updated 5/16/2006 12:46:20 PM ET 2006-05-16T16:46:20

Guests: Richard Wolffe; Carlos Mencia

OLBERMANN:  The president of the United States, speaking for not quite 17 minutes, not addressing exactly how 6,000 National Guard troops would impact events along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially given the math.  It is a 2,000-mile border.  Even if the guardsmen each worked 24 hours a day, standing there with their arms open like in the zone defense, they‘d still be standing about six football fields apart.

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  For the rest of the hour, we‘ll be analyzing the president‘s remarks here on a special edition of COUNTDOWN.  We‘ll hear the Democratic response from Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.  We‘ll discuss what the president didn‘t, the bad day for the vice president.  And we‘ll talk National Guard logistics both in the Southwest and Iraq with retired Army colonel Jack Jacobs, also hear a unique perspective from comedian and commentator Carlos Mencia.

But we begin with MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews, host of “HARDBALL.”

Chris, the headline from the speech, in your opinion, was what?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL:  Well, I thought it was, because the other was advanced so effectively, the National Guard deployment, which we‘ve known about for a couple of days now, I guess it was this national ID card, rather, an ID card just for people who are here as aliens, not yet citizens.  They would be required to display that they wanted to work here.  It would have a (INAUDIBLE) biometric technology, it would have digital fingerprints, very sate of the art, very tamperproof.

I think that is a real breakthrough, because if you can stop the lure of the illegal job, you won‘t need that kind of enforcement at the border anymore.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think there was a general quid pro quo here?  Essentially the president saying, I‘ll give you the Border Patrol and I‘ve give you this ice cream here on top of the cake of the National Guard, the 6,000 National Guard members there, who apparently are just going to be there and not even be armed.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  You—I‘ll give you that now, in the hopes that you will all give me the temporary worker program later.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would say that in addition to that dessert you mentioned was the (INAUDIBLE) meat and potatoes here.  All of a sudden he‘s actually going to outlaw illegal hiring by saying, OK, you run a big hotel chain, you better not hire anybody without one of these tamperproof ID cards to prove they‘re here legally.  If you do, you‘re paying the big fine.

Now, that‘s a direct threat to business people, most of whom vote Republican, as you know.  And that‘s a shot at his own constituency.  I think that‘s going to raise some hackles by the business people who want the cheap labor, don‘t necessarily want to be too fussy about papers.

The one thing in his speech that bugged me, and it may bug other people who pay close attention to language, was this.  He talked about every human being having dignity.  Of course, that‘s, you know, that‘s unexceptional.  Of course that‘s true.  And value, of course, that‘s unexceptional, no matter what their citizenship papers say.

OLBERMANN:  Chris, I have to interrupt.  Dick Durbin...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, citizenship is not...

OLBERMANN:  ... has already begun...

MATTHEWS:  ... paper...

OLBERMANN:  ... his response.  Let‘s go to...

MATTHEWS:  ... it‘s real.

OLBERMANN:  ... Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP:  Good evening.

All Americans agree:  We must act now to secure our borders and fix our broken immigration system, but we don‘t need a military solution to break a political stalemate.  We need leadership.

Democrats are willing to support any reasonable plan that will secure our borders, including the deployment of National Guard troops. But Americans don‘t want a plan that‘s been cobbled together to win political favor.  This cannot turn into another long-term military deployment with no clear plan.

Earlier today, the White House said they had a stop-gap plan to use a very small percentage of the National Guard to help secure our borders.

The president tonight discussed 6,000 National Guardsmen replaced every two or three weeks.

But the president‘s plan will deploy over 150,000 National Guard troops along the Mexican border over the next two years.

Far too many details have been left out.  The president needs to speak candidly to Congress and the American people and answer some pointed questions.

If securing our borders is our highest national priority, why will it take two years to hire and train the new Border Patrol agents?

The 9/11 Commission recommended—and Congress authorized—the hiring of 10,000 new Border Patrol agents two years ago.  Each year since, the president‘s budget requested and his Republican Congress funded fewer agents than we knew that we needed.

Now we are asking our National Guard to step in where the Congress has failed to respond.  And the president‘s proposal raises serious questions about the future of the National Guard.

If Guard members are going to forego their regular training to patrol the border, are they going to be prepared the next time we have an emergency at home or abroad?

