Guests: Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, Jonathan Turley, Jason Bateman, David Cross, Chris Cillizza
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
John McCain and the campaign to scare you into voting for him. A day after his chief strategist remarks that another terrorist attack in this country would be a, quote, “big advantage to McCain in the election,” Senator McCain does not fire Charlie Black. Charlie Black does not resign. Senator McCain does not even address Black‘s disturbing admission.
The Obama camp and foreign policy advisor, Dennis McDonough, recoil in disgust at McCain.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DENNIS MCDONOUGH, OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: For all the talk about civility and bipartisanship, he‘s shown himself all too willing to use George Bush‘s tactics.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And this is not the first time. John McCain on October 29, 2004, reacting to the release of an Osama bin Laden tape four days before the president stood for reelection: “I think it‘s very helpful to President Bush. It focuses America‘s attention on the war on terrorism. I‘m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it does have an effect.”
The nexus of politics and terror continues.
No liberals allowed. A startling Justice Department investigation:
Top flight law school graduates are not hired at Justice because they had Democratic sympathies.
“Hancock,” the new big movie hit. Its co-star, my friend, Jason Bateman joins us.
And the utter hypocritical embarrassment that is, Bill O‘Reilly. This was his obituary for George Carlin last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL, 2001)
BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST: When I see a guy like you and I say, “Well, why does he need to use the “F” word when he can punch the line, get the laugh without the “F” word?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: We‘ll do it live! (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it, we‘ll do it live!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Tuesday, June 24th, 133 days until the 2008 presidential election.
One day since the revelation that his chief strategist, the veteran lobbyist, Charlie Black, had admitted that a terrorist attack in this country before the election would be a quote, “big advantage to his campaign,” Senator John McCain has still not fired Black, nor directly addressed the implication of what Black said for the nation‘s safety, and for the Republican Party‘s integrity.
But in our fifth story: It turns out McCain himself, essentially had said the same thing about George W. Bush‘s campaign in 2004. This began with a report by “Fortune” magazine yesterday of Charlie Black‘s remarks, saying not only that the assassination of Pakistan‘s Benazir Bhutto helped McCain‘s campaign, but that a new terror attack here would be, quote, “a big advantage to McCain.”
McCain said yesterday he disagrees with those remarks. But we now know he has spoken similarly himself, saying at the time of Bhutto‘s death, quote, “It may serve to enhance his own credentials, and saying days before the 2004 elections that the then new tape from Osama bin Laden was, quote, “very helpful to President Bush.”
Obama himself has addressed the remarks this evening aboard his airplane, aboard his campaign plane, saying, quote, “I think he‘s factually wrong. I welcome and I‘m looking forward to having a debate about national security. This is from the folks who engineered what I consider to be one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in our history.”
The senator went on to list the Republican failures in the war on terror, displaying solid message discipline with his campaign‘s conference call this morning, signaling the Obama camp will spotlight these failures whenever McCain tries to play the fear card.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCDONOUGH: We should debate terrorism. It‘s an important debate and one that Barack Obama is eager to have. And here are the issues that we should debate about; why haven‘t we captured Osama bin Laden almost seven years after 9/11? Why does al Qaeda have a sanctuary in Pakistan? And why has it gained new recruits worldwide? Why it is that Afghanistan still is not secure, why we hear time and again that we‘re under-resourced in our fight there? And why haven‘t we finished the fight against the Taliban?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That sanctuary, a safe haven created in Pakistan by Pakistani officials who signed a cease-fire letting al Qaeda operate freely there. A cease-fire supported by President Bush who said the results would speak for themselves. McCain, of course, in lockstep with Mr. Bush‘s forgotten war on terror, he and Black both now are claiming Bhutto‘s assassination should benefit him, despite the fact that its planning was carried out by terrorists in the very same safe haven endorsed by President Bush.
The Obama team not even mentioning the USS Cole, Mr. Bush‘s failure to retaliate about which, which spurred bin Laden to attack on 9/11. Mr. Bush‘s failure to prosecute two alleged Cole members in U.S. custody, bombers rather, or the fact that every single attacker convicted in Yemen has escaped or been set free by the government there, a government which Mr. Bush calls an ally, despite the fact that two of those attackers became suicide bombers in Iraq.
And the fact that Mr. Bush today, cannot even tell us whether the organizer, Jamal al-Badawi is in custody or walking free. The president is also still refusing to meet with the families of the Cole‘s 17 dead sailors to discuss the case.
Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent at “Newsweek” magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How does, as logical as it would seem to be to work this way, how does Obama win this terror debate by using common sense when the Republican goal is tactically the opposite—it‘s to scare people out of their sense?
