Guests: Howard Fineman, Dana Milbank, Rachel Maddow, Richard Lewis
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Balance (ph) for the good ship. Clinton: A 21-point lead in Ohio, 16 in Pennsylvania but with large Keith numbers and a faster rate of growth for Obama.
The war of words: Ready from day one. No longer ready for prime time.
The catch phrase now: Solutions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It‘s time we made the solutions business America‘s business again. My opponents make speeches, I offer solutions.
BILL CLINTON, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: She‘s in the solutions business, in the solutions business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Obama spends the day letting ads do the talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: After 18 debates, with two more coming, Hillary says, Barack Obama is ducking debates. It‘s the same old politics of phony charges and false attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Old, phony and false, did you say? After he said waterboarding is torture and we should not waterboard, McCain votes against a bill to ban waterboarding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The techniques under the army field manual are working and working effectively.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just a coincidence, today, he gets the endorsement of Mitt Romney.
Call my bluff: The Democrats shut down the House for 10 days, leaving the FISA bill and telecom immunity DOA. The Republicans storm out of the building.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Before bringing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill to the floor of the House today, the House decided to take up a political stunt by trying to hold several White House officials in contempt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And you walking your Republicans out to waiting microphones was what? Exercise? The president tries to terrorize us anew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda in their planning, they aren‘t thinking about politics, they‘re thinking about hurting the American people again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight a Special Comment: We will no longer fear just because this president tells us to fear.
And: So he can send President Bush a last set of valentines cards before he leaves office, my friend, Richard Lewis is our special guest.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening, this is Thursday, February 14th, 264 days until the 2008 presidential election. Nine days after Super Tuesday and New Mexico is finally reported, Senator Clinton has won that Democratic primary by two delegates.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: We have official word as to whether or not it stops Obama‘s winning streak. From whom? I have no idea. Senator Clinton taking New Mexico with 73,105 votes, 48.8 percent to Senator Barack Obama‘s 71,296 votes, 47.6 percent, a difference between them of 1/10 of 1 percent. The delay due to the counting of 8,000 provisional votes. But as New Mexico goes, so, not necessarily goes the nation or the nomination or the reports of chaos inside the Clinton campaign or the new word added to the Clinton campaign vocabulary:
Solutions. Senator Clinton marking the holiday on today‘s calendar, Valentine‘s Day, by handing out chocolates to reporters during the flight to Dayton, Ohio. The first time she gave a mid-flight photo op that can be distracted from the fact that her campaign had just cut back from two planes to one because of cost concerns, something the media only warned about much later. Yesterday, her opponent, Senator Obama having toured a General Motors plant in Jamesville, Wisconsin, this morning before her flight to Dayton, Senator Clinton checking out a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio. In her remarks to the autoworkers, the senator no longer emphasizing leading on day one, she‘s apparently morphed into the solutions candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Speeches don‘t put food on the table. Speeches fill up your tank. Speeches don‘t fill your prescription or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night. That‘s the difference between me and my Democratic opponent. My opponent makes speeches, I offer solutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If you think that solutions line might be some sort of accident, listen to what her husband, the former president had to say about her this afternoon in Wisconsin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: You have to decide whether the inspiration and speeches is more important than the impact of solutions. Because she has always been in the solutions business and she thinks America works better when we‘re in the solutions business. She‘s in the solutions business, in the solutions business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Here‘s something that Clinton campaign might need a solution for: Senator Obama apparently closing the gap in a new poll in Ohio. Senator Clinton leading 55 percent to 34 percent, sizably in the Buckeye State, a Quinnipiac poll, a 19-percent margin, the Keith number of those of who don‘t know plus margin of error is 13 percent. But in December, Senator Clinton‘s lead had been 26 points, 45 percent to 19. The polls in Ohio open March 4th, plenty of time for them to change as both campaigns both significant time there. Similar numbers in Pennsylvania which does not vote until April 22nd—Senator Clinton up 52-36, a 16-point margin, a Keith number of 15. Back in December though, the senator, Clinton have led by 28 points. Senator Obama is officially taking the day off. The ad the Clinton campaign launched against him in Wisconsin yesterday, widely viewed to be the first attack job of 2008 Democratic campaign as such today, Senator Clinton answering it with an ad of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: After 18 debates, with two more coming, Hillary says, Barack Obama is ducking debates? It‘s the same old politics of phony charges and false attacks. On health care, even Bill Clinton‘s own labor secretary says, Obama covers more people than Hillary and does more to cut costs - saving $2,500 from the typical family. Obama‘s housing plan, it stems foreclosures and cracks down on crooked lenders. That‘s change we can believe in.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Barack Obama and I approve this message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call on our own Howard Fineman, the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This - the new solution catch phrase, the solution for what has been ailing the Clinton campaign or just the catch phrase?