Will the president guarantee the National Guard troops will be available to protect their own homes and communities if they‘re needed?

How much more are we going to ask of our National Guard?

They‘ve shown they‘ll do everything asked of them to protect and defend this nation.  They‘ve demonstrated that in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

But our Guard and Reserves are stretched dangerously thin and we‘re moving into a dangerous weather season. 

Deployments have taken their toll on the men and women of our National Guard, their families and the equipment they use. 

A recent report to Congress says that our National Guard units on average have about one-third of the equipment that they need to respond.  We have to take that into consideration if they‘re now facing a new deployment. 

Real immigration reform begins with enforcement at the border and in the workplace, but it does not end with enforcement. 

During the last decade, we have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and illegal immigration into the United States has also doubled. 

We need a comprehensive, tough and fair approach.  

People who have broken our laws should not and will not be rewarded with amnesty.  But people who work hard and play by the rules should have a chance to earn their way to legal status if they pay a fine, learn English, pay back taxes and go to the back of the line.

We know where the House Republicans stand:  They want to criminalize undocumented immigrants and the nurses, volunteers and people of faith who help them.

The president told us tonight that he supports tough, fair, comprehensive reform.  Now he must lead.

The president has the power to call up the National Guard to patrol our border, but now he must summon the power to lead his own Republican forces in Congress to support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform.

Thank you.

QUESTION:  The president clearly addressed Congress by name, but didn‘t really differentiate the House bill from the Senate bill.  Does he need to do more—did you expect him to say specifically what he wanted?

I read the president‘s speech closely and listened to it.  It is clear to me that he favors the approach that the Senate is taking, a comprehensive approach.

I didn‘t expect him to endorse a specific piece of legislation.  But he made it clear that enforcement is not enough. And the House Republican bill is all about enforcement.

QUESTION:  That being said, the House Republicans are pretty strong and pretty united when it comes to these big issues, and you had Sensenbrenner leading, you know, a fight to push stronger enforcement and what-not. 

How likely is it now, even though the president has signed on in support to more of a comprehensive approach, how likely is it that the House Republicans will go along with that?  I mean, what are the chances?

Well, remember just a few weeks ago that Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist both said that they rejected the Sensenbrenner approach, the criminalizing of immigrants as well as those who helped them. 

Now, as I said at the beginning, it‘s really up to the president. Can he bring enough people in his political party forward to support bipartisan immigration reform?  That, I think, is the test of political leadership.

And I don‘t think it‘s any coincidence that his announcement came on the first day of the opening of the Senate debate on this issue.

QUESTION:  What would you suggest could be done in the short term, if not sending, you know, the National Guard down (inaudible) the president suggests?  How do you think that the government should address the real, you know, the concerns of Americans about the border?

Well, bringing enforcement to the border and the workplace are essential to comprehensive immigration reform. 

Unfortunately, we haven‘t kept to our own schedule to increase Border Patrol agents.  The president‘s budget has fallen short each year to meet the goals of the 9/11 Commission and the intelligence reform bill that we passed.  And the Republican Congress has refused to fund those personnel that were needed at the border. 

So we‘re playing catch-up at this point.

And the president‘s suggested tonight we will catch up using National Guardsmen.

You know, we tried to do a calculation, but moving 6,000 people in and out of the border, 6,000 National Guardsmen in and out of the border, every two or three weeks will involve over 100,000 National Guardsmen in the first year, not to mention the second year.

So what we are doing is supplementing what should‘ve been permanent professional Border Patrol agents with National Guardsmen, many of whom already have served us overseas and have been apart from their families for long periods of time.

OK?  Thanks, everybody.

OLBERMANN:  Not until a few hours before the president spoke had the Democrats asked for broadcast time to respond.  Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois was supposed to do that at 8:30 Eastern time.  As you saw, he jumped the gun a little bit.  And the senator, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, is involved in the senatorial oversight on immigration issues.

Let‘s rejoin Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL” in Washington.

Did—was there a feint involved in here?  Did—it seemed like most of Mr. Durbin‘s remarks pertained to the National Guard, and less of the president‘s remarks pertained to the National Guard than I guess every—we all thought they were going to.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know.  I think I still go back to what I said.  I think the big story tonight so far from the beginning of the president‘s speech that we didn‘t know was coming was this (INAUDIBLE) this ID card for people who are foreign workers here, which I still think‘s the big story tonight.

