Guests: Frank Rich, Howard Fineman, Jonathan Turley, Rachel Maddow
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will be you be talking about tomorrow?
Four years after “Mission Accomplished,” it‘s blame transmission accomplished, the president vetoes spend and end, the troops don‘t get funding, and it‘s not his fault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Four years ago, it was widely perceived as one of the most macho moments in presidential history. Now, it is one of the most embarrassing and infuriating. What mission was accomplished, besides the mission of always having another goal in Iraq, just out of reach, just needing a few more weeks of give-it-a-chance, just needing another 100 dead American servicemen a month?
Frank Rich on the selling of the war. Howard Fineman on the latest new deadlines. Rachel Maddow on the political consequences of counting your accomplishments before they‘re hatched.
Gonzogate, the secret document in which he gave Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson carte blanche to hire and fire more than 125 Justice Department officials, the secret document Justice did not tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about. Were Gonzogate a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it 10 rounds ago, or maybe the police would have.
Yes, it‘s a D.C. sex scandal. Yes, it turns our stomachs. Yes, we may have to pay attention to it anyway. “Congress is back in session,” reads the D.C. madam‘s newsletter to her masseuses. This always helps to boost business.
Also, nail color is to match the lipstick color. Presumably this applied to her employees, not her clientele.
I‘m just waiting for a memo mentioning “Mission Accomplished.”
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from Los Angeles.
Four years ago today, President George W. Bush thought it was mission accomplished. Tonight, he is one of the handful left who does not think it has instead become mission impossible.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, with 3,351 American troops killed, 250,090 more injured, Congress sent the president its first bill aimed at eventually ending that war in Iraq, and he has now vetoed that bill, the majority leader of the Senate and the speaker of the House holding an signing ceremony for the Iraq funding legislation, which would provide $124 billion, with a goal of withdrawing most combat forces from Iraq by April 2008, both leaders using the public venue to once again beseech the president, in the name of whatever he might think is holy, to change his mind.
The call fell on deaf ears. The president nixed the bill within hours of receiving it, then asked network and cable networks to suspend programming so he could address the nation and explain himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders. So a few minutes ago I vetoed the bill. It‘s true that not everyone taking instant life in Iraq wants to attack America here at home, but many do. Many also belong to the same terrorist network that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, and wants to attack us here at home again.
It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And after that explanation, the speaker of the House pointing out the hypocrisy of President Bush refusing to consider timelines to get out of Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: The president said in his comments that he did not believe in timelines, and he spoke out very forcefully against them. Yet in 1999, on June 5, then-Governor Bush said about President Clinton, I think it‘s important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved, and when they would be withdrawn.
Despite his past statements, President Bush refuses to apply the same standard to his own activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the president vetoed a war funding bill on the anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, not quite the image the White House planned to portray on this symbolic day of May 1. Instead, this was meant to be the scripted message the commander in chief, speaking this afternoon at the Centcom Coalition Village in Tampa, in Florida, touting the perceived successes of coalition partners in fighting terrorism, equating the current conflict in Iraq with World War II and the cold war, and seeking to buoy up the notion that a coalition of the willing helped invade Iraq, as though that image could somehow banish this picture of him in the flight suit four years ago today declaring that major combat operations in Iraq were over, that the U.S. and its allies had prevailed, while the “Mission Accomplished” sign loomed ominously behind him.
Of course, exactly what that mission is, or was, remains unclear. Saddam Hussein‘s regime is disarmed, the threat of WMD is gone, even Saddam Hussein is dead, if U.S. troops remain still seeking to accomplish whatever this administration declares on any given day, whatever the mission happens to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The mission is there to be a—a—a democratic Iraq, where they have elections to elect their government. That‘s the mission to help them achieve that that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In fact, we are told, that was always the mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator. It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in its place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A free and democratic Iraq? If that was always the goal, then should not this qualify as mission accomplished?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I just returned from Baghdad, and I was inspired to be able to visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, we are told, the mission has always been more than eliminating WMDs, more than the removal of a brutal dictator, more than a free and democratic Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Al Qaeda, after all, our government has assured us, was working with Iraq before 9/11, was at least in Iraq before 9/11, is definitely in Iraq now, has at least a sort of affiliated group in Iraq now, and will definitely set up shop in Iraq someday if ever the U.S. were to leave.