FINEMAN: Well, they‘re on a new tack. They‘re on an attack mode. And they‘ve been in it for the last couple of days. I think they‘ve decided that this is a time that they‘ve got to go for it because they‘ve got to slow Obama down. And this is the theme they‘ve chosen. They‘ve tried experience, they‘ve tried ready on day one. They‘ve tried the Clinton legacy. They‘ve tried all manner of tactics. None of them have worked. They haven‘t wanted to go after Obama, frontally like this, but they have to now. And that‘s what‘s going on.
OLBERMANN: “The New York Times” reported this morning that the Clinton campaign is opening field offices in Ohio and Texas now. But also, they‘re asking volunteers to travel into these states and spend as much time as they can. There‘s an e-mail to that effect and it doesn‘t mention assisting them with costs to go in there and travel to these states. Does this sound like a campaign that had planned for what it would need to do or just do after Super Tuesday? And does it sound like it has a firm plan now?
FINEMAN: Well, they weren‘t prepared for Obama to begin with. They were prepared for coronation; they were prepared to run as an incumbent in waiting if you will, and they didn‘t plan for the ground game, nearly as well as Obama has. Obama has a much better ground organization because he had to build it from scratch and he had to start literally from the ground up. Hillary‘s campaign, if it‘s been run by anybody at all, has been run by Mark Penn, the chief strategist who‘s a backroom guy, who‘s a great number cruncher and micro-strategist, but not a ground guy. And one of the arguments going on in the campaign is about focusing on that however the late it is. So, and the other problem they‘ve got is money. Obama is outraising them two to one. In January and February, Obama will have raised by the end of this month, maybe $60 million. Just in those two months, Hillary can‘t come close to half of that.
OLBERMANN: President Clinton was in Wisconsin today. In Wisconsin, they each put out ads, the attack and the rebuttal now today from Obama but it‘s five days before the polls will open in Wisconsin and as of this point, Senator Clinton has not campaigned there herself. Has she written it off Wisconsin if she hasn‘t, should she?
FINEMAN: Well, I think she‘s substantially written it off and a lot of people in and around her campaign think that that‘s a mistake. She would have a fighting chance there even though, the governor of the state, Doyle, is for Obama and so forth. She‘s got to begin making a stand somewhere but their strategic decision was to pay a lot up front if you will, for the privilege of waiting until at least, March 4th. That‘s what they‘re attempting to do. They do have good numbers in Ohio and Texas. And they‘ve got their fingers crossed that they can survive until that time.
OLBERMANN: But speaking of strategy and planning, this “Wall Street Journal” story about in-fighting, the Clinton political people and the Clinton campaign people if you will, reportedly yelling at each other, your commercials stink, no, it‘s your message that stinks. Has this, first off, has this been verified or is it some sort of just, you know, a pond spoiler from the “Wall Street Journal”? Is it just typical heat during a trying campaign or is there something more meaningful to it?
FINEMAN: Well, I think something like that did occur. I think there‘s no love lost among the leaders of the campaign at this point, although Mandy Grunwald, the media strategist and Mark Penn have been allies for years. Look, it‘s a tense situation; they‘re running out of money, they‘re running out of time. They‘ve got a phenomenon in Barack Obama that they did not anticipate, who‘s locked up 90 percent of the African-American vote which at one point, was key to Hillary‘s chances. So, they‘re not sitting around in Arlington, Virginia saying, hey, how are the kids and happy Valentines Day. It‘s nasty. It‘s nasty, but it‘s also expected in a campaign at this time.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”. As always, Howard, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Democratic campaign is notching new dueling endorsements. Today, team (ph) former senators, Ohio bringing Senator Clinton in to John Glenn‘s orbit. He endorsed her on Tuesday. The campaign today in Columbus, Senator Obama is winning support of former Republican lawmaker, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who cited the Illinois Democrat‘s long standing opposition to the war in Iraq. Chafee who lost his bid for re-election in 2006 was the only Republican in the Senate to vote “no” on the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force. Senator Chafee is saying now that Americans who oppose the war deserve a nominee who was against the war from the beginning. The endorsement could prove bizarre for either party or both, should Senator Obama win the nomination because in 2006 Senator McCain campaigned for Chafee.
More awkward, still Mark McKinnon and the senior adviser to the McCain campaign who also helped elect George W. Bush, now says, if Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee, he will have to quit working for Senator McCain. Mr. McKinnon telling NPR, that while he backs McCain for president, he would be uncomfortable being part of a campaign that would attack Obama. Yesterday, Senator Obama is also winning the endorsement of David Wilhelm, who was Bill Clinton‘s campaign manager in 1992.
