Guests: Rachel Maddow, Richard Lewis, Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Changing the game or game over?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, this primary election on Tuesday is a game-changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So what happens? Can she stay in the race by winning only Indiana or North Carolina? Can he insist she drop off if he wins only Indiana or North Carolina?
You‘ve got gas. Senator Clinton demands all Democrats reveal whether they are with her or against her on the symbolic gas tax holiday idea. Pelosi and Hoyer and Byrd, and Durbin, and Harkin, and Murray all say—they‘re against her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But Senator Clinton does have some support for her plan in Congress. After all, the person who first proposed it was John McCain.
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OLBERMANN: The race to visit the lunatic fringe media. Why is Senator Clinton visited Bill-O and Richard Mellon-Scaife? Why was the former president on Limbaugh‘s show? Well, all the publicity was free.
Senator McCain‘s blood for oil disaster this afternoon in Denver.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will have an energy policy that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, he just said what you thought he said. Our young men and women have been sent into conflict in the Middle East for oil and might yet go again.
Worst Persons: Coultergeist didn‘t think this one through. “Is Obama a Manchurian candidate?” she asks. Are you sure you want to go there? When the movie “The Manchurian Candidate” was about a presidential election and an American war hero, a POW who‘d been brainwashed in Southeast Asia?
And: Mission accomplished year six begins. Richard Lewis returns to say it as only he can.
All of that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, May 2nd, 186 days until the 2008 presidential election.
A gallon of gas: regular unleaded goes for about $4.19 -- on the American territory of Guam. If this fact somehow seems irrelevant to you tonight, consider that this afternoon, just four days before the Democratic nominating battle is rejoined in North Carolina and Indiana, the price of a gallon of gas in Guam was one of the issues for Senators Clinton and Obama. Considering Guam is caucusing today, Saturday their time, eight pledged delegates with half a vote each, five superdelegates.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOW: Both senators doing radio interviews by phone to Guam today. Senator Clinton specifically pushing her gas plans, Senator Obama emphasizing that he was from a Pacific island himself, Senator McCain restraining from saying—so am I.
The limits of geography however, not to mention the math, keeping the candidates tied to the mainland. One hundred fifteen pledged delegates alone at stake in North Carolina, another 72 in Indiana on Tuesday. Senator Obama spending his day on the campaign trail there.
Today‘s superdelegates score: Senator Obama one, Senator Clinton one. The Illinois Democratic picking up his second former DNC chair in as many days, this time it‘s Paul Kirk. A short time ago, the New York Democrat getting the support of a current DNC member from—that makes the superdelegate totals, Senator Clinton 273, Senator Obama 250. I left you dangling there, my apologies. The overall delegate count, of course, still his even with the allocation of two more pledged delegates for Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania: Obama 1,740 and Clinton 1,609. He‘s still in the lead, despite what Senator Obama admitted today at the news conference have been a couple of rough weeks.
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OLBERMANN: You‘re right we‘ve had a rough couple of weeks, I won‘t deny that. And what‘s remarkable is that despite that, we are seeing terrific support all across Indiana and all across North Carolina. I have no doubt that these are going to be tight races. This campaign has been tight throughout.
But I am very confident that the American people are looking for the kind of truth telling and serious policy making that is going to have an impact on their lives. And as long as I‘m talking about the issues that matter to them, I think we‘ve got a terrific chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From Texas. In a sign that the dynamics of this race have shifted yet again, with only days to go until the polls open in Indiana and North Carolina, Senator Clinton no longer managing expectations on talking to voters in the Tar Heel State today, instead implying (ph) the significance of the contest there, predicting it as a game-changer.
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CLINTON: You know, this primary election on Tuesday is a game-changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Game changing, is that because Clinton now expects to win what would be a huge upset in North Carolina?
WOLFFE: Well, they‘re certainly feeling more encouraged because the polls of have tightened. But there are a couple of things going on here. First of all, you‘ve got to talk about it as if the game is still to play out. The stakes still to come when in fact there are a handful of states.
Why do they have to do that? Well, because, actually, the game is coming to an end but they still want to extend it. So, the first thing is to pretend like this is still an open contest with the big field out there to plan (ph). The second thing is motivational. The Clintons have done well by staging the sort of comeback strategy. Likewise, Obama has done well by talking about himself as a sort of insurgent candidate. But to get people out to vote, you have to pretend like something is about to happen, the comeback is about to happen again.
OLBERMANN: Where are the polls now—if she does not win both Indiana and North Carolina, would that be enough for Obama or somebody close to his campaign to begin the public insistence that she‘d drop out and where do we stand?