But though the goals recede and shift as in an incoming fog, one thing does not change, like Don Quixote or the victim of the law of diminishing returns, or a bad football team, we have always just moved ahead halfway to that goal line, that goal, some goal, remains always within reach, always still worth pursuing, always necessary to pursue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: The 83 days since I announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq, we have made progress.
We‘ve made good progress.
And we are making steadfast progress.
We‘re making great progress.
And we‘re making progress.
And we‘re making progress toward that goal.
We‘re making progress.
American and Iraqi forces have made substantial progress.
We‘re making progress toward peace.
Iraq has made incredible political progress.
We have seen encouraging progress.
We‘re seeing progress on the ground.
I‘m encouraged by the progress.
And we‘re making progress.
There is encouraging progress in Iraq.
This is real progress.
But I see progress.
Initial signs of progress are encouraging.
We‘re beginning to see some signs of progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Progress, year after year, in almost mathematically precise increments, never quite enough to justify leaving, always just enough to justify staying, because there is always another milestone to look forward to, a turning point beyond which victory might lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The capture of Saddam Hussein, the interim government, the interim constitution, the permanent government, the permanent constitution, the Iraqi vote of January 2005, of October 2005, of December 2005, the prime minister of 2004, and 2005, and 2006. And when political milestones peter out, we are told to give the military plans another chance, the new ways forward, the surge of 2005, the surge of 2006, the surge of 2007, this one expected to bring us at least into 2008.
If it comes to seem as though they want this war to last forever, consider how far-reaching were their goals when national optimism permitted our leaders to voice the goals out loud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: As I stated in a speech in the lead-up to the war, a liberated Iraq has showed the power of freedom to transform the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And yet, four years later, continued reliance on military power undercuts his own argument that freedom has the power to transform that region. Four years later, continued reliance on deceit at home to enable the stated mission of nurturing democracy abroad demonstrates that it will forever remain beyond the reach of a man who does not understand freedom ever to claim that the mission of freedom has been accomplished.
I‘m joined now by Frank Rich, columnist for “The New York Times” and author of “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.”
Frank, great thanks for joining us again.
FRANK RICH, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Great to see you.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, the president, in vetoing the funding, equated the terrorists in Iraq with the terrorists from 9/11. Earlier today at Centcom, he started his speech talking about al Qaeda, segued into how the U.S. is fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, emphasized dozens of countries engaged in the conflict along the U.S. This all sounded as if it were prerecorded in 2003. What, at this point, is the point of what President Bush says about this war?
RICH: That‘s a very good question, Keith. And I don‘t know the answer. The fact is that al Qaeda in Iraq has nothing to do with the al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11. The connection between 9/11 and Iraq has always been false. That they continue to repeat it, that Cheney continues to make specific claims about collaborations between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, it‘s preposterous.
And indeed, this al Qaeda really threatens the Iraq government, or so-called government we‘ve set up, it‘s not going to follow us over here. That al Qaeda is in Pakistan and other places.
OLBERMANN: The president, earlier in the day, tried to hammer in this global importance again about Iraq, compared it to the cold war, compared it to World War II. Is that, could that be what the mission is now, to turn Iraq into Germany, where we have to be invested for 10 years after, after there‘s a cessation of hostilities there?
RICH: Well, the fact is, if that‘s our goal, 10 years isn‘t going to be long enough. This is a government where 2 million people have left, where the government essentially doesn‘t function, and doesn‘t control any province, and we‘ve been there all these years. So when is this modern German-like state going to begin being created? Reconstruction, as you know, is in ruins, through fraud and all sorts of chicanery.
So I don‘t know what‘s happening to make this the new goalpost.
OLBERMANN: Calling all Adenauers. (INAUDIBLE) the veto statement tonight was the most—the thing that really got me going tonight about that veto statement, he does not want the troops and the generals to be ordered around by politicians 6,000 miles away from Iraq. The opinions of politicians. Does the president, do you think, no longer view himself as a politician, the members of his administration are not politicians, the Republicans who are in office because of the war are not politicians any more somehow?
