in contact with them. Have you been in regular contact with them in the last week or so? Do you have a sense of their reaction to the overall reaction throughout the country, not just locally and not particular to this case, but the sense of outrage that seems to be developing nationwide?
WILSON: They're just grateful. Every time I have spoken with the mother, she starts out by saying, "Oh, I just thank everyone for standing by us and, you know, sticking with us."
And this is this woman's life. This is her son. It's just so painful and then she has different aunts that I've spoken with, and you know, neighbors and friends. And - it's just such a tragedy. He was such a sweet boy. And they talk about how he would babysit his little cousins, and he called them his angels. You see - I mean, the pictures of him. It's just tremendous. We're just devastated.
But this is not new to me. I'm very well read in the notion of racial profiling and what happens to a black boys in this community.
OLBERMANN: Without a doubt, and in many communities.
WILSON: In this nation.
OLBERMANN: In this nation, correct.
Having said that, something that the president said struck me today - obviously, the remark about what his son would look like if he had had a son.
But I was thinking of something else, these comments by - and it's not to pick on Geraldo Rivera. Those are just stupid remarks and he probably was up too early, and it was just a remarkably dumb thing to say - "Don't wear hoodies."
But, it dawned on me - if a kid is wearing a hoodie, he looks like everybody's kid under those circumstances. This - there is something transcendent about this case, and as important as it is, relative to race relations in this country, and the remaining racism in this country, do you think there is something now emerging that's even bigger than that? That people are just saying, "It's time that we stop shooting our teenage children for no good reason, for mere suspicion and prejudice and any other motivation?" Because one guy wants to be macho and he thinks he's Charles Bronson or he thinks he's a cop? And the nature of who their victim is really kind of national? That we all look like Trayvon Martin?
WILSON: Well, I think that there is a real tension - not a perceived tension - but there's a real tension between law enforcement officers and black boys. And Mr. Zimmerman was a pretend law enforcement officer. So that tension was there. And so, people like that - they fear black boys, and they detest black boys. So - and they're suspicious of them. So he was acting on emotions that's in his heart.
Trayvon, he pursued Trayvon, and he murdered him, and he needs to go to prison. He needs to go to jail. They need to indict him and arrest him. And they also need to fire the city manager because he will not fire the police chief. What does it mean - a temporary leave? Paid leave? So someone can do your work and try to clean up your city that you've messed up, and then you come back? No. He should be fired and gone for good.
OLBERMANN: No, there is another term for that, and that's vacation - paid vacation.
WILSON: Vacation, paid vacation.
OLBERMANN: Right. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, representing the Florida 17th, friend of the Martin family. Again, great thanks, and we hope this weekend goes well.
WILSON: Thank you. Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, kindly.
Elsewhere, Republicans are really kind of tired of the presidential nominating contest. They're suffering from, "fatigue." The observations of a Democrat or journalist? No, that was Michelle Bachmann speaking today. Next.
OLBERMANN: As even those who don't really like him begin to tell his rivals to get out, he has to deal with the fallout after suggesting that - if you're going to nominate Romney, you might as well vote for President Obama.
And, at a target range - after one of his supporters shouts at him to shoot as if he were aiming at the president - fallout as well - next.
OLBERMANN: In 1974, the last Japanese troops from the Second World War surrendered. They had refused to give up, despite the whole world telling them the war was over.
In our fourth story - Rick Santorum continued his campaign today as the list continued to grow of Republicans telling him the primary is over. And if the violent supporters he drew today are any indication, perhaps he should listen.
Mr. Santorum was in Louisiana, ahead of tomorrow's primary, showing off his sharp-shooting abilities. But the fringe element that he sometimes draws ruined an otherwise semi-harmless photo-op.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Pretend it's Obama.
OLBERMANN: Afterwards, Santorum said he had not heard the comment, but called it "a very terrible and horrible remark." There's no indication he's not correct about either of those conclusions.
But it was not only comments from supporters Santorum needed to apologize for. Today he began to back away from his own implication that Republicans were better off voting for President Obama than Mitt Romney.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We might as well stay with what we have, instead of taking a risk on what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.
OLBERMANN: But by this afternoon, the calm had gone, and Senator Santorum went on to Fox News to coolly address those remarks:
(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: I've always said I'd never vote for Barack Obama. Are you kidding me? What do you think I'm doing this for? That's just absurd. It's laughable. That I did this as a gaffe is a joke.