WOLFFE: Well, there‘s a mismatch there, you‘re right. And he‘s trying to have it both ways in a sense. He‘s trying to use common sense by calling out, railing against what he‘s called the politics of fear. And he does that pretty effectively when he highlights the sanctuary in Pakistan for al Qaeda.
But he‘s also covering his rear here. There‘s a defensive posture that he‘s taking. Look at how he positioned himself on the FISA issue, on warrantless wiretapping where he took a nuanced position but ultimately he gave the administration the benefit of the doubt.
He does not want to appear soft or weak on these classic issues, giving his opponents the chance to take a negative ad against him and that‘s got him in this bind here. But he‘s trying to have it both ways, trying to be commonsensical and defensive at the same time.
OLBERMANN: Why not since it costs him nothing but to extend this debate that he wants to, at least, sensibly continue? Why not say that McCain should fire Charlie Black? Why hold back on that?
WOLFFE: Well, there are two ways of looking at this. He is, on the one hand, quite happy to have Charlie Black out there, the gift that keeps on giving, the lobbyist who misspeaks and gets his boss into a whole lot of trouble. On the other hand, they‘re also trying to defend some of his own appointees, or the people that he‘s put into high profile positions most recently on his veep selection team.
You know, if you get into this sort of tit-for-tat of the cold war diplomacy, everyone ends up expelling everybody else‘s diplomats. So, you don‘t try and fire everyone just in case the pressure comes back on you.
OLBERMANN: Right, just McCain versus Obama then with no seconds.
There‘s a report from FOX News tonight which we can take at face value, I suppose, that Charlie Black has more or less disappeared from the McCain campaign trail today. We‘ll assume it‘s accurate. There‘s no other explanation for it. The guy didn‘t just have some sort of meeting with his lobbyist firm or lobbyist friends.
Are the Black candor and the Black client list possibly proving more trouble than the advice would be worth to McCain?
WOLFFE: Well, here‘s the thing about John McCain‘s positioning when it comes to Washington and the issues of change and reform. You know, the thing that people don‘t remember about the 2000 campaign is that what sunk him there wasn‘t just the smear tactics, the sort of below the radar stuff in South Carolina, the Bush campaign understood that they could portray him as a classic Washington insider.
So, Charlie Black is that classic Washington insider. You keep him out of view, he can go away for a day or two, but ultimately this stuff is going to be present and a conflict for McCain to resolve.
OLBERMANN: As I said last night, I hope we never have to test the public‘s political reaction to another terrorist attack or terrorist attempt even in this country, but honestly, where is the Republican mindset on this that they would assume, there‘d be an automatic boost for McCain if there were to be an attack before the election, when there‘s a Republican administration that has been predicated on, “We‘ll keep you safe, there‘d be attacks under the Democrats,” which would necessarily fail if there was another attack. Is there no one in the McCain camp even theorizing, you know, there might be blame, there might be hell to pay for Republicans?
WOLFFE: Well, if they‘re not theorizing, they ought to. And look at the track record of terror attacks that we have sadly seen in Europe. When there were terrorist attacks in Spain, the Spanish government of the day got kicked out of office. And when there were terrorist attacks in London, the Tony Blair government tried to introduce very tough anti-terrorist laws, and that failed.
So, the public reaction to terrorist attacks at this point is not easily predictable and often can backfire on incumbents. You know, remember, that the best talking point Republicans have right now is that there hasn‘t been an attack since 9/11. If there is another one, that talking point disappears.
OLBERMANN: And let‘s hope this conversation, as I said, is entirely theoretical.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent at “Newsweek,” a political analyst for MSNBC, as always, sir, thanks for your time tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Charlie Black, of course, a veteran of past Bush campaigns, suggesting a willingness to use the same tactics this time. And to that point, another Bush veteran spoke out yesterday, trotting out the by now cliched claim of the rich white man‘s party that the other guy is an elitist.
Karl rove, who helped to smear the Vietnam vet John Kerry as an elitist, more lately known as the political genius who masterminded the Republicans defeats of 2006, put out a new “M.C. Escher-Salvador Dali-Lewis Carroll” kind of attack yesterday, calling Barack Obama a country club kind of guy, quote, “He‘s the guy at the country club with a beautiful date, holding the martini and the cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about every one who passes by.”
Note to Mr. Rove, most Americans don‘t belong to country clubs and until only relatively recently in this country, most country clubs would not have admitted people who looked like Mr. Obama. So, apparently only your audience would know the guy that you are talking about. And we interrupt this for a quick juxtaposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: We must stop the terror. I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorists killers. Thank you. Now, watch this drive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Rove is not alone in spinning condescending fairy tales about Obama, McCain‘s surrogate, Sen. Lindsey Graham discussing Obama‘s opt out of campaign finance on Sunday, grieved for Obama‘s supposed lost innocence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MEET THE PRESS, SUNDAY)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC) MCCAIN SURROGATE: This is just really sad for the country, for somebody with this much ability, this much talent, to fall this far this soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We now call in MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek.”