RICH: Yes, exactly. As if this war has not been mismanaged by politicians that he hired from the get-go. And still is. It‘s preposterous. What also struck me, Keith, about his statement tonight, was there a single phrase in it that we hadn‘t heard four times before? It just—they—instead of rearranging, you know, chairs on the deck of the “Titanic,” they just keep rearranging these little sort of phrases, and thinking hat they‘re going to convince us when we hear them over and over again.
OLBERMANN: How did they miss the obvious anniversary problem, so conscious of the power of visual symbols in the early years of this administration? How bad politically for the president was it to have to veto a war funding bill on the anniversary of him in his little jumpsuit on “Mission Accomplished” day?
RICH: You have—you know, the Democrats were clever. They‘re not that clever. They delayed it, he could have—he didn‘t have to veto it tonight. I don‘t know what he was thinking, except that perhaps he‘s completely in a bubble, and, just as you said, you know, believes in the power of some kind of divine being that makes him immune to human logic and rationality.
And so I don‘t even know if he knows how it comes across, and to do it at 6:10 in the evening in the East, when he knows the “Mission Accomplished” banner is going to be draped behind him again, is ludicrous. And this is the person who is running this war, unfortunately.
OLBERMANN: And the president again reiterated tonight and today, the administration spin on this, on the war funding bill, is that the Democrats are not supporting the troops. But it‘s been on his watch the troops were sent to war without the body armor or the armored Humvees they needed, tours have been extended, (INAUDIBLE) time at home has been cut, injured troops left in horrible conditions at Walter Reed, and Pat Tillman‘s death in Afghanistan, friendly fire exploited crassly for political gain when it didn‘t even have to be, certainly the president is the one who‘s not supporting the troops, and not just by not signing this latest funding bill, right?
RICH: Oh, absolutely. And I think it was most naked just a couple of weeks ago, when he gave one of these perorations and said that, you know, if Democrats pass this bill, then the troops will come home later to their families than otherwise, and then the very next day it was announced that combat duty—tours of duty were being extended in Iraq. He was contradicted by his own administration within 24 hours. I think people tune this out now, and I think the Democrats would be wise to know that people are tuning it out and stand up to it.
OLBERMANN: Lastly here, I once joked, Frank, that somebody in the Bush administration must have read George Orwell‘s “1984” on a plane, read it once, skimmed it, lost the book, lost the notes, tried to remember some of the tactics, and it just from having read it once. I‘m not sure any more that that might not be the fact.
Has the purpose of this war always been just to have a war, that the excuses change just so you can extend it another day, and keep that infamous Eisenhowerian phrase about the military-industrial complex, keep it fed the way Eisenhower predicted it would need to be fed 40 years ago?
RICH: I think that that gives them too credit for planning. I think that they thought this would be a quick, you know, easy joy ride through Iraq, get rid of this thug, Saddam Hussein, and be home from—by Christmas in 2003. And then like kids playing with matches, it blew up in their faces, and ever since, they‘ve been retrofitting rationales for it.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Let‘s talk sometime about the first war that ever goes shorter than anybody thinks it‘s going to.
Frank Rich, columnist of “The New York Times,” author of “The Greatest Story Ever Sold.” As always, sir, a pleasure having you on the newscast.
RICH: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: See you in September. Why that might be the real Iraq deadline, next one, anyway, the time Republicans might bail on Mr. Bush in droves.
And what else could go wrong for Alberto Gonzales? He gave Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson the right to do what?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Compared to “Mission Accomplished” four years ago, this evening‘s presidential veto of the war funding bill represented a considerable downsizing of the administration‘s stage-managing of events.
But in on the fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, no such control exists over Congress, which now takes up the task of how exactly to fund the war in Iraq again. The House will hold a vote at noon tomorrow to override the president‘s veto. It will not garner the required two-thirds, though an ever-growing supermajority against the war might not be that far off, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell telling NBC News today that benchmarks for the Iraqi government inserted into a funding bill may be an area of potential common ground with Democrats.
And though the very notion of benchmarks may sound familiar and meaningless, that too might change, as General David Petraeus‘s progress report on the so-called surges comes due in September.