OLBERMANN: All right. While Santorum fights on, even tea party Republicans, in some cases, have begun to call for everybody to get behind Romney.
After a meet-and-greet with the governor yesterday, tea party kingmaker Senator Jim DeMint called on the other remaining candidates to drop out: "The best thing they can do is maybe look at kind of throwing their support behind the one who might be our nominee. And that's beginning to look like Romney."
A sentiment that was shared by congresswoman and former sixth place Iowa finisher Michele Bachmann this morning:
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: There's a lot of fatigue among our party. They are really kind of tired of this. They feel like the vetting is happening and they want us to kind of batten down the hatches and make the decision.
OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by the White House political reporter for Politico, Joe Williams. Joe, thanks you for your time tonight.
JOE WILLIAMS: Hi, good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Santorum claims that the Louisiana primary tomorrow will reset the campaign. It's not even a winner-take-all primary. How can it reset the campaign?
WILLIAMS: It can't, really. I mean, the only thing that it will reset is the hope that Rick Santorum can continue on. I mean - look, everybody expects Santorum will take Louisiana and take it handily, thus giving us another narrative, thus to have us talk more about the fact that Romney can't win in the South.
Other than that, it doesn't really change the delegate math, it doesn't change the fact that Mitt Romney probably has what - in effect - is an insurmountable lead, and will get to the nomination sooner than the other three guys still left in the race. And it doesn't change the fact that Rick Santorum is exciting nobody else in the party besides people who don't like Mitt Romney.
OLBERMANN: Does it matter, do you think, to Santorum that now that tea party Republicans like DeMint, like Bachmann - however tepidly and however wearily they are saying it - they are saying it, that it's time for everybody else to drop out and get out of Romney's way. And it's not just establishment figures anymore, it's those who have positioned themselves in Santorum's own neighborhood, so to speak.
WILLIAMS: Well, yes, and it does matter. It doesn't matter yet - because if Rick Santorum does win Louisiana, again that gives him another impetus to say, "See, I told you, I can draw the conservatives that Mitt Romney can't."
However, Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachmann, pretty soon, it's going to - the trickle is going to turn into a flood. The dam is going to burst and then Santorum will probably have no other option than to either rethink the possibilities, get a serious talking-to from party elders, drop out completely of his own accord, or decide that he's going to continue on, no matter what, and in that scenario he's probably going to do more harm to his future prospects than good to his present ones.
OLBERMANN: Any indication - or even a good guess, Joe - about why DeMint and Bachmann would say what they said now? Did the two of them actually look at, say, the turnout in Illinois, that 24 percent figure, and go, "My God, this is not burnishing our brand. This is, in fact, putting people to sleep and/or burning them?"
WILLIAMS: Well, if I were them, certainly, that would be the - I mean the Illinois primary was - I mean, Mitt Romney won by double digits. But come on, you had a turnout that was almost at a record low.
The brand is being seriously harmed by the fact that Mitt Romney can't put away two, basically, also-rans, guys who have been defeated - and defeated handily - and drummed out of the party in some cases, in Newt Gingrich's case. He couldn't put them away until Illinois. But he put them away in Illinois with a record-low turnout. And that has some worried.
Also, the longer this thing goes on, the more gaffes you're going to see, the more Romney is exposed, the more the DNC ads write themselves. So, it's in everybody best interest - unless you're Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul - to go ahead, try to cut bait, get the party unified, say "Okay, fine, we haven't found the one we love, so we're going to love the one we're with. Let's get it on with this. Let's look to November."
OLBERMANN: Essentially, in Illinois, 89 percent of eligible voters last week did not vote for Mitt Romney.
Last thing - about Santorum and the remarks about, "We might as well stick with what we have instead of taking the risk on what might be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future." Obviously, I think - is it fair to say his reactions on Fox this afternoon basically screaming at Neil Cavuto about - "Well, this isn't a gaffe," indicates just how much of a gaffe it actually was.
WILLIAMS: You can't not call it a gaffe if you did it - you know, if you did it and somebody else calls it a gaffe, it's a gaffe. And guess what, there were a lot of people were talking about it today.
What I found was kind of unfortunate is that Rick Santorum, in the midst of all this Trayvon Martin controversy, holds an event at a gun range. I mean, that's a little tone deaf to me, and that, to me, was a slightly bigger campaign error because the visuals were just horrible. And then you have, on top of that, somebody suggesting that he pretends that it's Obama that he's firing at.