WOLFFE: You know, that strategy hasn‘t worked very well. But people tried to play it a few weeks back and it was unseemly. Well, people are still out there going out to vote. It allowed the Clintons to stand back and say—well, they are denying the right to vote. So, that kind of thing has backfired.
It could happen if several, maybe a dozen or so big superdelegates, we‘re talking about Nancy Pelosi, the House leadership, Senate leadership coming together and saying—enough ready, it‘s time for the rest of the superdelegates to go forward. But that has to be decided because of the numbers, not because they‘re telling Clinton to drop out.
OLBERMANN: Four days to go, and the Clinton campaign is, again, pushing the argument about electability. President Clinton was in Greenfield, Indiana, this was this evening. The only way Senator Clinton can win is if Indiana says yes to her and he warned against a nomination of a less electable alternative. He said, “It‘d be a shame to do all this work and not win.”
Meantime, the campaign office—Clinton campaign sent an e-mail under this headline, “Read,” that pretty much cherry picks from the latest polling to argue that only Senator Clinton would trounce Senator McCain in the general election. It does appear from what‘s out there that this is the sort of level of discrimination regarding research that would Paul Wolfowitz some dog fight proud. Is it not difficult to argue that the candidate who has more votes, more delegates, more states is somehow not electable?
WOLFFE: Yes. The problem with electability is you can‘t make a marginal argument of this case. If it was the start of the race, you could say, undoubtedly (ph), she‘s a better candidate or he is. At this stage, they really have to get to the point where they‘re saying—Obama is going to lose 49 states. That‘s what they want to say, but the polls just don‘t show that. So, this is why, I think, there‘s a certain overreach when it comes to this interpretation of the polls.
OLBERMANN: And then, are we completely overlooking the importance of Guam?
WOLFFE: Keith, it‘s a caucus and they don‘t count.
OLBERMANN: I forgot. I‘m sorry. There‘s so many qualifications, you lose track of them sometimes.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” many thanks, have a great weekend.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton keeping her symbolic gas tax holiday plan alive for yet another day, announcing her intention to introduce gas tax holiday legislation. And last night in Indiana, the senator explained she wants to find out if Democratic members of Congress are with us or against us in battling big oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I believe it would be important to get every member of Congress on record. Do they stand with the hard-pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the oil companies? That‘s a vote I‘m going to try to get because I want to know where people stand and I want them to tell us—are they with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama not alone in believing that that phrase, “with us or against us” had been borrowed from President Bush as he claimed today. The Illinois Democrat again pointing out that Senator Clinton‘s gas tax plan already seems to have some friends on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This was originally John McCain‘s idea. So, John McCain proposed it and Senator Clinton right away she said, “Me, too. I‘ll do it, too.” Because I guess the polls said that it might be popular. The truth is, we‘ve been doing this kind of stuff for years now. Every so often when gas prices go up, right before the summer, somebody in Washington proposes a gas tax holiday because it‘s an easy thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine, who‘s joining us tonight from Raleigh, North Carolina, in advance of the primary. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton got the endorsement of the “Indianapolis Star” newspaper this morning, and even in that endorsement, the gas tax holiday plan was called political pandering. When asked to name an expert who supported this plan, the Clinton campaign could not. The answer was, “Well, this polls well with voters.” So, are they not only pandering but admitting to pandering and hoping that underestimating the intelligence of the electorate will work every time?
ALTER: That‘s their bet, Keith. You know, they did that when they tried to link Obama to Ronald Reagan early on the campaign. They‘re essentially assuming that people are too stupid to realize that this is a bad idea that won‘t save them any money at the pump, that actually hurts us in fighting terrorism because we need to stop relying on oil from the Middle East. You know, it was oil money that funded those madrasas, the indoctrination of Jihadists. So, it‘s bad on so many levels.
Hillary Clinton starts her rallies by saying, “We need jobs, jobs, jobs.” Well, by the estimates of the Department of Transportation, this will cost 300,000 jobs, just this summer in the construction trade, not to mention making it harder for you to get to work, more likely to get into a car accident because it will bring repairs of our highways to a screeching halt.
And then, just one other thing that is particularly strange about this, she talks about a windfall profits tax on the oil companies which is a good idea, Obama and others support this as well. The problem is: that won‘t pay for this gas tax holiday because she‘s already said that the money from a windfall profits tax will be used to develop renewable energy. So, she‘s spending that $9 billion twice. And what she‘s hoping is that, you know, only elites will notice any of this and that everybody else just won‘t care.
Her problem on this, Keith, is that there are a lot of elites who are superdelegates and they‘re not buying this or at least some of the ones I‘ve talked to here tonight in North Carolina were uncommitted.