Let‘s turn now to “Newsweek” magazine senior Washington correspondent, political columnist, MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
OLBERMANN: So is this the next final deadline in Iraq, September, and is it this September, or ‘08, or ‘09, or 2525, or what?
FINEMAN: Well, I don‘t know when the final deadline is, but the beginning of negotiations is tomorrow, as all the congressional leaders go the White House to meet with George Bush. And I would predict that‘s going to be a pretty chilly meeting, Keith, because the president tonight once again basically accused the Democratic leadership of something close to defeatism, or a desire for failure in Iraq.
Those are very tough words. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were equally tough in their statement. I‘m told by Democratic leaders in both chambers that they‘re going there tomorrow to try to listen to what the president has to say. There‘s not going to be a clean bill, in other words, the leadership in Congress is not going to give the president a funding bill that has no additional language on it whatsoever, which is opening—which is his opening negotiating position.
I think there have been conversations between McConnell and the White House, because I think McConnell realizes, unless there‘s some additional language, some deal done here, he‘s going to be presiding over a much, much smaller Republican majority after next year‘s elections.
OLBERMANN: If the Republicans and the Democrats are talking in the Senate, in the House, does the president matter any more in this equation?
FINEMAN: Well, he matters in that they would like to get something that he won‘t veto. The Republicans want some space from him politically, Keith, they absolutely need it. As your opening section showed, the president‘s repeated statements of progress are no longer taken seriously by the American people. The Republicans know that. They want distance from him.
They don‘t want to have to try to override a veto if they can help it. They‘d like a deal that he could probably be part of. Whether that‘s possible, I don‘t know. Negotiations are going to take weeks. And as I say, I predict that this opening meeting tomorrow is not going to be real warm and friendly.
OLBERMANN: “The L.A. Times” suggested that as a consequence of all this, including Petraeus‘s report in September, September is the timeframe where the Republicans may be able to be peeled off from the herd. They might not even need that. They might part company willingly, because their own reelection campaigns are going to draw near. Is that the endgame on this, or have we been in the endgame for a while, and could it go south on the president a lot sooner than September?
FINEMAN: Well, yes, I would say that September is the outside, Keith. Events are moving very quickly. The Democratic base, the MoveOn.orgs and company, the people on the Web, the people at the heart of the Democratic Party, are increasingly angry with their own leadership in Congress. They don‘t see this as a great act of courage so far by Pelosi and Reid. They want funding cut off, and that‘s who Pelosi and Reid need to respond to, in part.
On the Republican side, I‘m not sure that the Republicans want to wait until September. I know some moderate Republican senators are saying that, but just as the war keeps dragging on longer and longer, I think the political timetable keeps growing shorter and shorter. And as these debates take place, including the one that‘s going to be on MSNBC on Thursday, and the ones that succeed it over the spring and summer, you‘re going to hear the rhetoric ratcheted up on both sides.
And I think we‘re going to have another showdown well before September. I don‘t think this can be put off all the way until September.
OLBERMANN: You mention the debates at the Reagan Library two nights from now. Is there a chance one of those Republicans, even one of the ones out of the mainstream, might fervently come out against the president‘s position about Iraq?
FINEMAN: I think there already is one. Ron Paul, who‘s the libertarian from Texas, I think he‘s going to do it. I think you‘re going to hear some other nuanced statements that we‘re going to be listening to very carefully from other Republican candidates. And, you know, I think we‘re going to be listening very closely, and I think you‘re going to hear some things on Thursday night.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. As always, great thanks for being with us, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A new page in the D.C. madam scandal. Actually, a lot of new pages. Her newsletters, including her concerns about the city‘s logistics, the layout. These are not highlights from that last story, nor are we watching Bedouins (INAUDIBLE).
COUNTDOWN explains, next.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1924, Arthur Fleming Fazzen (ph) was born to a pair of emigre Austrian dancers in New York City. After 40 years as a moderately successful actor, he starred in a British TV series called “International Detective,” he was invited to audition for a new TV game show Merv Griffin was producing called “Jeopardy.” Thus with no previous experience, from 1964 through 1978, Art Fleming was the host of what was always considered the correct question to the answer, The smartest game show on television.
