Guests: Dana Milbank, Chris Kofinis, Richard Clarke, Stacey Grenrock Woods
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Hillary Clinton, quote, “not seeking the vice presidency. The choice here is Senator Obama‘s and his alone.” Not to say she won‘t take it if it somehow is his choice. She drops out Saturday, time to be announced, once they coordinated with the Local Race for the Cure event.
The DNC will not take it. The Obama rules: No donations from lobbyists.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House.
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OLBERMANN: His first line in the sand versus John McCain‘s lobbyist-filled campaign, at his first official campaign rally in a Virginia in play.
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OBAMA: I stand before you as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.
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OLBERMANN: As Robert Redford says at the end of the movie, “The Candidate,” “Now what?”
The election: The latest math, the latest new map of the Electoral College from Chuck Todd.
Same old story, new details on the administration‘s prewar lies. A Senate committee finding: Bush and Cheney exaggerated evidence linking Iraq to al Qaeda. Intelligence Chair Rockefeller says the administration, quote, “led the nation to war on false premises.”
What does that mean for the candidate who has build his campaign on those premises?
Worst: John McCain insists he has “supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused” the disaster after Katrina, except—the two commissions and three special funding measures he voted against.
And Bests: The battle of CNN is over. The battle of Bill-O has now begun. Guess who‘s now won three of the last four nights?
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
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BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST: What does that mean?
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OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, June 5th, 152 days until the 2008 presidential election.
Evidently ready to lead on day one, Senator Barack Obama today made his fundraising rules—no lobbyists allowed—the Democratic Party‘s fundraising rules. While the remarkable degree of his former rival‘s climb down for her Tuesday night belligerence, underscored again when a spokesman insisted Senator Clinton is not seeking the vice presidency and that the decision is Senator Obama‘s and his alone.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Obama rules with the caveat that nobody in the Clinton camp actually said she‘d turn down the vice presidency if his decision and his decision alone was to choose her.
First, follow the money. From the campaign trail in Virginia today, Senator Obama announcing that his fundraising policy of not accepting contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees will now be the policy of the DNC—a major change in how Washington works five months before the election.
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OBAMA: Today as the Democratic nominee for president, I am announcing that going forward, the Democratic National Committee, will uphold the same standard. We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest or PAC.
We‘re going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I‘m president of the United States of the America.
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OLBERMANN: As for who might be the vice president? Senator Jim Webb in a conference call with reporters shortly before he joined Senator Obama tonight at an evening rally in the Virginia outside Washington, saying he would not rule out a vice presidential bid. You may remember that on this newscast on May 21st, Webb said he didn‘t discuss the vice presidency, quote, “with the people who make those kinds of decisions. That‘s really something I‘ve never talked with Obama about.”
On a plane to that event, Senator Obama is telling reporters this afternoon, that the next time he talks about the subject, it will be to announce his selection; adding that he appreciated Senator Clinton‘s statement to tamp down speculation that it could or should be her.
Congressman Charlie Rangel did not, literally, get the memo. The New York congressional delegation holding a news conference today in Washington, Mr. Rangel saying he was not speaking to the delegation when he speaks this.
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REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: I cannot see how Senator Obama, in terms of getting elected, could make a better choice than Hillary Clinton for vice president. Now, there is probably different opinions here of members of the delegation, but that‘s my sincere belief. If you count the votes he got, what votes she got and put them all together, wow.
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OLBERMANN: As for why the New York congressional delegation held the conference, Mr. Rangel was speaking for his colleagues when he said this.
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RANGEL: We come here collectively to endorse the decision that‘s been made by our fearless leader, who comes as a member of state of New York that makes us so proud and we‘re here to award her efforts and what she is about to do and we haven‘t the slightest clue what unity we have on what she has or has not done.
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OLBERMANN: We are united here in our desire to bring you Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.”
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: On behalf of the entire party, good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Other than Charlie Rangel, does it seem that a conscious decision has been made to back off the Clinton running mate talk so as not to make it impossible for Obama to pick her? Has all of Hillary or else talk evaporated in fact?
MILBANK: Well, I don‘t know if it‘s entirely evaporated but they haven‘t able to get on to a lower heat, a simmer, if you will. And this has been, both sides are really doing this. Clinton making the shrewd maneuver, knowing that if indeed that was something that she was seeking, this was not the way to go about it by putting him in a position full of pressure; and Obama making very clear that - look, we‘re, you know, we‘re going to be looking at this in a month or two, this is not time to announce this.