OLBERMANN: Well, to that point, the political strategy of this and whether or not it‘s the reverse of pandering, the same members of Congress that she‘s now calling out with this, you know, post-9/11 garbage about “you‘re either with us or against us,” those are the same people that would constitute many of the undecided superdelegates. I mean, the congressman, Mark Udall, who is undecided and a superdelegate from Colorado, who‘s now running for the Senate out there, fired back today about “you‘re either with us or against us.”
How does this add up? Is this another one of these “cut off your nose to spite your face” or not see the nose for the face? Or it has something to do with noses and faces, doesn‘t it?
ALTER: I think it‘s a “Hail Mary” pass and what they‘re figuring is - is they can run up a big victory in Indiana with this pander because a lot of people drive, you know, long distances in Indiana. And if they can come closer than expected in North Carolina whereas I learn tonight, none of the politicians think she can actually win North Carolina but she could come closer than expected.
But then the superdelegates, you know, will figure—hey, maybe the best pander is our candidate on the fall. And that, you know, Obama is too, you know, hung up on the merits of these issues, the substance of these issues instead of the politics of the issues that we need to win in the old fashioned way and that that might actually, you know, be persuasive with those superdelegates even if they don‘t agree with her on the merits of the gas tax. I think that‘s what they‘re betting and it‘s a big bet and they put a lot of chips on it.
OLBERMANN: Well, how good a bet is it? Because having said all this, having pointed out all the flaws, the techniques borrowed from Bush, the pandering, on a premise that a man dying of thirst rarely questions whether the water is clean or where it is come from, does she not have a winner here with this gas tax idea?
ALTER: She might because there are a lot of what are called “low information” voters. You know, they‘re really not reading the unanimous, unanimous newspaper editorials against this. They‘re not talking to the environmentalists, the economists, everybody who unanimously believes this is a bad idea. They‘re, you know, understandably struggling and at the pump, they‘re paying a lot for gas and they want some relief.
The trouble is, the thing that‘s so odious about this idea is that there are other kinds of relief. You could get a tax credit for people at the low end of the income scale. You can give them other forms of relief. This is the single worst kind of relief because it‘s terrible for global warming, terrible for foreign policy, and terrible for jobs. And it‘s just unfortunate that she had to embrace what people agree is the worst single policy idea of the entire campaign.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, in North Carolina tonight. Thank you, Jon. Have a good weekend.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Talk about Hillary and gas, why did she go on O‘Reilly? Why is it the right-wing support of her candidacy setting off any alarms among her supporters?
And something is so much bigger about gasoline that it‘s almost unbelievable. John McCain in Denver today saying, “We went into Iraq to protect the price of and access to oil.”
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: This just in, Elizabeth Taylor has endorsed Senator Clinton.
If you were Democratic presidential candidate, you are endorsed by the financer of the vast right wing conspiracy and comedian Rush Limbaugh was actively trying to ensure you got the nomination, and Bill-O actually left his bunker to go interview you, wouldn‘t you get the hint? Why hasn‘t Senator Clinton?
This while John McCain says his energy policy would preclude any need to ever send American troops back into the Middle East. So, we sent them to Iraq for the sake of gas and oil? His remarkable revelation in Denver today is ahead on COUNTDOWN, if I can say it.
OLBERMANN: The network that built its audience by tearing down the Clinton presidency and which still insists the Clintons were responsible for a murder; a radio show that is deliberately posturing, quote, “chaos,” unquote, in the Democratic Party; a slew of blogs, magazines, and newspapers that formed the core of the vast right-wing conspiracy in the 1990s.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: All of them now embraced by Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and vice versa. “I‘m bringing people together as I speak,” she joked here nearly two weeks ago. The senator herself sitting down to talk with the biggest mouth piece of the network transformed from triviality by shredding her husband‘s administration.
Any doubts to Bill O‘Reilly‘s true intentions, however politely he rein himself in during the actual interview, or was it fearfully, were clear in the post-interview spiel he gave in which he told his audience that the interview, quote, “emasculated all these far-left extortion (ph) types like Moveon and the Cause.” Translation: he was more influential over her than was her supposed Democratic base.
All of this coming not two months after Bill Clinton went on the “Rush Limbaugh Show,” the comedian himself was out sick on the day of the Texas primary. Limbaugh has by no secret, of his active campaign, encouraging the audience to support Clinton in order to cause chaos in the Democratic Party, even going as far as hoping for riots, actual riots in Denver at the convention to further the Republican pro-riot agenda.
Then there‘s Sidney Blumenthal. This is the news of the day. Former journalist, former White House aide to Bill Clinton, the man credited with coining that term, vast ring-wing conspiracy and somewhat accurately, at least, who is now using the same work of some of those same conspirators.