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Rove‘s remarks, I know this will sound facetious, but were they, in fact, meant to help John McCain in some way?
FINEMAN: Well, he thought so. As a matter of fact, I saw Karl Rove not long ago, a few hours ago, not at a country club, and he seemed rather pleased with himself. But it‘s hard to know whether he‘s running or helping to run, at least, at a distance the campaign of 2008 or 1988, 20 years ago, when the Republicans took apart Mike Dukakis as an elitist from Massachusetts.
They‘ve got a different guy to deal with in Obama. And I think it‘s a measure of their confusion to some extent that Rove didn‘t know quite how to nail him with this one. It was way too confusing. And frankly, the picture of Obama he painted sounded way too cool, you know? It‘s the wrong image all the way around—martini, cigarette, he seemed pretty cool.
OLBERMANN: And don‘t forget about the beautiful date which tells you a little more about Mr. Rove in this equation than it does by Mr. Obama. This is also a serious question that will sound facetious. George Bush, son of a president, John McCain son of an admiral, Barack Obama son of a guy from Kenya - how is it actually done? How did they paint and how could they paint Obama to any degree, succeeding with this, which obviously it will succeed to some degree, how do you paint him as the elitist and not be greeted by a national wave of laughter?
FINEMAN: Well, in part because the Republicans have Hillary Clinton to thank from the long primary season when she ended up as Annie Oakley driving the 18-wheeler down I-70 in an effort to paint Obama as an elitist. And Obama made a few mistakes, the comment about clinging to guns and religion didn‘t help.
And it‘s clear that the Obama campaign is concerned about this, that‘s why they came out with that big national ad running in 18 states that talks about Obama‘s roots in Kansas through his mother and his grandparents, talks about him as a guy who is steeped in Midwestern middle of the road values.
So, it‘s something the Obama campaign is concerned about. All of America won‘t laugh, but the Republicans aren‘t trying to get to all of America. They‘re trying to get to a slice of it that may have hesitancy for one reason or another, about voting for Obama as commander-in-chief.
OLBERMANN: Is the ultimate point of the sort of cartoons, caricature picture of Obama no matter how absurd they might seem to a majority or a vast majority, is the idea just keep the circus going, hope that something sticks, make sure you do not get down to actually comparing policies?
FINEMAN: Well, I think to a large extent, that‘s right, Keith, because if you look at any poll—and take the numbers in the “Newsweek” Poll that the Republicans hate and cut them in half, Obama‘s still way ahead on issues such as the economy, which is in terrible shape for many Americans, or energy policy, or international affairs in many ways, or taxes. Obama is way ahead in all those measures. Health care, you name it.
The only one where McCain has a fighting chance is on terrorism, and not always there either. So, rather than discuss the issues in point by point, week by week, day by day, I think a big part of the campaign is going to be attacking Obama as somebody who‘s just a little too exotic, a little too strange, a little too uncertain, somebody we don‘t know enough about to trust as commander in chief.
That‘s going to be the essence of their campaign, that‘s what they did 20 years ago. But this is a different day and time. And the Obama people, having watched what‘s happened before, are going to strive mightily to prevent it this time.
OLBERMANN: And for exotic and strange, you could read another word which we‘ll skip for the moment.
Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There‘s another poll just out, “L.A. Times” and “Bloomberg,” Obama in double figure there. Details ahead.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans refuse to identify themselves as Republicans in another poll.
An amazing investigation at the Department of Justice: Highly south law school grads turned down for non-political jobs because they might have been Democrats.
And “Newsweek” magazine humiliates Bill O‘Reilly.
OLBERMANN: Startling news that a prominent American politician actually made a brief statement today. Bill Clinton endorses Barack Obama, kind of.
Truly startling news from a Department of Justice internal investigation: Its Bush overlords were denying entry level jobs and even internships to top law school grads because they were associated with Democratic causes.
And Bill-O on “Newsweek” versus Bill-O desecrating the memory of George Carlin. Ahead on Worst Persons.
OLBERMANN: If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a political journey of five months evidently begins with 27 words.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: That kind of brief first endorsement of Barack Obama by former President Clinton today, 27, just one below another remarkable statistic, 28 percent, that‘s the percentage of Americans polled by “USA Today” and Gallup, identifying themselves as Republicans, the lowest in two decades. Is there still some silver lining in here for the GOP?
As Obama heads to Hollywood for a star-studded gala fundraiser, hoping to persuade former supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton to his side, he got that first hint of support from her husband, quote, “President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next president of the United States.” Way to go out on a limb.