I also think Dick Durbin basically endorsed the president tonight.  I don‘t think there‘s a big fight.  I think the fight‘s between the president and his Republican base.

OLBERMANN:  The other thing that slipped past, Chris, that did not get

I mean, when you have six references to the temporary worker program, and then in the middle of this, you mentioned the card kind of slipping past, the national ID card for immigrants coming through in this measure, he also said, I believe, that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m just wondering if we didn‘t just hear something new in there that also may be a much bigger headline as it is perceived as time goes by.

MATTHEWS:  He has been getting to that.  That‘s not the requirement, by the way, as you know, for becoming a citizenship for this—becoming a citizen of the United States.  A lot of people come here and have difficulties with languages, and they go through all the procedures, going all the way up to their final papers and becoming Americans.

And they can never, like maybe you or I, certainly I have problems with foreign languages, and they don‘t ever quite get English.  But they have to have a language.  And, of course, most of the people who come here from across the Mexican border speak Spanish, so that‘s not a problem.  But he is upping the standard to say you have to speak English to become a citizen.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I think it‘s going to—that‘s going to prove to be one that will echo, certainly in the Hispanic community, and we‘ll see more about that.

Chris, stand by.

Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL” here on MSNBC.  Stay with us through the break here.  We‘re going to come back to Chris.

And also, the military logistics of the key part of the speech here.  What could the National Guardsmen actually do?  Will there be enough of them?  Do we have enough of them?

And if you were looking for any defense of the lead political stories of the last week in the president‘s speech, keep looking.  Major developments putting the vice president at the center of the CIA leak investigation and the NSA‘s various domestic spy operations.

All that ahead on this special edition of COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Continuing with our coverage of the president‘s speech on immigration, particularly illegal immigration, to this country, most of it over the Mexican-American border.

And rejoining us, Chris Matthews of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL.”

Chris, is this, or has it become, after this speech, a good topic, a good rallying point for this president?  It‘s not an either-or topic, even for the base.  We got the six references to temporary workers.  Will the number of Republicans and conservatives who say, Too much, or, Too little, combine to be larger than the number of Republicans and conservatives who say, Just right?  Is he going to get Goldilocks and the three bears here?

MATTHEWS:  Keith, I think a lot of Americans are aware of this issue.  They find the boring, for the reason that they don‘t think there‘ll ever really be a real tightening of the screws on this border.  They‘ve heard it since they were born.  They‘re going to turn to the other channel tonight.  A lot of them, you talked bout this—those who are intensely interested are obviously Hispanic people, people who have come to the country illegally, as well as their relatives who came here centuries before.  They care about it, because it is in fact an ethnic issue to a lot of Americans. 

On the other side you have people who live in the southwest or in communities which are changing culturally from Anglo to Hispanic rather quickly, who don‘t like this cultural shock who are going to be watching tonight.  But we‘ll see.  I don‘t think this is as exciting as say, the war in Iraq or gas prices or security or the NSA story or even the CIA story.  I think people are very concerned right now about this country‘s security.  I‘m not sure they‘re on the top of their game when it comes to interest in ethnicity, and I think that‘s what this issue is about. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think—and not to get too cynical too fast in the wake of the president‘s comments, but do you think that, to any degree, given that this speech was not even scheduled until last Friday that this was an attempt to change the political headlines from the subjects that you just mentioned? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That‘s what I was thinking all weekend.  I kept thinking look at what this president is looking at.  He‘s looking at a war for which he has a minority support now, where most Americans think it was a mistake to go to Iraq.  He‘s looking at a gas price situation, again, an issue he can‘t change in the near term.  If he can change it at all.  So he has two big bits of bad news out there.  He‘s got a vice president who seems to always show up as the hard guy in the administration, rightly or wrongly, I think he might be right on the NSA issue.  In the days after 9/11, I‘m glad we were using our electronic ability to check on what‘s going on.  But in terms of the CIA leak case, to have the vice president‘s own handprints and writing on that article shows him getting very close to being part of this thing.  I think the president couldn‘t pick an issue that he‘d be popular on, but at least now he can pick something that‘s not hated on by most Americans.  But I‘m with you.  I think he wanted to change the subject tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Could he also be kind of back-dooring changes in the personnel totals in Iraq with this?  Because as Dick Durbin did point out in the democratic response, an assignment of 6,000 National Guard troops is not just 6,000 guys going to the southwestern borders of this country, it involves a lot more people and could provide at least a reason to bring people back from Iraq and Afghanistan out of the Guard.  Could it not do that?  Could he not be.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  I just did the math.  I thought Dick Durbin, although he‘s a very partisan democrat, I thought he was generous in his math.  He said that this would be 150,000 Guards people over the next two years at the rate of 6,000 every couple of weeks.  Well, he figured it out on the basis of 6,000 every month.  If you do it every couple of weeks, it‘d be like 300,00 National Guards people over the next two years, which is a huge complement, obviously up against an overreached National Guard to begin with.  So I think the present use of the number 6,000 was a very minimal way to do it. 