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
We begin at Broadbent Arena in Louisville, Kentucky, for the annual festival of blazing speed and soiled linen that is the Great Bed Race. All part of the celebrations leading up to the Kentucky Derby, when they put an actual horse in the bed and push that around the track. The race is made of five-man teams, four pushing, one lazy guy or woman still in the sack. We‘re happy to report that nobody was killed this year, although the whole place was lousy with bedbugs. The winning team‘s bed designed and pushed by a group of auto workers from Ford.
If you think that‘s impressive, tonight we get a glimpse into the future of automotive travel. Before today, future cars have been the stuff of artists‘ renderings and Hollywood movies. When will any of these vehicles actually be seen on our streets? The answer was, never, until now. Thanks to a video leaked to the Internets, we can see that the future may be closer than we think. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks fantastic. Let‘s see it in motion, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Police are already developing a giant can of Raid to chase that thing in the next car chase. Meanwhile, another tentacle reaches out from Gonzales Gate, how Monica Goodling wound up with hiring and firing power.
And the power of the photo op, the lasting impact of Mission Accomplished. Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Larry King, hello. He made his broadcasting debut 50 years ago today on WIOD radio in Miami, May 1st, 1957. Oddly enough, same guest as on tonight‘s show. Seriously, happy anniversary.
Number two, the late Val Gregoire of Lewiston, Maine. On April 11th, 1951, he was mugged in Boston. They knocked him out. They stole his wallet. They stole his pants. This April 11th, on the anniversary, as they demolish the Paramount Theater in Boston, the workers found his wallet. It has been returned to his widow. His pants, however, are still missing.
Number one, Colin Jones of (INAUDIBLE) works on damaged roughs in the seaside community there. And for some reason, the local sea gulls don‘t like him. They have been dive bombing him while he has been working on the rough. He has cuts and welts all over his body to prove it, so he has hired a bodyguard, a guy who stands next to him for 12 bucks an hour with a broom, and scares the sea gulls away. The guard‘s real name is Steven Jackow, but he is known as Steven See Gull.
OLBERMANN: Leave the audience wanting more. It works for stand up comics. For Alberto Gonzales, not so much. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the hole the attorney general is digging keeps getting deeper by the day. Congressional investigators finding themselves blind sided again, this time with the discovery that besides the firing scandal in the Gonzales office, there is a hiring and firing scandal.
Mr. Gonzales gave two of his underlings extraordinary powers to bring on or turn out Justice Department appointees. An internal order, issued more than a year ago, might have given them power to fire officials pursuing corrupt politicians. And who were these underlings? You already know their names. D. Kyle Sampson, Mr. Gonzales‘ former chief of staff, whose resignation and whose testimony fueled suspicions that politics was behind the firings of eight U.S. attorneys nationwide. And Monica Goodling, Gonzales‘ former contact to the White House, who also resigned but refused to testify, and now has limited immunity.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Leahy outraged at yet another document in the dark. “it‘s disturbing,” he says, “to learn that the attorney general was granting extraordinary and sweeping authority to the same political operatives who were plotting with the White House to dilute our system of checks and balances in the confirmation of U.S. attorneys. This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hard wire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives.”
Time to call in Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School. Thanks again for your time tonight, John.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: Gonzales told the senators he could not recall details about the firings. Maybe this is why. We will see when he appears before the House committee again next week, and a White House spokesman, in the interim, has called this unremarkable. Is he right, but maybe not in the sense he means it? Is this just further evidence that we don‘t have any idea what Alberto Gonzales does for a living?
TURLEY: Well, it‘s really getting to the point of being bizarre. This is obviously relevant to what the Senate was asking about. Sampson has already testified. Gonzales testified the first time. There would have been questions regarding this. I mean, this fits this model, this impression that the Justice Department is running like the old Soviet system, that there are sort of commissars, petty bureaucrats that get rid of people who are not sufficiently loyal to the party or the party leader.
And these are two individuals that don‘t have any apparent real experience to go firing people, including deputy attorney generals.
OLBERMANN: The original memo, reportedly, was so broad in its powers that they actually revised it downwards to add with the final approval of Alberto Gonzales. Does that tell us anything about Mr. Gonzales‘ legal abilities.