Whether the Democrats will take him up on his offer remains to be seen, although Senator Obama said he would have him campaign for him, he said this on the airplane today.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton, the senator, this afternoon, continued to shine in the recovery and reconciliation period, shooting down a possibility that she is actively seeking the vice presidency still, telling reporters, quote, “I am not seeking any other position. It is not something that I think about. This is totally Senator Obama‘s decision and that‘s the way it should be.”
We‘re joined now by Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix” for WashingtonPost.com.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE FIX”, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, is Senator Clinton really not seeking to be on the ticket or is that what every vice presidential hopeful has to say or they don‘t get a chance to seek that position?
CILLIZZA: I feel like it‘s a head coaching job in college basketball. If you say you want it, you‘ve almost ensured that you won‘t get it. This is not an office that is sought. It is an office that if offered, you accept.
Now, I think personally, Keith, and from my reporting that Senator Clinton is interested in this office. She is interested in influencing policy on a national level. We know that. She ran for president.
And so I think that if offered, she would accept, but she does not want to make it look, in any way, shape or form, as though she is forcing or attempting to force Barack Obama‘s hand in this matter. That is the absolute worst way you can get yourself to the top of the vice presidential list.
OLBERMANN: The baseball rule on it is called now the “Gary Carter rule” for the unfortunate Hall of Famer, who‘s campaigning to become manager of the Mets this year and now will never become such. Would the Obama, as much as he said today on the campaign plane, that he‘s all for Clinton going out—Bill Clinton that is—going out and campaigning for them, would there be some hesitation given what he said about Obama‘s campaign during the primaries, the Jesse Jackson comparison, the fairytale references, all of that, I mean, is he likely to be offered the campaign assignments on Guam and the European friendly nations or what?
CILLIZZA: You know, look, I do think, Keith, that he is likely to be used in a targeted way. Now, I don‘t think that‘s any slight against how Barack Obama would use him versus how his own wife would use him if she was the nominee. Senator Clinton would have used her husband in targeted states and targeted areas where he could make a difference. That‘s exactly, I think, what Barack Obama will do.
And it is easy certainly to focus on those comments, Keith, the Jesse Jackson comparison following South Carolina, the fairytale comments, and Bill Clinton has done some level of damage to his brand. That said, he remains a former two-term president of the United States and still, by and large, a popular figure in the Democratic Party.
So, I would expect to see him in places where he can help rally the base. And, frankly, I think it‘s in Bill Clinton‘s interest to do that kind of thing. It‘s part of this rehabilitation effort that both he and his wife are on right now.
OLBERMANN: And how about that statement from the president—the 27 long words; to obtain it, were pliers used for that to get it out of him?
CILLIZZA: Yes. I‘m not sure, but look, do I think it is difficult for Bill Clinton to see someone other than his wife as the Democratic presidential nominee? Yes. I do think that is difficult. This is someone who always envisions himself as the chief and leading and smartest political mind in my party, and, in some ways, he and his wife and her campaign got outsmarted by Barack Obama.
But again, remember, politicians, Bill Clinton included, are usually motivated by self-interests. It is in Bill Clinton‘s self-interest and Hillary Clinton‘s self-interests to be as supportive and active for Barack Obama as possible. That‘s the way they can get back to being the sort of “first family” of Democratic politics that they clearly want to be.
OLBERMANN: The news of this “Bloomberg News” and “L.A. Times” Poll that just came out, Obama in a head-to-head over McCain by 12. If Nader and Bob Barr are also running, it‘s Obama by 15 over McCain. This follows the “Newsweek” Poll that was a 15-point lead. There‘s got to be a catch in here somewhere. What‘s the catch?
CILLIZZA: Well, the catch is that, it‘s June 24th and not November 4th. You know, I mean, things can change—as anyone knows in an election, things can change quickly. That said, I think what those polls speak to, Keith, is that the Republican brand is badly damaged. You don‘t need polls to do that.
Look at the three special House elections earlier this year. Seats are (ph) Republicans, George Bush won with 62 percent, 59 percent and 55 percent of the vote; Democrats win each of them. There is evidence out there that a wave is building. These polls seem to be just picking up that momentum.
OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza, author of the blog, “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com—thanks, as always, Chris.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ah, you know, nothing says America better than Oklahomans shooting automatic weapons at moving car bombs—an annual look.
And the moral equivalent of the car bomb, Bill-O, goes to war with “Newsweek.” He‘s partial score: “Newsweek”, one; Bill-O, nothing. Worst Persons is ahead.
OLBERMANN: Best Persons in a moment and the convicts who escaped from jail directly into—well, you‘ll see.