Peter Dreier reporting on the Huffington Post, that he has been forwarded some of the emails by Blumenthal to influential journalists, pundits, think tank operatives with links to stories by right-wing fringe groups like the “Weekly Standard,” “National Review” and the very poorly named AIM: Accuracy In Media, and that all of those stories have only one thing in common, they attack Senator Obama.
I‘m joined by our own Eugene Robinson, columnist, associate editor of the “Washington Post.” Thanks for your time tonight, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: They made his life and his boss‘ life and anybody who supported their lives hell in the 90s. How could Sidney Blumenthal possibly justify using organizations like AIM or the “National Review” now just because it‘s a different Democrat that they‘re making stuff up about?
ROBINSON: Well, I think I don‘t—first of all, I don‘t think you‘re going to hear some sort of elaborate justification of it. It‘s kind of, you know, like the Nike motto, “Just do it.” But, you know, I guess I‘m a little more concerned about what it is that‘s being alleged, that, you know, lies and distortions as supposed to where you‘re find it. I can conclude (ph) or putting that I guess was, you know, if you want to find a bucket of slime, where are you going to go to find that, you know, that sort of slime probably.
OLBERMANN: The e-mails that Blumenthal, according to Drieir‘s research, sent, include stories that are just outright untrue. There‘s a thing from February 18th on the AIM site that Richard Mellon-Scaife funds that fabricated this story that Obama had a communist mentor in high school. But Blumenthal and others are literally helping propel such lies, moving them from these, you know, fringes where there are no ethics and none to be found within, you know, 1,000 miles into the mainstream. I mean, her supporters view this as her combativeness, as her refusal to lose, but I‘m wondering if that‘s the only possible interpretation.
ROBINSON: Well, refusal to lose, again, would be one way of putting it. I think it would be a win-at-all-cost. You know, the AIM site, I think, of the outlets that you mentioned, it‘s certainly the most problematic. I mean, you know, I can see, OK, even “Weekly Standard,” “National Review,” it‘s kind of odd that that‘s where Sid would be doing his research but, the AIM site is almost kind of a leap beyond those others, I believe.
OLBERMANN: About the Bill O‘Reilly interview, the network that not only bad-mouthed her and her husband for years, but is still doing this stuff with Sean Hannity about how she had somebody killed or killed somebody herself, or you know, strangled them with her bare hands, I mean, Lord knows what they‘re making up about her now. But, is there any reason for her to have done that other than, you know, at a time of great economic peril in the campaign to get, you know, a large slap of free air time right there?
ROBINSON: Well, it‘s, of course, it is free air time. But the other thing you would want by going on that network would be to reach these so-called “Reagan Democrats.” I mean, there are Democratic voters toward the right end of the party probably or others who do watch it and who do watch Bill-O, and so, who she could reach there and also some independents in, perhaps in Indiana will see. It does as, you know, it has created tension with the left half of the Democratic Party and some very influential groups. And so, it‘s unclear whether this is in that game for her.
OLBERMANN: Last biggest point, Gene. There has to be a reason that Rush Limbaugh wants Clinton to be the nominee and not Obama. And there has to be a reason Ann Coulter wants Clinton to be the nominee and not Obama. And there has to be a reason Richard Mellon “freaking” Scaife wants Clinton to be the nominee and not Obama. What do you think that reason is and why do you think Senator Clinton and her supporters are refusing to acknowledge that sort of sound of crack of doom which would seem to necessarily accompany that reason?
ROBINSON: You know, it has - there‘s been a lot of consistency. All year, Republicans have said, “Gee, we really would rather run against Hillary Clinton.” Now, there are Democrats who thought that this is some sort of double secret reverse psychology and they really want the Democrats to nominate Obama, so, because they can tear him down and they don‘t want to run against Hillary Clinton. I tend to take them at their word. You know, otherwise, why would they be campaigning on her behalf? But, you know, maybe I‘m wrong. Maybe there is double super secret reverse psychology going on.
OLBERMANN: But think about this—maybe there‘s triple super secret reverse psychology going on.
ROBINSON: You‘re making my head hurt.
OLBERMANN: And suddenly, it‘s the princess bride, you think you think you know you think.
Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and the “Washington Post,” many thanks, have a great weekend.
ROBINSON: You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Kazee‘s defense was an ingenious one, “I‘m not no duct-tape bandit. You hear me. Do the math and do the homework.” Yet, despite that clear and convincing argument, somehow, the jury did not believe him.
And the report results are in: Six years of the effects of reading of No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, apparently, none of the kids are capable of reading the report.