I mean, that's really awful and I think that, to me, spoke more volumes than the fact that he said that, "Barack Obama, you may as well stick with him if you're going to vote for Mitt Romney."
OLBERMANN: To his credit, he distanced himself and called that a bad remark and - but to his discredit, I mean, what he could have done - and really, probably scored some points - was had that event, or scheduled that event, for the shooting range and said, "Because of what happened, we're not going to have this event today, or we're going to reconvene, you know, at the IHOP an hour from now," or something like that. Just missed opportunities.
Joe Williams, Politico White House reporter. As always, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. You, too.
OLBERMANN: The Associated Press with another scoop on how out-of-control the New York Police Department has become. It is now spying on nannies.
OLBERMANN: Soon, the list of those not illegally targeted by the New York Police Department will be shorter than those who were.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 752, Stephen, a Roman priest, was elected pope by the College of Cardinals. As you know, the Catholic Church says the Cardinals base their votes on their perception of the voice of God.
On March 23rd, 752, they decided that meant Pope Stephen. On March 25th, 752, the Pope-elect had a stroke and died, implying that they heard wrong.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Dartmouth president and nominee to World Bank Jim Yong Kim performs at Darmouth Idol.
We actually begin with some political news.
Earlier today the president announced that he would be naming Dartmouth President and global health expert Jim Yong Kim as the new head of the World Bank. And apparently, Mr. Kim had not been able to interview with the president in person, but instead sent in a video.
(Excerpt from video clip) JIM YONG KIM: I've had the time of my life/And I never felt this way before ... Dirty bit/I can up and get to rock like fire make it hot/I'm here rooting for my idols, up here giving all they got/So come on, let's go, the show is out of control/The house is hot tonight/Going to go big green, go go.
OLBERMANN: That was actually the president of Dartmouth, President Kim, performing at last year's Dartmouth Idol singing competition.
Simon Cowell could not be reached for comment, fortunately.
VIDEO: Fox's San Diego morning show confuses meat loaf, the meal and Meat Loaf, the man.
In the news - when working in the news, it's very important to have good communication with your graphics department.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Here's a quick look at what's coming up next. At 7:40, we are talking with singer Meatloaf about his new album. A picture of meatloaf.
OLBERMANN: Got to get to bed early when you're working on the morning show.
And, it's a good thing the band Barenaked Ladies wasn't their guest.
"Time Marches On!"
Turns out the domestic spying outfit known as the New York Police Department also went after liberals, not just Muslims, including one union thug - a woman who was trying to launch a protective organization for nannies.
OLBERMANN: The latest in an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press finds the New York City Police Department expanding its secret intelligence operations to spy on liberal political groups around the country.
In our third story - Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is dismissing the report, claiming that the NYPD is the victim and is "under attack" by the news organization that has continued to break these stories.
The AP obtained intelligence files the NYPD kept on groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws, racial profiling. The AP reporting that plain-clothes officers attended meetings of various liberal political groups. Two people specifically mentioned in the report - a writer for The Huffington Post, and a woman who works as a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies.
When confronted on these issues last night, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly went on the offense:
(Excerpt from video clip) RAY KELLY: We're sort of, you know, under attack. The AP has done over 30 stories. It's pretty tough to go up against a wire service that has a certain template that it's, you know, sticking to. Again, I would submit that they have not done their homework.
OLBERMANN: And once again, New York's finest is being beaten by The Associated Press.
An earlier AP investigation revealed plainclothes officers - so-called "mosque crawlers" - spied on Muslims in New York City and parts of New Jersey, and in colleges up and down the northeast.
The AP is not the only one critical of NYPD tactics. The New York Times published an op-ed titled "It's Time to Police the NYPD," which blasts Kelly and, also, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The U.S. Attorney General has also voiced concern. Kelly says he's reading the wrong stories:
(Excerpt from video clip) KELLY: Eric Holder said he only knows what he read in the newspaper. So, it does get back to The Associated Press. Eric Holder had not gotten any information, in his own admission, when he said that he was disturbed by what he had read in the newspaper.
OLBERMANN: Joining us now, once again, with the latest on the NYPD nightmares, Matt Apuzzo, reporter for The Associated Press. Matt, thanks again for your time tonight.
MATT APUZZO: Keith, great to be back.