Let‘s bring in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post”. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mark McKinnon threatening to quit if Obama is the nominee because he wouldn‘t be comfortable attacking him? Is there more to this or is it as simple as he makes it sound that you can‘t win by attacking that guy? And in the interim, what does it mean for Senator Clinton?
MILBANK: Well, there‘s a little more to it. I think what really is happening here is Mark McKinnon is a Democrat strategist happened to have a man crush on George W. Bush. He worked for Democrats in Texas before Ann Richards and others. I think what you‘re seeing here is he had his little experimentation with Bush, a little bit disillusion, went only so far with McCain, actually had said last year that if Obama was a nominee, he would not continue to work for McCain even if he supported him. So, I think this is sort of a one off thing here, sort of the lost Democrat. But you could see more of it, though.
OLBERMANN: So, now on the other point, are we bearing a lead here by taking about McKinnon as everybody has been or is the Senator Chafee story bigger here because it rings to the argument that maybe Senator Obama can win the moderate Republicans?
MILBANK: Well, he can and McCain can win the moderate Democrats. I think what each of them is winning now is the apostate from the other party just as McCain has been trooping around the country with Joe Lieberman who sort of have been drummed out of his own party. Similarly, you see the Chafee situation for Obama. Don‘t be surprised if Zell Miller goes for McCain. We‘re in that sort of territory. People would be inclined to go the other way, anyway. But that‘s not to say, I mean both of these guys do have crossover appeal. That‘s what would make such a match up absolutely fascinating. You just have no idea which way they break.
OLBERMANN: Now, Lieberman is with McCain. McCain had campaign for Chafee. Chafee has now endorsed Obama. And of course, to tie it off, in 2006, with Ned Lamont challenge, Obama backed Lieberman. So, that just makes it completely inconclusive. The new Clintonian advertising line, the solutions line, the Obama end of this, he‘s still gets the “Morning in America” kind of candidate? She‘s the one who still wants you to take your vitamins. Does he still get the advantage in that equation?
MILBANK: “Morning in America” always gets the advantage, of course, when it actually succeeds and it becomes noon and evening in America, the problems start to mount. But it‘s very difficult to compete with sort of just the brimming optimism message. That said, Clinton‘s got to do something here. You know, basically, drawing a line in the sand with Ohio and Texas. If she doesn‘t win both of those, she essentially finished. So, she‘s got to come back as strongly as she can. That‘s her best card, it doesn‘t mean it‘s a good one.
OLBERMANN: And talking about drawing a line in the sand, Michelle Obama is going to head to Ohio tomorrow. And “The New York Times” also reported today, of something that Mrs. Obama said before, that there will be no second run for the White House if this one fails. Firstly, is that true? Is that binding? Is it a threat? And secondly, you know, should we file it away and keep it for reference for 2012 in case the Republicans retain the White House or Clinton gets the nomination?
MILBANK: Right. Or come after her and try to get her to sign it as an actual pledge. I think I would rather put this in the category of Obama saying, he doesn‘t want to be vice president. Of course, as you say, oh, sure, I‘ll be vice president or yes, heck, if this doesn‘t work out I‘ll run again next time, well, lo and behold, that‘s exactly what you‘re going to be doing. So, he‘s a young man who would have many other opportunities although, of course, John Edwards thought that at one point as well.
OLBERMANN: Yes, you have to, however, maintain that threat of scarcity and chronological scarcity is as good as any other kind. Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC, great thanks as always.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We mention Senator McCain. He accepted an endorsement tonight from the guy he‘s supposedly lost and he voted against the waterboarding ban after saying, he opposed waterboarding.
And: The Democrats beat President Bush on eavesdropping immunity for the telecom giants, this as they beat him for a moment. Details, plus, Special Comment on a president finally caught by a Congress sick to death of his terror mongering. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: John McCain goes from being staunchly anti-waterboarding to voting against a ban on waterboarding. And Mitt Romney promptly endorses. Comparisons to Saddam Hussein and Hitler for Barack Obama in Worst Persons and as the Democrats finally beat the president despite his terroristic threats, a Special Comment on FISA and the telecoms and how we will no longer fear George W. Bush. Ahead here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: In the Senate chambers last night, a vote on waterboarding sent Senator John McCain‘s straight talk express hydroplaning sharply smack into John McCain.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: A McCain milestone, his vote protecting the CIA‘s ability to torture suspects at issue, a bill that would make every American interrogator follow the Army field manual, which just happens to ban waterboarding. McCain voted against the ban last night, claiming waterboarding is already illegal, a claim obviously not binding on this White House which promises to veto this bill. And while the FBI and Pentagon already abide by the Army field manual, in a statement today, McCain maintained, he still opposes waterboarding, but in other interrogation techniques, he wants the CIA to have more latitude in the Army field manual affords. A position putting him in stark conflict with himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said, the techniques under the Army field manual are working and working effectively and he didn‘t think they need to do anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Until you get the nomination. Senator McCain‘s reversal coming just hours after the conservative GOP House leadership in “The Washington Post” phrase: Unexpectedly emerged from a secret meeting with McCain and endorsed him. Unexpectedly emerged or unexpectedly endorsed him. This is one day after declaring their intention to remain neutral in the race for the nomination.