TURLEY: The biggest question in this town is what exactly Alberto Gonzales does during the day? I mean, he said during the torture memo scandal that he just basically signs memos. He doesn‘t really read them. In this scandal, he says that he did not even recall why some of the people he fired—why they were fired. And then in hindsight, he went back and found out that he agreed with the reasons that apparently he never knew about when he fired them.
So you are really left, when you add this memo, with this impression of a guy who is an empty suit, that he is doing something as attorney general, but very little of it is running the Justice Department.
OLBERMANN: The “National Journal” first broke the story, and it had an unnamed senior Justice official, who said that this was a serious threat that could politicize the criminal division‘s ability to handle public corruption cases. That was already alleged by David Iglesias, who, of course, was that the New Mexico U.S. attorney, who was fired. Is there any question at this point that this Justice Department has been politically compromised?
TURLEY: Honestly, I don‘t see how anybody can suggest that this administration has not had an unprecedented level of politicalization of the Justice Department. I mean, some of these people were obviously fired for raw politics. And, in fact, the last defense raised by Gonzales is that we really can fire people for purely raw political reasons, and that apparently is why they did it. There was no real performance problems.
One guy was fired just to give Karl Rove‘s assistant a job. So, you know, I think at this point, that issue is already settled. But the real question, I think, in the next hearing for Gonzales is what do you do during the day?
OLBERMANN: And the big picture thing, for people who see this as another element of Bush administration graffiti on the walls of justice, setting that aside, what, in your assessment, is this doing, stuff like this doing to the actual infrastructure, to the supports of the building of our system of government?
TURLEY: Well, people should understand how serious this is. The Justice Department has always been protected from this type of political influence, that even political appointees were seasoned prosecutors or seasoned criminal law experts. And here you have a memo with two people with no appreciable experience to speak of, who were told to basically get rid of experienced attorneys if they don‘t meet their criteria. That criteria, for these two, clearly is political loyalty to the president and to the party.
And that makes us all look we‘re back in the Soviet area. And it‘s doing really unimaginable damage to an institution that is based on independence and integrity.
OLBERMANN: Every time we discuss this, John, I keep thinking there ought to be statues of Eliot Richardson and William Ruckles‘ (ph) house outside of the Department of Justice, the two AGs—the AG and the deputy AG who walked out rather than fire a special prosecutor during Watergate.
Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, as always sir, great thanks.
TURLEY: Thanks Keith.
OLBERMANN: On the job training in D.C.‘s other scandal, the escort thing. The wisdom of the madam. And Miss America stung by her own sting. Could the sexual predators she helped nab on the Internet all go free?
That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Leave it to the DC madam to bring new life to the shop worn concept of the news letter. Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, that alleged madam, Jean Palfrey, did not hesitate to dole out advice to her employees in a form normally associated with nine to five office work. In this monthly news letter, according to ABC News, Miss Palfrey refers to herself as Miss Julia and the management. And she chastised her employees therein about everything from lipstick to lingerie, to not knowing their way around Washington, of not knowing the A Street from their elbow.
COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins us with the details and the instructions. Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. Prosecutors obtained a number of these monthly news letters and used them to help build their case against Miss Palfrey. Now, ABC News has posted some of the contents of the memos, and they are colorful, to say the least, including this explanation of Miss Palfrey‘s business plan, quote, “adult service or fantasy escorts command 200 dollars an hour because of the risky and sexual nature of these appointments. Obviously the more liberal the booking or act, the more money one makes.”
But Miss Palfrey warned the girls they are fools if they think they can go on calls, quote, collect the 200 dollars and just talk. “We do not sell social appointments, but adult fantasy ones here at Pamela Martin. Anyone who believes otherwise will find themselves unemployed.”
Now, as for who could work for her? Well, the woman has standards. “Without being overtly vulgar,” and then she goes on to be overtly vulgar, a pair of blank and a blank, without accompanying brains, sophistication, looks and carriage just won‘t cut in this business, or at least not with this particular agency.
Also noting, at least at this agency, that business is seasonal.
Quote, Congress is back in session. This always helps to boost business. But “that damn Monday night football ruins business every single Monday night.”