Bushed: next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bushed in a moment and, of course, you should be able to carry a concealed hand gun on our national park, you never know when Yogi Bear might be armed.
First: On this date in 1903, the future expert on rearing children, Dr. Benjamin Spock. He himself had no offspring, I made that up. He had a son and daughter. Oddly enough though, he had an Olympic gold medal, too. He was on the American championship rowing team at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. And forever after, if the medal cried, he went over and picked it up and walked it around the room. OK, I made that up, too. It‘s Friday.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Catlesburg (ph), Kentucky with the thrilling conclusion of the duct tape bandit trial. Last August, the man with his face wrapped in duct tape tried to knock over an Ashland, Kentucky convenience store. Clerks thwarted the man. Cops arrested Casey Kazy (ph) with the adhesives still adhering to his melon, as seen here. Looked like an open and shut case. It looked like curtains for the bandit. Before that was before Mr. Kazy unveiled this ingenious defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at me. Do I look like a duct tape bandit, baby? I‘m not no duct tape bandit. You hear me? Live, one on one, Ashland, Kentucky. You know this is not me. Now, look, do the math and do the homework, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not guilty, let him go. Not really, this week Mr Kazy pleaded guilty to a robbery. Now this sticky faced will have to trade his duct tape for license plates in the big house.
Over to Seattle, where it‘s take your Yak to work day. Why doesn‘t anybody remind me about these things? I left my Yak at home. This is the office of an Internet startup, housed at an old school. The boss is named Robert Mac (ph) and that is he riding the 1,000 pound Yak. The rest of the staff just loves it. Mac says he brings the long haired cow thingy into the office quite a bit. He says the animal provides workplace levity. It also provides about eight buckets of Yak-hooey a day. Summer internships are available.
Define real. Senator McCain tells the audience at a Jewish Community Center this afternoon that his energy policy would mean we would never again have to send our troops to fight in the Middle East for oil. Meaning, we‘ve already sent our troops to fight in the Middle East for oil?
And mission accomplished begins its sixth year. My friend Richard Lewis is summoning his outrage as we speak. But first the headlines breaking in administration‘s other 50 running scandals, Bushed.
Number three, Iraq-gate. By dint of repetition, we have become nearly deaf to this sound, nearly blind to its implications. Mr. Bush has sent his annual budget war supplemental to Congress. He wants 70 billion dollars for the fiscal year beginning October 01, 70 billion, 45 billion just for combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where as we know, major combat operations ended five years ago yesterday.
Number two, No Child Left Behind-gate, the gem stone of this corrupt administration. A nonsensical set of metrics for childhood education, with mandatory spending demands and virtually no funding from the federal government; but the good news is—actually, there is no good news. The Department of Education reports it has completed its study of Reading First, the centerpiece to No Child Left Behind. Reading First, on which six billion dollars was spent, was zoned in on increasing how well kids understood what they were reading. And the administration‘s own study on its effectiveness shows it has no impact whatsoever. It didn‘t raise reading comprehension by even a fraction of one percent.
And number one, any excuse for more guns-gate. Mr. Bush‘s secretary of the interior has proposed new regulations that would throw out laws passed during the administration of Ronald Reagan and suddenly make it legal for you to carry a concealed handgun in a national park or wildlife refuge. Dirk Kempthorn believes the new rule would allow visitors to Yellowstone or Yosemite and all of the rest the right to protect themselves, even though statistically, probably the most crime-free place in the country is inside of one of those parks. Your odds of being a victim in a crime of a national park are worse than your odds of being hit by lightning. You could use the gun against the lightning too.
OLBERMANN: The Republican candidate for president of the United States today directly tied the Iraq war and the prospects of further American bloodshed in the Middle East to the price and availability of oil. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, what was once the far right‘s favorite example of supposed left-wing, tin foil hat conspiracy theory is now part of John McCain‘s campaign platform. It was near the conclusion of a town hall campaign even this morning in Denver. McCain had been criticizing his Democratic rivals‘ plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, but then McCain decided to make a pitch for his energy policy, which his campaign plans to unveil soon. Listen to what the senator sees as a huge selling point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, I will have an energy policy, that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East, that will—that will then prevent us—that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “It will then prevent us from ever having to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.” At a town hall, at a town hall at a Jewish Center in Denver, at one of the forums that are supposed to be full of a candidate friendly questions. So Senator McCain actually managed to back into this all by himself.
For reaction, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own show airs week nights on Air America Radio. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there any other inference to draw from what Senator McCain said here?