I thought also, if you look at his other numbers, six million people stopped trying to get into the country illegally.  Now, we‘re bringing down a paltry 6,000 at a time to face a job which is already creating six million turned back over a period of time.  That‘s a hell of a small complement to bring to the border in a support capacity. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t they have to come from Iraq?  In other words, could this be the way, as I said, a back-doorway for the president to say, well I‘ve got to bring these people in for this pressing urgent issue on the Mexican border and we have got to, just coincidentally, reduce troop levels by removing the National Guard from Iraq and Afghanistan? 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know the numbers Keith, I‘ll admit it.  I don‘t know whether we have extra people sitting around doing weekend warrior kinds of activities.  I have a sense that joining the National Guard today means a real risk of being sent way overseas to the other side of the world to extremely difficult billets, and I that this is going to be more of a stretch.  Because I thing that, as I said, I think Senator Durbin did a very generous allotment of—to the president, here.  It would be perhaps 30,000 Guards people over two years, that‘s a lot of people to draw out of service in those overseas assignments. 

OLBERMANN:  Got to find them somewhere.  Chris Matthews of MSNBC‘s “Hardball.”  Great thanks.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s tough stuff.  Great working with you, my colleague. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed, sir.  Great, thanks. 

Reaction to the reaction.  More on the politics in both of these speeches that we heard, on the politics of scandal that those speeches for the moment displace, coming up with Richard Wolffe of “Time” magazine and a different perspective entirely from comedian and commentator, Carlos Mencia.  But let‘s get back to the 6,000 Guardsmen and the nuts and bolts of the idea. 

Described as temporary deployment, troops that will not have any authority to arrest, detain, or deport those who cross the border illegally.  As Senator Durbin just suggested, democrats are concerned with that part of the proposal, questioning if there‘s a political motivation behind the move, cautious over stretching the National Guard limit with scores of the members of the Guard, of course, already deployed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Let me bring in MSNBC analyst, retired Army colonel, Jack Jacobs. 

Thanks for your time, Jack.

COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Crunch the numbers for me.  Do we even have 6,000 National Guardsmen who can go to the border every two weeks? 

JACOBS:  Well, we do if what we want to do is take entire units, federalize them, and send them down to the border, but we‘re not going do that.  My guess is they‘re going to go around to all the units, the National Guard units in the United States and ask for volunteers and then put them down there under the command of the National Guard units that are commanded by the governors of the Border States. 

This solves a couple of problems.  The first is that they ought to be able to get the people that they need, because they‘ll be volunteers.  And secondly, the volunteers undoubtedly will be those who want to go, and those will be basically people who are unemployed or underemployed, and secondly, it‘ll get around the troublesome Posse Comitatus problem because they won‘t be federalized.  Yeah, you can get them, but I think they‘re going to try to get them on the sly by asking them to volunteer. 

OLBERMANN:  We did our snarky math on this earlier, 6,000 Guardsmen over a 2,000-mile border works out to one every 587 yards and that assumes there‘s somebody on duty 24 hours a day.  What practical impact could they have on the border and the people crossing it?  Do you need the National Guard to do clerical work in the office?

JACOBS:  Well, I think you do.  I think what they‘re trying to id free up some of the Border Patrol people who are currently supporting the Border Patrol folks who are actually intercepting the illegal aliens and give them the kind of support that they can get only through the National Guard, efficiently:  Supply, administration, aviation, engineer assets, to build the kinds of roads he‘s talking about, and putting up fences and all that sort of stuff.  That‘ll free up the Border Patrol people who are coming online.  But at the end of the day it really doesn‘t matter how many National Guard people you put down there.  You can‘t put enough National Guard people there to go hand-to-hand and hold the hordes back; it‘s just not going to work. 