No word on Football night in America. She pushed employees to be organized and on time when on call, suggesting her girls, as she called them have cell phones. And speaking on phones, although Palfrey herself held on to 40-plus pounds of phone records, she cautioned employees to destroy all records or notes connected to the business, citing the example of one employee arrested, calling her the bimbo: “The bimbo kept records. Destroy the data immediately.”
And she also offered beauty advice, “nail color is to match the lipstick color. Lipstick color is to compliment a person‘s natural coloring.” And finally, even fashion tips, “Victoria Secret is the only place a Pamela Martin girl shops.”
Now, we are not sure who the Pamela Martin girl shops for there, but frankly, we are not sure we really want to know. Keith.
OLBERMANN: We will find out. COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, and you thought you were nauseous before the baby was born. Welcome back, friend.
OLBERMANN: In some cultures the natives understand instinctively that when you say sex, Miss American and perverts, it‘s time to perform the nightly ritual known as keeping tags. So, sex, Miss America and perverts. You may recall that Miss America, Lauren Nelson, agreed to help Long Island police by posing as a teen to catch online predators in conjunction with the show “America‘s Most Wanted,” thus making the title of that show Miss America‘s Most Wanted.
The sting apparently worked. Police arrested 11 men. Now, however, all the cases might be in jeopardy, because the prosecutor says Nelson‘s agents informed she will not appear in court to testify. “America‘s Most Wanted” today denied that, saying that the Miss America organization claims no such statement was made to prosecutors. But it did not go so far as to assure the world that Nelson will testify. Nelson‘s Miss America website lists protecting kids online as her personal platform issue.
Sad news from the world of entertainment tonight. That odd, but inevitably lovable guy next door has died, this man. His name was Tom Poston, and he played the eccentric, laconic, lethargic, low key neighbor/friend/co-worker/handyman to a galaxy of television legends on just about every television classic comedy as a regular or guest star, spanning six decades, starting with Steve Allen in the 1950s, notable turns on “Newhart,” and “Mork & Mindy,” and a movie that is either the best or worst of all-time called “Zots.”
The Emmy winning comic actor died last night at his home after a brief illness, a spokesman for his family told the Associated Press today. Tom Poston was married to Suzanne Pleshette, fellow actor from the “Bob Newhart Show.” Tom Poston was 85 years old.
Four years and counting since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. What was he going for here, Tom Cruise in “Top Gun,” Bill Pullman in “Independence Day,” George Bush in no, seriously I am a war president? That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to Oklahoma‘s greatest export, Senator James Inhofe, saying about Iraq and the withdrawal, the whole idea of the weapons of mass destruction was never the issue. The media made that the issue because they knew Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction. Senator James Inhofe on “Meet the Press” August 2002, quote, “our intelligence system has said that we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, I believe, including nuclear. I, for one, am not willing to wait for that to happen.” The man must have friends. Please, somebody tell him, we don‘t throw away the tapes of the old shows.
Runner up tonight, CNN‘s Lou Dobbs. He was doing one of his infrequent stories about immigration, and he said of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other pro immigrant advocates that they, quote, might as well work for Hermann Goering. I mean, they are running so much propaganda, trying to confuse the debate, the national dialogue, by talking about immigrants rather than illegal aliens and legal immigrants. It‘s mindless beyond belief.
Now who could top that? CNN‘s Glen Beck, our winner. He will see your Goering reference, Lou, and raise you one Hitler reference, quoting from his radio show, “Al Gore is not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That‘s the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all the Jews and have one global government. You have to have an enemy to fight, and when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you and you seize power. That was Hitler‘s plan. His enemy the Jew. Al Gore‘s enemy, global warming.”
So Al Gore is the Hitler of global warming, trying for world domination by lowering carbon in car exhaust. I thing Glenny has been inhaling those car exhausts again. Glen Beck, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: In the long and storied history of bogusness, there have been few days on which the bogus could be found in such depth and breadth, in such quantity and quality as we can find looking back on the fateful events of May 1st, 2003, a date that will live in bogusity. In our number one story tonight, forget for a moment the mission accomplished banner, which actually was not bogus in a way, because our troops really did accomplish what they were sent to do, remove Saddam Hussein and make sure Iraq did not pose a threat.