First, on this date in 1947, private pilot Ken Arnold made what is generally regarded as the first significant report of UFOs. Nine flat disk or saucer-shaped objects he saw in the skies in Washington State, hence, the term flying saucers. The very same day, June 24th, 1947 in Wisconsin, there was born the actor Peter Weller who grew up to play “RoboCop”—just saying.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin with a return to Mike friend‘s Oklahoma faux auto shoot. Each year, come the third week of June, gun enthusiasts from all over show up here to rattle their teeth, singe their eyebrows and blow the (INAUDIBLE) out of a poor unsuspecting hillside in Oklahoma. As in past years, there were machine guns of all varieties fired by all gun-toters of all ages.
The highlight though is provided when a minivan rigged with explosives tumbled down a hill and as shooters open fire, the minivan blown up so good you could hear it in space. The event is getting popular enough that organizers say they may hold the auto shoot twice a year, that is if, of course, if they don‘t destroy the hillside in the interim.
More “shoot them up” news in Beirut, Lebanon where we find a restaurant, Buns and Guns, a new theme joint based on all things weaponry. The staff wears helmets and camouflage. Patrons order from a bullet-shaped menu. Dishes include the Kalashnikov on terrorist bread or beef on a baguette. The rocket-propelled grenade is a Lebanese chicken sandwich, and WMD, no, not weapons of mass destruction, but wraps of mass deliciousness.
We made the last one up.
Owners think they have a success on their hands. They are, of course, nuts. But there is already some talk of invading a nearby coffee shop.
Liberals need not apply. One of the most obvious manifestations of the Bush administration‘s attempt to turn our government into an arm of its political party; highly sought after law school grads who, a Justice Department investigation proves, were denied employment because of their affiliations with Democratic causes. A special edition of Bushed.
And a brilliant premise, a guy with super hero powers and less than sterling personal habits. No, it‘s not my friend Jason Bateman, but he‘s in the movie. The co-star of “Hancock” is here now.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. Number three, best new commuter, Soleil Alfontent of New York, born this morning at the East Broadway Station on the New York subway‘s F-line. Fellow passengers helped a surprised mother, Francine Alfontent, when here water broke suddenly. Paramedics were called in time to supervise a picture-perfect delivery. Then officials from the cash-strapped subway system came down and demanded an extra two bucks from Miss Alfontent for her baby‘s fare.
Number two, best dumb criminal, south eastern division, Gary Michael Wilson of Hartsville, Alabama, broke into and stole a BMW Z3, drove it haltingly two blocks, then got out and fled. This was the first time that Gary learned he could not drive a stick.
And number one, best dumb criminal south western division. It‘s a tie, Jesus Albert Suarez Chavez and Romon Rosco Martinez were being held in the city jail in Alton, Texas for trying to steal a car, when they devised an ingenious plan of escape. They wriggled through the air conditioning ducts just like in the movies, right up until the point when those air conditioning ducts gave out under their combined weight, and they collapsed, sending Mr. Chavez and Martinez crashing through the roof of the police chief‘s office.
OLBERMANN: “I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account,” the testimony of the former Department of Justice liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, about the politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, a special edition of Bushed; it turns out she may not have been even the leading partisan in the Bush administration‘s attempt to make the Justice Department into kind of a goon squad for the Republican party.
The Justice Department‘s own watchdog, the inspector general, finding clear evidence now that fully qualified job and internship applicants were deliberately rejected, in clear violation of DOJ policy and of anti-discrimination laws, because they were Democrats, liberals or simply had affiliations with so-called liberal causes.
In 2002, under then Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice shifted the summer intern and entry level job screening process to a committee composed primarily of political appointees. That year, thanks to budget constraints, many candidates were rejected and those with liberal or Democratic affiliations were rejected at a higher rate than GOP or conservative candidates. The next three years saw very few rejections. Then in 2006, the year after Alberto Gonzales succeeded Ashcroft, nearly a third of all job applicants were rejected; 55 percent of everyone who had liberal affiliations, only 18 percent of all those with conservative backgrounds, and 45 percent of all summer intern applications were rejected, 82 percent of all those with liberal affiliations, only 13 percent with conservative.
Three people were on the screening committee that year, career attorney Daniel Friedman, who, by all accounts, did his job admirably, political appointee Ester Slater McDonald, who did her own Google searches, labeled a candidate an anarchist and rejected dozens of applications from people who had perceived links to so-called leftist organizations or used leftist words like social justice, and the committee‘s chair, Michael Ellston (ph), who not only told Mr. Friedman to weed out, quote, wackos or whack-jobs, but couldn‘t give the inspector general any rationale for his rejections of highly qualified liberal candidates.
Neither Elton or McDonald still work at the Justice Department. And neither does the woman who hired them, Monica Goodling. Joining us now, constitutional law professor from George Washington University, Jonathan Turley. John, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, to anybody who has any experience with hearing about such things, this looks kind of like a black list. But practically speaking, what was the impact? What would the impact have been?