With us tonight on this, MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow, whose program airs at weeknights on Air America radio. Hello, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, he was against waterboarding before he was for it? I mean, by what tortured explanation is this not a vote for waterboarding?
MADDOW: The White House admits, as of this month, to authorizing waterboarding and they say that they authorized it because the way they look at the law, they are allowed to do that. It‘s legal. You know, yes, right. But that‘s what the White House said. They said, the way we interpreted the law, we thought it was legal and we‘re happy that we did it. It was very useful. So, Congress is there to pass something which says: Actually, clearly, plainly, obviously, this is illegal. If you didn‘t think it was illegal before, let us make it more obvious for you. And that‘s what John McCain voted against. So, in context and logically, it is a vote for waterboarding. Because the White House says, used this legal explanation, this legal cut throat explanation in order to justify what they‘ve admit to have having already done.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, this is the latest McCain stands on this. He said he would prefer Mr. Bush simply to say that waterboarding is illegal. I would prefer Mr. Bush to say simply say, I‘m resigning. What is his point? What does this mean? How does that impact what‘s going to happen?
MADDOW: I think we‘re in one of the situations that‘s like looking at the exit polls out of Virginia. It would have made sense to do that, if it‘s a close race but when Barack Obama won as big as he did, he won every demographic on those exit polls became meaningless. Same thing with this John McCain decision, this decision is so plainly a political decision. This is John McCain reversing himself not only in terms of being for waterboarding now, but the grounds on which he is for waterboarding. I mean, he is the guy who made the argument that the Army field manual was sufficient. The only thing we need to understand about this is that John McCain had a sudden and otherwise than inexplicable of heart since November, a change of heart that brings him in line with what appears to be the Republican strategy for the general election this year which is to pick deliberately provocative, deliberately controversial fights on the issues that they want this election to be about. They want the election to be about war and torture and Guantanamo. So, they‘re picking fights on those issues. Even though they know a lot of Americans disagree with them on these issues. They‘re picking fights on these issues so, those will be the things we‘re talking about around the elections because they think that will help Republicans.
OLBERMANN: Did they buy him with the promise of endorsements such as the thing out of the Senate or even Mitt Romney endorsing him today, or the other way around, that he‘d buy those endorsements by changing his positions? Is it that naked and obtuse?
MADDOW: I don‘t think anybody on the Republican Party on either side is holding out for a particular policy. I think that it‘s a political strategy. It‘s not a principled strategy, it‘s a political strategy to make war and torture and Guantanamo, the issues on which the election is decided. And so, John McCain just got inline in these issues. We all thought he had a principled stance on torture. It turns out, he doesn‘t. He‘s taking the political stance instead and that what remains to be seen, whether their strategy will work.
OLBERMANN: Yes, because there is one problem with changing your opinion on something as this when you made such a strong statement on it. This might be considered flip-flopping, calling a phrase. Is this something that you, everybody in Obama headquarters and Clinton headquarters are writing down, it‘s flip-flop on February 14th?
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, there‘s no way around this. I mean, you just play the tape of him in November. That was late November which he was saying, the Army field manual gives us the tools we need to interrogate and it‘s a matter of American values that we don‘t torture. And by the way, I no longer think that because now, I have the nomination. I mean, there‘s never - he had a lot of flip-flops in his career. This is perhaps the most negative.
OLBERMANN: Now, he did say, my friends in that sound byte from November. So, you know that‘s what he really meant, when he says that, that means he‘s sincere. Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, great thanks, good to see you.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OBLERMANN: First: It was heart puppy, the dog with the heart shaped birthmark, now, meet heart pig. However, heart pig is supposed to become heart bacon.
And: The Democrats in the House actually stand their ground on FISA and telecom immunity. A Special Comment tonight on the president‘s hypocrisy. It‘s all ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OBLERMANN: February 14th, for at least 531 years in England, and now in North America: Valentine‘s Day. Exactly who Valentine is, is unclear. There was a St. Valentine of Rome, he was beaten and beheaded in 269 A.D. There was a St. Valentine of Tourney (ph), he was beaten and beheaded on 75 A.D. Although some scholars believe these were the same guy. They can hope. The first Valentine is not only the patron of love and couples and marriages, but also of beekeepers. Which is I suppose why we call each other honey.