That will allow the hype of moment to die down and a more sober decision to be made. So, it does seem that, at least for the moment, the dream ticket will have to wait.
OLBERMANN: And no matter what happens regarding the dream ticket, the Obama stump speech is now heavy on health care reform, heavy on praise for Senator Clinton. Is it safe to expect that both of those things will remain permanent fixtures?
MILBANK: Well, let‘s see how it goes on Saturday first, whether further concession speeches are necessary if this one doesn‘t go all the way. But clearly, Obama has got the right idea in terms of how he‘s reaching out.
I mean, it‘s not really just a matter of mentioning health care because we have to remember that this was really a personality race, it wasn‘t so much a matter of policy differences, so - and I suspect that you‘re not going to see Obama starts to take shots of Crown Royal and occasionally weep when a questionnaire asked a question. So, there‘s only so far you can go to bring the Clinton spirit on board.
OLBERMANN: On lobbyist money and this new set of DNC rules. You‘ve covered Washington for a long time, how common is it for a politician, the head of a party which in effect Mr. Obama now is, to, in any measure, deliver a campaign promise before the election?
MILBANK: Well, I think it‘s important to say that this sounds a little bit bigger than it is. We‘re talking about something like 1 percent of the money going into the party is from lobbyists and PACs. So, it‘s a very easy gesture to make when you consider the public relations payoff for it.
That said, it‘s always a pleasant surprise to anybody in our business when somebody says anything that they‘ve said that they were about to do. So, he‘s going to benefit some PR bonanza from this.
OLBERMANN: The party unity that we spoke of on Saturday, and fingers crossed on that regard, given the primary that we‘ve just gone through and witnessed and feels like it took off, you know, an inch of skin off the arm somewhere—how likely is party unity to be in actuality as opposed to simply—something we see on this network on Saturday morning with Chris and me hosting?
MILBANK: Right. Well, if you knew the answer to that question, you‘re going to know who the winner is in November. Impossible to know, and even if Clinton does everything she can to bring her people on board, you can‘t just decree it. It‘s a question of how many women are going to change their minds about this, the lower income rural white voters. There‘s a very deep held feelings out there that probably even seeing the candidate convert her loyalty is not necessarily going to do. This is going to be a six-month battle right now.
OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post,” as always, Dana, great thanks.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama is saying this afternoon that he would spend the weekend savoring his family and thinking back about all the hard work that‘s put his campaign in a position “to really change the country in a way I promise.” Seventeen months, 50 state contests, and more than 35 million votes after Obama announce his bid for the White House, the Illinois Democrat having clinched the Democratic nomination over a candidate who most had declared inevitable.
For a little perspective on that before this thing moves any further ahead, let‘s turn to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, who served as communications director of the Edwards‘ campaign.
Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama certainly focusing on change today regarding how the Democratic Party does business in terms of PACs and lobbyists, does that message, does that theme help explain how the Obama campaign pulled off what is arguably one of the greater upsets in modern electoral history?
KOFINIS: It absolutely explains it. What I think is amazing is what the Obama campaign did that no other campaign was able to figure out, was they understood as he (inaudible) the country, that it was about change, the voters were yearning to go in a new direction, that there was this really strong anti-establishment, anti-Washington feeling out there amongst average day people.
And what is amazing about that is they didn‘t simply make it about—angry let‘s tear down Washington—they wrap it in a help message. And you couldn‘t have found a better message than Senator Obama because the irony here was that his lack of experience in Washington was the perfect experience, it made him the perfect messenger. And they were able to fixate on that message, and they‘ve stayed incredibly disciplined and you saw what they were able to create, this incredible movement out of that.
OLBERMANN: On the day after Super Tuesday, the 6th of February, with more than half of the pledged delegates already spoken for at that point, this race is virtually tied. The Obama lead was about 30 delegates, but by the end of February, the lead would be essentially insurmountable. Was the ability by the Obama folks to organize on the ground what made the difference in this race? Was it the money, was it the money-raising? What was it?
KOFINIS: In terms of where you, I think, can look at a moment where this race has changed, it was those 11 contests after Super Tuesday. What‘s fascinating, what‘s so amazing, I think,, what the Obama folks did was that they out-organized the Clinton campaign on the ground. They didn‘t just simply build a campaign, a traditional campaign like, I think, the Clinton campaign did, they really built a grassroots movement.
They were pouring resources into these states weeks and months in advantage. So, that was a critical advantage, you saw that play out. They were fighting for every single delegate.