OLBERMANN:  Jack, what does this question that I asked Chris, and obviously came to a lot of people‘s minds here, what would this do to the guard deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Does it require relocating some people from there to the southwest border of this country, or does it just allow for it? 

JACOBS:  Well, I think it allows for it, but at the end of the day I don‘t think the government, and particularly the Defense Department, needs an excuse to bring National Guard people home.  They want to bring them home, because the repetitive deployments of National Guard people in southwest Asia is having a really bad effect on recruitment for the National Guard.  So they‘re going to bring National Guard and reserve people home from the Middle East.  Whether they‘re redeployed to the southwest or not, I mean, they‘re just going to bring them home and they don‘t need an excuse.  I think we‘re going to have fewer than 100,000 people in the Middle East, well, certainly in Iraq in any case, by Election Day.  And at the end of the day, this whole exercise, A, bringing people home from the Middle East and B, sending National Guard people down to the border is more or less a public relations ploy in any case. 

OLBERMANN:  Could we also, as part payment for this public relations ploy be creating something of a difficult situation on the Mexican border for people on an individual basis?  I mean, we‘ve heard this is part of a program that includes I.D. cards with biometrics, the president said, and a request that for illegal immigrants to become citizens of this country and to stay here in the interim, that among other things they need to learn English.  This is something that will certainly explode within the Hispanic community in this country.  And we‘re also now facing, are we not, the prospect of having Hispanic-American Guardsmen who may have come over that border themselves or are descendants of those who did, now in some sense, at lease, symbolically being responsible for trying to close that same border? 

JACOBS:  Well, there are a lot of issues there.  One of them was the I.D. card that was mentioned.  That was a surprise.  I‘ve got to tell you that technologically we are a long way away from having a workable I.D.  card.  And even if you had one, how would you police up the guys who don‘t want—who don‘t have them whom we want to have them?  Very, very difficult. 

Secondly, it‘s very interesting, if we‘re going to go out there and

recruit people to go down and assist the Border Patrol through volunteerism

and you‘ll get quite a few of them.  These will be people who are unemployed or underemployed, as I mentioned before.  The large proportion of those people are not European white people.  They‘re going to be—they‘re going to be, many of them, immigrants themselves, they‘ll be people of color and so on, and so out of proportion to their numbers in the National Guard, you‘re going to have Hispanic-Americans and black-Americans on the border and that may cause a problem.  The good news is we‘re probably not going to give them guns, they‘re only going to be an—in administrative jobs and they‘re not going to be face-to-face with the illegal immigrants. 

OLBERMANN:  The only thing they‘d be face-to-face with is their own conscience and they‘re own, perhaps, heritage.  We‘ll see how that plays out. 

JACOBS:  This is true. 

OLBERMANN:  Colonel Jack Jacobs, U.S. Army, retired, now military analyst for MSNBC.  Many thanks, Jack. 

JACOBS:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing seemingly totally lacking in this debate is humor.  We will change this here courtesy Carlos Mencia of Comedy Central‘s “Mind of Mencia.” 

And speaking of things that have been missing, where are the

president‘s remarks about the phone record scandal or the new revelations

tying the vice president to the outing of Valerie Plame?  That‘s next, this

is COUNTDOWN

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush‘s speech on immigration already paying huge dividends for the White House in that had it not been happening we definitely would have kicked off the newscast with this:  Hand-written notes by Dick Cheney, scribbled in the margins of his copy of Joseph Wilson‘s seminal 2003 op ed, proving just how closely the vice president was following that controversy.  But we are covering the story anyway and everything else President Bush did not say in his address to the nation, making this special edition of COUNTDOWN extra special. 

Speaking of which, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, including Mr.  Cheney‘s notes as part of court filing, late Friday, in a perjury and obstruction of justice case against the haven‘t former chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.  The vice president seeming to challenge many of ambassador‘s Wilson‘s assertions in his op ed, dated July 6, 2003 in the “New York Times” asking, in his scribble in the margins, quote, “Have they done this sort of thing before?  Send an ambassador to answer a question?  Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us?  Or did his wife send him on a junket?”  That last question undercutting one of Mr. Libby‘s principle defenses in this case, that he had no reason to believe Miss Plame‘s employment was a sensitive matter and thus no reason to lie to a grand jury.  Ah, all for want of newspaper recycling bin.