Let‘s play Oddball. Just trying to help the legend out. And speaking of legends: We begin on Valentine‘s Day with a little pork. In Glaster (ph), England, this is the farm of a pig breeder, Eric Freeman and this little sucker is the heart piggy. Born with a black heart shaped splotch on her back, Valentine the piglet, has become a media darling. Just like Wilbur from Charlotte‘s web, he escaped a trip to the sausage factory due to some nifty spider web signage. Valentine will also be spared. Right, farmer Freeman?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re now trade mark these splotch are for the pig. You know, for that delicious pork and (inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBLERMANN: Oh, our heart piggy might not make it. The farmer did say he would part with Valentine for the right price. So, interested parties should make an offer before heart piggy goes to market.
To Hyderabad, India where they take their love and might and sweet in this new Valentine‘s Day coffee mug car. How romantic? The mug car seats two. It is street-legal and can reach up to 30, and it costs only slightly more than a Starbucks vente mocchacino.
The Democrats in the house call the presidents bluff Taking congress out of session for 10 days at minimum, delaying immunity for the telecoms and eavesdropping headquarters, like this, AT&T‘s room 641A. The latest details and my special comment.
Happy Valentine‘s Day, President Bush. Our special guest, Richard Lewis.
All that ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top Three Best Persons in the World.” No. 3, best scam: an unnamed man in Spezia, in Italy, is 70. Since 1968 he‘s been collecting a pension as an invalid, plus other benefits, from his former employers after an accident there left him totally blind, which surprised officers running an ordinary traffic check in Spezia, considering they stopped him at random because he fit the requirement, driving with typical skill. “I got better.”
No. 2, best reminder that‘s still around: Barry bonds. Roger Clemens was stealing all those steroid headlines, not anymore. U.S. prosecutors filed documents, today, indicating Bonds tested positive for ‘roids in November 2001, a month after he had broken baseball‘s record for home runs in a single season.
And No. 1, best story: James Jeffrey, the deputy national security advisor, explaining why the president has ordered the Pentagon to utilize a Navy missile to try to destroy the spy satellite that is falling out of orbit. Two weeks ago, we were assured there was neither a security risk nor any danger. Now, all of a sudden, Mr. Jeffrey is concerned that it has toxic fuel on board which could threaten people, so they will have to shoot it out of the sky. And no, this is not just a political opportunity to try to sell us on a “Star Wars” missile defense system, yet again.
OLBERMANN: Democrats in the House of Representatives are closing the shop down tonight until a week from Monday leaving President Bush twisting slowly in a wind of his own creation. Our third story in the countdown, the FISA bill and retroactive immunity from the telecom giants that helped Mr. Bush illegally eavesdrop on Americans, will thus just sit there, unacted upon, not even a temporary extension, which the Republicans and Mr. Bush refused, despite the president‘s threats that if the bill was not passed by Saturday, there would be a breakdown in counter-terrorism surveillance and plague of locusts and stuff. A special comment in a moment, first the details.
House Democrats in essence, calling the Republicans bluff. They stage a walkout at midday, did the Republicans, let by John Boehner, who in one acted, managed the cheesy political theater, and managed to get out just as representatives were to vote on contempt of Congress citations against Harriet Myers and Josh Bolton. That the Republicans just happened to walk to a stand full of microphones just, pure coincidence. The president has started all of this with his now daily message of fear and what with what apparently he saw as a threat to postpone his scheduled trip to Africa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House should not leave Washington without passing this Senate bill. Now, I am scheduled to leave tomorrow for a long planned trip to five African nations. Moments ago, my staff informed the House leadership that I am prepared to delay my departure and stay in Washington with them if it will help them complete their work on this critical bill. The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor terrorist communications.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Having lost, he now says he‘s going to Africa, after all. Another threat or promise, unfulfilled. Now, as promised, a special comment:
A part of what I will say, was said here on Jan. 31, unfortunately it is both sadder and truer now than it was then.
“Who‘s to blame?” Mr. Bush also said this afternoon, “Look, these folks in Congress passed a good bill late last summer.... The problem is, they let the bill expire. My attitude is: If the bill was good enough then, why not pass the bill again?” You know, like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or Executive Order 90-66, or The Alien and Sedition Acts, or slavery.
Mr. Bush, you say that our ability to track terrorist threats will be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger, yet you have weakened that ability, you have subjected us, your citizens, to that greater danger. This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough even for you to understand. For the moment, at least, thanks to some true patriots in the House, and to your own stubbornness, you have tabled telecom immunity, and the FISA act. You. By your own terms and your definitions, you have just sided with the terrorists. You got to have this law, or we‘re all going to die. But, practically speaking, you vetoed this law.