MADDOW: I bent over backwards. I‘ve been thinking about this since I heard about it. I have come up with a way. I have come up with a way this could make sense, if what he meant was that his energy policy will result in us not having enough fuel to put in our vehicles to get our troops to the Middle East. Then he could have been not talking about what we think he was talking about.
I don‘t think that was the case, but that‘s as close as I can get.
OLBERMANN: Astoundingly, his people then screwed up the excuse, the rationalization. His press secretary went to reporters and said, no, no, no, he was not talking about Iraq. He was talking about the first Gulf War, which was to some degree—had something to do with gas. I think guy just pulled one out of you know where and saw those burning Kuwaiti oil fires, the incredible flames, that picture, I think that‘s what he saw.
Then McCain was asked directly, when you said this, were you thinking about the first Gulf War and he answered, no. So now we‘ve eliminated the only other vague possibility in this, right?
MADDOW: The press spokesperson actually said, what Senator McCain meant was that it was the first Gulf War. And McCain said yes, I meant it was the first Gulf War. And the press spokesperson said it was the first Gulf War that was about oil. And McCain said, no, no, the first Gulf War was actually about Saddam invading Kuwait. Then he backed off that further and said, no, I wasn‘t thinking about that at all.
The press corps has not been enthusiastic about following up on John McCain‘s gaffes. This seems to me like such a big one on such a big important issue, and it‘s on tape and there‘s video, that it has to be followed up on. So he‘s either going to need a new explanation or he‘s going to have to just run with it and defend this idea. I think he might actually end up defending it.
OLBERMANN: This raises the point that Cheney and Bush had used recently, oil, the price of oil, the idea of al Qaeda getting ahold of the control of oil, as a justification for staying in Iraq. Then that brings to you McCain—and five years ago, anybody who suggested there was the slightest hint of a connection, a rumor of a hint of an innuendo of a connection between going into Iraq and the price of gas was considered a lunatic, unpatriotic, terrorist lefty.
OLBERMANN: How and why did this suddenly change into John McCain‘s campaign platform?
MADDOW: I honestly think the most likely outcome here is McCain will
end up defending this, at least at the end. Then—Karl Rove has recently
I realize he‘s not in the White House anymore. But he‘s still
influential, I think, for these guys, especially in terms of their talking points. He has recently raised the prospect of 200 dollar a barrel oil if we leave Iraq. So they are explicitly willing to tie oil and gas prices to what‘s going on with that conflict and what our troops are doing.
The problem is, though, if you actually make the case to the American people that we are there for oil, well, we spent a trillion dollars, we lost 4,000 Americans, we spent five years and knew we are paying four dollars a gallon? We are not the beneficiaries of the war for oil. It does not break down to the American consumer. I think the real mission accomplished moment right now that we can see in Iraq is when the oil companies getting pre-cleared by the Iraqi government to bid on the Iraq oil field service contracts ended up on the front page of the business section last month instead of the front page of the international section. That might have been the first true mission accomplished moment we‘ve yet had.
OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney has a complimentary basket of fruit for you. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America, great thanks. Have a great weekend. I rarely do that Cheney impression, as you know.
As we know, Iraq ended five years ago yesterday. What‘s the dif?
Well, there‘s plenty of dif to tonight;s special guest, Richard Lewis.
And a touch of self destruction taking some of the fun out of worsts tonight. Ben Stein announces, quote, “love of god and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place and science leads you to killing people,” ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Mission accomplished. Where will Richard Lewis go with this. Omission accomplished? Emission? You and I will both be surprised next. First time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze tonight to Bill-O. Taking on an old nemesis, against whom he‘s about 0 for 40 lifetime, him and Al Franken; “far worse that what Jeremiah Wright is doing is comedian Al Franken trying to gain a Senate seat with a tax controversy all over him. Two states, New York and California, have publicly proclaimed Franken scofflaw, and now comes word that he owes a whopping 70,000 dollars in back taxes. Even the ultra liberal “Minneapolis Star Tribune” has slammed Franken.”
I know this is complicated for you, Bill, and I know you fall asleep at night wishing this were true about Al. But if you say Franken owes 70,000 dollars in back taxes, you‘re lying. Franken paid the taxes. In fact, he overpaid the taxes. He just didn‘t pay them to the correct states. A traveling performer, like a comedian or lecturer or ball player, has to pay income tax everywhere he has a gig or game and Franken‘s accountant misled him on that. So he paid the taxes, but he paid them to Minnesota, and now he‘s paying them again to the other states. And you‘re a cheesy liar, Bill.