The vice president also popping up over the weekend at the center of that other controversy dogging the administration of late, the domestic spying program.  The “New York Times,” in this case, reporting over the weekend that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Cheney pushed and pushed hard for eavesdropping without warrants by the National Security Agency, arguing in a heated internal debate that the Constitution permitted such purely domestic spying in the name of national defense. 

Lawyers for the NSA itself argues just as vehemently that the Constitution did not permit any of that, the agency‘s legal team winning the fight somewhat, the “Times” reporting that to the extent the NSA‘s domestic spying program is limited in scope, it‘s due almost entirely to the efforts of the agency‘s own attorneys.  Let‘s call in “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe. 

Richard, thanks again for joining us. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK” SR.  WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Big picture, this speech here, was this as much to control the new cycle as it was to address the new topic of illegal immigration? 

WOLFFE:  Well, certainly to control the political cycle as they get into this debate on immigration.  But yeah, the president is faced with a number of bad stories and his numbers are bad in the polls, too.  Really, the problem here is trying to take control, not only of the process in Congress, but the kind of news debate that‘s going on on talk radio among his base here, where he‘s really out of touch, I think, on the whole immigration issue.  Whether he‘s gone far enough on this, whether he‘s been too soft or too tough, I don‘t know, we‘ll have to see. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think that he did make that kind of quid pro quo offer that I suggested to Chris Matthews earlier, that this was I‘ll give you these troops, or essentially National Guardsmen now, and a larger Border Patrol now and later on you give me the guest worker program and then I‘ll add in the I.D. card and the mandatory English, and punishing the employers?  Was there a sort of first offer here? 

WOLFFE:  He‘s definitely trying to do both here.  But he cannot afford to do one piece of it first and then sort of the temporary worker program later.  In fact, that‘s what‘s caused him so many problems so far.  As the president got into a lot of trouble after the Social Security went down in flames, he gave the signal to House republicans so they could go ahead with the border security first.  Really, he needs to do both together.  So, yes, it‘s a balancing act.  I thought today was a fairly moderate and balanced approach, a very measured speech.  But, again, if you‘re going to be tough, show that you‘re tough to your base.  How are they going to take the redefinition of amnesty, which is what a lot of the speech was about—that‘s to say how some of the illegal workers get a path to citizenship. 

OLBERMANN:  All those things did not make headlines throughout the day on Monday because of this speech.  These developments, when indicted Scooter Libby, Mr. Fitzgerald said he was not alleging any criminal acts by the vice president.  Does any of this in these developments regarding the vice president suggest that Mr. Cheney‘s status may have changed, that he might be closer to an unindicted co-conspirator than somebody uninvolved in this process? 

WOLFFE:  Not based on what we‘ve seen.  I don‘t they think he has a legal problem, he has most definitely, though, a political problem.  And what the prosecutor is showing here, of course, is motive, is that the vice president and his entire office was pretty much obsessed with Joe Wilson, with the op ed, and this was a driving force.  It wasn‘t a sort of temporary fit of attention or a sideline question for Scooter Libby.  But, you know, you have to remember, the prosecutor hasn‘t actually brought an indictment based around the initial question, which was about, you know, leaking the name of a CIA official.  He‘s brought charges very narrowly on perjury and obstruction of justice, and Cheney is a long, long way from that. 

OLBERMANN:  But even in that context, and particularly for Scooter Libby, there‘s a timeline problem now, isn‘t there?   I mean, the prosecution said the vice president and Mr. Libby had started putting together this full work up on Joe Wilson‘s trip and that that started in the middle of June, 2003 and that‘s a couple of week before the op ed was published.  The ambassador was supposed to have been shopping it around.  Why would Mr. Cheney be jotting things down on the printed copy of the article when it actually come out when he was supposed to have already known the answers to those questions? 