TURLEY: Well, the practical impact is you‘re selecting people not on the basis of merits, but on some ideological test. It‘s ironic, tomorrow, I‘m supposed to testify in Judiciary on why the Bush administration has lost so many terrorism cases. Maybe this is the reason. You don‘t get a very good government when you have political commissars selecting people not because they‘ve achieved something, but because they toe a party line. We‘ve seen that over and over again with people like Goodling and now with people like McDonald and now these other people.
But it is also a betrayal of something very basic in being a lawyer. We all have different views, but we‘re bound by a common creed. We believe that as lawyers we represent our client zealously. And we put our politics aside. And people like McDonald and others obviously didn‘t learn that. And they violated something very precious to most lawyers, liberal and conservative.
OLBERMANN: Do we know that previous administrations did not do this? That this isn‘t like those thousands of U.S. post master jobs that used to go from Democratic to Republican to Democratic each time there was a different president was elected?
TURLEY: There‘s a very big difference. The honors program is jealously protected by the Department of Justice. It is one of the proudest and longest standing programs in the legal profession. It has always transcended politics. It is the way the Justice Department has shown that they take truly the best and the brightest. And for the Bush administration to invade even that program and to apply a political litmus test is really abhorrent to many lawyers.
And this is not a conservative or liberal issue. There are many conservatives in this town that began in the honors program under Democratic administration. Their politics were not considered. So it‘s a very fundamental betrayal on the part of Gonzalez and his staff and unfortunately it‘s not unique. It is part of a pattern of politicizing that department.
OLBERMANN: To that pattern, fit this into the bigger scheme of things. A, Karl Rove prophesized a permanent Republican majority. B, the DOJ starts to prosecute Democrats for voting crimes whenever possible. C, the DOJ fires U.S. attorneys who will not prosecute those kinds of cases, whether they have merit or they don‘t, more likely the latter. And D, the DOJ tries to reduce the number of entry level jobs and internships that don‘t go to conservatives. Put those letters together and what do they spell?
TURLEY: Well, they don‘t read anything that we would want to see in our government. And I think that the real problem here is that people need to understand the Justice Department‘s neutrality and independence is the sort of grout that holds together the other departments. We were supposed to rely on the Justice Department to transcend politics, to enforce the law. And the invasion of politics by the Bush administration into that department has been so extensive and so severe, I expect the Justice Department will be the one that is the most difficult to put back together.
But this just shows how deep the damage is. It‘s well below the water line. And it‘s going to take some real effort to try to bring it back.
OLBERMANN: And there‘s no prosecuting these people, like this Ester Slater McDonald, who landed at this Washington law firm called Safar Shaw (ph), and apparently believes it‘s 1889 and we have to worry about an anarchists getting into the government?
TURLEY: Anarchists and wackos from her colleague‘s standpoint.
Unfortunately, being a really obnoxious person is generally not a crime. But I do think that her career is likely over. I think that she will find that many conservatives find what she did to be abhorrent. And she will not be welcomed very well within the arms of most lawyers in this city, many of whom came from these programs.
OLBERMANN: When you testify tomorrow, if you could put in a word for making generally obnoxious a crime, I think we‘d do a lot of people a lot of favors.
TURLEY: I shall do so.
OLBERMANN: Although I might be susceptible. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who would never be indicted on that charge, thank you, John.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The premise is great, super hero powers, not so super people skills; from the movie “Hancock,” Jason Bateman joins us. And from the movie playing in his own mind, Bill O‘Reilly‘s autobiographical history of the world. Can you imagine memorializing the late George Carlin by showing a clip of yourself complaining about his use of obscenities? We‘ll do it live, Bill. We‘ll do it live next in worsts.
OLBERMANN: The star of the new movie “Hancock,” Will—huh? It‘s not him? It‘s Jason Bateman? OK, the new star of the new movie “Hancock,” Jason Bateman, a friend of mine ahead. But first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Korin Stindler (ph) of Page Six from Rupert Murdoch‘s rag the “New York Post.” Let‘s just enjoy the photo for a second. The latest fictional story Miss Stindler has been forced to make up for tomorrow‘s paper, that I, quote, threw a fit over my train trip to Washington last week for Tim Russert‘s memorial, and that I was, quote, yelling at the Kennedy Center about them not having ketchup for my lunch.
Two small problems, Miss Stindler, I didn‘t take the train to Washington last week. I went in a car, both ways, to and fro. And I didn‘t eat at the Kennedy Center, lunch or anything else. I ate at a restaurant at Union Station. Well, I take that back. I had a Starbucks at the Kennedy Center, but I usually don‘t put ketchup in my Starbucks. You guys are kind of embarrassing yourselves now.
The runner-up, Bill-O. Now “Newsweek” is on the list. “The two biggest media enemies Fox News has right now are NBC News and “Newsweek.” The two are tied in together. As you know, both are committed left-wing organizations and that means they‘ve been supplying its far left columnists to NBC to attack anyone who doesn‘t see it their way.”