OLBERMANN: Commissioner Kelly claims the Department of Justice and the Handschu Consent Decree give the NYPD its authority to spy on basically whoever it wants, and accuses The Associated Press of not doing its research. What exactly is mentioned in the Handschu Consent Decree that Kelly refers to?
APUZZO: Yeah, the Handschu Consent Decree or the Handschu guidelines stem from a lawsuit that goes all the way back to NYPD spying on political dissidents or red squads going back to the 1960s. The rules actually were relaxed after 9/11 at the city's request.
And Commissioner Kelly may be right. That, you know, this monitoring of, you know public events - going to public meetings, visiting public restaurants and monitoring, sort of, the ethnicity of the clientele or who's serving devout Muslims - I mean, he may very well be right, that that's all lawful under the new Handschu guidelines.
What we do know is that the FBI has some standing orders in New York not to accept certain intelligence from some of these programs. We do know that, you know, the NYPD doesn't have to follow the federal Privacy Act, which would prohibit them from retaining documents on purely First Amendment-related materials. But you know, from where we stand, this has never really been a question about what's legal and what's not.
APUZZO: It's been a question about asking what the policies of our nation's largest police department are to fight terrorism in New York City.
OLBERMANN: And two of the people that were specifically mentioned in the documents - one journalist and one labor organizer for nannies and housekeepers. We're down to looking at nanny and housekeeper labor organizers as threats, somehow, to the safety and security of the city of New York?
APUZZO: Yeah, you know, I don't even think the NYPD officer who put that in the file thought there was some sort of a threat, which is kind of the point for why we wrote about it. It just kind of shows how that counter-terrorism tactics that have been adopted post 9/11, you know, put entire groups under scrutiny. And, at times, those tactics get turned on to what would otherwise be lawful areas.
Now, of course, the police department has an interest in knowing who is going to protest in our city. You know, nobody wants a repeat of, you know, the riots or, you know, the violence in Seattle or Quebec. But when you do see things like this, with no allegations of wrongdoing - certainly, that piqued our interest.
OLBERMANN: And your investigation also found the NYPD might have a specific intelligence division focused on monitoring Occupy Wall Street. What can you tell us about that?
APUZZO: Right, well - that's an intriguing question, right? 'Cause the commissioner testified before the city council last week - yeah, about last week - was asked specifically about this, and he said he couldn't say for sure how much money was spent infiltrating Occupy Wall Street, but said the majority of the intelligence they got from Occupy Wall Street came open source, you know, from the Internet.
Interestingly enough, TruthOut and Gawker, two websites, have obtained some Department of Homeland Security documents that specifically said, "We don't want to collect First Amendment activity information on Occupy Wall Street." So, there's a really nice dichotomy to what we're seeing here from the NYPD.
OLBERMANN: Matt Apuzzo of The Associated Press, which is apparently far more powerful than it used to be when I was with UPI. Under attack by the AP, how can the city of New York defeat al-Qaida as well? Thank you, Matt. Have a good weekend.
APUZZO: Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: Running to succeed his former boss in the House of Representatives - Ron Barber, the staffer wounded alongside Gabby Giffords. Next.
OLBERMANN: He was with Gabby Giffords when she was shot more than a year ago, critically wounded himself. Now he is seeking what had been her seat in the House of Representatives. Ron Barber joins me next.
OLBERMANN: It's been fourteen months since the devastating shooting in Tucson that seriously wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and claimed the lives of six others.
In our number two story - Ron Barber, who was shot twice on that tragic day while working as an aide to the congresswoman, announcing this week that he would be running for a full congressional term this fall. Mr. Barber will join me in a moment.
You will recall the moving farewell on the House floor that followed the submission of Gabby Gifford's resignation to congress this past January. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Barber announced that, at the congresswoman's request, he would be running in a June special election to fill her seat for the remaining six months of her term.
And this week, he announced that - once again with the support of Ms. Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly - he will indeed be seeking the full term come November. While other Democrats had committed to stay out of the special election, out of respect for the wishes of the congresswoman, this is not the case for August's primary, in which two candidates, State Representative Matt Heinz, and State Senator Paula Aboud have declared their intention to run, and say that despite Mr. Barber's announcement and his endorsement from Congresswoman Giffords and Mr. Kelly, they will remain in the race.