WOLFFE:  Because the questions are in order.  He‘s prompting his own staff to go and spin those lines.  In fact, that‘s some of the language, the junket language, what was exactly spun out to reporters about the op ed, about Joe Wilson.  And so, it‘s not so much a question to be answered, it‘s a question to be put out there to particularly favored reporters and columnists, and that‘s exactly what‘s happened.  That‘s the conspiracy here and I suspect that‘s why people like Libby were trying to cover it up, because they knew that this was a smear tactic. 

OLBERMANN:  And the NSA‘s story here regarding the vice president, regarding his role in this internal debate over the domestic eavesdropping, the administration has vehemently said all along that this was all legal, it‘s always been legal and it‘s in the Constitution.  What happens to that claim when we learn that the insistence by the government attorneys at the NSA amounted to saying the hell it is legal? 

WOLFFE:  Well, obviously, the lawyers were debating this very intensively.  And the vice president‘s office, on a whole range of subjects, were pushing back—well, pushing the envelope, rather, on a whole series of fronts, whether it was treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the run-up to the war in Iraq and here, about the NSA program.  So, you know, I think in some ways this debate about the extent and the scope of the eavesdropping plays in the favor of someone like Mike Hayden because according to the reports, he was robust enough to push back against Dick Cheney, and not many people in the bureaucracy have managed to do that. 

OLBERMANN:  And one other development, this blog by Brian Ross from ABC News who wrote that a senior law enforcement official warned him and his colleagues, there, that government was is tracking their phone calls in an effort to root out confidential sources that they might have used and they‘d done the same to reporters from the “Times” and the “Washington Post.”  We‘ve heard this rumored before, this was the first time that names were attached to it.  Did Mr. Ross just happen to be first on that sweep of 20,000 or 20 million people‘s phones records or is there something more insidious in play here? 

WOLFFE:  Well, you know, obviously, some reporters have annoyed this administration more than others, and I guess some reporters also want to talk about how they‘ve annoyed the administration, it helps them.  On the other hand, look, this is a tough one for the administration.  There are so many leak stories out there, that it does cause them political problems.  I think it‘s very confusing for the—for voters to understand what‘s going on. 

OLBERMANN:  As it is sometimes for those of us who are reporters. 

“Newsweek‘s” Richard Wolffe.  Great thanks as always, Richard. 

WOLFFE:  Anytime. 

OLBERMANN:  Back to immigration.  Are there solutions here?  Maybe, maybe not.  But things a unique perspective from a commentator and comedian Carlos Mencia, he‘s next.  But first, even amid the press and urgency of the speech, there is still time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.” 

The bronze to the police in Orlando, who appear to have overreacted just a tad to a senior prank at Edgewater High School there.  After the officers sent to monitor the traditional event called for backup, the department sent a heavily armed patrol with helicopters and arrested and handcuffed five of the 30 or so seniors who were armed with shaving cream, toilet paper, and Hershey‘s syrup.  But the kids were brandishing the toilet paper. 

The silver from the “I know where you were coming from, but” file.  Michael Maxwell, a teacher in St. Joseph, Missouri, he gave his seniors a creative writing essay:  Who would you kill and how would you do it?  He‘s apologized. 

But the winner, oh Bill O.  Not only did he compare Al Franken and some of the people on the internet and cable TV, guess who he meant—two, quote, “assassins?”  But worse he‘s rewritten history, quoting, “When he attacked me a couple of years ago,” Bill O said, “news corporation made a mistake in actually trying to sue the guy.”  Bill, who made the mistake in suing, the one mistake big enough that the judge literally laughed out loud in the courtroom? 

Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We could have gone the traditional cable TV route and brought on a senator or a congressman to get more reaction to the president‘s proposals.  We could have gone the traditional network TV route, traveled to a border town somewhere to get reaction from the affected area.  We could have gone the traditional local TV route and sent out a reporter to get reaction from the so-called ordinary man in the street.  But this is COUNTDOWN so for us and for you, who better to really analyze the importance of this illegal immigrant initiative for us than Carlos Mencia, host and executive producer of “Mind of Mencia” on Comedy Central.

Sir, thanks so much for joining us. 

CARLOS MENCIA, COMEDY CENTRAL:  Thanks, I‘m here in the eye of the storm! The immigrants are crossing behind me.  I feel like I just watched a magic show where all this really important stuff is going on that‘s really more important than what we‘re going to talk about and the president was like, don‘t look at the elephant.  Look at the immigrants.  Ignore all that stuff.  Look at the immigrants.  It was amazing. 