It only turned out to bogus when Mr. Bush decided that mission was not mission accomplished enough. We found out in dribs and drabs that virtually everything about that day was bogus, even the initial explanations for and denials of their bogusity and bogusness, and bogusitude. The landing was bogus. The Navy turned around the carrier Abraham Lincoln beforehand, ensuring we would not have notice exotic San Diego in the background.
The plane was bogus. It turned out the ship was close enough to shore for the president to have used a safer and cheaper helicopter instead. The ship was bogus. It should have been docked, but was kept at sea for hours, extending the sailors‘ ten month tour so that the president could get a nap on board. The explanations for the banner were the height of bogusness. The White House actually blaming it on the sailors. The tactic of hiding behind the military a sign of bogus things yet to bogus come.
Let‘s get some additional bogus elements of that day from Rachel Maddow, who‘s program airs on Air America Radio every weeknight. Rachel, thanks, as always, for your time.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi Keith, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: I said on this network four years ago today, don‘t you think him in a flight suit is going to remind people about that Air National Guard controversy? And I was told, no way, this is his day. No way. Four years later, what stands out to you as the most bogus thing about that day?
MADDOW: I think the most bogus thing about that day was the screw the troops, I need the photo op stuff, which is the stuff that you just went through, the turning around the aircraft carrier. You can see there that they have got them dressed up in color coordinated outfits that matched the back drop as best as they thought fit. Having him land there in the plane, even though his helicopter could have reached it.
All of the stuff that came to symbolize the larger problems of the Bush administration and this war, which is using the troops, using the military, dressing them up to make Bush look as good as possible. That was the overall metaphor of the day. And that is what I think stuck with us.
OLBERMANN: Walk us through your choices for that day‘s tragically bogus and comically bogus aspects.
MADDOW: Comically bogus has to be the cod piece. I‘m not even sure I am allowed to talk about that on this program.
OLBERMANN: Why not? We talked about it positively about him four years ago, everybody on this network and every other network.
MADDOW: Yes, you know, I am struck by how embarrassing it is for people to have been exclaiming about his little weapon of mass destruction there. Who knows what he brought with him that day in his pants, but cod piece flight suit, cinched up crotch thing, you can‘t really top that, in terms of pure action figure joy for our most comic, I guess, take away message from that day.
In terms of the tragic message, I actually think the fact that, at the time, the fact that we really fell for it. I mean, it was transparent what he was doing. It was so transparent as kind of an evil photo op, in terms of what he was trying to make happen. We knew that so much of the photo op itself was bogus that day, but when you look back at the transcripts of the way it was discussed that day—I mean, even Chris Matthews, coming on your show that day, and talking about him being a hero and how much women love a hero and women love the war now because he looks so great.
We knew it was bogus at the time, but still the cheer leading that went along with it was disgusting. Chris, on his own show, booked Ann Coulter to be the person to respond to that speech. And sure enough, her analysis that day was about how hot he looked. That is the tragic part of it, I think, that that was actually really part of the media cheer leading about the Bush administration‘s PR.
OLBERMANN: Yes, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can really make you do stupid things. There was something creepy about the attempt to fetishize the president there. The favorite analogy was they were having him dress up and play “Top Gun,” but I thought then, and would you agree now, that the message was really he was Bill Pullman from “Independence Day.” He was the pilot president, saving us from intergalactic invasion. The magnitude was not just, oh he shot down a couple of invaders, but these were aliens who had come to destroy the planet?
MADDOW: Yes, I think that is a good analogy. I also think that you might find a good analogy in Sanjaya on “American Idol,” in the sense that he really was doing his best. But the usefulness of this occasion, the usefulness of this photo for us as a nation was in how bad it was. We don‘t remember this because of anything he said that day. We don‘t remember this because of the bravery of those troops that he was supposedly saluting on that aircraft carrier.
We remember this as a disaster. This is the first disaster spectacle of the war, the first of many to come over the subsequent four years. I mean, you have had 3,212 troops die since that day, and it has been disaster after disaster after disaster. That was the first one where we really knew that what we were watching, I think, was awful, even if the media that day was cheering along with it.
OLBERMANN: First note of the alarm clock sounding in many people‘s heads, and I think my own included. Rachel Maddow, host of the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America, of course, great thanks for your time.
MADDOW: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,462nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq, four years. From Los Angeles, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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