It is bad enough, sir, that you were demanding an ex post facto law that could still clear the AT&Ts and the Verizons from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists who might be stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail.
But, when you demanded it again during the State of the Union address, you wouldn‘t even confirm that they‘d actually done anything for which they deserved to be cleared.
“The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America.”
“Believed.” Don‘t you know? Don‘t you even have the guts Dick Cheney showed in admitting they did collaborate with you? Does this endless presidency of loopholes and fine print extend even here, too? If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it. There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You‘re a fascist—get them to print you a T-shirt with “fascist” on it.
What else is this but fascism? Did you see Mark Klein on this newscast last November? Mark Klein was the AT&T whistleblower. The one who explained in the placid and dull terms of your local neighborhood IT desk, how he personally attached all AT&T circuits, everything, carrying every one of your phone calls, every one of your e-mails, every bit of your Web browsing into a secure room, room No. 641A at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, where it was all copied so the government could look at it.
Not some of it, not just the international part of it, certainly not just the stuff that some spy, a spy both patriotic and telepathic, might able to divine, had been sent or spoken by or to a terrorist—everything.
Every time you looked at a naked picture. Every time you bid on eBay.
Every time you phoned in a donation to a Democrat. “My thought was,” Mr. Klein told us last November, “George Orwell‘s ‘1984.‘ And here I am, forced to connect the Big Brother machine.”
If there‘s one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush, it‘s that he, well you, are a liar.
“This Saturday at midnight,” you said Today, “legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying and what they are planning will be compromised.” You said that “the lives of countless Americans depend” on you getting your way.
This is crap. And you sling it with an audacity and a speed unrivaled by even the greatest political felons of our history.
Richard Clarke, you might remember him, sir, he was one of the counter-terror pros which you inherited from President Clinton, before you ran the professionals out of government in favor of your unreality-based reality. Richard Clarke wrote in the “Philadelphia Inquirer”: “Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”
You are a liar, Mr. Bush. And after showing some skill at it initially, you have ceased to even be a very good liar. And your minions, like John Boehner, your Republican congressional crash dummies, who just happen to decide to walk out of Congress when a podium-full of microphones await them, they should just keep walking, out of Congress and, if possible, out of the country.
For they, sir, and you, sir, have no place in a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
The lot of you are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic to whom “freedom” is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for when you want to get away with its opposite.
Thus, Mr. Bush, your panoramic invasion of privacy is dressed up as “protecting America.”
Thus, Mr. Bush, your indiscriminate domestic spying becomes the focused monitoring only of “terrorist communications.”
Thus, Mr. Bush, what you and the telecom giants have done isn‘t unlawful; it‘s just the kind of perfectly legal, passionately patriotic thing for which you happen to need immunity!
Richard Clarke is on the money, as usual, that the president was willing to veto this eavesdropping means there is no threat to the legitimate counter-terror efforts underway.
As Sen. Edward Kennedy reminded us in December: “The president has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But, he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So, if we take the president at his word, he‘s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.”
And that literally cannot be. Even Mr. Bush could not overtly take a step that actually aids the terrorists. I am not talking about ethics, here, I am talking about blame. If the president seems to be throwing the baby out with the bath water, it means we can safely conclude there is no baby.
Because if there were, sir, now that you have vetoed an extension of this eavesdropping, if some terrorist attack were to follow, you would not merely be guilty of siding with the terrorists. You would not merely be guilty of prioritizing the telecoms over the people. You would not merely be guilty of stupidity. You would not merely be guilty of treason, sir. You would be personally, and eternally, responsible.
And if there is one thing we know about you, Mr. Bush, one thing that you have proved time and time again, it is that you are never responsible.
As recently ago as 2006, we spoke words like these with trepidation. The idea that even the most cynical and untrustworthy of politicians in our history, George W. Bush, would use the literal form of terrorism against his own people was dangerous territory. It seemed to tempt fate, to heighten fear.
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ANNOUNCER: Also tonight no COUNTDOWN, the “Worst Persons in the World.” And utterly unconnected to that, our special guest, Richard Lewis.
OLBERMANN: Worst persons: Coultergeist, Laura Ingraham and a radio guy comparing an Obama speech to a Hitler speech. That‘s what it says.
And then, funnyman, Richard Lewis, right here on COUNTDOWN. Try to follow that.
OLBERMANN: Richard Lewis on Valentine‘s Day and President Bush, sit well back from your TV, please. He‘s next, but first time for our No. 2 story tonight, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Coultergeist—went on Fixed News and called Senator Obama, “B. Hussein Obama” five times. The host asked her why she was calling him that, and he then mentioned it then a sixth time, then she referred to him as “President Hussein.”