Joining me now, former congressional aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and current congressional candidate, Ron Barber. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
RON BARBER: Thank you for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: You said last month that you were not sure you'd run for the full term. What changed your mind?
BARBER: Well, I've never intended to run for any political office. And then, when I announced for Congressional District Eight, I had to set about the business of putting together a campaign staff, opening an office, getting on the ballot - we had 18 days to gather signatures. We ended up with 7,100 signatures. So, I really felt there was a groundswell of support for my candidacy.
And then I went around the district and met with people in different communities. And as I was going around the district, over and over again, I kept getting asked by people, "Well, aren't you going to run for the next seat, or the Congressional Two seat?" And I eventually had to at least give it some consideration, which I did.
In the end, it was a decision that I had to make in consultation with my doctor and my family. This is a huge decision for all of us, certainly my family. And last weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, we got together, and the decision was that they would support me running for C.D. Two and I declared my candidacy on Monday.
OLBERMANN: And were there consultations as well, specifically on that point with Congresswoman Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly?
BARBER: Yes, both Mark and Congresswoman Giffords had asked me to run for both seats. And then, I ran, as I indicated - announced for C.D. Eight, for the Congressional District Eight. And then later, they encouraged me to run for Congressional District Two. And I have their support and I'm very pleased about that.
OLBERMANN: It was in January when you told the newspaper The Arizona Republic that you still have fatigue and PTSD symptoms which obviously would be expected with such nearness to the event chronologically. How are you feeling now?
BARBER: I'm feeling really well, not only in terms of the PTSD but also physically. You know, I have to check myself out pretty closely before I even announced even for the first seat and the first race. I wanted to make sure I had the stamina and the stability in every way to get the job done. And my doctor and I met and looked at my situation and he determined that I had it.
And one of the things that's really been remarkable about getting into the campaign, over the now first six weeks, is the energy I've gotten from people who have come to support us in the race, and I really feel energized even more so. So, as far as the PTSD is concerned, that is definitely under total management and control.
I think one of the things I've learned, and I would really want to say this, because it's important to the nation - that, you know, one of the things that we have to do is make sure that people with PTSD get treatment and services early on, as I did. We have a lot of veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who go far too long without any kind of evaluation or treatment. That's wrong and it's unacceptable. We need to change it. So, one of my goals when I go to Congress will be to fight hard to make sure that veterans get the kind of treatment early on that they need to get better.
OLBERMANN: Is another one of your goals going to be, especially in the wake of the Trayvon Martin news of the past week and the shooting last month, a more vigorous discussion, at least, of gun control and gun rules and regulations in this country?
BARBER: Well, I really think, as we look at what happened - and it's a terrible thing that happened to this young man and his family, and my condolences and my heart goes out to them. Having been involved in a shooting incident myself, I know how shattering it can be to a family. And you know, Christina Taylor Green, younger than Trayvon, was shot and killed on the ground there with us.
You know, the issue, as I understand it, coming out of Florida is not so much about guns or gun control as it is about the law in Florida which may well had been misinterpreted or misapplied in this case which allows people to,"defend themselves."
I'm glad that the governor of Florida has appointed a special investigator, and it looks like the Department of Justice is going to do the same thing, to look into this case. Because, so far it does not appear that the facts have been properly pursued and that justice has yet to be done.
So, the family is suffering terribly, but the least thing we can do for that family is to make sure that we have a thorough investigation of whether or not this law was properly applied. It appears that it might not have been, and we need to know better.
OLBERMANN: Former staffer with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, current congressional candidate, Ron Barber. Great congratulations on your improved health, and good luck. And thanks for your time tonight.
BARBER: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Fridays with Thurber, next.
OLBERMANN: James Thurber loved dogs. He wrote about them, drew them, envied them, thought them often superior to man. But he did not think them infallible. He didn't even think his own dogs were infallible. In fact, at least one of them comes off very badly - and, by coincidence, she does so in tonight's story.
Published first in the Sunday New York Times and then, in 1948, in "The Beast in Me and Other Animals," listen now of a Thurber dog who had severe problems telling one human from another.
Part One of "Look Homeward, Jeannie," by James Thurber.
"The moot and momentous question as to whether lost dogs have the mysterious power of being able to get back home from distant places over strange terrain has been argued for years by dog owners, dog haters, and other persons who really do not know much about the matter.
Mr. Bergen Evans, in his book 'The Natural History of Nonsense,' flatly sides with the cynics who believe that the lost dog doesn't have any more idea where he is than a babe in the woods.