What they realized, I think, better than any other campaign was this was not going to be a sprint, it‘s going to be over on Super Tuesday, that this was going to be a marathon. And that was so, I think, was so fascinating about that strategy. It really played out on the ground and their field folks deserve an enormous amount of credit not only, I think, of say staying so focused in executing that, but being able to coral all of these, you know, all these forces, all these supporters in these district number of states.
And you saw the outcome, those critical caucus states that gave them that advantage that actually led to them to be the nominee.
OLBERMANN: All right. The money has been referred to so many times but specifically, his ability to convert in some ways what Governor Dean had done four years ago but was actually five years ago, was not able to convert into a nomination—raise money on the Internet and keep raising it everywhere else after you began to raise money on the Internet.
The Internet guru for Senator Clinton sent out an e-mail to his blogger list last night, suggesting that the Obama campaign Web team deserved tremendous credit for everything that happened in that campaign. Did that—was that a great idea or was that like any of them born of necessity because Clinton had the big donors locked up already to herself?
KOFINIS: You know, it was both. I think they learned, I think, some fundamental lessons from what the Dean campaign was able to do and raising $50 million back in 2004, which was an unprecedented amount. If someone had said to me that they were - you‘re going to be able to raise $200 million in a campaign in a primary season, I would have laughed. I mean, what they were able to do, I think, was incredible.
What the Obama campaign understood and this has been evolving, was the three-dimensional nature of American politics, and that we‘re not simply talking about a good ground game, a good media strategy, that we‘re talking about cyberspace and being able to execute your message online, to basically instill amongst all of those people out there who want to be part of your campaign, that those $10, $20 contributions can make the difference.
I mean, I think, what you have seen in this campaign and what you saw today what Senator Obama talk about, you know, no more money from lobbyists and no more from PACs, is basically the beginning of the end of big dollar donors controlling the Democratic Party. And it sends, it should send a chill down the spine of the Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: All right. So that looks and what we have seen up to this point, what do we now expect from Obama and David Axelrod and David Plouffe, and the rest of the team, to do in terms of surprises or breaking conventions in the general elections?
KOFINIS: What I think is fascinating, you‘re already starting to see as they talk about how they‘ve already launched an organizing drive in 50 states. You know, what they‘re going to try to do is out-organized the Republicans, they‘re going to put more people into those polling booths on Election Day. I mean, that, I think, is going to be really interesting to see. They‘re not just going to simply focus on the traditional blocs of voters that come out on Election Day, they‘re going to bring that new voters.
I think the other key piece that you‘re going to see is that they‘re not going to focus on traditional states that everyone says are battle grounds—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida. They‘re going to expand the map. You saw that today with Virginia, you‘re going to see that in Colorado.
This is a campaign, I think, that really understands how much Democratic politics and campaigns have changed. And I‘ll tell you, I have a lot of respect for them, obviously, because they beat us. But, I mean, to understand what they were able to accomplish, coming from literally, you know, starting with nothing and be able to do this against what was the most formidable operation in Democratic politics, the Clinton machine, is something, I think, you have to kind of look back and just kind of shake your head in amazement.
And it‘s something, I think, a lot people are going to study and really wonder how they did it. It‘s an incredible accomplishment.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it‘s Truman beats Dewey.
Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist, communications director of the Edwards campaign—thanks for being with us, Chris.
KOFINIS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, a day shy of five months of the election, what does the Electoral College map really look like? The keeper of maps, Chuck Todd is here.
Mr. Bush‘s lies that got us into war, as identified by the Senate Intelligence Committee today, and endorsed by Senator McCain.
And in Worst Persons: What do you mean Rupert Murdoch is going to fire Roger Ailes?
OLBERMANN: No more additional names to gum up the analysis, it‘s McCain versus Obama by the numbers.
The phase two report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on the president‘s fraudulent intelligence about Iraq—analyze for us by Richard Clarke.
And in Worst Persons: McCain‘s claims about his voting record on Katrina relief versus the McCain‘s actual voting record on Katrina relief.
And, an online whisper that Rupert Murdoch is going to can the evil wizard of “FOX noise.”
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: My old friend Nick Bakay used to conclude his tongue and cheek analyses on ESPN, “So there you have it, it‘s so easy when you break things down scientifically, reminding you that numbers never lie.”
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Why wait for the election on November 4th, when you can get Chuck Todd‘s Electoral College map on June 5th? With big states like New York and California and his base, Senator Obama has 153 electoral votes, essentially, in the bag. Whereas, John McCain, even though, he has more base states, will only get 116 electoral votes from those base states.