Then we put her on this network today so she could do it again. For the record, if you want to try her trick and call her first initial and her middle name, it‘s close. Her middle initial is “H,” but she‘d only be A. Hart Coulter.
Runner up, Laura Ingraham reporting on her radio show that the president had, “welcomed Al Sharpton to the White House. I hope they nailed down all the valuables.” And adding, “I can‘t believe they let him in the front door there at black history month.” I know you and Coulter think you‘re satirists, but you do realize that if you‘re really not racist, you are enabling racism, there.
But our winner, Tom Sullivan, who apparently does a show for Fixed radio, when a caller suggested that Senator Obama‘s speeches reminded him of the speeches of Adolf Hitler, Sullivan then alternated clips from a Hitler speech and an Obama speech, played them consecutively on national radio. When another caller said it was unacceptable to compare Obama to Hitler, Sullivan said he wasn‘t, he was just noting, “Adolf Hitler was able to gather a country of people and get them excited about whatever it was that he is talking to them about. He was very fiery, enigmatic.” And I asked the guy, I said: Are you saying that Obama is like Hitler? And he said, “No, it‘s the speaking style, that‘s all. And the speaking style is actually kind of similar.”
So, you‘re not comparing Obama to Hitler, but you are comparing Obama‘s speaking style to Hitler‘s speaking style. So, you‘re insisting you‘re not comparing them in any way, except when you are comparing them in that way.
Tom Sullivan of FOX noise radio, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: We‘ve had Democrats standing up to President Bush, tonight, a special comment, and worst persons trying to compare Barack Obama to Saddam Hussein and Hitler. Our No. 1 story: Who in the hell could follow that? My friend, the prince of pain himself, in fun city on his “Misery Loves Company” tour, complete with the kind of reference to Mr. Bush that I can‘t even make here. Performing this weekend at “Comics.”
RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: That‘s right, a club in New York.
Comics, the club in New York, which has table service and everything. And an updated version of his great book, “The Other Great Depression” in paperback in April and now available without a prescription. The one, the only, Richard Lewis.
LEWIS: Great. Great comment. I think I need like, Xanax I do a show? Must I have—I‘m the only one with water?
OLBERMANN: No, I have it too. Most of the guests ask for straight vodka.
LEWIS: Really? Because I‘m sober now.
And by the way, I‘m saying Happy Valentine‘s Day, I‘m straight, it it‘s not gay. I don‘t even care. That comment got—you know, the Democrats finally did something that stood up—I‘m just so aggravated. You go from like “he‘s a fascist,” now funny monkey Jew is out—bring in the Jew. It‘s like at the airport in Utah: “Will the Jew get a courtesy phone?”
You know, there‘s not a Jew who can float in the great salt lake? Got
nothing to do with this. Says, what do you want? Anything you want. I‘m
so angry. I‘m happy you‘re on television and talking like you are, you‘re
my hero. I‘m so—and this is Valentine‘s Day—I have nothing against -
I don‘t—I don‘t—I‘ve never bashed President Bush. I‘m against practically everything he stands for, but we‘re both recovering coke addicts and you know, I have to side with him.
You know, and I also—I‘m not that intelligent, and let‘s face it, this is a man who—forget the policy. And if they find bin Laden before the election—big deal. First of all—and the soldiers are my heroes, too. You know that. And they wrapped everything around the sphere, probably send a - to Laura, who I have nothing against. I don‘t know her, probably a chocolate tomahawk or something. It‘s unbelievable.
OLBERMANN: Happy Valentine‘s Day, dear.
LEWIS: Yeah, who—yeah, stay away—it‘s just ridiculous. I mean, the guy is—listen, I want—I haven‘t gone to bat for either senator, yet, because I don‘t want to stand in a picture and have people, you know, 500,000 people go, I don‘t like that nut case, I won‘t vote. So, I‘m going to let them battle it out and then go to town, OK? Because, I want a president who doesn‘t use English as a second language. Let‘s start with that, OK?
And I don‘t want President Bush to every use again, drink or use cocaine. If he gets hooked on anything, phonetics would be a real good thing. You know, when that teleprompter—you know, he says—what did Nancy Reagan say? “Just say no to drugs?”
OLBERMANN: That‘s working.
LEWIS: That really worked. It got me high when I heard that, OK?
What‘d he say, “Just say not to reading” and his wife was a librarian?
OLBERMANN: A little conflict, there?
LEWIS: Boy, she watches him. I always feel—I must say, on a personal level, politically, it‘s a nightmare, but when I watch him, if that teleprompter stops, his eyes would be like a deer in headlights. You know, he night as well do like a Fred Astaire...