Bill-O then resorted to his favorite weapon, statistics that he thinks prove whatever his case might happen to be, but are actually so phony they must have come to him in a dream; “the irony here is that business is bad at both NBC and “Newsweek.” They‘re failing. MSNBC will only get 13 percent of the cable news revenue this year. Fox will get about 49 percent and is far down in the rankings. In fact, Neil Cavuto at 4:00 p.m. beats anything MSNBC has in prime time and viewers watching live. Way to go, Neil.”
You‘re far down in the rankings, you say? Amen, brother. As to the Neil Cavuto stuff, sadly, no. Monday‘ edition of Cavuto drew an audience of 179,000 in the advertising demographic. COUNTDOWN had 454,000. In fact, “HARDBALL,” “VERDICT,” the COUNTDOWN replay and “Lockup: San Quentin” all had higher ratings than Cavuto.
But I digress. What made Bill decide that “Newsweek” had gone all pinko? Because last week it had made fun of the title of Bill-O‘s next book, “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.” That means the magazine has “really gone off the rails with its far left posture.”
Check this out, online right now, Newsweek.com is asking for your opinion; which is a better title for Bill O‘s Tome, A, “A Big Steaming Lump of Male Vanity,” B, “A Deep Barking Voice of Inanity,” or, C, “A Large Bag of Gas Who‘s Not Hannity.” Please vote at Newsweek.com. And I would like to deny completely that MSNBC and “Newsweek” are all tied in together in the hunt for Bill O‘Reilly.
Our winner, Bill O‘Reilly. Many time he‘s crossed the line from puerile to indefensible. But last night he insulted a man whose boots he was not worthy to lick, insulted him the day after he died, insulted him for doing what he, O‘Reilly, does constantly. I love to read Bill‘s words, as you know, but I can‘t do this crap justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Now, George Carlin also dealt with a number of controversial issues. The 71-year-old comedian died from heart failure over the weekend. I spoke with him several years ago.
When I see a guy like you and I say, well, why does he need to use the F-word when he can punch the line, get the laugh without the F-word. Why do you need to use it?
GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN: It‘s not a need. It‘s a choice.
O‘REILLY: Why do you choose to use it?
CARLIN: Because it‘s a form of spice in my stew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Seriously. Seriously, O‘Reilly. Seriously, the man‘s dead 24 hours and you decide to replay the day you condescendingly tried to criticize him for using the F-word?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: We will leave you with a—I can‘t do it. We‘ll do it live! We‘ll do it live (EXPLETIVE DELETED)! Do it live. I‘ll write it and we‘ll do it live. That (EXPLETIVE DELETED) thing sucks. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Seriously, Bill, greasy hypocrite. Bill O., today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: File under no good deed goes unpunished. Super hero saddled with bad baggage and a negative image until he saves the life of a PR executive, who is then determined to rehabilitate the fabled but flawed do-gooder. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, summer blockbuster “Hancock” with Will Smith as the alcohol-addicted, reckless, though well-intentioned anti-hero and Jason Bateman, the man who will attempt to rescue him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON BATEMAN, ACTOR: This stuff was on Youtube. Now, everybody loves a nutty buddy, I get it. But this doesn‘t work, sir.
Those are children.
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Get that camera out of my face.
Did you ever put out an apartment fire, Ray?
BATEMAN: No, I haven‘t done that. I‘m in PR.
All right, how about this? This is Walter, the gray whale. Everybody remembers him, stuck on the beach. Along comes Hancock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hancock! Whoa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The “Times of London” says “Hancock” could, quote, make Jason Bateman a star at last, which will simplify his world view, but which seems to be neglectful of his ever resonating performance in the legendary TV series “Arrested Development.” As rumors of a movie of the same to be addressed presently are still alive. Although, we don‘t know what happened to any other members of the cast. We don‘t know where they are.
Here is my dear friend Jason Bateman. Good evening.
BATEMAN: Did you like the piece that I wore in Arrested there? It was longer. But it ultimately staid on straight. This one feels a little crooked.
OLBERMANN: What‘s it like to work with Will Smith?
BATEMAN: Oh, boy, that‘s a long boring question there. But the short answer is that it‘s trying because—because he‘s so new and because he struggles so much with trying not to look in the camera and stuff like that. But we help him. And he will pop from this film. Keep your eye on him.
OLBERMANN: But is he as nice a guy as he seems?
BATEMAN: He is. You actually have to step behind him every once in a while and check for wires or batteries or something, because there‘s no way that it can be real. But it is. I waited for the other shoe to drop for four months and it never did.
OLBERMANN: The “Times of London” saying this could make you a star at last. Is that because of Will Smith?