As far what still in play five states, Maine, Jersey, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, lean towards Senator Obama, giving him 47 more votes, adding in tossup states like Ohio and Florida, that brings the total up to 185 electoral votes. More states lean towards John McCain, that gives him 84 which along with the tossup states, gives him 222.
But because McCain has fewer base states and more lean states, Senator Obama has the potential to pick up more electoral votes from McCain than vice verse. His campaign is making no secret of its strategy to appeal to all 50 states in November.
Obama‘s chief strategist, David Axelrod, telling Huffington Post, quote, “I think that we are going to have a larger battlefield in 2008. I think we‘re going to stretch the Republicans, I don‘t think they can take for granted nearly as many states as they have in the past. And I think we‘re going to add several to the Democratic column this year and so our coalition is going to be broader.”
Now as promised: MSNBC and NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.
Good evening, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How likely is it that Obama will be able to reach into those states that lean towards McCain?
TODD: Well, one way that describe them is that they‘re the landslide states, right? If Obama wins the electoral landslide, then he‘s going to win a large chunk of those lean states.
Now, if you‘re asking which ones are likely to pop first, I think there are two groups to look at. One are the two that border the state of Illinois, simply Missouri and Indiana. If he does have a reach as we saw it in the primaries, those are two states that Obama overperformed in in his matchup with Clinton, when you look at the demographics of those two states.
Then the other group to look at are those southern states, the large African-American population, the states that Obama won by landslides in the primary - they are Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and North Carolina. If this “turnout idea” works and say it‘s a “turnout idea”—this idea that African-American population vote is going to spike, youth vote is going to spike, then and this come into play, this is where we‘ll see the evidence first.
OLBERMANN: All right. The other end of that same question, how likely is it for Senator McCain to pick up the states that are leaning towards Obama?
TODD: Again, I would call them like I said, the McCain landslide states, and I think that there are two, really, that I single out, and that‘s New Jersey and Oregon. Now, in New Jersey, it‘s sort of this—the great white whale of the Republican Party. They always think they can do well there. Early polling always shows them doing well there and then the Democratic vote comes home and the state goes away with her.
But if Obama is struggling with Jewish voters northern New Jersey ends up being a little less inclined to support Obama. This is where we‘ll see it.
Then there‘s Oregon out west. This is a quirky start, doesn‘t necessarily—it‘s a little like Washington state but has sort of a conservative rural area. So, it‘s one of those that McCain uniquely with his pitch on climate change sort of saying - “Hey, I‘m a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist Republican,” if that message is working, we‘ll see it in Oregon.
OLBERMANN: I have a question about Jersey. Did we learn anything from the primary in which Frank Lautenberg managed to stave off a challenger who was pointing how old he was or is it the fact that Lautenberg is older than McCain and yet a hard-line Democrat, that means nothing in terms of the presidential race?
TODD: And don‘t forget, Frank Lautenberg can self-fund every campaign he does.
OLBERMANN: That‘s true.
TODD: It‘s interesting. I think that Andrews got in that race too late. There‘s a lot of things, but age doesn‘t work if you don‘t show them that you‘re old. There wasn‘t a moment where suddenly Lautenberg looked his age. That‘s the trick.
There was a Delaware Senate race a few years back with the late Senator Bill Roth—he had one of those moments on television where it looked like he passed out. All of a sudden his age became an issue. As long as McCain stays healthy on the trail, it‘s not going to be an issue.
OLBERMANN: Translate from the political junkie to the level of the average political informed person in the country, what is the DNC 50 states strategy, is it simple as it sounds, is it Obama‘s and does it increase his chances?
TODD: It is Obama‘s. And I don‘t know if it increases his chances. You know, George W. Bush tried his version of the 50 states strategy back in 2000 and Al Gore called his bluff and said, “You know what? No, I‘m going with electoral vote strategy,” and suddenly, Bush was wasting money in California, wasting money in Washington state, wasting money in places and he forgot about Florida and he almost blew it or, you know, arguably, we have a whole movie about it.
So, there obviously up for grabs about whether he actually won that election. But he spread the field arguably too thin. That‘s the risk here for Obama. The upside for Democrats—if he spends money in places like Texas, he helps the down ballot candidates, the candidates running for state legislature, Congress, U.S. Senate, and if it, you know, if it rises the tide there a little bit, and he ends up winning, then that could translate into bigger Democratic gains in Congress in 2010 and 2012 the next time that he would run for president.
Like I said, it‘s a risk because, you know, every million dollars spent in Texas is, you know, you can get twice as much of an impact in a state like Indiana which could be the difference between winning the Electoral College and losing it.
OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and MSNBC.
It‘s always a pleasure, sir. Thank you.
TODD: You got it, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Barack Obama was endorsed by Senator Kennedy, by Stevie Wonder. John McCain has just been endorsed by Prince Frederick von Anhalt.
And Worst Persons: The online report tonight that Rupert Murdoch is going to fire Roger Ailes. Arrr, Jim boy, arrr.
But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.
Number three: Idol-gate. “American Idol‘s” executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe tells “OK” magazine that they didn‘t want to have the president on the show this year as part of the annual anti-poverty fundraising special because they were embarrassed and disappointed by his efforts to combat to poverty.
So, why did they have on him? The White House insisted because senators, Obama and Clinton were going to be on, quote, “The president is always saying, I want to be on.” Well, sir, we all wish at some point you had been on, too.
Number two: The real Republican agenda-gate. In the Senate yesterday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of breaking their promise to confirm a number of presidential judicial nominations—to punish the Dems, McConnell used Senate rules to waste, virtually, the whole day, having the Senate clerk read the bill under consideration, a global warming bill aloud—all 491 pages of it.
Why? A Republican lobbyist leaked an internal GOP strategy memo to the Democrats, quote, “The GOP very much wants to have this fight, engage it in for a prolonged period and then make it as difficult as possible to move off the bill.” Why? Quote, “The focus is much more on making political points than in amending the bill, changing the baseline text for any future debate or affecting policy.” Making that policy but political points the goal of Mr. Bush‘s party, and you thought they weren‘t good at anything.
Number one: Appeasement-gate, again. Well, John McCain and George Bush run around making the unprecedented assertions, that talking with enemies amount to appeasing them. We now have some new addition to the list of the traitor‘s talkers, in addition to yesterday‘s revelation that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki was one of them because he was going to talk to Iran.
Who are the new appeasers? President George H. W. Bush, for one, who convinced Syria‘s Hefez al-Assad to support the first gulf war, that was a fact pointed out in an op-ed today by yet another appeaser calling for talks with Syria now, Republican senator and decorated combat vet, Chuck Hagel.
OLBERMANN: Best persons in a moment. If you think Bill-O got made on “Inside Edition.” First, on this date in 1968, my sister Jenna was born. There were other events that day as sad as this one was happy so, happy birthday, Jen. Let‘s play Oddball.
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OLBERMANN: We begin in Portland, Oregon where surveillance cameras picked up an unusual passenger getting into a city bus. That‘s Poppy the pygmy goat. She escaped from her owners backyard and headed straight for the number 14 bus. This is a very smart goat. No one knows where the goat was ultimately trying to get to, nor, for that matter, how the bus driver did not real list there was an unwelcome ungulate on board, more importantly, an unwelcome ungulate who never paid. I don‘t see a driver there. That might be it.
In Hollywood, John McCain can count on at least one celebrity vote, courtesy of former Anna Nicole Smith baby daddy claimant Prince von Anhalt.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now with Obama, I‘m going back to Republicans again. Now I need McCain. I go more McCain, because he makes sense. McCain makes sense.
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OLBERMANN: What else does a man who thinks John McCain makes sense believe.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all have brains. Elephant has brains. Let‘s face it. We all have brains. It‘s the way how we use it. You know, it‘s just the way how we use it, you see. My brain is sexually focused.
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OLBERMANN: Did he say—focused. Whatever. Moving swiftly on to New York and look, it‘s Spiderman. No, not the cool webbed super hero of Marvel comics. This is the long-haired scruffy French one. Alain Roberts scales sky scrapers without ropes, nets or sanity. Today, tackled the “New York Times” building in mid town Manhattan, making it to the 52nd floor before police finally managed to take him down.
Reportedly, he was looking for one fact in a Bill Kristol column.
And not hours after that arrest, a copy cat climber started scaling the building, and also made it to the top and also into the waiting arms of New York‘s finest. Identity and motive unknown. You heard no doubt of climbing the corporate ladder but this is ridiculous.
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OLBERMANN: Another finding that President Bush lied us into war in Iraq. Does that not make the pro-war campaign of John McCain just slightly unsupportable. And peace in our time, yes, great; how exactly?
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. Number three, best taste, you guys; last night‘s ratings in. In the advertising demographic viewers 25 to 54, COUNTDOWN beats O‘Reilly by 13 percent, third night of the last four. The 10 p.m. repeat beat Greta Van Susteren‘s live show by 57 percent. Be sure to call the Fox viewer line and tell them the good news.