OLBERMANN: No, no, no, no. Literally, this happened the other day and he said now, “a buffet for everybody.”
LEWIS: You‘re kidding me?
OLBERMANN: He introduced the—what was it, Bernie, Temptations?
The Supremes? The Four Tops were at the White House.
LEWIS: Who‘s that guy from Great Britain, Blair.
OLBERMANN: Oh, Tony Blair.
LEWIS: He got him and he used to come out and they‘d do the press conference and—because it was like Willie Tyler & Lester, like a puppet show, because he would say” “we just had” and then he‘d blank, President Bush, and Blair would go “brunch, brunch,” he‘d go “brunch.” And then he‘s split.
OLBERMANN: One of those tough words.
LEWIS: Once, you know, he actually, no one saw this, I saw it on C-Span. He—this is when he didn‘t want to speak for more than like a minute or two and he only wanted two questions. He actually—someone told me this in the press, I don‘t know if it‘s true or not, because I didn‘t see it, it‘s that they only could say what I did on my summer vacation, that was all they could ask.
I mean, let‘s face it, we have a big election coming up and I mean, I‘m a comedian, I‘m a writer, blah, blah, blah, and I‘m glad I‘m sober and I have a wife and she‘s coming in tonight, but all we think about is the new White House and having things changed. This has been the worst eight years of my life. You know, I wake up and I‘m grateful to be alive and grateful to be sober and grateful to still make a living at what I always wanted to do, but every time I read the paper or put on TV, the arrogance, the height of arrogance, it‘s just beyond—and Cheney, how come they don‘t impeach these guys?
OLBERMANN: I hadn‘t noticed that it hadn‘t...
LEWIS: How come these guys—why don‘t they go after them? I mean, to admit...
OLBERMANN: Because, when you impeach somebody now, it improves their popularity, as we saw last time. That‘s the only explanation that makes any sense.
LEWIS: You know why? I saw a poll. You know what happened in New Hampshire, it we so hilarious, everybody was way off it. African-Americans, you know, for Bush, forget about what‘s going on with the Democrats.
OLBERMANN: How is he?
LEWIS: Minus 20 percent African-American ghosts are against President Bush. He doesn‘t even get the dead African-American votes. He is so below, he‘s in a coal mine, this cat. He‘s go—I just hope—let him go, let him wave and go—where should he go? Maybe—let him learn something, let him—I just, you know, ask me a question, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I only got a minute left, here.
LEWIS: Ask me something. Tell me where you shop? Where do you shop? You really—that‘s fabulous. You go to that Woodrow Wilson boutique, don‘t you?
OLBERMANN: In fact, I stole this from his grave. But this, you obviously got that from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s...
LEWIS: Can I apologize. Look at...
OLBERMANN: What is that? It‘s upholstered, isn‘t it.
LEWIS: If things don‘t go well, I can also—no, no, I can do it and then I can be a maitre d‘ at an opium den.
OLBERMANN: It‘s just like quilted. You can have like the little mustache and offer people...
LEWIS: Well, I‘m 60 years old. They say in AARP—when I get AARP now, I shred it. I go nuts. Sixty is the new 40 -- 60, by the way, folks, if you‘re out there—and I know you are, because it‘s Keith -- 60 is the new 100, OK, it‘s over. My wife, I love her, but how could she sleep with a man lower belly now looks—a kangaroo would try to steal it from me. I‘m ruined. I‘m—all I care about is staying sober, helping other addicts, being funny, and getting a Democrat in the White House. That‘s all I care about right now.
OLBERMANN: And you know what? Mitt Romney, he‘s out, right -- $40 million, with all due respect to Mr. Romney, he‘s rich, could he—when they get one vote out of a million: all right, I got two percent, I‘m going all the way.
LEWIS: You know, a monkey knows, a monkey knows. And of course, Huckleberry Hound, what‘s his name? Huckleman? Huckleberry?
LEWIS: Yeah, we would think that we come from the monkeys, so, you know—OK, so, but a monkey would know that Romney—he should have given the $40, you know to the people of Louisiana.
OLBERMANN: Some charity of some sort?
LEWIS: Yeah, some charity. Why run? I‘m so aggravated. But I love you and I love this country, but we‘ve got to change it.
OLBERMANN: And the show‘s like a minute over now, so thank you very much. Any complaints, go to Richard Lewis who in Comics in New York this weekend.
LEWIS: Four shows and getting raped financially, by the way.
OLBERMANN: He gives you your money‘s worth and his book, “The Other Great Depression” soon in paperback. And he‘s also soon to be appearing at Needick‘s (ph).
LEWIS: I am?
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1751st day since the declaration—a hotdog—of “mission accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.
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