BATEMAN: I think, yes, and that‘s a direct route to millions and millions of people watching the movie, I suppose. I don‘t know what they‘re going for there, but I‘ll take it. Because I think being a star perhaps leads to employment and that gets my daughter fed and keeps me living indoors, because living on the sidewalk is just not awesome.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about it. Your character in this, Ray Embry, how was your approach to him influenced by knowing that you would be working with Will Smith?
BATEMAN: How much of my approach to—
OLBERMANN: Did you tailor it so that you knew that Will would approve?
BATEMAN: No. I mean, I just tried not to get kicked off the set. I couldn‘t believe I was there. You got him. You‘ve got Charlize Theron and Peter Berg and Michael Mann (ph), the producer. What am I doing there?
OLBERMANN: You have to make the—what a surprise. It‘s funny man David Cross from “Arrested Development” and half a dozen other wonderful TV series and movies. What are you doing?
DAVID CROSS, ACTOR: I got a job here.
OLBERMANN: Talk about living on the street, that‘s my hair, Dave.
No, that‘s not coming off.
BATEMAN: You‘re here just picking up some extra scratch?
CROSS: Yes, yes.
BATEMAN: Oh, bless your heart. Or are you here to pay your respects to the man who is trying to save the union? Because that‘s why I‘m here. “Hancock” is going to do just fine. I wanted to just come kiss the ring.
Isn‘t that what you wanted to do too?
OLBERMANN: Just imagine that there‘s a ring.
BATEMAN: No, don‘t ingest it. We‘re big fans, Keith.
CROSS: We really do enjoy your work.
OLBERMANN: I‘m humbled by this. Not that humbled, but slightly humbled.
CROSS: Sweetheart, I‘m going to need—
BATEMAN: Wait. You don‘t want our announcement now. You‘re invited. You‘re invited. A big law passed in California recently. Hun? We‘ve got a two-fer with Portia and Ellen. We‘ve got a deal on the church and you‘re invited.
CROSS: It‘s Unitarian.
OLBERMANN: Good, I was raised in that faith. So there‘s just a lot of political talk, no actually religion involved. OK, that‘s going to get me in trouble with my ancestors.
You‘re both standing here. There‘s eight million rumors. It‘s online now. We‘ve talked about it previously. God bless, America; when is there going to be an “Arrested Development” movie?
CROSS: He‘s the guy you‘ve got to talk to.
OLBERMANN: All right, when?
BATEMAN: It‘s in the works. The grown-ups are trying to work out the numbers. David‘s very expensive now. But we‘re trying to work out some sort of a back end position that he‘s comfortable with. Go ahead, that‘s a soft ball, take it. You don‘t want it?
CROSS: No, we went down that road.
BATEMAN: The back end? Went down the back—see, I took it.
OLBERMANN: Because your ex-cast mate, Mr. Tambeau (ph), was on CBS last weekend, whispered “Arrested Development” to Craig.
CROSS: The thing is, he‘s getting much less money now, so we‘re evening out.
OLBERMANN: So now it‘s possible. Because you don‘t have to pay him that much.
OLBERMANN: I‘m glad that at least it‘s a possibility and I hope you‘ll remember one of your biggest fans when it comes to time to cast some of those cameos.
BATEMAN: Your mock special comment did nothing to slow it down. That did not go unnoticed. So I thank you.
CROSS: Yes. We were going to work out a deal with Junior Mints, where, you know, a contest where we have somebody come on and walk in and say one line. So maybe we can swing it and have you do that. Be like an extra with a line.
OLBERMANN: Drive everybody out to buy them, out in the lobby of the movie theater?
CROSS: Yes, yes, exactly.
OLBERMANN: Before I run out of time. Only have 50 seconds left. Did he tell you at all if he was impressed with working with Will Smith? That‘s what I want to know, I want to know about Will Smith.
CROSS: He called me because I worked with Will Smith in “Men in Black.” And—
OLBERMANN: But he wasn‘t nearly as famous then.
CROSS: No, but he had called me—I mean, Will Smith had called me about working with Bateman, whether he should have Bateman taken out of consideration. I lobbied for him, you know. And I have a 12-sided die and it I rolled the die and it came up Bateman.
BATEMAN: There you have it. Now I‘ve got to cut him in.
OLBERMANN: “Hancock” is in theaters July 2nd. If you‘re in them with it, my friend Bateman here makes more money. Thanks also.
BATEMAN: Also a possible sequel.
OLBERMANN: That‘s true. And thank you, always, sir. A pleasure.
BATEMAN: Thank you for having us.
OLBERMANN: David Cross, thank you for coming in. Next time, I‘ll bring you a chair, I swear.
CROSS: That‘s all right. We had fun.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,882nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Another show I simply lost control of at the last minute. Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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