Number two, best grand prize, Elaine Fulps of Grand Prairie, Texas, the lucky winner of the grand prize at the Grand Prairie Air Hogs Baseball Game, a prize valued at 10 grand, redeemable only at the point of expiration, her expiration. Miss Fulps won a free funeral.
Number one, best father‘s day gift for golf lovers, the Euro Club, nothing to do with British made mashies. Attention male govern golfers, reads the ad, how many times has this happened: you arrived at the golf course and soon you‘re on to 18 holes with you best buddies after drinking sport aid, water, beer and whatever; you‘re on the third hole with no rest room in sight. There are no trees or bushes around and you‘ve got to go. What are you going to do?
Introducing the Euro Club, the only club in your bag guaranteed to keep you out of the woods. Green modesty towel included at no additional cost. That‘s right, it‘s a portable urinal in the shape of a golf club. Is this a fake thing from the Internet? The expert signature on its website is from Floyd E Seskin, a doctor, a urologist in Miami. OK, everybody say it with me now, that‘s a new meaning to the phrase water hazard.
OLBERMANN: It has been so long and we have lost so much since the truth emerged from the so-called tin foil hat conspiracy theorist left to become instead the accepted and understood reality of modern American history. Tonight, in the third story in our COUNTDOWN, a long awaited Senate report confirms what once we considered unthinkable, even unspeakable; the president of the United States lied to Congress and the American people to justify launching the first unprovoked war in United States‘ history.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller today releasing the long awaited majority report with support from two Republicans on what President Bush and his top officials did and said regarding the intelligence they had, the intelligence they did not tell us they had, and in some cases, the intelligence they only said they had.
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SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: There is nothing more serious in public life than the decision to go to war, any war. In too many instances in making the case for war, administration officials distorted the facts or said things that were not supported by the facts, said things that they knew or should have known were not true.
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OLBERMANN: Specifically, of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell‘s speech to the United Nations, as well as speeches and interviews by Vice President Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser. All of them, the report finding, ignoring evidence that cast doubt on their claims, inflating other claims, unsubstantiated claims, presented to us as certainties, of Saddam Hussein‘s pursuit of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction of other kinds, his partnership with al Qaeda, his potential to deliver a new 9/11 on a nuclear scale.
The report creating new problems for Mr. Bush‘s chosen would be successor John McCain, who claimed just last week that every intelligence agency in the world and every intelligence assessment reported that Hussein had WMD, a claim McCain should have known was false even before today‘s report reminded us that both State and Energy Department intelligence agencies had raised red flags about the WMD claims, red flags ignored by Mr. Bush, red flags his press secretary today claimed never reached the president‘s sight.
A pleasure again to be joined by Richard Clarke, a red flag raiser in his own right as a counter terror adviser to the last two presidents, now author of “Your Government Failed You,” and online at RichardAClarke.net. Thanks for your time tonight.
RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR, “YOUR GOVERNMENT FAILED YOU”: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I use the word lie. The report does not use the word lie.
Are there lies?
CLARKE: There certainly are and this is a big report. What it says is statements by the president were not substantiated by intelligence. And then it stays statements by the president were contradicted by available intelligence. In other words, they made things up. And they made them up and gave them to Colin Powell and others who believed them.
I think Colin Powell did not know he was lying, but he was. He was given intelligence that people in the intelligence community at the time knew were not true. This is not a case of 20/20 hindsight. This is a case of what was available then. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction was read by seven senators before they voted to go to war. And one was the chairman of the intelligence committee, Bob Graham, who read it and went to the floor of the Senate and said, I read it. I‘m chairman of the Intelligence Committee. It‘s not persuasive. There‘s not a good case here for this war.
So people had the opportunity at the time, if they were reading the intelligence that was available to them. And to say that this is only something that we could have known years later, it‘s just not true.
OLBERMANN: We knew about Senator Graham‘s doubts. We already knew about the dissident intel agencies, the doubts about the aluminum tubes were instantaneous, the doubts about the clandestine meetings in Germany that never happened. What are we to make now, in the light of the political realities of today, of Senator McCain‘s undiminished enthusiasm for and defense of war, and specifically this remarkable claim that every intel assessment of the time was screaming WMD?
CLARKE: Senator McCain‘s statements are contradicted by the facts too, the facts in a Senate report, the facts that Republican senators voted for. He is a big proponent of the war but he is also now justifying the intelligence claims of the president, which now we have the evidence, we have the proof, four years too late, that those statements were flat-out wrong. And these weren‘t close calls. They made things up.