OLBERMANN:  Were you surprised?  Did it sneak past you here that the terms—references to I.D. cards and learning English just sort of got a couple of mentions in there and not too much of a headline? 

MENCIA:  Yeah, yeah, the I.D. cards.  But it was weird, because it wasn‘t I.D. cards for everybody, it was I.D. cards for only the undocumented workers, which basically means they could still keep coming up with fake documents that resemble our own.  So it really didn‘t make sense and I was like they‘re going to put 6,000 people -- 6,000 troops, but with no power, so they can‘t do anything.  So for a minute I was like, oh, my god, they‘re going to put troops, but then they said they don‘t really have any power.  So I‘m sure south of the border they‘re saying they‘re putting Army men there, no it‘s OK, they only point.  It‘s like their doormen, they really just clickers, that‘s all. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe they‘re going to make.

MENCIA:  They‘re going to have clickers.

OLBERMANN:   Maybe they‘re going to make I.D.‘s.  Maybe that‘s what their job is going to be.  They‘re going to be running off I.D.‘s for everybody.  The.

MENCIA:  Yeah, maybe. 

OLBERMANN:  The president.

MENCIA:  Yeah, maybe we‘re going to—I‘m sorry.  Maybe they‘re going to come over here, and what are we going to do?  We‘re going to make I.D.‘s for everybody who‘s already there.  It‘s OK.  And then the English thing, that was amazing to me, that you have to learn English now in order to do it?  Because if that‘s the case, I hope that same rule applies to the president. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, exactly.  It would not just cover—he wouldn‘t be the only one in trouble, there‘d be a lot—about 3,000 people in public life that would be, you know, in a lot of trouble if you claim English as an original language. 

MENCIA:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  But I have to ask, when you hear something like this or when someone who‘s in this position hears something like this, the president‘s fans will dispute us on this point, but if there was a consensus on this, it seems to be that the whole thing about the National Guard is about as futile as the simple math suggests.  You got 6,000 Guardsmen, over 2,000 miles, means, at best, that there would be one guardsman every 587 yards, jumping up and down, waving his arms saying go back, go back.  Is this going to be greeted with laughter?  Or how is the president‘s—the specifics of this plan going to be—how are they going to resonate in the Mexican-American community? 

MENCIA:  Let me put it to you this way.  Even if they hired the best defensive football players in the world—in the world—and said you guys are going to patrol this border and this is how much space you have between you and your teammate, there‘d be like, uh, that plan‘s not going to work.  I mean, it‘s—they‘re pointers.  They‘re—and they‘re going to rotate them so they‘re not going to learn?  And who‘s going to arrest them if we‘re not putting more people in charge?  It‘s laughable.  The only people that are going to make money from this are the coyotes who get paid to bring illegals, because they‘re going to be able to up their, you know, up their charge by saying, you know, it‘s a lot harder to do it now.  They have a defense and everything, we have to create an offensive plan.  But other than that, it‘s laughable.  They‘re not doing—they didn‘t even make the fence electric. 

OLBERMANN:  See, yeah, you‘ve got to watch out for that guy half a mile from here, he might be able to stop us.  But, are we going to have protests that follow this when the first hard—sort of hard-line stuff started two weeks ago, we had the big May 1 protest.  Is there anything like that, you think, is going to follow the president‘s speech? 

MENCIA:  You know what?  I don‘t think so.  Because I don‘t really think that they actually believe that this is going to occur.  I really think that the majority of immigrants, illegal or not, who thought that march was going to work and then heard the president say that he‘s going to do whatever, regardless of how insignificant or how inconsequential we think it is, they‘re probably sitting at home going, uh, you know, that march, I don‘t think it really worked.  It just kind of angered them some, because they‘re actually doing something about it, even though it‘s not—look, the only way we‘re going to stop illegal immigration is if Mexico becomes a much better country.  And I think the only way to do that is if I become president of Mexico, declare war on America, and then make it better. 

OLBERMANN:  Carlos Mencia of Comedy Central‘s “Mind of Mencia,” and possibly the next president of Mexico.  Great thanks for your time, sir. 

MENCIA:  Thanks buddy.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,110th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with the view from “Scarborough Country.”  Good evening, Joe.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,