The runner-up, actor and writer Ben Stein. This is so beyond the pale, even John Derbeshire of the “National Review Online,” who hates my guests as uncordially as I hate his, called this shameful. Stein, who was suddenly on an anti-evolution kick, went on the Trinity Broadcast Network to criticize a scientist who was, quote, talking about how great scientists were; “I was thinking to myself, the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do, they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed. That‘s where science leads you. Love of god and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place. And science leads you to killing people.”
That the Nazi used snippets of Darwinism as one of the countless rationalizations for the bestiality is well known. Others included religion, astrology and the legal system. But to say science leads you to killing people?
But our win is Coulter-geist, and not for the reasons you would think when you hear her quote; “I guess the question is, is Obama a Manchurian candidate to normal Americans who love their country, and he secretly agrees with the Weatherman and the Reverend Wright faction? Or is he being the Manchurian candidate to the traitor wing of the Democratic party?”
You got to stop chain-chewing that Nicorette, Ann. The reason for this award is not the either/or—is he evil or is he evil—question about Obama. It‘s the Manchurian candidate reference interjected yet again into this presidential election.
Annie, have you ever seen “The Manchurian Candidate,” the classic original with Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey? The “Manchurian Candidate” is about an American war hero, ex-P.O.W., who while he‘s in captivity gets brainwashed by the Chinese. Given who is in this year‘s presidential election, why on Earth would you or any conservative Republican want to evoke “The Manchurian Candidate” and get people drifting off into the science fiction of P.O.W. presidential candidates who were brainwashed in southeast Asia?
Anne, “just say oops and get out,” Coulter, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: This may be the oddest way my friend Richard Lewis was ever introduced. On the first of May, 1915, the British luxury liner Lousitania set forth from New York, even though all the advertisements for her trip to Liverpool have been accompanied by ads purchased by the German government, that all of the ships flying the British flag were liable to destruction in the Atlantic. Nineteen hundred fifty nine passengers crowded her decks anyway. Our number one story, they had been warned, yet, 1,198 of them would die when the Germans sank the Lousitania. Just as we had been warned on a later first of May, 2003, that the man who stood before us and proclaimed mission accomplished in Iraq had lied us into the war, had already repeatedly lied about the war, and was probably then lying about the war being virtually at an end.
Most of us still got on board the boat with George Bush. It bears reminding that President Bush‘s dramatic jet landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln was utterly unnecessary, could have been easily flown there by copter, since the carrier was only 30 miles for shore, on its way to docking in San Diego. It was halted there, not permitted to reach the shore, for the sake of the stage craft.
As for mission accomplished, which we covered yesterday in this new hour, we now arrive at day one of year six.
RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: Oh, I can‘t see this anymore!
OLBERMANN: We‘ll cut it off and show you instead.
Joining me now is Richard Lewis, star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
LEWIS: Stop it. Larry, I love you. Good luck with Woody. I hope you come back.
OLBERMANN: His memoir of his triumph over addiction, “The Other Great Depression,” is out in paperback with a new afterward, and he also has a new DVD, “Richard Lewis Naked.” It‘s metaphoric. He survived a night New York‘s 92nd street Y.
LEWIS: It was a great night, thank you. Thanks for that. I‘ll have nightmares now. Just getting over a bout of impotency, and now I had to hear that intro. First of all, every time I see that thing, I‘m just—I got to tell what you happened, because I have been doing your show forever, right?
LEWIS: I‘m walking up—look, I guess I have been doing this for 38, 40 years, so people know me. People come up, hey, Mr. Lewis, big fan. They give you a card. I have a new CD. I‘m a puppeteer. Whatever the hell—
OLBERMANN: I‘m a mime.
LEWIS: I‘m a mime. The guy—I swear to god, this happened a half hour ago. I‘m freaked. I don‘t care. I don‘t care, because he knows I do COUNTDOWN. He says, doing COUNTDOWN again, huh? I say, that‘s right. Here‘s my card. If you ever need a flak jacket, call me! A flak jacket! You bring on—I‘m a recovered alcoholic, published 14 -- you bring on those right-wing—Come on! Let‘s go. Come on. I‘m not afraid. Why don‘t they send them to our troops, our heroes.
OLBERMANN: Exactly! If he gets some extras, we have some people we know who can use them.
LEWIS: Can you imagine a flak jacket on a triple mirror? Oh, I don‘t know. When I see that thing, I‘m so nauseated by this whole mission. By the way, Oliver Stone‘s doing a movie.
OLBERMANN: Yes, “W.”
LEWIS: I pray to god. I don‘t know him well. I flew with him once when he was writing “Scarface,” and it was quite a trip, let me just say that. I‘ll never forget it. I‘m off the subject. And it‘s going to be great. He doesn‘t have to use any surreal conspiracy theory.
OLBERMANN: No, it‘s not going to be like “Nixon” or “JFK.”