OLBERMANN: It‘s hard really to recreate in our minds just how trusting most Democrats were and most Americans were, how the media truly was in a patriotic rallying behind the president after 9/11. Does the context of that in any way change the way we should be thinking about this report today?
CLARKE: Keith, the fact that 80, 90 percent of the American people supported the president, that we were all wanting it do something about 9/11, doesn‘t change the legal responsibilities of the Congress to do oversight. It doesn‘t change the legal responsibilities of the intelligence community to analyze and report the truth and very few of them did. One of them, the State Department Intelligence Community, the State Department Intelligence Bureau, was absolutely spot on. You never heard that at the time. You were never told that they were dissenting opinions.
OLBERMANN: Democrats, probably the Democrats today, said impeachment was not a remedy to this. But can anybody argue with a straight face, post-Lewinsky, that these lies, the blood and treasure that they cost us, don‘t demand some kind of remedy? Is there some other kind of remedy?
CLARKE: There may be some other kind of remedy. There may be some sort of truth and reconciliation commission process that‘s been tried in other countries, like South Africa, el Salvador and what not, where if you come forward and admit that you were in error, admit that you lied, admit that you did something, then you‘re forgiven. Otherwise, you are censured in some way.
I just don‘t think we can let these people back into polite society
and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and just let -
pretend that nothing ever happened when there are 4,000 American dead and 25,000 Americans grievously wounded. And they will carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives. Someone should have to pay in some way for the decisions that they made to mislead the American people.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of coming forward, I was wondering if there would be an opportunity to raise this issue with you, because it was—he was so connected to you in a different context, when your first criticisms became known around 2004, before the election. In a weird way, is Scott McClellan‘s book kind of the passageway from this being a theoretical discussion to almost a textbook, saying how they managed to sell us this garbage?
CLARKE: Scott McClellan‘s book is further proof, sort of the other end of this big Senate Intelligence report. But Scott also is asking for forgiveness. He asked me after he left your program. I bumped into him, literally coming through the revolving door in a hotel. Metaphorically, no; really, he was coming through a revolving door. He asked me to forgive him. I think we do have to forgive people who ask for forgiveness. The 9/11 families forgave me my inadequacies in dealing with al Qaeda. And I greatly appreciated that. We do need to forgive people, but, first, they have to admit they lied.
OLBERMANN: A simple equation. Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism adviser and author of “Your Government Failed You.” As always, sir, great pleasure. Thank you.
CLARKE: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll have peace in our time among the Democrats, we are told. Exactly what do they do to achieve that? We‘ll ask a relationship expert.
And he has fired the CEO of his publishing house. He‘s reportedly going to fire the chief of Fox News. Rupert is back in worst persons.
OLBERMANN: Pouring oil on troubled waters, forgive and forget. Heal old wounds, Obama and Clinton. Sounds a little like peace in our time, and you know how well that worked out. That‘s next, but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California. At the House Subcommittee on International Relations, during testimony this morning on the FBI role in detainee investigation, most Congressman asked serious, even grave questions. Rohrabacher had 13 minutes during which he used the phrase “panties on someone‘s head” eight times. He dismissed most detainee abuse as fraternity boy pranks like that. Yes, frat boys with German shepherds at Abu Ghraib and water boards at Gitmo.
Our runner-up, Senator John McCain; asked by a New Orleans TV reporter about his having voted twice against the commission to investigation the levee failures around New Orleans, he denied this; “I supported, my very dear friends, every investigation in ways, finding out what caused the tragedy. I have been as active as anybody in efforts to restore the city.”
Perhaps the senator forget his Senate votes against establishing the Katrina response in September 2005 and then again February 2006, responses to try to set up committees to investigate what happened to Katrina, or his votes against financial relief for the victims in September 2005, or the five months of additional Medicaid payouts in November 2005, which he voted against, or his vote against the 28 billion dollar emergency funding bill for Katrina victims in May 2006.
But our winner, Rupert Murdoch. He has fired Jane Friedman as CEO at Newscorp publishing house, Harper Collins. The media website Gawker reports Friedman was fired because, appalled by the book, she squelched the infamous, “If I Did It,” OJ Simpson, kind of, memoir, which Murdoch wanted published. Friedman also fired the editor of the book, Judith Regan, and was in the middle of the mess as Newscorp apparently made up a story about how Regan made anti-Semitic remarks, possibly towards Friedman.