'Like pigeons,' wrote Mr. Evans, 'dogs are thought to have a supernatural ability to find their way home across hundreds, even thousands, of miles of strange terrain. The newspapers are full of stories of dogs who have miraculously turned up at the doorsteps of baffled masters who had abandoned them afar. Against these stories, however, can be set the lost and found columns of the same paper, which in almost every issue carry offers of rewards for the recovery of dogs that apparently couldn't find their way back from the next block.'
Mr. Evans, you see, touches on this difficult and absorbing subject in the uneasy manner of a minister caught alone in a parlor with an irritable schnauzer. Now, I don't actually know any more than Mr. Evans does about the dogs that are supposed to return from strange, distant places as surely as an Indian scout or a locomotive engineer, but I am not prepared to write them off as fantasy on the strength of armchair argument.
Skepticism is a useful tool of the inquisitive mind, but it is scarcely a method of investigation. I would like to see an expert reporter like Alvin Johnston or Meyer Berger set out on the trail of the homing dog and see what he could find.
I happen to have a few haphazard clippings on the fascinating subject, but they are unsupported - as always - by convincing proof of any kind. The most interesting case is that of Bosco, a small dog who was reported to have returned to his house in Knoxville, Tennessee in the winter of 1944 from Glendale, California - thus setting what is probably the world's distant record for the event - 2,300 miles in seven months.
His story is recorded in a book called 'Just a Mutt', by Eldon Roark, a columnist on the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Mr. Roark says he got his tip on the story from Bert Vincent of The Knoxville News Sentinel. But, in a letter to me, Mr. Vincent says he has some doubts of the truth of the long trek through towns and cities and over rivers and deserts.
The dog belonged to a family named Flanagan. Mr. Vincent does not question the sincerity of their belief that the dog who turned up on their porch one day was in fact Bosco come home. The dog bore no collar or license, however, and identification had to be made on the tricky basis of markings and behavior. The long-distance record of Bosco must be reluctantly set down as a case that would stand up only in a court of lore.
Far-traveling dogs have become so common that jaded editors are inclined to turn their activities over to the society editors. And, we may expect — before long — to encounter such items as this: 'Rex, a bull terrier owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Thompson of the city, returned to his home at 2334 Mayberry Avenue yesterday after a four-month trip from Florida where he was lost last February. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson's daughter, Alice Louise, is expected home tomorrow from Shipley to spend the summer vacation.'
Incidentally - and just for the sake of a fair record - my two most recent clippings on the long trek deal with cats, as follows. Kit-Kat - Lake Tahoe to Long Beach, California, 525 miles. Mr. Black - Stanford ,Connecticut, to Atlanta, Georgia, one thousand miles.
The homing dog reached apotheosis a few years ago when 'Lassie Come Home' portrayed a collie returning to its young master over miles of unfamiliar terrain in darkness and in storm. This million dollar testament of faith, a kind of unconscious memorial to the late Albert Payson Terhune may possibly be what inspired Bergen Evans's slighting remarks. I suspect that Professor Evans has not owned a dog since Brownie was run over by the Chalmers.
In the presence of the lost dog in the next block, he is clearly on insecure ground. He assumes that the dog does not come back from the next block because it can't find its way. If this reasoning were applied to the thousands of men who disappear from their homes every year, it would exonerate them of every flaw except disorientation, and this is too facile an explanation for man or beast.
Prince the dog has just as many reasons for getting and staying the hell out as George the husband - an attractive female, merry companions, change of routine, words of praise, small attentions, new horizons, an easing of discipline. The dog that does not come home is too large a field of research for one investigator, and so I will confine myself to the case history of Jeannie.
Jeannie was a small Scottish terrier whose nature and behavior I observed closely over a period of years. She had no show points to speak of. Her jaw was skimpy, her haunches frail, her forelegs slightly bowed. She thought dimly, and her coordination was only fair. Even in repose, she had the strained, uncomfortable appearance of a woman on a bicycle. Jeannie adjusted, slowly and reluctantly, to everything, including weather - rain was a hand raised against her personally; snow, a portent of evil; thunder, the end of the world."
Well, that's all for now. Part One of "Look Homeward, Jeannie" by James Thurber.
That's "Countdown." Congratulations on getting through another week of this crap.
In New York - this is not a Yankee uniform - I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.