LEWIS: No, he doesn‘t have to say, you know, it‘s Sherry Lewis (ph) and Lamb Chop got us to Iraq. Just show the story.
OLBERMANN: Oliver Stone‘s “W”, starring Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop.
LEWIS: The Muppets had nothing to do with it. It was the neo-cons. It was seven people. And now McCain. Mr. McCain, Senator McCain, you are not my friend. When he does this my friend, half a Pope? I don‘t know what he‘s doing. He‘s not my friend.
OLBERMANN: Half a Pope.
LEWIS: He does this.
OLBERMANN: I know exactly.
LEWIS: He‘s not my friend! And this whole thing with oil—every time I follow her—she‘s so brilliant. I feel like a jerk, you know. Look at this, I was thrown off the Enterprise because I was doing Bible studies and Captain Kirk threw me off.
OLBERMANN: But he said, we are not going to have to go in again for oil in the Middle East! You blew the secret, right? He wasn‘t supposed to give that away!
LEWIS: It‘s so idiotic. I hope that follows him forever. How is—what is he going to say next? Now, we are going to go to Iraq now? We can‘t go there. We can‘t get Hershey Bars. We can‘t get our tires filled. It‘s so stupid. If they—if we elect—I know what‘s going on Tuesday, and I feel badly for all of you brilliant scholars and pundits after Tuesday, because nothing‘s going to change.
It‘s not! It‘s going to be a nightmare. You need Jackie Mason, I don‘t know. They do this. It‘s not going to happen. They have the super delegates. You should always have him on the show. It will be that confusing.
OLBERMANN: He‘s the only one who is not there. Everybody else is not.
LEWIS: It‘s going to be unbelievable. This mission accomplished—
Let me tell you what happened—it almost ruined my marriage. My wife and
I, die hard Democrats. When that happened—first of all, we were sick to
our stomach. Again, I will say this again, our soldiers—we mentioned it
I cannot stand it when they—when they sort of convolute the fact that this whole lie and all of these billions of lies—I will be long dead when it all comes out. And they will be dead without being tried for war crimes and all of this stuff. I will be long gone.
I wish I could come back as a ghost to see what really happens and read the books 30, 40 years from now. When this happened—the soldiers, they go because we‘re proud to be Americans. They keep this country here. But, you know, it‘s not their fault. They just go. It‘s like Super Bowl Sunday for these guys.
LEWIS: They should have gone to Afghanistan. We all know. It‘s all old news. But when this happened, when he was on that carrier, mission accomplished—I make love on occasion.
LEWIS: And I have a fear of intimacy. And Bush, when he did that, and I think I—we made love, and I screamed out after I had my orgasm, mission accomplished! I screamed and my wife screamed and left the house for a weekend. But I was so aggravated, I couldn‘t get it off my mind. Let me tell you something, I‘m not paying one dime. I was going to tell you this last week, when Bush—I don‘t know, couple hundred days left, good-bye and good luck.
LEWIS: I don‘t know how much taxes we‘re going to have to pay. We are already not helping—the middle class are getting screwed by this war. The poor have always been disenfranchised. You know the deal. I‘m not paying a dime for this President Bush‘s library. It‘s every child has been left behind as far as—except rich children, if they are lucky to be rich and go to private schools and all of the rest. Here‘s the deal. He doesn‘t read. What could he possibly have? What dream for college kids and walk in, wow, look at all of these cliff notes! Unbelievable.
OLBERMANN: No books!
LEWIS: Just a lap dance, just one woman there. We have no books. There‘s an air conditioned room there and there‘s a comic book there and there‘s a toilet. That‘s it. It‘s 100 million dollars. No one should—even Republicans, independents, don‘t give a dime to that Bush Library.
Look what he‘s done for these past eight years. I‘m telling you this guy -
I‘m so glad he‘s going. And I pray to god the Democrats get behind whoever it is.
If this McCain goes in and extends this for another 100 million years, my friends, half of the Pope, we are through! I heard this. I know this. I know stuff. The first couple of days when Bush was president, he thought the presidential seal was a seal. He was waiting—he thought a seal was going to come in. He actually had a bowl of sardines! He did. Ever see him sign a bill with crayolas with his tongue out like a Kindergarten kid?
OLBERMANN: Stop it, already.
LEWIS: I can‘t stand the guy. He‘s ruined our country. He‘s made Armageddon like 100 years too early.
OLBERMANN: And looking like a good option.
That‘s Richard Lewis. This is COUNTDOWN for 1,128th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.
LEWIS: Please god, have a Democrat.
OLBERMANN: I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
LEWIS: My friends.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.