Gawker quotes a former Newscorp insider who has told them, quote, Friedman got canned, in my view, for being anti-Regan. Rupert wanted the Simpson book out, and he was also taken in by Ailes, who orchestrated both the anti-“If I Did It” campaign and the anti-Semitism campaign. This is fact. Who will soon be canned for the same reasons.”
Wow. Roger Ailes will soon be canned? Anyway, for the record, Rupert said of Friedman, “Jane has been a terrific leader who succeeded in attracting some of the world‘s most brilliant authors, while, at the same time, delivering record breaking profits. We are enormously grateful for her contributions over the past 10 years. And understand her desire to seek new challenges at this point in her career. I have enjoyed working with her immensely and will miss her. We wish her much success.”
If history is me is any explanation, seven years from now, Rupert will explain, I fired her, arrgh. She was crazy! Rupert Murdoch, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: We now know that a conference call did far more than a bit of political phone tag ever could in advancing the first vital steps towards Democratic party unity, after 54 contests and more 36 million votes, not to mention 20 debates, 21, 31, whatever it was. It is indeed time for the make-up phase of the Obama/Clinton saga. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, let the healing begin. But first, this note on unity and coming together, and on one player finally conceding that the other player is the winner.
Yes, that is CNN at about 9:01 Tuesday night, right after declaring Obama the presumptive nominee, tossing to the excited crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they are watching MSNBC plastered on the monitors. Thank you, thank you. There we are.
As for Tuesday night‘s phone calls, there are still differing accounts, naturally. The Obama campaign said the presumptive nominee called Senator Clinton twice and left two messages. Senator Clinton called back about an hour later. But the Clinton campaign said the candidates actually spoke briefly the first time, then lost the connection.
In any event, they agreed to sit down and talk. Then yesterday, they ran into each other in the hallway, backstage at the AIPAC in Washington, only a brief encounter, after which yesterday afternoon Congressman Rangel got Senator Clinton on the phone, and he had 22 other Congressional supporters who joined in on the conference call and there was, let‘s say, a shift.
Clinton‘s inclination towards eventual concession and endorsement encouraged to occur by Saturday.
Let‘s bring in comedian, writer and relationship expert, Stacey Grenrock Woods, who is also a columnist and the author of “I California.” Stacey, good evening.
STACEY GRENROCK WOODS, COMEDIAN: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s get to the big palooza first, here, the Saturday event for Senator Clinton. What are the niceties that she should put in her remarks?
WOODS: I don‘t know about niceties but she probably doesn‘t want to have her campaign manager introduce her as the next president of the United States this time.
OLBERMANN: Good point. Didn‘t work well.
WOODS: That would be uncalled for. No, it didn‘t work well.
OLBERMANN: It‘s safe to say that unity requires good communication; do they need to establish some basic phone protocol, or is the one episode of phone tag cute in its own way?
WOODS: It‘s cute. It‘s very cute. Let‘s face it. We all know Hillary Clinton has caller I.D. And it‘s not really the time to be playing hard to get. They are not dating. She shouldn‘t be doing the rules on him.
OLBERMANN: What about flowers in either direction before Saturday‘s event?
WOODS: Oh, that is way too sexist. He would not want to send flowers either way, maybe a muffin basket, or maybe some relaxing bath salts, you know, something girly.
OLBERMANN: The other possibilities here with kumbaya moments—is there are period of decompression first? I mean, she said Tuesday she would not be making any decisions, which suggested at that point, she really had not grasped the concept of you lost, he won; he gets to make those decisions?
WOODS: Right. Yes, a lot of people are saying that they need space, but I‘d say space is probably the only thing they can‘t have right now. They can‘t have space, no more space.
OLBERMANN: If they do not become the so-called dream ticket, can this relationship at least then lead to a dream train ride, a dream bus trip together, something like that?
WOODS: You know, if it‘s really that important to them, I think they could take maybe a two-night luxury unity cruise to, let‘s say, Puerto Rico, or some place she likes, where they can kick back and do some shots and talk about bowling and all of the stuff they both like. Just kind of like let their hair out.
OLBERMANN: And all of this unity needs to be ultimately authentic.
Does it not? They shouldn‘t go dressing like long lost twins, right?
WOODS: Oh, no, not twins necessarily. But if he does want to come out for his next appearance in her pant suit, that would be a great sign of unity. Any pant suit, the blue one, maybe, one of those.
OLBERMANN: Or the brown one. Stacey Grenrock Woods, comedian, columnist for “Esquire Magazine,” author of “I California.” Thank you, Stacey.
WOODS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,862nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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